Ontario, Highway 17 from Ottawa to Kenora, Aug 18 -22, 2008

5 03 2011

Wild Berries of Ontario

So we had to be at the airport in Calgary by the evening of the 24th, to pick up our friend Linda , who would travel with us the last 10 days of our trip. Maybe for some people, 6 days is plenty of time to get from Ottawa to Calgary, but—don’t stop me if I’ve mentioned this before—it takes Step and I forever to get from point A to point B in the van. Part of the reason is we use propane as fuel whenever possible, and while it is cheaper and cleaner burning than gas, it takes a long time to fill the tank. The other reason is that we are Looky-Loos and I take about 100 pictures a day, so we are constantly stopping for photo ops.

On our way east we had traveled Highway 67 (also in a hurry—why?), so this part of Highway 17 was new to us. Despite our determination to make road time, it was very slow going due to frequent detours and delays caused by crews maintaining the roads. At one point when we were at a standstill, a trucker got out and bounced our bikes. He explained he thought our rack was loose, and had tried to contact us on our CB radio. Haha! We fooled him! The Boogie Bus had at some previous owner’s point had a CB, but all we had left were the antennas.

Awesome Abundance

Ironically, after traveling the Stewart Cassiar and Trans Labrador highways, it was highway 17 that gave us the biggest windshield crack of the trip, from a flying rock, and, of course, right in front of the driver’s side.

We stopped in Sault Sainte Marie for propane and groceries, and after spending so much time in the Maritimes and Newfoundland and Labrador, I was gobsmacked by what most would consider a normal array of foods for sale, and took pictures until a suspicious but friendly store manager asked me to stop.

Half a Highway

Maybe an hour down the road we made a pit stop, and I was surprised to note we had stopped at the halfway point of the Trans Canada highway. There weren’t bells and whistles, just this plaque.

We also went into Wawa for gas, and I learned the giant goose by the highway was just 1 of 3! It turned out the original one had been flimsy but so effective at getting Trans Canada visitors to stop that a sturdier one replaced it. I don’t know where the 3rd one came from.

The 1st Goose

The 3rd and Most Mysterious Goose

We camped at Berry Trails campsite, at Obatanga Provincial park. It’s too bad I had never seen a wild blueberry before, because we saw a lot of them there and I bet they were fucking delicious. I suspected what they might be, but was too afraid to try one. (Yes, I ate the blackberry in Labrador, but I had a botanical guide for that area). The trees are really tall there, although they hardly rival those on the west coast, and the campsites are near a small, serene lake. We had a campfire which we doused multiple times with lake water, but in the morning the remaining logs were entirely embers, so I learned how hard it is to put a fire out. I am glad we did not burn down the park. Berry Trails campsite has the Worst Showers Ever. Why? Because the shower heads were ridiculously high up on the wall, and the water sprayed out so far that all the water just ran down the walls and none of it landed on us. So we got slightly damp but not at all clean.

Berry Trails Campsite

We had to gas up in Marathon, again. ‘Nuff said.

Michael's Yard

Before Thunder Bay we stopped to visit Michael, an old University friend of Steps’s, and his wife. They have a very lovely home on a little lake, including their own Finnish sauna which we all enjoyed and then ran into the lake. That reminded us we wanted to try the Finnish pancakes at Kangas Sauna. It was a debate on whether to lunch there, or once again at the beloved Hoito, but in the end Kangas won, since we had only saunaed there on our trip out, but not sampled the fare. They were good! So was the smoked fish we picked up at Lilsa Karkkainen Fish Shop. She had wild blueberries for sale, but they really cost a lot. It makes sense—wild blueberries are tiny and picked by hand.

We also stopped in at the Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout. For those that don’t know, Terry Fox is a iconic Canadian Hero, who, due to cancer, had his leg amputated at a young age. He then decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research; The Marathon of Hope. At first, no one paid any attention, but as his marathon gained momentum, so did his fame and the feelings he inspired in people. Even though he was from Port Coquitlam, which is in British Columbia, he started the run in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and made it to basically Thunder Bay before succumbing to his illness. So he didn’t make it across Canada, but he died trying. I know, too, from personal experience, it’s a long way from St. John’s to Thunder Bay. Anyway, Canada has all sorts of Terry Fox memorials but the one near Thunder Bay is the main one. Step felt quite emotional at the memorial and wouldn’t let me take his picture.

Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout

If you want to learn more about Terry Fox and his story, Douglas Coupland wrote a really readable biography of him, and the proceeds from the book go to the Terry Fox Foundation.

Tin Man near Kenora

From Thunder Bay we were able to veer off of the Trans Canada Highway, which we had already driven, and instead drove Highway 11 through Fort Frances and then the cottage district of Lake of the Woods to Kenora, where we got back onto Highway 1. I didn’t take pictures of the cottage district, but it was Canadian and woodsy, with signs with beavers and mooses and whatnot. Also, we slept that night behind an empty building in Emo, but we got sort of paranoid because there were kids out drinking and fooling around, and then the police came to investigate the kids, and we were hoping no one would investigate us, and thankfully no one did. So, were those these Emo kids we hear so much about, haha?

Sadly, the most boring part of the Trans-Canada highway is from Kenora to Winnepeg, but there are no alternate routes so we now drove it a second time.

Shevlin Yard in Fort Frances





Ontario, Ottawa, and Quebec, Gatineau, June 30 to July 3, 2008

11 08 2008

 

A Capital Encounter with a Dashing Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman

A Capital Encounter with a Dashing Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman

It’s Canada Day up Canada Way on the first day of July.

And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way when the maple leaf flies high.

Where the silver jets from East to West are streaming through our skies.

We’ll be shouting hooray up Canada Way when the great parade goes by.

A Canadian Institution

A Canadian Institutio

Chorus:

Oh Canada, standing tall together,

We’ll raise our hands and hail our flag

The maple leaf forever.

It’s Canada Day up Canada Way on the coast of Labrador.

And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way on the white Pacific shore.

People everywhere have a song to share on Canada’s holiday.

From P. E. Island to the sunny south to the North Pole far away.

Chorus…

It’s Canada Day up Canada Way on the long cold winters done.

And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way for the great days yet to come.

Where maple trees grow maple leaves when the Northern sun is high.

We’re Canadians and we’re born again on the first day of July.

Chorus…

It’s Canada Day up Canada Way from the lakes to the prairies wide.

And we’re shouting hooray up Canada Way on the St. Lawrence river side.

People everywhere have a song to share on Canada’s holiday.

From P. E. Island to the sunny south to the North Pole far away.

·Canada Day Song by Stompin’ Tom Conners, Canadian Musical Icon

(If reading the song makes you want to hear it, here’s someone else’s Canada Day video on YouTube that uses it).

Library on Parliament Hill

Library on Parliament Hill

A House made of Straw

A House made of Straw

I had noticed we would be near Ottawa around July 1st, and when you’re on a cross-Canada adventure, what better place to spend Canada day in than Canada’s capital city? One thing about a lot of Canadian cities is that they have a body of water in the middle, but instead of being one city it’s a different city on each side. Ottawa is like that, but further complicated by the other side, Gatineau, being in Quebec. We came to see Ottawa but we were staying with our friends Liz and Ed’s in Gatineau. Liz and Ed built a straw bale house—-a house made of straw! They also put in a crazy masonry fireplace in the middle. The walls of the house are so thick and the fireplace so efficient that most days they only have to make one small fire in the morning to keep the house warm, even in winter, and they live in Quebec.

The National Gallery Cafe

The National Gallery Cafe

The Downpour Even a Vancouverite Can't Ignore

The Downpour Even a Vancouverite Couldn't Ignore

Of course Ottawa has many sights of historical and national interest, as well as being a very beautiful city in it’s own right. Step and I decided to split up for a couple of hours for a bit of alone time. I spent about half of it looking at a book about clowns in the National Gallery (it was like a train wreck—I just couldn’t look away), and the rest wandering around Parliament Hill looking at statues and the Rideau Canal locks and the preparations for the big celebration. When it was time to go meet Step I got a bit lost and then got caught in a raging torrential downpour. Being from Vancouver, I at first carried on as if nothing was happening, even when I became soaked like I had gone in a shower, and my insoles were so wet the glue came off and the top bit slid around on the bottom bit, but finally I got worried for the camera and stood under a bridge until it eased up.

A Delicious Vegan Green Papaya Salad

A Delicious Vegan Green Papaya Salad

When I met Step I was too wet to sit down anywhere so we had to go back to the van so I could change. We called Liz and asked where we could get some hippie food, but the Green Door restaurant was closed when we got there. By this point in our travels we had figured out to find some healthy good freak food the person to ask is the clerk at the health supplement store, and that was how we found The Sacred Garden, a vegan Thai restaurant serving up sizzling hot faux meat and tofu stirfries and a killer green papaya salad (my Thai favourite) that somehow doesn’t have fish sauce yet still tastes great. If you’re ever in Ottawa, I recommend it.

Hat Envy

Hat Envy

The next day was the big day, Canada Day! Liz and Ed have two children, Maya and Alex, so they went to the Gatineau side of the celebrations which had more kid’s stuff. Step and I went to the Parliament Hill side (weirdly, the day got so packed with stuff we got near The Hill but never quite made it on). At first the enormous crowds were kind of weirding Step out but after we watched a break dancing demo he got more into the spirit of things. We both liked the giant chicken BBQ in Maple Hill Park, which is just under the Parliament buildings, so much that we ate there twice, and I had a giant fresh lemonade. A lot of people were dressed in red and white. I really liked the hat where it’s just a giant felt maple leaf on your head but I didn’t see anyone selling any.

Giant Chicken BBQ

Giant Chicken BBQ

Funny Bum

Funny Bum

The permanent collection at the National Gallery is free on Canada Day, so even though it was crowded we went in. The elevator man told us to check out room 213 because it has over 4,000,000 dollars worth of expressionist art in it, and all the way there I kept thinking maybe it would just be better to put 4,000,000 dollars in a big glass box for people to look at. I guess that would be interesting once but a Braque you can look at over and over again. We knew we would be back at the Gallery the next day so we only checked out a portion of the collection. (I did see this painting shown here which has a really weird bum in it).

The People's Orchestra

The People's Orchestra

We needed to go to the Lord Elgin Hotel to meet with Step’s distant cousin Ruth and her family, and on the way there we saw the People’s Orchestra playing “I Dream of Jeannie”. First of all, I LOVE the People’s Orchestra. When I lived on 3rd Avenue in Vancouver the local People’s Orchestra would go by on random occasions, and it was always a thrill. Second of all, the fact they were playing “I Dream of Jeannie” and that I had won at the “I Dream of Jeannie” slot machine was not lost on me. It obviously has weighty significance, but what? If anyone has any insight, let me know. Step had his recorder so he was able to record some of their playing.

Glenn Gould Sculpture by Ruth

Glenn Gould Sculpture by Ruth

Ruth’s husband Mark is an inventor and Ruth is a bronze sculpture artist who does national commissions and stuff, so you’ve probably seen some of her work. She has a lot of sparkle and we really enjoyed our visit at the Lord Elgin Hotel. I ordered a teaser plate of appetizers that I thought was really funny. It was little puff pastries and breaded scallops with chutney and the like but it was all kind of clunky on the plate, as if it were trying to be Nouvelle Cuisine but too big. I guess I’m a bit of a rube ‘cause Step explained that it was the Old School Way. When you live in Vancouver you only have 150 years of history so there’s just no tradition.

It turned out the Ruth family had come to Canada Day by accident, because Ruth had to discuss a commission at the National Arts Centre and her son had a soccer game. But then it turned out the soccer game was the next weekend—-d’oh! We went with them to a kind of sampler concert at the Arts Centre, with an orchestra and a huge choir and stuff. Step doesn’t enjoy that kind of music as much but I loved it, and it was my favourite thing of Canada Day.

Canada Day Garbage Pile

Canada Day Garbage Pile

When we got out it had turned dark and so had the spirit of the day. Families and older people had gone home mostly and it was still crowded but with hard-core party people who were waiting for the fire works and the all night bars and nightclubs to get going. We found a restaurant called Vittoria Trattoria in the market area where we were able to get some surprisingly good whole wheat pasta, and we left as the fireworks started. It was kind of fun and surreal to be walking around the empty outlying streets with the echoes of the fireworks booming around us.

Maman by Louise Bourgeois

Maman by Louise Bourgeois

The next day we returned to the National Gallery and saw a really good show : 1930’s: The New Man. It was all art made in the time of and in response to the rise of Fascism in Europe. The show was well put together and told a story of something we need to watch out for, especially in these days when the danger seems to have been forgotten by some of Canada’s neighbours, and some Canadians themselves.

Image by Edward Burtynsky

Image by Edward Burtynsky

We also checked out this really great show that was actually from the Museum of Contemporary Photography (they’re having renos) that was all art about environment and climate change. We had seen that movie “Manufactured Landscapes” about the work of Edward Burtynsky (highly recommended, but only on the big screen), and some of his pieces were in it as well as others, so that was cool. It’s kind of wild that destruction can be so beautiful yet chilling—-sort of like Burlington Street.

Another great thing about the National Gallery is the crazy Giant Spider Sculpture outside by Louise Bourgeois, which I photographed in many conditions—-cloudy, sunny, crowded and alone.

The Heavily Guarded American Embassy

The Heavily Guarded American Embassy

It’s kind of wild walking around in Ottawa—there’s a lot of history like the National Mint and the Prime Minister’s House at 24 Sussex Drive. The GovernerGeneral’s House and grounds is right across the street and a lot bigger, because they are the official yet figurehead Leader of the Nation. (The grounds were open to the public while we were there but we didn’t go). There are also all sorts of Embassies. The American one was the freakiest because it is so heavily gaurded and barricaded. It mad me shivery and not in a good way (see 1930’s: The New Man).

Ottawa has a pretty good market district, called ByWard Market, where we were able to get some excellent spicy noodles. I appreciated the many fresh food stands, particularly the ones which labeled wether the produce was local or not. I wish this was a practice which was more widespread. We were still unable to get a really good coffee but you can’t have everything.

ByWard Market

ByWard Market

Cat Shelter on Parliament Hill

Cat Shelter on Parliament Hill

A walk along the river under Parliament Hill is a must, of course, and we climbed a really long staircase from there to The Hill. Not everyone knows that there is a stray cat shelter behind the parliament buildings that has been there for years. When we visited a few cats were napping in the shade and a raccoon was digging into their crunchies. What can you do? Raccoons have to eat, too.

Mountie photographs Tourists

Mountie photographs Tourists

Rideau Canal and Chateau Laurier

Rideau Canal and Chateau Laurier

The most purest Canadian Moment Ever happened in front of the Tomb of the Unkonwn Soldier, which is in front of the Parliament Buildings. We were walking along when we spotted a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in full uniform taking pictures of some tourists! The quick witted Step took a picture of the Mountie taking pictures of tourists, and theMountie turned to us and started posing for all sorts of pictures with us. Then he regailed us with many stories! He was part of the secret service so he had escorted many Prime Ministers in his time and had inside information on what they were like. Pierre Trudeau was of course a favourite (come back, Trudeau!) and described as a down-to-earth sort of fellow, which came as no surprise. Brian Mulroney was phoney balogna (also no surprise). He liked Paul Martin, who encouraged him to go swimming in his pool. When the Mountie said he didn’t think his boss would like that Paul Martin replied “I’m your boss!”. He obviously couldn’t say anything about the current administration, but I think we can guess. He told us the Prime Minister of France had just arrived to the Chateau Laurier, which explained all the shiny black cars and guys standing around in suits apparently doing nothing.

Robin Eats a Lobster

Robin Eats a Lobster

Step popped into Moores for a Monkey Suit fitting and afterwards I ate a whole lobster. Later we finally got in a visit with Ed and Liz. They had both had a crazy busy schedule to whole time we were there because stuff was going down at their kids school and Liz is on the board, so it was nice to have some minutes.

No Time for the Glenn Gould Exhibit

No Time for the Glenn Gould Exhibit

The next day we tried to go for a quickie at the Museum of Civilisation in Gatineau because there was a show about Glenn Gould Step was particularly interested in, but when we got there there was a very, very long line up to pay admission. The problem was we had a goal to get to Montreal in time to meet up with my friend Alain and go the the Real Tuesday Weld show at 530 (it was part of the Jazz Festval). We figured we needed to be on the road by 2 and if we waited in line we would only have ½ hour for the whole museum, so instead we had a very nice lunch at the Museum Restaurant and wandered a bit in the Zen Garden. It was nice but it was no Glenn Gould show. The irony was we got caught in traffic in the outskirts of Montreal so we missed the Real Tuesday Weld show anyway.

The Museum of Civilisation

The Museum of Civilisation





Ontario, Not Quite Kingston, June 29, 2008

11 08 2008

 

We left town in the late afternoon and hightailed it straight to Kingston. I really enjoy the Vancouver Centennial Police Museum and I was excited to see Kingston has a Correctional Facility (read prison) Museum, which is right on the waterfront across from the prison. The municipal campground is only a few blocks from that. But when we got there, the campground was closed! We couldn’t find anywhere to park discretely (we still weren’t desperate enough for Wal-Mart) and we drove around futiley looking for an alternate campground, finally stopping to ask someone at a gas station. He fortunately turned out to be a camper and directed us to one about 20 minutes out of town. So we never really saw anything of Kingston, except the dark of night.

Husky Truck Stop

Husky Truck Stop

The campground was one of those RV Resorts that even had a big lodge with live entertainment, and we could only be accommodated in a serviceless field far from the bathrooms, and the cost was high so we decided not to stay and just look for a rest area instead. Well, of course you can’t stay overnight at a rest area in Ontario but if you see a giant Canadian flag west of Quebec you know you’ve found the full service Husky or Mowhawk where the truckers stop to sleep. The Husky or Mohawk has a 24 hour convenience store and restaurant, 24 hour bathrooms and laundry and showers for a fee. It’s kind of noisy if you’re near a truck that has refrigeration but we have earplugs and other than that I’d say the services were better than most campgrounds AND you can gas up, or in our case propane up, before you even roll out in the morning. There were lots of trucks there late at night but when we woke in the morning it was just one truck and us.

 





Ontario, Hamilton and Dundas, June 28 and 29, 2008

3 08 2008

Laying Hens

Laying Hens

Claire

Claire

We spent the next couple of nights at Pete and Mary Anne’s, who live in an old farmhouse in Dundas near Hamilton with their two children Beatrice and Claire, and a bunch of chickens. To get there, we drove down Burlington Street at night and it was a Futurist fantasy, with all these beautifully lit industrial steel mills. It looked like a Bladerunner Disneyland, and it made me wish I could spend hours there trying to photograph it. Usually it’s nature that is awe inspiring, so I guess it’s kind of weird when it’s a pollutin’ stink-hole that is so magical to see, but there you have it. I’d say it was one of the most beautiful sights in Canada.

Claire, Robin, and Beatrice

Claire, Robin, and Beatrice

The first night we were there, there was a violent thunder and lightning storm right above us. (While we were in Ontario if we weren’t in a thunder storm every day, we could see one from where we were). Even though everyone offers us a room, we usually sleep in the Boogie Bus for comfort and the storm was so close it would be too dangerous to get out but it made the inside feel really safe and cozy. The next morning the sun shone again and Mary Anne took us to Hamilton where we went to the Ontario Worker’  Arts and Heritage Centre, where there is a lot of displays about Ontario Labour history and some art and stuff. The current show was original comic art, which was weirdly coincidental as Mary Anne didn’t know about my cartooning background.

 In Hamilton we also visited the Farmers’ Market (of course), where we bought a variety of foodstuffs. As it was now late enough in the season for produce, at this point strawberries in particular, the food was getting exciting! I was able to buy a bag of new potatoes no bigger than peas—my favourite and only available for a week or two every year. Mary Anne also has an impressive vegetable garden and that night’s dinner was one of the eating highlights of the trip.

A Very Good Dinner

Purple Hair in Front of a Purple Tree

Purple Hair in Front of a Purple Tree

Our friend Liz is moving into the upstairs suite of Pete and Mary Anne’s house, and while everybody else was building a fence for her dog, Reckless, Mary Anne died my hair purple, something I’ve been meaning to do since last summer but hadn’t found the time for. Then Step and I walked in the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is right next door. It’s a lovely place.

Pete works at one of those Living Museums as an archivist or something, and in his spare time he writes Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. I think he’s written 4 now—a Vampire trilogy and his latest “Sunrider”. I’m a big fan of Sci-Fi and I really don’t like Fantasy, so I was reluctant to start it but I have to say once I did it’s a page turner! He has quite a few fans but he distrusts publishers so he just prints his own and sells them at conventions and fairs and stuff.

 Pete also has a band so he and Step jammed both nights we were there which was great for Step, as I think he was jonesing to make some music.

Step Visits McMaster

Hamilton is a University town and like all University towns it’s somewhat funky. Step was in the Arts and Science program at McMaster University, so before we left Hamilton he showed me around the campus a bit. Without students around it seemed a bit dreary, although I did like the sculptures and the Science Building which had been cleverly designed to be able to add more stories on as needed. We also had lunch at an old favourite Lebanese restaurant he likes. Because Lebanese food is mostly vegetables, beans, and mainly vegan unless you order a meat dish, I have eaten a lot of it in my day, and the food served to us at La Luna was some of the best I’ve ever had.

Fresh Meat at Hamilton Farmers' Market





Ontario, Niagara Falls, June 27, 2008

31 07 2008
Step at Niagara Parks Botanical Garden

Step at Niagara Parks Botanical Garden

Resident of the Conservatory

Resident of the Conservatory

I thought it would be romantic for Step to take me to Niagara Falls so he did. It wasn’t romantic but I’m glad we went. First we checked out the Butterfly Conservatory which was crowded but open so I was finally somewhat salved of missing Butterfly World in Combes. There are a zillion butterflies and sometimes they land on you. It is located on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens, so you also get to see some crazy ass plants, which I always love. Dig that rock ‘n’ roll pic of Step with sci-fi plants all ‘round him.

Dino-Rampage!

Dino-Rampage!

Niagara Falls (the Canadian Side) is completely garish. I imagine it is like a mini version of Vegas, a place I have not yet been. We decided not to pay 20 dollars to park by the falls and instead drove around into the town and payed 2 dollars to park on the street. Yes, we had to walk about 4 block which means we saved 4 dollars a block; a super deal! It also meant we got to see things like the 4-D 360 degree panoramic Din0-Rampage theatre, Frankenstein World, and other such attractions. Clifton Hill, leading to the falls, is a climatic frenzy of tourist attractions, with dayglo mini golf and places like Lego City (which we actually payed 8 dollars and went into. It wasn’t as mind blowing as the outside display led us to believe, of course, but I enjoyed the Lego AC/DC concert and giant Lego clown). I actually really liked “the scene” but I think it made Step a bit anxious. It’s also quite incongruous because the falls themselves are a temple of natural beauty.

FrankenBurger

FrankenBurger

Maid of the Mist

Maid of the Mist

For the unfamiliar, Niagara Falls is actually 2 falls, or 3, depending on how you’re counting. The American Falls is the slightly less spectacular 1 (or 2) on the American side and has a side falls called the Bridal Veil. The Canadian side has the phenomenal Horseshoe Falls (I overheard a couple of Americans trying to figure out which was the American Falls and conclude it must be the Horseshoe 1 because it was bigger and fancier (???)). Because going to the American side would have diluted the purity of our Canada trip we stayed on the Canadian side, so I can’t account what it’s like on the other side of the bridge.

Misty Maid

Misty Maid

We went on the Maid of the Mist, which is a boat ride that takes you right into the falls. In contrast to the luridness of the surrounding area, the falls are magical! You get totally wet but no one cares. It’s so astounding and not only that but when it’s sunny, like it was for our day, you get all sorts of rainbows, too.

One thing I loved about Niagara Falls was the retro buildings in that ‘50’s and ‘60’s style of architecture which still stand from it’s heyday. Unfortunately I left my picture taking of those until too late and all the good light was gone, so it’s hard to represent its splendour, but it was good. I would go back just to tour those.

Funky '50's Architecture

More Funky Mansions

More Funky Mansions

Niagara Falls, the town, is obviously struggling and trying to revive by focusing on the arts. We gave some local kids a ride to the liquor store and they told us about how the downtown storefronts were being rented to artists for almost nothing so they could fix them up and make the neighbourhood cool again, and then the storefronts could get trendy and command more handsome rents for clothing stores and the like after the artists were financially squeezed out. I’m not sure if that’s mutually beneficial or exploitation, but the idea is nothing new. Artists are always finding cheap, funky neighbourhoods to revive and then getting gentrified out. It’s just another way the artists of our time subsidise society. But I digress into a disillusioned, bitter artist’s rant. Back to exploring Canada!

Butterfly Ring

Butterfly Ring





Ontario, Toronto, June 25 and 26, 2008

30 07 2008
Mural in Cabbagetown

Mural in Cabbagetown

The first thing we did once we got to Toronto was have some brown rice and vegetables in Cabbagetown. The second thing we did was go to Jet Fuel Coffee for some really good coffee and WiFi. I enjoy the country but there’s just a few things a city does better.

Robin driving Julie and Sue

Robin driving Julie and Sue, but to where?

Since Sue and David were about to live abroad for a year, starting with a 1 month visit to her Dad’s (empty) house in Toronto, we were able to have an encore to our visit in Edmonton. The first night we were there they hosted a great BBQ with some other old friends and it was a good chance to visit a bunch of people at once (the Ontario portion of the trip was visiting dense, to be sure). After dinner we were able to go to the park and get a heated game of Pit in. Julie’s daughter Kira was funny and refreshing by assuming I would help her corner the market on corn instead of trying to corner the market myself (now that’s positive thinking!). She is obviously unfamiliar with my sincere competitive intent to win at games (an area in life where winning really doesn’t count).

Woman with Amazing Bubble Hair-do Visits the ROM

Woman with Amazing Bubble Hair-do Visits the ROM

I have visited Toronto many times but have so far managed to see almost none of the city, since my visits are always short, and this time was no different. Yes, I have spent one hour eating brown rice in Kensington Market, and gazed through the windows at the art in the closed Galleries of Queen Street. I have window shopped and never stopped to buy. We had one day to spend and wisely used about half of it at the Royal Ontario Museum. As well as the always popular dinosaur exhibits, there was a great (but small) exhibit of typewriters through the ages which was a highlight for me. Some past typewriter designs that didn’t stand the test of time were crazy contraptions with complicated daisy wheels which were reset for every letter and had no windows through which you could see the typing. The display made me nostalgic for typewriters, even though computers are infinitely more user friendly and make editing easy. (On a side note, I remember in high school “Typing Class” was so female dominated, but as soon as it became “Keyboarding” it became demographically gender equal. Men love electronic gadgets!)

Early Typewriter seen at the ROM

Early Typewriter seen at the ROM

Felix and Jason at the Digging Pit

Felix and Jason at the Digging Pit

After the ROM we went to Dufferin Grove Park to meet our old friend Jason and his family, stopping briefly at Greg’s Ice Cream on Bloor street near the ROM to sample their famous Roasted Marshmallow Ice Cream (tasty!). This was a most awesome park because instead of a sand box it has a gimungous sand pit to dig in with a water hose and real shovels hanging on the fence for kids to use. It also has a Farmer’s Market and a Cobb House they built because they needed to have a sink in order to comply with health regulations when serving food. Jason and Heather have two kids, Felix and Henry. They didn’t know about the cartoon “Henry” that all babies look like, which is a little odd because they collect ‘zines and that is closely connected to the world of comics. Heather said she didn’t mind the muggy humidity of Toronto in the summer because it feels like being in a warm bath.

 We needed to head to Queen Street for dinner because it was Thursday and we wanted to go to the famous karaoke at the Gladstone. The Gladstone is a refurbished boutique hotel with rooms designed by different artists (another time we were in Toronto we stayed in the Bruno Billio Room there). The Zeidler family, who own the Gladstone, are socially conscientious—when they renovated from Flea Bag to Fancy they didn’t want to disturb the community so they always kept a portion of the bar open so as not to lose the rummy regulars and some of the long term tenants still live there, and have jobs there such as elevator operator. (Other tenants were assisted in finding new accomodations). The Drake, a block away, is not as community minded and displaced the residents when renovating, but unfortunately that doesn’t stop them from being trendy. I really prefer the Gladstone and they deliver a mean breakfast.

Karaoke at the Gladstone

Frostitute Rocks Me

Frostitution Nation

On the way we noticed the G+ Gallery (on Gladstone) was having an opening so we went in. They had these great Frostitution  cupcakes and we bought a small print by Dave Sheppard that we liked.

Dave Sheppard Print

Dave Sheppard Print

Fresh: they serve good fresh vegetables, tofu and tempeh on brown rice.

For Karaoke we met up with Step’s friend Dave who we had last seen 2 years ago in Peterborough, when he cooked us up a fine steak barbecue. The last (and only other) time we had been to Gladstone Karaoke it was the Thursday before a Friday holiday so it was packed “like a sardine can”, and we only got to sing one song each. This time, it was Pride Week in Ontario. Oh, how I hope some day to visit on a regular Thursday. So they had some bands and the karaoke didn’t start until later. We like the regular host, Peter Styles; he does an amazing job and he knows his stuff; but today he had a gay co-host doing all the talking and insisting we all sing gay anthem songs.

Dave and Step at the Gladstone

ROCKIN'! with Peter Styles

ROCKIN'! with Peter Styles

He seemed like a nice enough fellow but his hosting wasn’t very pro. For one thing, it’s bad form to try to direct the choices of the Karaokers, and for another he wouldn’t announce the line up and so when it was your turn you would have no warning and then there was a lag waiting for people to get to the stage. That’s a waste of valuable karaoke time! Other than those things he did well though. Step and I had made our choices before the host came up and before we knew about the “gay” theme. Coincidentally, I had chosen “Fat Bottomed Girls” so that was sort of gay, and even though Step’s “Still Rock and Roll to Me” wasn’t at all gay he gives such good karaoke he still got applause, applause. Dave didn’t sing a song, not because he was shy to, just not in the mood.

Transit in Toronto is excellent. Even though it was 2am we got home with no waiting time.

A Toronto Classic

A Toronto Classic





Ontario, Eastern Ontario, June 21 to 24, 2008

29 07 2008
Rural Ontario

Rural Ontario

Step Relaxes by the Pool

Step Relaxes by the Pool

The next 3 days we visited a lot of Step’s extended family, who mostly live in Peterborough and the surrounding countryside. We were stationed at his cousins Jim and Richelle’s in Campbellford. They have a big house on the countryside that they’ve been adding on to and improving for the last 15 years, so it’s very deluxe. As I’ve mentioned, we were intent of getting there for Jim’s birthday party, and we made it around dusk time. It was a great kick-off to the visit as a lot of his family were there. To go with their monster house they have a monster lawn,  (a non-monster) pool and hot tub, overlooking the countryside, and tonight there was a monster bonfire which we enjoyed. We broke out the Wii and fun was had until the wee hours.

A Post Night Before Dip

A Post Night Before Dip

 

The next morning I think I was the only one not hungover, not because of virtue but because of my unfortunate circumstance of not being able to drink due to medical reasons. I was dismayed to discover that I had not been imagining that mosquitoes were biting my ankles all night, but that they had really been there. Campbellford Mosquito Massacre. (I have been bitten by mosquitoes many times in my life but this was the only time it constituted torment. All I was doing all day was not scratching and trying to get my mind off the burning that was my feet, or fantasising I was plunging my feet into ice water. My burning feet woke me up many times in the night. I went through a lot of After Bite and other home remedies, and it wasn’t until the 3rd day I finally figured out I needed to take a Benedryl. Oh, sweet relief. Plus, I had never taken Benedryl before and I really got a rather pleasant buzz from it—no wonder you can’t drive or operate machinery when on it. None of my bites since then, and there have been many, have been nearly as torturous as the ones the Campbellford mosquitoes delivered. So Campbellford obviously has the most competent mosquitoes).

Phil in FRont of the 100 Mile Diner

Phil in Front of the 100 Mile Diner

Phil is married to Step’s Aunt Marie’s second husband’s daughter, Pam, who live next door, and he runs a restaurant in Warkworth called The Hundred Mile Diner, the concept of course being all food is produced within 100 miles, with a few exceptions like coffee that just can’t be grown locally. As you can imagine Step and I were all over that. It is a concept so elementary to a farming community it seemed a bit redundant, but the people of Warkworth support it. It was a natural for The Morning After breakfast. The food was excellent and we were totally charmed by the small town of Warkworth. As well as the Hundred Mile Diner they had a local food product store and other progressive businesses, and this was where I first came across that thick deluxe organic kefir that is sold in Ontario and Quebec. Step and I checked out an old Masonic Temple that was for sale, but it didn’t have enough windows.

The Boogie Bus in Downtown Warkworth

The Boogie Bus in Downtown Warkworth

Luxury Kefir!

Luxury Kefir!

Phil told us we had missed the Donnybrook the day before, which is a big auction and rummage sale of mountains of stuffage from there and beyond that draws hundreds if not thousands of people annually, some of them having that be the one time they leave their homes in the bush. There’s a lot going on in some of those tiny communities.

Ontario Slots

Ontario Slots

Aunt Peggy and Uncle John who live in a farm house outside of Peterborough. I had been there several times before and felt drawn to a huge slots machine casino/race track on the corner of the road to their house (it’s kind of bizarre because there is nothing else around there). Kawartha Downs and Speedway: it has  this incredibly gaudy ‘80’s style sign. Usually we drive past in wonder but this time we went in. We each had a budget of 10 dollars. I was “winning” on I Dream of Jeannie but Step wasn’t having any luck and it actually wasn’t as fun as we had imagined so we left before all the budget was go

Buckhorn Lake at Sunset

Buckhorn Lake at Sunset

 

 

After visiting another aunt in Peterborough the next day we headed to Step’s cousin Carol’s “cottage” on Buckhorn Lake. People in Ontario call almost any house near the water a cottage for some reason, and Carol’s is rather large being two stories and a basement, as well as generous lakeside grounds. These cottages require a huge level of maintenance because besides the usual landscape and house stuff there is always wildlife tearing up the roof or hanging out on their “Aqua Patio”, which is a flat motor boat that is sort of like taking your deck out onto the water. Carol also has a really smart talking bird named Cocoa. I had been to this cottage before but not in the summertime.

Buckhorn Lake Locks

Carol and her partner Marc are really into sledding (they refer to themselves as “slednecks”) and they live for the winter. Summer is but a poor yet labour intensive seasonal sister that needs to be got through. Carol had gone to work in the morning but Marc took us out on the Aqua Patio all the way to the lock (Ontario has a lot of locks and some people will houseboat for weeks going from lake to lake through them).

Is it Robin, or is it Jackie O?

Is it Robin, or is it Jackie O?

Marc has a lot of great stories about people getting stuck on rocks in the lake and shooting lawn-pooing geese with paintball guns, but our favourite story was about his drive home from work. He works in a blue rock mine about a 45 minute drive from where he lives, and often he will have to drive home at night, which freaks him out because he will see about 40 deer on the sides of the road as he drives. So he went to Canadian Tire and had the brightest lights available installed on his truck in order to see better, which he later regretted because he could then see 80 deer while driving home. One night he was driving home when he saw some deer on the side of the road and 3 standing right on the road, but he was able to stop before hitting anything.

So he was at a complete stop when suddenly a deer bolted across the road and ran right into the driver’s side door of his truck and konked out onto the ground! Marc got out of the truck and another car came from the other direction. The driver asked Marc if he ran into the deer and Marc said, “No, the deer ran into me! Look at my door”. Marc took out an utility knife and the driver asked what he was doing. Marc told him the deer probably had a broken neck and if it didn’t get up in 30 seconds he was going to slit it’s throat and drag it into the ditch. The other guy kept yelling at the stupid deer to get up and finally the deer did and staggered into the bush.

A Common Sight

Auction Ring

Auction Ring

After the boat ride we went to Hoard’s Station, where the largest sale barn in Eastern Ontario is located, and just happens to be owned by some other members of Step’s extended family, Dave and Kim. Step had often played in it as a child but had never attended on Tuesday, the day of the auctions. In case you don’t know, a sale barn is a facility where livestock is auctioned. Every week a different church runs the lunch counter. We got there too late for the full lunch, but we had some sausage on a bun and some Farm Lady Pie. It’s common knowledge that Farm Lady Pie is the best pie in the world. Mine didn’t have Farm Ladies in it: it was raspberry. (Actually, though, the best pie I ever had was the next day at Step’s Aunt Jean’s, and she lives in the City of Peterborough, so maybe Farm Ladies have the second best pie and Aunt Jean has the first best pie. I know you are dying to know; it was fresh strawberry pie).

Calves being Herded into the Auction Ring

Cows at Work

Cows at Work

The farmers at the sale barn are practical, hard working types, many who don’t welcome tourists with open arms, or even at all, especially ones like us who take 100s of pictures every day, so I was glad we had the VIP connection. (One farmer offered to break my camera if I took one more picture). The sale was really interesting. It must take years of practice to be able to understand what the Auctioneer is actually saying, but everyone seemed to know what was going on except for me and Step. I could make out bits and pieces like “a fine looking heifer” and “lot 673” but most of it was intelligible to my novice ears. Cows were sold in lots of single to dozens. The would come in one door, get sold, and leave by another door. The sale barn and it’s people weren’t overly concerned with safety (not because they are careless or uncaring, it’s just the nature of the work). We went up to a catwalk above the holding stalls and saw one working pushed down by a cow, and on the auction ring is a narrow metal free-standing wall the herder stands behind when things get hairy. One cow tried to jump into the stands. I guess they get really nervous about all the hubbub around them (no, I wasn’t using the flash, which is why the pictures have odd colour balance).

You could buy a cow at the auction and have it butchered at the butcher to freeze for winter, if you wanted to. When Mad Cow Disease was the scare of the week Jim bought one for 35 cents a pound! The only thing is if it is hunting season you might have a hard time getting in at the butchers.

The Young Hopeful

The Young Hopeful

Step’s cousin Brad has been at the sale barn since childhood, and he really likes the auctioneering part. He competes at the annual auctioneers convention, but he hasn’t won yet. You have to compete as a novice for the first 5 years. It’s almost like you need a PHD in it to do it well.

Outside of the sale barn are a bunch of people selling stuff like cowboy hats, candy, and used car parts. It’s an impromptu flea market.

Church Key Brewing

Church Key Brewing

 Those of you who know Step know of his deep and reverent love for beer, so we never visit a region without sampling the local microbrew, and visiting the brewery if possible. Eastern Ontario’s microbrewery is Church Key Brewery, and they do make some fine brews. It was funny to go to their brewery, because while everything was open to walk through, it took us about 20 minutes to find anyone who worked there. This is life in rural Ontario.

 Another thing about life in rural Ontario is super big lawns and swimming pools. It seems like everyone has one! Step’s Aunt Marie said it takes 4 hours to mow their lawn on the riding mower. I’m still unclear on what is the use of the big lawns, but they’re pretty. (This giant lawn theme is a national rural phenomenon, it turns out).

After 3 days we decided it was time to head to the big city, so we drove to some other relatives of Step’s and stayed overnight in Scarborough before visiting that Metropolitan Centre of the Canadian Universe known as Toronto.

Fields of Trent Hills

Fields of Trent Hills