Category Archives: Cycling Trip- Ontario

A List for the Last Day

Our ferry left Pelee Island at 4:00 pm on our last day there. We had to check out of our cottage by 10:00 am. What would we do for six hours? We made a list of four activities.

After we had done each one my husband Dave would ask if someone had officially stroked that activity off the list.

The first stop was the Pelee Island Art Centre. We had been there before but hadn’t gone inside to shop so today we browsed leisurely through the literally thousands of items inside the crowded crafty place many made by local artists and artisans.

I bought my usual souvenirs- a necklace and earrings and we had a little fun with the sailor and mermaid cutouts just outside the shop.

Then it was off to Fish Point a nature reserve that provides you with a trail to walk to the southernmost tip of Pelee Island which is also the southernmost tip of inhabited Canada.

We saw this sign telling us to be careful not to step on any terrestrial snails.

They were on the ground all around us. Terrestrial snails live on land instead of in the water.

I was so pleased to catch a photo of this snail with its head and tentacles sticking out.

The snails come in all kinds of different colours and sizes and have different shell designs but……….the only place in the whole world you will find them is on islands in Lake Erie.

After a long walk, we finally arrived at Fish Point a sandspit that is the southernmost point of Pelee Island and in turn the southernmost point in inhabited Canada.

The third thing on our list was lunch and since there was only one restaurant open on the island that made choosing where to go pretty easy. We lingered over our meals and then tackled the fourth item on our list a hike to Lighthouse Point.

We first walked down a road, then a woodland trail and finally along the beach to the second oldest lighthouse on Lake Erie built in 1833.

The information sign had told us we might see the Lake Erie watersnake on our walk and we did. It was trying to slither its way back into the lake.

We walked past the Lake Henry Marsh. I loved the way the clouds were reflected in the water. And guess what we spotted in the marsh?

A quartet of trumpeter swans.

I thought the uprooted trees along the beach had a sad sort of beauty all their own.

We finally arrived at the lighthouse.

It was built in 1833.

William McCormick was the first lightkeeper. After his death, his son Alex succeeded him.

After seeing the lighthouse our list was complete. We’d crossed off all four activities and lo and behold it was time to head to the ferry for our trip back to the mainland and the beginning of our journey back to Winnipeg.

Our southern Ontario cycling trip was over.

Other posts………

The Last Day of Our Biking Trip Around Lake Konstanz

The Last Day of Our Biking Trip in Croatia

Biking in Yangshou China

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All Those Famous Canadian Writers

During our time on Pelee Island we visited the Pelee Island Heritage Centre founded in 1988 by none other than our intrepid biking tour guide Ron Tiessen.

Ron served as the museum’s curator for more than twenty years and is now recognized as its curator emeritus. The museum Ron founded is truly an eclectic place with …………

The old telephone system that an operator once used to keep folks on the island connected

A huge wasp nest found in the vicinity.

Fossils and stones that document the geologic history of Pelee Island.

A hand painted map of shipwrecks in the Pelee Island area.

A photo showing an aerial view of the island.

A painting of one of the steamer ferries that brought visitors out to the island in the 1930s.

Stuffed versions of some of the animals and birds found on the island.

But what really fascinated me were these posters advertising Spring Song an annual celebration held each May on Pelee Island. The literary guests for this event read like a who’s who of Canadian literature- Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Louise Penny, Farley Mowat, Lawrence Hill, David Suzuki, Miriam Toews, Elizabeth Hay, Vincent Lam, Joseph Boyden, Nino Ricci, Madeline Thien, Lorna Crozier and Jane Urquhart . 

Spring Song is traditionally held on Mother’s Day Weekend and began in 2002 as a fundraiser for the Pelee Island Heritage Centre. It is a joint project of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory and Canadian author Margaret Atwood who has a home on Pelee Island.

Each year a different birding expert comes out to the island as a Spring Song guest to lead a 24 hour competition to spot the most species of birds from the nearly 400 species that inhabit the island. Margaret Atwood hosts a banquet later where the winning birding team is announced and a well-known guest Canadian author gives a talk.

Spring Song it is definitely an event that could draw me back to Pelee Island in the future, perhaps with one of the birding aficionados in my family in tow.

Other posts…………

Ron the Storyteller

The Last Winery on Our Tour

Back to Pelee Island

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Filed under Canada, Cycling Trip- Ontario, Nature

Taking a Moment at the Marsh

One afternoon four of the people from our cycling group decided we wanted to bike right around Pelee Island. It was just over 30 kilometres and we had a lovely ride.

We stopped at one spot and hiked a short trail. The trail hadn’t been cleared very well so it was a bit of an obstacle course.

At one point on the trail, there was a short boardwalk out onto a marsh.

When we first arrived our attention was drawn by a heron we could see standing in the marsh.

We thought it was the only bird there and were a little disappointed because Pelee Island is a haven for birds. Birders from many different countries come to visit in order to see all the different species.

The marsh had a haunting beauty with its creeping clusters of lily pads, rustling grasses, broken trees and clouded sky. It was sooooooo quiet. We just stood there.

And after a moment someone said…….

“I think I see three turkey vultures in that tree to our left.”

And then someone else wondered, “Is that a white egret across the marsh?”

And after that we kept discovering one bird after another we hadn’t noticed when we first arrived. Soon we’d spotted a hawk, a pelican, ducks, gulls, and sparrows. And a little later we saw a kingfisher and a bald eagle, a Canada goose and a crow.

The marsh which we thought only had one bird actually revealed almost a dozen kinds of birds.

Our moments at the marsh reminded me that there’s often more to things and people and places than you can take in with just a glance and it pays to have a little patience and be observant.

Other posts……….

Are You Okay?

Wild Grasses – A Love Story

Finding Flamingos

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Ron the Story Teller

When you are taking a cycling tour of Pelee Island with Ron Tiessen, a man who has spent four decades learning everything there is to know past and present about the southernmost inhabited place in Canada you don’t get far before you hear a story.

On our second day of touring with Ron, he stopped at the end of his driveway to tell us how he has become famous on Pelee for the garlic he grows. Once he was giving a tour to wine writers from around the world who had come to visit the Pelee Island Winery.

As a thank-you for his services a writer from France sent him garlic bulbs from her garden. He planted them in his island garden and………. now his garlic has such a fabulous reputation that he is actually able to use it instead of money to barter for goods and services on the island.

In fact, that’s how we came to hear Ron’s garlic story because just as he was getting ready to board his bike he told us he pays the mechanic who keeps his bicycle in such good working order with garlic.

On our first day of biking, we didn’t make it off Ron’s yard before we heard a story about this building on his property. It is an old ice house and was once lined with sawdust and covered in cedar. It could keep ice from Lake Erie cold year-round.

Later when we visited the island’s museum we saw the different tools the islanders had used to remove huge chunks of ice from the lake to keep in their ice houses and provide refrigeration before electricity came to the island.

Ron had an interesting story to tell us about this ancient stone. He said it was probably about 1600 years old and had been used as a communal grinding or metate stone by Indigenous people on the island.

You can see the areas in the rock worn away from grinding.

We stopped at this canal which was one of many put into place to drain the land on Pelee Island and make it suitable for farming. But when the canals were built important wetlands were lost. Ron told us the story of how the Nature Conservancy of Canada is going to turn 60 to 70 acres of that farmland back into wetland sanctuaries for birds, plants and animals.

We also stopped at St. Mary’s Church which Ron told us is the oldest church on the island. He said it was built from limestone from a nearby quarry. The first child baptized there was a girl named Cora Montgomery in 1863 and a funeral service for an Indigenous chief named Frederick Fisher was held in the church in 1867.

The church is one of many buildings featured in a book of Ron’s stories about Pelee Island landmarks called A Bicycle Guide to Pelee Island.

A member of our group who is of Jewish heritage was intrigued by the Star of David on the cloth draping the pulpit in St. Mary’s to the left. I wondered why there were two pulpits.

This is just a taste of the stories we heard as we cycled with Ron. We ran out of time for our tour before Ron ran out of stories. I guess we will have to pay another visit to the island someday if we want to hear more.

Other posts………

No Trespassing and No Hunting

The Last Winery

Back to Pelee Island

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The Last Winery on Our Tour

Since my husband Dave had advertised the cycling tour he’d planned in southern Ontario as a cycling/wine adventure we would have been remiss in not visiting the winery on Pelee Island during our four day stay there.

On Sunday afternoon a drizzly morning changed to a sunny afternoon and we made our way to the winery which we had passed by on our bicycles during our morning tour.

As you walk up to the pavilion at the Pelee Island Winery you can check out all the different kinds of grapes they grow on their 700 acres of vineyards.

The Pelee Island Winery is the largest estate winery in Canada and is a founding member of Sustainable Winemaking Ontario, an organization committed to enhancing the environment by using sustainable practices in their wineries and vineyards.

Pelee Island provides a unique climate for growing grapes since it boasts the longest number of frost-free days in Ontario.

On our cycling tour in the morning we went to see the ruins of the Vin Villa Winery which opened on Pelee Island in 1871

Ron our cycling guide had told us about the six wineries established on the island in the late 1800s. The wines they produced gained an international reputation but they went out of business in 1915 due to competition from Americans and a decline in demand for wine during World War I.

Walking into the wine pavilion on Pelee Island

In 1979 Walter Strehn the son of a wealthy Austrian family came to Pelee Island and decided to revive the wine industry there. My husband’s brother John planted some of the new vineyards on his property and in 1982 the first 25,000 litres of wine was produced.

Dave took this photo of a monarch butterfly in the gardens just outside the winery. Pelee Island is a stop on the monarch’s migration path. The slightly torn wing on this monarch is perhaps the result of its tumultuous travels across the lake. An image of a monarch is featured on one of the Pelee Island wine bottles.

In this photo at the winery the men in our group look stern, puzzled and skeptical. I’m not sure why?
A minute later when this photo was taken their demeanour had been transformed.

We had a lovely afternoon at the winery. It was a busy place but we found a sunny table in an outdoor pagoda. We ordered different wines to taste as well as charcuterie boards to accompany them.

The Pelee Island Winery in Kingsville

Today the winery boasts two locations- one on Pelee Island and the other in Kingsville Ontario on the mainland.

Waiting for our niece’s wedding to start

On August 20th we attended our niece’s wedding which took place on the Pelee Island Winery grounds in Kingsville.

Other posts……..

Don’t Be A Wine Snob

Putting the Port into Porto

Snake Wine Travel Memory

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No Trespassing and No Hunting

Meet Ron Tiessen a walking encyclopedia about Pelee Island.  Ron has made his home on the island since 1979 when he began a farming operation there with my husband Dave’s brother John. 

Ron served for many years as the curator and director of the Pelee Island Heritage Centre. We were lucky enough to have him spend two mornings with us cycling around the island and introducing us to so many interesting things. 

Dave walking up to the beautiful home built in 1911 which Ron shares with his wife Lynne a descendant of one of the first families to make their home on the island in the early 1830s. 

I took some pleasure as a woman posing with the sign of a club that had an exclusively male membership for over a century.

One of the places Ron took us to was the Pelee Club. It is an exclusive fishing and hunting club founded in 1883. Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln was a member, as was George Pullman the inventor of the Pullman railway car. Other members were Presidents Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland and William Taft.

Photo from the Pelee Club website

The club is still in operation today for those who can afford the fees.

The signs on the driveway of the Pelee Club said No Trespassing. Did we silently walk through the woods anyway to get a glimpse of this exclusive haven for the rich and famous? You won’t find out from me.

We definitely weren’t trespassing at the cemetery where Ron showed us the tombstones for the multiple victims of a tragic Pelee Island boating accident in 1888.

We also saw the graves of William and Mary McCormick who are considered the founders of the first permanent settlement on Pelee Island. They moved their family to the island in 1834. An Indigenous presence on the island can be dated to some 10,000 years before that.

There are many sad stories recorded in the cemetery, including the one about these two brothers from the Island who were both shot down while flying bombers during World War II.

We stopped at the island’s schoolhouse built in 1918 and still in use today. This is where Dave’s Dad and his aunts and uncles were once students during the time they lived as sharecroppers on the island after immigrating to Canada from Ukraine.

Dave was delighted when we visited the island’s museum later to find a school register with the names of some of his aunts and uncles in it.

The No Hunting sign on the schoolyard was probably placed there for the hunters who descend on the island every fall for the annual pheasant hunt.

We saw this photo of pheasant hunters in the island’s museum. The hunt has been going on since 1932. The pheasants are especially raised on a farm on the island and then released for the hunt. Dave’s brother John and his wife Linda supplemented their farming income by offering room and board to groups of pheasant hunters when they lived on Pelee Island.

Ron is not only an expert on the history of Pelee Island but also has wealth of knowledge about the island’s flora and fauna. Pelee Island is home to thousands of unique species of birds, plants, insects and wildlife not to be found elsewhere in Canada. Here Ron shows us the leaves of a Kentucky Coffee Tree, a species that is a rare find in southern Ontario.

When you are on a tour with Ron you do lots of LISTENING as he spins fascinating tales of an attempt by American Mafia members to take over the island, huge community hockey games his three sons participated in on a quarry pond, author Margaret Atwood’s long association with the island and the story of Huldah’s Rock a memorial stone that marks the spot where an Indigenous maiden plunged to her death in sorrow over her English’s husband broken vow to return to her.

Log house built by the Fox family in 1837

There are so many heritage homes on the island and Ron can tell you stories about them all and the families who owned them.

Ron talked about the island’s agricultural history. As this fascinating 1946 article in Macleans magazine by Gordon Sinclair points out at one time 80% of the islands 11,000 acres was cultivated. Many different crops have been grown there- tobacco, grapes, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, onions, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, hemp, sunflowers, peaches, apricots and cotton.

Our last stop on our Sunday morning tour was at a stone quarry. The island has a number of them. The first stones were quarried in 1821. Besides being used for construction on the island stone from these quarries was used to build the Welland Canal, a church in Colchester, sidewalks in Toronto, docks in Hamilton, a post office in Sarnia, streets in Chatham and many other projects.

This is just a smattering of things we learned from Ron about Pelee Island during our first morning with him. As I said Ron Tiessen is the walking Pelee Island encyclopedia.

Other posts…………

The Driedger Bike Boblo Island

A Winnipeg Island Full of History


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Filed under Canada, Cycling Trip- Ontario

Back to Pelee Island

On Saturday we took the ferry from Kingsville, Ontario out to Pelee Island. Pelee Island is the largest island in Lake Erie and the southernmost populated point in Canada. 

The other two couples traveling with us were making their first visit to the island but Dave and I had been there many times.

Dave’s brother John and his wife Linda lived in this house on Pelee Island

In 1979 Dave’s brother John moved to Pelee Island and lived there with his family for many years. Each summer when we would visit Dave’s parents in Leamington we took the ferry across the lake to the island. John was a farmer and a customs agent on Pelee island.

A big group of family members waiting at the dock to take the ferry out to Pelee Island in 1992
With our younger son on the ferry boat to Pelee Island in 1989
Our boys with their Dad in the back of Uncle John’s truck on Pelee Island heading off for a swim in Lake Erie

Dave’s family’s connection to the island goes back even further than that though. In the late 1920s after immigrating to Canada from Ukraine Dave’s father’s family moved to Pelee Island to be sharecroppers. They lived there for nearly a decade. Dave’s grandmother was a mid wife for the Mennonite families on the island.

Dave’s Dad the tall young man in the last row of this photo lived with his family on Pelee Island in the 1930s.

Although Dave’s brother John moved off the island in the 1990s we made one more trip there in 2017 for a big family reunion. Our children and their partners and our grandchildren were there and we were joined by Dave’s three brothers and their children and grandchildren and their partners. We had rented two large houses and had a wonderful time together.

Dave with our grandson just after getting off the ferry boat on Pelee Island in 2017.
Our sons and some of their cousins gathered on the shore of Lake Erie on Pelee Island at sunset in 2017

Our current trip to Pelee Island was not for family reasons but still was somewhat nostalgic for us.

We stayed at one of the Barefoot Cottages

Our home was called The Barefoot Bungalow and used to be a bunk house for a church camp that was located on the island.

It might have been neat to stay in the Barefoot Stone House next door since it was built in 1843 and has retained much of its original interior materials and design, but it wasn’t quite big enough for our group. 

We went swimming in the lovely warm water of Lake Erie. Although my brother-in-law braved the huge rocks on the shoreline by our cottage for his swim I wasn’t quite as courageous.

I opted for a nearby sandy beach where the smooth lake bottom and sloping shore made swimming a more carefree experience.

There were bright red chairs down by the lake across from the cottage perfect for sitting and relaxing which is what we did our first day on the island. 

Books were read, tennis was watched on television and a jigsaw puzzle was started. 

On Sunday we would begin a cycling tour of the island so it was nice to take it easy on our first day there. 

Other posts…………

He Would Have Been 100

Getting Nostalgic and Just a Little Sad

Dave’s Christmas Present

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Filed under Cycling Trip- Ontario, Family, Travel

Marvelous Meal By Mike

On Friday we had a marvelous meal made by our talented nephew Mike. Mike loves to cook and Dave decided to take advantage of that by asking him to make a dinner for the three couples in our cycling group. Mike was kind enough to agree.

The dinner was in the gorgeous backyard of the home Mike owns with his wife Stephanie.

Look at the beautiful table laid for our dinner in a pergola by the pool!

Our friendly great nieces served as our waitresses.

Jazz played in the background as we had our pre-dinner drinks on a perfect summer evening.

Stephanie, Mike’s wife had recommended some local wines to go with each of the four courses of our meal, and prior to the dinner while Dave and I were attending our great nephew’s baseball game the other two couples went out and purchased them.

The wines proved to be perfect pairings for each of the delicious dishes we were served. Each dish had been uniquely created by Mike.

Our first course was a crusted zucchini flower stuffed with mushrooms, shrimp, onions and spices on a bed of shaved zucchini.

Our second course was pork belly and scallops with a mango radish salsa.

Our third course was a braised short rib finished on an open fire with smoked ginger carrot puree and topped with pickled onions, roasted peanuts and cilantro.

And finally for dessert piping hot smoked peach crisp with homemade basil ice cream.

It was quite dark by the time we had dessert so Michael and Stephanie invited us into their charming home for our last course and we got more of a chance to visit with them.

What a fabulous dinner in a gorgeous setting! Thanks Mike for all your hard work and creativity in preparing it for us and thanks to Stephanie and our great nieces for warmly opening their home to us for the evening.

Other posts……….

Dinner on a Board- The Ultimate Food Experience

Driedger- Top Chef Junior

Cooking Up a Storm in the Yucatan

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Filed under Cycling Trip- Ontario, Family, Food

Down to the Point

Today we decided not to visit a winery but to cycle instead to Point Pelee national park and make our way to the southern most point of mainland Canada.

It was an ambitious 60 kilometre round trip!

We stopped at our niece Hannah’s house just on the outskirts of the national park. She and her husband Justin were most welcoming.

They even took a group photo of us on their lovely deck looking out over Lake Erie.

Waiting our turn to get into Point Pelee National Park

After entering the park we cycled all the way down to the tip, a sandpit that runs out into the lake. If you walk to the end of it you have reached the southern most point in mainland Canada.

We walked down to the tip and I captured this romantic shot of one of the couples in our group trekking in the sand.

My sister and her husband at the southern tip of Canada.

We all stopped to have our photos taken at the tip of Canada.

Dave had stayed behind to fix something on his bike so my sister kindly agreed to step in for my photo at the tip.

Later we stopped at Freddies for lunch. They are famous for having the best perch in the area.

Pelee Island National Park is simply gorgeous and we really enjoyed cycling there.

Our supper last night was so amazing that I will have to write a whole separate blog post about it. So you can look forward to that in the future.

We are heading to Pelee Island today for four days and from what I can gather they do not have wifi there so I may not be able to post again till Wednesday.

Other posts…………..

Exploring Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park

Zion National Park

Canada- A Country For All Seasons

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Filed under Canada, Cycling Trip- Ontario

A New Muscedere Memory

One of the stops on our winery/cycling tour yesterday was the Muscedere Vineyards.

 We were warmly welcomed by Melissa Muscedere the assistant winemaker.

Muscedere is a family business with Melissa’s brothers, sisters-in-law and parents all involved.

We were interested in an unique flower we had seen as we drove on the yard and Melissa told us it was called Celosia Cristata also known as Rooster’s Comb and that her mother had brought the seeds to Canada from Italy.

The vines at Muscedere were heavy with grapes and we learned that the netting around them was to protect the grapes from crawling insects and birds. We could hear the recorded sounds of gunshots and shrieking hawks being broadcast out over the vineyard to chase away birds that might prey on the grapes.

We started our time at Muscedere with some wine tasting and I tried a flight of white wines. I liked the Sauvignon blanc the best.

Later we enjoyed some of Muscedere’s wood- fired pizzas.

This is the third time Dave and I have been to the Muscedere Winery. The first time was in 2011 when our family attended our niece’s wedding there. It was while we were taking this family photo in the vineyard that our older son and daughter-in-law informed us we were going to become grandparents for the first time.

The second time we went to Muscedere was in July of 2018 when a whole bunch of family members met there for the afternoon. We were making a special visit to Ontario to see Dave’s brother John who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Dave drove a rented van that would accommodate John’s wheelchair out to the Muscedere Winery. We would return to Ontario in October for John’s funeral.

It was good to visit again yesterday and create a third Muscedere memory.

Other posts………..

Good-Bye John

Making Memories

Be Old! Be Bold!

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