The directions I downloaded from Google maps are pretty good, provided you don’t miss any exits or take too many rest stop detours. Still, the estimated time was 7hrs. to Oahawa, Ont. from Salt Point, NY was pretty optimistic. It took 10 hours. I know we missed the very first turn onto the Taconic Parkway (my fault) and had to buy a road atlas somewhere near the Connecticut border to figure out a way to get to I-87 north. I should have just used the GPS or the Google maps (tried the map but it’s hard to manage when someone else is insisting you buy the atlas) but we got to I-87 after a fashion, driving through Hudson, NY in the process and passing the Club Helsinki where we’d attended Maggie Estep’s funeral last February.
Danusia wanted to look for the cemetery to visit Maggie’s grave but it was a little out of the way.
When we got to the far reaches of New York State after almost 2 hours on I-90 I thought we were almost there, but GPS (yes, I succumbed) said it was another 5 hours to Oshawa. And it had taken us 5 hours to get THERE.
The most remarkable thing about Canada was how clean it was, how neat and tidy the houses and roads were in Oshawa, everywhere, actually. Even the Dollar Tree stores didn’t look as dingy as the American ones.
We got there exhausted, but Danusia’s cousin Jola (pronounced YO-la) had marinated steaks ready for the grill and I found myself appointed grillmaster. The steaks were excellent, and after eating and digesting a bit I excused myself and crashed out, letting the ladies catch up on the six years since they’d last seen each other.
The next day we drove around Oshawa and to my delight we discovered a working Antonov-2 at the local airfield. We talked to a kid at the front desk and he took us out to the field and let me take pictures of it. That made the ten-hour drive worth it, at least to me.
I also discovered that they don’t have Orbit gum in Canada, and finding a New York Times took a little work. The lovely Danusia sent out search party when I hadn’t returned from the local mall in the allotted time. I was surprised to see Jola in our car searching for me on the way back.
We were supposed to leave Wednesday after 2 nights there, but Jola persuaded us to stay with the promise of a trip to the countryside on Thursday.
I wanted to leave early, she said it was a couple of hours drive but not being the driver or the host we left when they were good and ready. We started out on the drive north to Wilno, which by the way is the oldest Polish settlement in Canada.
It was overcast in Oshawa, and Jola said “Oh, there might be a passing thunderstorm, but we’ll take our chances.”
The plan was to go kayaking in a lake up in Wilno, where a friend of Jola’s had a small lakefront property. Somewhere during the now 3 and a half hour drive it started raining. By the time we got to Wilno it was positively pouring, and I knew there was no chance of me getting into a kayak in the pouring rain. We drove around in the rain while Jola pointed out places of interest.
“Maybe the rain will stop when we get to the lake,” she said optimistically.
It didn’t stop, but it let up enough that I got in the kayak. I was already wet anyway.
I had fun, the lovely Danusia and I paddled around for a bit until the clouds started to darken again. She wanted to swim, and Jola took us to a lake that was better for swimming. We were the only ones there. I opted to watch from the shore, despite having my trunks in tow. After her swim we decided to head back.
We stopped off at a Tim Horton’s on the way back, a visit to Canada is not complete without a stop at a Tim Horton’s; Canada’s answer to Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Danusia and I enjoyed a delicious mass-produced pre-packaged chili and Jola had a gluten free soup.
We got back in the car and I fell asleep in the back seat.
I awoke to a sudden stop and Jola’s surprised declaration of “where the hell am I?” I could not get back to sleep now, knowing that her Galaxy has no GPS and that it was close to 10 pm.
She found her way back to the road to civilization, and as I tried to rest my head against the car door I realized the sky had cleared and I was staring at the big dipper shining bright in the black sky. I powered down my window for a clearer look and some fresh air. The window went back up by itself and Jola said:
“Did you open the window? I can’t drive with the window open, sorry.”
“I just wanted to look at the stars.”
“You want to see the stars? I’ll pull over and we’ll get out.”
“No, no, don’t stop, I can see them fine through the window.”
Too late for that, we were already on the side of the road and she was turning the engine off. We all got out and after the interior light went out I once again marveled at just how dark it is at night in the woods when there is no moon out. I hadn’t seen this many stars since being in Mexico five years ago. Even when we were in the desert outside of Vegas the stars were not as bright or plentiful, I don’t know why; but it was pretty breathtaking seeing the stars from Canada.
We got back on the road and I must admit I had never been so happy to see urban sprawl as I was when I spotted the lights of Oshawa in the distance.
We got home just before midnight and I fell into a deep sleep.
On the drive back to New York yesterday we missed only one exit and took few bathroom breaks, and we ate stuff we packed into out cooler in the car as we drove. It still took around 10 hours, despite the Google estimate that seemed to get more optimistic with each mile closer to our destination we got.
I was tired and cranky, but the memories of that Antonov and the stars will always be with me.