Lake Erie Circle Tour Journal: Day #8 The Final Day plus Reflections

Day #8 Monday, June 3, 2019

Free breakfast at the Quality Inn for me consisted of Raisin Bran and coffee. It was our last day on the road.  Leaving New York behind us we drove into the little sliver of Pennsylvania that touches the lakeshore. Rory and Kay had previously been to a little place called Aunt Millies. We made a quick stop there and I bought a loaf of raisin bread. It was wonderful, with big thick slices that toasted up crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. A step above the grocery store version that I usually get.

I had stumbled across a place in my reading called Stan’s Garden Center. It claimed to be the largest garden center between Buffalo and Cleveland. I had made a note of the address, thinking that John and I could return to visit it later in the week. It was less than an hour from our home. When I mentioned it, Rory and Kay, also working on their home landscape, were interested in seeing Stans too. We made it our next morning stop.

The first thing we saw when we pulled into the parking lot at Stan’s was the large selection of concrete figures. A winged gargoyle stood 4’ tall and wide. Other creatures included a turtle bench, a chimpanzee in a suit, horses, dogs, birds, bird baths, planters, a gargoyle on a motorcycle, a giant skull, squirrels, rabbits, gnomes, a mermaid, alligator, whale, and so on. Stan’s had everything a gardener might want—perennials, annuals, vegetables, hanging baskets, trees – and they had varieties that are usually impossible to find locally. We had no room amongst our luggage for purchases but the visit gave us lots of ideas. It also gave me a chance to see and then to think about what I wanted to buy on a return trip.

At the Erie Maritime Museum a tour was beginning as we arrived. A woman at the desk encouraged us to join it. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. The tour was with a classroom of 11 and 12 year olds on a class field trip. I hesitated because I didn’t think a school would approve of having what had now turned into six or eight strange adults joining a class tour. The volunteers kept encouraging us to join them. Having little choice we followed the group. We climbed aboard the Niagara, a replica of Perry’s War of 1812 flagship and began the tour. This part of our vacation I could have done without. The ship was crowded. Stairs were little more than ladders. The tour guide, while probably filled with information, was uninspiring with this group of children. When we got below deck, even I, at 5’0”, who has never in my life been too tall for anything, had to walk stooped over. It was dark and crowded and gave us a good idea of how uncomfortable life must have been for the soldier/sailors who had to live aboard. Just when I thought we were going to return to the upper deck, we were led deeper into the lower deck. Now I really was getting claustrophobia. The tour seemed endless. Finally we returned to the light of day and disembarked. Glad to be off the ship, walking through the museum was a lot less stressful.

We lunched at a place John and I had eaten previously, the pretty vine covered Smuggler’s Wharf. The deck was not set up for summer guests. We sat indoors. The food was good but the ambiance did not compare to the summertime deck that is usually dripping with flower filled hanging baskets.

It’s odd — the different customs that you find when travelling from place to place. In Canada, what puzzled us the most was the total unavailability of unsweetened iced tea. We asked at every restaurant. No unsweetened tea. Waitresses looked at us funny when we asked for it. Canadians couldn’t understand why anyone would want iced tea that wasn’t pre-sweetened. Now that we were back on the U.S. side of the border ,we could get it anywhere. How strange it is, what that imaginary line can mean.

We made a pass through Presque Isle, not stopping but getting a glimpse of Perry’s Monument and the various beaches that would be more inviting on a hot summer day. Then we continued along the coast road all the way home, making our final stop for dinner at Mary’s Kitchen in Geneva-on-the -Lake. We were soon home to unwind, reflect, and sleep once again in our own beds.

We returned home to find the Rhododendrons in full bloom!


John and I had been traveling alone together or with family for 25 years. Our travel habits were well established. This was our first attempt at vacationing with friends who would have their own established routines.

Some people should not vacation with others. Those unwilling or unable to follow a basic schedule, adapt to changing plans, or accept the quirks, qualms, and quibbles of others should not attempt to vacation with friends. Being willing to accept those things and having laid out needs and expectations ahead of time, we were all optimistic that the four of us would have none of the problems that sometimes plague vacations and ruin friendships.

We had been friends for decades. There would be few surprises. My biggest pre-trip concern had been that Rory and Kay had described themselves as “non-planners.” I assumed that meant they wanted to climb into the car each day and wander in whatever direction the road might take them. I, on the other hand, spend hours plotting routes and planning destinations. By the start of any vacation, I have already traveled my entire journey and its alternative possibilities in my head and on paper. Would differing travel styles be a problem?

But half a glass of water is the same whether you describe it as half empty or half full.  As we talked, the lexicon slowly unraveled and I realized that we were working with the same glass of water. While I put a schedule down on paper, John and I were unlikely to stick to it. Coming across new and interesting places along the road would always divert attention and change travel plans. And while Rory didn’t document the places he wanted to see, he did carry options for each day in his head and Kay wrote out a brief summary. They too would be swayed by new discoveries. We traveled in much the same way. We just described it differently.

There are things we missed that I wish we had done. The train ride that turned out to be closed was a disappointment and I regret not walking through the individual Botanical Gardens and not seeing the Niagara Falls Flower Showcase. There were a few meals we could have skipped and a few hotels that deserve less than stellar reviews. But there were other things we did and saw that were unexpected joys which I am glad to have experienced.

Travel is like that. You plan and plan and then you let the road take you where it wants to go. Sometimes it follows your plan. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s all good.

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