Monday, August 3, 2009

Day 11 - $651.22 – Lisa, It’s Your Birthday. Happy Birthday, Lisa.

When I was a little girl, I thought of the most magical place I could go to celebrate my birthday. There would be balloons, streamers, crowds cheering… and lutefisk. Disney World? No, that’s too obvious. I dreamt of Thunder Bay.

What better place in Canada to celebrate a birthday than Thunder Bay? What better place to wander around aimlessly because the city is so spread out and you don’t have a car? What better place to arrive after a 25-hour bus ride?

Yes, you read that right. 25 hours. On a bus. Straight. I left Toronto the day before knowing that the ride between the two cities was the longest travel portion in this whole trip. But it was only supposed to be about 19 hours. Coming out of Toronto, though, we hit some major traffic. The roads were just not moving, and that pushed us back by two hours.

And that was just the beginning.

After that, we were driving along somewhere outside of Sault Ste. Marie around 1am, when all of a sudden BANG! The bus jumps a foot in the air and everyone wakes up. The driver pulls over and everyone freaks out, wondering what’s going on. Turns out, we were fine. The raccoon that we ran over, on the other hand…not doing so well.

We get back on the road and keep going, but not 15 minutes later, the driver is pulling over again. He says he has to check something out and that this spot has more light, but not to panic. Alright….

Turns out that freaking raccoon had blown one of our tires! Now, we’re stuck on the side of the highway at 1:30 in the morning, and we have to wait an hour and a half for a bus to come pick us up from Sault Ste. Marie. I should mention that at this point, I am officially celebrating my 24th birthday, and feeling a mite sorry for myself. The guys on the bus were nice to me though. They sang me happy birthday, and one man gave me a juice box because they didn’t have any cake.

Anyway, when we finally get back on the bus, we’re so far behind schedule that we don’t get in to Thunder Bay until 2PM. I left the day before at 12:40PM. At this point, I’ll admit that I’m not feeling too charitable towards Thunder Bay in general. I’ve just been on a bus for more than a day, and I’m feeling cramped and dirty, and not in a very adventurous mood. But I gave it my best shot. I locked up my stuff at the bus station and head off walking towards The Hoito, the premiere restaurant in TBay that everyone has to go to. And I promptly got lost.

The thing about Thunder Bay is that it’s not really a city for pedestrians. Everything is very spread out, and the city has two downtown areas in the north and the south ends. Most of the tourist attractions, like the mines, are actually outside of the city. The streets are windy and fork left and right. Sometimes the street names change in the middle of a road for no good reason. In other words, it’s not the easiest place to get around if you don’t have a car. Which I didn’t. I had to call a taxi to take me to the restaurant because I had ended up in the industrialized centre of town, and was wandering around a parking lot when it started to rain. I nearly cried, I was so exhausted, but the thought of warm food made me keep going. After I got to the Hoito and had my delicious lunch of French toast with whipped cream (hey, it was my birthday, don’t judge!) I decided to give Thunder Bay another shot.

After walking around a little, I determined that it wasn’t that Thunder Bay was inherently a bad place, or somewhere that I don’t like. It’s that a lot of the success of this trip is based on the people that I meet and get to hang out with. And because I was alone in Thunder Bay, and it was my birthday, it just wasn’t the greatest place for me. I’d like to go back one day and explore the city some more, meet up with some people, maybe have use of a car to really get around.

For me, it’s all about the journey, not the destinations.


  1. I heard you on CBC radio in Montreal last week, and was sufficiently intrigued and impressed that I've been following your story as you write it.

    How long are you in Thunder Bay? I grew up there, and still know many wonderful people there.

    Happy birthday and good luck.

  2. Thanks very much, I'm so happy people have been following along.

    I'm no longer in Thunder Bay, I've already made in to Regina. I have to work on a backlog, so usually the posts of a certain city go up the day after I've been there.

    I think Thunder Bay was a very friendly city, everyone was really warm and polite. They were very helpful when I was trying to find my way around. But it's not a pedestrian city and it was hard for me without a car. That's why I get all grumpy-poo, it was just a long day. I'd love to go back there one day with a vehicle and get to really explore the area.

    Thanks for reading the blog! I really appreciate your supprt.