A Trip to The County – Day 3

Starting mileage: 422.7

I woke up squished into some bizarre Tetris-like shape in the morning.  I’m not sure who was where but I know I was not alone on the bed.  I took all of the dogs outside and made friends with Alaska.  Of course, it’s not hard to be friends with a lab; all you have to do is throw a ball…over and over and over and over and over.

I went with my friends for breakfast at the Picton Harbour Inn and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend it.  The portions are huge and the food is great.  It’s a small dining room so don’t be surprised if you end up waiting for a bit.  Trust me: it’s worth it.

After we got back, I loaded up the dogs and headed out with directions to Huycks Bay.  I wanted to get one last swim in before leaving the County.  And the bay did not disappoint.

A long backroad abruptly ended at a thick band of trees and when we followed the short trail, we found ourselves on the now-familiar rock beach.  There were a few people close to the trail but we walked a short distance past them and I let the dogs play in the water.  I think sometimes they run in the water just to see the splashes.  IMG_7342

It’s fun to watch how they all take to the water differently.  Jack likes to wade in chest deep and then sit down which I find odd since he will often find the hottest part of the yard and go to sleep.  Piper does this funny snuffle in the ground with her hind end in the air and then starts running around trying to get someone to play with her.  And Leo just runs around being a pesky little brother.

I sat in the shade for a while until all three of the dogs came back to sit with me, each one dropping down onto the rocks panting their little hearts out.  We slowly walked back to the car with me hoping they would dry quickly.  Piper and Leo did with their nice thin coats.  Jack’s course puggy coat is like a sponge so he was still fairly damp as I put his harness on. Fortunately either he doesn’t stink or I’ve become accustomed to wet dog.  Either way, back on the road.

But not for long.  I saw a sign for Picnic Food Truck.  I had to check it out.  The truck was parked at Rose Hall Winery.  Now first off, I did not sample the wares this time.  Partially because there was a crowd of people.  I happened to pick the day that there was a play being held at the winery and I happened to arrive right before it started.  But the women working the bar outside were just all over the dogs, offering to get us water and a bowl for them, filling my water bottle.  Amazing.

At their recommendation, I ordered the fried chicken sandwich.  It was a long wait, much longer than the 15 minutes they said it would be.  I wasn’t the only one peeved at the wait times, as some people’s orders weren’t ready before the play started.  The wait wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I hadn’t watched a friend of someone in the truck place their order after me then get their food way before me.  I get that you’re friends and all but at least don’t make it so obvious.  I watched him walk away with a chicken sandwich and thought “What the …?”  Or maybe it was the owner or an investor.  Either way, it sucked.

When I finally got my sandwich, I took it over to a picnic table overlooking the vineyard and took a bite.  It was…okay.  Just okay.  Maybe it would have tasted better with a glass of wine.  I didn’t bite into it and feel the earth move.  Maybe I just got my hopes up too high.  The chicken was crispy.  The bun was good.  The mayo was nice.  It was just all…okay.

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Fried chicken sandwich from Picnic.

We drove back to the 401 and made our way westbound.  I toyed with the idea of stopping for donuts again but when I thought back to everything I had eaten over the past couple of days, I decided that I would save the donuts for another time.

I was stopped at a light after we left the highway and reached back to pet the dogs.  Big stretch for Piper, then a sweep back and okay there’s Leo.  I waved my hand around.  Where’s Jack?  I snuck a peek and saw that Jack had worked his way onto the floor of the backseat.  He was still in his harness, just stretched out on the floor.  When he saw me looking at him, he wagged his tail then closed his eyes and went to sleep.  He’s done it before and seems to like it since he will jump back up on the seat if he wants to.  I can’t imagine that it’s comfortable but if that’s how he wants to ride…

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I have no idea how this is comfortable…

That evening we parked the car and the dogs quickly found their sleeping spots while I unloaded the car.  It’s the part of road trips that I like the least since it signals the end of the ride.  I unpacked the least amount that I had to and sat on the couch and soon found myself surrounded by sleeping dogs as I closed my eyes for a rest.

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She didn’t seem to mind that I stood up.

Finishing mileage: 682.2

A Trip to the County – Day 2

Starting mileage: 278.3 km

I’ll admit that I did not sleep well and I’m not entirely sure why.  Part of it was because I had brought a different, slightly cooler and larger, sleeping bag.  This meant that little Leo was able to worm his way inside the sleeping bag and roll up at the base of it.  I’ve tried keeping him out but he somehow manages to slip in when I’m sleeping.  The fact that this bag was a bit more spacious meant that he would be even more comfortable than he is in my mummy bag.  It could have also been the sting on my left leg.  It was not as bad as it had been and the swelling was less distinct but the redness had spread to an alarming degree.  Since it wasn’t as painful, I tried to ignore it as much as I could.  Eventually it was light enough to break camp.

The owner showed up just as I was packing up the tent and I learned a lot about the history of the campground in a very short period of time while talking with her: how she and her husband had camped there 20 years ago and when it came up for sale only five years ago they bought it.  By that time it had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.  It was obvious that the buildings still needed some work but the grounds were one of the nicest private location we had stayed in.  And the camp sites were HUGE.  Probably would have been a good idea to ask where I was.

Finally we were back on the road and stopped at the first diner we came to.  I still didn’t really know where I was and didn’t really want to know so I had no idea where Cherry Valley was in relation to everything else in The County.  Mike’s Diner is your typical greasy spoon and the waitress (I think Mike’s wife) is one of those old school folks that calls you “Hon”.  Love it.  The food was good and decent portion sizes which is always a bonus since the dogs have to get their little samples.IMG_7334.JPG

After breakfast we aimlessly drove around, stopping at Little Bluff Conservation Area and Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.  It was hot so I was happy that there were so many places for the dogs to swim.  Or in Jack’s case, sit in the water and just relax while the other two splashed around.  Considering how hot the day had become, I was surprised by how few people were out.  And with it being so hot, we basically ignored most of the trails, only walking what we needed to get into the water.  The shoreline around this section of Lake Ontario is rocky so if you go there expecting sand, you’ll be very disappointed.  These spots do offer spectacular views over the water and the lake stays shallow for quite some distance which makes it great for children.  And dogs.

There was one place that I did want to go to while we were in the area: Three Dog Winery.  How could I not go with my three dogs?  The winery bit is just an added bonus.  When we got there, I asked if I would be able to take the dogs for a walk.  The staff were so friendly and told me I could talk them anywhere on the property and since there were no other dogs, they could go off-leash if I wanted to let them run.  And then come back for wine.  YES!!  We did walk through part of the property but the dogs were tired from swimming and it was hot so soon we found ourselves back in the tasting room.  The dogs splayed out on the concrete floor, after visiting their new best friends, while I sampled my way through the wines.  They were very good but after splurging on ciders, I left with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and the Rose.

By the time we left the winery, I had heard from my friend and started driving to his place. We had a little time to kill so I stopped when I saw a bistro called Agrarian.  I stopped in there for a little caffeine (it had been hours since my last hit after all) and I found that I could not stop staring at the tarts on display.  The lemon curd blueberry tart was calling out to me so I couldn’t leave it behind.  The flavour was very good but the pastry was too delicate for the filling.  I should have taken a spoon to eat it since all the crust disintegrated as I tried to lever it out out the tin which was disappointing.

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It’s so pretty.

My friends live on the outskirts of a small town outside of Picton and retirement seems to be treating them well which makes me so happy.  We went out for dinner at a local pub that I think was called The Picton Pub but I could be wrong.  It was a small place in the middle of nowhere but the food was fantastic.  I could have listed off what we ate and pictures of how well it was presented, but I put all that on hold and just enjoyed a conversation and re-connecting with friends.

Now I must admit that I was a little worried about the dogs being left by themselves and with Piper’s tummy issues, I half expected to walk back into the house to a mess.  Nope.  Their dog Alaska and my three were waiting for us but not a single thing seemed to be out of place.

We sat and talked for a little longer and then with full bellies, we all went to bed.  They have a spare room in the basement and the dogs were, as usual, out before I was.  Alaska seemed to miss her new friends and slept against the door most of the night.  I know because I could hear her shifting every so often over the chainsaw that is a snoring Jack.

A Trip to The County – Day 1

It hit me like a ton of bricks as I was looking at weather reports, flipping through books, overworking my search engines: I had lost our way.  I mean I was actually doing research on places to go.  So I closed my computer, packed the car, and headed east.  Why east?  If we made it to the coast, I’ve been having a craving for seafood.  If we didn’t, I haven’t been east much so why not.

Standard Road Trip Rules would apply.  Since this was going to be a short trip, I packed a bottle of Merlot but more on that later.

I took a straight drive to the 401 since there’s a lot of city to clear.  However, coffee was soon beckoning and I stumbled upon Skylight Donuts in Bowmanville.  I’ll admit to some trepidation as it was a brick shack in the parking lot of a gas station but when I rolled up, the glass window was stacked with row upon row of donuts.  I asked what was popular and was told the cinnamon swirl, apple fritter, and cherry.  So I got one of each.  But the best part was that when she handed me my coffee there, resting on the lid, was a dog cookie.  Wow!  Talk about the little things.

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Dooooonnnuuuuuuuts

I left the parking lot and noticed signs for the Dave Boyd Memorial Dog Park which just happened to be an off-leash dog park.  Coffee, donuts, and off-leash park?  Could this trip have started any better?!  It’s not the nicest park we’ve ever been in: it’s in an industrial area and is relatively flat with just grass but it has two large sections with good fencing, sturdy gates, and lots of benches.  The dogs had a romp around as I crushed a surprisingly good cup of coffee and cinnamon swirl.

Back onto the highway for a little bit longer.  Well until I saw The Big Apple.  It literally is a giant apple that is next to the 401.  I had never been there so I decided to stop.  It’s a nice little tourist spot that I could see being really popular with kids.  They have a petting zoo and a train and there are some nice souvenir things.  You can actually go inside the big apple to an observation deck at the top.  I didn’t because I wasn’t sure how the dogs would handle all the stairs.  There were also rabbits running around all over the place but the dogs didn’t really care about them.  I guess it’s because we have rabbits running around at home.  They were rather intrigued by the goats though.  I actually saw the goat version of Leo who was walking around the pen then just stopped, dropped, and rolled and rolled and rolled.    While we were there, I just had to see what was available by way of food.  Strangely enough, apple products dominated (sarcasm doesn’t translate well into type).  I briefly thought about getting something to eat but just grabbed an americano which was meh.  Then I noticed the counter for wine and ciders.  Well now…A few quick samples and I left with a few bottles.

I decided to stay off the 401 at that point and take Highway 2 as we continued east.  It’s lovely country driving and then when I saw the signs for Presqu’ile Provincial Park, I stopped to do some hiking.  It’s fairly flat and the trails are wide and well maintained which is great for the dogs.  The first trail we hiked was the Owen Point Trail. It hugs the shore but you can’t see the lake because of tall thick grasses.  And when I say tall I mean over my head and then some.  There are five lookouts that do lead to the beach but dogs are prohibited because they would disturb the shore birds.  I understand why, it just would have been nice to sit near the water.

Then we went to the Marsh Boardwalk Trail.  It’s another short loop trail that is almost entirely on a boardwalk with a couple of lookout towers.  We were about halfway along when I stopped for a second and Piper leaped off the boardwalk.  I thought she just wanted to get into some water.  Nope.  About 20 paces later…If you’re at all squeamish you might want to skip to the next paragraph…Piper all of a sudden has diarrhea all over the boardwalk.  So there I am, with pooh bags trying to clean the mess as best as I can.  We haven’t seen anyone for a while and now of course a family of four just happens to walk by.  I tried to pull the dogs to one side as best as I can while not stepping in the mess and making sure they don’t step in the mess and making sure the family doesn’t get mobbed by dogs.  Once I’ve smeared up as much as I can, I tried to rinse the boards down with my water bottle with no luck.  I’ve got nothing else on me that I could use and there’s no real vegetation as the weeds have been cleared from around the walk.  And then I spot a lone stub of a cattail just within reach and snap that off, using it like a giant cotton swab to wipe down the boards.  Finally I stood, stretched my back, and continued along.

We caught up to the family of four and just after we passed them, I felt a fire all of a sudden in my left calf.  I’m not kidding; it was like someone jabbed a lighter into my leg.  It was so sudden I almost yelped and buckled but seeing as how there were four people that were probably already wondering about me, I just gritted my teeth and looked down.  I saw nothing.  A few more steps and I had to stop again, lifting my leg up to contort into some kind of bizarre position.  Finally I spotted a tiny red mark but I had felt no bugs on my leg and did not see anything embedded.  I kept walking and eventually the fire did ease but it felt as though my calf were being pinched in a vice.

Ignoring whatever was happening in my leg, we drove further into the park and I stopped at the day lot.  There were a bunch of picnic tables on the edge of the lake and we climbed down to the waters edge where I had a sandwich that I had packed and the last of the donuts.  I let the dogs swim for a little while before we left and then we stopped at a lighthouse to check the view.  After that, there was one more trail just inside the park boundary.  It was another short loop but by this time, the dogs were slowing down a little so I knew it was time to go.  Back in the car and eastbound we go.

Prince Edward County (affectionately known as “The County”) is a hub for foodies, wineries, and artisans.  In just under 1 050 km2, there are almost 40 wineries alone, never mind breweries and cideries.  That in and of itself would not be a reason for me to go since I can really hit those until Piper learns to drive, but add on some gorgeous scenery and damned fine restaurants and it’s worth going. I also have an old friend who lives there so I was hoping to stop by at some point.

First stop: Sandbanks Provincial Park, hopefully to spend the night.  It is a very popular park so I had little hope of getting a site  at the last minute.  Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when I was told it was full.  I began checking some private grounds around but most of them were also full and the ones that weren’t had trailers crammed in like sardines.

Finally I stumbled onto a campground.  I wasn’t really sure where I was at this point but when I drove in there were plenty of empty sites.  After calling the number at the office, I spoke with the owner who told me to pick a site and she’d see me when she was done her errands in town.  Cool.  I picked a site and set up the tent, trying to keep the dogs out until I had the bedding in so they wouldn’t puncture the floor.  I went to get my backpack and the three of them snuck into the tent and were sprawled out before I had turned around.  I had a good laugh at that and sat with them for a minute.

When I opened my eyes, it was almost dark out.  I was laying with my body on the sleeping pad and my legs on the dog blankets.  Piper was sleeping on my pillow, Leo was in front of me and Jack was curled up at my feet.  I had no idea that I had been so tired.  I had also forgotten that I had left the trunk of my car open with the key in the lock.  Not like me at all.  We went for one short walk down to the shore and then went back to the tent.  I was so tired that I had forgotten about my bottle.  I would make up for it later…

A Short Little Trip

With the heat wave continuing and showing no signs of breaking any time soon, there haven’t been much in the way of adventures.  Jack did have his own little (mis-) adventure but that doesn’t really count.  After getting antsy for a change of scenery, I threw the dogs in the car and we went to our local farmer’s market.  I have brought the dogs there before and for some of the regulars, they are like little celebrities.

Unfortunately when I parked the car, I noticed that several of the booths that I had been looking forward to were not there.  No bakery truck with fresh strudel, no coffee (???), and the lady that sells jams and jellies wasn’t there.  Even the woman that I buy my greens from wasn’t there.  Her husband was but she always visits with the dogs.

Oh well.  We were there and I was on something of a mission.  My sister-in-law has started making dog bandanas so I volunteered the dogs to be models.  Or would they be brand ambassadors?  It’s not official yet as she is still getting her sewing legs but considering that she just started less than a week ago, the bandanas looked great.

There wasn’t much in the way of traffic at the market so after buying strawberries and kale (the dogs sampled the strawberries to make sure they were ripe) we went to the pet store to get food for the boys.  It took me a second to figure out why Piper was whining in the back.  She’s normally not a vocal dog at all.  I clued in when we got into the parking lot and she was standing in her harness.  She is very good at recognizing locations.  Heck I can’t even drive near the vet without her getting excited.  She LOVES the vet.  Actually they all love the vet’s office but Piper is the only one that watches out the window.  Weird dogs.

And they love the pet store.  They always get lots of attention from the folks that work there.  And treats.  Tons of treats.  Sometimes as a joke, I take them to the wall o’ toys and tell them pick out something to take home.  I know people give me the “you’re crazy” look behind my back but you have to have fun somehow.

I was going to go back home but then an idea occurred to me and I made a quick U-turn.  For a second I had thought about stopping in town and wandering the pavement but then I had a better idea.

We went to Goodwood and stopped at Annina’s Bakeshop.  The last time we had been there was just after Piper’s vestibular episode, when I realized she was still able to travel. We had met a wonderful couple there.  Maybe part of me hoped they would be there again.  Or a friend of mine who rides crazy distances on his bike.

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Annina’s Bakeshop in Goodwood.

Neither happened to be there but the gelato stand was up and running.  I eyed it intently then went inside to place my order: a coffee and the special of the day which happened to be prime rib on a bun.

I picked a table in the far corner of the lawn where we would be apart from everyone else and I enjoyed my coffee while the dogs had some water and shade.  I had expected my sandwich to just be some beef on a bun, maybe with a leaf of lettuce.  But it was so much more!  A soft bun with buttery slices of prime rib, horseradish aioli, crispy onions, and (get this) mashed potatoes!  I pulled off a few tiny little pieces of beef for the dogs but I destroyed that sandwich.  It must have been horrifying to watch.

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The prime rib sandwich. You can just see Leo hovering under the table.

And then I could resist the siren call of the gelato no longer.  OK well I had to wait for a few more minutes because the dogs were getting some loving and compliments on their fashion sense.  The best part about this stand is that the owner doesn’t ask what you want; he just starts giving you samples.  I thought the last time it was because I was staring at the menu.  Nope.  He asked if I wanted gelato and when I said yes, little spoons with gelato kept being pushed into my hand.

I left with a small cup of the coconut gelato and I sat in the trunk of my car as I rationed out tiny little smears to the dogs.

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Waiting for more coconutty goodness.

Today was a short adventure but one they enjoyed as they are now sprawled around me, the sound of snoring loud in the air.  Sometimes you need to have a local adventure to really appreciate where you live.