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Travels With An Airhead

The Rideau Canal

— by Notch Miyake

This summer, Margaret and I paddled our kayaks from Kingston to Ottawa on the Rideau Canal. It was 125 miles long and took us two days to drop our kayaks in Kingston, take the car to Ottawa, and return by train to our kayaks, plus six days of paddling, plus three days in intensive care at the end.

The Rideau Canal is in Canada, a foreign country to the north of us, on the other side of the lake. They speak Canadian, which is different from English. This led to our first major misunderstanding

You see, they call it the Rideau Canal, but it is really a bunch of big lakes joined by 49 locks. This matters if you are expecting a real canal like the Erie Canal, which is a ditch full of water, and get something that looks like Lake Ontario. Next time I go to Canada, I'm going to look at a map first.

Once we got used to two-foot seas, 20-knot winds and the wake from 50-foot powerboats, we were OK. Not happy, just OK. Unfortunately, we had to keep going because our car was in Ottawa. When in Canada, never leave your car in Ottawa until you have looked at a map.

The trip was not a total loss. We discovered some exciting places anyone contemplating a trip to Canada should know about. Seeley's Bay, for example, is the armpit of North America, which I used to think was in New Jersey. We went to the marina there expecting to stay overnight and were told that we couldn't because the owner said, "I can't take the responsibility." He also said there were no other marinas in the area. "I'm the only one around here selling gas," he said proudly, as we floated at the dock in our kayaks.

We called a motel out on the highway, but after they figured out where we were and stopped laughing, they couldn't pick us up. Then the marina owner suggested the resort next door. We called and they had room, so we paddled over. It was a moldy cabin in a dimly depressing collection of decaying buildings. We paid more than a four-star hotel in Kingston costs, but it was for a suite of three rooms with so much atmosphere I sneezed all night.

The next morning we walked to the restaurant for breakfast. The restaurant had no sign so we had to be careful to watch for the bait shop, which had no sign either, although the bait tanks were easily spotted in the front yard. On the way, we passed a marina with docks and motel-style rooms. They didn't sell gas.

Another major find was Rob Roy's Restaurant and Pub in Smith's Falls. Their Special Pasta of the Day was the closest thing to Chef Boyardee Beefaroni I have ever had. They insisted it was homemade, which is a major accomplishment since Chef Boyardee needs a big factory to make his version.

More helpful hints on traveling in Canada next month. In the meantime, if you are still on the road, ride safe.

— Copyright © 2002 by Notch Miyake.

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