My day out

3 08 2009

I haven’t travelled much lately. I have an excuse: I don’t have a car or a passport (the latter arrives later this month!), and I was short of money for a while. But I took a week off work this week, and decided that I wanted to go somewhere, if only for a day, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re on vacation. So I decided to rent a car on Wednesday and drive around bits of Ontario.

At 9:00, when I got going, I wasn’t in the best of shape. My body was still doing a system flush from having consumed too much dark beer the night before last, and I had tweaked a back muscle that morning while brushing my teeth. And it was cloudy and miserable out. I was feeling my age, and then some, as I headed to the rent-a-car place.

I had picked this particular rent-a-car place at random because it was only a few subway stops away from me, and because their website allowed me to reserve a car online. While the man in charge was processing the paperwork, I tried to make a joke about how today was a good day to be inside a motor vehicle, as it was crappy out. But then I realized that he would have to pretend to laugh at anything I said, as I was a Customer. I am grateful that my job doesn’t require me to be nice to people.

The car that I was given – a Toyota Yaris – looked to be in good shape on the outside, but the car company hadn’t done a very good job of cleaning it, if indeed they had cleaned it at all. There was something spilled near the right-side cupholder, and the car smelled as if people had recently done some serious fucking in it, or had transported a dead pet to its final resting place, or perhaps both. I had to roll down the windows to be able to sit in it, which proved to be a problem, as the rain started to come down in buckets. I solved the problem by keeping the driver’s side window closed as much as possible, the front passenger window open a little bit, and the back seat windows open as much as possible to scatter the smell. This meant that the back seat was going to get wet, but it wasn’t as if anyone was sitting there.

the smelly car The smelly car.

It took me a bit to acclimatize myself to driving again – it had been two years since I had driven a car – so I drove up Bayview Avenue until I got out of Toronto. On the way out of town, I wound up behind a Porsche Carrera that had EIEIO as its license plate. My guess is that the owner is a gentleman named McDonald who is involved in something related to agriculture, but that’s only a guess.

When I got into Markham, I realized, not for the first time, how much I dislike the outer suburbs. All the houses look the same, and the people who live there are totally dependent on the internal combustion engine for the necessities of life. The newer subdivisions don’t even have door-to-door mail delivery – the mail is dropped off in centrally located mailboxes, and residents have to go get it themselves. Presumably, they drive there.

Eventually, I felt confident enough behind the wheel to drive to the 404, which I joined at 16th Avenue. (Markham is easy to navigate: all the main east-west streets are numbered, and the north-south streets are just extensions of the main north-south streets in north Toronto.) I drove north as far as you can go on the 404, which is to Green Lane East, on which I went west. Yes, this seemed confusing to me too.

end of Highway 404 The end of Highway 404.

I had a good map and a cellphone with good coverage, so I decided to stay on the side roads whenever possible and see where they took me. I passed through Bradford and eventually wound up on Airport Road, which runs north and west out of Toronto for quite some distance. By the time I got onto it, the street numbers were something like 968627.

windmill building, Bradford Not sure what this building used to be, but it now holds a car restoration shop. Bradford.

abandoned restaurant, Bradford Abandoned restaurant, Bradford.

Bumper sticker on a car in front of me: “The meek shall inherit the earth, if it’s okay with you.”

I drifted north for a bit, then realized that the sun was actually out this far north, so I headed off to Wasaga Beach. On a weekday, it is possible to walk away from the crowded bits of the beach and the tackier touristy shops and find a place to sit and look out at the beach, the water, and the Niagara Escarpment off in the distance, so this is what I did.

tourist traps, Wasaga Beach Tacky touristy shops.

deck chairs, Wasaga Beach You can rent a deck chair, if you don’t have one. (At first, I thought that you had to sit right there.) You can buy these chairs at Canadian Tire – I have one just like them on my balcony.

view #2, east end of Wasaga Beach The view from the far end of Wasaga Beach.

I also watched the seabirds flying about looking for fishy things in the water that they could eat. Their approach was to fly slowly over their potential target and then suddenly drop like a rock into the water. Presumably, the startled prey would only have time to think the fish equivalent of “What the…?” before being eaten.

vendors only, Wasaga Beach This shelter is for vendors only. Hmph.

picnic bench, Wasaga Beach Picnic bench.

Before heading back to my car, I walked along the beach for a bit. I noticed a small boy attempting to zap birds with his high-powered water pistol, and despaired for our future as a species.

abandoned mini-golf course, Wasaga Beach Abandoned mini-golf course, Wasaga Beach.

On my way out of town, I stopped for a snack at McDogfoods. I had to wait a bit, as one of the cars going through the drive-through had ordered seven bacon double cheeseburgers and seven bacon single cheeseburgers. (That’s a total of 21 processed meat patties, if you’re keeping score.) It was fascinating to watch the resulting assembly line at work. McDonald’s doesn’t produce great food, but they sure are efficient at making it.

After this, I travelled west through Collingwood, and therefore learned something: Collingwood is a sister city of Katano, Japan and Zihataneujo, Mexico (which is mentioned in a Stephen King story). I also learned that, in Collingwood, Loblaws is called “Loblaw”. I wonder what legal convolutions led to that corporate decision?

The road out of Collingwood was frustrating – it was posted at 50 km/h for what seemed like an absurdly long time. My car and the road were begging me to go faster, but I figured that this stretch of road served as a fundraiser for the district, thanks to innumerable speeding tickets, so I held the line. At the point at which the speed limit finally went up, I passed a young man on a bicycle who was wearing a New Jersey Nets Vince Carter T-shirt. I resisted the temptation to run him over, which, as a Raptors fan, I was fully entitled to do.

Escarpment near Collingwood The Niagara Escarpment near Collingwood.

Later on, I passed through Craigleith, which apparently is now a 9-11 community – what does that mean? – and then stopped at a store which was a combination Mac’s Milk, LCBO and Beer Store. Hurray for one-stop shopping! From here, I travelled south on Grey County Road 13. It was a perfect driving road: good pavement, no traffic, wonderful scenery. The Niagara Escarpment is really startlingly beautiful at times, especially to an urban person like me who has just spent a month living in a city that was undergoing a garbage strike. Two stretches of this road were under construction, and signs announced that these improvements were part of the government’s stimulus spending program – your grandchildren’s tax dollars at work!

Many towns along the way had signs posted that begged doctors to please, please move into town. There was even a hotline you could call, if you were someone medical who happened to be passing through and wanted to change your life. I guess it must be tough: most people who spend years putting themselves through medical school prefer to relocate in a bigger city, so there aren’t any small-town doctors any more. No wonder the rest of the province hates Toronto.

By now, I had been driving for several hours – more than I had driven in the last six years put together – and my right foot was beginning to cramp up from pressing down on the accelerator. It was time to go home. So I headed over to Highway 10, which was a straight shot southeast in the direction of Toronto. The posted speed limit here was 80 km/h, but this bore little relationship to the consensus speed limit; I was travelling at 90 km/h, but was easily the slowest driver on the road. How does the consensus speed limit evolve over time, I wonder?

wind turbines, Highway 10 On Highway 10, between Flesherton and Shelburne, you can see a lot of wind turbines. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of them. These suckers are huge.

Esso Fish, Shelburne Esso Fish, Shelburne.

From here, my journey wasn’t that interesting. I ate dinner at a Swiss Chalet in Orangeville – I’m not a very adventurous diner – and then drove from Highway 10 to Highway 9 and then to Highway 404 and home, thus avoiding most of Toronto’s exurban sprawl. I dropped the car and the keys off, and was finally free of the horrible smell inside the car. I won’t rent from this rent-a-car company again; in future, I’ll choose something less thrifty, if you get my drift.

Mind you, they still haven’t processed my Visa transaction from last Wednesday. Maybe they just forgot, or perhaps they are feeling guilty about renting me an improperly cleaned car. I’ll just have to wait and see. Despite this, it was a good day out. Thanks for reading, if you got this far.

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7 responses

3 08 2009
Rob

*If* I got this far? You’d think I’d turn down a Dave Till travelogue? Even if, with Bradford and Wasaga included, there’s a slight possibility of your providing a description of donwotnw Alliston, I’d still read it.

3 08 2009
Rob

And of course, “donwotnw” is how they spell it in Alliston.

3 08 2009
Bill_S

Dave. If a rental car smells bad, you don’t take it. You tell them to give you a car that doesn’t smell. Just sayin’.

Thanks for the travelogue.

3 08 2009
davetill

Rob: Glad you enjoyed it. (I seem to recall that “Donwotnw” was a hit single in the 1960s for Petula Calkre.)

Bill: By the time I discovered that the car smelled bad, I was already on the road. If I had turned back and demanded another car, I would have lost most of the morning. So I decided to suck it up.

3 08 2009
Tracy

Nice, Dave. Laughter — pathos — and smelly car — all in one story…haha. I like your travel writing.

4 08 2009
Suzanne

Peter and I drove past those windfarms yesterday too, taking a dusty country road in order to get as close as possible. Not only are the turbines large, but they are strangely majestic and extremely quiet. The wind blowing across those fields was much louder than the turbines.

29 09 2009
Lone Primate

I had no idea we had that kind of wind infrastructure yet. I gathered it was Alberta that was, ironically, way into that… but then, with the kind of wind Albertans generate… 🙂

That rilled photo of the escarpment was totally unanticipated. I’ve never seen the like; it looks far more textured in your shot than I’ve ever seen it. I wouldn’t mind seeing that for myself.

Thanks for all the good work here. 🙂

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