Photo: Janice tests the water at Oakville, Lake Ontario.
We left Port Huron, Michigan, via the bridge over the St.Claire River. The bridge is very high and offers vast views of Sarnia as it leads to the Canadian Border crossing, where there were no hassles whatsoever. We stopped for lunch at the town of St. Thomas and, when we returned to the unit I noticed that one of the trailer tires was low. A friendly local tire guy fixed the leak right away for just $10.
Ignoring some sage advice from some trusted, current and ex-pat Ontarions, to camp along the east side of Lake Huron, we decided we wanted to see Lake Erie, so we camped at Port Burwell instead. While the town itself was nice enough, the over-priced campsite was a mile from the overcrowded beach. It was hot, humid and the air was thick with pollution.
We had made the mistake of cheaping out on our campsite, not getting electricity, which left us without air conditioning. Port Burwell is a pretty little town and, following a quick tour, we went for ice cream before heading to the beach for a swim in Lake Erie, which resembled more closely what I had imagined the Great Lakes to be like – grey and polluted looking. The lake was actually declared dead in the 1990’s but fish once again inhabit it.
Back at the trailer the lack of A/C made it unbearable, so we went for dinner in town at a nice little fish fry place with a shaded patio. Across the street was a hardware store so we purchased their last battery powered hand-held fan – the kind with the rubber base that allows it to be stuck to a surface. Later on, goofing around while drinking wine in the overheated trailer, I stuck it to my pate so that it would blow on Janice across the table. When I tried to remove it though, it was stuck. We chuckled as I finally had to give it a real yank to remove it. The next morning Janice got a good belly laugh as she pointed at the big red hickey adorning the top of my head.
Photo: The not so perfect Burwell Bay Beach at Lake Erie – more like Lake Eerie. Hot and Humid!
The next day we enjoyed as much of the lakeshore drive as the roads allowed. We saw a lot of beautiful country, and bits of the lake, but it was very humid and hazy, obscuring anything in the distance. We followed the road to Long Point, a vacation destination made up almost exclusively of vacation dwellings, taking a walk on the beach there, before heading north to see our relatives, the McLachlans, at Oakville, just outside Toronto.
The McLachlans are relatives on my mom’s side with whom I’ve had sparse contact over the years, mostly due to living so far from each other. My mom, Dorothy, and her sister Lorraine (Lorie) have been very good friends all of their lives but have been distanced by several thousand miles. Dorothy is now 87 years of age and Lorie is 91 and had discussed at their least meeting that they’d probably never see each other again so it was an emotional and joyous occasion when we managed to get them together via Skype during our stay. Even though Lorie is almost blind due to Macular Degeneration, with a great deal of effort, she was able to get a glimpse of her sister. In Lorie’s words she was “Dumbfounded” by the experience.
If I tried to detail our four-day stay it would take me a week, so it’s going to have to suffice it to say that we were treated like royalty the entire time. Bill and Frannie put us up at their place, which happened to have an ever-so-welcoming backyard pool that we all took full advantage of. Frannie was the organizer for the duration. Actually I affectionately call her The Drill Sergeant because she had our itinerary mapped out from the minute we got there.
Bill and I played together once in a while as eight-year-old kids and he reminded me of one time when I showed him how to catch Garter Snakes, (I was nine months older) that we loosed in Dorothy and Lorie’s kitchen, causing the scene to erupt in much anticipated dancing, hollering and broom waving.
A Chartered Accountant by trade, Bill has had a long and illustrious career as a corporate executive, which has taken him to many exotic places around the world. He and Frannie are looking forward to his retirement at the end of November, the same time that their first grandchild is due.
Dinner was BBQ tenderloin at Bill and Fran’s the first night. The next day we met with cousin Dorothy and her family in Orangeville and then toured the historic town of Elora where we had lunch on the deck of the one-hundred-and-eighty year old grain mill overlooking the river. After lunch we took a ‘Walking off Lunch Tour’, exploring the many funky shops and galleries of Elora. We also toured the Mennonite town of St. Jacobs where they make corn brooms and bake the best bread, causing us to wonder how in the world they can still possibly live like that. Dinner was a spaghetti feast at Dorothy and John’s, (John is a chef by trade) where we had a lot of laughs and drank too much wine before heading back to Oakville, Frannie being the DD.
Photo: Cousin Dorothy and you-know-who.
Photo: The old quarry at Elora, now an excellent swimming hole.
Photo: A blue heron fishing the river below the old mill at Elora.
Photo: Tim and Janice at the Elora Mill.
Photo: Someone’s well tended garden at Elora.
Photo: Downtown Elora.
The next day we toured the historic Oakville waterfront, where the poor people live. When we took a tour of the public community art gallery there Frannie was so disgusted with the inane home movie exhibition on display that we thought she was going to ask for her donation back.
Photo: Bill and Frannie at the Oakville waterfront on Lake Ontario.
Photo: A home typical of those along the Oakville waterfront.
Bill and Frannie dropped us at Cousin Debbie and Auntie Lorie’s apartment where we had a delightful four course lunch prepared by Debbie, (with wine at noon!). Later we headed back to Bill and Frannie’s, with the entire clan, for swimming and Mexican dinner, (Pozole) prepared by Janice. Too many laughs – and Cousin Dorothy so shy – we had to check under the bed in the trailer before we left to make sure she wasn’t stowed there.
Photo: 91-year-old auntie Lorie threatens to drown Tim if he doesn’t behave.
Photo: Cousin Debby, who serves wine at noon and makes the best apple pie east of the Rockies.
Sunday morning Bill and I went for a ride in his sports car, reminiscing and philosophizing through some tight turns previous to a final get-together back at his place, with Lorie and Debbie, who shared her apple pie secrets with Janice. Bill got a wee bit of a buzz and ended up bringing out the special Scotch about 9:00 o’clock. I hope his Monday turned out all right.
We had an exceptional time with the McLachlans, that we won’t soon forget, but it was time to leave Monday morning, with revised marching orders from Frannie. She drove ahead of us to get us safely out of the city and on to The 403 which took us easily enough to The 400 which took us to Vaughan where we had been directed by Frannie to go to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, a major gallery, which houses many important works of the Group of Seven. She was right again. It’s a beautiful gallery which houses some of my favourite paintings. Lawren Harris is still my favourite of the Group of Seven, by far, followed by A.Y. Jackson and then Tom Thompson.
We continued north, stopping for lunch in Barrie before driving along Georgian Bay on the east shore of Lake Huron. We spent quite a bit of time looking for a spot to camp on the water, repeatedly driving into dead ends or cul-de-sacs until we finally gave up looking to camp there.
Back on the road, thankfully, it was a fairly short drive to Midland on Steven Sound. It’s a pretty town but when we got to our campsite we were a little unsettled by the swath of devastation a tornado had left behind when it swept through on June 24. It looked like a giant broom had swiped a clean path from the lake, through the campsite, demolishing a couple of cabins and, of course, a couple of trailers too before it crossed the road and ripped the steel roof off of the Toyota dealership.
We went for a swim in the lake and after dinner we took a tour of town on our bikes. The campsite had decent wifi so we got caught up on blogging, emailing and Skyping – some new words we’ve had to add to our vocabulary in recent years.
The next day, July 20, there were dark clouds to the east. We never hit the road until noon, thinking that it was a short drive to the Muskokas, where we’d spend the night. We had done a little research the night before on the Muskokas but hadn’t found any campsites. We decided we’d see something along the way. That was not to be the case however. We never saw one campsite or even an ad for a campsite. There wasn’t even any place we found that we could pull over to have lunch. The Muskokas are definitely not RV friendly. While we saw some pretty peek-a-boo views of several lakes as well as some upscale summer homes, we ended up having lunch in a gas station parking lot.
We decided to drive on to Algonquin Provincial Park but by the time we got there, the dark clouds we’d seen earlier must have been settling in over the park because it was rather dark and wet. We carried on to a little place called Madawaska, just outside Algonquin Park, to the east. By the time we got there the sunshine had broken through and we enjoyed a swim in the slow moving and somewhat briny looking, but warm, Madawaska River.
In the evening we sat around the campfire until late at night with neighbours, Bruce and Laurie, who both work at one of the automobile manufacturing plants near Orangeville, Ontario. Let me tell you all about what goes on in one of those plants some time when we’re on the road hitch-hiking. OK, I’ll give you a hint: many of the people are reportedly walking around like Zombies stoned on Oxycontin, the Poor Man’s Heroin. Presumably in order to dumb themselves down to the monotony of the environment. Bruce and Laurie turned us on to garlic cheese curds as well as a wee bit of herb.
Photo: Tim in his tie-dye T-shirt, getting a fire going.
In the morning we continued east on Highway 60. It was June 21, the first day of summer, and we stopped to have lunch at Canada’s first Polish settlement, Wilno, where the Quilt & Pickle Restaurant had come highly recommended by Bruce and Lori, the people we’d enjoyed the campfire with the night previous. It was closed though so we drove to the east side of town where we found a rest-stop with an amazing view to the east and a monument dedicated to the community’s Polish Founders. We had a sandwich at a picnic table there before getting back on the highway, destination Quebec…