May 17th - Sault Ste.Marie to Mackinac Island

The shortest day's drive of the tour, just 60 miles from our hotel by the locks in Sault Ste.Marie to the ferry dock at St.Ignace, meant we could spend an hour looking at the Valley Camp Ship Museum near the hotel before driving south.

The museum is a converted 1917 Great Lakes steamer, the Valley Camp. A view looking down the ship along the hatches towards the stern.

 It was a very informative visit giving a detailed history of the opening up of the Great Lakes to the outside world by the construction of the locks along the St.Lawrence Seaway and within the Great lakes. They called it The Fourth Seacoast.

It was also very interesting to see how the sailors lived and worked on the steamer. Down below decks you could walk into the engine room, with its giant steam boilers, and see the vast hold of the ship where cargo such as coal and grain were stored.

We left Sault Ste.Marie at around 11am and drove along Highway 75 to St.Ignace, where the Star ferry leaves for Mackinac Island. The terminal is just north of the Mackinac Bridge, a five mile long bridge that crosses the straits between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

No cars are allowed on Mackinac Island, so we left the cars at the ferry terminal and boarded the jet boat to the island. We only had a few other passengers with us including two Americans with their four Norwegian Elkhound dogs. The dogs were being taken to a dog competition.

A fifteen minute crossing, on a beautifully calm sea with the Mackinac Bridge behind us, brought us to the island. The jet boat threw up a huge plume of spray.

Mackinac Bridge behind us.

As we approached the island we got our first views of the Grand Hotel, and what a hotel it is!! Even though we had seen photos of the hotel, they do not do justice to this impressive white building. It was built in 1887 by the railroad companies and stands on the side of the hill overlooking Lake Huron.

We disembarked and asked the Grand Hotel porter to take a group photo of us at the dock.

We then took a horse drawn carriage up to the hotel through the streets of Mackinac City.

It really is an extraordinary place and aspects of it reminded me of Portmeirion and The Prisoner! All the buildings are almost perfect in every respect. The lack of cars gives the place a slightly surreal feeling and at any moment I expected a great white balloon to come down the street!!

We checked into the hotel and because the only room that was ready was Bob and Thelma's 'honeymoon suite', we all went up to see their room. Bob had promised Thelma a suite as a birthday present. Bob, as usual, rose to the occasion and posed for us on the bed!!

We then went and had a buffet lunch, followed by a walk around the hotel grounds and down to the shores of the lake. Here are a few photos, which I hope give some idea of how unusual but special Mackinac Island is, starting with the verandah at the Grand Hotel.

This evening we are eating in the hotel and the dress code of jacket and tie meant I had to buy a tie, as I had left mine in the car!

Tomorrow we leave the US and head back in to Canada for the second half of our great Canadian adventure.

May 18th - Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

Thought I would post a few photos of this amazing hotel and the surrounding grounds. So here goes, starting with a couple of photos from our suite. The first is of one of the two four poster beds we have in our room.

Next, how's this for a bathroom cabinet!

A close up of the wonderful facade.

..and the wonderful flower beds in front of the hotel.

This seemed rather out of place!!

Looking up at the hotel across the gardens with, in the centre, a long bed of magnificent  red and yellow tulips.

The woods in the grounds carpeted in daffodils and narcissi.

May 18th - Mackinac Island, Michigan to Sudbury, Ontario

We left Mackinac Island feeling sad that we had only stayed for less than 24 hours. It has been the most wonderful break away from the cars.

We boarded the Star ferry at 11.30am for the 15 minute ride back to St.Ignace where we had parked the cars yesterday afternoon. Looking back at Mackinac.

Wendy took this cheery photo of me, Bob and Thelma as we sped across Lake Huron at 40 knots.

Another photo of the plume of water being thrown up by the jet engine.

We reached St.Ignace and collected the cars from the car park and loaded up our bags and drove the 60 miles north to the border.

Crossing the bridge to the Canadian border control.

The Soo locks under the bridge on the US side of the border.

As soon as you cross the bridge you come to the Canadian border control and we rather liked this understated welcome to Canada.

We went through Canadian border control in just a few minutes and without any problems at all. The drive from the border to Sudbury was about 200 miles and as soon as we left Sault Ste. Marie we were in farming country very reminiscent of the English countryside.

Wendy took this photo of a house that could easily have been owned by Norman Bates!!

By now we had been travelling for about two hours so we decided to find a place to have a short break. The road was running along the north shore of lake Huron and at the first convenient spot we turned down a small track to the lake side. What a beautiful spot it was with the lake, a shimmering blue in the bright sunshine and a broad sandy beach. The temperature was a very warm 27 degrees with lovely shade from the trees. We saw Bob and Thelma drive past and called them on their mobile. They turned round and joined us by the lake.

Whilst we sat there eating our cheese and crackers Wendy pointed out a small black squirrel. We had never seen a black squirrel before. It was quite tame and Wendy was able to get a good photo of it.

After spending about three quarters of an hour we drove on and went past this Monument to Logging. I hope the two loggers manhandling the logs are visible. If not just click on the photo to enlarge it.

The remainder of the drive to Sudbury was uneventful. As we approached the town we saw for the first time the gigantic chimney stack built in 1975 for the nickel processing plant. The stack, known as the Inco Superstack, is 1257ft tall. Sudbury is the nickel capital of the world.

After we arrived at our hotel in Sudbury, the Best Western, we went for an Indian meal at the Indian restaurant next door. Our waitress told us that there is a strike going on at the plant which has been ongoing for over eight months. I haven't yet checked the current situation on the web.

May 19th - Sudbury to Algonquin Park

We left Sudbury at about 9.30am and drove a few miles south to the renowned science museum, Science North.

Science North is a museum built on 4 floors and specialises in interactive displays. It is ideal for young children. As we went in we were greeted by a group of life size animated dinosaurs, that were very realistic.

Further on in the museum on the third floor was this effective demonstration to show how weight can be distributed. Here I am on  a bed of nails being raised up by four inch nails!

There was a very interesting display of animals and insects. Here is Bob 'enjoying the moment' when he held a Chilean Rose Hair tarantula!!

A close up of Bob's 'little furry friend'.

We spent about an hour at Science North and then started our 250 kms drive due south to the Algonquin Park. The weather today has been wonderful and we drove along good dual carriageway and then single track roads in sunshine.Around 1pm we decided to stop for a snack lunch at Parry Sound, a small town on the shore of Georgian Bay, on the eastern edge of Lake Huron.

We had a good bowl of New England clam chowder at the Bay Street Cafe, sitting on the outside porch overlooking the water and the float planes coming into the landing dock. It was a lovely way to spend half an hour.

As we drove out of Parry Sound I saw a self serve car wash and, as the car hadn't been washed once since the beginning of the trip, I decided to 'give it a go'. Here is a photo Wendy took to prove I did!.

The remainder of the drive to the Algonquin Lakeside Inn was through very pretty wooded country with one vivid blue lake after another.

We arrived at the motel around 3pm. It is on the banks of the Oxtongue Lake. Our room is just off the left hand edge of this photo.

The motel is about 7 kms from the park entrance and after unpacking we drove a short way in to the park to see if we could see any animals. The park has moose, beaver, wolves, black bears and many species of birds. The only road that runs through the park, Highway 60, is just inside the park on its southern edge. The rest of this huge park is a true wilderness with a few trails and miles and miles of rivers and streams that are used for kayaking and fishing. The park is 7,630 sq.kms, which is bigger than the State of Delaware. It was established in 1893 and has 2,456 lakes.

We were unlucky not to see any moose, as they are often seen near the road at this time of year licking the salt that was used during the winter to keep the road clear.. In fact, when we got back, Bob and Thelma showed us their close-up photos of a bull moose that they had seen as they drove through the park. I'll post Bob's photos in the next posting.

We stopped at Ragged Falls car park and took the short walk to the falls. Apart from being bitten by swarms of mosquitoes it was a lovely place to see and take photos. The first is looking up at the falls from below. The second the river above the falls and the third looking down from the top.

We drove back to our motel and met the others and then went to a local restaurant for very good meal. We learnt from two locals, eating at the next table, that in June the G8 Summit is being held at a resort very near to our motel, Deerhurst.. Apparently huge numbers of security people have been preparing the resort for the summit and we were told of extraordinary security measures being taken. Having stayed here, will give us an 'added dimension' when we see the news reports of the summit in June.

Tomorrow we have a day in the park, whilst Kenny, Bob and Thelma go fishing on one of the lakes just outside the park. Hopefully, I'll be able to post some photos of their success!
Our ninth adventure drive, this time from Salt Spring Island, Vancouver Island in the west of Canada, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the east, with an approximate distance of 5,000 miles.