Interesting Experience On A Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic
It was an interesting Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic. As our home province of Ontario in Canada started to open up, we decided to venture a little further from home.
It was great to be out in the sunshine. Signs for Paris, London, Copenhagen and Vienna caused longings to return to international travel. And while we saw no iconic international sights, it was great to enjoy the outdoor experience.
We prepared well for our day trip. And along the way, we saw signs that COVID-19 changed processes in every place we stopped. But our day trip did little to ease many of our anxieties about travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current During COVID-19 Pandemic Status In Ontario, Canada
Ontario had the second highest COVID-19 infection rates in Canada. Although the Canadian rates remain far below those in many other countries. And much like other countries, our infection rates were not uniform across the province. To reflect this, Ontario opened up regions at different rates based on the local infection rates.
At home in Toronto, we were not really surprised when we found that the rate of re-opening would be slowest. Toronto is the largest city in Ontario and it stayed at Stage 1 when other regions moved to Stage 2. And we expected the rest of the province to open up much faster than we would.
We are part of the population that are at higher risk. Even as the rules were relaxed, we were more anxious about the increased risks we faced in everyday activities out of the house. But we also didn’t want to be condemned to essentially home detention for an indefinite period of time. We needed to test our own boundaries within the COVID-19 constraints in place.
While Ontario still largely said “Stay Home”, there was also a need to support local small businesses. Especially those that relied on increased summer traffic. So our personal test was to take our car out for a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario as businesses re-opened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early Experiences Getting Out Of The House In Toronto
When the COVID-19 crisis bloomed into a full pandemic, we were stuck on a cruise ship off Peru. We eventually made it home safely. And we remained healthy after our 14 day quarantine. But we learned much about travelling during the COVID-19 crisis.
We tentatively started to go out after the quarantine period. First it was to pick up groceries curb-side. Then it was for weekly grocery shopping. We lived right on Lake Ontario and there was a great waterfront path in both directions. So we started to walk on the path.
When we first started to go out, people showed proper caution. Physical distancing and masks were respected. But as time wore on and then as the province opened up, these earlier behaviours largely fell away.
Each trip to the grocery store brought more anxiety as even the staff gave up masks. Walks on the path became something we only did very early in the morning. By mid-day, swarms of people often moved with little concern. And constant streams of bikes added multiple safety concerns.
I made masks for David and me. Colourful ones were crafted from a shirt donated from David’s Caribbean collection. We never left the house without a full supply of hand cleaner, rubber gloves and our masks. And we were the ones who moved aside or stopped if people got too close.
Every day it seemed harder to venture outside where we lived in Toronto. We wondered if it was time for a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario even with COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Preparing For A Lake Erie Day Trip
We looked at many different options to get outside if we took a short drive inside of Toronto. From talking with friends, we knew that not all the outdoor space in Toronto was packed like the waterfront path. But as the rest of Ontario started to open up, we wanted to venture out of the city.
We packed our day pack with an ample supply of hand cleaner, paper towel and tissues. Two masks each and some paper ones ensured we always had our faces covered if social distancing was an issue. We took our own folding chairs to avoid public benches. And this allowed us to sit away from others.
We planned to leave after the morning rush hour. And return after the afternoon rush hour. Our cooler contained water and protein bars. We figured that at worst case, we would get take-out fast food somewhere along the way to eat.
Bathroom breaks were a big concern. Typically when we travelled, we stopped for a coffee and bathroom break. But we knew that most fast food restaurants had no bathroom facilities opened. And we really had no idea what local restaurants would be open. Or what the state of bathroom access was.
It took us awhile to create our packing list and to get ready. We imagined how much longer this process would be if we left home for a longer period. But we believed we were ready for a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Than A Twinge Of Nostalgia For International Travel
Traffic around Ontario was still lighter than normal as we headed west along Lake Ontario. We planned a route that got us to Port Stanley on Lake Erie as fast as possible.
When we arrived in Port Stanley, it was strange to recall that we started our year on a cruise around South America. And our stop in Port Stanley in the Faukland Islands was spent with colonies of penguins. We saw no penguins on Lake Erie!
Our route from Port Stanley took us through Port Bruce, Port Burwell, Long Point, Port Rowan, Turkey Point and Port Ryerse. We stopped briefly in Port Dover before we headed for home. It reminded us not at all of the White Cliffs of Dover we visited in England.
Much of the way we travelled along the Coast Trail close to the water. The route was twisted but our offline map app helped us with the turns.
As we travelled through Southern Ontario, we saw signs of Canada’s immigrant history. Towns were named for some of our favourite international destinations. We passed Paris and followed the signs to London. When we left the major highway, we drove through Copenhagen. And later in the day we drove through Vienna.
Each sign with an international city name brought real waves of nostalgia. We remembered international road trips in Italy, Portugal and Central Europe. And those memories brought back the excitement of exploration. But along our route, we saw no international iconic sights. And we wondered when we might see those destinations again.
Our Experiences On A Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic
1) Bathroom Stops
We were relieved to find that the rest stops on the major highway were open. And the bathrooms were also available for use. There were physical distancing signs everywhere. Even if we only saw one person with a mask.
As we explored the green spaces, we were delighted to find that many of the park bathroom facilities were open. And there were even a number of clean portable bathrooms. With some caution, they provided bathroom break options as we travelled.
2) Many Outdoor Public Spaces Were Closed
We found most of the beach areas closed and empty in most places. One beach area prepared to open with lifeguard training on the beach. Even if beaches were marked as “Closed”, that often did not stop people from walking right past the “Closed” signs.
Some of the pier areas were opened. And some were still roped off. On one open pier, we saw the long pier busy as people fished. But the groups were well separated.
3) We Had No Problem Finding Food
We stopped twice at small shops for treats. Grandma’s Oven in Alymer offered great baked goods. And Simply Scoops in Port Burwell had the best menu of ice cream we saw in a while. Both small businesses offered safe physical distancing experiences. Staff were happy to be working. And we were even able to pay with cash.
We took a deep breath and stopped in Port Stanley at GT’s On The Beach for lunch. The patio was open and the tables were well spaced out. The paper menu provided an overview of the COVID-19 practices. And we were required to provide our personal information to support contact tracing if an issue was later discovered.
We even found a local produce market open. There was a good selection of vegetables. And we were delighted to grab a whole carton of fresh picked strawberries.
It was great to see that processes were put in place to support a cautious re-opening of this part of Ontario. It made the decision to do a day trip in Ontario during COVID-19 pandemic feel a little less risky.
Was It Worth Taking A Day Trip?
We planned our day trip along the Lake Erie shore because we have considered a short vacation rental in that area. We wanted to see first hand what the area offered for outdoor experiences. And we wanted to see how the re-opening in Ontario looked.
It was great to visit this part of Ontario. We loved the blue water views we got as we travelled along the shore line.
The small port towns were charming. We found the colourful images we expected in Ontario beach communities. Lighthouses were found in many of the towns. There was lots of green space. And we found many idyllic nature scenes.
In Port Burwell, retired Naval Officer David was also fascinated to find the ex-HMCS OJIBWA a decommissioned Canadian Navy O-class submarine. She was high and dry away from the river. Doing a tour was a great idea for a future day trip from Toronto.
It was wonderful as we walked along open stretches without feeling crowded. And we found spots with no people around. A Lake Erie day trip in Ontario cheered our spirits. And certainly made us happy we left the house and Toronto behind.
What Our Day Trip Reinforced About Travelling During COVID-19 Pandemic
We were glad we ventured out on our day trip. Many experiences calmed some anxiety about resuming activities while the COVID-19 pandemic still raged. But we remained at high alert. And we don’t expect that feeling to get better.
1) Vacation Crowds Will Make Things Worse
We intentionally travelled mid-week and soon after many services had just re-opened. Most of the towns we visited were big summer tourist spots. And we wanted to start our discovery with what might be the best case scenario.
In most places we stopped, the crowds were not large. Although we did see a few larger groups of people as they congregated on walkways. Or prepared to party on the closed beach.
But we imagined the rush to the beaches and parks when they opened. And we knew that any return to this area might only come when the crowds were small. If we do a vacation rental, we would likely only do a short mid-week trip.
2) COVID-19 Process Are In Place But Often Not Enforced
All of the places we stopped put good processes in place to address physical distancing. The small businesses we visited seemed to take the processes seriously. But with less customers, it was easier to control.
There seemed to be little patrols to stop people from accessing closed public facilities like beaches. And away from the larger areas, we saw evidence that people indeed just parked and headed to the water. Without enforcement, we worried that the policies were a bit of pandemic theatre.
3) Mask Use Was The Exception Rather Than The Rule
Other than for staff at the patio restaurant, we probably saw less than half a dozen masks worn on our day trip. We were the only ones that wore a mask for several bathroom visits. And in most cases, the bathroom spaces made physical distancing a challenge.
In these regions in Ontario that opened earliest, it seemed that physical distancing protocols were enough. And people just did not seem anxious about protecting anyone else with a mask.
4) We Need To Protect Ourselves
Our Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during COVID-19 re-opening reinforced that only we can protect ourselves. Protocols were not enough. People made their own risk-based decisions. And most weren’t compelled to protect others from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission.
If we plan to leave our condo, we need to accept our increased risk of exposure. We will wear our home-made masks to protect others. And to provide some barrier to reduce our risk. When we can find higher filtration masks, we will buy them. Because we know that the risk will only increase.
We won’t frequent places that don’t enforce distancing protocols. And we wonder what voluntary withdrawal from re-opening of businesses will do to real economic recovery. Much of the at-risk population still control a major portion of the disposable income of most countries.
And we will continue to be a bit OCD about hand washing, changing clothes and washing shoes every time we leave the house. Nothing has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic risk.
We are generally not anxious people worried about risk all the time. We travelled to over 100 countries and were away from home about 6 months a year. David was in the Canadian Armed Forces. I jumped out of perfectly good plans over 150 times. And then learned how to fly planes! We are both SCUBA divers.
We are not risk takers. But each activity was done with careful consideration of risk and risk avoidance. That is how we must approach travel now.
A Lake Erie Day Trip In Ontario During COVID-19 Pandemic Was Insightful
Our experience on a Lake Erie day trip in Ontario during COVID-19 pandemic was a good test. We loved the chance to get out of the house and enjoyed a beautiful part of Ontario. It was good to support the local economies. And it felt a little like life may return to normal.
But it also was a stark reminder that there was still a lot of risk in resuming life as normal while the COVID-19 pandemic existed. It might feel like the virus was dormant. But we felt we needed to protect ourselves and not be part of the numbers on the next wave!
Have you tried a day trip yet during the During COVID-19 Pandemic? Did you have a different experience as you ventured out as your area re-opened?
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