The Day We Didn’t Meet the Prime Minister

Thursday, July 27, I was lying in the dentist’s chair with a mouthful of instruments, listening to the radio when I heard that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was going to be in Kenora the next day. When I got home, mouth numb, I googled for more information and discovered that indeed, PMJT was scheduled to host a community barbecue from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Kenora is about three hours away, but I still floated the idea of taking the kids there and M was thrilled at the idea of meeting ‘the boss of Canada.’

So, as lofty as a six hour round trip as a solo adult with two kids seemed, the next day we hustled as hard as we could. We had to eat breakfast, get ready, go to the bank, get out of town — by the time we fought our way through construction on highway 17, and terrible American tourist drivers, and A screaming as loud as he could while I tried to navigate to a parking space at Kenora’s harbour, it was 1 p.m. But all of the information I’d read made it sound like the event was fully in swing till 1:3o p.m. so I popped open the trunk, wrestled out the stroller I’d previously wrestled in, corralled the kids and headed off to the BBQ…

… where all that was left were a few sad hot dogs, some straggling people, and no prime minister. Apparently he had been there at the start and left after that. After M received her hot dog we sat at a lakeside bench and I told her that we had missed the PM and managed to drive three hours just for leftover hot dogs.

Being a three year old she took it mostly in stride. She was a little disappointed, she said, “but at least we can sit here and watch birds catching fish!” (they were seagulls). We watched the MS Kenora sightseeing cruise take off, then I pressed my solo parenting luck and offered to take M for a sit-down meal. With all Kenora offers, kid-free me would’ve gladly sat my butt down on a patio during that 30+ C day, but M chose Boston Pizza so I loaded everyone back into the car, drove literally around the corner, and fed them both with no backup but a glass of wine. It went surprisingly well.

We filled up on cheap gas, visited a few big box stores, and headed right back down highway 17, this time with far less traffic.

I’m still a bit rankled that the info was so unclear that we ended up driving three hours each way for nothing but hey — M said she was more excited about hot dogs than the prime minster anyway.

Summer Vacation 2017 – Part Five

Continuing from our arrival in Sudbury…

We had a bit of a tumultuous time getting to our hotel. First we stopped at Stack Brewing to grab some beer (I may have gone too far onto the adventurous side; Matt hated nearly every beer I picked!) and then we headed downtown to the Radisson, which was confusing to navigate especially when it was time to park. When we finally got in from the parking garage and went to what I thought was the door into our hallway, and our key card refused to work, the front desk manager leaving his shift appeared right when I was starting to lose it, and keyed us in, thank goodness.

On our drive to Sudbury I had purchased IMAX movie tickets for M and Matt, to Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I hadn’t seen the first one (and still haven’t) so I figured it’d be better to just send them, especially because it was a kind of late show and I didn’t want to drag A out. After even more confusion about who was eating what where, the two of them took off, A fell asleep, and I ordered takeout and cracked a few beer. It was kind of nice to be mostly alone, I’m not gonna lie, after all of the excitement of the trip! They were out late — M fell asleep during the tail end of the movie — but I managed to wake everyone up for breakfast the next day.

We gave M the option of the hotel pool, or going to the little plaza mall nearby for Dollarama, because she had seen it the night before and would not stop talking about it. I was shocked that she picked Dollarama, but that’s what happened, so we scavenged for breakfast from what was open, and whiled the rest of the time away at the dollar store before Science North opened.

Science North was really cool! We could’ve spent a whole day there and in fact Matt was kind of salty about how much we missed because we had to leave by noon (and we actually left Sudbury about two hours later than planned and we still missed a bunch of stuff). We’ll have to take a full day in Sudbury sometime, I think. M loved seeing all of the wildlife exhibits, the giant whale skeleton, and some of the human body exhibits on the top floor.

The rest of the day was somewhat painful. We were going to Terrace Bay, further than the Soo but not as far as Thunder Bay. It took forever. The weather was awful, there was nothing exciting awaiting us, and both the kids were not having a good time in the car. We didn’t get there until well after midnight — and by ‘there’ I mean our shady roadside motel, where they left a note on the door telling us that our room was unlocked with the key in it. But it was a place to sleep, at least! In the morning we tried to find food, climbed the Terrace Bay lighthouse, and bailed.

Before Thunder Bay we decided to stop and stretch our legs (and our attitudes) at a pick your own amethyst mine, Panorama Mine, which was pretty cool. M was amazed at being able to uncover gems, and Matt and I also spent some time passing off the baby to one another to pick out a few stones. From there, we dropped into Sleeping Giant Brewery, Merla Mae’s for our last ice cream of the trip (Persian flavoured ice cream!), and the Prospector Burger Barn which is Matt’s favourite place in Thunder Bay, I’m pretty sure.

Getting home was a relief after all that time on the road! The cats were happy to see us. I was happy to see my bed. Matt had to work the next day, and it was already dark when we unlocked the doors, so that was it for our trip — everyone was pretty excited to sleep.

We had a great trip, although we definitely stretched the limits of our small car even with the light packing. It’s always a whirlwind of seeing people we don’t see often enough, not spending enough time with anyone, and wishing we had more time, along with wanting to get home ASAP once the return trip starts! I’m glad we were able to take the time out to travel, and happy that the kids, especially M, had a really fun time.

Summer Vacation 2017 – Part Four

Continued from our time in Peterborough and a short stopover North of Seven…

We made it to my dad’s with plenty of time, arriving right around dinner. It was quiet that night — Patty was out of town for appointments, and it’s surprising just how many people from my childhood don’t actually live there anymore in general — but we did get to spend time with my dad, of course, and my aunt, uncle, and one of my cousins. And the dog, to M’s delight! After a good meal and some beers we turned in for the night.

The weather was pretty gloomy for most of our time there. The next morning was a foggy, wet one, but we still passed the morning by outside, over at my uncle’s cabin where both M and A enjoyed the swings. My cousin and good friend Andrea dropped by with her kids (including a brand new baby boy!) later that day and M was once again thrilled to have playmates. We all went out for poutine, and the four of us hit up Brum’s for ice cream — the raspberry cream was voted number one of all of the ice cream we tried on this trip by the way — then went to M (and A’s) first movie that night, to see Despicable Me 3. She was equal parts thrilled and terrified of the ‘scary’ parts but she handled it perfectly. After spending some more time with everyone at Andrea’s house we headed back home to my dad’s late enough that everyone was pretty zonked.

The sun came out the next day, which was nice because it was our last day! Andrea came back with the kids and the girls went swimming; Patty was done her appointments so we were able to catch up with her, too, which was nice because we missed her over winter! We took the kayaks and paddleboat out for a lap, and after dinner, my cousin Bryce came by and picked up M at the dock for a short motorboat ride. We slept in the cabin that evening and I ran into my cousin Dustin hanging out watching TV in my grandma’s house so he dropped by with some beer to catch up, too, before we all went to sleep. We were up fairly early in the morning for breakfast, packing up, and hitting the road.

We were planning another short pit stop, this time in Huntsville to meet a friend of mine. We made good time through Algonquin Park and landed in Muskoka early enough that we were able to finally get the Kawartha Dairy ice cream Matt had been begging for — through a drive-thru, conveniently, while the kids were asleep! After that we met with Amy, Joel, and their son (who is about A’s age) and had a delicious meal that was admittedly hectic because both of my kids were being SUPER loud and rangy. I love that we know people all over the place, and love that we were able to squeeze in another friend visit!

Our last ice cream adventure took us to Belly in Huntsville — they make all of their ice cream with Jersey milk. Despite being thoroughly stuffed, and having just had ice cream like an hour before, we made room to try it and it was good.

We didn’t have far to go, after that. We had Sudbury in sight, stopping earlier than we usually would so we could take M to Science North the next day.

Next up: Sudbury, Terrace Bay & home.

Summer Vacation 2017 – Part Three

Continuing from Darien Lake/Orangeville…

We, as usual, had two options to get to Peterborough: get on the highway, or backroad it. Matt was so eager to see his family that he was tempted to hit the highway but we ultimately chose to meander our way there, knowing that if we got stuck in highway traffic it’d actually take longer than backroads.

We left Orangeville after breakfast, making it to Peterborough in fairly good time. When we got there we met up with Matt’s uncle was in town from out west, which was a nice surprise we’d found out about the day before when we called Matt’s mom. We had a fairly low key visit overall, which was nice after the busy park weekend. Going to Peterborough is always a split between family downtime and Matt visiting  a few of his favourite places, and that’s exactly what we did.

Each evening we enjoyed really good food — we took a turn cooking one night, stocking up on supplies from the farmer’s market (along with amazing fudge, Russian food, and cider). Another night, all of Matt’s aunts and uncles came over and fed us spectacular Greek-style ribs, a whole bunch of delicious salads, and cake. We, naturally, tried a few ice cream places — Baskin Robbins and Central Smith Dairy. And, we hit up a few parks and a splash pad with our niece and M.

One of the most awesome parts was just watching M play and run amok in the yard with her cousin and second cousins. They’d disappear into the shaded, treed part at the back to let their imaginations run wild, and come out covered in bug bites but having a blast. I think that was M’s favourite part, too.

When our time in Peterborough was up, we set out toward my dad’s place in the Ottawa Valley, but we took a slightly longer way to stop by my old stomping grounds and say hi to my dearest friend Michelle, her fiancé, and her mom and dad, who I haven’t seen in ages! I’m in that area so infrequently that I was exclaiming over nearly everything (“That’s a Subway now! The Home Hardware moved! Look how different that house is!”). Of course the highlight was seeing our friends, who put on a great spread for us and helped M hunt for frogs and collect rocks. I hated to leave.

I took Matt past a few places — the fishing lodge where I worked in high school, my old house (the gate was closed over the road, so I think the people who live there now are part time cottagers — we couldn’t actually get down the driveway), where I went to school, until we were out of the area and barrelling toward the Valley.

Next up: Round Lake!

Summer Vacation 2017 – Part Two

Continuing from Manitoulin Island…

We woke up July 2 with a mission to get to South Baymouth on time to catch the ferry. We’d done it before a few years ago so we knew where we were going and how much time it would take, but our late night/morning previously meant that we hadn’t done the organizing and packing we had intended to do. So, in the morning we hustled to get the cottage clean and the car packed. We made it with time to spare, which is super rare for us, and our car was one of the first ones in line! We also found out that Matt could drive the car on and I could walk the kids on separately, which was a relief knowing how tight those parking spaces are onboard.

To pass the time we bought overpriced fish and chips again, as our breakfast. There’s a restaurant further back from the main road we’d like to try the next time, because we think it might be less pricey, not being right on the main drag. It was good food though! When the boat arrived, I walked the kids on, settled M and A in the newly revamped lounge, and waited for Matt. He wanted to go out on the deck while the ferry left, so he took (a reluctant) M while I held onto our table.

A few musicians arrived in the lounge and I discovered that it was the first day for an initiative where the Chi-Cheemaun played host to established and newcomer musicians every Sunday in July! I texted Matt that there was live music happening, so he brought M in and went off in search of the popcorn she had been promised. In the meantime, the bar opened so I snagged myself a local beer. A fell asleep in his carrier on me, and I definitely felt like I was on vacation.

We whiled away the ride to Tobermory drinking local beer, listening to music, and looking at the sights with M. We all squeezed back into the car instead of walking off, and the moment the doors opened to Tobermory, the skies also opened. We got a bit turned around trying to get out of town, and were being followed aggressively by a woman in a giant truck. She kept honking at us incessantly — we were going 35 in a 40 km/h zone — and when she wailed on the horn for a good thirty seconds straight after gunning it up to us and backing off, gunning it up to us and backing off… Matt stopped. In the middle of this dirt road where we were the only two vehicles. And I stuck my head out and yelled, “WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM, SERIOUSLY?!” And then she honked more.

So, Matt got out of the car. Not to escalate things, but to say, listen, there’s no need to freak out, you can just go around us if it’s that bad, why are you losing it so hard? But when he unfolded himself from our car and approached her window, she grabbed the steering wheel and started screaming, “YOU’RE IN A FIFTY! YOU’RE IN A FIFTY!” And then she literally tore past us on the right, messing up two people’s lawns in the process because she drove all over them. Welcome to southern Ontario.

Then it started to hail. So we left town (we were going to get more ice cream for M, but things seemed to be pointing us toward getting the heck away from Tobermory). We ended up in a long, weird line of traffic, all the way to Orangeville. I didn’t realize Tobermory was such a destination, but we would get backed up at the only traffic light in each tiny town the whole way, because of the sheer number of cars heading back home.

But we made it, and it stopped raining, and we were greeted by a good spread of food thanks to my aunt, and scooped ice cream for M, and a few drinks while we caught up with my mom and her partner, my aunt and her partner, my cousin, and my niece.

Again, we had a big day ahead the next morning — we were destined for Darien Lake, NY. We were either going to have to get up early to make the most of a full day in the theme park, or take our time getting everyone awake and fed in the morning, and be able to check right into our campsite, then spend a bit of time at the park without going all-out. And that’s exactly what we did! The traffic wasn’t too bad getting out of Canada, and our border crossing at Lewiston was incredibly fast. Once we were over the border to NY it was only a half hour drive or so into Darien Lake, where we had a rented RV waiting for us.

We pulled up to our campsite and realized we could all fit in the RV, which was a nice surprise — we were thinking someone would’ve had to go in a tent but we fit with room to spare. Mom and Eric went out to get some food supplies down the road while we tried to hold the kids off from going completely squirrelly waiting for their chance to hit the park for the rest of the evening. With a rented wagon for A, food plans secured, and wristbands on, we spent the first evening in the little kids’ area, which M loved and O, at seven years old, tolerated so that people would go on rides with her the next day like she was doing for M. A was happy to be towed around in the wagon (thank goodness he wasn’t as mobile yet!) and eventually went into the Ergo carrier. We had spider dogs and marshmallows for dinner and watched the lights from the nightly laser show shoot out over the campground.

The second day, we woke up, had our breakfast at the buffet, and sped off to the water park to try to find good seats. We thought about renting a cabana but they were all booked. We managed to snag a little shaded umbrella area at a lower cost, right near the kids’ water park area, and Mom settled in with a sleeping A while the rest of us took the girls into the lazy river. The breakfast, the splashing in the park, and the heat knocked M out so she went to stay with Mom and A while we navigated some larger slides with O. I realized that I was mostly just standing by waiting — I’m not a thrill slide person — so I went back to check on the kids. Some food, some naps, and we decided to head ‘home’ for lunch.

After that we decided to move onto the amusement part of the park, with various rides for various people. We rode those giant animal things (above), which was hilarious. Matt and Eric went on one of those ridiculous flying slingshot rides, much to our delight. They and O went on a roller coaster, the pirate boat, and a few other larger rides; Mom took M on the Ferris wheel, and we finished the evening out in the more intermediate kids’ area, which featured some more thrilling rides for slightly older kids but still accommodated M’s size. We also took in the fireworks and laser show, which was especially epic because it was the Fourth of July!

The last day, we opted to stay longer and get home later rather than leaving by noon — those were really our only options to beat Toronto traffic. It was a super hot day, and Matt and I were burned already despite layering on sunscreen the day before, so by the time we headed home we were definitely crispy, sleepy, and sweaty! We really enjoyed the park, and it was an awesome way to spend time with Mom and Eric and O. We didn’t get much facetime in Orangeville, unfortunately, but Peterborough was calling us the next day so we’re hoping we can go back with the kids again before long for some more concentrated family time.

But first… shortbread! Can’t do a trip to Orangeville without Wicked Shortbread.

Next up: Peterborough!