My sister had wanted to go to Tobermory and Flower Pot Island for several summers now. She wanted to see the sights and enjoy a great close to a busy summer. After a few abortive attempts, that involved people driving cars, my mother by chance found a tour company that was going there. So, we signed up and left this morning.
We are pros at this thing. We asked around for advice and experiences. We booked during an unpopular week of tourists. We checked the weather for perfection. We packed accordingly. We forced ourselves to wake up early for the bus. We learned to sleep on the road during long stretches. And we avoided all the basic choke-points at the freeway rest stops: long lines for the ladies restroom, A&W, understaffed food places, and not keeping track of departure time…
The First Activity
Our first major stop were the Scenic Caves of Collingwood, of which I did not know existed. Basically, it was a nature trail with natural and indigenous caves, zip lines (Canada’s longest twin lines), big fish, a Southern Ontario’s longest suspension footbridge, poison ivy, wagon rides, and great views of Georgian Bay.
Some times of note. Two structures caught my eye on Georgian Bay: the Nottawasaga Lighthouse and Collingwood Grain Terminals, that I thought was a derelict castle. The bridge was fun and its height above sea level, we were shown via a display, was greater than the height of the Eiffel Tower. The best thing about walking through the caves and gangways reminded me of several Star Trek: TNG episode, but in particular “Second Chances,” the episode where the crew finds another William Riker. With every step an adventure, every moment precarious, how could I not reply to my sister’s words with lines from that classic episode. That or several scenes culled from films where soldiers in the jungle get stuck in mud before they’re ambushed. We had a great time.
The First Meal – Crystal Buffet
A typical Asian-style buffet. Interesting things: real or imitation lobster bisque soup and real or imitation scallop medallions. However, everything had a strange taste. Maybe it was the altitude, maybe my taste buds were deranged, but the food tasted different and my sister concurred. Except for the Swanson’s flavoured gravy and fried chicken balls.
The Interesting Things I Noticed About This Part of Canada
- The only surviving The Bargain Shop in the world?
- Tons of Home Hardware
- Cineplex Galaxy Cinemas
- New Orleans Pizza… never knew the Big Easy was known for it
- UPI gas stations
- Drive in theatres, at least one dilapidated
- Giant Tiger
- Mary Brown
- Town mascots, e.g. Wiarton’s Willie and Meaford’s scarecrows—there was even an eerie elderly lady surrounded by scarecrows waving at our tour bus as it drove by her desk in the central park.
- A statue of two ordinary and modern guys at a town’s welcome sign. At least, I thought they were statues, they could’ve been installing something but I’m pretty sure they could also have been eating pizza and smoking weed.
- Historical buildings being used for their original purpose, e.g. Wiarton’s post office building being used as a post office, Wiarton’s Royal Bank of Canada building being used as a RBC branch.
The Second Activity – Bruce Peninsula National Park
At near land’s end, we came to Bruce National Park. The federal visitor centre was meh and so we quickly left it for a chance to see and touch Georgian Bay. As a Toronto native, the first thing that struck me was that the water didn’t smell. Lake Ontario stinks, sometimes, with profound pungency. However, the air of Georgian Bay was fresh and its waters clear and clean.
Yes, despite what some of my friends have told me and a government film, “Life on the Edge,” Georgian Bay wasn’t that cold and it was definitely swimmable. The tour guide asked me to watch it and not to go further, but by rock hopping I made it to a big, steady rock that from the shore looked like it sat at the centre of the mouth of Little Dunks Bay. My family snapped some photos and soon I was joined by the rest of the tour group, including our guide!
Tour bus schedules often work against our natural processes of exploration in that there are only a certain number of hours available for one site or another. After conquering Georgian Bay, a 65-foot lookout tower, a Parks Canada film, the first mile marker of the Bruce Trail, and the giant metal bearing that once anchored a bay buoy, we quickly made it towards the bus when behind a thicket sat a huge red and white buoy. Sadly, there was no time for me to examine it.
The Second Meal – Fusion Sushi in Owen Sound
You know what’s the difference between Owen Sound and Parry Sound? The latter was home to Bruins great Bobby Orr and Owen Sound is home to two tattooed girls who flirted with me and an overly large gentleman who chased after a cow cat in the parking lot behind our restaurant.
Day turned to afternoon and afternoon turned to night. After a long drive through a starless rural night our bus deposited us at a homely motel, a contingency given some unusual circumstances, that was run by an energetic Korean couple in Port Elgin.
We made our hotel scan, drew up a list of replacement items, got them, and settled in for the night.
Well, except for myself. I was way behind with reading Frank Herbert’s Dune for Comic Book Girl 19’s online book club and I made some headway before I decided to write this travel entry. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get into it when every other page is crafted with a simple statement that reveals an ultimate truth:
“The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.”
–Frank Herbert, Dune: Ace 25th Special Ed., pg. 262
Have truer words been spoken?