Monday: Off to Canada. We were up early and on our way by 9:10. We took the first bridge into Canada, where we cleared quickly with no problems. The problems began later. Finding our way to Kitchener looked simple on the map but proved difficult on the ground. For one thing, our Garmin GPS was unreliable. When I updated the maps, it didn’t include Canada (because I hadn’t gotten them originally). I eventually just unplugged it. On the other hand, the Tom Tom (which came with the vehicle) worked just fine --- though it was hard to read. I eventually switched it to metric. I could read my speed in km/hr. (since the Mercedes speedometer only shows MPH).
For another thing, road markings in Canada are unfamiliar. Routes are marked well enough in the country, but not at all in towns. There it becomes real detective work. In one town we stopped and asked a flagger, who confirmed that we were on Route 8. Minutes later the road was blocked and we were sent on a detour right back the way we came. At least the detour was well marked.
Since our destination was the Roadtrek factory, we tried putting Roadtrek’s address in the Tom Tom and it did guide us there --- though the technique was very different from the Garmin’s and required some interpretation. We arrived at Roadtrek with plenty of time to spare before our scheduled factory tour. There was no one at the reception desk, so we went back to the van and had lunch. Besides being signed up for a factory tour, I had hoped to get some tech help Unfortunately, there were no techs available at that time. We were approached by a salesman who was very friendly and helpful. That was true of everyone we met there.
Just before our tour began, my heart rate went up to 175 --- probably a reaction to the two hours of stressful driving in heavy traffic on strange roads. I took a pill and went on the tour anyway, I just asked him to go slow. There was a third person on the tour, a man who was in the market and very interested in the construction details. The factory was very warm and humid, and half-way through the tour I went back to the air-conditioned customer lounge and took another pill.
After I had rested a while, Jim (possibly Hammil, the owner) and a tech, allegedly their best, came in and discussed my questions (Jim left soon). I had three concerns. The first was the clicking in the battery separator. He had no clue about that. I had noticed that it only started doing it after the solar panels were installed, but he confirmed that they were installed correctly.
Then we talked about the sink dropping down on one side (it is epoxied to the underside of the counter top). He showed me the epoxy they use. So I will look for some of that. Finally, there was the problem of no TV when operating on antenna. I was following all the proper steps. I did point out a broken F-plug on the back of the TV. He got a new end fitting and put it on --- though we didn’t try it. He also plugged in an audio cable that was hanging loose.
I laid down and rested until my heart rate returned to normal. Meanwhile, Daren, the salesman, printed out directions to the Niagara KOA where we had reservations.
We left the factory about 4:00, following the directions. All went well until we turned to go onto the QEW (a major freeway). We ran into the worst traffic jam I ever saw. Five and six lanes wide and packed in as far as the eye could see. We concluded that it was caused by a major wreck, though two hours later when we got to where we had seen all the flashing lights, everything was all cleaned up and the traffic just started moving again.
One of the vehicles we saw in the mess was a large, Mercedes. The front half looked like a bus, though short. The back half was blank (on our side) and as high as a semi trailer. It had Alaska tags. When we saw the other side later, the high part had two rows of small windows with curtains, sort of like a Pullman car.
When we got near the end of Daren’s directions, the highway signs didn’t match his directions, so we pulled off and entered the address in the Tom Tom. This time we got a tiny street map with a line on it. It was very hard to read, and was not aligned with our direction of travel so it required quite a bit of interpretation. Who knows why the difference?
We found the KOA. After we got settled in and took a nap we went out to Boston Pizza for dinner. Tomorrow we will take public transportation down town to see the Falls from the Canadian side
Tuesday: After breakfast we went to the office and bought two bus passes and a bottle of water with the Canadian money I got from Alan. The buses are very long and bend in the middle.
As soon as we got to the Falls there was a shower, so we scooted inside and put on our rain coats. There is a large, old building there that contains rest rooms and several businesses. It turned out that was all the rain we saw despite a forecast of 80% chance of thunderstorms.
The Canadian side has Horseshoe Falls (so named because it is curved) which are wider than the Falls on the American side, but seven feet shorter. You can see all of the Falls from Canada.
You can get right up to the edge of Horseshoe Falls, literally. Standing at the rail you are just a couple of feet from several thousand gallons of green water rushing over the edge at about 25 knots (about 30 miles per hour).
We watched the boats approach the falls and stand still in the current (probably at almost full throttle) for several minutes while a deck full of passengers get soaked in the spray.
“Maid of the Mist” boats come from the American side; “Hornblower” boats come from the Canadian side. The later are catamarans, somewhat wider so they can carry more passengers.
The day was mostly overcast and grey --- though there were brief moments of sunshine, often producing rainbows in the mist.
After a while we went inside and had lunch at Tim Horton. This is basically a short-order sandwich place. Here, at least, there are no tables. You take your sack of lunch and find a bench someplace. After lunch, Jean shopped for a while in Canada’s Best. That is all we did besides the Falls. Both the American and Canadian sides are filled with “adventures” and tacky tourist traps. They make Virginia Beach look like an exercise in restraint and class.
We took the bus back and bought milk and juice (and a couple of post cards) from the camp store. Then the last, weary walk to the Roadtrek for Cuba Libres and naps --- the perfect end to an interesting day.
After dinner, I tried out the TV on antenna again. Still no luck. Someone told us we were trying to run a digital TV with an analog antenna. I’m not so sure, but it gives us another avenue of inquiry. Tomorrow, back to the States.