Blind River…Eyes Wide Open
I have done my share of driving over the past decade as a mom of hockey players. It wasn’t until we moved to Sudbury in September, though, that I began living the Stompin’ Tom song “I’ve Been Everywhere”. The north is vast and most small communities are a significant drive away. One of my sons plays in the NOJHL, taking him to Sudbury, Espanola, Powassun, Hearst, Cochrane, Timmins, Elliott Lake, Sault Ste. Marie, Noelville, Kirkland Lake and most recently Blind River. I try to see as many of his games as possible and my most recent adventure was to Blind River.
Blind River has approximately 3,500 residents. In this town, you can still buy a house for $100,000. The largest industry is uranium refining. Uranium was discovered in 1954 and Cameco has been running a large uranium refinery since 1983 processing uranium from around the world into uranium trioxide. There is a golf course beside Cameco called Huron Pines Country Club on the river, along with Lauzon Aviation offering fly-in fishing and hunting wilderness vacations.
There is also a hockey team, the Blind River Beavers. The mascot in the arena is a beaver puppet sported by a super fan. The arena would seat about 300 people maximum and was more than half full the night I went. The team is good, ranked third out of six teams in their conference with a record of winning 2/3 of their games. The players billet with local families and play hockey from September through April, providing a significant source of entertainment for the town residents.
The drive from Sudbury is just under two hours along Highway 17. I made plans to arrive around 5 pm so I could do some exploring before puck drop at 7. Situated on the North Channel, a fabled waterway in Lake Huron that many Canadians have on their bucket list, water is everywhere. In summer there are an abundance of beaches to enjoy. There has been a post office in town since 1877. The Canadian Pacific railroad expanded into town in the late 1800s bringing people and causing it to incorporate as a town in 1906. A logging company started and flourished there for many years logging white pine until a big fire in 1948 burned all the trees down.
Pier 17 is a local sports bar, known for fresh food and good times. It was fully renovated two years ago from a fancy restaurant to a sports bar and when I was there on a Saturday night, it was doing a brisk business. The pool tables were busy and the tables were almost full. The waitresses were friendly and the food was incredibly good. The special was fried pickerel, which was fresh and delicious, which I finished with a chocolate eruption cake. A large summer patio overlooks the water.
The Espanola Paper Kings lost to the Blind River Beavers 3-1. My son drove us home along Highway 17, noting deer along the highway but no hitchhikers. He played country music the whole way. It was an enjoyable Saturday night, adding to my own version of “I’ve Been (Almost) Everywhere.”
Thunder Beach Blast
The August long weekend was upon us. Once all the fun and frivolity with my children’s friends ended, we struck out on the Civic Holiday to explore Thunder Beach and environs. I had never been there before and had only just heard of it in the past few years when my brother bought a house fronting the bay. Initially registering Thunder Bay, which is more than 13 hours away, I was happy when he clarified it was the beach, not the bay where he had settled. Thunder Beach likely secured its name due to the ferocity and intensity of the storms that come into the bay.
Thunder Beach is a community of just over 300 owners surrounding and fronting on the bay. My brother and his family have been enjoying the community for the past few years and have remarked on how sociable, safe and friendly it is. There are no hotels, inns or suites for rent on the beach anymore because everything is privately owned, so unless you know someone with a cottage on the bay, you may have never heard of it. My friend Kevin and his wife Sally had invited me to their cottage in Penetanguishene a few years back and it turns out their cottage is actually a few doors down from my brother’s cottage. Small world. Thunder Beach is the northernmost part of Tiny Township, the township having a population of about 12,000. Thunder Beach revels in its community events. They hold an annual concert and an annual Lobsterfest. This year they also had an art exhibition. Everything is centered around family and friends. Adults are encouraged to compete in tennis, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball tournaments throughout the summer months. Children attend camp and play baseball, flag football and run cross country.
Setting off from Toronto at 10 am, we encountered some traffic heading north. Highway 400 generally runs well but once you duck off at Bayfield onto Highway 26 turning into 27, you slow down significantly. Although the posted speed limit is 80 km per hour, most folks go a little slower than that. Hence it is a true country drive from Barrie to the Beach.
Arriving around 12:30 pm, we immediately boarded my brother’s speed boat and went zipping around the bay, exploring the coastline, engaging in wakeboarding, and surfing off the back. My eldest daughter is great at wakeboarding and my eldest son gave it a go. After face planting twice, he was able to keep himself up the third time around and enjoy a nice tour around the bay. My niece surfed behind the boat, and everyone jumped in the water at one point or other and swam to shore. The beach is shallow and sandy a fair way out.
We ate cheeseburgers from the Friendly Corner Store and Restaurant. We were starving and the grub hit the spot. We then swam in the water and played in the sand in front of their cottage for a few hours. My youngest daughter drew the beachscape. My two boys went golfing with my brother at the local privately owned five-hole course, which they thoroughly enjoyed. As afternoon turned into evening, we played football in the water and swam to the buoy and back. The water was crisp, temperate and clear, making for an incredibly enjoyable beachfront experience.
Heading home, we stopped in at Wasaga Beach. Wasaga Beach is the longest freshwater beach in the world, stretching 14 kilometers over six beach zones. It is remarkable how rich Ontario is with its many lakes and rivers...over a quarter of a million of them. The water itself is beautiful and there are many sandbars as you wade out. Sunbathing and beach volleyball are popular. Always jammed on long weekends, we caught the tail end of the crowd. Although Wasaga Beach only has a permanent population of approximately 25,000, over 2 million people visit the beach each summer.
Although the sand is smooth and silky, the downtown strip is seedy and squalid. A massive fire wreaked havoc in 2007 and the town has been trying to rebuild without success ever since. There is a casino under construction. The cottages at either end are lovely; the town itself is not. The cottages are not located on the beach but instead sit on narrow lots fronting the streets between the homes and the water. The beach itself is owned by Ontario Parks and is protected. There are over 50 kilometers of hiking trails that can be accessed summer and winter, along with the Nottawasaga River for canoeing and fishing.
We left the beach strip behind and played mini putt at Wasaga 500 on our way out of town, where one of the boys’ hockey friends worked the go-carts. Thereafter we decided to split. En route home and in need of food, we hit Kelsey’s on Bayfield Street in Barrie. The meal was delicious for a late-night dinner. We had broccoli cheddar soup, potato skins, quesadillas, chicken fingers, and Caesar salad, all of which were tasty. We then rolled home with full bellies and sun kissed skin. It was a good northern day trip and a wonderful end to the August long weekend.
French River Romp
My girls and I were traveling from Sudbury to Bracebridge last Sunday and felt like an adventure. The north is vast, rugged and beautiful. The air is clean; the sky is blue; and the national parks are plentiful. Hence there are always plenty of activities to satisfy the desire for a new experience. We were in my truck with the windows down and the music turned up loud. The girls were singing. The weather was warm and dry. It was wonderful.
My girlfriend Amy mentioned to me how fondly she remembered spending time at The French River Trading Post as a young girl. We had never been so that was our first stop. The French River Trading Post is 45 minutes south of Sudbury on Highway 69. We pulled in famished and the Hungry Bear Restaurant fit the bill. We ordered a toasted ham and cheese sandwich; a toasted BLT; a Caesar salad; and poutine. Everything was tasty and fresh. The staff was friendly with a sense of humour. We did not have to wait long.
We then wandered over to the gift shop. It is vast, encompassing about 15,000 SF, and has such an interesting array of Canadiana. There were moccasins; indigenous art; blankets; bush hats; pajamas; branded clothing of all kinds; rings; bracelets; earrings; wallets; inlaid wooden boxes; rabbit’s feet and pelts; themed playing cards; and tea sets. There was something for everyone. My youngest purchased an inlaid wooden box with a wolf carved on the front along with a lucky rabbit’s foot that she put inside…predator and prey she explained. My eldest daughter bought two rings and a crystal Suncatcher. We bought half a pound each of maple and vanilla fudge along with some chocolate maple cookies. It was delightful. Before we left, my youngest ordered bubble gum and orange peach ice cream for the road. They must have given her a full pint!
Next on our agenda was Killbear Provincial Park in Parry Sound. We drove just over an hour south to arrive at this immensely busy park. There are over 1,000 campsites in seven different camps, most of them a mere 5 minute walk from the lake, and most were occupied. The park sits on Georgian Bay so the water is clear and cold. We wandered down to the shore at Beaver Dams and admired the sand and surf. Lots of activity but not crowded. There was enough space to spread out and move around comfortably. There are signs posted everywhere warning you are now in Bear Country although we did not encounter any bears. We will return to hike to Lookout Point someday soon. The park is vast and lovely.
Rolling from Killbear we headed southeast 45 minutes to Rosseau. We ended up at Crossroads Restaurant up on the hill overlooking Lake Rosseau. It is a special place, with both indoor and outdoor dining in the natural environment of Muskoka with lots of surrounding flowers and greenery. There is a large gravel parking lot right next door serving the restaurant. The menu is fresh and upscale and the restaurant is lavish, albeit a little pretentious - they have open perfume bottles in the women’s bathroom. On Sunday they were offering homemade focaccia bread, chilled cucumber soup, hand-cut fries and vegetable spring rolls. If that didn’t strike your fancy, there was chicken liver parfait, steamed PEI mussels, tuna tartare and oysters. On to the main courses, featuring a vegan ratatouille, a hand cut pappardelle, oven roasted chicken supreme and Georgian Bay pickerel. Nova Scotia scallops and black tiger shrimp were also on offer along with grilled beef tenderloin, grilled milk-fed veal chop and Chef Richard’s signature cut. Their two salads were either their own Caesar or an Artisanal Green. I did not enquire about dessert.
Our final destination of the night was Maple Lane Farms in Bracebridge, a 40 minute drive. There we met up with Amy and brushed, tacked, saddled up and rode four beautiful horses in the ring. Zara, Lincoln, Harley and Luna accommodated us for an hour. Walking, trotting and cantering at various times, the experience was earthy and rewarding, although my thighs complained for a few days thereafter. The rain came in torrents while we rode and the sound of it hitting the tin roof was like soothing music.
It was a wonderful romp through part of the north…our first of many more to come.
It was a wonderful romp through part of the north…our first of many more to come.
FIVE THINGS TO DO IN SUDBURY
The great white north...the northern lights...snowmobiles...ice fishing...snow everywhere. When Canadians think of the north, those are a few of the images that come to mind. Sudbury ticks all those boxes. At certain times of the year, there are gorgeous displays of dancing lights in Sudbury. There are 330 lakes in the Greater Sudbury area, hence it is known as the city of lakes. Snowmobiles replace cars on many snowy days in winter, and ice fishing delivers delicious fish fries throughout the frozen months.
Torontonians bemoan cold winters and thank their lucky stars they do not live further north, yet many Sudbury residents born and raised love winter. I met a fellow who grew up there and he told me his four favourite months of the year were between December and March because he played shinny on the pond, rode his snowmobile, went ice fishing, used the skating paths to visit friends, and hung out and played the whole time.
Our family recently spent a weekend in Sudbury. Below are five things I would recommend doing while there:
Watch the sunset over a lake
Having 330 lakes in one municipal area is unbelievable. And when you drive around Sudbury, you notice the lakes. Ramsay, Long Lake, and Wanapitei are big, clean, and desirable. People pay a lot of money to live there, most over a million and a handful of houses in the multi-millions. Minnow, Bethel, and Simon are smaller and far less prestigious. Historically you have not been able to swim in those lakes. Nonetheless there are houses there worth close to a million.
We rented an Airbnb in Estaire on Lake Nepahwin south of the city. Lake Nepahwin is peaceful and serene. Although it permits power boats, the tenor of the lake is quiet. Many of the cottages are rustic and older and the newer builds still respect the personality of the lake as being modest and down to earth.
As we sat out at night reading and talking, the sun began to set. The colours started pink and moved to purple and green and blue and yellow as the rays shone across the lake and reflected on the water. It inspired feelings of wonder and awe. There is nothing better than a pristine, spectacular northern sunset.
Visit the Big Nickel and take the mine tour
One of the most iconic symbols of Sudbury is the Big Nickel. Weighing in at 27,000 pounds (about 12,000 kg), the statue was unveiled in 1964 as part of Canada's upcoming 100th birthday celebration. It is a popular tourist attraction.
Sudbury produces nickel. Sudbury has been producing nickel since 1888 and currently has the deepest nickel mine in Canada. Canada exports $4 billion worth of nickel each year. The need for nickel is expected to increase because nickel is used to make the batteries in electric cars.
Coupled with the Big Nickel is Science North's rock museum and mine tour. It is simple but well done. Great at teaching kids about mining, the mine tour takes you more than 70 feet (about 22 meters) underground. You walk through a re-enactment of mining from 1888 to present day. Down that far, it is wet everywhere and dank and dark but by spending time in the environment, you really appreciate the process of mining and its dangers and constraints. The museum itself is a wonderful place for kids who love rocks of all kinds as it displays hundreds of diverse types of rocks and minerals.
Watch a professional hockey or basketball game
Sudbury is home to the OHL's Wolves. There have been Wolves' hockey teams playing in Sudbury since just after World War I, and the iconic Sudbury Community Center Arena has been downtown since 1951. Holding 4,600 seats plus standing room only for another 500, its capacity is 5,100. Every time the Wolves' score, a taxidermic wolf rolls out on a pulley system to howl at the opposing bench.
Stompin' Tom Connors wrote a song about a Sudbury Saturday night and a statue of him greets fans out front of the arena. The current OHL team has been in town since 1962 playing under the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey Association and merging in 1972 under the OHL. More than 20 decent NHL players and a handful of superstars have come through the Sudbury Wolves OHL team, and it is known as one of the best development programs in the league for NHL talent.
Sudbury is a hockey town. The 23 rostered Wolves' players are local celebrities, often appearing in the paper, on TV and on radio. When Sudbury makes the playoffs, fans line up for 10 hours to secure playoff tickets. It is the hottest ticket in town.
If it is not hockey season, you can watch the Sudbury Five play basketball. Since 2018, the Five have been in the National Basketball League of Canada. They also play in the Sudbury Community Center. Seven of the players are American and five Canadian, and they put on quite a physical show.
Eat at Rudy’s
Rudy's Restaurant is everything you want in a diner. It is a little bit ratty and outside of the downtown core. The wait staff are a bit rough but friendly. The cook staff are visible from the interior of the restaurant, and nothing is hidden. Most items on the menu are delicious.
We started with Caesar salad, which was excellent. That was followed by grilled cheese, the all-day breakfast and chicken parmigiana with noodles. For dessert, a deep-fried Mars bar, strawberry funnel cake, and frozen yogurt topped off the meal. Everyone left satisfied.
We were also told to try Deluxe Burger in town and did. The milkshakes were fabulous, but we vastly preferred the food at Rudy's.
Get on the lake
There are myriad activities related to the lake. In Spring, Summer, and Fall, I recommend canoeing or kayaking on the lake, ideally in the morning. The early morning sunshine coupled with the calmness of the water and the animal sights and sounds makes this activity good for the soul. Communing with nature is essential when you canoe or kayak because you are so close to the water and can see the water bugs, the activity on the shore, the waves move over the water, and the sky changing overhead. I try to take every opportunity to enjoy with my children whenever we are on a lake.
If you happen to be in Sudbury in the winter instead, skating the city-maintained path on Lake Ramsay is a complete pleasure. Beginners and experts alike can enjoy the cleared path around the lake. Further, if you are a hockey player, there is nothing better than playing shinny. Finally, ice fishing is a whole industry in Sudbury, and you can rent huts and equipment to ensure you catch the most fish in the best spot. Expertise abounds all around town.
Canadiana is epitomized by small town Northern living. The simplicity of life, the beauty of nature, the one-industry towns, the love of hockey, and the embracing of the physical world through all four seasons are all characteristics of the town of Sudbury. The prices for Airbnb and hotels are far less than you would pay in most places in southern Ontario. The unique northern experience is worth the three-and-a-half-hour drive. Go see the great white north!
Snow Day Fun: Five Activities
Ironically, January 17th...the first day back to school for Ontario students...turns into a snow day. So what shall we do in this winter wonderland? Attend online school...pshaw...no one would accuse our children of being try-hards.
My eldest son decided to skate on our backyard rink. He practiced his shot and his tight turns and had a marvelous time outside in the crisp cold air.
2. Walk dogs
My youngest son decided to create a path for the dogs to scamper through. They were most energetic until they became too wet and cold. Once they dried out, they wanted to do it again.
3. Snuggle up with a book (and a dog)
My eldest daughter decided to snuggle up with a dog and a book. Cozy socks, cozy sweats, cozy blanket. You get the general idea.
4. Shovel snow (for fun or money).
Three of my four children made snow shoveling the rink a fun experience. Lots of soaking each other with snow and laughing. Pop was enjoyed for refreshment. Everyone was laughing.
Once my children finish shoveling, all four of them are heading to the toboggan hill near our house.
Although I am thoroughly looking forward to the children physically returning to school tomorrow, it is delightful to watch them embrace a snow day with such enthusiasm. The rosy cheeks and healthy glow is more than worth them falling behind on their assignments for one more day.
Five Things to do in Essex County
Our family of six recently spent a week in Essex County. Essex County was one of the first places to be settled in Ontario. It is still primarily rural and is known for very flat farmland and a lot of wind. Point Pelee, the southernmost point of land in Canada, is in the county. Expect hot summers and snowy winters.
The landscape is now peppered with windmills as far as the eye can see. Farmers receive approximately $8,000 per year from each installation. At night, the red lights put one in mind of an alien invasion and during the day, the arms look like spiders creeping across the landscape, rarely stopping. It is a unique sight and was one of the characteristics most noticeable about this part of the province.
I would recommend the following if you are heading to Essex County:
1. Stay in Lighthouse Cove.
Lighthouse Cove is built on a canal system feeding from the mouth of the Thames River into Lake St. Clair. Every home in the community backs onto the canal. This facilitates fishing from the backyard along with fire pits overlooking the water. The canal is always moving.
We stayed at a beach house with a five-hole putting green in the backyard. There was also kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. Walking around the community is interesting as the houses range from tiny cabins to massive mansions and everything in between.
Lake St. Clair is a very shallow lake, 21 feet at its lowest point except in the shipping channel that is dredged to 27 feet deep to facilitate Great Lakes shipping from Lake Huron to Lake Erie. It has sandy beaches, most notably at Belle River, and lots of sandbars.
2. Go to Point Pelee National Park.
Point Pelee is our second smallest National Park at the southernmost tip of Canada. It is also our most ecologically diverse, known for thousands of flocks of migratory birds in the Spring and Fall along with monarch butterflies. Originally a military base coveted for its red cedar for boat making, it is now maintained by the country’s parks system who do an excellent job of preservation and protection.
Our family visited in late June. We had a wonderful time at the very tip of the point, barefoot in the sand, wading into the water to our ankles, marveling at the tides and waves and how the Lake Erie water comes sloshing together there. We climbed to the top of the lookout point and were able to see Pelee Island. We also enjoyed the tram and some hiking. There is a boardwalk that takes you right over the top of the water where you can view barnyard sparrows and red-winged blackbirds close-up along with all manner of flora and fauna.
We spent a second day swimming in the beach on the west side, enjoying the sand bars and the waves. The water was fresh and the beach was long with multiple picnic tables for guests who didn’t want to swim. It is one of the nicest beaches in the county.
3. Golf at On the Green Mini Golf in Tecumseh.
On The Green Mini Golf is a 36-hole outdoor facility along with a 17,000 square foot indoor golf extravaganza. We played all 36 holes of pirate-themed outdoor mini golf. Animatronic buccaneers talk to you when you come in and there are multiple plates telling interesting pirate facts and tales as you move through the course. The holes are creative, fun and challenging. We had a marvelous time.
The indoor facility was closed due to COVID but looks fascinating with the ability to play any course in the world from the simulated indoor area. We ended with soft serve ice cream cones – vanilla and chocolate swirl - while we sat at the picnic table waiting for our ride. It was a pleasurable way to spend a few hours.
4. Go to Windsor to gaze across the Detroit River.
Go to Windsor and look across the relatively narrow Detroit River at the United States of America. The border runs right down the middle of the river. There is something neat about looking across at a totally different country and seeing Americans driving their cars along the water with the Stars and Stripes flying proud. Detroit used to be a bustling, busy, vibrant city. The infrastructure is still on full display when you gaze across the river. It is a most interesting experience.
Windsor has done a nice job of creating and maintaining multiple waterfront parks where you can play frisbee, swim, play on climbers, walk dogs, picnic and just enjoy some green space by the water. Many houses fronting the Detroit River are large and luxurious. The drive past the Ambassador Bridge is also engaging and there were some freighters in the river.
On the way back, we visited Stop 26 Ice Cream & More and ate some tasty ice cream. It was a nice drive.
5. Go Walleye Fishing on Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is known as the best place for walleye fishing in the world. Walleye, also called pickerel, is a white fish typically ranging in size from 19 to 24 inches in length. It makes for a delicious meal when cooked fresh.
We chartered a 28-foot boat captained by Chris Benn through Crooked Hook Charters. He had 12 fishing poles running alongside his radar system showing where the fish were. Our children each caught multiple fish, primarily walleye but also two sheepheads, a big trout, and a couple of baby perch. We ate the trout for dinner that night.
The boat ride on Lake Erie was magical, with the wind blowing through our hair and the water shining and shimmering. The day was sunny and warm with a breeze. Being half an hour out in the middle of the lake was most enthralling. Everyone had a grand time. Canada is extremely lucky to have all the freshwater lakes we do.
In Essex County, the weather was beautiful, the people friendly, and the landscape much different than what we were used to. Being on the water is always a luxurious pleasure and boating on the lakes makes you feel fortunate to live in Canada. Although the windmills everywhere you look took some getting used to, the week in Essex County was most relaxing, relatively affordable, and something I would recommend.
I was born and raised in Canada. I am an incredibly proud Canadian. It perplexes me to hear anyone suggest that we should "cancel" Canada Day. How the concept of cancelling Canada Day can help, in any capacity, the Indigenous children who died at residential schools is illogical in the extreme. Yes, in hindsight, Canada should never have set up residential schools. No sensible Canadian could argue any different. But does that somehow besmirch Canada as a whole and everything that is wonderful and worth celebrating about Canada? Absolutely not.
Canada deserves celebrating for countless reasons. It is a safe, happy, industrious and kind place to live. Canadians are known worldwide for being nice. We have some of the safest cities in the world. We have a low unemployment rate, offering everyone the opportunity to make something of themselves with hard work and sacrifice. We are a tolerant people, welcoming people of all races, religions and creeds. We have universal health care. We have the most beautiful topography in the world with our vast mountains, our low valleys, our wheat fields, our whale sightings, our craggy coastlines, our abundant Great Lakes, our shoreline, our fresh air and our abundant space. We produce the best hockey players in the world. And our walleye fishing is internationally renowned. And that is just the beginning...
No country is perfect, but ours comes damn close. One of my boys' Grade 9 teachers immigrated to Canada from Iran. Very few people in the civilized world would call Iran a good country. Yet that teacher had the gall to tell my boys that they should be ashamed of living in Canada because of our Indigenous history. That comment is offensive. Judging Canada based on one aspect of our history, namely how we treated our Indigenous people in the 1880s forward, is neither fair nor logical. No reasonable person would argue that residential schools were a good idea. But the decisions made then in that time were made when society was less enlightened and more prejudiced. They have to be looked at in the context of the time. Thankfully we in Canada have evolved since then. That is one of the reasons Canada is such a great country, because of our evolution and constant improvement. As a result, no reasonable Canadian today would suggest that we continue the residential school model for Indigenous people. We now know better.
The Cancel Culture that has developed lately is dangerous. Humans are not perfect. Far from it. To hold every person to the standard of perfection and to "cancel" that person if he or she says something that "the powers that be" deem offensive creates a superficial culture of automatons. Sanctimony is an ugly trait. I don't know one sanctimonious person that I like. Extreme political correctness creates a culture where everything on the surface is perfect yet underneath there is an ugly underbelly seething with resentment and anger at the hypocrisy on display. The reality is that everyone has prejudices. Everyone has biases. That is what makes humans different, unique and interesting. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone of a certain age has regrets. No one is perfect. If the sins of the mother are visited on the child, then I pity my children. I believe the key is to try to continually improve, to work on becoming kinder, more compassionate, and more helpful. Self-righteous people like to tell everyone else what is right and what is wrong. Those are not my kind of people. If you believe you are already perfect, then there is nothing to improve. I like the people that recognize they have many problems but work to improve themselves and resolve those problems without becoming smug.
I intend to celebrate Canada Day today and every July 1st. I intend to continue to be immensely proud of my country. I will encourage my children to celebrate Canada Day. Canada is the best country in the world. That being said, celebrating Canada Day doesn't mean I don't feel pity for the Indigenous children who died at residential schools. To the contrary. I embrace Desiderata. "With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." Even though mistakes were made by past Canadians, Canada is still a beautiful country. Happy Canada Day!
As we enter into our second pandemic summer where travel is limited, I have enjoyed rediscovering Ontario and finding places in our own backyard to savour. Our kids need to get out of the city and enjoy themselves, and we could definitely use a change of scenery. Although there’s no telling exactly what will be open this summer, here are five activities for the family that can be added to your summer bucket list.
1. Hit the beach
Some people like to spend days at the beach sunbathing; others just like to walk on the sand in the morning or evening; and children tend to spend hours frolicking in the water. This is an obvious summer activity, so I have researched three new beaches to avoid your becoming bored of visiting the same ones. Ontario is home to over 250,000 lakes so there are so many beaches to explore that you could probably choose a new one each weekend of your life and still not cover all of them. I would recommend trying these three this summer:
2. Take a road trip
Our children always enjoy a road trip…as long as it doesn’t go on too long. While some kids might be antsy, with games and activities loaded into the car, you can keep them occupied until you reach the destination. Here are three interesting Ontario road trip ideas:
Depending on what’s open, there are many Ontario adventures to explore including:
4. Discover Bruce’s Peninsula
Arguably one of the province’s most cherished natural areas, Bruce’s Peninsula offers a wonderful place to explore. In hand with endless parks and trails, attractions include:
Ontario offers several opportunities to explore the dark, quiet world of caves. Some trips we are considering include:
Canada is 40th in the world in vaccination rollout and Ontario is in our third lockdown since the pandemic began. Clearly we are punching way below our weight in the fight against COVID.
Closing restaurants, health clubs, hair salons and small retailers is clearly not going to stem the increase in COVID infections. That decision is merely going to put those businesses closer and closer to the precipice of bankruptcy. Closing the entire province when the problem is in Toronto and Peel is also asinine. This punishes the entire province when the COVID problem is concentrated in two main regions.
We have protected our elderly and most vulnerable living in congregate settings through mass vaccinations where they live. Let's now focus on the sources of the current COVID problem: the mass outbreaks in essential service workplaces in the hot zones of Toronto and Peel. Let's immediately vaccinate all essential workers regardless of age, at their workplaces. This would include the Amazon warehouse workers, the Canada Post workers, the teachers and the meat packer workers. Let's also focus our current vaccines on Toronto and Peel because that is Ground Zero in Ontario. You solve the problem there, it reduces or eliminates the spread everywhere else.
I cannot fathom how frustrating a province wide shutdown must feel like in Sault Ste. Marie or Sarnia. Doesn't common sense dictate that we focus on the problem. My dad had an analogy. If Ford Motor Company had a problem in one factory, they would solve the problem in that factory. They would not close all the other factories until they figured out the solution for the one problem in the one factory.
Rather than close businesses that have nothing to do with increasing COVID outbreaks; rather than shut down a province where infection rates are low in most regions; rather than damage certain segments of the economy already teetering on the edge, why don't we just focus on the problem. First, immediately vaccinate all essential workers regardless of their age. Second, focus the vaccines available to vaccinate those living in Peel's and Toronto's highest risk neighbourhoods regardless of age. And re-open the province, for goodness' sake.
Those moves might at least demonstrate that we are still in the ring trying to knock out the foe using a modicum of common sense and a glimmer of intelligence. Imagine.
My children are smart but no one would call them keeners. They like to learn but rather than listen to their teacher, they prefer to play, either online or physically. Their favourite part of school is the social aspect. Needless to say the online model of learning is not working for them. My husband and I view it as a lost year of learning thus far, and we are not out of the woods yet.
Regular school gives my children so much to look forward to. They love to socialize; they look forward to playing school sports; they enjoy certain teachers; and they like learning new things in a classroom environment. When they are at school, they sometimes use their spare time with their friends to tackle homework so they have nothing to bring home whereas other times they play football or tag with friends. We are fortunate that none of our children has ever told us they hated school and refused to go.
Online school is a whole other ball game. Rather than refuse to go, they sign in then tune out. I cannot count the number of times I have come downstairs to see them with their headphones in listening to their teacher while a video game is being played on the screen. This is not an effective method of learning. I fear they are taking in next to nothing of what is being said or taught. The “new normal” is a misnomer…this is nowhere close to normal in either experience or outcome.
It will be interesting to see the impact of interrupted learning on this generation of COVID kids, whether they score lower as a group on IQ or aptitude tests later in life because of the disruption to their learning in their formative years. Face to face interaction with the teacher is critical to my children’s success. Face to face interaction between my children and their classmates is likely just as critical to their success. Both of those components are missing online.
The latest COVID numbers in Ontario are somewhat encouraging and the trend seems to be downward. I can only hope that in-school attendance will return soon. In the meantime, my children are becoming very adept at doing the bare minimum to survive their online school experience while actually learning bupkis.
Entrepreneur and mom to four amazing kids
Q: Why did the can crusher quit his job?
A: Because it was soda pressing.