Travel Friends, Getting Naked in Toronto and Grass

By Remy

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!

Scheming to meet in Mexico again!

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.

Two wheels good, four wheels bad! Getting the tour of Toronto from the bike path. We had to have a photo of the city’s iconic tower – what exactly is that that Toronto is compensating for? We also got to see other Toronto highlights, like Kensington Market and a protest at Nathan Phillips Square.
Likely a CSIS agent deployed to create civic unrest amongst the Cuban diaspora in an effort by the capitalist pig-dogs to halt the march of history!
Our Condé Nast-worthy dinner in the back yard of Chris and Nancy’s home, with friends and family. It was fun to see how the kids have grown in the six years since we were all in Bali! Featured in this photo is the bottle of Scotch we had been gifted by Lynne and Bob – it was a hugely successful social lubricant, and did not survive the evening. It spent over 25 years with Lynne and Bob and less than 24 hours with us.
Touring the Toronto Islands. It is a wonderful juxtaposition to be able to access such serenity just a short ferry ride from the metropolitan bustle of the city.

The view of the city from the ferry to the Islands. “Toronto, the city best appreciated from afar.” 
This is a streetscape of one of the neighbourhoods still occupied on the Islands. Because no personal vehicles are permitted, there is no need for wide (or paved) streets. The houses are not privately owned but are leased from the City, and when someone leaves (or dies) the house is assigned by lottery to someone new. There is a 25 yr waitlist!
A typical house on one of the islands. In Toronto’s market, this would probably be worth about $2.5 million!
Hanlan’s Point Beach on one of the islands is a sanctioned nudist area. Since you have seen enough of our butts in various blogs and Facebook posts, we have chosen instead to preserve some mystery – did they, or didn’t they? For those who know us well the answer is obvious! The water was beautiful, some of the other aspects not so much. There was a significant over-representation of male genitalia, with a definite sense that wares were being proffered.
Parkdale is a very old neighbourhood (by Canadian standards) and definitely dates to the pre-automotive era. What driveways there are are usually shared between two or more houses and were designed to accommodate the passage of buggies and carriages. The Radvan was too big to park in the rear so we dropped anchor streetside.
Our temporary quarters in posh Parkdale. Neither house in this photo belonged to Chris and Nancy, and we are extremely grateful for the tolerance and graciousness of their neighbours!
Some much needed girl time for Liz. If you look closely you can see 20 yr old Aron in the kitchen preparing dinner for everyone. Are you reading this, Bowen?

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.

This is fine but we have chosen the Nomadical Radical Way
A quick stop at Remy’s alma mater, made even more quick by the fact that Covid restrictions prevented entry, even by an ex-Cadet. Don’t they know who I am?! The place has gone soft since I was there.

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.

Casino parking can be quite lovely, especially along the Thousand Islands Parkway!
Some cabins along the Thousand Islands Parkway, obviously built before climate change was a “thing”.
The advantage of slow travel – this is a typical view from outside our window! It is a privilege to have no schedule.
The inhabitants of this part of the world have learned to put the “l-a-w-n” in St. Lawrence. Groomed yards this size are not unusual! Which might explain why people can be so uptight.
A night spent along the Seaway in Beauharnois, QC. It was fascinating to watch these freighters rise and fall in the locks, and an internet app told us that this particular ship was headed to a port in northern England.
Like the Princess and the Pea, Liz has shown to be extremely sensitive to the wrong sort of prick. We have no idea what was feasting on her finger while she slept, but the swelling and itchiness was such a torment that we were going to look up a tropical diseases expert. I, on the other hand, am either too distasteful or tough or possess enough Neanderthal genes to resist such insect-borne afflictions.

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!


Published by tompkinsontheroad

Married mother of two awesome boys who is now living full time in a self converted Camper van and seeing more of the world. We gave up something super special to live our dream of living a free and simple life on the road exploring new places and taking joy in the discovery of the extraordinary

6 thoughts on “Travel Friends, Getting Naked in Toronto and Grass

  1. You’re such a poetic writer Remy. But it was a bit cumbersome to search for word definitions by Google. Nonetheless, I fully understood all the flowery words and descriptions and chuckled while reading. Continue exploring and writing and having fun.


  2. Wow! What a great writer you are Remy! Just read the blog to Joe as we are driving in our Sweet Pea van to Simcoe to visit our son and then on to Tillsonberg for a 4 day tandem bike adventure with friends ! Loving the van !!!
    You two sound like you are having such wonderful adventures ! Can’t wait to read the next blog ! Happy travels ! 😘


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