Tour Diary – Thunder Bay, Ont (June 26, 2012)
The arena in Thunder Bay is old school…kind of like every rink built across Canada in the 50’s. Most of the buildings that we have been performing in, have been modern arenas based on designs of the big professional palaces, designed to look good and make money….and to make money they have to be easily configured for multi-use. The Fort William Garden is strictly a place to play hockey and curl, so it made the day a bit more complicated for the Mellencamp crew and it ended up sounding very much like a hockey rink. It was not great gig for us.
When we arrived at the back of the building, this morning, everyone took off; Al to find a bike trail; Margo to colour her roots; Jeff and Pete in search of a music store and me in search of the Kaministiquia River. I was told to avoid the river downtown and head up stream for the best odds of catching something, so I borrowed Pete’s bike and headed up river. The only problem was that the rail yards between the road and the river were a formidable obstacle. After a long ride along the tracks I came across an iron pedestrian bridge that I figured might get me across the tracks and closer to the water. It did, but it also brought me to a memorial park/spot for the First Spike, which was driven in that spot in 1875. In Canada we all learn about the Last Spike, hammered home in Craigellachie, BC in 1885: it signified the completion of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, joining the East coast to the West coast of Canada. We consider it a major nation-building moment. Apparently we were being severely pressured by an expansionist power to our South who had a very large standing army that was in prime fighting shape. The physical bonding of our two coasts by the railway gave our claim to the Western lands some teeth in the eyes of international community. So we celebrate and learn about the Last Spike, but the massive ten year public-works project had to begin somewhere and, what-do-you-know, it began here.
I did find the river and it was a little depressing, lined with functioning and crumbling industries, brackish and stressed. The most frustrating thing was that a twenty minute drive from here would place me in the middle of trees and rocks and rivers and lakes barely disturbed by us humans: perhaps on another day with a little more time. If you ever want a true wilderness experience come to Northern Ontario.