Tag Archives: GO Transit

22 Jun

An Eventful Day Trip to Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, a shot looking south from the front entrance.

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

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

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

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

A gay hairdresser.

Gay pizza.

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

Another gay bank.

Gay tea.

And gay beer.

Rainbow-colored hair, for those so inclined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he told me.

“Tony Tanti.”

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

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

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

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

“See ya later,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Apr

Ottawa Part Deux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Here, the Franco-Ontarian flag flies proudly.

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


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


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

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


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


In case you have guests who need to be laundered.


No running in the poo.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


Crossing the Gatineau River.


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


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

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


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


Monsieur Lub. The language Gestapo would undoubtedly approve.


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


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


I smell another summons from the OQLF coming.


A four-way stop sign in Quebec.


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


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


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

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


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


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


A stick signed by Teemu Selanne.


A replica of Ken Dryden’s iconic mask.


An old Jets cookbook from 81-82.


Even some recognition of the Hot Line and the WHA.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The pathway leading to Promenade de la Gatineau.


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


Heading back to the city.


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


Genocide against First Nations? Give me a break.


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06 Mar

CPC Leadership Event in Burlington

Thoughts and observations on my journey to, from and at the Conservative leadership event at the Burlington Convention Center yesterday:

1. On the GO bus to Burlington, I spotted at least three trucks from Bison Transport on the QEW. As I’ve said before, the SPRM continues to follow me around.

2. Seated across from me on said GO bus were a couple in their early 20s. Like, I don’t know if they, like, could finish a sentence without, like, saying “like.” Needless to say, I was, like, happy when the bus, like, pulled into the Burlington GO station.

3. I really wish they’d finish the work on the Burlington GO station so that I could use a proper washroom there instead of an outhouse.

4. To get me to within a mile of the place, I took Burlington Transit for the first time. On board was a sign, “No smoking, no food, no radios.” Once again, this is not the Old Country.

5. Walking south along Burloak Drive towards the Burlington Convention Center, I passed by Bronte Creek Provincial Park. That looks like a place I’ll want to visit.

6. I wouldn’t have minded the long walk except for what was, by Ontario standards, the miserable weather. I really have become acclimatized in more ways than one.

7. As is normal operating procedure for me, I was plenty early and had a chance to walk around and get some pictures.


There were tables from each candidate who appeared, staffed by campaign volunteers. I spoke to a member of Pierre Lemieux’s campaign, but no others. At each table were brochures outlining each candidate’s platform, but as a party member, I’ve been getting inundated with emails, so I was well aware as to where they stood. I was there to see them in person.

8. I was disappointed to see so much activity around the tables of Kevin O’Leary and Michael Chong. Those two are Liberals masquerading as Conservatives and, as far as I’m concerned, can’t drop out of the race fast enough. On a more positive note, Lisa Raitt had plenty of support in the room.

9. The crowd, estimated to have been between 800 and 900 people, were regular working-class people, many of whom were wearing suits and ties. Shabbily dressed, I almost felt a little out of place.

10. A photographer working the room had a piece of paper with “FUN” printed on it taped to his lens hood. Did he find his job so unfulfilling that he had to remind himself to think happy thoughts?

11. 10 of the 14 candidates were there and nine of them stood for a photo op before the speeches began.


Kellie Leitch, the first speaker, was running late and didn’t get there until just before she was called on stage.

12. Though I liked some of the things she had to say, I hadn’t been impressed with Leitch personally and nothing I saw from her speech convinced me otherwise. She is still not on my ballot. And not because she was, like me, born in the capital of the SPRM.

13. Pierre Lemieux, the third speaker, won some major brownie points with this voter. He got some serious applause for denouncing the carbon tax, and spoke of the need for stricter immigration and fighting against political correctness. He also had an easygoing manner about him that I liked.

14. Erin O’Toole made much of his support for the military, but there’s more to being a future prime minister than supporting the troops. Coming in, he was on my ballot. After his six minutes on stage, he wasn’t.

15. After O’Toole was the faux Conservative Michael Chong, who spent most of his allotted time on his poor immigrant story. It reminded me of listening to Devon Clunis, the ex-chief of the Winnipeg non-police, who bored me and the rest of his audience at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate some years ago repeating his “poor immigrant boy from the North End” story. Clunis turned me off with his self-serving oratory that night and Chong did likewise yesterday afternoon. As I’ve said before, somewhere, there’s a Liberal Party membership card with Chong’s name on it and I hope he avails himself of it.

16. Rick Peterson, perhaps the biggest unknown among the group, followed Chong and boasted, “I’m in it to win it,” yet only today would reveal his platform, months behind his rivals. To borrow a line from Rambo III, before continuing in the race, maybe he should go back home and think it all over again for a very, very long time.

17. Lisa Raitt followed Peterson and, like Lemieux, was impressive. She described herself as “smart, prepared and ruthless.” I like that. Coming in, she wasn’t on my ballot, but with her speech, she got her way back on it and likely in the top five. Maybe even higher.

18. Thanks for coming Chris Alexander, Steven Blaney, Kevin O’Leary and Andrew Saxton. Now please drop out.

19. On the return trip to St. Catharines, I was seated behind an older gentleman exchanging life stories with a 15-year-old girl. After he talked about his 14 grandchildren, she mentioned how her sister, who was 15 at the time, got pregnant and still doesn’t know who the father of her child is. In addition, someone else in her family got pregnant at 13. Try birth control. Better yet, try abstinence.

19a. This 15-year-old is from St. Catharines and spoke about “how bad it was there” because there had been a couple of stabbings of late. People who have never lived outside this part of the world have absolutely no concept of how bad things can really get and, for their sake, I hope they never have to find out. There’s a reason I picked up and left everything I had ever known and came here more two and a half years ago.

19 Feb

Return to Pearson Airport

Yesterday, I made another voyage to the universe’s center, this time making a return trip to Pearson Airport, the place I first touched down as a new Ontario resident following my momentous defection from the SPRM more than two and a half years ago.

Bright and early, as always, I boarded the #12 bus at Fairview Mall for the all too familiar trek to Burlington. It turned out to be a perfect time to go, since there were so few people on the bus and traffic was so light on the QEW. At least on the way there.


The dungeon leading to track 3.


It would go up to +15 on this day, yet they still apparently needed the proverbial ton of salt. You can never, it seems, put down enough salt in this part of the world. Sometimes I wonder why the salt trucks aren’t out in the middle of July.


As the Lakeshore West train was pulling up to the platform, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a 20-something woman shivering as if it was -45, like they had in the Old Country this winter. These people just don’t know how lucky they are not to have suffered through such bitter cold. And on two wheels, like I have.


Aboard the train was this highly offensive ad from CBC Radio. It wasn’t the ad specifically, but the fact that it came from one of the world’s leading purveyors of left-wing political propaganda. I certainly hope GO reconsiders and refuses to accept advertising from such revulsive sources.


From Union Station, following a short break, I made for the subway station.


The entrance to the subway station.

Union, like all the other stations in the system, now accepts PRESTO cards, but for those who don’t have one or haven’t heard of PRESTO, you can pay with cash at the booth.


Waiting for the subway.


Minutes later, the subway came, and I got off to change to the #2 line at the St. George station. For the benefit of those who haven’t taken the subway and need to transfer to a different line, there is always an announcement to that effect when approaching a connecting station.


From there, I proceeded down the escalator, where the #2 was waiting for me. Yes, there are multiple levels underground. I know of at least one reader who is bothered by that concept.


Aboard the #2 line, I made myself comfortable as it made its way westward toward the Kipling station, the western terminus of the line.


Back up at street level, there were platforms for many bus routes, including one for the 192 Airport Rocket, an express route to Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. There was even a bus waiting, but first, I took off on foot to get some highway pictures of 427 a short distance away.

During my hour-long diversion, I managed to avoid getting accosted by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were canvassing the area around Bloor Street and got some excellent shots, soon to appear on a website near you.

I then returned to the Kipling station and caught the Airport Rocket bus. All TTC buses now accept PRESTO and, like many OC Transpo buses in Ottawa, you can even board in the rear if you are paying with PRESTO. Being at the Kipling station, however, you can’t even get to the platform without paying, so it was all academic.

As the name of the route suggested, after putting on his seat belt, the driver then rocketed north on 427 before meandering around the airport until reaching ground level at Terminal 1.


While there, I toured around at got some pictures. When flying to and from the universe’s center in the past, I had only been in Terminal 3, so this part of the adventure was all new.


Of note in this shot was the booth for the Peel Regional Police. For those who are not aware, Pearson Airport is actually located in Mississauga, not Toronto.

Next, I followed the signs to the link train, a free service which takes passengers to and from Terminal 3 and the attached Sheraton Hotel.


There are two sets of tracks and seats inside each car for the short trip between terminals. As shown in the first shot, the arrival times are pegged to the second.


Inside Terminal 3, I toured around before stopping for a break, not coincidentally, by the Niagara Airbus check-in desk by Door C.


There, I could not help but think back to the 2013 trip when I came St. Catharines for the first time to investigate the possibility of relocating to the city. It was in front of this desk where I sat wondering lay in store and whether or not this dream would ever become reality. As loyal readers are well aware, less than a year later, it did.

Following the break, I returned to Terminal 1 via the link train, then took the much-heralded UP Express train back to Union. At $9 for PRESTO users, it is a little more pricey than the $3 subway fare, but it gets you back to Union in only 25 minutes, and without having to change subway lines.


Inside, there are special luggage storage areas, plugs and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are even pull-down trays, just like on an airplane. Regrettably, announcements are made in Canadian and Quebecese and, unlike the case on GO trains, staff come around to verify tickets. In the case of PRESTO users, they scan your card to check that you did indeed tap on before you boarded.


Leaving Terminal 1.


Once at Union, simply follow the signs to guide you through the maze. In addition to the walkway to catch a GO train, VIA train or TTC subway line, there is also a walkway to the Toronto Convention Center.

Before returning home, I needed to visit a couple of places, so I exited via Front Street, where I spotted a pair of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign that read, “Homeless and hungry, any little bit helps.” They didn’t have money for food, but they did have money for cigarettes. But, as someone once said to me, I just don’t understand the real issues behind poverty.

Moving on, I returned to Union and caught what was a crowded Lakeshore West train back to Burlington in enough time to catch the 2:54 #12 bus back to St. Catharines.


As you can see, I was certainly not the only one waiting for the bus. Maybe one of these days, GO will increase the frequency of this route. Though our mayor seems convinced otherwise, I’m not sure the daily train service to Niagara will become reality any time soon.

Decompressing after a long day, what was probably the most humorous part of the trip began when a retired steelworker with a faint odor of alcohol on his breath got on at Stoney Creek and sat next to me. We began talking and when I told him I was originally from Winnipeg, he began talking about his relatives in Chilliwack, BC, almost as if I was supposed to know them. As I’ve observed more than once since moving here, “out West” is just some small place on the fringe of the Earth where everyone more or less knows each other. In many respects, people from Southern Ontario are like Americans, whose only knowledge of Canada consists of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and assume every Canadian lives in or near one of those three cities.

It got even funnier when I was mentioning the bitter cold in Winnipeg, which he began to equate with the climate in Chilliwack. Of course Winnipeg and Chilliwack have the same climate. Didn’t you know that? I’ll take this opportunity to pause and allow you to finish laughing hysterically before proceeding.

As we got closer to St. Catharines, as part of his life story, he mentioned that his father has “Altheimer’s.” Well, whatever that is. I hope it’s nothing like Alzheimer’s.

That conversation certainly proved to be the perfect way to cap off what was an interesting little mini-holiday.

31 Jan

Another Tour of Hamilton

Observations from yesterday’s tour of downtown Hamilton:

1. The GO bus leaving Fairview Mall was more than 10 minutes late, but the driver actually apologized and vowed to try and make up time on the way. It is another sharp contrast from the Old Country, where the driver would probably drive extra slow just to piss his passengers off even more.

2. There was someone from Quebec boarding at Fairview and, obviously unable to speak Canadian, simply held up her cell phone to the driver to tell him where she was going. Interesting idea. If I visit that country again, perhaps I should come prepared with a picture of a sub should I need to stop while on the wrong side of the border.

3. On the opposite side of the aisle was a gentleman having a very deep, involved conversation with himself. Moving his arms and talking out loud, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his own company.

4. Seated in front of this talkative gentleman was someone stretched out over both seats snoozing away. I wonder if she asked the driver to wake her at her stop.

5. Kudos to that GO driver who waited until the senior who boarded at Beamsville got to the top of the steps before taking off.

6. I noticed GO has finally indicated “Beamsville” on the new Ontario Street/QEW stop. It was long overdue, as there are three exits in Niagara for an Ontario Street, the others coming in Grimsby and St. Catharines.

7. Upon reaching Stoney Creek and the stop for the now-infamous Barton bus, I was asked by a younger dude in dreadlocks if he could use my cell phone. Not that I have one, but I wouldn’t have made the assumption he only wanted to use it temporarily.

8. I’m not sure it was safe for him to do it, but more kudos to the same GO driver for letting that young woman on despite being in the left-hand turning lane at the on-ramp for the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

9. HSR is now putting CBC “news” up on their video screens for the benefit of those sitting in the back. Needless to say, I found this deeply offensive.

10. I was even more offended when one of these CBC “news” segments showed a picture of the Government Forks in Winnipeg. The SPRM does have a way of following me around.

11. While stopping for a picture on Ferguson in the International Village, a woman carrying a tray full of Mr. Horton’s delicacies made a point of telling me, “If you see someone falling from the seventh floor, don’t mind it because it won’t be me.” Not only did I not see that one coming, but there were no buildings in the immediate vicinity that even had seven floors.

12. There were plenty of beggars out and about, though they were at least polite and somewhat respectful. One was seated on the sidewalk outside Hamilton City Center with his legs stretched out. Another was standing right outside the door at another of Mr. Horton’s locations asking “You don’t happen to have a nickel or a dime towards a bagel, eh?” After ignoring him, he said, “Sorry for bothering you.” All told, I was accosted three times throughout the day.

12a. Later that evening, a friend who I was speaking with on the phone said that if I had wanted to do something different with my life, I could have made a good counsellor. I’ll pause for a moment while you get all that laughter out of your system.

13. It is not a proper trip on the Barton bus without getting at least one mother with a stroller in tow. There might even be some sort of transit by-law requiring it.

14. I know only those of you from the SPRM who use or have used Winnipeg Transit will appreciate this comment, but it’s still a novelty not having to use a battering ram to get out the back door. On all HSR buses I’ve been on, the back doors open automatically and there’s never been a problem.

15. For a complete set of pictures, click here.

04 Jan

Visiting Hamilton and Dundas

Thoughts from my journey to Hamilton and Dundas today:

1. While waiting at Fairview Mall for the GO bus this morning, someone was out in a Bobcat spreading salt by the ton. OK, it had rained overnight. But it was above freezing, and it wasn’t as if there wasn’t any salt on the ground left over from the last unnecessary dumping. One more reason why I call Ontario the Great Salt Republic.

1a. A salt truck threw up at various intervals along the trail following Cootes Drive between McMaster and Dundas.


Yes, Virginia, they do use a lot of salt in this part of the world.

2. Again, someone on the GO bus charged upstairs, parked himself in the front seat, then leaned back, closed his eyes and started snoozing. There’s got to be something about that front seat that makes it more conducive to catching up on lost sleep. I just don’t know what it is.

3. The Barton bus in Hamilton was again an experience to behold. For starters, seated across from me was a rotund woman with only house slippers on her feet. Her only pair of socks must have been in the wash. Then some scruffy, bearded character got on and pretended like he was the driver’s best friend. Later on, he fancied himself as a goodwill ambassador for HSR when he greeted some young man with a “Happy New Year, eh?”

He was also anxious to fill us in on his upcoming wedding plans. “She loves my pension check,” he boasted. One thing’s for sure, she’s not marrying him for his looks.

3a. There was an ad on the bus with the caption, “Ride with Compassion.” Given how our Liberal mayor has been carrying on about his “compassionate city model,” I am genuinely surprised such ads are not on St. Catharines buses yet.

4. Despite the warning sign, I didn’t see any turtles trying to cross the road.


5. Along Cootes Drive, I spotted a truck from Trans-Ontario Express. No doubt, they provide nationwide service from Windsor to Cornwall. I suspect most readers from the Great Salt Republic won’t get it.

6. For anyone looking to recycle their community:


6a. I support the concepts of reuse and recycling, but some communities are beyond that stage and, in a figurative sense, just need to be hauled out to the landfill. One in particular comes to mind, and I think perceptive readers might be able to guess which one I’m thinking of. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Actually, yes, I am. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

7. I was accosted twice in downtown Hamilton, although the accosters were at least polite.

8. Scenes from downtown Dundas for your viewing pleasure:


9. I wasn’t aware I needed to bring a Windows installation disc for my return trip on the GO bus:

10 Dec

Touring Downtown Hamilton

Thoughts, pictures and observations from my trip to Hamilton and tour of downtown today:

0. For the full collection of pictures, check the public album I posted on Facebook here.

1. You are not a true St. Catharines resident until you have sat and waited at the GO stop at Fairview Mall. It seems to be a rite of passage in these parts.

1a. You are not a true St. Catharines resident until you have left your car at the unofficial park and ride location at Fairview Mall.

1b. Why, pray tell, is there an official park and ride in Beamsville but not in Niagara’s largest city?

2. I was so relieved to see this sign when I got to Fairview. Here I was ready to jump on any old bus that came along.


3. You can always tell whether it is a weekday or on the weekend on the GO bus based on the percentage of people who pay with Presto. Weekday travelers mostly pay with Presto, while on the weekends, most pay with cash. Today, for example, I was the only one of a dozen who paid with Presto.

4. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see this dumping of salt in Grimsby, but I was. After all, this is Saltario and a light dusting of snow came down overnight. Call out the Army, for the love of Pete!™


5. Taking the Barton bus in Hamilton is an experience in itself. Low-income, shabby neighborhoods, strollers and cranky kids galore along with characters missing most of their teeth make for interesting writing fodder. If I lived in Hamilton, I might soon have enough material for a book.

5a. One of these days, I need to walk down Barton and get the full experience on the ground.

6. At a side-by-side storefront on Barton, one half was “Diapers 4 All” and the other half was a hair salon. Now there’s an interesting mix of competing smells.

7. One restaurant on Barton advertised their “feeding hours” out front.

8. One guy sitting near the back door used his loud, screeching voice to keep a running conversation going with a reluctant driver.

8a. Whatever those drivers get paid, I’m not sure it’s enough.

9. Once again, welcome to Saltario:


10. There’s a Catharine Street in Hamilton, yet in St. Catharines, there’s a Catherine Street. Go figure.


11. No slackers here:


12. They settle for nothing less than top spot at this block:


13. Another plate from the Old Country. That place just keeps following me around.


13a. As I was saying, that place just keeps following me around.


14. Many men get served here, but who’s the lone woman?


15. Now which political party do you suppose these people support?


16. Undoubtedly featuring products made right here on Earth:


17. Rub Aladdin’s lamp and take off on your magic carpet:


18. Quack:


19. For anyone planning to liquidate their family:


20. Bike rentals available right in the heart of downtown, proof that I wasn’t in the Old Country, where they would be vandalized and/or stolen within a half hour.


21. I toured Jackson Square and Hamilton City Center, indoor malls with many shops including a full-service grocery store. They were clean and I didn’t feel unsafe. For the benefit of those from the SPRM, the mirror opposite of Portage Place. It’s amazing the difference having fewer “ambassadors” can make. You know, the kind of “ambassadors” that keep trying to relieve you of even more of your money than they’ve already taken and flushed down the toilet.

22. Attached to Jackson Square is the Hamilton Public Library. It opens at 9:00 am on Saturdays. Unlike the downtown library in the Old Country that didn’t open until 10:00. Old gripes die hard.

22a. I have no doubt some staff at the Millennium Library still wonder what happened to me. To say the least, I was quite a fixture at the microfilm counter.

23. One store on James Street wrote their offerings on the sidewalk:


24. The Hamilton Store. In Hamilton, no less. You don’t say.


25. I didn’t see Rhoda here:


26. How very Ontario:


27. It was customer appreciation day for Presto users on the eastbound Barton bus that took me back to Stoney Creek thanks to a malfunctioning Presto reader.

28. Soon after I boarded the eastbound Barton bus, the driver took off just as a would-be passenger running after the bus got to the back door. It was a classic moment so reminiscent of my days taking Winnipeg Transit.

29. It was just a light dusting of snow. Honest.


30. Back in St. Catharines, it looked like a salt truck threw up on Scott Street. As I said, it was just a light dusting of snow we had.

19 Mar

Planet Toronto

Yesterday, I made my long-awaited inaugural visit to the Center of the Universe. It was also my first time using GO as I took the bus from Fairview Mall in St. Catharines to the Burlington GO station, then transferred to the Lakeshore West train that goes to Union Station in Toronto. It seemed odd having to use public transit to go there, as I remain surprised that the vortex generated by the Center of the Universe doesn’t just suck all of us in St. Catharines right across the lake, but there’s probably an explanation that only people with a more detailed knowledge of physics and gravity would understand.

Along with many others, I boarded the #12 GO bus that begins in Niagara Falls and makes stops in St. Catharines, Grimsby, Stoney Creek and finally the Burlington GO station. I noted with interest that the bus had a bike rack, as do all GO buses and trains, and I expect to be making use of those facilities in the near future.

117_insidebus
There is no GO outlet in St. Catharines, so you have to buy your ticket from the driver. You can purchase a one-way or return ticket, or alternatively, you can use the Presto card. It is a simple system to use, just tap your card on the reader when boarding and again when you exit. At the train station, tap your card on the many readers before you get on and tap it again when you get to your destination. Coming from Winnipeg, I feel like I advanced about three decades worth of technology.

013_go_burlington

014_go_burlington
Following the crowd out to the platform, the eastbound train that began at the Aldershot station soon arrived and I went up to the upper level.

017_insidetrain
After finding an empty seat, I noticed the absence of garbage, condom wrappers, vomit and graffiti, all too common sightings on Winnipeg Transit’s buses. Everything looked reasonably clean and as I’ve said before, I could get used to this.

115_pop
Not unexpectedly, there was no one there to take tickets as we boarded. Like they do in the Twin Cities and in Calgary, they rely on an honor system called Proof of Payment (POP). As one loyal reader laughs hysterically at the acronym, this is clearly not a system that would ever work in Winnipeg. In order to use an honor system, there has to be honor and precious little of it exists in the capital of the SPRM.

112_insidetrain
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the upper level on each car is designated as a quiet zone on weekdays. Even more surprising was that it seemed to be respected. On Winnipeg Transit, it is unusual to not have a bus full of people yakking on their cell phones and/or with the volume on their music players turned up to jet-engine levels.

113_insidetrain
Another nice feature was the emergency alarm, although the clientele was considerably less seedy than the usual collection of bums, hooligans and indigents that patronize Winnipeg Transit. In Winnipeg, such an alarm would be useful in notifying the driver in the rare occasion when there isn’t a problem.

As the train sped off towards the Center of the Universe, I couldn’t help but think of Rapid Transit, Winnipeg’s laughable attempt to get out of the dark ages. For those not aware, Winnipeg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars they don’t have, not for a fantastic service like GO, but for a short, dedicated transitway for their buses that saves three or four minutes for those commuting to the south end of the city. I recommend they rebrand this service as Winnipeg Area Interurban Transit and prominently use its acronym, WAIT.

019_union
After an enjoyable ride, it was time to disembark at Union Station and begin my day exploring the universe’s center, or at least a small portion of it.

029_expectingyou
Apparently, they were expecting me.

030_streetcar
On the way to the Eaton Center, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many streetcars like this one. It would have been nice if Winnipeg had these when I lived there. Oh right, they did. And got rid of them. Another in a series of foolish moves made by the less than stellar leadership in that part of the world. Pardon me while I shake my head. As my Twitter profile says, I’m still a recovering ex-Winnipegger. Having spent so long in the SPRM’s degenerate capital, as a friend recently suggested, it’s kind of like PTSD.

I also noticed many subway stations, though I didn’t use it on this trip. Perhaps in a future trip I will.

031_eatoncenter
Though I didn’t spend long there, the Eaton Center sparkles for its upscale clientele. For the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, this is not Portage Place, not by a long shot.

104_eatoncenter
I even found this recharging station for tablets and phones. Even more amazing was that it had not been vandalized or used as a toilet. Once again, I could get used to this.

036_cityhall
Moving on, I stopped for this shot outside City Hall.

035_outsidecityhall
People enjoying themselves at this outdoor skating rink.

045_bikeshare
Given the astounding number of bikes I saw throughout the downtown area, I wasn’t surprised when I saw this, one of many Bike Share Toronto locations, similar to the Nice Ride MN I saw so often throughout the Twin Cities.

046_bikeshare
At automated machines like this, for $7, you can rent a bike for 24 hours or for $15, you can have it for three days. Winnipeg also has a bike share program, but it works a little differently. There, you take your bike downtown, lock it up, and a scumbag will cut the lock and share your bike with you. Unfortunately, one of the program’s drawbacks is that you never see your bike again.

051_11a_queenspark
My next destination was Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislative building. I was surprised that it was so much smaller than its counterpart in the SPRM. When designing the building, no doubt the SPRM’s early pioneers had visions of grandeur for their new province, visions that have obviously never been realized.

053_queenspark

059_pmont
On the grounds and nearby were markers honoring past prime ministers of Ontario. Yes, you read that right, prime ministers, not premiers. Not only do many Ontarians think of their own province as a self-contained country, but in some cases, even Torontonians think of their own city as a nation. Overheard in one store in Eaton Center was a clerk who, when a customer mentioned St. Catharines, said, “St. Catharines, that’s still in Canada, right?”

Last I heard, St. Catharines was indeed still in Canada unless I missed the news item where the Regional Municipality of Niagara had declared independence. We are, after all, a distinct society.

055_treesforcu
At the north end of the building is an actual park, filled with, gasp, regular people.

060_22mill
Not that I would ever want to live there, but for those who do, it does not come cheaply. Consider this three-bedroom condo that will set you back a cool $2.2 million. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

DSC03242
Needing to refuel, I stopped at this Subway on Bay Street, apparently in the newly renamed city of “Tronto.”

061_toilet
After eating, I went to the washroom, where the seat was missing. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to sit down.

064_baystreet
Continuing down Bay Street, my curiosity was piqued when I saw a mass of humanity congregating on the sidewalk.

067_line
As I got closer, I saw that it was a line waiting to get into Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake, which I later learned is part of a chain that has outlets in eight different Asian countries. I happened to be going by less than an hour after the grand opening of their only Canadian location, or should I say their only Toronto location. Their “soft and fluffy” cheesecakes in flavors such as green tea, honey and chocolate are evidently quite popular.

073_camp
Having escaped the cheesecake rush, I noticed the belongings of a homeless person lying unattended on the street. The fact that they had not yet been stolen was yet another indicator that I was no longer in Winnipeg, where thieves will nab anything, regardless of value.

106_bum
Later on, I stumbled on this guy who had just checked into the Bay Street Hilton. Perhaps he was the proud owner of those items.

095_redstuff
South of the Gardiner Expressway, I stumbled upon these three bottles filled with an unidentifiable red beverage. Even though I was getting a little thirsty, I decided to pass on this complimentary offering.

098_hhof

100_hhof
By accident, I passed by the site of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even with more time, I’m not sure I would want to visit because of its affiliation with that other major league and because of its decision to induct members on the basis of political correctness instead of merit.

102_indian
For a veteran of downtown Winnipeg, this was again an unusual sighting, not because of the statue itself, but because of the lack of vandalism. It wasn’t even bolted down.

025_union
Returning to Union Station for the trip home, I first went to the GO ticket counter, then out to the platform to catch the train.

107_union

114_train
I had a bit of a wait at the Burlington GO station for the #12 bus, but I got back safe and sound. I was just as overwhelmed by the great public transit system we have here in southern Ontario as I was by Toronto, but it was well worth the trip and one I will likely be repeating.