From this angle it becomes clear that the Sleeping Giant is in a sleeping bag.
I flew down on Porter arriving at about 1:30, but unfortunately I had to meet with the group I was working with on the project I was in town for. What was this? My employer decided to run a fun, extra-curricular training kind of program that help people develop additional skills and get to know each other, etc. It was almost exactly like the studio projects at Ryerson except we only had 5 weeks to develop a policy response to a huge broad question. My groups question was how to engage the private sector in affordable housing. Well that’s an easy nut to crack.
We went through our presentation a few times, and talked about Egypt (one of our group members has all her family there). I told them up front that I had to leave by 5 to see my girlfriend and some other friends and they all understood. We were in good shape anyway.
You can see almost all of Gerrard from up there. How many delivery trucks, or shredder trucks are parked in the bike lane?
Look at that hole! It's too bad though. I'm gonna miss that parking lot.
My room was at the Delta Chelsea and I met Misty in the lobby. For dinner we met Phil and Ryan around the corner at the Wolf and Firkin. It was good, the company I mean. Marla joined us a little later and it was great to see everybody. It was just too bad we couldn’t hang out more.
The final event of the program started with breakfast at 9, but at the kick-off all they had was muffins and orange juice so Misty and I had breakfast in the restaurant downstairs. It was okay. Scrambled eggs from a vat, small glasses for OJ, small table. Not entirely satisfying especially because I just wanted to go to the airport and fly back to Thunder Bay with Misty right away. Or spend the day with her in Toronto. I miss that city. It felt so good to be back.
Inside the Arts & Letters Club. They have family crests or something on the walls. My favourites are Button and Lefroy.
The day went pretty well. I thought that our presentation went better than anyone elses, but our group did not win the contest. We were fine with that. There wasn’t really a prize anyway.
I grabbed a pint with my group back at the Wolf and Firkin, then rushed to the subway and the Porter shuttle to meet Misty at the airport. We would have five days together in the cold, but it’d be fun, of course it would.
It was a bumpy flight. Misty and I sat together at the very back of the plane, and we wondered if that had anything to do with it. A Porter flight is kind of like a bus ride. Both times that I’ve flown down with my coworker she ran into different people she knew who were either coming or going. And I passed a Thunder Bay friend in the airport on the way north once before. It’s a bit like in 2001 when Dr. Heywood Floyd bumps into someone he knows on his way to the moon. “Where you headed? Up or down?” Pretty routine. And I know Porter doesn’t fly jets, but I sure feel Jet Set hopping over the great lakes to get to Toronto in less than 2 hours. When usually it takes about 2 days.
We had a few things we knew we wanted to do while Misty was in town.
- Thunder Oak cheese Farm
- Hike to High Falls on Pigeon River
- Dinner at my dad’s cousin’s restaurant
- The Hoito
- Settlers of Catan
- Kakabeka Falls
- walkin’ around town
We also wanted to go to Historic Fort William for their winter carnival, but decided to skip it.
Originally we thought we’d just have to rent a car for one day, but the price was so good, and it was so cold, that we took it for the weekend.
Cheese, America and Frozenness.
A week or two earlier Adam and I took a drive down to the border to pick up a package of his, and it ended up serving as a dress rehearsal for Misty’s visit, which meant I knew where I was going, and I only felt lost for a brief moment.
Thunder Oak cheese farm was fun. When you go in there’s a little shop with dutch treats and hunks of cheese behind glass. Then to the right is a sitting area and a window through which you can see rows upon rows of shelves loaded with wheels of cheese. To the right of that room there are a couple more big windows into the room where they separate the curd from the whey and mush it into wheels. We were there in time to watch a couple of miserable cheese people in galoshes working away. It was so wet! I thought the windows might be one way, but they weren’t and I felt bad for staring.
Misty bought some curds for us to snack on in the car, plus some cheese to take home to her family. They make gouda there and they have a number of varieties. The black pepper is really good and the dill was good too. Ask for samples! The store also has a bunch of Dutch treats like toast sprinkles (candy sprinkles for your toast) and salty licorice. I acquired a taste for salty licorice when I worked at the framing store and my coworker brought some in one day. I mixed some “sweet” licorice with salty licorice, and double salt licorice, and they were all great. and unpleasant. They kind of leave a gassy feeling in your mouth.
Norwesters, or some other short mountains. You know, even people in Thunder Bay are down on their mountains, saying they're not really mountains. I think they're great! So sudden (taken during the trip with Adam)
The cheese farm was on the way to Pigeon River Provincial Park, but just beyond that is the US / Canada border. And just beyond that is Ryden’s, where they sell $14 bags of delicious beef jerky (and American candy bars and sodas), so we decided to hop over the border. We weren’t planning to, and I didn’t bring my passport with me, but I thought if they weren’t going to let us across it’d be no big loss and maybe they’d let us across just because?
The Border (taken during the trip with Adam)
I was a little wrong. They held onto our ID and asked us to pull over to the side and go into the office. sigh.
They barely spoke to us. We explained that we just wanted to get some American chocolate bars and we’d be heading back. They asked for the keys to the car and went out to search it. We sat in the office for a little while. One of the border guards chatted with a Canadian in our same situation about UFC then they gave us back our papers and let us through. We considered driving down to Grand Marais for lunch but decide that since we told the border guards we were just going to Ryden’s then we’d better just go to Ryden’s.
Welcome to difficult to read Minnesota (taken during the trip with Adam)
We had no trouble crossing back to Canada.
Like I said, Adam and I had made this exact trip previously so I was undeterred by the god damn freezing cold hike to the water fall. Holy crap it was cold! It was windy, and cold, and horrible until we got into the woods. Then it was tolerable.
This is not poo. But it's also not that good. It's a fungus known as The Black Knot. Which is very interesting. I didn't realize that people in olden times referred to poo as the black knot (photo by Misty).
Look at this. Misty noticed things on the trail that Adam and I walked right past like a couple of goons (photo by Misty).
Two days earlier it had been 7 degrees above zero but the day we were there to walk around and hold hands and gaze at each other with a frozen waterfall behind us it had plunged down to -14 with a horribly wicked wind. Our faces froze, our fingers froze, my camera’s battery seemed to lose its charge in record time. And it had snowed recently, so the features of the frozen waterfall were kind of lost.
From the visit with Adam.
From the visit with Misty about a week later (photo by Misty).
It was still neat though. At the top of the falls was all ice, with no liquid water showing, looking completely solid. At the base of the falls however was a gushing torrent of water spilling out of a hole in the ice. Where was it coming from? The liquid pool of water at the bottom of the falls was populated with softball-sized balls of ice which I guess form naturally at the bottom of waterfalls in the winter? We took some pictures and made our water around the loop of the trail and headed back to the car. So damn cold!
Ice balls way down there (photo by Misty).
A closer look at ice balls.
On the river looking towards the falls (taken during the trip with Adam)
Down river from the falls, looking upstream (taken during the trip with Adam).
There used to be a resort cabin on the river. This chimney is all that's left. I think the plaque said it was more than 80 years old (taken during the trip with Adam).
When we got back to town we decided Misty needed a bit of a tour of the city. She still hadn’t really seen the place at all! We drove through Fort William and the Intercity then into Port Arthur and had a look at the Sleeping Giant from Marina Park. It was too cold to leave the car though, so we just sat for a little bit and looked out over the frozen water.
When this giant wakes up... look out (photo by Misty).
Next we took a drive around Boulevard Lake and up to the bluffs and spent a little more time looking at the Sleeping Giant. It really is just about the only thing we’ve got going for us in Thunder Bay.
The Sleeping Giant from the bluffs (photo by Misty).
The restaurant is almost impossible to see from the street now that the site for the new regional courthouse has been cleared and they’ve begun digging the foundation (last week the small fires they use to melt the permafrost for construction up here got out of control and nearly burned down the whole city).
The restaurant is located at the back corner of the Victoriaville mall. The mall was built on top of a major intersection in the middle of the downtown of the old city of Fort William. Imagine if the Eaton Centre hadn’t been built at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, but on Yonge and Dundas, stopping people from moving through the centre of downtown and forcing them to bypass the shopping district entirely (on a small scale of course, but still. Downtown Fort William is a dreary place and this mall is partly to blame).
One of the roads that is blocked by the mall used to terminate right at the door of the restaurant, but the size of the courthouse required that that section of the road be eliminated. This doesn’t cut off the restaurant entirely though, there is a back lane that crossed the road and provides a convenient spot to use intravenous drugs.
The restaurant used to be located at the corner of a a street and a laneway, but when the courthouse is finished the restaurant will just be in a laneway, completely invisible from the nearest road that gets any kind of traffic. That might work fine for The Green Room, but this isn’t exactly The Annex. At least the people working at the courthouse will know that it’s there.
The food is really good by the way. This was the second time I’d eaten there. Misty had one of the dishes I had last time and I had a chicken dish that was tasty. This restaurant gave me an idea for a website I don’t mind sharing. Golden Plates. I don’t know if it’s already out there, but this website would review the most expensive dish at restaurants. The concept being that the most expensive dish must be the best dish, right? People don’t mind paying money for things they know are worth it. Maybe I should pitch it to The Walleye.
We also went to the Brodie St Library; said hi to Thunder (photo by Misty).
The library has great stained glasses of authors. Here I am with Tolstoy with an i (photo by Misty).
On saturday we drove out to Kakabeka Falls to look at more frozen water. It was less cold, but there were more people. Again, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Ice, covered in snow.
Kakabeka Falls. Contrast with my photo from August (photo by Misty).
On our way out of Kakabeka Falls we stopped in at the Metropolitan Moose for coffee, hot chocolate and baked treats. That’s a really cozy place to sit for a little while if you’re passing through. There’s one table on the main floor but if you go up stairs there are a few more chairs and a nice spot next to the window where Misty and I sat.
(photo by Misty)
We took the highway past the city to take a look at how Terry Fox was doing. He looked cold. Apparently they’re going to improve the entrance off the highway so it’s a little less of a surprise when you’re driving along. Haven’t heard of any plans to improve the information kiosk there though.
Here’s my beef (and I’ve heard it from others as well). You go up to see Terry Fox, look out at the lake and the Sleeping Giant, think about the amazing contribution Terry made to this country. On your way out, or maybe you noticed when you parked, there’s a building, a nice looking newish looking building. If I wanted to know more about Terry Fox that would be the next place I would go to. But you wouldn’t find anything specific to Terry in that building. All you’d find is general tourist information about Ontario. The usual assortment of flyers and booklets. Not even a sign or anything about Terry. Lots of space for something like that too. It’s a shame. The statue is very nice. The whole monument is great but I can’t help but think the rest stop as a whole is incomplete. At least the toilets were open.
Had to get in one more shot of the Sleeping Giant.
We knew ahead of time that we wouldn’t be cooking too many meals during Misty’s visit because even though I always complain about the lack of interesting or good restaurants in Thunder Bay (I never go out, I’m not sure where I got this idea) there were a few places we really wanted to go to. So my dad’s cousin’s restaurant is one, and The Hoito is the other.
Hoito means care in Finnish, and according to the placemat this restaurant began as a place for Finnish forestry workers to get a decent meal for a good price. Most of them were living in boarding houses and that sort of thing so it was tough. The restaurant was started with money pitched in by the workers and meals were less than a dollar. Today it’s easily the best known restaurant in Thunder Bay.
You get Finnish-style pancakes here. They’re as not as thin as a crepe, but almost. You can also get a bowl of Finnish yogurty stuff called viili, which tastes a bit like sour cream to me, and salt fish. Then there’s more usual Canadian breakfast and lunch food. It was busy when we got there and we waited a while for service but that’s was fine. By the time we left it had quieted down a bit.
After the Hoito we walked around Bay and Algoma a bit and popped into a few of the stores in the area. The weather was great. Still cold, but not freezing, and it was sunny. Sure felt nice to have Misty with me.
That night I made dinner and we stayed in, watched a movie.
Sunday we had dinner at the Sovereign. It’s a newish restaurant/bar with a decent menu, nice interior and very much a Toronto feel to it. Dare I say “Hipster”? I had the burger which was a bit too greasy. Misty had the poutine which I’d ordered the last time I was there. It’s really good.
Sunday night we headed over to Adam’s place for a game of Settlers of Catan. Misty was worried her skills wouldn’t stand up against the rest of us so she’d brought along the instructions for Cities and Knights and had been studying on the plane and any other spare moment. I quizzed her on the walk over and she seemed very well prepared. I was totally confident in her abilities. Once everyone was there the gang decided to play a different version of the game, with a variant scenario that possibly nobody had played before. So it was an even more level playing field.
Unsurprisingly by the end of the night it appeared Misty was bound to win the game but things had devolved somewhat by then and we didn’t end up finishing. Just as well, the game was more of an excuse for my Tbay friends to meet my girlfriend. Ending the game early allowed us to actually converse about things not related to Catan. Not bad at all.
Misty’s flight back south was on Monday. We heard there could be snow in Toronto so we crossed our fingers and kept checking the Porter site to see if the flight was delayed. It was, but only by twenty minutes. We had a very lazy day. Just tried to stretch out the hours as much as possible.
So that was our visit together for February. We won’t get to spend any time together in March or most of April. After Easter our next chance to see each other will be when I stop in Toronto on the way to St John’s, Newfoundland for a planning conference I’ll be speaking at (more about that in the future).
It was tough saying good bye. I really didn’t want to let her go, and I think she was hesitant as well. but you know, grown up obligations and all that. I’m looking for work in the GTA, preferably in another office with my current employer. I actually really like the work I’ve been doing, everyone I work with and the organization, but it would be so much better to be doing this in Toronto. And if I can find work within the company before the end of this contract, maybe I can transfer? I’m not sure. The Future is uncertain.