My family’s roots, on both sides, are in northern Ontario. My mother was born in Cochrane, my father in Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay). While my father’s parents came south in the 1940s, my grandparents on my mother’s side lived in Cochrane all their lives, and when I was young we would drive up Highway 11 to visit them once or twice a year.
Highway 11 is really just Yonge Street in Toronto. It just keeps on going and going and going, through North Bay, up to Cochrane, where it ends.
Along the way, you pass through Cobalt which, in addition to being the home of the band Grievous Angels (here’s a really, really poor fidelity song from their first album) is also home to the Highway Book Shop.
This bookstore formed my original conception of what a bookstore was. It’s where I bought my first book (a biography of Amelia Earhart; my father tore a strip out of me for buying a book that “I could have checked out of the library”). The store is a huge, rambling building. Filled with books. New, used, and ones that they’ve published themselves.
If you are driving by Cobalt — and driving by Cobalt is something every Canadian should do once in their life — you should set aside half a day for a visit to the bookshop.
If you can’t make it to Cobalt, you can buy their books online from ABE.