Nickleball Run

IN THE SUMMER OF 1962, in France, Porsche won its first and only F1 race as a constructor with Dan Gurney at the wheel. Nearly 10 years later, Dan and Brock Yates drove from NY to LA in just under 36 hours (albeit in a Ferrari Daytona) to win the first official Cannonball ‘Sea To Shining Sea’ Memorial Trophy Dash. With the inspiration of these legends and moments in time, the Nickelball ‘Bay to Shining Bay Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend’ Run was hatched – with a start to finish under 36 hours.

In past two years, we’ve begun each Nickelball Run in Parry Sound and then onto twisty trails of the strikingly white La Cloche Mountains, to the indigenous and spiritual heart of Manitoulin Island. It would all culminate with a two-hour cruise onboard the Chi Cheemaun (loosely translated from Ojibway to ‘Big Canoe’) Ferry that would carry us and our Porsches back to the mainland.

Weather Gods were on our side last year with sun filled blue skies and perfect temperatures. Pfaff Porsche brought their street version GT3 Cup race car fully decaled to join our pack. Pfaff was also very generous in lending us a new Boxster S, manual (naturally), which we enjoyed driving, with its metallic charcoal exterior, drop top and tan leather interior. 

Once we had made introductions, completed paperwork and received instructions, each car was given a list of directions, meeting points, some local trivia questions to answer, and a road atlas of the Northern Backroads just in case anyone got lost or wanted to come back and explore the area another time.

Once we had made introductions, completed paperwork and received instructions, each car was given a list of directions, meeting points, some local trivia questions to answer, and a road atlas of the Northern Backroads just in case anyone got lost or wanted to come back and explore the area another time. Our plan was to navigate through local scenic points of interest en route to Sudbury to meet for lunch.

After our briefing, we followed each other in a Porsche parade down the main streets of Parry Sound. All heads turned as we drove past the townsfolk. Engines warming-up and within moments entering the smooth 4-lane highway, with its manicured on/off ramps, perfectly suited for Porsche cornering. Then on to Hwy-69 stretches that cut through the rocky Canadian Shield and surrounded us with brilliant colours of fall leaves in russet, green and gold. The day could not have been more perfect. It was simply amazing and tranquil with an orchestra of flat fours and sixes echoing harmoniously!

Our first quick stop was the Moose Lake Trading Post, a quaint log cabin, full of everything bear, moose, fish, wolf, loon, fur and fun. Ideal souvenirs to remember our northern adventure. 

Passing Killarney Provincial Park turnoff, we see something unique to Ontario – an animal overpass that is used regularly by moose, deer, wolves and lynx which, in combination with wildlife tunnels, have significantly reduced wildlife collisions.

Next up, the French River Visitors Centre, a modern glass and stone building perched on high cliffs with a suspension bridge above the French River. We spotted a street sign cautioning us to “Brake for Snakes”. Photos were taken on the bridge, and inside the centre with realistic displays celebrating our Canadian heritage. For history buffs, 17th century French explorers including Samuel de Champlain and the Algonquin people who called this area home, worked together to survive in this harsh wilderness by trapping furs, trading in goods and building canoes. Together with the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, the French River formed a major part of the water highway from Montreal to Lake Superior until about 1820 and is still used by adventurers today. 

Back on the road, we enjoyed the newest stretch of four-lane highway with more amazing curves and esses, while in awe of the sheer immensity of this continuing construction project all around us – with hills of granite reduced to gravel, creating the road bed, rolling out to its expected completion in 2020. Passing Killarney Provincial Park turnoff, we see something unique to Ontario – an animal overpass that is used regularly by moose, deer, wolves and lynx which, in combination with wildlife tunnels, have significantly reduced wildlife collisions. We’ve all settled into the drive and know those behind us can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Approaching Sudbury, we switched to secondary Hwy-17 and the unexpected eastern approach to the city. This diversion took us past NASA’s 1960’s Apollo Lunar Rover test site. The Greater Sudbury Area has similar topography to the moon, but harder to see today as Sudbury has undergone enormous re-greening. Sudbury topography is something to behold with more than 330 lakes within its city limits including the largest city lake in the world.

For lunch, Nickelballers gathered at a rocky hill with amazing viewpoints at Royal Canadian Legion 76. At any time of year, one can see for miles overlooking this city lake to Laurentian University, Science North and the CP Rail line that famously allowed surveyors to discover the immense high-grade nickel and precious metal ore body that makes Sudbury the mining capital of the world. With our cars shining in the sun, we took photos with the backdrop of the blue waters and then enjoyed a simple and hearty meal, courtesy of the Legion. Friendships were formed as we reminisced about our morning adventures over lunch and laughter. 

Afterwards, we set off in another Porsche parade through the city to the Big Nickel, the brainchild of local Ted Szilva in the 1950’s. He put forward the suggestion for this major tourist attraction featuring a giant five-cent coin and began to make this dream a reality by scouting out the highest hills in Sudbury. The location selected was perfect as it overlooked the INCO complex and the nightly slag dumps of hot red and orange molten rock! Today, the Big Nickel (a 30 ft. replica of a 1955 coin that the Canadian Mint created in Sudbury’s honour) and Dynamic Earth (an underground experience describing the meteor crash) sit on this wondrous location. They sit in the shadow the giant Superstack, a chimney the same height as the Empire State Building.

We grabbed an ice cream and waited to board Chi Cheemaun, a huge giant whale that opens up and swallows our delicate cargo… a group of finely tuned, low riding Porsches.

Our schedule was different in 2017 from 2016, so expect another in 2018. In 2016, we headed directly West to Espanola on Hwy-17 and then South on Hwy-6 to spend the night in Little Current on Manitoulin Island. Being on Manitoulin Saturday night allowed us to enjoy the hospitality of this island town, ready to traverse the island on Sunday from East to West and back to get to the ferry. In 2017, our group headed North in the afternoon to the A.Y. Jackson Lookout where we hiked the short trail to see one of the famous Group of Seven painted waterfalls. We rode a fantastic series of uphill corners to the town of Cartier – and then back to Sudbury for our overnight.  In Sudbury, we had a spectacular ‘family style’ Italian meal at the famous ‘Respect is Burning’ in the city’s downtown. Sunday, we awoke to a sun-filled morning driving through the white LaCloche Mountains to Manitoulin across the one lane swing bridge which is the only year round connection to the island. The Island has a spirit that can be felt as soon as you step onto it. Both years we made stops at local first nation shops and breathtaking scenic views. Each of us had different moments to experience the ‘Spirit Island’ without the bustle of vacationing crowds.  

Our 1200km tour concluded within minutes of our ferry reservations back to the mainland. Some stayed a few extra days on Manitoulin to enjoy its splendour on their own. We grabbed an ice cream and waited to board Chi Cheemaun, a huge giant whale that opens up and swallows our delicate cargo… a group of finely tuned, low riding Porsches. While not NY to LA, we bested Gurney and Yates’ time with our own coast to coast trip in 35 hours in the cars we love and with experiences to remember for a lifetime.

Special thanks to Pfaff Porsche for their support from the Nickelballers who enjoyed the 2017 trip. For a visual enticement of what you missed (or can enjoy), go to: www.oldenburginc.com/nickelballrun

Join us September 29-30, 2018 by registering via: www.clubregistration.net </>

Story & photos by Greg and Lisa Oldenburg, UCR Members

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