Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ellenton, Florida To Toronto, Canada

In my infinite wisdom, I decided it would be cheaper to drive from Florida to Toronto, Canada (as opposed to Toronto, Ohio) than to purchase two return flights from Tampa to Pearson (Toronto's Airport, for the uninitiated). Suffice to say that this decision was perhaps ill-informed. However, having analyzed the math, a round trip for two adults would have cost about $720 (US or Canadian - these days, the Exchange Rate is about even). Of course, add to that, the hassle of getting to/from the airport each end, and the inevitable meal at Tampa's excellent TGIF and Pearson's whatever-it's-called), and one is faced with nearly $900. I shall refrain from commenting on the purgatory of having to stand in line for check-in at Tampa/Pearson for eons. I hate check-ins and the Immigration situation doesn't help. So to the math. To provide gas for Monty for the trip cost $200 each way. Monty? It's a Chrysler PT Cruiser painted Inca Gold. Ergo sum. Further added to the sum... the cost of hotels for the days on the road, together with meal breaks, and we're talking about $125 per day for three days. So about $600 one way. My sums make that $1,200 for the round trip. A negatory $300.
That ignores the cost of repairs to Monty. An errant plug meant an $80 bill in Kentucky (more in a moment), and a broken brake spring in Toronto was $457 (I've heard of Spring Break, but this one came without the nubile young things).
Having said all the math thingies, I still think it was worth the trip. I had a vehicle to go where I wished, when I wished. Even to the The Beer Store on Thanksgiving day. It was closed. I thought that curbing one's beer consumption was Canada's forte (at least in Ontario) and limted to them. Wrong. On the first night of the drive, we stopped somewhere in Northern Georgia. It was a Sunday. Alcohol is not permitted in Georgia on Sundays. Blech.
Monday, we drove as far as Grayson, Kentucky. We only stopped because the rain had been attrocious, and the stress of coping with Monty being overtaken by bicylces on steep gradients encouraged me to visit Grayson (Monty's plug was fouled). We pulled into a motel in Grayson. The lady at reception informed me that Grayson does not allow any alcohol. Anytime. I asked her about a Restaurant. Sure, they had plenty, they had McDonalds, Burger King... I'm sure you get my drift. She was about four feet wide and tall in equal measure, and had two teeth, thankfully they were opposite each other. In addition, they seem to provide teeth to anyone willing to visit said restaurants. To their credit, I stopped at a Chrysler dealer to see if they could fix Monty. The mechanic said he was about to go home, but he'd take a look. It took him less than an hour, and less than $80 to fix the plug problem! In the UK, one hour would have been at least $300. Thank goodness for Grayson, despite their 'Dry County' status.
We saw some beautiful country, with great colors (for those who can agree that my color awareness is different to any one else's). But honestly, after a few hundred miles, roads become boring. We had a competition to see who could see the next J B Hunt or Con-Way truck.... sad. At a town in Georgia on the way back, it felt like I was Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinnie - a train was blasting through town every 20 minutes, all night!
Our time in Toronto was priceless. As always. I was even allowed to prepare one of my world-renowned (in my mind) meals. One complaint, Ontario - why do I have to go to a State-run beer store to buy beers? Or wine? Why can't I buy the stuff in a grocery store or gas station like the US/UK? At a fraction of the price? I wanted to buy mein host a bottle of Champers, but it was three times what I'd pay in the US! Yes, mein host is worth it many times over, but it would have been cheaper to drive to Niagra to buy a Duty Free version! We did drive to Niagra to play at the Casino. For once, I lost - maybe $30. Mein host won $0.88 cents. Wow.
I was also able to go to the last Welsh Chapel in N America. Some of the service was in Welsh. I met people whom I'd met last year. Including a cousin whom I did not know about. I also met a lady whose brother had recently passed away in Wales. She recalled that my mother taught him in the 1950s and I recall my mother held him in high esteem.
I fear for the future of this Welsh chapel/community. They have one fully Welsh only service a month. The congregation are getting older. I read somewhere that in 1920, there were 26 Welsh Chapels in N America. Mind you, in Wales, about two chapels a week are closing.
After our brake problem, our next hurdle was Officer Ryan at Niagra Falls US Immigration Center. What a pedant. He just could not get it in his head that we were driving a Florida-plated car from Canada. Between him and the brake problem, we lost a whole day. Eventually, arrived back in Florida. Checked out Cracker Barrel on the way in a small town where Mark told us his life story before serving us our fare. Praise be. Trust me, I have no problem with religion - my father was a Welsh Minister (who was once invited to be the Minister for the Chapel in Toronto) - but I hate having 'stuff' thrust down my throat.
To sum up, (back to the math), it's great to be back. Tiring beyond anything that jet lag can do. Will we do it again? Sad to say - probably! Let's just hope that Monty will not let us down next time.
Here endeth today's lesson.