June 23 – July 1st, Big Lakes, Big Falls, Big Highway, Big City

Saturday June 23, 2018 – Rabbit Blanket Provincial Park, Ontario to Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario

We travelled from Rabbit Blanket Provincial Park, adjacent to Lake Superior, to Chutes Provincial Park just up from Lake Huron and near the town of Massey. On the way, we stopped at some Ojibwe Petroglyphs on Lake Superior. We had a wee hike down to them through a narly and craggy rock scape. It is quite the precarious location to have petroglyphs, for the creator of the art and for the viewers. They are on a slippery piece of rock within metres from the cold Superior so we only managed to see a couple.

 

 

We picnicked enroute and then stopped at a farmer’s market at the town of Bruce Mines and bought a cherry pie, some kale and zucchini relish off Amish farmers who were selling produce at the market. I thought they were part of a historical theme and asked them if it was so. Oops! The girl graciously said that they were Amish and lived this way of life. It was fascinating to see them, decked out in their traditional clothing. They travel by horse and buggy to market with their goods. On the highway in this area, there were signs indicating to watch out for horse and buggy.

There are several Amish communities in Ontario. This group was Dutch Pennsylvanian and they had a Dutch accent. As we were leaving, I asked if I could take their picture with horse and buggy. A very forthright young Amish women gave me an adamant “No”. I said I understood and to be honest, I was a little bit embarrassed. It got me thinking afterward, as we drove away, that these folks chose or were born into this way of life. To many, it might seem an antiquated and old-fashioned way of life, something from the past to be captured in a photograph, but it was their life and so should be respected. It was a good reminder to me that there are many ways to be in this world.

When we got to our campsite, we had a great afternoon swim at the bottom of the falls at Chutes Provincial Park. The water was surprisingly warm with shallow pools to bob around in.

This area is relatively isolated. I once or twice referred to it as Barkerville (a BC ghost town) as we drove around the town with our stomachs grumbling. We wanted a break from cooking that evening but finding a restaurant proved to be a chore. Four out of four restaurants were closed in Massey, so we drove to the next town over called Walford and found a great little diner with friendly service. We met another customer having dinner there, Carolyn, who was quite chatty. She told us she had spent her whole life in the area. As a youngster, she was an orphan who was placed with foster parents in Massey and then later married and moved to Walford. Her husband had died a few years ago. She told us that she took his passing hard and dealt with her grief by trying various activities to heal and move on. Nothing did the trick until she got involved with a group of people that jam together every week. Now she is jamming and singing with a bunch of locals weekly and music has become her thing at over 70 years old. She was inspiring, and I took the message that its never too late to start or try something new.

 

Sunday June 24, 2018 – Chutes Provincial Park, Ontario to Oastler Lake Provincial Park Ontario

We travelled from Chutes Provincial Park to Oastler Lake Provincial Park near Parry Sound in Georgian Bay. Bill and Joka spent the afternoon in Parry Sound. Guy and I stayed back and took a walk up the decommissioned railway line nearby then he settled into his painting while I rustled up the vittles and did some writing. Our campsite was stellar and right on the lake. The sunsets were gorgeous.

 

 

Monday June 25, 2018 – Oastler Lake Provincial Park,Ontario  

We spent the morning doing laundry and shopping then we had a 3-hour boat ride around Georgian Bay, a treat from Bill and Joka. It was a lovely time. We stopped at Huckleberry Island for a picnic. The sun was out, and we were on the water. Glorious. There are 30,000 islands in Georgian Bay. We managed to see a fraction.

 

 

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When we got back at about 4:30, we had an awesome swim in the lake just below our campsite. The water was warm but refreshing. Then we laid on the rocks to dry off and took it all in. I like swimming in the lake but I kind of miss the salt of the sea. I know some people don’t like the salt and the seaweed and the imaginings of what creatures are lurking down below. But it’s what I grew up with and what I know. But lakes are good too!!

Tuesday June 26, 2018 – Oastler Lake Provincial Park Ontario to Stratford, Ontario

We took the Highway from Oastler Lake down the east side of Georgian Bay. Then we got on lesser highways 22 and 26 if I remember right, to avoid the roads getting closer to the Toronto madness. We continued to jig-saw our way through the landscape along country roads dotted with little hamlets of old red brick houses. We went through picturesque downtown Stratford and on to our campsite outside of town in the country. We only did a couple of hundred miles this day, but it took hours because of the speed limit and the country roads and a few little stops along the way. I had Loreena McKennit playing on the ipod to set the mood, as I believe she is from around these parts.

Joka described this landscape near Stratford as “bucolic”. After looking the word up in the dictionary, I see it is indeed the right word to describe this landscape that conveys “the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life “. It is very quaint here, lots of red brick houses, gardens and farms that seem beautifully cared for. It is a huge farming a area, likely one of the bread baskets of the Metro Toronto area and likely does well due to its close proximity to the bigger cities.

 

 

 

 

We spent a couple of hours wandering the ever so delightful little town of Stratford, visited the Stratford Festival shop to find out where the venue for our play was the next night, and then had a pleasant walk along the Avon River.

 

 

 

In the evening, we had Bill and Joka over for tacos. We went to bed early and were woken up in the night by the heat and then torrential rain showers. Thunder and lightning were forecasted as a possibility but never manifested.

Wednesday June 27, 2018 – Stratford, Ontario

Today, we slept late and had a morning of painting and writing. Guy worked on his painting, “Pitch Pines”. Then in the afternoon, we left our campsite for a looky-loo around Stratford. We started out at the local museum. It had lots of interesting exhibits about the history of Perth county of which Stratford is part of. The major industry of the earlier years was locomotive repair for the trains of the Grand Trunk Railway, which later became the CNR or Canadian National Railway. From roughly the mid 1850’s to the mid 1950’s, this was the main industry of the area until diesel came along and changed everything. Individuals with the kind of skills to fix steam engines were no longer needed after diesel arrived and so there were huge layoffs. Finally, in the mid 50’s the industry shutdown and so it was a huge hit for the area. The museum covered this history well.

Surprisingly, the Stratford Festival was a savior for the town at about the time the locomotive repair shops closed. A man from Stratford named Tom Patterson saw the need for a new industry and pushed for the development of the Stratford festival. It was a trying process, but the city of Stratford got on board and in 1953, the first stage production Richard III was presented with Alec Guinness in the lead role. By all accounts, the hard work of all the players in the early days set the stage for what seems to be the flourishing Stratford that people visit now.

The museum also had an area devoted to Justin Bieber (Biebs). Now normally I wouldn’t seek out such an exhibit about Justin Bieber. But because I was in his hometown and because, part of the mandate of this trip for me is to honor Canadian music, I was open. Like many, I felt mildly irritated by the Biebs, by his perceived instantaneous success, by the fact he was found on you tube. I’ve had the mindset that he got in easy and never paid his dues. This is far from the truth. The exhibit showed how the Biebs started out with humble beginnings being raised by his mother in Stratford. His natural talent was very clear from an early age to everyone around him. He was a talented drummer, and pianist and singer from an early age. He spent his teenage years busking on the streets around Stratford. And then his mom posted a video on you tube and Biebs got discovered and things moved very fast. He cut albums and had concerts and the young girls shrieked and cried and fainted around him. He made it big. But in the last few years he’s been acting up a bit, no doubt the pressure and fame and money have had their effects. But I’ve changed my attitude a bit about the Biebs. Why? Because young people like him need our support. Because young people like him can fold under pressure and do bad things to themselves. I wish the Biebs well.

Needless to say, Guy and I both really enjoyed the museum and learned a lot about the area and the town of Stratford.

After the museum, we checked out the Stratford “Festival Theatre” and walk around the most beautiful gardens followed by a walk along the Avon River. Yes, the Avon River. They have really got into the whole Shakespeare thing here. It doesn’t feel phony though. It is an old town, built by sweat and toil and tenacity and vision and a bit of creativity thrown in for good measure.

On our walk, we got caught in a rain shower and hid under a big old tree to keep dry. Then we had a wonderful gourmet dinner for not gourmet prices at a great restaurant recommended to us by the campsite manager.  Afterwards, we met our friends Bill and Joka at the Festival Theatre and saw William Shakespeare’s, “The Tempest”. The play was very well done and unfortunately the great actors played to a small audience that night with the theatre half full. The whole thing was worth it including seeing the beautiful traditional gardens around the Festival Theatre.

 

 

 

 

Thursday June 28, 2018 – Stratford to Niagara Fall to Stratford
Guy finished his painting “Pitch Pines “this morning.  On our journey along Lake Superior, Guy noticed this particular tree, poking up defiantly above all the other trees.  Our friend Bill determined it was a Pitch Pine.

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Then the two of us took the long drive out to Niagara Falls. We got a late start and drove 2.5 hours each way to see the falls for 2 hours.   We wanted to just get in and out and try and keep exposure time to the tourist craziness short. The falls were indeed stunning and the long drive out was well worth it.  We took some nice pictures of ourselves (selfies) with the falls in behind.  Just an aside, I didn’t know that the Niagara Falls were shared with the US.  On the other side, you can see Buffalo New York.

 

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After the long drive back on the crazy Ontario Highways, we had a swim in the pool at our campsite. Hallelujah.

 

Friday June 29, 2018 – Stratford to Ottawa

I have forgot to mention that we had a kitty friend at our campsite near Stratford.  She came over every time she saw we were back from our daily outings.  She lived in a site nearby but spent all her evenings with us.  We called her Windy after Windmill Family Campground.

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We said goodbye to the Stratford area and little Windy that morning.  I will miss her.  I hope she has a good life.

That’s one of the things that has dawned on me a lot these days. We meet great people and the occasional cat and I know that I will probably never see them again. We’ve come so far and the chance of running into somebody again is highly unlikely. I’ve been saying to people when I say goodbye “Have a nice life”. I mean it. But Guy thinks it is off-putting to say that. I realized this when I said it to Rick, the manager at our campsite and he seemed sobered by the statement. They are words that get you thinking for sure. But maybe there is no value in reminding people that we are here for a good-time, not a long-time. Just a rumination………….

Back to the drive……… It was a long day on the 401 and 417 and then the 7.  I think I got the highways right. We were in the car from 9 am – 6:00 pm with just a short break for some shopping.  The 401 through Toronto was a crazy show of traffic madness. We pondered whether we could buy t-shirts that said we survived the 401.  Its not the number of cars so much as the speed they all move along on 3 lane highways in each direction darting in and out like nuts.

 

Later, the Trans Canada Hwy that google maps rerouted us on, because it was the faster route, turned out to be a parking lot. Everyone else was following google maps and we think maybe made the problem on the 7 a bigger problem for the mostly two-lane Trans Canada to Ottawa.  Anyway, we made it. And we are in a beautiful inner-city campsite called Wesley-Clover just up from the banks of the Ontario River. Its wooded and spacious and the people that run it are great.

Saturday June 30 – Ottawa

Well we’ve had two stellar days in Ottawa. Saturday, we left our vehicle at the campsite and had an hour walk down to the bus stop (so much for the advertising on the campsite website that it’s close to transit) and took the bus into downtown Ottawa. Our truck is having starter problems, so we didn’t want to use it more than we had to. More on that later. Once in the heart of the capital, we walked by the parliament buildings and took some photos, then had breakfast at a cool diner in Byward Market, a popular outdoor market with all the great restaurants and pubs and stores. Then we spend a couple of hours at the National Gallery of Canada. We saw the Impressionists, Native Canadian Art and The Group of Seven and their associates. It was a interesting couple of hours.

 

 

 

 

We had to cut things short because we had been invited to my cousin Renee’s for an early dinner at 4pm in Nepean, a suburb of Ottawa. We took the 50-minute bus ride to her place and were greeted at the bus stop by Renee and her husband Scott. By this time, we were hot and exhausted, so it was nice to see their familiar faces waiting. Its very hot in Ottawa right now.

We had a great visit with Renee and Scott, their oldest son Cody who is 22 and my second cousin, as well as my second cousin Nelson and his wife Karen and their daughter Celine and her family.  I guess we were so hot and tired that we forgot to take pictures.   I will post later.  After the get together, Scott gave us a ride back to the campsite which is 10 minutes away from their house

Did I mention there is a heat wave going on in Ottawa right now?  Its been so hot, you have a shower and you are instantly dripping again.  I think next to being in Queensland Australia, this is the hottest I have ever been.

Sunday July 1 – Canada Day – Ottawa

Happy Canada Day! Here’s hoping everyone had a great day. It was so exciting to spend our country’s birthday in the capital.  I should preface in saying that the weather forecast for Canada Day was a little extreme. 34 degrees and humidity so in the mid 40’s. We were daunted by this as we sat in the morning under the trees in our campsite. Should we go into downtown? We were worried about the heat and how we would handle it. But we both knew that if we didn’t go downtown, we would always feel we missed out. So, we brought lots of water and some electrolyte drinks, dressed in loose lightweight clothing, donned our hats and sunglasses and hopped on the 11 am shuttle bus here at the campsite that was offered to the campers for Canada Day. And it was hot. Dripping hot. But we just took it slow.

 

We were just in time for the festivities at Parliament Hill. There were hoards flag waving people dressed in red and white. We saw the Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Gregoire and their kids in the receiving line as well as the Governor General Julie Payette. Later, the Governor General made a symbolic bike ride with body guards on bikes around her back up to the parliament buildings.

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We sang our National Anthem with the crowd and that was very moving and exciting. And then we started to get hot. It was stifling, and so we beelined back to the National Gallery of Canada and spent 4 more hours there, from 12-4 in its air conditioning. We thought it would be incredibly crowded because of the heat and because it was free on Canada Day, but it wasn’t too bad. We spent a lot more time with the Group of Seven and painters close to the group and then a variety of other exhibitions including the Italian Masters. We finished off our time there by dropping in to the gallery store where I bought a couple of magnets for my fridge of Tom Thomson’s paintings. I stick to magnets and such souvenirs as they are small and easy to transport without getting wrecked.  Here are some Group of Seven works including the more stark painting of winter by Lawren Harris.  My favorite below is the Tangled Garden by J.E.H. MacDonald on the middle right.

 

 

 

Afterwards, we made our way to Confederation Park, had an ice cream and relaxed in the shade with everyone else seeking respite from the sun and heat as the Snowbirds did their aero acrobats overhead.

 

 

Then we went back to Byward Market area and had a light dinner and cider at an outdoor café. The celebratory vibe was palpable and infectious. But the Ontario police were out everywhere in full force. Clusters of police, all carrying guns and some with machine guns were wandering the streets. There were tractors and huge trucks parked in the middle of the streets to keep anyone one from potentially mowing down the crowd. It was a sobering sight on some level that this is how things are now. But the party went on in spite of this.

 

We followed the red and white hoards back up to Parliament Hill. We decided to make the effort and join everyone on the lawn in front of the stage. It was quite a process getting in there. Security was huge at this event. The siphoning process was at least a ½ mile long to get in with ultimately a bag check before getting on to the hill.

It was all worth it. Imagine, a clear night, no need for coats of course (or barely any clothing for that matter), sitting on the grass, the sun going down behind the Parliament Buildings and offering up a pink backdrop, a large but very friendly crowd and great music, followed by fireworks at 10pm.

 

Afterwards, we made our way out of the grounds. Even at 10:30pm, once the crowds converged and filter out the small entrances, you really felt the heat of all the bodies and I must admit, I felt a bit faint at that point. Once out and into less crowds, I felt better. We made our way to Ottawa City Hall and met the shuttle bus that took us back to our campsite. What a great day!

 

 

I know it’s been over a week since I posted.  The reasons include internet access troubles, charging phone and computer challenges, truck troubles, having fun,  and just being worn out from the heat.  It has been hot.  Did I mention that yet?  Ha Ha.

PS – I apologize in advance for any typos or grammatical errors.  I need to get this post off to you and we are off to Montreal shortly.  Enjoy the read.  Enjoy the day.  More shortly, I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

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