Friends recreate motorcycle trip to Fort Frances 50 years later

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

50 years ago, a group of young friends took their motorcycles on a trip up to the great white north and found themselves camped at La Place Rendez-Vous in Fort Frances. For old times sake, they’ll be recreating the trip this month.

Tom Donlan and his pals Mark Swiat and Jim Ellis were only 17-years-old when they took their small motorcycles for a trip from Illinois, USA, to Fort Frances. They packed camping gear and around $100 for a planned 5-day trip, which became a 7-day trip when two motorcycles broke down.

Back then, a passport wasn’t needed to enter Canada near International Falls, Donlan said. Unfamiliar with the French language, they thought they were staying at the “Ren-Devious” hotel in Fort Frances.

Next week, on July 10 to 12, the friends will be returning to reminisce about good memories from their youth.

Tom Donlan, Mark Swiat and Jim Ellis had this photo taken 50 years ago, when the then-17-year-olds landed in Fort Frances as part of a roadtrip that brought them to Canada all the way from Illinois. The trio will be back in town this month to reminisce and take new photos commemorating their original trip, including one to recreate this original in the same location and with Donlan’s restored bike. – Submitted photo

Donlan will bring his restored motorcycle and hopes to take a picture where the old “Welcome to Fort Frances” sign once stood.

Unfortunately, Swiat and Ellis don’t have their original motorcycles for this trip.

“But they still want to go because they were there 50 years ago,” Donlan said.

This trip is also a little different because they’ll be driving north with wives now in tow.

“I have my wife coming for sure. Because she agreed to take all the pictures,” he said.

Full story will be continued in Wednesday’s edition of the Fort Frances Times.