Monday, February 25, 2008

Running Amuck the Canuck

After wearing myself out sufficiently by trotting around Dundurn Castle, I crawled back into my vehicle and aimed it west. Figured it didn't really matter too much where I went as long as I was going in the right direction, towards home. I toodled along the highway until a Costco sign in the distance caught my eye, and I headed for that. Costco is a nice place to shop, but to me it tends to mean Place to Gas Up--inside and out, me and the car. At home I get gasoline there or at Super Wal-Mart, as a rule--whichever has the best deal at the time. Unfortunately on this trip there were very few Costcos or Wal-Marts along the way with gas pumps. Still, Costco has a nifty snack bar with cheap soda (my gas) so I thought I'd do some browsing and get a coke, at the least.

I found myself in a parking lot where most of the cars were identical to my own, which made me laugh. I went into the store and basically had lunch right off--samples galore. Looked for electric coolers and generally noted differences. I kept thinking there was a bigger difference in the US/Canadian exchange rates but I had to continually readjust my brain...most prices were a good deal (double) higher than at home, though not all of them. Saw nothing in the camping line, coolers nor big deal. Finally I went to the snack bar and was pleased to see my soda available for the usual 75 cents and then horrified to realize that was for the small size. But since one got refills it wasn't really too bad (though Dr. Pepper was not available...not surprisingly, but, well, it's a Texas thang). I was fascinated by the differences in the snack bar offerings. Looked the same as Costco or Sam's in the states, but different foods. At home we have frozen yogurt (chocolate/vanilla/twist), berry sundae, mocha or latté frozen drinks, chicken bake (sort of a pasty-burrito kind of thing), jumbo soda (44oz), small soda (20oz), hotdog/sausage with small soda deal, Dove bar ice cream (with or without nuts), churros (twisty long pastry sticks rolled in sugar & cinnamon--basically a Mexican doughnut), chicken Caesar salads, and pizza (cheese, pepperoni, or combo [supreme], whole or by the slice). I say all that because the Canadian version of the menu told me a lot about Canadians...only small sodas--in the southwest states you can barely fill the cup before the stuff has least in essence--you guzzle! Probably rarely gets that hot for long up here, of course, even in Ontario. They did have the hotdog/soda deal too, I think, though. And it seems like there were Dove bars, and soft serve ice cream...sundaes (plural). Hot beef sandwiches instead of the chicken bake, nothing resembling salad nor churros and I don't recall any frozen drinks (again not too surprising); rather than pizza (what, no pizza?), fries. Fries plain, fries with gravy, and poutine.

I'd heard Canada was the land of fries, and on my few trips, I had noted that as a fact. I had gotten some poutine at the Pt. Edward park last trip and had hoped to repeat it, but hey, I was more or less hungry now and here. So I did my figuring and went up to happily utter a phrase I will probably never get the chance to say again, save in the retelling..."Poutine and pop, please!" Yes, godhelpme, I love poutine. Sounds awful to American ears, or at least to the health-conscious, but to me it's just northern chili cheese fries. French fries, gravy and cheese curds. Here's a shot of the dish from my previous trip.

The Costco version turned out to be huge, and I was tempted to invite strangers to my feast. I got a Canada Dry ginger ale to go all-out Canuck and sat down to people-watch for awhile. I came to the conclusion that while Texas had a reputation for large bodies, it was not necessarily the only overweight population around. Poutine has its drawbacks, apparently.

When I got tired of that and finished, I went on and stopped at the little shopping center I'd hit last trip--had a Dollarama getting started then. It had had a very good deal on paint brushes and I hoped it still did. So I went shopping. They'd filled the store by now and I wound up filling a basket with art stuff and gifties for friends. Not only did I find the brushes, but I got the coolest little articulated skeleton. I'd never seen a small one like that, for a buck yet! Halloween would be around the corner, though I thought it would be a nifty little model, too. I've seen large ones at Halloween stores, but not a doll version. Barbie with a severe case of anorexia, or Ken with a curse. Here he/she is, last Christmas...

I took a look in the grocery store nearby, noted gas prices, but didn't really need anything yet so I went on. By this time JF was probably done with his business but I wasn't going to bother him now, and I forgot to even look for his place until I was back on the highway, LOL. Westward ho, I forged on, stopping at a reststop around London, I think, but there was little of note until I got back near the border. Took the high road so I could explore the Lake Huron parks some more. Plus I didn't really want to deal with the Detroit traffic.

This time I wound up at the Point Edward Park without even trying, just before sunset. So I got out and walked around. They had a few new features too (another beaver-y thing--some sort of mini-fish hatchery/zoo-let with beaver logos on the food dispensers), etc. etc. I walked around, from the Lake Huron side down past the Blue Water Bridge, along the St. Clair.

I didn't take that many pictures here since I took a number on the last trip. But I still played around with getting a few in the low light environment. Looked near and's the lighthouse/park across the border, across the water, in Michigan.

Breezy border flags.

Boats out on Lake Huron.

Speeding down the St. Clair, from Lake Huron.

It was breezy but not as cold as it had been on Lake Ontario that morning. Almost a different day. Of course I was on a different spot on the map, too. Chippy truck. Glad I got my Costco poutine...much better value there, and better poutine for that matter. I did go over to the ice cream shop on the other side of the park to repeat last trip's treat, but whereas last time it had been exciting--so hot there had been a line outside the shop for ice cream, and I barely got any in me before it great flavors...this time it was not as fun. Well, last time I'd also discovered I'd gone around with driblets of ice cream on my face, which happened to be raspberry, so I looked like a vampire after a kill, myself, from the way it happened to stick...I did wonder what the looks were about, and when I got in the car I and saw my face in the rearview mirror I fell over in hysterics...if you want to call all that 'fun.' That was then. Now was still fine, can't argue with ice cream. But no one was about but me and the took me a time to figure out what I wanted because they didn't have the same flavors, and I was rather distraught to find that I could not see up close at all--couldn't focus and thereby make change properly and had to apologize and dig for more. Then the flavors, while ok, didn't really work together like they had last trip. Guess you can't ever go Aging fast, maybe I should hightail it home before I turned to dust...however I just walked around gnawing on my ice cream cone until dusk...

Finally took a shot at the bridge and ambled back to the car. I needed to spend my change, since I couldn't trade that back, and I still hadn't gotten a little flag, so I looked for stores in Point Edward and Sarnia.

However it had gotten later than I thought, and little was open in the area I was in. Plus, there was road construction and I kept winding up going in circles. Gas was getting low, as well...not bad but not something to waste going in circles. Spent a few minutes in some grocery stores, but they didn't have anything I could afford with my change. Saw some areas along the river that I would have enjoyed exploring, had I known about them...never know about the future, though. I finally found a drug store, which just happened to have a little Canadian car flag in the clearance basket, real cheap, so, bingo. So cheap I still had about $1.35 left, and figured that could get a 'pop' somewhere. It turned out to be hard to find a somewhere, but I did end up at a 7-11 type gas/convenience store. I could afford a small drink, but not the tax, ironically. Argh, so close. At this point I was so tired and half-blind that I just asked the clerk if she could deal with a dumb American trying to use up her Canadian change before crossing back over the border, and she took pity on me so I got a tiny soda pop, a few pennies shy of the full cost, which she made up with the leave-a-penny/take-a-penny can. I needed to throw the caffeine in my face more than consume it, probably...anyway I headed for the border bridge after that. Even made it onto the bridge and over it, and was thrilled to see that the money exchange office was still open. Was also embarrassed to find an extra quarter...I could have afforded the pop-tax. Sheepish and sleepish I headed into the dark Michigan night.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dundurn Castle

Dundurn Castle became my next stomping grounds, so to speak. I tromped about and took some was all very Dark Shadowsy. Tour tickets seemed to be very pricey, though perhaps it was when I was there or I read the wrong thing, since the weblink doesn't seem quite so much as I remembered. But at the moment I was content to walk about and snoop out interesting angles. Only later did I piece together it apparently offered not just a plain vanilla tour, but a 'period piece' kind of tour, with actors portraying the staff, etc. as it would have had in its heyday. Here's an info link:
Apparently, as most old places properly sport, Dundurn has its share of ghosties and ghoulies, too. Of course, it is across the street from a cemetery. Those folks gotta have some place to party, after all.
Further on and behind the
main buildings, I found a little building.
Not sure if it was a sort of lighthouse
or boathouse or swimming
house or summer spot,
but it was mostly boarded up
and had a path to its side leading
down towards the water.
But it was too far from the
present shore to help me
make up my mind about
its original purpose. Garden house?
It was cute, anyway. Continuing west, there were
areas of wild along the edge,
and a nice kitchen garden nearby.
I saw some people touring that,
so I figured that was part of the
pay tour and stayed out of there.
I'm sure it was very nice,
from what I could see.
Anyway I hung out with the trees. Some trees were wild and untamed,
and some were quite stolid sorts.
This "v" framed the Castle nicely.
Main Castle buildings from behind
the little white building and assorted flora.
It was pretty overcast and still chilly,
but the buildings were certainly
surprisingly colorful in contrast.
Must be knock-outs on a sunny
blue-skied day. Look at
the designs on the tiled roofs.
It was close enough to see the inlet
from the lake behind the overgrowth
in the back of the park grounds.
Complete with maple leaves and
little red tuft flower accents, lol.
I walked back to the main
building and observed the door.
I think you went in there to start the tour.
I just spent a few minutes trying to
get a decent angle to take a picture
while preserving the feel of the area.
And wondering how anyone
could dust up there...
That'd be my luck to get the
job painting the columns.
An admirable place to hang a hat,
but obviously a neoclassic neckpain
to the caretakers, heheh.
Wonder if JF ever had a stint
there as a tour actor...of course
I don't know how long they've
been doing that, either.
I wandered back into the gift shop to look some more, but it was suddenly overrun with school kids. Guess someone was having a field trip. Wasn't hungry enough to try the restaurant, but did wait a while in getting a chance at the facilities...flipped through a book on tartans as I waited. One of these days I'll have to research the family stuff. In theory our Watsons came from a clan of Watts in Scotland, but I've yet to stumble on anything specific about that. Much later there was a Parliamentary-type fellow, a Lord Watson (inscribed somewhere in Parliament) who hooked up with an Irish lady from the house of House, and perhaps due to all the potato blight and the like, took off together to Georgia and founded a massive plantation. Which didn't do too well after General Sherman paid a visit (Robert E. Lee being a greatgreatgreatsomething godfather), and the family split up and headed mostly west and downhill from there, LOL. Oh well. Only family "name" I know on the Watson side is that Jesse James was a cousin (I came close to being named Jesse). Mom's side brings Grover Cleveland and Henry Clay. Of course everyone generations from now will point to that maverick Sherlock in the of my sisters has kids. There should be a few more drops of genetic material to stretch out a while, snicker. Anyway I never can find the correct tartan. I have a coat-of-arms design around somewhere, though...