CC Roadtrip: The Long Haul – Conquering Northern Ontario

I’d heard that Northern Ontario would be the longest leg of the trip, and they were right.  Between highways 17 and 417, it was 2,151 KM/1337 miles.  But it certainly wasn’t boring!

Super 8 in Kenora

We had gotten into Kenora fairly late in the evening.  We stopped at a Super 8 – the first hotel we came across, and had a meal at the restaurant and settled in for the night.  Thankfully, it was much quieter than the Motel 6 we had stayed at.  We fired up the car this morning, and were sure to give it a few moments to get over its “morning sickness”, waiting for the idle to rev down and smooth out.  After that, we were back out onto Highway 17 eastbound.

First of many, many rockcuts!The first of many rock cuts through the Canadian Shield

Once underway, we were greeted with the first of many rock cuts.  We didn’t even bother counting them.  Where the cuts were so even, I wonder if they used a machine, or is the blasting that precise.  Anyhow, it would have been a massive undertaking.  And they would have needed the rock to fill in the muskeg, I’m sure.

Atikokan TurnoffTurnoff to Atikokan

Just on the other side of the turnoff to Atikokan going up a hill, I noticed a big tire assembly heading towards me.  I swerved to the left around it, and it continued on its merry way.  It looked like it was off of an 18 wheeler, and became liberated somehow from its proper spot.  I can’t even recall meeting a truck before that happened.  We made our way toward Thunder Bay, where we had planned to spend the night.  We still had some daylight, so we decided to keep heading east.  Nipigon wasn’t far, so we travelled there, and settled in at the Beaver Motel for the night.  It was recently renovated, using a rustic style.  It was pretty nice.

Gitchee GumeeView of Lake Superior

We filled the car with gas, had breakfast, and set out on our way.  We were soon treated to some beautiful views of Lake Superior.  It had snowed the night before, and had to scrape the car off with some cardboard we had, and hotel keycards I’d forgotten to give back.  The roads were clear, and we had good driving ahead.  One thing we’d noticed about the highway construction in Ontario was the seemingly weak-looking guard wires and little wooden posts keeping them up.   I don’t know if they’d actually do much in case someone went off the road…and I would hate to hit one on a motorcycle.  Speaking of hitting things…

Poor bird...Poor partridge…

We were driving along, when a large-ish bird flew out in front of us and came in contact with the front of the car, making a loud thud.  My father-in-law was dozing, and just about came out of his skin with the noise.  I don’t know if there are partridges/spruce grouse there, but that’s what it looked like to me.  It didn’t hurt the car any, thankfully.  It might have made a mess of the radiator if it had hit that.

Abandoned MotelSigh of the times…

There were a lot of old, closed up motels and gas stations along the 17.  Kind of sad, really.  I don’t know if it is changing tastes, cars being better on fuel then they were years ago, or what.  I should have kept count of all of them…it was a bit sad.  The new chain hotels don’t really have much of the charm of the older motels.

Yay!!!Hooray, a reasonable speed limit!

As the day grew close to night, we were near Sudbury.  With that came the second stretch of divided highway (the first was a short stretch east of Thunder Bay), and what is pictured above, the first 100 KM/H speed limit sign we spotted in Ontario.  Unfortunately, my father was disappointed again – both divided highway and speed limit were temporary till we got into Sudbury.

SuperstackInco Superstack, Canada’s Tallest Chimney

One feature of Sudbury we couldn’t miss was the Inco Superstack.  At 380m/1250 ft, it is the second tallest chimney in the world.  It was constructed to allow the smelting gases to disperse over a wider area than the old chimneys did previously.  We made our way to the Comfort Inn, which was fine – and had a good sleep.

Check Engine light again...Darn Check Engine light!

Now that we were in Sudbury, we could go to Princess Auto and pick up a reasonably-priced OBD scantool, and see why the Check Engine light was on.  Princess Auto is a lot like Harbour Freight, they have a lot of cheap tools and supplies.  Some stuff you wouldn’t want to make a living with, but for occasional use, it’s OK.  We hooked up the scanner, and it came back with P0171 and P0174, lean codes for Bank 1 and 2 – a quick Google search said one of the most common issues is a dirty mass airflow sensor.  Removed the sensor, and sure enough, there was a bit of gunk on one of the little sensor things.  Picked up some MAF cleaner, gave it a good cleaning, and reset the CEL.   The car started working better – no more off-idle flat spots, no high revving when restarted.  And the light stayed off afterwards.  We left Sudbury, to follow the Ottawa River Valley.  Upon hitting the 417, it opened up to divided highway again, and we cruised effortlessly through to Quebec.

Quebec-Ontario BorderPassing into Quebec

The highways continued to be well-constructed into Quebec, and at a 110 KM/H limit.  Thankfully, the long stretches of 90 – limited highway were over and done with.  All of the road signage in Quebec is in French – and it allowed for some guessing by us three Anglophones.  I’d worked for a company that operated out of Montreal for 11 years (and 5 days…) and was able to recognize some phrases, but that was about it.

A30 MapMap of the A30 Bypass (Via

A special mention must be made of the A30 Montreal Bypass.  As long as I can remember, it was always mentioned that the craziest section of the Trans-Canada was the part on Montreal Island.  I don’t know if it is only us from the Maritimes that feel that way, but when I was up there in 2011 for training, it sure seemed to hold true.  As a passenger in a taxi, it was a bit scary – bumper to bumper traffic at 120 KM/H, it was intimidating.  So it was a relief when we found out we could bypass it.  It made for an easy detour.

IMG_1895Low Ceiling in the Best Western

We made it as far as Drummondville.  We spotted the Best Western Universel, and decided to stay there.  Walking in, and spotting a grand staircase and fireplace, we figured it would be the most expensive hotel stay of the trip.  Pleasantly, it was the cheapest place we had stayed at and was quite nice.  Strangely, the hallway ceiling was very low – I don’t know if it was 7 feet.  It reminded my father-in-law of his days mining coal in the pit!

For this stretch, we:

Travelled 2260 KM and burned around  198 litres of fuel, giving 8.7L/100KM, or about 27 MPG.  Very good economy, I would say – probably due to the 2000 KM of 90 KM/H limits!