All posts by curtis72

29 Oct

An Erie Feeling

Earlier this week, I was on a shopping trip bound for Erie and Grove City, PA. Unlike the others, however, my purpose was not to shop, but to explore Erie and digitally capture many of its sights.

Before boarding in St. Catharines, our tour director issued me a name tag and told me to sit “anywhere you want.” Since I didn’t get an itinerary beforehand, I asked for one and was told rather snottily, “You’ll get one.” The lack of assigned seating is most uncommon, and this was the first bus tour I was on where the itinerary was guarded like a state secret.

Following the last pickup point at Thorold Stone Road in Niagara Falls, our tour director introduced herself and our driver. Since my experiences with them and the tour company are not all positive, I shall not name them publicly.

Our tour director noted that our driver was female, which was a first for me on a bus trip. Much like her male counterparts I’ve had on other bus trips since coming to Ontario, however, she was a good, safe driver who was attentive and alert at all times. It continues to amaze me as to how much better the drivers are here in Ontario than in the SPRM, where I’ve often wanted to kiss the ground after stepping off the bus.

Between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, our tour director mentioned that there were 42 passengers on board, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of them were seniors. Being a shopping trip, I was expecting a busload of teenage princesses. Only two of the passengers were male, and our tour director, unaware as yet as to my purpose for coming along, referred to us as “pack mules.”


The first official stop, and the only stop besides the one at U.S. customs, came at the Peace Bridge Duty Free store. Before going in, someone from the store came on board to explain our exemptions, then held a drawing for two $10 gift cards. I made no effort to answer the ridiculously easy questions to qualify, since I figured there would be nothing there I would want. After walking around the store, my instincts proved to be correct. The only thing of interest for me there was the free bathroom.

There was no lineup on the bridge itself, but we had the misfortune of being behind a Greyhound as well as another bus filled with international passengers.

During the hour-long wait, our tour director finally decided pass out copies of the itinerary. As she passed my seat, I made a point to tell her that I would be going my own way tomorrow and not to hold up the bus on my account. While speaking, I could immediately see the bubble caption forming over her head with a big question mark inside of it. With her brain on serious overload, she asked, “Uh, so you’re not checking in at the hotel?”


Slowly, and carefully, I had to repeat myself, but the concept of someone doing what they wanted to do on a trip was something she could not seem to understand. I think she finally got her head around it a couple of days later, but for all I know, her head might still be spinning.

Reading the vague and skimpy itinerary, I wasn’t the only one who noticed we were scheduled to go shopping immediately after our arrival in Erie instead of first checking in at the hotel. One woman seated in front of me, understandably weary after spending the entire day on the bus, stopped the tour director on her way back up front and asked if it would be possible to go to the hotel first.

Evidently still trying to process what I had told her, the befuddled tour director just couldn’t understand the simple request, and the poor passenger eventually gave up the fight after trying time and again to make herself clear.

While this was going on, memories of the SPRM came raging back as a truck from Bison Transport pulled up next to us. Loyal readers may recall my last crossing at the Peace Bridge when a truck from Reimer Express passed me by.

In good time, we were allowed to pull up into the bus lane next to the customs office, where our driver went outside to light up. This would be a recurring pattern throughout the trip. During every break, long or short, she would never miss an opportunity to smoke, often right next to the door. On one occasion, she lit up inside the bus before stepping outside, and on another, she blew some smoke inside. I’ve encountered many smokers before, but few with this strong of an addiction. She needs help. Seriously.

When the CBP officials finished with the bus in front of us, we all had to go inside and present our passports, and they had us in and out in a flash. The only question I was asked was, “Are you Curtis?” before being ushered off to the side with the other passengers. As is normally the case on these bus trips, they knew we were coming and had already pre-screened us, so there was no need for further interrogation.

After clearing customs and once out of the Buffalo area, our tour director then put on a movie to irritate us all the way to the Quaker State.

In Erie, before dropping us off at Target, our tour director regaled us with the first of two stories on how hard it is for her to find shoes to fit her 9½-size feet. This is not information we needed to know. She also made a specific point to make sure we leave our passports on the bus. My immediate reaction to that announcement was, “Are you nuts?” That will be the frosty Friday I’ll leave my passport unattended.

While the others made their way through Target, I went up and down Peach Street for my first Pennsylvania highway sign pictures, soon to appear on a website near you.

In a recurring theme over the next couple of days, I would discover that this area is anything but pedestrian-friendly.

Where there were sidewalks out in the suburbs, they would be like this one, beginning and ending in the middle of grassy patches. Either build one to cover the whole route or don’t bother at all. It’s like building a bridge that only goes halfway across a river.

On the way, I spotted a haggard old bum slumped on the sidewalk near the eastbound I-90 on-ramp looking to thumb a ride. Along with his long, straggly beard and his dishevelled appearance, he had the look of someone who had just crawled out of a dumpster. My jaw nearly hit the pavement when I saw a woman in 30s or 40s actually stopping to pick this guy up. She should consider herself very fortunate if all she got from this encounter was a car full of fleas.

Before returning to the bus, I spotted a billboard showing the name and mug shot of a wanted man. I could only imagine how bleeding-heart socialists would decry stigmatizing those involved with the criminal justice system. After all, crime is just a theory. Or not.



Moving on, we finally checked into the hotel around 5:00. Despite being pet-friendly, the room was clean, and there was little smell throughout the hotel. For anyone considering a visit to Erie, I can recommend it.


The following morning, I caught the M3 bus to downtown Erie, and purchased a day pass from the driver for $2.70. Even though it isn’t that far to the downtown bus terminal, it is a long ride because it goes into each of the malls along the way instead of directly down Peach Street. The bus, however, was clean, with no graffiti, vomit, used gum or condom wrappers anywhere to be seen, unlike the case in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.

At Millcreek Mall, one guy who was trying to skip out on the fare was giving the driver a song and dance about there being a problem with his transfer. The driver gave him a hard time, but the guy eventually ended up with a free ride.

After getting to the downtown bus terminal, I went inside to take advantage of the free washroom. I was pleased to see that the washroom and the entire terminal were spotlessly clean and free of bums. As I’ve said before, this is a concept I could get used to.


On the way to nearby Dobbins Landing, I passed by the Erie County Library and the 9/11 memorial.

In front of the library, I spotted this painted frog.

I spotted many others around town during the day, including this one on 26th Street. I would later learn that they were part of the 2004 Lake Erie Art Project.

Sadly, the tower at Dobbins Landing is only open on weekends at this time of year, but I was able to get some other shots around the area.

The marker at the end of the pier.

Overlooking Presque Isle State Park, which I understand is great place for a cyclist to visit.

The Sheraton hotel and adjacent Bayfront Convention Center.

The walkway between the hotel and convention center. I tried getting there through the Sheraton, but you need a key card to get up to the eighth floor.



Elsewhere around the harbor.

I headed back towards downtown, and after passing by Gannon University, I was again asked for directions, as is most often the case on every trip I take over the border. Unfortunately for the lost tourist, I was unable to help.

Immediately after turning on to 12th Street/PA 5, I saw this big rig from Ward Trucking. Spotting a truck from them on PA 5 was no accident. Longtime readers will understand.


Before continuing west, I made a detour to the post office and train station.

I did a double-take when I saw this mural painted on the side of a nearby road.

I know that one loyal reader will laugh at the mural along with this offering at a convenience store I spotted later in the day.

That same loyal reader will also enjoy seeing this shot of the Erie Central Fire Station back at 12th Street.

I didn’t cover the most scenic areas of the city, but I was amazed as to amount of industry they have there.

I then headed south along Raspberry Street, where I came across this park, which reminded me of a place in northeast Minneapolis. I stopped for a few minutes at the bench near the gazebo to rest and write some notes before moving on.

My next target was 26th Street and pictures of US 20.

On the way, I saw this sign outside someone’s house. It’s not exactly a welcome mat.

I would also spot this unfriendly greeting painted on a house farther down the street. Have a rotten day yourself.

This is the kind of thing I would have come up with.

Another of their buses.


It must be election time around there as well. I much prefer the American system to the Canadian one, but having to vote on the coroner and constable is going overboard.

I stopped at this Vietnam veterans memorial near State Street for another rest. I could really have used a lunch break at this point, but I can never seem to find a Subway when I need one. When I’m not in need, however, there’s seemingly one on every street corner.

Continuing on, I walked past Beirut Auto Sales towards the junction of PA 8 and PA 97. Sadly, I was not exactly welcomed with open arms in this neighborhood, and I have no doubt the locals hanging out on the street are still scratching their heads wondering about the dude who was walking around taking pictures of highway signs. Needless to say, I got my pictures and got out of Dodge, watching my back all the while.

I couldn’t resist this shot. Is it a blind crossing for pedestrians or a crossing for blind pedestrians?

Farther north on State Street, I finally found a Subway, but not before walking through a dark railway underpass very reminiscent of the Higgins and Main underpass readers from the SPRM can relate to. I was careful not to make myself an easy target for the would-be hoodlum hiding behind a post and his likely accomplice on the other side eyeing me up.

I spent about a half hour at that Subway recouping some lost energy while listening to a couple of infants screaming and bawling. Once they left, someone came around to clean up, wiping down the tables and the seats with the same rag. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, and I know it won’t be the last. That’s why I only eat out when I have to.


After the break, I covered more of the downtown area, passing by the Erie Insurance Arena, home of the OHL’s Erie Otters, whom I’ve seen in St. Catharines three times already.

One of Erie Insurance’s buildings. Their complex covers an entire block and the grounds are meticulously well-kept.

The Erie Art Museum. Like the St. Catharines Library, they’re closed on Monday.

Later in the afternoon, I ended up back at the waterfront and the bus terminal, where I caught the bus back to the hotel. It was anything but an enjoyable ride, as it was jam-packed with foul-mouthed teenagers whose favorite words were “like” and another four-letter word beginning with “F.” Making matters worse was that a big, fat guy so large they should have charged him two fares got on and sat right next to me.

The following morning, hotel staff picked up our bags and took them to the bus, then we got on for more shopping around the Millcreek Mall before heading home. Upon boarding, all of us were thrown for a loop when our tour director, without any prior announcement, stuck seat rotation tags throughout the coach. The move was most unwelcome for those who had already stuffed many bags in their overhead compartments.

I had initially assumed the reason for the seat shuffle was to allow those getting off first to sit up front, making it easier at each dropoff point. It would have been a logical thing to do, but our tour director instead must have just drawn names out of a hat. There was a couple from London in front of me and beside me was a woman from Collingwood.

The new crowd around me did make for some different chatter, however. Seated behind me were someone who was fawning over the many dogs she owns before announcing, “Oh, my butt has grown bigger,” as if it was a badge of honor. Later, she would lean across the aisle and ask, “Do you have a beer to borrow?”

While the others went to shop, I took the opportunity to get some more pictures, treading very carefully in the busy, pedestrian-unfriendly area around the mall.


I couldn’t resist this shot for a former colleague. I’m sure he will take note that his name is spelled in upper case.

There was one particularly interesting episode when I went behind the mall to get a shot of I-79. As I was taking pictures, a security van quickly pulled up, evidently to make sure I wasn’t up to no good. I would later spot that security officer strutting around the mall with his 10-gallon hat like he was a state trooper. Some people do let their job titles go to their head.

Following a lengthy stay at the mall, we made an hour-long stop at Wegmans grocery store, then left for home. En route, we were treated to another annoying movie, interspersed with instructions on how to fill out our declaration cards for the CBSA. At Canadian customs, we had to go inside the office and present our passports and declaration cards, but we were in and out in 12 minutes.

As we made our way down the QEW, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the many bus trips I made to Minneapolis, when I dreaded the prospect of returning to the SPRM. This time around, it was completely different. I was genuinely happy to be returning home, and it was an awfully nice feeling. All the hassle and effort we expended in relocating to St. Catharines continues to pay off.

At the dropoff point, both the driver and tour director seemed a little miffed when I left without giving a tip. For the driver, forcing someone with sinus problems to walk through a cloud of smoke at each stop doesn’t warrant any financial reward. With the tour director, had there been a collection going around, I would have been seriously tempted to take money out. She was annoying, less than organized, and very self-absorbed. I would have enjoyed the trip more had she stayed home.

As for Erie itself, there are nicer parts to the city, including the zoo and Presque Isle State Park, but I didn’t have a chance to see them on this trip. I hope to if I make a return visit.

12 Sep

Two Days With Stephen Harper

This past week, as those who follow me on Twitter are aware, I had the honor of seeing Prime Minister Stephen Harper in person twice in as many days.

Tuesday night, I was part of a standing-room-only crowd at the Holiday Inn here in St. Catharines. I arrived more than an hour ahead of time, yet there was a lineup of people outside the door waiting to register. As I said to someone who I met there, so much for Canadians being apathetic about politics and “hating” Harper.

Of course, there were a handful of protesters on Ontario Street within shouting distance of those of us in line waiting to get in. They were screaming “Harper must go,” one was playing the bagpipes and I later heard one was waving the Palestinian flag.

I continually hear people repeating the same old tired line, “We’ve got to get rid of Stephen Harper,” but I have yet to hear a single intelligent argument as to why. As Harper said during the event the following day in Welland, “During the global financial crisis, where else would you rather have been?” As I suggested to someone behind me in line, we should have chipped in to buy those protesters plane tickets to Greece.

Once finally inside, we had to wait in another room before being allowed inside the main hall.

Being at the head of the line gave me a distinct advantage, and I was able to grab a seat only two rows away from where the prime minister would be speaking. To say the least, he was among friends here.

Here, St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra chats with the woman who sang O Canada. Unfortunately, part of her rendition included some Quebecese, but it was thankfully drowned out by the gentleman behind me who was singing loudly in the Canadian language.

MPs Rob Nicholson and Rick Dykstra pose for a fellow Conservative supporter. Many of Nicholson’s team made the trip from Niagara Falls to hear the prime minister.


One woman holds up a campaign T-shirt.

As he would do the following day in Welland, Nicholson introduced the prime minster.










Harper then spoke for about 45 minutes. I had not seen him in person before and he came across as more of a down to earth person than I would have expected for someone in his position. As you can see from the pictures, he walked around the room a little while speaking and just used the podium to hold his notes. Not unexpectedly, I found him to be a good public speaker, but he was guilty of using the word “friends” too much.

After his speech, in a moment I won’t soon forget, both he and his wife came and shook hands with me and everyone in my row. It was an honor that ranked right up there with the evening I spent with a number of former WHA players in Calgary two years ago.

Though I hardly got any sleep overnight, first thing the next morning, my bike and I were on a Niagara Regional Transit bus headed for Welland to see Harper once again. After pedaling from the Welland transit terminal to the Canadian Tire Financial Services office on East Main Street, I waited outside with another large crowd.



We were packed inside the small room like sardines in a tin can and I was one of the many who had to stand alongside the wall. As I said to someone behind me, I would hate to think what would happen if a fire alarm were to have gone off.

Here, Dykstra chats with one of the attendees.

Nicholson once again introduced the prime minister.






Unlike the event in St. Catharines, this was not a party rally, but a roundtable discussion with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. On Harper’s right was Allan O’Dette, the OCC’s president and CEO, who had a number of questions for the prime minister. The OCC had invited each of the party leaders to such a discussion and the Conservatives were the only party to take them up on their offer.

As an ardent conservative, I didn’t need to be sold, but I came away very impressed with Harper’s detailed knowledge of the economy. It’s nice to know the country is in such good hands. As he pointed out, it would be a disaster for Canada if the Marijuana Party and its teenage leader or the Non Democratic Party were to form a government.

In front of the pro-business audience, Harper made sure to point out the Marijuana Party leader’s most recent childish statement, where he called most small businesses tax shelters for the wealthy.

Following the discussion, Harper took a few questions from the assembled contingent from the Media Party in the back of the room. Concerned more with Syria than their own country, they grilled him about the refugees, but Harper stood his ground against his political rivals masquerading as journalists.

One so-called “reporter” from the Red Star chided Harper for his legitimate security concerns in regards to the refugees. After she made the ridiculous comparison to the Ukrainians who settled in Canada more than 100 years ago, I don’t know how Harper resisted the urge to point out that the Ukrainians were not fleeing a country largely held by barbarians threatening to destroy Western civilization.

With the proceedings over, Harper left the stage and I turned to leave the building and return home, but not before seeing more misguided protesters outside waiting for Harper’s bus. I’m glad I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to see our prime minister and it certainly qualified as a thrill of a lifetime.

11 Aug

Ode to a Return to the Center of the Universe

Yesterday, for the second time I had occasion to enter
Ontario’s capital, otherwise known as the universe’s center

While waiting for the GO bus, there was a sight I wish I did miss
A fellow passenger gave his dog a big, wet sloppy good-bye kiss

As we sped our way around the lake, no ex-Winnipegger can resist taking a poke
At the Rapid Transit system, Winnipeg’s longest running joke


Curiosity must have been in the air when I was out past Brown’s Line.
Who was this guy standing in the median taking pictures of a highway sign

On Kipling Avenue, a jolly fellow on the sidewalk I did see
What is a bear that has no teeth, he asked of me

He clearly wanted to catch me off guard
As he tried to get me to apply for a credit card

I heard a weirdo near the end of my lengthy stroll
Ranting and raving at some poor, unsuspecting soul

It’s Toronto, what else can I say
It’s still a whole lot better than the one I left more than a year ago today

08 Aug

Ode to the NOTL Peach Festival

Today, I enjoyed a bit of a break
As I took in the Peach Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake

It was the second visit to the festival for me
Cogeco was even putting it on TV


Even though the morning crowds were light in the town they used to call Newark
There was not a single place close by for anyone to park




Peaches were available everywhere, even on a truck
You could buy a quart, a basket or just one for a buck





Peaches were in every type of food
There’s one to fit just about any mood

Smoothies, tarts, pies and scones were in the group
There was even chilled peach and yogurt soup

Eating a hot dog with peach relish does not sound like fun
Nor does peach garlic dressing or peach-infused sausage on a bun

Pets were welcome if restrained by a piece of twine
But around food is the not the place to take a canine


The two-man band was playing without a frown
While the horses waited to take visitors around town

The going exchange rate was 20% for those paying with American dollars
This place that was taking U.S. money at par deserved some angry hollers

It was another interesting celebration of the peach
Summed up by these lines of rhyming speech

31 Jul

One Year Later

It’s hard to believe a full year has passed, but tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary of the day I left Winnipeg for the last time and came to settle in St. Catharines. In some ways, it feels like it was yesterday and in others, it feels like it happened more than a decade ago.

The hassle involved in the long-distance move certainly took an emotional toll, but it has paid off in spades. My only regret is that I did not come here sooner. I miss my friends, as I expected to, but I long for little else in the SPRM.

I suppose there’s a part of me that will always be linked to Manitoba. As Sylvester Stallone said about Vietnam in one of the Rambo movies, “As long as we’re alive, it’s alive.” Many positive memories from that part of the world do remain with me, and I try to focus on those instead of the many negative ones that helped fuel my desire to leave.

Today, I am better for having made the move, and I look forward to many more years to come in my new home city.

15 Jul

A Tale of Two Signs

While on North Service Road this morning, I noticed this new sign announcing upcoming bridge work at Victoria Avenue in Vineland in addition to a similar sign farther down the QEW for work at the Ontario Street bridge in Beamsville.


Though the sign is in Liberal red and does have a slogan on it, most of the sign is informational, giving the location and expected completion date of the construction. For a scandal-plagued regime not above raiding the public treasury for self-promotion, I was actually quite impressed that they didn’t go overboard patting themselves on the back.

Contrast that with the approach taken in the SPRM, my former home.

More than a year ago, when I was still there, the Non Democratic Party rolled out a lavish ad campaign at the expense of taxpayers like me, spending over $1 million putting up signs like this at every construction site around the province.


Conspicuously absent are the details of the construction project such as the estimated completion date, cost and the specifics on what’s actually being done. Clearly, the sign’s only purpose is to tell us poor suckers how grateful we should be for the infinite wisdom of the NDP. Steady growth. Good jobs. Words to make any Manitoban, past or present, vomit.

Yet another reason among many that I’m so glad to be out of the SPRM.

07 Jul

Return to Tonawanda

This past weekend, I took my 12th tour of Western New York on two wheels since coming to St. Catharines. I covered 60.9 miles in a trip that took me through Niagara Falls and across Grand Island before returning through Niawanda Park in Tonawanda.

Leaving bright and early, there wasn’t much of a lineup at U.S. customs at the Rainbow Bridge, but I was a little worried when I saw the cars ahead of me getting a much higher level of scrutiny, no doubt on account of the Independence Day holiday. The guards normally stay inside their booths, but they were coming out to meet the cars and checking around the back before going inside to process the passports. Luckily, they let me through with little fanfare.

From the bridge, I followed the trail that runs alongside the Robert Moses State Parkway from Niagara Falls State Park to the North Grand Island Bridge.

I took advantage of the seasonally open washroom there before walking across the nearly mile-long bridge to the island. Grand Island itself has a lot to offer the cyclist, but on this day, I simply cut across the island on Grand Island Boulevard/NY 324.


After crossing the South Grand Island Bridge, I took the trail that follows River Road/NY 266 through Niawanda Park, so named because it follows the Niagara River in Tonawanda. Surely they can do better.


This journey was easily the highlight of the trip. Much like what I found encircling Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, the trail is separated into bike and pedestrian sections and is just as scenic.


On one side is the mighty Niagara River and Grand Island and on the other side is thick greenery.





There are many places like this to rest and enjoy the view before continuing on towards North Tonawanda. Along the way, I spotted ample parking for those coming in a car and there were no less than three sets of public washrooms between the bridge and Seymour Street/NY 265. The only downside were some cracks in the pavement closer to the bridge.

I didn’t take the time to go there, but on the way, you can see the boats docked at nearby Tonawanda Island.

I stopped for a rest at McDonald’s, which once again got my business because, unlike some other quick-serve restaurants, they welcome cyclists by providing a bike rack. Following the break, I continued back on a circuitous path towards the Rainbow Bridge through North Tonawanda.

Longtime readers will understand why this sighting grabbed my attention.

It wouldn’t be a proper trip without snapping some pictures for my road photos site and I was able to supplement my collection with shots like this, soon to appear on a Web site near you.

Along Oliver Street are these painted horses. Such horses can be found at the nearby Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, which the city takes great pride in as “Home of the Carrousel” is proudly proclaimed on each sign entering the city.

When going through Wheatfield, I passed by this one-time Polarski & Son customer, who is obviously dissatisfied with their tree service. I sense some business for members of the legal profession in both parties’ future.

I stopped once again at the park by the North Grand Island Bridge, where a gentleman approached me. Mistaking me for someone he knows, he started asking when they were going to build the third bridge to the island, but all I could give him in response was a blank stare. After establishing that I wasn’t the person he thought I was, he began a little American political dissertation and I just let him talk, leaving my citizenship out of the mostly one-way conversation.

Once I got back to the Rainbow Bridge, I paid my 50-cent toll and then waited for a half hour in line at Canadian customs, where a snarky officer all but insinuated that I was a disloyal slob for cross-border cycling. There are plenty of great cycling opportunities on the Canadian side of the border, which I continue to take advantage of, but that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to the many equally fine places to explore on the U.S. side well within reach.

I look forward to a return visit.

08 Jun

Open House at Tiger Town

Yesterday, I was one of a crowd estimated at around 5,000 at the open house at the Tiger-Cats’ new stadium in Hamilton. Out of respect for Canada’s energy workers, I shall not identify the major corporate sponsor whose name is attached to the facility.

I took the GO bus from Fairview Mall and got off at Nash and Barton, where I took a little tour of Hamilton before heading for the stadium. On the bus, I was hoping to use my PRESTO card for the first time, but the fare box was out of order and, as a result, all the passengers ended up with a free ride.

Not that I was in a hurry, but the bus was several minutes behind schedule. Perhaps I should complain and demand my money back. Every last dime of it.

Parking at the stadium, nestled in the middle of a residential neighborhood, is undoubtedly a chronic problem, even when Ivor Wynne Stadium stood there, but there was plenty of parking for cyclists like me on the plaza off Cannon Street, otherwise known as Bernie Faloney Way.

Parked at one of the racks was this motorcycle, whose owner is obviously a passionate fan. The CFL barely registers on the radar in this part of the world, but you wouldn’t know it by walking around here.

After entering through Gate 1, I was given a free jersey rally towel, which currently hangs from my mantel right next to the IceDogs towel I received at the regular-season finale. The cellophane wrapper had a “Made in China” sticker on it. Buy local. Or not.

Just past the gate is the Seagram Touchdown Lounge, where fans can sit back in comfort and enjoy the game.

Later, I noticed these tables right at field level, presumably reserved for VIP customers. I’m not sure I’d want to sit there for any amount of money. Even at this level, the guys hit pretty hard and that’s a little too close to the action for comfort.


Walking through the concourse and passing the concession stands, I couldn’t help but think back to a year earlier when I was touring Manitoba Taxpayers Stadium for the first and only time. How things have changed over the past year.



The stadium seats only 24,000, making it a target for the critics, who call it a high school stadium. However, I could find little fault with it. Everything looked first-class with all the amenities.



Throughout the stadium, who I presume were Tiger-Cat alumni were signing autographs for eager fans. Since my knowledge of the proud history of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is practically non-existent, I had no idea who these guys were. I thought I recognized former quarterback Chuck Ealey, but that was all. It would have been nice to have signs at each table giving their names.


My next stop was the Champions Club, the full-service restaurant on the club level where you can sit and watch the game while enjoying your meal.

I arrived just as they were finishing with some announcements, but I was still able to partake in some of the free food. To my amazement, it was not a spread of hot dogs, nachos and other assorted junk, but rather yogurt and juices. The yogurt I had didn’t even have any of those hideous artificial sweeteners in it. This deserves a two thumbs up.

While near the podium, I had a nice, long conversation with Carol and Walter, an older couple who are regulars at the games. Carol actually does the face painting on the east side. In addition to being a connoisseur of all things Tiger-Cats along with cheese and sausages, Walter is also an avid cyclist who shared some tips on good places for a ride around the area. I nearly choked when he talked about how dangerous some streets were in Hamilton. I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate what danger means until taking to the streets of the degenerate capital of the SPRM on two wheels. The only thing that prevents me from writing an epic novel on that subject is the painful memories it would dredge up, memories I would rather leave in Canada’s toilet bowl.

After finishing up in the Champions Club, I went down to watch as head coach and general manager Kent Austin put his team through a light workout. It is a refreshing change that the head coach and general manager doesn’t also own the team. Hockey fans reading from the SPRM will understand that reference.



While watching, I couldn’t help but look to my left and notice the escarpment to the south.


Contrasting that view is the industrial sector to the north with all the steel mills.

Hamilton in a microcosm, right from your seat.

After practice, fans were allowed on the field to meet and get autographs from their favorite players, but with a 40-mile bike ride ahead of me to get back to St. Catharines, I left before the practice was over.

It’s not likely I’ll ever go to a game there, but I enjoyed the tour as I continue to explore my new home region.

30 May

Book Release: Shattered Dreams

Hot on the heels of my fourth book, View from Section 26, I am pleased to announce the release of my fifth – Shattered Dreams: Diary and Downfall of a Utopian Socialist in the Heart of the Canadian Prairies. Very different than any of my previous books, this is a heavily sarcastic tale featuring idealistic social worker Gavin York, who sets foot in Winnipeg to begin his career, convinced of his opportunity to change the world. After enduring many trials and tribulations in Canada’s toilet bowl, Gavin eventually sours on his insufferable adopted home city and opens his eyes to the harsh reality of socialism and its disastrous long-term consequences once the unsustainable welfare state in Manitoba comes crashing down on him.


Although this is a work of fiction, it is based on many factual incidents I’ve encountered over the course of many decades in Winnipeg. The reader is free to judge as to its similarity to real life.

Click here for the paperback edition and here for the electronic edition.

03 May

Let’s Go Buffalo

Yesterday, I set off on an epic 67.4-mile biking adventure that took me to Buffalo for the first time, consuming much of the day in the process.

Knowing that Buffalo was a little beyond what I could handle in a single day, I loaded my bike on to a Niagara Regional Transit bus that runs from the St. Catharines downtown terminal to Target Plaza in Niagara Falls, giving me a 14-mile head start. From there, I took the scenic route along the Niagara Parkway to Fort Erie and the Peace Bridge.


I followed the signs and walked my bike over the bridge for what would be the first of four crossings of the mighty Niagara River.


Though there were no problems on the bridge, I was a little surprised there was no guard rail separating vehicle traffic from the sidewalk. I can see why there are so many signs urging cyclists to walk their bikes over the bridge. I hope this will be addressed with the planned makeover this bridge is getting.

After going across I-190, I approached the border station, where you press a button and wait until a guard buzzes you into the building. Cyclists leave their bikes at the rack just outside the door and then go inside.

Everything went fine, but I was a little unnerved when the officer’s handheld radiation detector was going off. He came out from behind the counter and waved it around me, but after taking it inside, he saw it was malfunctioning and let me through. Because it’s not intuitively obvious, he pointed out a door to go through and instructed me to proceed through the parking lot, under the bridge and on to Busti Avenue.

Within minutes of setting foot in Buffalo, I again spotted this Reimer Express truck that passed me when I was walking over the bridge. For those who are unaware, Reimer is based in none other than the degenerate capital of the SPRM. One of my former colleagues, in fact, once worked there. What are the odds of seeing one of their trucks in Buffalo?

From there, I continued south towards the heart of downtown.

Across from the Adam’s Mark Hotel and WKBW, Channel 7.

The train heading north on Main Street.

By accident, I ended up across from Coca-Cola Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons, the AAA affiliate of the Center of the Universe Blue Jays. Apparently, there was a game this afternoon, which helped to dilute the otherwise seedy populace. Going on a weekend does have its advantages in terms of reduced traffic levels, but as they say, there is safety in numbers.

The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library might have been a good place to visit, but I needed my bike to get back home. I suspect the bike sharing program they have in this area is much like the one they have in Winnipeg.

After a lengthy tour of some residential areas that included many stops to take pictures of New York state highway signs, I stopped for a brief respite at George Washington Park. At left is I-190 that follows the Niagara River and at right is Niagara Street/NY 266.

I continued north into a largely industrial area, where I spotted this state trooper cleverly camped out near I-190 and NY 325.

Turning northeast, I followed this trail that follows NY 325 towards the South Grand Island Bridge in the Town of Tonawanda.

Not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda.

Loyal readers can probably guess why I stopped for this picture.

Though I do have a fear of big bridges, needing to economize distance, I opted to take the short cut through Grand Island rather than the longer route through North Tonawanda. It also offered me the opportunity to get off my bicycle seat for a while. On a long outing like this, the seat can start to feel like a javelin.

At least this bridge, along with the North Grand Island Bridge, has a guard rail separating I-190 traffic from pedestrians and cyclists. Interestingly, unlike the northern bridge, there is no sign on this bridge instructing cyclists to walk across the bridge and one cyclist actually passed me while I was walking.

After cutting across Grand Island, I made my way back to Niagara Falls and the now-familiar route down Buffalo Avenue/NY 384 to the Rainbow Bridge. I stopped at the gift shop for a small, but noteworthy souvenir and a bathroom break, then repatriated myself and returned home without incident.

It was a long, but enjoyable experience, one that I’ll likely enjoy more on my next visit, now that I’ve been to Buffalo and am more familiar with the area.