Ontario, the Burgh and Soo (many Breweries and Wineries)

Good Trouble and Beer on Tap…Proximity not by accident!

Next, we wound our way thru Northern Ontario for 1600KM and several days. 

We naively planned a visit to the Aidelbaum’s cottage near Kirkland lake “since we would be in Kenora, “right around the corner!”  What we were reminded in this transit: ONTARIO IS BIG. Making lemonade out of this lemon, we stopped in several spots for several days along the way. Thunder Bay was nice (if rainy and miserable). Other than that, mostly scrubby pine trees and nuthin.  We DID have the uniquely Canadian experience of camping in the parking lot of a Canadian Tire and enjoying Tim Hortons for Breakfast!

We ultimately arrived at the Aidelbaum’s settlement, whereupon we set about to DO nothing as well. 

At one point, as we sat on the deck overlooking the lake, contemplating not much of anything other than the Beer in my hand, we observed some Bald Eagle Drama. There are lots of these majestic birds around, and we observed one descending on the lake, presumably to grab a dead fish. What followed was a kerfluffle of excitement.

The bird seemed to misjudge something…maybe the Loon Mama with her young in the area. Mama Loon seemed very upset with said Eagle – though we are not sure the baby Loon was the target of the Eagles attention. And then there was a lady on the shoreline who was SCREAMING about the poor baby loon. Which we don’t even think was ever the target of the Eagle’s attention, but the possibility nevertheless really upset her!!

Anyway, In the ensuing dust-up, the Eagle ended up in the water. Eagles are NOT meant to land in the water. They do not float like ducks; their feathers do not repel water, etc. This Eagle was in trouble!!


Steve thought this was THOROUGHLY ABSURD



We scrambled into the Aidelbaums boat and headed out there. Not really sure what we were going to do – I grabbed a pair of Garden Gloves, remembering a video I had seen about a similar rescue situation. Steve thought this was THOROUGHLY ABSURD; and that all that would happen if I tried to grab that bird with those gloves, assuming I survived, is I would be indoctrinated into the Canadian Healthcare System, with all the paperwork THAT would entail.

FORTUNATELY, we’ll never know if YouTube or Aidelbaum was correct; the bird managed a clumsy swim/flop for several hundred yards across the water to the downwind shore, where it shook out its feathers of SOME of the water, lumbered up into a tree and sat, exhausted and drying, until the sun went down.

Soo Locking Thru

We left Ontario via a very scenic route to cross back into the USA at Sault Ste. Marie; staying a couple nights right by the Soo Locks. We’ve been there B4; fantastic watching the huge freighters transit the locks.

Pittsburgh Camp Spot

Our FIRST USA stop was Pittsburgh, on the way to Elkhart Indiana, where we had an appointment to get air conditioners replaced. More on that in a bit; but if you were to look at the map, you would see that Pittsburgh is not really “on the way” to Elkhart from the Soo.

For us, its on the way enuf, and we have friends there we hadn’t see in awhile. Spent a couple evenings breaking bread with Bruce and Chris Lane, and then the better part of a day with Fran and Mike McDowell.

Bruce was convinced we could drive the bus up into his driveway. We had done this once before in our old (and much shorter!) Bus, and I remember thinking, after the fact, “We should not have done that!!” So we didn’t try…we found a campground that would be less challenging.

AC Installation

Leaving Pittsburgh, we headed towards Elkhart Indiana, where there were a couple of air conditioners waiting for us. We have 3- 40 year old roof units on the bus – they all worked, but were as loud as jet planes. These would likely fail over the next few years…the old ones on our previous bus did. 

Another RVer had found a unit that was extremely quiet, and relatively efficient. Not only that, the new one would work as a heat pump, so it could keep the bus comfortably (and quietly) warm during the mild winters we choose to experience. We decided to proactively replace ours with those, once Liz concluded they actually WERE quieter. So we turned up at the factory, where they fired one up for us and we decided to do forward with the replacement.

As always, the replacement was more complicated than it needed to be…the geometry of the replacement unit interfered with “stuff” on the roof. One was a drop in, no problem. One unit we installed backwards – the unit doesn’t care, but some might worry that it would now not be aerodynamic at 120mph. 😉. The third could NOT be replaced…the new one simply would NOT fit. So we will have to figure out sumthin at some point, but for now the two we DID replace work GREAT!!



creative implementations of a “Shack on a Trailer!”


While in Elkhart, we stayed overnight at the RV and Manufactured Home HALL OF FAME. Yes, there IS such a place, and actually it is quite an interesting place to visit. It is amazing to observe the various “prototype RVs” that happened separately, but around the same time and place – Elkhart Indiana. All were basically very creative implementations of a “Shack on a Trailer!” Eventually, these morphed into travel trailers, popup tents, motorhomes, etc.

There was even a “Concept” Motorhome that had evey gadget and electronic doodad you can imagine…and some you couldn’t! Looking carefully, Liz noticed that the roof seemed to hinge, and there was a stairwell leading upward. I figured this was a deck on top for Tailgating or watching NASCAR events. No, it was a HELIPAD!!!!

We are NOT tempted to upgrade again.

Leaving Elkhart with our new Air Conditioners, we had an issue with Labor Day Weekend. That is, NO PLACE TO STAY and reservations at the last minute impossible! I did call a few campgrounds and it was all they could do to not laugh at us…

”You want a reservation WHEN???”

Well, we had a better idea, it turns out! We belong to “Harvest Host,” which is a marketing group whereby you can stay overnight in member’s parking lots, in exchange for patronizing their establishments. Many of these are Wineries and Breweries. Some are museums (for example, the RV HALL OF FAME). We identified 4 or 5 in the SW Michigan area where we could stop, stay and enjoy for one night each over the holiday weekend.

Ohio Winery-lake!

We had also stopped at a couple Harvest Hosts between Pittsburgh and Elkhart, where we enjoyed some unwelcome weather excitement. Two nights near Sandusky, Ohio coincided with severe Thunderstorms and Tornados in the area. The first night, it absolutely POURED down rain.

Out the Window Lake

In the morning, there was a virtual lake outside the bus…a worker had said their Rain Gauge was FULL TO THE TOP — 5 inches– and he thot the total was closer to 8 inches!!! Fortunately, they had warned us when we pulled in to park ON the gravel, not the grass, or we might still be there.

The next night was a scarier. As the Winery was closing (around 9PM), there were tornado watches up. Liz asked the proprietor where the nearest shelter was….there was none, since the Winery tasting room would soon be closed. There was a gas station ¼ mile away, and a hotel a little farther than that. With a smile, Liz asked where the proprietor lived…an address was not forthcoming.

Weathering the Storm

We hoped neither would be necessary, but at about 10:30, and just about ready to turn in for the night, the Tornado Sirens started going. Right. Next. Door. We stepped out of the bus to evaluate the scenario…and in the time since we were in the tasting room earlier, 2 other folks had pulled in…a pop-up trailer and small, lightweight motorhome. Their occupants were also outside, looking for a “safe” spot. Since there really weren’t any, we invited everyone to spend the Tornado Time inside our all-steel, 48,000lb Blue Bird. We figured it was the best way to visit Oz, if that was in the cards…

Since I am writing (and you are reading) this, we must have survived!!

After our Harvest Host Tornado Experience, we spent the next few days FAR MORE UNEVENTFULLY. Several Wineries and Breweries. Leesburg, Indiana. Benton Harbor and Buchanan, Michigan. We even managed a couple of Fantastic dinners, one at the bus and one at a most bucolic Michigan Home, with friends from our Chicago Dance Club Days…

Ludington Establishment

From our Labor Day time in SW Michigan, we headed up to Ludington, MI for the annual “End of Summer” Blue Bird Rally. We’ve never been in the area before around Labor Day, so have not attended this rally. As usual, tons of fun with friends we see at one place or another on the road, but usually not all together. We met some new folks – including a pair of O’Connors, Brothers Phil and Marty, who have almost Blue Birds almost identical to ours – 1986/87 and all original inside. We traded tours – always fun to see similar buses with similar (but not identical) configurations.

After the Ludington Rally, we had intended to take the S.S. Badger Ferry across Lake Michigan, and then onwards to Minneapolis. Even if the ferry costs several Hundred$$, it would save several hundred miles of driving…and at $4.00/gal and 5.5MPG, the ferry makes sense. HOWEVER, the ferry (more exactly, the ramp leading to the ferry) had a mishap recently — the Ferry was actually holding the ramp together, and if it moved, the rest of the ramp would collapse – a MUCH BIGGER REPAIR. So, the whole thing was CLOSED for the season; not an option for us.

Now, we could round the lake SOUTH thru SW Michigan, where we had just been, and Chicago, where we would be in a few short weeks. Or, we could head north, Over the Mackinac Bridge thru the UP and Northern Wisconsin.

Eagle River Spot

Liz realized she had a college roommate that lived in Northern Wisconsin, and she had not seen Mary SINCE college. Liz called, Mary did not say “no” immediately, so we turned up before she could reconsider. We spent a couple of delightful days in Eagle River, including some spectacular meals and even better conversation.

Eagle River Hike

We even managed a hike on one of the nearby trails. Mary INSISTED that that we return the next summer and spend some time in their driveway, right on one of the beautiful Chain of Lakes. The driveway is steep(ish), narrow(ish) and replete with low-hanging branches, so we aren’t sure THAT is an actual option, but there are Campgrounds nearby – even on the same lake!!!

Liz reminded Mary NEVER to make such offers, as we are likely to return. She smiled and said, “Bring it!!!”


On the way to Mackinac and Eagle River, we stopped for a night in Alanson Michigan (near Petoskey). Blue Bird friends Anita and Les Sonke reside there in the summer, and we thought a meal and margarita might be appropriate. The Sonkes have a Blue Bird very much like our former Bird – and we modeled some of our improvements on things they have done.

Far from appropriate, it was more like FANTASTIC reconnecting and yacking for an evening!

Minneapolis Spot

Leaving Eagle River, we eventually landed at a campground just east of St, Paul for a week. Idea was to spend some time with Dad, and during that time, perhaps get the NBA TEAM PASS installed on his Xfinity account, so he’d be ready for Grandson Chet’s upcoming season.

It was great seeing Dad, but I also spent over 5 hours, on 3 separate days and with 5 separate Xfinity agents TRYING to get this done. This was about as great as a Root Canal. The LAST agent finally revealed that the package was not available to purchase/install until 1 October; so all the time and effort I wasted, the previous agents, and the agents they transferred me to, and the managers they promised would call me (but never did) was all for nothing!

The last agent PROMISED to call me on Oct. 2nd to finish this…we’ll see if this happens. My Dad offered that I had the patience of a Saint. Usually he is berating me for my choice of sports teams (though, for the record, BOTH the Vikings and the Bears are unencumbered with wins). I suppose interacting with Xfinity without tossing the phone out Dad’s 15th floor non-opening Window DOES constitute one of the requisite miracles for canonization.

As this is written, we are getting ready to leave Minneapolis for ALMOST the last time this year. In the short term, we’ll be in Chicago for most of October, Doc appts at first, culminating in Chet’s first NBA game when the OKC Thunder open the season against Da Bulls. With some behind-the-scenes machinations, my sister wrangled a bunch of tickets, and we’ll be IN THE HOUSE!!! We WILL be back to Minneapolis twice more in 2023…by airplane…the Bus cannot be north of the Mason Dixon line in November:

  • On Nov. 15, my dad is being inducted into the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame. A HUGE Honor, and we all look forward to celebrating with him!
  • On November 28th, the OKC Thunder play the Timberwolves for the first time in Chet’s career. There will be suites, and food and frivolity again as we fly north to watch the game!!

We are gonna be south somewhere(s) for the winter. As yet, not fully calculated. We’ll be postying updates here!!!

2 thoughts on “Ontario, the Burgh and Soo (many Breweries and Wineries)

  • Somehow I’ve missed a couple of your posts…and I don’t mean just that I didn’t see them…I truly missed reading about your travel adventures! Always fun to see you and Liz sharing fun with friends! And I love Ray’s blog…no question where your awesome writing skills were learned! Thanks and keep living and loving life…and sharing with us!

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