Lake Erie Circle Tour Journal: Day #2 Windsor to Leamington

I had not expected my phone to work once we crossed into Canada. I also didn’t expect that to be a problem. I never call anyone while on vacation and I would have Wifi available each evening so my family could contact me through e-mail or Messenger if they needed me. It turned out that Rory and Kay use the same cell service that I do. Their phones didn’t work either once we crossed the border. But that was a bigger problem. They had planned to use their phones as a GPS. John and I have a portable GPS navigation system that we plug into our cigarette lighter and which works like a modern-day charm. It never occurred to me that we might need it. Had I realized the need, I could have added a Canadian map and brought it with us. A small slip-up in our pre-travel planning.

I had no idea how we would navigate without a GPS aside from stopping to buy an Ontario road map. That would have worked just fine thanks to Mrs. Lofink’s fourth grade lesson plan that taught me in detail how to read a road map including the meaning behind interstate numbers and all of those cute little map symbols.  A road atlas is fine for advance travel planning and navigating between larger cities. But it isn’t detailed enough to get you around small towns. For that you need an actual state (or province) road map. More technologically savvy than either John or me however, Rory found a way to download travel maps into his phone that could guide us from place to place. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but he and Kay managed to make it work.

Tuesday morning came and we were all happy to pack up early and get away from the Ivy Rose Motel, a place that, for a number of reasons, we might all recommend – but only to our greatest enemies. Rory had found a local restaurant that opened at 7 a.m. Paul’s Kitchen was a winner, making breakfasts that were much too big and no less than delicious.

Our goal was to follow the Detroit River south to the town of Amherstburg. Without a GPS this required a bit of guessing. As Rocky drove, navigational advice chimed from the remaining three corners of the car.

Kay studied the downloaded Google map. The map lady said things like “Drive South on River Road.” South? Which way is south?

Rory turned left.

“No,” Kay said, “I think you were supposed to turn right.” Too late now.

Another left turn.

“But the river has to be behind us.” Kay studied the map.

We drove through a nice residential area. Nice homes. Pretty landscaping. Rory made another left turn. Dead end. He turned around.

“This looks right, doesn’t it? Yes, it must be right.”

“Didn’t we go through this intersection a few minutes ago?”

“Wait, I see moss! Which side of the tree does the moss grow on?”

“There’s a sign for the highway! Isn’t that the road we want?”

“There’s a Tim Hortons. Anybody need coffee or a bathroom?”

We found Amherstburg via the scenic route. Hey, we got there. That’s all that mattered.

And then we discovered that the visitor’s center at Fort Malden was… “CLOSED.” Closed? They must be kidding.

But the gates were open. Okay, so the visitor’s center is closed. Who needs a visitor’s center anyway?

We passed through the gates and walked the grounds, reading the informational display boards, taking in the views of the Detroit river, and watching black squirrels do what black squirrels do in the springtime. It was a nice stroll, sunny and warm.

Fort Malden, we learned, was built by the British in 1795 to guard against an attack from America. During the War of 1812, Tecumseh helped plan the Siege of Detroit from there. Throughout Malden’s history it served as a fort, an asylum, a lumber mill and a private home.

In Leamington we lunched at the Lakeside Bakery and Deli which lived up to its reputation for great sandwiches and soups. It was one of those “order at the counter, get a number, and a server brings food to your table” places. Service was slow but we were in no hurry. A small gift shop offered food items, cooking utensils and other culinary items. The bakery portion of the shop had cases filled with delicate pastries and other sweet treats. Unfortunately, lunch was so filling we didn’t have room left to try any.

In Pelee National Park we walked the Marsh Boardwalk at a slow and easy pace, stopping every few feet to take in the views, observe turtles and watch the many birds. It took us about an hour and a half to complete the loop. This is Canada’s most ecologically diverse park and is known for excellent bird watching opportunities. We were happy to return when we did. After walking the boardwalk and returning to the starting point, we realized the water level of the lake was rising. The beginning of the boardwalk where we had begun was now under water. Water was also washing right up and under the benches along the shore.

Further along the road we came to the visitor center where we hopped onto a shuttle and rode to a drop off point. From there we walked a short distance to the beach. Kay and I were satisfied to sit down on a driftwood log and watch the sandpipers scurry at the edge of the water. John and Rory continued walking the beach to the very tip which is Canada’s most southern point.

Returning to the shuttle stop, we waited beneath a protective rooftop and enjoyed watching barn swallows that had built multiple nests in the cracks and crevices of the overhangs. We hopped on the last shuttle of the day that would return us to our car. Others were still lingering on the beach. For those who missed the last shuttle, it would be a long walk back to the parking lot.

The Sea Cliff Inn in Leamington could have been a five-star experience. The rooms are clean and well-appointed with nice furnishings and a fireplace. Three stories high, the lack of an elevator was inconvenient. We had to carry our bags up the stairs to the second floor. It was little more than an inconvenience. The view from our room overlooked a side street and Lake Erie. It was not a view I’d have paid an extra fee to have. The lake was quite a distance from the hotel and the busy street passing below our window was filled with noisy traffic all night long. The sounds of racing engines and squealing tires gave me visions of sitting on the starting line at the Indianapolis 500. I suspect that rooms which overlook the back side of the hotel are much quieter.

 In the second floor hallway directly across from our door, the ice machine was pumping out an enormous amount of hot air. A worse problem was the temperature of our room. The thermostat read 82° when we arrived. I attempted to turn on the air conditioner and we left the room to have dinner across the street at Ray’s Rib House, expecting the room to be cooler when we returned. It wasn’t. It was 1 ½ hours later, but the thermostat still read 81°.

I walked down the stairs but the office had closed for the night at 6 pm. A note left at the desk included two phone numbers to call. Well, that was a problem since our cell phones weren’t working and there was no phone in either our room or the lobby.

The note gave the room number of the house manager. I knocked on his door and explained the problem. Following me back to our room, he set our thermostat to “auto” which I hoped would solve the problem. The manager insisted that an AC company had just serviced the hotel, as if that should assure me that I wasn’t really sweating. He opened all of the windows in our room. But the few windows that opened were small and did not fully open to allow in a breeze. John asked if the temperature could be set lower than 70°. The manager said “no.” The owners had all of the thermostats locked at a minimum cooling temperature of 70°. I guess if we wanted a cooler room for sleeping, we were out of luck.

A weak flow of air was blowing from our floor vents, but it was only slightly cooler than the air in the room. I flipped on the bathroom exhaust fan for a while hoping to remove some of the hot air at the ceiling.  An hour later, the temperature had only dropped one more degree. The thermostat now read 80°. We closed the windows. We opened the windows. Nothing helped. I thought the manager might come back to check on us, but he never did. We didn’t know it, but our friends were having a similar experience in their room at the other end of the hall. Exhausted from a long day of sightseeing, I lay down on top of the bed covers and fell asleep.

I awoke at 1:30 a.m. The temperature was 79°. I found John was still awake. He was now furious about the heat and working crossword puzzles in the bathroom so as not to disturb me. While I can sleep through just about anything, he cannot. I made him lie down and we talked until he finally dozed off. Now wide awake and not wanting to take any chance at waking John, I moved to the sofa. I remained awake the rest of the night. At 6 a.m. the temperature in the room was 77°.

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