Very early in 2017, I learned about the Thunder Bay Blues Fest. The event features 100% Canadian talent, so I booked a VIP pass and began making plans. Held during the first weekend of July, I made this into a road trip, planning to do a circle tour of Lake Superior. Two days driving, but it realistically should have taken three.
Day one was an extremely long, tiresome day, having to first drive partly through the traffic mess that Toronto has become. North on the highway, and by about 16:00 I was settled into the Watertower Inn in Sault Ste Marie.
First stop was Batchawana Bay, which is 71km north and west of the Sault. Two centuries ago you would see voyageurs here, sheltered from the storms of Lake Superior.
Moving 43km north, my next stop was Alona Bay. Here is Theano Point, believed to be the first uranium find in Canada. Also nearby, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Move along another 90km north, through Lake Superior Provincial Park, and the next stop is Old Woman Bay. There are cliffs with forests, and a beach for your pleasure.
We now move inland, through the small town of White River (with a cute coffee shop) and travel 284km north and east to Aguasabon Falls, just west of Terrace Bay. There is a well-built viewing platform to take you near the falls.
Travelling 204km west, we are nearing our destination. We know we’ve arrived when we’re at the Terry Fox Memorial, just outside of Thunder Bay. His goal was to run across Canada, beginning in Newfoundland. This is where he was forced to end his journey.
The Lyceum Theatre opened its doors in the former Port Arthur in 1908, with seating for one thousand. There have been many changes of ownership and usage, with the ground floor being used for office/retail.
Remodeled in 1932 for “talking pictures”, it closed permanently in 1955.
The Prince Arthur Hotel originally built by CN, is on the same street, and dates from 1911.
Thirty kilometers west of Thunder Bay is Kakabeka Falls, a waterfall on the Kaministiquia River. It is the highest waterfall in North America.
It’s early 2017. We’re having decent weather on the sunshine coast of Florida. Mostly sunny, and starting to get warm. There has been very little rain, and only a couple of storms. My only travel has been local – to Orlando, Tampa and St Petersburg.
I’ve been spending my winters in Florida for the past eight years. I bought a condo in an adult only development. From here, I have been able to fly or drive to Puerto Rico, Belize, Las Vegas, Turkey, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Panama City.
Now, it’s time to go. The US government has made a sharp turn to the right, and I think it will get worse. I’ve sold my condo, and will be departing on 16th March, not to return.
Packing up the house is a chore, and most of what I own has been sold. I’ll be spending one night in Corbin, Kentucky, and should arrive in Canada by the 18th of March.
25th April – This is a bit up in the air at the moment. I have booked a few days in Lansing, MI, thanks to IHG Points Breaks. Since then, an event has come up in Warrendale, PA that I’d like to attend. Can’t do both, but I have some time to decide.
9th May – Today I depart for my first trip to Greece. I’ll be based in Athens, and have a trip to Delphi scheduled. There is a travel break to Santorini, then back to Athens. I have booked an apartment through Ebab which has a view of the Acropolis.
6th July – This week I’ll be doing a circle tour of Lake Superior, by car. First stop is Sault Ste Marie, then three days in Thunder Bay.
I’ll be at the festival for all three days, then departing on Monday for a leisurely drive to a place called Iron Mountain, MI. Two days later I’ll be back home.
7th November – This day I depart Toronto for twelve days in China. In addition to Beijing, I have a balcony cabin for a cruise on the Yangtze River.
That’s all that I have planned for this year, however I’m quite certain some smaller trips will work their way in. Beyond this list, I travel to Kenya and Tanzania in October, 2018.
2016 was not a great year for travel. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to spend my usual winter at my condo in Florida. I was in Canada from October until April 1st, when I went to Florida for one week.
Eartha Kitty stayed home for this trip. I took I75 south to Kentucky, where I turned onto secondary highways, passing through Crittenden, Dry Ridge, Williamstown, Mason, Corinth, Sadieville, Georgetown, Lexington, Nicholasville, Lancaster and Crab Orchard, finally settling in at Barbourville, KY.
Towards the closing of April, I went to Cincinnati for a long weekend, thanks to IHG Rewards Points. I stayed at the Staybridge Suites in West Chester out in the suburbs. No complaint; it was a decent hotel, and mostly free.
Surprisingly lots to do in Cincinnati. The American Sign Museum was a treat, situated near the old Crossley factory. The Taft Museum, Smashburger, the Findlay Market, the OTR Candy Bar and the Over The Rhine neighbourhood all worth a vist. Bonus for crossing the border to Newport, KY.
May brought a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. I stayed in a condo, on the top floor of an apartment building with a great view of English bay Beach. There was a new Nordstrom on Robson Street, and my first full day I had lunch at the Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street. Late that afternoon, a trip to Horseshoe Bay and the Spirit Gallery.
Stanley Park, the Lennox Pub, Chinatown, the Vogue Theatre, Fountainhead Pub among the places I went. I rented a car and went to Whistler (Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre), Squamish, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Harrison Hot Springs.
June 22nd I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time, staying in Westwood. Budget provided me with a Kia Soul for the week, which turned out fairly good. Not nice to look at, but easy to drive and comfortable inside.
The Getty Center was a great trip, as was Santa Monica. Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills, The Walk of Fame, LACMA and the Petersen Automotive Museum were visited. Pueblo de Los Angeles, The Museum of Tolerance (Anne Frank exhibit) and the LaBrea Tar Pits were also included.
A side trip with friends took me to Santa Barbara and the Old Mission. I bought a painting, now hanging above my fireplace at the craft market at the waterfront.
Iceland Air had a seat sale, so in September I flew to England, landing in Gatwick on the 20th. From there, I boarded a train to St Pancras Station, switched to King’s Cross, and I was off to York.
I stayed at the Wheatlands Lodge Hotel – a series of Victorian town homes converted to a hotel; an easy walk to the Mickelgate Bar. York itself is a magnificent city dating to Roman times. One can walk the wall, visit the York Minster, the Yorkshire Museum and many other features. The Viking Museum was closed due to floods.
Highly recommended: a day trip through the Yorkshire Dales with BOB Holidays. It takes nine hours, and well worth it. Includes a stop at the “Oldest Sweet Shop in the World” in Harrogate and The Falcon Inn in Arncliffe.
A two hour train ride, four days later, and I’m in Lincoln. Everything seems to be uphill from here. I stayed at a B&B called The Poplars. Nice place with friendly cats.
Lincoln Cathedral is the highlight, as is the high street for shopping. While here, I took a side trip to Sheffield, checking out the Cholera Monument and Lime Avenue.
Four days later, I travel to London, where I stay for eight days.
One of the perks of travel with Iceland air is a free stopover in Iceland. I chose to take mine at the end of my trip, arriving on 4th October.
The entire stay was dogged with pounding rain, cold and violent winds. The Blue Lagoon was a wonderful respite, despite the weather. The Golden Circle Tour heavily marred by the storms.
Every quarter, IHG Rewards has a special called PointBreaks. Hotels across the world are available for booking at five thousand points nightly. I’ve taken advantage of this many times. Sometimes the hotels are inconveniently located, sometimes they have just been renovated, at other times the hotel is about to be reflagged.
My recent stay was in Warren, Pennsylvania – I though a small town retreat would be good. Warren is located near the Allegheny National Forest.
The Holiday Inn is located on the outskirts of town – at first look I thought it was a converted government building. This hotel was quite large, with a restaurant and a bar.
The Plaza Diner came recommended by the clerk at the Holiday Inn. I could have eaten at the hotel, but I was looking for something local. It was quite packed, given the size of the town. I sat at the counter, watching the work. There are two kitchens – one in the front window, the other hidden from view.
Duffy’s came recommended by one of the local bartenders. Long and narrow, I sat at the bar at the back. Famous for their grilled vegetables, which were excellent. There are many ghost signs in Warren – the one beside Duffy’s is for a previous business, advertising an Oyster and Chop House.
On my way out of town, the hotel staff recommended that I stop and see the Kinzua Bridge, so I took a trip through the National Forest to find it.
Almost unannounced, this appears. Pennsylvania was a major producer of oil, and this is one of the few remaining power houses, long decommissioned.
I reach my destination – the Kinzua Bridge in Mt Jewett, PA. Originally a railroad bridge, three hundred feet high and two thousand feet long, it was opened in 1882 and closed permanently in 2003. A tornado went through the valley, collapsing the supports.
It’s now becoming a state tourist attraction. One can walk out the train tracks, and there’s a viewing platform at the end, with a glass floor.
Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania is located about half an hour from Warren.
In September, 2010, I spent a weekend in Detroit. My friends wished me away, hoping I’d come back without a toe tag. I actually had a very good trip, although the conditions in Detroit proper were quite alarming.
I spent an afternoon at the Walter P Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills. Truly, a splendid museum of beautiful cars, well organized, and with informative staff.
Five years later, I’m back for another visit to Detroit. The city has vastly improved. Unfortunately, the Chrysler Museum has closed, due to lack of visitors.
Here are some of the pictures I took at that time.
There are still signs on Chrysler Drive directing you to the museum, although once there, the doors are locked. It’s only available for private functions and employees.
Prior to the Civil War, more than half of America’s millionaires lived between New Orleans and Natchez, along the Mississippi River.
Many plantation homes have been destroyed, but also many were saved. This Laura Plantation house was built in 1805, but according to my tour guide the plantation itself predates the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Laura was a five thousand hectare sugar plantation, with a six kilometer road lined with sixty-nine slave cabins, six of which remain. Laura was a functioning plantation into the twentieth century, with some slave cabins occupied as recently as 1977.
The life of a slave changed significantly after the French sold the territory. The French had rules, one of which was that nobody was allowed to work on Sunday. If work was required, the slave would be paid.
In French Louisiana, only Catholics were permitted to have slaves, and all slaves had to raised Catholic. Saves had to be provided with food, shelter and clothing, and could be punished, even severely.
When the US took over Louisiana, slaves lost any slight protections that they had.
It was here, at Laura Plantation, that the west African folktales of Compair Lapin were first recorded, in the 1870’s, to be known in English as B’rer Rabbit.
Tours of the home and grounds are available daily, in both English and French.
Here’s a YouTube video showing a tour of the Laura Plantation from 2012.
The Magnolia Mound Plantation House is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near the Mississippi River, located about one mile south of the downtown area. It was built in the French Creole style in 1791, with an addition in the early 1800’s.
The main room has a rare cove ceiling, and many federal accents were added throughout the house. Like most large homes of the period, the kitchen was a located in a separate building, due to fear of fire.
The original grounds of the plantation were six hundred acres, and there were fifty slaves to work them. Cotton, indigo, tobacco and sugar cane.
By 1966 the house had fallen into disrepair, and the city of Baton Rouge used “eminent domain” to acquire it, and sixteen of the remaining acres. None of the original slave cabins remained, so one was brought in from the area.
Baton Rouge is not a huge tourist draw, even more because New Orleans is less than ninety minutes away. There are several places here of interest to those who appreciate history and architecture and are worth checking out.
This was my first stop when I arrived, before checking into my hotel. Well worth a couple of hours of your time, and the guide was most knowledgeable.
Twice yearly I make the trek from Toronto, Canada to Sarasota, Florida, where I spend the winter. It’s a trip that can be done fast or slow, as the mood strikes. I have made the trip in slightly more than eighteen hours, but I now prefer to take three days. There’s lots to see along the way.
Not that long ago I had this little red convertible. It lasted for thirteen years before catching fire while I was waiting at a red light in Florida. White Hall is located just off I75 near Richmond, Kentucky. It was closed for the season when I arrived.
White Hall is a state historic site in Kentucky. The grounds were open and I was able to walk around, and also managed to get a glimpse of the interior through those huge windows.
From the official website:
Nestled in rolling farmland, the home was built in the late 1700’s, with a major addition constructed in the 1860’s. The mansion, built in Georgian and Italianate styles, boasts nearly ten thousand square feet with modern innovations of the time such as central heating and indoor plumbing.
November 1 through March 31 the mansion is closed to the public except for A Victorian Christmas the first two weekends of December.
This was a pleasant way to spend a break on the long trip south. The grounds are quite large, and I was the only person there that afternoon.
White Hall had been abandoned for some time. Pictures are difficult to find, however here is one from 1968 showing the windows boarded.
How did I find this? Driving down the highway, there’s a sign that says “White Hall Next Exit” or something similar. I took a chance and made the exit.
IHG Hotels had one of their point breaks specials, and I didn’t want to travel too far. Rochester is about three hours away and looked like a good fit for two days.
I crossed the border at Queenston without incident, and proceeded north to HWY 18, taking the scenic parkway that follows the south shore of Lake Ontario. Close to Rochester, the road was closed and detoured off. I found out later that portions of the parkway get shut down in the winter to avoid maintenance costs. I can understand why, there was almost no traffic in either direction the entire length.
Rochester was interesting enough, but it has a nasty loop road around the centre of town making driving a awkward. Street parking was plentiful.
The Holiday Inn express was in the south end of town, but easy to get to. Lots of promotion inside as it is being re-invented as a Country Inn & Suites by Carlson. It was a very basic hotel without much going for it.
Probably the most interesting place to visit was the Susan B Anthony House on Madison Avenue. I was the only person there so I got a private docent tour. Walked around the neighbourhood afterward and had a long chat with one of the local homeowners. It’s a nice neighbourhood and she had recently purchased a massive older home across the street from the park.
I did go downtown, but I think I hit the wrong area. Some huge old buildings, but the ground levels are mostly empty. Lots of construction downtown and almost everywhere.
The former Erie and Genesee Canals have been made into a park.
Hung out a few times at the Avenue Bar. All in, a decent way to kill a couple of days.
The University has a lovely art gallery built in the early 20th century, and the surrounding neighbourhood of the arts includes the van Gogh themed Starry Nites Cafe!
Once I left Cleveland, OH I had a specific destination in mind. I love museums, and have a fondness for automobile museums. I’ve been to both the Chrysler and Ford museums near Detroit. While researching, I found the National Packard Museum.
Having left Cleveland in disgust over the traffic situation (many, many roads closed for the filming of Captain America), I took a leisurely drive to Warren, OH, the birthplace of Mr. Packard. It was here that the Packard Automobiles were first manufactured.
Warren, OH is a small town near the PA border, steeped in history. The National Packard Museum is quite small, mostly confined to two large public rooms. The first room houses some displays, signs, check-in and the gift shop. The larger room houses the automobile collection. It was a bit crowded when I was there, although with cars, not visitors.
The wonderful people at Best Western had given me a free night which I had to use before it expired, so I stayed at the Best Western Penn-Ohio Inn, located in Hubbard, OH. A very nice choice. Welcoming (with cookies!), spotlessly clean, and an indoor pool. I never actually went in to Hubbard, but ate at a local restaurant which wasn’t so good.
PA is just minutes away, so my stop the next morning was in the town of Sharon. Another place that reeks of turn of the last century beginnings. There, I found Ryer’s Shoe Store. Self-promoted as “The World’s Largest Shoe Store”. They had a good sale on ECCO shoes, and in PA clothing and footware are exempt from state taxes. Bonus!
Next stop: Jamestown, OH
August: Fort Wayne, IN; Little Rock, AK; Oklahoma City, OK; Albuquerque, NM; Colorado Springs, CO