Detroit to Toronto


Too many doughnuts too early in the morning precluded our obligatory visit to Lafayette Coney Island on the way out of Detroit, so we crossed the border into Canada without mystery meat in our systems.

Border towns are pretty much dumps everywhere in North America, and Windsor is no exception. While Canada is almost universally “nice”, it’s as if creeping blight from Detroit had come across the Ambassador Bridge and tried to get its clutches into western Ontario as well, with some limited success. Windsor is much “nicer” than its neighbor to the north (yes, in this particular area, one travels north into the US) but it’s not exactly a model Canadian city.

We stopped at a supermarket to use our ATM card for cash back in Canadian funds and realized that, by and large, this feature only worked with Canadian ATM cards. US cards, most of which have Mastercard or Visa logos, apparently only function as credit cards there. So much for cheap cash withdrawals.


Despite all that, I was excited to be driving across Ontario for the first time. My previous trips to Canada had consisted on one trip to Montreal for the World’s fair in 1967 (at age 3), a day trip to Victoria BC in 1974 (age 10), a day trip to Toronto in 1979 (age 15), and assorted quick runs to Windsor and Niagara Falls over the years. I was looking forward to spending a few days there and seeing what things were really like.

And what they’re really like is “expensive”. It was not the greatest time to be in Canada on US dollars. But we travel cheaply, so it was OK.

For lunch, we stopped at a little diner in downtown Chatham. I was intrigued to see that a little town like Chatham had a giant, new Sears store downtown. I assumed it had originally been an Eaton’s, as had many Sears stores in this part of Canada.

Over the next few days, we’d see more examples of how downtowns never seem to have died the slow, agonizing death in Canada that they faced in the US during the 1960s and 1970s. Yes, there are suburbs and freeway development, but the cities and towns still seem relatively centralized. Maybe that’s because the freeways (the 401, at least) don’t really go into most of the towns but more around them at some distance from the core. The interstate highway system in the US was supposed to do this as well, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

We drove around London a bit as well, crossing the Thames and everything, and hit and A&P and a Wal-Mart (which probably used to be a Woolco), and finally made our way into Toronto at about 7:00. We checked into our hotel on Queen Street in the East Beaches area, and were surprised by how nice it was: a big, cheap room in a nice area.

We had dinner at the Tulip, a diner-type place down the street, and then went for a night drive trough the streets of Toronto, which promised to be a rather amazing city. My tooth was starting to hurt a little, though.