Sunday, July 26, 2009

From Montreal looking back

Muskoka 5th July
Parry Sound is actually on Georgian Bay, round the corner from Lake Huron. We have moved on from there after meeting up with our Canadian friends Gary and Judy who we met in North Carolina last October.
Gary and Judy arrived to spend a little time with us at Parry Sound, home of the world’s largest fresh water Archipelago. There are thirty thousand Islands here and a boat trip convinced me that if you’ve seen one etc… We were told that an island has to be one acre in size to be called an island, anything smaller than that doesn’t count.
A boat is a definite must here, some folks even have floatplanes at the bottom of the garden whereas I only have fairies!
Gary and Judy escorted us to our new campground, about sixty miles from Parry Sound and close (by Canadian standards) to where they live. An invite to dinner was immediately offered (and accepted), and so we leapt back into the truck and headed for the boondocks.
Our friends live a ways off the “pavement” (tarmac) on the very edge of the water and we were treated to a very pleasant ride on the lake in the power boat. It was interesting that full throttle could be used on the 50 horse motor without my lunch being spilled over the side. The two Labrador dogs like to sit in the prow but not when we are going flat out!
I am pleased to see that these guys over here and in America have got all the toys that a man needs, it annoys me greatly that it is not so in the U.K.
Just to illustrate how out in the wilds these guys live, Gary and Judy had seen a bear in their yard only a few days earlier.
There was an evening concert in the park which we attended, the country music star was playing and singing at a speed of dead slow, we all nearly fell asleep.
We have been trying to play golf again as we do on rare occasions. The 9-hole par three course on the campground had so many trees, bunkers and water hazards, that we almost lost a ball per hole! This is not a course for novices.
We stayed at Gary and Judy’s house for a few days. I was amazed at the wildlife in the garden; there were red squirrels, grey squirrels and would you believe, black squirrels! We also had chipmunks and Mallards, and lots of beautiful birds.
The day dawned that I had to paddle a kayak but it was no problem. Gary had told us previously that he and Judy have a collection of kayaks and when the moment arrived I was given a kayak built for two with a large beam. My wife who has the large beam got the racing kayak. This was all lots of fun and a memorable event. Then Judy suggested a swim, she said swimming off the dock was OK, but I was deliberately slow at getting my clothes off (fortunately), and Freda was first in the water. As the video was capturing the moment, she didn’t like to hesitate about it!
Not for the first time this side of the “pond” we attended a vintage boat show. These boats are all about varnished wood and beautiful styling, a combination that is hard to put together and anyone who has had a boat will tell you that keeping things that way requires lots of hard work.
If you own a boat in Canada, you need a boat house. The kind of place that will protect your boat in a serious snow storm and also fitted with a hoist so you can lift the boat out of the water, you don’t want it crushed by the Ice!
A local Old Tyme Steam fair was nothing compared to what we have seen at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in England but there was some strange and interesting stuff to be seen.
A memorable stay with Gary and Judy in the Muskoka region,
We moved 125 miles (perhaps I should really be working in kilometers like the Canadians do) in a south east direction to spend time with horse farming friends, Debbie and John. They found us a convenient spot outside the hay barn, not too far to stagger at the end of an evening!
We saw some of the local countryside and because Canada has a lot of water (don’t ask about the mosquitoes!) it has lots of canals and locks.
The local town had another spectacular lock with a 48 foot rise and fall. This is actually a two stage staircase on a very pretty part of the outskirts.
By pure chance, there was a boat due and I was talking to the boat owner, before he dropped out of sight and into the depths of the lock,
It transpired that a buddy of his who previously owned a nightclub on the Island of Jersey, (Channel Islands) was actually one of the nuttier customers that I had had at my garage! His pal had arrived fresh off the channel island ferry at my garage by taxi. “I want a car, that one, I want it now” he said producing a briefcase stuffed with readies.
Three days later I’d had a phone call from a Rolls Royce dealer in London, the guy had done a similar stunt there and the Dealer was wondering if he had stolen the car that the man wanted to trade in and the briefcase full of money! I explained that the man was a former nightclub owner from Jersey and seemed ok to me, my bank manager liked the money, what more could I ask!
I spent a little time helping John and Debbie with the haymaking and it reminded me what a bad habit work is. We enjoyed our stay on the farm but were constantly reminded that horses equal flies!
Another 130 miles east to call on yet more friends, this time folks who have connections to my Swiss domiciled cousin Sylvia and her husband Peter. We have again been made extremely welcome by Rosmarie and Peter; this time we are in Mallorytown but I do wonder if the Brits would think it large enough to give it the title of town!
Rosmarie and Peter also have a black Labrador and the usual collection of wildlife in the garden but it was a treat to see a Hummingbird at the specially designed feeder that some folks have.
The campground is nice with a heated outdoor pool and wifi but it could not be called high speed internet and phone calls over the net are a bit fraught.
We often find poor mobile (cell phone) signals on campgrounds and just use the “Skype” anyway, but eventually the penny dropped that we do not have “roaming” on our USA cell phone, that’s why the bloody thing won’t work! We won’t worry about it now as we will be back in the USA in a couple of weeks and there was a time that I thought this might be our only trip to Canada but now I’m not so sure. We like it here.
One item of wildlife so far unmentioned is the skunk. We have seen a number of these and they are a little larger than I expected. We have also found out what the smell is like. They only create a stink when they are frightened but I suppose they are entitled to be frightened when a truck is bearing down on them faster than they can run. So far the only ones that stink are lying in the road, I have driven past the same dead skunk for several days and the smell has shown no sign of decreasing yet.
We have been having a fresh study of fuel consumption and the onboard computer tells us that when not dragging our home behind us we are doing 18.5 Miles per US gallon (24.2 miles per imp gallon), not bad when I remember the old Ford Zodiac Mk III doing 14 per gallon.
When our house is tacked onto the rear we manage only 11 mpg (US) or 13 miles per Imperial gallon, mustn’t grumble even if Canadian diesel cost a ridiculous £1.79 per US gallon or £2.14 per English gallon. It is important to remember that the whole kit and caboodle weighs twelve tons.
For all you pretend Spaniards, I did not bother to work it out as Ltrs per 100 Km, It’s been a long day and today we have moved to Ottawa, a leisurely trundle in the sunshine.
Well, we have “done” Ottawa and enjoyed it even if the weather did spoil things at the end of the day. We knew it would all go pear-shaped so we had planned to do outside things in the morning and indoor stuff later. Indoor stuff was inside the Canadian Parliament building and very interesting (and very English) it was too!
Outside, this was a very busy city with very French looking buildings and the chatter of French voices on the street, lots of water and rivers and even more canals. There is a staircase of eight locks alongside the Parliament building and maintained very well as a tourist attraction. The Brits could learn from this as we have a “staircase” of very grand proportions at Devizes, Wiltshire maintained very badly. What should be a tourist attraction to be proud of is barely scratching by, with no help from the government.
Ontario normally has superb weather at this time of year, not so this year. The weather Gods have deserted them and perhaps global warming is having more effect than anticipated. The weather is rubbish, big time thunderstorm today and lots of cloud, some days with temps in the low twenties. Low temps can be a good thing, we know how wearing a steady 32 centigrade can be but a normal amount of sunshine would be nice.
Canada is nice but just not as “sharp” as the USA. Campsite internet can be very poor to non existent, service in shops etc is just lacking that extra fizz that we have become used to; cars are generally smaller than the USA and roads a little narrower. It’s all in the economics with a smaller population to pay for a greater area so some things will never match the USA but the people have all been very nice!
To view the photos, click on the link below.

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