It was a dark and stormy night…
I HAVE ALWAYS LIKED STORIES that start this way and it is rather ‘apropos’, given the deluge we had in Toronto the day before our driving tour began. As a first-time tour organizer, I was praying harder than most for good weekend weather for our extended tour in southwestern Ontario.
Planning for the tour started in 2017 with incessant nudges from a good friend, Juliann Kuchocki, who is the organizer of the South Coast Jazz Festival in Port Dover. I kept telling her about the fun I was having as a driving tour participant, and she kept asking me why I didn’t organize a trip to the Festival. And why not, as I had been to the Festival in prior years and the music was always good. So, in January, I made the first of several exploratory runs to Port Dover to see what routes and stops might be interesting on the way to the Festival.
I quickly realized I needed help, and, with the aid of Stefan Walther, I recruited Jeremy Gunness to be my co-host of the event. Jeremy has organized many driving tours and he always impressed me with the interesting routes he put together. He didn’t disappoint. Our division of the organizational work was that Jeremy looked after ‘route design’, coaching me on communications, budgeting and coordination of activities at our stops. A really good partnership!
The morning route offered twists, turns, a steep hill climb, virtually no cyclists and little traffic. What it also offered, unforeseen, were two street fairs in Waterdown and Dundas that closed parts of our route, so a little improvisation took place by each group.
So, on the morning of August 18th, with the sun shining, we assembled 26 cars and 49 PCA members and friends (we had just one last-minute cancellation for the tour when a member owning an older Porsche needed a repair that couldn’t be done in time) and started off from the perfect spot in Milton, i.e. a coffee shop, gas bar and car wash complex. Given the number of cars, we split into two groups for the pre-lunch drive, covering exactly the same route but roughly 10 minutes apart.
The morning route offered twists, turns, a steep hill climb, virtually no cyclists and little traffic. What it also offered, unforeseen, were two street fairs in Waterdown and Dundas that closed parts of our route, so a little improvisation took place by each group. When my second group arrived at Rousseau House in Ancaster for lunch there was no sign of Jeremy’s group. We were a little puzzled, since we didn’t pass them. The ground rule for this drive was: ‘Porsches don’t pass Porsches’. A few minutes later Jeremy’s group pulled in and we learned they explored the street fair in Waterdown more extensively than we did. All good!
Following a fantastic lunch in our private room, we started off as before. The first group headed toward the Bonnieheath lavender farm and the second group headed for the Burning Kiln Winery, both near Port Dover. Our afternoon route had us driving through farm country along the Grand River (very pretty!), followed by a leisurely drive along the shore of Lake Erie (the road hugs the shoreline for quite a distance) until we reached our respective destinations. At each destination, staff was ready to talk to our groups about their businesses and to give us a taste of their delicious wines and ciders. Our plan had been that each group would make alternating stops at both the farm and the winery, but both groups were eager to get to Port Dover for a special performance organized by Juliann, planned to start at 5:00pm, so the second stops were saved for another day. A few of the participants stayed overnight and made it a point to visit the place they’d missed the following morning.
The Porsche group was treated like royalty (I can say that, given my last name) at the Festival, with a designated parking area, complete with an assigned Festival security guard, right next to the Port Dover Community Centre where everything was taking place that evening. Our group was seated at tables right in front of the stage where we were joined by a few additional Porsche club members who came directly to the event. Our own dedicated Festival concierge made sure we all had food and drinks, and helped with questions as the evening unfolded. Dini Petty was the Festival MC. Between performances, she shared stories of her very interesting life. Headliner performances were a treat. As a Maritimer, I particularly enjoyed Heather Bambrick, a Newfoundlander with a great singing voice and the ability to resurrect a thick Newfie accent at times. Priceless!
About half of our group made arrangements to stay overnight in Port Dover, so we organized a group brunch on Sunday morning. Dini Petty joined us for great food and more lively conversation. At that point we broke up with some heading to the Burning Kiln Winery for an afternoon Festival performance and the rest of us heading home on another beautiful day.
One of our ‘learnings’ on this tour is that street fairs are very popular in August. They pop up like mushrooms after a heavy rain! We encountered three during our drive (Waterford, Dundas and Port Dover), two of which required some route adjustment. There seems to be great interest in doing this driving tour again next year, so we’ll have to figure out how to better predict local celebrations! </>
Story by John Buckingham, UCR Member