Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Happy 4th of July...from Canada

Nothing exciting today to report, that's for sure. So, here's a story that happened to me the weekend some friends and I decided to go Niagara Falls at the spur-of-the-moment for the long 4th of July weekend, 2003:

At about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday my friend Mike called to say that his & his friends’ plans to go to northern MN had fallen through, so at the last minute they decided to take a trip to Niagara Falls and did I want to go with them? So I said I would.

His friend Kathy got her Dad’s van and their other two friends, Kiki and Nikki, and drove to Winona from Minneapolis. We left Winona at about 9:30 and drove all night (not unlike Celine Dion) to Detroit for breakfast. Let me tell you, Detroit was desolate (being that nobody was at work). So we ate breakfast in Greektown and had this waitress who was like the pregnant version of Flo from “Alice.” We got done eating and Mike was accosted by “Greek Gary,” who was a homeless man wearing some sort of long cloth fashioned into a skirt/wrap, no shoes and a dirty T-shirt that was WAY too small. He didn’t speak English (we think it was either Greek or Crack Gibberish), but we deduced that Greek Gary needed a cigarette. When one was produced by Mike, Greek Gary let out a hearty laugh and proceeded to thank Mike in Crack Gibberish, all the while protruding saliva. It was horrifying, but still laughable. We toured the downtown Detroit area and surrounding neighborhoods…it was worn down. Our reason for the Detroit visit was the Motown Museum…closed.

Next we crossed the US/Canadian bridge to Windsor, Ontario (right across the lake from Detroit). That was a nice little city, so we walked along the lakefront & ate lunch at an Irish pub, where our server was from England and not a very happy girl. We went to a creepy souvenir shop and were followed around by the foreign owners who thought we might steal and were very unapologetic about following us. One friend bought something and they had to go down the street to get the change b/c the boss had lost the cash register key! It was a little odd. From Windsor, the Detroit skyline/downtown looks kind of nice.

From Windsor, we drove a few hours to Port Burwell, Ontario. The area looks the same as MN/WI…rural. The road was right alongside Lake Eerie, but the people don’ seem to realize they live on a lake. No docks…mostly plain, boring houses. We took a wrong turn in this town about the size of Lake City. Lots of Mennonites lived there and walked along the streets. We turned around a little outside of town at one of their Mennonite Groceries (for the summer farm workers) and saw a child of the corn (Mennonite), whom we nicknamed Ezekiel. He was about 8-10 years old, 4’ tall and about 20 pounds…he wore dark green polyester overalls that were a little too short, a plain shirt underneath and a generic green & white baseball hat w/ no lettering and a mesh back. He leaned against a post on the porch of this Mennonite store and stared into our vehicle with piercing blue eyes…wondering….plotting. We sat there for a few minutes just staring back at him in disbelief. Finally my friend Mike said he thought Ezekiel was staring into his soul. We whipped the van around to get out of Ezekiel’s cultish gathering place and with that, he lept off the porch and sprinted toward us. We all screamed in horror until we realized that his parents had just arrived and he was running to their vehicle…not at us. It was scary nonetheless and we always carried the sneaking suspicion that little Ezekiel was either riding on the roof of the van, or clung to the axel underneath.

We finally made it to Port Burwell; a very small town that has the oldest lighthouse on Lake Eerie’s North Shore. Of course as soon as we set up the campsite and got ready to visit the beach, the thunder & lightening began. We threw all clothes, etc., back in the van just in time before the monsoon hit (Ezekiel’s doing, we knew). Plans of sitting around a campfire foiled, we decided to visit Port Burwell’s only bar, Curly’s Cove (or something like it). I think the record scratched when we walked in…2 white boys, 2 white girls and a black girl (Kiki). Well, it was karaoke night, so it didn’t take long for us to cheer the locals on while they sang country hits and golden oldies. Kiki & the rest of my traveling companions got up to sing a couple numbers and people began asking us where we were from. By the end of the night, a local we called "Singin’ Cheryl" had dedicated a few songs to us, (she’s probably about 65 and married to Singin’ Ron, who had about 8 too many Canadian Molson’s). We decided to go swimming in Lake Eerie since the rain stopped, so left the bar after a couple hours…much to their dismay. We left with “Welcome to Canada, eh!” and “Minnesota, eh!!” cheers. Some followed us to the van. This was only after one of the challened Kiki to an arm-wrestling match and wouldn't let up until she agreed. He kept asking her, "How did you get such big arms?" She said, "From lifting forks to my mouth..."

After swimming, we returned to the campsite where we had a fire. A Canadian visited our site and proceeded to give us the history of Canada since we admitted to being very ignorant about their country. That was a treat. I suspect he liked our beer. I've since forgotten any Canadian history he taught us.

We left the next afternoon for Niagara Falls, driving across Ontario toward East Toronto and Hamilton (another bigger city), where we crossed Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls is a cool place. We took the “Maiden of the Mist” boat tour in the river at the foot of the falls. As soon as we got down there, the rain started. We all had to wear rain parkas anyway b/c of the mist created by the waterfalls. But because of the mist, water just sprays into the boat in torrents. Kiki stood in the middle of the lower deck, clinging onto a pole and screaming bloody murder…this was after she pushed a few white girls aside at the boat’s deck to vomit. On the boat, you discover that a 63-year-old female school teacher did plunge successfully down the falls in a barrel in the 1930s. Also, a 7-year-old boy also survived the fall in the ‘60s. If visiting the falls, I highly suggest going to the Canadian side. You can’t see as much from the American side.

After only two quick questions at the border, to our surprise, we re-entered America and were in New York. We took the quick drive to Buffalo and walked around the downtown theatre district looking for a restaurant. A bartender suggested Cazemel, a Mexican place. It was a fun bar/restaurant with patio seating and music…looked like a popular spot for Buffalo’s younger crowd. Buffalo is a nice city with an old downtown. Probably about the size of Madison, Wis.

We drove through New York, Pennsylvania and finally got to Cleveland really late. Of course, no tour of the weekend would be complete without going through the ghetto, so that was nice to see. We found a hotel in a less shady area of Cleveland and crashed. Yesterday, we got up and went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It was cool to see…a little less than I expected, but still good. Lots of the displays are of clothes worn on their tours. Mostly ‘70s-today performers. While there, I saw Jim Morrison’s baby book and high school letter, outfits worn by Madonna, N’Sync, the Supremes, childhood drawings by Jimmie Hendrix & Jim Morrison, Elton John outfits, Mama Cass mumu, Elvis leisure suits, Bee Gees outfits, Rolling Stones things, etc., etc., etc. So, it was pretty interesting.

We left there, and I drove from Indiana to Madison…and we got home late last night. It was a fun time. And pretty cheap too with 5 of us splitting everything.

Anyway, that was my 4th of July weekend spent mostly in a foreign country(!). In 1999, I was in England on the 4th of July...I'm so pat-reotic.


  • That trip kicks ass! So funny!
    Especially Ezekiel. I laughed so hard at the thought of a termenator menonite child of the corn.

    Sorry you had such a bad time in Detroit-you're fist mistake was going there. Next time you come through MI, let me know and I'll show you around.

    By Blogger lynne, at 9:20 AM  

  • Yes, Ezekial was thoroughly scary. We didn't have a bad time in Detroit - Greek Gary provided lots of laughs. Plus, we went through the wrong/bad neighborhoods.

    By Blogger Kiddo78, at 12:51 PM  

  • I love that Kiki had to vomit over the side of the boat. And I liked her response tot he Canadian- "by lifting my fork." Today someone asked why I never answer my office phone around the noon hour. I told them because I'm out at lunch- does it look like I ever skip a meal? I thought it was funny.

    I also love that they were disappointed when you wre leaving the bar. I usually get escorted out.

    By Blogger hot babe, at 2:30 PM  

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