Road Trip Report: Day 4, July 15

The funny thing about “Northern” Ontario is that pretty much all of the settled portions are parellel to or south of Vancouver and Victoria, and there’s still half of a geographic mass to the north of Thunder Bay. Northern Ontario is entirely relative to Southern Ontario…it’s really Central Ontario.

Funny also that we think of Canada being north of the US, when there are 10 states that are parallel to or north of Toronto. Oops, I forgot about Alaska. 11 states.

Perception is often more interesting than reality. And on that note, here are three thoughts from today’s 460km drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Green Bay that are varying degrees of perception and reality.

1. ‎Lake Michigan is really friggin’ big

The thing about GPS is that you let the computer do all of the work and just follow the directions. So unless you look at a map, you really have no idea where you are, beyond knowing how far you are from your destination.

That’s what happened to me today. I have a really bad sense of direction and a bad memory, so even though I looked at a map yesterday, I didn’t really know where I was going, other than southwest. What I do know is this: Lake Michigan kept reappearing on my left. The highway would veer inland for awhile, and then it would be there again. Gone and back. Gone and back. And the lake just never, ever ended.

It reminds me of a story from my first fall in Waterloo. I joined the UW Warriors Band, and we were driving to Toronto in a minivan to attend a football game at the University of Toronto. I hadn’t yet been to Toronto, and fell asleep (as I often do when I’m a passenger on long journeys). When I woke up, I blinked the sleep from my eyes, turned to Neil Murray (who was driving the van), and asked, “how did we get to the ocean?”

Needless to say, Neil was very amused. And yes, the “ocean” was Lake Ontario. But I grew up at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and in my limited experience, lakes were bodies of water that you could see across. So, my first experience with a Great Lake was…confusing.

Obviously, I still have trouble appreciating the vastness of the Great Lakes. Of course, I’ve never driven right alongside one for half of its length (Toronto to Kingston doesn’t count, because you can’t see it), so that’s understandable.

2. Miles are too long

This is not a commentary on the Imperial system of measurement, which I don’t comprehend well enough to complain about. It’s purely an observation that miles, as a unit of measurement, are far too long. The nice thing about kilometres is that they count down really quickly, so when you look at your GPS after a few minutes, a bunch of them will have disappeared in one big chunk. Not so with miles…it takes forever to cover one, and feels like you aren’t getting there. It’s kind of annoying.

3. You realize you’re in Wisconsin when the road signs start to be about cheese

This is not a joke. It’s interesting that the portion of USA between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan is part of Michigan, and now Wisconsin, which would make more sense from a geographic perspective. Instead of using the lakes, the two states are separated by the Menominee River. Going south on Highway 41 (still next to Lake Michigan), you cross a bridge, and BAM: it’s all about cheese.

So yeah, those are the three things I thought about on today’s drive. Before that I had brunch with my friend Hilary, who has lived in Sault Ste. Marie for the past four years. It was really great to see her, and the Robin in the Hood crew will be pleased to here that she’ll be back in Waterloo this fall (while still keeping a home in Sault Ste. Marie).

Now, a bit about the place I’m staying tonight: the Tundra Lodge Resort and Waterpark, located relatively close to the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field. Maybe a mile away? I really don’t know. I hate miles.

When I woke up this morning, I pulled up Hotwire on my phone and discovered that Green Bay doesn’t have any four-star hotels. However, this one came up for only $64 (regular $119) with free parking, free Internet, and a 95% approval rating, so why not? Only afterward did I discover that it has a waterpark, and that admission was included with my room.

I got dinner at one of the two restaurants in the lobby. When I asked the hostess what the difference was, she said that you get the same food in both, but one has alcohol and the other doesn’t. Fair enough.

After waiting approximately one hour, I went to the waterpark, which featured a fort-style playground, a whirlpool, a waterway that you could circle around slowly in tubes, and two waterslides. I did both of the waterslides once, but they were pretty short so I didn’t bother again. The waterway was nice and relaxing, and then I hung out for a bit in the whirlpool, blasting my slightly stiff back with a jet of hot water. Lovely.

After that, I went for a short drive around the immediate area, and then came back to settle in. Oh, and my Robin in the Hood friends will love this: there’s a Sherwood Forest Park. I might stop by there tomorrow if I have time, but my top priority is taking the tour of Lambeau Field. And then I’ll be off to Minnesota. I’m currently debating whether I’ll take the 4-star hotwire offer for $73, or the 4.5-star deal for $143. I’ll get back to the camping when I get into the southwestern states.