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Nearly Home

by Richie
Nearly Home
Middletown, Ohio

We are a few hours from home, stopping over at my folks’ house for the night. We’ve had a great second week of vacation. The first week…hmmm, not so good. Emergency hospital stay for several nights was not the best start to a leisurely vacation.

But we loved our week in southern Ontario and hope to return soon.

We followed the path of the War of 1812, through many coastal towns which saw skirmishes. Back in 1812, Britain was preoccupied with Napoleon and left the Canada colonies unguarded. The Americans were licking their chops to take possession of Lake Erie’s shores, and began a campaign to harass the Canadian settlers. Having enough, General Brock enlisted the help of Chief Tecumseh and his Shawnee warriors, and kicked the Americans back, burning Detroit for good measure.

The Canadians were fond of reminding us, “We won that one, eh.”

Indeed. And you are still winners today.

 

 

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Rondo About

by Richie
Rondo About
Rondeau

Ontario, Canada
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Toured around Rondeau today, starting with a Butterfly Hike with the park rangers. The tour began at the Visitor Center which is on the far point of the peninsula, near the swampy marshes. We suited up in long pants and jackets because the mosquitos are “the worst in years” said the ranger, her face covered in welts.

If you walk through the trees, or approach any vegetation on the margins, you’re swarmed immediately. I’m talking clouds of mosquitos, which attacked our hiking group with fury and carried away two little tots in bathing suits. No, just kidding. They only took the boy.

 

Luckily once you reach the open air the vicious bugs abate, so we were often running for our lives toward the sunlight. Over on the bay side, there’s a 7km trail through the thick of the marsh and that became our joke – “Let’s hike the marsh!”  You’d need a Kevlar suit to survive.

 

The Visitor Center had some good exhibits, and many live animals on display to show the diversity of wildlife in the park. I liked the turtles best.

 

Water Turtle

We’ve been surprised at the number of tent campers in these Ontario parks. Maybe it’s just the campgrounds we visited, but tents comprised most of the sites. There’s a few trailer campers, even fewer fifth-wheels, and motorhomes of any size are a rare sighting. The tent campers have colossal tarps spread over their entire site, strung between the trees and big enough to be a boat sail. I’d sure like to know where they buy such large tarps!

 

We lunched in the coach (saucisses au poulet), and then spent some time on the beach. There’s a dozen or so access points in the park that lead across the dunes to Lake Erie. Caught a few rays and searched the beach for rocks – a favorite pastime.

 

 

Supper was again enjoyed at Rondeau Joe’s, a pleasant pub at the park’s entrance, where we sipped local pints of beer and hard cider and spent the last of our Canadian currency.  

Tomorrow we’ll head for the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit and hope the crawl through customs isn’t too long. I’ll wait to post the blog until I get American WiFi service, so I won’t run up another big bill like I did the last few nights!

 

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Rondeau

by Richie
Rondeau
Rondeau Provincial Park

Morpeth, Ontario
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Traveling 100 miles west on Route 3, we motored through the bucolic countryside of southern Ontario today. Cruising the coast of Lake Erie, we passed through small towns with bustling Main Streets and tidy family farms that appear agreeably prosperous. There’s nary an empty storefront or dilapidated barn in sight.

I was struck by the contrast to back home, where we frequently see signs of deep recession and entrenched poverty in the farming communities. Tim’s opinion was that Canadian farms look to be 1000+ acres, which is what it takes to make a living. (You can’t feed a family on 100 acres anymore.)

We stopped for a picnic lunch at a roadside rest area, thoughtfully situated under shade trees with plenty of parking and well-kept tables. The Canadians sure have style – they really do everything well.

The Glitch Gremlin is still with us. Today’s misadventures were solvable, but took extra time to fiddle around.

1.    The demise of our trusted Nikon camera. It’s kaput completely. We’ll need to take photos on our phones now, email them to ourselves, and then upload to the blog. All this takes extra “data time” on our portable WiFi, which Verizon has already warned has exceeded the package I bought for Canada.

2.    Blew a fuse for the water pump (entirely my fault). The wires that run the water pump in the bathroom are in a cabinet under the sink. There’s no cover for the fixture, so when I rummaged for something in the cabinet, I knocked all three wires out of the harness. There’s three wires and three connecting posts, with nothing labeled at all. So out of six possible combinations, I picked the one that blew the fuse. Luckily we had another #10 fuse, and the next combination I tried was the right one, which is now written in Sharpie inside the cabinet.

It was a relief when we arrived at Rondeau Provincial Park. This area is so sweet you can’t help but be in a good mood. Rondeau is a peninsula, with Lake Erie to the east and Rondeau Bay to the west. It’s about 8 km long, and half as wide. There are only two roads that traverse the length of the peninsula, and the whole finger is provincial park land with lovely lakeside summer homes, many built in the 20’s and 30’s. What a splendid drive on the bike!

This peninsula is unique in that is has three completely different ecosystems – Carolinian Forest (where the campground is located), Freshwater Dunes (on the lake side), and Black Oak Savannah (marshes and wetlands on the bay side).

 

Forest Camp

 

 

Marsh
Bay

I briefly reconnoitered the beach today, and found a stretch that was empty and breezy. We’ll be exploring more tomorrow, and may take a nature hike with the Park Rangers to hunt for butterflies.

Lake Beach
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At The Beach

by Richie
At The Beach
Turkey Point

Ontario, Canada
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Remember the beach during the 60’s & 70’s?

Simple and unhurried, colorful snack shacks, and a day of family fun.

It’s all still here in Canada.

We had an easygoing afternoon at Turkey Point beach today. The sand was soft and warm, just enough breeze to cool you down, and the water in Long Point Bay was nicely brisk. The swimming area is a sand dune, and the water is never more than waist high. This was a swell beach to hang around for the day, only a mile from our campground.

Strolling down the little strip, there’s just the right number of local shops followed by cute summer homes and old-fashioned motels. You really feel like you’re back in time, and it’s so pleasant not to be overpowered by the noise and commercialism that stinks up most US beach towns nowadays.

We spotted a porch made out of an old speed boat and a motel comprised of ancient campers – you rent the camper as your room for the week.

 

We really had the bike loaded up today – beach chairs, towels, cooler – and were amazed at just how much stuff we could pack onto the tiny rack. Thumbs up for bungee cords! Our camping pass gave us free parking and beach access for the day, one of the Provincial Park System perks.

Back at camp, our little black squirrel friend is getting bolder and braver and is coming right up to our door now. Since he’s jet black, we’ve named him X12. Fortunately Shadow has not met up with him yet – X12 would not be a happy camper!

X12
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Norfolk County

by Richie
Norfolk County
Turkey Point Provincial Park

Ontario, Canada
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Heading west about 80 miles from Niagara Falls, we traveled Route 3 along Lake Erie to Norfolk County. It was a superb day for a drive – blue skies and no traffic, because Monday was Civic Day (similar to Labor Day) and Canadian folks tend to stay home on this holiday.

We crossed through farm country, dotted with tidy homesteads and neatly planted fields of corn, squash, strawberries, and even tobacco. Most of the little towns we passed through were quiet, the shops closed. But a lively festival and doings was happening in Dover, a central party point in this region.

Turkey Point is a popular lake resort, and many folks we met (yes, we talked to people!) have fond childhood memories of this area. The Provincial Park where we are camped is enormous – hundreds of campsites nestled in deep woods, with lots of poison ivy to boot. Our campsite is triple wide, the biggest we’ve ever encountered, but the power pole is planted 49 feet into the woods (huh?). Given that we have 50 feet of power cord – if we string two together – it took a bit a maneuvering to park the coach close enough to plug in. Jet black squirrels eyeballed us from the trees and seemed to get a good laugh at our choreography.

 

Power Cord

 

Black Squirrel

This vacation sure has been filled with glitches – thankfully all solvable given time and resources. The latest was the motorcycle. Some forgetful person (that would be Tim) left the key on for many hours, draining the brand new battery. Luckily this bike will jump start with an easy push, so that’s what we’ve been doing for a week. Tim at the handlebars, and me with my bright pink helmet pushing from behind. Which of course prompted smart-aleck comments from onlookers; “Helluva a way to start a bike!” and “Did she come with the bike, or was that extra?” Yeah, thanks.

We did find a couple of stores open on the way to Turkey Point. One had just the right battery charger, so we hope this issue is resolved now.

 

Charge!

Another good find was an open-for-business grocery store, Food Basics, which was “basic” only in the sense that they don’t provide grocery bags. It was just like an American grocery store, except all the brands were different and the labels were in French. So I had to study the packages for some time to find what we needed, like Saucisses Au Poulet (chicken hot dogs), and Minces Au Riz (rice crackers).

We drove to the town of Turkey Point last night for a peek-a-loo. Charming little place, right on the sandy shores of Lake Erie. Had a pleasant supper and local pints, and chatted with a guy on holiday who was a stanch supporter of US politics, the Republican kind. He had lots of opinions, and was surprisingly well informed about our Kentucky congressmen. They pay attention up here, eh.

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Our Favorites

by Richie
Our Favorites
Niagara Falls

Ontario, Canada
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We return to Niagara Falls time and again because the area has so much to offer. It’s all the stuff we like to do – outdoor, natural splendor, and touristy. We revisited several favorites in the past two days, and added some new experiences, too. The weather has been perfection, and it’s a gorgeous ride on the motorcycle cruising Niagara Parkway. The drive is dotted with islands of flowers and fountains, and the profusion of colors is simply wondrous. Walking paths alongside disappear invitingly into lush woods, and the air is clean and crisp.

 

The Niagara River is never far away. It begins at Lake Erie, and after a lively trip through this area, finds its way to Lake Ontario. Traveling 109 kilometers over the Falls, the river then gets squeezed though a narrow canyon, creating a stretch of wild rapids. There’s a boardwalk where you can walk alongside the white water – foamy and bright green from limestone deposits. These are Class 6 rapids, considered “unrunnable” due to the steep vertical drops and huge boulders.

 

 

 

After the rapids, the rivers attempts a 90 degree turn to the right. The result is the Great Whirlpool – a huge turbulent eddy that swirls and circles until at last the water finds its way out. For the first time we rode the Aerocar – an open-air gondola suspended above the circling whirlpool. There’s also a Jetboat ride, which splashes the more adventuresome right into the worst of the vortex.

 

We also visited some of our other favorites: Temple of Ten Thousand Buddahs, the Floral Clock, and the best souvenir store in Canada.

We ended the afternoon at Taps on Queen, a brew house where Tim sampled a flight of beers, I sipped an Irish Hard Cider, and we discovered Poutine – fresh cut fries with cheese curds and red cream ale gravy. Oh. My. Word.

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Niagara Falls

by Richie
Niagara Falls

The first you hear – a gentle rush
Wind blowing in the cane?
And then the sound increases such
Perhaps it’s coming rain

 

But there’s a thrum beneath it all
A thing so large and deep
It pounds upon the air and ground
You feel it in your feet

And slow the greenish waters pass
No haste within its flow
But now a rock, a nicked crevasse
Then faster it must go

When next you spy a rising mist
An airy veil, a plume
And something in your breast insists
That you must reach this flume

 Excitement builds, it’s louder still
As you approach the ledge
The water speeds with force and will
And perils at the edge

 
 

And then it leaps – the long long fall
The course cannot be stopped
With thrash and churn it flings its all
Until the water’s dropped 

 

Your mouth agape, you daren’t breathe
And clinging to the rail
You stand and watch and cannot leave
It holds you without fail

The mist, the roar, the mighty plunge
The wonder of it all
It’s why we’ve come so far from home
To see Niagara Falls!

Early morning poem by Richie
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Oh Canada!

by Richie
Oh Canada!
Niagara Falls
Ontario, Canada

Today we opted to travel off the interstate and follow Rt. 20 across the top of western New York State. This is the Chautauqua Wine Trail, and there are thousands of acres of grapes growing in every direction. The vineyards are planted right up to the road, surrounding every little house along the way. Regrettably, we couldn’t find a winery with a parking lot big enough to  accommodate the motorhome, so we haven’t any wine to sample.

We passed along the backside of Buffalo, and it ain’t very pretty. Lots of dilapidated giant industrial structures hulking into the distance. Passports in hand, we crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada. No traffic going in, but a two-hour back-up coming the other way – back into the US.

Peace Bridge

 

Early afternoon found us setting up camp at King Waldorf. Our campsite is on a small bluff overlooking the Welland River which feeds into Niagara River. We’re only a mile or so from Niagara Falls.

Since Tim is still recuperating from his gall stone attack, we took it easy today and hung around the campground. We set our lounge chairs with a view of the blue-green waters of the river, and were highly amused as a boat-full of teens decided to disembark and jump off the bridge into the water right in front of us.

Ready!
Set!
Go!

Tomorrow we’ll be more adventuresome, and I’m looking forward to touring this area again. This is our 4th trip to Niagara Falls, and we always have a great time!

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