Who is Matt Wallace?

It seems appropriate that we stop in White River, Ontario today.  Being the first day of my birth month and stopping to adjust our broken headlights in the home of Winnie-the-Pooh could be coincidence.  It could be even more amazing that the statue at the Esso station errected to commemorate the capture of a little black bear by a homesick, Winnipeg-born Army general was unvieled on August 22,  the day of my Mother’s birth.

Christopher Robin is my namesake.

We drove up from Sault ste. Marie this morning.  The morning brought misty rain-forest-esque rolling hills of spruce as we brushed the northeastern edge of Lake Superior.  Heavy rains blurred much of the views as water-distorted images and large logging trucks left me with white knuckles and eyes fixed to the 100 meters directly in front and behind me.

Two hours in, the skies smiled on us, just as we left the national forest, giving us a quick glimpse of the sort of vistas we almost certainly missed earlier.  Sheer 80 meter cliffs towered over a bay directly across from the tree-less sweeping roadway.  We thought we’d turn back but we just knew sites like the perhaps over-rated pooh-bear memorial must be around the corner.  (if people even rate those types of things.)

Our next stop was just outside of Wawa in search of a reported waterfall.  The restaurant/gas station we stopped at smelled of broiled meat, and so like good vegetarian-eco-sustainer-travelers with a car full of granola and fruit, we sat down and ordered two ‘wild-fire burgers.’

Directions to the waterfall payed off – it was pretty, but downtown Wawa was where the magic of the day really happened.  Besides seeing the World’s Biggest Canada Goose, we stopped for a swim in the clearest lake I have ever seen.  I’m not a bottled water fan but for a moment I honestly contemplated the ideas that could have gone through the over-industrious pioneers at Poland Springs, as my mouth ironically watered in jealousy as my body became surrounded and eventually saturated with the crisp cold water.

A small child-creature had directed us that while the water was cold, it was still nice, and that there were two large rocks that we could stand on called “twin rocks,” that were very famous, just out a ways past the dock.  Sure enough a meter of so from were we stood sat two rocks, each the size of a backpack.

We stood on them.

After drying off we drove back out to Route 17, the ‘Trans-Canadian’ as they call it.  It’s sort of the route 66 of Canada I suppose…   Flashing lights stopped me on the side of the road suddenly.  Like many simple actions and events in Canada thus far, I wondered if people get pulled-over the same in Canada as they do in the US…

The Officer asked for my license and if I knew Matt Wallace…
“Matt Wallace? I know Matt Willis.” I said, recalling my RA from sophomore year at UNH.
“I lived in Manchester, Connecticut for 15 years.  I saw your CT plate… be right back!”
I asked Natalie if I was speeding.
“Maybe you have to know Matt Wallace to be here… to pass go.”  I said.
“…to collect $200.” Natalie finished the joke.  It was a moment to remember the answer to “Why?” when people ask why we’re still together.
“You’re all set,” the Officer said with a tap of my license on the rear driver’s-side window, “I just haven’t seen a CT plate in years.  Why are you here?”
“Just traveling to Alaska for work, Wawa is on 17…”
“Alright, enjoy your trip!”

I drove up the road and stopped for a postcard at the general store on the way out.  Walking into the store a women asked why I was pulled over with a great deal of concern, guessing correctly that it might be because I was from the states.  What a perfect little town, I thought, strange and perfect.

Later, once back into the unpopulated forests of the northern lake shore, I spotted a large bird circling over the road.  I smashed the piece of maple fudge I bought from the general store against the roof of my mouth and turned down the soft harp of Joanna Newsom to rouse Natalie from her nap…

“Look,” I said, “a bald eagle…”


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