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Exploring America On Wheels
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Report 15: Ottawa ON to Myrtle Beach SC to Martintown ON

Route

From South Gloucester (Ottawa) we went west on local roads to ON-416, which we took south to ON-401. We crossed into the USA at Gananoque ON (1000 Islands), where we took I-81 south to near Jonestown PA; from there we took state highways to the head of the Chesapeake Bay. There we turned onto I-95 and followed it to near Four Oaks NC where we turned south-east onto state highways that eventually took us into Myrtle Beach SC. As usual, we wandered on and off the Interstates, taking State highways where they looked interesting. Some of the time on the local highways we got lost and simply headed in the right general direction. On the way back north we took roughly the same route in reverse. We also explored more of the State highways...without getting lost.

Highlights

We did not have an auspicious start. All went well until we got into a construction zone on the 401 where two lanes were gradually being narrowed down to one with big traffic cones. As we were easing over, a speeding semi overtook us, forcing us back over to avoid a collision. We took out a dozen cones before we got clear, damaging both the motorhome and the car. We hailed the trucker on the CB, using some rather strong language, but he either had no CB or was totally oblivious to what he'd done. He simply sped away, leaving us to pull over and survey the damage, which was mostly cosmetic, but fairly extensive. We've asked this before...what is it with truckers these days? They are not the knights of the road they once were.

The leaves on the trees had mostly blown off when we left; but only an hour or two south of Ottawa we noticed that the leaves on some trees were still beautiful. The panorama as we went over the two Thousand Islands bridges and across the island between them was stunning. So were the leaves in many spots, until we got to around Baltimore. There the leaves were still mostly green. We found several nice walking trails and, despite no dogs allowed, or all dogs on leash signs, turned Molly loose to wander through the autumn colours. She had a blast, and so did we.

The I-95 is not the best way to head south, as it is unbelievably busy, even on Sundays. We were constantly looking for scenic byways to take, and although we found a few, there is no equivalent to the Pacific Coast Highway on the West Coast...not even close. One can drive nearly the entire west coast staying right along the ocean. And, because the east is so built up and old, in urban areas the highways and byways are a confused network, often with poor signs. We took more than one turn on faith, because the highway that was to be there was not marked, or was marked with a ceremonial name instead of a number. And, we got lost...at one point ending up in down-town Baltimore. Driving a 39-foot motorhome pulling a 18-foot car through old Baltimore is no way to see the urban sights!

We like Myrtle Beach. Unlike most parts of Florida, it does not have that worn out and put away wet look. The streets are in good repair and the buildings mostly well maintained and modern. There must be some slum areas—what US city would be complete without one—but we never stumbled across them. The weather in Myrtle Beach was terrific. One day we were on the beach walking the dog, amid people in bathing suits basking in the sun and swimming...back home the temperature hovered just above freezing; in Myrtle Beach it was in the 80s.

We made the trip south mostly a delivery trip, figuring that it would be easier and quicker to see the sights on our return trip with just the toad. This turned out to be a bad decision. It rained nearly all the way back to Ontario. In some places in Pennsylvania the rain and fog were so bad that we had to stop driving earlier than we intended due to poor visibility.

We did get to see historic Halifax, which is now mostly a collection of restored buildings and a nice little museum. Halifax is distinguished by being the place that has one of the first documented instances of succession, called the Halifax Resolves. In it, the Colonial Government resolves to discuss with the neighbouring colonies the possibility of succeeding from Great Britain. Alas, after Halifax, we ended up driving straight through several other historic places, including Gettysburg PA, the site of one of the bloodiest Civil War battles.

The weather had turned better by the time we re-entered Canada. So, rather than run up the 401, we took a right turn after the 1000 Islands bridge and followed the old highway along the St. Lawrence. It's a lovely drive at any time of year, but in the autumn, with the leaves gone, there are some great views of the homes along the river and of the river itself. Before the St. Lawrence Seaway was built, ships navigated the river, including passing through locks and canals. One of the more interesting and accessible of these is the Galop Canal. Large portions of this canal are still in evidence along the Canadian shore.

While we missed most of the battlegrounds in the USA, we visited two interesting ones along the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence. The first, at Windmill Point, is the spot where in 1838 190 invaders from the US came to 'liberate' Canada from the British. They thought that if they gained a toehold at the windmill and surrounding buildings the locals would rally with them and route the English. They could not have picked a worse spot, as most of the men of the area were members of the Militia. They immediately joined their militia units, rallying 2000 militia and regulars who, supported by a few British gun ships, beat the Americans soundly. Some of the Americans were former Canadians who had fled south after the 1837 rebellions; eleven of them were executed after the battle of the Windmill. What made this even more interesting to us was that sixty persons were exiled to Australia; when we lived in Australia we visited a restored prison colony, where we were surprised to see that convicts from Canada had been kept. Maybe some of them were the exiles from Windmill Point. The second, and more physically impressive battleground is Crysler's Farm, one of the most decisive battles of the war of 1812. Here, there is a large park and a museum (closed for the season when we were there) commemorating the spot where in November 1813 800 Canadian and British Regulars, and Canadian militia repelled an American invasion force of 4000. This battle ended the major American thrust to capture Montreal.