I got off to a bit of a late start on Day 3 because the night before found me at the poker table in the Sault until past 4 AM. It was fun to play some no-limit Texas Hold’em against the locals. There was a 20ish kid who worked as a security guard because “you can’t find a decent job in this town”. Another young guy, by his own assertion, had the most boring job on the planet. He said he spent 10 hours a day leveling wood chips (or was it lumber?). There was a young 25ish woman from Eliott Lake, here on a mini-vacation with her mother. I asked what Eliott Lake was like, having never been there myself. This sparked a discussion at the table about how awful of a place Eliott Lake was.
“That town is full of retirees. It’s where you go to wait to die,” somebody said. Someone else added:
“It’s worse than death.” Everyone laughed at this, including the young woman here on a temporary escape from there. But at the end she was more sighing than laughing. I asked her what kept her there, and she said her 3 kids, aged 6, 2, and 1. That would do it. This was mommy’s night out, and she was making the most of it – that is until her Aces got cracked and she busted out of the game.
I busted out myself quite early in the night when I lost with an Ace-high flush to a straight flush. I had Qh-Th in the big blind and the flop came down 2h-4h-6c giving me a four flush. There had been a raise preflop so the pot was already decent with four people in. It was checked to an older gentleman on the button who made a standard bet. I decided that this was a good opportunity to push all-in because I thought I could get him to fold a lot of hands and I had a lot of outs if I was called. Everyone folded except the old man, who called rather quickly. Oh-oh. He had the straight already with 5h-3h! The turn was a blank. When the Ace of hearts landed on the river, completing my flush, I thought I had won. That is until the old man jumped up and yelled straight flush! Well, what can you do except buy in again?
I made a good chunk of my money back against the security guard kid much later in the night. I had 6-6 in the big blind. The kid raised in first position and the wood-chip leveler called in mid position. Everyone else folded. I don’t normally like to play small pocket pairs out of position in 3-handed pots, but I called the raise to see what developed on the flop because I had a good feel for the way people were playing. The flop came down Jc-8c-5d, completely missing me. I was ready to be done with the hand, but then the kid over-bet the pot and the wood-chip leveler folded, leaving me heads-up. Suddenly I had a read that the kid probably had two high-cards and not a big pair, and moreover I knew that he was a good enough player to fold a few good hands. He might even fold a hand like 10-10.
I decided to raise all-in against him. Folding would have been alright. The only clear mistake would have been just calling and then facing another tough decision on the turn when likely another overcard to my pair would come off and the Kid would almost surely bet again with anything. The kid thought for awhile and then folded A-K face-up! I love it when poker works out that way. I ended up leaving the table even which is a good result considering how the evening started. Stupid straight flush.
When I finally hit the road the next day it was already around noon and it was dark, cold, and threatening to rain (or maybe snow?). I did not regret sleeping through the morning. The clouds lifted shortly after I came upon the dazzling shore of Lake Superior. The TransCanada highway, carved out of the rugged Canadian shield, hugs the rocky shore of Lake Superior between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay, Ontario, making this an incredibly scenic ride for hours on end. So how does the ride along Lake Superior compare to that around some of the World’s other Great Lakes?
Left to right: Lake Superior, Canada; Lago Titicaca, Peru; Lake Malawi, Malawi.
Well, Lake Superior may not be situated at over 4000 metres on the altiplano of South America or in a lush tropical valley in East Africa, but it has a rugged beauty that is all its own. I felt like I was riding into a Group of Seven painting.
Left: Fred Varley: ‘Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay’ (1921)
Right: Franklin Carmichael: ‘Lake Wabagishik’ (1928)
The highway twists and turns through the bedrock and I spent a good part of the day leaning over the frothy waves crashing into the rocks below. At one point I flew around a corner and had the startling illusion that I was going to sail right into the lake.
When the sun started to get low and wash the racetrack with a golden glow, I was having as much fun as I’d had on a motorcycle since South Africa. I had the throttle pinned, the bike leaning into perfectly banked corners, and a big grin on my face. I almost forgot how unbelievably cold it was and how I wished I had my electric vest despite my two sweaters and two jackets.
I am not going to say whether Superior is better than Malawi or Titicaca, but I will say that it is by far the most pristine. The crystal clear waves splashing on the bedrock of the Canadian shield with pine covered hills stretching to the horizon is a scene that feels as if it has remained unchanged since the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago.
The sun sets over Lake Superior and the TransCanada highway.