I have enjoyed some blog worthy roadtrips. Travel destinations that when I arrived I knew I would want to go back. Come along as I share a few of my favorites.
Northern Ontario has been my go to place for rest and relaxation my whole life. It is such a vast and beautiful area that is hard to choose just a few places. The Nickle Mines of Sudbury, mining for Amethyst at the Panorama Amethyst Mine near Thunder Bay to the wilderness of the north in Pickle Lake, anywhere you go there is beauty to behold.
Kettle Lakes Provincial Park
Just north of Timmins Ontario on Highway 101 is Kettle Lakes Provincial Park. I had the pleasure of staying there when I worked in Timmins and have since went back a couple of times. All the comforts of a modern campground deep in the northern forest.
One of my favorite things about being that far north is the animals and critters that I camp with. The wood pecker above woke me every morning for a week. Only it was not wood pecking I was hearing. Each morning I woke to a sound of something metal being hammered quickly and lightly. It took me a couple of days and a few, what is that, before I found it. Just outside my campsite was a metal sign. One morning while trying to track down the sound as it sounded close, I discovered that my alarm clock was a woodpecker that had decided it was time for everyone be up. Lol. Check out the video on my YouTube channel
Kettle Lakes was also my first bear encounter. He stopped by my campsite as he (guessing it was a he) was walking down the roadway. I was in my lawnchair reading, when I looked up to see a bear looking at me. He was beautiful. I said hello and told him how pretty he was and he turned away and carried on his way. From Woodpeckers to chipmunks to bears and moose it is a nice setting to enjoy the best of nature.
Dunlop Lake Lodge, Elliot Lake
Dunlop Lake Lodge sits quietly on Dunlop Lake in Elliot Lake. The serenity of the waves softly landing on the shore mixed with the rustic cabin feel of the Lodge is a place you can truly lay back and relax. I became good friends with the owners, Trish and Randy when I worked in Elliot Lake. I was not only impressed by the Lodge itself with a patio looking over the calm of the lake while enjoying a wonderful dinner but also the diversity of the ways you can enjoy the lake and trails. Not only can you pick a campsite or stay in the Lodge but you also can choose a cabin or even the bunk house for large groups. The ATV trails are some of the best in Ontario and you can go for miles. The next time you go to Elliot Lake make sure you stop by and tell them Chipmunk sent you.
There was so many beautiful places in Newfoundland. My girlfriend Kim and I spent three weeks on the island. That was not enough time. From our first stay at the Genevieve Bay Inn until we got on the ferry at Port aux Basques it was magnificent everywhere we went. Waking up with the moose at Pistole Bay Provincial Park, walking on rocks that were alive (Thrombolites), one of the only two places you can find them on earth. Touching the earth’s mantle at Gros Morne National Park and experience the colour and beauty of St. John’s. There are a lot of favorites! Here is a few but if you want to go on tour check out my blog series Exploring NewfoundlandExploring Newfoundland
L’Anse aux Meadow
One of my favorite exploration adventure was the Viking settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows. The history of the Vikings has always fascinated me. Seeing where and how they made their homes and villages was an experience I will always remember. Touring Norstead with their re-enactment of how real norsemen would have lived in those days was interesting. Get the full story here on my blog Newfoundland: Exploring the Viking Era
This little town was so much fun. Of course we went for the name but we went back for the people. We entered town later in the afternoon. Talking with one of the local residence we asked him where we could park for the night. In true Newfoundland fashion he told us anywhere we wanted. There was a park on the hill or we could park right there on the warf by the water. What a wonderful night with a full moon shining over the water. Later the next day we stopped at the Dildo Brewing Company and had a wonderful meal and a few laughs with the locals. It was a fun few days.
I went to Alabama for the first time last year. I cannot wait to go back and explore more. The scenery was beautiful and the people, outgoing and friendly. I even had a gentlemen pay for my breakfast at a Waffle House there. Let me explain.
I love the Waffle House for the food and the atmosphere. I walked in and sat down and ordered. A waitress kept walking by me and looking at something on me. She did it twice, then three times and now I was thinking maybe I had spilled something on myself. When she noticed me watching her watch me she said in a very loud voice with that cute Alabama accent, “Does that say Dildo?”. I then remembered my jacket which I had gotten in Dildo Newfoundland. Now everyone in the restaurant was looking at me. I replied, “yes it does. It is a small town in Newfoundland Canada”. She started to laugh and told me she thought that is what it said but thought, no that could not be it. Our conversation had people laughing and I could hear the gentleman behind me laughing hard. As he left he thanked me, mentioning that was the most entertaining breakfast he has ever had. When I got to till to pay my bill, he had paid it. Who would have thought that the little town of Dildo in Newfoundland would get me a free breakfast and some very good laughter in Alabama?
Jackson Lake Island
I found Jackson Lake Island on a fluke. Driving through Alabama on my way to Florida I googled interesting places on my Google Maps. It led me to a place that I definitely will return and spend more time at. When I looked at the information it said I could park on the island for $15 per night and was home to the abandoned movie set of Tim Burton’s movie, The Big Fish. How cool! What I found was a little island paradise with the most unusual inhabitants. These creatures would give me a little, “what was that” my first night there.
After getting registered the gentleman told me I could park anywhere on the island. There was one hydro spot by the washrooms and showers. I did not really need hydro and as I pulled across the causeway I parked in a beautiful spot by the river. It was just getting dark and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset sitting on a bench by where I parked. As darkness fell I decided a coffee and a movie was in order. I locked the doors and pulled the curtains. As I stood by the stove waiting for my water boil I thought I heard a quiet scraping noise and the van rocked a little. What was that?? I peeked out the curtains but it was so dark I could not see anything. It happened once more than not again. I had no idea what kind of animals were in Alabama. Were there alligators here? Were they big enough to rock the van?? I could not think of anything that would be able to rock the van. I must tell you I did call my friend Kim in Canada and tell her what happened. Not that I was worried but just because I like to freak her out. Lol. Yes I am that kind of friend.
The next morning began with a beautiful sunny day. When I awoke, before pulling my curtains I put on coffee. Then I heard it..that sound. The van rocked a little. Ok what is that??? I opened my curtains and looked out to see a herd of goats. Little goats. Oh my stars. As I stepped out of the van there was a Billy goat scratching his butt on my bumper. Hahaha! That’s what the noise was. Just satisfying an itch. I had a good laugh, a beautiful view and some great company with my coffee that morning!
Florida has beauty every step of the way. I have had the pleasure of traveling to many places in Florida. I have more than a few favorites but some has given me some giggles and one a heart warming memory.
I have to say that Ocala is one of my favorite places in Florida. Everytime I go there something wonderful happens. Last time, it was heart warming.
I was in Walmart for a few items. This Walmart allows you stay over night which is wonderful. I have used Walmart for a touring base a few times. Sightseeing during the day and parking at night. Works perfectly! Standing in line to pay, as I was putting my supplies on the belt, I noticed a young man standing behind me with nothing in hands. Ummmm that is kind of strange. I asked if he only had one item. He explained that his shopping was already at the till and that he had forgotten his wallet in his car. Oh no. I told him to go ahead of me. He asked if I was sure. I told of course, I was retired and in Florida with nowhere to go in a hurry. As he slipped in front of me I continued to load my items. I did not have many. The lady behind him asked if I was Canadian. I laughed and said yes. We chatted for a few minutes while she told me mentioned letting the young man go first was a nice thing to do. I responded with I truly believe…It only takes a moment to be nice. When I turned around the lady was bagging my items. I looked at the young man and asked if he had paid for my items? He said he had. I told him he did not have to do that. His response, ” It only takes a moment to be nice”. Haha! He almost made me cry. How sweet. What was he buying? A flower arrangement. How perfect! One of those moments when a stranger touches your life and leaves the most wonderful mark.
Silver Springs State Park
Everytime I go to Ocala I go to Silver Spings State Park. Why? Oh yes it is beautiful. The foliage is so green and different from what I see in Canada. I love walking the trails and listening to the birds, enjoying the energy of the forest. But what I am watching for…monkeys. Yes you read that right. Wild rhuses macaque monkeys. There is said to be about 300 wild monkey that live in Silver Springs State Park. How on earth did monkeys who’s home is Asia end up in Florida? It is an entertaining story and one that makes you shake your head and maybe giggle.
In the 1930’s a Riverboat Captian by the name of Colonel Tooey wanted to create greater tourism for his cruises on Silver River near Ocala by creating a jungle themed cruise. Not realizing monkeys could swim he released six monkeys on an island in the river. They promptly jumped into the water, swam across the river and went into the forests. Lol. That’s my giggle part. But wait, there is more. The captain determined he could lure the monkeys to the shore for his customers with food so he released another six monkeys into the forest. Almost 100 years later there are over 300 rhesus macaque monkeys estimated that roam in Silver Springs State Park. I have not seen one yet but I know that the next time I am in the area my search for Florida’s monkeys will resume.
I must mention that while seeing animals in their natural or not so natural Habitat is very cool. They are wild animals and can do major damage to your day and to you if you are not careful. Be respectful and give them plenty of space. You are the visitor to their home. This is when the zoom feature on your camera comes in handy.
The Museum of Vanning
I cannot talk about my favorite places in Florida without mentioning The Museum of Vanning. A two story museum dedicated to the history of custom vans. Owned and operated by my friends Joe and Bonnie Madonia, it is an interesting walk through the world of how vans and custom vans have been celebrated over the years. From little tiny vans to full size vans, you will find something you have never seen before. Tributes to those friends and their fantastic vans who have gone before us, memorabilia from Custom Van Shows of the past events is around every corner. I bought my first custom van in 1986. A beautiful, well not beautiful at the start 1974 Ford Econoline. I would fix her up with a stunning paint job of blue and pearl. I proudly drove her for 23 years. But it is not just about the vans. The friends I have made through van shows I know I will have for a lifetime. The places that I have traveled to hug these people and see all the pretty vans has brought me across North America. It is a world I will forever be grateful I drove into.
These are some of my favorite places and a few stories of what makes them memorable.
Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.
See you next week.