We are now a few weeks in and the dominant roles have been well established.
Mandy awakes in the morning, receives her coffee in bed and considers the day ahead. She then holds a formal briefing, where I receive my instructions for the forthcoming few hours, aware, obviously, that these rules are fluid and can change at any second. In fact, several times.……. KISS ! (Keep it simple stupid). I undertake the driving duties because, although Mandy is shown as a named driver on the insurance, she does not actually hold the licence to drive the truck, (it’s cheaper to have a female on the insurance, ridiculous huh!).
So, the next day we were to bid farewell to Bondy and Marie on route to Niagara Falls.
We had been well looked after for a week and all the comforts of a house with unlimited hot water and air con is not to be sniffed at. We would like to thank them for their hospitality, see you in another 20 years mate! Well that was the plan until we walked out of the house to a pool of diesel under the truck. An examination revealed two leaks on some of the older fuel pipe connectors. Bondy to the rescue (again) and we were off to locate some replacement parts. This accomplished (After a couple of hours and numerous miles later) I was fitting them, getting covered in the newly sprayed black underseal wax. Luckily Bondy was on hand to supervise throughout (Remaining clean and cool) and the job was completed. We manged to get away early afternoon. Back on the road, and it felt good.
We arrived in Niagara later that day and identified a “nice” car park adjacent to the Skylon Tower in the heart of the town. We found a corner to tuck away in and set off to the Falls, a short, 5 minutes, walk.
Unbelievably fantastic, amazing, fabulous, magnificent….. I think they are appropriate terms for the sight that we were to behold. It is difficult to put it into words really. I think it’s fair to say that we have all seen them on the TV and in films but it does not compare to physically being there. The noise, power and sheer quantity of water, 75,750 gallons per second over the Bridal Falls (American side) and 681,750 gallons over the Horseshoe side (Canadian). Not sure who counted them but he/she must have had a big bucket. The pictures speak for themselves.
We were staying a couple of days, no rush, so we retreated to Margaretville Restaurant https://www.margaritavilleniagara.ca/welcome.html part of a chain owned by (World famous) Jimmy Buffett, and who do sell great cocktails, (Mandy’s tequila favourites), so good in fact that we stayed there all evening. We had to move seats during the night as the rain started coming through the ceiling, but a good night none the less. Sleep came easily that night.
The following day commenced with a boat trip on the Hornblower (Mandy’s idea, “I don’t like these sort of things”) https://www.niagaracruises.com/ (Canadian version of the Lady of the Mist) and $30 (£18) well spent. I would highly recommend this trip, Mandy was right again!
Following this we walked around the, very tacky, Clifton Hill, Downtown, area. I think I would describe this as similar to Blackpool, but on steroids. It’s also on a very steep hill, the temperature about 30 degrees and humidity very high, it held little pleasure for us. We moved on and walked to the Horseshoe Falls themselves. I didn’t think I could be more impressed, but when you actually see the volume of water going over them it truly removes a breath or two. Again, the pictures speak volumes (Pun intended).
Dinner that night was on Mandy, (She absolutely insisted) and off we went to the Skylon Tower revolving restaurant https://www.skylon.com/niagara-falls-dining/revolving-dining-room/ (we didn’t look like the couple on the link, strictly shorts and T shirts for us, set low standards and fail to maintain them) an extravagant affair but one that turned out to be 100% worthwhile. Niagara just continues to impress and the venue provides an alternative perspective on the Falls and the river that feeds them. Niagara is equally beautiful at night when it is lit up and then the fireworks made the whole experience incredible. Again highly recommended. We had overspent our budget, but well worth it, and the next morning we were off again.
We journeyed for about 45 minutes, hardly seemed worthwhile, but arrived at Niagara On The Lake, and a totally different pace of life, atmosphere. This is where grapes are cultivated in vast numbers and gallons of wine produced. The area is filled with a plethora of vineyards as far as you can see. Mandy was very happy, and this was my choice, brownie points all day long! There are winery’s everywhere and we visited Jackson Triggs Estate (Not especially selected just happened to be on route) https://www.jacksontriggswinery.com/ we got a tour, and very nice it was too. Glasses of wine to taste and subsequently purchase, everyone came away happy, slightly tipsy, except me of course, driving again!
We stayed locally, close to the shore of Lake Ontario and opposite, across from Toronto which you could just make out in the far distance.
The next day we pitched up at Mandy’s Aunts (Pam’s) home in Waterdown, Ontario, and had a few days visiting the relatives. Luckily Pam’s husband, Al, is enthusiastic in all things mechanical and has a substantial (envious) workshop. We had a few issues that needed tidying up with the truck. An exhaust bracket had failed (snapped) on the dirt “road” at Meat Cove, NS, and needed welding. There was also an air leak in the system. Whilst the tools were out we did some upgrades to the motorbike/jerry-can rack on the back and generally gave it the once over. We also cleaned out the water system. Mandy found some time to go walking (shopping!) with Pam. (Amazing how far one can walk when shops are involved).
Al is the proud owner of a pristine, 1920, Model T Ford car, and so off we went to McDonalds, to have an ice cream, in a car that is 100 years old. And why wouldn’t you! What you don’t expect is to get there and someone turns up in an original, immaculate, Triumph TR6, truly impressive, or would have been had the driver not admitted to watching East Enders every night! In Canada!! That is pretty sad. Luckily his Son will inherit the car and, hopefully, not the taste in TV.
We visited HMCS Haida https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/on/haida the last Tribal Class destroyer and a vessel that saw action all over the world. The museum staff were great and really informative, all ex services.
We had great food and more of the best hospitality, family are great, especially when they are well placed around the globe.
It really was time to get back to reality and off we went, heading north (ish). We had to visit https://militarytires.ca/ at Durham to scoop up a replacement tyre at a great price. Michael (owner) has a range of new and part worn military style tyres, and a nice guy to boot. (He will ship to Canada and the US, worth making a note of).
This accomplished we picked a place on the map and found ourselves in the very pretty town of Tay, Ontario, and Victoria Harbour on the shores of Georgian Bay. The Queens Quay PH provided Mandy a “cocktail” of Black Velvet, a waste of a Guinness too my mind, but she enjoyed it, apparently! Long Island Ice Tea went down a treat.
We were into the lakes now, and they are vast. It is difficult to comprehend how something so big is not a sea or ocean. They also provide some pretty awesome scenery for the next several hundred miles.
Our next overnight stop was due to be a small IOverlander spot next to a river but required a short stop at a Walmart in Sudbury (Yeah really, and it’s near Chelmsford too!) on route, to restock. As we pulled into the car park we got a shock to find it almost completely full of traffic cones and Harley Davison Police bikes (Other makes are available but not as cool), together with the equivalent mass of Police Officers. We parked up and walked over. It seems we had happened upon the annual Police Motorcycle “training” seminar https://www.glpmts.ca/events/great-lakes-police-motorcycle-training-seminar where Police from all over the US and Canada gather to take part in trials, in a Walmart Car Park, and raise money for charities. Members of the public were also invited to join in and build community relations. It’s a far cry from the UK’s “Bike safe” and a lot more fun/social. We were introduced to Officer John Kelly, York Police, who talked us through what was happening (Very much appreciated John). There were some truly talented riders, guys and gals, throwing these heavy bikes around (Literally in some cases). One of the guys noted that we had a bike of the back of the truck and I was offered to opportunity of “having a go”. Of course, I would have loved to, but the old war injury was playing up, and, I couldn’t find my special bike riding socks! (Not only would I have massively embarrassed myself, but someone (Mandy) would have recorded it too!) We ended up hanging around for a couple of very enjoyable hours to watch the mayhem. It’s great when things like this just turn up. Everyone was very welcoming. Something so simple, gets everyone together and costs little. (Rowley take note, leave out the health and safety fairies, and the sidearms, probably).
We found the overnight stop which turned out to be quite “off road”. Luckily, we had the 4wd option and (it turns out) the truck is not quite as top heavy as I thought. Later we noted on the app that it was “not suitable” for large rigs because of narrow parts and overhanging trees, still we got down there and after we put all the food back in the cupboards, we had a quiet night by a roaring fire (With a few thousand mozzies), nice. We were off of the road, away from danger, and the perfect opportunity for Mandy to have “a go” in the truck. She thought it was quite good fun and, said, she was happy that she could drive it in an emergency! Yeah, over my dead body, which is probably what would actually happen! Apparently, it would be a lot better if I just got the foot pedals “lifted” a bit, and the steering is a bit heavy, oh and the brakes. Can you make them like the Volvo? No air!
It’s a good job we had lots of room and no other vehicles, but look at that smile!
Beaver Tails! Now that sounds pretty cruel, but that’s what you get at Sault Ste Marie, a small (ish) town that shares the border with the USA, and where we moved onto. We stopped in the Casino carpark, which was huge, and empty. The beauty of the truck is that we can literally stop anywhere, we are self-sufficient. The downside is that we attract a lot of attention, being big and yellow, but all well-meant in the main.
Downtown was what you may call quiet! Mandy and I doubled the amount of people on the street on a Friday evening, maybe we were out too early! I treated Mandy to food at Solo Trattoria http://solotrattoria.ca/ which was very good, more great cocktails too. We, (over) ate a hearty Italian meal and took out a similar quantity in a doggy bag for the following day.
There is not too much in Sault Ste Marie, it’s a border town and is home to the canal and locks that divide Lakes Huron and Superior. We visited these and they were quite impressive. Mandy also spotted an otter just below the hydro station, which kept her happy for hours.
Back to the Beaver Tails. Turns out they are a speciality pastry, renowned in this area. There is a shop that sells nothing else! They have nothing to do with Beavers, and no animals were injured during the ensuing face stuffing exercise. You can order them with all manner of topping, ranging from fattening, to really fattening, and beyond! We had to try them, sustenance for the journey ahead, investing in the community, blah blah.
Now highway 17 is the Trans Canadian Highway, the main drag, and that’s the way we went. Just after leaving Sault Ste Marie an oncoming vehicle threw up a stone and we now have a cracked windshield (Or windscreen). This is a proper pain in the backside as I don’t think we can get one in North America and will have to be imported, hopefully in can be repaired.
Following the edge of Lake Superior it takes in a number of National and Provincial Parks and is very scenic. There are towns and several lookout points to take in. As we were driving I started noticing piles of rock stacked in the shape of a man, natural graffiti if you will. Now if these were occasional you would think them normal but they are literally every 100 meters over several hundred kilometres. It was later we found out what they were/stood for. It’s one of those things, once you see one they are literally everywhere. Who does them.
Along the lake shore we stopped at a few of the National Park areas, one of which was appropriately named “Old Woman’s Bay”, now you just can’t pass that up! We met a really helpful Park Ranger, whose name I didn’t get, but it wasn’t “Ranger Smith”. She was a very pleasant, helpful, young, female Officer, and took the blog details, so thanks a million.
We continued along the edge of Lake Superior and headed towards the town of Wawa. We found a parking area, at a fantastic beach, on the edge of the lake. It felt, a little, like we had invaded the town, but everyone we spoke to was very welcoming. What stays in my mind, and a principal we work on, “take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints” and that seems to work in everyone’s interest. We are also strong believers in “clean up” where we can and de-litter an area of 5m around our vehicle whenever we park.
Every little helps! now there’s a slogan!
Swimming was almost compulsory, and in we went. Fantastic, very shallow for 100 meters or so and very warm, I know it’s short lived because of the much more severe winter than the UK, but hey, if you like ice hockey, what could be better.
As we left Wawa we visited Young’s General Store, an old-fashioned trading post type place. Well worth a visit. We found the explanation of the “Stone men” and here it is:
We are headed to Thunder Bay to have the windscreen looked at. I don’t really want to have to import one!!!!!! Watch this space.