As anticipated, the trip to and from Ottawa was comfortable, enjoyable and exciting. And, Ottawa was just as beautiful as we remembered from our working days before retirement, when both of us worked on committees with Northern Telecom, headquartered in Ottawa. A great convention city, but much more fun on holiday. As pictured above, the parliament building, with the Parliamentary Library in the foreground, is quite picturesque when viewed from Quebec, which is just across the river.
The trip began a year ago. As Steven planned the route and looked for any unusual stops, Diane monitored the GT-39 website, including Daisy's page, for activities during the week, along with sites to see while en-route and while on site.
Thursday, July 10, 2014 - on the road
Since the first day's mileage was less than 200, we decided to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast and hit the road (yes, the one around Chicago) at 10AM. Luckily, most of the commuter traffic had calmed down, and the journey down I-355 was not as frightful as usual in an MGA. The day was beautiful, about 75 degrees, and the MGA ran well. The trip was uneventful except when we exited I-355 onto US6. Where is the potty stop: a McDonald's or a gas station? There was a hospital, and it was an emergency!
The object was to by-pass Chicagoland, but the effort was futile. We worked our way south and picked up U.S. 30, the Lincoln Highway. It wasn't until we were well east of Merrilville, IN, that traffic thinned out. We eventually worked our way northeast and picked-up U.S. 12 to M-60, both decent and uncongested roads. Soon we were in Three Rivers, MI to have an early dinner with our traveling companion, Bruce Nichols.
Friday, July 11, 2014 - on the road
The Three Amigos had breakfast at a family restaurant and began a tortuous trek across southeast Michigan and north of Detroit to Marine City to catch the car ferry to Canada. There was so much construction and detours, but thankfully pleasant weather. How quickly one forgets the nasty travel around Detroit. The car ferry was a pleasant surprise — what a well kept secret— and rather painless. Adjacent to PRNCZ was a gorgeous 1967 black Chevelle on its way to Canada for some upgrades, according to the owner. Two Black Beautys! Soon the roads cleared, and the Canadian countryside was calming and abundant (but where does one pee?). There's a Tim Horton's! Canada's version (much, much better, tho') of Starbucks. The entire county joined us for a much needed refreshment break. Love those apple fritters and an actual "small" coffee. No biggie sizes here. Two more hours and PRNCZ rolled into Stratford, Ontario, our stop for the next two nights.
Our accommodations, chosen for proximity to the Avon Theatre and a plethora of dining establishments, was The Albert Street Inn. The Queen's Inn, our local favorite, was already booked back in January. What a soulful place this is — run down, cramped, no parking, but clean and available. Steve went to the bank to get a roll of quarters so he could feed parking meters for two days, even during the play's intermission. The traditional champagne toast was held prior to dinner at Fellini's, another long time favorite. The theatre crowd was gone, so we enjoyed a lovely meal with great service. Love Canada's hand-held credit card transaction machines. After a quick visit to the LCBO (liquor store) and a walkabout, it was time to hit the sack.
Saturday, July 12, 2014 - theatre day in Stratford
Diane Upon Avon, Stratford, ON
On the way to the York Street Kitchen for breakfast, Steve stopped to feed the meters, again. Today was a casual, easy day in Stratford. After breakfast we checked out favorite shops: Indigena where Diane bought an Inukshuk talisman; two bookstores; Watson's to check on the cats and anything British; two music stores to look for accordions (none found thankfully — how would we get it home?); and finally at Pazzo, to enjoy a glass of Towse Rosé (Niagara Winery) on the patio and watch the tourists. Soon it was time to feed the meters again and head for the Avon Theatre to see Man of LaMancha. During intermission Steve stepped out to feed the meters again. After the theatre we walked across the street for Indian cuisine at The Raja, "Where Taste Reigns Supreme." The food was great as was the service. One last trip to the cars to put the top up on PRNCZ — it was already threatening rain — and off to pack and prepare for the next leg of the trip, Ottawa, on Sunday. (Can't wait to get to the Marriott!)
Sunday, July 13, 2014 - on the road
It's raining and had been all night! Luckily, not too hard. We gassed up, McDonald's for breakfast, and headed east. We kept heading east and a little north, bypassing Toronto and its traffic. We were on great country roads, with a quick stop, here and there, at Tim Horton's for a coffee break.
We passed through Amish country somewhere along the way. Families in horse drawn vehicles headed to Sunday services. Diane was particularly taken with a young couple in an open buggy with their two small girls dressed in dark garb with bright pastel bonnets. A Kodak moment if there even was one, but pictures not permitted.
About 2:30PM, we stopped to put the top down. The sun was starting to peek, and we were dying in the sauna atmosphere in the cockpit. What IS that rattle? Steve is really annoyed by any noise, but now, so was Diane. It was behind us. We thought that the top or tonneau weren't securely fasted, so we pulled off. Diane checked everything over but found no major malfunctions. We just lived with it until we reached the hotel in Ottawa.
Highway 7 across Ontario is a very drivable road but without any attractions to divert our attention. It was blueberry season, and we saw many make-shift stands along the road selling blueberry tarts and pies. Also, stands selling potato fries (French fries). We didn't stop for either. We arrived at the Marriott at about 5:30PM. After unpacking the car in the Marriott garage, Steve found that the glass in the rear license plate light was cracked and rattling against the holder. He adjusted it with a bit of duct tape and bought a new assembly from Cecelia (Scarborough Faire). This was the second thing he fixed when we got home the following week.
It was too late for registration, but early enough to check in and have a relaxed dinner in the hotel dining room. We reunited with many NAMGAR alumni and caught up on life — our favorite activity at GTs.
On The Back
Mouse Over to See Back
Monday, July 14, 2014 - the official start of the GT
After a really nice buffet (loved the berries) at the hotel, it was time to register, check out the vendors, wash the car and plan the week. Diane bought a new NAMGAR shirt and a really nice Watkin's Glen racing scarf with an MGA on it. Steve bought the license plate light assembly from Cecelia, and we both used the opportunity to get caught up with Cecelia. Her mother and aunt were not with her, but they were OK back home. Hopefully, we'll reunite next year in Frankenmuth.
At 2PM it was time to go meet Daisy, the mascot, so Diane hurried to the lobby. There was a nice area set up outside with a water bowl, pictures and chocolate suckers for those of us who donated to the Humane Society. Well, Daisy was delayed because the C2C (Cruise to the Capitol) group arrived in full force, including noise makers which Daisy couldn't handle. So she waited in her limo while the C2C crowd disbursed and then came out to greet her fans. She's a gorgeous and friendly Goldendoodle.
Late afternoon was the First Timers' Reception to which we were invited. We made new friends as we usually do. Then the NAMGAR Board and the Host Committee welcomed everyone and described the week's activities. After a slice of pizza, we spent some time in the Hospitality Bistro renewing old friendships.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - Parliament Hill and Red/White Ottawa River Dinner Cruise
We had signed up for the bus to take us to Parliament Hill for a tour and Changing of the Guard. We stood in line to get our free tickets, then waited in the rain for our tour to begin. The first stop was security — worse than the airport, except you could retrieve your pocket knives at the end of the tour.
By then, the Changing of the Guard was scheduled to begin so many in the group left to find a good viewing spot of an activity that was evetually canceled due to therain. Apparently, we made a good decision to stay with the group. We've seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, so we didn't think we'd miss much. The tour was excellent, and our tour guide was very informative. Diane's favorite spot was the absolutely, drop-dead, gorgeous Parliamentary Library which luckily survived a fire back in the 1916. It's a separate building attached by a corridor and huge iron doors which someone wisely closed when the fire was detected.
The Cake: A Capital Idea
After the tour, we walked back to the bus since sightseeing in the rain is no fun. After a quick lunch at the hotel, we returned to the vendor room to check out the raffle items, adding the tickets to the buckets of our favorites. Later we rustled up Bruce and boarded the bus to the dinner cruise on the Ottawa River. Unfortunately, the boat was really small and not very convenient for disabled folks. We were able to get on the boat first, but then sacrificed the cocktail reception on the dock. The bar on the boat was not yet open, so we were very DRY. The food was good, as was the GT-39 cake, but the logistics were difficult. The view of Parliament Hill from the river made up for the inconvenience. We took a lot of photos and enjoyed lively conversation with our table mates.
Once back at the hotel, we made a quick stop at the Hospitality Bistro and then off to dreamland.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - Car Show
Overlooking the Car Show Field
The car show venue, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, was absolutely lovely, but the drive to get there was a nightmare. Betwixt the hotel and the museum was rush hour traffic, construction and poorly marked intersections. We finally got there and parked. We chatted and admired MGAs until it was time for a back-lot tour of the museum and its old trains, cars, boats, computers, home appliance and just about anything else you could think of. After the back-lot tour, we returned to the field to view the other automobiles we'd missing. Diane was into oggling the two Mounties walking around and posing with MGAs and MGA owners.
Eventually it was time to head back to the hotel. On the return, we looked for a lunch place but were only able to find a gas station so Steve filled up in anticipation of Friday morning's departure. There would be no need to drive anywhere for the rest of the GT.
Lunch ended up being at the hotel. Even though the hotel restaurant was small with a limited menu, the food and service were excellent. We had lunch with friends Bill and Trudy and made plans to take the shuttle together in the morning to Parliament Hill to see the Changing of the Guard, since the weather had improved immensely. During the afternoon Diane scouted around for an easier way to get to Ottawa for dinner that evening. Lo and behold, the front desk told her about a free shuttle that was available to the group for the week — this certainly wasn't advertised. The three amigos bussed into Ottawa to a very pleasant Thai restaurant, Lemon Grass, that Diane had scoped out on-line. The driver dropped us off right across the street and picked us up two hours later. Perfect because there is no way we would have found parking in the area — even with Bruce's handicapped sticker. Dinner was excellent.
Thursday, July 17, 2014 - Changing of the Guard and Awards Banquet
After breakfast we met up with Bill and Trudy in the lobby to catch the shuttle. Well, there was a crowd waiting to go use the same shuttle that we thought we'd use. We nixed the shuttle and grabbed a taxi: were at Parliament Hill tout de suite. We found a spot, settled in and waited for the event to happen. Two military groups, with band and pipers marched onto the Hill parade grounds. We watched and listened as they performed the ceremony, which, by-the-way, is not the same as in jolly-Ole-England.
The Pipers Lead the Colors
It was a nice, sunny morning so we were able to get good pictures and see all the festivities. We then walked around to the other side of the buildings and took pictures of the beautiful parliament building and the library. After a stop at a souvenir shop for postcards, we grabbed a taxi back to the Marriott. After lunch Steve went out to the parking lot to view the MGA Alternator Conversion tech session Diane joined a group of ladies to make a necklace using the GT logo, a black MGA and the Canadian maple leaf. Thanks to Deb Fortin for a really pleasant crafting experience.
Later at Awards Banquet, we shared our table with Bruce, Cecelia, Allen &
Florrie and First Timer's Francois & Roma. Francois graciously treated our
table to a bottle of wine. The meal was one of the best banquet meals we've had.
Even though it was a buffet, the selection was varied and unusual. Unusual because
they ran out of desserts before we had an opportunity to get back in line. The
awards were the usual format with slides of the winning cars. It was sad to see the
week coming to a quick end. The GT was loads of fun in a
Friday, July 18, 2014 - on the road again
We were up early, packed, coffeed and ready to hit the road by 7AM. Steve used the freeway to head west out of town, while not our normal modus operandi, it got us away from Ottawa quickly and put us exactly on the Trans-Canadian highway where we needed to be. It was sunny and pleasant motoring. We crossed the Mississippi River (really? - yes!) and stopped in Renfrew for coffee.
Somewhere around Mattawa Bruce was stopped by an OPP-cop for going 7 kph over. Interestingly, he was right behind us, so you have to believe that we were also a bit above the posted speed. Maybe the cop was using radar and it failed to detect our petite automobile. Bruce wasn't ticketed, what would be the point, but he did get a wee lecture about Canadian traffic laws.
We stopped for lunch at Average Joe's on Trout Lake: yes, it was average, but the view was great At around 4PM we rolled into Sudbury, our stop for the night. Thankfully, there was a recommended restaurant within walking distance. We enjoyed a tasty dinner, rehashed the day and week and turned in early.
Saturday, July 19, 2014 - back in the USA!
The morning was cool and sunny. Since the breakfast at the motel was rather meager, we used the GPS to locate a Perkins Restaurant around the corner and a bit down the road. Steve doesn't use the GPS for routing on these excursions, but it does come in handy for finding restaurants and gas stations. Oh... and when you are totally and indescribably lost.
It was a lovely drive towards Sault Sainte Marie. After a quick lunch we parted ways with Bruce. We were continuing our MGAdventure and Bruce was headed south on I-75 towards home.
We headed west on M-28 towards Munising, MI, our stop for the next two nights. M-28 is a beautiful road with beautiful UP scenery: lots of trees, more trees and even more trees — no major cities or interesting stops.
M-28: Can't See the Forest for the Trees
When we got near Newberry, Steve decided to check out the town where he worked for the telephone company back in the summer of 1969. Well, it hasn't changed much, but there was a car show in the middle of town, so we stopped for a peek. It took all of 15 minutes to check out the rods, a split window Corvette (Steve would love one) and a few other Chevies and Fords: back on the road.
Somewhere along the way the odometer turned to 60,000 miles, and Steve noticed that the left front turn signal indicator lamp was not working. Odd, because he had replaced the front trafficator assemblies before the trip, and they had been working right-along. How about hand signals? Only the motorcycles seemed to understand us until we got home on Monday.
Our stop for two nights was the Terrace Motel, "The Quiet One." And it was. Very vintage with no air conditioning, which we really didn't need, and quaint rooms decorated in a western motif — appropriate. Larry, the proprietor, was very helpful, recommending restaurants (not many here) and things to see on Sunday before our 4PM cruise to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Spray Falls on Lake Superior. We had dinner at Sydney's Restaurant and dessert at Dairy Queen. It was a quiet evening and a cool night with all the windows open in the room. Larry took a picture of us with PRNCZ and posted it on the motel's Facebook page.
Sunday, July 20, 2014 - Munising Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Munising Pictured Rocks
We walked down to Sydney's Restaurant for breakfast, returned, and then drove out to find the local scenic sites that Larry described to us yesterday. Scott Falls were dried up, and AuTrain Falls were so hidden where we couldn't find them, but we did see Horsehoe Falls.
The roads were nice MG roads with little traffic. We also stopped at a roadside park to find the Face on a Rock — an Objibwa Indian likeness in sandstone with an interesting story. While in the parking lot, pouring sand out of our shoes, we met Craig and Maggie from Mt. Pleasant, MI, who have a 1962 1600 Mk II but are not NAMGAR members. We gave them a business card and told them about GT-40 next year in their backyard. Then we drove a bit further down the road to see the Bay Furnace before heading to the dock for the cruise.
Munising Pictured Rocks
It's really hard to describe the beauty of the shoreline and to chose a representative photo. The area is America's first National Lakeshore. We saw colorful cliffs, carved sea caves, cascading falls and pristine beaches. Three hours later we were totally windblown and ready for some eats. Everyone, except Larry, told us to NOT go to The Navigator Restaurant which is very close to the dock, but we were hungry and tired of Sydney's, so we stopped and actually enjoyed the food and service. Haven't a clue why everyone discouraged us. Sometimes it's best to follow your own instincts. Plus, in the parking lot were a whole mess of Alfa Romeos. The owners must have been on a cruise.
Monday, July 21, 2014 - on the road and back home
We were up early and headed west and south for home. Never take a road with the word Truck in it with the MG. Yes, we did, and we were eventually on a very lonely and deserted dirt road. We saw no one — only trees. Steve told Diane to watch for bears!
Finally we were in Escanaba, MI for breakfast The day turned very warm but again populated with detours and lots of road construction. We managed to work around the trucks and traffic and stopped in Fond du Lac, WI for a quick lunch. By then it was 88 degrees and cloudless. We were happy to reach home about 4:30PM with no mishaps.
Thank you to the Ottawa MG Club and NAMGAR for another fun GT at another great location. We are already planning for Frankenmuth next year. Hope to see you there.