Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kenora, Ontario....Looking for Great-Uncle Nelson

We headed off to Kenora which is northwest of Thunder Bay. The drive was not so pretty scenery wise...trees, rocks, road construction, trees, rocks. We were glad to arrive!

Here is the old train station built in 1899 and still in use today.

Kenora has a very pretty location on Lake of the Woods, and Jim remembered it being a very wealthy town at one time.

There was one restaurant from the eating bible and we made our way downtown. The whole downtown is under construction as they are replacing water and sewer lines that are over 100 years old, so the downtown businesses have been hurting most of the summer. The restaurant is Greek and family owned, and the new generation of owners have been making efforts to cook in a more healthy way, so that was nice. We had to split a dessert 'cause I have never heard of ekmek. It is a traditional Greek dessert which was served mostly to the upper class and the recipe has been handed down from their grandmother. Cookie soaked in honey and cointreau and topped with custard and whipped cream. Oh yeah....

The next day we set out to find Jim's great-uncle Nelson (his grandfather's brother). He remembered visiting him in Kenora as a young boy in 1950 on a family vacation. He thought Uncle Nel was old at that time, but as a youngster, everyone is old! He knew he had been a Lieutenant Colonel in WWI and knew approximately where he lived, but that was about it. We had our work cut out for us!

We decided to head to the Legion first thinking they might have a picture of him or maybe his name would be on a placque. At the legion, there was a large line-up of elderly people. Good grief, we had hit flu shot day! The lady at the legion couldn't find anything on Uncle Nel, but she asked one of the older gents who knew somebody else who happened to be there getting his flu shot. We went over to speak to him and a man behind him in the line said "Colonel Schnarr? He was on my paper route when I was a boy. He used to give me a two-bit tip every week, and that was a lot of money in those days!" He told us the area where he had lived so we decided to go there. On the way out, the lady working in the office suggested we try the cemetery as well so we had another lead.

We drove to the area where Jim thought he had lived, but everything of course was so different and there was no use trying to pinpoint a house. We headed off to the cemetery.

Can you spot the deer in the picture?

The cemetery has an office on site and Carol was there to help us. She found so much information for us, it was incredible. She really went out of her way to help, looking up censuses and going on an ancestry website for us.

We found out that Great-Uncle Nelson was born in Tavistock, Ontario in 1868. His wife, Eva, passed away at the young age of 24 in 1897 (of what we weren't sure). Carol mentioned an infant who also passed away in 1897, but at the age of 5 months so it wasn't in childbirth, but that was the first we had heard of a child.

She suggested that we try the library as they have microfilm and that we should be able to find their obituaries. So armed with a pile of paper and much more information than when we arrived, we found the headstone in the cemetery.

From there, on to the library where the librarian was able to find Uncle Nel's obituary in the paper on microfilm. He was a very prominent figure in the area; a dental surgeon who belonged to many organizations and gave much of his time to the community. In the upper right hand corner is his obituary, which we were able to get a copy of.

The editor of the newspaper had also written an editorial on him which expressed how much he had given to the community and how much he would be missed. He died at the age of 84 in 1952, so no wonder Jim thought he was old when he visited in 1950!

The librarian showed us a map of the area and pointed out Schnarr Lake, north of Kenora, which was named after him. We were very happy with all the information we had, and she suggested we visit the museum in town. Being as he was a prominent citizen, she thought maybe they would have some pictures or information on him.

So with more papers in hand, we set off for the museum. The girl there was very busy with school groups and other duties, but she was more than obliging and pleased to show us several pictures, these being two of the best.

Wasn't he a handsome man!

Everyone in Kenora was just so helpful and friendly. We certainly ended up with far more information than we ever thought we would!

From there it was time to head off to Winnipeg, hopefully to find some of Jim's cousins.

I was amazed that almost as soon as you enter Manitoba, it is flat, flat, flat. Talk about the prairies! Don't know what was going on in the sky. It was like dust devils...

We took a quick side trip to Steinbach, where selling cars is the main industry.

And then on to Winnipeg...

Garmie brought us right to the door of the hotel, where we are staying for three nights while we go relative hunting. If today's success is any indication, it should be great!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Canada's Longest Suspension Foot Bridge...and Other Good Stuff!

What a great day!! The drive from Marathon to Thunder Bay was just beautiful. I had imagined it would be all woods, but it is gorgeous vistas all the way. This is just two of the many times that Jim stopped for pictures...

We stopped in Nipigon for lunch (at Subway....yes, Jared!). It was a small Subway combined with a convenience store, and had only a few tables. We asked a man if we could sit with him, and he said "Since you're from New Brunswick, sure!" He had seen our car license plates and it turns out he is originally from Campbellton. Small world, for sure! He told us the Nipigon area is basically a dying town since the mill closed and the plywood plant burned down this year. People are pretty much stuck there as they can't sell their houses. He was retired, and said it's really the people on pensions who are keeping the town alive. Like so many small towns along the way....

Jean and Alan, whom we met in the restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, had recommended visiting Ouimet Canyon, so we turned off the road to go there and then saw this sign. Now this sounded pretty interesting...

We drive in and a young guy comes out to meet us and asks if we want to go across the bridge. I'm thinking "no, I just want to see it" but that isn't an option. You're in, or you're out! He and his father started this business 6 years ago. His father had purchased the land years ago, sight unseen, as a woodlot and then they decided to go into tourism. Very enterprising! They had a really nice gift shop and he said they get between 35,000 to 40,000 visitors a year. Next year, he says it's going to double as they are installing a zip line. I can't even imagine that!! So we pay our $18 each and head off into the woods to find the suspension bridges...and here is the first one....

You got it! Those aren't wires stretching across...that's the bridge. Right about now, I'm wondering if this is such a good idea, but there aren't a lot of people around (to hear me yell or jump on the bridge). So how bad can it be?

If there had been 20 people on that bridge you couldn't have got me on there for anything! So here's Jim on the first bridge, looking all happy....

And here's me, when he deliberately bounces on the bridge

We get across the first one (why do they start swaying right at the end?). The first bridge is 300 feet across and 125 feet high; and the second is 600 feet across and 152 feet high. Now you either have to go back across the first one or walk to the second one and go across. So we're on to bridge 2...

Here is the view from the second bridge. How beautiful is that? I don't mind heights and I didn't mind the bridge. But I don't like it swaying!!

That's a lo-o-ong walk!

Here's a view of the first bridge standing on the second one....

You can go back across the bridges, or take a long set of stairs down to the bottom of the canyon. Stairs for me!! Here we found a nifty place to set the camera and use the self-timer...

Back on the ground again looking up at the bridge. Crazy, I say!

That was a lot of fun! We got back on the highway heading into Thunder Bay and started to see the signs for the last stretch of the Terry Fox run.

Here is the Terry Fox memorial, set up close to where he had to give up the run. He made it through five provinces before he had to stop. It's hard to believe it's been 27 years since he passed away.

It really is hard to imagine a person (with one leg!) running a marathon every day. He was amazing...

It was an absolutely awesome day. Tomorrow we are going to make it to Kenora which is about 480 km. That will be our longest day in the car so hopefully our enthusiasm will last!!!

Wawa and Marathon...Day 22

Jim got the oil changed in the Murano before we left Sault Ste. Marie and the mechanic found that our alternator belt was cracked in several places. He said it would have let us down for sure, so it was nice not to be travelling in the wilderness with that!

It was a very pretty drive actually. This is cold and chilly Lake Superior. It is so big that it is more like an ocean! There were big rolling waves and you could hear them crashing on the shore.

We saw a lookout for Old Woman Bay, but I think you actually had to get out and hike in order to see it, which we weren't planning on. A really pretty sandy beach though.

Next we hit the town of Wawa, known for the Wawa Goose. They had the goose erected so that people would come into the town instead of just bypassing it, and it worked. We went into the town and had lunch at Subway, and of course, visited the goose.

A pretty chilly looking sky!

Wawa also has a neat General Store, but other than getting gas, we didn't go in. The guy at the gas station told us that he never puts his winter coat away "because you never know when you are going to need it." And he was was chilly at -1 degrees.

We encountered snow in White is pretty desolate...

And then three mines in a row as you enter Marathon. Marathon is a small town but has lots of industry with three mines close by and a paper mill in town.

A very pretty location on Lake Superior....

Price of gas today in Marathon is $1.20 for regular. We're moving on to Thunder Bay!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sault Ste. Marie...We're in the Money!

We left Bracebridge a little later than planned as Jim opted to get a haircut. We finally got on the road and then when we got to pretty Port Carling, we remembered Randy talking about Ella's Restaurant so we just had to stop there. Not fancy...just great food.

We arrived in Sault Ste. Marie from Bracebridge around 6 p.m. (Note to selves...leave earlier!) We went for dinner in the hotel and met a couple (Jean and Alan) sitting next to us who were celebrating their 40th anniversary. Their daughter was our waitress and they gave us lots of great ideas of things to see from here to Thunder Bay. After dinner we decided to walk to the casino which is about 10 minutes away. We put $5 in the 2 cent machines and played for about half an hour. We still honestly have no idea what we are doing! We decided to take our $12 winnings from there and put them in the 5 cent machines. Oh such daring! After about another half hour, we called it quits with $22.28. Quite tickled with ourselves! Ha ha...we are such gamblers!
Saturday was a very relaxing day. Went to the gym in the hotel and walked around downtown. Here is one of the many pretty little churches downtown.

We went to one of the restaurants in the eating bible, Panna. It was good, but not as good as their prices would indicate, and their attitude is one of indifference. But the food was good....

This morning we thought we would take one of Jean and Alan's suggestions and head to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island in Michigan. It is about 85 km from here and the island has banned motorized vehicles for the last century. You leave your car at the terminal and take a ferry, and once on the island you either walk, bike or take a horse and carriage. The Grand Hotel ( looks amazing and claims to have the world's largest porch at 660 feet long.

The drive started off great but in the distance we could see some pretty black sky. Soon it started to rain, then it started to hail and snow, then it was thunder and lightening. After seeing the second car spun off the road in the ditch, we decided to turn around and head back. Somehow walking around in that weather just wasn't appealing.

So we headed back to the Soo, bought a bunch of newspapers and magazines and had a great day of reading.

Tomorrow we are off to Marathon, our midpoint between here and Thunder Bay. Forecast is for snow tomorrow, but supposed to be nice later in the week....