Ontario is a huge province and requires at least two days to drive through it. The scenery along both sides of its highways—the forests, large outcroppings of rock, countless lakes littered with small islands, float planes and driftwood—make for an enjoyable journey.
A change of heart
I stopped east of Thunder Bay at the Terry Fox memorial to pay my respects. Terry was a young man stricken with cancer and, as a result, had a leg amputated in 1977. As a fundraiser for cancer, he undertook to run across Canada on an artificial leg, beginning in Newfoundland. PEI was a part of Terry's Marathon of Hope and I met him briefly in 1980. The local media encouraged people to support Terry and run with him into Charlottetown, so I did my small part and accompanied him. He was forced to end his run in Thunder Bay due to illness, and passed away in 1981.
If you want to avoid the Toronto traffic, go north on Highway 11. I pitched my tent in an isolated hilly field, close to the highway. It was raining hard, with thunder and lightning. I stayed dry and had a great sleep, but was frustrated in the morning when the tent and everything outside was soaked. I set off early on Highway 11 West when traffic was sparse, with just an occasional truck.
I was disheartened and listening to music, when an excerpt from some artist jumped out at me, like a slap in the face: "Life is waiting for you." I re-evaluated my frustration with the weather and realized I needed to take the bad with the good. Soon after my attitude adjustment, I accepted the rain for what is was—inspiring. The smell from the forest was fresh and crisp and I unexpectedly caught myself cruising along and smiling. I was feeling great on the inside as the sunshine warmed my face. This was the turning point in my adventure.
I passed a float plane air service west of the town of Hearst and just had to stop. I chatted with a flight crew on the dock preparing one of the planes and was envious of the crews, their planes and their missions. They were flying work crews, sport fisherman, hunters and the like in and out of Northern Ontario. I lunched by the lake, enjoying watching the planes fuel up and take off.
Two hours east of the float planes I neared Cochrane. Rain was imminent, but I had a new attitude and I suited up. As I entered Cochrane, the skies opened up for the fourth time in three days. I was right by a gas bar with an awning, so I hid out there and had a sandwich. It poured for a while and I took off dry when it stopped.
Riding along the river
I passed an active gold mine; the Black Fox mine, east of Matheson, Ontario, just before entering Quebec. Quebec is large, but not as daunting as Ontario. There were many poultry farms with their expected aroma, sawmills with their delightful smells of milled lumber and more lakes and forests. After that, the road was all mine. I tented on a small lake near Duparquet.
I passed the Mont-Tremblant ski area, an area known to host the rich and famous, and crossed the St. Lawrence River via the Pierre-Laporte suspension bridge. The elevated views of the river were exciting, but the multiple lanes of heavy traffic in Quebec City were intimidating. This was to be the only time there was any sort of traffic volume on my chosen route.
I headed east along Highway 20, parallel to the St. Lawrence River, with the Laurentian Mountains as a backdrop. The river valley was blanketed with corn and other crops, and a cargo ship steaming up the St. Lawrence towards Quebec City was entertaining.
It was emotional when I finally entered New Brunswick, as I was born on Prince Edward Island and the Atlantic provinces are very dear to me. The sight of the lush St. John river valley, hydro-electric dams, fishing villages, boats and the smell of the salt air from the Atlantic was imminent.
Wayne Hamm's trip was sponsored by Riverside Honda