Road Trippin’ With The Fellas To Niagara Falls and Toronto

Photo: S. James

 Del don’t do road trips. Usually.

I have terrible childhood memories of being sandwiched in the back seat of an unairconditioned hooptie, riding down south in the middle of the summer.

*Shudders* 

So naturally, when talk of a road trip comes up, I’m the first one on the computer looking up a flight to said destination and making plans to meet my travel mates there.

In my mind, by the time they get to the hotel completely aggravated, cranky and smelling of automobile, I’m already checked into my room, curled up with a Kindle and enthralled in a good book.

Such was the case this past summer when my homies decided that a road trip from northern New Jersey to Toronto was in order for the 4th of July weekend.


(For the record, I wasn’t invited on this trip. I had heard the three of them were going and I kind of just invited myself. *Shrugs* I didn’t have anything else to do.)

The plan was for me to hop on a two-hour flight from Newark to Toronto and meet them there. I mean, to me, it was a no-brainer.

Two-hour flight to Toronto?

OR

Eight-hour drive to Toronto?

Decisions. Decisions.

Only, those two-hour flights were steep. I quickly fell off my high horse and into an 8-passenger Dodge Durango rental car.

But even after I agreed to hit the road with my compadres, the trip was plagued with several last minute cancellations, a string of sternly worded emails and a very long phone conference before we finally agreed to go.

I was excited, but not without trepidation.

Would there be enough room for me to stretch out comfortably?
Would I have enough reading material and iPhone battery life to occupy my mind?
Would they complain about my farts during the long drive?

Yes!
Yes!
And no — I managed to keep my flatulence to a minimum.

Oh, and, I’d like to say that I won the award for Best Packer. Because I initially had all intentions on flying to Toronto, I decided to still pack as if I was getting on a plane: a carry-on and a personal item (laptop bag). These fools, however, did not!

Although I preferred to enter Toronto via a Jetway, I must say the Dodge Durango was a super comfortable alternative. I didn’t feel cramped at all. I was able to adjust my backseat and there was even a plug in the back for my cell phone and Kindle (I couldn’t plug up my MacBook because the outlet wasn’t three prong compatible.) And although the 8-cylinder road warrior was expensive to fill up – I believe it cost over $100 to put that big bitch back on F when we finally crossed the border – we only had to fill up twice before we got back to Jersey. So it did well on gas.

We decided to stop midway in Syracuse for the night to break up the 8-hour drive. We were up bright and early the next morning to conquer the second leg of our trip.

After an invasive and rude interrogation from the man patrolling the border, we cruised right on into Canada.

Once in Toronto, we made our way to the Hyatt, our home for the next few days.

A beautiful, hip hotel, centrally located with sweeping rooftop views of the Toronto city skyline and CN Tower, the Hyatt is also expensive as hell and equipped with teeny, tiny rooms. We made the mistake of thinking the four of us could share that crawl space. Negative! And of course when we tried to get an extra room, they had none available. Womp! So we shared two beds and made the most out of our 290 square foot room.

Over the course of the next few days, we took to the city, exploring, eating and relaxing. Some of our haunts included:


Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill: Meh. Crappy food even crappier service.

Joe Mamas: I sat this one out (damn flatulence caught up with me) but according to the fellas, it was a “nice, lil’ crowded place with live R&B music.”

Friar & Firkin: Had brunch there. Great service. I ate some sort of pistachio/cream cheese stuffed French toast. It was decent. Nothing to smack my Mama over, though.

Blogging homie and Canada native, Max, had given me a slew of great places to eat, including some high end restaurants. What she failed to mention was Toronto’s 13% sales tax.

Yes, you read that right. Thir.Teen.Per.Cent.

Herman Cain’s 999 Plan ain’t sounding too bad right about now, is it?

Actually, yes, it still is. I digress…

With upscale eateries entirely out the question, we decided to keep it cute (and by cute, I mean cheap), and get our grub on at affordable spots like O&B Canteen and Gabby’s.

But the foodie standout was Diners Corner, a small, quaint, authentic Jamaican restaurant with incredible food and equally great service. I scarfed down festival, plantains and stewed chicken.

We all enjoyed our meal there – and rightfully so. We worked up quite the appetite navigating the throngs packed on Yonge Street for the annual Gay Pride Parade. It was some of everything and everybody out there. We even had a celebrity spotting: Malik Yoba. There were even folks camped out on roofs to watch the tens of thousands of people participating in the parade and taking in the sights.

We ended our busy day walking through Dundas Square, Toronto’s version of Time Square and Polson Pier also known as The Docks, where we got to take some great flicks of the Toronto skyline at night.

Photo: S. James

We decided to dedicate an entire day to Niagara Falls. On what was a beautiful 80 degree day, we drove the 85 miles to the Canadian side of the falls. Who knew there was so much to do?

There was the butterfly conservatory, botanical gardens and the journey behind the falls. We chose to hop on board the Maid of the Mist to get up close and personal with the falls. Of course the falls are gargantuan in size, but it wasn’t until I was on that boat, rocking back and forth in the water, face to face with the falls did I really get a sense of just how big and powerful they are and how small and minuscule I am.

After our exhilarating (and wet) boat ride, we hit up the Riverview International Buffet to fill up our bellies.

As we traveled back to Toronto and began to reflect on the next day’s 8 hour drive (damn those expensive plane tickets!) we realized that we forgot to visit the CN Tower. No trip to Toronto is complete without going there, right?

Wrong!

What a ripoff the CN Tower was! First of all, it costs $35.99 to get the total tower experience: look out, glass floor, sky pod, movie and motion theatre ride. And then, if you’re paying with American dollars, which we were, they charge you a $10 “convenience fee!”

*Shakes American Black Fist*

But, alas, we paid it anyway. Hmph

I wouldn’t say that the CN Tower is a waste of time (the CN Tower is a waste of time). The lines were long and slow and it wasn’t well ventilated in there, plus we were just all around tired and aggravated from our day trip and car ride to Niagara Falls. But we made the most out of it by cracking jokes on the line, entertaining other line dwellers with our raggedy doo wop routine and posing for silly pictures on the glass floor once we made it to the observation deck.

All in all, Toronto was a good time. And I learned a few valuable lessons on the trip to boot: Expect to spend an exorbitant amount of money when visiting a country with near universal health care and a 13% sales tax; when booking a room at a hotel in a big metropolitan city, chances are it will not be large enough for four grown ass men to fit comfortably; I like Tim Horton’s and Timbits better than Dunkin Donuts and Munchkins; and road trips with great friends, much like life, are all about the journey, not the destination.

From L to R: D, Me, T and K
Tell me, what are your thoughts on road trips?
I’d love to hear all about ’em!

 

  • max

    I still kick myself for forgetting to tell you about the tax. You can see how I'm brainwashed though eh? I just accept it as normal…in fact I'm relieved that it's "only" 13% after paying 15% for most of my life.

    I'm lowkey mad that I didn't get to meet you when you came here, but since I subsequently went to NYC and didn't miss you, I can't judge

  • Urbane Urbanite

    @max
    I enjoyed myself. Hope to see you next go round!

  • Joyelle

    Fool, did I ever tell you, you're hilarious? and greedy? lol.
    I knew food would be mentioned more than once. And u bumrushing the trip.. *likes*
    I have a 3-4 hr drive/ride limit. 8 hrs… baby… but it looks like it was worth it.
    Good post.

  • Urbane Urbanite

    @Joyelle
    I'ont know how to NOT eat and/or talk about food. 🙁