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Lake Erie

2017-08-24 Westbound; Boblo Island Day 1

After CanAm finished a few minor service items we headed out for a short drive to Amherstburg, ON, to Willowood RV Park.  We were greeted by a bizarre sight on this August 24:

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This park is teaming with families and kids.  Lots and lots of kids… We found out that this place used to be a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, but it was recently purchased by Sun Resorts, owner of several of our favorite RV resorts in Southern California.

Anyway, apparently Halloween is a big deal around here, but most RV parks close at the end of September.  So they have devised a way to capitalize on the holiday: they celebrate it in August.  Twice;  this weekend, and the next.  Anyway, we don’t care; we don’t much like Halloween, and we are here for another reason:

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Our daughter, Erin, and her husband, Kevin, and their three children (Roisin, 4 years; Ian, 3 years, and George X, 2 years in October) will be vacationing for a week on Boblo Island, just a few minutes from here.

Boblo Island (correct name: Bois Blanc) is an island in the Detroit River on the Canadian side of the border and is part of Amherstburg, Ontario. The island is about 2.5 miles long, 0.5 mile wide and 272 acres  in size.  The Detroit river is very short – it merely connects Lake Huron with Lake Erie.

The main northbound shipping channel of the Detroit River lies between Boblo Island and the Amherstburg mainland.  A stone lighthouse was built in 1836 on the southern tip of Boblo island which marks the historical beginning of the Detroit River navigation channel for ships traveling upriver from Lake Erie in more modern times.

Bois Blanc means “White Woods,” a name derived from the many birch and beech trees in the area. “Boblo” is an English corruption of the French pronunciation of the name. Several islands with the same name dot the Great Lakes, and nearly all are known as “Boblo” by the local populations.

The island had strategic importance when Fort Amherstburg (now Fort Malden) was built in 1796 to guard passage along the Detroit River after Detroit was turned over to the Americans. Guns from the fort could reach the island across the navigable waters and hence secured the river.

Boblo island has a very rich history.  In the early 1700s, 70 First Nation families peacefully farmed the fertile land.  It was the location of the headquarters for the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh (“Shooting Star”), the leader of a large tribal confederacy (known as Tecumseh’s Confederacy), during the War of 1812.  It was the location of the invasion point for 60 Canadian “Patriots” on January 8, 1838 during the Upper Canada Rebellion  There are buildings on the island dating from this time.; see below…  It also served as the stepping stone for numerous individuals on the Underground Railroad to Canada. One estimate puts 30,000 people as having had crossed over between 1834 and 1860.

Most famously, Boblo was the site of a large and very popular amusement park from 1898 until 1993.  Huge crowds would come to Boblo via the big ferry from Detroit, which had a capacity of over 5,000 people.  Big bands played in the dance hall, commissioned by Henry Ford, and other name-brand performers drew large crowds as well.  But as “old fashioned” amusement parks lost out to newer, flashier entertainment venues, Boblo’s popularity faded, and the amusement park closed in 1993.

But the owners had other ideas.  In 1994 the northern 1/4 of the island was subdivided into lots; streets and utilities were constructed, and houses were built.  Today there are many houses, mostly with full time residents, and a few houses used mostly on weekends or during the summer.  And this is where we come in.

Kevin’s sister and her husband own a lovely vacation home on the island, complete with pool, pond, and golf course.  And this is where Erin, Kevin, and their family vacation every August.  And they are arriving today!

So we set up the Villa in the RV park, and headed for the ferry to Boblo. It runs 3 times per hour, so if you catch it right it is a short ride to Boblo; but if you miss the ferry, it is a 20 minute wait for the next one.

We arrived on the island, found the house, and we were reunited with our kids and grandchildren:

George X, or Jorge Diez:

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Ian Philip, named after his grandfathers:

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And Roisin:

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You might notice they all have band-aids or scabs on their foreheads; their mother is hoping for the Mother of the Year award… George crashed chasing a ball a few weeks ago, Ian got his earlier today, and Roisin  got whacked in the head with a golf club this afternoon…

We had a great time; swimming, “golfing”, and chasing balls…

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We brought them beach hats from Montreal:

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So we hung out for the afternoon; after dinner we made our way back to the Villa; this time the trip across the ferry took a little longer than usual; an ambulance had been called to the island. The ferry was held, and no other cars were allowed on; once the ambulance reached the island the ferry waited; 20 minutes later the ambulance came back, and the ferry took it to the mainland.  By this time there were lines of waiting cars over 1/4 of a mile long… We managed to squeeze onto the ferry as the last car on; the operator needed to go check to see if my truck’s rear wheels were actually on the ferry. He told me not to back up…!

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So we returned to the Villa later than planned; when we arrived we saw that Halloween festivities were in full swing!  An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-08-22 Westbound; A Stay at the Winery via Harvest Hosts…

We move on today to a new experience; we are visiting a winery and spending the night in the Villa, through the Harvest Hosts program.

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Harvest Hosts is a program through which you pay a modest annual fee to be connected with farms, wineries, orchards, museums, and other sites which will allow you to camp overnight, for free; the unwritten rule is that you purchase something from your host. We had signed up several months ago, but this is our first opportunity to take advantage of it…

So we are headed to the Burning Kiln WInery, in St. Williams, ON, about 100 miles south of London, ON, on the shores of Lake Erie.

This trip entailed driving through the greater Toronto area.  There is a lot of construction going on, (Local joke:  there are only two seasons in Toronto – Winter and Construction…) busy morning traffic, and, of course, rain.  Lots of rain.  Heavy rain.  Sudden rain.  Sudden sun!  It was a bit nerve-wracking, but eventually we left the freeway, and within two minutes we were in the countryside, with nary another vehicle in sight.  The rain stopped, the skies lightened, and everything was beautiful.  As we drove further south, towards the lake, the vehicles, towns, and building got smaller and further apart.  By the time we reached St. Williams we were in what seemed like a very remote area.  The crops on the farms were either corn or some other odd, large-leafed plant that we could not identify.

Eventually we reached the winery and parked the Villa in the large gravel lot.  We headed to the winery to check things out, and to do a little wine tasting…

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We had a delightful time at the wine tasting. We learned that the odd, large-leafed plant that we could not identify was tobacco.  But this tobacco farmer has converted his farm to grapes. However, he uses the tobacco drying racks to dehydrate the grapes, much like they do in parts of Italy.  Drying the grapes allows water to evaporate, concentrating the flavor of the juice.  (No, there is no residual tobacco to impart flavor from the drying racks…)

So we tasted several wines, and bought a few:

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We needed to get a little exercise after our hard day, so we walked about one mile down the little country road to another winery – Inasphere. These wines were not as good, and, besides, we didn’t want to carry them back on our one mile return walk, but we were tempted by their farm stand:

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Back at the Villa, we enjoyed the view out our door; the vista over the vineyards was also quite nice…

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We also looked around the vineyards:

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That evening we returned to the winery for dinner.  They have simply cleared an area in the winery, brought in tables and chairs, and set up a gourmet food truck on the property.  While it was a little cool in the winery, the food was excellent!  I even ordered a steak, which I haven’t done in years… It was fabulous! Maybe I should eat steak more often!

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After dinner, as we walked back to the Villa, the sky was beautiful! (It stays light late up here…!)

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We retired to the Villa.  Tomorrow we will leave before first light again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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