We are lucky to be able to live this amazing lifestyle that we’ve chosen to live over the past half year. Yet, we must admit, the travelling part of the lifestyle can be a touch exhausting at times. Even though we split the driving time, it’s amazing how tired we both are by the time we arrive at our destination.
Our first week of travel from PEI to Ontario was a bit of a sprint and left us in need of a rest. Thankfully, Southern Ontario is the perfect place to rest for us. Both of our families live in Southern Ontario. This allowed us to plan a one week stop along our cross-country journey. I planned to stay with my family in Bradford, while Kate was going to take the trailer down to Long Point. For a week, we knew we were going to be a part. Usually, this can be quite tough but when you get to visit your friends and family for a week, the week flies.
Over the course of the week, we managed to have some fun while mixed in with seeing our friends and family.
Leaving from the Montreal area and heading towards Southern Ontario meant that we had a long day of driving ahead of us. Almost 700km separated us and our stop in Bradford. This meant we needed to travel efficiently and effectively.
Leaving Montreal required some quick planning. Most people that we’ve talked to had shared their distaste for travelling through Montreal. As an alternative, we discovered a way to bypass Montreal. Route A30 is a newer road in the area that completely bypasses any of the craziness involved with driving through Montreal. There was still some traffic along the way. This included some lunatic drivers, but it was a much easier ride than the alternative. The only downside to travelling A30 is that you have to pay a toll. For our truck and fifth wheel the charge was $7.40.
Not long after departing, we entered Ontario. Late in the morning, we stopped in Cardinal to meet my brother for lunch. He’s currently working in Prescott on a job. This meant that he wasn’t going to be home so we had to settle for a quick visit over eggs benedict. Getting to the truck stop was a small adventure. At first, we drove right by it. Usually, this means a quick turn-around. Not in Cardinal. You have to drive all the way through town and wind back around on some old country, gravel roads. Our nerves peaked going down the dirt roads as we worried about the possibility of a low bridge. Low bridges are our kryptonite with the fifth wheel behind us. It’s our hopes that we never approach a low bridge that we can’t pass through. I’m not quite sure how that scenario will play out but I’m hoping we never have to find out.
The night before we departed Montreal, my mother texted to say that there was rain expected during our travels. She wondered if we would be slowed down by the weather. We weren’t sure because we hadn’t yet travelled through rainy conditions. An hour after lunch, we hit our first patch of rain. It was a heavy rain that reduced our visibility a little bit. Even still, we managed to safely continue our drive. The key is to slow down a touch and leave plenty of distance between vehicles. Other than that it’s pretty straightforward.
Once we approached the Greater Toronto Area on the 401, we knew that we wanted to avoid any sort of crazy traffic or congestion. Just like with Montreal, you can bypass Toronto with the glorious 407. The 407 took us around all the busy sections of the city. This allowed us to relax before hitching up with the 400 north heading towards Bradford.
Although our week in Southern Ontario was supposed to be relaxing, for the most part, it didn’t end up that way. However, I’m not complaining. I was busy visiting all my family and friends that I rarely get to see these days and that was quite rewarding.
Wiarton is a special place to me. As a child, I spent a lot of time just outside of the small village visiting my grandparents. A lot of my favourite childhood memories happened in Wiarton with my grandparents, brother, and cousins. We had a lot of fun building forts, hanging out in our clubhouse, and going on tractor & Jeep rides, and so much more.
Returning to Wiarton these days doesn’t quite bring the adventure that it used to. Still, it’s always nice to take a trip up to visit my grandparents and the area that I frequented as a child.
As you may know, Wiarton is home to a famous albino groundhog – Wiarton Willie. Willie has been attempting to predict the end of winter/beginning of spring with his shadow since 1956. Willie remains in his home down on Colpoy’s Bay, where anyone can go and visit the shy forecaster. My parents and I stopped for a quick visit and to take some pictures. The park around Willie is quite nice and is a perfect spot to hang out on a hot summer day as you can go for a swim in the bay.
Although it was much too short, my time visiting my grandparents was nice. It’s always great to see them and catch up. We only stayed the one night, as the next day, my parents had some plans including…
My father has been retired for quite a few years now. Since he retired, he’s become addicted to golfing and going to the gym. From 7a til the early part of the afternoon, he is consumed with a combination of golf, lifting weights, and playing pickleball.
For years now, he’s been telling me that I have to come out and try pickleball. Pickleball is a court sport that is a combination of tennis and ping pong. It’s usually enjoyed by retirees, especially down in Florida. My dad loves it and kept insisting that I come give it a try. Finally, I caved.
I entered the gymnasium along with the remaining group of ballers. I figured I would be the youngest and I was. What I didn’t think was that my dad would be second youngest, which I think he was. There I was playing pickle ball with a large group of retirees.
At first, I figured I should take it a bit easy, but wow, these ballers took it seriously. They were quite good. I had to step up my game. Once I did that, it was over. Pickleball domination. I played 7 matches with various partners and only lost one. I also managed to beat my father, the resident pickle ball assassin, in every match we played against one another. I’m not sure if I should be proud of my accomplishment on the court or not? Regardless, pickle ball is quite fun and I recommend you give it a try sometime. It’s great, fun exercise.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time visiting Toronto. Most of the time it was to go to Blue Jays games, but over the years I got to know the city pretty well. Our friends, Eric & Rosie were spending some time in the city for a couple of days on their way back to the States. Based on my knowledge of the city, I figured I would show them around. Then I got lazy and figured out a better way of showing them around. Hire someone else to do it.
There’s this great tour company in Toronto that offers free 1.5-hour walking tours of different parts of the city. If you like the tour, you tip the guide whatever you feel like. For their visit, I booked Eric, Rosie & I on two separate tours – the Old Toronto tour along with a tour of the famous St. Lawrence Market.
The Old Toronto Tour was really interesting. We learned all about the Jarvis/Rideout family rivalry, the rise and fall of the Eaton’s department store, and the rebel that William Lyon MacKenzie was in his time. Our guide Jackie was informative and impressed me with her in-depth knowledge on various subjects.
Jackie was also the guide that walked us around the St. Lawrence Market. The St. Lawrence Market is an amazing building with rich history. For 1.5 hours, Jackie walked us around the building explaining the different foods offered in the market. Toronto is a culturally diverse city. This means that there are many different foods from the various cultures to enjoy along with Canadian classics.
Eric & Rosie sampled their first peameal bacon sandwich, which they enjoyed. We also got to sample some ice wine from the Niagara Region and mustard from Kozlik’s. Something interesting we learned was that Canada is the #1 producer of mustard seed. I had no idea.
After the tour was over and we thanked Jackie, the three of us re-entered the market. There was one more thing that I had to make sure Eric & Rosie sampled before they left Canada. Neither of them had ever tried a butter tart. I had no idea until a few years ago that butter tarts were unique to Canada. They’re so amazing. How have they not been introduced into other countries? We found a bakery which served both traditional butter tarts and my favourite, the pecan butter tart. While they enjoyed their butter tart, Eric and Rosie didn’t think it was anything special. I suppose maybe it’s just one of those things that if you’re raised on them, you appreciate them a little more.
Although we just had enjoyed some food at the market, it was now time for me to play the role of tour guide. One area of the city that I had never been to before was the Distillery District. This area of Toronto used to be home to the Gooderham and Worts Distillery from 1832 to 1990. It’s comprised of over 40 buildings connected by 10 streets. It’s also the largest collection of Victorian-era architecture in North America.
After a short walk from the market, we were in the district, walking amongst the old cobblestone streets. No longer a manufacturing area, the district is now lined with shops and restaurants.
Also overtaking the district was the World Cup of Hockey Fan Village. All throughout the district was various hockey attractions. I insisted that Eric and Rosie get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup. Neither of them are fans of hockey, but when you have a chance to get up close and have a picture with Lord Stanley’s mug, you take it.
We wandered through the streets for a bit before settling at the Mill Street Brewery & Restaurant. Eric & Rosie are big fans of sampling various craft beers during their travels so this stop was a must. Mill Street also happened to be tapping a cask of beer for sampling. This made it a certainty that we had to stop for a pint and food.
As the sun began to set, I insisted that we start making our way to our final stop of the day – the CN Tower. Even though I grew up in the area, I had only been up the tower once which was in high school. That day it happened to be foggy, so once we got to the top of the tower all we could see was fog. This visit was about redemption for me, while Eric & Rosie were looking forward to seeing the cities lights from 1800 feet above Toronto.
58 seconds. That’s how long it takes for the elevator to take you from the ground of Toronto all the way to the observatory floor of the CN Tower. We opted not to take on the Sky Pod offer that costs an extra 12 bucks. I figured we’d see exactly the same views, so it wasn’t too worth it. We enjoyed walking around the observatory floor, looking out onto the city from different vantage points.
We then came across the famous glass floor. The glass floor is a small section of flooring that allows you to look completely down from where you stand. It isn’t for the faint of heart. Although it’s a bit scary to take your first steps onto the glass floor, the floor can actually hold over 48,000 pounds or the equivalent of 3 killer whales. Even knowing that, Rosie needed a bit of coaxing to make the walk across the floor. Finally, she persisted and didn’t fall through – bonus!
St. Jacobs Farmers Market
If you’re in Southwestern Ontario a spot that you must stop at is the St. Jacob’s Farmers Market. It’s a massive tourist destination near Waterloo in the town of St. Jacobs. The town of St. Jacobs has a long line of Mennonite heritage in the area. As a result, the market is often filled with Mennonite’s selling their various goods from produce to maple syrup to furniture.
I visited the market with my parents on a beautiful Saturday morning. As you would expect, the market was packed. What caught my eye as we approached the market was what appeared to be a sea of straw hats gathered in a long, large circle. After parking the car and walking through the entrance to the market, it became clear what I was seeing. A loud, quick voice was auctioning off horses to hundreds of Mennonites gathered around a field where the horses were shown off. It was quite a site to see before enjoying the rest of the market.
The market itself is huge. There are multiple buildings to walk through along multiple long rows of vendors outside peddling goods. You can get pretty much anything you can imagine at the market. Of course there is lots of produce and meats, but there are even specialty vendors. For instance, my dad bought a pack of diabetic socks from one vendor.
The highlight for many when visiting the St. Jacobs Farmers Market is the food building. Inside, there at least a dozen different vendors selling all sorts of freshly cooked foods. My mom and I grabbed some peameal bacon sandwiches. While I was ordering those, I noticed a long line at another vendor. A quick peek over and I knew why. Everyone was lined up for freshly made apple fritters.
As I ate my peameal bacon sandwich, I stood in line to nab a couple of these delicious looking treats. Everyone that walked by me with theirs only grew my desire for one. Then I saw someone walk by with a bowl of two fritters covered in ice cream. I couldn’t wait much longer. Finally, it was my time to order. I placed my order for fritters with ice cream drizzled with maple syrup. I then watched as the fresh fritters came out of the fryer, were topped with a couple of scoops of ice cream and drizzled with delicious Canadian maple syrup. Although it likely gave me instant diabetes, it was so good.
Driving By Myself
I like to think that for the most part, I’m not afraid to do many things. When Adam and I planned this trip, we decided to stop in Southern/Southwestern Ontario to see our families. We knew that one of us would likely have to drive solo with the fifth wheel. Not a big deal – unless you are in Toronto.
Toronto’s traffic, even on a Sunday, is nothing short of ridiculous. There is a lot of public transit there, but as all big cities experience, people still love to drive their cars. I knew I would be able to handle driving there. I would just go slow. However, as per usual, I had to throw some obstacles in.
My niece Kelsey has just graduated from Humber College and is still living in Toronto. Before arriving in Southern Ontario, we agreed to meet in the city. She would then come with me, the pets, and the fifth wheel to Long Point. Because Kelsey lives on the opposite side of Toronto, we decided to meet close to somewhere I’d be driving. In the end we opted for the Costco parking lot in Vaughn. Adam said it would be an easy and straightforward drive.
I got to the Costco with no issues. However, the Costco parking lot was not as big as other Costco parking lots I have been too. People in Toronto, I learned, line up a half hour before the store opens, so the parking lot was already busy. As I looked around for Kelsey, I finally saw her and gave her a big hug. I haven’t seen her in 2 years! We loaded her stuff in the truck before attempting to get out of the parking lot. I noticed immediately that cars holding eager shoppers started to park where I wanted to drive to get out. After saying a word that rhymes with duck about 6 times, we got out of the parking lot to and made our way to Long Point. The rest of the drive was fine. I missed Adam navigating but I did it. My dad would have been proud.
Marina Shores Is My Home
The first thing that brings back memories for me when I visit Norfolk County, Ontario is the smell of the marsh in Long Point. It’s an earthy, musty, yet fresh smell which I know that sounds odd. It evokes memories of visiting Long Point as a child to go to my Uncle Neil’s RV at Norm’s Marina. We would go out on his boat for a little trip around Long Point Bay.
Later, the marsh smell would be synonymous with parties down on the beach when I was a teenager, or going to the beach on a hot summer day. In another life I owned a boat and would come down every weekend to go perch fishing. My nieces and nephew would come out fishing and swimming. Everything about Long Point brings back good memories.
Photo by Kelsey Winn
When Adam and I first started plotting out our trip I knew that I would be spending a week in Norfolk County but I wasn’t sure where exactly. In the end, I asked my friend Angie if I could park our RV at Marina Shores. This was a rarity for them because they don’t’ have overnight stays for RV’s. The park has about 300 RV’s and 600 boat docks. I am lucky to have Angie as a friend who said yes and allowed me to stay at this exclusive RV park.
Angie and I spent some time together talking about the park. She said the turnover is rare, with only 2 or 3 new faces each year. Once people get an RV spot here they don’t want to leave. The reason is Long Point Bay is so beautiful. Plus, the Spietals family take care of their customers. There is a healthy mix of fun, peacefulness, and a neighbourly feel in the park. It’s rare not to know your neighbours.
Just outside of my window I would see blue herons, swans, and fish jumping. I also woke every morning to that familiar and comforting marsh smell. To say I am spoiled by the Speitals family is an understatement. I’ve known Bob Spietals since I was about 5 years old, as he was a friend of my fathers. To stay at Marina Shores was a privilege, a lot of fun, and I felt like I was with family. If you are interested in renting a boat dock, or if you are considering buying a boat, just go here for details.
If you are wondering what is so special about Long Point but have never visited, I’ll give you the Coles notes rundown.
Long Point is a sand spit about 40 kilometres long. Lake Erie is on one side while Long Point Bay is on the other. In 1986, the Long Point Biosphere Reserve was designated as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and is an important area for birds. Whether it’s waterfowl or songbirds, Long Point is a bird lover’s paradise. The area is a magnet for migrating birds. Half of the eastern North American tundra swan population visits Long Point in the spring. That’s roughly 30,000 swans. Long Point also has beautiful white/brown sand beaches and a lot of cottagers. The bay is filled with perch, pike, and large and small mouth bass. It’s a sports fisherman’s dream.
Photo by Kelsey Winn
RV’s On the Beach
I stayed for a week in Long Point and each morning I walked Bella down Hastings drive which is right along Lake Erie. This is a road that is not maintained but has cottages all down the road. There is also a little beach that the locals use. A lot of the cottages that used to be along Hastings were destroyed in a storm in 80’s. The people fought back by placing boulders and cement blocks along the shore. They did this to keep Lake Erie’s winter storms from wreaking havoc on their cottages. Some of the lots that used to have cottages, now have RV’s located on small parcels of land that are next to the water. I loved seeing this and it’s smart on the landowner’s part, too. Instead of worrying about their cottages succumbing to the harsh winter they can have the RV out before winter.
One of the best places for a visit to Long Point with your RV is to book a site at the Long Point Provincial Park. They have all the services you need which gives you a chance to check out this ecologically diverse area of Ontario. There is even a section of the park that is “radio free” which means there is no music allowed. That way you can listen to nature rather than Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” on loop.
A Day of Kayaking and Ice Cream
Not only was I fortunate enough to stay down in Long Point, I also had a chance to go kayaking and eat ice cream.
My sister Laura, my niece Kelsey and my nephew Jerred, and I headed out on a windy day to paddle around the Big Creek National Wildlife Area. We got in the kayaks and off we paddled. The wind was with us so that was nice for the paddle out. It’s a strange feeling being in the marsh, as there are no markers to guide us. We wondered if we would get lost. We didn’t thankfully.
It was beautiful to be in an area that was mostly untouched by man. We saw blue herons, a kingfisher, Canadian geese, a hawk, and we saw lots of fish jumping. If you ever have a chance to check it out, contact “Cronmiller’s At the Bridge” atthebridge.ca
Photo by Laura McCallum
After 3 hours of kayaking, I was hungry and I wasn’t going to be eating dinner until 7. Bella and I got in the truck to make our way towards Port Rowan. We ended up stopping at Twins Ice Cream Parlour which serves Hewitt’s Ice Cream. It is a high-quality ice cream and is comparable to Cows. The best part – THEY HAD TIGER! If you love black licorice, you must try Tiger ice cream. I hadn’t had it in 8 years, as no one in the Maritimes has Tiger that is orange with a black licorice swirl. My other scoop I had at Twins was Pralines and Cream. It was served in a waffle cone and the entire experience was a tasty delight.
Twins is an old fashioned ice cream parlour which makes you feel like you have stepped back into the 50’s. They have been voted the best ice cream parlour by the readers of Lake Erie Living Magazine several years in a row.
Bye Bye Norfolk
On my last day in Norfolk County, I asked my family if we could all meet up at the Barrel Restaurant. The Barrel has the best Greek Salad and chicken wings I have ever had. Some of my family wondered if I wanted to eat at any of the new places around Norfolk, but I didn’t want to. One of the reasons I came home was for the Barrel. What I love about the Barrel, is that they may make small changes to their menu, but the popular items like chicken wings, salads, and pasta are always the same and are by far the best I have had in Canada. Yes, I wrote Canada. I love this restaurant. I have never had an experience at the Barrel that would cause me to write anything negative. If you are ever in Simcoe, Ontario eat at the Barrel then you’ll see where my excitement comes from.
When it was time to say goodbye to everyone, I was a little sad. It’s funny when you get to be in your 40’s you realize that Mom isn’t going to be around for forever and neither are your siblings. No one should be leaving this world anytime soon, but you just never know. I gave them all a super strong hug and while 10% of me always thinks maybe I should stay, the other 90% says “go see Canada and the rest of the world.” So I left, knowing my family and friends support me 100%.
Departure Time/Location: 8a Camping Alouette, Saint-Mathieu-du-Beloeil, QC
Arrival Time/Location: 5p Bradford, ON
Total Distance: 610km
Next Stop: Long Point, Ontario
Departure Time/Location: 9a Bradford, ON
Arrival Time/Location: 2p Long Point, ON
Total Distance: 245km
Next Stop: Sturgeon Falls, Ontario