By John Lilies & Lana Carbon
September 25TH, 2019
Day 6: May 23, 2019 - Thunder Bay, Ontario
[John] Well, we finally made it to Thunder Bay after trying for a few years to get there. I love this place so much and I hadn't been there in six years so, I was a wee bit happy.
[Lana] A wee bit? If I hadn't helped her contain her excitement, I was afraid she was going to fling me out of the car with the flailing arm cheers that she was doing!
[John] Exaggerate much? You have already stated that I'm a great driver, so I think it's obvious I wasn't flailing my arms around, silly.
[Lana] Maybe I'm exaggerating a tad. Needless to say, I was afraid for my life or that I'd be smacked in the face, or that my eardrums would burst. Or, just that you were really happy. Maybe it was the last one. Aaannnd... maybe I wasn't really afraid. I still stand by my statement.
[John] You're such a silly bunny.
Though Lana had been there before, himself, part of my excitement on this trip was from the opportunity for us share this experience with each other and for us to have some really focussed quality time with our Thunder Bay family. While Thunder Bay is very much a significant industrial part of Ontario, there is so much natural beauty and calming energy here that it really is a happy place for me.
We didn't really know what we would be doing on this day but we knew we were heading to my cousin's house for 10am and as it turned out, we stayed at the house all day, catching up.
[Lana] After all of our travelling time, it was nice to know that we were going to have a day to relax and just hang out with John's cousin, Kim Gnarl. I was looking forward to getting to spend some actual time with him; it was an opportunity that I'd never really had. Our previous visits had been when Kim and his family had been in Toronto, and they were short visits with a lot of family and friends around, so this was the first time I was going to be able to really sit and hang out with him.
[John] We enjoyed a wonderful day chatting with Kim. He walked us around the property to see all of the latest changes. This family is constantly making changes to things and keeping things moving - stagnation is not something of which they could ever be accused.
[Lana] I couldn't believe all of the changes they'd made! Of course, I'd never been to their house but still, I couldn't believe it! The place was looking great!
[John] While dodging deer poop in the backyard (finally gave up because it was just everywhere), Kim showed us some of the projects he had on the go and told us about some of his upcoming plans. Those are the times that make me wish we could live there, to be closer and have more time with Kim and the family; but also so we could be a part of the projects and put our creative skills to use and fulfill our kinesthetic, hands-on building needs while helping out.
Towards the end of our day, we watched the kids jump and flip on the trampoline - the younger one, Sia, spent a number of years in competitive gymnastics while the older one, Nia, teaches parkour and is a black-belt in karate. These are active kids who seemingly hold no fear and it was so cool to watch them practice their tricks on the trampoline.
[Lana] So that’s what it would be like to be an active person!
[John] Don't worry baby. You can easily be doing jumps and flips just like the kiddos. Nothing has ever stopped your imagination.
[Lana] That's the only spot where it would be happening.
[John] Ha. Well, these are precious life moments for which I feel deeply grateful to experience.
As we were leaving to head back to the hotel for the night, we watched a few deer graze in the backyard. I know the deer can be quite a nuisance, but when you live in a place where you see mostly concrete, traffic, smog, and squirrels, having a family of backyard deer to observe just gives me such a great sense of calm.
This was not a day of exploration or misadventure but it was a truly beautiful day of connection and love and family. Needless to say, we really enjoyed the quiet day.
Day 7: May 24, 2019 - Thunder Bay Continued
[John] This was a sightseeing day with Kim as our guide. We happily gave Kim the keys to our car so he could show us around the city and also help us find roadside attractions we were seeking.
We started the day with an emotional trip to a nearby cemetery, so I could say hello to Kim's mom and dad. My auntie died some years ago and my uncle - Pa Lilies' best friend and chosen brother - died two years ago. We were unable to make it up to Thunder Bay for my uncle's funeral, so it was really important for me to visit him and my auntie, to say hello. This was such a crucial piece of our time in Thunder Bay for me, and so when we were granted the opportunity to be witness to four deer chilling out and resting in the cemetery, the warm fuzzies filled me and my heart grew a massive smile. To be there with my cousin, Kim - my own chosen brother - and to share the moment with Lana (who was shooting seemingly endless photos of the deer), made it all so much more special.
[Lana] The deer were pretty sweet. I took some pictures of the deer.
[John] From the cemetery, we ventured into town where Kim took us to find one of the roadside attractions on our list - the red angler and fish sculpture.
[Lana] With so many attractions to fit in and not a lot of parking or room to pull over, my title as King of the Drive-By Photo would be put to the test this day.
[John] I can attest that Lana kept his crown.
What amazed me, throughout this whole day, was that Kim knew exactly where all of these attractions were, even when most of them he hadn't driven by or paid attention to in years. This was an incredible help for us finding the spots we wanted to see and also made for a cool tour through Thunder Bay.
After the angler and fish sculpture, we headed to the curling rink for the giant curling rock. With our coffees in hand, we each posed for some ultimate Canadian pictures with a massive curling rock, as we crossed this one off our lists. HURRY HARD!
[John] Mission Island Marsh was next. This was a place that Kim decided to introduce us to. We didn't spend a lot of time here but it was certainly enough to appreciate the beauty (and the cold wind) and it was a lovely view of Sleeping Giant.
[Lana] The Marsh had a beautiful boardwalk out on the shore and I wanted to go out there to take some pictures of Sleeping Giant, but it was just so darn cold and windy. I decided that the warmth and comfort of Lucy was preferable and I could take pictures from right there.
[John] Yes, we were a bit caught off guard by just how windy it was, so I don't think any of us was overly keen on staying out there for too long.
From Mission Island Marsh we drove up to Hillcrest Park for another perspective of Sleeping Giant. This was a beautiful spot much higher up, that I could see myself visiting regularly for lunches, picnics, and time to breathe. The park itself was dedicated to honour The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) that served in the Second World War.
Moving on, we headed to the waterfront where Kim lamented how the city desperately needs to pump funding into the development of the area, to draw in more local use and tourism. I agree - while work has been done there, so much more could be designed and implemented for better use and appreciation of the site. Here, we gained yet another view of Sleeping Giant. Sleeping Giant is such a landmark here, that it's a standard attraction. My hope is to one day visit it and maybe do some camping and hiking there.
[Lana] Camping? That's like, being outside overnight? Not in a hotel? Sleeping... not in a bed? I'll bring the coffee with me in the morning when I come back to pick you up.
[John] You're such a baby.
[Lana] But I'm a baby without bug bites all over my bum.
[Lana] Ants... spiders... centipedes... sandworms...
[John] Dude. Where are you going camping?
[Lana] Nowhere that sweeping the floor wouldn't actually get it clean.
[John] Well I'm not planning to hang out with sandworms but camping with Beetlejuice may not be so bad. You go to your hotel and I'll camp with the Deetzes.
[Lana] Better keep your Handbook for the Recently Deceased handy.
While driving around on this day, Kim introduced us to the mass amount of deer in the area. We have deer in our part of the province and so they certainly aren't foreign to us, but in Thunder Bay the deer just hang out with you and in some cases, even approach you looking to be fed. If they aren't looking for food from you, they don't often run away even when you sit for a while just feet away, taking photos. Watching the deer this close, without them taking off, were some really cool moments. I love nature and I have had some cool deer moments in the past, but the experience with these deer was definitely superior. There was one in particular that stuck around while we sat in the car for a while, close up, watching him eat. We were able to get some cool shots.
[Lana] As I was taking pictures of the deer, I would take pauses in between and just flip through the pictures I'd already taken, because that deer wasn't going anywhere!
[Lana] As I was scanning through some of my close-up shots, they made me think of Nipigon and La Luna Café. I thought to myself, "I'll show him a sassy deer!" (Him being the owner of La Luna.) (Missed that article? Click here!)
[John] After exploring the city for the day, we decided on an early night to give ourselves a decent rest. We knew the next day would be a long one with more exploring and we made plans to watch the Raptors game the next night with Kim, as it would be Game 7 and could determine if the Raptors would move into the finals. That was a big moment we could not miss.
[Lana] Go Raps Go!!
[John] So, after a day of beautiful views and wonderful chats, we drove to the hotel for some relaxation and sleep.
Have a good one, friends. Thanks for joining us and please stay tuned for more of TBay, coming soon…