Valley Victims Once Again!
Photo contributed - Friends enjoying great craft beer at Wilderness Tours.
We turned onto Rafting Rd. with high hopes, fond memories drifting through my mind. We had stopped a short while earlier at one of my old haunts - a dépanneur in Portage Du Fort, QC to stock up on some craft beers for the evening to come. It was bound to be a good one.
I had spent the better part of five years at this hustling and bustling little place - a whitewater rafting resort on the Ottawa River called Wilderness Tours. It’s about an hour and a half West of the city of Ottawa, and it’s perched directly on the river.
Photo courtesty of www.tripadvisor.com
As was typical for a Friday afternoon in July, big groups of people were checking in, yellow busses were emptying out loads of tired rafters and brazen looking guides, all while a familiar voice counted out “5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1…” from atop the bungee tower at the waterfront. It felt good to be back at this little fountain of youth.
The only photo we have on file of our time at Wilderness Tours…
Kasey and I checked in, set up our stage, and spent time with some of my old river friends. It was apparent that word had gotten around we were playing and all the staff that we had chatted with were coming out for a beer or two.
The night was an exciting one, partially because we had to find a way to fill five hours of music, and partially because the was a wedding to take play on site the next day, and thirsty wedding attendees were filling the deck up with flamboyant chit-chat, exotic cocktails and designer clothing… Not exactly the regular bill of fare for this establishment.
After three sets from the two of us, one solo set by yours truly, and a throwback duet performance of Pearl Jam’s Black with my sister from another mister Betty Oattes, we had reached the end of our first of three Valley shows. We packed up our gear and trucked it back to our cabin, bringing our buddies Bernie and Adam with us for a late-night pizza session.
Our original plan for Saturday was to rise early, eat breakfast, and hit the water with Betty O’s trip, but we missed both, opting instead to be awoke by a housekeeping lady rapping on the door rather aggressively. We were being kicked out… I thought we had a few minutes, but as soon as I opened the door the ladies barged in and began packing out sheets and towels. I stood bewildered in boxershorts.
Kasey looking upstream at The Normans Rapid.
We had missed all of the trips going out, so we spent most of Saturday at Miami Beach - a comfy little golden beach by the Normans rapid section. We accessed it through my good buddy’s property in hopes of meeting his free range husky-wolf, carrying a sausage in hand. (We weren’t lucky enough to meet ‘Stanley’, but I’m sure we will next time.) We scrambled across the rocks for a dip and to roast in the sunshine, and to heckle the rafting trips passing by.
We were tempted to moon the passing rafters. but pride got the better of us and settled instead for cat-calls and waving like maniacs.
That evening we were playing Whitewater Brewing Co. - a fabulous new brewery right beside the Ottawa River and based out of an old farm. I was blown away to see how far these boys had come since last we returned. The place was bouncing! They had converted the whole farm into a fully operational brewery/pub/swag shop with a river-side tavern motif.
Our server Kasia pouring beers for us… Mmmm… Beeeeeeer…
Each table was packed full of patrons chatting excitedly about whitewater, river rot, and the tasty beer that was being served. Fine local foods were being served to most of the tables, lavishly plated and generously portioned.
Ontario readers - this is a pretty happening place, and the beer is delightful. Keep an eye open in The Beer Store & LCBOs for the Farmer’s Daughter Blonde Ale, a super tasty brew with some rockin’ eye-candy on the can.
The stage was lit with patio lighting and to our delight, we were playing to a packed patio from a cattle-walk. It was awesome - we performed for a wide demographic and sold a bunch of albums. Despite the bugs in the air, we had an absolute blast and a more than a few delicious craft pints. We wrapped up at around 10pm, and began packing our gear. The plan was to head back to the resort for a few last drinks with the guides before we turned it in at my buddy’s cottage.
We spent Sunday restringing, lounging and browsing through the little town of Pembroke, ON. We were playing a house concert that evening at another friend’s place whom I hadn’t seen for about seven years. Christine used to own the local indie coffee shop downtown called Café Olé, and she was gracious enough to employ “College-Phase Thrill-Seeking Fledgling-Musician Dan” back when I lived in Pembie for school. As I had kind of expected, once we arrived Christine set to work at making us feel comfortable and at home. We sat down with a beer on the back deck and just relaxed until guests began to arrive.
It’s times like this that Kasey and I are fortunate to be afforded, and it allows us to think about the recent past and near future, take stock, and develop ideas, songs, plans and corrections for what might be coming our way. We’re really grateful for times like that.
We had a wonderful dinner that Christine prepared with mostly local ingredients, crafted with love. There was even a birthday cake (It was my 28th!). It was a massive strawberry custard flan cake… Thinking back to it now makes me wish I had saved some… *drool*
We began performing shortly thereafter. The house was lit and very warm - and we had a really special time performing our tunes for new friends. These listening environment shows are all so unique, and extremely empowering. It really nice to be able to play our original sets for an attentive, respectful and loving audience. It was the perfect way to finish off a busy weekend.
Once we had packed up our gear, we caught up with Christine on the back porch. The temperature was dropping a little - it was slightly cooler now. Comfortable.
We hopped into our chariot and set a course once again for Chez Tait along that Ottawa River.
Currently Listening To: Northwest Passage - Stan Rogers