Tag Archives: Presto

03 Apr

Reunion in the Universe’s Center

Highlights from yesterday’s visit to the universe’s center:

0. The purpose of the trip was to reconnect with a good friend and former colleague who recently followed in my footsteps and defected from the SPRM to Ontario. It was nice to see him after nearly a five-year absence and I hope to again make our get-togethers a regular habit, as was the case in the Old Country.

1. When walking down the street just after leaving the house, one of the two-wheeled scavengers who check for buried treasure on garbage day passed by. He needs to lube his chain in the worst way.

2. Seated across the aisle from me was a big, fat dude who I’ve seen regularly on the bus. A heavy smoker who doesn’t miss an opportunity, however small, to sneak in a puff, he was panting and wheezing the whole time he was awake, and from the sound of it, his lungs must look like he had inhaled a bucket of tar. This is someone who needs a serious intervention from family and friends before it’s too late.

3. Perhaps somewhat fittingly, given the occasion, I spotted two trucks from the SPRM at Beamsville, and another pair at the Nash and Barton stop. In addition, someone had a Chipman-logoed bag plainly visible from the back of his SUV. As another good friend of mine would say, “Loser!”

4. Blubber is seemingly always on display, and this heavyweight was packing plenty of it into clothing several sizes too small:

To fully appreciate the experience for yourself, listen to the following video as you picture her waddling across the parking lot at Nash and Barton.

5. Dear Metrolinx: How many years will it take to replace the broken Presto balance checker at Burlington? And how many more years will we have to wait before the Presto machines at Fairview Mall are installed?

6. Before my Lakeshore West train departed Appleby, the customer service ambassador announced, “Standclearofthedoorsthedoorsarenowclosing.” It’s 10 words, not one.

7. A young woman in her mid-20s wearing far too much makeup, lipstick and mascara took a seat opposite me at Bronte and instantly made me regret not packing a gas mask as she must have been marinating in some spicy perfume overnight. As I tried to stop coughing, she spent much of the ride to Union playing with her long, black hair, thinking she was pretty hot stuff. I think there was only one person within sniffing distance who shared that opinion.

8. One guy seated across the aisle was paying her no attention, and instead, his head was back fast asleep with his mouth open catching flies. Perhaps it was the toxic fumes that put him into such a deep sleep.

9. 99 plastic water bottles on the wall …

10. The leftists have even taken over cleaning systems …

11. Spotted in the washroom at Eaton Center was a bag with “Good Things Inside” plastered on it perched on the ledge above a guy doing his business at the urinal. You can’t make stuff like this up. You just can’t.

12. Inside the underground walkway were a number of women who were showing off the obvious results of surgery to enlarge certain body parts which come in pairs.

13. For the second time, I had an issue with the TTC Presto gate at Union, and both times, it had come just after a recent fare load. Since I know they’ve been having issues with those gates, maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe it’s not.

14. Mooooo ….

15. Scene inside Brookfield Place:

16. Parking fail:

17. When leaving the platform at Burlington on the return trip, our bus driver suddenly stopped about a half-block before the light at Fairview Street and waited there for a couple of minutes. Then she jerked forward a few feet and waited a while longer. When she did ultimately pull out of the terminal, she made a right turn on red and royally cut off a black Jeep. Driving the biggest vehicle on the road isn’t a license to act like a jerk.

Then when we got to Nash and Barton, rather than pull up at the stop, she pulled ahead a few feet, partially blocking the entrance to the adjacent strip mall. Act like a professional instead of a Winnipeg Transit wannabe.

04 Jun

An Odd Day on the Train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Scenes in and around Mississauga Celebration Square:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

21 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.