Saturday, August 08, 2009

around the Georgian Bay - part 1

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hessel, Michigan to Parry Sound, ON Canada

Up bright and early to get things packed and beat the lines at the border crossing.  There wasn’t even time for breakfast.

Though we made it out of bed early enough, we had a few distractions that delayed our departure.  First, I discovered that my awesome Ray-Bans were left on the dash of Mark’s (my father in law) boat this past evening.  The boat, and consequently sunglasses left the dock before sunrise.  Darn.

The next adventure for the morning was getting Erica’s slightly over-packed bag in the pannier.  After much huffing and puffing, and removing some not-so-necessary items, we were on our way!

First stop, Sault Ste Marie McDonalds…

We arrived at the SSM McDonalds to be utterly surrounded by gnats.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many gnats.  They were everywhere, except inside the restaurant.

Erica had a coffee, Bacon and Cheese Biscuit with a hash brown Since they didn’t have my favorite Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, I settled for a Sausage Cheese Biscuit, hash brown, and coffee.

The truth is neither of us were really into our breakfast.  We both had our mind on getting across the border, and getting down the road.  The truth is, neither of us had done a land border crossing – despite the fact that we’ve both been out of the country.  We’ve flown every other time.

Heading across the Sault Ste Marie International Bridge, we were overwhelmed at how high it was.  Though not as high as the Mackinac Bridge that I had crossed days earlier, I believe this one felt taller.  This may be because there is much development under this bridge which allows one to better judge the height.

We were both fairly distracted while crossing the bridge.  Anyone who has crossed a toll bridge on a motorcycle should understand.  Going through our minds were thoughts such as, “Where is the toll booth?”, “How much is the toll?”, “Where are the passports?”, “Where is customs?”, “What will they want from us?”, etc.

On the far side of the bridge we discovered the tollbooth, and not far past it the Customs stop.  “Do you have any guns, pepper spray, or illegal weapons?" asks the border agent?  We replied, “No.”  “Welcome to Canada,” she says.  Really that’s it!?  You don’t even want my passport?  I would have liked to have the stamp, at least!  Oh well.

For what hassle the border crossing lacked, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario Canada made up for.  Between the stop-n-go traffic, construction, and my outdated GPS maps we really didn’t know when we would get out of there.  Not surprisingly, Garmin released the map updates shortly after we returned home.

Quickly on the open road, the only thing on our mind besides missing the opportunity to exchange currency was getting a move on to Perry Sound.  We had many miles to cover and it had begun to rain.

I’m not sure what we expected for Canadian scenery but we were disappointed to find that for miles and miles the scenery looked just like Michigan!  Rationally, we knew that we had only crossed an imaginary line; however, we expected to feel like we had crossed into another country.

Riding along the Trans-Canada highway, we passed through small towns such as Laird, Tarbutt (no joking), and Bruce Mines.  Many of these towns were, thankfully, not much more than a wide spot in the road.

Arriving in Blind River, we decided that it was time to take a break from the rain, and for Erica, warm up with a little hot chocolate.  We quickly decided on Tim Horton's.  We had them in the States, it was familiar, and most importantly quick.  We couldn’t have been more wrong about that last point.  Though the staff were serving very quickly, the wait was long due to the sheer volume of patrons.  We soon learned that Tim Horton's, or “Timmie’s” as some locals call it, is something of a religious trek for many hardy Cannuks.

After having been refreshed by our short break at “Timmie’s,” it was time to move on.

On we did move.  We passed through Spragge, Spanish,and Massey before arriving at the intersection of Canadian Route 6 and 17 (Trans-Canadian Highway).  It was time to stop for gas.  I will have to say that by this point Canada had made an impression on us.  We were shocked at how there was little to nothing between the little towns, and how busy the businesses were in these little towns.  The only way I can describe the traffic at this gas station is to ask you to imagine how the grocery stores are just before a huge snowstorm.  It was that busy!

Having acquired a cheap pair of sunglasses and a tank of gasoline on my trusty credit card, it was time to get moving again.  The funny thing about that gasoline is that I wouldn’t know how much I paid for it until I was back home.  Converting liters to gallons and Canadian to US dollars, I learned that we paid – a lot!  Oh well, its vacation.

Continuing through the now less than spotty rain we arrived in Parry Sound.  Thanks to the trusty GPS, we had no problem finding our home for the night – Parry Sound Bayside Inn.  Like Erica, I thought to myself, “Really?  This is it?”  Well actually, Erica said it out loud.  I had the advantage of seeing photos of the inside, so deep down I knew we were fine but Erica had to wait.

We were well received by Jeff in the nicely decorated lobby of the Inn.  Since we had arrived relatively early (around 4:00 PM) we had to wait on the porch a few minutes for the room to be finished up.  I don’t think that either of us minded though since the rain had ceased, we were at our destination, and we were setting in some other position than upon the motorcycle.

We were taken into our third floor suite after not too long of a wait.  The room was stylish and clean.  We learned from our host, Jeff, that we were amongst the first few quests to stay in this room as it had just been completed.

Upon changing our clothes into something a little more appropriate for dinner, we headed off to the Bay Street Cafe.  Employing the “We’re on vacation” strategy, we had a little of everything including drinks, appetizers, entree, and desert.  Though nothing was spectacular, the food was good and fairly reasonably priced.

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