Day 58 – Cobourg to Adolphustown. I managed to squeeze my visit to Buttermilk Cafe into the end of yesterday’s blog, but I should mention that as I packed up to leave the waitress/manager came over and gave me a very generous donation to SOS Children’s Villages, which I’m very grateful for. I left with a spring in my step and got Day 58 underway. The first half was along the north shore of Lake Ontario, then out onto Prince Edward County for the second half, which is actually an island and studded with confusing local roads which made me feel like I was cycling back home in England. There were farms and lovey houses everywhere.
- Today’s Distance (miles/km): 72/115
- Time in saddle: 6h 20
- Max/min temp (°c): °/°
- Climb/descend (feet) : 2221
- Calories used: 3343
- Cafe time:
I stopped at a Blackcurrant Farm where you could PYO or buy a quart carton ready-picked, but I decided I didn’t have time to PYO so I bought a punnet (I’m eating them now), and then spent ages chatting to the owner, Joe! He was born in Tunbridge Wells but came out here as a young child (his mother had married a Canadian soldier during the war). After a spell in the Air Force and many other ventures, he ended up buying these acres in 1982 and hasn’t looked back. He believes that he’s the only Blackcurrant farm in the whole Province of Ontario. I asked if he had trouble with birds eating the crop, but he said that he thinks they can’t see the berries and aren’t familiar enough with them to work it out. There are students working for them during the summer to help pick, but often they’re not used to outdoor life and sometimes only last for a day. “Beats working in McDonalds, surrounded by all that grease and cooking – they get the fresh air, peace and quiet and a good rate. If the berries are big they can fill a bag in no time.” This year, for the first time, he has produced berries for syrup to make Cassis. He has sent them to a distiller called Hoff who are where I’m heading today, Prince Edward, but my hopes were dashed when he said that it won’t be ready for a while. I told him about Aligoté wine in France and we both started feeling a Kir coming on. He also makes jam, which I tried and is excellent, and after packing the fruit up my bike is now heavier by one quart exactly.
The next stop was irrestible. The town of Brighton is almost in Lake Ontario, and has a restaurant on the water called The Whistling Duck (how could I resist after Susie’s exploits?), where I sat outside and had a coffee with a plate of their speciality, produced for thirty-three years – Peanutbutter Ice Cream on an Orio cookie base, frozen hard. The waitress told me that if she told me the recipe she’d have to kill me. I asked how many bodies were floating out on the water clutching the recipe, and she said “Gees, there’s so many guys I wish were floating out there, you wouldn’t believe it”. As I ate it I watched swans taking off and landing, always a mesmerising sight, and enjoyed the gentle breeze coming in off the water with that smell of a freshwater lake on a warm day that is so evocative of summer.
If anyone in Toronto doesn’t already know the road from Port Hope via Cobourg out to Prince Edward County (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island) where I’ve been since yesterday, once again I’d like to recommend that they take a road trip here. The towns on Highway 2, Lakeshore Drive and then Highway 33 are gems, with more well-kept old buildings than I’ve seen anywhere else so far. The name Lakeshore Drive hides a much more interesting past; this was the “King’s Highway”, built in 1799 to link the bay of Quinte, where I am now, to the City of York, now called Toronto. The route followed a much older trail and quickly became a busy thoroughfare. It was surpassed by Highway 2, and then the 401. If we came back in a hundred years, how many more routes, just to the north of the previous one, would be built? (There’s an awful lot of “unused” Canada to the north).
As I cross-crossed Prince Edward County, avoiding busier roads, I really felt as though I was cycling in England, maybe Norfolk, with familiar terrain but unfamiliar buildings, especially the barns and farms with their distinctive rooflines. One farm with a farm shop was deserted of humans but crowded with goats, normal and Pygmy (which my mum and dad used to keep, in Norfolk), who slowly got up and moved out of my way as if their joints were temporarily seized. My experience of Pygmy goats is that they stop at nothing to escape and can leap higher than the tallest building. These were trusted to stay put. Back in Norfolk, two of them (Bilbo and Frodo) once cleared the height of two hurdles (over five feet) and crossed the road to the house opposite, where they went in through the open front door and made themselves at home. My dad had to retrieve them but no one answered in the house so he tried to round them up uninvited. The house owner, probably asleep upstairs, came down to discover his neighbour, two Pygmy goats and a few nervous deposits in his nice clean sitting room. Don’t leave any doors open if there are Pygmy goats around.
Inside the barn there were two large refrigerators, one for produce (bags and bags of green beans, courgettess and eggs), the other for meat (just chicken), and an honesty box. I bought a bag of beans, a big courgette and some garlic and loaded it onto my bike.
The approach to Picton included a spell cycling on the oldest road in Ontario, the Kent Portage. I was so keen to ride on it and so enjoyed looking around at all the old buildings that I completely missed my turning and ended up in the middle of nowhere. I spent a few minutes chatting to a local guy, out walking his friendly dog, about my chances of ever getting back on the highway again. He was very doubtful I’d make it, but wished me luck. It was 1km back down the road.
Any day with a ferry journey, as I’ve said before, is a good day. When you reach the town of Glenora there’s a free car-ferry across to the other side, and the wonderfully-named Adolphustown which is sort of where I’m camping tonight.
The cars are loaded first and the young lad working there asked me to “sort of squeeze up in the corner there”, blocking off all access to the fire extinguisher. A huge truck was travelling back and forth all day long in the middle of the deck without ever leaving. It acts as ballast for the ferry.
I kept wondering where I should buy my ticket but it turned out that this service is free. On August weekends, the lad told me, the queue can back up for miles, which explains why each house in Glenora had a “Keep Clear” sign painted on the road in front of the drive. Not knowing the ferry schedule, I passed up the chance to visit Glenora’s micro-brewery in case I missed the last one. I found out that they run until 1am. Curses.
Once across I found my way to tonight’s stop.
I don’t usually talk much about the campgrounds I stay in, but today I’d like to make an exception. If I could chose just one campground and then take it all over Canada with me, this would be it. Bass Cove Family Campground. It’s quiet, without any other tents, just year-round RVs mostly here for the fishing. It’s spacious, and the tent area alone is probably 3 or 4 acres. I have three tables all to myself. It’s beautiful, with an atmospheric pond of ancient trees as you approach the office. Did I mention that I’m the only tent here? There’s a swimming pool, and the water is clean and cool. The weather is stunning, and the long evening shadows are creeping across the well mown lawns towards my writing desk (picnic table), as the last fishermen tie up their boats by the creek and head happily homewards. A guy just came over and offered me a couple of beers. It’s fairly near a lovely (free) ferry. There aren’t any bugs, only Blackbirds and Robins getting ever bolder, hopping across the lawn, until I stand up when they excitedly scatter again. The field next to the camping field is left as long grass, and birds are hopping from one tall grassy perch to the next, scattering seeds in the slanting sunlight. The owner’s son, Vishnu, sold me a big bag of ice for $3 and threw in a vanilla ice cream. The ice cooled my beer and blackcurrants whilst I showered and swam. Whilst I swam, one of the RVs was playing Van Morrison, 1960s version, but at just the right volume. For the first time in ages it’s warm but not humid, sunny but not hot, breezy but not cool, and every sound I can hear is a welcome one, from birds chattering in the bushes to children playing before bedtime, to adults laughing as they sit outside on their porches. So, it’s this one.