29 Sep

Outing to the Halton County Radial Railway Museum

On Saturday, I was one of a group of 20 from the St. Catharines Photographic Club who went on an outing to the Halton County Radial Railway Museum.

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After the hour-long drive from Fairview Mall, it was time to browse around and shoot pictures. I was a little embarrassed as everyone else hauled out their high-powered DSLR cameras and tripods while I grabbed my el cheapo point and shoot, but I was there for the experience more than the pictures.

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A welcome reminder in the gift shop that I was not alone.

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Historic Rockwood Station.

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A subtle reminder of a former employer of mine.

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After a few shots outside, I headed into Car Barn 3.

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From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but there was a treasure trove of old railway and street cars inside. It completely dwarfed what I had seen in past visits to the Winnipeg Railway Museum.

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The highlight of the trip for me was a seemingly endless series of old TTC subway cars that visitors can walk through.

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As I, or should I say we, were walking through the cars, I couldn’t help but think of my former home city. These mothballed cars and a rail line would represent a massive improvement over what Winnipeg currently has, yet they continue to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at a bus “Rapid Transit” project that will be a running joke for decades to come.

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One reader will appreciate this shot.

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Note how the number 5 came through in the reflection as I took this shot of the TTC ad promoting service to and from Blue Jay games. Once again, I knew I was not alone.

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More street cars on display.

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Back outside, I took a ride on their little railway that takes you about a half-mile into the bush.

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This open-air car was one of three they had in operation on this day.

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Riders have the opportunity to get off at the end of the line and stroll through a little park and the nearby trails, then go inside for a treat at a café inside a restored street car.

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The line that takes you back to the main entrance runs approximately every 20 minutes.

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Before leaving, I took another round-trip on the number 8 car.

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As many of us remarked, the efforts of the people there are certainly a labor of love and their passion shines through throughout their impressive facility. This is a must-see destination for any railway enthusiast and I’m certainly glad I went.

26 Sep

A Run for the Border

Yesterday, I made my first cross-border cycling trip since coming to St. Catharines. Many of you who know me might be asking what took me so long.

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At the crack of dawn, I headed southeast towards Niagara Falls and the Rainbow Bridge, where I planned to cross over into the U.S. I had been in the U.S. on two wheels in each of the last three years, but every time, my bike was stored away on a tour bus as we headed south from Winnipeg. This time, I would get there on my own power.

Since details are oddly hard to come by online, I was a little nervous about the procedure. At sites I’ve reviewed, everyone says cyclists can cross at the Rainbow Bridge with no problems, but they fail to mention whether you line up with the pedestrians or cross with the cars. I was later told that you can go with the pedestrians, but since signage at each of the other bridges clearly differentiate between cyclists and pedestrians, I decided to go with the cars. There were no problems in either direction using this approach and it proved to be the right choice. Unlike the Peace Bridge to the south and the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge to the north, commercial trucks are not allowed on this bridge, which makes it a little less intimidating for a cyclist. Furthermore, the Rainbow Bridge connects regular streets, not freeways, so it is clearly the preferred option for two-wheeled travellers like me.

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At the U.S. border station, the two lanes on the right are for buses and the others are for cars and cyclists. I got in line and was served promptly by a friendly border guard who even addressed me by name.

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I was through in no time and shortly began exploring western New York for the first time on two wheels.

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New York has a number of dedicated bike routes throughout the state and the route that ends at Niagara Falls is, fittingly for me, number 5. For those inclined to traverse the state, a detailed map is available at the Niagara USA Visitor Center.

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While stopping to get this picture, I could hear music blaring outside the Niagara Center so loudly that it sounded like there was a ghetto blaster right on the sidewalk. It was not a positive first impression and it would only get worse as I made my way through the city.

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Those of you who know me will not be surprised that the acquisition of pictures of highway signs was the primary motivation in my choice of routes. The first such route was NY 384 that follows to the southeast towards Grand Island.

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Seneca Niagara Casino.

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Though this may only interest me, this is an oddity I found throughout my travels on this day. On every state or U.S. highway I was on, without exception, a reassurance marker would be followed by another either in the same block or the next block. This is something I have never found in any province or state I have been in before and only officials at NYSDOT can explain the logic behind it.

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Niagara Falls, Canada is a world-renowned tourist destination. Niagara Falls, USA is an aging, dilapidated industrial town. The pictures don’t even tell the whole story. For anyone considering a visit to the area, there is no reason to cross the border unless, like me, you have ulterior motives that go beyond the more garden-variety tourist attractions.

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I point out this particular shot since it was in early July that I was taking a similar shot in Saint Paul of U.S. Highway 61. Less than three months later, I was at New York State Route 61. It was another stark reminder of just how far I have come since I left the SPRM.

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I took this shot at A Street. Not to be confused with B Street. Or C Street. Such imagination from city planners.

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A state historical marker from 1936. From the look of things, not much has improved in this area since that time.

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The only “wonder” about Niagara Falls, USA is that enterprising Americans have not done more to clean up the city and make it a more attractive tourist destination.

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One reader will understand why I stopped for this shot. The rest of you won’t.

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Sadly, this was all too indicative of what you’ll find on this side of the border in Niagara Falls.

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Someone with a little car trouble.

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After getting plenty of shots of NY 384, I returned to the area around the Rainbow Bridge before heading north along Main Street/NY 104.

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Smokin’ Joe’s Indian Trading Post. I can’t make up stuff like this. It ranks right up there with Big John’s Mine Shaft Tavern in Sioux Narrows.

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If they tried to build this sign assembly any higher, they would need to get clearance from the airport. I can imagine the confused looks from tourists as they approach this intersection and the planners at NYSDOT might well be advised to adopt the adage, “Less is more.”

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A helpful sign at the entrance to the Robert Moses Parkway. I’ll keep this valuable information in mind in case I ever think about bringing my horse.

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The U.S. Post Office.

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This particular shot has a story behind it. Immediately to my right was a group of scruffy-looking characters hanging out on a porch. The sight of this gringo coming around taking pictures of highway signs evidently aroused their curiosity and they all followed me out to the corner as I got some more shots around the nearby intersection. For all I know, they’re still scratching their heads wondering what I was doing there.

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The signs greeting visitors after crossing the Whirlpool Bridge. This bridge is only for cars and NEXUS card holders.

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I continued north towards DeVeaux Woods State Park. There is a marked change on the other side of the railway underpass and one for the better. Upscale, well-kept homes line the streets with lush greenery in abundance. From what my neighbor tells me and from checking out Lewiston on Google Earth, I suspect this is what I will find more of if I confine future trips across the border to the northern reaches of the state.

Interestingly, seconds after taking this shot, someone with New York plates stopped me and asked for directions. Once again, despite never having been in this area before, I was able to answer her questions accurately.

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I got some more strange looks from that cyclist who passed by as I took this shot on NY 31. Unlike the last group, however, he continued on his way and didn’t try to follow me around.

Rather than continuing north to the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, I turned around and headed back for the Rainbow Bridge. I was getting hungry and kept looking around for a Subway, but in retrospect, I was lucky not to have found one as I’m not sure I would have felt safe leaving my bike anywhere in the downtown area. Oddly, after checking online, the only Subway locations in the city are by I-190 near the outlet mall.

I made one last stop at the Visitor Center near the bridge, but not before being accosted by a couple of guys running a hot dog/hamburger stand next door. I don’t respond well to high-pressure sales and I would have sooner gone without food for the whole day rather than buy anything from them.

At the Visitor Center, I noticed there was only one person working there and she was tied up with a couple who had a long laundry list of items to cover. So I waited. And waited. And waited. When another mob of people came in, I just left. By contrast, the Ontario travel information center is fully staffed and they eagerly pounce on you when you get anywhere near the desk.

On the bridge, tolls are collected from Canada-bound travellers, including cyclists. The fare for cars is $3.50 US/$3.75 CDN, but cyclists are only charged 50 cents. I gave the guy two quarters and continued across the bridge to the Canadian border station. I was pleased to be greeted in the Canadian language rather than with a “Bonjour” and I almost said “Winnipeg” when the guard asked me where I lived, but I caught myself in time and responded with “St. Catharines.” Old habits die hard. He asked whether or not I had picked up any shipments or bought anything during my stay in the U.S. and after I said I didn’t, he sent me on my way.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative impression of Niagara Falls, NY, no doubt I will be crossing the border on two wheels again. I shot 183 pictures on the day, mostly of New York State highway signs, and there’s so many more out there for me to capture. As I’ve said before, no one squeezes more out of a travel dollar than I do and this outing was no exception.

14 Sep

Terry Fox Run in St. Catharines

This morning, for the first time in my new home city, I participated in the annual Terry Fox Run.

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I was one of the early birds.

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Sponsor tents.

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The registration desk.

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As those of you who know me would expect, I added the name of the late Carli Ward to the list of dedications. Long before her cancer diagnosis, Carli made the Terry Fox Run a habit and I’ve since continued the tradition in her memory.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see that, unlike what happens in Winnipeg, the ceremonies were kept rather understated.

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Local volunteers.

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This speaker was from Café Amoré, one of the sponsors.

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Dawn Dodge, one of my councillors and the deputy mayor, read a prepared statement on behalf of the city. She should have finished it with the line, “This has been a recording.”

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Another of the speakers, this one from Brock University.

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The warmup.

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At the starting line. I was impressed that they thought enough to stagger the departure times. In order to avoid the unruly free-for-all that normally takes place in Winnipeg, the cyclists went first, followed by the rollerbladers, runners and walkers. As they explained, it makes sense to have the faster participants leave ahead of the slower ones.

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A scene along the route. Again, I was impressed that they had police blocking traffic. In Winnipeg, there is no traffic control and participants have to be on the lookout for passing vehicles.

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There were people cheering the participants all along the route. It was a very nice touch that is unsurprisingly absent in Winnipeg.

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Once again, cheers greeted participants at the finish line. It was another welcome reminder that I no longer live in the SPRM.

I heard runners who passed me boast about their times and the pace they were able to keep, but the Terry Fox Run is one event where the times are not important. What is important is that the run Terry was not able to finish continues year after year in city after city to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. There have been so many advances in detection and treatment, but the battle against cancer is far from over. That struggle that touches nearly every one of us is the reason so many dedicated volunteers work so hard to put the run together and why so many of us set aside time to be part of it.

08 Sep

Voyage South of the Falls

My most recent scenic tour of my new home region comes south of Niagara Falls. For this particular outing, I eschewed Google’s recommendations and took Taylor Road past the outlet mall and up the escarpment to Mountain Road.

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The climb up the escarpment was in two manageable stages and there were paved shoulders on both roads. In addition, the roads seemed well-maintained and were not littered with potholes, unlike what I’m accustomed to from my years in the SPRM.

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Passing Walker Industries. Disclaimer: I have no connection to this organization.

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Turning east at Mountain Road towards the QEW.

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From atop the escarpment, you can see all the way across the lake. In the distance is the C.U. skyline.

I proceeded south on Dorchester Road, east on McLeod Road, then south on Portage Road past Marineland.

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Everyone loves Marineland.

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I then headed through the village of Chippawa. As the sign says, Chippawa is the home town of James Cameron, a famed Hollywood director who worked on many films including The Terminator, a true classic.

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While taking some shots at the bridge over the Welland River, an older couple sitting on a nearby bench kindly pointed out the weasel. I talked to them briefly and they asked me if I moved to St. Catharines for school. Those of you who know me may pause for a moment to laugh hysterically.

After passing through Chippawa, I found the Niagara Parkway Trail and headed south. The sign said Fort Erie was 24 km away and that journey will have to wait for another day. Nonetheless, I did make it past Navy Island, cycling through scenery that reminded me of scenes from Gone with the Wind. I kept expecting to find Rhett Butler on his horse coming around the next bend.

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Pictures don’t do the area justice.

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I imagine this would be a popular golf course for those who are so inclined.

I turned around here and headed back to the Falls, stopping for more pictures along the way.

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This humble abode was for sale. $3.2 million or best offer takes it.

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The Willoughby Historical Museum. Curiously, the sign on the door said it was closed for the season. Since when is early September out of season in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations?

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More homes along the route.

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The historical marker for Navy Island at the south end of the island.

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Clear water. It’s still a novelty to see, coming from the murky shores of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.

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Farther north on the trail, I stopped at the Chippawa Battlefield Park, site of another famous battle during the War of 1812, or more appropriately, the War of 1812-1815.

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The northern shore of Navy Island. Interestingly, Navy Island was once mentioned as a prospective site for the United Nations headquarters following World War II.

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The northern bridge connecting Grand Island to the mainland in New York State.

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Robert Moses Parkway. This is why the Canadian side of Niagara Falls remains much more popular than its American counterpart as my neighbor, a native of Niagara Falls, NY, can attest.

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Near Main Street in Chippawa, the trail cuts across the water towards the Falls.

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The Niagara Falls skyline. That’s mist coming from the falls, not the aftermath of an arsonist, one of the ten most popular occupations in my former home city.

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The dam as part of the hydroelectric generating station.

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Another couple of skyline shots.

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The mighty Niagara River.

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At Dufferin Islands, or “Daufferin,” as my late grandfather would say.

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I stopped by the Floral Showhouse, but I’ll save a trip inside for a future visit. The price of admission was a reasonable $5.65, but I was outraged to see that they want $5/hour for parking. There’s a difference between charging a fair price and gouging. This falls into the latter category.

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The incline railway and adjacent Welcome Center.

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Before heading inside to the Welcome Center, I had to hunt high and low before finding a rack to lock up my bike. Given the number of cyclists who traverse the Niagara Parkway, the lack of facilities for guests arriving on two wheels is a rather significant oversight that I hope is addressed in the near future.

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Once again, I know I was not alone. You may understand. You may not.

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I know one and perhaps only one reader will appreciate this.

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Elements on the Falls. Any connection to a former pair of colleagues from my distant past is strictly unavoidable. Most readers, even my close friends, will not understand.

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Tourists line the railing to get a good view of the falls.

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Still others want a more up close and personal look.

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Before leaving, I took a ride down Fallsview Boulevard and noticed a traffic jam in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel. I presume this is for the valet parking.

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The Fallsview Casino, an ATM for the government.

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I couldn’t help but stop to get a shot of this billboard. The farmer did not make my eggs today, a chicken did.

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A reminder of a piece of my past. I wonder if it’s a fighting moose or just a regular moose. One reader will understand more than most.

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Political incorrectness in its most egregious form.

It was an interesting outing and yet another positive experience. Once again, I only wish I had come here sooner.

05 Sep

Waterfront Trail – St. Catharines to Grimsby

Taking the lead of a friend and former colleague from the SPRM who recently paid me a visit in my new home, I decided to take a trek west and cover the section of the Waterfront Trail between St. Catharines and Grimsby.

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On the way, I noted this sign with particular interest as I passed through Port Dalhousie. I was most impressed to see that the city has a Clean City Committee and organizes activities like this. It was yet another pleasant reminder as to why we packed all those boxes and came all this way. I would ordinarily be the kind of person to see this as a waste of resources, but a fresh perspective has certainly made me appreciate being in a community that cares about such things. I don’t think readers from my new home city can properly appreciate that perspective unless they have spent any significant time in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.

Incidentally, I still find myself pronouncing Dalhousie as dal-HOW-zee. Old habits from the SPRM die hard.

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For the most part, the trail is well signed, but after leaving Port Dalhousie, it would be more appropriate to call it the QEW Trail instead of the Waterfront Trail since you end up seeing more of the QEW than you do of Lake Ontario.

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Nonetheless, there are some nice views of the lake as you pass by Charles Daley Park on the way to Jordan Harbor.

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At Jordan Road, the trail officially takes a detour into Jordan Village. I continued west on North Service Road, but I will check out the sights in Jordan Village in a future visit.

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Behind the Ramada Beacon Harborside Resort is Jordan Harbor.

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Even though the path of the QEW roughly follows the shore of Lake Ontario, this is one of the few places along the route where motorists can actually get a glimpse of the lake.

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Hidden away behind some brush is the rusting remains of “La Grande Hermine,” or “Big Weasel” that has been in Jordan Harbor since 1997. The full story of this abandoned vessel can be found here.

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Continuing west, I passed by the Lake House restaurant as the trail veers away from the lake.

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Prudhomme’s antique store and factory outlet.

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Prudhomme’s Landing Inn hasn’t seen too many landings recently. I don’t even think the buzzards bother to stop there anymore.

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Despite passing mainly through farmland, there are oases like this when you need to stop for a break. There’s also another such area in Beamsville a few miles to the west. Despite the ancillary traffic it brings, there are advantages to having the trail near the QEW.

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There’s more to Vineland than just a carpool parking lot.

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Another roadside attraction.

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I know one reader from the SPRM will appreciate this, even though I know it’s not spelled the same.

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I’ve seen these signs before, but never one at such close proximity. I know I’ve mentioned it before in a previous entry, but I unreservedly endorse these measures to punish reckless drivers. I do hope that, unlike the way it is in the degenerate capital of the SPRM, driving like a maniac is indeed a reportable offense.

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After putting on 19 miles, I reached Grimsby.

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I didn’t want to venture too much farther on this morning, so I turned around at Bal Harbor Park, but not before a little break to snap some more pictures.

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I imagine that second-floor patio gets a lot of use.

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The water was clear and didn’t smell like a sewage lagoon. This just in.™ This is not the Red or Assiniboine River.

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On the way back, I needed another break, so I stopped at Charles Daley Park, just west of Seventh Avenue Louth.

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View of 15 Mile Creek.

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Other views from the gazebo on the east side of the park.

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I noted this sign with interest especially having seen the signs in the washrooms along the Niagara Parkway advising that foot washing in the sinks wasn’t allowed. As a newcomer to the area, I don’t quite understand the fascination with foot washing in this part of the world. Maybe I’ll figure it out in time.

Going west from St. Catharines doesn’t offer the same quality of scenery as it does in the other direction, but it was a relatively non-contentious route, the kind of which I could only dream about when I lived in the SPRM. It offers a good view of the escarpment, but you won’t be climbing it, so it offers some of the easiest miles in the region for a cyclist. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “I’ll be back.”™

30 Aug

Getting Around

As I begin my fifth week in my new home, as many of you might suspect, I continue to get around and discover the area.

Earlier this week, I headed south for my first visit to Welland, the city whose name adorns the canal that bisects the peninsula. One of these days, I need to look into why it’s called the Welland Canal and not the Thorold Canal, Port Colborne Canal or the St. Catharines Canal.

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Upon reaching the Welland Canals Recreational Trail, I did a double take when I noticed the name of this ship. When I lived in Winnipeg, my home was backing the sewage lagoon otherwise known as the Assiniboine River.

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I continued down the trail, up the escarpment through Thorold.

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Between Thorold and Welland, the terrain mercifully Saskatchewanizes and, for the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, it very much reminded me of the area around Whiteshell Provincial Park, located at the western tip of the Canadian Shield.

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On the way, I took a side trip across Bridge 11 to Allanburg.

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As those of you who know me would expect, picking up more highway pictures was the motivating factor behind this particular diversion.

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I then retraced my steps, got back on the trail and was soon in Welland.

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The Main Street Bridge, under construction.

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Canal Terrace, a nice little place to stop and look out at the Welland Recreational Waterway. Again, I kept expecting to find bums staggering around a morass of broken beer bottles, condom wrappers and other assorted presents left on the sidewalk. Old habits from Winnipeg die hard. Instead, the area was clean and perfectly well civilized.

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I made my way to Main Street and the roundabout where King’s Highway 406 ends. Standing on the sidewalk, I was able to understand the instructions on this mammoth sign, but I can imagine how motorists not familiar with the area might throw their hands up in despair trying to decipher its meaning. It is thorough, but I think someone at MTO outsmarted themselves on this one. They might have been better off applying the K.I.S.S. principle. Winnipeg has a famous intersection informally known as Confusion Corner and I think Welland just got one of its own.

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The Main Street Tunnel. I will save my first trip through it for a future visit.

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I returned through downtown and stopped for a break at the Welland Transit Terminal.

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Like Winnipeg Transit, Welland Transit also operates a “Sorry” route.

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Continuing on, I passed Welland City Hall.

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Elsewhere in downtown Welland.

As I have noticed ever since I set foot on the peninsula, the people have been very friendly and Welland proved to be no exception. However, I must have stood out as an unfamiliar sight as I got a lot of “you’re not from around here, are you” kind of looks. Which is true. Sort of.

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I returned to the trail and headed north back towards St. Catharines.

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Crossing under both spans of the 406.

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This frog was in the middle of the trail and I luckily avoided him.

All in all, I enjoyed my visit and I look forward to returning when I have a little more energy to look around more. Because of the side trips I made along the way and being an experienced cyclist well aware of my limits, I knew I was at the end of my tether. I will have to make a point of studying the Welland Visitors Guide to see what other attractions the city offers.

Later in the week, I went to the Seymour-Hannah Complex to check out the training camp of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, likely soon to be my new favorite team.

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It was an impressive facility and had four rinks. For those reading from the SPRM, it was like the ChipmanPlex. Without Chipman.

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Before heading for Rink 1, where the IceDogs were working out, I stopped at the display for the City of St. Catharines Sports Wall of Fame. Of particular note for me was the name of Rudy Pilous, who was listed in the inaugural class. A Winnipeg native who had spent many years in St. Catharines, Pilous was once the coach and, later, the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets during their years in the WHA. His biography at scshof.com incorrectly states that he had coached the team in 1973-1974, but he did coach the Jets the following year and subsequently served as the team’s general manager until John Ferguson dismissed him on December 15, 1978.

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Stepping inside, my nose immediately told me that much hockey had been played in this rink as the stench of decades worth of fermented sweat shot right up my nostrils. However, the rink looked very well maintained and I was stunned to see clean, padded seats on both sides of the ice. I had expected instead to see rows of bench-style seating consisting of little more than roughly chipped plywood that had not had contact with the end of a paint brush in the last quarter century. Again, that was the cynic in me that many decades of living in Winnipeg brings to the surface.

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Action between the red and black teams. I was a little curious as to why they were sporting jerseys with the OHL logo rather than that of the IceDogs. Perhaps that’s one of those things I’ll learn as my fandom builds. While watching, I really didn’t know who many of the players were, but again, I’ll learn.

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The IceDogs braintrust, I presume.

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I noticed this ad on the boards and it was another pleasant reminder that I no longer live in Winnipeg. According to the Winnipeg police, if you are walking down a street and are hit and nearly killed by a car pulling out of a driveway, it is not a reportable offense. You can imagine how they would react to something as comparatively trivial as graffiti.

In my first real foray into the world of junior hockey, I was surprised to see so few young, female admirers fawning over their favorite players/would-be boyfriends. When I followed the Manitoba Fighting Moose during their years in the AHL, watching the fanatical behavior of these groupies/puck bunnies proved almost as entertaining as the games themselves. Perhaps that will come when the puck drops for real.

I didn’t stay all that long, but I am eagerly anticipating the junior hockey experience. Unlike the case in Winnipeg, where junior hockey barely registered on the radar even when they had a team, smaller communities such as St. Catharines really seem to rally around their team. This new fan experience intrigues me as much as any future action on the ice and the seeds of a future novel have already been planted. Our MP seems to have dibs on “Hockey Night in St. Catharines,” so I’ll probably call it something else.

A couple of days later, I rode out to Niagara-on-the-Lake. On the way there, I went out of my way to take Niagara Stone Road. It isn’t a route I would normally choose or recommend due to the high volume of traffic, but the opportunity to get some shots of the former King’s Highway 55 was the reason I went that way. There was at least a paved shoulder to keep me a reasonable distance away from passing cars and trucks.

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I know it’s a lousy picture, but this particular sign on Queenston Street struck me, one that obviously dates back to when Niagara Stone Road was King’s Highway 55. After the route was downloaded to the region, they must have simply stuck a regional marker over the provincial marker, leaving the rest of the sign intact. Even though it has clearly seen better days, the sign still serves its purpose and common sense dictated that it did not need to be replaced entirely.

In the SPRM, they adopt a much different approach. Evidently flush with cash, the province has been on a search-and-destroy mission over the past few years to replace signs such as this at a dizzying pace and for no apparent reason. In a case like this, crews would be out either repainting or replacing the entire sign, most likely on a Sunday or holiday to rack up overtime. Click here for a glaring example of how this practice works in the SPRM.

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Entering the Greenbelt. Oddly, the sign is in blue. Perhaps it should be the Bluebelt.

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The Great Mountain Center, one of the places along the route that offers grape and wine tours. This one also offers locally-grown ginseng and tea.

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I soon reached the community of Virgil.

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Crossing Four Mile Creek.

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At East and West Line, cyclists like me can take advantage of a shared pathway and get off the road.

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Picard’s Country Store, where you can buy Ontario-grown peanuts.

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I had to pull off the road and get this shot. On this specific day, on the occasion of the four-week anniversary of my defection from the SPRM and arrival in St. Catharines, I spotted an SPRM flag and a New Brunswick flag on the same pole. Immediately to my right as I took this shot was a Beemer.

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Not far from this spot was Anne Street.

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Later in the outing, I would spot this “C” on the ground near the spot where I took a particularly nice picture.

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During a break, I would also spot this Whirlpool Jet. Number 5.

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Across the river was the number 5 on this communication tower.

As always, I knew I was not alone. Some of you will understand. Most of you will not.

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I continued on into the Historic Old Town, a place I am quickly becoming very fond of.

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A clever sign.

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One of the many fashionable dwellings along the lake.

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Scenes in Ryerson Park.

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Niagara Boulevard.

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I got another shot of the floral display honoring the United Empire Loyalists. When I got there, there were two women taking turns snapping pictures of each other, so I offered to take a shot of the two of them together. Sadly, the only words of English they spoke were, “I’m sorry, we don’t speak English.” Nonetheless, through the use of some clever charades, I got my point across and they gratefully accepted my offer. I hope the shots I took worked.

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The post office. As I understand, this is the correct spelling of the town’s name, yet I would later find this sign that has a capital “O” and capital “T” in the “on” and “the,” respectively:

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I know I’m being a little petty here, but the town ought to spell its own name correctly.

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One of the many bed and breakfasts in town. It seems like there’s one on every street corner.

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Overlooking New York State as I stop for a break. I know you’ve heard this before, but I could get used to this.

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Visitors from Wisconsin. Or as they say, “Wiscahnsin,” in their catchy accent. If you haven’t recognized the symbol, the picture I use on both my Facebook and Twitter profiles is a Wisconsin state trunk highway sign.

These are just the latest in a series of adventures over the course of the more than 300 miles I’ve racked up on two wheels during my first month here. No doubt, there’s more on the way. Stay tuned.

22 Aug

Cycling to the Falls

As many of you who know me might expect, soon after my bike arrived from Winnipeg, I wasted no time in making a pair of visits to nearby Niagara Falls.

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Though I’ve studied plenty of maps, since I am still largely unfamiliar with the best routes to use, I decided to rely on Google to plan my first visit to the Falls since I was a young child on vacation from Winnipeg.

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Google recommended first heading south from St. Catharines along the Welland Canals Parkway into Thorold.

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As the sign says, Thorold is where the ships climb the mountain. It is also where cyclists climb the mountain, otherwise known as the Niagara Escarpment. Coming from the flatlands, the frequent changes in elevation are something I’m going to have to get used to.

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I took the exit at Regent Street and proceeded south along Front Street through Thorold’s “historic downtown.” That phrase carries a very negative connotation in Winnipeg, but Thorold’s downtown has a lot more appeal than Winnipeg’s downtown does. Once again, I found no bums and the streets were clean. Thorold’s downtown reminded me of Kenora, a city in the northwestern part of the province I’ve visited a number of times when I lived in Winnipeg.

Google’s recommendation took me through the Front Street Park and towards the Thorold Tunnel that goes underneath the Welland Canal.

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I promptly got off my bike and walked it through the tunnel along the pedestrian walkway, separated from motorized traffic by a concrete barrier.

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MTO says the tunnel is 840 m long, but it felt like five miles when I was in there. I am normally not claustrophobic, but it was a harrowing experience having speeding trucks whizzing past me at close quarters inside such an enclosed space. After reaching daylight, I was visibly shaken for much of the remainder of the ride into the Falls. On my return trip, I would ride through and shorten the amount of time I had to spend in the tunnel. I suspect the Thorold Tunnel won’t be seeing much of my shadow in future.

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Once out of the tunnel, I turned south on Davis Road, then east on Beaverdams Road, following it to Lundy’s Lane.

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Beaverdams Road passes through a golf course and a few homes, but mostly through farmland. It seems to be lightly travelled, but it had no paved shoulder. This is why I normally don’t rely on Google or other cycling maps. There’s really no substitute for experience.

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After reaching Lundy’s Lane, I crossed the QEW and made my way towards the falls. Not unexpectedly, there were tourists galore and when I next want to spend some time looking over the falls, I’ll park my bike somewhere and walk. Walking a bike through such a large crowd was rather awkward.

A few days later, I opted to rely on my limited personal experience for my next trip. I crossed the lift bridge at Lakeshore Road and made my way directly to the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail using East and West Line. Lakeshore does see more traffic, but East and West Line doesn’t seem to be that busy. More importantly, there is a paved shoulder to give cyclists like me a little more comfort.

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Upon reaching the trail, I headed south towards Queenston and Queenston Heights, site of a famous battle during the War of 1812.

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As I noted in a previous blog entry, they don’t call it Queenston Heights for nothing. I made it up this incline without too much difficulty, but I had to get off the bike and walk it up much of the way through the town.

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Continuing south, I went under the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge towards the floral clock.

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After a brief break to snap a few more pictures, I passed by the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating Station.

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There are a number of spots where you can pull off the trail and get some shots, which I did.

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I noticed a sign for the Niagara Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Conservatory, so I stopped in to check it out. Sadly, I was too early and the conservatory was not open yet, but I will make a point of getting there in a return visit. Given that this was the height of tourist season, however, I was surprised they were not open at the crack of dawn.

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I continued south on the trail towards the Whirlpool Gorge.

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I stopped for some pictures alongside a busload of people from Maryland. On this trip, in addition to many from neighboring New York, I would also spot plates from New Jersey, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Connecticut, Tennessee and Illinois.

After passing Victoria Avenue, cyclists have to go on the road, but there is a paved shoulder that takes you past the Whirlpool and Rainbow Bridges right to the falls.

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I stopped at the Not-So-Secret Garden before turning around and heading for home. This time, I planned a different route myself, wisely not relying upon Google.

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From the 420 junction, I took Stanley Avenue north across 405 to Niagara Townline Road. Stanley Avenue is a little busier, but again, there was a paved shoulder for most of the way.

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I took Four Mile Creek Road and made my way to the lightly used Queenston Road. Unfortunately, it did not have a paved shoulder, but there was far less traffic there than I found on Beaverdams Road.

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I stopped for this picture just north of the intersection of York Road. I’ve since found out what an “Unassumed Road” is, but the terminology seemed odd. At first glance, it sounds like they don’t want you to assume this is a road.

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Hello, my name is Coyote. Wile E. Coyote. Genius.

I followed Queenston Road back to St. Catharines and made it home safely. Overall, this route seemed to be a lot better than the one Google recommended, though much of the scenery to the north can be distracting.

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I’m sure there are other routes in the area to get to the Falls and back, perhaps better ones, and I look forward to discovering them over the coming months and years.

15 Aug

Hockey Night in St. Catharines

Last night, I attended Hockey Night in St. Catharines, the fifth annual such event in support of the United Way of St. Catharines and District. It is not an event I would normally have attended, but it was a way of taking the first baby steps to becoming part of my new home city. It also allowed me to see some former WHA players in addition to those who played in another major league, many of whom I have not seen for a decade or more.

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The game took place at the Gatorade Garden City Complex, a.k.a. Jack Gatecliff Arena, now, with the completion of the Meridian Center, the former home of the Niagara IceDogs.

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I was one of the first to arrive and I got some pictures around the seating area.

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The flags along with a picture of the Queen at one end. Ironically, the Winnipeg Arena, a building that saw my shadow hundreds of times, was famed for its long-standing picture of the Queen that hung in the south end before being moved across the rink once the Jets moved from the WHA into another major league. Unlike the picture that hung in the Arena, the Queen is sporting a cheeky grin, much like the one on my face when my one-way WestJet flight was taking off from Winnipeg two weeks ago.

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The banners honoring the Memorial Cup champion St. Catharines Tee Pees. The 1953-1954 Tee Pees were led by Rudy Pilous, who would later spend many years with the WHA Jets. Pat Stapleton, a former longtime major pro player and a wonderful man whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting twice, was a member of the 1959-1960 team.

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Before the game, Rick Dykstra, our MP, was circling the ice sporting a blue jersey with the Conservative logo.

After the warmups, it was time to introduce the players.

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Former WHA player Dave Gorman.

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Former Winnipeg Jet Bill Derlago.

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Dave McLlwain, another former Jet. Mark Osborne, playing for the red team, would make it a threesome of ex-Jets.

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MP Rick Dykstra.

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Steve Ludzik, a former pro player and someone who I last saw behind the bench of the Detroit Vipers of the late, great IHL. The woman circling the stands selling raffle tickets for the free WestJet flights and wearing one of his jerseys said that Detroit was “about four moves ago.” She also mentioned that Darren Banks, one of Ludzik’s former players with the Vipers, was playing for the red team. For those who don’t know, I followed the IHL for several years and the subject of my next book will be my experiences with the IHL’s Manitoba Moose. Pro hockey’s most unwanted team, its owner/president/general manager/head coach and its handful of supporters will be dissected with heavy doses of humor and sarcasm.

Interestingly, coaching the red team was former WHA player Jim Dorey. Like me, Dorey is also a member of the WHA Hall of Fame advisory board. For those interested in the history of the WHA, I encourage you to visit WHAHOF.com and, specifically, the database section that represents countless hours of research on my part.

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Former pro great Phil Esposito did the honors for the ceremonial opening faceoff. I found it odd that a security guard packing body armor followed him out to center ice. This is St. Catharines, not Winnipeg.

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O Canada being performed by Antonella Cavallaro.

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Al “Stomach Muscles” Secord chats with referee Ron Hoggarth. Hoggarth had a microphone with him all night and did his best to entertain the crowd, but I found it a bit much after a while. Having seen him work many Jets games at the Winnipeg Arena, it seems like he hasn’t changed a bit.

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During the first intermission, Hoggarth took his act into the stands. Later in the intermission, he had Kraig Nienhuis sing a little of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. I know one reader will appreciate the reference as it relates to my late uncle.

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Second period action. The game itself, as one would expect, was little more than an organized pillow fight with all the intensity of a Jets-Oilers playoff game from the 1980s. Sorry, old grudges die hard.

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“Bones”, the IceDogs’ mascot made appearances throughout the stands. On this occasion, he was dangling a woman’s purse over the boards and put on a show as he rifled through it. I didn’t find all that funny, but maybe it’s just me.

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The post-game handshake.

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Our MP holds up a ceremonial check for $182,329.00, the amount raised at the event.

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Both teams gather for one last picture.

All in all, it was an interesting evening and I’m glad I went. I’m looking forward to October when the puck drops for real at the Meridian Center.

10 Aug

Discovering New Surroundings

As you can imagine, my first week in St. Catharines has been hectic, to say the least. However, I have managed to find the time to get out on two wheels and explore some sights in and around my new home city.

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Soon after my bike arrived from the degenerate capital of the SPRM, I took a run up to Port Dalhousie, where 12 Mile Creek, the original Welland Canal, meets Lake Ontario. Having seen it briefly during my exploratory trip last September, I was anxious to check it out upon settling here. I would not be disappointed.

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The marina.

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For the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, I can describe it as a cross between Gimli and Duluth. Except better. Those who know me know that Gimli, the tiny cottage community nestled along the shore of Lake Winnipeg, will always hold a special place in my heart and now I can get a reminder of it almost within walking distance of my front door. I could get used to this. Quickly.

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The Riverboat Mexican Grill. Sorry, but as they say in Texas, El Paso. Those of you who know me know that I am not gastronomically adventurous on land or on the water.

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The lighthouse on the east side.

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A swan feeding.

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Looking out towards Lake Ontario.

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And, of course, a spelling error. Bad spellers of St. Catharines are now officially under “surveilance.”

On Saturday, I headed east towards Niagara-on-the-Lake, rightly named the prettiest town in Canada. One of the real estate agents who we met with on our visit last year took us around the old town area and it was one of the first places I wanted to visit once I returned permanently. Once again, I would not leave disappointed.

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Waiting for a ship to pass at Lakeshore Road.

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Peach and pear trees along East and West Line and vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see.

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I guess you can call me a Niagara Nut.

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Jackson-Triggs Winery.

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I made for the Historic Old Town and toured the streets near the riverbank.

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A floral display commemorating the United Empire Loyalists.

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The Charles Inn.

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The Old Bank House.

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The Prince of Wales Hotel.

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Scenes from Queen’s Royal Park. Across the Niagara River is Fort Niagara State Park.

Unbeknownst to me, the annual Peach Festival was taking place, so I parked my bike at one of the many racks in town and walked along Queen Street.

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One of the exhibitors along the street was the Niagara Historical Society and Museum. This, along with the St. Catharines Museum at Lock 3, will be places I will be visiting soon so I can learn more about the history of the area.

I didn’t know how lucky I was that I was there so early in the morning. Later in the afternoon, crowds kept pouring into the tiny community.

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A line of cars headed for the festival. Sadly, there was nowhere left for them to park.

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Wanting to explore a little more, I headed south along the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail towards Queenston.

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Scenes along the trail.

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Youngstown, New York. All the way down the trail, you can look out to your left and see the USA. With a slight easterly wind, I was even able to breathe some American air. I know one reader in particular will be especially jealous.

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The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. Or the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, depending on which side of the border you are on.

The pathway was relatively deserted in the morning, but coming back in the afternoon, it was the cyclists’ equivalent of being on the QEW near the site of the recent Burlington Skyway closure. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised how well the trail users made it work. With some rare exceptions, courtesy and respect were in abundance. Many loyal readers know how effusive with praise I have been over the courtesy shown by the trail users in the Twin Cities. If anything, it was even better here. There were no unleashed dogs, I was not sworn at, threatened with bodily harm, swung at or dragged off my bike, like I have been in Winnipeg. This is definitely not the SPRM and I couldn’t be happier to leave the hatred and vitriol that permeated every nook and cranny of Greg Selinger’s sovereign republic behind.

One anonymous person from the SPRM who commented on one of my recent postings said that Ontario would eat me alive. If this is what being eaten alive is all about, Ontario is quite welcome to keep gobbling away at me.

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One of the many sights along the way.

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There were many parks with clean washrooms along the route. Inside each of them, I noticed this sign by the sinks. I can’t say I had been planning to wash my feet in the sink, but it’s good to know that they don’t allow it just in case I got the sudden urge. Thank you, Niagara Parks, for the heads-up.

Upon reaching Queenston, I saw a familiar sight.

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Green is the color, football is the game. We’re all together and winning is our aim. So cheer us on in the sun and rain. Saskatchewan Roughriders is our name. For the benefit of the husband of one reader, please do not throw anything at your monitor.

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I was ready for a break and the Queenston Heights Park provided such an opportunity. I was a little worn out after climbing the steep hill and you can take it from me that they don’t call it “Heights” for nothing.

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I wasn’t too bushed to notice this sticker on the back of the above sign. I suspect someone stuck it there as a joke, but it was interesting to see a USPS Priority Post sticker on the back of a Canadian highway sign. It’s one way to ensure the sign was delivered to the right location, since Canada Post can hardly be trusted.

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Hopefully someday soon, I will be one of those cyclists heading to the USA for an adventure on the east bank of the Niagara River.

The park itself was beautiful and, for the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, it reminded me of the Peace Gardens south of Boissevain.

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Butler’s Rangers.

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The monument to General Brock.

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Looking north from the scenic overlook near the monument.

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The fountain.

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I returned along the same path, but before returning home, I stopped at Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm, a little petting zoo as part of a scenic park along the shore of Lake Ontario, located east of the canal.

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One of the goats.

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Poultry.

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More poultry.

There is a nice walking path that follows the lake and I will be sure to explore more of it in a return visit.

My first week here has left me feeling so thankful to have been blessed with the courage and conviction to leave Winnipeg and come to St. Catharines. I look forward to exploring more of my new home in the weeks and months to come.

04 Aug

A Triumphant Return to St. Catharines

In the words of the General Douglas MacArthur, I have returned. Not to the Philippines, but to St. Catharines. I was impressed with what I saw during my exploratory so-called “business trip” last year and now I’m back to stay.

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Welcome to my city.

As promised, here are the details of the move two years in the planning that, at times, I never thought was actually going to happen. Time seemed to stand still over the past year, yet as moving day approached, it sped up so fast that hours seemed like seconds. As you can imagine, so much was happening that the task of moving became overwhelming. Over the past few days and weeks, I was often reminded of the line I heard on a documentary describing the home front in the U.S. during the conflict in Vietnam, “America lived through more history than it could digest.” I think this line might apply to anyone who attempts a major move such as this.

After moving out of our old house, one that we had occupied for 15 years, we spent two nights at the Hilton near the airport before flying out on Friday.

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I took note that they had a meeting room named for a former USFL player. Ironically, Bruce Laird of the Arizona Wranglers played in the 1984 Championship Game opposite Ken Dunek of the Philadelphia Stars, who is one of my Twitter followers.

For the most part, it was an enjoyable stay. There was a barking dog in an adjacent room, but they moved us and there were no further problems. The room was spacious and clean, the restaurant was surprisingly good, but the petty charges for parking your car and making local calls left a bad taste in our mouths. I left comments to that effect when asked by the Hilton for a review and also posted a review to tripadvisor.ca. In retrospect, we should not have been surprised by the nickel and diming. It is, after all, Winnipeg.

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I needed no more evidence of that fact after spotting this classic sight across from the hotel. This shot might very well end up as the cover image of the book I am currently working on. Take pride, Winnipeg, indeed.

Interestingly, the tow truck driver who picked up our car for shipping couldn’t stop gushing about St. Catharines when he heard we were moving there. He had recently moved to Winnipeg from the Center of the Universe and offered yet another glowing recommendation of the area. When offered the keys to the club for the steering wheel, he declined and said, “You won’t need that in St. Catharines.” Quite the change from the auto theft capital of the Western world.

Bright and early Friday morning, we couldn’t wait to make a run for the airport. We were so anxious that we left some stuff behind in the fridge, but I guess that’s to be expected. It was again ironic that the shuttle driver who took us from the Hilton to the airport was also was looking to move to St. Catharines and had been trying to get a transfer. In the words of the late Richard Dawson, I detect a trend developing.

We breezed through security and had plenty of time to make a stop at Tim Hortons and check some e-mail. My Twitter followers can easily guess which post I made from the airport.

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In a way, I was envious of this poor soul. Understandably, I didn’t sleep very well in my last night in the SPRM.

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I checked the boards to see what gate we were leaving from, but I should have known better and just gone directly to Gate 5. You may understand. You may not.

During the wait, I noticed the seeds of a pair of future human rights complaints. First, in the airport chapel, the only brochures there were for Christian denominations. Later, I noticed only male and female washrooms.

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There were no gender-neutral washrooms for people who identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Where’s this spirit of inclusion that socialists are so fond of trumpeting? Shameful, indeed. Or not.

A battalion of paramedics came rushing to meet a teenage girl who was being wheeled off an incoming flight. After they attended to her, she seemed to be all right. Perhaps she just had a panic attack once she realized that she was about to touch down in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.

I noted with interest that a QuebAir pilot asked to visit his brother, who was flying the WestJet plane we were taking. After they let him pass, the WestJet staffers remarked how odd it was that the brother of a WestJet pilot was flying for the “reds.”

At last, it was time to board. After all the passengers of the sold-out flight were seated, the flight attendant undoubtedly set a personal best for the time taken to read the canned speech about safety. This just in. There is no point to making the speech if no one can understand you.

Just before the plane began taxiing out to the runway, an ad for Smarties popped up on the screen in front of my seat. Once again, I knew I wasn’t flying alone. You may understand. You may not.

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Tears of joy filled my eyes as I caught a glimpse of the Winnipeg skyline for the last time. This is the only city that I had ever lived in during the many decades I have walked the face of the Earth and as much as I will miss the dear friends I was leaving behind, I will not miss the city. I thought back to my Grade 12 English class when the teacher asked for a show of hands as to who planned to stay in Winnipeg. I was only one of three or four who put up their hands. Now, so many years later, I was among those who were leaving.

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We took off down the newly refurbished runway to the north and I got what would be my last shot of a Manitoba highway. If you don’t recognize it, this is PTH 190, Winnipeg’s newest “expressway,” complete with traffic lights and a railway crossing just before a railway overpass.

Soon after leaving Greg Selinger’s sovereign airspace and crossing into my new home province, I set my watch one hour ahead from Central Daylight Time to Central Universe Time.

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It was cloudy much of the way, but I got this shot of King’s Highway 17 somewhere between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie.

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As we approached the Center of the Universe, my heart nearly skipped a beat when the flight attendant announced that we were making our descent into Winnipeg. Egad! I don’t want to go back. Ever. I think she quickly realized her mistake, but she didn’t bother to correct herself.

Once the plane reached the terminal, we had an excruciatingly long wait as the people in front of us were in no hurry to get off. These were many of the same people in Winnipeg who were tripping over each other in a big hurry to get on. I swear we spent longer waiting to get off the plane than we did in the air. Normally, I wouldn’t have been bothered by the delay, but we were pressed for time since we had to pick up the keys at the lawyer’s office by 5:00. Furthermore, there had been a crash on the QEW that had shut down the C.U.-bound lanes on the Burlington Skyway. Even though we were going in the opposite direction, I figured that the Niagara Airbus schedules would be thrown way off kilter.

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Fortunately, we got on a bus within 15 minutes of our arrival at the desk and traffic was moving smoothly.

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The only exception was on the skyway when motorists slowed down to get a glimpse of the crash scene.

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On the way home.

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Entering the Greenbelt.

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Welcome to the Regional Municipality of Niagara.

En route, I had a nice little chat with our driver, Paul, while snapping pictures soon to appear on a Web site near you. He told me an interesting story about how accident rates plummeted after the former NDP government introduced photo radar, then rose again once the Liberals removed it. I told him how photo radar in Winnipeg was simply used a cash grab and a substitute for law enforcement instead of part of an effective road safety strategy.

Paul had someone else to pick up, so he dropped most of us off at the Vineland car pool location and Fran took us the rest of the way to St. Catharines. When heading down the 406, she went one exit too far and had to double back because she was listening to the signals from her GPS instead of the signals from her brain. Of course, I noticed that she didn’t get off at the proper exit, but I didn’t say anything because I thought she was dropping off the other group before us. She candidly admitted her mistake and told me the other group was headed for “Nig Falls.”  That awkward abbreviation for Niagara is far too close to a word not terribly high on the political correctness scale and I hope she has the good sense to simply use “The Falls” in future instead.

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Almost immediately after touching down at the Avis car rental office on St. Paul Street, a “642” license plate passed by.

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I would later spot this truck from New Brunswick a block away from our house.

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Also nearby, this pet store was offering Siberian Huskies for sale.

Once again, I knew I was not alone and that I had a dear friend with me in my new home city. You may understand. You may not.

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At the car rental place, I also noticed this sign alerting passers-by that you won’t need to be “empting” your wallet. I was hoping St. Cathariners would be able to spell better than Winnipeggers. On this point, early returns would not be positive. During my first four days in St. Catharines, I would spot a total of five such signs. Among them are as follows:

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School “unforms” are “availble.”

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For all your car “maintenence” needs.

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Too bad the insect “controll” products are not included.

As they were getting the car ready, a young woman passed by sporting a skimpy halter top that might have fit her properly prior to her recent surgery that augmented a pair of body parts. Emblazoned on the fabric stretched so tightly that any sudden movement would undoubtedly cause it to rip was “Guess?” Ah, such class. For the record, the answer is silicone. Or saline. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the material they use in implants these days. She could have been strapping a couple of bottles of Elmer’s glue to her chest for all I know.

Fortunately, the rest of my early experiences in the Garden City would be much more positive.

We got the keys from the lawyer and walked into our new house. It was spotless inside and the previous owner left us with a nice card.

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Toto, we’re not in the SPRM anymore.

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Our agent, Diane Walker (no relation), came by the next day and also gave us a nice card along with a big fruit basket to welcome us to St. Catharines. She was very helpful during the entire process and I would like to publicly thank her for all her efforts. For my friends who have expressed an interest in joining me in relocating to the Garden City, I can offer a strong endorsement.

Touring the rest of the house for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice this:

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There indeed was a “satalite” dish atop the house and, fittingly, it was a DirecTV dish. Many readers who I had the pleasure of working with at the Division for DirecTV Viewing Locally will understand the significance.

The previous owner also left us with a religious pamphlet. Apparently she is one of group of people who have witnessed something. I think most readers can figure out the rest.

The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac and the neighborhood is deathly quiet. There were no drug transactions, no booming noise coming from a nearby park and no one was outside pissing on the street. Everyone in the area seems quite friendly. I could get used to this.

Not that it’s right to let down your guard, but I feel so much safer here, not just because of the neighbourhood, but because of the community itself. It won’t be perfect here and I don’t expect it to be, but all indications continue to point to everything being much better than they were in Winnipeg. I know many of my friends in Winnipeg were jealous of my move and I’m happy to make you even more green with envy.

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The view outside my room. The previous owner once had frogs in there, but the neighbor complained of the noise, so she got rid of them.

Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for most of our stuff to arrive from the SPRM, but in the meantime, I’ve had a little chance to do some exploring.

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Fairview Mall, one of the two major malls in St. Catharines, informally doubles as the city’s largest nursing home. The food court is often filled cliques of seniors gathered together over cups of coffee from McDonald’s or Java Joe’s. It sure beats sharing the mall with marauding gangs of hoodlums or teenage princesses looking to add some more poundage to their wardrobe.

The Wal-Mart there was open at 7:00 am. On a Sunday. On a long weekend. Any merchant who dared to try such a thing in the SPRM would probably be locked up.

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Not that I’ve checked at Winnipeg Wal-Marts, but I doubt they would leave such large quantities of torch fuel on the shelves there. Being an arsonist ranks in the top 10 of Winnipeg’s most popular occupations. Maybe even top five.

At the other end of the mall is a nice Zehr’s supermarket. When I was in line, the clerk was breaking open a roll of coins and dropped some on the floor. When he got back up, he joked that he had just thrown some money away. I replied, “You’ve got a career in politics ahead of you.” Kathleen Wynne has probably already personally invited him to join the Liberal Party of Ontario.

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Monarch Park, one of the spots I covered last year.

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This shot is for one friend in particular.

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The sign at the head of the Welland Canals Trail. Rules are posted for General Trail Users, but none are posted for fans of other USFL teams.

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A ribbon with “Love” imprinted on it. It sure beats a bottle of piss accompanied by an “F-you” from a passer-by.

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It’s nice to see them honor the greatest goaltender in Winnipeg Jets history.

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A scooter on the sidewalk, not the road. This is a sight you would not see in the SPRM.

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For the benefit of one reader, a monument to the Polish pioneers. Evidently, I am unknowingly acting as my friend’s agent in following them around. But I’m sure it’s OK. It’s not a big deal. Sniff, sniff. Boo hoo. He will understand. The rest of you won’t.

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Designated for what?

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Most people don’t have as much in their car as this guy is balancing on his bike. I see an accident waiting to happen.

There’s still a long ways to go before I’m settled, but for now, I can at least take comfort in the knowledge that, at last, I am truly at home.