Turns out it can be hard sometimes to find the time to get these written. Who knew constantly driving and exploring different places each day would be such hard work?
On Wednesday morning, I was a bit slow to wake up from having stayed up fairly late the night before. Before I started my journey for the day, I walked around downtown Montreal for a bit, deftly avoiding all the “sidewalk closed” signs. I’m sure it’s normally a much prettier city, but it’s hard to get a real gauge when I visit it in the middle of a facelift. I wasn’t able to stay long, though, since it was over 300 miles to Toronto, and this time I wanted to get there before sundown.
It was interesting to see the differences between the roads of Quebec and Ontario. Quebec loves their pictograms on road signs, while Ontario just has everything in two languages. Quebec has autoroutes with their own special designation, while Ontario simply has highways. You can eat fast food at KFC in Ontario, but in Quebec that place is now a PFK. Overall, it did seems like Ontario was more willing to cater to French speakers than vice versa, but then again, I don’t fault the Quebecois for wanting to keep their identity.
Wednesday was the point where I had finally lost track of what day it was, unless forcefully reminded. I just always assume that since I’m not working that day, it must be the weekend. This is why it came to such a surprise when I approached Toronto and there was rush hour traffic. And then the exact same thing happened when I arrived in Cleveland! Apparently I need to learn to time my arrivals such that I don’t always reach major cities at around 5:30 PM.
I found a place to park downtown and checked into the hostel. It was similar to the one in Montreal, except there were fewer people hanging around and socialising. Once I had settled in, I got to explore the city. I love wandering around with no particular destination in mind, just soaking up the sights and sounds and smells. Each city has its own unique atmosphere to it, and it is fascinating to feel the differences. Toronto, too, was just so clean. After walking for a while, I found a local fish and chips shop for dinner. It was one of the best fish and chips I’ve had on this continent, since they actually knew that it was more than simply fish filets and thinly-cut french fries. After I ate, I was somewhat tired from all the driving I had to do the past couple days, so I ultimately took an early night.
The next day, I set out for America. My route took me through Niagara Falls, so I stopped by and took in the falls first. I gotta say, while the falls themselves are pretty, the town that built up around it was quite disappointing. It was basically a giant tourist trap. There were casinos, souvenir shops, the whole nine yards. I can understand why that happened — it’s not like most people are going to spend all day staring at a waterfall, and once you’ve done that, how else are you going to spend your time? It’s definitely much better as a place to take a detour through than it is as a final destination, but I still definitely enjoyed having stopped there.
After taking a couple of detours because several of the entrance ramps to the Queen Elizabeth Way were closed, I crossed the bridge to the United States. My first course of action was to get gas, since it’s about 40% cheaper in this country and the warning light had appeared on my dashboard. I stopped at the first gas station I could find, which turned out to be in a rather seedy part of Buffalo. Thankfully it was the middle of the day, but I did feel somewhat out of place while I was filling up my tank. I got back on the Interstate, and followed I-90 alongside Lake Erie, going from New York to Pennsylvania to Ohio.
For the first time in five days, I set foot in someone’s house. My friend Matt happens to live in the Cleveland suburbs, and he very kindly offered to put me up for the night. After dealing with suboptimal bathroom conditions the past several days (the restroom facilities are my one complain about hostels), it felt nice to take a good, proper shower and to be clean-shaven for the first time on the trip. Afterwards, I got dinner at a local burger place, which served fried wontons on their hamburgers, and then played some Android: Netrunner before going to bed. Tomorrow, it is off to Chicago.