Driving The Plank

The Museum Tour

AUGUST 12TH, 2017 WAS A PERFECT SUMMER DAY. Threatening weather forecasts gave way to puffy white clouds hanging like cotton balls on a clear blue sky background.

Jennifer Beauchamp, curator of two museums in Oxford County contacted UCR’s Fun Run Chairs to inquire if she could entice Porsche club members to come tour the area and explore museums and country stores. The call was put out to UCR members looking for someone to co-host a fun run with Jennifer. Being a good two hours west of the GTA, it was difficult to find a member locally from the area. My husband and Provinz Editor, Randy Gananathan volunteered to co-host for this first year to help Jennifer who isn’t a club member.

Jennifer being local to the region, plotted out a route with many interesting stops that Randy was invited to drive and fine tune to fit UCR rules and preferences. For example, UCR members don’t like to drive their cars on gravel roads. This makes sense because a convoy of cars will kick-up dust and stones that are completely undesirable. 

Together, they checked out all the proposed stops, drove and timed the route. Jennifer had found a really neat place to visit, but it was down a gravel road. Randy stopped at the entrance to the gravel stretch and didn’t want to go there, so they crossed off this venue and drove the rest of the route that was all paved. As they completed the route check, the question of where to end the event came up. They wanted to end close to the starting point or an easily accessible highway for participants to return home quickly. A restaurant was considered, but it was not the perfect place to end an event as it could be as if a meal was obligatory. Both Randy and Jennifer wanted to avoid this sticky situation, and end close to Hwy 401.

Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese factory, the place that Randy didn’t want to go to because it was located on a gravel road, was tactfully suggested by Jennifer as a place worth looking at as the ending point. Randy relented and they did make the stop at the end of their drive. Randy was impressed enough by what he saw that he accepted Jennifer’s suggestion of this ending point and it was less than 650m of gravel, so if it didn’t rain, it could work.

The event began bright and early at the Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum complex that has recently added the Oxford County Museum School. UCR Ramble participants were introduced to how Ontario schools and classrooms looked like at the turn of the century or even earlier while everyone enjoyed coffee and very special breads from the nearby Leaping Deer Bakery. Jennifer had set-up with a bread toaster, butter and jams so everyone was able treated to warm toasted slices of savoury breads.

Scott Gillies, Curator of the Ingersoll Cheese & Agriculture Museum conducted pre-ramble tours of the Cheese Museum, explaining the history of cheese making in Ontario and showcasing the collection of cheese making utensils, machinery and furniture used in the old days.

The group drove out after registrations were completed, waivers signed and the mandatory driver’s briefing on UCR rules plus info about the route.

First stop was just about 7kms from the starting point at Leaping Deer Bakery. The place was abuzz with many early morning customers picking up baked goods and everyone in our group enjoyed the aromatic ambiance of this special bakery and stocked-up on freshly baked goodies coming off the ovens.

Oxford Honey was a really interesting stop with all of us crammed into a netted meeting venue for our protection, whereas owner and Master Beekeeper, John Van Blyderveen stood right next to the hives, opened them up for us and casually pushed the bees around like they were his best buddies.

John’s in-depth presentation of beekeeping, bee culture, habits and the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides commonly found in agricultural areas kill bees over time by gradually reducing their reproductive abilities and are especially harmful to queen bees, was very educational. Everyone had lots of questions and John’s answers, his deep understanding of everything to do with bees combined with the experience of keeping about a million or so bees in his hives scattered across Oxford County, made us all want to get out our smart phones to do more research on the subject.

We stopped at a country market, had two more optional stops and arrived at the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association Museum in Tillsonburg. The CHAA owns several Harvards that were used for fighter pilot training during WW-II. They acquire, preserve, restore, maintain, display and demonstrate these ancient flying machines, train and test pilots plus operate a formation team. 

UCR members were invited to get into the cockpits, touch and feel the antique controls plus enjoy taking photos in and around the Harvards, unlike a Porsche Concours where it is all “hands off” with no touching!

After a catered, but simple lunch of assorted sandwiches and beverages, we left Tillsonburg, continuing down Plank Road until we reached the Port Burwell Marine Museum and Historic Lighthouse. Here was the place where Jennifer’s Scavenger Hunt completed entries were collected and scored. Ted Youngs and his navigator Mary Ellen Duncan scored 100% and won “the Ultimate Dining Card” good for use at 10+ restaurants across Ontario.

This was also our afternoon ice cream stop with several options to choose from. The historic lighthouse that stands 65 feet high was open and one of few remaining wooden lighthouse structures that are open to the public to climb up to the top for a panoramic view of the lake and surroundings of Port Burwell. The original Bull’s Eye Fresnel Lens of the light is on display. It revolutionized lighthouse technology 200 years ago when invented by a Frenchman named Augustin Jean Fresnel.

The town is home to HMCS Ojibwa, the largest display of the Museum of Naval History. Ojibwa served from 1965 to 1998 through the dangers and challenges of the Cold War. Visitors can choose from a number of different tours ranging from the hour-long Submariner’s Tour of the inside of the boat; The Fish Eye View Tour of the outside; the combo tour including both the inside and the outside; and our most intensive tour – the 3-hour Greater Depths Tour.

Leaving Port Burwell, the ramble took a very quiet, but straight and well paved route north towards Woodstock. It was an exhilarating drive for our Porsches, ever mindful of local speed limits, we got to that point by five o’clock, the point where some participants chose not to venture out on that gravel road to Gunn’s.

Those of us that went to the cheese factory were able to see how cheese production works, taste a variety of cheeses and of course take home some artisan cheeses. Every car was presented with a special bottle of wine bottled at a private winery for this event – Driving The Plank.

Although our ramble officially ended near Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, some members banded together to enjoy casual fine dining at Six Thirty Nine in Woodstock. Front row seats to the action in the kitchen, farm to table dining using locally grown Oxford County produce, Ontario Craft brews with old and new world wines including VQA selections and Chef/Co-Owner Eric Boyer’s creations topped off a wonderful day, enjoyable ramble and the opportunity to meet new friends from UCR.

Jennifer would love to host this event next year and is looking for a local member of UCR from Oxford County or the surrounding areas to take the lead. Contact UCR Fun Run Chairs if you’d like to host! </>

By Michelle Zhang-Gananathan, PCA Member

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