‘Hoito’ by Tom Sexton

Another report from the highway by Tom Sexton.—PM

“Hoito” by Tom Sexton

One of my favorite places when we reach Thunder Bay, Ontario, is a restaurant called the Hoito, the word means “care” in Finnish. It was opened in 1918 on the bottom floor of the Finnish Labor Temple as a place where Finnish loggers could find a reasonable place to sleep and get a reasonable meal when they came to Port Arthur, now Thunder Bay, from the logging camps. For decades, workers at the Hoito were members of the International Workers of the World. It’s still a crowded, reasonable and magical place. Walk from there down to the waterfront for a stroll along Lake Superior. Thunder Bay is still a working class town with small houses side by side and the occasional lumber baron’s mansion. From Thunder Bay east, the road stays pretty close to Lake Superior. For some reason, I’ve never been able to get a good picture of the lake, a picture that gives you a sense of its massive size, of its power.

Of all the small mining towns in Ontario, Atikokan seems to capture their essence even though it’s known as the canoe capital of the world.  It has a small “mall” with a few stores and the obligatory Chinese-Canadian restaurant. It seems worn and hopeful at the same time. Instead of a statue, it has a mural. Actually, it does have a statue of a canoe. It’s one of a few places to stop between Thunder Bay and Wawa. This is hunting and fishing country, and the road passes through several First Nation reserves. You seldom see anyone.

Wawa is another mining town that now depends on tourism, but I was told some mines to the north have reopened. There are several motels and small resorts along the highway, and almost all of the owners came to Canada from Poland after the Soviet Union fell. There is a price war going on. Rooms are excellent and very reasonable. The road clings to Lake Superior from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie where we leave Lake Superior and head for Sudbury and then North Bay where the highway swings south toward Toronto. We continue east following the Ottawa River. We always stop in Mattawa. I’ve included a few pictures that I hope capture the character of the town. This is Voyageur country, a place rich in the history of the fur trade and proud of its French heritage. There is a wood statue of an explorer carved by a local artist on almost every corner.

We’re almost back in the states. All three of us are tired and rather cranky and almost broke. Canada has gotten very expensive. I’m going to have to contact Mitt about a small loan or sell a few stocks when we get to Maine. The Passat is running fine.