Saturday, June 29, 2019

Thunder Bay Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

One more time, the alarm went off at 5:30 AM and we rolled out of bed. This time, however, we were back in our own Eastern Time Zone. After loading our luggage in the car, we visited the breakfast room and found little low-carb fare. I would have had toast but a very slow lady was feeding bread into an even slower toaster, so we agreed that the Golden Arches just down the street would do the trick.

Checking out, a red haired Irish girl named Michelle explained that the odd construction of the building was the result of several additions over a period of time and that the place is scheduled for a renovation in the near future. She also explained that Thunder Bay hotels are usually busy during the week due to its location as the only stop on several long highways as well as being the referral centre for the entire population of Northwestern Ontario. Apparently, unlike most other places, weekends here are not as hectic. Finally, she and I acknowledged a shared Orange Hall ancestral heritage.

After a quick stop at McDonald's and Shell (another gift card), we headed east on Highway 17 into the rising sun. It was 6:45 and 60 F under a cloudless sky. The first stretch was four lane but, before long, we were on typical Northern Ontario two lane pavement. We saw one deer looking longingly across the road but the Equinox horn sent it bounding away. Oddly, other than this and one small moose on the way out, we had not seen any large wildlife. Then again, I always say southerners drive around up here hoping to see a moose while we drive around hoping we WON'T see one.

Near Red Rock, we stopped at a Husky station to use the facilities. Then it was a non-stop drive to Wawa. There were periods of fog from time to time and sections of flaggers and traffic lights due to road and bridge work. Cell service was often "Emergency Only" (not sure what happened to roaming) or "No Service". The sky went from blue to cloudy back to blue. The highway had no rumble strip in the centre much of the way. However, after White River, what looked like good pavement set up a tire hum that I was afraid might be the vehicle. Luckily, it was the road.

Scenes North of Superior

Farewell, Sleeping Giant

Slow for road work on the four lane

Dog at Schreiber

The infamous Nipigon River Bridge

Finally, the goose

We hit the Tim's in Wawa right at noon and the small parking lot was almost full. It was strange that they had the Ladies rest room closed for cleaning at a busy time like this. Sandy had not been out of the car since Red Rock, so I guarded the door while she used the men's room. We got lunch to go and managed to squeeze out of the parking lot without getting hit.

My friend Don said his uncle had been reeve of the township when the first Wawa Goose was installed and his name had been on the dedication plaque. We stopped and I checked all four plaques but could not find his name. These were obviously more recent iterations.

I should be back here on the bike in a couple of weeks to meet Zeke on his Lake Superior Circle Tour. Less fog and more warm would be nice.

The drive down the east side of Superior was uneventful. Traffic was relatively light and there were only a few work zones. We were in and out of clouds once again.

Scenes from Lake Superior's Eastern Shore

Old Woman Bay

He wasn't interested in us

Montreal River

Single lane at Batchawana Bay

They were crack filling

The Mile Hill is ahead

In Sault Ste. Marie, I missed the only Esso station on our path and had to fuel at the Husky heading out of town.

Seen at the Husky in the Soo

We began the last leg of our day at 3:00 PM. Although we were under blue skies, we saw some storm cells to the south but avoided them as the highway swung east. Traffic was heavier here and the big trucks were slower. One float hauling a loader was a particular dick in a passing lane before Blind River. He passed a slower truck ahead of him and then did not move to the right. Not wishing to be bombarded with road grit until the next passing lane, I had to get by him on the right.

Scenes Along The North Shore

One nasty looking cell

We reached the grocery store in Sudbury at 6:10 PM. It was 80 F indicating that maybe summer was finally here. After getting some ham and picking up some prescriptions, we pulled into the driveway at 6:45.

Fatigue was a problem for me all day. This has become common in the last few years. I do believe improved fitness will be the cure so look out for me around the YMCA starting next week. I hope this promise to myself works out better than the one about keeping the blog up to date.

This trip was a whirlwind but we got to spend some time with Jan and see a little bit of her world in Saskatchewan. Mission accomplished.

Today's Route (629 Equinox miles):

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Brandon Manitoba to Thunder Bay Ontario

The alarm went off at 5:30 Central Time. That was 6:30 PM Eastern, the time zone we would be in tonight. We also noted that it was exactly six months to Christmas. It was not a happy observation. The hot breakfast was good, including some surprisingly tasty thick cut ham. We were on the road at 6:40 AM under grey skies at 58 F.

After going around Brandon on the east side, we reached the Trans Canada Highway 1 and headed east with the wind behind us.

Scenes from Manitoba

As we bypassed Winnipeg to the south, we stopped at a Shell station where I used one of my Shell gift cards. Just before stopping, we saw a two seat convertible Mini Cooper. I guess I have led a sheltered life because I don't recall ever seeing one of these before. Wikipedia informed me it was a Roadster, there was a hard top version called a coupe and it was produced from 2012 to 2015. It looked like a fun vehicle.

R59 Mini Cooper Roadster

After rejoining Highway 1, we continued east. We met a westbound oil unit train hauled by CN power. The last car in the train was a rugged looking covered hopper. Then we saw a second unit train, also westbound with a single covered hopper tacked on the tail end. More research suggested these were "buffer" cars that must be placed between the engine and cars bearing hazardous loads. They were to be filled with inert material of a specified density to protect the train crews. Hauling back empty, I guess there was no need to relocate them to the other end of the string. And again I learned something new.

This brought up the question of overall railway capacity across the west. Trackage was finite, which limited the number of trains that could be run. With the delays in pipeline development, oil unit trains were taking up a significant portion of this capacity, which must have been why I read complaints from the farmers that the railways were not able to transport all of their grain to the ports. It will be interesting to watch how this all plays out.

The last time we were in Steinbach was just after a near miss by a tornado

Unlike westbound, only a little traffic disruption going east

Manitoba starts to look like Northern Ontario

The highway went down to two lanes as we crossed into Ontario just before 11:00 AM CT. It was sort of like getting home even if we still had 900 miles to go.

Ontario - Yours To Discover AND Open For Business

Pronounce this.....

We encountered our first flag person right after the first turn off to Kenora. From there, we had a series of both flaggers and traffic lights controlling the single lane stretches of both road construction and bridge work. Where work wasn't going on, the highway was pretty good.

Scenes from Northwestern Ontario

There was a little rain that trucks turned into heavy mist

We stopped at McDonald's in Dryden to get lunch to go. I also went on line and fired up my Wyndham app to reserve a room at that nice Days Inn and Suites that we stayed at in Thunder Bay a few days ago. To my surprise, it was booked up. So were the other Days Inn and the Super 8. The Travelodge still had room so I reserved one, all the time wondering how this could happen on a Tuesday night.

Domtar's Dryden Paper Mill

Max The Moose

Mickey D's in Dryden

Cruising along at 15 KPH over the 90 K limit (demerit points kick in at 16 over so I wasn't worth stopping), I would pass some vehicles until I was in a space by myself. Then we would meet a flagger and I we would bunch up so I would have to start all over again. But it helped pass the time as we drove across a province much larger than the vaunted state of Texas with not much more than trees, rocks and lakes to look at.

Summertime, and the passing is easy....

It looks like the worst is behind us (for now)

The driver of this Alberta truck was not the sharpest

Still awake (for now)

Not much happened until we stopped at the Inwood Park rest area near Upsala. This is the place with the outhouses that we stopped at on the way out. In addition to the bathroom, I needed to wake myself up. The rain was starting to fall, which helped me perk up.

Not long after we got going again, we crossed the last time zone of this trip. Hopefully, our biological clocks were back in line with our location.

Eastern Time

The rain started to get heavy and the Home Hardware B Train that passed us while we were getting the photo of the time zone marker threw up an obnoxious spray. I finally got past him and set my speed at not far over the speed limit. Drive according to conditions.

Not good to follow

Near Sunshine (funny name today)

It continued to rain on us while there a large patch of blue sky lurked just to the north. Then more blue appeared ahead of us over Thunder Bay. The streets were dry when we got to the city.

Blue skies smiling at me....

For my buddy Leo

The Travelodge was down the hill on Memorial Avenue. We pulled in at 6:40 Eastern Time. After checking in, we found it was an odd building with many hallway doors and corridors. Our room was small but had all we needed. We considered a sports bar named Wacky's (probably a refugee from the chain) for supper but it looked packed. Reverting to Plan B, we picked up a sandwich to split at Subway and took it back to the room.

Again, I sorted the photos and transcribed my notes but did not have the energy to finish any blog posts. Make that three days behind. So much for my solemn vow to me. Tomorrow would be another long day with an early start, so we turned in relatively early (after Sandy watched the end of America's Got Talent).

Today's Route (575 Equinox miles):