Non-Radio – Trip Around Lake Superior

Nipigon River Bridge Ontario, close to the halfway point of our trip

Back less than 24 hours from a Lake Superior Circle Trip – actually completing the Canadian parts we have never done. This is post is pretty much non-radio (spoiler alert) other than seeing what the October 2021 USA->Canadian and Canadian->USA Border crossings would involve for a contemplated future radio trip.

I’ll pick up at Sault Ste Marie (said “Soo-Saint-Marie” … well mostly said that way) on the Michigan (USA) side where I was careful to fill the gas tank, as USA fuel is about 60% the cost of Canadian fuel. When you drive to Canada there is a long double bridge over the locks that the current car toll was $4.00 US. The lady who took our toll seemed to be amused by us – we sensed she thought we would be send back.

There was no other cars going our way or coming back from Canada on this massive 2.8 miles (4.5 km) bridge. I saw a sole person below running with their dog, as otherwise we would have been able to say we saw not a single person in the border area.

At the Ontario end the Immigration/Customs Canada complex has about eight lanes, of which only two were open when we arrived. Ahead of us were three cars and a single semi.

We had prepared for the crossing with:

I had gone through the vehicle in depth to make sure I had not forgotten some fishing or hunting gear in the SUV, as the wrong stuff could be a issue if there was a technical rule we might have breached. Was a good time to to also make sure we had fresh first aid kits, and the stuff you want in your car when travels will take you hours from the nearest town.

Back to the crossing, the Immigration Canada agent asked for passports, which were scanned, and started asking questions. Genuine surprise was on the agent’s face when I could peel off each requested item (ArriveCAN Confirmation Number and Test Results) on request. We again had the impression that people try winging-it and fail. We were also asked where we were going, to roll down the read windows to verify there wasn’t anyone else in the car, and the “anything to declare?” phrase which was more a laid back midwestern “Bringing anything I should know about?”

We were told we were good to go, that we would not be subject to any additional testing, and to enjoy Ontario.

Eleven minutes all told. Amazing really, as we had been prepared for a lengthier ordeal, having fueled up, taken a restroom stop and all that.

Checking into our Hotel on the Ontario side was normal, excepting a few things. Ontario’s Provincial CCP-19 rules and Canadian National rules had not been resynchronized when the National rules were updated to allow USA travelers again. So we could not use the Hotel Pool or Fitness Center because Ontario rules required a 14 day quarantine and made no provision for Vax-Card or Acquired-Immunity.

To eat in the hotel, which had an outstanding restaurant, a “CPP-19 Bouncer” had to inspect your cards and usually you have to fill in an attendance log. At times your room number would take care of the log part.

Masks worn in the hotel and restaurant, except when sat eating. We saw masks used a bit less later in our travels.

We saw a number of abandoned buildings, graffiti laden often with windows broken out.  Talking with locals we learned one complex had been vacated for a new medical complex over ten years back, and left fallow.  An adjacent house we were told had just been sold for over $1m CND, yet the complex looked like hell.

Clearing the metro the wonderful Ontario woodlands and lakeshore were everything we had hoped.  Because of rain we skipped a couple tradional tourist stops, and substituted dry sky alternatives.  Of course we had to see the setup at White River, where the bear cub that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh had come from.  A bit of poetic license there, as the original bear was a sow, and wasn’t so small when it ended up in London England.

Eventually we made it to our son’s home in Marathon, from which we did a bit of sightseeing and hiking at the Pukaskwa National Park.

Pukaskwa National Park near Marathon Ontario

As he needed to work Canadian Thanksgiving Day, we headed off west to a series of towns that each had something nice about them.  Aguasabon Falls stood out.

Aguasabon Falls near Terrance Bay Ontario

After an emotionally moving stop at the Terry Fox Memorial, we ended our day in Thunder Bay, where we had an excellent Thanksgiving Dinner at our hotel on the waterfront.

Terry Fox Memorial near Thunder Bay Ontario

As we closed toward the Pigeon River border crossing the next morning, we saw progressively less cars, not seeing another moving vehicle the last 10-15 miles. There was one of four inspection lanes showing a green light, and the US Border Agent had to move a traffic cone to open up the one operational lane. Similar questions, and this crossing took under 90 seconds. I’ve not had such a quick crossing before.

Weather cooperated and we had lunch outside on the shores of Lake Superior at Grand Marais, made a couple stops before arriving at our Duluth hotel late afternoon. As always Duluth is a mix of slightly pricey while also shabby, yet a good amount of style and green space, while very industrial.  Near our hotel was Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum, a century old ruin.

Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum, a Harbor Relic at Duluth Minnesota

Along the way we acquired a favorite of ours, Wild Rice. Wild Rice is actually a grassy grain that is a cousin to what most of us consider to be rice. I had bought what I thought was a healthy resupply for our home larder. When we unpacked, I was a bit amazed how much wild rice I had actually bought (both regular and parched to become a quick-cooking version).

Our route home took us by Rice Lake Wisconsin, where The Norske Nook offers simply amazing slices of pie. Featured on several TV shows over the years, a slice of Sour Cream Lingonberry and Classic Pumpkin pie were well worth the short diversion.

Each of us had some business to take care of by Zoom meetings while we traveled. Mine was less successful as cellular signal issues in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula knocked me out of the meeting four-five times. I also was able to use my company “Remote-Kit” along the way, which gave me great tools to make my away time less disruptive for the company.

All told about 1500 miles (2400 km) and the SUV did a bit over 20 MPG (14 L per 100 km). I had hoped for a bit better mileage, but this SUV is rather new and we could consider this trip to be its first major trip and end of its break-in period.

Speaking of driving most of the Canadian highways peaked at 90km/h (56 mph) but you better go about 62-63 mph (100-102 km/h) unless you want a huge tailback of cars and trucks behind you. Plenty of passing lanes lets the real speeders get by. Locals cautioned about night driving as the Moose and Deer are serious night hazards.

All in all a great trip and adventure.



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2 thoughts on “Non-Radio – Trip Around Lake Superior

  1. Tom Bryan says:

    Thanks Steve, I enjoyed your story.


  2. va3paw says:

    Thank you Steve, great info and pics. Glad you enjoyed your trip to VE3!

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