We wanted to see how Canada Day is celebrated. Windsor seemed as good a place as any for our observations, because it is more or less on our route (as much as anything can be on the route for travelers as undirected as we are).

Yesterday, as we approached Windsor, we found the waterside areas chock-full of folks. Tents, trailers, minivans, RVs of all description, filled just about all the visible camp and picnic grounds. (After driving through several small cities where, in true Canadian fashion, the houses are freshly Looking like a scene from a futuristic planet, the General Motors Headquarters, a complex of tall, rounded, dark-colored skyscrapers, rises like a mountain across the Detroit River from Windsor. Across the river - GM headquarters painted and the flower gardens in glorious bloom, we wonder why so many people feel impelled to leave home for the weekend).

Sunday we took a walk around the Windsor city center and observed the beginnings of the celebration. Downtown Windsor has the usual stores and offices, but the added attraction of a long and well-maintained riverside walk, with separate paths for amblers (like us), bikes and runners. Lovely flower gardens and shade trees make the area inviting. As it happened, we arrived at the finish line of what apparently were two races - one for walkers and one for runners. A carnival had set up and was just preparing to open for the day.

We enjoyed viewing Detroit from our vantage point on the river's edge. From the Canadian side it looks shiny and important.

Casino Windsor is situated right in the middle of town. Of course we sampled it, and enjoyed several hours of slots without serious damage to wallets. We had played right through our usual lunch time, but the Casino has, in addition to several sit-down restaurants, a food court with sandwiches, pasta, Chinese food and burgers. Finally, we climbed the stairs just in time to catch the hourly water show, with splashing fountains and colored lights. The Casino's architect has provided a dramatic waterfall, plus a bubbling brook which flows right underneath the walkway. A monument to the Underground Railroad, which brought slaves from the United States to Canada, which had outlawed slavery Underground Railroad monument

On July 2, the Globe and Mail (Canada's answer to USA Today but much more interesting) included an article on Canada celebrations - basically, you parade, eat, drink and sweat (lots of charity runs, people in silly t-shirts). We followed the recommendation of a friend who used to live in Windsor, and had breakfast at the Tunnel BBQ (because it is close to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, not because it is in one). What made it special were the potatoes, Canadian, sweet and cooked just right.

Detroit shows its best face to the Canadian border, with the GM Headquarters and a couple of neighboring shiny skyscrapers. Just a few blocks away the city center is filled with empty lots, boarded up buildings with broken windows, general decay. From the number of people wandering about we'd guess unemployment is still higher than in many other cities. For several miles up Woodward Avenue (which runs northwest through the heart of the city) we saw nothing but blight. Even a small neighborhood where large houses are still occupied was in shaky condition, with scraggly lawns and peeling paint.

Once we crossed the border into the next community things started looking up, and by the time we reached Ann Arbor we were back into prosperous suburbia.