Indiana Dunes NP
We wake up to a cloudy sky and some drops so with a beach day in the plans we are a little bit disappointed. Seems like a pattern, as last time we had a similar weather challenge, but we do not give up and start the day relaxed and slowly. In the course of the morning the drizzle stops, and we decide to give it a go. With our bikes we head out on the Calumet trail towards Mt Baldy, a large dune on the edge of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately we can not climb the dune anymore, as through a terrible accident they found out that decaying trees have left deep shafts in the dune that you can dangerously get entrapped in. Good enough reason to hike the trail around it and take in the view of the lake.
After Mt Baldy we bike back through the dunes on our way to the Kemil beach, a nice and quiet stretch of sand only frequented by a large group of seagulls that have truly perfected their begging for food skills it seems. With two professional junior rangers they are to be very disappointed as no food is coming their way and they leave us alone. The boys spend hours playing in the sand while we read our books, and although the sun is not shining bright, the temperature is really nice – including that of the water. So after a short dip, we head back to the campground for a much anticipated campfire (we have been in ‘no burn’ areas all the time) for Smores. We are not the only ones who get to shower, as a big thunder storm with a massive pour comes down on us at night, giving the RV a nice wash as well…
Can you really drive through Michigan and not pay a visit to Holland as a true Dutchman? Of course not 🙂 so even if it is a bit of a detour we barrel down the interstate for a few hours of indulging. Rolling into town we seem to have arrived on a good day, as it is ‘moving day’ for the new students of Hope College. The boys are fascinated by this event and how all these parents are dropping off their kids with their stuff at the dorm rooms of the university. It is a beautiful sunny day and the town is really lovely – no bias here – which makes the stroll through the center a nice stretching of the legs. As Dutch people we get the royal treatment with everybody being super friendly and curious about our Dutch roots and whereabouts.
We on the other hand are in search of a store selling Dutch food and staples and we can almost not hold our excitement when we see a store with a wall of cheese and little tasting trays in front of them. As small as the tasting bits are, we go by all of them and reminisce about how good real Dutch cheese is and what everybody’s favorite is. We buy a pack of Speculaas and head to the ‘de Boer Bakkerij’ to find out if we can find another staple we have missed; proper bread! Unfortunately we are arriving after lunch so he has run out, but we get a ‘sausijzenbroodje’ put in our hands, are asked if we want some ‘kroketten’ and buy ourselves a bag of ‘krentenbollen’. In the meantime we say hello to the owners father over the phone, and get pushed into a van full of elderly from the local home to say hi to their true Dutchman.
We drive a few miles further to the main tourist attraction ‘ Dutch Village’ where we eat our kroketten in the parking lot. It turns out to be a paid themepark which we don’t really have time for anymore, but the lady at the register gives us a voucher for 2 stroopwafels – make your own! – so we run in to make them and have them as the perfect dessert to a beautiful line up of Dutch snacks. Satisfied and with a feeling of melancholy we hit the interstate again to cross the state of Michigan, with a little over 4 months to go those comfort foods are starting to feel very close!
Back to Canada
We start our day at the River Raisin Battlefield NHS, which is a cool site about the battles fought out between the British and the Americans in the area, one of the first ones we see in the US as we come towards the northeast. The ranger there gives a great explanation about the events and its connection to the Canadian side, and the boys score another badge as they finish up their JR work. This is their 150th badge/patch and we have now visited our 30th state (Michigan), so we are doing really well on those to-do lists!
Crossing into Canada is super easy and fast, so we get to the other side earlier than expected. The fort we wanted to visit – Fort Malden – has an art fair going on which means the fort is closed for visitors! Very unfortunate as there is of course a connection to the River Raisin site of the morning. But all is not lost, we drive on to Point Pelee National Park, which is a peninsula jutting into Lake Erie with some really cool natural habitats. From marshes with turtles to a sea-like spit, the park is very diverse, and the fun part of it is that the end of this spit of sand is actually the southern-most point of Canada!
We enjoy the outdoors, play some games in the visitor center and take dressed up pictures in the photobooth before driving out of the park and into town. Our overnight spot is blocked off, so we drive up to another parking lot for dinner and are pleasantly surprised by a live concert at the beach we get to enjoy and some complementary town Wi-Fi. The men take a dip in Lake Erie, nicely refreshed and cleaned up after a day of walking through the heat. As we pull into a rest area later that night the temperature luckily cools of for a bit and we have a good night sleep.
After seeing the Iguazu falls, we could not miss out on that other thunderous flow of water – the Niagara falls. The Canadian side is supposedly the best view and thus our plans work out well coming from the Canadian countryside. We park outside of town and grab our bikes, and head out to the Niagara Heritage Trail which follows the river right towards the falls. As we get closer the crowds get bigger, and the touristy buzz starts to envelope us. Very different to our National Parks experiences it feels a bit stifling, and apparently it is not even a busy day!
We ride to the Niagara City Cruises stand to buy tickets, and then walk along the waterfalls from some stellar views and a visit to the giftshop and welcome center. Coming back to the cruise we get ready to get WET! Having flown over the Iguazu falls in a helicopter we could not resist the experience of taking a boat into the action. While very cheesy and ridiculously expensive, it is a really cool way to see the falls up close and get a feel for the power of all that water that rolls through the falls. Luc gets really annoyed he got wet, even though it is a swelteringly hot day and drying the bottom of his shorts will probably take no more than 30 minutes, but the rest of us have a great laugh as we stand in the spray getting soaking wet. The verdict? We prefer the Iguazu falls for their surroundings, but the nice thing about Niagara is you can go and see them for free just from the viewpoints!
After the ride back to the RV we pack up the bikes, have a grocery round and hairdresser for Sven, and with another hour to go we spoil ourselves with some ice-cream on the go. We spend the night at a park in Hamilton, where it is still really full of people who are enjoying their summer Sunday evening at the park. We join them playing in the park and having our dinner outside watching the sun set.
With all the Europeans coming to Canada and towns filled with Dutch, you would think we have at least a few family members living in North America. And while we travel everywhere and enjoy the world, it seems all the family always wonders back to their home towns. One family member we know of is Anton, the cousin of oma Leny, and so we take a detour to Barrie, Ontario, and see if we can surprise him and his partner Liz with a visit. We are very lucky that they are home, as Liz was not feeling very well (unlucky for her of course), so we intend to make her feel much better by bringing some Dutch joy to this Monday.
They are delighted to see us and the boys, so we catch up over a proper Dutch sandwich lunch and some coffee. They miss the Netherlands, but traveling at 93 (!!!) years old is not that easy anymore, so us bringing a bit of the Netherlands to them is really nice. We are proud to see them still fit and independent at that age and hope they will continue to enjoy themselves in Canada. The drive out is via Toronto, which means horrible traffic which we really are not used to anymore, but we suck it up and push through to get us to the lakeside town of Kingston.
While a song might go off in your head, this is not the Kingston town you may think of, but a Canadian lakeside town with a cute historical center. On top of that there is a park at the Lake Ontario with a free hot shower where we can park the RV for the night, so it is truly a great place to spend some time. We get another round of laundry in before we head out to Bellevue House, the home of the first prime minister of Canada. A bit of a controversial figure who has set up some massive initiatives (railroads, national parks, etc) but also was a bit of a drunk and not very keen on anybody who is a non-white male… Hmm…
It is very interesting however to read up on him and learn about the way of living back then, before snacking on some of the herbs in the garden. The great ranger on site even digs up some clothes from that era for the boys to dress up in which is always fun. We end the day with a dive in the lake and a nice hot shower to clean ourselves up.
Along the Rideau Canal
With all that water there are quite a few waterways as well. The Rideau canal goes from Kingston all the way to Ottawa, and to pass the canal you would have to cross 49 locks! The Rideau river runs alongside it, at some parts very wide, like at the end of Lake Ontario, where there are more than 1000 islands scattered in the river, leading to the name of the National Park; Thousand Islands. We go and explore the visitor center to learn about these islands and all the things visitors can do on the river and in the water, and as we gather all the rock drawings we roll out again with another tag.
Next stop is Fort Wellington, and while we have a fantastic organizer, this fort turns out to be closed today, unfortunately. Still there is always a cannon to climb and we decide to play some frisbee tag instead, but then a summer rain seems to be rolling in. Debating whether we wait it out, the boys decide they will get wet anyways and put on their swimming gear to play in the waterpark. The first roll of thunder puts a stop to that however and so we drive out to our sleeping address for the night. As we arrive there we even get a tornado warning on our phones – that’s a first! – but it seems to stay well away for us to be worried about.
Next week: Birthday fun!