A delightful aspect of getting off the beaten path is the realization that everyone doesn't have to race along at 120 mph anymore merely to stay abreast of the next madman on the road. I don't know about you but I've had it with Ontario's three major highways, the QEW, the 401 and the 400. Despite the increase in the cost of gas, spiraling upward to the delight of retailers, it's wall to wall traffic on those highways, the volume reminding me of Japanese workers being shoved like sardines into morning commuter trains. And time of day doesn't seem to factor into the equation. Where are all those crazy people going? Last Saturday, it took us an hour to get across the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, and it wasn't even Code Orange.
When one opts for the slower, rural routes, the roads less taken, there is occasion to savour the moment and in the process, discover a richer texture to life. Thus, we take an inordinate delight when visiting friends in the Wasaga area to deliberately stop and smell some roses at certain sites along the way.
A bonus from this sensible stratagem consists in browsing through some small town stores in remote and picturesque parts of Ontario. I am as sick of box stores as I am of traffic on our highways. They are all the same. The only thing that they offer me is exercise. Aside from paid greeters, they provide little enjoyment. In contrast, the proprietors of small, rural businesses tend to love their work, and most wish to showcase not only their skills, but the pristine and delightful land about them.
We discovered the village of Schomberg which you may easily access from highway #400. Take exit 55 West on Hwy #9 to Main St., South Schomberg. The place to stop at is the old feed mill. If you are hungry, on either end of this edifice are restaurants where we have enjoyed leisurely meals, but in the middle sits the piece de resistance, Kathi Vogan's Piety Ridge Primitives, a shop that carries you back in time with authentic reproduction furniture and accessories that reflect a 19th century atmosphere. We generally browse there for an hour or more. Kathi has stocked lots of terrific "stuff," and she is open from10 am - 5:30 pm. 7 days a week.
The historic Schomberg feed mill houses 2500 square feet of rugs, lights, pottery, baskets, samplers, folk-art, quilts, iron and tin, Irish pottery, country clothing for men and women, baby items, and personal care products. Clothing lines include Woolrich, Royal Robbins, CutLoose Linens and Spirit Linens.
Kathi enjoys eclectic tastes; accordingly, she has marshaled a dazzling team of artisans to display original Santas (Rose Dolhanyk), dolls and samplers (Lori Livy), Phylonian beeswax candles, Cooper and Latimer house furniture, seasonal décor, and Nicholas Mosse pottery hand made in Ireland with a unique feel and no two pieces alike. There are motley patterns and shapes which mix and match well.
All details in the landscape pottery are sponged by hand with additional detailing through hand painting. Mosse employs a range of farm animals, poultry and rural scenes to create a whimsical world of Irish charm, and with my surname, how could I not be impressed?
The only problem with the feed mill is that every time we visit, I eventually must forcefully remind Miriam that we have to push on. But, rather than the insanity of the 400, we then take the slower approach, the Robert Frost type roads. Thus, you may more readily explore our rural heritage while the road warriors fight traffic. I encourage you to reflect on your lifestyle by examining those living in the less frantic townships and villages in this province. Festivals there are omnipresent, and the out-of-doors enthusiast may usually rent canoes and bicycles to remain in the slow lane.
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
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