Our Excursion Through the Shield - Day 1, Part 2

By John Lilies & Lana Carbon

July 26TH, 2019

Day 1: May 18th, 2019 - Toronto to Sault Ste Marie, Part 2

[John] Hello there! Thanks for coming back. Let’s jump right in and pick up where we left off from the last article

After a quick stretch in Sudbury and refueling ourselves and Lucy, we got back on the road and continued west to Sault Ste Marie. Though there is a lot to explore in Sudbury, we decided that it is close enough to Toronto that we could easily explore the area another weekend. After pushing on, our first stop was in Espanola at the Northwest Trading Company; we’ve been there before and it has become a regular stop for us on our way to Sault Ste Marie. It makes for a good opportunity to stretch and walk around for a little bit, as well as maybe pick up a little souvenir from our trip.

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Lana did his absolute best to blend in…

Lana did his absolute best to blend in…

This time around, as we walked into the building, Lana, of course, noticed a relatively good-sized bell on display. Surprisingly, he was able to resist his usual temptation to ring a bell and he continued on into the shop. However, as we paid for our purchases, he asked the cashier if he could ring the bell on the way out. The cashier politely obliged on the condition that it was a gentle ring. True to his promise and with a huge smile on his face, Lana happily gave the bell a firm but gentle ring. (If you remember from previous articles, Lana has a bit of an obsession with ringing bells.)

[Lana] I haven’t the foggiest inkling of what you are talking about. (Side note… a good way to help someone find their bearings in the fog is by ringing a bell for them so they can follow the sound.)

[John] Yes, the thick fog inside the shop certainly made it necessary to assist those trying to find their way to the exit. You provided a desperately needed service that day.

[Lana] They are more than welcome to send their thanks to carbonlilies@hotmail.com in care of Lana Carbon.

[John] Be careful, the appreciation may be overwhelming.

[Lana} I am prepared to be whelmed.

[John] Oh boy.

So, we left Espanola and continued along the road to Massey for our next roadside attractions. Here, we were looking for sculptures of a couple of life-sized horses, a motorcycle, a mermaid, a horse and rider, and a moose. We found the two horses, the motorcycle, and the mermaid. The horse was missing its rider and the moose was nowhere that we could find. Traffic on the main road made it difficult to get the pictures we really wanted, but we were still able to document our finds.

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Moving on from Massey, we headed to Serpent River to visit one of our favourite trading posts and to find a sculpture of dueling deer. The trading post did not disappoint and Lana even got to play a game of Plinko to win us a discount on our purchases.

[Lana] Big money… no whammies… 50% off BABY!!! That was the big prize and I nailed it. Looks like John will be sending me one of those thank-you emails.

[John] Gosh golly, you just make me so darn proud.

The only other thing that would have made this stop better was if the art gallery had been open. The gallery here holds some beautiful artwork by incredibly talented artists. In retrospect, perhaps it’s a good thing the gallery was closed because it quite likely saved us money and space in the car.

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As we walked back outside, we looked around for the dueling deer as we really thought the sculpture was located here. Unfortunately, we were unable to find it and not having the time to really explore the whole of Serpent River, we decided to move on.

[Lana] We were having great luck with the trading posts so far but nowhere near the same luck with our attraction hunt. It was still early in our trip though, so we were still both fairly optimistic things would soon turn around in our favour.

[John] Next stop… Blind River. Our goals for Blind River included a large statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe as well as three big tree statues with a couple of loggers. The logging memorial was easy to spot on the main strip, so we pulled in and got out to admire the artwork and meaningful intent behind the memorial.

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“This memorial was designed by Laura Brown-Breetvelt to honour the spirit and industry of the workers and companies involved in logging in Northern Ontario and the Blind River area. ‘The men, the river and the trees are all part of our history’ says Laura. These two ‘River Drivers’ symbolize this part of our heritage exceptionally well.”

“This memorial was designed by Laura Brown-Breetvelt to honour the spirit and industry of the workers and companies involved in logging in Northern Ontario and the Blind River area. ‘The men, the river and the trees are all part of our history’ says Laura. These two ‘River Drivers’ symbolize this part of our heritage exceptionally well.”

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After an introspective moment here, we got back on the road in search of Paul Bunyan and Babe.

[Lana] Paul Bunyan was one of the monuments I was really hoping to see up close and personal. What young Canadian didn’t hear about the strongman lumberjack and his giant ox, Babe? The old folktales were legendary. From the moment I knew that a statue existed and it would be on our path, I knew we had to see it…

[John] I suppose I should raise my hand here. For all the Canadian stuff I know about, I had never heard of Paul Bunyan and Babe. How much of a hoser does that make me?

[Lana] It would make you a non-hoser in the Canadian sense of the word, I believe.

[John] Ouch! Not even Canadian enough for hoser status? Here, take my tuque and my lumber jacket.

We didn’t find Paul and Babe. We looked for the street they were supposed to be on, but we somehow missed it.

Lana, I am sorry we didn’t find Paul but you were the navigator.

[Lana] Ok… now you have to hand over the Raptors gear too.

[John] Not a chance in H-E- double hockey sticks. Don’t even think about asking for my Leafs shirts.

[Lana] Anyways… moving on.

[John] Moving on to the fact that I just looked up Paul Bunyan and he was American anyway… so I am taking back my tuque, lumber jacket, and hoser status.

[Lana] What? No way. Fine you can take back your claim to your Canadiana but he was Canadian at heart and you can never take that away from me. He probably had dual citizenship.

[John] Oy.

So… um… as we moved on through our journey, guess what we went looking for in Iron Bridge? Yep… a lumberjack. We found him, by the way. Maybe it was honouring a Canadian lumberjack.

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[Lana] Sure we can find a six-foot-tall carved wooden lumberjack basically with our eyes closed but couldn’t spot hide nor hair of a twelve foot plus, fully coloured sculpture with a big blue ox beside him. How does that even make sense?

[John] Again… navigation was your job, dude. Next time, baby. Next time you can meet Paul Bunyan… I’ll hold the map for you.

After leaving Iron Bridge, we went on a hunt for the giant loonie in Echo Bay. We weren’t super excited for a giant loonie but being familiar with the giant toonie in Campbellford, we felt that the giant loonie was only appropriate. Thankfully, we were easily able to find the loonie on a town road and stopped to take photos and have a bite to eat.

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So, Thessalon should have been next but I think we were growing a bit weary by this time, and we chose to give up the opportunity to see an inukshuk and a big Muskoka chair. When we originally planned the trip, we had contacted my cousin in Thessalon to make arrangements to meet up. Naturally, following true Carbon Lilies misadventure tradition, she and her family were going to be down in our neck of the woods that weekend. I think that missing out on a chance to see them, may have played a little bit into our decision to bypass Thessalon.

[Lana] That, and the fact that the highways are lined with inuksuit from just north of Barrie and every souvenir shop is also filled with them. As for the big chair, unless I could have convinced you to sit in it while I took a picture, it was just a chair to me.

[John] What if I’d wanted to get a picture of you in the big chair?

[Lana] You have seen me try to climb things before, right?

[John] Well, yes. It is entertaining… maybe that could have been my video souvenir.

[Lana] That is why we bypassed Thessalon.

[John] Gosh, you are just no fun.

After skipping Thessalon, the next stop on our list was Garden River for some giant arrows. Because exhaustion was setting in, we also decided to bypass the arrows.

[Lana] After all, once you have seen one giant arrow, you have seen them all, right?

[John] Just how many giant arrows have you seen?

[Lana] Enough to fill my quiver, let me tell ya.

[John] I got nothin’.

As 5:30 p.m. was drawing near, we arrived in Sault Ste Marie and headed for our hotel. We also have cousins here, however, one set was in Ottawa at this time and some health complications on our end made visiting on this weekend too difficult to make plans with the other cousins. (We are both fine, but some days are tough and make social interactions difficult.)

Pulling in at the hotel in the rain, we were feeling grateful for arriving safely and having such a fun day on the road. We checked in to our room, organized ourselves for the next couple of days, and basically crashed for the night.

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With a glow-in-the-dark constellation ceiling map guiding our sleep, we fell deep into dreams, hoping for a great rest and another amazing day ahead.

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And to you dear friends, we wish a good night and we will see you here again for reflections of our time in the Soo. Until then, please be well.

Our Excursion Through the Shield - Day 1, Part 1

By John Lilies & Lana Carbon
July 10th, 2019

[John] Back in 2014, we decided we needed to go on a significant road trip through Ontario. We had planned for it to happen in 2015 but life circumstances intervened and we weren’t able to execute the entire trip. Every year since then, we have tried to make it work but the universe has had other plans. At the end of 2018, I decided I would force the stars to align and I somehow managed to swing two weeks off work for the end of May 2019. I told Lana that we would make this trip happen no matter what it would take, and we immediately began discussing what our trip would look like.

[Lana] This was a trip we had been dying to take, almost since the day we met. Once John had managed to finagle her vacation days in a consecutive manner, we knew this may be our only opportunity.

[John] In an effort to show the universe just how serious we were, we immediately called our relatives in Thunder Bay and told them to expect visitors at the end of May. I hoped that this would cement our commitment to this adventure in a way that would prevent any interruption to the plan. By spring 2019, we had sketched out the different places we wanted to pass through on our route, and began to arrange our accommodations for our two-week adventure.

As our departure date grew near, we began experiencing vacation stress as we realized just how much we had to plan and pack for two weeks on the road.

[Lana] One of the hardest things about packing for this trip and at this specific time of year is that the weather is completely unpredictable. There could be one day when you are safe to go outside in short sleeves and be totally comfortable and the next day you may need your winter jacket, scarf, and a pair of gloves. This meant that we had to pack all of it just as a precaution.

[John] Needless to say, we were increasingly grateful for our little station wagon, Lucy, and her incredible capacity to accommodate life.

We know it has been a while since we have published an article and we are so thankful that you have all stuck with us during our quiet time. We hope you will find it worthwhile as you settle in for a ride through the summer as we share with you our reflections on two weeks of classic Carbon Lilies misadventures.

As per usual, please let us know your thoughts and feelings as you follow along.

And so, with that, let’s hit the road…

[Lana] As The Cars once famously sang, “Let the Good Times Roll!”

Day 1: Toronto to Sault Ste Marie (May 18, 2019), Part 1

[John] Being as this was our Victoria Day long weekend (or May 2-4 as we most commonly refer to it), we knew that traffic could become complicated and, with a long day ahead of us, we decided that a 6:00 a.m. departure time would be best.

[Lana] So frickin’ early!

[John] Yeah… that didn’t happen. I think I probably should have told Lana that we had to leave by 5:00. He never seems to believe me when I point out how easily he loses track of time. But hey, a forty-minute delay isn’t so bad.

[Lana] Hey… I’m getting older now and it takes a while for these old bones to get loosened up so that I can get active. Besides, you want me looking my devilishly handsome self, don’t you?

[John] Does it seriously take you that long to put yourself together? But you are right, old is definitely a good word for you.

[Lana] If I had feelings, that might have hurt.

[John] Aww, my sensitive old man.

[Lana] Anyways… back to the story.

[John] Yeah. Stop distracting me.
We finally pulled out at 6:40 a.m. …

[Lana] My fault apparently…

[John] … and, not wanting to get caught up in long weekend traffic with predictable accidents, we quickly made our way north to escape the city limits and land in cottage country before the day was starting for most people. Bypassing Barrie to quickly get further north; we made our first super fast pit stop in Parry Sound. We decided that because Parry Sound isn’t too far away (by our standards) we would save a proper visit here for a day trip on another weekend.

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Not far north of Parry Sound, as we approached Shawanaga First Nation, we saw what we thought was a man-made, beautifully created, life-sized lawn ornament about 20 metres off the highway’s edge to our right. However, as its head turned to watch us pass, I loudly yelled, “Oh my gosh… It’s real! That’s our first moose!”

[Lana] I saw the figure beside the highway but as John said, thinking it was one of those lawn sculptures, I had already let my attention move onward. I didn’t see the head move and nearly gave myself whiplash turning my own head back trying to catch another glimpse of one of these magnificent creatures. I missed out this time and had to hope that this wouldn’t be our one and only sighting on the trip.

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[John] One of our main goals on this trip was to visit and document as many roadside attractions as possible. For us, these attractions were large-ish statues or monuments and did not include natural attractions or events. The latter two were certainly welcome and to be enjoyed but the statues/monuments were the fun challenge for us throughout the trip. We had a list of roadside attractions we were specifically looking for and had agreed that we would also stop for the unplanned. Beautiful though it was, “Moosey” did not fit our roadside attraction parameters. However, it was certainly an experience to behold.

The first roadside attraction on our list was an inukshuk in Port Severn. I’m not exactly sure why but for some reason we skipped it. Coming out of Parry Sound, the next attraction on our list was a voyageur canoe in French River. We visited the French River Trading Post, picking up a few treats to support the local economy, and looked around the grounds thinking we would find the canoe right there. We didn’t. The thing about these roadside attractions is that they don’t always come with directions. Knowing that we had to be in Sault Ste Marie that evening, as we didn’t want to be driving after dark, we chose to let go of the voyageur canoe sighting and instead we pushed on to Sudbury.

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[Lana] Luckily, for me at least, some of these monuments grab my attention more than others. The first couple probably would have been okay but they weren’t the highlights of the list in my opinion, so I wasn’t too upset that we didn’t see them. Besides, these early ones were close enough that if we missed them, we could simply do a quick run up and look for them again another day. At least we did get to the trading post. I love a good trading post.

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[John] Continuing north from French River, approximately 40 kilometres south of Sudbury and just off to the right in a little valley on the side of the highway, moose #2 was happily drinking from the water pooled in the valley. As we passed and looked down, “Moosey” looked up at us and we had a momentary eye-to-eye connection. I even took in the detail of its larger size and the darker, rougher-looking fur along the top of its head, running down its neck and along the middle length of its back. This was a special moment.

[Lana] This one I saw. This one I knew was a real moose. This one made me ecstatic. Just to see wildlife of any kind in their natural habitat is an amazing feeling to me; to see one of the larger, more rare creatures that I normally wouldn’t get the chance to see, is unforgettable. In that moment, I felt incredibly lucky to have such an opportunity.

[John] Riding high from this second sighting (both rare considering the time of day), we excitedly continued to Sudbury for some lunch and an opportunity to top up Lucy’s fuel tank.

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With that, we leave you for today to dream about your own adventures and in anticipation of the second half of our first day of this series of misadventures. Rest well lovelies, there is plenty more to come.