(Or, Falls and Falls and Falls)
Photos of our stay in Ontario can be found at the August 2011 Photos page.
As mentioned in the previous post, on Wednesday we headed to Toronto. Because of timing and circumstances, we had pretty much a free day, since Toronto was close and we had plenty of time to get there. So one of the fun things we noticed was that by taking a road near the coast of Lake Ontario, we would be traveling along a vineyard route – dozens of small vineyards with tasting rooms and wine for sale. We stopped at a couple and had some nice samplings and learned about the grapes that are grown in that region.
Daniel was having another less than stellar day. That afternoon as we drove along the coast, the road stopped and a ferry must be taken to continue. None of our maps indicated a ferry, so once we discovered that necessity, we had to go far out of our way to correct it. Then, in the evening, as we were nearing the home of our hosts, Daniel took us on a toll road. We didn’t know what type of a toll road it was until we saw a sign that read “Drivers not from Ontario will be billed” as a camera snapped a picture of Apollo. Note to Joe’s mom: expect a bill from Ontario in the mail. (Yes, we know that we can program Daniel to avoid those things, but previously in the trip we specifically needed him to not avoid those things. So, yes, we are ultimately responsible; we get it.)
In any case, we arrived at the home of our Toronto hosts on Wednesday evening and had a nice reunion. We originally met one of them in California many years ago; he, like Joe, is an orchestral conductor.
On Thursday we all went into the city and did a little sight-seeing. Our first stop was Casa Loma, an actual castle in Toronto that was built in the early 1900’s by a very wealthy and clever man. It was very ornate and beautiful, as well as state-of-the-art: it had electric lights (some even recessed), a shower, secret passages within the house, and an underground tunnel to the horse stables. The owner even had an electric car – this was in the 1910’s! The backyard had gorgeous gardens and a fountain. Unfortunately, the owner went broke and couldn’t afford it in the end, but the good news is that now tourists like us can walk through and be amazed at its grandeur and progressiveness. Later that day, our friend gave us a driving tour through the city, with special emphasis on performing arts venues, and we stopped for a while at a nifty area know as The Distillery, which has lots of art galleries, restaurants, bakeries, and unique little shops.
On Friday our hosts had matters to attend to, so the two of us drove about two hours to Niagara Falls. It was a wonderful sunny day, and the Falls (consists of two separate falls: Horseshoe Falls and American Falls) were indeed stunning. We walked around for a couple of hours just taking them in. The town offers much to do: there are botanical gardens, amusement parks, nature trails, casinos. But we did the free thing: we walked around and admired the scenery. We also drove along the Niagara Parkway and through the charming town Niagara-On-The-Lake, which is made for tourists. Our drive back home was at first scenic (past many more small vineyards) and then frustrating. One thing you should know if you ever go to Toronto: the traffic is always AWFUL. Whether you are going into the city or leaving, no matter what time of day or night or week. When around 10,000,000 people are making their way around the area, you will inevitably have plenty of company.
Saturday morning started with a Starbucks hunt, solely to find free internet. (n.b.: Our internet time has been extremely limited the past several weeks, so we try to do things like write/reply to emails and work on the website offline as much as possible. That often means that we can’t reply to emails or even comments as immediately as we’d like. Thanks for your understanding.) Then the four of us headed down to Toronto Harbour for a fun ride in a little fishing boat. Then we took a 10-minute ferry ride across the harbour to Toronto island, where we had a nice picnic lunch and walked around for a few hours enjoying Lake Ontario. After another driving tour through the big city (including a section that looks like a miniature Times Square), we had dinner after a fantastic Indian restaurant.
We said farewell to our hosts at 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning and began another stretch of long driving days (7-8 hours) and camping at night. Sunday we drove along the coast of Lake Huron, heading for Sault Ste. Marie. We camped outside that city, and our campsite was not more than 30 yards from Lake Superior. It was beautiful, but that night was the coldest yet. Joe wore three layers to bed and was still not especially warm. That morning a woman came to our campsite to inquire about Maggi; she noticed we were from Wisconsin and said she was from Michigan. It was interesting: we’ve been on the road for more than two-and-a-half months now, traveled thousands of miles, and now we are straying closer to our previous homes than we’ve been before or will be again for a long time.
Monday was another long driving day but the incredible scenic beauty along the coast of Lake Superior made it extremely enjoyable. Our campground was outside of Thunder Bay (practically due north from our Wisconsin HQ). On the campground is famous Kakabeka Falls, the largest Falls in northern Ontario. It would probably be the largest falls in Canada if it weren’t for, well, you know… Niagara Falls. We walked an enjoyable but not easy nature trail – during which an actual living, breathing porcupine crossed our path (it was very cute but we didn’t try to pet it) – and spent plenty of time admiring the falls. There is less water spilling over than one would expect, so you can really see the rocks on the cliff behind the water. It’s impressive and inspiring.
Tuesday morning, after a morning walk to admire Kakabeka Falls again, we embarked on a 7-8 drive towards Winnipeg, which is just north and a little west of the Twin Cities (Hi, everyone! Did you see us waving?) This is the final night of camping – just a few kilometers west of the longitudinal center of Canada! – before arriving in Alameda, Saskatchewan for our next Help Exchange. While there we will be about 20 miles from North Dakota and 40 miles from Manitoba. We’ll be there for 10 days, helping out on an organic farm, most likely pitching in with all the harvesting that happens this time of year.
So what do we do on these long car rides? There are a couple of things that make the drives go a little quicker. Listening to longer pieces of music, such as operas (we are enjoying plenty of Wagner on this trip) and musicals and longer symphonic works are good because you have the ability to hear the piece from beginning to end. We also enjoy books on CD; our good friend in Lake City gave us the CD version of The Art of Racing in the Rain, which we are loving. (It’s a story told from the point of view of a dog.) And sometimes Joe will read aloud from our Kindle a comic author such as Tina Fey or Kathy Griffin. But quiet is good, too, because it doesn’t distract you from the extraordinary scenery passing by and allows you time to appreciate it as well as the journey itself. Quiet is usually underrated.
Coming up: the compass points west.
Number of Great Lakes seen on this trip: 5. Number of Great Lake actually touched: 3 (Superior, Ontario, Erie).