22 Jun

An Eventful Day Trip to Toronto

Thoughts, observations and pictures from yesterday’s day on the train to and from the universe’s center:

1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You graduate from university. You graduate from high school. You do not “graduate” from Grade 8.

1a. Even if a Grade 8 “graduation” would otherwise have been something worthy of a celebration, today’s no-fail policies render it utterly worthless. A stuffed animal could get a high school diploma nowadays.

2. As I took my seat on the top level of the GO bus, a gentleman came behind me huffing and puffing with all his might. If getting up the stairs was such a problem for him, why did he not stay on the lower level and take advantage of the priority seating? After all, that’s what it’s there for. No one put a gun to his head to go up top.

3. Just before the bus was scheduled to leave Fairview Mall, one of the young children of an extended family on their way back from a trip to Niagara Falls suddenly decided she had to go to the bathroom. So the driver made us wait while the mother ran off with the daughter to the mall. Which was closed.

Then we were made to wait while the pair went running around trying to find a place for the kid to answer the call of nature. They ultimately settled on a tree in PetSmart’s parking lot in full view of the bus, but then we were made to wait still longer while the mother ran back to the bus to retrieve a bottle of water for the cleanup while another female relative remained with the daughter.

Only after all of that were we granted the privilege of taking off.

3a. The mother’s half-hearted apology as she returned to the bus, the tone of which betrayed an entitlement to hold up the bus for as long as she deemed necessary, didn’t cut it. There have been other similar cases on GO when the driver has simply told such people in need that if they weren’t back in time, he had to leave. That’s the difference between public transit and a taxi. The bus leaves with or without you.

3b. That all said, it is surprising there are no washrooms on double-decker GO buses. Many, including the #12 that serves Niagara, run long distances and such emergencies do happen.

4. Even before getting out of St. Catharines, I spotted a Reimer Express truck on the QEW, one of four I would spot on the day. I would later spot a truck from Bison Transport and someone wearing a Bomber cap. In addition, I saw this car with a Manitoba plate double-parked in front of the ACC:

As I’ve said before, the SPRM does continue to follow me around.

5. At the Grimsby stop, an agitated Falls-bound cyclist asked our driver when his bus would be coming, acting every bit like someone who was mortally offended by a five-minute wait. This just in. The #12 bus only comes every hour. You need to check the schedule beforehand and plan accordingly.

6. Though I wasn’t in a hurry, the delay in St. Catharines combined with the heavy traffic caused some tense moments for the other passengers, many of whom needed to catch the connecting Lakeshore West train in Burlington. Full marks to the driver for his creative efforts in getting us there in time.

7. With the front rack full, the driver allowed a cyclist boarding at Nash and Barton to store his bike in the space strollers and wheelchairs normally occupy rather than asking him to use the rear storage compartment. I certainly hope it was strapped in, since it could have become a dangerous projectile if the driver had to stop suddenly.

8. Though I had my choice of seats when I got on the train in Burlington, the upper level on the car I was in was nearly full by the time we got to Oakville. Yet someone still had his bag on the adjacent seat.

Somehow I doubt he paid an extra fare for his bag.

9. I remain surprised that there are no signs on board the train showing the upcoming stop, something that has become standard practice on buses, even here in St. Catharines.

10. The customer service ambassadors must get up at night in a cold sweat muttering, “Please stand clear of the doors, the doors are now closing.”

11. Upon arrival at Union, I took the subway to Queen’s Park for the 10:30 tour of Ontario’s legislative building. Given my long-tenured association with Manitoba’s equivalent and the prior tours I’ve had of the Minnesota state capitol, it had been something on my radar for a while, and yesterday, I finally had the opportunity.

Oddly, there were no big security checks and showing photo ID was a condition of entry to the building.

Since the only other person with me on the tour was a Chinese lady who didn’t speak a word of English, our guide spoke to us ve … ry … slow … ly. As if speaking to us like we were six-year-olds was going to enable her to understand a completely foreign language any better.

Among our stops was the chamber where laws are made, unlike Manitoba, where laws are instead made at a police station. But I digress. And yes, I’m still bitter.

The government sits on the left, while the opposition sits on the right. All around are galleries for the public and political activists who still have the gall to call themselves “journalists.”

Facing the opposition is a sickly looking eagle, symbolically situated to remind them to keep a watchful eye on the government. On the opposite side, the owl faces the government, reminding them to act wisely, something this Liberal government has rarely done.

Unlike Manitoba, the Lieutenant-Governor does not have a separate residence, but she does have an office in the building.

Down the hall leading back to the front entrance were several items from the St. Catharines Museum:

Finally, a shot looking south from the front entrance.

It was nice to see the inside of the building, but I was disappointed that our guide was not as well informed as she should have been and the whole thing seemed rushed, as if she had a cake burning in the oven.

12. A shot taken at the police memorial across the street:

13. By accident, I happened to pass Sunnybrook Hospital, where former Jets assistant GM Mike Doran was taken following his near-fatal crash on his way to a game in Peterborough. It was indeed fitting that I was wearing my Jets jersey.

14. Signs of “pride” were everywhere. Here, a gay bank.

A gay hairdresser.

Gay pizza.

A gay ATM, one that presumably dispenses rainbow-colored bills.

Another gay bank.

Gay tea.

And gay beer.

Rainbow-colored hair, for those so inclined.

Statue of Alexander Wood, a “gay pioneer” among other things.

Even the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens got into the act.

I really don’t give a flying rat’s rear end what consenting adults want to do in their bedrooms. But, as a good friend of mine often says, stop shoving your sexuality down my throat. Enough already!

15. Approaching MLG, the site of the Jets’ only two road victories of the 1980-81 season, a scruffy character with a few loose screws stopped me after noticing my Jets jersey.

“You know who my favorite player of the Winnipeg Jets was?” he asked.

How could I possibly know? And why would I care?

“You know, that guy who scored with two seconds left.”

I like trivia as much as anyone, but that’s the most obscure clue I’ve ever heard.

Then he told me.

“Tony Tanti.”

“But he played for the Canucks,” I replied. “He never played for the Jets.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, acting as if he just had a brain fart. “He played for Vancouver.”

After regathering his limited and scrambled thoughts, he said, “Keith Tkachuk. He played for the Jets.”

Well, he at least knew that much. But as for Tkachuk, all I could do was give a thumbs-down.

“See ya later,” he said.

16. Not more than a block later, someone else noticed my jersey and said, “Go Jets!” before taking off on his bike.

17. Is this a terribly tasteful item to be offering on your menu?

18. Memo to the tourists from New Mexico who had lost their way: Spreading yourselves out four abreast blocking a busy sidewalk in the heart of one of North America’s largest cities while staring at a map is not a good idea.

19. A store that does not accept legal currency has no right to call itself “nice,” such as this one at Yonge-Dundas Square.

20. An interesting way to see the Center of the Universe:

21. Walking down Yonge Street, I heard someone drop the F-bomb. Unlike the case in the Old Country, it stands out like a sore thumb in this part of the world. As I’ve said before, it’s yet another reason why I’m happy to be here.

21a. The three-year anniversary of my defection from the SPRM is rapidly approaching.

22. I was one of only a handful of people out and about on the sidewalk during the lunch hour who was not talking on the phone or texting.

23. A picture of Tim Horton at a future Tim Hortons location. What a novel idea. You have to wonder why his legacy isn’t more celebrated at their stores.

24. I made a point of stopping at Legends Row in front of the ACC. The latter shot is of Darryl Sittler, who, as loyal readers may recall, I met personally at an IceDogs game.

25. The construction of the new Burlington GO station has been going on so long that I think this “temporary” orientation map can now be considered permanent.

26. Just go ahead and light up. Don’t let that big “no smoking” sign bother you at all.

27. On the GO bus back to St. Catharines, there was a couple who boarded at Burlington who insisted on dragging their suitcases up the narrow and steep staircase despite the fact that there was plenty of room for both them and their suitcases down below. To each his own, I suppose.

28. A couple of teenage princesses got on and Nash and Barton and were genuinely pissed off to find that the two front seats, one of which I was in, were occupied. It is, after all, first come, first serve. Nonetheless, they sat down nearby and like, proceeded to, like, fill the airwaves with their, like, juvenile conversation. About when they, like, have to take trips to, like, ‘Sauga. (Saying “Mississauga” apparently required too much vocal effort.) And the courses they, like, have to, like, take.

I nearly laughed as I listened to the older one, who was, like, in her first year of, like, university, like, lecturing the other. “You’ll learn that when you get older,” she said. Then she, like, began to talk about, like, her course on, like, women’s gender studies. A course that will surely be of far greater value than any other in the nursing program she was proposing to enter.

28a. If I end up in a hospital, I can only hope to be cared for by someone more mature. Even just slightly less immature.

14 Jun

Random Thoughts – Fake News, QEW Crash, Downtown Streetscaping and More

1. Paul Wiecek churned out another piece of drivel in yesterday’s edition of Socialism Illustrated. This time, he railed on how many Southern teams are losing money hand over fist while again proclaiming the Chipman franchise as a model of success.

He did have a valid point in regard to the Weasels, née Jets, but he conveniently failed to mention that the Chipman franchise would be in the same boat without all those government handouts. As I’ve said before, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But as is normally the case at Socialism Illustrated, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

1a. In that same article, Wiecek claimed that the only reason the Predators have been able to draw crowds recently was because they were winning. Once again, he conveniently overlooked how well they had been drawing for years despite the fact that the Predators had never won much of anything and hadn’t advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs prior to this past season. And that the franchise, led by quality ownership, has worked hard to build a strong, loyal fan base in a non-traditional hockey market like Nashville. But again, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

2. Right here in St. Catharines, a truck hauling hazardous materials crashed on the QEW, forcing an evacuation and shelter in place order within a 2 km radius of the crash site. To the credit of everyone involved, the chemicals were promptly contained and the highway was reopened to traffic within 12 hours.

In Winnipeg, police would have taken great pleasure in shutting down a major artery for 12 days or more if such a thing had happened there. Just because they could. Yet another reason I’m happy to be out of that part of the world.

3. Speaking of Winnipeg, I couldn’t help but think of my former home when I spotted these gardens outside the downtown library last night:

As I said to my friend, if something had been planted outside the downtown library there, it would only have been a matter of hours before it was torn up and/or used as a toilet. Not to mention that whoever did the planting might have ended up with a knife in his gut. Again, it’s yet another reason I’m happy to be out of that part of the world.

4. Placing a sign at a major construction site explaining the work being done and giving the estimated time of completion is important. But it does not need to be as tall as the Jolly Green Giant and it is not necessary for our mayor to include what amounts to a re-election campaign slogan at the bottom.

5. I knew the city was doing “streetscaping” on St. Paul Street. I wasn’t aware that they were tearing up the whole street.

5a. Was this project really necessary?

5b. I sure wish there was a conservative voice on council. You know, someone who isn’t afraid to say “no.”

04 Jun

An Odd Day on the Train

Thoughts, observations and pictures from my journey to and from Mississauga yesterday:

1. I spotted this pile of dirt with “DIG” painted on it. I know I bring too much with me on these trips, but sadly, a shovel wasn’t among what I had packed. Maybe next time.

2. It was nice that, even in early June, I needed a light jacket. It sure beats the blazing heat we had last summer and what they’ve got in the Old Country right now.

3. While waiting for the GO bus at Fairview Mall, two other passengers and I were watching an older guy pushing a grocery cart going through some nearby dumpsters. One of the others said he knew the dumpster-diver, who apparently lives in an $800,000 house in the North End, and recently spotted him eating some scraps he had found. “There’s got to be something wrong with him,” he said, and I didn’t disagree with his observation.

For the benefit of loyal readers from the SPRM, a North End address is a highly desirable location here in St. Catharines. In the degenerate capital of the SPRM, if you added up the value of every house in the North End, I doubt the total would come to $800,000.

4. Approaching the Burlington GO station, I spotted this cyclist on Fairview Street:

I do have a fondness for stuffed animals, but I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to mount one on top of my helmet. But to each his own.

5. While in line at the Burlington Outhouse before catching the 9:07 train, I listened as two Burlington Transit drivers exchanged stories as they answered the call of nature. One of them spoke about an incident when a passenger complained because he “was driving so slow that it was giving her a headache.” As he explained to the distressed passenger, he was just keeping to schedule, rather than racing ahead to the end of his route. Like what I often encountered on Winnipeg Transit. Drivers there would also make a habit of lollygagging around when significantly behind schedule.

6. Construction at the new GO station in Burlington continues to move along at a glacially slow pace. With any luck, it will open sometime within the next couple of decades. When it will be long since obsolete and due for a refit. You have to wonder if they hired contractors from the SPRM.

7. While heading north along Hurontario Street, I spotted someone running like hell trying to catch the MiWay bus I was on. To the driver’s credit, he stopped and waited for her, and did so again for another passenger a few blocks later. Unlike what normally happens on Winnipeg Transit, where drivers wait until such a person reaches the front door before taking off. I’ve seen it happen so often that I think it must be a like a badge of honor for them.

8. Rather than thanking the driver for waiting for her, the second passenger was bellyaching that he didn’t pick her up at the stop she was waiting at, conveniently overlooking the fact that it was an express bus and wasn’t supposed to stop there, as the signage clearly indicated. But then again, it requires some effort to read signs. Effort few seem willing to expend.

9. MiWay makes the eighth different transit agency where I’ve been able to use my Presto card, yet I still can’t use it here in Niagara. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

9a. If Regional Chair Alan Caslin is so hot to expedite the proposed GO train service to Niagara for the benefit of the 50 or so people who may or may not come here for the Canada Summer Games in 2021, why is he also not trying equally hard to expedite the ability to use Presto on Niagara transit systems?

10. The scene outside Entrance 4 at Square One, named “Hazel’s Walk” in honor of the former Mississauga mayor:

11. Scenes in and around Mississauga Celebration Square:

12. Well, this is the Center of the Universe …

13. A, B and C must have been taken:

14. Almost as soon as I took my seat on the #19 bus to take me back to the Port Credit GO station, I was approached by a woman going up and down the aisle asking everyone for “a little bit of change so she can buy some shoes.” Kudos to my fellow passengers who also refused her advances.

For the record, she hardly looked impoverished. I should instead have been asking her for some spare change.

15. For those who need to travel along Hurontario Street, it’s worthwhile to plan your trip to catch the #103 express bus instead of the “milk run” bus I was on. The light should have come on when a stop wasn’t requested rather than when someone rang the bell.

15a. Note to mothers with children: The bus is not a playground. Keep your children with you. For their benefit and ours.

16. I was surprised that, on all three of my three MiWay trips, less than half the passengers paid with Presto.

17. I was equally surprised that I was one of only a handful who thanked the driver on their way out.

18. On the return trip to Burlington, I spotted an empty beer can on the GO train, the first such can I’ve seen on public transit since my defection from the SPRM more than 34 months ago.

For those who are unaware, such sightings are commonplace on Winnipeg Transit. As are graffiti, mass quantities of assorted garbage, vomit and bums passed out on seats. All things I don’t miss and have come not to expect.

19. On the #12 bus back to St. Catharines, I was seated immediately behind a father with his two children who spent the entire time badmouthing their mother. His first task was to make sure to tell them that their mother doesn’t really want them, she just wants the $1,000/month she collects from him for having them, then he not so subtly instructed them to spy on her. “If your mom messes up again, I can get you back with me.”

He went on to tell them how their mother tried to get him back, but not because she really wanted him, she just wanted to use him. Then he told them that the only reason she takes the kids out to play is just to show the lawyer that she does indeed play sports with them. Finally, he said that their mother is lazy and lying to them in regard to getting vaccinated. The latter point made one of the kids start crying.

Even if every single word he had to say about the mother was true, it was unspeakably cruel to say such things to his kids.

19a. It is no wonder why the presenter at a recent writing seminar I was at explained how he got much of his material from public transit.

20. Fittingly, the Essence of Ontario was proudly on display just past the Burlington Skyway:

For the uninformed, that’s salt. White gold, as a good friend of mine recently called it.

21. After getting off the bus in St. Catharines, there was a big scene in the Fairview Mall parking lot where a police car was in attendance. It turned out someone left their dog in a car with the windows closed.

Look, I know I’m not a dog person, but was this really a police-worthy event? Couldn’t the rent-a-cop talking with the officers have simply had the car owner paged?

22. I didn’t know there was a market for having the air painted:

23. Get your Kraft Dinner for less than a cent. Whether or not that is still too much to charge for it is left for the reader as an exercise.

 

28 May

CPC Leadership Thoughts

Thoughts on the recently concluded CPC leadership campaign:

1. Congratulations to Andrew Scheer on his come-from-behind victory. Although he wasn’t my first choice, I’m not disappointed that he won and I like many of the principles he put forward during the campaign. For the sake of the country, I just hope he’s the right person for the job.

2. Congratulations to both Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost on their outstanding showings. The fact that such relatively low-profile social conservatives attracted so much support is proof that maybe there’s still hope for us yet.

3. Memo to Maxime Bernier: The next time a faux Conservative like Kevin O’Leary offers you his endorsement, decline it.

4. Something tells me that many years from now, Erin O’Toole will still be regretting not making his big push before many party members had received and mailed in their ballots instead of after. You have to wonder if the people on his campaign team were asleep at the wheel. It’s not like they didn’t know when the ballots were going out.

5. Judging by Lisa Raitt’s poor showing, I wasn’t the only one unimpressed with her leadership potential. But she’ll make a good member of Scheer’s cabinet.

6. Same goes for Kellie Leitch. Except that she won’t make a good member of Scheer’s cabinet.

7. OK, Michael Chong, the campaign is over. You can go and join the Liberals now.

8. The fact that an MP from Regina rose to become leader of the party is yet another indicator of the growing gap between rival prairie provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Long forgotten are the days when Manitobans would be able to look down at their western neighbors. Today, led by a common-sense conservative government, Saskatchewan is one of the most prosperous provinces in the country, while Manitoba, digging out from yet another NDP train wreck, is still going backward.

9. I’m surprised even Deepak Obhrai voted for Deepak Obhrai.

10. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing the party go on the offensive against Bobo the Clown and the Libranos instead of wasting its energy battling one another.

21 May

Random Thoughts – Caretaker Bob, Our Mayor, Fireworks and More

1. I was appalled to see the recent tweets of Bob Young, ”caretaker” of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who defiantly expressed admiration for Colin Kaepernick and his disgraceful “protests” of refusing to stand for the national anthem. He even had the gall to call Kaepernick “brave” and offered his full support to any Ticats player who wished to do likewise.

Needless to say, this does not make me want to rush out and buy Ticats season tickets. Not that I would have done so anyways, mind you.

1a. So if “Caretaker Bob” is perfectly fine with a player showing gross disrespect to his country, would he be equally supportive of a player who made a homophobic or racial slur during a game? Somehow, I don’t think so.

1b. Irrespective of my feelings on Mr. Young’s revulsive stance on this issue, I do at least applaud him for standing up and being counted. Unlike the owner/president/general manager/executive head coach of a certain publicly-funded hockey team in a central Canadian province who continues to hide from public view when the going gets rough, not even granting access to his team’s “official newspaper,” which also happens to be a major corporate sponsor.

2. It’s nice to see Mayor Sendzik getting back to promoting St. Catharines and local businesses again along with making useful public service announcements. You know, the kind of things a good mayor should do. Instead of using celebratory events to bash Trump or shill for the Liberals.

2a. You don’t think our mayor has been reading … nah. But you never know. This is, after all, a small town.

3. Trying to digest the recent and bizarre tweets posted by Councillor Mat Siscoe, a supposed Conservative, I’m not sure who’s the bigger Liberal – him or Mayor Sendzik.

4. I don’t get why fireworks are so popular in this part of the world. Or any part of the world for that matter.

5. Bright and early yesterday, as part of a 57.6-mile bike ride, I boarded a Niagara Region Transit bus. I got a Niagara Falls Transit transfer from a St. Catharines Transit driver and used that transfer on a Welland Transit bus that took me to Port Colborne. And all that interconnectivity worked seamlessly. Yet I still cannot use my Presto card on any of those respective transit agencies. If Niagara wants to play with the big boys, it’s time to start acting like it. They may have to lay new track to get the trains here, but there are no such issues preventing the implementation of Presto. In fact, Presto should have been implemented long before any talk of expanded train service. Which may or may not come.

5a. While waiting at the St. Catharines bus terminal yesterday morning, someone standing under the big clock asked me what time it was.

5b. It’s a little unnerving when your bus driver has to get up and fish a map out of his personal belongings to find out where he needs to go next.

5c. As I’ve noted before, the Friendship Trail between Port Colborne and Fort Erie is a wonderful resource for cyclists. But it’s long. Too long.

5d. They need to do some work on the parkway trail between Fort Erie and Niagara Falls.

6. The $30 they were charging for parking yesterday at Fallsview Casino was gouging in the extreme. It was “only” $22 at Table Rock.

6a. I’m genuinely surprised they don’t charge me a fee for locking up my bike in the Falls.

7. The gold uniforms of the Nashville Predators remind me of the blinding duds worn by the Los Angeles Kings back in the day when little more than 8,000 or so fans would dot the stands at the Fabulous Forum. And no, that was not a compliment.

7a. Not that I care a whole lot, but it’s time the NHL went back to having its teams wear white at home again.

16 May

Random Thoughts – Clifton Hill, Bridges, B.C. Election and More

1. Clifton Hill is an absolute mess thanks to the myriad of construction taking place on the self-proclaimed “street of fun” at the Falls. Don’t take care of such things during the winter, now. After all, it’s not like Niagara Falls is a world-renowned tourist destination or anything.

1a. For all the bragging they’re doing on Clifton Hill about the work they’ve already done, there still isn’t a single bike rack to be found. Unless you count a tree or a light post. Which I don’t. Then again, it’s not like Niagara is a world-class cycling destination or anything.

2. Why does it take a natural disaster to find out that a bridge is named for someone? Case and point: The recently washed-out structure on Martindale Road in St. Catharines. Hands up if you knew it was the J.R. Stork Bridge. It was the same in the SPRM when the bridge over the Red River in St. Adolphe collapsed and had to be rebuilt. Only then did we find out it was the Pierre Delorme Bridge. Honestly, what’s the point of naming a structure in someone’s honor if you don’t put up a sign to that effect?

3. How much more of a trail of destruction does the NDP have to leave behind in its wake before Canadians stop voting for them? Case and point is the recent B.C. election. No wonder so many people at Bomber games used to yell “B.C. Sucks!”

3a. A coalition of the NDP and the eco-fascist Green Party is even worse than an NDP majority. If that’s possible. If all I had to choose from were the Greens and Kim Jong Un’s Korean Workers Party, I might be inclined to pick the latter.

4. I am sorry to hear that interim CPC leader Rona Ambrose is leaving politics. I am even more disappointed that Kellie Leitch is not joining her in stepping away from the limelight.

5. Judging from the 8% pay cut their employees recently agreed to accept, it must be tough times over at Socialism Illustrated. I don’t suppose it occurred to them that, with sagging revenues, they might try adopting a fair and balanced approach to try and repair the brand they’ve so heavily damaged. That is, instead of being Canada’s biggest purveyor of left-wing political propaganda west of Ontario.

5a. I have no doubt that Brian Pallister’s picture is on a dart board in their lunch room and every employee is required to fire five darts into it before starting their shift. It’s probably even in their union contract.

6. St. Catharines city councilor Mat Siscoe recently stated on his Twitter account that CBC’s Peter Mansbridge was a “national treasure.” Forgive me for thinking he was a conservative.

6a. Friends don’t let friends watch CBC.

7. Tonight, the Nashville Predators, a team making its first-ever appearance in the conference finals after 18 seasons and hardly a franchise with a glittering history of accomplishments, takes to the ice seeking its 24th playoff victory in the last six seasons. That would be 24 more playoff victories than the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club has racked up since Manitoba taxpayers were forced to buy the Atlanta Thrashers for Chipman. When you start making the Predators look like a model of success, it’s no wonder Chipman doesn’t “find value” in speaking with the media to answer for his failures.

7a. You just know Chipman would suddenly “find value” in speaking with the media if his team was just a little less awful. To repeat a line I often heard on the school grounds of Transcona, he can dish it out, but evidently he can’t take it.

8. An interesting blog to check out is thiscrazytrain.com, written and maintained by a regular commutress who shares her experiences riding the GO train. And admits how surprised she was that life gets tougher for the average working stiff under a socialist government.

11 May

An Improbable Visit to da ‘Burgh

On Monday, I had the pleasure of accompanying a good friend who was visiting from Winnipeg on a day trip to Pittsburgh. I had certainly heard enough about the city and its fanatical passion for its football team from a long-lost friend and former colleague whose ex-wife hailed from the area, but I never thought I would ever visit Pittsburgh in person.

Bright and early, we crossed the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, known as the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to the Americans, and entered the great state of New York.

Most people would have taken the QEW to the Peace Bridge, in part to avoid the $1 toll at Grand Island, but I did not object when my friend suggested the Lewiston crossing. Not only did I want to show him the bridge I had crossed several times on two wheels, but more importantly, I wanted to get some additional shots of I-190 that I wouldn’t have otherwise have been able to get. Shots that will be appearing on a website near you. Sooner or later. More likely the latter, given the backlog of pictures I’ve been accumulating recently.

The $1 toll was a small price to pay for shots like this. Here, we are approaching the toll booth just on the other side of the north bridge, one that I’ve walked over several times.

Past Grand Island into the Town of Tonawanda, not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda or the City of North Tonawanda, the latter being in a different county, there was a fair bit of traffic heading into Buffalo. This is undoubtedly another reason why people heading over the river use the Peace Bridge instead.

Passing under the Scajaquada Expressway. As I explained in the car, I finally learned how to pronounce it listening to a couple of guys talking while at the Tim Hortons in Sanborn a couple of years ago.

Approaching the Peace Bridge. You can watch the traffic on this stretch of I-190 from the Niagara Parkway in Fort Erie.

Past Buffalo and onto the Thruway, we stopped at the Lackawanna toll barrier. Entering the tolled section of the Thruway, travelers paying by cash pick up a ticket. When exiting, you hand that ticket to the attendant, who calculates the toll based on how far you’ve gone. Those with E-ZPass simply drive through, where sensors read the transponder upon entry and exit and deduct the appropriate charge from the user’s account. It’s kind of like a Presto card for drivers. You know, the Presto card that you can use throughout the GTHA, Ottawa and even Gatineau, but not here in Niagara. But I digress.

For the benefit of drivers who need a break along the way, rather than force them to exit and stop for an interim payment, the great state of New York provides many service areas along the Thruway like this one near Angola. Here, there is a food court, a staffed tourist information booth and a service station. Toto, we’re not in Manitoba anymore.

Past the Angola service area, there are these signs warning of a rough road ahead as the Thruway passes through the Seneca “Nation.”

The road is indeed quite rough, but as I understand, long-standing disputes between the state and this “nation,” which must give authorization for the state to work on tribal lands, is holding up what is a badly needed rebuild of this stretch of America’s longest Interstate highway. From its eastern terminus in Boston, it runs over 3,000 miles before ending in Seattle.

Just as I did when I passed by on the way to Erie in October 2015, I noticed this sign for the Big Indian Smoke Shop along with an Indian doing something much too similar to a Nazi salute. Upon closer inspection, the Indian is holding his palm up as if he’s looking for money, a familiar sighting for anyone who has walked the streets of downtown Winnipeg. A sighting I don’t miss, by the way.

Here is a sign notifying motorists that they’re in a correctional facility area and warning them not to pick up hitchhikers. Not that it’s a terribly good idea to pick up strangers under the best of circumstances, but in this case, it’s even more dangerous, as in the distance is the water tower for Chautauqua Institution, a jail with thick barbed-wire fencing right along the Thruway.

Here, we approach the Ripley toll barrier to pay our stipend before being allowed to leave the great state of New York. Unlike the case on the 407, however, the tolls are quite reasonable and the trip between Lackawanna and Ripley only sets you back $3.15. Though I had enough American money, they do apparently take Canadian dollarettes, discounted at a rate of 30%. Subject to change, I imagine.

Just past the Ripley toll barrier is the state line. Here, we are welcomed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Inside the welcome center were washrooms, free Wi-Fi and a staffed tourist office. Normally in these places, the staff pounce on you as soon as you walk in the door, but the person in the office was content to sit and continue working while I browsed through the place.

At the main door is this sign giving “The Rules” as set forth by the Commonwealth. Some long reading material for those who care enough and have the time to go through it all.

Past the welcome center, there is this sign for North East. North East what, you may ask? It’s just North East. Well, North East Township to be exact.

Following a short break in nearby Erie, it was time to head south along I-79 toward Pittsburgh.

Just past the I-90 interchange is Bargain Road, a fitting sighting for a current and ex-Winnipegger traveling together. For the benefit of the uninformed, Winnipeg is the discount capital of North America.

Here, we pass I-80, another of the country’s longest Interstates. This one links New Jersey to San Francisco, roughly following the path of the old Lincoln Highway. As you can see from the foliage, this stretch of highway through the rolling hills of the western part of the Commonwealth is a beautiful and highly recommended drive.

We stopped again at Grove City, where I had lunch at this gas station/Subway.

Walking back to the outlet mall, just as I did when I last visited Erie, I noticed how pedestrian-unfriendly this part of the world was. There were hardly any sidewalks around and much of the ground wasn’t even flat, yet in the above shot, they made a big effort to put wheelchair ramps at the light. It had the look of something done just so some bureaucrats could say they had fulfilled ADA requirements.

I went inside the Stillers outlet store and picked up a little souvenir of the occasion before we continued on our journey south.

Here, a horse and buggy proceeds west along Route 208 as we waited to get back on I-79.

Approaching the PA Turnpike.

Seeing this sign, I couldn’t help but recall one of the favorite expressions of former Seattle Seahawks coach Chuck Knox. When he felt something was common sense, he would say it was “eighth-grade Sewickley.” Little did I ever think I would ever end up in the same area code as his hometown.

Here, we cross the Ohio River, or the Ahia in Pittsburghese. I found it odd that the signage was not bilingual.

We exited I-79 at I-376 and proceeded east to Pittsburgh. For the benefit of the uninformed, in this part of the world, the next exit is for Car-NEGGY, not CAR-nuh-gee.

Approaching the Mount Lebanon exit and heading into Pittsburgh.

Here, we enter the Fort Pitt Tunnel that goes through Mount Washington. I used to think that going underneath the Welland Canal was a big deal.

Oddly enough, on the other side of the Fort Pitt Tunnel is the Fort Pitt Bridge that crosses the Monongahela River. We took one of the downtown exits and found a place to park before getting out for a bit of exploration.

Naturally, this caught my attention. There are many such homages to Snoopy in downtown Saint Paul, MN, and they’re in much better shape than this one. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Welcome to da ‘Burgh.

Oy! Brahns paraphernalia in downtown Pittsburgh?!?

The entrance to Point State Park at the confluence of the Allegheny and aforementioned Monongahela and Ahia Rivers.

Cafe at the Point. Note how the chairs and tables are tied down. No doubt they would have a habit of walking away on their own without the restraints.

Looking back at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.

The Fort Pitt Museum, where only museum patrons can use their washrooms. The common folk instead have to use the public washrooms near the fountain.

The Fort Pitt Bridge.

Segway tours are offered. We would also spot hybrid boats from Just Ducky Tours rolling through downtown that give one-hour land and water tours of the area.

Along the shoreline.

Here, a flag from the Thirteen Colonies era flies proudly.

Mount Warshington, as they would say in Pittsburghese. Rather than go over it, we went through it.

The fountain.

Heinz Field, home of dem Stillers. Hir we go, Stillers, hir we go!

Fort Duquesne Bridge.

Leaving the park, we made a brief tour of downtown. This is Gateway Station, a terminal in the city’s light rail network that goes underneath both the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Within the downtown area anna Norside (North Side in English), it is a free fare zone.

This sign for a “chipped chopped” ham sandwich, another bit of unique Pittsburgh vernacular, just jumped out at me as I recalled how my long-lost former colleague mentioned that his then-father-in-law had once said, “Eyes had a chipped chopped sammitch and eyes full.”

Far too soon, it was time to leave and we took I-279 north across the Fort Duquesne Bridge and back to I-79.

Following a short break at a rest area near Grove City, I spotted this cross near the road. Given the state of political correctness these days, I’m surprised any reference to a Christian religion near a public highway is permitted. No doubt, some perpetually offended SJW is just waiting to raise hell with PennDOT after getting “triggered.”

We stopped again in Erie before continuing east on I-90 toward Buffalo.

This sign, with the “UPMC Hamot” and “University” lines having been put in by simply placing a metal plate over the old wording, caught my attention. When wording needs to be changed, it is a refreshing, common sense approach to do it that way rather than replace the entire sign as they do in the SPRM. But I’m not bitter.

Passing through North East, travelers get a nice view of the lake. Anyone looking for information on Niagara Falls can also reportedly get it here, though why one would even look for information on the Falls in North East Township is beyond me.

Leaving the Commonwealth and crossing into the great state of New York. The difference in the quality of pavement was palpable.

Here, we pass through the Ripley toll barrier, where the attendant was passing out tickets to motorists the way a business owner would hand out flyers on a busy street corner.

Maybe this only interests me, but the sign for Exit 59 uses the wrong shield for the intersecting NY 60. This is sadly commonplace in the great state of New York, particularly so on US 62.

Here, we re-enter the Seneca “Nation.” On the sign, they claim the state owes them over $675 million for a toll they unilaterally claim for every motorist who passes through their “sovereign lands since time immemorial.” Um, yeah, whatever. Perhaps the state should make a similar claim for members of this “nation” when they leave their “sovereign lands.” In the meantime, fix the damn road.

Apparently the Lackawanna toll booths are more special than the other toll booths along the Thruway.

Preparing to pay the $3.15, I noticed these signs for Canada on every toll booth. Canada-bound traffic is evidently quite commonplace in this part of the world.

With the setting sun, we made it back across the border and home without incident to put an end to what was a long, but very enjoyable day, one that I’ll continue enjoying in retrospect for quite some time.

02 May

CPC Leadership Ballot, Co-op Boards, Shooting in Winnipeg

This week, I finally got my Conservative Party leadership ballot, which I promptly filled out and put in the mail.

Though I don’t think either one has a realistic chance of winning, I voted with my conscience and ranked Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost one and two, respectively, on my ballot. Their views most closely resemble mine, and as Lemieux said when I saw him here in St. Catharines, ranking them highly sends a message to the party. There are millions who agree with us and it’s time we spoke up and had our voices heard rather than just go with the traffic.

Beyond that, my next two choices, in order, were Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer. I liked a lot of what I heard from both of them and I think both would make a good prime minister. But I had to put one ahead of the other and chose Bernier. It was nice, however, to have a choice between two excellent candidates rather than having to choose the least undesirable option, which was the case with almost every mayoral election in Winnipeg I voted in.

Now without the threat of Kevin O’Leary, I could have simply stopped there and not marked any more names, but I used all 10 of my choices to do what I could ward off any possibility of Liberal-lite Michael Chong becoming leader. In order, I chose Steven Blaney, Erin O’Toole, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Chris Alexander and finally, Lisa Raitt.

Based on Raitt’s disastrous performance in Jordan a few weeks ago, which I detailed in a recent posting, it hurt to even mark her as my 10th choice, but if it came down to it, I would still rather see her as the leader than Chong, Kellie Leitch or Deepak Obhrai, a man with a lower profile than most members of the Witness Protection Program.

I do agree with some of her views, but Leitch earned her way completely off my ballot thanks to a mean-spirited campaign she was waging against Bernier. Other candidates were certainly engaged in spirited debate with each other, but by and large, they handled it all in a much more professional manner. Throughout the leadership campaign, Leitch impressed me as a conservative’s answer to Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend’s wife.

I was pleased to see that the ballot itself was simply listed in alphabetical order without any comments or endorsements from Party executives, unlike the case with the brochure for the MEC board of directors election I got in the mail this week. MEC, along with many other co-operatives and credit unions, have been taking it upon themselves to endorse or recommend candidates who best fit their values.

The board’s values, that is. Not yours.

What amounts to a shift from a member-focused to a board-focused entity was a point I made on social media this week, to which MEC responded, “We strongly encourage members to vote for whoever they want. But here’s why we recommend candidates …” In other words, we really want you to vote for our preferred candidates, but we really can’t stop you from considering the others. Much as we’d like to.

Seriously, imagine the outrage if any sitting government at the federal or provincial level moved it’s party’s candidate to the top of the ballot above the caption, “The Government of Canada recommends you vote for this candidate.” There would be rioting in the streets if any governing party even as much as proposed such a thing. Yet this practice is growing like a mushroom cloud among co-operatives and credit unions whose boards either think we’re too stupid to pick a candidate on our own without their “help” or just want to solidify their own positions by bringing in as many like-minded people as possible.

This is exactly why federal legislation is needed to put a stop this detestable practice from coast to coast. But I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Finally, I read about the recent shooting in the skywalk in downtown Winnipeg, a place that has seen my shadow a lot more than once. Far from being in an isolated dark alley in the middle of the night, this confrontation between an officer and an allegedly armed thug took place in the middle of the lunch hour, when the skywalk is always packed. As a library employee said in the Socialism Illustrated article, “It’s too close to home.”

Indeed.

When I lived there, I could just have easily been the thug’s target, and just like the incident when a Winnipeg Transit driver was fatally stabbed, the only real surprise is that such a thing hasn’t happened before now. Winnipeg has been a city in serious decline for many years, long before I left, and I was far from alone in referring to it as Canada’s toilet bowl.

Yet another reason why I’m relieved to be away from that part of the world.

30 Apr

Ottawa Part Deux

This past week, I took my second train trip in as many years to the nation’s capital, where I spent much of the time across the river in the empire du mal exploring Gatineau on foot and getting many pictures in the process.

Bright and early Monday morning, I made my way to Fairview Mall in time to catch the 6:12 GO bus to Burlington. As the VIA train was not scheduled to leave Union Station until 10:45, I knew this bus and connecting Lakeshore West train would get me to Toronto two hours early, but if I had left it for the next bus and if it had broken down, I would have missed the VIA connection. The extra hour of sleep wasn’t worth the risk.

The bus came as scheduled and I instantly recognized the driver as the same one I had coming back from Peters Corners this past September. On that trip, the bus indeed had broken down and though they did dispatch a replacement promptly, it took GO two months to iron out the problems with my Presto card as a result of the change of buses.

Fortunately, that would not be a bad omen for the rest of the trip.

When leaving on trips from Winnipeg, I would always be excited at the prospect of getting away, but on that morning, I had a touch of sadness leaving St. Catharines behind. Not that I needed the validation, but it was yet another sign that I made the right decision, not just in leaving Winnipeg, but in coming to St. Catharines. Many of you may take liking the city where you live for granted, but as someone who had spent most of his life in Canada’s toilet bowl, I don’t.

At the Beamsville stop, I took note as someone got off with a Crown Royal bag. It would be the first of many signs that would tell me I would not be alone on this trip. Some of you will understand. Some of you will not.

Seated among many snoozing commuters on the Lakeshore West train, I made it to Union Station with much time to spare, as expected, which gave me some time to check my email and do some people watching. One guy seated nearby eating a sandwich was stuffing as much as he possibly could inside his mouth as if someone was about to take it away from him. His mouth was bulging as much as those baseball players who chew big wads of tobacco and if there was such thing as mouth enlargement surgery, I had no doubt he’d be first in line to sign up for it. I wonder if OHIP would cover it.

Also seated nearby was a gentleman who said, “Have a safe journey and may the Queen of England bless you” before getting up to leave. May the Queen of England bless you too. And the garbage you left behind.

Seated in the VIA concourse, I couldn’t help but notice this “flame retardant” covering. With political correctness running amok these days, I was shocked that they were still using that term. After all, some snowflake might get triggered by the use of the “R-word.”


At long last, it was time for boarding and we were ushered onto the train by staff who were only marginally polite. On GO, most of the staff go out of their way to be helpful and friendly, but for those who work for VIA, it’s a job, not an adventure. A serious upgrade in their customer service standards is in order.


Not meaning to take a gratuitous pot shot at fat people, but seeing this behemoth across the aisle, I couldn’t help but be reminded of VIA’s strict policies on overweight baggage. Had I been even slightly over the limit, I could potentially have been charged extra, yet as long as her baggage was under the limit, she wouldn’t have been even though I would have undoubtedly brought less weight aboard than she did. But apparently obesity is some kind of human right. Not exactly “progress” in my books.


Moving on, I noticed bags like this in front of every seat with the “Look, Listen, Live” slogan on it. You know, sometimes it’s just better to let the law of natural selection run its course.

The four-hour ride was relatively quiet and uneventful. The guy seated to my left spent the entire time reading a book and didn’t say a word all the way there. He had clearly done this before. The only real chatter came from someone seated behind me who was obviously prepping for a medical exam. By the time we got to Ottawa, I think I could have passed it.

The service attendant reading the announcements was in such a rush to finish that I could barely understand what she was saying. In either language. Later, when she came down the aisle, she had such a perma-scowl going that I think her face would have cracked if she tried to smile. Being friendly is probably a violation of their union contract.

They made four runs with the food wagon, but only a couple of times collecting garbage. I had some garbage for them, but I wasn’t lucky enough to be in one of the few rows where the guy marginally slowed down so that passengers could make a deposit into the Glad bag he was racing down the aisle with. Perhaps he was getting graded on how fast he could complete the task. Kind of like the ring time at the Real Canadian Stupid Store.

When the train slowed to a crawl ever so briefly, I took advantage of the opportunity to unload my bladder. For those who haven’t had the chance to ride the rails, trust me, it’s a lot easier to answer the call of nature then than when the train is speeding along at more than 80 mph.


We pulled into the Ottawa station on schedule and I made my way across the walkway over the 417 to the Hampton. It was the same hotel I stayed at last year and I even got the same room.

After dropping off my bags, I headed out for some highway pictures. Crossing the nearby bike-pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River, I was again struck by the number of cyclists in the area. It is something I would notice throughout the trip on both sides of the border, and cycling seems even more prevalent than in Niagara, itself a world-class cycling destination.

Yet what surprised me was the fact that very few OC Transpo buses had bike racks and I didn’t spot a single one on the many STO (Société de transport de l’Outaouais) buses I saw. Here in Niagara, throughout the Golden Horseshoe and even on Metro buses in the Great State of New York, I have yet to spot a bus without one.


Passing through the University of Ottawa – Lees Campus, I noticed how Quebecese was first on all signage. On the other side of the border, however, the Canadian language is not allowed, something that is rigidly enforced by the language Gestapo otherwise known as the OQLF.


Here, the Franco-Ontarian flag flies proudly.

While crossing a street on the way there, despite the fact that I had a walk sign, several tour buses from La Quebecoise bullheadedly kept turning right through the crosswalk, unconcerned by my presence or that of a senior on the other side of the street also wanting to cross. By contrast, several Canadian drivers over the next hour were quite courteous in allowing me to cross streets.


My next stop was the Cancer Survivors Park, where I stopped for a few pictures before continuing on to Walmart to pick up meals for the next three nights. I make a habit of avoiding restaurants whenever I can.


On the way back to the hotel, I spotted these exposed wires. Perhaps it was evidence of someone who was desperately trying for a Darwin Award.

Before settling in for the night, I took a brief tour of the hotel, something I didn’t do last year.


This banner was in the elevator of a hotel that (thankfully) does not allow pets.


In case you have guests who need to be laundered.


No running in the poo.

Following a less than restful sleep, I was back at it on Tuesday morning for what would be the first of two cross-border adventures. I first caught the #9 OC Transpo bus for the short ride downtown before getting off to transfer to the #33 STO bus that would take me deep into the empire du mal.

Halfway there, I noticed someone running up alongside the bus, only to have the driver take off just as he got to the front door. I don’t mean to laugh at the poor sap who missed his bus, as I’ve been there often enough myself, but it was a classic Winnipeg Transit moment that brought a wry smile to my face.


Having not taken the STO before, I wasn’t completely sure if the Presto transfer from OC Transpo would work, but when I tapped my card on the reader, the green light came on and I took my seat. While waiting for the bus to come, I noticed many others also using Presto to board STO buses, so my fears were somewhat alleviated beforehand.

The STO marked the seventh different transit system where I’ve used my Presto card. Yet I still cannot use it on St. Catharines Transit or on any other transit system in Niagara. Explain that, Messrs. Caslin and Sendzik.

During the ride, I noticed, just as I did on the OC Transpo bus, that almost everyone paid with Presto or MULTI, a card available only to Quebec residents. Of the dozens of people who boarded during my travels, only two or three paid with cash. Just to be on the safe side, I was prepared with the $3.90 in change, but I never needed it. Quebec gets enough of my money, so I was happy not to have given them any more.

The bus itself looked to have been something they dragged out of a museum, and the buses I rode to and from Jets games in the 1980s were of newer vintage. Winnipeg Transit truly would have been embarrassed to put a jalopy like that on the road. To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the driver had to wind it up to get it started. Inside, the seats were tattered and torn and there were no automated stop announcements, standard operating procedure on public transit these days.

The roads in Gatineau certainly were no better and without much of a suspension system on the bus, there were times I felt like a Mexican jumping bean. With the high taxes in Quebec and the gobs of money they get from Canada, you have to wonder what on Earth they’re spending it on. It sure isn’t on buses and roads.

Crossing the Alexandra Bridge, just as I did last year, I noticed the massive backlog of Canada-bound traffic, proof that the public service has simply become an affirmative action program for the French. Even in the private sector, from the job postings I saw on storefronts, you can’t get anything there without being able to speak the language of the occupying power.

Soon after crossing the border (oddly, there were no customs agents), a car just stopped in the middle of the road to let someone out. The bus driver honked loudly, but the woman getting out paid no attention to the waiting cars and took her sweet time before crossing the street, forcing oncoming cars to stop for her. A couple of blocks later, someone else just stepped into traffic and the car in front of the bus had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting him. Bienvenue au Québec!


After a long and circuitous journey, we got to Parc-o-bus Freeman, the end of the route. Rather than politely explaining that this was the end of the route and advising passengers to take their personal belongings with them, as is commonplace in my part of the world, the portly driver just bellowed “TERMINUS!” at the top of his voice.

I instantly knew I would be laughing over that line for years to come.

In Southern Ontario, it is indeed rare that a departing passenger, even when exiting from the back door, does not say “thank you” to the driver, yet only two people had said “merci” to the STO driver along the route. So I bucked the trend and also said “merci” to him on the way out the front door. He acknowledged the other two, but not me, no doubt because, to borrow a line from Denis Lemieux in Slap Shot, I just was some stupid English pig with no brain. But I was still proud to have held myself to a higher standard. I am from St. Catharines, not from Winnipeg or from Quebec.

From Parc-o-bus Freeman, I proceeded north along Boulevard Saint-Joseph/Route 105 for, you guessed it, some good highway pictures. Soon to appear on a website near you.


Leaving Gatineau and entering the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais and the Municipalité de Chelsea.


I was pleased to see this advisory sign, though I doubt many Quebec drivers pay much attention to such things.


They have government propaganda signs in Quebec as well. Of the $3.7 million they put into this road, $3.6 of it undoubtedly came from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers.


Crossing the Gatineau River.


I couldn’t help but notice this sign for “Mr. Gas,” as opposed to “Monsieur Gas.” This is an egregious infraction of Quebec’s language laws that has somehow evaded the attention of the OQLF.


After getting my fill of pictures in this area, I returned south along Boulevard Saint-Joseph. Just past the A-5 junction, this guy pulled up onto the sidewalk right in front of me, parked behind a couple of cars and went into the store. Just do as you please.

Not more than a couple of blocks later, a woman riding a bike pulling a trailer behind her with her kid inside went right through a red light and only grudgingly stopped at the median when it appeared the oncoming car, which had the right of way, wasn’t going to stop. Just do as you please. Again. As I observed last year at this time, this place makes Winnipeg look good, but it also gives a sarcastic writer like me plenty of good fodder.


Those who know of my fondness for poultry will understand why I stopped for this shot.


Monsieur Lub. The language Gestapo would undoubtedly approve.


I stopped for a brief break at les Galeries de Hull before continuing south.


Near this fire hall that I stopped to take a shot of for the benefit of one reader I’m looking forward to seeing in the coming days, I passed by l’École Secondaire de l’Île, where I actually heard some English spoken. Wondering if they were breaking the law, I quickly learned what their favorite English word was. Four letters. Starts with ‘F.’ You figure it out. A word I thankfully hear very little of in my part of the world.


I smell another summons from the OQLF coming.


A four-way stop sign in Quebec.


This is someone’s idea of “art.” I shudder to think how much I paid for this.


While waiting to cross the street, I noticed this dude hauling all his worldly belongings on the back of his bike in a couple of Glad suitcases.


My final destination on this day was the so-called Canadian Museum of History that isn’t located in Canada, but first, I stopped into the Outaouais tourism office, where I picked up a cycling map of the region. Throughout my travels, I marveled at the number of great trails and only wished I had my bike with me. If I come back, I will have to seriously consider renting one.

While I was there, I was served by a very friendly clerk who actually spoke to me in the Canadian language. Again, I’m not sure it’s officially allowed, but I appreciated the fact that he stuck his neck out and risked possible arrest to offer his help.


Before heading inside the museum, I stopped for this shot of a statue of the legendary Maurice “Rocket” Richard. For those who are not aware, he was the first coach of the WHA’s Quebec Nordiques.


At last, I went inside the museum, paid the exorbitant $23 entry fee and made my way to the special hockey exhibit, which was the primary attraction for me.


A stick signed by Teemu Selanne.


A replica of Ken Dryden’s iconic mask.


An old Jets cookbook from 81-82.


Even some recognition of the Hot Line and the WHA.

There was also a jersey on display of the late Tim Horton from when he played for Buffalo. I told someone taking a picture of it that there was a statue of him in downtown Buffalo, right by where the old Aud used to stand.

Unfortunately, aside from the nice hockey exhibit, there was very little else of value there.


The “First Peoples Hall” filled with school children showing off their displays, much like you would see at a science fair.


This hall was the crown jewel of the place, and as you’d expect, you get hammered with the official narrative of how the white man is responsible for every ill that has ever befallen someone of First Nations heritage.

All in all, I walked out of there feeling like I had flushed $23 down the toilet. If I make a return trip to the area, I won’t make that same mistake again.

With rain looming on the horizon, I decided to call it a day and make for the bus, which took me back to the hotel just as it started to pour.

For the next day, I had originally planned an outing on the Canadian side, but seeing something good along the way on the STO bus, I decided to change plans and go back to l’autre pays, taking the same bus, but getting off at Boulevard des Hautes-Plaines where it met A-5.


This time, the bus was of a little newer vintage, but it was still something Winnipeg Transit would have embarrassed to put on the road. It was a little more crowded than it was the previous day, so I went to the back to get a seat. The first row of seats past the back door were facing to the front, but oddly, the second row was facing to the back. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is, after all, Quebec.

I again said “merci” to the driver as I got off at the front door, the only one on the trip who did so, and to his credit, he politely acknowledged it.


After getting my fill of highway pictures, I walked back towards Canada along Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes, passing many nice trails along the way, including this one.


I couldn’t help but notice another probable violation of Quebec’s language laws. “Osgoode Properties” should instead be “Les Properties Osgoode,” n’est-ce pas? Maybe the OQLF should offer me a job. But then again, I’m not of the right ethnic heritage. Only pure laine Québécois need apply.


An Anglophone Cégep? Oh, the horror! Dispatch the Sûreté at once!


Farther south, I explored these trails along Promenade Lac-des-Fées.


The underpass connecting two trails. There were a number of these throughout the park obviously designed for the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.


The bridge over some marshland. As you can see, there is a barrier separating the busy traffic on Boulevard des Allumettières from the pedestrian/cyclist path.


The pathway leading to Promenade de la Gatineau.


View from atop the overpass on Promenade de la Gatineau looking back towards the city.


Heading back to the city.


I spotted this container half filled with a yellow liquid. Three guesses.


Not only is Boulevard des Allumettières notoriously littered with roundabouts, but at Boulevard Saint-Joseph and Rue Montcalm, there are two within a few feet of each other. If you hate roundabouts, as I know one reader does, this is not the place for you.


Near Station Montcalm, I stopped for these shots along an unnamed waterway.


I noticed this sticker, one of two I spotted in my travels. Of course, it’s French only in Quebec, but anyone daring to suggest English only in Canada is branded a racist, xenophobic and intolerant, along with a host of other such terms leftists like to pin to those who don’t agree with their view of the world.


Near the border, I spotted someone else’s idea of “art.” Pigeons and a tomato soup can. I wouldn’t care that much except for the fact that again, I shudder to think of how much I paid for that. Not to mention the fact that it’s likely another language law violation. It’s “soupe aux tomates” don’t you know?

Back in Canada, I had lunch at the War Museum cafeteria before taking a stroll down Wellington.


Passing the Supreme Court, I noticed this group of First Nations protesters chanting and beating their drums, presumably lobbying the judges-turned-lawmakers to give them more concessions. You have to wonder why they bother. I don’t think any First Nations group has ever lost in a Canadian courtroom in my lifetime. Whether they were right or not.


Genocide against First Nations? Give me a break.


I stopped at the Terry Fox statue across from Parliament last year and did so again. For those who are not aware, Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg and I attended the same elementary school as he did when he lived there.


Moving on, I stopped for a few shots at the cenotaph, something I missed last year.


My last stop of the day was Byward Market. For those familiar with Toronto, it’s kind of a cross between St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District. It looks like a good place for photographers, but that’s about all it seems to be good for.

Just after getting on the #9 bus to go back to the hotel, I came within an eyelash of being a witness to a double fatality as two teenage kids ran in front of the bus. The driver had to slam on the brakes to avoid making them Darwin Award candidates, but to them, it was all a big joke when they made it to the other side of the street. Some funeral director who was narrowly cheated out of some dough wasn’t laughing.


Following a much-needed half-decent night’s sleep, it was time to make my way back to the train station for the trip home.


In front of me in line was a guy with a rainbow-colored NDP button stuck to his backpack. On it read, “Pride: It’s not just a dance party.” As one reader might say, “Gag me with a Kathleen Wynne election sign.”


I noticed the extra leg room in the car right away and unlike the car I had going in, the row numbers were also on the seats in addition to being on the window. Passing by was a guy with his belongings stuffed into a Glad bag, much like the cyclist I spotted in Gatineau on Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps Glad is branching out to appeal to the budget-conscious traveler.

Nearby was a group of kids and a mother who were going to Toronto for a dance audition, and I was able to hear them throughout the ride. But by far the biggest chatter in the car was seated immediately to my left. An Ottawa resident originally from Nova Scotia who was retired from social work, M.A., short for Mary Alice, was currently studying Japanese flower arranging. She said Nova Scotians were great storytellers and she didn’t disappoint.

During the four-hour ride, I and many people around me found out that her husband was from Holland and used to investigate airline crashes. She described Trump as “scary,” but she made no more forays into politics when I replied that what was truly scary was our prime minister.

While polishing off the ham croissant she bought on the train, she mentioned how clean and efficient the trains were in Japan. At major stops, people would exit along the sides while those boarding would get on in the middle to expedite the process.

Before spending much time telling me how fascinated she was by children, she mentioned an occasion when she was at a social function with a person who had been paralyzed in a rodeo accident. When she was leaving, she said without thinking, “I’ll get on my horse.”

It was all interesting, but I was somewhat relieved when the train pulled into Union Station. From there, it was an uncomfortable ride back to St. Catharines among thick crowds both on the train and on the bus.

On the bus, seated in front of me was an obese woman talking about her favorite places for ice cream and extolling the virtues of a donut place in downtown St. Catharines. She then proceeded to check prices on Snickers bars, something she undoubtedly buys in bulk, and lamenting about people complaining about her and her friends smoking on the platform. This is probably someone who endlessly moans and groans to her doctor about all the health problems she has.

In spite of everything, I had a great time, and the old adage of enjoying something better the second time indeed proved true. I don’t know if I’ll make a return trip or not, but there still is more to see and do in the region that I haven’t experienced yet.

20 Apr

Random Thoughts – Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, The Blame Game and More

1. Congratulations to Michael Gobuty, former owner of the (real) Jets, on his induction into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. Gobuty, along with so many others including Ben Hatskin and Dr. Gerry Wilson, don’t get nearly the credit they deserve for the vital roles they played in the franchise’s history. As Paul Friesen of Winnipeg’s only newspaper put it, the only surprise was what took them so long to put him in.

1a. Did you know that inductee Rob Martell worked the first home game for the Fighting Moose back in 1996?

1b. I’m guessing there were no ex-Jets on the selection committee by virtue of the fact that former Tribune writer Vic Grant was among the inductees.

1c. In a bit of an odd coincidence, inductee Jim Benzelock was officially my last Fighting Moose ticket representative. I still remember his voice mail greeting, which led off with “Nice Guy Jim Benzelock.” We never met or spoke on the phone, so I can’t confirm whether or not he is indeed a nice guy.

2. Former Fighting Moose Jim Montgomery will be interviewing to become the next head coach of the Florida Panthers. Yes, I do remember him from those lonely IHL days sitting among “crowds” of less than 4,000 at the Winnipeg Arena.

3. I enjoy reading Patti Dawn Swansson’s postings, but I don’t understand why she, of all people, keeps hammering on Kevin Cheveldayoff for the perpetual failures of the Mark Chipman Personal Hockey Club. For example, in a recent post, she took another shot at Cheveldayoff, sarcastically pointing out that it was indeed possible to use the trade route in building a winner, a route the Chipman franchise has seldom traveled.

I have no doubt that Cheveldayoff is well aware that making trades can and possibly should be an integral part of a well-rounded plan to build a successful team. I also have no doubt that Cheveldayoff would love to the opportunity to barter a few of Chipman’s player-cronies, if only he was given the freedom to do so. I suspect he’s just as frustrated by having his hands tied as any scribe, paid or otherwise, or paying customer.

But continually blaming Cheveldayoff for the franchise’s woes is akin to paying big bucks at a five-star restaurant and blaming the dishwasher for the lousy meal. It’s time to turn the focus to the general manager. Leave his flunkie alone.

3a. I don’t always agree with her, but I hope she keeps up the blog she’s threatened time and again to abandon. It’s definitely worth reading.

4. No one will be more thrilled when the Conservative Party elects its new leader than yours truly. Over the past several months, I’ve been absolutely drowning in information overload. Give me my ballot already.

4a. I admit to still a little torn between Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer, but one thing’s for sure, all the spots on my ballot are going to be used in order to ward off the threat of Kevin O’Leary and, to a lesser extent, Michael Chong.

4b. I believe both Bernier and Scheer have what it takes to make a good prime minister.

4c. My neighbor’s six-year-old would make a better prime minister than the one we have now. At least the kid would be smart enough to listen to his parents.

5. I heard that a pedestrian was killed early Tuesday morning on the 406. What I want to know was what he or she was doing on the 406. If only Darwin Award winners had one last chance to tell us their story before moving on. Like my nutty ex-neighbor in the Old Country who chose to prematurely end her stay on Earth, likely with a lethal cocktail of alcohol and drugs.

6. Watching some 1970s-era classic NHL games recently, I couldn’t help but snicker as the announcers mentioned a “Crippled Children’s Hospital” and a “Home for Retarded Children.” I’m not suggesting open season on insulting people, but I do fondly remember a bygone era when we could open our mouths freely without worrying about using a word that might trigger a meltdown from some offended group. Political correctness has gone much too far, and his strong stance on that subject has endeared me to CPC leadership candidate Pierre Lemieux.

7. Socialism Illustrated reported recently that former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger is looking for a graceful exit from politics. Given the heavy-handed manner in which he governed and the damage he did to the province and his own party, it is not a privilege he has earned. Like Kathleen Wynne here in Ontario, he deserves to be remembered as one of the worst premiers in the province’s history.

8. I recently heard a story about a cyclist in Grimsby who was hit, by all accounts, through no fault of his own. Yet he kept asking himself what more he could have done to avoid being hit. Listening to the story, it hit home once again as to the difference in attitudes between people here and in the Old Country.

Case and point was the story of the jogger in Winnipeg many years ago who was hit and nearly killed. Eschewing a perfectly safe jogging path, he insisted on running on a busy roadway that I, as a cyclist, had a legal right to use but avoided like the plague. Yet even from his hospital bed, not long after cheating death, he remained utterly defiant and vowed to get right back on the road as soon as he could.

To this day, joggers in that part of the world like him still whine and complain incessantly about how unsafe it is to run on the road and are mortally offended by those who “challenge their rights.” As someone once said, you can’t fix stupid.

8a. Cyclists in the Old Country are no better. As I wrote elsewhere on social media recently, the fact that one isn’t killed every day in Winnipeg can only be explained by divine intervention.

8b. I saw three Manitoba plates around town this week. Even though the SPRM and I didn’t exactly part on good terms, that place does keep following me around.