ERIE, Day 8

Last leg![1]

Cincinnati back to Newnan was completely uneventful if you don’t count the deluge we drove through nearly the whole way.

We stopped at the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, which is very nice.

Kentucky is celebrating its 225th birthday, and right in front of us when we parked was a pretty impressive sand sculpture.

Side A:

Side B:


I bought a neat deerstalker cap:

Also pictured, my remaining earring from the Art Gallery of Ontario: small round of black concrete with a smidgen of gold leaf.

The annual crafts festival was going on in Berea itself, but we resisted the urge to get home after midnight and hit the road, after stopping for lunch at Brooklyn Brothers Pizzeria in Corbin, KY.  Highly recommended!  (We stopped in Corbin to buy some bourbon to go with the bourbon pecan pie kit we got as a thank you gift for the nice neighbor who kept Kitten C for us while we were gone.)

And then we drove home the end.

Cute ending: when Kitten C was delivered back to us, we squee’d to find that in the week we’d been gone, he had turned into a honest-to-goodness kitten: weaned and ready to rumble.

His favorite toy at the moment is my bare foot.  This may be a long summer.


[1] Or last nerve.  Your mileage may vary.  MILEAGE, GET IT??  DO YOU GET IT?

Erie, Day 7


We arrived to pick up our intrepid traveling companions and were greeted by…

He had been standing like that for ten minutes waiting for us to arrive.

Yes, that’s yard art where they were staying.  No, it’s not as weird as this:

I was just going to snap a quick one as we slowed down driving past, but there was a truck behind us so my lovely first wife pulled over—just as the lady of the house emerged to get into her truck.  She grinned and waved, and we told her how awesome it was.  “My husband is very creative,” she said with cheerful resignation.

Have a closer look.

And did you see…

I did not get a photo of the sign at St. Mary’s Cemetery, which I kid you not had some kind of jaunty 70s font.  This and other cemeteries have been decorated with solar lights in various fun colors.  It’s an odd effect.

As my phone threaded us through Medina on our way to I-90, we encountered this monument:

Perhaps Sue will tell us in comments why she hid the region’s largest concrete apple from us.

Anyway, we soon zoomed west and the end.

Not really.  We zoomed west and stopped in Cleveland to hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Those of my legions of readers who know me will be astonished that I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they should not be because I didn’t.  My companions all did, but I stayed in the lobby and wrote yesterday’s blog post.  Yes, I know, I’m a unregenerate dork, but rock music has never been part of my life.  I hear it like others hear opera: while I recognize the top 40 tunes, I don’t understand the words and I don’t know the players.  I was told I would have enjoyed the costumes, but a context-free experience with loudspeakers was certainly not going to entertain me at this point in the journey.  Maybe in my next life I’ll have a normal adolescence.

However, it was refreshing to be in an environment where I was not the only adult male over a certain age with pierced ears.

Then we got in the car and drove to Cincinnati the end.

ERIE, Day 6

Back to the Falls!

Today we do the American side, which is smaller and in some ways better organized and enjoyable than the vast Canadian north.

You can compare the views from the two countries, and clearly Canada wins on scale and scope.  But there is much to admire from this side as well.

We arrived early and went straight to the Maid of the Mist ticket line and almost literally walked straight onto the boat.

On the Canadian site, all misters wear red ponchos.  I have a video from up on the cliff of tourists entering a tent and emerging as blue Minions; it’s very amusing.

What can I say about the Maid of the Mist experience?  It’s just overpowering.  You are taken past American Falls…

…past the yellow Minions doing the Cave of the Winds thing at Bridal Veil Falls on Goat Island…

…over to Horseshoe Falls in Canada.

You get up to the middle of the arc of the horseshoe…

…where you of course get fairly wet.  I chose not to wear my hood because my poncho experience on the other side was not positive.  I was fine.  Keeping your cell phone dry can be a challenge, but I have more than a few photos of the ride (and a couple of my pocket) and I’ve experienced no ill effects.

You are mesmerized.  There’s no other word to describe it.  Technically the Niagara River is a strait, a narrow body of water connecting two larger ones, Lakes Ontario and Erie in this case, and what we’re seeing here is a fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water falling over a cliff—and you can’t stop looking at it.  It won’t let you look away.  It never stops, it’s always the same, it’s ever changing.

After the ride, you can go back up top or you can “visit the Dalai Lama” as we termed it: climb a wooden staircase up to the edge of American Falls with all the other blue Minions:

It’s slow going: everyone wants to stop and take photos, and the stairs are wide enough only for one lane going up and one coming down.  Totally worth it:

Pro tip: if you do the American side before noon and the Canadian side afternoon you will always see rainbows.

Finally we took the elevator back up to the observation deck.

See the blue Minions?  We were there.  (You can recycle your poncho or keep it as a souvenir.)

We got tickets to see the iMax movie about the Falls after I double-checked with the info station that it was in fact an informative and well-made film about the falls and not a lame animated juvenile beaver.  With water spraying on me.

It was in fact an informative and well-made movie, although it focused more on the daredevils who braved the Falls more than the geological history.  It is nonetheless worth seeing.

From there we drove over to Goat Island, the island that divides the Falls.  I cannot explain it, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that this island just sits there between two huge cataracts ever since National Geographic used to run regular articles about the Falls.  So over we went.  (There are no goats, which I found both inexplicable and deplorable.)

We grabbed lunch at the Top of the Falls restaurant, which I mention for two reasons…

…the Old Fort Niagara (vodka, cognac, cranberry juice, grenadine), and…

…”Beef on Weck,” a western NY specialty.  It is thinly sliced roast beef on a kaiser bun sprinkled with caraway seeds and sea salt, with horseradish and au jus.  It is very very good, and I don’t particularly care for caraway.

Goat Island is undergoing a bit of renovation, and one thing they’re doing is native plant landscaping.

Scotch thistles, my favorite.

Over on the American Falls side of the island, I shot this video at Bridal Veil Falls:

Below you can see the yellow Minions who have gone down to the Cave of the Winds experience.  We had that on our list to do, but by the time we finished lunch there were three long lines to stand in under the blazing sun.  We had to walk away with much regret.

We began the trek back to Medina, stopping at the Whirlpool State Park.  All that water that comes over the Falls?  After it turns the corner from Niagara, it all enters a very narrow gorge, and the rapids there are Class VI, unnavigable.  About 4200 years ago, as the Falls eroded their way upstream and chewed their way through the escarpment, the river intersected with a loose sedimentary layer and catastrophically washed it all away.  (Truly, they think it may have happened in a couple of hours.)  It left a large, circular pool that the rapids empty into with some violence.

Here are the rapids:

And the whirlpool:

The Canadians run a cable car over the thing and have since the early part of last century.  Oy.

The park itself is your basic overlook, part of the Niagara Gorge Hiking Trail.  Again, native landscaping:

Once we made it back home and freshened up—including a groundhog sighting in the back 40—we set out to explore the nightlife of Medina. You might very well snicker, but we had a great evening.

First up, 810 Meadworks, a small meadery that’s fairly new.  The owner/brewer, Brian, welcomed us and talked us through our sampling.  My lovely first wife does not care for mead, but the rest of us did, and we ended up with three meads each to sample and share for a total of nine meads.  And Brian’s wife makes craft chocolates to pair with them, and I strongly advise you to go for that option.

Behind us is the complete brewing equipment.  In fact, we entered through that room.

Here’s my tasting flight:

l to r: Raspberry Mead (wildflower honey w/ raspberry); Jewel of the Newell (wildflower honey w/ pomegranates & oak); 21-Bean Salute (clover & buckwheat honey w/ vanilla beans & coffee beans)

I failed to record the chocolates, but they were delicious on their own and perfect complements to the mead.

Since some may not be very sure what mead is exactly: it is fermented honey.  You would be forgiven for thinking that such a think would be unpalatably sweet, and some meads are, but these were not.  Brian had dry, semi-sweet, and sweet meads.  These three were all semi-sweet.

Yes, we ended up with a bottle each of Jewel of the Newell and 21-Bean Salute, which oddly the LFW liked.

So if you’re keeping track, that’s a bottle of vodka, a bottle of gin, three bottles of NY wine, and two bottles of mead.  But who’s counting?

We asked Brian for a restaurant recommendation; without hesitation he recommended Zambistro over on Main St, which would have been our first choice via Yelp anyway.

There the food was amazing.  No photos, alas, but it was the equal of anything we’ve had in Atlanta or on the Danube, for that matter.

After dinner, we crossed the street to Fitzgibbons, an Irish pub that opened in January.

The decor is amazing—I wish I had gotten a photo of the wall to the right, all carved wood.  More Bree than Dublin, it was a fun place.  We had a quick whiskey before heading home.

On Main St, Medina, NY:

Well all right then.

ERIE, Day 5

See this map?

The red star is where Sue’s cabin is.  Sue grew up in Middleport, and so we got in the car and DROVE ALL OVER WESTERN NEW YORK, KENNETH!  We had to go pick up our intrepid co-travelers in Oak Orchard, and then we were off.

We went to the cabin that Sue’s parents had when she was a small child, now renovated by a nice lady (Priscilla) whom we met after trespassing into her back yard.  (We had thought no one was home.)

The view from one’s seaside yard is simply incredible…

…BUT it’s treacherous.  When Sue was a child, there was a road in front of the house.  The lake has taken about 30 feet of shore since then, the road with it.

Which makes people like this…

…extremely hard to understand.  Sue said, though, that those cabins had been there since she was a child.

Sue insisted that we see the Shoe Tree—entertainment possibilities being limited in western NY—which is out in the middle of nowhere at the intersection of three roads.  As it turns out, it’s perfectly charming.

The story is that a while back some teenagers were out one night—entertainment possibilities being limited in western NY—and decided to toss their shoes into the tree.  Knowing that the townsfolk would be double-plus unpleased, they convinced all their friends to do the same, there being safety in dilution of culpability.  Then they invented the excuse that if you did this, you could make a wish.

Extremely limited.

Western NY is almost entirely agricultural, mostly subsidized corn for ethanol and cattle these days.  The large manufacturing plants—GM, Heinz, etc.—are long gone, and with them the comfortable union jobs.

In Middleport, we saw Sue’s childhood home and some other lovely homes, and the Universalist Church, built in 1841:

The church is closed, with no one particularly interested in buying it.  Here’s the interesting feature:

These are stones brought by the townsfolk from the lake by cart.  This surface treatment is in line with my hypothesis that given sufficient materials and time, humans will prefer the ornate.

On to Lockport, which got its name because it sprang up at that point on the Erie Canal with the biggest drop in elevation, requiring five locks in a row (the Flight of Five). We were there to take the Lockport Cave tour.

Right across from the tour center…

Yes, we are organized.  Resistance is futile.[1]

Before the tour, we grabbed lunch at Lock 34, a really nice restaurant.  Lockport is a sizable little town with arts and stuff going on.  We saw a ballet studio, a community theatre in an old movie palace, a general arts place, and there’s a concert on the lock on Friday.

At lunch, I thought it was important that I have a Mule.

Canal and all that.

The Canal is still there, of course, and modernized.  You will remember that we became intimately familiar with lock technology from the Danube, and so we were nodding sagely—if not smugly—as our tour guide explained it all to the rest of the group.

This is the new lock.  There’s only the one, and it takes about 20 minutes for a boat to get through these days.

Unlike the old locks, when there were five, each taking about an hour plus a three–four day backup of canal traffic each way.  Look at these doors (which have been reconstructed):

It took four men on each gate to open and close them, so eight guys per lock.  Here’s the other end of the gate:

Mmmm, wood.

A replica of a boat of the period:

Quick view of the Flight of Five:

The tour group walked on down the Canal to the upside-down bridge:

This is the oldest remaining example of this engineering compromise.  The story is that during the Civil War, the supply of iron was being fought over by the munitions manufacturers and the railroads, and one of the areas of compromise (presided over by Lincoln) was that all bridges had to be built like this, with the supporting superstructure underneath the railroad instead of above: it took a third less iron to build it this way.

All along the path, our guide pointed out the locations of several factories which had been built on the canal above us: a fire hydrant factory (invented in Lockport by Birdsill Holly), a ceramics factory, and then this:

This is a pulp factory  You floated your logs in the channel in the foreground, then fed them into the holes in the wall, where millstones would grind them to pulp.  The pulp was pressed into cups and plates and bowls, but those things were not disposables in the 19th century.  Families often used them for as long as five years.  (Eventually they decided that stainless steel made for more durable and more sanitary tableware.)

The hole on the right was the exit flume for the “cave,” actually a large tunnel carved through the limestone rock to channel water to power the factories above.  This was the design and work of B. Holly, who it must be noted had only a third-grade education.  Engineering was different in those days.

And here we are entering the cave:

Cast iron tube, still sturdy after 200 years.  Steep climb, leveling off to:

This channel was dug by Irish immigrants for about 2¢ a day, plus whiskey.  Teams of two would drill a hole in the limestone by hand, pack in a little explosive, light the fuse, then run away.  After the explosion, they would carry the debris out the only entrance, way back where we started the tour over the Flight of Five.  They did this one basketball-sized amount of limestone at a time.  (This is the same limestone used to build buildings in Lockport and Washington, DC.)

When the channel was in operation, the water would have filled the space to within three feet of the ceiling.

One fun fact, which may or may not be true: embedded in the limestone was gypsum, which was worthless to people who wanted the limestone debris for other purposes.  The wives of the Irishmen would take it, polish up little bits of it, then schlep it up to Niagara, where they would sell it to tourists as “solidified mist from the Falls, sure,” made by a technique known only to the little Irish ladies of the world.  For a dollar—more than their husbands made in two months.

After the cave tour, which included a boat ride, we went to the Flight of Five Winery and we had a tasting.

All very tasty.  We bought one or two.  Or three.

Our final stop for the day: The Culvert.

And what is this, I hear you ask?  It is the only place where a road goes under the Erie Canal.  The Canal goes through a valley here and is actually contained in berms.  It made more sense to take the road under it than to build a bridge over it.  The road was actually closed to traffic because they’re making repairs right on the other side, but we scoffed at their attempts to keep us safe.


[1] Oh, all right, here.

ERIE, Day 4

We had plans to do several things before leaving Toronto but we got a late start and had to pick only one.  We opted to head to the Art Gallery of Toronto, which was designed by Frank Gehry—who grew up in the neighborhood.

It is in the shape of an overturned canoe.  Make of that what you will.

Around the corner is the Design Museum:

The top part is classrooms.  (The CN Tower is in the distance.)

Huge courtyard inside, very traditional national gallery space, but with Gehry:

We were there to see the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit, which was of course wonderful.  We had been to the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe back during our Great Cross Country Trip, which was nice but not comprehensive: most of her work is in major collections elsewhere.  This exhibit pulled together an overview of her career and was phenomenal.

Here’s a great quote from one of the walls: “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.  Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown behind you.”

Whenever we go to a museum, especially to exhibits like this one, we will pick out the piece that we would welcome as a gift.  “You can buy me that one for my birthday.”

Here’s mine, a graphite/chalk sketch from 1943, Untitled (Abstraction):

Encountering it up close, as one does as one walks around the exhibit, it was just a nice abstract sketch.  Later, as I wandered back through, I looked over at it from a distance and was smitten.  You can buy this for me.  (Contact the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.)

On the fourth floor was an exhibit of contemporary art which consisted of pieces by either aboriginal or immigrant Canadians responding to the 150th birthday of their nation.  There were some very interesting pieces, some of them more political than others, of course.

This is not a drum.  It’s wooden.

The pertinent details on this one are hard to see:

The artist has made beaded bacteria and put them into acrylic “water.”  The installation represents the contamination found in the water of the reservations of the First Peoples across Canada.

The title of this coloured pencil on paper is Lemming Buttocks are Dirty (2013).  I liked it.  (Yes, I giggled.)

Then it was time to rush back to the hotel, dig the car out of the subterranean parking lot, and DRIVE TO NIAGARA, KENNETH.

But first, as we blundered our way around Toronto looking for a recommended Thai restaurant that does not seem to exist (what is it with Canadians giving directions to non-existent restaurants??) we came across this:

Oh, Canada.

Your daily inner twelve-year-old alert: The Queen & Beaver Pub, Mr. Softy & Delight, and “hand-pulled noodles.”

Since this is Day 4, travel dialogue was not as jolly as you might have come to expect.  There was an extended discussion of oral hygiene involving little brush thingies for flossing that may or may not have involved the phrase “ridged for her pleasure” and devolved from there.  Otherwise, we just slogged it to Niagara with the one lunch break.  (Harvey’s is a great burger/salad place to stop at.)

Pro tip: going to the Falls on the 4th of July is possibly a bad idea.

And it was a bizarre shock to arrive at the main intersection and see this:

Completely Gatlinburged.  Oy.

I jokingly posted this photo to Instagram to wish people a Happy 4th:

The LFW’s original plans were to go on to Medina, NY, then come back to the Falls, but we convinced her it made more sense to stop on the Canadian side while we were there.  We were wrong: we arrived so late that there were no tickets to all the things we really wanted to do.  However, the views are spectacular:

Then we made the error of deciding that we would go ahead and at least see the movie.

You should understand that at the Grand Canyon, there is a National Geographic IMAX movie about the Canyon and how humans have interacted with it that is first rate and astounding.  It would be great, we thought, to be able to sit in a cool, dark theatre and learn something about the Falls in a similar fashion.

Our first clue that this was not going to be the same was being handed a poncho as we entered the theatre.  And then there were no seats.  We all stood and watched an amazingly lame animation of a young beaver who was being assigned a 200-word essay on the Falls as punishment for some misbehavior on a field trip.  A book falls on his head and he’s whisked back in time, etc., etc.

The storyline was choppy, historical/geological context was minimal, and the target audience must be the 8-year-old school crowd.

And the ponchos?  After the short cartoon, the doors opened into the next room, where we all went in and stood on a round grated platform, where we were subjected to a 360° film experience that involved water.  Oy.

When it was finally over and we were making our way to the exit, I pulled off my poncho and with it the new earring I had bought at the Art Gallery just that morning.  I felt it go, and of course it fell straight through the grate into the waters below.  We looked for it briefly, but at that point I was over it.  Feh.

Then we drove to Medina, NY.  It was completely adventureless.  Or at least my brain was so dead that I didn’t register anything.

Our view of Lake Ontario as we arrived:




Erie, Day 3

It dawned on me that I never explained why we were driving to Toronto.  Our good neighbor Sue, having discovered after living for 20 years in the South that she couldn’t take the heat, bought a cabin in upstate NY, to which she decamps every May.  We promised to come visit last year, but didn’t because things, so this summer we swore we would make it.

I will confess that since part of our plans involved going to see the Erie Canal, I never tumbled to the fact that her cabin is actually on Lake Ontario, but I’m not changing the names of these blog posts now.

None of this explains why we[1] chose to DRIVE TO TORONTO, KENNETH, especially when we passed a perfectly good airport on the way in.

Anyway, we awoke on our first full day in Toronto and set out to check off some things out of our[2] Top 10 book. Everyone humors me if there are labyrinths or world class cocktail bars involved, and so the first thing we did was to go seek the labyrinth at the Eaton Centre, near which our hotel is conveniently located.  The Top 10 book was very excited about the Eaton Centre, assuring us that Toronto practically centered (centred?) on it.

It’s a mall.

It’s a large and lovely mall, but it is a mall.  None of the mall workers seemed to know where the labyrinth might be or even what it might be.

This is not it, despite our cruel Canadian jokes.

The Eaton Centre was mimics the famous Italian shopping district, which had the distinct advantage of roofing over venerable 19th-century architecture.

Eventually we found a customer service person who gave us directions. It’s outside next to the Holy Trinity Church, whose mission has become serving the homeless, of which there are many.

It is a Chartres-style labyrinth.

I liked this: it’s an explanation and a diagram for the blind.

The Chartres-style pattern is not my favorite because it is so long, and it’s difficult to concentrate on the walk when you know everyone else is standing around waiting for you to do your hippie thing and get on with it.

It’s really well made:

I presume it’s built on packed sand, because the paths themselves have sunk ever so slightly inward after being walked on.

There were some pretty chill pigeons:

From there it was on to THE BUS TOUR, KENNETH.  We got on top of a double-decker bus and rode around the city.

Now Toronto is a perfectly cromulent city, vibrant with lots o’ culture and stuff, but riding around being told very brief snippets about this or that is truly not my thing.  Our tour guide was pleasant and entertaining, but short on substance. For example, when was the city founded?  What does Toronto mean?  What was its main function?

I will say that Toronto has some really neat architecture:

There were many examples of funky post-modern everywhere you looked.  Some discussion of styles would have been appreciated.

The Royal Museum, aka The Rock, aka the Crystal:

It’s the natural history museum, and the outrageous addition looks like a giant crystal crashed into the 19th-century original.

There is also a shoe museum.

We eventually got off the bus at the Distillery District, which used to be a major distillery back in the day but is now a pleasant pedestrian shopping area.  After endless waverings, we had a good lunch at a cheese shop.  (Thank goodness the converted building with the 120 food stalls was closed for the holiday—we would have collapsed from indecision and starvation.  Well, some of us would have.)

Then we visited an actual distillery, where we sat for a tasting with a cute young man who walked us through their philosophy and process.  (I call him “cute” because he and his cousin were working the place, and they had his aunt in for the day—a holiday—to assist by washing dishes and being fairly entertaining herself.  Also he was cute.) The space was lovely, all dark woods and educational displays and a leather travel case I should have bought.  Their vodka and gin are single-distilled.  The vodka has rather more flavor than usual; the gin rather less juniper than usual.  I bought one of each.  (We also sampled an aquavit they were working on, and if you like drinking pure caraway seed, you would have liked it.)

At this point I should mention that as we began our day, my lovely first wife [LFW] stepped wrong on a broken pavement tile and injured her ankle.  By the time we got to the distillery, she was in a lot of discomfort, so we made the decision to explore the Canadian healthcare system.  We got back on the bus to head back to the hotel, which was only a couple of stops—and we passed St. Michael’s Hospital right before our stop.

We hobbled back to the hospital, were flummoxed for a while because of the construction around the emergency entrance, then went on in.

Spoiler alert: LFW sustained no real injury, no fractures or breaks, just “soft tissue damage.”  Compression bandage and pain relievers is all we ended up with.

Upon entrance, we realized immediately we were in a television series set in a hospital, and it wasn’t long before we realized that the main characters were the young and incredibly attractive EMTs.  The rest of us were supporting cast and, in our case, extras.  I impressed upon the LFW that she should try not to become one of the main plot lines by throwing a clot or something.

I know you’re dying to know, so let me tell you about the basics: overall, you wish your ER visit was like ours.  No, healthcare is not “free”; one of the two pieces of paper we saw (TWO PIECES OF PAPER, KENNETH) had a price list of charges, only two of which were circled for us.  However, all the Canadians just handed over their medical card, so they didn’t see that particular piece of paper.  For them the care was free.

The triage nurse came out and canvassed those who were there, asking them for their cards and what the deal was.  She then called people up in triage order.  After she finished with them, they went around to the intake staff, who got everything into the computer, issued the paperwork and barcodes and bracelets.

Then you went back to the Ambulatory waiting room, which because of the construction/renovation was cramped and hot, but everyone seemed to be in good spirits.

It is not a joke that every single staff member (and all the patients) were absolutely Canadian nice.  Out in triage we watched the handsome EMT coax a homeless guy he’d brought in to let him have his medical card, and when Matt (the homeless guy) didn’t want to comply, the EMT just patiently waited.  When Matt announced he was going outside for a smoke, the EMT let him, only making him promise he’d come back in.  Matt came back in.

Another homeless guy was wheeled in, and when he refused treatment for reasons unknown, unstrapped himself from the gurney, and left, the EMT’s only response was to shrug and say to his partner, “Another satisfied customer.”  Then when Homeless Guy #2 came crashing back in, holding his crotch like a four-year-old and yelling, “I gotta pee!  I gotta pee!”, the triage nurse simply said, “Well, stop standing there and go pee!”

Later, as we were leaving, Homeless Guy #2 was in clean clothes, still out of it, but holding a sandwich which the staff had gotten him.

Everyone apologized for the wait, even though we were there for about three hours from triage to discharge.   Discharge consisted of the doctor wrapping LFW’s ankle herself, advising LFW to ice it, then wishing us bon voyage.  We hung around another ten minutes trying to make sure there wasn’t more that was supposed to be happening.

We were on our way back the hotel (one block away) in time for dinner.  As we left, Matt was out in the middle of the street, helpfully helping a delivery truck that did not need his help back into the loading area.

Part of our bus tour ticket entitled us to a boat ride in the harbor, so off we went.  (LFW is unstoppable when on tour.)

Here we see a boat full of refugees from Buffalo arriving, full of hope.  (This is not our boat.)

I thought we were going to sail on out to the Lake itself, but it was just a quick tour of the islands, which are more extensive than you might think.  People live there; there are businesses and beaches.  There are 250 homes out there, and you have to submit your name to a lottery to be put on a 500-person waiting list for the opportunity to buy one.  Since the 1990s when the lottery was instituted, fewer than 50 homes have been sold.  This despite the fact that you can’t have a car and the house must be your principal residence: there are no summer cottages out there.

There is a school out there, and about half its students commute from the city.

Anyway, some brilliant views of Toronto:

We did not go up in the CN Tower yet.

The last plane to freedom.

After the boat ride, everyone humored me to go find a topnotch cocktail bar.  The #1 bar, BarChef, is closed on Mondays, so I had settled on Bar Naval.  We hopped a cab and headed over.

Super trendy, super small, and super loud.  We went to the patio; this view is looking back into the incredibly beautiful interior: all art nouveau wood and iron.

Another view:

The stairs to the restrooms:

Tinted plaster.

My first cocktail was the Absinthe Minded: vodka, lemon, some sherry, and absinthe.  It was bright and tasty.

For my second, I pulled out my phone and showed the server the recipe for the Smoky Quartz.  I explained its origin, that I was not asking them to make it for me, but to make a cocktail that would please someone who liked it.

I thought that this could be a fun game, just going from world-class bar to world-class bar, and at each one challenging the bartenders to riff on the last bar’s creation.  Like a game of Telephone only with cocktails.  Great bartenders love that kind of thing.  (Jeff, this would be a good book, too.  I’ll need an expense account.)

Alas, the server apparently translated my intent incorrectly, because I think the bartender attempted to make the Smoky Quartz.  They didn’t have Angostura Amaro, so he/she just piled in regular Angostura bitters.  It was not a success.

However, when I get home I’m going to try it with yellow Chartreuse (which is sweeter than green) and see if I can balance it out.

We asked where we might dine and were directed to a restaurant that either does not exist or if it does is closed on Monday anyway.  What is it with Canadians not knowing their own neighborhood?  There was an Italian diner whose sign had clearly not changed since it opened in the 60s, so in we went and were thoroughly entertained by our charming waiter and by the food.

Fed and satisfied, we headed back to the hotel and were in bed by midnight.  That’s right, we’re cool.


[1] For differing values of we.

[2] For differing values of our

ERIE, day 2

Monday night we went to Enoteca, a lovely little wine bar/tapas place in Lexington.  The food was excellent, and the cocktails were solid. Except for this guy:

Isn’t it pretty?  Pro tip: before ordering an Aviation, no matter how interesting the gin sounds, ask what amount of creme de violette they use.  Anything more than the .25 oz. in the recipe linked here, and it will taste like perfume.

However, I do recommend pairing their Ancho Alexander (brandy, Ancho Reyes liqueur, honey syrup, lemon juice, molé bitters) with their cardamom flan for dessert.

Another pro tip: if you’re looking to break up a super-long drive, do not look at the route your computer has laid out for you and use the time the computer calculates (instead of distance) to divide the trip.  Especially, if you’re a Slytherin, do not let a Gryffindor do this calculation for you without checking it.  Especially do not let a Gryffindor decide that you’ll just wing it on deciding where to stop for the night.[1] That is all.

Oddly, on Tuesday morning we discovered that we had a LONGER WAY TO DRIVE TO TORONTO THAN WE THOUGHT, KENNETH.  Personally, I think that once you’ve decided to DRIVE TO TORONTO, KENNETH, you don’t get to complain about the distance/time involved, but then I am a notorious Pollyanna.

You will find this difficult to believe, but driving from Lexington, KY, to Toronto does not yield as much blog material as, say, a cruise up the Danube, so instead of castles and gorgeous riverscapes, you’re going to get what transpired in the car.

We passed the sign for the Ark Encounter, a boondoggle of the worst kind that has left Williamstown, KY, wondering where their commonsense was when they decided to shell out $92 million for a Xtianist con.  We thought briefly about going to see this thing just for the giggles—dinosaurs on the Ark, what’s not to like?—but $40/adult is a lot to spend on a complete time waste.    Why waste time on animatronic Noahs when you can DRIVE TO TORONTO?

Model Chrissie Teigen’s tweet on the president’s “infinity” babbleygook: “Why is my ass smarter than the president??”  (I’m thinking that the White House staff has a betting pool as to when the man is going to go off script.)

Passing Chester, KY,[2] led us into a discussion of Chester the Molester and Larry Flynt, who is by the way still alive and fighting for First Amendment Rights.

Inner 12-year-old Alert: There is a Big Bone Lick State Park.   There is also a Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant.

Outside Monroe, OH, there is this:

This is the Solid Rock Church’s north campus, not to be confused with their south campus:

We passed the Traders World Market, which for some reason had giraffes ALL OVER ITS ROOF, KENNETH.

I do wish we could have stopped.  I have a weird relationship with giraffes.  If you ask, I’ll explain why they’re a symbol of destructive criticism.

I will have to say that Ohio has the most impressive landscaping of their interchanges I have ever seen: they are beautifully designed and landscaped.  Wish I had pictures.

We stopped for gas.

There was art next to the gas station:

This one actually moves.

Yeah, I don’t know either.

Somewhere around here I found myself recalling that the Nazis invented the interstate highway.

When we started casting about for lunch options, we found much to amuse us: the Toot ‘n’ Tell drive-through hot dog hut; an establishment which offered chicken chunks and something called a Chunk Bowl; Kewpee Burgers, where it’s 10¢ extra for Miracle Whip on your burger; and in Findlay, OH, where we ended up stopping, The Butt Hut next to Dick’s, and the Servex Center across from Crunchy Nuts.

After lunch, we went into a Walmart kind of place for supplies, where I found THIS YOU GUYS:

It is a chiffon poncho thing you guys!

What should I wear under this, I hear you asking?


However, I was dissuaded from expressing my patriotism, if you can believe that.  Bunch of commies.

I bet if I put up a GoFundMe for another Viking River Cruise, you’d chip in right about now, wouldn’t you?

Up through Michigan, where if you hang a right at Detroit, you’re in Canada.

No really: here’s the off-ramp to Canada:

There was a car from Texas in front of us who seemed to have a momentary panic about the No re-entry to USA thing, but our attitude was, “Justin Trudeau… Donald Trump… OK then.”

The border guard who quizzed us was markedly flat in affect, and one of our number expressed an urge (afterwards) to jolly him up, but my rule is that if the board guard isn’t already jolly, it is not in your best interest to work on that.

Obligatory photo of the border McDonalds:

Soon enough we were in the land of the polite (you literally drive straight into the residential neighborhoods of Windsor), and then we had to DRIVE ACROSS ONTARIO, KENNETH.  Oh. My. God.  I don’t know whether you’ve ever driven across Indiana or Iowa—neither have I, but I’ve seen pictures—but Ontario has them beat for sheer uninterestingness.  It’s all lovely green farmland, with some really impressive wind turbine farms (like for miles), but one finds oneself wishing for a cluster of Walmarts and Hooters’s every now and then.

Finally, much later than any Gryffindor could have predicted, we approached Ontario, where we began this asymptotic drive to our hotel.  It seemed as if I drove and drove and never got any closer.  And of course none of us had made preparations for not having cell/data service, so we tried to find the Bond Place Hotel the old-fashioned way: with maps.

Hahahahahaha.  Here’s a photo of a stunning photograph I was able to take while stuck in traffic down on Queen’s Quay:

That’s the moon to the upper right.

Finally the data service I had bitterly given into kicked in, and we were led to the hotel with no problems.

We decamped to the rooftop pub across the street, and two Manhattans later all was well.


[1] When asked about this before we left, I said we’d stop “when one of us started screaming.”  Probably just as solid as plan as any.

[2] I just like typing KY and giggling.

On the road again: ERIE, day 1

Yes, we’ve hit the road again, but this time we’re not sailing up the Danube through eastern Europe’s great cities.  We’re driving to Toronto.  Driving. To. Toronto.


So today we drove from Newnan to Lexington, KY, and the only thing to note is that if you’re listening to your phone giving you directions to the hotel you picked out on Hotel Tonight, your inner 12-year-old will giggle every time she tells you to turn left on “KY 125.”

The mountains are lovely in their mountainesque kind of way, but all I could think was, “You people elected Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to the U.S. Senate.”


Did I mention how much we drove?