Big City, Small Town: Treasure Trove
As we ready our bikes at the Leamington docks, the entire bow of the M.V. Jiimaan ferry to Pelee Island slides upward, rising above the deck as cars drive into the nose of the vessel.
We roll our bicycles down the pier, safely store them in the ship's holding area and climb the steps to the upper deck. The sky is bright blue, cloudless and the water sparkles during the hour and a half trip across the lake. Though many still consider Canada's most southern point the Great White North, by mid June temperatures have hit 86 degrees with a balmy breeze for our bicycle tour of the island.
Once off the Jiimaan, we follow the narrow country lane and gravel path for a five-minute ride toward the Pelee Island Winery. After parking our bicycles, we stroll past stacked wine barrels flanking the entrance to the rows of grapevines.
Inside, we admire the antique harvesting tools displayed around the interior of the wood-paneled gift shop. We try free samples of the latest vintages, but select a bottle of our favorite Pelee red and stash it in my knapsack for sipping on the beach later in the day.
As we head out again, we pass a collection of cozy cottages along West Shore Road, a grassy boulevard dotted with benches and picnic tables strategically positioned for watching the sunsets across the lake. About a half-hour in we start to get hungry and stop at the barn-shaped Anchor & Wheel Inn Island Restaurant. The place is one of our island favorites and has great fresh pickerel and Jimmy Buffett-style Caribbean music on the patio.
After lunch, we head to Conorlee's Bakery, a little white house with a bright red door, around the corner. The warm buttery aroma of baked bread greets us upon entering. So we purchase two "Big Lebowskis" (delectably sinful cream cheese danish) and pack them in my knapsack to enjoy later with our wine.
The 15-minute ride along the northern end of the island is filled with the noisy twitters, squeaks and squawks of the island's diverse bird population. Along the way the road leads us to a wide dirt path through the cool forest, a slender sandy beach and another wooded trail that brings us to the base of the lighthouse's stony turret, which stands sentry on a mound of granite boulders.
The rest of the day is spent on the beach lounging and sipping wine. In the blink of an eye, it is 3 p.m. and time to head back to the docks to catch our ride home.
The long day filled with fresh air, food, wine and sunshine makes the 40-minute ride back to the ferry dock a struggle. But once on board, we feel refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to return to our lives like we are pedaling in first gear.
12:00 AM EST
February 16, 2013