Category Archives: Ontario

29 Sep

Visit to St. Catharines

This past week, I spent four days in St. Catharines, Ontario. Some of you who know me will know the reason why, but for public consumption, let’s just call it a business trip.


Bright and early on Monday morning, I arrived at the Winnipeg airport ready to board a WestJet flight to the Center of the Universe in the first leg of the journey. The irony of flying WestJet to go east, while using QuebAir to fly west in June was not lost on me.

I had a little trouble at the self-serve kiosk, but a friendly WestJet staffer was there to help and got me on my way quickly. The friendliness of the WestJet staff would be a recurring theme both on the flight to C.U. and on the way back to Winnipeg. I can see why friends have told me that they far prefer WestJet to QuebAir.


Having just gone through the airport security experience recently, I was perhaps a little too cavalier and forgot to remove my necklace and watch. As a result, I got the full body swipe in the circular scanner. It turned up something near my stomach, but after a brief pat-down, they found that it was just some partially-digested food making its way through my system.


Past security with plenty of time to spare, I used the time to unload my bladder and tour the airport.

Airport Hilton?


I was not alone. You may understand. You may not. If you’re getting puzzled by these references, I encourage you to read my second book.



Is it wise to be plying passengers with liquor before boarding an aircraft?

Gate 6 with service to Toronto.


While waiting at Gate 6, one fellow traveller seated across from me lifted himself off his seat to blow off a little exhaust. For the benefit of one reader, yes, I did think of our former colleague and his connection to the postal service. Strangely enough, Mr. Fartman would later accompany me on the same Niagara Airbus shuttle bound for St. Catharines.

Leaving YWG.

The plane was much larger than the dinky contraption that QuebAir had used to take me to Calgary. There were three seats on each side of the aisle and I was thrilled to see the on-board, real-time display showing where we were. I could roughly tell where we were even without the visual aid, but it was nice added touch.

A paper vomitorium.

I was fortunate enough to have a window seat and got some good shots along the way to C.U.


Once we reached our cruising altitude of 39,000 feet and with the plane pointed in the direction of Toronto, I was surprised that they didn’t just turn the engines off and allow the vortex generated by the Center of the Universe to pull the plane into Pearson Airport. Perhaps they did and piped in engine noise just to give the passengers a more natural flight experience. It was another indication as to how far WestJet will go for their customers.




Approaching the Center of the Universe.



Almost immediately after touching down at Pearson Airport, I could definitely tell that I wasn’t on the prairies anymore. The enormity of the GTA is hard to digest for someone like me who has thus far spent his entire life in little old Winnipeg. Welcome to the world.


This really is the Center of the Universe.

During my brief time in the airport, I had hoped to find a place where first-time visitors to Toronto could change a light bulb. Like many of you, I’ve heard the stories about how Torontonians simply reach up, grasp onto a bulb and wait for the world to turn around them. Sadly, I couldn’t find one. Should I end up flying to C.U. again, I’ll have to inquire at an information desk.

I’ll spare you further Toronto jokes for the time being.

I did take note that the baggage claim area at Pearson Airport was in the secured area, unlike Winnipeg, where the carousels are accessible by anyone who walks in off the street. This was yet another grave oversight by the WAA in the design of the new terminal.

The second leg of the journey involved a Niagara Airbus shuttle to St. Catharines.


I quickly found the ground transportation desk next to Door C and within minutes, I was heading out into the labyrinth of concrete that is Southern Ontario’s sophisticated freeway system. If you’re a resident of the GTA and chortle at the term “sophisticated,” I invite you to visit the SPRM and make the comparison for yourself.



The driver was nice enough to let me sit in the front seat and I took full advantage. Many more pictures will soon be appearing on a Web site near you.


Westbound 403 past Hurontario Street.


Fort Erie-bound QEW approaching the Dorval Drive/Kerr Street exit. The alert reader may notice the “ER” initials atop the light standards, which means Elizabeth Regina, Latin for Queen Elizabeth.


Fort Erie-bound QEW approaching the split with 403 in Burlington.

Fort Erie-bound QEW approaching the North Shore Boulevard/Eastport Drive exit in Burlington.

Fort Erie-bound QEW crossing the Burlington Skyway.

The first sign for St. Catharines.


Entering the Regional Municipality of Niagara. At right is the Niagara Escarpment that protects the region from much of the winter snow. The clerk at the front desk of the hotel would later tell me that she had to take her children to Buffalo to go tobogganing last winter because there was so little snow in St. Catharines. During the trip, I would also learn that they have year-round golf courses in the area as well as green grass in the middle of January. My envy was as green as their January grass.



Crossing 40 Mile Creek. I’m surprised that it remains legal in Canada to name anything in Imperial measurements.



This sign certainly got my attention. Then again, every sign gets my attention. Indeed, it is a stiff, but deserved penalty for such reckless driving. I hope that it is enforced, unlike the SPRM, where governments spend their time enacting laws that police choose to ignore.

An encouraging sign.


Passing Jordan Harbor in Lincoln. Despite the fact that the QEW roughly follows the shore of Lake Ontario, it is one of the few views of the lake that motorists get on the route.


Interestingly, Lincoln’s population of approximately 22,000 only qualifies as a town in Ontario. In the SPRM, an urban center of 7,500 or more can be granted city status.

Welcome to St. Catharines.


After checking in at the Capri Inn, I set off on a tour towards the downtown area.


This qualifies as a bus stop in St. Catharines. Most bus stops don’t even have this much. There is a stop down the hill to the right that has only a pole with a sign from St. Catharines Transit where riders must stand off the curb on a piece of unmowed grass.


They have ratmobiles there, too. Oh right, they’re called “food trucks,” or, in this case, a “food trailer.”


This is the sign outside the General Parking lot at the General Motors plant. I took note of the sign saying that all vehicles not made by GM would be towed. I wonder if they would tow my bike away.


Despite the presence of a GM plant in St. Catharines, I would be shocked by the number of Beemers that I spotted during my stay. GM is a major employer in the community and it would almost seem disloyal to drive a foreign-made product.


There was even a “Beamer Avenue” off Niagara Street.


Perhaps there would be the same number of Beemers on Winnipeg streets if Winnipeggers could buy from a dealership that was not owned by the Chipman family. Just saying.


The offices of the Standard, the local paper. Strangely, I would not spot a single paper box anywhere in the city during my extensive travels on foot. Even in little Gimli, I’ve always noticed many boxes for the free Interlake Enterprise. Perhaps there’s a local ordinance against putting out those paper boxes.

Marker on St. Paul Street.

The Meridian Center, future home of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.

Paul on St. Paul.

As they say in Texas, El Paso.

I stopped to take this shot on St. Paul Street. It is the familiar scene that the Standard uses as the cover image on their Web site.

I tend to agree.

 The public library. It’s not open on Monday.

 
 

City Hall.

Returning north, I visited the Fairview Mall.


While there and throughout my stay, I noticed that the majority of St. Cathariners seem to fall into one of two categories: student at Brock University or senior citizen. I was told the next day that St. Catharines recently tied with Vancouver for the highest percentage of seniors per capita in the country.

The sight of anything Snoopy-related is always going to catch my attention.

North Dakota plates are more common in the SPRM than in Southern Ontario.


Um, it’s “St. Catharines.” It would be only one of two misspelled signs that I would spot on the trip. As many of you know, I spot such signs in Winnipeg with frightening regularity.

No, I have no connection to this facility.


The GO bus that runs between Burlington and Niagara Falls.

Tuesday was mainly spent in meetings, but I still had time to explore Port Dalhousie and the areas north of the QEW east of Martindale Pond.

Locally, it’s pronounced da-LOO-zee, not dal-HOW-zee.


Martindale Pond. The seats in the background are to watch the rowing events.

Scenes in Jaycee Park.


An afternoon meeting involved a welcome side trip to nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake.


No, I was not horsing around.

A break at the Little Red Rooster.


Little could my gracious host have known how appropriate the motif was. Then again, maybe she did.


Wednesday was my day to explore the northern part of the city between Port Dalhousie and Port Weller.



The C.U. skyline from across Lake Ontario. I’m surprised that I wasn’t dragged across the lake into that swirling vortex. Before coming, I had half-expected to find a big seawall to protect St. Cathariners from a similar fate.

A ship headed for the Welland Canal.

Scenes along the Waterfront Trail.

This staircase had less stability than a swinging suspension bridge.


I reached Municipal Beach near Port Weller before returning to Lakeshore Road and Lock 1 of the Welland Canal.


Pear trees, I believe.

Goose crossing.

Highway H2O.


The start of the Welland Canals Trail. And yes, it is plural, as this is the fourth Welland Canal. The City of St. Catharines’ logo has four blue stripes to represent the four canals.

Welcome to St. Catharines.

Heading south on Niagara Street, I spotted house number “666.” Message sent. Message received.

 

Badly needing a lunch break, I finally found a Subway. I could have used a break much earlier, but the problem with spending your time in residential neighborhoods is the lack of washrooms and restaurants.


A Starbucks location was also conveniently located next door. Those of you who know me know that I will never patronize a Starbucks as long as I walk the face of the Earth, but I have no problem mooching off their Wi-Fi. My Twitter followers can guess pretty easily which tweet I sent while eating there.

After a much-needed rest and infusion of sustenance, I followed Scott Street east. On the way, a couple stopped and asked me for directions. Naturally, despite only having been in the city for three days, I was able to help them.

After reaching the canal, I headed south on the trail.

 

 Lock 2.


More than one reader may notice the lack of a trademark acknowledgement on the term “Staging Area”™. That’s an inside joke that most of you will not understand.


Approaching the Garden City Skyway.


Feet aching, I made it to the Welland Canals Center and the St. Catharines Museum.


I wanted to tour the museum, but a ship was headed in, so I instead headed out to watch its arrival at Lock 3.



I also captured video of the ship’s arrival.



This is the time-lapse edit, three times normal speed.

While watching the ship, I was talking with someone behind me who was from Windsor. He said that Winnipeg was a “friendly town.” He obviously has a rich sense of humor.

After the ship entered the lock, using reserves of energy that I’m not sure I had, I headed west back towards the Capri Inn.


I wondered about the tastefulness of placing the St. Catharines and District Retirees Association office next to a cemetery.


The surname “Duffus” rang a bell as I harkened back to my years following the IHL. Minnesota hockey “fan” Fiona Quick’s legendary infatuation with former Moose goaltender Parris Duffus will earn a full page in my next book that covers my experiences with the Manitoba Moose, pro hockey’s most unwanted team.


As I said, everything Snoopy-related catches my eye.


They’ve got construction there, too.


A New Brunswick plate. Message sent. Message received. The first three letters are also significant in my household, but I didn’t catch it at the time.


The next day was a travel day, though the prospect of returning to the SPRM was not exactly warming the cockles of my heart. I would be miserable and depressed the whole day and that feeling would persist long after touching down in Winnipeg.

Having received a call from Niagara Airbus on Wednesday saying that the pickup would be an hour earlier than previously arranged, I got up bright and early and waited for their arrival. And waited. And waited. After calling to find out where they were, they said that Wednesday’s call was for a different passenger and that I wasn’t scheduled for pickup for another half hour.

So I waited. And waited.

Growing increasingly nervous, I breathed a sigh of relief when the shuttle finally arrived. After getting in, the driver then told us that there had been an accident on the QEW near Stoney Creek that had closed the highway to all C.U.-bound traffic. He said that we were about to get and adventure and we got one.

He exited the QEW at Vineland, then navigated at high speeds through back roads atop the Niagara Escarpment to get us around the accident. Unfortunately, many others had the same idea and we ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic soon after reaching Hamilton.

Westbound on the “Linc” in Hamilton near the 403 interchange.

Fortunately, traffic moved much more swiftly after getting on the 403 and back to the QEW. The driver’s best efforts, however, weren’t enough for one passenger, who kept complaining the entire way to C.U.

“Of course there’s going to be a letter out.”

No doubt, she was talking about a letter of complaint, but given how well the driver had done under the circumstances, she should have instead been talking about a letter of commendation. The only thing that he could be faulted for was driving too fast.

All the while, I was having a friendly chat with the driver as I was taking pictures. It turned out that he lives in St. Catharines and used to write for the Standard. He spoke with pride about once having the opportunity to interview Pierre Berton, author of many outstanding works including the authoritative history of the War of 1812. The Niagara region was a major theater of that conflict and history abounds throughout the area.

There was one scary moment on the drive when someone used the emergency lane next to the median to pass us on the left, but we got to Pearson Airport safely and in plenty of time for the flight back to the SPRM. There was a long wait at security, however, since I was behind the women’s volleyball team from the U.C.U. Varsity Blues. Or would that be the Bluettes? No matter, they were annoying, but, fortunately, they were perfectly well behaved on the plane.

I didn’t have a window seat on the return trip, but since I was so depressed, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it much anyways. Even the fact that we spent much of the flight over U.S. airspace couldn’t cheer me up.

Nonetheless, it was an extremely productive trip and it was well worth going. No one squeezes more out of a travel dollar than I do and this particular excursion was no exception. It is my hope to return at some point in the future.
19 Aug

An Epic Adventure in Sioux Narrows

On Friday, along with 34 other passengers, I set out for my last major bus tour of the season. It would also prove to be the most adventurous tour of the season.

Our destination was Sioux Narrows with stops in Falcon Lake, Rushing River Provincial Park and Rat Portage along the way.

As I approached the waiting bus, I groaned upon spotting our tour guide for the day. I had been with her on tours on two prior occasions and both times, her inexperience and/or ill-preparedness had hampered the tour. Unfortunately, this time would be no exception. For reasons that will become evident as you read on, I will not name her publicly.

I was not surprised in the least to hear that she had never done a tour to Sioux Narrows before. Equally unsurprisingly, I would discover quickly that she had made little effort to find out about our various destinations. Instead, she would rely upon her passengers to do her job for her. Sitting in the front seat, I would do more to point the way than she would. 

Upon our departure from Winnipeg, I was encouraged to hear when she had asked our driver to point out when we were near the GWWD railway crossing and the Aqueduct so that she could read a spiel about it. That slightly encouraging feeling faded once she and the driver became engrossed in an hour-long conversation as we headed east. It was I who interrupted and pointed out the approaching Aqueduct, enabling her to deliver her material at the right time.


In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed the drive and I was almost disappointed when we reached the Whiteshell and arrived at Falcon Lake. Even though I already have the drive filmed on video, this scenery never gets old.


Eschewing the large lot nearby, our driver parked in front of the Falcon Lake Meat and Grocery store and squarely in front of a “No Parking” sign.



Later in the day, he would park in front of another “No Parking” sign at Rushing River.



Noticing that he had done this for the second time today, I jokingly mentioned the new site WPGParkingFail.comto him. He responded by going into an angry tirade about how that site’s operator was “poking his nose into places it shouldn’t be” and “who cares if someone is taking up two parking spots.” He then proudly proclaimed that “he doesn’t pay much attention to that stuff.”

Needless to say, I was quite taken aback at his brazen contempt of parking regulations. I was doubly appalled that he would be so open about it with a customer.

I would also later reflect upon the interesting stories that he had told during his conversation with the tour guide about his year in China teaching English. What impressed him greatly was how much respect his Chinese students showed him as a teacher.

Perhaps it might serve him well to show the same level of respect for those regulations that he flaunted with such apparent pride.

As with the tour guide, I will not name him publicly either.

I didn’t have much to see in Falcon Lake, but I did take a stroll around.


The bakery.



A nearby trail.




Is it “Cottonwood” or “Cotton Wood”?



Shops in the area. 

After our half-hour break, we headed east towards the SPRM/Ontario border. As we passed the weigh station, I looked to my left and spotted our driver writing while driving.



Sadly, this would become a repeat occurrence on our return.




On numerous occasions, he would pull out a small piece of notepaper and jot something down while driving. Each time, his note taking would only last a few seconds, but that’s all it takes to lose control. The risk factor with distracted driving is only multiplied on the two-lane highways through Northwestern Ontario.


Crossing the frontier into Ontario. I made sure to take this shot before Greasy Greg decides to take a page out of Nikita Khrushchev’s playbook and build a wall.

Upon nearing Rat Portage, we took the bypass to the north.






The scenery is even more breathtaking than it is west of Rat Portage. I was in awe of these rock formations and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to build this highway. Travellers often complain because the highway hasn’t been twinned, but the fact that there is a road at all is remarkable.


East of Rat Portage, we turned south on King’s Highway 71 and headed for Sioux Narrows.







A short time later, we arrived in Sioux Narrows. Or, as the sign says, “SIOUX NARROWS.” I know that at least one reader will appreciate that.



Just on the other side of the Sioux Narrows Bridge was our lunch stop at Big John’s Mine Shaft Tavern. No, I’m not making that up.



I am still wondering what would ever possess a tour company that caters mainly to elderly ladies to book a lunch at Big John’s Mine Shaft Tavern.



Once again, however, it was left to me to point the place out as we went by. Our tour guide was not paying attention and, furthermore, had not bothered to investigate as to where this place was. We might have driven halfway to Nestor Falls by the time she had realized that we missed it.





Inside, I took my place with three others and surveyed my surroundings. It’s about what I would have expected for a hunting lodge in the middle of bush country.



The view behind my seat.



Our meal.

There are those who will eat anything that is put in front of them. I am not one of those people. For the record, that is cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup.

I used the time to get some shots around the Sioux Narrows Bridge.







More shots of Big John’s:




Walking down to the lake:



A little deferred maintenance here.

After the others had devoured their meal, we boarded the bus for a one-block ride south. Naturally, our tour guide had no idea where the gift shop that was on her itinerary was. Once again, it was left to me to point it out.

Later in the day, it would gall me to see a couple of passengers giving her a tip. If they had been sitting near the front, they might have given that tip to me, since I had done more to earn it than she did.

Instead of gathering more items for a future garage sale, I used the opportunity to walk around the town.



The Lazy Loon restaurant. It couldn’t have been any worse than what we had.



Gill’s Trading Post.



You had to know that this was coming. The only King’s Highway marker in town was not going to go unphotographed.





More shops.



The Sioux Narrows Motel. I don’t think that the Hilton chain has too much to worry about as far as competition.


The Northern Lights of Sioux Narrows, where the bus was parked.

In short order, we were headed back north towards our next destination, Rushing River.





Passing by Old Woman Lake.







As we passed Andy Lake, I remembered a former colleague, Lloyd Klassen, who had passed away last year.


During our many conversations at his desk, he had mentioned Andy Lake on occasion. Like me, he was also an avid photographer and I am sure that he had plenty of shots around the area.

I know that he would have been astounded to learn that this was my 746th shot of the trip this far. He might have shot back with a quip like, “How many more shots of highways can you get?”



Approaching Tower Lake.

We soon arrived at Rushing River Provincial Park for what would become the day’s biggest story.

Prior to our arrival, our tour guide announced that we were limited to only 20 minutes due to limitations imposed by the Province of Ontario.

Huh?

The Province of Ontario will let you stay as long as you want as long as you pay for the privilege, something that the tour company was apparently unwilling to do. She explained that she did have to go in and pay, but that they could get a refund if they left within 20 minutes.

At that moment, I heard a flock of birds flying overhead. They were all singing, “cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap.”

Ah, but it gets better.

It should come as no shock to any reader at this point to learn that the tour guide had absolutely no idea where within the park we should go. When going inside to pay, they gave her a map, but she instead rolled it up and used it to swat flies. Maps are for sissies.

We came to a fork in the road. I told them to go left. They went right.

Ten minutes later, the driver was earning himself a gold medal in the Bus Driver Olympics trying to extricate us from a narrow one-way trail surrounded by small campsites. One camper had to move her pickup truck to allow us to turn around and, despite my criticisms of his distracted driving, our driver did yeoman work in getting us out of this mess. One false move and we would have been crashing down a hill.

It was only after we had come to the end of this winding trail did it dawn on the tour guide to unroll her map and look at it.

After returning to the main area of the park, having burned up so much time with this senseless maneuvering caused by an ill-prepared and indolent tour guide, she announced that we had only ten minutes in the park.

We had come all the way from the degenerate capital of the SPRM for ten minutes in the park.

Yes, I feel cheated.




I managed to get a couple of pictures and not much else.

Soon, we were back on the road headed for Rat Portage.




We parked near the harbor and I took the opportunity to go and get some shots of Husky the Muskie.





Engraving your name on Husky’s tail is apparently a rite of passage in Rat Portage.



A view of the harborfront from Husky’s perch.



Winkler Harborfront Park? I thought that we were in Ontario, not in the SPRM. For those of you who are not aware, Winkler is a city in the southern part of the SPRM.



Before getting back on the bus, I went to the washroom. Druggies welcome, obviously.

After our half-hour stop, we were rolling west back into the SPRM.



My heart sank after re-crossing the frontier.



After another brief stop in Falcon Lake, we were back on the road. En route to Winnipeg, our driver told us one of his favorite jokes. I’ve heard it before, but it was more appropriate than even he may have realized, given his penchant for note taking while driving on this day.

To summarize, a bus driver and a preacher meet St. Peter after going to Heaven. St. Peter gives the bus driver a palatial mansion on a mountain top, then gives the preacher a small house at the bottom of a hill with smelly sheep nearby. Puzzled at the apparent injustice, the preacher humbly asked St. Peter why the bus driver had received such a nicer home. St. Peter answered that the preacher, though a faithful servant, had put people to sleep during his services. The bus driver, meanwhile, had made people pray.

Normally, our arrival in Winnipeg would wind up the adventure peacefully. Not so in this case. Our tour guide had announced that there was an additional drop-off point at Donwood West, near Polo Park, the same place where they had made a pickup that morning.

This news triggered a backlash from the peanut gallery. Cranky old ladies started yelling, “That’s a crock” and other assorted verbal barbs.

The fact that they were making an additional stop to let people off was not the problem, rather it was that the office had not let passengers know about it in advance. There were people from Charleswood who had travelled across town to avoid having to wait downtown due to safety concerns and would have loved to have been able to be picked up near Polo Park instead.

In this case, the tour guide was completely blameless as this was undoubtedly a matter for the office. Nonetheless, instead of being apologetic and promising to raise the issue with her boss, she shot back with an angry, “That’s just the way it is.”

There was a right way and a wrong way to handle this situation. She chose the latter.

In many respects, it was a fitting way to end the day. The high standard of customer service that I have come to expect from this tour company was not met on this day. Not by a long shot.

Though I was cheated out of some valuable time at Rushing River, I did enjoy the experience. I always like seeing Northwestern Ontario and I got plenty of pictures to show for the day. I wanted an adventure and I got one.

29 Jul

Return to Rat Portage


On Saturday, I set off with a full busload of people bound for Rat Portage, currently known as Kenora, where I cruised Lake of the Woods aboard the M.S. Kenora. The breathtaking scenery and the made-to-order weather would make it into a fabulous day. 

I had done this tour two years earlier, but I was so awestruck by what I had seen that, as soon as I got back that day, I knew I had to go again. The pictures that follow cannot possibly do justice to the landscape.

That said, I was fully prepared with four sets of fully-charged batteries and 40 GB worth of storage on my SD cards. I would fill up nearly every byte with HD-quality video of the drive there and back. Time-lapse video will soon be appearing on canhighways.com.
Our bus came early and our tour guide, Rob, came out to meet us, along with our driver, Jack. I’ve had Jack on many trips, but, despite being a veteran of these tours, it was a first for Rob. He usually does the longer trips, which explains why I haven’t had him before.
On the way to Falcon Lake, our first stop, Rob entertained us with the first of a number of jokes while I was watching the highway through the viewfinder on my camera.
He told us about a skydiver who was having trouble with his parachute after jumping out of an airplane. On his way down, the skydiver spotted someone going up. He asked, “Do you know anything about parachutes?” The other guy replied, “No, do you know anything about gas barbeques?”
On the way back from Rat Portage, he told us a couple of Scottish jokes.
One was about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman and how they give donations to their church. The Englishman and Irishman each drew circles around themselves and tossed some coins in the air. They gave whatever landed outside the circle to the church and kept the rest for themselves. The Scotsman didn’t bother with the circle and instead just tossed the coins in the air. What the Good Lord didn’t need, He sent back and the Scotsman kept it for himself.
The other was about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman each drinking a cup of tea when a fly flew into each cup. The Englishman and Irishman each carefully plucked out the fly in their respective cups, while the Scotsmanplucked out the fly in his cup and wrung it out so as not to waste a drop of tea.
The quality and taste of the jokes is left for the reader as an exercise, but Rob’s experience made the trip go a lot better. He made an effort to engage as many passengers as he could, he was very organized and he did not make it glaringly obvious that he had not been on this specific tour before.
That level of experience has been sorely lacking in my tours of late. For one reader in particular, I think that your former employer misses you more than they realize.
Once we got to Falcon Lake, I spent some time around the lake.

I also briefly walked around town.

On my way, I passed by a semi-trailer from Moncton. Message sent. Message received. You may understand. You may not.
Want some “spagetti” and meatballs?
 
After the 45-minute break, we were back on the bus headed east, crossing the frontier from the SPRM into Ontario and Rat Portage.

On our way through Rat Portage, we passed the roundabout at Rupert Road, which is a constant thorn in the side of bus drivers like Jack and semi-trailer drivers who have to make deliveries in town. It was designed far too narrow for even a skilled driver like Jack to avoid having to go up on the curb to get through it. 
Perhaps fittingly, the highway that heads north from this reviled roundabout used to bear the number 666. In 1985, amid protests from church groups, MTO renumbered the highway to 658.

Interestingly, the current MTO minister is Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg and Manitoba’s most polarizing and controversial political figure since Louis Riel.

We stopped near the Blue Heron gift shop and many of the passengers went there while I set off for a brief tour of the town.

For those of you who weren’t aware, both Manitoba and Ontario once laid claim to the area and the issue was not settled until a ruling from the Privy Council in 1884. There are those in Northwestern Ontario who understandably feel disenfranchised from the Toronto-based regime, but if they think that life under the rule of the SPRM’s heavy-handed government would be better, I would only advise to be careful what you wish for.

 

Kenora City Hall, currently undergoing a facelift.

Traffic in downtown Kenora. Most of it was coming from cars with plates from the SPRM.

Two of the murals.

Need any “mocassins”?

The “historic” Kenricia Hotel.

Ye Olde Line Up at Ye Olde Chip Truck.

Before getting back on the bus, I stumbled upon this sight:


Abandoned pants with an empty bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. Any connection between the two is again left for the reader as an exercise.
On our way to the boat, we came across a family of deer crossing the road.

Sadly, one of the adult deer was limping badly.

We arrived at the dock and waited to board.



Our group was allowed to board early and we were served a half-decent meal.

After eating, I went up to the top deck and took many pictures.

A married couple lives on one of the islands, while the mother-in-law lives on the adjacent island. According to the ship’s captain, they do have phone service on these island villas, courtesy of underground cables.

The captain also gave us a lot of interesting information on the area and the boat itself. The boat was built in Riverton and spent its early years cruising up and down Lake Winnipeg. It was later purchased by interests in Kenora and hauled there in two pieces where, today, it takes tourists like me around Lake of the Woods.

Interestingly, the captain bore a strong facial resemblance to the actor who played “Rostov” in the Chuck Norris movie, “Invasion U.S.A.” I kept waiting for the captain to break into Russian and for Norris’s character, “Hunter,” to make an appearance.
Many fisherpeople and boaters waved to us.

More scenery:

Yes, that’s a bald eagle.

Adjacent to this house is a tennis court overlooking the lake:

A dish head: 

 

The painted rock at the Devil’s Gap:

The Devil’s Gap Marina:

The luxury yacht Grace Anne II:

You’re welcome.

Disembarking from the boat.

From Rat Portage, we headed west and returned to the SPRM, where we made a brief stop in West Hawk Lake.

While many of the passengers patronized the Nite Hawk Cafe, I walked through the town.

The West Hawk Cafe:

The West Wok:

The lake:

What are you doing here?

After the brief stop, we were back on the bus and a couple of hours later, we returned safely to Winnipeg. For anyone who has not had this experience, it is something that I would strongly recommend.