July 11 – July 19 Niagara Falls and trippin through Ontario

Meet Shoeless (the White Sox Mascot)! Gifted to us by Bob’s friend Christina while we were in Chicago. The dashboard is getting a bit crowded with our growing family👨‍👩‍👦‍👦

Welcome Shoeless!

We left Chicago, driving through Indiana and Michigan into Ontario.  It turned out to be a long day with over 400 miles.  We stopped off at a Starbucks in the early evening and I saw a salon next door and luckily they were open with only one hairdresser in attendance and totally void of customers.  I just needed a quick trim and we struck up a conversation; I was curious as to where she was originally from due to her coloring and accent; she challenged me to guess and I said “Ethiopia.”  Her jaw dropped and she said I was the first person in twenty-five years that had guessed correctly. She is actually from Eritrea which is in the same region.  We had a great conversation about Africa and I got a much needed trim.  She loved my hair and I’ve heard this before; other hairdressers say the younger generation likes to die their hair my platinum gray color.  It’s nice to have low maintenance hair that is admired 😃.

We finally crossed the border into Ontario. I had downloaded the ArriveCanada app so I could easily update the border crossing info and present the electronic pass.  

This part of Canada reminded me of the Midwest with the rolling fields of corn, wheat and crops.  We passed through the border at Sarnia to Sun Retreats at Ipperwash.  This unfortunately turned out poorly as they advertised the standard, lovely RV sites with full hooks up with a concrete slab that you paid full price for and we found ourselves in the “rustic” campground with 15 amp electric with a filthy pit toilet surrounded by tractors, boats and abandoned equipment. Even the other facilities such as the showers hadn’t been cleaned in weeks and there was no hot water.  It was really a mobile home park with semi-permanent residents – there were no real RV sites for the transient crowd; they passed off the electrical in the camp as a full site which it is not.  It was a bait and switch and we let the owners and the corporation know. Do not stay at Sun Retreats as they will scam you!  We were glad to pack up early and head out. 

As we crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on the Canada side, we could see Niagara Falls on the right side. 

Niagara Falls from the Rainbow Bridge

When we arrived at the falls, we weren’t prepared for the Disneyland-like-carnival atmosphere complete with a dinosaur park that had a spewing volcano, and every circus ride imaginable.  Avoiding the mayhem, we decided to take the boat cruise that takes you right up to the falls: 

They hand you a rain poncho as you board – once you arrive at Horseshoe Falls, you can scream as loud as you want as you don’t just get misted, you are pressure-washed and any commentary or sounds of protest are drowned out by the sound of thousands of gallons of water gushing all around you.  It’s a great adrenaline rush with limited peril and to a certain extent the poncho is simply a suggestion; it did keep my camera dry at least. It was a sunny day so we grabbed a bite to eat and air dried our Niagara-saturated bodies at the cafe conveniently located at the exit of the boat launch.  It was so much fun!!!

Niagara Falls before being doused
Horseshoe Falls post dousing

We spent the evening at the Branches of the Niagara Campground which was at the opposite end of our experience at Sun Retreats; it was pristine and well-kept. We spent the evening getting dried out and cleaned up and then headed out the next morning back to see the falls from the U.S. side; it was structured more like a standard state park with overlooks and gift shops – otherwise it was the opposite of the Canadian circus which in a way is pretty surprising.  The views from the Canadian side are certainly much better.  

Rainbow at Niagara Falls from the New York side

We lucked out on a rainbow that stretched across the river as we watched the boats go into the falls, it was a lovely morning and good for getting our steps in while catching the thunder of this iconic spectacle.  It’s a lovely walk through the woods and park and is relatively quiet as most of the crowds don’t seem to linger at the wooded park benches.  

Tourists on their way through the ”mist”

We bid farewell to the thunder and mist and passed back into Canada at the other side of the Rainbow Bridge and on to Silent Lake where we were meeting up with Bob’s cousin Les and his wife Dominique:  They are both muscians – Les plays the flute and Dominique the violin; she is also French-Canadian.  

It rained most of the day and we arrived in pretty muddy conditions at the Provincial Park with a 15 amp plug we finally found after scouring the campsite; it was several yards away which was unusual – luckily our cord was long enough to reach it.  Les was kind enough to pick us up and we headed to their cabin in the woods.  The rain actually added to the porous, wooded atmosphere as they lit a fire in their cozy living room as we chatted over a super delicious Thai meal.  Dominique spent part of her childhood in Thailand and certainly nailed the quisine!  

Les took us back to the park and we woke up the next morning to a cloudless sky with the sun dappling the forest accompanied by the music of woodland birds and creatures.  We set out to canoe with Les and Dominique on Silent Lake and lucky for us the weather was perfect.  The lake does not allow any motorized vehicles and wasn’t crowded at all, hence the name.  We paddled across the main body and into an inlet that led to another part of the lake. 

Dominique and Les

We soon spotted a loon with chicks and then suddenly a large male appeared not far from our canoe, jolting us to attention with his loud, legendary call.  Then he disappeared under the water; I did not know that loons could hold their breath for about fifteen minutes!  We kept searching and saw him surface several yards away.

Lillies and loons

We passed lilly pads that hugged the marshes and partially submerged islands that invited exploration.  We docked on an esplanade of boulders, spread out a picnic, breathing in the beauty and around us; the modern world was at a standstill for a time. The lake wasn’t too cold so we all went for a swim; I can’t remember the last time I went swimming in a lake, I usually stick to oceans and pools.  There is something primal in this remote setting as if you are floating back in time in an undisturbed, restorative and soothing wilderness. We need more of this in our over-mechanized lives and to have this area preserved and left to its natural cycles feels miraculous. I felt like a kid again, dipped in the cooling waters of nostalgia, stretching my tendons past the dancing waterskippers and iridescent dragonflies. 

Taking a dip in Silent Lake

We paddled a while longer through more marshes, water lillies watching our progress, and then headed back to the launch area.  We stopped at one of the islands on the way and were able to dock the canoes in the island shallows and go for another swim.  

We ended the day back at their cabin; Bob made a curry and we polished off the strawberry rhubarb crisp Dominique had made.  One of their friends had invited us for a sunset cruise on his boat at the neighboring Paudas Lake.  It’s a huge lake and most of the shoreline is populated by homes.  We saw several loons and it was lovely hearing the haunting echo of their calls across the lake.  The sun slid behind some clouds but still backlit the sky with a lovely fuscia pink, complemented by an unexpected rainbow across the far horizon.  It was the end of a perfect summer day. 

The next morning, we joined Dominique and Les for breakfast and bid farewell, grateful for their hospitality and encouraging them to come and visit us in France.  Dominique’s sister lives in Paris so we are optimistic we will catch up in the future. On our way out, we stopped at the National Petroglyphs Park dating back to 900 A.D. and lovingly preserved by a structure that keeps the carvings from deteriorating further.  The First Nations mythology is so similar to the American Indians and even the impressions carved into the granite have the same structure. It has been a blessing to be able to study the history of so many different North American indigenous tribes.

After several days of having too much fun, as dumb as it sounds, Bob and I found ourselves rather tired and committed to spend the afternoon relaxing, reading and journaling the rest of the day. 

We have been so busy touring and visiting in the last few weeks, that sometimes we haven’t take enough time to simply sit still, giving ourselves time for reflection, enjoying the warmth of summer that goes by too fast. Life feels less compressed here in Canada, it’s not simply because we are retired, it just feels more mellow.  

We overnighted at a basic RV park next to a pond that had a resident toad who liked to croak repeatedly through the night – that being said I did manage to get some sleep and we spent the morning reading and working out, then gathered ourselves and pushed our tiny home towards Perth, where thankfully, we had pedicures scheduled as my toenails were taking on a patina of wildness that wasn’t particularly appealing.

We arrived at Paul and Vanessa’s, who, like the last two places we had mooch-docked, were in a rural setting that Bob and I dreamed of, with a resident deer known as Doris. After a nice dinner on the lake, and then catching up, we retired to the RV; later in the night I could hear the distant call of a loon drifting through the silence.

Doris and an apple

The next day we went to Merrickville which is one of Paul and Vanessa’s BNB’s that housed an entire collection of Beatlemania and has a Bohemian vibe to it.  Bob and Paul spent time reminiscing about their time as DJ’s including vintage recordings that Paul had lovingly preserved.  We then went to a vintage car show and found one that matched Paul’s shirt! 

Fashionista Paul!

It was a hot 90 degree day that ended with beer-butt chicken that felt off the bone; if you haven’t had beer-butt chicken google it – you can’t go wrong. We sat on the porch and enjoyed the cooling temperatures, then headed off for a good night’s sleep. We woke up to showers and then it started to pour so we took advantage of our temporary incarceration; journaling, editing, reading, backing up photos and watching bad TV. We had closed our vents but as we were parked under a pine tree Bob had to do roof duty to free the needles that got trapped when securing the rig. I imagined us pulling away and taking some branches with us.

Every time we enter Canada our Verizon service gets throttled. My US apps such as Peacock, Starz etc. don’t work over wifi as they recognize the IP address, but luckily we were able to do some minor streaming on Peacock(NBC) through our 4G LTE and catch the last half-hour of the Tour de France before the Verizon police text me and tank my speed into low data mode oblivion. I’m not sure why the app works this way but I’ll take it!

The sun burst through the morning morning as we prepared to leave for Vermont. We had a great time with Vanessa and Paul and always appreciate the great Canadian hospitality – we hope we will see them again soon!

Vanessa and Paul