A Pre-Winter Trip To Thunder Bay

As time passes, the threat of winter weather gets greater. I guess that's just the territory of living in Wisconsin. With now owning a house and adopting a dog, I have a lot more responsibilities than in the past. It's hard for me to go away for an extended amount of time.

With that being said, I am excited I am *only* an 8-hour drive from Thunder Bay. When I lived in Austin, it was around a 24-hour drive. So I truly had to take a decent amount of time off to make a trip to Thunder Bay. Now, I could realistically do it in a weekend.

There is one caveat to that, though. The weather has to cooperate. It's an 8-hour drive in good conditions. The second you get any snow and have to slow down, that drive can be much longer. Lake Superior also has a way of amplifying winter weather. The second you get some lake-effect snow, or the wind picks up, the roads can become impassable.

With that being said, I wanted to get to Thunder Bay at least one more time. Victoria and I have a baby due in February, and this might be the last time that I can visit in a while. I was determined to make the best out of this trip.

I made sure to get my COVID test on the Wednesday before I left.

With the increasing cases, it seems the results are taking longer. For the last trips I took, it was about 30 hours. It took around 40 hours to get my results this time. I was getting a little nervous since that 72-hour window was closing in.

Luckily, the results were here, and I was able to take off work a few hours early on Friday. Maya can usually stay in her crate a few hours between the time I leave and when Victoria gets home. We just don't want to leave her in her crate for extended amounts of time.

I hit the road and drove the long stretches of I-94 to US-53. It was right before the opening weekend of rifle deer hunting in Wisconsin. There were more people on the road that were clearly going north to deer camp.

The border crossing was really fast. What actually took the longest time is I was selected for a random additional COVID test. I just had a few questions about that. I found out I would need to take the test and then put it in a dropbox within 24 hours.

The first order of business was to get some Canadian currency. So I went to the trusted ATM on Arthur Street and withdrew some money.

Typically, I stay at the Prince Arthur Hotel. This time, I decided I'd stay at the Courthouse Hotel. If you know me, I visit courthouses to prove I was in a county. The Courthouse Hotel was Thunder Bay's old courthouse that had been renovated into a hotel. It was also only a short walk downtown, so I figured it would be an awesome place to stay.

Judging by the hallways, it looked nice.

The rooms were also top-notch!

When I was checking in, I asked if they still had the old courtroom. Bailey, the guy behind the front desk, said he would show it to me. It appears they converted the old courtroom to their ballroom.

I talked with Bailey for a while and then had to get going to meet my buddy, Ryan. We planned to meet at On Deck, and it was only a short walk away.

While waiting for Ryan, I got a beer and ordered some poutine for a really late supper.

Ryan arrived, and he had some other friends that were also there. We all talked and had another drink. We then decided to walk to Sovereign Room.

Ontario had just lifted its capacity requirements, and the place was packed. We were able to get a seat and have another drink or two.

They had a DJ, and it was kind of loud. We then went to Waterhouse, where it was a lot quieter.

We ended up finishing the night at On Deck, where we got a pitcher of beer.

I walked back to the hotel and got a good night's rest.

The next morning, there was a bag of hot breakfast by my door.

I looked outside, and it was a bit overcast.

It was time to take my COVID test. So I got online with a telehealth nurse and got that all in order.

I brought my test with me and dropped it in the box when I got to that end of town. I first stopped at the Thunder Bay Country Market and got some buttertarts.

I then found the dropoff location for my COVID test and put it in the box.

I then headed to Bogala's to get some jerky. They make some of the best jerky I've had!

Besides the jerky, I picked up a pepperette to snack on.

Next up was the Persian Man to get both the legendary pastries local to Thunder Bay, the Persian and Sally Ann.

I then picked up my buddy Ryan, and we did a little exploring. First to Prince Arthur's Landing and the Marina.

Then to Fisherman's Park.

Next was Kaministiquia (Kam) River Heritage Park.

Ryan insisted we check out Victoriaville Mall. I know this mall had been circling the drain for a while, but it was the quietest mall I had ever been in. In some ways, it was peaceful. In other ways, eerie.

After the mall, we stopped at Ryan's mom's place. He had to pick up a t-shirt. We ended up there for over 3 hours having, and I had an awesome conversation with Ryan, his mom, and step-dad. By the time we left, we were getting hungry. We were trying to find a place to get a coney dog inside, but it seemed like most places weren't allowing inside dining.

We then decided it wasn't horribly cold, so we ordered food at Nipper's and ate outside. I got a coney dog and Italian sausage.

For this night, I planned to stay sober so that I could drive. Ryan had mentioned meeting some friends at The Hodder. This bar was not within walking distance of my hotel. If I didn't stay sober, I would have needed to arrange to get a ride to and from there. I dropped Ryan off at home and decided to explore a little more.

I first got to see the lights of Thunder Bay at Hillcrest Park.

I then went to Real Canadian Superstore. I wanted to see if they had the same sort of supply shortages that we were experiencing in the USA. It appears they did.

My next stop was the LCBO. I wanted to get some canned Caesars to take home.

I was getting hungry again, so I stopped at EatLoco Tacos. I knew this was a new addition to Thunder Bay, and I wanted to try it.

I got a flank steak and also a pollo taco.

After that, I went back to the hotel and took a short nap. Then I picked Ryan back up, and we met up with some of his friends and went to The Hodder.

I was drinking 7-Up on the rocks all night.

After a bit, everyone was starting to head home. I dropped Ryan back off at home and headed to the hotel. I got a decent night's sleep to prepare for my 8-hour drive back to Wisconsin. The following day, I woke up when they delivered my breakfast.

I ate my eggs and bacon and then relaxed a bit. I had planned to pick up some spices at 10:30, so I had some time. I got up to stretch and then looked out the window. Oh no! It was snowing! I thought it was supposed to hold off for a few more hours.

I realized it was going to snow a while, so I knew the drive would be a bit more treacherous and take longer.

When I started the Focus, the low tire pressure light came on. The colder temperatures must have brought the pressure down a bit.

I looked at my tires, and I knew they were borderline low. I'd be fine to drive on them, and I'd find a Kwik Trip once I got back to the USA. They usually have free air, so I'd take care of that then. My main focus was picking up the spices and making as good of time as I could.

I got the spices and then headed to my last stop, Metro.

I loaded up the cart with the usual Canadian staples I buy.

I then started driving to the border. I did stop on one road to get a quick picture.

The U.S. border crossing was also very fast, and I was soon back in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it looked like the weather wasn't holding up.

It would snow on and off. Sometimes the road was clear and other times, it was all covered in snow. That's what happens when traveling around Lake Superior. But, overall, I didn't have to slow down too much, so I made decent enough time.

By the time I hit Wisconsin, everything was clear.

In Superior, I finally stopped at a Kwik Trip. I got some gas and then some air for my tires. The back of my car was full of snow.

From there, it was smooth sailing. After that, it was just a long drive back.

Besides the spices, I did get a decent amount of stuff from the grocery store. Ryan also gave me a few records for my collection.

I'll maybe have to review a few of the things I bought. I know I'll be posting more on that on Facebook, so stay tuned!

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