October 25th 2004
Last time I left you I was down at Pelee Point debating the time I had left to get to Windsor and the Kruger's house before nightfall.
Thankfully as this was still late summer I had a few hours of dusk in which to travel.
Which means that I will obviously not go the most direct route to get there but have the odd detour and sightseeing trip instead.
Which is not a bad thing actually as this time on my way back to Leamington I decided to see where the Ferry left for the Island.
And there I discovered the Tropicana. On the old jetty out on the end was a building that housed the Tropicana restaurant. Which for some unknown reason got me laughing. Oh I realise that I was thinking of the Tropicana in Durban and even marveling at the general rundown dilapidated sameness of the two but it just tickled my fancy that here in Canada this Durbs Boy should come across such a place.
I wanted to park outside with my cherrie and get a milkshake and watch the sun set over the sea...sorry lake but I guess we will have to wait for another time for that little piece of fantasy. I wonder if they even do a banana milk shake there?
So still with a smile on my face I set off up the road to Amherstburg. Dodging the V8 manne tuning their mates skeef (Canadian version!) and discovering that Pelee Island Winery isn't on Pelee Island. It isn't even in Leamington for that matter, but further up the road on Kingsville.
Which of course doesn't make sense at all but at least was another place to pull over and explore. Or buy wine. Or both. So I did.
And learnt that the winery itself is actually on the island and this was merely the outlet for the public to buy. Those of us who hadn't actually been on the island that is.
One of the items I did purchase was a baseball cap. Not only very well priced but excellent quality as well. Something like the wines. Which I must admit I did buy as well.
I have this huge collection of baseball caps from places I have been to, and for other reasons as well, and this one with its Canadian flag and map of the island was just too good to pass over.
Which meant that I left Kingsville after 18h00 on a Saturday.
Think of the Free State on a Sunday and you get the general idea of what Southwestern Ontario is like in the evening.
Suddenly everything closed up.
Twenty years ago I would have started singing “lock up your Daughters” and thought it was me……but older (and not much wiser) I was merely intrigued at this sudden clampdown. What bogeyman was around? Me?
Ag Ja well no fine. Time to merely move down Highway 20 and get to Amherstburg. Even though driving through Harrow I was rather tempted to at least look at the Colio Wine Estate I remembered that we were in shut down mode and so it was unlikely that anyone would be remotely interested in giving me the time of day never mind a tour.
The interesting point about driving along Lake Erie is that you rarely get to see the coastline on either side. For some reason which seems to be optical more than anything else even when I got to the opening of the Detroit river mouth it was a sudden appearance of the American shore that alerted me to the fact that I needed to head North.
Obviously. Otherwise I would be seeing just how watertight my van is.
Amherstburg is just up the road from the river mouth. I made it there just before 19h00 and discovered something interesting.
I had downloaded directions from the Internet and they made no sense at all. Even the lady at the tourist bureau hadn't a clue where Hyde Park in Amherstburg was. I should point out that contrary to most Government departments and other stores this little oasis of information was still open for business.
SO while I was searching for the right set of circumstances to get to the address I drove around Amherstburg and went past the following places of interest:
Fort Malden, Park House, Gordon House and the North American Black Historical Museum and Cultural centre. No doubt all very interesting and of immense historical importance but not really inclined to help me on my way.
In fact it was only when I was on Sandwich street that I had my epiphany. Those of you who follow my ramblings will remember my comment about asking for directions. Sometimes.
Well I suddenly had this brainwave and I will let you all into a little secret. When you are lost in a town and need directions go to the local Pizza joint and ask there. I went into the Naples Pizzeria and had exact detailed directions that got me to Hyde Park in no time flat. Actually right up at the top end of Amherstburg and really part of LaSalle (or a small enclave inside it) it was a short drive away. Through farmlands and on side roads but that pizza delivery guy knew his streets very well.
So worried that I was going to be late I at last arrived at the Kruger's residence and rang the doorbell.
“Oh”, says Antoinette, “You're early! We weren't expecting you yet!”
She may never know just how much later I could have made it given half a chance. But they had closed down Southwestern Ontario for the night anyway and I thought I was supposed to be there earlier. Ah well. Next time there are other sites I need to see and will.
The next morning on my way to Belle River for the Potjiekos judging I decided to go via Windsor instead and then do a loop around Tecumseh along the shores of the Detroit river and Lake St.Clair. With maybe a side trip through to Detroit itself.
I will admit that I managed to spend all of five minutes or so in Detroit before I discovered that I was late ….again…and turned back.
I will blame it on the back up at the border and perhaps the icy looks I got for the T-shirt I was wearing. Mind you that was more from the Canadian side than the Americans though. Still I did get to go over the Ambassador Bridge and I didn't get to go through the Tunnel. Which was my aim and will be completed sometime in the future.
Windsor needs to be judged by Detroit actually.
I find it interesting that the American towns I have been to that border on Canada have a certain degree of grubbiness that makes their Canadian cross-border counterparts seem quite pristine by comparison. I often hear people compare places like Windsor to Toronto or other big cities in Ontario and then complain that they aren't clean or lack something (which given Toronto lately is probably wrong anyway. Dirty city that it is!)
I found Windsor a typical clean Canadian city and when I got back was quite certain that it was a good ambassador for the country. Hence the name of the bridge no doubt.
About the only complaint I have is that in keeping with the rest of the area it was also closed down for the duration and nothing seemed to be open until at least twelve.
Which meant that my attempt to go on a tour of the Canadian Club factory was put on hold until a further trip can be arranged.
So I took a slow drive on Riverside Drive instead.
It wasn't my intention to take a slow drive but every Sunday driver over the age of 80 seemed to have decided to form a convoy in front of me that morning.
Which may have at least allowed me to see the Tall Ship out of the corner of my eye and stop to watch its passage.
After a bit of research the ship I saw has been identified as the Brig Niagara and she was under power down the Detroit River at a good clip. Normally berthed at Erie she was not under full sail unfortunately but it was still an impressive sight to watch this ship going down the river. I guess my seaman's blood is still lying there dormant because I watched her until she disappeared into the mass of buildings downriver.
This was one of the more endearing moments of my trip.
As was the different rivers I passed every so often which seemed to be carefully concreted in and where every house that backed onto the river had a set of steps leading to a quay that had a boat attached to it. I want to have a house like that and go to work every day by boat! It would probably be faster than driving anyway. At least on Sundays!
So after a yawn inducing drive behind the next batch of senior citizens I at last managed to get to Tecumseh Road and for once drive at a sane speed to Belle River.
Where as you all know I was able to partake of many different potjies for the rest of the afternoon.
I think a return trip to Windsor is called for though.
October 18th 2004
In any other century I probably would have been an explorer.
I like traveling to new parts of the world, or country, or, in my depleted resources case, even the Province that I live in. Seeing new sights is actually quite exciting.
Mind you, I must admit that I would probably be the equivalent of Christopher Columbus or even “Wrong Way” Corrigan.
Columbus of course setting out to find a route to India and bumping into America along the way while “Wrong Way” set out to fly to Paris and went from New York to the West Coast of America instead.
So you may get the picture as to my style of exploration.
You see….I set out to go somewhere and then get sidetracked. At some stage I will decide to go down a side road or try a different direction and within a short space of time I am wonderfully lost.
Please note that I did say “wonderfully” lost as opposed to “hopelessly” lost.
I get out of sight, sound and sense lost in a way that adds wonder to my life and I am never hopeless in my attempts to find my way back.
All you women may now stop sniggering.
Not only was I a Navigating Officer for many years, which means that given a map I can always find my way anywhere, but I enjoy getting lost in order to use the map anyway.
Not to mention that I can always get to a destination if I want to.
Without asking for directions.
So, having to drive down to Windsor for a potjiekos competition, and having the weekend off for a change I decided to leave early on the Saturday and treat myself to further adventures.
I sort of had a plan.
Go to London via Brantford and then head west.
The easy part of the trip was soon accomplished with a sideways trip into London to get refreshments and visit the information booth.
On the 401 heading west and just outside Chatham I noticed another information booth and decided to pop in there to get a map of the area.
As an aside here may I just state how fortunate we are in this country to have these places with their masses of free information available
I soon discovered that the booth was attached to a Vintage Car restoration factory and museum. Even though I didn't take up the offer of the $5 guided tour of the place the young lady at the desk gave me masses of information on the place anyway, probably because she wanted to talk to someone.
I intend to go back one day to RM Classic Cars. If only to see the masses of cars I have only ever heard about in magazines. Horsch, Talbot-Largo, Duesenburg, Packard and a host of others that I could see through the door's windows. Until my breath frosted the glass that is.
A pilgrimage in honour of my murdered best friend who loved cars and would have spent hours there.
Which is probably why I decided at this stage to go to Blenheim.
Blenheim is actually South East of Chatham and as I was going west to Windsor it made sense to do a sideways trip east. At least to me. Anyway it was toward Lake Erie and once I hit the Lake I could follow the shoreline around to Windsor.
So runs my logic.
I was, of course, too late for the Cherry Festival and I never did find the Willow Creek Farms for some Maple syrup, but I am reliably informed that Blenheim has some serious fashion houses. Which I guess means that blinking on the way through is not advised.
I blinked and wound up on Highway 3 traveling west once more.
On the edge of Lake Erie. Now it is rather interesting that there appears to be a cliff of sorts all the way along the lake edge from here to almost at the entrance to the Detroit waterway. It reminded me ever so much of the North and South coasts of Natal actually. Both in style of housing as well as the general flora that grew there.
The houses appear to be mainly on the south, or Lake, side of the road and the farmlands on the north.
At virtually every farm house along the road there were stands selling fruit and vegetables. This is where you come across a particularly interesting Canadian phenomenon. The “honour” box! I lost count of how many of these stalls had prices on their produce with a box at the end of the stall and a sign that said, “place money here”!
Open boxes. With money in them. And people choosing their food and placing the money in there.
It is so…so …well I guess refreshing…to know that there are still so many honest people left in this world. And so many trusting people as well.
Not to mention the odd baffled person.
I decided to buy some mielies at one farm stall. Sorry. I mean “Peaches and Cream” corn actually. Did you know that the name refers to the two-tone colour variation? It doesn't have the hint of any peaches let alone cream in the taste. It is actually a hybrid of white and yellow corns, which were grown over forty years ago, and apparently the true peaches and cream variety no longer exists.
Now we have bi-coloured corn that the average consumer labels “peaches and cream” when it actually has names culled from the fertile imagination of a lover of King Arthur and Camelot: Temptation, Ivanhoe, Lancelot, even Sir Galahad. So we are more likely to eat Sir Galahad than any peaches and cream. I am not even going to go there you disgusting lot!
After a while I began to notice that the stalls had changed from fruit to tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. Of all shapes sizes and varieties. Did you know there are different varieties of tomatoes?
I only knew three: Field, hothouse and Roma!
Which was when I remembered that Heinz has a huge factory around Pelee Point somewhere.
Leamington as I was soon to discover.
Which is where they have a tomato festival that doesn't appear on any of the tourist brochures. Merely on flyers attached to every signpost and tree within a ten-mile radius of the town. I am intrigued though. Was this the first year of the Festival? Was it spontaneous? Why can't I get any information on this? Even the official website of Leamington merely has an entry stating that from August 20th to the 22nd there is a tomato festival. Maybe all the mullet wearing, Trans Am driving good-ole-country boys blocking the streets with their antics was the reason but we may never know. It did however bring a nostalgic memory of Boksburg Boykies to mind!
At this stage I decide to toddle off to Pelee Point. If for no other reason than to say I had been to the Southern most point of contiguous Canada. (Nice word that….Contiguous… means part of the mainland because there is some question as to whether Pelee Island can lay claim to that title rather. If I had caught the ferry to the island I would probably claim it was. I didn't and so Pelee Point is instead. OK? )
Point Pelee is actually a 10-kilometre sandspit with its southern point equal in latitude to the northern border of California. This is something that not many people are aware of. Tell that to Canadians even and they look at you as if you have heatstroke. Which given that you are as low down as California may indeed be the case. In summer anyway.
So there I was on Canada's southernmost tip.
Way away from where I was supposed to be. With night approaching and many miles to go and a big smile on my face.
I was living up to my reputation again.