by Bob McLeod
The 13th annual gathering of the Ottawa Citroën Club took place on the weekend of July 20-22. A new organization, and a new location were required this year, since the successful arrangements used in Perth in 2010-2011 were not available to us. Christian Thurler had scouted out possible sites over the winter, and eventually settled on the Upper Canada Campground, not far from Morrisbourg Ontario.
On Friday afternoon, a trickle of Citroëns began to converge on the site. The campsite was conveniently located within a few hundred metres off an exit from highway 401. Of course among the first on site were Christian and Fabienne with their “children”, both human and automotive. It was an impressive convoy, with both a DS (very recently out of an extensive mechanical and cosmetic refreshing) and the venerable trademark orange and green 2CV6, along with a travel trailer and kiddy car. You have to wonder what was left back on their farm.
By nightfall the group included Paul and Larraine Ricardi all the way from New Hampshire, Michel Landry with his recently de-dented DS21, and Mike Aubé. There were no official activities on Friday night, so folks got their campsites set up, and then spent a pleasant evening eating and chatting.
Saturday dawned bright and hot (not unusual for the summer of 2012 in the Northeast – record high temperatures and not a drop of rain since mid-June). Soon the reception gate at the campgrounds saw a steady stream of Citroens of all shapes and sizes (that goes for the owners too!). Cars were arriving from three main directions: from the west (Toronto and Kingston), from the east (Montreal and the rest of la belle province), and from the north (Ottawa).
The selection of cars this year was interesting. In the early going, the most numerous single model was the SM. It has been some time since we had seen so many of the magnificent Maserati-powered masterpieces. We were graced by the cars of Stephane Palumbo, Monsieur Andre Menard, Angus MacDougalld, Werner Siegrist, and George Dyke.
Eventually normal order was restored, as the 2CVs began arriving. We have to assume it was the run down the 401 that delayed them. The eventual count was about 20 Citroens, including 5 SMs, 2 DSs, 2 XMs, one CX, and the remainder various 2CV models. Some folks had what the French call “l’embarras du choix”. For example, Ian Craib chose his 2CV Dolly (sporting a gorgeous new roof) over his DS21. Michel Larouche from Montreal chose the comfort of his XM over the performance of his 2CV (recently converted to a home-brewed fuel injection system).
We had a wonderful surprise just after lunch, when we saw Ruth Bryson drive onto the site. It was only a couple of weeks since many of us had attended the memorial service for Ruth’s late husband Neil. Neil and Ruth have been among the most loyal and dogged participants in our gatherings for many years. The sight of their AK250 Camionette “Titine” has long been a fixture of these events. Sadly, Titine stayed home this year, but it was wonderful to see Ruth, who made the trip from Wolfe Island just to say hello.
A little later, we formed up for an afternoon drive along historic Highway 2, which was the original route between Montreal and Toronto since the pioneer days. Eventually this outing brought us to the scenic Long Sault Parkway. Our happy and colourful convoy wound its way from island to island, following the magnificent causeway.
On our return to the campsite, it was time for the traditional Citroen Games. These games (formerly called the Citroen Olympics, until the IOC took offence) have been part of the Ottawa Club gatherings since 2001. They have seen all manner of nonsense, and this year was no exception.
Bob McLeod, evil Games Designer and MC transported us back to Paris in 1925. First we had the Eiffel Tower, resplendant in its famous Citroen illumination. Co-drivers had to attempt to toss a beret onto the top of the tower, from inside their cars, while the driver waited. Once successful, the driver took off to weave through a slalom down the Champs …lysees and back again. Finally, working as a team, the co-driver shouted instructions as the driver tried to pop two of three red white and blue balloons, using only the passenger-side rear wheel. Thanks to some careful underinflation of the balloons by Bob, this last phase provided nail-biting excitement. Spectators held their breath as the balloons sometimes swelled out like potentially-lethal aneurysms, just refusing to pop. What a hoot!
When the shouting and cheering died down, some of the results had a familiar ring: in first place was the team of Jaro Dvorsky and George Dyke (2CV); in second Stephane Palumbo and Christian Lavoie (SM); and in third Bruce Grant and Fabienne T (2CV). Jaro, George, and Fabienne are all multiple medal winners from years past. All three winning teams were able to choose their own prizes from a large selection generously provided by 2CV MDL, the parts supply business run by Michel Larouche.
Historically the entries in the games have been dominated (sometimes exclusively) by 2CVs, but this year the field was nicely mixed, and included SM, DS, 2CV, and even Mike Aube’s Peugeot 203 pickup, which proved remarkable agile.
This excellent participation was much appreciated by Bob and his two able assistants: Margaret Craib and Danielle Belanger.
As the field was being restored to order after the games, the assembled group began to see signs of dinner preparations. As part of a package deal with the campground, dinner was fully catered. And what a feast it was! A line of eager diners quickly formed, and soon plates were piled high with filet mignon of pork, roast potatoes, hot vegetables, and chilled salads. Reviews were universally positive, even if George Dyke did express a certain nostalgic yearning for “boiled corn and Werner’s Weiners”. Dessert also left nothing to be desired.
Due to the extreme drought conditions, we were not able to have a campfire on Saturday night, but the group circulated among the various picnic tables arranged under a very handy permanent structure beside the show field. Conversation continued long into the night, with a few folks retiring along the way. In the absence of his beloved cows, even Christian got an early night.
The group was about evenly split between those who chose to return home on Saturday night, and those who stayed on for Sunday. The folks who stayed were well rewarded with a wonderful breakfast on Sunday morning, again catered by the campground. Afterwards, the group headed out to Prehistoric World, a park with an amazing collection of life-sized dinosaur statues. Afterwards, folks said their good byes, and pointed their Citroëns towards home.
The Ottawa Club viewed this year’s gathering as a bit of an experiment, but it seems it was a highly successful one. The campground provided a site with good facilities, weather protection, and space for both the show field and the games. The meal arrangements were first-class, and relieved the organizers of this usually onerous task. After 13 successful events, the Ottawa Citroen Club is looking forward to 2013, and hopes to attract even more participants, especially from easy-access places like Toronto and Montreal.