Owen Sound and Lion's Head


I am on my lunch break, typing this from my office.

Yes, I have an office. With a real door that can be locked, and four walls. No windows, though. No natural light. Oh, well. I'll just have to get out and walk around on occasion.

There's a lot of little things to remember about this job. Get the mail, book the rooms, answer four out of the five lines that ring on the phone, etc, etc. It's a lot to take in at once, but I'll manage, I'm sure.

As yesterday was the first day in a while that Erin didn't feel sick from her head cold, we decided to pile into the car and head north. We stopped briefly in Mount Forest and were charmed by the small town and its heritage downtown. We had breakfast in a family-owned restaurant and enjoyed their scrambled eggs and home fries. I find that home fries are the weakest part of most restaurants' breakfasts; they aren't crispy enough, and they taste dull. These were crisp and good.

But I'm off topic. We then continued up Highway 6 and ended up in Owen Sound. We then spent about an hour or so fruitlessly walking through the downtown in search of a coffee shop. However (and we noticed this with Mount Forest), the downtown was shut tight. The only place serving coffee was Tim Hortons, and while their coffee is okay, it's not a good place to sit and write.

Owen Sound is a rather conservative sort of town. There were a group of religious people holding up placards in the main street -- we avoided them -- and we noticed a dearth of good coffee places. We did find a couple, however. That and the architecture of the place suggests that we will come back to Owen Sound -- if only on a Saturday.

After spending some time in Owen Sound, we decided to head up the Peninsula, and paid a visit to Clarksbury. Or, rather, Lion's Head.

There is no real place called Clarksbury on the Bruce Peninsula. At least, not that I heard of. The name is a conglomeration of Thornbury and Clarksburg, twin villages sitting very close together further south on the Georgian Bay coast. The setting was supposed to be Lion's Head (reference is made to the Cape Croker lighthouse, which is a real lighthouse), but when I visited this place, I immediately saw a problem: Lion's Head is too small.

Lion's Head sits on the 45th parallel, halfway between the pole and the equator (the road leading into Lion's Head sits right on the parallel, and is even referred to as the 45th parallel road, in case tourists want to snap pictures). It has the right setting (sitting on the cusp of the bay, with portions of the Niagara Escarpment stretching out into the water), but it also has a population of just 500. It probably doesn't have a high school.

Well, since Clarksbury is not a real place, I can fix that by switching a few things around. Driving back through Wiarton (home of Wiarton Willie), we realized that this town was a better model for Clarksbury. Larger (roughly 2000 people), with a more bustling downtown, and what looks to be a high school.

I'm sure Lion's Head wouldn't mind receiving an extra 1500 people and a name change. We could have fun with the details; a sports rivalry between the Clarksbury and Wiarton basketball teams. We could even have nicknames: the Clarksbury Caribou ("Caribou?" exclaimed Peter. "There's no caribou within a thousand miles of this place!") vs the Wiarton Fighting Willies ("I'm not touching that one!"). The cheerleading fight song could end with "Go, Clarksbury! Whack those Willies!"

Could be fun.

Seriously, the trip was fun and instructional. I got up close to the Niagara Escarpment and walked along the stony beach at its base. I got to hear the rush of the waves, and feel just how unstable the ground was. I have ideas on how to improve the scenes where Rosemary stumbles through an exaggerated reflection of this landscape while she's in the transition zone between our world and the sirens'. I found a place where the beach had undercut the cliffs, where somebody could conceivably crawl in order to seek shelter. I also saw stone circles to house bonfires, which immediately suggests a much better venue for Clarksbury High's Homecoming festivities in the final chapter.

If you can, always, always visit the sites you're profiling in your stories. The details this will lend you are invaluable.

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