Leaving North Bay on my search, I go west along Hwy 17 and my heart starts to beat a little faster. I love this part of the Northern Ontario. Not only for the stange and interesting but also the beauty it holds. Come along as my search brings me to a couple of things I have seen before, a whole new experience and a little bump along the way.
The Big Nickel
Driving by Sudbury you have to stop at the Big Nickel. At 30 feet (9.1 meters) tall, this replica of a 1951 five cent piece stands out among the rocky terraine. Why a giant Nickel? Sudbury is well known for its nickel mining. Did you know it was a copper mining town first? In 1886, Canadian Copper, Sudbury’s first mine was open. In 1901 nickel mining began by a man by the name of Alva Edison. Through the years Sudbury has become one of the largest producers of nickel in the world.
On the site of the Big Nickel is Dynamic Earth museum. Sudbury has two of the most interactive and interesting science museums in the world. Science North and Dynamic Earth take you into the world of science and geology that everyone can understand. It is very hands on and great for people of all ages to learn and enjoy. I had a chance to visit Dynamic Earth with my grandkids and was very impressed. They took you down to a mine shaft and talked about mining through the ages. A very informative tour.
I have worked in and visited Sudbury a few times. Sudbury is a great city and the largest in Northern Ontario. A few fun facts.. there are more than 5000 miles of mining tunnels running under the Sudbury region. If you put them all together you could walk all the way to Vancouver. It also home to one of the oldest and third largest meteor crash on Earth called the Sudbury Basin. If you have a chance to stop in for a visit, please do, you will be glad you did.
Elliot Lake and the Tailings
I worked in Elliot Lake and frankly fell in love. It is a wonderful community filled with lakes and natural beauty as well as an interesting history. I have met some wonderful people that would continue to be my good friends even after all these years later. Anytime I pass by Elliot Lake I have to stop and visit my friends at Dunlop Lake Lodge. A rustic lodge sitting on a beautiful lake. A nice restaurant attached and deck that has the most beautiful coffee view. It a must stop everytime.
Down the backroads of Elliot Lake you will see a wall of black rocks. It is obviously man made. What could it be?
Elliot Lake started as a mining town. In the mid 1950’s the ground in Elliot Lake was found to be rich with uranium. By 1958 the town had become one of the major producers of uranium in the world. At the time the cold war was just heating up and the need by the US for uranium was urgent. Nuclear power was just being discovered. During this time Canada became the leader in the production of Uranium. By the early 60’s the need for uranium for weaponry slowed but the discovery of using it for electricity revitalized a few of the mines. By the 90’s all of Elliot Lake’s 10 mines were closed and one of the things that was left was the tailings. In fact Elliot Lake has the majority of tailings in Canada. The tailings are the rock that is left behind after the uranium is extracted. This black rock that towers above you and goes for miles still has some radioactibity in it. There are approximately 200 million tonnes of tailings in Elliot Lake. As they work to revitalize the environment left behind, you can still see the walls of tailings.
You Are Half Way There
Along Hwy 17, just north of Sault St. Marie, in a little town called Chippawa Falls is the half way point across this vast and beautiful country. The Trans Canada Highway weaves away across Canada from the farthest point east, St. John’s, Newfoundland to the farthest west, Victoria, British Columbia. At 7,476 km (4,860 miles) long, it is the ultimate roadtrip.
It all really started in 1925 with the, what I believe would be, Canada’s first roadtrip. A man named Dr. Perry Doolittle took his Model T Ford and decided to cross Canada. There was no Trans Cananda Highway back then. In some places there was not even road. Dr. Doolittle actually attached rail car wheels to his car to be able to travel along the railways where pieces of road were missing. In an age where cars were not the norm I think this was an extraordinary feat! It took him 39 days to dip his wheels in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. He advocated for a road that would go across the country his whole life. Sadly he passed in 1933 without seeing his vision realized. It would not be until 1962 that then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker would open the Trans Canada Highway. The highway would still be under construction until 1971. Coincidentally it is this part that was one of the last pieces built. The topography of the region along with the hard granite rock made building a roadway difficult. I so hope Dr. Doolittle is looking down with pride and this road traveller thanks him for his courage and adventurism.
The Beauty of Highway 17
I was so excited to travel Hwy 17. The road that travels along the top of Lake Superior is one of the most beautiful drives. From large cliffs to glorious beaches is definitely a drive to look forward to. Places like Aguasabon Gorge, Old Woman’s Bay, Batchawana Bay, and Rainbow Falls are some of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. The natural beauty of this area is stunning. There are also a few places that have interesting stories and are little strange.
Did you know Wawa has the most photographed landmark in North America and it is a Canada Goose? The Wawa Goose stands 28 feet tall, is 22 feet wide. It’s wingspan is 20 feet. That is one big, popular goose.
White River also has a surprising story. As you pass through town you will see a statue of Winnie the Pooh. You have to ask yourself… why??? You see apparently the story of Winnie the Pooh started right here in this little town. How did a story about a little bear that originates in England start in Northern Ontario. Well it started as a rescue when a little black bear cub found itself orphaned. Harry Colebourn was off to WWI and at the train station there was a man selling a little bear cub. Harry decided that the little fella would be a great companion to keep him company on his war efforts. Off they both went to England. Eventually Harry got transfered to France and although it broke his heart he gave the bear to a zoo in London as there was no way to take him with him. It was there that this little black bear met Christopher Robin and the rest they say is history.
A Little Bump in the Road
For a little bit of the drive my tires sounded different driving down the road. It is kind of hard to explain but they just did not have the same ring to them. There was no pull to the left or the right. I could take my hands off the steering wheel and we would glide smoothly and straight but the sound was just a little different. It was when I was in Elliot Lake that my friend Randy, who is an owner at the Dunlop Lake Lodge noticed the tire wear on my front tires. They are not old tires but the outside of the tire had extreme wear marks. OHHH that is not good. I knew nothing was broke so it had to be an alignment or with that wear pattern a camber issue. I left Elliot Lake thinking I could make it back down south and fix it. By the time I neared Thunder Bay there was now a slight vibration. This was not going to wait. Here is where my support system steps in.
I am blessed with many friends. People tell me I have good friends because I am a good friend. I tell them I am a good friend because I have good friends. My best friends Mark and Diane who live in Niagara, Mark’s brother Phil and his wife Gwen who I know and adore live in Thunder Bay. I texted Phil and asked him if he knew of a good alignment place. He tells me that his and Mark’s other brother, Fred, who I do not think I have never met and still have not, works at Fountain Tire. A few text’s later I could bring it in the next morning and they would have a look at her. Oh Yea!! Friends! 💜
Pulling in the place was already busy at opening. This would be a long day. I spoke with Randy and told him of problem. I told him there was no pull, no grind or broken noise but of the wear pattern, what I thought it could be and I would also need two new tires. He said they would get to it as quick as they could, he thought maybe early afternoon and if I needed a ride home. I laughed and told him, home is in your parking lot and I was doing research for a travel book and on tour. I told him I would just go home, to my van, until they could get me in. No problem. Within 15 minutes he was back at my van telling me they had to wait for a part so he could get me in and assessed. Awesome. It was what I thought it was. Yea! I was right but uggg it was going to be kind of expensive. Lol.
I knew I was in good hands and headed over to the Husky Truck Stop for breakfast. I had worked in Thunder Bay many times. When I rounded the corner I knew I had been in this restaurant more than a few times. With some really good people. As I sat and looked at the post office across the road I almost laughed out loud at remembering the moments of working with the staff of Thunder Bay post office and my coworkers who made a difficult and sometimes stressful job that much more enjoyable. Good times and warms thoughts. Goes great with coffee. Within 5 hours I was back on the road.
I very large thank you to Randy, Fred and staff of Fountain Tire. It was nice to know I was in good hands and running safely down the road again.
Next we are off to an Amethyst Mine, a giant snowman and see a UFO. But that is next week. Stay tuned as I search Ontario for the most Starange and Interesting places.
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.
See you next week.