I have now had the chance to test out the medical services of Canada.
Not quite voluntarily I must admit.
Although if you take into consideration that I was the one who requested a 911 call then maybe it was.
The interesting part of the process being that I have recently had to do a recertification of my First Aid for the CCGA and this may be a reason why I was able to identify some of the signs and put the call into action, because, if judging by the disgusted look of the closest female to me was anything to go by, then relying on others knowledge of common first aid is a bit dicey around this town.
It was Sunday morning and like a good bachelor who realizes that clean clothing adds to the appeal that women will insist makes a man, I was off to the Laundromat.
After putting in my clothing (Yes. Yes. I know. All on hot and mixed colours. I am a male after all!) I settled back to read the cheery world news.
Trouble is my eyeballs wouldn't co-operate.
Nor for that matter would the room. Which had a particularly annoying habit of moving around me. In dirty great circles I might add.
The eyeballs I could handle as it was a novel experience to have them moving independently of each other, but the room was another issue.
I had decided to agree with the sudden feeling of nausea and go to the loo to “bark at the ants”. Only problem was the walls weren't in agreement with my brains assessment of their position. They kept moving.
Mostly away from where they should have been.
So like a drunken sailor I moved both too the loo and back.
Which is when I noticed the disgusted woman. Oddly enough I started to laugh at that stage because, despite my trepidation, I was being given a classic example of how peoples thought processes work. After all, us weird colonial types just live to do our laundry blind drunk! And when you are blind drunk and sweating buckets you naturally take off as many clothes as possible and then weave your way from wall to wall to puke. Sies! Disgusting male.
One of the tests for a stroke being to see if the patient can hold up their arms I naturally held mine up.
At which stage the room decided that upside down was an option.
It was rather interesting to note that as I held up my right arm my head moved to the left and off course I was so impressed with this effect that I quite forgot to try the left arm to see if the opposite occurred. I can't really remember if I did try the left arm actually as I was busy trying to work out if there was any pain in the left arm and between concentrating on that aspect as well as the head wobble I think I quite forgot what I was really trying to achieve.
This was when I decided that 911 was a viable option and asked the owner to get them.
Which was when I realized that I could communicate in a reasonable manner. I do realize that there is some doubt as to my ability to speak English but it appears that I was at least able to communicate my distress in a manner that was acknowledged by the owner who called 911 for me.
The ambulance was there within 3 minutes. Which is most impressive. As was the alacrity with which they got me hooked up to monitors and started the process of removing copious quantities of blood.
Although the most impressive question came fairly quickly and revolved around my Health Card but I guess this is North America and payment counts.
The interesting part of the process was my blood pressure being at 240/140 and then plummeting to 70/30 shortly after oxygen administration.
Well I couldn't see but I could still hear the discussion and like a good paramedic myself was more interested in the process than my own well being. OK I will admit that it took my mind off more pressing matters, which incidentally is “a good thing” to paraphrase some or other jailbird.
I also discovered that, while ripping off all your clothes inside a hot Laundromat is a reasonable action, it isn't during the transfer to the Ambulance when it is winter and starting to snow!
I can assure you that I didn't feel at all hot after that.
Another discovery is that stretchers are designed for stick insects. Especially when cornering at speed.
I am not a stick insect. Nuff said!
Shortly afterwards I found myself lying in emergency with enough tubes coming out of to keep a vampire happy (well they seemed to need to keep draining blood out of me, and then keep sticking saline back in. No doubt to help make more blood to take out again!) and wires attached to every conceivable part of my body that had hair on. In other words a lot of wires.
Most of which vanished into the “machine that goes beep” and which every good hospital has.
The Sister in charge bustled in and inquired as to the availability of my Health Card.
Then, as an afterthought, details for my next of kin.
As they didn't seem to have contacted my Daughter anyway I am wondering what the importance was.
Someone to come collect the body maybe? Send the bill for the ambulance too in case I did peg?
The Sister came back in, asked a lot of questions, prodded a lot of areas, read a lot of graphs, and the “machine that went beep” and proceeded to tell me that there didn't appear to be anything wrong with my heart.
I asked her how she knew as I wasn't sure I still had one, what with it being broken so often and all that.
This apparently caused her to have a muscle movement in the general direction of her face.
Or it could have been gas. I don't know.
The doctor then took over and proceeded to do the same set of test and prods although this time she was pretty thorough about the head and neck region. As well as making me track her finger, put my finger to my nose and try to touch her finger and a host of other tests designed to test my neural and motor skills.
Apparently she had been to South Africa at some stage and I can remember her telling me she loved my accent.
I think I may have pointed out to her that I didn't have a heart so she would just have to listen intently for a while. (Well you never know where innocent comments like hers may lead.) This seemed to puzzle her for a while until she had worked out that my weird waffle was in fact not as a result of any neurological problems. Unless you count being dropped on the head as a baby a possible long-term cause.
In fact she had worked out that between the accent and my weird sense of humour I was in fact communicating.
Ah the beauty of having lived in two countries divided by a common language.
Everyone buggered off and left me alone.
Staring up at the ceiling and listening to the “machine that went ping”.
There I lay and pondered the vagaries of life that led me to a country a million, billion miles away from where I was born (culturally as well as in distance) and where it was becoming apparent I was going to die in splendid isolation.
And suddenly I was annoyed.
I was in fact totally pissed off!
I was tired of all the k*k that I have had to go through lately and as my Stars said I was about to leave my 12 years of bad times behind and start a new period of bliss, happiness and prosperity, I was really angry that I wasn't going to be allowed to actually see a change in my fortunes.
Mind you the stars also said I was going to find some bodacious babe and have a family so perhaps there may have been a bit more than mere anger there. After all lust is such a strong motivating factor sometimes.
The most important factor though was that it was becoming apparent that I wasn't going to see my children anytime soon. And I am damned if I am going to shuffle off this mortal coil without giving them some last advice!
So there and then I made up my mind that I was going to survive.
On looking at the “machine that goes ping” I saw my BP had stabilized at 130/78 and that my pulse and ECG seemed to be normal.
Actually even the purr of the machine seemed relaxed.
It made a rather comforting background concerto to my on-again-off-again dozing for the rest of the day while they pondered my prognosis and waited for the results.
Which apparently were not forthcoming.
It appears that they could find nothing wrong with me at all!
No heart problems. No neurological problems. Nothing.
Well according to their test, blood and otherwise, anyway. No obvious indication as to why I had the attack.
Now there is nothing more off putting than a doctor that is worried because they haven't been able to pinpoint your problem.
Actually there is.
It is the cavalier way they dismissed me after admitting defeat.
“Put on your clothes and find your own way home. We can't help you. But feel free to try us again should you feel like dying again”
I actually got up, went out into the cold and caught a taxi back to my car. Then drove home.
It was only the following day that I thought to myself how totally dismissive they had been once no immediate prognosis came to the fore.
Almost as if I either had to have major serious indications of heart disease or brain malfunction (you can stop sniggering in the back there) or even die before some degree of concern was shown.
Which is hopefully not going to happen for a while. As my dearest Daughter puts it:
“You have so many people left to annoy. I think you will be around for a while.”
Annoy, love, hate, enthuse…..what the heck lets run the whole gamut of emotions and start a new era.
In the meantime I cannot stress enough the need for everyone to get a basic grounding in First Aid.
After all you never know when you may need to give mouth-to-mouth that that drunk in the Laundromat!
October 18th 2005
Some time ago I promised to write more about Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands part of St. Lawrence river.
If you remember I was on my lightning tour of parts of eastern Canada and the US and got intrigued by the castle on an island out in the middle of the river by Alexandria Bay.
Mainly because of the story that surrounded it.
So I have done some digging up of facts and we now have the full story of that castel that stands guard on the St;Lawrence seaway.
Basically it was built as a Valentines day present for a hotel magnates wife who died during its construction. Heartbroken he abandoned the project, never returned to the island and what was left stayed there as a forlorn monument to lost love.
For 73 years the Castle and the other structures on the island were left to the mercy of the elements, and vandals.
The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977. A decision was made to use of all net revenues from the Castle operation and preserve the castle, islands and grounds for the enjoyment of future generations.
Since then several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating and restoring the Heart Island structures.
Today the island is now fully accessible to the handicapped, has complete restroom facilities, picnic areas, as well as a food and beverage concession and seems to be visited by thousands of people on a regular basis. At least the numerous ferries I noticed going over always seemed to have a full passenger load anyway.
The first level of the Castle has been turned into a museum, filled with exhibits dedicated to the lives of George and Louise Boldt and the development of the Thousand Island region.
The Power House and Clock Tower, designed after the fashion of a Medieval Tower, and located on the eastern end of Heart Island was intended to house coal fired steam generators to provide electricity to the island.
An arched, stone bridge connects the Power House to the island, and the highest tower provided river traffic with illuminated clock faces and the music of chimes.
An underground passage led from the servants' dock on the water's edge. Goods transported from barges at the dock through this tunnel to storage rooms within the Castle's foundation.
The tunnel also housed water pipes and electrical wiring from the Power House.
A rocky crest of the island was extended into a level plateau by making a promenade terrace on top of the stone-walled service tunnel. In contrast to the more natural landscape elsewhere on the island, this Italian Garden was to be geometrically formal, so high retaining walls were raised on the opposite side as well, making the plan symmetrical.
At the opposite extremity of the garden from the Castle's Ball Room, a pool was surrounded by a curved, lower terrace, overlooking the roof of the Power House.
Marble statuary intended for the Italian Garden, was delivered from Italy. Some of these statues were found half a century later still in crates, sunk within an old boathouse
Alster Tower, the Boldt's playhouse, was the first structure Boldt erected on Heart Island. Its design suggests a defense tower similar to those on the Alster River in Germany. This building was intended for the entertainment of guests and the Boldt children. The ornate "Shell Room" was to be used for dancing, and was so named because of the shape of the roof. The basement housed a bowling alley, and the upper floors were to include a billiard room, library, bedrooms, cafe, grill and kitchen. Unlike the main residence, which was never completed, this whimsical "play house" was completed and occupied by the Boldt family during the four years when the Castle was being erected.
The Boldt Yacht House, located on nearby Wellesley Island can be seen from Heart Island's north side, was built to house the family's three yachts and houseboat. The main space rises 64 feet to accomodate tall masts and rigging of their yacht in slips 128 feet long, with doors so huge and heavy that an engine was required to open and close them. The yacht house included a shop as well as living quarters for the crew and maintenance staff.
It now serves as a museum where you can see some of the boats actually used by the Boldt family.
The interesting thing about Boldt was that he was an immigrant. He came to America in the 1860's from Prussia, the son of poor parents and became the most successful hotel magnate in America. He owned the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the president of the St Lawrence River Real Estate, The Thousand Islands Country Club, the Hotel Association of New York City and a trustee of Cornell University.
Boldt invested over $2.5 million to build this replica of a Rhineland castle, bringing in the finest of artists and the most skilled craftsmen for this project.
He planned on presenting it to his wife on Valentine's Day as a monument of his love for her. Work was underway on the eleven buildings that would comprise the castle complex when tragedy struck. In January of 1904 Louise Boldt died.
Heartbroken, Boldt telegrammed his construction crews ordering that all work be stopped. Three hundred workmen dropped their tools and left the island. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving it instead as an unfinished monument.
Which, having been resurrected, now provides countless people the opportunity to enjoy what he had envisaged all those years ago.
October 4th 2005
It is coming up for three years since we last had an election in Ontario and this means that we should be gearing up for another election next year.
In addition I haven't had my rant and rave about the Lieberals for a while, what with travel and work related articles recently.
So as a political animal who likes to stir and tilt at windmills I felt it was time to have a look at the Lieberals record in Ontario over those last few years when the sheeple voted Pinocchio McGuinty and the forty thieves into power.
What better way to do it then than by looking at the record of all those promises that the Lieberals gave to the electorate as reasons for giving them the mandate to treat us like imbeciles.
During the election the Lieberals made many grandiose promises about how they would run the Province. About 200 or more if I remember correctly. Politicians do that sort of thing and then conveniently forget that they have done so. Normally we are talking in the region of one or two.
The best being the Federal Liberals who promised to do away with the hated GST. That was roughly 15 years ago and it is still on the books.
In fact speaking of taxes, that was precisely what McGuinty promised here in Ontario. He signed a pledge to the effect that he would not raise taxes if elected. Which given the level of taxes in Ontario was a relief. Too me as well as many others.
Unfortunately at the first budget the Finance Minister delivered what has been the biggest tax hike in Ontario's history. A $2.4 Billion so called “health levy”.
Call it what you like it is still a tax. A cynical manipulation of words but a tax nevertheless.
What is even more astonishing is that while raising this tax they then went ahead and delisted eye exams, physiotherapy and chiropractice as essential health care. This of course then means they lied about “funding medically necessary healthcare services”.
In fact when it comes to healthcare virtually every promise made has been broken.
Cancel private hospitals in Ottawa and Brampton? No. They changed the deals from mortgages to leases. And have since made an announcement that further private deals are on the way.
Better mental health care? No. Three regional centres for the developmentally handicapped have been closed instead.
Close private MRI and CT clinics? No. Most have been changed to not-for-profit.
Provide adequate multi-year funding for hospitals? No. The fiscal year was over before hospitals even knew what the funding for that year would be.
Hire 6000 nurses by 2007? No. Earlier this year they in fact cut 757 nursing positions.
Which is interesting when you look at another glib promise that was made.
“Spend every penny of the new health tax on healthcare”
Look at the 2004 budget very carefully and you will discover that some of that money raised for healthcare is actually going to sewers, water treatment, plants and tourism. I can stretch my imagination and pretend that the first may have a causal link to healthcare but tourism? Visit Ontario's hospitals and clinics for the holiday experience of a lifetime. Which given the waiting lists is a lot closer to the truth than is comfortable.
How wisely is the rest of the money being spent?
Well $170milion is being spent to close the already established district health councils and replace them with a new Liberal bureaucratic version. The Local Health Network.
Change for changes sake apparently.
While on budgets another promise that was made was to abide by the balanced budget law, which was broken in the first budget that was tabled.
The original promise on budgets was to balance the budget every year. The revised promise was to balance it by 2007. So far the talk is that it will be balanced by 2009. If the contingency fund provides enough. Always an if when it comes to political doublespeak.
At the moment Ontario's debt increases by $75 a second. Which means that by 2007 they will have added $15 billion to the debt.
Unless they make more promises.
So lets look at some of the promises that were made which had mass appeal to the average man in the street.
The stupidest being to roll back tolls on the 407. They are still in court trying to renegotiate the deal while the tolls have gone up again.
The most appealing being to cap hydro rates at 4.3 cents a kilowatt-hour until 2006. Actually the second piece of legislation introduced into being shortly after they came to power was to hike hydro rates. Any homeowner has first hand evidence of how much more they are paying.
How about hiring 1000 new police officers? Given the level of gun violence that is occurring in Toronto at the moment you would think this would be a priority. It has taken two years for an announcement to be made that funding will be provided for new officers. Unfortunately the local municipalities must provide half of the costs though. So in essence they have only provided funding for 500 officers. Not to mention the promise to hire 100 new parole and probation officers which has gone by the wayside.
Being an immigrant myself I have watched with interest two promises that were made.
The one was to eliminate barriers to foreign trained professionals within a year. Well it is a lot longer and we are still waiting for that one.
The other was to require trades professionals to accept qualified immigrants within one year. Which given the lack of trades people in this country you would think would be a priority. Apparently not as this is still hanging around on the back burner as well. Immigrants are great as cannon fodder when it comes to voting but not worthy of any other attempt when it comes to using their skills.
Unfortunately I could go on and on. I have a list of more than 50 promises broken by the Lieberals and it just seems that there is no end to them.
The really sad part of this whole scene though is that come the next election expect the Lieberals to be back in power and once again on the back of broken promises and the immigrant vote.
September 19th 2005
I learnt this week that over 50,000 Canadians fought in the American Civil War.
I learnt a lot more as well which I now have to go and look up to verify. Military history being a passion of mine.
Perhaps I should explain.
My landlord disappeared for the weekend leaving me to ensure that the various knock and drop weekly flyers were collected and put in the recycling box. I am a good Canadian now after all.
Not having had the opportunity to read the local paper for a long time I decided to peruse the activities that Milton has to offer.
Not much, unless you like pubs, watering holes and bars it appears. Seems my fellow Miltonions have a great thirst to slake and that alcohol is the only liquid that will appease it.
Normally at this time of the year there is the Renaissance Festival with all the trappings of medieval festivity but for some reason the plug was pulled on the show just as it was becoming both profitable and well known. Leaving a lot of people in dire straits I might add. Many of the locals relied on the show to provide both summer work and of course money for the winter months or school.
Suddenly I noticed a full page advert for a new re-enactment show. This was taking place at the Milton Country Heritage Park.
I didn't know that the Milton Country Heritage Park existed actually.
Seems that a short drive up the road is what is billed as a “Farm and Country Experience”. A recreation of an old small village settlement with Churches, farms, smallholdings and the trappings of village life. Including, I may add, an old Garage with various motors inside and a shed that had a huge display of horse drawn sleighs and carts. It is actually the first time that I have seen the horse drawn sleighs with runners that they used in winter and so beloved of all the “romantic” flicks.
Bearing in mind that a friend of mine has a wish to go for a sleigh ride in the snow one day I was ever so tempted to see whether I could hitch a horse to one and practice a bit but then I remembered what I had come to see and figured that being chased by a horde of heavily armed men was probably not the best way to pursue a life of crime initially
You see this weekend the Park had an American Civil War re-enactment on. Both Saturday and Sunday.
With a cast of hundreds and lots of action.
“The Battle of Brawners Farm.
“Authentic Civilian and Military Camps”
“Suttlers Area” etc.etc. and with a lot of capitals to emphasise the great importance of what was on offer.
Standard price to enter the grounds being $7 this seemed like a bargain to me so I set off to gain some culture and, hopefully, knowledge.
Like all heritage sites in Canada this was well preserved and very large. Whether it was deliberately built or a collection of farms, smallholdings and village houses all collected together I am not sure but it certainly provided a turn of the century village feel.
I strolled around happily soaking in the atmosphere until I came across the first of the camps.
Sorry that should be “Military Camps”!
Actually very good replicas of actual living conditions at the time. Apparently the actors live in the same sort of conditions in order to soak up the atmosphere. Or they hid the pillows and airbeds well.
This was the Confederate camp. Although whether it was supposed to military or civilian was a moot point. I think the cannon at each end marked it as a military one. That of the 10th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry.
The young ladies in hot pants or mini skirts said otherwise. During the war the euphemistic term used for them would have been Vivandieres. More correctly known as “ladies of negotiable affection”.
The troops lounged around smoking, laughing and generally enjoying themselves. Mind you looking at some of the women there I would also have a more relaxed attitude to life.
Further west I came across the North's camp. This camp belonging to the 49th New York State Volunteer Infantry.
In keeping with the North's more militaristic manner this was all bustling efficiency and shiny zeal.
Drummers and Officers mustering the men and drilling them. Flags flying. Crisp white tents. Drummers. Bugle boys. No smiles. No laughter. No women.
The South was starting to get my sympathy.
At 15h00 the battle was due to start and in keeping with their respective attitudes the North marched down a road in the sun all precision and efficiency while the South formed up in the shade of a copse and proceeded to hand over any items that “your loved ones wouldn't like to find on your corpse”. Seemingly cards, dice and items from the ladies of negotiable affection.
Then they moved off to take up their positions.
Like all battles during these times the artillery started the proceedings with lots of noise and little effect.
Having managed to get very close to North's artillery I was startled at how loud the explosion was. Even though I knew they had purposely made the charge much less in order to keep the noise to a minimum.
The corresponding barrage from the South (who attacked from the North incidentally) sent clouds of smoke across the battlefield obscuring large areas and yet giving away the positions of the enemy both effectively and I suppose stupidly.
To cut a long story short this is how the battle went.
Artillery fired at artillery. Then at the troops. Then at the artillery. Repeat as necessary.
The troops advanced.
The troops fired at the artillery. Then at the troops. Then at the artillery. Repeat as necessary.
The Confederates overran the Union artillery. Most effectively done by Indians with much whooping, hollering and scalping.
The troops advanced. The troops fired at each other. Repetition was now becoming the order of the day.
The Confederate artillery blew smoke rings of immense proportions every time they fired.
The Union cavalry ran away.
The Union cavalry reappeared elsewhere.
The Union Cavalry ran away
The Confederates swept the Union troops from the field.
The Union troops reformed and swept the Confederates from the field.
The Confederates reformed and fighting seemed to reach a stalemate. So a draw was called and the troops went home.
Much fun and noise and excitement was had by all. Including me. I haven't watched one of these re-enactments before and was impressed with the way the participants went about it. I believe they have a huge re-enactment down at Gettysburg every year. Having seen this one I am thinking of toddling down there one day to watch. Apparently thousands of participants there while here it was numbered in the hundreds maybe.
Still this was only the second year that this has taken place and so as more people hear about it, it will hopefully grow to be larger.
By the way if you do decide to attend next year keep an eye out for Earl the Sharpshooter from the South.
Earl had those Hubbly Bubbly bottle bottom glasses on and teeth that could eat an apple through a picket fence, but Earl had attitude. Mind you I would hate to be a Confederate soldier who wandered in front of Earl when he had a loaded rifle in his hands but I suppose if you pointed Earl in the right direction and put out marker cones within a 45deg arc in the general area that Earl was aiming at you may be safe. Earl however had attitude.
I liked Earl.
As I did the whole afternoon.
Who knew that Milton could have activities like this? Historical, hysterical and providing a modicum of facts for me to digest over. Which is where I picked up the snippet about how many Canadians fought in the American Civil War.
So I have some homework to do on the Canadian effort in the Civil War in the coming months.
This country continues to come up with astonishing facts that intrigue me.
September 6th 2005
My son Liege works as a DJ for GIGS entertainment here in Burlington.
When he isn't trying to get all the credits for his Degree at Brock University that is. At least I hope that is!
Anyway being a Varsity student he doesn't have a lot of money. The fees are quite horrendous and paying back loans takes ages even if you work full time, never mind the part time work that all students have to do.
So he got some work out in Hanover. Which is in Bruce County to the north west of Toronto and a 200 km drive.
This is the crux of the matter. The 200km drive that is. You see while he drives, and drives well at that, he doesn't have a car. He is staying with his mother at the moment and couldn't borrow the car so he asked me to drive him instead.
Clever move that. While I couldn't lend him the car either, I could drive him up there instead and get to see a whole new part of Ontario at the same time. Something that I am pretty sure he understands.
Well…he is doing psychology for his degree. And apparently I am a good subject for some of the experiments. Although I get the strange feeling that what I think I would make a good subject for, and what he thinks may prove interesting, are worlds apart.
If I wind up as part of his thesis next year I may just be tempted rethink my ideas on trying to help a little.
So in tried and true fashion because we had to be there by 1600 or so and because it was 200 odd kilometers away and because neither of us had been there before and because neither of us had a clue how to get there except for maps and written down instructions we left at about 1400 or so. The “or so” being the most important part of that equation.
We then decided to go along Dundas until we got to Highway 6 where we would go north through Guelph to Highway 4.
That was the plan anyway and it would have been a good one if it weren't for two things. Robots and traffic.
In fact both of those factors created havoc for the entire trip.
Add to the mix the rather quaint habit Canadians have of stopping major roads at one point and then moving the whole process four roads over to proceed again and you get the confusion that we had on various occasions throughout the trip.
In Guelph and Fergus you have to zigzag to continue on highway 6 North. The signpost being critically situated at the last minute, this made for some interesting lane changes and references to my ancestry.
Having got through the major towns on the way we settled down for a somewhat speedier tour of the countryside North than anticipated.
This area has the rolling hills and gentle countryside associated with farmlands and tranquility. It is the sort of place that I want to retire to. So long as there is water nearby of course.
At one stage we crested a hill and in front of us were fields of shimmering blue silver. What the fields contained I have no idea. It could have been lavender for all I know cluttering up fallow land but whatever it was it was a magnificent sight and one that I would have liked to have had my camera with in order to at least capture.
I am still intrigued as well to note that whichever co-op was around in this area was also having a sale on red paint.
What is it with painting barns red in this country?
At Highway 4 we turned left and headed west to Hanover. Arriving there shortly after the intended 1630 deadline. Which is when I was informed by my son that it was only a guideline so that he could set up in time. I think that child is going to make a good head-shrink one day!
Hanover is a typical Canadian dorp. One long strip mall into the town contains the obligatory big box stores, diners and estate agents which lead into the small shops lining either side of the main street and selling stuff that I always wonder who buys.
Then there is the crossroads part of town. There is always a crossroads where two major intersections divide the roads into North/South and East/West. This allows towns that get beyond themselves to put Main road east and Main Road West onto their signs and look ever so much grander than they actually are.
So at the major intersection which is actually 7th Avenue and hasn't got an east or west appellation, we turned left and headed toward the Coliseum where he was to DJ the local High School Dance. I presume that the dance was held there because it is the only place in town big enough to have hundreds of students enjoying themselves and had nothing to do with being alongside the Racetrack and Slots where no doubt the parents could indulge in their vices.
Anyway I dropped him off, or more accurately, unloaded equipment and helped him set it up thus looking like a roadie and making numerous teachers rather nervous at my presence.
Then because it was going to be a long wait I decided to carry on with my explorations in and around the area.
So I got into the van and headed west toward Kincardine. For no other reason than that I liked the name.
This was by way of Walkerton of the tainted water scandal.
Kincardines major claim to fame appears to be a lighthouse. So I looked at it. Been there. Done that.
What I did find interesting though was the Phantom Piper who pipes down the sunset every day except Saturdays. I of course was there on Saturday.
So I walked along the pier and then out onto the beach to add another Lake to my collection. I have promised myself to see all the Great Lakes and this being the Shores of Lake Huron I have now added three to my collection. Lake Superior next.
So back into the van and off to Port Elgin now.
This whole area is known as Bruce County by the way. Very pretty. Lovely countryside.
So of course this is where the first privately owned nuclear facility is situated. Bruce Power. Who even have a museum and “visitor” centre in Tiverton. In keeping with some old forgotten hippie left-wing hangovers from my youth I gave this propaganda centre a miss.
Onwards to Port Elgin where I discovered that Bruce County has a thing about Lighthouses. Which given that there are also masses of shipwrecks out there makes me wonder a little.
Port Elgin though would prefer you to know that it is the home of the annual Pumpkinfest. This is where growers from all over North America bring huge pumpkins to be weighed and allow them to vie for the coveted Orange Jacket that shows they have the champion pumpkin for this year.
This takes place on the 1st and 2nd October this year so if you want to make a side trip to Port Elgin to see enormous pumpkins this is the time to start planning.
Enormous is the word by the way. The world record pumpkin from last year weighed 1446 lbs! The owner came form Richmond Ontario so I guess this year the locals will go all out to best this. Mind you there were 9 pumpkins weighing over 1000 lbs in the final. This would be enough to keep my boarding house matron happy for a week or two.
From Port Elgin I decided to go to Owen Sound via 21.
Which goes through a reservation and is where two things happened to me.
I saw my first stereotype and discovered a beautiful Indian woman who thoroughly captivated me.
On the side of the road in almost every reservation there are houses that sell cigarettes and other goods. Mostly at prices that don't have Government taxes included. I stopped at one that had advertised smoked salmon for sale. Padkos if you will.
While chatting to the woman in the store about all manner of things, not the least accents and countries I discovered that I was being enchanted by her presence and the simplicity of a normal conversation that we were having. I got the impression that neither of us were particularly happy to end it either, but I had to get back to Hanover at some time and so the last I saw was her waving goodbye to me as I traveled off down the road.
Sometimes we miss so many people for not stopping to say hello.
Further on down the road I came upon my first stereotype.
I have been in Canada now for 6 years and this was the first time I saw the “Drunk Indian” so beloved of all the locals when deriding the people of the First Nations.
Stumbling down the road in that peculiar one-step-forward-two-steps-back-one-step-sideways shuffle of the totally stoned he had a grim determination to move on that showed in his face.
I recognised it because I have been there. Many years ago in my youth when I was going back to my ship.
This country has a lot to answer for when it comes to the attitude that is shown to the First Nations. Perhaps if they stopped their slavish politically correct fawning on the multicultural immigrant voter fodder and showed a bit of compassion and understanding of their own indigenous populace Canada would be the greatest country in the world instead of just thinking it is.
Time however was now short and the sun having set twilight was approaching so I decided to forego the pleasure of Owen Sound and turned south to Hanover once again. This time on highway 19.
Luckily the middle of summer means that it doesn't get really dark until 2200 or so, which meant that I could walk along the banks of the Saugeen River on the outskirts of Hanover and for a while sit and ruminate by the weir where the sound of the rushing water nearly put me to sleep. So very peaceful.
Around 2300 I meandered back to the Community centre and then caught the last of the trotting races at the raceway and lost $10 at the slots. Those races with carts are very interesting and it was the first time I have watched this form of racing. Just as well no bets were placed either as every horse that looked like winning to me came in last.
This streak of luck followed me into the Casino where I threw away some money and annoyed little old ladies by standing next to them and staring intently at the machine that they were playing alongside the one they were seated at.
What is it with little old ladies that they have play more than one machine at a time? And why can't I be the one that when they give up in disgust and leave, sits down and wins the jackpot on the next pull? That drives the little old ladies absolutely senseless with rage!
So having annoyed a few grannies I went back to the car park at the Community centre and read a book until Liege was finished.
Well tried to read as by now many of the youngsters were leaving to go on to parties where alcohol was allowed or at least condoned and the parade of characters was a show on its own. Many of the youngsters there seemed to have found a way around the alcohol ban as per usual and provided entertainment to everyone in sight. There is always one clown in a crowd.
The school authorities would only allow the dance to go on until 2300 and so we were able to pack up and leave earlier than I thought.
Which is when you discover that country roads are pitch black at night. The stars may be an awesome sight but on the ground I had forgotten how black the night can get.
By the time we eventually got back to Burlington it was almost 2 in the morning.
Time to go to sleep and dream of Indian maidens.
NB. Please note that I have reversed the order of the following three articles in order to make them easier to read!!
How to do a lightning tour of parts of the US and Canada in three days or "1600km's, a million trees, mega gallons of water and thousands of towns as a background blur"
It is summer in Canada and this year the heat and humidity in Southern Ontario has been almost to the levels experienced on a normal day in Durbs. In other words totally unbearable once you get used to living in Canada.
For the first time in years I realised that I actually had the ability to take some vacation time and that it was a good idea to do so as I can't accrue leave. Having worked now for two years without a break it was subtly suggested by the Store Manager that I should look into the option of having a break.
"You work longer hours than me! You may have heart but it probably won't do you any good if it breaks!" was the way she put it. So I put in for a week. Which leaves me two more weeks to take later in the year.
Oddly enough what with International visits and Head Office visits and technicians with "Summer-sickness" I worked continuously for 14 days on the trot before the start and so come time for my break I was feeling rather tired.
Mentally and physically.
Mind you there is some doubt as to how long my mental tiredness has been going on. However I digress.
Now comes the hard part of the process. What the heck to do with myself for a week?
I sort of had a plan to go sightseeing. Drive down to the States and look around. Maybe go to Quebec and look around. Park off. Sloth. The normal sort of things that cross most peoples minds when they suddenly realise that they have time on their hands that they haven't really decided what to do with.
Then fate intervened in the form of the Coast Guard. Having recently been promoted to Acting Captain I was informed that we had a meeting on Thursday of this week. Not to mention that our crew was on duty on the Sunday as well. Which sort of cut down any plans.
For those of you who know me it will come as no surprise that I decided to on the spur of the moment to just get up and drive. Readers of my newsletter have been entertained on many an occasion to the various places I have been lost in over the years I have been here.
This may have been facilitated by the purchase of a reasonably priced digital camera recently, which means that at least I can document the places I wind up in. Even if I haven't a clue as to how I got there. Not to mention how to work the camera properly yet. Which may explain some of the pictures.
So on the Monday I got up threw clothes, including fresh underods like my mother always said, and some other stuff into a bag and headed off East. Then came back for the stuff I had forgotten (like maps) and started again.
My initial intention was to go to Kingston and cross over the border there.
Luckily I got sidetracked.
On my way to Kingston I stopped at the huge apple outside Trenton to see what was on offer. Apple food of all different varieties of course and, as is fast becoming standard with all these roadside attractions, at prices that are similar or more expensive than in the local stores.
This store incidentally is part of the Apple route, which takes in Cobourg, Port Hope and other towns nearby.
It also has a small zoo, which includes Llama's and for some strange reason what appear to be "Attack Rabbits". At least the sign stating that they were "wild" and "fierce" and not to touch them would appear to put them in this category.
So I then popped in to see a friend in Trenton who suggested that I take a trip up through Prince Edward County and the islands instead. Wise suggestion.
While waiting for her and toddling around Trenton (also known for some reason as The City of Quinte West) I found the RCAF Memorial Museum situated at the CFB Trenton.
If you love airplanes this is a treasure trove of delights. In addition it is free to go in and look around. Obviously a donation is expected but once you have had a look a donation is more than what you want to give.
Inside the museum they are restoring a Halifax that was raised from Lake Mjosa in Norway. The link above will give you the full story and some pictures of the plane.
The guide I was with (an old retired CAF pilot) was a bit hesitant about letting me take pictures inside but other than that we had a long and interesting discussion about the SAAF and the CAF before he let me wander about on my own.
After a brief meeting, and the advice being absorbed, I headed off down Highway 11 or as it is better known "The Loyalist Parkway".
This whole drive is extremely scenic and takes in a few towns that are indicative of the rural Canada that I expected.
Prince Edward County also seems to be the new wine country as I noticed a whole lot of wineries being advertised. I remember reading somewhere that the wine being made there is rapidly competing with the Niagara Region.
The two main towns are Wellington and Picton. Picton seemingly being a larger and more "touristy" type of town. It even has a bioscope. At least that is what it looked like. Anyone else remember the old movie houses we had in South Africa with the full on architecture and lights announcing the forthcoming flick?
Same thing only still active.
From Picton I moved on to Glenora where there is a ferry operated by the Ontario highways as a service to the public. In other words you don't have to pay to cross over to the mainland. Isn't Canada great sometimes?
I waited for maybe five minutes before boarding and even then it was only a minute or two to get to the other side.
Highway 11 carries on toward Kingston along the coast becoming Highway 33 further on and then oddly enough Highway 2 through Kingston. Which can become confusing.
I wasn't aware that there is a ferry from Kingston over to Wolfe Island either. Which is a pity because I am enamored with the idea of ferries and would have been quite happy to take that one over to the States as well.
However thanks to a detour in Kingston itself I found I was indulging in my favourite occupation when traveling. Which is getting lost..
Finally I managed to get to the 401 and travel East toward Gananoque where there is a bridge to the States.
Mind you while lost I will add that I came across a magnificent building down by the Lake edge which as I drove up looked to be a Hotel or maybe a hospital. I was admiring the beauty when I noticed the walls that were attached and which seemed oddly reminiscent of something. Maybe the barbed wire should have given it away.
It was a prison!
Only a South African could find beauty in a prison.
So after a quick trip along the 401 where my 130k's seemed sedate compared to the rest of the F1 whizzing past I passed Gananoque and took the bridge over to Hill Island and ultimately the Yoonited States.
I guess they build the bridges tall around here to allow the ocean going freighters to pass underneath. I can't really describe the majesty of these structures.
Nor can I do justice to the view while driving over. You get the full impact of the term "1000 Islands" when you look to either side. (standard disclaimer here about not doing it while driving etc.etc.). Each and every one seems to have some sort of house on it. Or some habitation at the least.
This bridge was in immaculate condition. Which may have been as a result of the toll fee that was charged. At least I hope so.
At U.S. Customs the Officer was more interested that I was from Durban while having a Canadian Passport than anything else and only seemed to perk up a bit when I mentioned that I was on my way to Clayton down the road. He looked at the passport. Then me. Then with a sort of smile on his face gave me directions to get there.
It was now late in the afternoon, well evening actually, and so I headed directly to the little port of Clayton New York.
Perhaps I should explain this.
Some years ago my sister visited the States and in her travels popped into some towns named Clayton and bought me back the odd t-shirt and cap emblazoned with the name.
Ego thing maybe, but when you have the chance to do that it becomes fun.
So in order to stoke my ego I went back southwest toward the town, shortly arriving at the outskirts and the obligatory "welcome too" sign.
Shortly thereafter I was rather amazed to see the following sign outside what must surely be one of the most dilapidated Motels I have seen.
Given my recent promotion I had to stop and take a picture and then find out who this Captain Clayton was. Or actually is.
I popped into the store attached to the Motel and there was this old man sitting counting plastic bottles. He had been watching me from the window apparently.
Eying me up and down he asked if he could help me. Uh No. It was more of a "what do you want" actually.
"Good Evening' I said, " I am Captain Clayton from the Canadian Coast Guard"
"Hmm.. That makes two of us then" he grunts and walks away!
I never did find out if he was a Clayton or even a Captain for that matter. About the only other time he talked was to tell me that the drink I purchased was a dollar. Ornery old cuss!
I have the strange feeling that my children are laughing themselves silly over this!
I arrived in the town itself around 7.
Now to find accommodation. Both Hotels were reasonably expensive and the only other motels I had seen had been out of town.
Not to mention that the town itself appears to close down at 5pm as well.
So while driving around the town I chanced upon The Wooden Boat Motel nestled on a side street. I approached the lady watering and asked if there were rooms available.
Yes, there were. At $75 a night.
Then she looked at me and asked if I was alone. Which then produced the astonishing drop in price to $50. Maybe I looked tired and worn out or maybe she hadn't got many guests but I am not arguing. Especially as it turned out to be a really good, clean, comfortable room.
And the puppy was friendly as well.
We had a long chat about various things after I had a shower and cooled down before I toddled into Clayton to look for something to nosh.
Which I found at O'Brians Restaurant and Nightclub. Actually I haven't a clue where the nightclub part comes in as it appeared to be more of a bar than anything else, but the Wings were just the right size to appease my appetite and on a special as well. I did create a bit of consternation though when I asked for a typical American beer from around those parts. Coors and Miller and even Budweiser being the only beer that they could think of until the chap sitting next to men mentioned Genesee Lager.
I now understand why it is that the old joke about American beer being like making love in a canoe came about. July is also American Beer Month. But given the quality of the stuff I tasted they should be a little more cautious of promoting themselves like that.
But is was ice cold and the wings were good if a little insipid in the heat category and I made friends with the local drunks sitting next to me so all in all I had a good evening anyway.
Which is probably why I was asleep shortly after I lay down. Even the TV I turned on couldn't wake me.
How to do a lightning tour of parts of the US and Canada in three days or “1600km's, a million trees, mega gallons of water and thousands of towns as a background blur”
The next morning I woke up to the sounds of the TV. CTV to be exact. Perhaps you remember that old song, “So many channels and nothing on”? Well that describes the TV in the Motel. I think there were 6 channels available and CTV was one of them. It soon went off when I noticed that the idiot on the box was interviewing some Imam about the violence toward local Muslims in Canada. The sheer innate bullshit that this chap was spouting made my blood pressure jump immensely and I was supposed to be on leave, in the States and so this sort of drivel was now verboten.
Besides I was now raring to go again.
Except that Clayton doesn't open until 9am either. Which gave me an opportunity to at least snap a few shots around the place. And discover that they have an Opera House. Which is startling to say the least, but probably not as startling to note that the local 1000 Island museum is given over to displays of hunting decoys!
Clayton is the home to the Antique Boat Museum as well. This is worth a look-see if you like old wooden boats. Lots of them. In well preserved states too. These are mostly boats from an era when wooden boats were the epitome of grace and style. Looking at all the carefully restored and polished examples that were there I can see why.
After an extended stay there and with the sky's overcast and threatening rain I moved on. First of all to Alexandria Bay to have a look at Boldt Castle. I was reading some information the night before and this caught my eye:
Mr. Boldt came to America in the 1860's from Prussia, the son of poor parents. A man of tremendous industry and organizational skill, with daring and imagination, he became the most successful hotel magnate in America. He owned the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, and the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Boldt invested over $2.5 million to build this replica of a Rhineland castle, bringing in the finest of artists and the most skilled craftsmen for this project. He planned on presenting it to his wife on Valentine's Day as a monument of his love for her. Work was underway on the eleven buildings that would comprise the castle complex when tragedy struck. In January of 1904 Louise Boldt died, ending the dreams of a lifetime. Heartbroken, Boldt telegrammed his construction crews ordering that all work be stopped. Three hundred workmen dropped their tools and left the island. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving it instead as an unfinished monument of a love story cut short
Intrigued I decided to look for more information and found this:
For 73 years the Castle and the other structures on the island were left to the mercy of the wind, rain, ice, snow, and vandals. When the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property in 1977 it was decided that through the use of all net revenues from the Castle operation, it would be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Since then several million dollars have been applied to rehabilitating and restoring the Heart Island structures.
There is a lot more but I think I will write a later article about the whole affair. Suffice it to say that this old cynical romantic was intrigued.
Alexandria Bay seems to be a town like Margate.
Everywhere I went it was crowded with people sightseeing and buying the obligatory t-shirts, caps and candyfloss. I gather it is a holiday town that caters to people who wish to see the 1000 islands area. There were boat trips galore being advertised and all the sorts of carnivally things you associate with a holiday town. Anyway I managed to find a good spot to take some snaps of the Castle and watch a freighter sailing past.
Some of my friends, when I was in the Merchant Navy, sailed up the St. Lawrence regularly. So I was interested to see from land how small this freighter looked even though it was a fairly good sized one.
The pictures don't really do justice to the full spectacle of the castle itself. It is quite a site and well worth another visit at some time to get a closer look.
But I had had enough of navigating through hordes of people and time was getting shorter if I wanted to see more of the coast on my way east. So off we set.
Go East Old Man. Go East.
Which is when I noticed that the American roads are really well maintained. All the way through the States I very rarely drove on a bad road. Canadian roads by comparison seemed to take their lead from the Torruna roads and had bumps and cracks and potholes all over the place.
The trip up the American side of St. Lawrence is scenic with lots of parks and a view of the river continuously. Lots of those quintessential American Gothic type houses as well.
The trip from Cape Vincent to Cornwall is part of the Seaway Trail, which stretches all the way to the Lake Erie. A distance of some 500 miles. It seemed rather deserted when I drove it but that was probably because everyone was in Alexandria Bay eating ice cream.
When I got to Ogdensburg there on the highway was a Wal-Mart.
OK so it is supposed to be my vacation but even I can be nosey when it comes to seeing how the States differ from us.
So I popped into the TLE and introduced myself to a very startled and taken aback TLE manager there. Unfortunately he wasn't too keen to let me take pictures there so I will have to give a verbal feedback to my colleagues when I go back to work. Let us just say that I am still happy with the standard and cleanliness of my TLE .
I was also astonished to see that the American Wal-Marts sell cigarettes. No porn mags but cigs are OK! Probably more profitable. You can smoke as much as you like but not after sex. OK?
At this stage I had to make a decision as to whether I wanted to go South and then loop up to Quebec or go to the border at Cornwall, cross over there and take the 401 to Montreal.
Because it was a bit later than I would have liked I decided to go to Cornwall.
Now you have to realise that I had spent just 24 hours in the US. I had gone to Clayton to stay the night for reasons of ego and to get the odd souvenir and then gone on a drive to enjoy a new vista. I was now going back to Canada to continue my road trip.
Which is exactly what I told the little troll at Canada Customs.
She however seemed to find this impossible to comprehend.
That a single male should go on a road trip was beyond her belief. That anyone would buy a few baseball caps with their name on it stretched her imagination beyond the single brain cell that she had borrowed. That I was a Canadian citizen infuriated her more. It was obviously forged or something. Or I was a terrorist. Or a drug smuggler. Or who knows what the hell was getting her knickers in a twist.
The upshot was that I was pulled over to the side and had to wait for some youngster to now go through my car and check everything.
While waiting I took out my maps, spread them on the hood and began to at least try to formulate a plan for the next day. Which is where I discovered that there is a Clayton in Ontario. Plan B was forming.
When the lone defiler of cars sauntered over at last, my looking at maps seemed to annoy him and he told me curtly to wait on the bench.
Which I did. Watching him intently the whole time. Which seemed to unnerve him a bit.
But not enough to stop him going through everything with a fine toothcomb. The medicine I had in my travel case was of particular interest although whether it was because it was “shock horror possible drugs” or his inability to read pharmaceutical terms is open to conjecture.
The old rusty bullworker I had in the back (I forgot to remove it when moving) was a source of my amusement for some time as he battled to open it or, more probably, find some hidden recess where I had stashed my drugs.
The last straw though was him looking through every picture in my camera. While he was doing that I watched a bead of sweat drip off his nose onto some part of the interior. At least I hope it was sweat.
Anyway the fact that I had hidden my drugs too well, erased the porn pictures and already drunk all my illicit booze proved too much for HM Customs finest and he told me I could go.
That little exercise in futility took an hour and annoyed me immensely. The really stupid part of it is that I had some pictures of the bridges on my camera, which, if I was a terrorist, would have been very interesting. I won't explain why. Just take my word for it.
So I looked at him, put on my Coast Guard cap, which he had also had a long look at, and said:
“Yes. I am a member. We tend not to lie. Oh and by the way did you know there is a Clayton in Ontario?”
“Ag shame” crossed my mind as I looked at a truly bewildered face in my mirror as I drove off.
I have the strange feeling that the little troll who sent me over in the first place may just have got an earful later.
Interestingly the local First Nations members seemed to go in and out through a special lane with impunity. I gathered they had to have some form of sticker as there was a sign informing them that they could win a car if they used it, but if I was really trying to usurp the system that is where I would look to commit my sins.
This then lead me up and over what has to be the oldest, worst kept international bridge in the world. Even though there was a road crew working on the bridge, and making the flow of traffic impossible, I didn't see any place where they had made the slightest effort to improve the road. I have driven on dirt roads that were better.
Cornwall will have to wait for me to give it another chance. Sorry Cornwall you suffer because I was annoyed at the troll. Banish her! Or at least replace her with the very pleasant young lady at the gas station where I filled up.
I however had lost a lot of time. Which is why I got back on the 401. Torontonians will understand what I mean when I say that even though I was making up some time traveling at 130km/h I was still the slowest car on the road.
So what else can go wrong?
Well. Rain. Of course.
At the Quebec border as well.
Which is where I ducked into the information bureau for some maps and advice.
This is one of the more impressive kiosks I have been in. Actually a full office. With computers linked to accommodation so that you can book a place to stay even before you arrive there.
Unless, that is, it is during the builders holiday in Quebec when, as I discovered, accommodation is at a premium.
The French have a good way of being supercilious. I felt like an idiot for wanting to actually see Quebec without making long and copious plans beforehand. Not to mention my bad French. But then what do you expect when it is mainly gleaned from the packets of food I eat?
My French teacher at school is now spinning in her grave no doubt.
Interestingly while most of Ontario has bilingual signs (French English in most of the Province except Toronto where English Chinese is rapidly taking precedence!) there are NO bilingual signs in Quebec.
So much for making Canada a bilingual land. A'bas le Anglais.
Mind you I did notice that Leons suddenly became Lêon but interestingly enough Canadian Tire stayed Canadian Tire.
I just have to make up my mind whether the abysmal driving was imported from Torruna or exported there from Quebec. Think of a bunch of drunken Parisians driving on highways and you have some idea of the standard I encountered in Montreal.
And yet I never saw an accident. Amazing.
I did however arrive just in time for rush hour.
Now you need to understand that the highways around Montreal are signposted in French. They have this quaint habit of merging lanes just before the turnoff and they have exits on both sides of the road.
Which, if like me, you try to stay in the middle creates the odd problem.
So I did what I do best.
I got lost.
I haven't a clue where but I do know that there was a magnificent Cathedral up on the hill (which I now understand is St Joseph's Oratory and the Hill is Mount Royal itself) which I kept as my landmark for a while until I was buried in what appeared to be the African immigrant section of town. I think I drove around here looking for the downtown section in ever diminishing circles until with a pop I found myself on the highway again.
So I made a decision again. Montreal will just have to wait for a time when I can give it more than a cursory glance. It isn't a city that can be sped through. It needs to be treated like a good red wine. Sipped and savoured for a while. And like a good red wine it probably costs a lot as well.
Which is why once again I was traveling in the evening.
Only this time out toward Ottawa. Our nations capitol.
Which curiously seemed to get further away the longer I drove. At least that is what happened when I asked an attendant at the gas station how far it was still to Ottawa and on being told 45 minutes found I was only 26kms away. Even I drive faster than that!
It had now been raining all the way through and so when I got into Ottawa I could not really see much.
Including any motels either.
Seems that the largesse being dished in Ottawa means that you can afford to pay hundreds of dollars to spend a night in a hotel rather than roughing it in a cheap motel.
So I consulted my map (I can be taught you see) and decided to drive along Wellington Street to look at Parliament and then carry to River Parkway and travel that way to look for some accommodation out of town.
Out of town being the right word.
When I looked again I was in Kanata. And despite the map I was once again….you guessed it! Lost.
I did however manage to get back to the highway and head back toward Ottawa. At which stage I noticed a sign with accommodation logos and took the off ramp in search of a place to stay. I was however way out again. Napean I think and close to the airport too apparently, which means once again high priced hotels. Motels appear to be a forgotten art in Ottawa.
So back to Highway 417 and back east again. This time I tried another off ramp further on and found a bunch of other hotels. So I decided “Ah stuff it. Time to check in for the night” and went to the nearest one.
A Travelodge as it turned out. Reasonably priced as well. I was too tired and hungry to argue anyway.
The only place open at that time was called “Monkey Joes” which at least had decent looking food even if their décor was derived from the fevered brain of someone who, not having a clue as to where monkeys may live, found it necessary to include every possible continent just in case.
I settled for their special, which was Rib and wings and my choice of coleslaw or something.
The food was like Ottawa politicians. The promise wasn't anything like the reality.
Nevertheless it did fill me since I hadn't eaten since the night before.
This night I fell asleep while looking at the map for my next day's travels. Which given my track record was probably a waste of time anyway.
July 27th 2005
How to do a lightning tour of parts of the US and Canada in three days or "1600km's, a million trees, mega gallons of water and thousands of towns as a background blur"
For some reason the hotel I am staying at has a "Wave Pool" in the middle of the accommodation. I wanted to try it out the night before but apparently it is switched off at night so as not to disrupt the guests.
Which is odd, because the sound of waves is far more soporific than a million air-conditioners going full bore. Not that I mind considering the deep sleep that I was in. Which, as per usual, was interrupted by the chambermaid kicking the door down.
So I look outside the window and once again it is raining.
We have had an incredibly hot summer so I shouldn't really complain but why after three months of sun does it decide to rain when I need to take pictures and drive around?
Which is when I remember that it is my birthday.
So I sing "Happy Birthday to Me" in the shower, which no doubt kept any further chambermaids well away from disturbing me. At least that allows me to pack up and move out into the rain.
Actually I was not that far from the Rideau Canal so I took a drive along the Canal to get to the Houses of Parliament.
Oddly enough the pictures that you see of the Canal when you look in guidebooks don't give you the full splendor of what an engineering marvel it is.
The Rideau Canal Waterway, which links the lakes and rivers between Ottawa and Kingston, a distance of 202 Km is the oldest continuously operated canal in North America. The locks are operated today much as they were when first opened in 1832
The canal was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century requiring the construction of 24 dams and 46 locks and came about because of the 1812 War when the British in Canada were worried that the Americans would not allow access to ports and so they constructed the canal to link Montreal and Kingston. You may think it odd that Ottawa wasn't the intended destination but Ottawa didn't exist then.
At the Ottawa River end of the Canal, head engineer, Lieutenant Colonel John By, founded a community called Bytown. It later changed its name to Ottawa and became the Capital of Canada.
So the Canal really created Canada's Capitol.
About the only problem with the canal is that there is no parking area anywhere along the canal that will allow you to admire its beauty.
And the rain kept on falling.
Which made it hard to take pictures and for some reason the roads were full of traffic. Maybe, as a town full of bureaucrats, life only starts moving after 9am or in some cases apparently 10am.
The cops however are reasonably friendly. Thanks to a spate of road repairs around Parliament I found myself in the bus lane, which is a big no-no, and alongside an OPP car. I asked him how to get to Sussex Drive (see I can be taught to ask for directions) and he told me how to do it. Including, I might add, an illegal U-turn in front of him. Which I did. Much to the consternation of the few pedestrians watching.
So I found Sussex Drive and proceeded along it when two things happened.
The rain stopped and there in front of me was a shop named Chilly Chiles. In case you don't know I am a Chilli-Head. I love hot sauces.
This shop would be akin to a bottle store for an alcoholic.
So I pulled in by the market, parked, and walked in telling the young ladies behind the counter that I was sure I would hate the shop.
And I do.
The choice was unbelievable. I could have spent thousands there. In fact..... Well No. I didn't but I spent enough as it is. Put it on the Visa. Let my bank manager worry for a change.
I strolled around singing Happy Birthday to me again and handing bottles to two very plussed (as opposed to nonplussed) young ladies behind the desk.
Satan's Blood, So Sue Me, Toxic Waste and Dave's Insanity Sauce went in the bag. But pride of place must go to Mad Dog357 with a Scoville rating of 1million. When you realise that Tabasco is only 50 Scoville you get some understanding of how hot that is.
I had to sign a waiver stating that I would not sue them if anything went wrong while eating it!
The lady told me that it comes with a tiny spoon to use to measure out the droplets. As she put it:
"It even has a crack spoon to use for safety"
"Which crack would that be given the heat strength?" I asked.
This passed so far over their heads that I felt compelled to go back and buy some more.
All good things come to an end however (and that was a clever joke as well by the way) and so I staggered out with my horde and decided that I should really try to see some sights.
So back up to Wellington Street to see Parliament. With a million other immigrants it appeared. Busloads of the bug…potential citizens.
Parliament is undergoing some renovations so there appear to be great white sheets draped over various edifi. The most interesting thing though is that after all the pictures I have seen I was expecting the park in front to be much longer and not quite so close to the city. It is however quite close to the buildings nearby. One of which is the most impressive Hotel I have seen and then of course the building housing the Supreme Court is on the other side. This is the back entrance where apparently you aren't allowed to go. You had better not ask how I was in the area behind there. No spikee inglis!
All of the buildings have a strong European flair to them. I was interested to see how much, both in Ottawa and Montreal, the old buildings dominated while in Torruna we seem to feel that concrete and glass monstrosities are the epitome of architecture.
Ottawa has a good mixture of the two.
So after admiring the various churches, banks and hotels that still have some splendour
in their makeup I went back down to the Ottawa River and took a journey along the River Parkway again. At least this time I knew where I was and where I was going.
I am impressed with the bicycle /jogging paths they have erected on the scenic views in this city. Of course in their eagerness to do this they have forgotten to allow vehicles places to admire the view as well but that may also be a result of deliberate action on the part of the authorities.
So I parked in the Government parking at one stage. Hell I pay their salary so why should they have all the best parking? Next thing you know they will start thinking that our money is theirs to abuse. Start using it to bribe Quebec or something.
This time I found the 417 easily and proceeded to go toward Carleton Place.
Now you have to remember this is road repair season so every few miles on the highway we had to slow down and watch the workers standing around talking. Of course, in line with the safety aspect inherent in protecting their rights to unhindered tea breaks, this means that the roads are narrowed from 10kms before the area of intended disruption to 10kms afterwards.
This stops once you get off the highway and onto a two-lane road. I suppose they reckon that the general decrepit state of these roads make it safer to drive slowly anyway.
At Carleton Place I hung a right and headed north.
Remember I had found another Clayton while being a guest of HM Customs the day before?
Well this was the way to go to get there. Up to Almonte and then hang a left. Shortly thereafter I came upon a large lake with lots of impressive cottages along the shores. The sort of mansions that Canadians seem to think should be referred to as cottages.
I little further on I came upon the local trailer park. While it had a lovely logo and good shore views the people hanging around the store reminded me ever so much of the types from the "dueling banjos" portion of the film from way back when. I am rather glad I am a large fellow sometimes. And if I look like a ne'er do well to Customs hopefully that is carried over to other types as well.
At first I thought that Lake Clayton was the dot on the map but there is also a town there as well. Which I came upon about a minute later.
So I had a drive around to see if there was any activity or shop. Actually there was one corner store which seemed to be a gas station, store, post office, library and general anything store. Rather like those General Dealer stores in every klein dorp all over S.A.
Only this one was closed.
The whole outside stoep of the store had merchandise left out and I guess the honour system still works out there. I was astonished to note one of the inhabitants drive up and put in gas and then leave the money in a box. There was a bookcase with hundreds of books in it that I took to be a sort of lending library.
A little way up the street I came upon the most amazing house made out of wood. The intricate artwork and carvings is astonishing. I think it was called Moon House or one of those esoteric names that arty farty types will insist on calling their abodes but nevertheless it was quite a sight.
"OK This is Clayton then. Time to move on" I thought and proceeded to drive on through town.
Which is when I saw something that made my jaw drop and changed my plans again.
My faith in the ability of Claytonions to be politically incorrect and annoying is restored completely.
So now I had to get a baseball cap with Clayton Studs on it.
No problem. I just stop one of the locals and launch into my spiel about the name and where can I get a cap etc etc. I am getting used to the bemused look on most Canadians faces when they deal with me. I am still astonished though at how they will at least go out of their way to be helpful. Which is what this chap at least tried to do.
I now know that there are caps available, that if he had been able to contact one of his pals we could have got one and that I will be going back to source one at some later stage. Probably more than one because my sons need those caps. Oh boy do they ever need those caps.
So still chuckling I headed back to Carleton Place.
Where I decided to go to Smiths Falls, which is more or less due south. And home to the Rideau Canal Museum, the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario and of course the World Famous (in Canada at least) Hershey factory.
Here is a slight hint.
If you are going to visit the Hershey Factory do not do it during school vacation. If you are looking for genuine factory prices then do not be surprised at the factory to discover that you may, if you are lucky, get 10% discount. In most cases the prices were on a par with outside prices.
I also seemed to be there with every snotty, loudmouthed, wailing, whining, and ill-mannered brat this side of the equator.
Which is why I walked in and then walked straight out again.
On my way back to the road to get to Perth now I chanced upon the Railway museum. If you like trains or even model railways this is a worthwhile visit.
The Rideau Canal museum is also worth a visit. Situated on the canal at the bottom of the main street you can get an amazing understanding of the history of the canal and see the current canal in operation as well.
So with a few side distractions I was on my way to Perth.
Which turned out to be another quaint town whose main claim to fame appears to be a Garlic festival.
I watched what appeared to be HM Customs going through a boat with the same zeal that they went through my car where the photo of the fountains were taken. I am still puzzled as to why they were doing that and what the heck was going on but with my track record I thought discretion was the better part of valour and moved on.
My destination now was Peterborough, some 200 odd kms west and through the Land o'Lakes district.
This then is my Canada.
Trees, Lakes and undulating countryside with very little habitation and a peaceful atmosphere that just screams tranquility.
Hundreds of lakes alongside the highway with names like Silver Lake, White Lake, Black Lake and myriad names from the First Nations tribes that once inhabited the area.
I drove for hundreds of miles with lakes on either side of me and visible through the trees.
Trees that sometimes towered to heights that I can only estimate at roughly 80 to 100 feet tall.
And motels at last.
Ranging from totally decrepit to slightly ostentatious there were motels all along the route.
In fact this, and the ubiquitous roadside stalls, appear to be one of the main means of commerce along that road. Every five seconds there was a stall with homemade blueberry pies and blueberry konfyt and wild blueberries on sale. Each one apparently offering the best value before …before ….well the next one I suppose.
I was in my element though. There is a standing joke with my children that I can't go anywhere without looking for water and trees to take photo's of.
So here are some in order to at least keep their cynicism alive and prove that I do find water and trees interesting. Mind you, if you have been paying attention you may have picked up on that already!
I was so engrossed in the scenery that before I knew it I was at Peterborough. Well through Peterborough actually. I decided to take the bypass instead so that I could get to Highway 7A and head out to Lake Scugog.
Highway 7A goes over Lake Scugog but you wouldn't actually know it if you didn't look at a map. The marsh like conditions at the southern end where the highway is make it seem as if the lake is to the north of the road when in actual fact the road cuts through the Southern most point of the Lake and ends at Port Parry.
Which is just North of Oshawa and not that far from home.
Well maybe 100kms as the drunken crow flies?
So I traveled along through Aurora and watched all the familiar Toronto streets go past. Mind you they were now merely roads and minor ones at that but the names were familiar again and I knew that now it was going to be hard for me to get lost. I would have to try consciously to get lost this time as opposed to merely accepting my fate.
Which meant that just after sunset I arrived home.
Almost 1600kms to the mile (Yes I know …it is a figure of speech OK?) and three days later.
And a bit of money less too I suppose.
Mind you even with all the gas it only comes to around $500. I think.Anyway I got to see masses of different places and people, thoroughly enjoy myself and get away from it all for a while.
Was it worth it?
But next time I think I need someone to come along with me. If for no other reason than that they at least can lean out the window and take snapshots as we whiz past. And maybe HM Customs will merely assume that I have been on a dirty weekend and stop hassling me for a change!
In fact I think I need to go into work on Tuesday and put in for some more vacation time in September.
Now where can I do a lightning tour then?