November 30th, 2017
By LANA CARBON & JOHN LILIES
[Lana] We don't normally plan things down to a "T"; we get a general idea and go with it, that way if we have to improvise a bit we can roll with it. On this particular weekend, we decided to visit John's cousin in Creemore, Ontario, where she has a stand at the local farmer's market. So, we woke up extraordinarily early (for me anyways) and set out to cover the 100 kilometres to get to the market.
[John] I wake up fairly early on a daily basis and this likely makes our adventure days fairly rough for Lana, as I tend to wake up even earlier so that I can get Lana up and moving around (much to his chagrin) so we can hit the road early and have a whole day to play with. On this day, I really wanted to leave early so we could surprise my cousin at the market shortly after they opened.
[Lana] *Side Note* We wanted to make today a true adventure and go as far as we could and for as much as possible without using the map function on our phones (besides the fact that we were very near our data limit and really didn't want to have to pay for more usage to get us through the day). Of course, as a result we missed our turn into Creemore... twice. At least we didn't go far before we noticed and turned back. Only a minor hiccup, right...? Let me ask you, when you get the hiccups, have you ever only had just one?
[John] Well, that sounds a little dramatic, don’t you think? It’s like you’re trying to set up some foreshadowing or something, eh?
[Lana] We arrived at the park where they hold the Creemore Farmer's Market, slowly walked the whole length of vendors and to our amusement, John's cousin wasn't there. (We would later come to learn that she had decided to take that weekend off. I guess that is what we get for trying to surprise her.) We decided not to stay, as we weren't really in the market (yes I went there) for anything else. We thought we would get a coffee and decide what to do next as we were already out for the day.
While we were looking for a place to stop, John saw a sign for a cemetery and we thought we would pay a visit. We pulled in just far enough that backing out would have been awkward but we couldn't go forward as two vehicles were parked in front of us in the single car lane way. We weren't sure what to do and we considered pulling over to the side and getting out for a look around as though it was always our intention, but it was just then that the ladies who were maintaining the grounds noticed us and pulled their vehicles ahead so we could, gratefully, pass through. That moment had us feeling so uncomfortable that we didn't end up even taking a single photo, even though it was a beautiful cemetery, and instead we rushed out.
[John] I’m still not entirely sure why we were so intensely uncomfortable with that moment. Usually, if we see a service in progress we won’t even consider exploring the grounds, or if we see people visiting their loved ones’ sites we are quiet and careful with our movements. In this moment however, I don’t know why we became so unsettled. Regardless, I was conflicted because I wanted to stay and look around but I really wanted to get out and continue moving on.
[Lana] We left Creemore and headed north... still without our coffee. We ended up returning to Stayner, the town we had originally reached when we realized we had missed the first Creemore turn-off. We sat at a traffic light and I joked about how funny it would be if we were to drive by and miss a coffee shop since we were now both anxiously looking for our first coffees of the day. The words had no more than escaped my lips when I realized that the foliage directly to our right was hiding the drive-thru sign for the local Tim Horton's. We did a quick glance behind us and made a very sharp right turn, and literally danced our way into the very busy coffee shop. Seeing the Timmy's in time must have meant a change of luck, right?
We went ahead and ordered breakfast. I am not a hash brown fan so I ordered a doughnut with my breakfast sandwich and coffee. John on the other hand, ordered the regular breakfast... they missed giving her the hash brown (not that it mattered since they had already run out but at least we weren't charged for it) and apparently they had also run out of eggs (they did kindly double her bacon). While we understand these things sometimes happen and weren't upset by it (actually, we find it rather amusing most of the time when we bump up against these types of situations), it just set the trend for how this day was seemingly going to be.
When we left Timmy's, we toyed with the idea of making a run to Burk's Falls but thought it might be pushing it distance-wise, even for us... little did we know what was to come.
[John] I had asked Lana what direction he wanted to take and he had suggested Burk’s Falls (185 kilometres north-east of Stayner), which was the location that was stirring in the back of my mind, but realizing we were already half-way through our day, I wondered if it was really a smart idea to head up to moose country knowing we would be driving back in dusk and the dark of night. So, I had said that maybe we shouldn’t aim for such a far destination point and instead stick a little bit closer to home (knowing we were already more than 100 kilometres from home).
[Lana] So, we decided to instead carry on to Collingwood (only 15 kilometres west of where we were) and make up our minds on how to proceed once there. We found our way to a great lookout spot that jutted out into Georgian Bay. We were actually quite lucky to find it as it was somewhat hidden behind a large industrial building. A lot of people would miss this place entirely if they weren't looking for it. We were just lucky that we were going to make a quick turn-around in that area and that was how we found it. Such a beautifully landscaped place with an amazing view would have been a terrible shame to miss.
[John] This really was a gorgeous spot and as we parked the car and got out to walk around, I felt my shoulders immediately relax and I was able to take in a nice deep breath. There was a great calming energy here and I am so happy that we happened upon it. It was relatively busy for a tiny and hidden area, but we enjoyed watching the boats and jet skis coming and going – we weren’t far across from the marina. We didn’t stay for too long but it was long enough to take some more of those deep breaths, enjoy the view, and walk around for a little while.
[Lana] When we left, we followed the Georgian Bay Trail and eventually made the decision to head to Owen Sound (65 kilometres further west). The first town we came to along the trail was Meaford. The last time we were here was during the Scarecrow Festival and it looked so completely different without the decorations. The only recognizable thing from that day was Schubird, the lone scarecrow statue in the middle of town. Even the restaurant we’d had lunch at that day looked as though it had changed ownership. We didn't stop but merely noticed these differences as we drove through town.
Shortly after leaving Meaford, we had a close call with a rather large bird. I believe we may have mentioned this before but John is somewhat of a bird magnet; it’s like a lesser version of something out of a Hitchcock movie. Everywhere she goes, John always seems to have some kind of close encounter with birds dive-bombing and/or narrowly missing her or her car; this day was no exception. I don't know if any of you have seen a turkey vulture (also known as a carrion crow) up close but they are rather large birds and they look even bigger when they are swooping mere feet from your windshield as you are traveling at 85 km/hr. I am not ashamed to admit that we both screamed out at that close call. Our hearts were still racing by the time we reached Owen Sound.
[John] Yeah… that wasn’t really fun. There was a turkey vulture on the opposite side of the road, munching on some road kill and I suppose this flying one was heading to the same spot but lowered itself earlier than I would have expected, considering the moving vehicles on the road. I might have cried a little bit to be honest. I don’t like my bird-car encounters at all.
[Lana] Arriving in Owen Sound, we thought this would be a good spot to grab some lunch. Being the adventurous types who enjoy finding local dining spots whenever we can, we drove around looking for something unique. Every time we thought we had found something promising, it turned out to be closed for the day, or worse, permanently shut down. We drove around so much that we ended up losing our bearings and getting lost (we had been trying to go without accessing the maps on our phones, don't forget) so, we doubled back and settled for a Harvey's restaurant that we had spotted on the way in. We gave in at this point and used the Wi-Fi there just long enough to point us out of Owen Sound, and then shut off the maps once more. We decided to head another 105 kilometres north to Tobermory, which is as far north as we could go on that side of Georgian Bay without hopping in a boat or on a ferry.
It wasn’t long before we reached the town of Wiarton and were in the presence of an Ontario icon – a character that has previously made an appearance in our blog – none other than Wiarton Willie. Well, it wasn't the groundhog himself but a statue of the cute weather-telling prognosticator (he isn't quite as famous as Punxsutawney Phil is in the U.S. but is still pretty darn famous here). I would have gone out of the car to take some better pictures but the rain that had started just a short time before, began to fall more heavily at this point.
We no more than got north of Wiarton and the rain stopped again, thankfully. It was then when we had a replay of an earlier event... well more like a re-enactment of sorts. Just like with the turkey vulture near miss of earlier, we had another close call but this time with a huge butterfly. I joked that the butterfly had to be the size of the turkey vulture. It definitely freaked me out nearly as much since it was closer to the windshield... and on my side at that.
[John] I didn’t feel as bad about crying over the turkey vulture incident after Lana yelled out when the butterfly appeared. It was big though… in that moment at least, it was gigantic. And, I got to make fun of Lana for a little while.
[Lana] (I'm sticking my tongue out at John as I write this.)
Finally, 332 kilometres after leaving home that morning, we arrived in Tobermory…
[John] If you’ve been keeping track, we had figured that Burk’s Falls was about 185 kilometres from Stayner and thought that might be too far for this day – we landed in Tobermory, about 185 kilometres from Stayner. The 332 kilometres from home includes all of our turn-arounds and mini-explorations along the way, even to catch some pictures of the Wiarton Willie statue.
[Lana] On the edge of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, Tobermory is the dock and loading area of the Chi Cheemaun, a massive ferry that transports up to 143 vehicles on its one-hour and 45-minute voyage to Manitoulin Island. It would have been nice to see the large ferry in action but unfortunately we missed it and chose not to wait the hour and a half for it to arrive. It was actually a good thing it wasn't there though, as we were tempted to take it had it been docked. Considering it was 5:30 p.m. at this point, we figured we should probably head for home instead.
[John] In total, we only spent about 20 minutes in Tobermory. We walked around a little bit and took in the beautiful view. I hadn’t been to Tobermory since 2010 when Ma Lilies and I took the Chi Cheemaun to Manitoulin Island on our way to Winnipeg that summer. As Lana had never been to Tobermory, I was really hoping that the ferry would have been there or arrived while we were walking around but as he said, it’s probably a good thing that we missed it because we likely would have just continued on our little road trip and we weren’t entirely prepared for an overnight misadventure. We will have to aim for another trip there, when we can actually spend some time and maybe even take the ferry up to the island (it is a beautiful ride, though I’m not so keen on the cramming of the cars into the ferry).
[Lana] As we left, I had this odd thought cross my mind, which I couldn't seem to shake. I saw this image of an eagle totem being drawn with calligraphy ink. I couldn't tell if I was the one drawing it or if it was someone else. We did see a totem pole along the way; was it the power of suggestion, perhaps? I don't know if it means anything but it was very vibrant and at the time, I felt that it was important enough that I had to write it down. It certainly led to some interesting discussions.
John and I started talking about time travel and the old gods. I asked whom John would be if she could be any one of the old gods she wished. There is a long-standing joke in the Carbon family that John brings the rain with her wherever she goes, so she naturally compared herself to Zeus. No sooner did the words leave her mouth than the heavens opened up and we were hit with a major storm... we are talking torrential rain, thunder, lightning, and blustering winds.
[John] The rain came down so hard that we could barely see the road ahead of us but there was nowhere to pull over. I wanted to pull into a parking lot but they were all dirt lots that were quickly becoming muddy ponds so we chose to stay on the road instead and just carefully make our way along. Lana kept questioning how I could have called out Zeus like that and to this day (because he still mentions it) I maintain that it was entirely his fault for asking me to identify which god I would be, were I to be a god. With the ribbing that Lana’s family gives me for always having rain/precipitation with me wherever I go, I thought my choice would have been obvious to him. Entirely. His. Fault. (He also knows that my knowledge of history and mythology is really poor – honestly, Zeus was about the only name I could remember in that moment. Entirely. His. Fault.)
[Lana] It isn't like I had been talking about how excited I was to see the upcoming Thor movie at all... you know... the god of thunder! Just saying.
Anyways, we managed to make it back to Owen Sound despite flooded roads, and since it was now time for supper we ran into Swiss Chalet (John’s note: This is a restaurant that is frequented by an older generation and has allowed us to ascertain that we are really old people who happen to look deceivingly young, because we really enjoy it there and it makes us feel cozy.) In case you were wondering, yes Owen Sound was just as confusing this time around but Swiss Chalet was in the same building as the Harvey's we’d been in earlier, so it wasn't quite as bad this time. We got absolutely soaked on our way from the car to the building and of course, no sooner were we seated than the rain stopped. When we were finished our meal, it still wasn't raining but there were then tornado warnings for the area being announced on the radio. I just looked at John and I’m sure she knew what I was thinking.
[John] Entirely your fault, dude. You asked the question and I gave you an answer… Zeus. Zeus. Zeus.
We consulted weather reports and radar images and determined which route would get us out of harm’s way the fastest, as we didn’t want to be on the road if a tornado passed through. We had actually debated spending the night in Owen Sound but figured it would be just our luck to spend the money on a room for the night and the weather would end up being completely calm. So, we gathered our belongings and hopped back in the car to make our way southeast.
[Lana] It rained intermittently all the way from Owen Sound to Orangeville.
[John] Not long after leaving Owen Sound we passed a little park where we noticed the dirt/sand rising up in the air in a spiral rotation. I may have increased our speed a little bit at that point, to get further south a smidgen faster. I was also grateful that the weather was calming down the further south we reached.
[Lana] When we arrived in Orangeville, we pulled into a Tim Horton's for a coffee pit stop. For some reason, we stopped at a location where we had to turn off the main road instead of the one that we knew was right on the main road.
[John] After purchasing our coffees, while walking back to the car we noticed the sky was bright with continuous lightning but the rain had stopped, thankfully.
[Lana] We had no more than pulled out of the parking lot and turned back onto the main road when the rain came down so hard we could hardly see anything. The wind blew so forcefully that the car was being pushed and the trees were bending so much that they were almost sideways. It was frightening. We slowed down to a crawl and carefully made our way to the next road that turned off the main road. It was a parking lot for the Tim Horton's we would have originally gone to. Luckily, we hadn’t gone there first because if we’d had, we would have had no place to turn off safely when the rain came down.
[John] I have driven in some nasty weather before but this was probably the scariest moment for me. I’ve been in a storm and watched a funnel cloud reach down from the sky, at which point I sped away in really heavy rain and hail just to avoid being near what ended up being tornado touching ground mere minutes away. I have navigated flooded roads while cars sank beside me into the seemingly impossible puddles on the roads. I have managed a dangerous stretch of our biggest highway in the middle of a snowstorm with nothing but the tire tracks ahead of me to lead my way, and the hope that at some point I’d be able to see further than five feet ahead. This storm in Orangeville though, on this night that I apparently upset dear Zeus himself, was by far the scariest moment for me.
Even as we sat in the parking lot, it was an odd second here and there when we could see out the window enough to get a sense of what it looked like around us. We noticed other people also trying to find their way on the road and pull into the parking lots around us to wait out the storm. We sat there for about half an hour until the rain and wind eased up enough that we could safely continue on. From Owen Sound to Orangeville, we heard intermittent tornado warnings on the radio. Once we got south of Orangeville, the skies cleared up, the warnings ended, and we continued on our way home incident-free. What’s really funny is that while on the way to Orangeville, I told Lana that I was surprised that the rain and wind had subsided so much in that area because Orangeville is in a sort-of tornado alley. I don’t think a summer goes by without tornado warnings and severe storms and the odd tornado touching down in that area. I think Lana wants me to stop talking about the weather when we are out on the road, from now on. (The next day, we discovered pictures of the storm cell that was over us in Orangeville while we sat there waiting for things to die down. It was really big and mean looking and I was glad that we hadn’t been able to see the clouds at the time we were there.)
[Lana] Storms aside, this is the kind of day trip we enjoy... 610 kilometres, 16 hours of total random, see-where-life-takes-us adventure, and it usually turns out better than anything that we may have planned in advance.
[John] Despite the fear, the almost-tornado experience was kind of fun and made for a cool time capping off an awesome typical Carbon Lilies unplanned misadventure. Thanks for being my partner in this Lana… even if the whole Zeus experience was entirely your fault. (How many times can I call out Zeus’ name before you start to worry again?)
[Lana] I'm worried already!