Postcard from Ontario

12-15 July 2010
(Thunder Bay, ON)

We made it to the border as early as I could manage (did I mention we’re really, really slow to get going?!) and went thru the border crossing without a hitch. Remember the precaution of getting an International Health Certificate for the dogs? It made us feel prepared, but the border official was uninterested. He asked if we had proof of rabies vaccinations for both dogs (it’s listed on the form), but he didn’t even want to see it… just wanted to make sure we had it in case we were asked for it. That was probably $60 per dog that was wasted for the physical exam and form, but we followed the instructions on their site and that’s what I understood they wanted. Go figure.

Remember our preparations the night before? where we threw out all the remaining produce and meat? That was the right thing to do. When we entered Canada the only thing they asked about was potatoes, but in talking to others apparently the items of greatest concern change with the wind. So getting rid of it was probably OK. And it left us stocked with fresh-everything when we finally headed north out of Thunder Bay.

We again stayed at a KOA and the one at Thunder Bay is a great choice. It was big enough that it made it great for walking the dogs (they get bored with the same old walk) and there was a lot of up/down so the exercise was good for us too. The best part was there was a dog run the was big. The loved it and ran their butts off each nite.

We were introduced to Canadian TV programming and, since we seldom watch regular US programming anymore, it was something of a treat. Among other niceties was a new show called Doyle’s Republic and we got hooked. We were able to see 3 or 4 episodes, but now we want to see more and there’s no way. Guess we’re going to have to come back!

We were able to do the shopping needed to get us around the north shore of L Superior. In fact, we found a Safeway in Thunder Bay (only the 2nd Safeway we’ve seen since we left California in 2003).

We also went to WalMart and inquired about pre-paid phones. Our Alltel/Verizon phones were going to cost a bundle to get authorized for international use. The manager at the WalMart spent a lot of time with us telling us about the options, but suggested that we wait till we got further east as long distance rate were based upon the region where you buy the phone. If we waited for Sault Ste. Marie she thought we could save significant charges when using the phone to call ahead for reservations plus we weren’t going to find cell coverage along the north shore. Made sense and we appreciated her candid explanation. In fact the kindness we received was repeated over and over our whole time in Canada.

Kakabeka Falls

Kakabeka Falls, just W of Thunder Bay, ON

We took one day and drove to Kakabeka Falls. We’d heard from friends Mike & Susan that it was a must-see if we were ever in the area and they were right. It was beautiful and the walkways were setup for viewing. Especially great for photographers.

Trying to get a drink (!) at Kakabeka Falls

We had the dogs with us, of course, which got a little exciting at times as I was trying to take a few pictures while someone would come up to ask about the dogs and to get in a few pats. Kelly is a little reserved but Annie loves the attention and will usually roll onto her back for a few belly rubs from her newest best friend. I’d be pointing my camera toward the falls and suddenly I’d have a view of the sky and on my way to a prat fall. But it was fun and Celia would usually be able to save the day.

We had a reality check in TB. I started noticing that, even considering any advantage in the exchange rate (less than 4% at the time), the prices for food & household items in Canada- stuff you’d buy at WalMart- were (and I’m sure still are) 10%-20% higher than in the US before you consider taxes. Restaurants were even worse… maybe 30%. We knew that fuel prices were going to be higher… been that way forever. Maybe they balance budgets thru cheaper rents or lower property prices. Dunno as we never had the chance to compare those prices.

15-17 July 2010
(Neys PP)

Along the hwy to Neys PP

When we’d finally convinced ourselves we were restocked, we left Thunder Bay for Neys Provincial Park following the west and then north shores of L Superior. Provincial parks are roughly equivalent to a state park in the US and our experience suggests that the provinces work harder at keeping them natural (no cutting wood, no picking up down-wood, etc.). They also keep the camp sites as natural as possible which can make it difficult to park in the site if you’re a putz like me. Neys was our introduction to the PPs and what an introduction it was.

What a view of L Superior!

I’d found a web site that allows a visitor to make reservations on line. It took a lot of fiddling but I managed to find a pull-thru site with 30A hydro. I don’t know about the other provincial parks in Ontario, but Neys didn’t have sewer connections at any site. They do have dump stations so was going to be high-end dry camping: water and power, no sewer. Our site was facing the shore of L Superior and provided a view of the lake worthy enough to grace a poster. What a spectacular camp site.

The ranger that checked us in suggested pulling in opposite the normal direction so we could have the view thru our rear window. I eye-balled it, but it appeared that the 2 trees standing as sentinels at the entrance to the site were going to keep that from happening. Bummer. It was a great suggestion. It took some fussing but we eventually got situated and had a comfortable site.

The beach across from our camp site

Dogs are not allowed on the beach (another bummer!) which really limited what we could do. However, we were able to use the trails without restriction so we could hike.

Hiking required some caution. Ontario (and perhaps other provinces) is having a problem with invasive growth of Giant Hog Weed. The plant, originally from China, can be highly toxic and under the right circumstances has caused blindness. Our first walk near our campground found us dodging around a half dozen of these big nasties.

Our neighbor’s rig

A neighbor at Neys told us that Thunder Bay didn’t exist before 1970. In that year the adjoining cities of Port Arthur and Fort William merged their resources and became the city of Thunder Bay. Turns out he was a retired policeman from TB and a fountain of information for newbies like us.

We enjoyed our 2 nights in Neys – it was all I could manage to get and we wanted more! – but had to pull out of the best RV site ever made. We headed up the road about 50 miles to White Lake PP for another 2-nighter.

Wild flowers at Neys PP

I believe this was the landing area for brining in prisoners of war during WW-II

Sunset on the N shore of L Superior

17-19 July 2010
(White Lake PP)

Dense woods at our White L PP site

While Neys PP is on L Superior and situated with the shore as the focus, White Lake PP is very secluded with the camp sites obscured and no view of the lake it’s named for unless you hike to the shore. White L is more rustic & woodsy than Neys with tall trees and low brush around each site. Our site had the same amenities as we found at Neys, but the hydro was further away. The power pylons seemed to be sprinkled without regard for where the camp sites are located. [ Sadly the many photos I took at White L PP seem to have vanished into the hungry bowels of my computer. This after-sunset shot is all I can offer. ]

Thanks to the seemingly random placement of the pylons, we struggled when it came time to connect since our power cord was only 25′ and we needed about 60′. A neighbor helped us get situated and when he heard about our power dilemma, he immediately went digging for his 30-A extension. That proved to be too short, so we decided to just use a 15-A connection and string together however many cords we needed. A short while later he was back with yet another 30-A extension, this one from a friend of his that was camped up the road a bit. So with our 25′ 50-A cable and 30-A/50-A adapter plus their two 30-A cables we were able to get connected. We were really taken aback by their kindness and willingness to help a couple old toots they’d never seen before and would likely not meet again. Wow! Thanks guys.

It turned out that most of the folks we saw at White L PP are locals who spend their weekends at the park. Their sites are chosen as part of a Spring lottery. While their rigs are all movable, they generally don’t move further than the site they get assigned the next season. Since they had to be back at work come Monday, by Sunday evening things were really quiet. Families packed up the leftovers and the dirty laundry and headed home till the following weekend. There were perhaps 50 campsites in our immediate area with no more than 5 families in residence Sunday nite even though 45 of the 50 sites had a rig parked. (I recall a time when you could do this sort of thing at Yosemite in California… but that’s ancient history!)

I asked one camper what the primary employment was in the area and he said most people work for the gold mine. He had a 2-hr drive to get home and left about 7 PM to catch some sleep before getting to work at 6 AM the next morning. He and his wife still took time to be gracious hosts as we chatted inside their (portable) screen room.

We could only get these 4 nights camping at 2 provincial parks. The parks are popular and booked pretty much to the max during the good-weather season. Plus many of the parks are small or have confined roads and can’t accommodate our size rig. But we enjoyed what we could get, returned the borrowed power cables, and headed out for Sault Ste. Marie the next day.

19-25 July 2010
(Sault Ste. Marie)

Entrance at KOA Sault Ste. Marie

We made reservations at the KOA in Sault Ste. Marie before we left Thunder Bay as we knew we wouldn’t have internet access while we were on the N Shore of L Superior. It was a good thing too as the park is very busy, it’s beautiful, and it’s popular. There were weekenders and a few long term renters, but about half were like us: just passing thru. The park has lots of very tall trees to provide shade with just the right amount of filtered light to keep the grass growing and make it note seem too dark.

The office building

The owners had just recently purchased the park and were working hard to make sure everything was done right. They already have an off-leash area, but they hoped to expand it soon to several times its current size. Yee haw! Annie & Kelly are going to love that.

Sault Ste. Marie is where we decided to get the pre-paid phones which we did. Back to WalMart since we had gotten such knowledgeable advice there when in Thunder Bay. Well, the advice wasn’t as good, but thanks to the previous help we knew what was going on and bought the phones. I managed to get one set up right away. We needed to make reservations in Barrie & Parry Sound as we got ourselves on the way to visit with Doug & Pat of home-made-doughnut fame, as well Glen & Dale who were our neighbors in Clewiston, FL.

Then I called Verizon to get voice mail messages and what should I find but 3 messages from our alarm company… never a good sign. Protection One was having trouble accessing the alarm to do their test of the system and wanted us to know so we could schedule a tech for repair. We called the person who was checking our house occasionally and I happened to reach her while she was there. Perfect timing, but the news wasn’t so good. Turns out there was a power problem. Some lights were working, but everything in the kitchen was dead including the appliances. Oh joy.

Then we called friends who are familiar with the house pretty well in order to get a 2nd opinion and an  objective look at what the problem might be. They ran thru pretty much every circuit and found the ones that were alive and of those that were dead they all had tripped GFIs which wouldn’t reset. So with that choice bit of info we had a couincil meeting. The consensus was we needed to go home. Not a good news day.

We dragged our feet another couple days, taking a walking tour of the waterfront area of Sault Ste. Marie. The replica of BOUNTY was there and we dodged around more goose-poop than I’ve ever seen in my life. The dogs had no issue with it… they think goose-poop is an hors d’hourve!

Sault Ste. Marie waterfront
The HMS BOUNTY replica

The BOUNTY again
In the US what this tourist is looking at would be called a ‘dolphin striker’. Dunno what the Royal Navy thought to call it!

Our Sault Ste. Marie KOA camp site… nice!
View past the DIY rig-washing site
The large-group open area
More of Sault Ste. Marie KOA

But eventually there was no choice but to pull the plug and get moving southwest. I called and cancelled all the just-made reservations and we moved back across the border. An
d what an experience that was

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in Benson, AZ. The 2 bernese mountain dogs that initiated the name of this blog are gone but forever alive in our memory.
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