One of the great things about living in FW is that it is close to lots of places I want to go. Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada, to name a few. What is even better is that all these places are accessible by car. If I were living back home and went to Canada, as I did recently, I would have had a one or two stop flight plus the added cost of a rental car (and gas, which is no cheaper in Canada). However, from FW, I made a call to Verizon to have international roaming added to my monthly bill, packed a bag, gassed the car, and left. That is nice.
Three or so hours later I was in line at the border, passport in hand. The handsome border agent was friendly and a little too concerned that I might be carrying a weapon “for my protection.” I immediately assumed this was because I was a woman traveling alone. I assured him that I left my gun in my nightstand. I would not call the Swiss Army knife in my purse a “weapon” unless I am defending myself against a bottle that needs opening. I left the border and forged on into Ontario.
I wish I could say that the Canadian countryside was something new, but it looks a lot like Indiana. Pretty, but lots of fields full of corn and soy. One thing I did notice as different and nice is the tourist signage along the Canadian highway. It is much more informative and great in number than U.S. tourist signage.
Thanks to this helpful Canadian signage I found Jakeman’s Maple Farm. Jakeman’s is hidden down a dirt road several kilometers (look at me acting all international) off of the 401. The dirt road to the farm and store is lined with tall corn rows and giant old trees, very pretty. The farm store is a worn and weathered old building that looks like it was once a country store. It was classically outfitted with a metal roof, chipped white paint covering its wooden walls, a buffet of farm implements and other “stuff” cluttering the porch and steps. It has a very small-country-town-down-south store feel to it. If you are from a tiny town that has a history then you know of what I speak. My Kentucky cousins (same family that made the ‘shine) owned one similar to this in Blackey, Kentucky and it looked a lot like Jakeman’s.
The kind lady inside the worn building gave me a maple candy to taste and educated me on the different grades of syrup. The candy was tasty and ensured that I would leave with something. However, beware, folks, maple syrup ain’t cheap. As much as I wanted to buy a gallon (this stuff is good) I came away with a set of three little glass bottles of medium (the most popular of course). One for me (I have already used it on some gluten-free pancakes and it was fantastic), the Mother of Six and the Father of Six. They have to share everything with those six babies, so this way at least they get their own syrup. Although, my guess is that it will get shared . . . .
Jakeman’s does most of its sales online so the property was pretty quiet. You can get syrup in all kinds of containers – glass bottles shaped like leaves or an old oil can shaped containers. You can also buy their maple candy and cookies (I can’t eat them, so those stayed on the farm). The detour to Jakeman’s is the kind of thing that you can only experience via road trip. It was worth the stop.
I had many miles to go before I slept so I pressed on east. In Woodstock I had a very pleasant experience at the On Route – a building with several restaurants in it that resemble the food court at the mall and a gas station outside. It is like a fancy rest stop in the U.S. I went to the wash room (I am being very international again), got the Starbucks barrista to fill my Nalgene bottle (my little gift of love to the earth) rather than buy anything, and then, like a nerd, went outside and took pictures of Canadian soybean fields. Stop judging me, it has a pretty tree in it.
At the On Route I stopped to admire a couple of dogs whose owners were on their way to kayak. After this encounter I noticed that there are a lot of kayakers and canoeists in Ontario. Apparently they really like boats and getting the most of their lakes. I cannot drive a canoe (and probably not a kayak either, thought I have not tried) so I avoid such situations. I nearly mowed a fisherman down who was peacefully wading the Shenandoah River in Virginia. Not good, but I digress.
I was initially worried about my arrival in Toronto because I have never been there and it is a big city and I assumed I would have traffic problems. Wrong. The entry into the city via the Queen Elizabeth Way (the “QEW”) and Gardiner Parkway were super easy. Go straight and take your exit. I did get slightly turned around in getting into the Westin parking garage but I blame Google. I could see the hotel but could not get into the gate from where I was. The worst. But thanks to my handy-dandy iPhone that I was not supposed to use at all while driving in Canada I directed myself right to the front doors. Mission accomplished.
It was the most pleasant solo 7 hour drive I have had in a long time. No dread before leaving, no exhaustion while driving, and no regret upon arrival. Ontario is a great destination for anyone living in the Midwest. It is easy travel – pretty, interesting, and fun.
More to come about Toronto, the royal family, and free stuff.