Archive for August, 2010

What now?

Okay, I’ve got just over a week before school starts, but lots going on, here’s my to do list…

  • Got a membership at the public library this morning,
  • Get my phone transferred,
  • Deal with the mistaken parking ticket I got in Toronto (I paid for a pass, mofos!!!)
  • Figure out parking in Hali… last night it seemed even residential streets had only two hour parking during the day?
  • Figure out money/budget stuff for the school year,
  • Meet up with the one person I know in Halifax,
  • Find the local pools,
  • Transfer car insurance… that’s going to be a headache, with safety inspections and hassles around the van’s imported idiosyncrasies,
  • Print some resumes, start looking for work,
  • relax a little bit,
  • start school!


Ha, I lied, there are no photographs in this post. All the most beautiful things I’ve seen, all the significant moments I want to record, they didn’t happen with my camera in hand. I was in motion, and I didn’t want to stop. Some I’ve already written about… here are the rest, but you’ll just have to imagine them, and I’ll just have to remember…

  • Driving between close close close vertical rock walls at Rogers Pass,
  • The Kicking Horse River and its miky green braids,
  • Through the toothy Rockies, literally like being a piece of tartar in the mouth of a planet-sized colossus,
  • Spiral tunnels and animal overpasses,
  • Orange setting-sunlight on the fields east of Calgary,
  • Pre-teens playing giant chess in Medicine Hat,
  • Hills dotted with hay marshmallows in Saskatchewan, some lying out of place in the median… pushed there by bored teens?
  • Fields of giant insect robots and shiny red martian rovers for sale in Swift River,
  • Manitoba, finally taught me how beautiful copses are. Not corpses, copses! As in “a copse of trees”,
  • Manitoba was also the land of a thousand lovely little white butterflies, often in couples that I would watch flirting and flitting and chasing each other right into the grill of my Death Van,
  • Ontario, perfect little lakes exactly like all those Group of Seven paintings,
  • Tallest pulp mill I’ve ever seen in Dryden ON… twenty stories? With monster smokestacks on top,
  • Sudbury: shock and awe of the smokestacks (one of which was the tallest freestanding structure in Canada until 1975; now only the CN Tower is taller), and the weird beauty of the water tank,
  • Swimming in an apartment tower rooftop pool in downtown Toronto, dubstep and cigarettes with my dearies Danielle and Nadia, Sarah, Francisco,
  • Cheese, how I love you! Cheese and more cheese in Montreal… chantrelles and pork roast too, a beautiful meal with Shirley and her friends Evan and Joanne,
  • The mouth of the St. Laurence, choppy and storm-dark despite the perfect sunny blue sky above,
  • Nearly driving off the road, mesmerized by fields of undulating and thrashing rushes,
  • A three-quarter moon, pumpkin orange and enormous over a dark stretch of New Brunswick highway,
  • The skip in my pulse and the lurch in my tummy as I rolled into Nove Scotia and realized that this strange new province was now my own,
  • The stranger who phoned his brother-in-law to find out the best route for me to take to a swimmable beach, having overheard me tell the gas station attendant that the first thing I wanted to do was jump in the atlantic ocean,
  • Peggy’s Cove, teeny and insanely adorable (but genuine) little fishing village… dusk by the time I got into the water behind a little seafood restaurant, cautious after a young local told me to watch my toes for crabs. After this final day of hot sticky driving the water was clear, cool, salty, and perfect.

Nowhere special, just a random little street in my new city :)

Florenceville, New Brunswick. I left the highway and followed my gut, turning onto smaller and smaller roads, until I came to a narrow bridge and saw an overgrown road leading off to the right. The road petered off within a hundred metres to a private little spot by the river. Yeah yeah, “living in a van by the river”, I know. You know how many times I’ve had to sit through that joke? Now it’s finally true, and I have to say this might have been the most perfect spot I’ve ever stayed; quiet, private, and in the morning I learned that I was right beside a historic covered bridge. Poked around a bit, then I was off: the final day of driving!

Home #112

Duluth & Drolet, Montreal.

Ah… A trip to the Jean Talon market yesterday afternoon, dinner and wine with Shirley, a night of dancing on St. Laurent, a morning spent wandering the streets and treating myself to a pastry and coffee at a phenomenal little neighbourhood bakery. I’m feeling much better now.

Rue St. Gerard, Montreal. Another lovely visit with a dear old friend, thank you Shirley!

I’m not fearful of what’s going to happen in Halifax, not exactly. I know this is going to be amazing set of changes in my life. But it’s still this huge unknown, which leaves me feeling a vague vulnerability that I’m not used to. I mention this because I was surprised to arrive in Montreal, a city that I looooove, and find that I really just wanted to hide! I’d forgotten how terrible my french is, and yeah I know you can get away with that here but I prefer to be making an effort to speak what the locals do… anyway on day one here I found that particular challenge a wee bit overwhelming.

Home #110

Church & Wellesley, Toronto.

After seven days of driving towards… what, a whole new life???? it was a huge relief to stay with friends for a couple of days… to just relax and talk and eat and sleep and recuperate. Thank you thank you thank you, Danielle and Nadia! This is part of the view from their balcony.

Just past Sault St. Marie.

I have to say, this trip has made me fear for Canadian culture. Not that I have any conception of what that might have been… but seriously. At least from the Trans-Canada Highway perspective, every single town is defined by the same shite multinational fast food (or gas or groceries or whatever) that the others are. Wendy’s, Starbucks, Subway, Tim Hortons (not even Canadian anymore)… the idea that familiarity is comfort, and therefore travellers want to walk in and know exactly what to expect. So why travel????

So Sault St. Marie, reigning king of chains so far, wasn’t my bag. Fortunately just a little ways past it was this nice field of cows, beside whom I slept quite happily.

Somewhere in Ontario… near Upsala I think?

You know how fond I am of rest stops. In Ontario, they don’t have ’em. Well they do kind of… they call them picnic areas, and they appear quite frequently on the highways. Sometimes they’re really lovely, sometimes they’re kind of drab. They usually have little bathrooms, but not always. But the salient point for me is that they’re closed at night, and signs explicitly say that anyone parked there overnight will be towed. Bastards!

However in this part of the province there are many old unused logging roads that plunge from the highway straight into the woods. I picked the wrong one in the sense that the road became too thick to drive on it while I was still in sight of the highway, but once I was there I didn’t feel like moving.

I need to rig some kind of bug screen on my windows: on a hot night having to choose between fresh air or freedom from bloodsucking motherfucking killer bugs just isn’t fair!

Winnipeg, my first time there. I only spent a few hours, but I loved the feel of it. I love the old houses, I love the broken down wrought-iron fence around everyone’s yard.

I have a theory about towns and first impressions. I’ve been to Calgary once before, but then I wasn’t on my own and I wasn’t driving. This time I arrived in rush hour, without a map, hot and sticky from driving and thinking I’d be able to find a swimming pool. Totally unprepared for a city whose main streets are actually highways, jam packed full of cars either going faster than my little hamster van can handle or standing impatiently nose to bum. I did eventually figure out the layout, and find a pool, and rush hour calmed down… but I still hate Calgary, and I have no intention of ever returning.

Whereas I chased a storm into Winnipeg… sun setting behind me, and in front of me a collection of about 15 distinct cloud types at various altitudes, some lit pink by the setting sun, some casting shadows on others, some wispy, some solid, some wee, some huge and threatening… one lit from the inside every so often by flashes of lightening. I love storms, and as I rolled into town I felt a little disappointed that I couldn’t catch up to it, but I was still juiced up from the beauty I’d seen. The highway turned into a strip of chain restaurants and neon signs, and then I saw a big Y right in front of me. Not only were they still open, they let me swim for free just cause I was from out of town. Super nice people!

So I don’t know if it’s because of the storm, or if it’s because I like the houses, or if it’s because in Winnipeg they treated me well right off the bat, but I’d love to go back someday.