Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Covid 2020 RV Edition - Ch 5 - En Famille at Fairhavens, Beavermead and Final Fall Fling


Saturday 8th – Saturday 15th August 2020 (Fairhavens Family Camp)

Close family fellowship - much appreciated
in this Covid19 year. 
We were no sooner home from our three-week exploration of Lake Superior than we were heading out again on our annual Family Camp week at Fairhavens. We barely had time to get home, do our laundry, clean up the RV and then we were back on the road to Fairhavens.

Fairhavens is only an hour drive north of our home, so the drive was easy. Fairhavens is the one time in the year when we set up the RV and stay in one place for a week, so we do a bit more set up than ususual. Elaine and Julia each have their own rented mobile homes alongside each other and our RV forms a third point in the triangle, so we make up a little village community. Laundry lines to go up, wash up tables need setting up and more chairs need to be found. We also set up an extra tent for the kids to use as a hang out space for those rainy days. Most of the cooking happens from our RV so extra tables are needed. Additional hydro plug ins are connected to allow for every possible type of cooking which might be contemplated. All in all, the logistics multiply in direct relation to the number or bodies expected. 

Nanna and Grandda with their precious chicks

This year there had been much discussion about how Covid19 would affect us all getting together. We eventually decided we would make a Cornish/Trotter/Philip bubble in which we could all get those hugs and cuddles which are mutually enjoyed by one and all. So we had a guilt free extravaganza planned which was wonderful. Unfortunately Chris, could not come as his vacation time is limited and he was needed at work. 

Covid19 memories

Normally Fairhavens arranges a very full program for the adults and all ages for the kids. This has allowed the adults to have a break from the kids. The downside though has been that the program tends to dictate our every move and there is not much downtime. This year, because of Covid, the whole program was cancelled, and we were left to our own devices. Initially we wondered what we would we do with ourselves. As it turned out we had a wonderful week. Everybody developed a taste for sleeping in, our breakfasts were very laid back and our after-lunch nap times were enjoyed by all. Each morning we had our own family devotion. Each of the grandchildren are named after key biblical characters. Cher and I shared a Bible story each morning about each of the kid’s biblical namesakes. Julia led some chorus singing and Elaine told a captivating missionary story.

Elaine and Julia - a chance to
reconnect in the chaos of life

Swimming was one activity we could all do safely and it was hot. Our afternoons generally included a swim in either the pool or the lake. Fairhavens has a nine-hole golf course. Most years, the program is too busy to fit in a game. This year, I invited my brother Alan up for a day. There was a pickleball competition on that day, so Julia, Al and I played in that in the morning followed by golf in the afternoon. I was hoping to fit in a game of tennis after the golf, but the day ran out on us sadly. It was also nice in the cool of the evenings to start the process of teaching the kids tennis and pickleball. We are just at the stage where some of them are starting to get it, which is great as it is one of my goals that each one of them can kick a soccer ball and play racquet games, all of which of course are vital life skills. After all they will have to be able to do those things one day with their grandkids.

Elaine with a captivated audience

Sadly, the week glided by way too quickly and it was time for the big pack up and farewells. This is the one week in the year, when we all commit to being in one place together for the whole time. Covid19 put paid to the formal program which we normally enjoy, but as it turned out we loved our laid back, informal week of just hanging out and refreshing the ties that bind. Thank you, Lord, for family and times together in which to enjoy each other.


Friday September 4th – 7th (Labor Day Weekend, Beavermead, Peterborough)

Beach fun 
We were home for a couple of weeks before heading out again, this time with Elaine, Sammy and Esther and then for good measure we added Julia’s boys, John, James and Peter. Beavermead campsite is an ideal spot to camp with kids. The sites are large, there is safe bike riding and there are nearby soccer fields for stretching legs and burning off calories. Along with that there are lovely scenic cycle tracks, a beautiful safe beach and a couple of kid’s playgrounds.

Dams & ditches
 - a beach must

Group nap time

To accommodate all the bodies for sleeping, we decided to put up a six-person tent. The girls, Cher, Elaine and Esther along with Peter, would sleep in the RV dry and comfortable and all the boys, Sammy, John, James and I would sleep on the ground in the tent. I was keen to get the boys all into the idea that sleeping in a tent is way more fun than in the civilisation and comfort of the RV. However, I was not keen on the idea of sleeping on the ground, having grown out of that idea quite a while back. I brought a nice double bed foam mattress to ease my aching bones and the boys all had sleeping mats of various descriptions. On the first night, Sammy had an allergy attack and ended up in the RV where he was given comfort and shelter. That left John, James and I to brave tent living for the duration. As it turned out we had fun, and nighttime story telling was a highlight. They love to hear stories of my life that they haven’t heard before. This gets harder and harder to do, as even I only have a limited number of stories I can come up with.

Peter, Esther, James
hang out time
Our three or four days flew by in a blur of morning activities with beach activities, bike rides and fun abounding. This was faithfully followed by mandatory afternoon naps and the occasional car ride to explore Peterborough and surrounds. We were so blessed to have Elaine with us. She has a knack for quickly diverting attention away from sibling/cousin spats which inevitably arise from time to time and getting everyone back into having fun again. We would not consider a five-cousin multi day sleepover like this again, without extra adult supervision. Having said that, these large family jaunts are the stuff of which great memories are made and we would not exchange them for anything.

Kids astride the Transcanada Trail 
Grandad explaining - right to BC, left to Newfoundland. 


Taping off curved decals 
September 8th to September 24th, 2020 – RV Revamp, Revisited

Our final RV revamp challenge, for this season at least, was to replace the decals on the sides of the RV. The decals were 16 years old, peeling off and very faded. We had tried earlier in the season, with a couple of sample decals, to remove the old ones and repaint them after having thoroughly taped them off. This would be a relatively easy job if the decals were designed on straight lines, but they were all curved and the taping of a curve is a nightmare. We decided to bite the bullet and go for a quote on having it done professionally. This turned out to be one of those win some lose some ideas.

Sample ready for painting
It was a dismal failure
It was a good job we were sitting down at the time of getting the quote. The couple of young guys we’d been referred to, cheerfully announced that they could halve the price if we took the old decals off ourselves and then they could do the easy part of the job for only half of the monstrous sum. We took a deep breath and decided to go for it. After all what is Covid19 isolation all about if not to give us all time to get things done at home? And of course, in these Covid times, it is important to be circulating the cash to keep the economy going. Helping us in our decision was that our only other quote was 50% more costly than our two young guys.

It’s fortunate that Cher and I are such an easy-going couple and that we never bicker or differ on anything. Suffice to say that I reckon we must have spent at least 50 hours of combined time on removing the old decals. Occasionally our patience would fray, and harsh words might have been exchanged, but mostly we were grateful for an excuse to be outdoors enjoying the glorious weather and improving our sun tans. My advice for anyone considering taking on a job like this is just don’t. Rather trade in your old RV and buy another with decals that you like. So what if it costs you thousands of dollars doing the trade? Our marriage did survive the project, but at times it was touch and go, for sure. Our neighbors are no doubt relieved that they won’t have to watch us torture ourselves for days on end every time they pass our house.

Bald and bare - but ready for a facelift

Like most stressful activities, the benefit lies in how good one feels when it’s finally over. We delivered the RV in all of its bald nakedness to be re-dressed and daintified by the eager decal duo. We were not disappointed with the outcome. We had chosen to liven up the color scheme a bit and our dear old lady came back to us with a sparkle in her eye, looking good for a few more years yet. If outward appearances mean anything, she is good for at least another 16 years. I’m not so sure we will outlast her. I digress.

I’ve lost track of all the jobs we did on the RV this season, but they are significant. My bank balance confirms it, even though we did so much of it ourselves. The RV is now looking so good on the outside we are starting to look at the interior with a jaundiced eye. By comparison, the carpets need encouragement, and the upholstery is looking grim. Ah well, fortunately the budget and the season have run out on us. It’s time to hunker down for the cooler months and those jobs will keep.

The new and improved look - good for another 20 years. 

 Friday September 25th – October 2nd, 2020 – Final Fall Fling

Along with the dreadful prospect of being cooped up indoors for the next 7-8 months during the cooler weather due to Covid cloistering, we decided that we would risk a late season final fling for a week in the RV to flaunt her new look and spend some time with good friends.

Enjoying a late September warm 
fall evening on Presqu'ile beach
Our first stop was to Presqu’ile Provincial Park about an hour and a half east of Port Perry. We were to meet Neil and Carla Daniel who were making the most of their relatively newly acquired travel trailer this season. Our neighbors Bill and Karen Anderson who had been missing not having done any camping this season due to Covid concerns were also joining us. Bill is an ex Rhodesian and we have become good friends since moving into this area. Al, my brother and Rose, came by on our first evening for supper and a sit on the beach.

We have known of Presqu’ile for many years, but never visited. It turns out to be a gem and we were delighted to add another lovely Provincial Park to our growing list of “must return someday” camps.

Bill giving Cheryl a
map reading lesson
Bill was having his 80th birthday while we were away and he had been hoping to keep it quiet, so he figured hiding out in the bush would be a good way to escape any unwelcome well wishers. As it turned out it was nice that he could at least have a few folks with him on the day. Karen and Cher and I had conspired to arrange for Bill’s friends to send in stories and memories of their times with Bill. We put together a simple memory book for him to digest at his leisure. On the night of his birthday his daughter Lori joined the six of us and we had a campfire and showed a slide show of pictures from friends and family on the TV that we borrowed from our RV and set up in the back hatch of Bill and Karen’s  SUV. It was fun to surprise him in that way and we had a good evening of memory swapping and yarn stretching.

Taking a break on our beach ride
Testing out our
brand new kayak

The weather was good at Presqu’ile, and the colors gorgeous, allowing us to do some nice bike rides, hikes, kayaking and enjoy some good sunsets on the lava like rock beach. All too soon, a few days later, it was time to move on to our next leg. Bon Echo Provincial Park was next on the list, where we planned to meet another couple from our Small Group at our church in Port Perry. Bon Echo was another place we had intended visiting for a long time, but we had never quite made it happen. Unfortunately, the weather report was indicating rain for all the days we were to be there.

Our two-and-a-half-hour drive to Bon Echo was a gorgeous display of Canadian shield fall beauty. The colors were spectacular, and the granite outcrops added to it. We got settled into our campsite and did an explore of the huge campsite on our bikes. Fortunately the weather had shifted, the rain had receded and we had some iffy sunshine. Bon Echo is famous for its Indigenous Pictographs, which can only be viewed from the water. Seeing as we had sunshine, we decided to launch our newly acquired kayak and check that “must do”off of our list before the weather precluded it on another day.

Ancient wagon, 20 year old bike and old man
Three old warriors, soldiering on
as long as they last

Our challenge was how to get our inflatable kayak down the boat launch area with our RV being about a kilometre away from the waterfront. We decided to use our kid’s wagon, hitched up to my bike with bungee cords. Rose and Roy had given us that wagon, used, about twelve years ago when they left for South Africa. We have used it in so many ways for the grandchildren and has been invaluable over the years for lugging beach equipment to and from various campsites. It is virtually indestructible. Loading up the kayak like this was a first and probably is the heaviest load it has carried yet. So apart from giving my legs an extra workout, we had a perfect solution. Doing it this way just ensured that not only would my arms be stiff from kayaking, but my legs would be stiff from pedalling the heavy load. Perfect symmetry.

One of two hundred pictographs
Only visible from the water

Our kayak viewing of the Pictographs was really good. The two hundred or so rock painted images are spread over about a kilometer of cliff face all at canoe height, only visible from the water. The lake was deep all the way up to the cliff face, so it was great to be able to kayak close up and get a good look at them before heading home for a well deserved supper and warm up in the RV. The next day, we repeated the kayak launch exercise to paddle across the lake to the base of the cliff for a hike which ended on the top to show off the gorgeous fall colors and spectacular views of the lake.

Rob, Cher, Mike and Jean 
- top of the Cliff Hike

We were meeting our friends Mike and Jean Lorish the following day. They have just sold up their house in Port Perry and moved all of their surviving worldly possessions to a one bedroom apartment in their son’s house in Ottawa. They are about to hit the road for a number of years, doing full time RVing in their newly acquired new to them 35 foot fifth wheel RV. Unfortunately Covid19 has interrupted their well laid plans. They were due to be heading south to the USA for the winter months round about now. With the border being closed, they now face the prospect of eight months stuck indoors at their son’s house in their one roomed apartment. Such is the capacity of Covid19 to disrupt even the best laid plans.

Mike and Jean arrived at Bon Echo earlier than expected. We had booked a site alongside ours. We had a fun couple of days, canoeing, kayaking, hiking and sitting around the campfire, which miraculously I managed to light on our final evening despite having had lots of rain on already damp firewood. A tribute to the flammability of good quality firelighters, not so much my skill in camp craft.

Seasoned Kayakers by now

Sadly, all too soon, it was time to pack up and make our way home. Adding to our sorrow was the fact that it was raining while we packed up. Everything was wet: towels, outside carpet, tarpaulins, kayak, bikes. You name it, it was wet. I have vivid memories of doing this on previous camping trips. We have spent the last few days trying to dry everything in our garage.

Our drive home was sad but tinged with relief. We had enjoyed so many experiences related to our RV, but the season is over and it is time to put down the toys and get back to real life again. On our arrival home, we spent most of two days cleaning the RV and getting all the equipment into tip top shape so we can make a clean start in the spring. In a few days, once we have winterised the plumbing system, we will put the RV to bed in it’s cover for it’s winter hibernation.  

It has been a good season. 
Time for a bit of indoor hibernation

It has been a memorable year. Our RV has been our best friend, in so many ways , especially in this pandemic season. She has kept us busy when Covid inspired boredom might have killed us. She has given us many weeks of getting out of our home, where cabin fever would surely have suffocated us. She has enabled us to explore parts of our beautiful province, which until now have only made it onto our bucket list, but never off it. The RV has let us share moments with family and friends which has taken our relationships deeper. We are thankful to the Lord for a good RV related spring and summer season. Now it is time to hunker down and focus on less frivolous matters. Sleep well my Beauty. We look forward to waking you soon from your slumber.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Covid RV 2020 Edition - Ch. 4 On the Road - Heading Home


Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th, 2020 Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Our next stop was Sleeping Giant Provincial Park only about a 45-minute drive from the KOA. This park is at the tip of a long peninsula projecting down into Lake Superior and is named after the shape of the mountain which stretches down the length of a good chunk of the peninsula. It resembles the full length of a man lying on his back with his arms across his chest.

The Sleeping Giant  

The park is remarkably large with the drive to the office being at least 20 kilometers from time of entering it. We were greeted at the closed-up office with a young ranger who got us checked in via a little hole in the window. We were a few hours early to check in to our site. With the park being so large we decided to drive to some of the sights that we would not be able to reach easily by bike. We asked the young ranger to give us his recommendations for doing this, which he duly did. One of the walks he described would take us to the top of the Sleeping Giant for “views that should not be missed”. He suggested we would need at least three hours to do this.

We opted for a couple of shorter walks and were not disappointed at the views and outlooks over the lake which we came across. Having earned some down time, we made our way to the campsite to get ourselves settled in. We are now getting slick at the whole set up routine and within 15 – 20 minutes we were settled down enjoying a cup of tea under our awning. 

Formation in the background is the 
Sea Lion. Unfortunately his head fell off
so all that remains is the name. 
Our best beach so far - Shady grass,
nice sand and lovely warm water. 

We took a bike ride to go and check out the campsite and find our way to the beach for a swim. We detoured along the way and found some of the nicest campsites we have come across ever. They were overlooking or right on the beach. The ones on the beach which were tented sites only, each had a set of wooden steps to take them to their own personal piece of beach. It almost got me wishing we were camping in a tent again and then I remembered all the comforts of our RV and the temptation departed from whence it came.

We made our way to the beach. It was beautiful, with a large, wide sandy beach complete with shady picnic table on grass, under the trees and playground equipment for the kids. We noticed that lots of people were swimming and realized that the beach was not on Lake Superior but Lake Marie Louise, which meant the water was warmer. We had been told that the beach was the only spot in the park where we “might” get a cell phone signal and sure enough it was the case. We had landed in a little corner of heaven with all of our needs taken care of. We took a dip which we figured could count as our bath for the day. The Provincial Parks do not provide a water supply to our campsites for RVs, so we have to rely on what our tank can carry and that is fairly limited.

The views of Lake Superior just kept getting better and better. 

More beautiful views

Some of Ontario's 
tallest cliffs

The next day was glorious weather with nice temperatures. We decided to check out the possibility of doing the hike up the Sleeping Giant for the “must see” views. It was only three hours according to our trusty young ranger at the reception desk. We figured out that we could ride our bikes for the first 7.5 kilometers to the base of the mountain, after doing the 2-3-kilometer ride to the jumping off point from our campsite. Once we got to the base we would see if we would just have a swim and come home or carry on for the next five kilometers up the mountain. The bike ride to the mountain base was beautiful with some lovely secluded camping spots on the lake. When we got to the base, we were feeling reasonably fresh, so we locked our bikes and decided to go for it. To cut a long story short, it was a taxing climb, described on the brochure as “Difficult”. One family ahead of us, with two dogs and a couple of 10 -12-year-old kids, having walked the 7.5 kilometers that we had ridden on our bikes, got to the top of the “stairs” and just ran out of steam and decided to turn around. Someone coming down earlier, had told us the stairs were the toughest bit, so we decided to keep going, to at least see one of the lower lookout points. By this stage we were done for, but we figured coming down would be easy in comparison. Eventually we got to our first lookout point. The views were stunningly beautiful. Other hikers, coming down, encouraged us to do the final kilometer or so, which was fairly flat. We had come this far so we might as well finish it, so off we went. As it turned out it was worth the final view as we overlooked the lake and stood at the top of the tallest cliffs in Ontario. The climb down was probably almost as hard descending the stairs, as the climb up had been, as we were exhausted, and our co-ordination was flagging a bit. We made it back to our bikes and our ride back to the parking lot at the beginning of the hike was a breeze in comparison.

At the parking lot we still had to ride up a long steep hill for 2-3 kilometers to our campsite. We were exhausted and were not relishing the prospect. We prayed we would find someone with a truck who would offer us a ride back with our bikes. The previous day we had bumped into a couple twice and then again coming back down the Sleeping Giant. They were walking the 7.5-kilometer section just behind us. We had passed them on our bikes close to the end. We knew they had a truck. Sure enough, they took pity and offered us a ride back to camp.  As it turns out, these Good Samaritans, are our neighbors at the campsite and we have become quite friendly since then. All in all, our round trip had taken us seven and a half hours, with not a lot of breaks. We figure we rode about 18 kms and walked 10 kms up and down the mountain. Fortunately, we had taken a picnic lunch and enough water, just in case it took us longer than the three hours projected by our young ranger.

Cher and I had not exerted ourselves like that for many years. When we got back to camp, we had supper, and were in bed by 9.30pm. In the middle of the night the wind came up and our awning was flapping and clanking. Awnings can be quite susceptible to wind damage, but we did our best to ignore it. Eventually in a stupor of half sleep we got up to take in the awning. In doing so, in the dark, we somehow managed to disconnect one of the arms from itself. We didn’t have the energy to do much more than just fasten it securely and wait for morning to fix it. That is what I get for feeling smug about all the comforts of an RV compared to the campers in their tents.

Cher and I eventually dragged ourselves out of bed around 8.30am the next morning which we never do, as sleeping in later than 7am is commonly agreed to be sinful. We decided what was needed was a down day, so we had a lovely relaxed brunch, went down the lake to catch up on our communications with the cell signal and then headed out for a short but very pleasant hike, which we could reach easily on our bikes from the campsite. R&R for the rest of the day was much needed.

Our Good Samaritan neighbors arrived back from a day of exploring Thunder Bay area and came and joined us around a campfire for a bit before we all headed for bed, as soon as it got dark around 10pm. Sadly, tomorrow we would be leaving Sleeping Giant and our journey home would begin in earnest. It had been fun being on a road trip with endless horizons ahead of us.

Sunday July 26th (Rainbow Falls Provincial Park)

We had a slow start to the day, did a gentle pack up and took the RV down to the Sleeping Giant Beach, the only place we could find a cell phone signal for our online service with our church back home. It felt a bit strange watching people arriving with their gear, swimming and so on, while we enjoyed our church service. Covid19 certainly has introduced us to an invisible connected world, available to us in the most unlikely of places. I’m sure there is a sermon in this thought somewhere.

We bade farewell to Sleeping Giant beachfront, which has been my favorite spot on this trip so far. Back at the main road I had noted a truck stop selling cheap gas, so we popped in, to gas up. While I was in line to pay, a friendly voice behind me said, “Hi Rob”. I nearly fainted. It was Dave Brown, a long-time friend from our church. He is a long-haul truck driver and was on his way to deliver a load in Winnipeg. Here I was, at least a thousand kilometers from home. He had probably another fifteen hundred to go. I caught a glimpse of what life on the road must be like for the truckers of this world.

Nipigon's 360 degree lookout
Cher counting train carriages from
the Nipigon lookout platform. 

Seventy kilometers further on, we stopped at Nipigon to do some groceries. Cher was shocked at the prices we had to pay at a regular supermarket. I guess that comes with living in a small remote center. Nipigon, a town of 1700 people sports a most unusual, 360-degree five story, raised, fully glassed lookout of the view overlooking the town and surrounding area. They have a striking suspension bridge, their own personal lake and of course the pervasive view of Lake Superior in the distance. Nipigon also stands at the crossroads to the road route to Northern Ontario which I guess makes them a key little hub town. A train came by and Cher entertained herself counting the number of carriages. An astounding 136 of which at least half are carrying double stacked up containers. It is amazing that one engine can pull this weight. Another tribute to those engineers who never cease to impress.

Next stop was Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, about 150 kilometers east. It was fun retracing our steps from a week or so earlier and seeing all the same beautiful views along the road from a different perspective. This drive across the top of Lake Superior is quite breathtaking in places and the road is a pleasure to drive on.

We got settled into our campsite and took a bike tour to get our bearings. The campsite was on White Sands Lake and had two small but lovely beaches. At one of them, a dog was being driven to exhaustion by playing fetch in the water. I have never seen a dog so determined to retrieve that orange piece of plastic. After numerous long ls I began to fear he might die of heart failure. 

The lake empties into a series of 
Falls which cascade down for about 
half a kilometre

More Falls 

We decided to do the “easy” two-kilometer hike from the lake following a series of waterfalls via a well-maintained wooden walkway. It was very pleasing to the eye. An earlier sign had said we should do the whole hike to the lookout at the top as the views were well worth it. So, we began the trudge up the hill on the other side. Our bodies were still telling us we should not do it, as our muscles were still complaining from our exertions at Sleeping Giant. We are now seasoned hikers and cannot be so easily dissuaded. When we got to the top, the view was indeed splendid. Also, a treat were the five bars we had on our cell phone, so we made a couple of calls to the girls since we figured the moment shouldn't be missed. 

Toppled trees are a common sight - they have very
shallow root systems in those parts
because of all the granite.

 On returning to camp we were tired, so settled down to supper and watched “Amazing Grace”, the story of Willian Wilberforce and his efforts to end the worldwide slave trade, in which Britain was the key player. A very inspiring movie.

Monday 27th July 2020, Wawa RV Resort

We were up early for our 280-kilometer drive east to the mighty hub of Wawa. We had been booked into Lake Superior Provincial Park a bit further on, but due to some of our late date changes had lost our booking. RVing is having a bonanza Covid year with people taking to it in large numbers for the first time, so were lucky to find a spot in Wawa.

Split log bench - a nice touch
on Wawa's waterfront

 Kid's log playground - another nice
touch at Wawa waterfront

Before checking in to our campsite we decided to check out Wawa for any undiscovered gems. The main road through town was being repaved, and much of it was looking rather run down, shuttered, and grubby. Having said that we found the diamond in the rough down at the waterfront. Wawa has its own beautiful lake, surrounded by hills rising sharply out of the water. The sandy beach was wide and long, with a brand-new walkway with split log benches all the way along, making for a pleasing effect. The kid’s playground celebrated the lumber flavor of the area with a log theme. We had some lunch, paddled in the water, and entertained ourselves by watching a bunch of kids playing on a massive floating mat in the water. We had never seen anything like it. It was made of foam, about three inches thick but obviously almost unsinkable. The combined weight of five or six kids did not even make a dent in it in the water. It rolled up into a large cylinder for transportation. I got chatting to the owners thinking it would make a great toy for the grandchildren, but quickly changed my mind on hearing the price, well over $500. For a piece of foam. Ouch!

Wawa is "famous" for its goose

On to our campsite, which had a nice homey feel to it, despite rather small campsites. We celebrated having a water hook up. After limited water access at the provincial parks, we plan to shower twice a day, just because we can.

Tuesday July 28th, 2020 (Walmart, Sault St. Marie)

Today we had decided to spend the day enjoying some of the hikes in the Lake Superior Provincial Park (LSPP) which we would have done had we been staying there. We would then continue on for an hour or so to Sault St. Marie to make our next day’s driving a bit shorter.

The day started, and continued, with more stunning views of Lake Superior. The drive along the north shore of Lake Superior has been described as one of Canada’s most beautiful drives and I must concur. One of the remarkable things of this drive is how relatively isolated and undeveloped it is. In more populous, easy to reach parts of the province, one would expect to find cottages, marinas, and lots of boating activity. These are very sparse in this part of the world.

Old Mother's Bay - from the top of the viewpoint

Our first stop was Old Woman’s Bay which had been recommended to us several times. The Bay itself was lovely, but we had been told that the 5 km scenic hike was the key attraction, so of course up and at it we went. Naturally, to find a good view typically one needs to be up high. We have really discovered the value of a good walking stick this trip. Acting as a third leg it helps a lot on the ups and even more on the downs. And of course, they should prove handy to stave off unwanted advances from any amorous bears looking for a hug. We have noticed some of the cooler hikers have those nice collapsible aluminum walking poles, making them easy to stow when not needed. We have added them to our shopping list. We must keep our cool image up and every bit helps.

Our hike was not as tough as the one we had done a few days earlier at Sleeping Giant, but it did elicit a few breathless moments on the uphill part and our haunches reminded us they had recently been badly abused. The views at the five lookout spots were indeed spectacular, and we were impressed yet again with the incredible diversity and beauty of God’s creation. The official map of the hike said it would be a 5km hike, but our Iphone step counter informed us we had only done 3.4 km. That is the problem when one uses cheap equipment. Faulty readings.

Next up was Kathryn’s Cove, also highly recommended, for a picnic lunch. When we got there, a very full parking lot greeted us and there was severe competition for a handful of picnic tables. After briefly double parking our lumbering beauty in a tight spot, managing to park in numerous vehicles, we had a quick look and moved on to our next planned stop which was the Sand River hike.

This was also an extremely popular spot and there was no obvious room for our extra-large vehicle. Eventually I just decided to act like everyone else. I picked a regular parking spot, breathed in deeply and tried to pretend my behind was not sticking out another fifteen feet. No one else seemed bothered so we just carried on. We had our picnic lunch in the RV, a quick power nap and were ready for our next activity.

The hike up the Sand River, was quite different. It consisted of a series of waterfalls and rapids as the river made its way down to flow into Lake Superior. Some of the falls were spectacular to see and it was possible to clamber out onto the rocks to get up close for good views. We walked up a couple of kilometers seeing three significant waterfalls along with numerous rapids along the way, before retracing our steps. I would say that this was probably our most impressive collective “waterfall” on our trip so far.  

Sand River Falls 1

Sand River Falls 2


By then I was ready for a cup of tea and knew just where to go for it. About an hour further down the road was the roadside stop which offers the “world’s best apple fritters”. A cup of tea and a gigantic fritter sounded like just the job. When we arrived, we barely beat the early dinner rush. The servers were not that keen to serve us tea on their limited number of patio tables as they were preparing for dinner. They eventually succumbed to our hang dog looks. The patio overlooks beautiful Bachawana Bay and it was a gorgeous sunny afternoon, so we were well rewarded for our earlier in the day exertions.

Voyageurs's Lodge World Famous Fritters
is a "must stop" for the road weary traveller. 

After our tea, the beach looked so inviting, we decided to have one last dip of the toes and a final walk along the beach. We walked at least a kilometer up the beach and then back. The water was surprisingly warm, so either the lake is warming up as summer goes on, or my thermostat has adjusted itself down about five to ten degrees.

Sadly, we bade farewell to Lake Superior and headed for Sault St. Marie, another hours’ drive further on. From here on, Lake Huron would be our closest companion for the trip home. We had decided to sleep over with a free stay in the Walmart parking lot, as all we were really doing was sleeping there. It is always entertaining to see who else is joining us for a “free night on the road”. There was a full complement of freeloader guests, with seven or eight regular RV’s like us. Our direct neighbors were a couple and their dog who were driving a Uhaul truck and towing a trailer with their car on it. They no sooner arrived than they opened the back of the truck, which was full of furniture, including their double bed which they were clearly planning to sleep on. They set out a tiny table, and two chairs and pretty much parked themselves there until about 11pm. Someone else arrived with a fitted out for camping small school bus. In addition, there were a number of smaller vans, campers etc. making up a nice little like-minded community.  Sam Walton, the Walmart founder, made a smart move, allowing these free overnight stays at his stores. We went in to buy a bottle of water and $40 or $50 later came back with a whole bunch of things we had “forgotten” we needed. Before we left the following morning, I popped in for something else I had realised I needed, adding to Sam’s score. A mutually beneficial relationship all around I reckon.

Wednesday July 29th, 2020, Chutes Provincial Park

In the morning we had a pleasant 225-kilometer drive to the Chutes PP. We had heard this would be worth the visit, so it made a fitting stop for our last night on the road. We arrived around noon, had a quick bite, and then got packed up for the beach. The main attraction at this park is the impressive waterfall, followed by some nice fast flowing water which allows folks to get into the water just below the falls and then float down the river for a couple of hundred yards, with the current sweeping one along. We needed our pool noodles to float with, deck chairs and refreshments in a backpack. We looked like a couple of third world taxis by the time we wobbled our way down to the beach, rather precariously, on our bikes.

Our final beach day at Chutes
before heading home

Riding with all our gear
was a bit of a challenge

Once down there, it was delightful to sit in the shade and watch others show us how it was done. All ages were having a go, from tiny infants, to oldies like us on a variety of floating devices. Some were just floating down with no floaters to help them. We laughed at one guy. He had a tiny inflatable boat and a battery powered leaf blower. He was trying to use the leaf blower to rocket his way down the river, without much success, I must add. We took a couple of turns and, a good time was had by all. More folks kept arriving and by the time we had had enough there were a lot of people. This was a definite “must do again sometime” activity and was a fitting way to end our trip. One last campfire tonight and then back to civilisation and the real world tomorrow.

Chutes was a fun stop - and much enjoyed by lots of locals and visitors

Thursday July 30th, 2020, Home sweet Home

We were up earlyish to get started on the last leg of our 370 km trip before hitting the road. The RV has driven like a dream the whole way so far and today was no different. Even though it is now the grand old age of 16 years, the motor has still only done under 50,000 miles, so mechanically it is still a baby.

The final stop of most RV trips needs to be the final emptying of our tanks at the dump station. We stopped in at Grundy Lake, about halfway home and did that little chore before heading home for the final stretch, arriving home around 2pm.

No matter how much we have enjoyed ourselves, it is always nice to get home and get settled in again. I must say though that I love the feeling of a good long road trip, especially with untravelled horizons ahead of one, so the end of a trip is always a happy sad occasion. Our next venture out will be a week in one place with the family at our annual Fairhaven’s Family Camp. Watch this space.

Covid RV 2020 Edition - Ch. 3 On the Road - Beavermead and Beyond

Beavermead Beginning

As with other things in life, the anticipation can be as much fun as the event itself. And so it is with RVing. At the beginning of the season there are a myriad of things to do to get one’s summer cottage on wheels ready to rock and roll. Check lists as long as one’s arm need to be attended to. Bike’s need to be checked that they are in good order. Water must be loaded, and grocery shopping done. Every last detail must be thought through and attended to.

Carla, Neil and Cher on banks of Otonabee River

Beavermead campsite in Peterborough is one of Ontario’s best kept secrets. Please don’t tell anyone else about this. If you do, please ask them not to tell anyone else. The campsite is beautifully shaded, the sites large and the prices reasonable. It is located close to downtown Peterborough and is run by the municipality. It is close to  Little Lake, the Trent Severn Waterway, the Lock Lift, numerous paved cycle routes and is alongside kid’s playgrounds and splash pads. To top it all the local Zoo is free of charge. Most years we spend a few days there with Sammy and Esther, while Elaine gets ready for a 
new school year. 
Our trip to Beavermead this year was with Carla and Neil Daniel. They have got into RVing in the last eighteen months or so. They have a spanking new 30-foot trailer along with a beautiful Toyota truck to tow it. They are fellow South Africans and we have known them for almost thirty years. We have done various camping trips with them over the years. As we have grown a bit older, we have steadily upgraded our camping from rudimentary, sleeping on the ground and cooking with tiny camp gas burners to our current comfortable RVs.


Carla and Neil and inflatable kayak
Rob and Carla - cooling off
in the Otonabee River

Carla and Neil had recently bought an inflatable double kayak and were keen to try it out. To keep them company we decided to bring our canoe. I have yet to figure out how to carry the canoe on our RV, so Cher had to bring our van towing the trailer with canoe loaded on that. Having the canoes and kayaks was fun. It opened up all kinds of fun activities. On our first day we decided to see how far up the river we could paddle before we could not go any further. We paddled across Little Lake and headed upriver. After a while we spotted a coffee shop perched over the river’s edge, along with a docking area. We decided to pull in for a coffee and snack. For Cher and I this was the first time we had eaten out, since Covid struck so we did so, with a bit of trepidation. All was well and we enjoyed our refreshment interlude. The river was dammed a bit higher up, so we turned back having warmed up our canoeing and kayaking wings for the week.

Another day we did a long bike ride up the beautifully paved cycle path. The advantage of riding along a river is that the hills are eliminated. That was fun. Another day we decided to do a longer canoe and kayak trip down the Trent Severn Waterway on the Ottonobee river heading for Rice Lake. We had to go through one lock which was an interesting experience from the vantage point of a canoe. The trip down river was lovely. We got a chance to window shop the riverside cottages along the way. It was Canada Day, so many folks had their waterfronts decorated with bright red chairs and occasional flags. After a while, the cottages thinned out and we were mainly seeing forest alongside the river. It was an extremely hot day, so at one point we pulled over and had a cool off swim, which was fun. At lunch time we spotted a public picnic area and pulled over for lunch and another swim. Eventually we got to our pre-determined destination where we had left Neil’s truck and our trailer earlier, to carry us and our gear back to the campsite.

After our canoe adventure we were exhausted. It took me about two days to recover. We figured out we had paddled about 18 kms. It had looked easy on the map when we planned it, but I now have a better idea what we can manage comfortably and what we can’t.

L. to R. Cher, Carla, Neil, Rose and Al - enjoying the good life

My brother Al and wife Rose drove up from Whitby one afternoon to visit.  Al and I did a nice bike ride almost into Peterborough town proper. In the evening, the six of us had a good time shooting the breeze together. Old friends telling and re-telling old stories. The stuff of which good company is made. Too soon our first week of RVing was over and it was time to head home. We had road tested the RV and we needed to get re-stocked and loaded up for our three-week trip to Lake Superior which was a week later. We were looking forward to that.

Lake Superior Beckons

Lake Superior is the largest lake in the world by area and contains 10% of the world’s surface water. That is just one of the five Great Lakes. It truly is amazing how much water Canada holds in its lakes and rivers. Go Canada!! Exploring its perimeter is definitely bucket list worthy and it has long been a goal of ours.   

On a trip a few years back, we skirted most of the south shore on the USA side. This year with the border being closed we were limited to staying on the north shore on the Canadian side. This suited us fine as we have heard good things about how beautiful it is and besides, beggars can’t be choosers. Covid19 rules and we must obey.

Cher and Esther doing some touch up
on Elaine's car
L. to R. Rob, Elaine, Esther, Sammy 
and Apacha

In planning our route, we had hoped that Elaine, Sammy and Esther would be able to join us. Elaine is planning on homeschooling the kids in the upcoming year and she felt she could not spare the full three weeks which we needed to do the whole trip. Also, she keeps an eye on Apacha, Alex’s dad, who lives next door and she did not feel good about leaving him all alone for three weeks.

Sammy and Esther - enjoying the 
outdoors with us
Sammy got to enjoy a socially distanced
birthday party this year. Guests were
on the street
To make up for us not being able to do that together, we have done a few bike rides and walks with Sammy and Esther, giving Elaine a bit of time on her own to get a few things done.  On our most recent walk, with the kids, we kept finding fallen logs in the forest. I challenged the kids to walk the full length of them without falling into the mud and slush below. This was fun as we got bolder and bolder upping the ante for each other.

The grandchildren had a grand time "social distancing" at a back yard gathering in early July

Once Elaine starts home schooling, we are expecting to be giving her a hand a couple of times a week, so we are looking forward to that time with them all. I think we are going to find this a challenge as the kids threaten to surpass our rather antiquated academic prowess. Both Sammy and Esther love to read and it’s not unusual for them to borrow a dozen books from the library each week, just to keep their hands in.

Lake Superior Highlights:

Saturday July 11th – Sunday 12, 2020 Grundy Lake Provincial Park – we left Port Perry around 11am and set out for our first stop which was Grundy Lake Provincial Park. We had a hilarious start. Cher thought we had to get on to highway 11 going north to Parry Sound and I assumed we had to be on the 400 going north. Neither of us had bothered to look at a map. We had both just take for granted that we knew the way. We finally figured out the way to go and off we went.

The Big Chute - an amazing engineering

 On route we noticed signs to the Big Chute. This had been on our small b bucket list for a while so we made an unscheduled stop. This was a lock on the Trent Severn Waterway with a difference. Instead of bridging the water height gap via one or more locks, the engineers had built an amazing railway system to move the boats from one lake to the next. This involved a massive cage lifting the boats up out of the water in one lake using  rubber straps inside the cage and transported up and over the road on the railway line and deposited back in the water in the next lake along. Quite a feat. I have always had the greatest admiration for engineers who seem to take delight in doing things just to show they can.

We had a campsite booked at Grundy Lake for the night of the 12th, but had decided we would like to see more of it than just an overnight stop so took a chance that we would find a free campsite a day early. As it happened, when we arrived, we lucked out with the last electrified campsite available.

The scenery at Grundy Lake
was gorgeous
Combinations of granite, 
water and forest are
very pleasing to the eye. 

Grundy Lake is a big and busy campsite. It has five or six camping areas on three lakes, each with their own beaches. We explored the whole site initially by bike and then the next day we ventured out on a couple of hikes by foot. The terrain is very much Canadian Shield granite which blends beautifully with the lakes and forests. Cher is a keen bird watcher and we managed to see a few birds of interest but by and large we have been surprised at how little bird life there has been in these forests. On our second hike of the day, we observed, on the far side of the lake, bunches of teens jumping off some quite high rocks into the lake below. I was very tempted to give it a shot. I think if we had had a bit more time, we would have come back to it, but that will have to wait for another trip. On our second walk of the day, we were the only folks on the path, and it got quiet and eerie. We wondered what we might do if we came across a bear. As we came to the end of the trail, we realized we were just on the opposite side of the road to the camp dump. The next day when we dropped off our garbage there was a big sign up to beware of an “Active Bear” in the area. This gave us both a little shiver up our spines. More about bear encounters later.

Grundy Lake was a big thriving campsite, with probably a couple of thousand people staying there. Since then our campsites have been smaller and definitely have a more isolated feeling about them.

Monday July 13th – Thursday 16th, 2020 Pancake Bay Provincial Park

We managed to leave Grundy Lake around 9am. We were on our way to Pancake Bay Provincial Park. It was a trip of about 450kms. We wanted to get there early enough to check the place out after arriving. We travelled about 70kms north to Sudbury and then headed west following the northern shore of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron for about 300 kms to Sault Saint Marie. This stretch of road is quite busy with lots of trucks going both ways. Fortunately, every so often the road widens to two lanes to allow for overtaking, which has been a nice feature so far. We stopped in and found a nice shady parking spot at the Sault Saint Marie waterfront for a late lunch overlooking the park and river frontage. 

West of Sault Saint Marie is the beginning of Lake Superior. From here on we were officially beginning our tour of the northern shore of the lake. The drive to Pancake Bay was another hour or so heading north west. 

On arrival at Pancake Bay PP we got checked in fine, but we were told that the water supply was off due to a pipe breakage which “should be fixed by this evening”. Fortunately, we had filled our water tank before leaving Grundy Lake, so knew we could manage for a short while. We would need to conserve water though until we knew we could top up again. Swimming would have to replace showering for a while. As it happened the water supply was only restored on the last afternoon of our stay. We have been reminded never to travel with an empty water tank.

Pancake Bay - pristine beach and waterfront
Beautiful sunsets - a daily bonus


We got settled into our site which was big, flat and reasonably private, one of the advantages of most provincial parks. We were amazed to find the layout of the campsite was long and thin. It followed the lovely white sand beachfront for about a kilometre and a half, with the front row of campsites literally overlooking the beach. It then went back three of four rows with the back row literally 20 or 30 feet from the Transcanada Highway. We were glad to be in the second row not the fourth.

We did an exploratory walk along the beach. We had been warned that Lake Superior is cold but had not expected it to be freezing. There were a few scattered folks on the beach, and almost no one in the water. The only two hikes in the park were closed for maintenance. We wondered what people did with themselves if the beach was unswimmable and the hikes out of service. Cher and I decided that we were here, and we were going to swim. I braved it first. The water was quite shallow for a long way, so it took quite a bit of running before I plucked up the wherewithal to dive in. It was very brisk, and I immediately turned and ran for the warmth of my towel. Cher followed me with much the same result. So now we did not need to shower for awhile or at least that’s the way we figured it.

We spent a couple of days riding our bikes, hanging out, reading, and walking on the beach, which isendless and beautiful and watching gorgeous sunsets. We had noticed the weather up in these areas has been probably 5 – 10 degrees cooler than “down south”. This was a surprise as we expected it to be hot in the middle of summer. 

On our last day, we decided to pack up the RV and go exploring the area. We have a list of 7 “must see” waterfalls along the length of our trip. First up was the Chippewa Falls a little east of Pancake Bay. We found it and did a bit of hiking up and around the falls which was fun. We had read about an Austrian restaurant at Bachawana Bay nearby which served amazing Wiener Schnitzel, so decided we would treat ourselves and went in search of it. The road ended in a native reserve with no sign of the Austrian restaurant. On inquiry we were told “they have closed”. Not sure if that was Covid related or just the natural order of things.

On the way in to Pancake Bay we had seen a sign for the “World’s most famous Apple Fritters”. After our wiener schnitzel disappointment this sounded irresistible and we went in search of that. It is at a little trading post with a gas station, gift store, restaurant, motel and a sign, saying “No gas for the next 150 kms”. They are sitting on a gold mine. The place was buzzing. We filled up with expensive gas and treated ourselves to a patio lunch and ordered the world-famous fritters for dessert. By the time we got to the dessert we were so full we could not face it. We took one with us for afternoon tea. I can confirm, the fritters were particularly good. Delicious does not quite capture it. Also, one is more than enough for two. World class? Definitely.

We got back to our campsite early afternoon in time for our necessary nap. I have found on this trip that my normal 10-minute power nap has steadily deteriorated into more of a 30 to 40-minute affair. I must say, this has suited me fine. I am surprised I have not stumbled on to this remarkably civilized approach earlier in life.

Sun, Sand a good book 
and a beautiful babe. What 
more could a man want?

It was a gorgeous hot sunny afternoon. We decided to pop down to the beach for a final swim and look see. We took the umbrellas, chairs and books and were set up for a while. For the first time, there were lots of people on the beach and some were even swimming and staying in the water. I decided to dip my toes in. The water was practically warm, so not looking a gift horse in the mouth we both took a longer swim than previously. It was so nice and the lake so perfect that we could not bring ourselves to leave. Cher went and got some snacks and we stayed down there until around 7.30pm. We have noticed that sunset in these parts is close to an hour later than back home. This is nice, but we have found ourselves occasionally heading for bed while it is still light outside.

Friday 17th – Sunday 19th, 2020 Ney’s Provincial Park

We left Pancake Bay around 9am, sad to be leaving Pancake Bay, but keen to see what was next. We had about 350 kms to travel to Ney’s Provincial Park, which has had some good write ups. We were a bit puzzled because we had been checking out the weather in Ney’s for a few days and were keen to resolve a mystery. Whenever we checked out the weather it was about 10 degrees colder than Pancake Bay. We checked Thunder Bay, another 250 kms west from Ney’s to find the temperatures normal again. We were convinced that there must be a Ney’s Provincial Park in the far north and we were looking at the wrong one. We would find out when we got there.

About an hour into our trip we stopped in to check out the Native Pictographs which are painted on a wall of rock immediately facing the lake. It was a bit of a trek down to the paintings with all kinds of dire warnings about potentially being swept into the lake by freak waves. It was quite a challenge to view the pictographs. The only viewing vantage point is gained by gingerly stepping onto slippery, angled rocks which slip directly into the lake. There were some half-hearted chains in place to hold onto and several lengths of rope to pull oneself out of the lake if one did fall in. It was fun, but definitely on the riskier side of our comfort level. I do think the Provincial Park supervising this site could do a better job of conserving these works of art, as one of the ways to make one’s way over to view them is by clinging to the rock face and the paintings themselves. There’s a limit to how long they will withstand that level of handling. It wouldn’t be hard to build a proper platform for people to view them safely from a few feet away without damaging them.

It looks easy, but the sign 
assured us it was not necessarily so!
There's nothing like a well worded sign to 
give a frisson of excitement

We stopped for lunch further west at the mighty city of White River, best known as the original site of the world’s most famous bear Winnie the Pooh. The Canadian officer, heading to Britain during the First World War had bought the baby black bear in White River to accompany him to war as a mascot. He named the bear Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg. On arrival in Britain he ended up donating Winnie to the London Zoo, where he was a great hit with London’s children, one of whom was Christopher Robin. And the rest is history.

Winnie the Pooh - makes White 
River famous

Our final planned stop for the day was the Mink Falls, one of our seven that we are trying to see. We were told it was a bit tricky to find and so it was. There wasn’t anything resembling a signpost and we never did find it. Maybe on the way home it will jump out at us.

We arrived at Ney’s Bay and checked in. Sure enough it was about 14 degrees. I asked the receptionist why it was colder than other places. She just shrugged her shoulders and said, “you’re right we do seem to always be a few degrees colder than other places”. I guess that’s what one gets when one hires summer students and don’t take the time to orient them properly.

Ney’s camp was set up in a similar fashion to Pancake Bay, with beachfront sites for about a kilometre with two or three rows of sites behind them. The one stark difference to Pancake Bay which we do not like about Ney’s is that the beach is covered in washed up debris. We figured that this is the natural look of the bay and the powers that be had decided to leave it that way. Cher got us chuckling. I had bought firewood along the way a couple of times at the Park offices. Each time, the wood had been wet and hard to burn. Cher took one look at all the lovely dry driftwood on the beach and started surreptitiously stuffing bits inside her coat. I have some hilarious video footage of my wife sitting on a log hugging her coat in an effort to conceal her ill gotten gains, while she denies any wrongdoing. All the while with a sweet smile on her face.

Cher - borrowing free firewood from
the beach at Ney's
Gorgeous views were the norm
on our various hikes

The weather at Neys was mainly overcast, misty and rainy. Every now and then when the weather cleared temporarily, we would venture out to explore. At the office we had picked up a brochure titled “What to do if you Encounter a Bear”. It was filled with stark warnings. I was alarmed when they suggested that pepper spray is a must and “some people carry a long-handled axe” when they go walking. At White River, the home of Winnie the Pooh we had read that in Ontario there are an average of 50 bears every 10 square kilometers. If you do the math, this means we might have more company on our nice peaceful forest hikes than we had previously imagined. We did do a couple of shortish hikes in our two day stay, but both carried long sticks, which made us feel better, which is pretty much all the good they would have been. We survived and enjoyed a couple of beautiful walks.

Monday 20th – Wednesday 22nd, 2020, KOA Thunder Bay.

Our trip to Thunder Bay was not long, about 270kms, but we packed in a couple of interesting sights along the way.

Our first stop was at Aguasabon Falls, a few kilometres west of Terrace Bay. The people we met there were at least as interesting as the falls themselves. As we arrived at the entrance area, we met a youngish couple who were emerging from their car looking very bedraggled. He with a mat of long hair over his shoulders. She tattooed copiously. It looked like they had been sleeping in their car. We asked them where they were headed. “Tofino on Vancouver Island” was the reply in a thick Quebecois accent. This is about as far west as one can go in Canada. The next stop is China. “What will you do when you arrive”. The reply with a smile, “We will see when we get there”. We wished them luck.

As we approached the path to the falls, we saw three bikes, loaded to the hilt with panniers tied to a post. We walked down the path towards the falls and met up with their owners and chatted briefly. They were three young guys, in their early twenties, who had left Victoria in BC some six weeks earlier en route to St. Johns Newfoundland. We asked them where they were staying. They said, “wherever we find ourselves or with whoever offers us accommodation”. They were so young, enthusiastic, and fresh faced. It was great to meet them. We wished them well and moved on to check out the falls.

The falls were quite something, with an impressive volume of water coming over them in a torrent. If you are ever driving this route, these falls are a must see.

Nipigon suspension bridge
- very impressive
Moving on, we passed Nipigon, with its large suspension bridge which is where the highway splits into the northern route 11 back to Southern Ontario, as opposed to the southern route 17 which we were on. We had considered returning home that way, but the distances between towns are large and we guessed it would be just hundreds of kilometers of forest. We had opted to return home along the southern route but just staying at different campsites to make it feel like a different route to the one we had just travelled.

After Nipigon we turned off in search of the Ouimet (pronounced We met) Canyon Provincial Park, which was about 10 kilometers off the main road. The road was paved but must have been built in sections of about thirty feet. Each section was very badly joined to the next one. It was like riding a roller coaster with the effect enhanced by the long body of the RV. The only way to eliminate this effect was to drive at a snail’s pace. It was a short walk to the viewing platform which was suspended out over the edge of the canyon. The view was spectacular, of the canyon three hundred feet below. Looking south, the canyon opened out into a lake and river with Lake Superior visible in the distance. It was impressive.

Ouimet Canyon - indigenous folklore
tells an interesting story about the canyon
Ouimet Canyon - we finally
found someone to take a photo
of the two of us due to Covid concerns

While we were there, a group of four young women arrived. We got chatting. They were students from Western University in London, heading out to BC for the summer. Covid19 had modified their other plans so this was their fall-back option. They were camping en route. I asked them if they had seen the three young guys heading east on their bikes. “Yes”, was the reply. If they hadn’t been heading in opposite directions, I’m guessing they would have enjoyed meeting each other.

Next stop was the KOA campsite in Thunder Bay. After 10 days of staying in Provincial Park campsites, the KOA was like a country bumpkin arriving in downtown Toronto. There were two heated swimming pools, laundry facilities and we could do full hook ups (hydro, water and sewer) at our site. We felt like we had died and gone to heaven. The one big downside was that our neighbors on either side of us were very close and visible, so our privacy quotient was not high. We set up the RV and headed down to the main center to get the laundry going, while we sat around the pool, read our books, and swam. Thunder Bay is on the far west side of the time zone. We have noticed that the days have been getting longer purely by us heading west, so we have been loving the long evenings.

The weather outlook for our two days in TBay as it’s known, wasn’t great, but we were here, and this was our chance to see it. We took a URide, (Uber equivalent), the fifteen-minute drive into town and rented a car. This gave us legs to do some exploring. Having said that we drove a couple of kilometers down the road to City Hall where we had been told we could find maps and ideas of what there is to see. The two cities of Fort Willian and Port Arthur were merged in 1970 into the city of Thunder Bay. The result is that TBay now has two downtowns.

Cher delighting in some of 
the local architecture

We decided to start our exploration with a self guided walking tour of some of the grand old homes of Fort William. I love history and was keen to learn some of the background of the city. Cher can take it or leave it but gamely agreed to humor me. We walked the area and read the descriptions of the various houses. In short order we had become reigning experts on pyramidal and hipped roofs, polygonal towers, hooded moldings, lancet windows and more. It was like a Cole’s version of Architectural Basics 101. By the end, my poor wife was looking rather glassy eyed. We decided to go to the Port Arthur downtown to check out the waterfront and find some late lunch.

The Port Arthur waterfront has been done very nicely. It is a mix of parks, walkways and marina and goes on for quite a way. We had hoped to find a restaurant patio down there, but no such luck. We decided we would have to venture into the downtown to see what we could find. We were sitting having a quick snack to keep us going when we got chatting to a couple walking by with their dog. We asked them for ideas as to where we could eat. Thunder Bay area has the highest population of ethnic Finnish people outside of Finland. Somewhere we had read that we needed to sample the Finnish fare. The couple suggested we go to The Nook for that and gave us directions. We decided to take the high overhead walkway into town, over the busy road, only to discover, it was closed “due to Covid19”. We headed back to our car and navigated our way over to there. After scoring a free parking spot, we walked down to The Nook to find it was only doing curbside pick up and to add insult to injury, it was an Italian restaurant. We enquired at a local Finnish bookshop what our other options were. The gentleman suggested the only place that he was sure would be open would be a couple of blocks away, “an easy walk”. Off we went. They turned out to be long blocks and when we arrived the place was a dump, and thankfully was closed “due to Covid19”.

By now we were both feeling a trifle fractious. We had spotted one restaurant on our way over to The Nook, with an outdoor patio with bright pink umbrellas and decided, in the interests of family harmony, that we should go there and forget the Finnish fare. We will do that next time we come to Thunder Bay. We finally got there, to find a rather overpriced menu but pleasant outlook on the street. We took a deep breath, decided to call it dinner, which it wasn’t far off of by then, and it felt better when we paid the bill. By then our cell phone told us we had walked 14179 steps, eight kilometres, and headed back to the RV for some down time.

We had been waiting for better weather and the next day delivered on that front. We took a thirty-minute drive west from TBay to Kakabeka Falls, known as the Niagara of the North. These falls were very impressive. The Provincial Parks have done a wonderful job of building a beautiful walkway on both sides of the Kaminisquia River to get the best possible views. The Voyageurs used to use this river to head further west in search of furs and trade. Getting up and around the 120 forr falls was a major problem for them. Eventually they found another route via Grand Portage on the current USA/Canada Border which apparently was more manageable.

Rob and Cher with Kakabeka 
Falls in the background

Kakabeka Falls - known as the
Niagara of the North

We had been advised that the Fort Willian Golf and Country Club served a good lunch and it was enjoyable to watch the golfers whilst eating a modest meal. We headed over there after the Kakabeka Falls and watched a bunch of guys doing some great putting on the practise greens while we ate. It was only towards the end of our lunch, that we noticed that we had not seen a single women golfer in the whole time we had been there. It had a slight “Stepford Wives” feel about it and we beat a hasty retreat.

Terry Fox - a Canadian hero 
by any measurement

We had one final thing left to do on our wish list in TBay. We had been told that we had to visit the Mt. McKay Lookout, which apparently offers spectacular views of the whole area. It is on the local Native Reserve and there was some concern that it may be closed to the public “due to Covid19”. We had asked our waitress at the Golf Club if she could direct us there. She said, “actually I went there yesterday. It is officially closed, but you can walk up the mountain and it’s only an hour and a half walk”. Hmmm. Dillemma. Walk for three hours up and down or miss the promised view. We eventually opted to “do it the next time we visit TBay”.

On our way back to the KOA we came upon the Terry Fox Memorial and popped in to check it out. It is a beautiful memorial to this remarkable young man. Having lost one leg to cancer already, he embarked on a cross country run from St. John’s Newfoundland, to raise funds for cancer research. For over 120 days he ran the equivalent of a full marathon, with one stump leg eventually clocking over 5000 kilometres before the cancer caught up with him in Thunder Bay and he was unable to continue. After all these years in Canada I finally realized why Terry Fox is such a hero. I am told that since then, over $1 billion have been raised in his name towards cancer research, so his legacy lives on.

After that we returned to the KOA for a snooze and swim. The two swimming pools are kept well heated, there was some great country music playing and we enjoyed our final afternoon of the bright lights and comforts of Thunder Bay and area. Tomorrow we leave civilization and will be back in the boonies of Provincial Parks.