Friday, July 29, 2016

Journey to the Centre of the Universe (Toronto) - Otherwise Know as Road Trip 2016

We embarked on a road trip that turned out to be from June 2 - 26, 2016.  Over three weeks!  We planned the trip when my friend Kristie and I decided it would be fun to go to the CQA quilt show in Toronto.   I didn't want to go that far only to go to a quilt show - no matter how awesome - but thought Joe and I could turn it into a holiday, take the car, and visit with some friends and family along the way.  So that's what we did.  Following are some pix of highlights and a few "rambles" about our experiences.

In his retirement, Joe has become an avid birder so he was on the lookout for interesting birds.  Just across the Alberta/Sask border on the Sask side along the TransCanada highway there is a snag.  It's right by the highway.  Joe said "look around - where else would they be able to build a nest?"  Good point.  No other trees for a long way in any direction.  This is a Ferruginous Hawk.  

Above - the snag - highway to the right, a slough to the left.  Bald ass prairie everywhere else!  It is stereotypical Saskatchewan.

Below (Joe's pix) - the mom (or Dad?) and babies on Jun 2 (we are heading east).

Below - babies on Jun 26 with Mom (or Dad) flying (we are heading west).

One night we stayed overnight in Winnipeg so that we could go up to a protected area about 45 minutes north of  the city: Oak Hammock Marsh.  Joe wanted to check out the birds there.

Pelicans were patrolling.  I love these birds!  We've seen them in Mexico and it's so great to see them here, too (we do see them in Calgary). (These are my pix here - Joe's would be close ups so much better).

Shots of the marsh - it goes for miles but where we were there are pathways and an interpretive centre with cafeteria where we had lunch.  I love reflections, so I took a few pix of the beautiful reflections on the marsh.

Here is Joe doing his birding thing.  He will post pix of the birds he saw on his blog.  

There were dozens of these rodents (below) - bigger than our ground squirrels - they are real gophers.  They are not afraid of people - just carried on with their business.

This is one of many purple martin condos.  We saw this type of bird house in a number of locations in Sask and Manitoba.

In Thunder Bay (actually Neebing about 35 min south of TB), we visited with our friends, Kathy and Wayne.  They are both from Thunder Bay area and have retired there to their dream home, which they had built on a lot right by Lake Superior.  They have a fabulous view and love their retired life on the lake.

The home was designed specifically to take advantage of the lake view with maximum windows.

On to Ottawa - a couple of days driving through northern Ontario  (actually, it is no further north than Calgary - it's just that Ontario goes a lot further south than Alberta).  I'm here to tell you that it could easily be the edge of the world.  If you look on a map - the TransCanada is the most northern major highway in that region.  We stopped in Kapuskasing for the night.  A very small, remote town.  A land of trees, rocks and lakes.  Think Group of Seven.  Anyway, in case I haven't made the point - it's a long way from anywhere.  Didn't take any pix though.  The weather wasn't great so wasn't inspired (we drove through a bit of snow!!!).

We stayed in Kanata (Ottawa) one night.  We met up with a high school friend, Richard, for breakfast.  I was sure that someone took a pix of us, but when I go through all our pix, I cannot find one.  So take my word for it:  we had breakfast with Rick.  And it was really fun to see him.  One of the few people that I have stayed in touch with from my Ottawa days and the only one who still lives there.  

The day before we arrived a huge sinkhole opened up at the intersection of Rideau and Sussex in downtown Ottawa.  If you don't know Ottawa - more or less in front of the Chateau Laurier Hotel.  Traffic was blocked off for a couple of blocks all the way around causing a commuting nightmare for the locals.  We took advantage of the situation by first heading to the far east and doing a drive by of the house and neighbourhood where I lived from 1968 to 1975.  

And here it is - 782 Eastvale Drive.  My bedroom was the window hiding behind the tree - upstairs on the left in the pix.  I liked it because I could look out and see what was going on out on the street.  The tree wasn't there at the time (over 40 years ago!).

From the old 'hood, we drove west back into downtown and since the roads were all blocked off due to the sinkhole, there was very little traffic and we could get right downtown (sneak in from behind), find a parking spot and do a walk-about. 

If you are a Canadian, you must recognize these - the iconic Parliament Buildings and Peace Tower.

We didn't tour the buildings.  Advance tickets are needed and we didn't have those, plus, we were on on a schedule - we were on our way to Montreal later that day.  Gone are the days when you could just walk up and get on a tour.  Last time I was there (more than 10 years ago) it was like airport security to get into a tour. Since we've both toured the buildings in the past, we didn't feel obligated to do it again this trip.

There were a few protests and other gatherings on the lawn and of course the Centennial Flame.  It's a popular place.  I had to elbow my way in to get this relatively unobstructed pix.

This is the wrought iron fence at the front of the Parliament Buildings - I took a pix because it would make a good quilting design.  Nice, eh?

Here are the Parliament Buildings from the backside.  Now I don't get to Ottawa very often - I think this was the fourth time since moving to Calgary in 1975.  But I swear, every time I am there, the Parliament Library (the round part slightly right of centre) is having some renovation done - if you look closely, it's still got some scaffolding, etc. set up there.  As it turns out, they have been and will continue to be renovating the entire place over the next few years - old building, needs some structural work.

Rideau Canal locks.  This canal goes from Ottawa to Kingston.  I always thought it would be a great vacation to take a boat (kayak or houseboat) and travel the length off it.  Of course I have never done it.  Never say never - maybe it's still  to come.

Above and below - the National Art Gallery.  Again, we didn't take time to tour it, but have done so in the past.

Nepean Point.  There is an amphitheater on the other side.  We used to go down there occasionally to hear a free concert.  Heard some good stuff.  The one that stands out in my memory is of Moe Koffman.  

Alexandra Bridge joining Ottawa to Hull, which I believe is now referred to as Gatineau in la belle province.  The Museum of Civilization is there on the left.  We took the kids through there in 1988 right after it was first opened.  I did go through it one other time when I was in Ottawa on a business trip.

We also found this little bus.  "Say YES to jobs for Canada - Say YES to OIL & LNG".  There is a lot of frustration in Western Canada right now.  It seems that the rest of the country (i.e., the "east" and oddly, southern BC - considering this particular project originated in northern BC) is doing it's darnedest to shut the west's energy industry down - kicking a dog when it's down (hence the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people).  These guys are venting their frustration by taking their message across the country.  I wish them well.  

After a couple of hours of wandering around downtown Ottawa, it was back in our little car and further east to Beaconsfield (Montreal) to visit with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins there.  First up, we went with my Uncle Fred to probably their favourite place - the Morgan Arboretum of McGill University, which is about a 10 minute drive from their home.  They go there almost every day.  

Joe and Uncle Fred looking out for birds. 

Here are a few that I got pix of.  Of course Joe's pix are much better than mine!

Little Hairy Woodpecker in the bird feeder above.

The little Hairy Woodpecker and a little American Goldfinch.  Can you see them?

And a Cardinal!  They are so pretty!  We don't see them at all around where we live so it was really cool to see so many of them down east.  They are the ones we see on the Christmas cards! :)

Above and below - the tree planted by Paula and her boys in memory of her husband, Pierre, my cousin, who died in 2009 leaving behind Paula, their two little boys and of course the rest of his family.  

We were toured around Beaconsfield - it's really beautiful.  One thing that really stands out to me is that, like the west coast, the east is very lush and green (where we live, it really has to be encouraged and even then it's reluctant).  And of course the European history goes back much further so there are still many amazing, charming, old buildings.

My Aunt and Uncle were very good about telling us the names and a bit of history of all these buildings, it is not their fault that I have the memory of a goldfish.  Here are some pix anyway.

I believe the building above is the one that houses a small art gallery upstairs.  I do remember that!  Some of the art was really cool!

Look at the fluffy white tree to the right of the building.  At first I thought it was some late blooming tree.  Upon closer inspection, it was a group of trees that has been attacked by some sort of  evil bug that made all that white webbing.  Yuk!  Poor trees!

Next we paid a visit to cousin Claire.  She toured us to Mount Royal and then old Montreal.  

Here we are - Claire and Mary.  Below, Mary and Joe.

Below - Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

And following are some random pix of old Montreal.  You will see some checkered flags in some of the pix - it was the weekend of the Formula 1 races - or F1 as the locals call it.

Following - Old Port.

They've turned it into a cheesy touristy place.

Above, Montreal's geodesic dome (Biosphere), an artifact of Expo '67 (it was the American pavilion).  Below - Habitat '67 - another relic from Expo '67..

Above - cousin Claire.

From here we we stopped at the market near Claire's to get some maple syrup and from there we went back to Claire's where we met her significant other, Nurlan for the first time.  We like him.  :)

As an aside, I had never really liked maple syrup but when they offered me some for my breakfast yogurt, I tried it and really liked it!  It turns out there are various kinds of maple syrup and the difference is related to the time of the season that it is harvested.  Early in the season it is "light", which apparently is the preferred kind and the kind that I didn't like.  The syrup from later in the season is "amber" and I really liked that!  Who knew??  Certainly I didn't.  So I recommend that if you're like me and didn't like the light kind, try the dark kind.  Maybe it will change your mind.  

Back to my narrative...  So from Claire's we went back to Beaconsfield in time to make a 6:00 BBQ at Paula's.  This was the first time we were able to meet Luke and Elliot, Paula and Pierre's boys.  They are something like 8 and 6 and, as you can imagine for boys of that age, full of energy.  They were so excited to have company and wanted to show off their tree house, which is pretty impressive, I forgot to take any pix at all at the dinner.  Suffice to say a good time was had by all.  Paula's boys are adorable - it was really fun for us to meet them finally!

Our last Montreal adventure was going to the Lachine Rapids.  The birders among us had a good time finding their specimens.  As for me - well, I just observed the flora and fauna, including the human activity that was happening.

Here are the rapids.

Below - this guy was out there on what looked like a jet-ski.  At any rate, I'm pretty sure the early European explorers would have been rather astonished if they had seen this!  (The Lachine Rapids is the geographical barrier that prevented the early explorers from going farther up the the St. Laurence River.)

Here are our intrepid birders (Fred, Arlette, and Joe).  It's not that I'm not interested, I just have a really hard time seeing them unless they are REALLY BIG or colourful.  To me they all look like little black flying things.

I would say they look like the "A-Team" in this pix (below) - but they are actually the "B-Team" - as in "Birding" - (OK - corny joke - sometimes I just can't help myself!  :)

I did see these guys!  They are big enough!  The Blue Heron (above) came along and chased the white Great Egret (below) to the other side of the lagoon.

And so ends our Montreal adventures.  You can see by the fact that everyone was bundled up that the weather wasn't so great - but oh well.  We still had a fabulous time visiting with the relatives that we don't get to see very often.

On to Kingston.  Neither of us had been there before and since we had a very short time to check it out, we got on a "hop on, hop off" bus tour.  We have done these tours in a number of other cities.  They are a fast way to get the highlights - obviously nothing in depth.  It's not a large place and the three main things that it has going for it (besides lots of history) are Queens University, Kingston Penitentiary and the Royal Military College of Canada.   

The pix above was taken in the Military College campus.  In the horizon, there are a bunch of wind turbines.  This is around the area were we started to see them quite frequently. 

Above and below - a tall ship was touring around.  you can see the wind turbines in these two pix quite well.  Wind seems to be very popular in that region as we saw many of them in southern Ontario and into the adjoining US states.

Following pix are of the Royal Military College campus and Fort Henry.

Below, pix of the Pen.

Below- random old buildings.  Just love them!

Below - Queen's University Campus.

Downtown, below.

Kingston City Hall below.

And then we had dinner in a pub: Kingston Brewing Company.

From Kingston - on to Toronto - or more accurately, Mississauga.  The reason was so that I could attend the Canadian Quilters' Association Quilt Show, which is the topic of a separate post on my quilting blog.  We stayed with Wendy and Craig in Mississaga.  It was really fun spending some time with them.  Wendy is a quilter and volunteered at the show, which was also pretty cool.  The quilt show ran from Jun 15-18, but I'd had enough after the 17th, which left us with an extra day.  We decided to do a little walkabout along the Toronto waterfront and Wendy toured us around Toronto a bit in her car.  

Wendy with me with the CN Tower.

A troupe of wandering ambassadors singing a tune.

From Toronto, we went south to Simcoe Ontario.  Another set of friends live there so we visited with them for two nights, one full day.  Very nice visit in a beautiful part of the country.  I'm not the best at remembering to take pix.  I snapped the following pix at a place called Turkey Point near Simcoe on Lake Erie before we hooked up with Jennifer and Denis.

From Simcoe, it was homeward bound.  We looped down below the Great Lakes.  We decided we didn't want to take the extra time to go into Chicago - we'll save that for a future trip.  Instead we headed down to Des Moines, Iowa.  Why?  Well that's where the APQS head office is.  My long-arm quilting machine is an APQS product and I thought it would be interesting to see where it originates and visit the main office and factory.  So we did that.  The main office is in Des Moines, the factory is in a little town about an hour out of Des Moine called Carroll. So we stopped at the sales office, then hit the road to Carroll and toured the factory.  In the meantime, we stayed overnight it Des Moines and as it's the state capital, took a drive around to look at the nice government buildings.

East of Manitoba, into Ontario and then into the US, we noticed that there were way more transport trucks than we see in the west (logical - due to higher population and the fact that most manufacturing is in the east).  Above is a pix I took at a "rest stop" along the highway near Chicago.

We drove by may convoys transporting wind turbine components.  This is a blade - they are huge!

Next pix are Des Moines state capital buildings.

One of the weirder things we found - this communications tower that is home to literally what seemed like hundreds of turkey vultures.  No kidding!!!!  

Iowa is well known as being part of the "corn belt".  There was plenty of evidence of this as we drove by many corn fields.

Here is the APQS factory.  It's not so big, but it was interesting to see and talk to the folks who work there.  They were very friendly and full of information.  The machines are assembled here using component parts that are made elsewhere - though they are quick to point out that most if not all the parts are sourced within the region.

Above - the assembly line.  Below - this lady has the best job - she gets to test the machines!  :)

Here is the outside.

Then on our last couple of days, we went through some interesting weather.

And finally - our last night away - Moose Jaw - we also stayed there on our first night. 

With that - this post comes to an end!!!  Yay - it only took me about 5 weeks to get it done!  We enjoyed our trip - and especially being able to hook up with some great friends and relatives along the way.



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