West Virginia

September 10 – 13, 2019

Gone are the Great Lakes, but back are the rolling hills and forests we love.  We drove through lots of farmland in Ohio with our sights on the northernmost tippy tip of West Virginia.  There’s a skinny little peninsula sandwiched in between Ohio and Pennsylvania and I picked it on purpose to get a camping stop for the new state.  West Virginia makes 39 and it’ll be our last new one until late 2020.

Tomlinson Run State Park

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This hardly counts as staying in West Virginia, but as you can see, we did cross under the official welcome sign.

We spent my birthday relaxing in the forest in Tomlinson Run State Park, and not doing much of anything but dog walks and reading.  It’s the double nickel for me this year and my friend Barbara tells me I can officially get senior discounts at some places.  Well that’s something.

Oh, and we also discovered pepperoni rolls and jo-jos at the local drive-up pizza joint.  Technically jo-jos are a thing in Ohio, but we didn’t discover them until here.  They’re scrumptious giant potato wedges that I’m going to try my best to duplicate.

On our second day, we took Jackson for his morning constitutional and made it to the dumpster when we heard frantic scratching coming from inside.  This is the kind of dumpster you see at construction sites.  Long and deep, but open on the top.  Well from what we can see peering over the side, there are two raccoons in there looking frantic and trying to dig their way out.  The dumpster was full the day before, but got emptied and we guess these two trash pandas went dumpster diving and could’t get back out.  We felt sorry for them, so Pat found a long tree limb and stuck it down in the corner.  Lo and behold, six raccoons quickly scurried up the branch and scattered.  Not the end of the story though.  There’s always one in every crowd and this one raccoon kept up the “digging”.  We thought maybe it’s paw was stuck somehow.  Pat had to poke it with a stick through the small opening at the bottom to break it’s concentration.  Whoa, where did everybody go?  Finally smart guy exited the dumpster, too.

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And the next morning?  There are no less than 11 raccoons trapped in the dumpster.  They apparently knocked over the escape stick on their way in.  Lee, a fellow camper, took this adorable shot of the poor dears stuck in the bottom.

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I found a big branch and dragged it over so Pat could make another rescue.

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Out they come!

Homer Laughlin China Company

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Did you know that the Homer Laughlin China Company makes Fiesta ware?  And did you also know that they hail from Newell, West Virginia?  We didn’t either.  They have free factory tours and it’s one of our favorite things to do.  I was happy to get a last minute reservation and the place was only 15 minutes from the state park.  Of course they also have a very colorful factory store and that’s dangerous.

No photos are allowed in the factory, so I just amused myself with all the finished goods in the store.  Aren’t those the cutest cat treat jars?

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Stacks of Homer Laughlin china in the original factory alongside new Fiesta ware bowls.

Our guide explained the whole process from mixing to cutting the clay, making each piece, glazing them and finally firing them in the 2000 degree kiln that runs the length of the almost mile-long building.  I even got to attach a handle to one of the mugs.  All the pieces with handles have them individually attached by hand.  Ardis gave patient instruction, but I couldn’t match her experience and expertise.  My handle did stay on, but I deformed it she says.

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I got to keep my mug, too.  We also got four place settings for our apartment-to-be in Springfield, turning that into a not-so-free tour.

On our last night in WV, there was a country fair at the state park.  We had pulled pork and fry bread along with fresh lemonade and roasted corn for dinner.  Pat had a bowl of ice cream as big as his head and we got more lovely fresh produce.  And that’s it for our short stay in West Virginia, but it still counts!

Next Up:  Pennsylvania and a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.  See you on the way!

 

Lake Erie

September 3 – 9, 2019

We have two stops planned on Lake Erie to complete our Great Lakes tour.  It’s been fun, but we’re ready to wrap it up.

Erie, PA

Our first stop is Lampe Marina Campground in Erie, Pennsylvania.  It seemed like the perfect Lake Erie vantage point.  I do like the campground, but it’s very close to a coke plant (used for smelting iron ore, not for drinking), and that means interesting noises all day and late into the night.  Train horns and car alarm-like noises.  You know the ones – whoop, whoop, whoop! and then woooOOOO, woooOOOO!  We just turned on our AC fan all night and that drowned it all out.  That and headphones for TV watching.

 

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We first arrived on Tuesday and the place was practically empty.  After setup, we sat outside to enjoy the cool weather and these two big critters crawled under the fence to eat the wildflowers.  “What are those things?!” I asked Pat.  He didn’t know.  I Googled them and thought they might be Nutrias after sneaking up on them to take this very poor shot with my phone.  They looked like beavers without the beaver tail.  I have since been informed by a Pennsylvanian that they are woodchucks.  I can confirm that they don’t chuck wood.

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Our walks with Jackson took us down the pier for good views of the lake and the Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse.  The Coast Guard station was across the channel and they raised the flag and played the national anthem every morning promptly at 8 am while we enjoyed this view.

This turned out to be mostly a chore stop – 5 loads of laundry, restocking groceries at Wegman’s (a very swanky grocery store), a haircut (I could join the military with my latest scalping), and washing & ozoning the car.  Yes, poor Bitsy smells like something crawled up inside and died.  It’s from the wet dog ramp that rides in the passenger seat when we travel.  We had a stretch of stops where it rained the night before we left every. single. time.  Needless to say, we had to get rid of the funk.  And I had letters and a special birthday present to pack up and mail.

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On our last evening, the U.S. Brig Niagara came motoring into the harbor.  Not to be outdone, the sky lit up with the brightest rainbow that looked like it originated from the lighthouse.  These aren’t the best shots since I only had my phone with me on the way to do that 5th load of laundry.  I dropped the basket of clothes like a hot potato and climbed up on the nearest picnic table to take these two photos.

The lake was great, but I wasn’t sad to leave the town of Erie.  It is officially the most confusing city to drive in and the roads are rough even in the car.

State # 38

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It’s a new state for Judy and new state for the camping map.  Ohio makes #38 in the motorhome.

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We’re staying at Geneva State Park near Geneva-On-The Lake, Ohio and it seems we’ve landed ourselves smack in the middle of the 13th annual “Thunder on the Strip”.  That means a campground filled to overflowing with motorcycles.  Noisy ones and they ride through at midnight blasting their music.  We’re sure most of the riders are mild mannered, but those few are really spoiling it for us.  Fortunately we only overlapped one night with the rowdy crowd.  We were quite happy to see them leave on Sunday.

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Our last stroll on Lake Erie and my last hunt for Great Lake rocks.

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I was looking for some sea glass, but instead Pat found this little gem.  You just never know what will wash up on shore.

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If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was at the ocean.

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And my last Great Lakes “little” on the trail back to the campground.  The Monarchs love this area.

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So that’s a wrap for the Great Lakes.  I found this postcard a while back and marked all our stops on it.  And the award for favorite Great Lake goes to…..Superior.  I was pretty sure from the beginning that would be the case.  The Minnesota North Shore was spectacular and our favorite stop of all.  Door County Wisconsin on Lake Michigan is the runner-up, although we don’t feel like we truly did justice to the 1,000 Islands area in Lake Ontario.  Plus Erie only got two stops.  We’ll just have to go back one of these years.

It was our “unsalted and shark free” summer on the water and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next Up:  New state #39 – West Virginia.  See you on the way!

Niagara Falls

August 30 – September 2, 2019

There are a few places that you know in photos, even if you’ve never been to them.  Niagara Falls is one of those places.  Iconic, awe-inspiring, the measuring stick by which all North American falls are measured, and what we’re after at this stop.  I’ll also warn you that I selected about 50 pictures for this post and of course they won’t all make it in.  It’s hard to take a bad photo of the place.

Four Mile Creek State Park

We opted to camp at Four Mile Creek State Park on the shores of Lake Ontario complete with more Great Lake sunsets and right across the way from Toronto.  We found it confusing to be east of Canada and that kept us mixed up on our directions the whole time.

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Down the road at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park we actually got lake access and I had a last chance rock hunting expedition for Lake Ontario.  On the way back I bought more fresh peaches from the roadside stand and they were divine.  The kind you eat over the sink with the juice running down your chin.  They also had donut peaches which were odd things that resembled tiny flat pumpkins.  I tasted a sample, but they weren’t for me.  Enough about that and on to the main event.

The Falls At Night

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On our first evening we decided to take Jackson on a drive and check out the falls at night.  They light them up in all colors, but my favorite was the blue light.  Pat didn’t really care for them being lit up at all.  Jackson was just plain tired from the travel day so he had no opinion.

Niagara From The American Side

When I made these reservations, I was so proud of myself.  Niagara Falls for Labor Day weekend.  How cool it that!  I truly didn’t think that through.

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The place was mobbed with people with a two hour wait for the Maid of the Mist boat ride.  I’d been to the falls twice before, but always in the winter when the boats weren’t running, so that was my one must-do this time.  Well, we didn’t want to spend all our time in that line, so we opted for the park movie and a walkabout instead.  I have to admit I was disappointed.

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One of my favorite shots from the day with the American Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and the Maid of the Mist in view.  Ethan and I saw this view for a brief moment in time back when we were in New York trying on colleges.

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There’s Rainbow Bridge and the American Falls as seen from Goat Island.  And I was lucky enough to get a real rainbow.  My second favorite of the day.

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Yep, I was there and with creative cropping it looks like I had some space to myself.

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Then there’s Horseshoe Falls.  675,000 gallons of water pour over that spot every single second – all day, every day.  The slogan is “Niagara never stops”.

A few more from the American side:  Niagara River feeding the falls, Rainbow Bridge to Canada, top of the American Falls and top of Horseshoe Falls.

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Some perspective.  Little people, big precipice.

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Farther down the gorge, we discovered the old Schoellkopf power plant ruins dating back to 1905.  It was the largest hydroelectric plant in the world when completed in 1924.  Much of the plant was destroyed when water began to seep in and the buildings collapsed into the river.  The Maid of the Mist company restored the elevator so you can go down to the river level to see the new boat being built and access a hiking trail.

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The calm downstream from the falls.

Niagara From The Canadian Side

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I don’t think anyone would dispute that the best views of the falls are from the Canadian side, so we rounded up our passports and walked across the Rainbow Bridge for another perspective.

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Niagara Falls is really comprised of three different falls – American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls.  From the Rainbow Bridge, you can see them all.

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When the going gets tough, the tough go to Canada!  We weren’t able to get on the Maid of the Mist on the American side, so we hopped on the Hornblower on the Canadian side for a ride into the mist.  The raw power!  And we were grateful for the pink rain ponchos.  There’s a smidge of Pat’s poncho showing as I hid behind to block the spray.  Anything not covered got soaked at the base of Horseshoe Falls.

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Swapping places with the Maid of the Mist at the base of Horseshoe Falls.

Passing by Cave of the Winds.  Those people in the yellow ponchos are taking the boardwalk down into the spray from the American and Bridal Veil Falls.  Those pink poncho people are our fellow Hornblower passengers.  We blended right in with those Canadians, and I was so excited to get my boat ride in after all.

A few more from the Hornblower.

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The Canadian side also offers the adventurous sort a chance to zipline past the falls.

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Pat’s favorite was the American Falls with all those boulders at the bottom.  There’s a reason no one has ever tried to go over that part of the falls in a barrel.

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This side of the river gives you the full Horseshoe Falls experience.  As a teenager, I vacationed here with Cecil & Eloise one December.  We stayed in a hotel on the Canadian side with this view, watching hockey on TV and enjoying the light show every night.

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Scary amounts of water pouring over Horseshoe Falls.  Too bad I couldn’t capture the sound to go with that fury.

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One more looking over at the American side with that rubble pile.

Of course the flower gardens lining the Canadian side were gorgeous and those British double-decker tour buses were fun to see.

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We were lucky enough to practically walk right on the Hornblower boat tour, but not so at Tim Hortons.  We waited over half an hour for our donuts and water.  I tell you, those Canadians are crazy for Tim Hortons.

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It turned out to be a beautiful day to walk to Canada with truly the best views of all.  At the end of our seven miles or so, we happened upon this guy on the way to the car.  A black squirrel and he’s got his eye on us, too.

Next up:  The last Great Lake on our tour – Erie.  See you on the way!

Back In The USA

August 24 – 29, 2019

We’re headed back to the States to complete our Great Lakes circuit.  Lake Ontario isn’t in the rear view mirror yet and we still lack Lake Erie.

On The Way

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Easy border crossing and they didn’t take away any of my gorgeous produce.  If I’d had any tomatoes or citrus, they would have been confiscated.  And there’s my sunny traveling companion purchased from that produce stand.  Sunflowers and daisies are my very favorite flowers.

Westcott Beach State Park

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Our first destination back in the States is Westcott Beach State Park just outside Sackets Harbor, NY.  It’s on the shore of Lake Ontario and we were treated to fabulous sunsets every night.

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I couldn’t stop taking pictures of this view.

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Different day, different sunset.

We’re in the 1,000 islands area and it’s very pretty and green.  And chilly!  We turned on our furnace since it got down in the low 50s.  I pulled out my fleece jacket for the first morning’s walk and found a paper from Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains where we stayed at the end of June.  I guess that’s the last time I wore that jacket.  Short Summer!

As for those thousand islands, my word association kicks in and I ask Pat if he thinks Thousand Island dressing originated from here.  Turns out it did indeed, but there are several conflicting stories about who and how it was actually developed.  Our favorite version gives credit to Sophia Lelonde who supposedly concocted it and put it on sandwiches for her husband, the local fishing guide.  It’s Pat’s favorite salad dressing, so worthy of discussion.

Chores In Town

First order of business – the Cricket store in Watertown, NY to address the phone hotspot issue.  The young man at the store directed us to call customer service.  I talked to a lovely gentlemen who’s name I didn’t understand and was probably from some other country.  However, to his credit, he was quite patient and did his darndest to fix my problem.  After about 30 minutes it was apparent that I could switch to complaint mode and rail about software glitches and such, or could accept my fate and just trot back to the Cricket kiosk and buy a newer phone.  I’m happy to report that I have a brand new device with unlimited data and 15 gigs of tethered data.  Almost twice what we had before, and for the same monthly price.  Well, if you don’t count the buying the new phone part.

Picked up our mail and it had Bitsy’s registration sticker.  Other than that, uneventful.

Then there was Jackson’s vet appointment.  The very sensible vet advised us to just continue on the current dose of thyroid medication until we get to Springfield for the winter.  He says it won’t hurt him and it’ll be a more reliable result.  So we’re armed with plenty of meds to carry us to Missouri and no longer have to get a new pet exam every month complete with blood work.  Excellent.

Sackets Harbor

Sackets Harbor, New York is very historic and was a key spot defending the US when we declared war on Britain in 1814.  The Brits set up an embargo since we were trading with Canada and France at the time.  They were battling it out with Napoleon and didn’t appreciate us helping him out.  The US didn’t take that well and did battle on land and sea.

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Right across the street from the post office in town is this place.  I’m equal parts fascinated and creeped out by vines growing on buildings.

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We took a walking tour of town and were intrigued by the restoration of the army barracks and buildings to current apartments and family homes.  We were so curious about how the insides looked.  On our walk we met one guy moving in who’s stationed at nearby Fort Drum.  He told us that he has a two bedroom apartment with hardwood floors, but the brick buildings look just like something out of the 1800s inside.  Now we know.

The water tower and the former hospital.  Not all the buildings have been restored to their former glory.  And the most famous resident here?  Ulysses S. Grant and his wife.  They loved it here and she most enjoyed sleigh rides over the lake in the winter.  Sounds cold to me.

 

The acorns are pelting us night and day.  Quite a healthy crop this year and they make such a racket on the roof.

Sodus Point, New York

We move on down the New York coastline to a private RV park outside of Sodus Point, NY.  It’s nice to get full services for a change and we sprang for the premium waterfront site.

The view of Lake Ontario was worth it.

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So were the sunsets.

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We had some fun strolling the park.  Looks fishy doesn’t he?  And right down the road was a little fresh garlic stand.  I wanted to buy some, but couldn’t figure out what I’d possibly do with so much garlic.

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Of course the most fun we had here was with these two.  We first met Cheryl and David up in Prince George, BC on our way to Alaska.  We ended up seeing them several times for meals, but our last visit was in Skagway, AK.  Fast forward over two years and several near misses and we’re finally together again.  We had a great dinner at The Red Sun Fire Roasting Co. in Oswego, NY catching up on all the travel and family news.  It’s rare when you get to talk to other full-timers who understand your lifestyle and even better when you don’t have to start from scratch getting to know them.  Fortunately we’ll see them again soon for a week in October in Tennessee.

Next Up:  Niagara Falls!  And boy do I have some good photos to share.  See you on the way!

A Little Huron, A Little Ontario

August 18 – 23, 2019

This time around I’m combining two stops since they weren’t activity heavy.  Not many photos either.  It’s our last stop on Lake Huron and the first one on Lake Ontario, both in Ontario, Canada.

On The Way

On driving days in Canada we’re playing a little game we like to call ‘how many Tim Horton’s does this town have’.  It seems that a population of 22,000 or so has at least 4, while a township of 9,000-ish has only one.  For those of you not familiar with Tim Horton’s, they are comparable to Dunkin’ Donuts in the States at least in numbers and founded by a famous Canadian hockey player.  Wildly popular up here and the donuts are waaaay better than our US chains.

Awenda Provincial Park

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Awenda Provincial Park, while technically on Georgian Bay, was officially our last Lake Huron stop.  More lake views, sunsets, and seagulls.

And more swimming for Jackson.

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A good swim requires a vigorous roll in the sand.  Ack!  We made him go back in the water to try and get some of it off with only partial success.  This is why I can’t keep anything clean!

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We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary here with grilled filets for dinner.  I defer to the French spelling since we’re sort of in that neck of the woods with words like centre and theatre.  I’m enthralled by all the little kids speaking French!

Penetang

The closest town is Penetanguishene or Penetang for short according to Ray.  I got to talking to this guy at the campsite down from us.  Poor Ray was left to wait in the site while the camper and the rest of the family went back to see if the park had a power cord for rent since their one measly cord wouldn’t reach.  Fortunately we only need about 50 feet here, so we lent them our third cord.  Pat explained that he wired that one himself.  “Made in the USA!” Ray joked.  They returned it when they left with new velcro closures.

In town we’re going to places like Petro Canada for gas and Real Canadian Superstore for groceries.  And the flags.  Lots and lots of Canadian flags.  They’re patriotic just like we are.

And that’s it for Lake Huron

On The Way to Lake Ontario

We had to google “Je me souviens” since we’re seeing it on all the Quebec license plates.  It translates as “We remember”.  It seems that no one is entirely sure of the author’s original intent, but Québécois (those natives speaking French) believe it to mean “We do not forget, and will never forget, our ancient lineage, traditions and memories of all the past”.  A French thing from what we can determine, and hard to understand if you’re not.

Then we talked about Pat’s trip to Quebec once upon a time for work.  He had to do some training and found the whole French vs English thing interesting.  We had to find some riveting conversation since the travel day took forever.  We were only going 200 miles, and you’d think going 80, we’d be there in a flash.  Well, that’s 80 kilometers per hour which converts to 50 mph, unless you’re going through a little town and have to drop down to 30 mph.  That happened a lot.

Sandbanks Provincial Park

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We’re now at Sandbanks Provincial Park outside of Picton, ON, getting our first glimpse of Lake Ontario.  Yes, I realize that is not a picture of the lake.  A beautiful “little” that I couldn’t resist.  It seems I didn’t take any photos of the water here.  No swimming for Jackson either.

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I did take a picture of the campground laundry door.  Anyone else find this hysterically funny?

In Town

It was laundry time, but I didn’t fall for that campground spot given our issues the last two times.  A regular laundromat for me, thank you very much.

We found what we thought was the perfect spot for dinner in a nearby town.   A Public House.  Figured it for a nice casual dinner with sandwiches and such.  Nope – very fru-fru and we were introduced to caper berries in Pat’s pasta (pronounced paa-sta).  If I could have figured out a polite way to spit that thing out, I would have.  And they don’t have a complete grasp on fried chicken, but I always say you don’t go to Canada for the food, except maybe poutine and donuts.

We found a great farm stand right outside the state park selling the most beautiful vegetables and flowers from their next door fields.  I got a sunflower, an enormous zucchini, 2 ears of corn, potatoes, broccoli, and onions.  I’m intimidated by this zucchini, but the corn was so good we went back for 4 more ears.

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

Pat’s nephew suggested a new company for phone and wireless coverage and we embarked on a fact-finding mission on our last day in Canada.  Although the new gig looked promising, Cricket, my own provider, had a great deal, too.  So we changed.  Guess what?  My phone tethering was promptly turned off and we had no internet.  That made me right grumpy.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story back in the States.

Next up: Back in the USA.  See you on the way!