Published: July 27th 2006July 26th 2006 July 8 - July 25, 2006
At 167 feet high, the water (600,000 gal/sec) pouring over Horseshoe Falls makes a tower of mist, which the Maid of the Mist boats bravely enter.
Gettysburg, Pa. - Montreal, Que.
13,556 miles to date
1,217 miles this leg
Since we’re in French Canada, the headline must be bilingual: Tomber Amboreaux des Canadiens!
Our Montreal host had to reference two dictionaries to properly translate that idiom and conjugate the verb, and that’s but one example of the lengths our new Canadian friends are going for us. The connecting thread of the past two and a half weeks has been the wonderful people we’ve met in an area of the continent where our address book was previously blank. We’ve turned again to the Global Freeloaders website, contacted friends of friends, and even asked point-blank to be taken home by one of the musicians at a concert we attended! (We were, of course.)
This story starts in Gettysburg, Pa., a little town whose name has become synonymous with the Civil War battle that included Pickett’s Charge. We drove from the Washington, D.C., area to Gettysburg National Military Park
on July 8 and spent the day exploring the battlefield and its monuments in the company of several hundred Harley bikers who were in town for a rally. We were more
S&J at Falls
We were told we couldn't miss seeing Niagara Falls -- so we didn't! We crossed the border on the Niagara River on July 11.
thrilled with Company C of the 12th Alabama Infantry
, about 20 re-enactors between the ages of 11-61 who were portraying a ragtag Confederate outfit. The battlefield came back to life in a chilling way as these men, with their timeless faces, demonstrated battlefield maneuvers and fired their rifles across a field that not so long ago was strewn with the bodies of their ancestors.
As you might expect, the dead and dying overwhelmed the small population of Gettysburg back in 1863. That evening, attracted by the lively pre-show music, we attended a free performance in a downtown church that focused on the church’s role as a hospital after the battle and included period music (some audience sing-alongs) and readings from a nurse’s first-hand account. Complimenting and chatting with the musicians afterwards, we asked if anyone had a spot for us to park Matilda for the night, and Stephen and Beth didn’t hesitate to take us home. Turns out he is the music director and an associate professor of church music at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Their bios
are on the website for their Celtic folk band, Cormorant’s Fancy.
We had to give short shrift to Pennsylvania,
From the Canadian side of the falls, the backdrop is Niagara Falls, U.S.A., and a tethered tourist-trap observation balloon.
driving north across its breadth in one day, but we did enjoy the scenery as we followed the Susquehanna River. Upon crossing the border into New York state, we waved to four
other Westfalias, more than we’d seen on the road in one day since we were in California!
We also passed our first horse-drawn buggy, signaling our arrival in Amish country. Our destination was Conewanga Valley, N.Y., where our hosts and cultural guides were not Amish themselves, but live in understanding and harmony with their strictly observant neighbors. Jennifer grew up in the valley, and after traveling the country, she and her husband Pat (raised in northern Nevada and a social worker by profession) decided there was nowhere else they’d rather raise their children. They number three, but there might be more in future: Donald, 4, Aine’, 2, and baby Meara (9 months). We spent only two nights with this wholesome family in their unique corner of the world, but learned so much. Thank you to friends George and Barb in Port Townsend for connecting us to these kindred spirits.
First of all, the farm-fresh food was simply delicious. Jennifer keeps a huge garden and the produce
Our first "sight" in eastern Canada was Niagara Falls, seen here from the Canadian side. City buildings encroach on both sides, and many commercial ventures (of which we didn't partake) promise to engage you with this natural wonder. A national park it's not!
at the Amish vegetable stands was so fresh, the lettuce was picked on request. We grilled meat over a firepit and scrambled eggs from the neighbor’s chickens for breakfast. And gobbled up just-shelled peas, lightly steamed…oh, my!
That first night, Jeff’s banjo music got the kids dancing around the yard at dusk, and one by one the neighbor children appeared to sit in a row on their side of the road, straw hats and bonnets silhouetted in the twilight. Apparently the Amish do not make music with instruments, believing their voices to be the only instruments God intended. Pat walked over to invite them to come closer, but only their father, Harvey, returned with him. This middle-aged man had never seen a banjo, but he liked what he heard, and I think the music helped us make friends with this member of a normally reticent clan.
The next day we visited an Amish furniture shop, a carriage shop, a cheese factory, and finally Harvey at his shoe and leather shop, where he re-glued my [Shelly’s] shoe orthotic while Jeff picked out an Amish-style straw hat to replace the one he’d brought that was falling apart (and was subsequently
Gettysburg Firing Squad
Company C of the 12th Alabama Infantry was on-site the day we visited Gettysburg National Military Park, demonstrating rifle firing configurations on the actual battlefield.
donated to Jennifer and Pat’s scarecrow wardrobe). When we asked Harvey how much we owed him, he asked only that we send him some pictures of the country we’d seen when we were finished with our trip. Not images of people (the Amish reject “graven images” of themselves or others), but of the land. I was so touched by this unexpected request, especially when our hosts explained that Harvey would probably never travel far from Conewanga Valley in his lifetime.
But Harvey was not finished gifting us
with experiences: that evening, he took us for a ride in his buggy, and we’ve never seen a more glorious sunset than the one we watched pinken over the withers of his chestnut mare, Jenny. As thanks, I made animal balloons for four of his five children under the age of six (the fifth was still in the cradle), and we learned the names of horse, mouse, dog and rabbit in Low German.
Since photographing their beautiful, shy faces was not an option, I have tried to fix in my mind the blond bangs and wide-eyed expressions of those children, dressed like little adults in pants and suspenders or long dresses,
Company C affixing bayonets on command.
and radiating calm and contentment as is rarely seen in contemporary American kids. Another vision not to be forgotten: behind them, seen through the porch windows, their mother sewing a quilt by yellow lamplight while her newborn child slept in a wooden cradle beside her.
Amish country felt like a foreign country in many ways, but we crossed a political border into a real foreign land on July 11. Having made the decision to leave the eastern seaboard heat behind us, we had cut inland and entered Canada after crossing the Peace Bridge at Buffalo, N.Y. For the last two weeks, we have been working our way east along the north shore of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. We intend to spend August in the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island), then in cooler September return to Maine and meander south as far as New York City before turning westward. And our weather gamble is paying off—it’s been in the 70’s this weekend in Montreal, while we hear it's 90 in NYC.
Our first day in Ontario, we dutifully saw one of the two sights everyone and their cousin advised us to see in
Company C at ease. It is historically accurate for their uniforms not to match; Confederate grey was often butternut or blue, if borrowed from a dead Union soldier.
our tour of America: Niagara Falls. (The other is Mt. Rushmore.) Of course, we pondered the rushing water from the Canadian side of the Niagara River, but I think that still counts. We were due for dinner in Waterloo and didn’t have time to take a Maid of the Mist boat ride or any of the other get-close-to-the-falls outings that involve paying money to wear a plastic raincoat. But we did buy a postcard to send to Carol at the Oglethorpe BBQ Co. in Oglethorpe, Ga., who had told us as we dined on her delicious pork that if she ever did leave her state, it would be to visit Niagara Falls. For Carol and everyone else, we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Our hosts in Waterloo were friends of our friends Chris and Corey, whom they met in Seattle when Craig was working toward his doctorate in computer science at the University of Washington. Craig and wife Nathalie and their kids Zoe, nearly 4, and Jonas, 13 months, can report on our visit next month when they travel to Washington for Chris and Corey’s wedding on August 13 (congratulations, you two!!!) (P.S. check out their travel blog
Gettysburg Little Round Top
The view from Little Round Top at the Gettysburg battlefield, from which heights Union guns cut down 5,000 of the 12,000 Confederates that made "Pickett's Charge."
for their round-the-world honeymoon starting in September: Dr Corey Mr Chris
Now Craig is an assistant professor in his field at the University of Waterloo
, but he’s also on sabbatical, so at our first dinner together, we toasted to sabbaticals. Their family is the first we’ve met that has kids and is car-less, a dedicated decision made possible by their location close to a functioning, full-service city center. Unfortunately, it poured rain most of our full day in Waterloo, so Nathalie got soaked biking the kids to day camp, although Zoe and Jonas stayed dry in their zipped-up trailer. We helped out by making a grocery run for large items in Matilda, then baking pizzas that night. Later, in a living-room music session, they were the first audience that has recognized “Cows With Guns,” the song by Bellingham singer/songwriter Dana Lyons that Jeff likes to cover on guitar. Craig mentions "Cows With Guns" and describes how we came to be their visitors on his own blog posting
dated July 16. With kisses from Zoe, we were on our way after two nights…
…to Toronto, the most populated city in Canada (2.5 million people, in a nation with only 30 million). We
Conewanga Valley Family
Jennifer and Pat and their children (left to right) Aine', Meara and Donald. Our mutual friends knew what they were doing when they hooked us up, because we got along famously with this family.
only spent a day in this bustling metropolis, taking in the sights of the CN Tower, “the world’s tallest freestanding structure” (the Space Needle is another example); Kensington Market; the waterfront along Queen’s Quay; and possibly the most unique museum we’ve visited to date: the Bata Shoe Museum
. The history of humankind through footwear is quite fascinating, especially when the collection includes wooden Roman sandals, Ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) fiber sandals, pointed Gothic armor overshoes, and hemp rope slippers worn by American sailors to grip the decks of wooden ships.
We camped one night at lovely Presqu’ile Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Ontario, biked out to the lighthouse, and took a swim in waters quite warm by our standards. At the recommendation of world-travelers Bill and Tonny, whom we met at the lighthouse, we drove Highway 33 along the coast to Kingston, and Matilda boarded her first ferry since Washington: an open-decked boat holding about 25 cars that makes the 5-minute crossing across waters I believe belong to the Bay of Quinte. There’s no charge; it’s a free service provided by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation because the ferry is a logical extension of the highway system. Hmmm,
Jennifer & Meara
9-month-old Meara gets a picture with both mom and dad because the littlest is the cutest! Here, gnawing on a corncob with Jennifer...
wish the Washington Department of Transportation would see it the same way…
Kingston, glorious Kingston awaited us! We loved it and couldn’t leave; it was five nights later that we dragged ourselves back on the road. The old city (founded 1673) was charming, and it didn’t hurt that the 18th annual Buskers Rendezvous
was in full swing, but what really made our stay worthwhile was our hosts, Neil and Danielle. We found them through GlobalFreeloaders.com
and the recent retirees welcomed us so graciously to their home that we soon felt we were visiting family—only better, because we hadn’t heard each other’s stories before! We took them up on the offer of a guest bedroom in their late-1800s, 4-story, brick townhouse, then took advantage of the fact that it was walking and biking distance from everywhere we wanted to go.
While in Kingston, we were amused by the talented busking in many street performances; rented kayaks for a bit of a harrowing paddle on freshwater seas that turned to whitecaps when the wind picked up; visited one of four Martello towers built around the city as a defensive fortification following numerous American incursions; selected dinner ingredients from a thrice-weekly farmer’s
Pat & Meara
...and here chewing on my wooden "bones" in Pat's arms. All three children were musically inclined, and Meara did bang the bones together for a bit before they made it into her mouth.
market; and watched two movies in two different downtown theatres—A Prairie Home Companion
and Kinky Boots
(a must see!).
Two briefs for WoodenBoat
magazine materialized (1) through a visit to the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston
, where I interviewed volunteers restoring a hundred-year-old wooden fishing boat once owned by author Farley Mowat’s father; and (2) by taking another free provincial ferry to nearby Wolfe Island, where we bicycled the quiet roads and discovered a wooden boat shop run by a 1994 graduate of the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding
on Port Townsend Bay! Michael Corrigan kindly showed us around his Wolfe Island Boatshop
and the seven major projects he and his two employees are working on. My briefs should publish in the Nov./Dec. issue.
One of the connections we had to Danielle is that she is a writer, too, and recently self-published an enchanting collection of her short stories titled The Fishermen of Progreso
. We purchased a copy knowing she donates the profits ($7) to Calcutta Rescue, a charity she has personally witnessed the good work of, and we’d highly recommend it for the colorful characters peopling its pages. You can buy the book through
J&S in Buggy
Pat and Jennifer live in Amish country, and we struck up a friendship with their next-door neighbor, Harvey, who took us for a ride in his buggy. What a treat! Note Jeff's new Amish-style straw hat, acquired at Harvey's store. (Photo by Jennifer)
her website, www.danielleaird.com
, and/or read one of her stories online here
With Danielle and Neil, we spent an evening at the home of their friend Alec Ross
, a full-time writer and lecturer who published an account of his canoe trip across Canada (yes, that’s right!) in Coke Stop in Emo
. We departed with a copy of his book, too, and can’t wait to dig into it.
Not to leave Neil out, he has a website, too. This career goldsmith has always had a passion for plane-spotting, and when he sold his jewelry shop, he started a new career as an aviation artist and webmaster of Beaver Tails
, devoted to the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver aircraft.
When we finally departed Kingston, it was for Ottawa, the scenic Canadian capital. Far enough inland to be safe from attacking Americans, the Rideau Canal was built to connect this landlocked city to Lake Ontario. Danielle hooked us up with her sister Nicole who lives in nearby Chelsea, so we had a place to stay and were treated to crepes for breakfast. Nicole is a kindergarten teacher who recently utilized a government-supported sabbatical plan in which she is paid two-thirds of her
The Amish shun "graven images," so we respected their wishes and did not photograph them, although Shelly's shutter finger was itching! She contented herself with studies of laundry lines on Monday Wash Day.
salary for two years, then takes a year off at two-thirds pay plus continued benefits, and her job is waiting for her when she returns. Alas, she says not many of her co-workers take advantage of the program. “I guess they like their full salary,” she shrugs. Ah, we should all practice thrift, if just to train ourselves for opportunities like this one!
In Ottawa, Jeff spent a day at the new Canadian War Museum
; I wandered the huge Canadian Museum of Civilization
(hmmm, which one of us is the most evolved, do you think?). On the lawn in front of the impressive Parliament buildings, we saw a music-and-light show one night and the next morning watched the elaborate Changing of the Guard ceremony. It went on and on in the glaring sun, and one band member fainted from the heat and had to be carried off on a stretcher, his tall, furry, black hat in the hands of one medic and his trombone in another’s. Made me feel the ceremony had gone a bit too far.
Here’s another instance of going a bit too far, in our opinion: the island of mandated Frenchness that is
Amish Phone Booth
More laundry hung out to dry at an Amish residence, and a phone booth at a crossroads -- since their religion dictates no telephones in the home.
Quebec province. We crossed into this province July 20 and although we’d been warned, we were taken aback by the abrupt transition to English to French as the sole official language. We assumed official signage would be bilingual, but it’s not. Signs are in English and
French on the south side of the Ottawa River, and in French only on the north side. If an English translation is provided, by law it has to be in smaller font than the French version. We quickly learned that we would be spoken to in French at restaurants and shops unless we spoke English first. So we murmur “merci” and puzzle out words that bear some relation to Spanish, the only other Romance language we know. However, Jeff and I nearly came to blows at a busy intersection where he mistook a “left turn only” sign for the name of the avenue and refused to turn.
We are sensitive to being taken for loutish unilingual Americans, but it does seem odd to us, and our hosts in Montreal agree. Harold and Ansy are native Montrealers but part of the minority anglophone community in Quebec’s largest city, and they’ve seen French cultural dominance
Jennifer's mother and grandmother drove us around Conewanga Valley, stopping here on a slow country road to chat with friends.
legislated in the last 30 years since the Parti Quebecois came to power. We were quite interested to hear their views on the “separatist” movement that would have Quebec declare its independence from the rest of Canada. The last referendum was put to a popular vote in 1995 and narrowly defeated. Harold and Ansy worry the economy of Quebec would collapse, and they would lose their investment in a house if separation ever came to pass.
This interesting family we also found through GlobalFreeloaders.com
. Ansy is a teacher, off for the summer, and Harold is an aerospace engineer who for the last 10 months has been working in Massachusetts. He commutes the 4-1/2 hours home only on weekends, and happily we overlapped. Their three sons, aged 17-23, are also living at home while pursuing their first round of school and job pursuits. But there was plenty of room for all of us in their early 1900s, semi-detached brick home in a quiet neighborhood of West Montreal.
From there, Harold led us on a 14-mile (gasp!) bike ride all the way downtown on a network of bike paths. We started along the Lachine Canal and ended up at the
Friends of friends hosted us in Waterloo, Ont. Here's Craig and Nath with kids Zoe and Jonas, and some delectable pizzas we enjoyed for dinner.
port docks, and on the return peddle, it started to rain. It came a good downpour, which fortunately did not cancel the Twins Parade that afternoon. We all went downtown to see that (part of the Just for Laughs festival - why is it we find it funny when people look alike?), then Harold and Ansy narrated an excellent walking tour of Old Montreal. Thinking of ways to return their hospitality, I baked a chocolate cake and shared a salmon marinade recipe, then made a hitched rope covering for their refrigerator door handle, which was tattered and sticky with exposed foam. Ansy says now they’ll never be able to replace their fridge!
Montreal is a hip, happening city, and we just sampled a smidgen of the fare: a performance of Shakespeare in the park (“Much Ado About Nothing”) by the Repercussion Theatre
, watching the Montreal International Dragon Boat Festival
races in the Olympic Basin, and a window-shopping stroll along Rue Ste. Catherine that led to an impulsive purchase of a pair of stylish leather dress shoes for Jeff—for job hunting this coming winter, he claims. I’m happy with my copper barrette purchased from a street vendor.
Craig & Nath
Craig is a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo who wrote his doctoral thesis on the tesselations (tiling patterns) in Islamic art. Here he shows off a wooden Islamic star pattern that he programmed a computer to cut out, while wife Nath knits a nice contrast.
splurge in Montreal was eating fine French cuisine at Restaurant Europea, an eatery selected from literally hundreds in the city through their website
, which lists their prices (quite reasonable for lunch) and menu (so we could confirm gluten-free options). For a grand total of $82, we had a truly gourmet experience with a non-intimidating waiter who served us four courses (a teaser, a starter, an entrée, and dessert) and a palate-cleansing bite or sip between each one of these. Plus he selected two glasses of wine to match, and dessert was accompanied by cappuccino. I practically had to twist Jeff’s arm to spend this much money on a meal, but he was sold on the idea after the second bite. We lingered for two hours over what Jeff called the “meal-ettes,” savoring each mouthful, and decided the finale was our favorite: chocolate and orange mousse, with lime sorbet on the side. If you click here
by Friday, the week’s menu we enjoyed should still be posted. Au revoir!
P.S. You can finally read my published travelogue (June 11) on hurricane-hammered Bay St. Louis, Miss., here: Page 1 Page 2
Thanks to the Peninsula Daily News
Nath on Bike
Craig and Nath don't own a car, an impressive feat with two small children. Here Nath heads off down a quiet street with the kids in the bike trailer. We did help out with a large-item grocery run in Matilda while we were there!
There are more photos below