SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2018
By LANA CARBON & JOHN LILIES
[Lana] After the immense heat and all the activity from the previous day, we slept in a little longer than we had originally planned. Even though the Comfort Inn did offer a free continental breakfast, we rarely partake in this when we are away, since we never know about the quality of those free hotel offerings. We decided instead to use that time to check out and then travel to nearby Penetanguishene, Ontario where our next attraction was located, and pick up a hot breakfast there.
[John] Though free breakfasts are great for the budget, if we have an opportunity to try a local eatery we are quite happy to do so. They provide a much better idea of the area we are in and often give us some connections and/or ideas for more adventures. The people are usually cool, too.
[Lana] I usually use Yelp or TripAdvisor to scope out places to eat when we are in unfamiliar areas. I found what seemed to be this great little diner called Phil’s Casual Dining. I told John where it was and how easy it should be to get there, so we decided that it would be our breakfast stop. Once we pulled into Penetanguishene, the construction and all the detours had us worried we weren’t going to be able to find our chosen restaurant-de-jour. Luckily for us, we pulled back out onto the main route within view of Phil’s, so we parked in a convenient lot directly across the street and proceeded into the diner.
I must say that this was one of the best breakfast experiences that I have had outside of someone’s home. The waitress was one of the most personable and friendliest people that has ever brought me a meal. Both the food and atmosphere were excellent, and the price was incredibly reasonable for all that we received… dare I even say on the verge of cheap? So impressed were we, that we even considered returning for their dinner special (all you can eat fish’n’chips for $12.99).
[John] This is a restaurant where the locals gather, and that made me feel good. The waitress knew many of the patrons and I loved hearing the chatter. The waitress was so nice that when she learned we were just in town for the day and we were impressed by the dinner special, she told us if we returned and it wasn’t quite 4:00 yet, she would honour the fish’n’chips deal for us. She really was so kind (we didn’t get back for dinner but I really wish we had).
The décor was quite cool, too. The wall hangings were really well-done 3D renderings of various buildings in the town. Lana was so intrigued by them that he even jumped up as soon as he had an opportunity, to go over to the wall and examine the pieces to see how they were done. I think he gained some inspiration that morning and it won’t surprise me if one day in the future, I come home to find similar art work in our apartment; hand-made by Lana, of course.
[Lana] I must say that I was completely enthralled by the simple, yet gorgeous work they had hanging in the restaurant and totally will, one day, attempt my own version.
With bellies full, we moved on to the main attraction of today’s events, Discovery Harbour. This is the location of a naval base that was built shortly after the War of 1812, to help defend the nation from any future incursions from the South. While most of the buildings are reconstructions, there is one original building where the officers stayed and entertained those from high society and the political arena.
The only other large authentic piece from the era was the retrieved framework from the sunken H.M.S. Tecumseth. At the end of the War of 1812, part of the peace treaty included limiting the number of warships that were allowed to remain active on the Great Lakes. Canada’s two ships, the H.M.S. Newash and the aforementioned H.M.S. Tecumseth, were taken to Penetanguishene to be decommissioned. The Tecumseth remained moored there until 1828 when she was used in an evacuation of the outpost. Once that mission was complete, the ship was ordered sunk. It wasn’t until 1953, that the vessel would be recovered. Its remains are now housed in the H.M.S. Tecumseth Centre along with other ship artefacts found near the wreck.
[John] Seeing this skeleton was like admiring a massive display of driftwood. The history in this structure is incredible. One of my favourite things to do is examine and admire driftwood and take photos of it. It takes me to a completely different place in my mind and I love the journey my imagination goes on. I know I’m not the only one in the world who loves the knots and twists and scratches and holes in the wood. There must be a Fans of Driftwood Club somewhere out there. Anyway… staring at these remains was much like admiring driftwood for me, so I quite enjoyed knowing there was true history associated with it.
[Lana] The other buildings on site were reconstructions; everything from soldier and guard quarters, to blacksmith and shipbuilder workshops were represented. The difference between the officers’ and enlisted men’s buildings were drastic and showed how much better the career military men were treated even if their postings were only temporary.
[John] As with Sainte Marie among the Hurons, there were some guides placed in various buildings, dressed in period clothing, and they were able to offer some insight into the history. I have to admit though, I often feel awkward when I enter one of these sites and talk to the guide. They give their memorized historic spiel and I ask my questions, look around, maybe ask more questions, and inevitably there is an awkward moment of, “Oh… I’ve exhausted my opportunity with you now. Okay, I’ll move on and have an awkward moment with one of the other guides. You’re free to go back to whatever you were doing before.” I’m such an awkward person, these moments are tortuous for me. Despite my social awkwardness, their knowledge was sincerely appreciated and these sets are cool to go through.
[Lana] Side Note: If you have ever had or do ever have the opportunity to speak to John in person, you would have no clue she has this social awkwardness. I am so amazed every time I see her muster up the inner fortitude to put herself out there in a social situation the way that she does. I am the complete opposite. Get me in a crowd and I become the veritable wallflower, hanging back… my social anxieties getting the best of me. So, I just want to take this moment to thank John and tell her just how proud of her I am because I know it isn’t easy… not at all!
[Lana] Not too long after we arrived here and had gone through a small handful of buildings, we were particularly drawn by this one young man dressed in the uniform of a Private, marching along the trail carrying a rifle. He informed us that the musket firing demonstration was about to begin, so we finished looking at the building we were at before making our way to the firing area. We were told about the firing technique and given some history on the particular musket being used. For a brief moment, I thought we were going to, once again, receive a private session as on the S.S. Keewatin. Alas, just before the young man was ready to fire off his first shot, he saw other patrons in the distance rushing towards us hoping to catch the demonstration as well; he waited for them and then fired off multiple shots, showing us that it was not an easy or safe procedure. We found it absolutely fascinating.
On a personal note, one of my favourite parts of the entire attraction was King’s Wharf, a docking area for the replicas of the H.M.S. Tecumseth and the H.M.S. Bee. For as long as I can remember, I have been enamoured by everything related to water; lakes, rivers, waterfalls - the sights and sounds have always been so relaxing to me. This sensation expands to all types of boats but especially sailing vessels. I get incredibly happy every time I see a sailboat out on the lake, sail billowing in the wind.
[John] He exaggerates not. “Incredibly happy” may in fact be an understatement on Lana’s part. He turns into a giddy little boy each time he spots a sailboat and if the sails are up – well, I’m sure you can imagine the added elation.
[Lana] That is why these two ships held such appeal for me. Actually being able to climb aboard to see what it would be like to be part of the crew, was a thrilling experience for me. I went below deck and saw just how tightly knit these men would have had to become since there would have been no real privacy in these close quarters for the length of their mission. I don’t think I could have handled it. Now, put me out there for a leisurely tour on the lake, able to dock, investigating any port town that I wished, and I gladly would have signed up.
With a huge smile on my face, we walked away from the two beautifully recreated sailing vessels. My only regret was that neither of the ships had their sails up. That would have been magnificent.
With a quick perusal through the gift shop, we said goodbye to Discovery Harbour and started our unhurried route toward home. We followed along the shore of Lake Huron, passing through small beach communities along the way.
[John] I had suggested that we take the Beach Road along the way to Wasaga Beach, which was where we thought we would reconnect with the main road back home. The Beach Road sounded like it would be a really pretty route and, on the map, it looked like it would take us along the water’s edge and provide some nice views…
[Lana] But there were nice views… through the trees, through the houses…
[John] Yes… this was more of a community route, taking us through all of the beach neighbourhoods but not really allowing the vistas we had imagined and for which we had been hoping. Consider this the beginning to our misadventure for this trip. Things had been going too well for the trip and the universe seemed to have decided that it was time for us to encounter some challenges.
So, we continued on this route, originally hoping to happen upon a little restaurant to feed our exhausted and over-heated bodies… but with the realization that the Beach Road was not what we thought it was going to be (and travelling no more than 50 kilometres/hour for the majority of it), we decided to wait until we reached Wasaga Beach to have some food.
Cue The Hangry.
[Lana] After all we had heard about Wasaga Beach and the tourist centre that it’s supposed to be, we figured we’d have no problem finding many restaurants from which to choose. Instead, we drove around. And, drove around. And, drove around. For us, Wasaga did not live up to its reputation.
[John] The key here is “for us”. I suppose most people who venture to Wasaga are actually Beach people. We aren’t those people. If we do go to a beach, it’s to quietly walk along and enjoy the view, pick up some stones and shells, and admire the area. Wasaga however, is not really the town for that quiet time. So, we drove around and found ourselves in frustrating construction traffic, desperate to find a decent restaurant to sit down at and enjoy some good food. I suppose we needed to park down at the beach and walk around to find a pizza joint or something like that, but we really weren’t feeling inclined for that after driving along that strip and seeing how incredibly crowded it was. So, as our frustration continued, The Hangry began to grab hold. As I was navigating the unfamiliar roads, I tasked Lana with keeping his eyes out for a decent-looking place to eat – perhaps a family restaurant or a pub. Nothing seemed to tickle the taste buds upon sight, so we finally reached our familiar situation with The Hangry… “Baby I just need you to choose a restaurant and tell me to turn there. I don’t care what it is… you’re the picky eater… choose something!”
Sorry baby. Again. And, thank you for also hitting The Hangry this day and not leaving me alone in my not-so-stellar-moment-of-love-and-appreciation.
[Lana] Keep in mind, I am not the decisive one.
[John] Not an exaggeration. At. All. I’m not all that decisive myself but Lana usually tasks me with the decision-making and I often push him to do it instead. This was one of those moments. It may have been a bit rough for him. Or for both of us.
[Lana] When The Hangry hits, especially when it hits both of us, things can get tense.
[John] Seriously dude… there was a Swiss Chalet right there but you weren’t “feeling it” so, we kept driving around. And, driving around. And, driving around.
Finally, we settled on Don Cherry’s Sports Grill and due to the time of our arrival we were the only customers in the entire establishment. Granted, it was an early supper, but still… it was slightly uncomfortable being the only people for the waitress to focus on.
[Lana] But, what service! And, it’s not like it was that bad – it was decent. Maybe I won’t go back to Don Cherry’s or Wasaga, but it was decent.
[John] Yes, it was absolutely fine and there was nothing really wrong with it… just not what I’d had in mind when we had set out on our trip home. And, we maybe had a little too much attention from the waitress, is all.
[Lana] But you love being the centre of attention. *Snicker, snicker*
[John] She was nice. She was doing her job. She did a good job.
[Lana] She was extremely friendly.
[John] Moving on… which is what we did as soon as we finished eating… it wasn’t a bad experience. It just wasn’t what either of us had imagined or hoped for, so it was a bit of a let-down for us both. But, that was neither the restaurant’s nor the waitress’ fault.
We hopped back in the car with our appetites satisfied, The Hangry a distant memory, and we proceeded to take a main route back home. As you know, we don’t typically opt for the main route but after the Beach Road experience and with the evening quickly progressing and the clouds rolling in, we decided the straight forward route was the best. Sadly, it meant that the ice cream I had promised us both on the way home, never manifested. This main route was too main for many businesses – it’s more of a by-pass to quickly get travellers through the towns – and with the rain now pouring down and the business hours coming to a close, we drove home telling ourselves it was better to not have the ice cream anyway.
[Lana] All in all, our mini vacation worked out just perfectly, even down to the misadventure at the end. After all, what would a Carbon Lilies tale be, without a little misadventure?
[John] Too true. We need to have a little hiccup to make it a classic time for us.
[Lana] That’s what makes it memorable.
[John] Really? Sainte-Marie, Keewatin, Discovery Harbour, Cellarman’s Alehouse, Phil’s… none of those made this trip memorable? It was the Beach Road, Wasaga, The Hangry, and Don Cherry’s that did it for you?
[Lana] All those other things, anybody could do those. No one else can do The Hangry like us.