And you know what that means…..another long blog. Though it didn’t feel like a long day while en route, I realize it was I contemplate the day’s story and review the pictures. If you’ve got a bottle of wine, just put a straw in it, ‘cause this is going to take some time to tell!
Rising early, I took a tour around the town of Madoc. Now you might be wondering “why Madoc, anyway!?” Apparently, there are a lot of folks with the surname of Derry around Madoc and Marmora and I knew they were most likely relatives. However, not having had a chance to do any proper research on the whos and wheres, I had not been able to connect with anyone in advance. Some feeble, last-minute attempts upon my arrival in Madoc yielded no results, as one might expect. While the town doesn’t have the same “shiny” look of overt prosperity I had seen the previous day, Madoc has the homey feel of a well-established community that is comfortable in its skin. Found a beautiful old stone church, many stone and red-brick houses, and a lovely park with a war memorial that stands out.
The gem of my tour around Madoc was a stop at Derry’s Dipsticks and Driveshafts. I noticed the building when I arrived into town a couple of nights before, but stopped today, as business was open. I asked the woman at the counter if she was a Derry and she said yes. She is the wife of the owner’s brother and I have to apologize right here and now for not catching her name! She pointed out the owner and asked him to come into the shop for a minute. Dennis Derry owns the business and they were kind enough to humour me while I told them who I was and what I was doing there. We did not make the family connections to discover where we are connected, but Dennis said something like 80% of the Derrys in Canada are related. I asked for his father and grandparents names and when he provided them, I said “I better make a note of that since I won’t remember in 5 minutes”. Dennis responded “Then we must be related!” Laughing, I thought anyone that quick-witted has to be family. Perhaps I will figure that all out and make another trip. They obliged me with a photograph and I thanked them for their time and was on my way.
Turns out that my tour-guide-by-text, Phil, isn’t just an algorithm on the CTX forum. We arranged to meet up in Smiths Falls about 10:00 a.m. – about an hour and a half out of Madoc towards Ottawa. I should have had plenty of time to get there, but traffic had other ideas. Following a line of about 6 cars for what seemed like forever, I figured the car in the front must be a cop and that’s why no one was passing it in the many passing zones meant for the purpose. Not that it mattered because none of those zones were sufficiently long for me to get by the line of 6 closely-spaced vehicles. The vehicle turned off and it was just a tourist. Speed picked up a bit until we got behind a semi and it was back to Dawdlesville. Finally, a long passing lane and everyone pulls out and books it to get by the semi. We all do, and the SUV in the front decides we’ve all been going way too fast and slows right down again! By the time I arrived in Smiths falls, it was no mystery to me why the first thing I encounter is a good-sized cemetery - that’s where you put all the dummy drivers when you run out of patience!
Arriving at the meeting point, Phil and I went for a coffee and he outlined some options for things to see on the way to Ottawa. I stated my priorities and left the rest in his capable hands. He has more information in his head than I will have in a lifetime, and unfortunately, I will remember only what I took pictures of! Our first few stops were right there in Smiths Falls, beginning with the train museum. Just after we parked, we had a chat with Kerry (not sure that’s spelled right). He was there from Alberta with his wife and they had been doing some touring. Then we checked out the museum.
The building had some great displays inside – telegraph office, waiting room, memorabilia. Outside, you can tour the trains and some of them are set up so you can go inside and explore them. So neat – amazing what they managed to fit into those small spaces. They even had a dental car, complete with treatment room and waiting room. I particularly liked the caboose, where we were able to climb a little ladder and sit up at the top. When I took a picture out of the window up there, it looked like it was a picture frame.
Next up was the Heritage House Museum. The selling point? A two-storey privy! The museum itself, is actually very well done. Originally built by Joshua Bates, who believed the railway would provide excellent access to his mills and improve business. He had been thwarted by his competitors, the Wards, in his attempts to have a road built to provide access to his mills. He built the house as a “mirror image” so that customers arriving either by the road side of the house or the rail side, would arrive at a front door and not be insulted by being presented with a back door. Investing heavily in the railway project to build it between Brockville and Ottawa, he lost everything when the project fell through. A rail line did eventually come through right by the house, but not in time to save Joshua Bates. The house was completed and Joshua fell ill, dying 6 months after its completion and the house went up for auction. And who do you think purchased it? His rival - the Wards! According to Maria, who gave us an introduction to the museum, the Wards bought the property and wiped the Bates name from the history of Smiths Falls. It wasn’t until much later that the history of the Bates’ was discovered. So, while funny and definitely a draw, the two-storey privy is not the most interesting thing about this site. Really worth the visit.
The last stop before leaving Smiths Falls was a ride by what used to be the Hershey plant. It is now Tweed – and apparently the largest pot-growing facility in the world. Not yet open for business to tourists, from the surrounding fragrance, production has begun. Confirmed by the presence of the snack shack outside the front steps?
On to Merrickville, which is another picturesque town of stone buildings and a highly accessible park to see the locks on the Rideau Canal. We stopped for lunch at a street café, indulging in a hot dog and poutine before walking around the town. There are tons of attractive little tourist stores for everything from Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustard to the usual clothing and bric-a-brac stores. Though they were cute and interesting, I had no particular compulsion to enter and look at “stuff”. We wandered over to the waterfront and saw them closing the locks on our way to the block guardhouse. This cool structure had some displays inside that were worth a look and the plaque outside the door explained the use of the guardhouse. I will let you read it in the photo, if you are interested.
Wandering across the street, there were the ruins of about 5 mills that date to about 1860. Beside these ruins was the Alloy Foundry, now called Village Metalsmiths. This is the oldest operating foundry in Canada. They have cast the metal signs for all kinds of government, business, and personal needs. We were lucky enough to see the freshly cast and painted signs that had been ordered for the new Coast Guard boats in Vancouver. Too cool. Everything from the official to welcome signs for your front door. Heading back to the bikes, we took a couple of pictures of the canal before taking off.
Iroquois has a set of locks that control the water level in Lake Ontario and allows ships to bypass the Iroquois dam. If your timing is right, you can watch ships go through the locks. Our timing was not right. Conveniently, the Lockview Ice Cream Parlour sits right across the parking lot. I saw the soft ice cream chocolate/vanilla twist and looked no further. The gentleman behind the counter said that it was one of the only places you could get soft ice cream that was REAL cream. They get it from somewhere in Toronto (I can’t tell you where or he’ll have to kill me). 😊 There is no question it was awesome. While we had our treats, we had a good time perusing the shipwreck map under the glass of our table.
The day wearing late, we jumped back on our bikes and headed for Cornwall to see the Lost Villages. When the St. Lawrence Seaway was being build, several towns (9, to be precise) had to be re-located. Some of the buildings were saved and relocated to Cornwall in remembrance of those villages. This is a really interesting site. Too late in the day to wander through the buildings, it was still very satisfactory to stroll around the grounds and see the buildings with the names of their towns on many of them.
Last, but certainly not least, was a brief stop at St. Andrews. This is the burial place of Simon Fraser, the Scottish fur trader and explorer who is responsible for charting a great deal of British Columbia. Simon had an interesting life, a brief history of which can be read at https://www.sfu.ca/archives/archives-program/outreach/simon_fraser.html. He and his wife are buried in the same grave in the Roman Catholic cemetery in St. Andrews. This site has many very old stones as well as a replica of a pioneer church within the cemetery’s low stone walls. Across the road, the original St. Andrews stone church still sits beside the much larger and flashier “new” stone structure with a steeple that is annoyingly tall for picture-taking!
Knowing that there are a million things to have seen and done, it was time to get back on the road and finish the trip into Ottawa. Riding into very ominous dark clouds, I wondered if we would make it without getting wet. We did, and I bid farewell to tour guide extraordinaire, Phil, and checked into the Rideau Inn bed and breakfast. A lovely old 3 storey house, with a gambrel roof (I learned a new word!), it is quite the picturesque place. Inside, the lower level has a sitting room, kitchen and a few bedrooms. I was relieved to learn my room was only on the second floor. Loving the digs! Rooms are spacious and charming and the shared bathroom has a shower that is to die for at the end of a long day. So, before this day gets any longer (I’m now already into the next one), I had best turn in so I have some energy to go walk-about in our nation’s capital city!
P.S. Don’t forget to re-visit yesterday’s blog for the photos of the Bonnechere Caves and Peterborough Petroglyphs!