Friday, July 19, 2019

Canada - Part 3

Day 25 - July 4

Woo July 4th. Not a huge deal in Canada. Saw one girl in an American Flag outfit, and when I asked if she was American she said naw, it was just the occasion.

It was another day with a lot of driving. I expect I'll be saying that a lot as I make my way through central Canada and the "flyover states  provinces."

My first stop was the maritime museum in Selkirk, covering a lot of the history around Lake Winnipeg. I wandered around the ships for a short time, but they were all fairly modern and most of the history was within the last 80 years. Not my preferred era for maritime history, and definitely not my preferred region.

Drove up to Winnipeg Beach and relaxed for a while. I went swimming as much as I could do, since the water was REALLY shallow and only came up to my knees for a quarter mile or so. It was still fun to walk around the lake and see the tiny fish swimming around my ankles.

Relaxed on the beach and read a while. I think I'm gonna try to take it easy for the rest of the trip, and not push myself as hard to see everything. My FOMO is diminishing, and that feels like a good thing.

Got dinner at a pub called Ship and Plough in Gimli, then walked around enjoying the waterside. There was a lot of Icelandic history to learn about in the visitors center, with viking landmarks and statues strewn about the small town.

My evening drive led me through a beautiful patchwork of canola farms, all in bloom with brilliant carpets of canary yellow that spread beyond the horizon. There might have been a hundred small lakes all dotting the farmlands, creating a striking spotted pattern of blue among the neat rows of yellow.

Its a huge contrast to the larger mountains and dense forests of Ontario.

Day 26 - July 5

Welp, that was it for Manitoba! The province is narrow near the border, and there wasn't much I wanted to do besides visit the lake, so it felt good to move on.

After five more hours of farmland driving, I'm already sick of the landscape. I get it. Its pretty. Please give me something new.

The main stop in Saskatchewan for me was at a mineral spring an hour or two before Saskatoon. in my continued efforts to take things slow, I parked at Manitou Beach for most of the day. I splurged on a one hour massage, getting a lot of the kinks out of my neck and back from driving for hours and sleeping in the car for weeks. That combined with a few hours of floating in the hot mineral pool, really did me a lot of good.

It was soooooooo amazing to relax and just float around in the water for a while. The last time I went to a mineral spring, my hair was super long and it weighed down my head. This time my head floated just as nicely as the rest of me, and I was able to let my arms drift aimlessly to my sides.

Afterwards I showered (yay a shower!) and walked around the hotel and main crawl. Instead of bar hopping, I stopped in a small dive-y place and enjoyed a few drinks while reading my book. A few girls came in to plan a spot for their bachelorette party, and I got randomly invited. Decided I didn't want to spend my evening around a group of screaming girls, however, and made my departure before sundown.

Definitely went far over budget today... will have to worry about that later.

Day 27 - July 6

Stayed in Saskatoon last night, but didn't linger for anything in the city. Instead I went south to a cute breakfast spot called the Berry Barn to have waffles with local Saskatoon berries. It was a nice outdoor meal on the edge of a river, and I took my time. Walked around their garden center afterwards just enjoying the plantlife.

The next stop was a feature called "The Crooked Bush" - a copse of strangely twisted trees in the middle of flatland. It was an unusual stop, and a little far off the beaten path. Still, the drive was nice, and I was able to finally finish all my Harry Potter audiobooks. I had been due for a re-"read."

Saskatchewan was also a bit narrow without much to do, so I continued to Edmonton, Alberta for the night. I can finally see the hint of mountains on the horizon, again!

I started the evening by going straight to the mall. It was closing in a few hours, but I walked around and looked for a spot to grab dinner. Found a Sherlock themed pub and relaxed there for a while, then took off to find a Walmart for the night.

Day 28- July 7

This mall is freaking crazy. There is a hockey rink, a petting zoo, an amusement park with several rides, an indoor "pool" that simulates the ocean with waves and everything, plus waterslides on the side, and an area with a giant pirate ship and seal performance. Yes, a seal will come out and do tricks. Plus plenty of other things I'm sure I'm forgetting, I'm sure.

I met up with an old WoW friend for a late breakfast and caught up. Mostly we reminisced about old times, occasionally talking about games we're currently playing. We walked around the mall a while, trying to find me new shoes (since my current ones are really worn out). No luck, but it was fun hanging out in real life, even if the mall was starting to get to me. It was hella crowded, and I started feeling anxious to leave.

I took off and found a little dive bar for dinner, then drove the three hours to Calgary for the night. Calgary was described as "Texas in Canada" but it really just looked like a terrifying sprawling suburb. Luckily tomorrow's activities will be more rural.

Day 29 - July 8

Okay first stop had to be an oil change. I was a few *cough*thousand*cough* miles over when I should have gotten it changed last, so it felt like the right thing to do.

My second stop for the day was at a train-themed tourist stop called Aspen Crossing. It was mostly children's activities, but I had lunch in a renovated old train car and walked around the tracks looking at the old trains.

Since I was in the area, I had to stop at a town called Vulcan. Originally named after the god, its now a destination point for Trekkies. Luckily for my social threshold, I arrived a few weeks before the major convention, and enjoyed the visitors center. Bought a little magnet of Jadzia Dax cause bae.

The ultimate stop I was looking forward to was Dinosaur Provincial Park in the badlands. It was a breathtaking area to hike through, full of amazing rock formations and archaeological points of interest. I spent several hours exploring the layered almost-mesas and marveling at the paths carved out by rainfall. Definitely would have loved more time there.

Day 30 - July 9
I spent  the morning exploring some of the smaller towns in the area, grabbing lunch at a kitschy saloon in an old ghost town. It was an interesting bar, covered in taxidermy and old licence plates. The town had very stereotypically been a mining town, and it shut down shortly after the mine closed.

Drumheller was the best place to stop for the more touristy side of the badlands. Gift shops and dinosaur statues were everywhere. There were also quite a few museums and other dinosaur-related activities, such as a "dig up your own fossil" sand park for kids. I didn't make time for any of the museums, sadly, but I did stop at the badlands amphitheater. That was phenomenal! It was really slow so the lady at the front personally showed me around after I mentioned my interest in theater. I got to see the backstage area, costume department, and rehearsal stage. Truly a remarkable theater, and one I'd love to return to for a performance.

After that I backtracked a bit through Calgary, then proceeded to the rocky mountains. The terrain went from badlands, to farmland, to suburbs, to spruce forest, to mountains. It felt like clear lines of delimitation each time

If I thought the Rockies in the US were huge, I was wrong. In Canada they're gigantic. You feel so tiny when passing through them. Like a child sneaking behind the counter of an ice cream shop - just to be there, and not because you can actually reach any of the ice cream. I was in giant's country; where humans aren't supposed to go.

I stopped in Banff for a small meal and walked around the art galleries. There was a textiles store I was proud of myself for not buying anything in, and it was nice appreciating the quilts on display. Picked up some nice chocolates at a candy shop, instead. Then spent the rest of the evening enjoying the fresh air and conifer trees as I lazily strolled through the town.

That night I had to backtrack a bit for a grocery store, but I was in luck. I found a genuine caravaning spot! It was full of hippies in their cars, vans, and tiny trailers. I parked next to a gay couple from Quebec who had their tent on top of their jeep. They also had a golden retriever I was all-too happy to keep an eye on while they ran to the store. It was very much a Burning Man environment, where music was playing from every other vehicle, folks were cooking food while sitting in their trunks, and everyone strolled by to offer their extra food, booze, or pot. I settled for having one of my own gummies, then walked around and met a few neighbors. Once it started kicking in, I relaxed in my trunk for a while just knitting, happily chatting with anyone who wanted to swing by.

It was such a comfortable environment. Really made me miss the desert.

Day 31 - July 10

The area we were in didn't allow parking between 7am and 9am, so it ended up being an early morning. One by one engines started up and people began filing out; some quietly and some waving while hollering their well-wishes to those they met the night before.

I passed back through Banff and continued on to Lake Louise. Stopped at a little cafe for a coffee and explored the shopping center to look at local crafts. Paused for a while at the visitors center before proceeding to the lake. It was so crowded! There wasn't any parking at the lake itself, so I had to drive a bit out of the way to a shuttle area. Then the wait for the shuttle was a full hour -_-

I got some knitting done in the meantime, so that was nice. And by the time I got there, it absolutely felt worth it. The water was an aqua blue-green, and as still as ice. It had been raining that morning so everything felt fresh and clean, and very peaceful once you lose sight of the throng for a bit. I walked the edge of the lake a while, ducking into the forest for an hour or so, knowing I didn't have much time for a full hike. Instead I spent a bit more time relaxing at the fancy hotel cafe, having a local craft beer and chatting happily with the bartender about shitty tourists. Ironic, I know.

That pretty much took up the full day, so after lingering once again at the lake for a moment, I took the shuttle back down to my car. The drive through the rest of Banff park was lovely, and I mostly played music while keeping the windows down.

With great regret, I made my way through to the other side of the Rockies, and parked at a small town in British Columbia for the night.

The last province  I'll be visiting.

Day 32 - July 11

Holy shit gas is expensive here. It's like 30 more cents per liter.

Its fine though. I paid for what was to be my last tank of gas in Canada, and continued on my way to Vancouver. First stop - Botanical Gardens! I never get tired of city gardens :)

Another lovely scene to walk around for a few hours. I could go on about the variety of trees and flowers, and my excitement at seeing California poppies again, but the real feature was the hedge maze. Its a fairly complex hedge maze that was a TON of fun to navigate through. It was also greatly enhanced by a summer camp group running about it, screaming for their lost friends and playing "avoid the monster" games. I spent way too much time just at the maze, watching tired camp counselors and excited post-lunch children just being children.

Took a break for some tasty sushi, some thrift shopping in a continued attempt to find more boots (which failed), and drove to the Bloedel Conservatory. Its an amazing little biodome full of exotic birds that just fly around freely. It reminded me a lot of the butterfly conservatory in Lowell. Only this one had more children trying to Disney-princess the birds onto their hands or fingers. Very cute to watch, and worth a good hour for the visit.

Then it was time for a semi-famous tiki bar called the Shameful Tiki Room (which, interestingly enough, has a Toronto location that I missed). Every time someone ordered a fancy group drink, it started the simulation for a thunder storm. It was dimly lit and kept cozy for a tropical environment. Very enjoyable!

Finally, it was time for an early night. I splurged on an airbnb in the north end of Vancouver for a bed and shower. Took some time to relax and write a while.

In just a few days I'll be back in the states!

Day 33 - July 12

Started the morning with a nice brunch downtown! Went to the Jam Cafe first but the wait was about an hour for a Friday morning... so I found another place around the corner that was perfectly delicious and just right at 11am.

I explored Gastown a little, but there really wasn't much to do. Went to an ammonite jewelry store and drooled a while, but that's about it. Also, this city has a serious homeless problem. Its horrid! I haven't seen it this concentrated since Salinas, with tent cities and people filling the sidewalk. I know its a major city, but I always had a better impression of Canada than that. I must not have traveled through those areas in other parts of the country.

Walked down the waterfront for over an hour, making my way slowly to the Roedde House Museum. That was fascinating! It was an old Victorian home once owned by a bookbinder, made up to how it used to be when his family lived there. Lost of great furniture and incredible outfits.

I grabbed a Turkish pastry for breakfast tomorrow, then moved on to a nice seafood place for dinner. Hooray for happy hour! Had dollar oysters and a cheap glass of wine. Chatted with a local about what to see on Granville Island, since I'd be heading there later today. It sounds like a big touristy place, but there's a lot more art than I'd have expected!

Once I got there, it definitely felt like an artistic collective. Rows of unique artists had store fronts attached to their workshops, and most were working on their craft while an employee or fellow artist manned the counter. From glass blowers to wood carvers and all types of painting, it was a great place to walk around and explore. There was also a unique sake tasting room, distillery, and microbrewery. Naturally, I spent a bit of time in each one.

Then it was time for the original reason I went to Granville Island: Chris got me tickets to a Star Wars burlesque show! I was so blown away... Front row seats, too! The show itself was a blast. R2D2 was played by a cute girl on rollerskates and blue pigtails who said "beep boop" in various combinations to communicate. Her and C3P0 were constantly making out. Luke was a really squeemish dude who flinched at all the sexual content, while Obi-wan was a really hot guy with long hair filled with glitter, so that every time he "swooshed" it dramatically, a trail of sparkles was left behind. Darth Vader was a fantastic drag queen. The whole performance was incredible.

It was a perfect way to spend my last evening in Canada.

Day 34 - July 13

I started the morning in Stanley Park, enjoying the Pacific Ocean for the first time in years. Munching on the pastry I'd picked up the day before, I walked the waterline. This was my last morning in Canada. I wanted to make it count.

As it got closer to 11am, I made my way back into the city. The gaming tavern I'd found in Toronto had two branches out in Vancouver - one of them being the original location. So naturally I had to visit both. The Toronto location was called Storm Crow Manor, while the Vancouver ones were called the Storm Crow Alehouse and the Storm Crow Tavern. Very cute gimmik.

I got an early lunch at the alehouse, then jaunted to the tavern for a drink. If you get their Irish coffee you can purchase the mug for a little extra, and seeing as I've already earned the shot glass, I might as well have a mug too :)

It felt like a good final stop for the trip.

I tipped my server with the last of my change and made my way toward the border.
That's when things got awkward.

You see, I still had some of the gummies on me. Its legal in Canada, and legal in Washington, but I'd forgotten it was still illegal on a federal level. It didn't even cross my mind - especially after living in Massachusetts for so long and working at a place where one of my producers handed out jars of pot as a Christmas gift.

So when I got pulled over for a search (since my car was packed with moving stuff) I got nervous. They asked me to declare anything I had - so I did. A bottle of wine from Quebec, some leftover candy from who knows where, and the gummies. Then they proceeded to tear my car apart...

Meanwhile, I was brought into the immigration center for more questioning. Because of the gummies, there was some paperwork required. Trying not to panic, I was up front and honest about everything. Got searched by a very stern lady cop (if cop is the right title) who managed to give me a sympathetic look when she was done feeling me up.

Then I waited.
And waited.

After an hour or so they called me up, and said I was free to go. That was it. No paperwork, nothing. The woman I spoke with had the aura of "yeah sorry this is all bullshit" and that really put me at ease. She said if I hadn't declared the gummies, it would have been a $500 fine. So they were confiscated and that was it. I'm pretty sure they also took some tea I bought in Montreal... Because as I'm writing this its a week later and I haven't been able to find it.

So that was an adventure.

My car was a mess. Everything had been tossed around and upended. I didn't bother to fix anything since I knew I'd be home that evening.

I drove a short way down the road, now in the US again. I pulled over at one point to fully close my hood (which they hadn't shut properly and had been rattling as I went down the highway) and have a nervous cry. Filled up my tank at a much cheaper rate than Canada, then proceeded on my way home.

I had to keep reminding myself to look at the mile portion of my dash, rather than the kilometer. It was strange making the adjustment back. I was also sad to find out that Carl's Jr discontinued my favorite Teriyaki burger, so I'll heave to learn how to make that one.

I made it home around 9PM that night. Hugged my parents, took a shower, and we spent the rest of the evening in pajamas watching the Overwatch Tournament together.

I look forward to spending many Saturday nights like this for the next several months.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Still Flinching

I don't do "family."
I haven't for years. And that statement is mostly true.

I knew there'd be very little family with my last partner, and there was a relief in that. Holidays, pretty much. Although for some reason I found myself trying to make it more. I did reach out to a few family members of his, independently, but never gained a foothold. I didn't expect him to reach out to mine, but I'm not sure if I wanted him to.

When I was married, my brother in laws called me "sis" straight out the gate. Even before marriage, there was an instant love and warmth I almost dared to believe in. And I did believe in it, for a bit, with one of them. And when my marriage started having issues and my side of things wasn't a factor, I was reassured in my belief that it was all for show. I knew it the whole time, that I wasn't really family.

Another pretense. A symbiotic one at best. A parasite at worst. Just an addition to put up with. Not even as valid as a Trill, for any other Trekkies out there.
And yes the spots go all the way down.

I was never accepted. It was assumed I was always faking to fit in. And I played that part accordingly, knowing it would have its end - either when the fabrication of my attempt to belong was reveled, or when my relationship ended. Every other relationship before had been the same, as well.

So why is this different?

My Christopher. Darling and daring Christopher, has already reached out to my "family," independent of any requests of mine.

I've never had that before. Never.

Sure, I've sent the occasional text to Chris's mother during our time. I've followed my usual inclinations, despite wanting to fight against them, and I've gotten a positive response.

Holidays.
That's usually what it is.
But then it was birthdays.
Then it was "I saw a thing and though of you."

So what does that mean? All relationships end, either in death or separation. Will I be thought of when that ending happens? Will I care? I want to care. I'm not sure if I can let myself, yet. And yet Chris has still made an attempt to include himself in my family. My "family." Whatever that means.

And the polycule. Thats the real pinpoint. The newer thread in the weaving of my fabric.
Yet Athena can't help me with this one.

Still feeling like the odd one out. The distant. The forgotten. The more Chris tires to include me the more I'm reminded how much he needs to make that effort for my inclusion in the fist place. I still haven't figured out if it makes things better or worse.

It doesn't mean I don't love his efforts. It just means that I'm still too broken to believe them.

Family. Community.
It takes a village.
Should I turn more to Hera, now? Hestia?
It takes a village to what..... I still cant finish the last part of that proverb. I'm still figuring that out.

I see photos of everyone spending time together, and it brings me so much joy. And it hurts so very much. And I can't look away. I want to photoshop myself in. Everyone tells me they miss me, they want me there, they're thinking of me.

I can't accept it. Not yet.

I felt like running today. But I kept it in check.
Chris has another lover, you see, besides Erin. They could have been more. They almost were something more.

But shit happened and I came along and serendipity can fuck itself.

I had a moment. What if I ended things? What if I made the relationship end and stayed here, on the west coast. Then he could be happy and have his wife and his partner and I wouldn't have to deal with another family who didn't really give a shit. I wouldn't have to uproot my life to play along with the pretense of people trying to be my friends.

I could focus on the people who I did know I could confide in. Who I could trust.
Who are all out here.

My faux mom and dad. My blood aunt and uncle. A few cousins; whom I could build more with.

And Justin. And his son - now a teenager.
I've loved them both for so many years, now. And both of them have cared for me. His son is incredible, and I'd be so privileged to be more involved in his life as he grows into a man. He's already changed so much, and I grieve for how much I've missed.

I've spent so much of my adult life trying to be independent. Pushing family away. Happy on my own and embracing the melancholy of my solitude. Even while traveling, its been difficult admitting how much I've longed for the comfort of someone outside myself.

Of many people, outside myself.

I'm trying. I really am. I'm just tired.
Its a begrudging hope now: "Oh. You wanna be in my life? Cool, I guess. Whatever"
While my skin screams for contact.

So what now?
I'll continue my current path, take up the business, and move to Philadelphia. I know I don't want to be there forever. In fact, I'm only counting on it being five years at the most. But life changes, and mine certainly does. And I survive by going with the flow.

After over 15 years of "surviving" I'm definitely wanting more.












Saturday, July 6, 2019

Canada - Part 2

Day 13 - June 22

I definitely had to go back and explore more of the Bay of Fundy, so I returned to the entrance of the national park and drove the full length. I stopped at multiple points along the way, the weather greatly improved from the rain the day before. It was brilliant and breathtaking, with churning water from the rain and its banks coated with intensely colored rocks that I kept wanting to collect or just carry with me. I may have held on to a couple...

My favorite part was a huge boulder strewn beach where no one else was around. I spent over an hour hopping from rock to rock, walking being almost impossible. My shoes are so old and worn that they're too slippery for most of the surfaces, with so little grip left to them. I took them off and tied them with my socks to my koala bag, balancing the other side. It made navigating the stones a lot easier. It was also comforting to have my feet connect with the earth for a while.

Another stop had a pedestrian bridge crossing one part of a river that fed into the bay. A man with a huge family was playing an accordion nearby, and I sat to enjoy a small lunch near them while listening. I later crossed the bridge and hiked a bit of the trail until the mosquitoes ate their way through the bug spray I'd put on that morning -_-

According to google maps, the road through the park leads out to the other side, connecting to a road heading northeast along the bay. Unfortunately, that road hasn't finished being built yet, and wont be until 2021... very odd and confusing. It felt like I lost a few hours driving back the full length of the park, despite enjoying the views.

Day 14 - June 23

Another stop in the Bay of Fundy! This time in the most iconic section - Hopewell Rocks. I got there early when the tide was low, and had a blast picking my way through the deep red mud, marveling at the intense rock formations and huge, broken boulders. There were several coves which were easy enough to walk along, but it usually required a bit of climbing (or trekking through mud) to get to each one along the bay.

I made my way through to the furthest end I could, relaxing for a bit on a rocky outcropping and watching a giant sinkhole-like crevice in the bay, water slowly pouring into its nearly-flush edges as the tides rose.

Making my way back, I ran into the accordion player from the day before and chatted a little with his wife. Their five children trailed behind as if he were the pied-piper, and they happily danced in his wake. More and more I'm seeing that family and adventure are both still possible.

I hiked back up to the top of the cliff and gratefully washed my mud-caked shoes and pants at the provided hoses. Then it was time to leave New Brunswick for Prince Edward Island.

The bridge to the island was a marvel, reminding me of the bridge to Virginia Beach on hwy 13. It was hard to tell which one was longer. Unfortunately, though the way to the island was free, the way back would cost a toll of $48... I toyed with the idea of how the toll discourages tourists from leaving, and thats how they maintain their population.

I drove the length of the island, appreciating the very pictorial scenic farms and waters. The blue lakes and rivers were a more brilliant color than anywhere I had seen yet. In fact, all colors looked more intense. From the burnt sienna furrows in the farms, to the strong emerald grasses and potato leaves, to the idyllic bunches of wild lupines spattered everywhere, screaming a brilliant lavender, pink, white, and royal purple. Everything felt like a fairy tale.

And perhaps a bit too manicured for my own tastes.

I arrived at the singing sands in Basin Head Provincial Park an hour before dusk. Happily taking off my shoes again, I squeaked my way through the silicate-heavy sand, enjoying the simple pleasure of the sound. Apparently the sands make noise on their own when the sun makes it hot enough, but I was content to make my own "singing" as I walked the length of the beach. The wind was chilly despite it being midsummer, and it was a good reminder of how far north I had come.

I finished my drive to the furthest eastern point, then took the northern road back toward Charlottetown to park there for the night.

Day 15 - June 24

Charlottetown is so charming! I went downtown early and wandered by a few tourist shops before they opened, enjoying the variety of locally-made trinkets in the windows. Also stopped outside the PEI branch of EA! I remember working with that team a little back in the day, but thought it had been in Montreal, not PEI. What an interesting spot for a game company to be.

I grabbed a coffee and waited for the shops to open, wandering the waterfront and feeling surprised at how things were just starting to expand their hours and get ready for the tourist season. Back in New England, the tourist season started at the end of May, not the end of June. In Cali it was pretty much year-round.

I visited a few shops, coveting locally spun yarn and feeling proud that I didn't buy more. Or that I didn't buy more books, for that matter.

Made my way to the International Fox Museum, cause of course I had to. There were quite a few furs on display, and a lot of great info about how the breeding programs worked. I was half hoping they'd have a few pet foxes, or at least a few domestic-ish ones nearby, but no luck. Despite the amount of wild foxes on the island, I wasn't able to catch a glimpse of one :(

Since I was doing good on time, I visited the Potato Museum for the hell of it. Didn't pay to see the exhibit, but enjoyed the fresh fries and a slice of pie at the cafe.

My last stop on the island was the tourist center at the base of the bridge. It was a final attempt to find an interesting fox-something souvenir, but no luck. Bought some ice cream instead.

Onward!

The drive through Nova Scotia was magnificent. The mountains were tightly packed around the road, seeming to dwarf everything around. The brilliant colors of PEI stayed with me in the form of trees covering the hillsides and lupines along the roadway. The road was mostly empty; since I'm avoiding toll roads I figured few people took this back road.

Arrived in Dartmouth a bit later than expected, choosing a mini mall with a Tim Hortons for the night.


Day 16 - June 25

Gah I slept in too late! One of my rules is to never linger in my car after 8am. Awake, but sleepily daydreaming, I heard footsteps approach around 8:10 and ask "is anyone awake in there?"
I froze, while they kept moving. They walked around my car, hopefully unable to see in thanks to my blackout curtains, and walked away just as quickly. I've never gotten my pants on so fast.

Moved the car a little further down the road at the Fisherman's Cove Heritage Centre and finished getting ready for the day. I relaxed a little and knitted on the dock for a while, then parked further in Dartmouth to find food. Stumbled upon an old Quaker house, once lived in by expats from Nantucket, of all places. Small world. Chatted with the costumed hosts about the history a while, then continued on. Grabbed a tasty fish sandwich at the ferry house.

Halifax! Holy crap this city was way more fun than I expected.

There was free parking at Point Pleasant Park, just a 15 minute walk to the waterfront. Pier 21 was closed but the rest of the waterfront continued on. I enjoyed more gift shops and art galleries, getting some inspiration for future projects, and tipped one or two buskers who caught my attention. My rule of thumb is that if any street performer makes you pause in your wandering, you owe them a dollar.

I bought a rum cake and did some rum tasting, since this area is seeped in history involving rum, it felt like the right touristy thing to indulge in. As if I needed the excuse. I grabbed some food and had another drink on the waterfront with an amazing view of the harbor. Before I knew it, I was bar hopping on impulse through downtown, finding cheap happy hour deals and enjoying more local rum and beer.

Started feeling a bit lonely, so slowed down a bit and sobered up. It was dark when I finally headed bask to the car, enjoying my melancholy and the evening city lights reflecting over the water.

Day 17 - June 26

I drove back to the waterfront this morning to hit a few places I had skipped the day before. The Maritime Museum was an incredible place to visit - full of unbelievable artifacts and the exact nautical history I find fascinating. From pirate activity and rum trading, to shipwrecks and local disasters on the water. Plus some old relics from the Titanic.

I spent several hours there, lingered for another seaside lunch, then moved on again.

My original plan was to see more of the Bay of Fundy before moving on to Halifax, but I shuffled a few things around to make more sense now that I was actually on the route and seeing it better. In the shuffle, I also removed a few things from my list to save on time and money. Sadly, one of the items I removed was all of Newfoundland and Labrador. I just can't responsibly afford it right now, and don't want to worry about more credit card debt after having just paid it off. In skipping that, I also opted out of activities north of Halifax, which would have involved a 5-hour drive one way. No longer needing to head north since I was skipping Newfoundland, it made more sense to focus toward the south instead.

So, I journeyed to Lunenburg! A cute seaside town with more maritime history. Thus, naturally, I stopped at a distillery first, sampling their rum and gin before splurging a little on a bottle. I wandered through more shops, tragically stumbling upon an area with three book shops all in the same crossroads. I did end up buying one... but its hard to resist some of these older books that are basically journals of someones sea travels.

In another moment of splurging, I decided to find a hotel for the night. I hadn't showered in some time, but mostly I was still feeling lonely and craving a more comfortable solitude than my car could offer. It was nice to actually stand up while getting undressed for the night, ha.

It was also a good excuse for another video chat with Chris, catching up on our mutual adventures as he travels through Germany. Its funny how so many people are travelling right now. Christian just got back from Chili, and several folks in my polycule are all traveling, with one being in Ireland and another in Chicago. Still another is going to be visiting Toronto for Canada day, and with my decision to cancel Newfoundland I might just join them. Its on my way back, after all, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of Toronto.

Day 18 - June 27

Beds. Are. Amazing.

Don't get me wrong - I love sleeping in my car. But I always have to wear something in case I get woken up in the night, and when it rains it tinks loudly on my roof. Last night's storm sounded like nothing while I was cozy and comfy in an air-conditioned room. I also got to sleep in with my only concern being check-out at 11am.

Well rested, I found myself now driving west for the first time. Its all west from here!

The rain was on and off as I made my way to the last part of the Bay of Fundy I wanted to see - Cape Split Trail head.
This hike was magical. It was like walking through the forest in Princess Mononoke.

Its a round trip hike of about 4-5 hours. I went in for about an hour before spotting a fun game trail and disappearing deeper into the woods for nearly an hour more. Little streams were flowing everywhere from the rain, and it made every fern patch look like it was hiding a village of faeries.

The rain had let up slightly, but that only meant that the mosquitoes were back out in force. The bug spray I put on before hiking must have washed off a bit from the rain, and the little fuckers honed in on me. After a few minutes of frustration and frantic seizure-like hand waving, I was forced to turn back. I wanted so much to hike the full trail, but I only made it about an hour and half in, and didn't want the rest to be miserable. Luckily I only suffered a few bites by the time I made it back out.

To make up for missing the rest of the trail, I hiked along the waterfront near the parking lot and explored the low tide. The coast here was incredibly fun to explore, with jutting rock formations and strange patterns of different stones cutting through the (what I assumed was) grey slate.

I really need to come back here and finish it some day.

After all that walking, it was now time for an eight hour drive. I made my way back through Nova Scotia and most of New Brunswick, parking for the night on the far western side of NB, a few minutes from the Maine border.

There'll be no return to the US this time, though.

Day 19 - June 28

It turns out I parked in a town called Hartland, NB last night, home of the largest covered bridge in the world - according to the sign I saw when I woke up. Sadly, the bridge was closed for repairs, and I simply continued my drive.

I traveled several hours around the edge of Maine. The countryside continued to be staggeringly beautiful. Passing through all of the dense woodland, its hard to believe that deforestation is a major issue in the world. It was nothing but trees for miles and miles.

Since I had a few days before I needed to be in Toronto for the 1st, I decided to brave my poor French again and stop in Quebec City.

This city is way too beautiful. All of downtown and the waterfront are a beautiful snowy gray stone, with narrow walkways and cobbled streets. Defensive walls outline the oldest parts of the city, and statues and fountains line the streets and plazas.

There was an old pedestrian-only row of local shops that I had fun walking through, looking at expensive furs, art, and jewelry. I did a small cider tasting and picked up a bottle for my mom. I took a few breaks during my wandering to have the occasional glass of wine here or there at the various cafes. They're all so charming!

Since this would be my last Quebec experience, I ended it with a nice meal. Sitting on the terrace with a small overhang, it suddenly started to pour without much warning. The other outside patrons were moved to the inner and more protected) row of the terrace. It filled up fast, and I was left without a seat, or would have to go inside. But a nice older gay couple beckoned me to join them, and I spent the next hour chatting with them about their lives in Quebec city as they helped me with my French, and I helped one of them with English while the other mediated.

It was a lovely way to connect with more locals.

Day 20 - June 29

The next morning I drove to the newly renovated Grand Market just outside of Quebec City. I sampled a few local products but nothing caught my eye for purchase. I was just about to leave when I noticed a fox statue made up to look like it was walking vertically down a wall. Looking around, I noticed there were several of them hidden throughout the market. I lingered a bit longer and grabbed a pastry, joining into the game of finding them all.

Next stop - Ottawa! I find it amusing that I'm visiting the Canadian capital before the US one.

On my way there I made time to pause at an ice cream place an hour or so north of Montreal. They had poutine ice cream, of all things. Although it wasn't "real" poutine. Instead of fries it was caramel corn, the cheese curds were replaced with marshmallows, the gravy was replaced with caramel sauce, and the added meat was replaced with chocolate wafer cookies. All of this swirled with vanilla ice cream.

Arriving in Ottawa, I parked near the large market in downtown. It was a fun area with more local vendors, food, and crafts. I stopped by a fun kink bar for a drink while it was still early, then headed out to explore a bit further.

There wasn't too much I wanted to see here. Just wanted to stop and appreciate the governmental buildings and interesting architecture. And it was beautiful, too! The rain kept most people indoors, and cast an impressionist look over every scene.

Eventually I ended up at a little sports bar that I originally mistook for a gaming bar. The gaming bar was above the sports bar, but the drinks were good here and I had an interesting IT guy to flirt with. I'll never deny that that nerds are my type, and the initial awkwardness is really endearing. Sadly, he had to go and I politely refused my request to accompany him. So I checked out the gaming bar above, but it was slightly underwhelming. Compared to the Adventure Pub and Storm Crow, I think all other gaming taverns will be dull, now.

Started making my way to Toronto, but the rain started coming down in sheets. I pulled over at a large truck stop, where I took comfort that I wasn't the only car.

Day 21 - June 30

I did NOT sleep well last night. The rain was much louder than it had been, and it came in random bursts that would wake me abruptly, rather than a constant or even gradual outpouring. Nevertheless, I got up and made the rest of the way to Toronto.

I was pleased and slightly miffed to find free and easy parking somewhat close to a lot of the more interesting parts of downtown. I could have parked here last time -_- Still, it was great to meet up with another member of my polycule. We're both on the opposite ends of the chain, so I guess that makes him my metamour +++

I may have to illustrate it, but meh.

We pregamed a bit back at his airbnb while waiting for another friend to come pick us up. It was nice to chill and decompress after so much driving. After she arrived, the three of us went to Kensignton Market and enjoyed the Sunday "pedestrian only" day that they seem to have once a month. This is probably my favorite place in Toronto, so it was a blast coming back and enjoying the streets while they were free of vehicles.

We perused the food and art, and I ended up grabbing a few edibles for later. Just gotta remember my preferred mg dose now, ha. We lingered to watch a street performer, and to my surprise, I got chosen to help participate. Inside I was feeling flinchy as hell and wanted to run, but my LARP skills came into effect and I decided to own it and have fun. I always feel like I'm overcompensating for my nervousness in moments like this, but rarely do I end up regretting it. Its not "me' after all; just the character I'm portraying.

We hopped around a little bit, finding a dive bar called the Cloak and Dagger - how perfect is that? Absolutely my scene. Grabbed some food at a separate bar before deciding we were ready for some real drinking.

So we were off to the Storm Crow! I was so excited to be sharing this place with friends. I definitely went over budget as we rolled a few D20s to get random shots. I was ecstatic to have folks to share a group drink with, too, so we ordered a Darth Vader helmet. I don't even remember what was in it, but it was like a scorpion bowl only it spewed fog from dry ice, instead of having a bacardi shot on fire.

In contrast to my last visit when I rolled a 20, my meta+++ rolled a natural one and had to take one of the foulest shots I've ever heard of. It had tobasco sauce in it, and the look on his face was priceless. But he did it! Braver than me, that's for sure.

Day 22 - July 1

Happy Canada Day!

I lost my hat last night. I'm sad, but if that was the sacrifice to be made for a fun adventure, then so be it. I call that worth it.

We both slept like shit last night, mostly due to a lot of noise outside, but I also think we were just adapting to sharing the bed together. It was nice having the human contact after so many weeks on the road, and he's a calming presence to be around. Still, there's an adjustment to sleeping next to someone new, especially since we still barely know each other, really.

So we slept in, and the first mission after waking was coffee.

After that we spent all morning walking the waterfront. This whole area was knew to me, and I was really enjoying the opportunity to chat and get to know him as we explored. We stumbled up on a lovely music-themed garden, where the layout was inspired by various cultures' musical movements and dances. That was probably the highlight of our exploration, for me.

We did have a goal for our wanderings, and it was to end up at the Canada Day Maritime event. We stopped for food and met up with his other friend from the day before, then walked to the event. It was a bit small, but the ships docked there were beautiful and had fun histories. I was starting to regret having skipped a few maritime museums on my travels, but was glad to have someone I could share my interest with.

We continued walking and made our way to the Distillery District. There was a marching band playing, and the gay pride art was still strewn about from June. We wandered a while and, unsurprisingly, settled down for another drink and some food to munch on. I've had so much beer the last few days! Need to switch back to my liquor for fewer calories :P

His friend had to take off a bit earlier that evening, so the two of us went back to the Airbnb and had some of the edibles. I managed to get some laundry done as well, and this round of clothes should be enough to bring me to Washington. Feels strange saying that.

By the time they kicked in we really didn't feel like going anywhere for fireworks. So, happily introverted, we took some time to relax independently of each other and work on our own things. Once we were settled in with that, we snuggled and watched stupid videos on YouTube. I think it was midnight before we finally went to bed.

That's when the sexual tension finally broke. I'd been feeling attracted to him since I met him the night before, but didn't want to add any drama or complications to his life, let alone the polycule as a whole. I'd already talked about it with Chris and my meta++ and while they were both very supportive, we all sorta felt that it'd probably be a bad idea to pursue at the moment. Just for personal complications - including my own nebulous existence and limited bandwidth.

Welp. At least I'm consistent with my chaos. I'm nothing if not randomly predictable.

We didn't have sex that night, but we did end up making out for... gosh, I don't even know how long. All I know is that it was the most exquisite torture, and it was so very difficult to keep holding back.
I wouldn't have changed a thing. It was definitely a better way to celebrate Canada day than simply watching fireworks.

Day 23 - July 2

We had a good talk the next day, checked in with our sweeties, and got packed for traveling again. Once packed and our stuff stowed in our respective vehicles, we lingered a bit to have breakfast and spend a bit more time together.

Why am I always complicating my life?
Sigh.
At least I'm never bored.

The rest of the day was just a metric fuckton of driving. If it was the US it'd be an imperial fuckton, but metric makes more sense.

The countryside was gorgeous. More flowing hills and mountains absolutely coated with trees. Lakes everywhere, with few places to pause for an appreciation of the view. I may have taken a few photos while driving, because of that, but they came out okay. I'm getting really good at steering with my knees.

Day 24 - July 3
Last night I stayed in a small town called Wawa, ironically like the gas stations all over Pa. It was another day of driving - about 10 hours worth or so. I lingered in Thunder Bay for a bit to grab food and walk around a little. I visited Fort William briefly, but it was shortly before close so I didn't pay to go in. Just hung out in the main lobby and gift shop, mooching on the wifi and getting out of the rain for a bit. So much summer rain!

Bwuh, I've driven so much and I'm still in Ontario. At least tomorrow I'll look forward to checking out Manitoba.

Definitely a short day without much else to report. But tomorrow is the fourth, and we'll see how much Canadians care about America's Independence Day.

Probably about as much as I do.




Saturday, June 22, 2019

Canada - Part 1

A week relaxing in Philadelphia did not feel like enough time, and yet as usual, when it was time to hit the road I was ready to go. Now, I've got Chris's visit to Washington to look forward to, followed by my Philly visits in September and October. After then? It'll be house hunting...

But enough about the future. I'm struggling enough as it is when trying to focus on the now.

Day 1 - Monday June 10th

I left Philly around 1pm after multiple trips to ferry my stuff and a dozen different goodbyes. I also had the added fun in the last week of having to repair a broken window after I got lazy and left some items in my car to entice a thief. I've driven all around the country only to have my car broken into back home. Found that more amusing than annoying, and got everything squared away in the end. All I lost was an old broken backpack and a bath robe. Very odd.

That night it was pouring. The drive all through Pennsylvania and New York was clear, but the minute I got close to the lakes the sky opened similarly to how it did in the south. Just instant rain out of nothing. The dark clouds had been lingering a while, but there weren't any tells of rain until it happened.

I finally make it to the border around Buffalo and its pitch black. I have the hardest time navigating through the checkpoints, and there are almost no other cars on the road. A few times I strayed through different lanes and I was so worried I'd get pulled over for recklessness or drunkenness or something. It was just hard to see!

Finally I made it to the border crossing. A quick glance at my passport and all of two questions, and I'm through. Dunno if its a white thing or a Canada thing.

Probably both :/

Woo officially in Canada! My phone company texts me a "bitch, you roaming" message and I'm already confused about how many kilometers I've got to the next town.

But I arrive in Niagara Falls at the Fallsview hotel and casino. Hopped in to get a parking pass and started exploring the falls.

Pitch black. Everything is lit up, and whats better is that they're slowly shifting colors. Both falls are visible from everywhere on the walkway, and I'm awestruck at the spectacle. Its definitely better from the Canadian side.

It was Monday night so I didn't expect much of a crowd, but there was still a surprising amount. There is a whole neon district of attractions - from mini golf, haunted houses, Ripply's "Believe it or Not" and a Tussard something, among other tourist traps. I passed the giant ferris wheel and the Skylon tower, enjoying them from a distance and feeling no desire to go in. it was fun just being in the atmosphere.

Finally I walked back to the casino and gambled a little in an attmpt to validate my parking. $10 Canadian later, I was like "blegh, could have paid for parking" and still didn't play "long enough" to validate it. So I bought a cheap midnight sushi roll and got it validated that way.

Exhausted from the day, I drove out to a Walmart and parked around 1am.

Day 2

Woke up late today and drove back to the casino, my parking still validated.

The falls might even be more amazing in the day. It was crowded now, but there was still plenty of room to linger along the balconies and enjoy the scene. I spent a good few hours just walking about and marveling at the world around me.

Victoria Park was lovely as well, and the casino shops were fun to walk around.

But the part I was really excited about, was Niagara-by-the-lake.
Canada's wine country. Ice wine.

I was thinking about Matt quite a bit around then, remembering the ice wine he brought back for me after moving back to the states. I don't know if I really thanked him enough for that, and I was lamenting how much we had drifted apart. I reached out a few times since we separated, but he was never keen on continuing the conversation. Part of me worries that he's fallen back into bad habits, and I wish I knew what to say to reach him. As close as I felt we had been, I'm really sad to have lost him as not only a potential partner, but as a friend. Whatever else happens, I just hope he's happy.

The wine tasting was magnificent. I started at Peller Estates, cause thats what you do in that region. Paid for the full tour and drank some ice wine in their below-freezing bar, enjoying the ice sculptures. I was the last one to leave :)

I hopped about a few other places for ice wine and other types of wine tasting. Everything was delicious, and the drive was spectacular. Among those I visited were Between the Lines and Megalomaniac Wines.

I paused to check out the fake shipwreck nestled by the highway, but there wasn't much else to it than to look at it. I also stopped at the countries (supposedly) oldest sugar maple tree and snagged a few branches from ground.

Made it to Hamilton that night and enjoyed another waterfall - a smaller one than Niagara (I mean, aren't all falls smaller than that?) and went out to find some ice cream. The places I had bookmarked didn't carry the flavor I wanted so I just stopped at another waterfall before finding a place to bed down closer to Toronto.

Day 3

Discovered its about $40 USD ($50 Canadian) for 3/4 a tank of gas, compared to $35US in the states. So California prices, if not slightly better.

My first stop was just outside the city - at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindi temple. A beautiful work of architecture, I spent a good amount of time walking around outside and in the temple, admiring the craftsmanship.

Also stopped for a quick oil change before parking my car for the next few days. Had a little trouble finding a place to store my car, as the walmart I'd planned on had very open "no overnight parking" signs. I ended up paying for a lot, but it was safe and only about $8 a night.

Finally in Toronto! First stop from here? Book store :D

I made it down to the Monkey Paw and chatted with the owner a while. He's an American who used to live in SF, so we had plenty of politics to go over XD I ended up using a coin in their book-dispensing machine to buy a random old novel, and wasn't disappointed when I got some American book on horses.

Food! I walked my way to downtown Toronto, stopping to buy walnut cakes (basically, they were taiyaki pastries in a walnut shape) and a Hungarian chimney pastry with ice cream.

Saw the York Rock. Woo a big rock. Was nice to relax in the shade after so much walking, though. Then I checked out the Arthur Conan Doyle room in the library. Got some inspiration for future reading,

Finally it was poutine time.
Not settling for average, I got fancy poutine with white truffle oil and topped with fois gras. It didnt disappoint.

Stumbled upon the famous Toronto sign and snapped a few pictures before walking down Graffitt Alley and enjoying the street art.

Topped the night by going to a fancy bar and meeting fancy people. The bartender was really attractive and had a French accent. He ended up giving me a couple of free drinks, then dropped the "my girlfriend.." line and I got a bit sad. Oh well. Met a really sweet newlywed couple, and an older couple from Newfoundland. The husband in the latter couple gave me a business card with his parent's email address, and said to reach out to them when I'm in Newfoundland. They'll show me some local sites, ha. Not sure if I will, but I hung onto the card all the same.

Day 4

Washroom, washroom, washroom. People look at you funny when you ask for the "Restroom." Makes more sense to call it a washroom, anyway.

Oh and everything is gay. Like, super gay. Rainbows on every storefront and window. Its fucking incredible. I teared up a few times just walking around. I don't care if its corporate capitalistic bullshit. Its better than not having it at all.

Checked out the St Lawrence Market, similar to the Reading Terminal Market. Tried the famous salt cured and corn-rolled ham, and it was actually really disappointing. I only had half of mine and tossed the rest. Guess its just not my flavor.

I explored the artsy Distillery District today, too, perusing handmade goods and enjoying the rain-washed empty streets. Stopped at a lovely Victorian garden and greenhouse for a stroll, first. It was a bit in disrepair but charming all the same, and the plants themselves were well-kept.

Snacked again, this time on a "Beaver Tail" - fried dough with whatever sweet or savory toppings you want. Fun, but not novel.

Spent a few hours exploring the Toronto PATH - a series of tunnels connecting various buildings all around the financial district. Some of the tunnels were on the second floor - clear glass bridges over major roads. Some were underground and lined with shops and small cafes. It was kinda fun to explore!

Went back above ground and found a whiskey bar to chill at. Spent some time flirting with another handsome bartender. He was fairly knowledgeable about Greek myth, and it was a blast chatting about myth and philosophy with him. I left my number when I had to go, and we'll see what happens with that.

Went to diner at a Japanese restaurant that was known for "sushi pizza." A fried rice cake rolled out to be shaped like a small pizza, topped with raw fish. Absolutely delicious.

The last stop of the night was at a Harry Potter themed bar called The Lockhart. Not only were the drinks and decor delightful, but it was filled with cute and eclectic female-presenting people. Definitely felt like a local queer hangout.

Day 5

Getting tired already! So much walking.

Began the day with some of the best chai I've ever had - a place called Strange Love Coffee, where I walked 20 minutes out of my way just because the name of the place sounded amazing. I wasn't disappointed.

Oh and the bartender from the night before texted me! That was so unexpected. We made plans to grab dinner and drinks tonight :3 I'm definitely looking forward to that.

After coffee it was time for Kensington Market! I had been excited to see this place - by all accounts its a very Santa Cruz like area. The jaunt through China town was fun too, with little kitschy shops and rows of booths and street vendors with cheap jewelry. Indoor mini malls with massage parlors and anime shops full of figurines and manga. That part reminded me of San Francisco a lot.

Kensington itself was exactly what I was hoping for. Hippy shops full of rayon clothing and smelling like nag champa. Small bakeries and coffee shops and music shops. Street art and old broken down cars now turned to sculpture. Rows of bicycles parked along the sidewalk, all unique or embellished in some way.

I ran quickly over to the University of Toronto Library for the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library display. It was small for what was visible, but just being in the room with so many rare books gave me a tingly feeling. All of the reference books were locked away, with only a small handful on display (also behind glass, but more presented and labeled). The smell was amazing, too.

I crossed the bridge to more Eastern Toronto and caught the view at Chester Hill Lookout. Incredible city views.

Dinner that night was with handsome bartender (name left out for privacy, etc). He took me to a Greek place that really pushed the Greek god theme, on par with our conversation from the day before. That felt really positive and thoughtful. I was definitely impressed. We hung out for a good two hours, eating way too much. Then we hopped over to an Irish pub for a few drinks and live music. It was a really good band, and I listened to Irish-sounding Canadian Country music for the first time. I was surprised I enjoyed it so much! Great hippy vibes to it, and I bought a cheap CD to support the band.

Afterwards he took me for a late walk through a park to capture another great view of the city. The date was entirely too perfect, and marred only by the fact that neither one of us had a living situation that allowed us for more intimacy. That was a huge bummer, but hopefully I'll be back to visit in the future.

Day 6

I woke early and walked up to the castle today - Casa Loma. It was gorgeous! And expensive... So I decided not to pay the $30 to go in and enjoyed walking around the grounds.

From there I trekked out to the Evergreen Brick Works farmers market. Grabbed a cider and enjoyed the hipster vibe. All the fresh produce made me miss home a bit, and I longed to cook something healthy. Oh well, better eat poutine about it.

After that I visited the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy. It was actually a little small and disappointing, but the Children's book collection exhibit was fascinating. Lots of old fairy tales from the early 1900s and earlier.

Walked around the gay district - most of northern Church Street. Window shopped a bit until I discovered a gaming tavern called Storm Crow, owned by a guy who used to work at Pop Cap. Spent way too much time (and money) there, basking in the Saturday night nerdom. Amazing drinks, and a great place to end my last night in Toronto.

Day 7

On to Montreal!

Made a quick stop at a rural general store to try some Tiger's Tail Ice cream. Orange flavor with black licorice streaks. Normally I hate licorice, but this was kinda tasty.

The moment I entered Quebec, all the signs turned French first, with English below (if I was lucky). Once I got to Montreal, very few signs had any English at all, and it made paying for parking a bit of an adventure. Eventually I got help from a security guard, paid through til Thursday, and brought my stuff to my hostel.

First time staying at a hostel, too!

The place was amazing. Clean and friendly, with great rates and really helpful staff. I took plenty of time to shower (for the first time since Chris's house), unpack, and settle in. Its still so light out after 7PM, I went to grab a "late" dinner, but it felt right on time for the crowds. Had a nice French meal to start my stay off right.

That evening I walked down St Catherine st - a large swath of pedestrian-only road. There was a huge festival going on and extra portions of the street were blocked off from cars. All of the music was in French. I heard french rap, reggae, electronica, and even french country. It was so strange, and highly entertaining. I wandered until late and returned to the hostel. Met my two dorm-mates (out of the six beds there, having two others full was lucky!) and they were also badass women traveling alone. We chatted until well past midnight.

Day 8

Explored most of Old Montreal today. The architecture is incredible... its just breathtaking. There is even a replica of Notre Dame. I took a ton of photos, walked the waterfront, and climbed the old clock tower. All 198 numbered steps.

Also ate a ton of good food, today. Its hard to pace my budget... really hard. Especially since I forgot to factor in paid parking :/ I'll have to balance that later, somehow.

Walked up the length of St Lauren Blvd - the hippy street art row. I've never seen so much street art! It was beautiful, and it was fun window shopping all the old vintage shops. Found an overly large leather-like dress thing I can happily convert into LARP armor. Cause I don't have enough projects. Finally got yarn for my Griffyndor scarf, too :P

Day 9

Started today in the Italian district. It was a bit small and uneventful, but I stopped at a few book stores along the way... definitely bought some... There was also another cute market with fresh produce, fish, meats, and plants to browse. I love charming markets.

My ability to say "Do you speak English?" in French has gotten better. Although I'm pretty sure I accidentally went up to someone and rudely asked "You DONT speak English?" at one point.

Then it was time for the city's namesake - Mount Royal. I cheated a little and took an uber to the far side of the park, then slowly over a few hours wound my way back toward the hostel. I hiked all the way to the top - admiring the view for about an hour while knitting. It was an incredible experience, and it was fun watching the rest of the crowd.

The rest of the park was fun to explore, and I felt my legs getting stronger after all the walking from the past week. I definitely wasn't getting as winded as I had been.

Took a break back at the hostel, called Chris and caught up a while, then showered and went back out for dinner. Found another fancy place to spoil myself on French cuisine. Ended up chatting with an old rich white ceo about his company for a while, then meandered back to the hostel for some sleep.

Day 10

Last full day in Montreal and I'm already sad. I definitely didn't get to do enough! I spent a good amount of the morning in the Botanical Garden, and was sad to find the Insectorium was closed for renovations. I did, however, greatly enjoy my afternoon while visiting with a coworker from GSN and her husband. It was so cool meeting in person and chatting a while! We spent a few good hours together before I called it an early night and went back to the hostel.

I did a bunch of laundry and caught up on my writing for a few hours. Part of me regrets not exploring the "gayer" half of St Catherine st, but I'll have to leave it for another visit. I really did benefit from the rest and time to recharge.

Day 11

Driving again! Its good to be back on the road. I stopped briefly in rural Quebec for one more order of poutine (and more French practice), and journeyed back into the U.S.. Only got asked a few questions about any produce or booze I might have, and was let in. 

Rural Maine is absolutely gorgeous, and its almost worth getting stuck behind logging trucks for way too long...

I took a ton of back roads, driving for nearly 8 hours all the way to West Quoddy Head. Its a lighthouse at the furthest point East in the United States. Felt like a fitting location for the eve of the Summer Solstice. I toyed with the idea of waking with the dawn, but since dawn was 4:45am I thought better of it.

Spent the night parked near a gas station. The rain made it difficult to fall asleep, but it was peaceful and comfy being in the car again.

Day 12

Happy Solstice!

Today as been slow and pleasant.

I started just south of the Canadian border, and drove up to a Tim Horton's about a 5 minute drive from the line. Thought it was amusing to buy a coffee at a Tim Horton's in the U.S. rather than Canada. Crossed the border and stopped at a chocolate place to buy a snack called "chicken bones" - a cinnamon-wrapped chocolate candy. They're fairly tasty, and actually look like pale pink chicken bones.

I drove through to Reversing Falls and spent several hours relaxing and watching the rapids in a nearby cafe. Did some more writing and knitting. The rain was discouraging me from hiking too much around the Bay of Fundy, and I was happy just to relax and enjoy the view.

I did take the winding coast road for amazing views, pausing every so often to walk the rocky beaches and take photos. Wanted to go further, but one of the main roads goes through a national park, and it closed at 6PM. Felt early for the time of year, and I'll decide if I want to backtrack in the morning.

Canada has been amazing so far.




















Friday, June 21, 2019

The Edge of the World

I traveled to the edge of the world today.
At least that's what it felt like.

The furthermost eastern point in the U.S. A lighthouse called Quoddy Head. I arrived around 8PM local time, with about an hour of sunlight to spare. Although, with the pouring rain and mist, it was already dim.

I was the only one there save for a mystery car belonging to no one. I walked around the lighthouse, contemplating my situation.

I've already cut so much of this trip short. I wanted to drive to the Yukon. To the Northern Territories and Alaska. To the Arctic Ocean.

And now I've decided to skip Newfoundland and Labrador.

At least I finally realized what the difference was between this trip and my last one. Why I've had such a hard time being in the moment, and settling into this trip. Why I keep daydreaming about the future and not fully enjoying the present.

I have something I'm looking forward to.

Last time I was unemployed and didn't have anything going on. The only thing I had to look forward to was job hunting and crashing in Christian's room for until a job could be found. No real plan or goals.

Now, I have so much in front of me! I have a business to learn and skills to build. I have family waiting for me, both in Washington and in Pennsylvania. I want to weight train, practice violin, and catch up on my reading. I want to join in on movie nights and summer festivals and babysit the kids when everyone is busy. I want a more comfortable life.

I had an identity crisis before finally accepting this. I'm all about adventure and travel! How could I settle down now? There is still so much to see and experience!

And I'm learning to let go of that. Everyone says "it'll still be there" - and its likely that it will. But maybe "it" (whatever it is I want to see) won't be there. Maybe it will crumble into dust or be destroyed by a vandal. Maybe Venice will be covered by the sea before I can see it. Maybe the pyramids will be destroyed by a bomb raid. Maybe a war will start with South Africa and it wont be safe to travel there.

But I've learned to let go.

I don't need to "prove" I'm adventurous. I don't feel the impending weight of time or general constraint on me anymore. Now, in deciding to become more domestic, I've felt more free than I ever have. Because its what I'm choosing. I don't need to force myself to travel out of fear of some future cage. I don't need to do everything NOW or else I may not be able to later. My identity is secure.

I don't feel that I'm settling. I don't feel that this is my last adventure. I don't feel rushed to complete "everything" before starting the next phase of my life. I really can have it all. I can do it all.

Or not :) And that's just as well.

So I stood at the edge of the world in the pouring rain. Not ideal weather for the summer solstice, but perfect for keeping others indoors. Feeling particularly grateful, I took my flask from the car and filled it from a bottle of mead I bought in Montreal. I went back to the cliffs and poured an offering of thanks into the ocean. I drank the rest.

The Oak King has passed on, and the Holly King now reigns.
The days grow shorter.
But my road is longer than ever before.

Happy Solstice.



Tuesday, June 4, 2019

49 States - Part 2

Day 11 - Monday, May 20th

Lots of driving today! I decided to skip Clearwater Beach, feeling sufficiently acquainted with beach towns. Instead I started the morning with an oil change and plotted my route to Weeki
Wachee. Sadly, when I arrived, their mermaid shows were suspended due to construction.

Despite the false start to the day, I was determined to make the best of it. I stopped at a random roadsite stop where I found a charming country-looking shopping center complete with a restaurant that served alligator. It was called called Brownwood Paddock Square, and reminded me of a country version of the Roseville Galleria. I ordered some gator bites and enjoyed the ambiance.

After that it was a long drive back into Georgia. I visited the famous Tree that Owns Itself in Athens as a cute novelty, and settled into a coffee shop to call it an early night. I'm now a full day ahead of schedule! Its usually the opposite...

Day 12

Began the day by snoozing a bit, finally enjoying a somewhat cooler morning in my car. I drove to the Athens Botanical gardens and walked around for several hours. At first it looked poorly tended, but it must have been a small section of the rose gardens. The rest was incredibly lovely, peaceful, and very well kept. Everyone said "good morning "as I passed, and I even ran into another woman playing Pokemon Go.

Closer to noon I drove an hour to Atlanta for lunch at Mary Mac's Tea Room. I didn't even realize it was famous when I plotted it on my trip - I was just looking for shrimp and grits. It was really packed, and driving through Atlanta was somewhat hazardous. Ultimately it was worth the trouble just for the sweet tea alone. I took some leftovers with me to go, wondering if I'd get a chance to eat them later that day (or if they'd even keep).

I briefly visited the hippy part of town, exploring a costume shop that reminded me of Cheap Thrills in Sacramento. Its the kind of shop that would have sold Burning Man tickets back before they were online only. It was nice seeing a more eclectic part of the south, yet strange to now be considered the counter culture. I can't remember the last time I felt so mindful of my pentacle ring, although I'm getting a lot of compliments on my tattoos.

The Atlas Obscura mentions a mixed drink involving a vinegar mixer called Shrub. Curious to try it, I added one of the few places referenced in the article, and it brought me to the Ponce City Market. 21.18 is a place devoted to Shrub and Bitters, and I happily sampled a plethora from a charming (and very not straight) girl I couldn't help flirting with. Similar to the hippy part of town, this felt like more of a hipster liberal area. Fewer plugs and patched jean jackets, but more varieties of hair color and handsomely bearded men.

After that it was Birmingham Alabama for the night. I gained an hour of time, allowing me a bit more time to chill at a coffee shop before bed.

Day 13

My morning started early at the Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham. It was breathtaking - not only the statue and park, but the view of the city. It was a lovely space to pay reverence to yet another Greek/Roman god. A large statute of Poseidon/Neptune afforded me that opportunity when I was in Virginia Beach. I'll also get a chance to see Athena in Nashville in a few days. This really has been a spiritual journey for me, heh.

I read for some time, meditated, and relaxed until the sun rose a bit higher. Then I had two book stores to visit in the city - the Museum of Fond Memories at Reed Books and Alabama Booksmith. The first one is a really old used book shop that I spent way too long in (and spent too much money in). The second one holds nothing but signed copies of books... where I again spent too much money.

I ended the evening in the petrified forest of Missisipi. It was an incredible trail with dozens of specimens of petrified wood on display, many species of origin which were now extinct. I'm sure it'd have taken most people 30 minutes to walk the full trail, but I ended up taking an hour. It was near closing time too, so I was lucky enough to have the trail to myself the full time.

Day 14

I'd driven halfway the night before, but I still had a ways to go for the Heavener Runestone in Oklahoma. It was definitely worth it for me, but I have a feeling most people would be disappointed. its just a rock after all, but the pagan history behind the runestones was enough to pull me out there. I was only sad it was behind glass so I couldn't lick it.

I think my favorite part of Oklahoma was that every business had "OK" in front of it. "OK Automotive," "OK Landscaping Services," "OK Packaging Co." Must be hard to get better-than-average service in this state.

The Historic Johnson Mill and Inn at the Mill back in Arkansas was kinda underwhelming and it was still pretty early, so rather than limit myself to staying nearby I traveled closer to Thornhill Chapel and found a local dive bar named Shirley's to visit. I wasn't disappointed. I spent most of my evening with a few biker folks, including a late 40s woman who had a locked collar around her neck, which I heartily complimented - she was happy to chat with someone who knew the significance.

After that I grabbed some mediocre Mexican food (nothing but white customers - that should have been my warning) and nestled down for the night,

Day 15

Eureka springs is beautiful. I never thought I'd actually enjoy Arkansas so much! Thornhill Chapel was closed for a wedding, sadly, but I spent my free morning enjoying the cute antique stores and shopping for leather gear, on account of the large biker community in the area.

That afternoon I drove through the Ozark Mountains and parked at the Triple Falls Trailhead. The hike up to the falls was really short, but gosh it was lovely. There was a cute Amish family there for a picnic, too, and it only added to the ambiance. A few other folks showed up with fancy cameras, took photos, and left. I hung out for a good while just relaxing in the chill air - a rare commodity in this state.

I made it to the Ozark folk center a bit more than an hour before they closed. That was a fun place to visit, with tons of crafty goods to peruse. I chatted with a bunch of artists about their crafts, met the fused glass lady and felt a little more confident in my own abilities, and learned a fascinating technique with heat and copper designs.

Day 16

I made it to Memphis late the night before and didn't feel up to do much but sleep. I was a little sad I missed the Friday night crowd, but enjoyed exploring downtown in the early Saturday calm. I also made sure to take a few photos of Graceland while there.

Funny enough, the highlight of Memphis for me was the graveyard. There is a place called the Crystal Grotto that some Christian nut built to display the life of Christ, and the cave itself was beautiful. I relaxed there for a bit enjoying a snack, then drove out to Nashville.

Nashville was a blast. If I had been in a more party mood, I'd have enjoyed staying there longer. Maybe if I'd had company I'd have felt different, but I was getting a little tired of exploring areas where the only thing to do was drink.

The best part of Nashville was hands down the Parthenon. An exact replica of the original, complete with a large statue of Athena inside. My patron deity. It was crowded since it was memorial day weekend on top of a regular Saturday, so it was a bit frustrating trying to enjoy the temple among the crying children and loud talking families. Maybe it was the heat getting to me, but I was definitely hitting my threshold for people. I would have loved to have spent more time there.

The experience was still moving, and it was hard not buying anything at the gift shop. Luckily I have plenty of Athena statues already :)

That night I drove to stay at my friend April's house in Illinois. The last time I saw her was on my previous road trip, so this felt nostalgic. One of many friends whom I wish lived closer to me.

Day 17

Breakfast with April was lovely, but I had to hit the road by noon to beat the time change to Louisville. It was a good thing I did, too! I arrived at the Bulleit Bourbon facility at exactly 3pm - the departure time for the last tour. The man at the gate told me the tour had been sold out for weeks, being a holiday weekend and all, but I was fine with that, content to sit and taste at the bar.

However...
As I walked out of my car, I saw the last tour departing from the gift shop. A few stragglers wandered near me, taking photos, and when they rejoined the rest of the group I fell into step behind them. Not only did I get a free tour of the facility, but I got in some free tastings at the end too :3

With as much Bulleit whiskey I've purchased over the years, I felt no guilt for this.

The facility closed at 4PM (ugh, Sundays) so I wandered downtown to see what else might be left open. I enjoyed some samples of whiskey-infused chocolate, and paid for a tasting at the Evan Williams distillery. With all tasting places now closed, I decided to continue my own tasting by having a little more at a tiny dive bar, escaping from the torrential southern rain that I was now coming to appreciate in the heat.

I hadn't had this much to drink in some time, so I walked it off a while by the river, loving the historical signs planted every so often. Ended the night by grabbing ice cream at Graters Ice Cream. The black raspberry chocolate definitely lived up to the hype.

Day 18

Oh gods I bought a Krispy Kreme. Why did I do that...

NO RAGRATS

Today was almost nothing but hiking, and it was amazing. Slathered in sunblock, I spent hours in Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I visited two of the waterfalls, hiked up to Clingmans Dome, and did a turn around the Blue Mountains in the Pisgah Forest, hunting for Blue Ghost fireflies. I didnt see any, sadly, but I did see a slough of regular fireflies. Its always so magical.

I spent a little time at a local brewery with a food truck, enjoying a greasy burger and the ache in my thighs. Its good to be walking more again after so much driving.

Day 19

Everything hurts uuuhhggg....

I also woke up at like 7:30 today, laying in bed for another 30 minutes. Most of my days have been 6:30 or earlier due to the sunlight, so it was nice to sleep in a bit. Its finally cool enough to take a slower morning, too, and I was grateful for the extra rest.

My plans to stay with a LARP friend in Virginia tonight fell through a bit since I ended up being a day early, but we still made plans to grab lunch tomorrow. I'm looking forward to easier and more frequent visits in the future when I'm living in Philly.

Instead I reached out to a gamer friend in North Carolina to make plans with them for the night. Lingering in NC means I'd be missing West Virginia, but there wasn't really anything there I was dying to see, having it only as a checkmark for my states completion. I'll have to visit in the future when I'm living nearby. I'd rather make the time for people right now, instead of places.

It felt really good connecting with them and seeing a bit more of the liberal pockets in NC. Taking a slow day before getting home felt right.

Its interesting how much my priories shift when I'm actually on the road. More and more I find myself wanting to cut Canada short, too. Not only to save time, but to conserve my funds. Gas will be more expensive in Canada, and I doubt my savings will stretch as far as I want it to.

We'll see what feels right as that draws closer

Day 20, Wednesday May 29th. Home!

Woke up fairly hungover this morning... I didn't drink much, but whatever rot gut he gave me last night definitely rotted more than my guts. Still, I got up early and met with another friend for lunch in Virginia. We hung out for a good while on his lunch break, and it felt good doing something together outside of LARP. Ironically, we'll be seeing each other again in a few days during the event, but the change in environment was nice.

Finally, after hours of driving, I made it to Chris's house in Philadelphia. Arriving a day early allowed me a bit more time to rest before driving another 6 hours to Connecticut for LARP on Friday. This way we were able to spend some more quality time together before rushing off again.

I like that I'm already considering this home. I'll be relaxing here for about a week before heading off again - this time, to Canada.

***

It felt good to finish up this round of my travels. Sure, I skipped West Virginia, but I'm not too worried about that at the moment. I still want to spend more time exploring historical sites in Virginia too, and more interestingly, Washington DC.

I'll look forward to all of that once I'm living a bit closer.

Life is good!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Towards the Sunrise

Towards the Sunrise
5/28/19

Night falls faster with your back to the setting sun
In a place where the only screams you hear are from the wind
The only sirens are those beckoning from the sea
And the only shots are the chances you take

I try to close my eyes in prayer
But this world is too beautiful to ignore
 I am a creature of sunsets, and yet
I'm drawn so thoroughly East