Agawa Crafts & The Canadian Carver, Pancake Bay, Ontario Canada

Back in August of 2016, as I was road-tripping along the Trans-Canadian Highway on my way from Vancouver Island in the far west of the country to Stratford Ontario  (just east of Detroit Michigan) I came across this really unique combination store that I liked so much that I can actually see myself driving back there (albeit, on a more direct route next time) to buy things for my home… once I actually get one.

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It’s actually a combination of a few stores that is only open during the tourism season (closed in winter, even just before Xmas — which is a bit crazy if you ask me), as well as a liquor store and gas station which stay open all year round.

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Smoked Fish and wild rice!!! YUM

Agawa Crafts sells items made by the local First Nations (i.e., Canadian name for Native Americans) tribal members,

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while the Canadian Carver is a gift store, full of hand-made items from local artists

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…some that looks a lot like cheesy stuff you could buy on-line or from gift-shops along highways … but ALL of it is in fact hand carved by artists they represent — although of varying levels of ability….

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The better stuff, from more skilled artists, is usually is grouped together on a wall

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or a shelf, with a photo and description of the artist alongside the items.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1fd1.jpg

Although some of it is just easy to self identify….

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was seriously wanting to buy this fruit bowl (left) and table (right) for myself, but no room

While I was here I did buy a carved duck, but as a wedding gift for two friends of mine who were getting married about a month later in September 2016, in Chicago.

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I’ve known the spouse since kinder-garden, the purple dress was purchased in Victoria, and is made of 100% hemp — so comfortable

 

It was of a sort decoy duck, a type of traditional North American Folk Art, usually carved out of a wood that will float — and sometimes used by hunters to confuse a duck into landing near them … like in the image below, only the one that I bought was MUCH nicer

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the one I bought almost looked like it was breathing … I’m sorry to say I never took a picture of it before wrapping it … my bad… that had been carved by a master level carver by the name of Larry Fell, and was signed underneath by the artist. (Works from some of the more famous master carvers have gone on to be collector’s items that have sold in the high six figures — so I figured, good gift.)

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I took this photo so my friends would know who the artist was who made their piece, should it ever become a collector’s item

… which I later, while in Stratford, ON… paid to have wrapped to my specifications (because when it’s worth doing right, pay a professional) at a high-end chocolate store called Rheo Thompson Candies

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Even though it’s a candy store, when I was walking through it one day I noticed that… because of all the people in that town who like to give chocolates as wedding favors, they had wedding gift paper with butterflies on it … so I asked them if they’d be willing to wrap my gift for me even though I wasn’t going to buy any chocolate, and they said they were…. I also asked if I could have these clay butterflies, which were on display as part of something else in the store, attached to it, and they agreed. I think the wrapping cost me like $30… but I think worth it… Getting the whole thing back to chicago without it being damaged was the tricky part.

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The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Batchawana (Alona) Bay, Ontario

At this location along the Trans Canadian Highway there is an educational sign devoted to the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. The Ship was a Great Lakes Iron ore freighter that sunk November 10th, 1975, during a storm that contained 25-35 foot waves and hurricane-force winds. The wreck occurred southwest of this location, in the waters of Lake Superior; The ship’s wreck was immortalized in song by the great Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot; and is historically important for all those who work the waters of the great lakes, for how it forever changed the safety regulations upon them.

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For those who do not know, Superior is the third largest freshwater lake in the world both by volume and the largest by surface area; In fact it is so large that it contains about 10% of the worlds fresh water supply. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4bc.jpg

And, because of its impressive size and volume, it is large enough to have its own tide, just like an ocean.

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And while it is beautiful, it can also be as treacherous as any Ocean — especially during the months of November.

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It has had 350 recorded shipwrecks, has taken over 10,000 lives, and her waters are notorious for not giving up her dead (as in the bodies never wash up on the surrounding shores).

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The Fitzgerald had been the largest freighter on North America’s great lakes when it was first launched in 1958, and to this day remains the largest to have sunk within them; and in large part this catastrophe is why no other freighters have sunk on the lakes since then.

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The ship went down without a trace, taking along its entire crew of 29, and its singing, along with the notoriety the song brought it, led to changes in shipping regulations on the lakes. Now all boats must carry depth finders, higher freeboards, and undergo more frequent inspections of their sea-worthiness. In addition, these freighters are now required to carry survival suits for every member of the crew, so that even if the boat does go down, the workers can still have a chance at survival.

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For those unfamiliar with the song,

I also found this 20 minute video on YouTube called, The Edmund Fitzgerald: a 40 Year Legend which goes into depth about what we know, or think happened to the ship:

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The various points along the route in the photos above, see my click map

Kakabeka Falls, in Oliver Paipoonge Ontario, Canada

Nicknamed “the Niagara of the North” Kakabeka Falls is located on the Kaministiquia River, 30 miles west of Thunder Bay Ontario, in the municipality of Oliver Paipoonge Ontario Canada. At a height of 154 feet with a drop of 130 feet, it is the largest waterfall in the Lake Superior Watershed.

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Hoito Finnish Restaurant, Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

The Hoito is an unimpressive looking but historically important Finnish restaurant located in Thunder Bay Ontario Canada.

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It drew my attention both as being one of the highest ranked restaurants in Thunder Bay on all the customer review websites (pulling four or five stars at each), but all because FINNISH food!!! Seriously how often do see that being offered up.

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My airbnb host asked where I was intending to go for my meal and when I said “that Finnish place, the Hoito”, he said, “Good choice, I love that place.”

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After I arriving there I discovered the Hoito is historically important restaurant, established in 1918 (Wikipedia). Founded by loggers over 100 years ago, and running continuously since then, the restaurant is co-operative and is so deeply embedded in the labor movement that it is considered to be socialist.

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Regular customers buy membership cards that allow them to vote at the Finnish Labor Temple located directly above the restaurant, and until the 1970’s customers could buy meal tickets to if they ate here regularly, and the food was served on long communal tables. This restaurant was even written about in the New York Times.

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I had suolakala (pronounced soo-la-ka-la) which is described as a salted fish sandwich — open-faced. It’s a bit like gravlox, in that it’s cured salmon… only it’s not smoked. Thing is I eat lox sandwiches almost daily so…

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— I HAD wanted kalakeitto (a salmon soup) but they have run out. They are also giving me a single Finnish meatball (to try) … definitely NOT on my diet

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Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant, in Michipicoten, Ontario Canada

The Kinniwabi Pines Restaurant is located on the Trans-Canadian Highway, Route 1, in Michipicoten, Ontario Canada, and based on the reviews is hands down the best restaurant in the area, if you don’t include chains…

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I was staying up the road and according to Yelp, this was the best restaurant in the area where I had a decent chance of getting a healthy meal… and there was BISON on the menu!!!! Love me my bison.

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My first impression was this restaurant couldn’t make up its mind about what it wanted to be. Take a look at the menu offerings… at best they seem to want to be all things to all people… There’s German, Polish, Italian, American, Chinese, Caribbean, and lord only knows what offered on the menu

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Unfortunately, not only were they out of the Bison, according to the waitress they’d not had it in a while and she wasn’t sure why it was still on the menu… grrrrrr….

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The tomato soup was offered to everybody as free with our dinner — mostly I think because it was a full hour wait between when I ordered and when they brought me my food. I talked to some locals and they said this is normal at that restaurant, so if you know this about your chef, if DON’T at least dull the customer’s hunger with some free soup, odds are you won’t have many.

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So my dinner, because there was no bison, was the grilled trout– The fish was supposed to come with dill potatoes and some other stuff I couldn’t eat, but they modified it to meet my needs. That said, the food was very good… but clearly the chef has no idea how to cook quickly. So it’s a good thing he hasn’t much competition in the area.

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Because the wait was SO long… I asked them if I could wander around their patio and garden while the food was being made, and could they come out and get me….

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While they do have a beautiful view and garden — what they did not have was any Wi-Fi … which is particularly egregious as there isn’t any 3G or anything in this town. So all in all, its supposed to be the best place in town, but be ready for a VERY long wait

River rafting on the Thompson River, east of Lytton British Columbia

As I was driving along the Trans-Canadian Highway, Route 1, I spotted a bunch of cars pulled to the side of the road and people alongside a wall, looking out at the river, so I stopped… River Rafting…

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I admit, this is one of those bucket list things I didn’t do when young, that I’m physically incapable of doing now that I’m old…

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Inside the ‎⁨British Columbia Parliament Buildings⁩ in ⁨Victoria⁩, Vancouver Island, ⁨Canada⁩

Located in the heart of the city of Victoria, on Vancouver Island right off of the Tran Canadian Highway (Route 1) and overlooking the bay, is the Parliament building of the entire province (not state) of British Columbia. It is an incredibly beautiful building and worth taking the time to admire.

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In the summer of 2016 I had actually been living in Victoria’s China town for about a month when I finally got around to doing this… there’s actually quite a lot to do in that city… to those who come here for a few hours on a cruise, seriously… you’re missing out.

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I had come intent on doing the 3:00 tour, but it turned out that instead of doing it for everybody, they did it for JUST two people (VIPs who turned out to only be the general manager and concierge of the Empress Hotel). Personally, I think that was incredibly rude of management (absolutely no reason they couldn’t have joined a group of other people, or done it between tours). Anyway I kind of stalked the VIP group (who you would assume would have the best docent) … just enough to pick up some of the spiel; and, since it didn’t sound like their guided tour was even going to be all that interesting anyway (it sounded a bit boring actually), I didn’t bother to stick around a full hour for the 4 o’clock guided tour and opted to do it alone.

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One of the major differences you see in Canada is the respect (or some might say over whelming guilt) that they accord to their Native populations, which they call the FIRST Nations, as in they were there FIRST. Laying on the floor (ground floor) in the picture bottom right is a quilt devoted to the issue of the dead and missing indigenous women of Canada (explained by the image below) … this is a HUGE problem in the US as well, only in the US it gets no press coverage.

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Having now been in Australia, whose government has only just recently even bothered to recognized that Aboriginal populations were on the continent at all, when the British Landed, I have an even greater appreciation to the mea culpa Canada has chosen to embrace

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This recognition of the respect due to the First Nations Peoples of Canada, is not the only ‘we’re getting better’ that the building proudly advertises, but also its treatment of what used to be referred to as “the fairer sex.”

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Members of the Legislative Assembly in 1898 (white males) and in 2016

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Along the walls of the building are also nods to Canada’s history as part of the British Empire, from which it only recently separated itself in 1887… but that in its zeitgeist hasn’t quiet, as documented below…

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You don’t see Americans emotionally embracing the traditions or monarchy of England in quite this way…. SO for instance their war memorials were ‘informative’ in that respect. IMG_0487.JPG

Pay attention to symbols and language, a knights sword, the WWI 88th regiment “who gave their lives for the Empire” and “for King and Country” — which they separated from which they had separated from 17 years earlier… and if you look closer in the Korean War (upper left), about 30 years later … there it still says “at the call of King and Country” left their families to serve the in the war.

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After touring the building, I caught the little play that they do which gives some of the history of the founding of Victoria and the development of its buildings.

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It was very cute, and informative… although a bit hard to hear (not the best acoustics) I did however love the fact that they hired a really tiny girl to play Victoria

Height of Land, Arctic/Atlantic Watershed, Huronian, ON

There are a whole bunch of continental divide points in north America, this is along Tran-Canadian Highway (route 1)

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Map from wikipedia

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I was kind of amazed by the rock around here… there was black shiny rock embedded into what almost looked like maybe it was marble. I collected smaller stones to take to Chicago to put on my father’s grave.