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Kirkland Lake, Ontario

We emerged from the logging camps in the forest and found ourselves in a place that reminded me of home.

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KIRKLAND, Ontario- 211 kilometers and no gas. That’s what the sign said.

Remote. That should be Canada’s tagline, as there is no better word to describe the place. Even in Ontario, a province that I’ve always associated with cities like Toronto and suburbs and little towns by the border, there is literally nothing for 100+ miles at a time.

We were ripping across the country on Rt. 11. Every once in a while we’d drive through a logging camp. One of them had a giant billboard of the hockey player Theo Fluery, announcing that he grew up there. Although I’m still not so sure what there was.

The travel conditions in Canada were far worse that I expected. Even the main roads were not regularly maintained, were narrow, having only two lanes, and full of massive trucks packed with logs. It was difficult to pass and felt like if they were not made for public travel.

It was getting time to find a place to bed down. We rolled into Kirkland, the first place that could be considered a place that we’ve seen in hours, after nightfall. Main Street appeared inviting. It was lined with charming little shops and restaurants. A lively-looking bar was still open. It had a big wooden sign basked in lights and patrons were standing outside smoking. Maybe I would go there tonight.

We pulled into a Super 8 that had a sign out front that said “Our guests enjoy complimentary hot breakfast.” That sounded good to us. Hannah sprung a deal, getting them to take $80 when the cheapest price online was $110.

I decided to take a walk down to the bar that we passed earlier. It was called The Franklin. The bartender was a curvy blond named Brandy. She had three kids: 19, 9, and 7 or something like that.
Her family owns the bar. It seems to have been here for a while. I asked about the name.

“It’s just because that’s what this place has always been called. We didn’t want to change it.”

“What do you think of Canada?” she asked.

“It’s a lot different than I thought it was going to be,” I replied. “I’ve been to Australia, Kazakhstan, to other countries that have a lot of wide open spaces, but I’ve never seen anything like Canada before. There’s really nothing out there.”

Then some guys began laughing a little farther down the bar and they filled me in on the local gossip. Apparently, there’s this lady that comes into the bar and sneaks into the men’s bathroom …

“She’s old. Like, really old,” one of the dudes said. “She hides in the men’s bathroom waiting for someone to go in. Then she blows them when they go in the stalls. This guy here the other day was here with a group of his friends. They were like where did he go and they found him in the bathroom fucking her!”

The bartender confirmed this.

“That wasn’t the first time she’s done that either. She does it all the time. One time her husband came to pick her up right after she finished with some guy in the bathroom.”

I asked how old she was and they told me she was like 56.

“What!?! 56 isn’t old.”

“It is when you’re twenty,” the bartender said with a laugh.

They then began joking about how the town spent $20 million to redo the public pool and it leaks …

Then they told me about Alopecia Boobs — a lady who has alopecia and lopsided boobs. They showed me a picture. They were lopsided.

Then someone tossed some water at the bartender. She fired back with the sprayer. An all out water fight broke out …

It was a typical small town bar in a small town in the middle of nowhere — the place where everyone knows each other and meet each night to stave off boredom. In these places everyone has a role and everyone has a name. There’s the old drunk, the slut, the young men who decided college wasn’t for them, the women who got pregnant young and never left … There are stories because the people stick together long enough to make them. It’s a glimpse into a life that the traveler or big city dweller doesn’t have.

It reminded me of the town I came from. Our bar was called Shay’s. There’s photos on the wall of my grandparents drinking there. It’s the same thing as The Franklin.

Nobody could tell me how far away Montreal was.

Filed under: Canada, Ontario, Road Trip

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3704 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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