Oba Lake…Planes, Trains and Automobiles (….oh, and a boat too)


This place takes some getting to.  Something like, planes, trains and automobiles, not necessarily in that order but close enough.  Oba Lake is an out of the way lake in Canada in the province of Ontario.  When our neighbors saw us prepping our fishing gear in the garage, they’d ask, “Going on another adventure?”…”Where ya goin this time?”  To a lake in Ontario to fish for Walleye.  “Didn’t know there where any lakes in Ontario.” Oh you thought Ontario California, we’re actually going to Ontario Canada.  “For how long?”  Two weeks.  “Must be nice”, was the general reply, meaning ‘wish we could be retired and galavant around the country, and world for that matter on grand adventures.’  We had recently gotten back from another 2 weeker in the picturesque land of enchantment that is southern Utah.  So back to Oba.  Rather than drive across country, or walk, we opt to fly.  This trip will include family, which is to say, my parents,  Paul’s cousin Mark (Sparky) and his friend Mike.  Now just to preface this, any trip that involves Sparky (think Chevy Chase), is sure to involve hillarity and often mishap.  First stop, Michigan to visit more family and then hook up with Sparky, his fishing budddy Mike, and my parents.  From Sparky’s we will drive north for what should be an 8 hour drive to the quaint town of Wawa, Canada.  Yes, Wawa, as in I’d like a drink of “wawa”.  An 8 am leave time turns into 10-11am, not because we weren’t ready, but because Sparky forgot to put his current and valid plates on his truck, so back home we go for a do over.  After some (actually alot) of ribbing we are back on the road.  My parents are riding with Sparky and Mike.  Not sure how good of an idea that is.  We follow behind.  We notice after we stop for fuel and a quick bite to eat that Sparky’s truck starts to, and with regualrity, drift toward the center divider and sharply back into the lane (think Wally World). What the hell?  What’s he looking at?  Is he on his phone? (He refuses to connect his phone to the hands free option on his radio, even though I offfered to show him) Food coma?  The truck drifts again, then suddenly pulls to the right and off the road.  Next thing you know Sparky’s is out of the truck and my step mom is switching to the driver’s seat.  Yep.  Food coma.  No sooner than Jill gets in the driver’s seat and starts down the road, it starts to pour wildly.  This is not California rain.  This is northeast rain, and a lot of it, so much so that you can barely see the road.  Meanwhile, Sparky and Mike I’m told are in food coma slumberland, oblivious to the deluge outside.  We reach the final bridge on our approach to Canada, we switch drivers and my parents join us in our car for the border crossing.  Before we had left his house (the first time), Sparky announced that they ( the Canadians) may not let him into Canada (due to some youthful indescretions) if they decide to do a background check.  Plan “B” is we switch vehicles and take his truck and all the gear to Canada and he sits out this trip, which seems rather ironic as he was the one that put this thing together.  By now he’s smoked a pack of cigarettes (he had recently quit), and is beginning to visibly sweat (per Mike).  In some ways we think it would be hilarious for him to be stopped, and see if he can “talk” his way into Canada, as apparently you can (and he has on a previous trip).  On rare occassions you are able to get a temporary “Queen’s pardon”, for a price.  Miraculously Sparky makes it in, but our 5 dozen (free range) eggs do NOT.  Apparently due to the bird flu in the midwest of the US, no poultry products are allowed into Canada.  The irony here is that when we were shopping for food, and Sparky started loading eggs,  I told him we should just wait till we get into Canada, as we’ll need to stop at the market for adult beverages anyways.  “Naw, let’s just get them here.  It will save us the trouble of getting them there and packing them up”.  Fast forward to a dumpster just this side of Canada, and what is Sparky now doing?  Pulling out the large cooler, unloading said cooler, to retrieve the 5 dozen eggs to deposit, with apparently all the other egg afficianotos into a nearly full dumpster.  Better the eggs than Sparky I guess.  First stop into Canada is to exchange our money for Canadian “funny money”. They have one and two dollar coins called “loonies” and “toonies”.  We’re told they’ll take our American dollars at the markets…at our face value, so we get to the process exchanging our cash.  The first place we go, we (as in Paul and I) clear them out of cash at $1.19 per American dollar.  As we are doing this, Jill is telling us that we’d get a better exchange rate at the bank.  What? Grrrr.  Off to the bank we go.  Rumor has it now that the exchange rate is $1.25.  Crap!  With the amount we exchanged already, this would be alot more “extra” coin, which equals more beer or in this case extrememly overpriced spirits at the liquor store, because we failed to drop into the duty free shop.  As a rule, you can only bring into Canada a quart a piece, and Mike came loaded with two 1/2 gallons of flavored whiskey (Toasted Carmel…danggerously awesome). Turns out the exchange rate at the bank is $1.21.  Sparky, being the big teaser, makes it a point to rib me about the $40 bucks we “lost”.  Back on the road once more, we are about 2 hours from Wawa now.  We skirt the shore of Lake Superior.  Everywhere we look is post card worthy, and littered with provincial parks.  We are so used to seeing lakeshore and coastal property being lined with homes and densely populated comminities, that we are in awe of the vast stretches of pristine shoreline devoid of human encroachment.  Raging turbid waterfalls and rough rivers with rootbeer colored water puntuate the landscape to our right as we make the drive to Wawa.  Compared to the coastal desert we live in, the amount of water and greenery is intoxicating.  Sparky is racing ahead of us, anxious to get to our hotel, when he drives right by it.  We flash our lights at him to no avail.  About a month ago my parents, the planners, asked where we were staying in Wawa.  ‘Don’t know’ was the reply, Sparky has that information.  We call Sparky and he tells us ‘not to worry’ there are always openings, “it’s Wawa”.  Knowing my parents, we press further.  Sparky tells us that they always have stayed at a motel that has “cool cabins” on the lake, but he can’t remember the name.  Before we even get back to my parents they tell me they’ve called a few hotels in Wawa and most are already sold out.  What?!  This is NOT good.  Paul frantically calls just about every hotel/motel in and around Wawa and by shear luck secures three rooms at the Great Northwestern Motel, which just happens to have an authentic Polish resturant attached.  Score!…we secretly hope.  Fast forward to Sparky driving right past it.  The only thing we can think of is that the liquor store closes early and that’s where we are headed.  Nope.  Sparky pulls into the Wawa Motel (how he couldn’t remember the name, I cant even venture to guess) and announces, “we’re here”.  Now keep in mind that we have passed several other hotel/motels that seem to have been recently boarded up and/or look to be in serious disrepair.  This one that he has pulled into, actually looks pretty modern, which I would surmise is the reason there was no vacancy when Paul called…it was the first one on the list he called.  Sparky is beaming.  We tell him that this is not the place.  He laughs heartily, then raises his eyebrows in the “what you talk’n about Willis?” way.  We explain that we passed it a few miles back.  “You shitt’n me?” I wish we were, but we’re not.  He doesn’t believe us that this one was all booked when we called and made reservations for the hotel we are staying at.  Even if this hotel now had rooms, we weren’t about to cancel the plans we had made, as we did not want to eat the late cancellation charges which are equal to the amount we are paying for the rooms anyways.  Sparky reluctantly follows us, at minimum trying to at least coax us into eating at the resturant attached to this motel.  We stand firm and tell him that the resturant at the Great Northwestern Motel has “authentic”Polish food, to which Sparky relpies, “Polish food, what’s that?”  Serious?  You’re Polish ya goofball.  Back from where we came, we head.  We discuss, and consider, pulling into one of the seriously “divey”, (as in they probably rent by the hour) motels, getting out and grabbing our bags, just to mess with Sparky, but we don’t.  We pull up to a quaint motel well off the highway (The Great Northwestern Motel), with I’ll admit, a little trepidation.  This could be really good, or really bad.  Especially considering we are no where near the “Great Northwest”.  We’re in the French/Canadian province of Ontario…on the Northeast side of North America.  If it’s bad we will never hear then end of it, as in NEVER.   We walk into the lobby.  This is esssentially a “mom and pop” operation.  The entrance door boasts of “Free WiFi”, with a computer in the lobby.  Hmm.  No one is at the desk.  Hmm.  Sparky rings the “service” bell and begins to grumble.  A woman appears, not much older than us.  “You have reservations?”, she asks in a thick Polish accent. (Okay, now is where I understand calling it the ‘Great Northwestern’.  Not because she’s Polish, geez.   It’s about perspective.  If you look on the map in relation to Poland, it is the ‘Great Northwest’…and way back when, when everyone lived on the east coast, it WAS the Great Northwest)  Anyways, I digress.  “Yes, three rooms.  A queen, a king and a room with two queens”, replies Paul.  Paul looks over his shoulder,and motions to Mike and Sparky, “two Queens right, or did you want the King?”  An inordinate amount of banter ensues, something about queens and spooning (think teenage boy humor).  The gal at the desk asks if we are related.  Laughter and more verbal josting ensues.  Paul explains that he and Sparky are cousins.  Sparky then starts asking a plethra of questions, which seems to obviously annoy the gal.  She hands us our keys and we head to our rooms.  Sparky comes charging back, jaw clenched and red in the face, as we are heading to our room.  Appparently the key he was handed was to the room with the single queen bed.  Priceless.  Belly laughs followed by tears overcome everyone. Sparky thought we had switched the keys on purpose.  We wished we had but we honestly couldn’t claim this one.  Turns out the gal at the front desk did us a favor and switched the keys for us.  Turns out this place was a great find.  Rooms were good and the food was simply fabulous.  Tomorrow begins the next leg.  Hawk Junction for a slow train ride to Oba Lake.

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