The second largest country in the world behind only Russia but nearly 90 percent of its land mass is uninhabited. The Great White North claims the world’s longest coastline that would take four and a half years to walk non-stop.
The birthplace of ice hockey, the walkie-talkie and peanut butter. Among the people variety, Canada is the native land of Geddy Lee, Celine Dion, Alex Trebek, Monty Hall, Dan Aykroyd, William “Captain James T. Kirk” Shatner, James “Beam Me Up Scotty Whether You Have Power Or Not” Doohan, Michael Myers and Marcellus Gilmore Edson, the creator of the aforementioned peanut butter.
And now another notch, uh, let’s make that one more port of entry, notated on Dougie’s passport.
Last week the dear wife and I took a few days off and drove north. First we mellowed out with the Mennonites and Amish in Shipshewana for a day, then spent a couple of days getting lost trying to find museums along the plethora of one-way and closed-for-construction streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan, before going on to our main vacation destination of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The trip was a gift from the wife for my upcoming retirement. I dreamed of one day stepping inside Canada even for a wee bit because of my fondness for hockey, the rock band Rush and Smarties, which are the far superior candy cousins to American M&Ms.
Now I can say I have trekked upon Canadian soil and I liked it.
We spent much of our day in Canada along the Sculpture Park walkway by the Detroit River and in downtown Windsor. The highlights included strolling about three miles on the Riverwalk, visiting the Chimczuk Museum to discover the history of Windsor and Ontario Province, and dining at a hamburger place called Harvey’s where you take part in topping off your sandwich like a Subway.
The walkway is a pleasing, clean and shady spot where Canadians and Americans alike may slow life down to do a little fishing, sailing or just sitting and admiring famous sculptures. The breeze off the river and nearby Lake St. Clair created pleasant weather and everyone we met was friendly beyond a fault.
Our walk did have a couple of surprises.
No one we met spoke French or punctuated their sentences with “eh.” Close your eyes during a conversation on the walkway and you might think you are still in the Wabash Valley.
A huge shock came when I viewed with my bi-focaled eyes 11 Canada geese actually in Canada. I was so stunned by seeing the gaggle I made sure my wife took a photograph for us to prove it to the folks back home.
This most certainly puts to rest the rumor that all the world’s population of Canada geese reside in and around the Mirror Lake area.
The histories of Windsor and Vincennes are similar and steeped in the French, British and American Revolutionary War traditions. Both settlements go back to the early 1700s and the early French fur trappers and traders of North American.
The great Shawnee chief Tecumseh is prominent in both places and especially admired in Windsor for his defense of the area against American intruders — that is the official words of the Chimczuk Museum and not yours truly. A tall, wooden carved statue of Tecumseh similar to the one which now proudly stands near the Wabash River is featured at the museum.
The dear wife and I celebrated Mass for the first time outside the United States at the oldest continuous Catholic Parish in Canada. Our Lady of the Assumption Church is located near the river walkway and we were fortunate to find it during the visit.
The priest spoke with a heavy, Scottish brogue but the universality of the Mass made it easy for us American visitors to follow and hold sacred.
The only drawbacks (besides not having enough time to enjoy the Canadian countryside) to our foreign vacation were the many one-way streets and left-hand turns demanded of drivers in Windsor. I’m not sure which city had more, Windsor or Ann Arbor.
You better know where you’re headed because one missed turn can cause you to tour half the city before returning to your desired direction. Not a happy prospect for two Hoosiers already challenged by directions who shut off their cellphones and Google maps apps to save on exorbitant roaming charges.
I confess I messed up when navigating the streets of Windsor around 1,812 times, but at least one of those mishaps led me to a place where I fulfilled my main goal for going to Canada, which was to buy a hefty supply of Smarties.
One of my wrong turns ended up in the parking lot of a neighborhood grocery store similar to those that once dotted Vincennes in the early to mid-1900s. I went in to ask for directions, spotted Smarties on a nearby shelf and, well, you probably can guess the rest.
I scooped up all 12 boxes of Smarties as the clerk grinned. I explained my quest and love for Smarties and he just shook his head in disbelief with a polite laugh.
He gave me solid directions and I handed him 13 dollars of U.S. currency and some Canadian coins for the Smarties. He took the dollars but gave back the coins saying he didn’t want them.
All the merchants we dealt with preferred U.S. money and frowned when handed Canadian coins to cover the full price. Some did not take the coins and told us the dollar bills were plenty, although this did not always cover the full monetary exchange rate between the neighboring countries.
This happened even at the Canadian Dollar Tree store where, I must forewarn my fellow Americans, everything cost $1.25.
All in all, I always will remember my first trip into Canada and I plan to make several more. A dozen boxes of Smarties can only last so long.
Doug Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.