From Ohio with love: Why these couples have vacationed on P.E.I. every year for decades
'We tell them the same thing, that it's basically for the people'
P.E.I. is getting a little free advertising from two families from Ohio who display their affection for the Island on their state licence plates.
Donna and Bob Miller and Cheryl and Scott Chamberlain have never met, but they've been making the 2,100-kilometre trek from Ohio to P.E.I. every summer for decades.
I'm just as excited to go now as I was 40 years ago.— Donna Miller
The Millers have two vehicles with Ohio plates personalized for P.E.I. — one says PEI4US and the other LUV PEI. The licence plate on the Chamberlains' vehicle says PEI4FUN.
They say some people in Ohio know exactly what it means, but for those who don't, they're more than happy to explain.
"We tell them the same thing, that it's basically for the people," Bob said. "I mean, it's very relaxing, it's beautiful and everything, but basically it's people."
'Absolutely loved it'
Bob and Donna came to P.E.I. in 1980 so their children, aged three and five at the time, could experience a farm vacation.
"My children just absolutely loved it up there," Donna said. "When we took the ferry home my son would put his little head down on the table. He wouldn't eat breakfast. He was just trying to hold back the tears all the way. He wouldn't even come out on deck and wave goodbye to the Island."
Their children are grown now, and have visited P.E.I. a few times with their own kids. But Bob and Donna have never missed a summer in 40 years. And every year they stay at the same place, Parkview Farm in Cavendish.
They've become such good friends with the owners, Alvin and Eleanor MacNeill, and others they've met, that they've never built on a waterfront plot they bought in Rusticoville several years ago.
"If we built a cottage there you're basically by yourself and you don't get to see the same people and you can't drop in all the time so. So we've never built because of that," Bob said.
Some things stay the same
Donna says though P.E.I. has grown and become more "touristy" over the years, some things have never changed.
"I think that people's values on the Island are still very much the same. I don't feel threatened by any crime or anything when I'm on the Island," she said.
"I wouldn't let my kids, even back in 1980, go trailing off by themselves anywhere and I let them run around Rainbow Valley, you know we'd sit in one spot and if they told us where they were going that was fine."
The Millers will be back on P.E.I. for about three weeks in July.
"I'm just as excited to go now as I was 40 years ago," Donna said.
21 years in a row
Cheryl Chamberlain has been coming to P.E.I. for 21 straight summers. She first came on a mother-daughter trip when she was 40 because they were both big fans of Anne of Green Gables.
They returned the next year and then she convinced her husband Scott this was the place they should spend their summer vacation.
"I felt so guilty coming up to this wonderful paradise and not having him here too," Cheryl said.
She's been singing P.E.I.'s praises ever since.
When we cross over the bridge and we reach the Island. I always tell my husband, I'm home.— Cheryl Chamberlain
"My mom is one of nine siblings and I've had at least five of her brothers and sisters up to visit multiple trips, and cousins and all kinds of friends."
When she posted a picture of her Ohio licence plate on Facebook, it got more than 800 likes and 150 comments, many from Islanders welcoming them back. Others wrote about their own summer trips to P.E.I., including a woman from South Carolina who is coming for the 32nd time.
The Chamberlains come every year for their wedding anniversary on June 1 and stay until Canada Day at a place in Cousins Shore.
They enjoy all the Island has to offer, from the seafood to ceilidhs, and even like the June weather.
"By the time we go back to Ohio in July it is so hot and humid," Cheryl said. "This kind of weather in the Maritimes just seems to agree with us and we like it."
They also like the small town feel of P.E.I.
"Nothing too nosy but you know how small town is," Cheryl said. "Everybody wants to know, like, where are you from, who are you related to, and I can relate to that."
Both couples said they have travelled many other beautiful places, but P.E.I. is the one place where they will always return.
"It's like when you've been away and you step back into the house and you go, 'I'm home' and you kind of call out," Cheryl said.
"That's exactly how I feel when we cross over the bridge and we reach the Island. I always tell my husband, I'm home."