Day 1: My wife, Judy, recently dropped me off at Pearson International Airport, for a Friday afternoon flight. I got on board, a Boeing 737-600, eastbound for Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s only a 1:44 flight. It was smooth, but cloudy flight, and rain on final approach. My friends, Gregg and his wife, Wendy, greet me. We head south/west, for 1 hour. They live on the water, between Mahone Bay, & Lunenburg. We have dinner at the Knot pub, in Lunenburg. Great fish and chips, and Halifax’s Propeller “Bitter” draft!
Gregg is a native Nova Scotian, but lived in Ontario, for school, and work. He and I met at Ontario Hydro, in the early ‘80s. Ironically, we are both retired club racers (he drove Formula V 1200), and we are both Acoustic Neuroma Survivors. Gregg says, between us, we have two good ears. He is happily retired.
Day 2: We cruise to Blue Rocks, in 22C/sun. A very small fishing village, just east of Lunenburg (which is a nice drinking town, with a fishing problem, so a t-shirt claims). We then drive through Lunenburg, and see the Bluenose II schooner tied up in her home port. I’m fortunate to have seen this iconic vessel, five times live. Yes, I’ve seen her many times on our dime.
Day 3: It’s another “Kodak Day.” Again, we drive to Blue Rocks, and Lunenburg. They’re so picturesque!
Day 4: I just take it easy, and enjoy the weather. Gregg does yard work. We see Jeff, a local landscaper-friend. At his yard, I get eaten alive, by local black flies. My souvenir bites? We also see David, a neighbour. He has a 2008 Mustang GT/California Special. It’s a Redfire (like my 2006 Mustang), convertible. It has just 11k kms! Wendy picks up fresh, live lobster, for dinner. Gregg is the master at preparing a lobster dinner! Sooooo good!
Day 5: We depart at 6:40 a.m., with the top down. Our ride is Gregg’s red 2006 MX-5 Mazda Miata. The rear end sports a rare badge: Ontario Hydro Car Club (OHCC). I wish I had one.
We head back to Halifax, on Highway 103. The roof goes up, very easily! We save the sunscreen, and turn on the A/C. On 102, we pass through Truro, and bypass, singer Anne Murray’s hometown, of Springhill. Next, we see the Bay of Fundy to the south, and the cutoff for PEI’s Confederation Bridge. Then we say “Farewell Nova Scotia, the sea-bound coast. Will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me? as the song goes. New Brunswick welcomes us, near Moncton. We get off of the Trans Canada Highway & roll through Shediac (lobster capital of world) on Highway 11. Next, we pass through Highway 8’s Miramichi, and back on Highway 11, to Bathurst, and Campbellton. See the big fish?
I give our French, fellow Canadians credit. Between, our broken French, and their broken English, we got by fine. Merci beaucoup. You see many Acadian flags flying. We cross the bridge into La Belle Province, on Quebec’s windy and twisty, Highway 132. This road is semi-mountainous. The Miata is at home here! This is how you make two grown, and retired men smile!
We end our day, 836 kms later, back on Highway 20/Trans Canada’s Rimouski. Our newly renovated cabin-motel, is on the south shore at the St. Lawrence River’s mouth. We dine at a beautiful sunset, over looking the river, from our restaurant’s window.
Day 6: After breakfast, we head to the “Onondaga” Submarine. It was bought by Quebec, for $4, plus tax. The Canadian Navy sold it. It served from 1965-2000. It is nearly 300 feet/
90 Meters long, with a beam nearly of 25 feet/8 metres. It is diesel/electric powered. Can you say, Hybrid? The valve handles have coded shapes, to eliminate accidental opening/operating. Smart, eh?
Also, at this tourist attraction is a lighthouse, and “Empress of Ireland” Museum. RMS Empress of Ireland was an ocean liner that sank in the St. Lawrence River following a collision in thick fog with another ship on May 29, 1914. Of the 1,477 people on board, 1,012 died. So tragic!
We pointed it west on 20. I drove for 1 hour, and up to the Quebec City exit. This gave Gregg a break. Traffic was light. The weather was great. Even in 6th gear, the Miata made power! It is stock, except for a cold air intake, & MazdaSpeed, cat-back exhaust. My clutch leg is impaired, but I did, OK.
We take 30 to Valleyfield, Quebec. This bypasses Montreal! We rejoin 20, which takes us to the 401. Ontario, Yours to Discover. We stop after 660 kms, in Cornwall.
Day 7: We return to the 401. 180 kms later, we exit at Highway 15, Kingston. We cruise their beautiful waterfront. The old architecture is gorgeous! We stop by Norman Rogers Airport. We like aircraft, too.
Back on the 401 West, to Trenton. We visit the Royal Canadian Air Force Museum, at CFB Trenton. They have a beautifully restored WWII Halifax bomber and many other aircraft, including a CF-18 Hornet fighter. As we strolled by the outdoor display, the rain came.
Next stop is Carrying Place, in Prince Edward County (PEC). My Uncle Kenn, lives on Wellers Bay, of Lake Ontario. He is shopping to replace his Pontiac Solstice. It has a pathetic trunk! At least the Miata, allows two people to pack light. However, I had no extra room, to import NS’s best suds. Gregg offers a Miata test drive to my uncle, as we meet a Picton buddy for coffee. Footnote: Kenn likes the Miata, but has since bought a 2015 BMW Z4, M Pkg. It has a 2.0 L turbo (240 hp/260 torque, 8 speed auto.). PEC is home of Olympian, and Orangeville resident, Brian Price.
Last stop is at the Breeze off the Lake, Bed and Breakfast, in Wellington. I used to work with our Hostess, Pat, at Ontario Hydro’s “C & D Centre,” in the Hockley Valley. Pat retired 11 years ago, and has fulfilled her B&B dream. We take Pat to a Picton pub for dinner. Pat drove us in her minivan. This was the ONLY downfall of the 2 seater. After we returned, Pat and I caught up, over some PEC’s fine wine.
Day 8: Pat serves up a delicious breakfast. We say “thanks, and farewell.” We’re on our last leg of 260 kms, to Orangeville. We cross the oldest road in Ontario, Kente Portage, in Carrying Place. Early records indicate that Samuel de Champlain travelled this route in 1615! We then pass over the Murray Canal, en route to Brighton.
Just before Brighton, we pass local MPP, Lou Rinaldi’s Brighton Speedway. It’s a 50-year-old, 1/3 mile/.53 km, clay, stock car oval. Coincidentally, I bought some Formula Ford parts, when I started racing, from Lou, in his ‘80s Toronto store. We pick up Highway 2 in Brighton, and follow it to Port Hope. This is a pretty town. The old architecture is beautiful! Unfortunately, Highway 2 leaves the south side of the 401. It continues, north of the 401, through Oshawa, which is busy. We return to the 401. We stop at the Newcastle service plaza, for a drink and fuel. Gregg points out a huge 6.0L V12 BMW 750L. This has 400+ horsepower and is no doubt, built for the Autobaun! It probably has a 2” fuel line.
We pick up the new 412 toll highway. This is approximately 10 kms, and connects with the 407. We bypass Toronto, and quickly exit at the 410. Once on Highway 10, I applied sunscreen. Then I suggest to Gregg to make a left turn at the Forks of the Credit road. He asks “why?” I said, “just do it, and to pull over after completing the turn. There’s an paved apron, on the shoulder.” Once safely pulled over, I request, “the top goes down!” Gregg has never driven this road. Both Gregg, and the Miata are smiling! Me too! We climb to the rail side hairpin corner. At Mississauga Road, we turn right. We pass the Caledon Ski Club, en route to Cataract. Then north on 136 though Alton. At 1:50 p.m., we arrive in Orangeville, in time for my wife’s birthday.
Gregg’s Miata averages 38 mpg/7 L/100 kms, on the highway. I’d say it is driven, “spiritedly.” It performed flawlessly! No wonder Mazda has owned this segment! They took a fun, inexpensive sports car, and made it reliable. Notoriously, British sport cars, had terrible, and unreliable electrics. Can you say, Lucas Electrics? GM tried (and failed) to produce lower cost two seaters, twice, with the Pontiac Fiero, and more recently the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. Yes, GM has had a great, long run with the two seater Corvette, but it cost quite a bit more than the Miata! Today, more Mazdas are raced than any other production car. My son has a ‘97 Miata (NA generation). It too, has been great!
The next day we made our annual pilgrimage to the vintage races at Mosport. See my report.
Gregg left for Barrie, then safely returned home, with his trusty Miata.
We agreed, it was a great visit/trip! Hopefully, we’ll repeat it next year.
Written & Photos by Larry Barnett©