Thunder Bay and Back: The Father-Son Road Trip
Aw yes, the road trip! I’d like to think for many parents and children, the conversation of taking one together is common. The freedom of the road, seeing the country, a chance to learn about one another; truly a unique opportunity. A road trip was certainly a topic my father and I talked about often, but as the years went by the idea of taking one together became less likely to become reality. Life was busy for both of us, myself furthering my career at Can-Am and my Dad was busy taking ownership of an embroidery business, while still maintaining his current job! It seemed the stars just weren’t going to align to make it happen, or at least that’s what we thought.
One of the many unique qualities about Can-Am is of course our expertise in towing. This uniqueness often draws customers from across North America, and sometimes further! In this case it was a customer from Canmore, Alberta. He and his wife had purchased a beautiful, preowned 25ft Airstream International earlier in the summer. They decided for convenience and time sake it would be best to meet halfway to take delivery.
While arrangements were being made for delivery in Thunder Bay, I happened to send a text to my Dad, excited about the trip ahead. Jokingly he messaged back with “Sounds better than work! I should ditch and come along!”, to which I jokingly responded back with “Sure!”.
As the day continued, I received another message from Dad. This one read “If I could, do you think your boss would actually be okay if I came along?”. I told him I’d check. Well he thought it was a great idea for me to have some company on the road, so I wrote Dad back and told him to pack his bags! Dad talked with his boss, and with encouragement to come along from his fiancée, the thumbs up was given! And just like that, the father-son road trip was real!
Final arrangements were made with the customer and the delivery date was set. Originally, the plan was to use our Eco-Diesel Dodge pickup. It wasn’t currently hooked up for test drives and had a fresh oil change. While the eco-diesel is a very capable tow vehicle, I’ll admit, I’m a car guy, and It just so happened our Chrysler 300 was also unhooked, and fresh from an oil change! So, in the truest Can-Am fashion we took the Chrysler!
The plan was to pick Dad up sometime after lunch, in hopes to avoid Toronto’s rush hour traffic. Of course, “after lunch” turned into mid-afternoon, putting us right in the middle of Toronto at rush hour. Dad and I weren’t particularly thrilled over this idea, so we did a bit of research and it turned out the scenic route to bypass Toronto and Barrie would only add about an hour to our drive to Sudbury and was surprisingly only 15km longer.
We headed towards Highway 23, the road was wet from earlier rain, but were greeted with a beautiful, sunny, fall afternoon. The 300, as expected, was making easy work of the 25ft Airstream; turning plenty of heads as we cruised through all the small towns! Up till this point my Dad had only ever seen pictures and heard of the setups we did at Can-Am. He’d also never had any experience with an Airstream, so he was truly in for a treat!
To put it plainly, he was impressed with the 300. After about 20 minutes he commented on just how little you could feel of the trailer behind us, and on a moderately breezy day. “Perks of towing an Airstream!” I told him.
As we cruised North the sun began to set, giving us a magnificent show out the window. We pulled in for our first fuel stop.
Our first The snag was when we pulled out of the gas station. This one was a bit more worrying. As the sun sank below the horizon, we suddenly became aware of the lack of heat coming from the vents. Luckily, we had heated seats and our heavy coats, only our toes were suffering the cold! My Dad sent a text off to my uncle, who happens to be a mechanic for a Chrysler-Dodge dealership, to try and troubleshoot the problem. It came down to either a fuse or a little door inside the dashboard that was stuck. Since all the other electronics worked, the likely culprit was the door in the dash. The only solution was to give the dash a few smacks to try and break it lose. We gave it a few tries but to no avail. We only had a few hours left driving before our dinner stop in Perry Sound, and decided we’d have a better look then.
About 9:00 pm we pulled up to the warm glow of the golden arches! Ready to enjoy a warm meal and get a hot cup of something! As we were munching on french fries, and sipping our hot beverages, we were greeted with luck. The vents suddenly got warm again, and thankfully stayed warm the rest of the trip!
The rest of the drive to Sudbury was an uneventful one. We were both tired from the long day and enjoyed the company of an oldies playlist I had on my iPod. We rolled into town through the bare streets and quickly found a hotel with a parking lot large enough to park the Airstream. We checked in and were off to bed.
The plan for the next day was to get to Wawa, which is only about a 6-hour drive. That left us with some time to head up to Capreol to visit with some family we hadn’t seen in a while. Of course, since most of this trip was planned “on the fly” we hadn’t called ahead to say we were coming. So, when we rolled in, we were met with surprise and delight from my Great Aunt and Uncle. After a long chat and a few cups of coffee to keep warm, it was finally time to hit the road. We said our farewells and headed for Wawa.
As we got closer to Sault Ste. Marie the excitement to see Lake Superior was building for us both. Our excitement finally came to its peak as we came to the other side of Sault Ste. Marie, and the first view we got was fitting of Superior. Dark, burly storm clouds with faint lines of rain squalls in the distance of a sunny late afternoon. The view seemed even more fitting as we passed the Edmund Fitzgerald Look Out on Pancake Bay.
The plan had been to try and get to Wawa before dark. Unfortunately, our visit with family that morning had run long and we ended up driving about an hour on the dark northern road. We took our time and thankfully didn’t have any run-ins with wildlife. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend driving at night up there if you can help it!
The next day we woke up to another gorgeous day of driving. Wawa to Thunder Bay was by far the best of all the days we had spent on the road so far. We had lots of time to spare, gorgeous views, and a fantastic road to drive on! The Chrysler made easy work of all the twists, turns and steep grades. Most of the time we barely even noticed there was an Airstream behind us!
As we got to Thunder Bay, we of course had to stop at the Terry Fox Memorial. The wind was cool that day, but the view was fantastic! The entire city laid out to the right and the Sleeping Giant directly across the bay. After the memorial we rolled into town and found accommodations for the night. We enjoyed an early dinner and were off to bed soon after as I needed to be up early to prepare the Airstream for delivery the next day.
The next morning dawned, and with coffee in hand, I headed out to clean up the Airstream from it’s 1600km journey. Dad came out after his breakfast and decided to help with detailing the tires and rims. When we used to clean the family car, he had always said the key to making a vehicle look its best was clean tires and rims (Which is absolutely true!). As he did that, I wiped down the sides and applied a fresh coat of wax.
Apparently, an Airstream connected to a Chrysler 300 in the middle of a parking lot being detailed isn’t a common sighting in Thunder Bay (who knew!). We eventually lost count of the number of people who made a slow drive past, most giving a smile or and a thumbs up every time! Once the Airstream was polished to its finest, we loaded up and headed for the Walmart parking lot to meet for the delivery.
The walk-through went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped! The new owner and his daughter were a pleasure to meet and were very understanding that the wind was too strong for me to demonstrate the awning. With a proper set up done on their truck, and all the questions answered we parted ways, both wishing the other a safe trip home.
With the “work” portion on the trip done, and only the Chrysler to maneuver around, Dad and I finally had the freedom to explore a bit. Our first “exploring” happened by accident with a wrong turn when heading back to the highway. We found ourselves at The Persian Man, a bakery famous in Thunder Bay for their “Persian’s”. A Persian being an oval shaped pastry topped with pink berry icing, very similar to a cinnamon bun. The wrong turn was certainly a tasty one! I highly recommend trying one if you ever find yourself in Thunder Bay!
After our treat, Dad and I decided to cannonball back to Sault Ste. Marie. Something my Dad and I have always shared was a love of ships and shipwrecks. Ships of the Great Lakes has always been a sweet spot for us both. Dad had shelves full of books about them, and I’d spend hours flipping through and drawing pictures of the grand old steamers. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to hike the Edmund Fitzgerald Look Out. A bit of a let down for us both, but we still knew there’d be lots to see the next morning at the Soo.
We woke up earlier, both of us excited to explore and see the history! Our hotel room gave us a decent view of the Soo Locks, so as we got ready for the day, we got to watch the ships. Our only disappointment came when we found out the M.S Norgoma, an old package freighter and passenger ferry, had been closed and moved to a private dock that couldn’t be accessed by the public. The disappointment was quickly forgotten at the sight of the laker Arthur M. Anderson coming through the locks. The laker renowned for her role involving the sinking on the Edmund Fitzgerald. The Arthur M. Anderson and Edmund Fitzgerald had agreed to run together to maintain contact through the forecasted storm that November 10th, 1975. Arthur M. Anderson was the last vessel to have visual, radio and radar contact with the ill-fated ship while running for shelter in Whitefish Bay.
After the excitement, we drove over to see the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site, followed by a hike across to Whitefish Island Indian Reserve to see if we could get a better view of the Soo Locks. While we didn’t get much better of a view, the island was a beautiful hike on the crisp morning. As we left Sault Ste. Marie we drove along the river through town, just to make sure we didn’t miss something of interest.
The journey home was bittersweet. There was so many more cool spots I know Dad wanted to show me, and that I wanted to hear about from him and see with him! Unfortunately, the time just wasn’t there. Dad had to be to work the next morning and with rest stop time, we were looking at about a 10-hours till home. Even despite the time constraints we faced, I wouldn’t have changed anything about this trip.
I’m very proud of my Dad, and I’m proud I got to show him some of what I do for work. He’s played a huge part shaping my work ethic and who I am as a person today. He taught me more than he could ever imagine about life, and as cliché as it may sound, without him and his wisdom I certainly wouldn’t be half the man I am today.
With that, I encourage every parent and child to take a road trip together! Whether it be father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, or mother-daughter. Find somewhere you both want to see and go there.