Thursday Tidbits

Posted on September 13, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

6784 kilometres later

 

Some observations at the conclusion of our cross Canada trip:

Best coffee: Oso Negro in Nelson, B.C.

Worst restaurant meal: at a McDonald’s in Burlington, Ontario late at night

Most road construction: the number 20 from Montreal to Riviere du Loup. Construction every 20 kilometres for 423.4 kilometres. This is NOT an exaggeration.

Best restaurant meal: Cantina del Centro in Nelson, B.C. Do you see a pattern emerging?

Worst stretch of highway: for a combination of poor conditions and bleakness: Kenora to Ignace, Ontario. No contest.

Best breakfast: JC’s Hot Bagels in Burlington, Ontario.

Most expensive gas: $1.56 a litre in Northern Ontario.

Best sunset: Swift Current, Saskatchewan. You can’t beat  a prairie sunset.

Best sunrise: Nelson, B.C.

Longest day traveled: Swift Current, Saskatchewan to Ignace, Ontario: 1300 kilometres.

Best hotel: Auberge de la Pointe in Riviere du Loup.

Worst hotel: Swift Current, Saskatchewan. A swift current must have passed through the room before our arrival. The carpet was wet in spots and filthy all over. After 1300 kilometres, you’ll sleep anywhere.

Most scenic part of the drive: anywhere in B.C. and from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie.

Best road tunes: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Best surprise: a free round of golf with our room in Nelson. Because we had to stay two nights with car problems, we got two rounds of free golf.

Best hospitality: Friends along the way who fed us and put us up (put up with us!).

Best place to have car problems: Nelson, B.C.

Highlight of the trip: an unscheduled meal with my daughter and granddaughter in Montreal.

Notwithstanding (!) some gruelling hours of driving, traveling across our great country is always an adventure.

Thursday Tidbits is brought to you today by the Chamber of Commerce of Nelson, B.C.!

Have a great week.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on September 6, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

The trip got off to a perfect start

 

Thems are the brakes.

Traveling is always an adventure. At least it seems that way to me. Rarely does everything go exactly as planned. When you’re on a road trip with a young family, invariably there’s someone who gets car sick or a diaper needs to be changed on the 401. I must admit that I don’t miss those days. I remember the time I was traveling to Vermont with one of my daughters and we left a stuffed animal in a Burger King restaurant on the I-95. The discovery of the loss was noticed about a half an hour further south along the way. There was no option. I found the next off ramp, called the restaurant, asked them to put the animal aside, got back on the north bound lane and retrieved the stuffy.

Day 1 of the trip across Canada with my son and the morning dawned gray and rainy in Hope, B.C. It didn’t take long for the skies to clear as we zipped across southern B.C. When the weather improved, we noticed a lot of smoke in the mountains, the residue of the wild fires.

If you love fresh fruit, you would love Keremeos. There are dozens of fruit and vegetable stands in this agricultural area of the province along with plenty of wineries. We stopped to pick up some succulent peaches and cherries (stop drooling). The smoke in the mountains was very thick and when we looked up, we saw helicopter carrying water to a nearby fire. Make that a quartet of helicopters. They were using a nearby river to gather up water. A lady at the fruit stand said that this fire had been burning since June.

We stopped for lunch in Osoyoos, a picturesque town nestled in the mountains on Lake Osoyoos. We sat on the balcony of a lovely café overlooking a park and the lake. Our waitress informed us that the wildfires had killed their tourist traffic this summer. She said that the smoke was so thick by times that you couldn’t see the cars in the parking lot directly below the balcony.

We pulled into Nelson around 5:00 p.m. About a half an hour prior to this, Peter said something to the effect that the brakes didn’t feel quite right. After checking in to our motel, we headed straight for the golf course so that Peter could get in a quick nine holes before dark. A complimentary round of golf came with our room. Although dusk was settling in, we noticed a trail of brake fluid under the car as we were about to exit the golf club parking lot.

Back at the hotel, a quick call to a backyard mechanic back home came with explicit instructions. DO NOT DRIVE THE CAR ONE MORE FOOT.

We walked downtown for supper.  We ate at a taco restaurant.  At the table next to us were five firefighters with gritty, darkened faces. Their camaraderie was obvious as they laughed and joked easily while slaking several large jugs of water. No alcohol when you’re fighting fires.

 

Did I mention that my sister in law Catherine is brilliant? She is a very capable lawyer and an amazing cook. Her taste in men leaves something to be desired! Only joking, Catherine! When I was in Victoria for a few days before hitting the road back east, she asked me if I was a CAA member. I was for years but in retirement, cancelled my plan. She thought it might be wise to purchase a new membership with a long trip ahead. The plan had a stipulation that you couldn’t take advantage of the free towing until 48 hours after the plan was in effect. It only took 72 hours to recoup the membership fee as the car was towed to a nearby garage.

You can imagine what most businesses are like after a long weekend. We started calling on Tuesday morning as soon as the brake shops opened. The first one said that they could schedule an appointment in 5-7 days. Knowing we had to be home before Christmas, we respectfully declined. It took a few calls but we finally got an appointment.

If it is your bad fortune to have car problems, there are good places and not so good places for this to happen. Try to time your next mechanical misfortune in Nelson, B.C.  While waiting for your repairs, you can visit one of 59 restaurants, go for a hike or a round of golf or possibly hitch a ride on a pleasure craft on Kootenay Lake. When your biggest concern (besides the car repair bill )is getting too much sun or your fresh peaches going bad, then things aren’t so bad.

Peter posted a picture holding a glass of craft beer while gazing at the lake and nibbling on calamari. He posted it on Facebook and within minutes, received an invitation for a free beer from a friend from back east who now lives in Nelson and is part owner of a microbrewery. The beer that he was holding in the picture came from that microbrewery!

We pulled out of Nelson yesterday morning. We have some hard miles to make up but that goes with the territory.

There are good breaks and there are bad breaks. When you have bad brakes, turn them into good breaks. Just make sure it happens in Nelson.

Have a great weekend.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on August 30, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Om.Om.Om.Om.Om.

 

“Life is a highway; I wanna ride it all night long.”

Life is a Highway. Tom Cochrane

Unless there’s road construction.

What are the three great existential questions of our times? In no particular order, here are my choices, the ones I think about often: What is the meaning of life? How do they get the caramel inside a caramel chocolate bar? And how many people does it take to pave a highway and what metrics are used to determine the length of wait for the traveling public.

Questions one and two are pretty straight forward but I have yet to get a definitive answer on the road construction topic. Let me be the first to say that keeping our highways and byways in tip top shape is honorable and necessary. It is also the biggest inducer of road rage with otherwise sane people.

I am about to embark on a cross Canada road trip with my son and expect a great deal of road work. Let’s face it, there is no perfect time to repair roads but in a northern climate, the window of opportunity is narrower than that of, say, New Mexico.

I was traveling into town the other evening after a pleasant visit with family at Bayfield beach. It was a perfect summer day, with warm gentle breezes and a dearth of mosquitoes. We had just consumed a piece of coconut cream pie so my cheer couldn’t have been much better and I made the 15 minute trip to Antigonish.

Sorry. Let’s make that closer to 50 minutes. I was puzzled to see a lineup of cars in front of me on the Summerside Road where it meets the Trans Canada. I thought there might be an accident but I immediately knew what was going on. On my way to the beach, I noticed the road construction crew getting equipment in place around supper time on my way to the beach. There were enough temporary light standards along the side of the highway to light up the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Of course, I mistakenly thought that these lights would be used for overnight paving which is a stroke of brilliance when traffic is light.

Alas, they started the paving mid evening and traffic was at a standstill. I realize that the people holding the stop and go signs have a job to do and undoubtedly they have been schooled in traffic flow and road rage. Have you ever wondered (I know you have!) why they don’t use a timer and every ten minutes change the flow of the traffic? Obviously this is a simplistic and naïve notion and I’m certain someone can tell me why my logic is flawed.

I do pity the traffic control folks who stand in the blazing hot sun suffering from heat stroke and withering stares. It has to be the worst job in the world. I noticed an obituary the other day of this chap who had done this kind of work for decades. The cause of death was listed as boredom.

I am already dreading the thought of driving through Montreal. Driving in, around or through Montreal is a nightmare at the best of times. During road construction season, which seems to last 12 months a year, it is enough to make a grown man weep. I love Montreal. It might possibly be the greatest city in the world especially in the summer when it is hard to go a block without encountering a festival of one sort or another. There’s the Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs. You can saunter down St. Catherine’s Street and grab a world famous smoked meat sandwich or take a stroll up to St. Joseph’s Oratory or climb Mount Royal.

So, you must be wondering about the significance of the picture affixed to this story. What could a field of beautiful flowers have anything to do with road construction? A lot as it turns out.

When I am stuck on the off ramp heading to Verdun to see my daughter and granddaughter, I will close my eyes and conjure up images of The Landing and say OM as many times as necessary. That’s IF I can get off Highway 20. I just checked the road report for Montreal and this headline blared at me: Highway 20 ramps on Montreal West interchange to close until 2019.

No worries. I just called George Jetson and he has agreed to loan me one of his spacecraft so that I can avoid the traffic and fly into downtown Montreal.

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