Once in a Life-Time Gift? Fighter Pilot Adventure

L-39 Albatros Jet Fighter
Fly a fighter jet in Florida

For those looking for that once in a life time adventure to mark a major milestone, such as, a 50th birthday, consider flying a fighter jet.  Our Kissimmee vacation rental condo is located just over 1 hour away from Tampa where you can enjoy your adventure.

Manitoulin Island Restaurants

Manitulin Island is truly a special place and so are the restaurant hours.  We suggest that you always call the restaurant to confirm that they will be open for the date and time you are hoping to head out.  Many restaurants are run by a family and the family wants to have some nights off so it is important to call before you assume that a restaurant will be open.  It would take me a few hours every year to sort out what is open when.  Having said that there are a number of restaurants open year round.  Here is a descent list of restaurants on the island.

From our personal experience, for more upscale:

Garden’s Gate – far side of Mindemoya from our cottage,

Hwy 542 & Smeltzers Rd

Tehkummah, Ontario P0P 2C0, Canada

  • (705) 859 -2088
  • www.manitoulin-island.com/gardensgate/

    School House

    46 McNevin St
    Providence Bay, ON P0P 1T0
    (705) 377-4055


    Royal Michael’s Bay Restaurant

    221 Pennie Ave., in the township of Tehkummah, Ontario



    We’ve had great meals at all of the above places.


    For fast/pub style food:

    Buies’s in Spring Bay – BBQ in the summer

    50’s Dinner in Mindemoya

    Mom’s in Mindemoya – especially for a ‘greasy spoon’ style breakfast

    There are more places that are decent but we find ourselves going back to the above places if we want to grab a quick bite out.


    There is a native american restaurant in M’Cheeging (West Bay).  The name escapes me at the moment though.  It is on a side road and they have a good weekend buffet breakfast and apparently good dinners but definitely call ahead as it took us a number of times to find a time that we wanted to go and they were open.


    While not a restaurant I personally think that Farquhars is the world’s best ice cream.  I’m constantly striving to find better but I haven’t been successful and I’ve done a decent job of North America, and Europe.  It is creamy which isn’t everyone’s favourite but worth trying, you may add it to your favourite list.


    Do you say autumn colour, fall colors, fall foilage, or something else and when is the best time to go?

    With our British heritage but the influence of our neighbours to the south you will see both autumn/fall, colour and color being used fairly interchangably.

    As for the best time to go it depends if you are looking for a specific tree/bush species or the overall effect.  Being nature it is next to impossible to pick out exact dates well in advance.  It depends on temperature, rainfalls, water levels, wind and other factors.  Generally between mid-September to mid-October you are likely to see some colour, often mainly yellow.  If you wish to play the odds then the last week of September to first week of October is likely your best bet but we truly don’t know and certainly don’t make any guarantees.

    Some 3rd party advice on fall colors in the Canmore/Banff area

    Difference between a Larch and a Tamarack – same genus, different species.


    Emerald Lake, BC

    I’ve been heading out to Banff National Park for years.  We tend to take guests, who’ve never been to the area, back to our favourite spots, such as, Lake Louise, Lake Peyto, Johnston Canyon, the list gets longer.  Well, we had a day with just ourselves and we decided to explore, and I’m glad we did.  We headed off to Emerald Lake in BC, part of Yoho National Park, about a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise.  Emerald Lake is definitely worth checking out.  Somehow it gives the appearance of being more quaint than most of the popular lakes in Banff.  You can rent a canoe and head out on to the lake.  A very picturesque spot, likely less busy than Lake Louise too.

    On route to Emerald Lake you can stop at Takakkaw Falls, one of the higher falls out in the Rockies.  We were told at the tourist office in Canmore that it was the highest falls in western Canada/USA.  However, it is fairly far down the list of tallest falls in western Canada.  It does rate quite well on the magnitude scale though.  Overall, I thought it was worth going to since we were already in the area but I don’t see myself going back again and again.

    Spiral Tunnels, BC are something that train buffs will want to check out.  It is something that will be of more intereste to people who are more interested in trains and engineering.  Others may not find it so interesting.

    Natural Bridge, just outside of Field, BC is another natural phenomenam.  I would not drive out of my way to take it in but if you are heading out to Emerald Lake anyway then it is worth the extra few minutes it takes to check it out.

    Is Disney World All That Special?

    Overall I’m a big Disney fan but for me it is more from an operations and entrepreneurial standpoint.  Talk about build it and they will come, boy Walt had that figured out in spades.  For anyone whose ever run a business you could very likely learn something by reading one of the many books written about how Disney operates.

    Having owned our townhouse for over a year now I’ve figured out the following, at least from my perspective.  There is an awful lot more to do in the area other than go to Disney World.  In fact, unless you are a Disney fanatic, or have young kids I would suggest not going to the Magic Kingdom.  The Magic Kingdom (just one of the Disney Theme parks) is especially designed for families with young kids.  If you are a family that has young kids then check out the Magic Kingdon you’ll likely have a ball.

    If you have no kids, or older kids, then in our experience you’ll likely have a better experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Universal Studios, Sea World, taking in an air boat tour, etc., vs. going to the Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

    Yes, I believe Disney World is one of the most magical places on earth; however, it is but one piece of the fun to by had in the Orlando/Kissimmee area.  Don’t hesitate to take in one of the other attractions in the Kissimmee area.

    Fishing on Lake Minnewanka

    Today I had the pleasure of fishing on Lake Minnewanka with my brother and father-in-law.  Here are some things I learned.

    You need a special fishing license to fish in a National Park (make sure you are allowed to fish in the lake, fishing is allowed in Lake Minnewanka).  We purchased a one day license for just over $10/person.

    We could buy the fishing license in the Town of Banff or at the boat launch area in Minnewanka.  Don’t bother getting on the Lake extremely early if you don’t have a license as they don’t start selling licences until 8:00 AM at the marina on the lake.  A bit later in our case as the guy who was running the store showed up at about 8:10 AM.

    You aren’t allowed any lead lures, or barbs.  There are additional regulations so make sure you check them out and abide by them before heading out on the lake.

    You are almost guaranteed to meet up with a game warden if you are out on the lake for long.  The warden checked out our licenses, and all of our tackle.  Out of a lot of lures he zoned in almost immediately on two lures that we had no idea contained lead.  He wrote us up a warning (we thought we were all ready for an inspection so it was good that we only got a warning).  I would suggest running your tackle past a game warden on land if you can find one before heading out on a lake if you aren’t sure if any of your lures contain lead.

    There are big trout in Lake Minnewanka.  The fish finder showed lots of fish.  At points it looked like we’d be able to step out the back of the boat and walk on them the screen was so full of fish.  You will need a down rigger to have the best chance of hooking in to a really big fish.  My father-in-law caught a 5 to 6 lb lake trout near the very end of our 8 hours of fishing.  We threw back another small laker and at least one other fair size one got away.  Good scenery and overall a great day.

    I’m not sure that I would go on the Lake Minnewanka boat tour.  I can’t say for sure as I haven’t taken the tour yet.  However, as an observer it looked like it powered down the full length of the lake and paused for a bit and powered back.  They likely have people on board with binnoculars looking for wildlife but as an observer it didn’t look like something I would like but I’ll likely try it some day to report back.  If you’ve been on the tour (and don’t work for Brewsters) let us know what you thought of the tour.  Much of tour is likely around the stories they tell which may be great but it didn’t look like a tour I would take if I was hoping to see a lot of wildlife.

    We did see some mountain sheep licking salt off rocks and some loons but that was it in regards to wildlife after 8+ hours of trolling most of the lake.

    Daytona Beach vs. Clearwater Beach

    I decided to check out beaches on both coasts.

    In going to Daytona Beach I noticed it is what I consider a ‘beach scene’.  Cars allowed on the beach, thousands, upon thousands of people walking, lying, swimming for miles and miles.  Kitchie beach stores and quick burger/pizza joints abound.

    Clearwater is more refined than Daytona.  Where Daytona is one massive beach and you don’t realize when you are moving from one official beach area to another it is just miles and miles of sand.  Clearwater down to Treasure Island seemed to have more distinct communities, with less people on the beach.

    This may have been specific to the weekend that I checked out both beach but I came to a conclusion.  If you want to enjoy some people watching and more going on then head to Daytona Beach.  If you want a more relaxing time, with possibly finding your own little area to relax for the day then head to the Gulf side.  Which ever side you decide to go to have fun.

    From the Orlando Airport to Your Vacation Rental

    Car rentals tend to come with an E-Pass/SunPass system that for $2.50/day of going on any tolls, plus the actual toll costs saves you from having to manually pay the toll (as of June 2011 and based on my understanding).

    You can make it around Orlando/Kissimmee fine without using the toll highway system.  If you come to the townhouse without using tolls you are looking at about an hour drive, using tolls, it will cost ($3.50 if you manually pay the tolls, $6.00 if you use the car rental autopay system – June 2011 pricing, prices will change).  It takes about 40 minutes to get to the townhouse using toll roads and roughly an hour if you don’t take any toll roads.  Note that the main road out of the Orlando International Airport is a toll road and you pretty much have to try not to get on that toll road.

    If you don’t take the toll road to the town house, and are new to the area, I suggest taking International Drive for part of the route.  Not to save time as the route is full of traffic lights and traffic.  However, International Drive is a great street with lots of stuff ‘going on’ if you want to do a bit of sight seeing on the way to the vacation rental.  West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (Hwy 192) is another street with lots of touristy stores (some a bit seedy but overall harmless from what we’ve experienced).

    Other than the drive from the airport to the townhouse you likely won’t experience toll roads while driving around the Orlando/Kissimmee area doing touristy things.  Although, we have used toll roads to save a lot of time heading up to swim with the manatees in Crystal River.  You can easily make it to a number of the Atlantic or Gulf Coast Beaches without needing to use toll highways.


    Disney World and Distances, for those who have never been

    Some notes on distances to Disney and in and around Disney World. Disney is about 40 square miles in size so it can easily take more than 20 minutes just to drive across the park. A lot of owners, in our community, say they are 3 miles from Disney. That is likely to the border of Disney. We are 3.1 miles away from the border. To get to any of the 4 parks within Disney will be a greater distance. Our vacation rental is about 5 miles from the entrance to World Drive which is the main entrance road in to Disney. Our townhome is 4 miles from Disney’s Animal Kingdom (10 Mins). The Magic Kingdom is further in to the park and typically takes 15 to 20 minutes to drive to at just under 10 miles away.

    Even within the park the Animal Kingdom is about 6 miles away from the Magic Kingdom. Be prepared that even when you are in the park it can take many minutes to get from the closest Disney parking lot to the theme park you are going to.

    Many owners seem to fib about distances and times it takes to get to places, whether Disney World, or the beach. We got all of our distances and timelines from Google maps. Depending on traffic and speed time to get to places will be affected. If distance from Disney (or other locations) is important to you then before you book with someone we recommend putting in the address and the place you want to drive in Google maps to get true distances.

    Misery Bay Nature Reserve & beach

    Do NOT let the name fool you… Misery Bay is a wonderful 1005 hectare provincial park and is located about an hour drive from our cottage and is a great way to spend a with the friends and family.   There are hiking trails, beaches, a board walk and more. 

    This is the Misery Bay Visitor & Interpretive Centre, it’s only open from May 24 weekend to September long weekend.  Washrooms are located inside.   Trail maps (below)are located in boxes all year long.

    The first time we visited this park we hiked the Forest Trail which takes you to the most amazing large rare rock called alvar.  

     A few years later my mom, aunt & me spent a girls weekend up at our cottage.  I remembered the amazing rock “beach” so I tried to take them there (……but I am not good at reading maps! and I am directionally challenged!), so we took the Lakeshore Trail to the wolf den trail…and to my surprise we ended up at this WONDERFUL beach! 

    While we were hanging out at this beach we watched a pair of bald eagles soaring above the beach.

    And on our way out of the trail we spotted a couple of Snowshoe Hares… this is a rather blurry photo of the smaller of the two we spotted.  There are a few of these rabbits on our property and in the winter they turn white!  Often spotted by the fire wood shed.

     Misery Bay is a wonderful place to take a picnic and hang out for the day – REMEBER TO PACK IN & PACK OUT your trash because there is no garbage collection on the beach.

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