We said our farewells to Andrew and Rachel in St. Catherine’s which, like so many farewells have been on this journey, seemed somehow more portentous. I am not sure why, but with us now being unmoored, the prospect of meeting people again seems less certain. The fact is that we last visited here five years ago, and it had been four years before that since we had last seen A&R before they left Calgary. It is interesting how fixing people to a location is a comfort, and when one is cast loose the future appears more tenuous. Ironic, given that we are more instantaneously connected than ever, a lá this blog. Just goes to show that our brains evolve much more slowly than our technology, which only confirms my self-view as a bit of a dinosaur. I am interested to see what technological meteorite it will be that extinguishes my relevance.
We rounded the butt end of Lake Ontario to take in the scrappy charms of Hamilton and hopefully chance upon Tom Wilson, one of Liz’ past musical crushes (no luck there, however). We had friends there whom we had met last year during Liz’ last “mommy sabbatical” in San Pancho. Darla and Sheldon are actors for whom the past year-and-a-bit has been a trial. Like most people who identify as actors, they have been making do with their straight jobs, (is there a term for that – “employment dysmorphia”, perhaps?) which now includes Sheldon training to be a long-haul trucker. We had a wonderful brunch in the back yard of their quirky little house, and if things ever became really desperate for them it is apparent that Darla could make a fortune as a baker!
Then, it was on to the big time – T-Dot, the “Six”, the Big Smoke: yes, the centre of the known Canadian universe, Toronto! Now normally we eschew prolonged stays in the big metropolitan centres, largely because it is a bit stressful given our current living situation. But we had an “in” in this case, and determined to stiffen our upper lips and partake of what Toronto had to offer. More travel friends, this time a family we had met in Bali, offered to shoe horn us in to their community of Parkdale. A small-world story here, Nancy’s father had been a senior officer with the Calgary Police when I had first joined and went on to become the Chief Constable in Medicine Hat. She and her husband, Chris, have devoted their careers to environmentalism, and long ago made the hard-core decision to live car-free and bicycle-borne in Toronto. Their neighbourhood, and more importantly their community, reminded us greatly of what we had had in Inglewood, with an eclectic variety of homes and people populating where they live. They made sure we had a chance to meet a large selection of the latter, which made us a tad homesick for the people we had left behind in Calgary.
After a sweltering couple of days in the heat sink of Toronto, the rain moved in to cool things down a bit and help motivate us to move on. We white-knuckled it along the autoroutes of the GTA and were treated to an authentic travel experience that included an hour-long crawl along a four lane highway to the scene of a semi-trailer accident that had traffic tied up in both directions for many miles. We finally managed to get off the freeway to begin the journey along the lakeside secondary highway, with its reduced speed, quaint villages and the occasional nuclear reactor.
I had returned to Ontario expecting to experience once again the social conservatism and tight-assedness that I was first made aware of when I left after my post-secondary education. We finally ran into it headlong in Wellington, which guards one of the few public beaches between Toronto and Kingston, and were placed under the Stasi-like surveillance of the private security guards engaged in enforcing the bylaws governing the use of the beach. I am not sure what negative experiences have motivated the severe restrictions placed on users of the public beach, but for a place that apparently counts on tourism they have made an ill-advised choice in selecting dictatorial rent-a-cops as ambassadors for the town, especially when they seem inclined to make up the rules as they go along. As experienced boondockers we managed to evade most of the negative attention, but still had a less-than-welcoming interaction the morning we were leaving.
We finally arrived at the end of the Great Lakes, which have been our impressive companions for many weeks. We continued our journey along the secondary highways that trace the St. Lawrence Seaway. It was nice to be able to look across the water and see the other side, for a change, even if that meant that at one point Liz got dinged for some serious roaming charges because her stupid smart phone had been connecting with a tower in New York state. This must be a fairly common complaint, because Telus didn’t kick up much fuss about reversing the charge.
Ontario/Upper Canada, with its great east-west axis, has hosted us for lo, these many past weeks. But we have managed to traverse it end-to-end and have developed a great appreciation for its diversity and natural beauty, from boreal wilderness to muggy civilization, along with many good friends whom we managed to visit and many more for whom we were not able to make the time. La Belle Province, on s’en vien!