A slight change of plan today; we’ve decided to head off home later in the day, rather than wait until tomorrow morning. It will mean missing a night, but it also means that we won’t be rushing in the morning to meet the somewhat chintzy checkout time of 11am. No rush, no pressure, just the way we like it.
I thought I’d start today by giving a run down of this KOA Campground. KOAs are not cheap to stay at so you expect a reasonable standard of campsite. This one has a pool, some sports facilities, some kids play areas and some hiking trails in the woods. Like most commercial campgrounds, pretty much all the sites have power, water and sewer hookups, and there’s a couple of shower and toilet blocks for those who prefer tent camping. The actual sites themselves are not big and although the place has been quite quiet all week and we haven’t felt crowded in, last night a whole herd of big fifth wheelers turned up and the place feels a touch more packed now. That said, there are plenty of trees about so it’s not like were just parked up in rows. The sites are reasonably level, with a gravel pad, a bit of grass and little fire pit. We watched earlier in the week as the campground staff went around cleaning out the fire pits and tidying up the sites’ grass, so that was good.
I’m never a fan of the seasonal sites, that is sites rented for the entire summer and a trailer parked there that doesn’t move until the season is over. What people tend to do is build big decks, bring garden sheds and satellite dishes, and generally personalise their area. Unusually for a KOA, there are a lot of seasonal sites here. Normally I’d turn my nose up a bit at that because it limits the sites for transient campers like us. However, this place is pretty quiet during the week, so I can understand the owners wanting to get a guaranteed revenue throughout the season, even when the seasonal campers are not on site. I don’t think there’s always a great rapport between the seasonal and the transient campers, one group will generally resent the other, but the one or two seasonal people we’ve met here this week have been fine.
I’d read a couple of awful reviews of the place, written after the last Canada Day weekend. The complaints were about failing electricity and foul smelling fresh water. While I agree these are not things to recommend the campground, I think they have to be put in context. Most campgrounds are completely full on the Canada Day long weekend. This year it was very hot so, just about everyone there would have been running one, and quite possibly two, roof mounted air conditioners; with that kind of demand, it's no wonder the supply was failing. I guess the demand on the water, possibly well water, would have been the same. I couldn't find much to complain about, really, and I thought it was a good place to stay as a base to explore the area; I'd definitely go back.
Anyway, we started our packing process after lunch and, given no kids or dog, it was all done and dusted quickly and with no fuss. I took the time to flush out the poop tank because we rarely get an opportunity to do that. We've pretty much got the hitching process sorted, and now that it's all well worn in, it's actually quite easy. So, at around 3pm, we pulled off the site and started our run home.
I had pored over alternative routes to avoid the centre of Owen Sound but decided that the most direct route was best. Oh my, what a mistake. It took us 30 minutes or more to do the first few kilometers, thanks mostly to the tightly packed traffic lights in downtown Owen Sound. One set we didn't get through until the third green, such was the density of traffic and lights. Still, up the hill on the other side and we were out in the open country and heading to Lake Huron and the Bluewater Highway. Naturally, we had a strong headwind to contend with, which was keeping the gas consumption a bit high, but other than that we rolled along, quite uneventfully, and amused ourselves watching the antics of other drivers trying overtake us. It's not that we were slow moving, we were at the speed limit the whole way, but people in this Province simply have to be doing at least 10 over or they think they're being cheated out of something. On that issue, complaining about the price of gas is a perpetual topic of conversation, and yet people seem to feel the need to waste gas by rushing around everywhere and treating the speed limit as an absolute minimum.
We'd stopped in Goderich on the way back for a quick break and when we started back on the road we were immediately followed by a pick-up towing a big, square travel trailer. I'm a speed limit junkie and, to be fair, this guy sat behind us all the way to Grand Bend and didn't attempt to overtake at any point. I could feel he wanted to go faster but he kept a safe distance back and all was well. As soon as we entered Grand Bend where there are two southbound lanes, I pulled to the right to let him pass, which he did. The problem was that his left lane was held up with some left-turning vehicles and we ended up in front of him again. Being a very good egg, though, I slacked right off and waited for him to get back in front of us before we were back to a single lane each way. It was just as well, for him, that we did because he took the same route to Watford that we did and he'd have been royally pissed to have been stuck behind us again. Being in front, though, he did disappear over the horizon quite quickly!
Again, a delightfully uneventful trip back and we were on the driveway unhitching and unloading about four and a half hours after we'd left Owen Sound. Once again we'd done it on a single tank of gas and our mileage, although a little up on the trip up there, was still around 13mpg (US Gallons that is). I'm not sure who reads this but, for anyone doubting the ability of our Toyota Sienna to successfully and safely pull our Airstream, please note that all our trips are wholly uneventful in terms of towing capability and the van is still pottering around quite happily, even after seven years.
I'm not sure when or where we'll be off again as sadly I have to go to work for a living. Watch this space, though...
So, our planned early start didn’t materialize, and we were not ready to hit the Tobermory trail until our usual holiday start time of 11am. No matter, I did get a chance to drain the trailer’s waste tanks down, which they were in dire need of, before heading out.
It’s a fairly long run up Highway Six to Tobermory, the northernmost town on the Bruce Peninsular, but the road is wide and straight, and you really can’t go wrong; just stop when the road meets the lake. We’d been there on holiday once before and thought it would be nice to take in its village atmosphere once more.
It’s also one of the terminals for the Manitoulin Island ferry, a boat we had briefly flirted with taking a ride on, but decided it was all too difficult. The reason I mention the ferry is that it’s what keeps Highway Six both well maintained and busy, because there is a constant flow of vehicles heading to and from Manitoulin Island. It’s a somewhat quicker way to get to Sault Ste. Marie from this part of the world than driving all the way around the eastern side of Georgian Bay, and it’s part of the Great Lakes circuit, a monumental drive around lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron that is very popular, especially at this time of year.
The first thing that we noticed on arrival was the “Paid Parking” signs everywhere. I don’t remember whether or not we had paid to park in the past, but we were certainly going to have to today. We couldn’t find a spot down by the harbour, so worked our way back to the town’s Tourist Information Office which had a big parking lot. We still had to pay, though, $3 an hour, up to a maximum of three hours. What’s that all about? Why the maximum? We were well away from the harbour, why not let us park all day? I noticed that all the cruise boat companies had their own, free, parking for customers buying a cruise ticket. It would almost be worth having a short cruise just to get the free parking! Anyway, I did notice some signs in the shops prompting visitors to write to the mayor to tell him what a daft idea it was to both limit the time and charge and arm and a leg for the privilege; I might just do that.
Apart from parking, Tobermory was just as it had been when we were here before. A pretty harbour, a few craft shops, some eateries and a booming business in cruises around the islands a little way north of the town. Everything’s a tad expensive, but then I guess they don’t get a huge number of visitors in the winter, so the townsfolk have to get their money when they can. I’m fairly certain that the ferry stops in deep mid-winter, too, because of the ice. I know that the big hotel in town stays open all year round and I’d like visit one day, when the snow and ice is in full swing.
We mooched around the place for a couple of hours, had a bite to eat, mooched around a bit more, bought some gewgaws and then decided to head home. We did have a run into the National Park Visitor Centre to (possibly) climb the lookout tower, but when I realised we would get gouged again, by the Government this time, I backed off. That $9 parking charge was burning me, more than I knew.
The run back to Owen Sound was uneventful, apart from having the overtaking lunatics tearing down the highway and risking life and limb just to get six feet in front of us. Oh, and I missed a left turn, but took some quick corrective action to get back on the right road.
I did swallow my pride and top the fuel tank off with 20 litres of petrol at Owen Sound prices. That only added $2 to the cost as opposed to driving to Meaford, and I thought I could handle that.
So, a quiet night in is planned, and I shall enjoy watching some of the Thursday arrivals at the Campground. The weather is set fair and I think people will want make a long weekend of it.
A big day for England with the World Cup semi-final against Croatia, and a day for us built around the big game.
We’d scoped out somewhere to watch the match, so we had a slow morning at the campground before heading down into Owen Sound. Parking downtown cost us a flat fee of $5, somewhat cheaper than Inglis Falls, and with more value, and I didn’t mind making this our first paid parking jaunt. Mind you, the ticket machine had a handy-dandy digital display that was all but unreadable behind its much-degraded plastic cover, and the whole thing worked at a glacial pace. Still, I suppose that’s what you get for $5/9hours parking.
Like so may towns in Ontario these days, the main shopping street was dead, with barely anyone wandering around, and this on a midweek lunchtime. The shops people want are all out of town now, so the traditional downtown centres are all but finished. We did a bit of shopping, discovering a fairly large shop selling hardware and kitchen gadgets. A lot of the kitchen stuff was high quality and much of it from Europe, and while pricey, they did have a huge range of useful bits and pieces in there, and we came away with handfuls of things we didn’t know we needed. Well, that’s what you do on your holidays, isn’t it?
Then it was off to Shorty’s Grill on Third Street East, where the menu had a couple of vegan options and the football was on the TV. It was pretty quiet in there, too, although the staff did say that the match last Saturday had the place packed out. Well, we know the outcome of the game, so I’ll move on from that. Suffice it to say, Shorty’s was not a bad place to spend a few hours, and we left in reasonable spirits.
Outside it was hot, so we headed back to the trailer and while Mrs. T did some distance teaching with the younger tadpole (who is still at home; isn’t the Internet wonderful?), I read and pottered around for a while.
Needing petrol, we decided to make a late evening run into Meaford to fill up. Meaford is about 30Kms from here but the gas prices were, for some reason, significantly lower than in Owen Sound. Anyway, I fancied stopping off at the lookout on the escarpment to get some nice photos of the bay in the evening light. The photos didn’t happen, though, because there was a haze across the lake and we couldn’t see the other side at all, but the petrol expedition did work. In Meaford it was 13 cents per litre cheaper than in Owen Sound and I saved over $7 on the tank. Of course, a 60Km round trip made a dent in my savings, but we did have a nice evening run and saw all manner of wild and domestic livestock on the trip. Also, my dad would have proud of me searching out cheap gas.
We rounded off the evening with a DVD and some beer and cider. Unfortunately, the cider didn’t really agree with Mrs. T, but we’ll draw a veil over that episode.
Still no rain at all this week, and the car is looking like it lives in the Sahara Desert, so dusty is it. I’m not hankering for rain, but it’s unusual for us not to have any at all on our trips. There’s still Friday’s forecast to consider, so maybe we won’t have an entirely dry trip.
Tobermory tomorrow; that’ll be nice.
Another day with no real plans, but with a few things to do tomorrow and a limitation on when we ought to go to Tobermory, I thought we should go west today and dip our toes in the waters of Lake Huron.
On the way, though, I thought a trip to Inglis Falls would be in order.
Impressing Mrs. T with my navigational skills, we hauled it over to the falls. Then I had a senior moment that my mother would have been proud of; I saw the notice saying that there was a $6 parking charge, so I aborted my turn into the place and carried on down the hill. Mrs. T snorted, out of humour or derision I’m not sure, and I spent the next two minutes babbling about $6 being too much for a 10 minute visit to a small waterfall. In truth, $6 is a scandalous amount, especially given that we haven’t paid a cent for parking all trip. Am I cheap? Certainly. Is $6 too much for a parking charge? You bet!
So, at the bottom of the hill I took an executive decision and turned left, mostly on the grounds that it was westbound and west was the direction we needed to be going. Those arrow straight roads took us though undulating farmland (mixed farming, mind, arable and cattle) until the road took an unexpected 90 degree turn left, which meant we were now heading south. Before I could correct that by taking a convenient right turn, we hit another closed road, and we were forced into a second left turn. Two lefts from west means east, so we were now coming back the way we came! Our map was not the greatest, with print so small our aged eyes couldn’t cope, so it was onto Google Maps on the cell phones. All that told us, though, was that we needed to make two right turns to go west. We managed the first right turn OK but, and you’ll laugh at this; we did in a strangulated sort of way, the next right turn was another closed road! At least we were able to go straight on this time, down a gravel road, and search for the next right turn; if we’d have been forced to go left we’d have been back to going east again. Keep up now, it’s not that complicated.
Given that all the roads hereabouts are on a north, south, east, west grid, it really is a case of going to the next turn and travelling along that country block to correct your direction of travel. Fortunately, all roads in the grid join up, so you never end up stuck down a “blind” road, as they’re known here.
Eventually, we found our way to the County Line, which conveniently turned out to be a full sized, non-gravel, north-south road and we were able to head south (a left turn) for one country block, then go west (a right turn) to continue on to our eventual destination which was Lake Huron, or more accurately Port Elgin, on the shore of Lake Huron.
We did get to see a lot of cattle on our travels, a lot of corn and a lot of beans. We saw plenty of Turkey Vultures and we also saw a horse-drawn cart with a fully complemented and finely attired Amish (or something similar) family, who gave us confused looking tourists a cheery wave. Don’t we have all the fun?
So, Port Elgin is home to Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chip Restaurant, into which we made a hasty entrance. The dining room was massive, low ceilinged and very noisy, which was a surprise; the crowds were there, apparently, for the “All The Haddock You Can Eat Tuesday” promotion, and it was very popular. We also lowered the average age a bit as we entered.
Actually, the fish and chips were good, and reasonably priced, and the din in the dining room did go down a little as the early diners left. There wasn’t much on the menu for the vegan Mrs. T, I’m afraid, but chips and onion rings made do.
After feeding, we made our way down to the beach to have a little wander around. It’s a nice beach in Port Elgin and, despite the wind coming off the lake, it was crowded with young families enjoying the sun and the protection of the breakwater a couple of hundred metres off the beach. We’d have liked a walk along the breakwater, but it had been fenced off as being in a dangerous state, but that didn’t deter many people, though, as they just waded through the shallow water and circumvented the fence. Not us, though, we’re law abiding sorts who didn't want to our feet too wet.
You will be pleased to know that the regulation paddle in the lake was achieved (on the beach and not on the mission to get to the breakwater) and we can report that the water in Lake Huron is considerably warmer than the water in Georgian Bay.
We took the long, although less convoluted, route back to Owen Sound, this time via Southampton and Sauble Beach. We rounded out the day’s excursion with a scouting session in Owen Sound for a place to watch the football tomorrow, and a quick stop in at the grocery store for the next few day’s lunch supplies.
What happens tomorrow is in the lap of the Gods, or Gareth Southgate. I don’t have high hopes, I’ve been following England too long for that, but I didn’t think they’d get this far, so you never know.
As anticipated, it was a slow start to the day. Well, we are on our holidays.
Today’s jaunt was a road trip up the eastern side of the Bruce Peninsular, hugging the shore of Georgian Bay.
We started by going through Owen Sound and taking the first right past the river. There are very few signs on Ontario roads, at least not signs telling you where the road might lead to, which is difficult for someone like me who has been brought up in England where you can navigate purely using the direction signs, which say things like “Upper Lowerham 4, Lower Upperham 4”, and point usefully in the direction you need to travel. Here they will (sometimes) offer a sign as to which road number you’re on and, if you’re in a town, maybe a street name, but very rarely will you get a sign saying something like “Lion’s Head 66 Km”. This morning, we were looking for Grey Highway 1, but the only indication we could see was a small, foot-square, #1 sign just before the road took a left at a set of lights. We blindly followed everyone else and were happy to see, about 2km further on, a second #1 sign; luck was with us today.
You could, I suppose, set the SatNav up but, when you want to take a meandering route to nowhere in particular, they’re not that useful especially when they only display a few hundred metres around your current location. However, my old map reading skills resurfaced and off we went, more or less in the right direction.
One thing we’ve noticed in Ontario is that so much of any lakefront is private. Individual lots of land, between the road and the water, have been built on with hardly a gap between them. As a result, you can travel miles along the shore and never really see the lake, which is what we did for a large part of the first 30 minutes on the road. We did, however, discover a small public park that not only had parking, but had access to the stony shoreline. The view was lovely, and the water was cold, as usual. We progressed through places like Balmy Beach, Cobble Beach, Big Bay, Oxendon and then eventually on to the metropolis that is Wiarton.
It’s at this point that I could ramble off on a tangent about Wiarton Willie, but my Canadian friends know all about him and my British and American friends will wonder what on earth I’m on about. So, next stop, Cape Croker.
(If you really want to know about Wiarton Willie, click Here)
The name Cape Croker brought to mind the film The Italian Job, where Michael Caine plays Charlie Croker, the cheeky cockney crook who is a villain, a charmer and a bit of a dunce, in equal measure. Cape Croker is, though, an Unceded Territory, Neyaashiinigmiing Aboriginal Reserve No.27, home to the Ojibway and Chippewas of Nawah.
I had intended to drive out to the lighthouse, right on the cape, but gave up that idea when I realised that much of the trip was going to be on gravel roads. So, we made do with stopping at the Community Centre and looking at the war memorial. Some of the scenery and views were lovely but, as ever, there's never a place to stop and admire them.
Then we were off to Hope Bay, off the Reserve and up the shore a little.
Hope Bay is a charming little bay with a big campground and a small, sandy public beach. The water was cold and the little shop/café was closed, so apart from a brief paddle in the chilly waters, all we did was turn around and make for Lion’s Head.
Lion’s Head is named for a rock formation on the southern side of the little bay it sits on. Time and erosion have meant that the lion’s head is now without a lower jaw, but I guess it’d be difficult to rename your village Lion’s Head Without A Lower Jaw, as it would play havoc with the mail.
The village looked quite smart on it’s main street, where we were able to park, visit a nice gift shop and eat in Rachael’s Bakery and 50’s Diner. Rachael’s scored maximum points because it had a number of vegan options on the menu, and free WiFi, which was a bonus. They’re also showing the World Cup on TV on Tuesday and Wednesday but the reports from the last game shown there was that this little diner became quite wild!
The bay the village sits on has a campground and sandy public beach, but it also has a swanky marina nestled behind the stone breakwater, which is why the place seemed quite lively. Despite the gentle slope of the beach, the water was no warmer here than it had been further down the lake’s shore on the stony beaches, but that wasn’t stopping kids from swimming out to the pontoon anchored a little way off the beach, the mad buggers.
Heading south back to Owen Sound, we took the main Tobermory road, which was comparatively busy. It’s mostly arrow straight, with speed limit of 80 km/h, which is what I set the cruise control at. That, though, simply encouraged the lunatic drivers of Ontario to make some scary overtaking moves on me, often with too little room. I’m sure they were all cursing me for having the temerity to stay on the limit, but the curious thing was that we ended up directly behind most of those risk takers when we arrived in Wiarton. All that risk, and gas, for a 15 feet advantage; tsk.
Back at the ranch, it was snooze time for Mrs. T, and it was so warm that we succumbed to the lure of the A/C. It’s noisy when it’s running, but the outside temperature at 6pm was 30C, so I reckon it was OK to burn some electricity.
We rounded off the night with a DVD, Sunset Boulevard. Mrs. T suggested that I might want to bring the awning and lawn furniture in as there was a storm due at 10pm. Naturally I complied, but 10pm came and went with no sign of the promised storm. Oh well, I can set it all up again in the morning…
In full camping mode, I slept in until 8am, which is a full three hours after my usual wake up time. I blame my usual hideous rising habits on the hound, who is kind of insistent on getting fed at some ridiculous time in the morning. It seems, though, that the Georgian Bay air is good for getting me out of my routine.
It had been curious first night away, with me being alternately hot and sweaty, then cold. We had the windows open, but the night time temperature was low compared with what the past few weeks has offered. Still, the fresh air obviously helped, and not having a dog sharing the bed was very enjoyable.
Also, because I’m in full camping mode, I made up some fine coffee and sat outside in the bright morning sun to enjoy it, which always makes for a good start to the day.
With no plan to speak of, we headed into town for some fuel, and baulked at the price - $1.39 a litre! But, I thought, we’re on holiday, so I filled the tank with gay abandon (and fuel) and scoffed at the $76 total. Then I turned right and headed out to Meaford, on the shores of Georgian Bay.
We’re up on the top of the Niagara escarpment here and it was a fine sight as we dropped off the plateau down the arrow straight road towards Meaford. We could see the other side of the bay, some distance away, and admired the incredibly blue water between Meaford and Christian Island.
Meaford itself is a sleepy little town, with a small harbour and an almost deserted Main Street. We parked up (free parking, my English friends, free!) by the little beach and set off to explore, which didn’t take long. We saw the harbour and its resident cormorants, then mooched along the quiet main street, diving into a couple of junk shops to see what we could see. It was uncommonly quiet, but then it was Sunday and I think this is quite a God-fearing part of the world, at least judging by the number of churches dotted around.
What we did see, though, was gas on sale at $1.29 a litre, 10 cents cheaper than 30Kms away. I was all for taking the expensive stuff back to Owen Sound and re-filling in Meaford, but Mrs. T pointed out the impracticality of that little exercise. I’ve inherited my fascination for fuel prices from my dear departed father, and it’s darned annoying.
On a whim, lunch was taken at a smart little restaurant called Andrew’s Roots. The lunch menu was a wee bit limited but at least it wasn’t burgers and dogs. Mrs. T opted for the vegan curry while I went for a fancy version of that good old Canadian classic, Grilled Cheese. Our server was attentive, although hardly overworked as there were only two other people in the place, and she helped a bit with the information on the contents of the curry. Sadly, Mrs. T didn’t really enjoy her meal; not that it was badly prepared or presented, it was just not to her taste. My grilled cheese was OK, and made a change for me, but I don’t think either of us was bowled over. Nice try Andrew’s Roots, not sure we’ll be back, though.
Heading back to the car, we decided to have a little paddle in the lake. It looked so inviting but, true to form, the clear waters of Georgian Bay were very cold, despite the fine weather we've been having over the past few weeks. The Bay, you see, is very deep as it forms the lower part of the Niagara Escarpment. Blue and welcoming the lake water may look, but it’s a real shocker when you get in there.
From Meaford we headed south to Thornbury, on the edge of the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains area is famed for its winter skiing, the steep drop of the north facing escarpment being perfect for collecting, and keeping, the snow. Of course, in July, all the slopes, carved out from the vast woodlands, are vivid green but still look striking as they drop down to the lake. We did a very short circuit in Thornbury, mostly because it looked like just a bigger version of Meaford, then decided to head inland, following the course of the Beaver River.
Most roads in Ontario are drawn with a ruler; straight and visible for miles. But following a river, the road twisted and turned and that made a pleasant change. As we motored, the broad valley narrowed, and cliffs were visible in amongst the trees on either side of the road. We were climbing, too, and eventually ended up on top of the plateau again, at a place called Eugenia, home of the Eugenia Falls. The little river there tumbles off a limestone ledge and drops thirty metres to the floor below. It’s not a big waterfall because the river has been dammed further up and the water supply is limited, but it was a very picturesque place to be. Slightly worrying was all the people walking to the very edge of the falls to look over, despite all the signs saying, “Don’t Do That!”. I waited with camera ready to see if anyone did topple over and was mildly disappointed when no one did.
Then it was a long run back up Highway 10 to Owen Sound, with only a brief stop at the Liquor Store for cider and beer, and an irritating detour, down gravel roads, as there had been some sort of crash on the main road. I mention the detour because, it being a Sunday afternoon, the southbound traffic was really quite busy (that’s comparative; this ain’t Toronto), and the sight of hundreds of cars barrelling towards us at 80Km/h down a narrow, dusty road wasn’t really much fun.
Anyway, back at base on what had been a very hot day, we sat in the darkened trailer and put the world to rights. We resisted the temptation to fire up the A/C and endured the slowly cooling evening with the windows open and the extractor fans on.
As ever, we have no fixed plans for the morrow, other than a lazy start to the day.
After our false start in May when Rondeau park was flooded, we were finally going to be headed out with Towed Haul for a week of glamping.
As often happens after such a long lay off, we were both off the pace when it came to trip preparation, or at least the perceived lack of trip preparation. In truth, of course, there’s not actually too much to do once you have the trailer loaded after its winter hibernation; just clothes and food, really. Oh, and of course, electronics. Who can go anywhere without phones, laptops, i-Pads and the like these days?
One huge delay on the first day was the World Cup. Football, or Soccer as my North American chums call it, has taken on a new dimension recently with England’s continued (and highly unusual) and progress in the competition. Nothing was moving until we’d all sat down to watch the quarter-final match between England and Sweden, not even Towed Haul. Well, you’ll know that England won and progressed to the semi-finals, and two cynical, but very surprised, campers were able to hitch the old girl up and head north with light hearts and thoughts of where we could catch the next game when in Owen Sound.
Bright and sunny weather, thankfully a fair few degrees cooler than the preceding week, saw us depart Chatham and make our way up to the southern shores of Lake Huron. Near deserted roads took us through Thamesville, Bothwell, Alvinston and Watford, which all slid by effortlessly with both car and trailer behaving nicely. It always takes a while to regain confidence when towing a few tons of wood and aluminium behind you, and I said to Mrs T that I wasn’t enjoying that first hour or two. Grand Bend, that Californian beach resort lost in rural Ontario, didn’t breeze by quite so easily because it being a sunny Saturday in July, it was packed. We crawled through the little town in an uncharacteristic traffic jam, knowing that once through we’d be back to the open road.
In Grand Bend, we’d seen a load of low-slung and brightly coloured sports cars heading south and discovered, at Bayfield, the annual “Vette Fest”; the cars were Corvettes. Not that I’d have known as my knowledge of such things is woeful. In Bayfield, we were able to screech to a halt at place where we could not only park with the trailer, but get a bag of chips (Fries, French Fries) for lunch. Neither of us had thought about lunch, and there it was, not so much on a plate as in a cardboard box, but lunch all the same. Reinvigorated, we set off on the second half of the trip.
The road hugs that eastern shore of Lake Huron and the lake itself was looking stunningly blue, which I suppose is why the road we were on is called the Bluewater Highway. We travelled up through Goderich and Kincardine, ignoring the lady in the SatNav and enjoying the fairly quiet road. When we arrived in Port Elgin, I decided to start listening to the SatNav and took a right off the main road to cut across country to Owen Sound. That was all well and good, except that two minutes after the turn we found that there was a bridge out and the road was closed. As we found a couple of weeks ago on a trip up to London, the folks who dig the roads up around here give you no advanced warning at all; the first you know of the road being closed is the barrier across the road. Unlike our trip to London, though, this time there was no diversion route marked, either. Our SatNav is an antique so doesn’t show road closures, or any suitable alternative route, so we could do nothing but head back to the Bluewater Highway and keep going north.
So, once through Port Elgin we went on to Southampton, where the road veered eastwards and across the bottom of the Bruce Peninsular, to Owen Sound. It was a slightly longer way to get there than planned but at least all the roads were open, and it vindicated my decision to override the SatNav Nazi, for most of the time, anyway.
There are some interesting hills in Owen Sound, but none that bothered the Toad Mobile as she pulled Towed Haul up the slopes with hardly any extra effort. Mrs. T navigated us through some of the back roads to get to the campground and, so effective was her navigation that we ended up in front of a Fifth Wheeler that had overtaken us in the town. Nice work Mrs. T.
Having been checked in at the KOA by a nice lady from Derbyshire, we had to do a little detour around the camp ground as we were parked facing the wrong way outside the office, and there were two other sets of campers pulled right in behind us, one of them being the aforementioned Fifth Wheeler. Not a problem, really, but we had to make a sharp left straight onto a very steep hill and had no run up at it. Our front wheel drive car struggled to get any grip on the gravel road and the traction control kept kicking in, killing the power to the drive wheels just at the vital moment. We made it up, slowly, but if I had to do it again I’d probably turn the traction control off before I started the ascent!
Still, we’d made it, and we backed into our site and unhitched in no time. This is a KOA campground and the sites are quite tightly packed, unlike Provincial Parks where you generally get oodles of room. That said, we have some trees behind us and there’s no one next to us yet, so it doesn’t feel crowded at all. We do have water and sewer connections here, as well as power, which will enable us to use our own facilities for the week; a treat indeed.
Despite the fine day, the evening temperatures dropped right off, and it started to feel decidedly chilly. We feasted on Mrs. T’s fine vegan gumbo, had some beer and fell into bed – which was a pretty good way to end the day.
For the technically minded, the trip was 308 Km (191 Miles) and took us 4 hours and 20 minutes, including stops; it was all on Provincial roads whose speed limits are generally 80 Km/h, or 50 mph. We made it on a single tank of gas and the Toad Mobile returned an average of 17.8 Litres/100 Km., or 13.2 miles per US Gallon, or 15.9 Miles to the Imperial gallon.
We have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow, but the weather looks set fine to do it. Whatever “it” is.
Mr Toad - Airstreamer
The Old Blog