2017 Cross-Country, Durham to Detroit

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July 31st 2017
Published: July 31st 2017
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John wanted to visit Toronto and Detroit, so we are accomplishing both. Across NH and VT and NY to Watertown crossing to Canada. One day meandering around Toronto and another day visiting with my cousin Pat Meier. She took us to the McMichael Art Gallery which features Canadian art. Next day we drove to Detroit and toured the huge and impressive Institute of Art. Next stop, visiting friends in Ann Arbor.


John had removed the tennis balls from the windshield wiper supports and reinserted the blades. Good idea because we had light to moderate rain all through NH and VT. It seemed like a good day for soup, so John checked "soup" on the GPS and found "Soup Kitchen." I was dubious, but he drove there anyway. I was right. It really was a soup kitchen at a church. We finally found a diner, which is pretty easy in that area because they are abundant.

For the most part, John likes to bypass tolls and major highways. Hence we drove through some weary parts of Troy, Schenectady, and Amsterdam NY. It would be possible to cross the country on major highways and not really get a flavor for how many Americans are living. We spent our first night, back to RV life, at a campground north of Johnstown NY.

The GPS worked well for us except for one suggested route which had a 10'11" and 6 ton limit... We noticed a preponderance of car-related shops: sales of mostly used, repair, auto parts, etc. The terrain was pretty, with rolling hills, farms, villages. There were buggy signs, but we saw no Amish or Mennonite.

We stopped at a diner in Lowville, NY. John commented on the odor of cow in the air, and later research revealed that Lowville has the largest cream cheese factory in the world.

We had been forewarned that we could spend two to three hours at the border crossing. But we drove right up to a toll booth and were through in just a couple of minutes. On to a nice campground outside Kingston, Ontario. It had rained a lot in eastern Ontario recently, and the flooded areas were drying up slowly. In the evening we drove into Kingston and walked all around the downtown; very nice place.

Our third day, sunny at last, brought us to our campground north of Toronto. We managed to hit rush hour in the city, but it wasn't too bad. That was largely because they have "collection" lanes (I had to look that up to make sure it didn't mean tolls, since we had no Canadian money). Instead, they are lanes to the right of the through lanes, which you access a couple of miles before your exit. Neat idea. They also use fluorescent lane markings in construction areas, and it does help.

Next day, we set off to explore the city. It took the better part of an hour to reach and park at the subway station. We had meant to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario for a Georgia O'Keefe exhibit, but went downtown instead. Got off in the Financial District - boring! tall buildings. We walked to the St. Lawrence Market and enjoyed looking at all the wares for sale. There was a lot of meat, and I learned that it used to be the only place in town where meat could be butchered, so farmers would walk their animals through the city to there.

We continued exploring upscale areas of town, but got hungry, hot, and foot-sore. We had lunch at the Sunset Grill, which I still think is misnamed because they only serve breakfast and isn't that usually at sunrise? Back to the campground. We weren't really eager to go back downtown again, so we missed a lot of the fine things there but c'est la vie.

Next morning, my cousin Pat arrived and endured my showing and gabbing about family photos for quite awhile. She then drove us to the McMichael Art Gallery which is north of the city and not too far from the campground. We enjoyed looking at the art there, which intentionally focuses on Canadian themes even though many of the artists had trained abroad. A leisurely lunch in the cafe was followed by a nice walk through the surrounding woods.

My prime impression of Toronto is that it is an amazingly multinational place. Downtown we saw turbans, head scarves, lots of baseball caps because there was a Blue Jays game, etc. etc. We only got local antenna TV, but it had Serbian, Italian, Japanese, etc. etc. news.

Next day we headed toward Detroit/US, and stayed in a conservation area campground before the border. Because of construction, we had to use a different exit from the highway, and we drove quite a few miles on narrow dirt roads to get there. But we were the only non-Ontario license plate we saw, and there were lots of little kids, which delights us, woodsmoke, some tents. The drive from Toronto had taken us past a lot of factories, but mostly gently rolling hills and farmland. And was it ever windmill territory! They were scattered for miles and miles, and there were numerous sites where additional windmills will be hoisted. The power production led to seemingly endless lines of pairs of towers carrying power lines. They were tall and did dominate the landscape. It helped me understand better why people are opposing the Northern Pass power lines in NH, but...

Our border crossing the next day took longer than the previous one, but still was less than an hour. We drove past Detroit to a county fair grounds, unhooked the car, and drove back into the city to the Art Institute. It is huge and we seem to have parked as far from the entrance as possible. We visited many of the exhibits. There were very good plaques on the wall pointing out the features to notice in each room. But the writing was a bit small and I was chastised for getting too close to a wall next to a precious Van Gogh. We saw as many exhibits as our feet would allow, and then found a cafe for a mid-afternoon coffee break.

John really is a great tour guide. I would have headed straight back to the fair grounds, but he wanted to drive through downtown. It was a sunny Sunday and the streets of downtown were crowded with strolling folks and music. It gave a wonderful impression of the city. Then we drove through the west end of the city and came to some understanding of the plight of the city. There was block after block of abandoned store fronts along a nice wide street. The side streets did have houses and parked cars, and didn't look terrible, but we didn't drive down any to get a more accurate idea. After the city limits were reached, the towns looked more ordinary. But the contrasts we saw will stick with me.


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