Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh Canada! Part Deux

I'm not just saying this because most of the people who read my blog are Canadians, but: We love Canada. We always have the best adventures while driving around the country, and they almost always evolve into musical inspirations for Greg. Even Tim Horton's beats the proverbial pants off Dunkin' Donuts.

This particular adventure should have lasted longer than three days, but we had to get home in time to get Greg off to his regular Sunday gig. We drove to Niagara Falls (Ontario), spent a night there, then spent some of the day there before heading up to Tara, Ontario (not far from Owen Sound on Lake Huron). We spent a night there with Seamus's breeders, and then drove straight home with Seamus in tow. In all, we probably did about 1600 miles in three days, and I drove all but about 200 miles of that. I'm still feeling every single one of those miles (or kilometers, for the distance we covered in Canada).

I guess this part was inevitable, but: I am now officially a knitter -- or at least I now have started to think like one. There we stood in the drenching mists of Niagara Falls at night, watching raptly as the colored lights shifted on the surface of the rushing waters, and the first thought that entered my mind was this: "Oooh, that color combination looks just like the Noro Iro I've been knitting." So who says that Niagara isn't a romantic destination?!

Greg and I were both amazed by the sheer relentless ground-rumbling power of the falls and the old-Coke-bottle green of the waters -- and their hypnotic, continuous roar, which you can hear from just about anyplace in town. I took so many pictures that I filled up both memory chips (though I had to discard many of them due to water drops on the lens that resulted in blurry messes of photos). Greg was so struck by the falls that he's decided to rework his tone-poem-in-progress Penobscot into something that best fits Niagara Falls, and he's retitling it Niagara.

We did some of the usual tourist stuff, but we admit to having had a lot of fun doing it -- plus each of us now has a fetching new wardrobe of complimentary souvenir plastic rain gear. We took the Journey Behind the Falls and walked through the underground tunnels, and got wet. We rode the Maid of the Mist into the horseshoe of Horseshoe Falls, and got wet. We took many long walks along the banks of the river, and got wet. About the only place we were able to get dry was in the restaurant in the Konica-Minolta tower atop the Marriott. I took still more pictures, and we dried off over breakfast. That tower isn't sponsored by camera companies for nothing!

I suppose you have to bring the amusements to where the people go, but we can't figure out for the life of us why anyone would want to go all the way to those beautiful falls just to hang out at the slot machines in the casino or in those cheesy neon haunted-house attractions. After driving down Clifton Hill just once, we avoided the real tourist-trap strips in town. The lights in that neighborhood were so garish that it was hard to pick out the traffic lights from the rest of the display -- and those were just the lights! I have to admit to a small hankering to see the Rock Stars Wax Museum just for the sheer side-splitting cheese factor, but I didn't want to linger on the hill for even a second.

We departed for Tara in the early afternoon, with me behind the wheel and Greg making volumes of notes about the new piece. We saw both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario for the first time, since we drove through the point where the two meet. I wish we'd had time to stop in the Niagara region's wineries, but there will be a next time.

Pirate and my other blog-friends in Calgary will undoubtedly get a chuckle out of this, but the Toronto-area drivers are as crazy as the ones back in Boston. I'm unaccustomed to having to adopt my Boston driving attitude in locations other than Boston itself, but if the 'tude fits... For some reason, Toronto drivers absolutely hate it when people try to fit into their lanes in order to get onto exit ramps, or other such purposes, and they'll speed up to make sure that you don't get in front of them. I'm used to this in the States with the rude big-honkin'-SUV crazies and kamikaze soccer moms in minivans who live here, but it struck me funny to have to play Boston-style bumper-cars with Canadians who would be as nice and polite as ever once out of their vehicles.

Once we escaped from Guelph, the rest of the drive north was actually a pleasure. We drove through lots of charming rural villages on the way out to Tara, and arrived there just before dinnertime. Cathy and Merv, our hosts, welcomed us warmly and introduced us to the pack (their five girl Beardies, our Beardie-to-be, the one cat, and their 15-year-old son). They'd invited a mutual friend of ours up to join us for dinner, and it was a pleasure to see Lois as well. Lois owns Kyla, Seamus's litter sister. We had a wonderful dinner of grilled Bruce County beef, wine and veggies, and strudel from a local German bakery. After a soak in the hot tub and dozens of Beardie kisses, we crashed. We were boring company, but our hosts were understanding.

After a fabulous gourmet breakfast a la Chef Merv the next morning, we loaded Sneakers-whose-name-was-definitely-gonna-change into the crate, went over his paperwork, and headed on our way. I wish we could have visited for longer, but we were determined to get to Rome, NY at a reasonable hour so Greg could visit with a childhood friend who was in Rome on business. (We ended up missing him, but Greg and he were able to talk on the phone for a good long time.)

I've never brought a dog into the country from Canada before, so I was prepared for a massive interrogation at U.S. Customs. Cathy had made sure that I was armed with all of the necessary papers: shot records, neutering, doggie ID... The Customs agent seemed more amazed that I would bother driving all the way to Ontario for a dog rather than obtain one near home, but he passed us through without so much as glancing at either the paperwork or the doggie in the crate. It's just as well. We probably looked too road-tired to be much of a threat to national security, anyway.

We made it back home sometime around 1 or 1:30 on Sunday morning. Greg crept off to bed immediately, so he could log some sleeping hours before getting up again at 6:30 to prepare for Sunday services. I fed the dog, walked him, cleaned his ears, and put us both to bed about 2 AM.

Seamus was none too pleased at having to spend the night in a crate after riding in one all day (except for the occasional pit stop), so he whimpered and banged on the door for about ten minutes before eventually settling down with a groan of disgust. At heart, I couldn't blame him, but I was just too exhausted to supervise his first night in the house, so I apologized before crashing.

His new name occurred to me the next morning while we two were getting acquainted. I had favored Alex or MacGregor as good Scots monikers, and Greg thought that Wallace (his Scots clan) might not make such a bad dog name. We were all agreed that he was not going to continue with the name Sneakers, though. Seamus just seemed like the right name, and he responded to it right away. Now it seems as though he has always been Seamus. Seamus is Irish rather than Scots, but the new name certainly has more Celtic dignity than (ugh) Sneakers.

I'm not sure I buy the idea of animal communication, even after having gone to a seminar on the subject. Anyway, a good friend of mine is trained in Reiki techniques and does animal communication. I was going to bring Seamus up for a visit to find out what he wants to be called, but I think we all already know.


Pirate said...

Yes, the drivers in Toronto are NUTS. But they are nuts in Vancouver, too. In Calgary here we have the Deerfoot Trail, which people routinely go well over the speed limit on (it's the part of Highway 2, the main north-south connector between Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge that runs through Calgary). Anyway, the Deerfoot can be kind of hairy, but then when we went to Vancouver and drove Highway 1 going into the city, I vowed never to complain about the Deerfoot ever again. We have pretty tame drivers here compared to the rest of North America, I think. And in the smaller towns around here, 30 kph (about 20 mph) is the unofficial speed limit and stopping for a good long time at stop signs, just to be on the safe side, is the norm.

Seamus is a great name, and is he ever cute!

Barbara W. Klaser said...

That sounds like a terrific trip. I've never understood the lure of slot machines and casinos even in a desert place like Vegas. But at Niagra? I'd much rather see those waterfalls. Never been there. The nearest I've been to that part of the world is Philadelphia.

Sharon said...

As a Michigander, I've managed a fair amount of traveling throughout several provinces of Canada, and they rank among my favorite experiences. In the fall, I get to add British Columbia (Victoria) to the list. I can't wait. You do have a country to enjoy.