Monday, October 20, 2003

Roads and trails

A busy week as my brother was here from the UK and we did the tourist thing. On Monday to Niagara Falls in glorious weather at Thanksgiving in a hired Ford Windstar. A pitstop at Tim Horton's on the way south and we get lucky parking the van for $5 near the falls. We walk down some steps through a park and the American Falls are opposite. I've now done this trip many times so the buzz is beginning to wear off but still the falls are magnificent. Later we head down the gorge to Niagara-on-the-Lake stopping to view The Whirlpool and admiring the homes on the Niagara Parkway. The town is packed with visitors so we confine ourselves to a quick motor tour.
We go in search of the Welland Canal, glimpsed earlier in the day from the Garden City Skyway at St Catharines. There is a visitor centre at Lock 3 where we are glad to get a snack before climbing the escarpment by car next to the staircase locks of 4,5 and 6. Only three ships are passing this way on the day and we go all the way to Port Colborne to catch sight of a working freighter.
Home via the backroads to Hamilton, an ice cream at the 7-11 in Oakville and back in Etobicoke for supper.
We trade in the Ford for a Chevy Cavalier next morning and head off west to Goderich on Lake Huron. I've been here before but know it is worth a second look. The weather has turned wet and the wind is blowing and we are glad to check-in to the Bedford Hotel on the 'square' mid-afternoon. This hotel has a pleasant sports bar and restaurant at good prices - I don't normally eat in hotels other than breakfast but am happy to make an exception here. A good spot for my brother to soak up the Canadian atmosphere.
We check out the town next morning - one of the old railway stations has been restored since my last visit but the other, down by the docks, still lies sadly neglected. We look in the real estate windows at what by UK standards is very cheap property.
We head north to Kincardine passing a lone wind turbine and further on a wind farm of about eight
mills. This is windy country and they must do well here. We have a lunch stop at Tim Horton's outside Owen Sound and then visit the museum in an old
railway station by the docks in town. I've been here before too but the updated display has plenty of interest. We motor on to Collingwood via Meaford, a great scenic run, where we check in to a motel on the strip.
In the evening we search for a pub and eventually track down the Admiral's Post where pre-dinner gin-and-tonics are dispensed. The barman is friendly so we stay for a second scoop. A few doors away is Tesoro on Schoolhouse Lane, an Italian restaurant with good food and even Port wine for a digestif. I often apply the Port test in restaurants and all too often they don't have it, but here they come up trumps.
Next morning a quick stop at Tim Horton's once more and back to Toronto in time for brunch at the Greek Texan in a jolly family party. The service is friendly as ever and we all depart in a good mood.
Friday and brunch at Dundas Street Grill, shopping at Loblaw's for Aunt Jemima's Syrup craved by a pal back in the UK, and to Pearson Airport for my brother to catch his flight home. The day is not over as I head back to the city for evening departure to Wasaga Beach on the Georgian Bay.
We are spending the week-end at a beach-front cottage hosted by friends. Saturday and we cycle to the local shops along the lanes by the lake - the girls are in the dollar store so we defect to Tim Horton's for coffee. It is raining so our cycling trip is done for the day and we load the bikes into the back of the pickup-truck and head back to the cottage.
Sunday we are up early for a cycle trip on the Brompton on the Georgian Trail from Collingwood to Meaford, over twenty miles along an old railway line by the shore of the Georgian Bay.
We have trouble finding the start of the trail as it is closed off for flood control works and have to detour via a side-road onto another trail which leads us back to the proper start.
The trail has a fine gravel dressing which means continuous pedalling with only the occasional glide but soon we are at Craigleath in half an hour where the chase car provides coffee. This is cycling for softies as we ride on to Thornbury in just over the hour and we reach Meaford in two and a half hours including pitstops.
I've wanted to ride this trail ever since I set eyes on it and it doesn't disappoint. It is a fitting end to cycling trips for this year - we have lunch in a pub called the Leeky Canoe and drive home the pretty way through rural Ontario.

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