On a Mission in Thunder Bay

In many ways it’s an open secret on what my mission to Thunder Bay was. If you’re in the Thunder Bay Memories Group on Facebook, you probably know. If you’re some of my friends, you probably know. If not, I guess you’ll have to hang tight and eventually everything will fall into place and be revealed in this blog at a later date when the rest of the mission is fulfilled.

Since I was already visiting Wisconsin, the proximity to go to Thunder Bay was much easier than going straight from Texas. The morning I was to drive up there started off a bit cool. I headed into Marshfield to go to Kwik Trip, top off with gas, and get breakfast.

After leaving Kwik Trip, I started driving out of town. It ended up being cool enough that my tire pressure warning went off. I was paranoid that a tire had a leak in it, because I knew I hit a board that I could not swerve for in Fort Worth. I took it into the O’Brien Automotive, the shop I always go to in Marshfield, to have things checked out. I didn’t want to take the risk of being stranded in the middle of nowhere. On a positive note, I did get a little time to visit my grandma, who lived a short walk from the shop.

My paranoia ended up being nothing. The tires were just at the borderline to set off the warning. I guess it was better being safe than sorry and I did get my tires filled up. I walked back from my grandma’s and then hit the road. It was a bit rainy, but I got to enjoy the nice fall colors and also pretty amazing gas milage.

I stopped in Grand Portage and filled up. It’s pretty amazing I can get this far on a single tank of gas!

I quickly hit the road again and decided to take a pit stop at the Welcome to Minnesota\USA rest stop to get some pictures. Shortly after, I hit the border. There was a bit of a wait, which I was entertained by some foxes running around by the stopped cars. The border crossing itself was very painless, especially when I explained my mission (unlike some crossing where I get the secondary questioning runaround).

I made it to Thunder Bay in no time. My first stop was to get a room. I always like staying at the Prince Arthur, so I was glad that they had vacancy. I checked in for 2 nights and was extremely happy when I got a corner room on the third flood that had views of the lake and the city. It was really the best of both worlds!

I got my bearings and start contacting my Thunder Bay friends to see what they were up to. I first went downstairs and headed to Fastlane to talk to my friend Kal who was bartending. I was hungry, so I got a Poutine Burger and washed it down with some 7-Up since I drove there. I can definitely say that Poutine Burger was amazing and definitely 100% Canadian!

While sitting there I talked to Kal a bit and then another guy who told me stories of ice road trucking and going to the far corners of Canada that you’d have to fly into. It was really cool hearing his stories and how things were in the really remote corners of Canada that you couldn’t even drive to (that definitely puts a wrench in the gears of how I like to travel). I did spend a decent amount of time at Fastlane listening to these awesome stories.

I then left and headed back to the Prince Arthur. Now the plan was to meet my friend Ryan and actually go drinking. I parked the car for the night in the hotel parking lot and then walked to Red River Road.

Pretty much every bar on Red River Road is unique and has a very distinct vibe. I like going to every single bar, so I tried to hit up each one to see what was going on. My first stop was Sovereign Room. In keeping with my pursuit of local products, I ordered a Sleeping Giant Session Lager. The place was kind of dead, but I was able to have a good conversation or two sitting at the bar.

My next stop was Apollo. I do love the chill atmosphere here with the couches and decided to get a Pilsner. I did like how they had the, “Out for a Rip” sticker behind the bar (and some of us Americans love this song also).

My next stop was Waterhouse. This is where Ryan met up with me. Of course, I had to have a Cesar to start there and then got a Crystal after that was done. We stayed here a while because we requested a bunch of songs with the MyJam app. It was cool hearing them played and also seeing the music videos on the TV’s, all without having to put any money in a jukebox!

We then walked over to The Foundry. I didn’t get a picture of what I grabbed for a drink, but it was interesting hearing the rock band play the Backstreet Boys. I guess I was also more fascinated by the old pictures of Thunder Bay they had throughout the bar. The bar wasn’t too crowded so I was able to get pictures of those pictures.

After that, Ryan and I walked to On Deck. I saw a sign for the New Grist beer I was drinking and assumed it was local. I guess this was an exception to the rule for the night, but at least it was from my home State of Wisconsin.

We were going to finish the night out at Waterhouse, but they were closed. We ended up back where I started at Sovereign Room. It was dead a couple minutes before we came in, but slowly filled up at last call.

After a good night of drinking, Ryan and I parted our separate ways and I walked back to the hotel.

The next morning, I was greeted with an absolutely beautiful sunrise over the lake.

My first order of business was to get to the Amethyst Mines. I drove to a bunch of back roads in the middle of nowhere to the Amethyst Mine Panorama, which is the largest amethyst mine in North America.

After visiting the mines, I wanted to visit Mount McKay. On my drive back, I got stuck waiting for a train in the middle of nowhere. Unlike waiting for the trains at Bluesfest, this train passed pretty quickly.

For some reason I couldn’t find the road to Mount McKay, I guess it didn’t really matter much, because my wandering down backroads allowed me to see the awesome changing colors all around. I got out so many times to take pictures and just look at the colors and the beauty of Northwestern Ontario.

While I didn’t get to Mount McKay, I did stumble up Chippewa Park, which had a lot of nice views of Lake Superior and Sleeping Giant. I walked around and enjoyed the great views as well as the serenity of the area. After my walk in nature, I went to Bogdala’s Smoked Meats to pick up some jerky and then got some lunch at Nipper’s Takeout. Once I got done eating, I headed to Maltese Grocery to get some Wolfhead Coffee and Heartbeat Hot Sauce.

After Maltese Grocery, I headed to George’s Market to get some butter tarts.

I then got back to the hotel and got the view of a nice clear blue sky over the lake.

I had a little time to kill, so I stopped by Prime Gelato to get a sweet treat. From there, I headed to CILU and then hung with Ryan as he did his show.

The CILU studio is on the edge of the Lakehead University campus and is pretty peaceful overall. They also get their fair share of wildlife chilling out on the lawn.

After Ryan’s show was done, Matt came in and started his show, Glam Roxx. I’ve hung out a few times with Matt on previous trips to Thunder Bay and it was good seeing him again, as well as seeing him in action with his show. I talked to him a bit right after Ryan’s show and then hit the road, of course having CILU dialed in on my radio.

Ryan and I had planned on going bowling with some of his friends. I was planning on staying sober, so I was going to pick him up in a bit and be the designated driver. I had a little time to wolf down some McDonald’s and then head his way. I know McDonald’s is crappy for you healthy wise, but at least this McDonald’s was a bit kinder to the environment with recycle bins.

After McDonald’s, I picked up Ryan at his house. We headed to Mario’s Bowl and bowled a game. Once that was done, we drove to the Wayland Bar & Grill and enjoyed some live music. We didn’t close the bar down like the night before, but when I got back to the hotel, it was definitely well into the night and pretty cool overall.

The next morning, it warmed up a bit, but was still cool. My short trip to Thunder Bay was going to come to an end. I did hit it hard in the limited time I had, like I normally do, but now it was time to head back to Wisconsin. It was another beautiful morning with a nice sunrise (not as nice as the day before, but still nice).

Before leaving town, I stopped at Metro and picked up some food to bring back to the US and also eat while I drove.

I got to enjoy some beautiful colors coming back. For the most part, the drive in Ontario, Northern Minnesota, and Northern Wisconsin was nice. Once I started getting closer to Central Wisconsin, it started to rain and get a little nasty.

I made it back to my parent’s house and was a bit happy to be off the road. I know I’d be returning back to Texas soon enough and wanted to rest as much as possible. I was happy I was able to get to Thunder Bay for 2 days and fulfill the first part of my mission. You’ll have to stay tuned to hear the rest of it.

The following are my drive videos North of Duluth. For some reason the SD card had issues and the first one corrupted, so I lost the footage from there. Regardless, you can see the awesome colors of fall in Northern Minnesota and Northwest Ontario in the footage I do have.

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