Up early and on the road by seven o’clock. We refueled in North Bay, then continued west on Highway 17, the Trans-Canada Highway. It was remarkably flat, with vast expanses of solid granite often stretching for miles on end. Now and then we caught a glimpse of Lake Ontario to our left, but by and large it was granite I remember most about that leg.
We reached Sault Ste Marie on the cusp of rush hour, so refueled and continued north without delay, now with Lake Superior to our left. Several miles up the road we came to the practically empty campground at Agawa Bay, our destination for the night. After checking in with the ranger I pulled into our lakefront site and killed the engine. Barley, who loves playing in our quarter acre pond at home, took one look at the lake with an expression that said, “Look at the size of that freaking pond!” and bolted for the water. It had been a warm day, so I shed my riding gear and ran after him, leaping into the crystal clear waters of the largest of the Great Lakes.
Holy cow, that water was cold!
Barley hadn’t noticed, and happily paddled up and down the shoreline. At one point he saw something moving under the water in front of him. The prey drive kicked in and he lunged at it, coming up with his own paw! He gave me a dirty look, then moved up to the shore. It was pea gravel, not sand, and he happily rolled in it for several minutes. I gathered up some kindling, got a fire going, and carefully added the poorly seasoned wood I’d bought from the ranger. We had dinner, camp food and kibble, lit off the ThermaCell to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and snuggled by the fire watching the sun go down.
The next day we stopped at a couple of small rocky coves to the north, had breakfast in the town of Wawa, then continued to follow the shoreline along the north side of this greatest of lakes under constant threat of rain. We outran the weather, refueled in Marathon, then took a side trip to Quimet Canyon. It was there the rain caught us; it would not let go for the rest of the day. Cutting our canyon visit short, we were stopped by the Provincial Police, who instructed us to pull as far to the side of the road as possible. A very wide load was coming down the road.
It was the single blade of a windmill, a massive, gracefully curved thing of beauty that rested on a tandem set of fifty-three foot long flatbed trailers. You can’t grasp the scale of these wonders till you see one up close and personal!
We had intended to camp at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay, but by the time we returned to Highway 17 the rainfall increased to torrents, big, fat drops blown sideways by the wind so it worked its way under my helmet and down my collar, between the zipper teeth of Barley’s sidecar cover and soaking him and everything in the tub. Huge bolts of lightning chased us toward Thunder Bay and the open ground we were traversing offered no shelter whatsoever.
We pressed on to Thunder Bay, pulling into a gas station to take shelter under its well-grounded canopy. I used the Web to find a dog-friendly hotel, making a reservation at the first one that had a vacancy. I keyed the address into Captain Bligh, then followed the instructions to the front door. Just my luck – no canopy! We unloaded in the rain so heavy the water in the street overflowed onto the sidewalk. The hotel staff watched passively from the dryness of the lobby; not one offered any help. I felt no pity when Barley shook all over their immaculate lobby, in fact, I took the bellboy’s cart into my room and used it as a drying rack.
Everything we owned was wet except for the laptop and camera gear that was in waterproof bags. I cranked the room temp up to ninety degrees but even so had to use the hotel’s blow dryer in the morning to finish a few odds and ends.
Eyeing the forecast suspiciously, I noticed that rain was likely to continue north of the border, but the storm was clearing to the south. Reluctantly, we abandoned plans to visit the Sleeping Giant on this trip. I fired up the Beemer and turned south, back to the US.
We crossed back into our homeland in Minnesota, welcomed by the most dour and downright rude government employee on the planet. Every question was an accusation, every look stern and disapproving. But you can’t let people like that ruin your day. We pressed on, stopping first at a gravel beach for Barley to play, then at Betty’s Pies for lunch, and finally at the Aerostich warehouse in Duluth.
Aerostich isn’t much to look at, but they make some of the best riding gear on the planet! They also have a great sense of humor, going so far as to put bogus products in their catalog, items with claims and prices so outrageous that no sane person can fail to see the gag. Yet people order them! One of the small items they offer are rigid plates sewn into stuffed caricatures of dead animals. The plates are used to keep a bike’s kickstand from sinking into soft asphalt or dirt, causing the bike to fall over. But Barley saw only that dead frogs and squirrels dotted the warehouse floor. Being a retriever, and a hunting dog to boot, he tracked down and retrieved every single animal in the building!
The staff and customers found him delightful!