Montreal 10th (and Final) Leg: Ottawa to Montreal

Note to self (#61)—Two weeks is not nearly enough time to cross two countries.

Note to self (#62)—When you’re rushing across two countries in only two weeks you have, like, zero time to get to know the amazing, generous, wonderful people who’ve made it possible; not just possible, but heart-filling good.

The drive through Montreal was a lot like driving through a big city, even though we only skirted the south side. I lost track of miles and time and finally just couldn’t wait, so we stopped at an information center to use the bathroom. Nicole was extremely friendly and helpful. We helped ourselves to the basket of free local apples.

As we walked out I asked Sue how much further it was; it seemed like we should have less than an hour. She said “The last two measurements just say ‘m’ instead of a distance; like, we go up here 40m, then up another 120m and we’re there.”

Um, that’s like, we could probably see their house from where we were standing. I coulda waited.

We arrived just as Cristina’s oldest was getting home from school so they were standing outside as we drove by. They were still standing outside as we turned around and actually pulled into the driveway.

And so, we’re here. As soon as I resurface from the mountain of work that’s built up, I promise we’ll share more about the tactics and strategies that made the trip work (and the ones we’re bagging because they were hopeless) and tell you all about how to make it work when 8 people (half of them young children) share a single bathroom.

Montreal 9th Leg: Toronto to Ottawa

Highway 7, the Trans Canada Highway, rivals the Ring of Kerry for unique natural beauty. Fortunately I got some video we’ll share later, because it’s hard to describe the interaction of the rock and water and trees and sun and clouds.

Google told us that the smaller highway would be 100 miles shorter than the big highway but would take nearly exactly the same time. No way I’m driving through beautiful scenery at 100kph if I can make the same drive at 70kph in the same time. Turns out it was a good choice.

I’d had this image of Shawn living in a big city; like most of us he refers to the big city nearby (Ottawa) since most of us have never heard of the small semi-rural community (Kanata) he lives in.

Our lightning visit with Shawn and his family was another powerful reminder of the goofy mistake of rushing across two countries in 13 days. I think we want to go back and spend a month, at least. A marvelously warm and welcoming home, surrounded by glorious late fall colors; a dinner which would have impressed me in a fine restaurant followed by the kind of intellectually stimulating conversation I love most. After a couple years of interacting with Shawn online, we weren’t surprised to discover that his wife and kids are warm, witty, and welcoming.

Nomad Benefit #9: discovering that the people you’ve known online are just as wonderful in person, and visiting like old friends the first time you actually meet.

Our first freeze; we looked out over cups of some truly good coffee (Shawn, I’ve forgotten what it was; share?) we noticed the frost on the van. The temperature had dropped just below zero. I was going to get the cameras to get shots of it when I realised that I’d forgotten the camcorder, digital camera, and two portable hard drives in the van overnight. Computer equipment doesn’t like being frozen. I hoped the van had enough residual warmth to keep them alive. (I’ve discovered since that they’re all fine.)

We felt so very much at home it was hard to leave the next day. I was also the tiniest bit sad that this would be the last leg of our trip . . . next stop, St. Alphonse de Granby near Montreal, where we’re spending a month with one more online acquaintance who’s become more like family than just a friend.

I sure hope this works.

Montreal 8th Leg: Fremont to Toronto

For some reason the short-ish drive completely wore me out.

Crossing into Canada was uneventful. Spectacular scenery continues. Weather is cooling, some (why is it still 80 degrees F this far into October, this far north? I’m confused.)

Toronto has a freeway system that makes sense: every so often a set of collector lanes turn off from the express lanes, and then the on/off ramps access the collector lanes instead of just dumping straight onto the freeway. Takes up more space, the the traffic, even at 5:00, was moving briskly.

Debs lives in a corner apartment over a beauty salon. She is just marvelous, just marvelous. A songwriting friend from February Album Writing Month, we’d never even spoken on the phone, let alone met. That’s always a little nervy, meeting someone for the first time like that, but once again it was even better than expected.

We had an excellent dinner of lentils and brown rice with a super salad with homemade dressing (I’m looking forward to eating at Debs’ again!) While Sue and I showered and puttered and got settled, Fiona terrorised Debs with talk and music and playing and it was wonderful. Debs clearly loves children; you can’t ‘put on’ the kind of fun they were having, the genuine interaction and interest. (The shortest route to our hearts is to be kind to our little girl; Debs went straight to the head of the class.)

We played music. We played a card game called Mille Bornes which I haven’t played in 20 years, and ended in a perfect tie which was fluky and fun. Debs gave up her bed for Sue and I, and she and Fiona slept on couches in the living room.

After scrumptious oatmeal in the morning we had to leave. Fiona always cries when we leave (another reason for spacing out our driving; it’s hard on us seeing her so sad five days in a row) but this time she was more distressed than she’d been since she said goodbye to her older sister in Roseville.

We’ve made some special friends this trip. There’s still a world of difference between chatting online and watching someone have a silly conversation with your daughter.

Just before we left, as Fiona was playing with the little green ukulele she hadn’t put down since we arrived, Debs said “Fiona, would you like to take that with you?” So guess who has their very own ukulele now? (Tip to parents: the ukulele is a very pleasant delicate sound; infinitely more fun coming from the back seat for the 5-hour drive from Toronto to Ottawa than, say, a recorder flute, harmonica, or other portable instrument.)

Leaving now for our last stop on the road, another online associate I finally get to meet in person.

Montreal 7th Leg: Rice Lake to Fremont (Part 2)

Our second-longest drive (after the Roseville-Phoenix jaunt) went well, overall. We kept hoping we’d arrive early, and it looked like we would until the left headlamp went black an hour from Fremont.

I assumed we’d just soldier on and fix it in the morning at Charlie’s, but Sue called Google-411 to see if there was an auto parts place open, and the AutoZone in Holland, Michigan answered on the first ring. They gave us excellent directions from where we were by the highway and when we got there, Royce Demaray III installed our $15 headlamp, no charge, as if that was just what you did. When’s the last time you got that kind of service from an auto parts store?

Made it to Charlie’s at 11:10 which ain’t bad for a 10-hour drive. Comfy bed in the basement (which is so much more than a basement, so we weren’t exactly living like moles.)

Charlie drove us around on Sunday. We went to his garden down the road and then through Camp Echo where he held this year’s Charlie Fest which I hope to attend next year. He gave me a tour of the not-yet-released newest version of Indie Band Manager which has some seriously cool features (I say this as both a web developer and a musician.)

Charlie’s going to be on tour during our return trip from Montreal so we won’t see him in November which makes us all sad. Last night before we went to bed, he sang two of Fiona’s favorites of his songs for her; a personal concert right there in the living room.

Another marvelous family making us feel right at home. I’m really starting to like this . . .

Montreal Itinerary

Looks like it’s going to take 2 full weeks, 14 days, to make Montreal. Guess I’m not the road warrior I thought I was, but I just can’t imagine pushing that hard for that long. Also, I guess I can’t just drop in on my Mom, who I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years, for a single night. (We’ll be back later to spend a couple weeks with her.)

I’ll be reconnecting with an uncle and aunt I haven’t seen in nearly 30 years, staying with a musical buddy who’s slept on my couch, staying with a friend who just moved from here a few weeks ago, and meeting a couple folks who’ve become incredibly close online but whom I’ve not yet hugged in real life.

Update 1:Thanks to Jerry Kennedy‘s reminder nudge, we checked out and found a place in Albuquerque.

Update 2:I didn’t check with enough people in Toronto, so one of them checked with me. H’ray for Debs, my musical friend in Toronto!

Thursday 30 Sep Home Phoenix Terry
Friday 1 Oct Phoenix Phoenix
Saturday 2 Oct Phoenix Albuquerque Sonja
Sunday 3 Oct Albuquerque Denver Jason
Monday 4 Oct Denver Rapid City Denny
Tuesday 5 Oct Rapid City Arlington Mimi
Wednesday 6 Oct Arlington Rice Lake Mom
Thursday 7 Oct Rice Lake Rice Lake
Friday 8 Oct Rice Lake Rice Lake
Saturday 9 Oct Rice Lake Fremont Charlie
Sunday 10 Oct Fremont Fremont
Monday 11 Oct Fremont Toronto Debs
Tuesday 12 Oct Toronto Ottawa Shawn
Wednesday 13 Oct Ottawa Granby Cristina