Monday 20th August 2001, Beamsville, ON

horoughly revived by a good night’s sleep, we tucked into Alice’s monster breakfast. There were eggs, bacon, scones, muffins, toast, homemade jam, juice, tea, ham, cheese … Even as we ate, Alice would appear with yet more food, until eventually we had to admit defeat.

We arrived back at Southridge Farm at about 10 am. Alma offered us coffee, but we were so full, all we could manage was a glass of water.

After a quick tour of the farm, we got back in the car. Theo needed to check on the progress of his bike repair (the fuel pump had packed up on a trip to Toronto), and Brigid needed to replace her leaking jacket. The first stop on our tour, therefore, was Clare Cycle in Fenwick. (In Canada, motorcycle dealers do open on Mondays!) Without much ado, Brigid chose a new Joe Rocket jacket, and Theo established that he would be able to collect his bike the following day.

Then it was on to Niagara Falls … by a slightly circuitous route necessitated by a bridge mishap a couple of weeks before. (A lifting bridge had mysteriously fallen on a passing ship, crushing the ship’s accommodation, and seriously damaging the bridge. Human error was suspected, but the operator was unavailable for questioning … having been admitted to hospital for ‘stress’ … Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt in the accident, but Ontario’s traffic is likely to suffer disruption for some months to come). It had seemed a good idea to buy tickets to walk through the tunnel under the Falls. But none of us had reckoned on the crowds. (The last time we came through Niagara was early June – before the school holidays.) The earliest available ‘slot’ was 3.30 pm, so we got back in the car and headed for Queenston, where it was possible to take a jet boat through the Devil’s Hole Rapids below Whirlpool Bridge. (Seems Theo and Alma were intent on getting us thoroughly wet again, somehow …).

It was raining slightly when we arrived at the jet boat dock, but there was no queue. Just one other family were mad enough to think that boating in the rain might be fun. The jet boat turned out to be entirely enclosed, and as we pitched and dived in and out of the rapids, it was difficult to imagine that the open boat could possibly have been more fun! Our driver (perched perilously above us in his open cockpit) spun 360° ‘Hamilton’ turns, and plunged the boat under the green waves. After a 30-minute pounding, we emerged, slightly giddy, but still dry and smiling!

We ate lunch in the Fire House restaurant, which we had all to ourselves. Then we drove slowly through pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake, and visited a reconstructed pioneer village. The waterfall that ran by the old mill, was dry, and we joked about sending Joe Miroballi a picture with a note saying, “Look! We visited Niagara Falls, but they had turned it off!”, after he tried to convince us that they do ‘turn off’ Niagara Falls in winter (… to prevent ice flows going over the edge …).

On the way home we stopped at the Chateau des Charmes vineyard to pick out a bottle of wine. We had never thought of Niagara as a wine growing region, but the peninsula is dotted with huge estates. In fact, this part of Ontario is on the same latitude as northern California and Spain! Certainly, the summer had been exceptionally dry so far. There had been no rain in a month, and the corn crops were ruined.

Dirk and Cora DeJong came over for dinner, and we found a lively restaurant in a lakeside town called Henley … which, believe it or not, hosts an annual rowing regatta!

After dinner, Dirk and Cora more or less insisted that we should spend Tuesday night with them in Freelton. Although we were theoretically in a hurry to reach the West Coast, it seemed too good an invitation to pass up, but we needed to do some navigational planning before accepting. So we spent what was left of the evening at Theo’s kitchen table, plotting the last leg of our trip west, aided by a road map, ruler, and one or two Manhattans.