Moving to Vancouver's West End

I hate moving.
I mean, I really hate moving.
As you know, we moved to a new apartment yesterday. Based on the amount of time that it took to move Brian and Gill from their apartment to their house, I assumed (rather stupidly, it seems) that the trip would take about five hours.
We started about 8pm the night before. Allison’s parents (who graciously wasted two days of their vacation helping us move) arrived and began to help us finish packing. We’d been packing for nearly two weeks, but due to all the other things we had to deal with we simply didn’t get everything done.
The next morning, the packing resumed on the remaining small things. At about 11:45am, I headed out to get the truck. We rented a 17-foot cube van, which I thought would be ample to the task of moving our stuff. That was mistake #1.
Traffic was a nightmare. My dear, close friend Murphy was following me everywhere. The rainy season had started in the Lower Mainland, of course on the day we had to move. The lights were out at Nanaimo and Kingsway, backing traffic up for blocks in both directions. I just knew it was going to be a rough day. If only I had known how rough.
Returning to the apartment with the truck, we proceeded to load our lives’ possessions into the truck. I was extremely grateful for the Collins’ help — we never would have been able to move on our own. Because we were moving on a weekday, we were also unable to get friends to help — they were all at work.
The idea had been to load the truck by 2:00, get down to the new apartment by 2:30, and have the truck back by 5:30.
That was the idea.
In reality, we had the *first* load ready by 3:00, we were unloaded by 4:15, and back to the old apartment to pick up the *second* load. Fortunately, we’d lucked out by having Michelle and Tyler (two friends of ours) leave work early to help us move. We stole Tyler going back to the old apartment.
The second load was ready somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 8:00pm, give or take a half-hour. (By that point, it really didn’t matter any more.) We were unloaded by somewhere around 9:45. After that, I took the truck back, picked up my car, and drove to my new home.
10 hours. It took 10 hours to get it all done. Note to self: Remember this the next time we get the silly idea that we can live someplace better.
As it stands, the apartment is a disaster. There’s stuff everywhere. It’s gonna take us about a week to sort it all out.
Like I said, I hate moving.
Next time, we’re getting professional movers.
And of course, there’s the aftermath. Rogers botched our @Home installation (we’re about 1 second away from getting ASDL to compensate for their incompetence). We still have to clean out our old apartment and turn in the keys.
Overall, this isn’t an experience I want to relive for quite some time. So for the foreseeable future, here’s where you can reach us:
[This information not available on the web. Sorry…]
Be talking with y’all later…

Visit to Ontario, Returning Home

The alarm went off at 8:00, and I staggered out of bed. Chris and I had made tentative plans to go for breakfast, but I needed to call him and find out. Chris couldn’t make it. The whole week had been like that — we’d been trying to get together, but one thing after another prevented our reunion.
I returned to bed.
I ran a few errands that morning, leaving Allison in Oakville. The errands took longer than I originally planned, putting me back on time. But I made sure to stop into Canadian Computer on Speers. I wanted to see Chris, even if for only five minutes.
Two years ago, Chris was a computer novice. He hated the things. (Especially the 286 he used for most of his work.) Now he frightens me. I’m amazed at all the things he’s learned in the PAST YEAR. Now he’s an expert. And that meant he was busy.
I got to talk with Chris for all of about 10 minutes. The rest of the time, he was help customers and answering phones. (One of the customers was a teacher from my high school, Suzi Beber, whom I hadn’t seen since I graduated.)
Then it was over. Realising I had to go home, I bade Chris farewell, and headed home. All the way, I felt fairly numb. I had a huge list of people I’d wanted to visit with. Most of them didn’t even get a phone call. (Some people think I have too many friends.) It was too late, though. I couldn’t do anything more. I saw a few people, chatted with a few more. But it was over too soon. Too fast.
We arrived at the airport about an hour ahead of time. I prefer half an hour for domestic flights, but Allison pointed out that we usually get rushed. I said goodbye to my dad, hugged my sister (my mom didn’t want to come — she hates goodbyes — so I hugged her before we left Oakville), and headed into Terminal 3.
We arrived in Vancouver around 7:30pm PDT following a rather eventless flight. (Not that I’m looking for an eventful flight.) We grabbed our bags, hopped the Park N’ Fly shuttle, and went to pick up the car.
The car’s battery was dead. I don’t know how the heck they got the car there, short of pushing it. You’d think they’d have noted that.
As we drove home (after getting the car jumped), I remarked on something I hadn’t noticed before. I felt like I was home. For the first time since I moved here, I felt like I was at home. It was a strange feeling. For the longest time, I didn’t think I could ever feel at home here. But I do, to some degree at least.
Don’t get me wrong, I still miss my family and friends. I always will — you’re all a huge part of my life. I can’t forget you any more than I can sever an arm and not notice.
But I was home. I collapsed in our couch, and felt like I was at home. A strange feeling, indeed.

Visit to Ontario, Worth the Drive to Acton, Waterloo

The Old Man was still cursing the sink the following morning. By the time Allison and I left for Waterloo, the plumber had arrived to solve the problem once and for all. (It would take an additional two hours, and several holes drilled in the wall to finally eradicate the clog.)
The drive up to Waterloo was very pleasant — it was a beautiful day. I wanted to show Allison where I went to school. The memories were flooding back even before I turned onto Highway 86. By the time I turned onto Ring Road, I was getting some serious deja vu.
But the campus seemed foreign. The students looked much younger (did I ever look that young?), more naive. The university seemed no different than I remembered, with the exception of modifications to South Campus Hall.
After a quick driving tour of the campus, we started the walking tour. This took us from South Campus Hall, between the science buildings, through Math and Computer (I was disappointed to see the Red Room is no longer visible), through Davis Center, back to the Campus Centre (aka the Student Life Centre), over to Needless Hell (aka Needles Hall), through Hagey Hall, and then back to South Campus Hall.
It felt strange walking around. I felt old. Allison commented that an entire (three-year) class had entered and graduated since I left. It’s a strange feeling, walking around, not seeing any familiar faces.
We left U(W), and drove around Uptown Waterloo, then Downtown Kitchener. We stopped for a while to take advantage of the Oktoberfest that was underway, picking up a pair of rather flavourless sausages.
It’s kind of ironic that in the five years I was in Waterloo (four years of which I was actually there for Oktoberfest), I only went ONCE to the festivities. (This was prior to my decision to start drinking alcohol, so needless to say I didn’t have that much fun.) Okay, that’s not the ironic part. Here’s the irony: As we headed back to the car, we were approached by a pair of (American?) tourists who were looking for more “fun” attractions. They asked this of a guy, who although spent four years in Waterloo during Oktoberfest, had not lived there for over three years. I directed them to the Hans Haas (aka the Information booth).
We headed up to Highway 7 on our trip out to Guelph. Within minutes, we were leaving Kitchener/Waterloo heading east. I had to admit, I almost didn’t want to leave — there are many memories for me there, and several people I would have liked to visit with. But there wasn’t time. There’s never enough time.
We drove around Guelph, during which I attempted to give Allison a rough tour of the area. I don’t know Guelph as well as my friends who went to Guelph (or spent a lot of time in the city), but I’d been there enough times that I knew the area.
Our first stop was at McCrae House. Well, after we drove around a bit before we found it (we took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong side of the Speed River). McCrae House is the birthplace of John McCrae, author of “In Flanders Fields”. We appeared 45 minutes late to go in the museum, unfortunately.
The tour continued up the sidestreets around McCrae House, where Allison oohed and aahed at the beauty of the leaf-covered streets and all the red brick houses. If it weren’t for the distance, the winters, and the dryness, I figure I could get Allison to move there.
Then it was past the ‘X’ House (the ‘X’s are still visible in the window, by the way) on Gordon St. before turning into the University of Guelph. The tour here was fair short, as our time was continuing be tight. We had to be in Acton by 6:30, and I wasn’t sure how long that would take.
Again, memories. Pangs of regret. The invisible tears of missed friends. They say that smell is the strongest sense that can evoke a memory — I often find that sight works just as well.
Returning to Highway 7, we continued on our way east. We stopped briefly on the edge of Guelph to get something to drink. I hopped into the convenience store, and purchased a ginger ale for Allison, and a Sprite for me. Well, it was going to be a Sprite until I spied my favourite drink … Wink. You can’t get Wink in BC (mind you, you can’t get Cheezies in Ontario). I took the bottles and presented them to the clerk. I was $0.20 short. I was about to pull the Wink back, resigning myself to never having a visit with an old friend. The clerk, however, said I could pay him back later.
Oh. Okay. Sure. No problem.
We arrived in Acton shortly after 6:00, far too early to arrive at our destination. We were going to Jason and Steph’s place in north Acton (aka the middle of nowhere) to have dinner with our hosts and two more of my friends, Brian and Gill. Allison had met Brian and Gill before, but I couldn’t remember if she had met Jason or Steph before. My guess was “no”.
Because we were early, I thought we’d check out downtown Acton. After laughing hysterically about the phrase “It’s worth the drive to Acton”, we decided to visit the company that inspired that phrase — the Olde Hyde House.
Holy leather, Batman!
I’ve been in a lot of stores, but I’ve never seen that much leather before. Ever. We wandered about the store, just to see what they had. Most of it was nice, and I debated off and on about picking out Allison’s birthday present (she’s always wanted a leather jacket). Nothing really struck me as “I gotta get her that!”. (Sorry, honey, no jacket this year.)
We followed the directions Brian gave me and actually managed to find Chateau Fournier. It wasn’t long before (most of) the gang was assembled. Jason and Steph treated us to a steak dinner (Jason’s mom sacrificed her fingers for our meal, accidentally slicing off part of her index finger and thumb on a vicious man(woman)-eating slicer).
Then it was a game of croquano (crocano, krokano … I don’t know how the heck you spell it), a game that you could almost call circular curling. If you play it with Brian, it’s “kill your opponent”. Mind you, I’m not much different…
It was hard leaving. The memory thing, y’know. The last time I’d seen Jason was at his stag; for Steph, it was camping a couple of years ago. I didn’t know when I would see either Brian or Gill again. It’s a little sobering when you realise that you have to leave your friends again. You’d think that after a while, it would stop hurting.

Visit to Ontario, Clogged up Kitchen Sink Drain

The original plan that day was to go into Toronto. Allison was feeling better, and she wanted to see the various neighbourhoods of Toronto she had heard so much about. That was the original plan, and plans around the Sowrey homestead tend to change without warning.
That morning, it was because of simple request: “Geoff, can you help me move the chest downstairs?”
The dishwasher had overflowed and leaked into the basement, leaking onto a chest. Why had the dishwasher overflowed? A plug in the line. Take three guesses what we didn’t do that day.
We tried Drano. To no avail. We tried a plunger. To no avail. We tried more Drano. To no avail. We tried draining the trap, running a short line to clean out whatever the problem was, filling it up with Drano, and then plunging it. To no avail.
My dad returned with a bottle of sulphuric acid. The reaction between the sulphuric acid and the Drano was pungent, chasing everyone from the kitchen. It did nothing. After my father disappeared to go to his job, I went up to the load hardware store and returned with a drain snake. Even shoving 15 feet of this into the drain did nothing.
Allison suffered the entire time. She wanted to go to Toronto. Instead, she was effectively banished to the basement, and surfed the Internet. All day. For about four hours, I did nothing but try and clear this wretched clog. To no avail.
Dinner that evening was at Cathy and Craig’s, where I (under the supervision of the master chef Allison) made Indian curry. Mmmmm, tasty. We spent several hours there, making dinner, eating dinner, and talking the entire time. It was kind of weird, when I thought about all the things that had changed since I left for BC two years ago. Cathy had not only left home, but now had a home of her own. Her own kitchen, her own living room, her own yard.
Returning home, we found my father had effectively dissected the kitchen drain. A collective 12 litres of Drano and sulphuric acid had done nothing to the clog — it wasn’t going anywhere. Of course, that didn’t mean that my dad wasn’t finished. Craig’s snake went in to try and flush out the problem.
I guess you really had to be there. My old man, sitting on a short stool, hanging onto a short metal rod attached to the snake. He reeled it in, he forced it back. It was like watching a dramatisation of “Old Man and the Sea”, although I’d reword it — “Old Man and the Sink”.
No amount of blowing, sucking, forcing, snaking, or flushing could do anything. At 1:30am, more than 12 hours after this fiasco started, I went to bed.

Visit to Ontario, General Inactivity

Allison was not feeling well the following morning. Jet lag, the flu, a bad bit of food, we didn’t know — only Allison was not feeling well. Wednesday thus became a slow day — Allison slept off her illness, I read everything I could find. And there wasn’t much.
That evening, we had a family dinner (including Cathy and Craig) — roast beef. This is my dad’s favourite meal. He looks for excuses to make it. It was a good meal, and we had a good time.
After dinner, I poked my head into the attic in search of a leak that had formed above the pot light over the kitchen sink. Craig was in there moments after me, and was the one willing to dive into the fibreglass insulation to find the problem. It seemed that my dad’s brand-new roof was leaking. He was not pleased.

Visit to Ontario, Touring Downtown Toronto

The alarm went off at 6:45am. I was up almost immediately, Allison begged for “five more minutes”. I took the opportunity to quickly have some orange juice. Allison was in the shower moments later.
We had to be at Yonge and Sheppard by 10:00am, and the trip would take about an hour. Allison wanted to get there in plenty of time, which meant we were catching the 8:03 GO Train from Clarkson.
My dad delivered us to Clarkson station at 8:00. I jogged ahead of Allison and purchased tickets. After riding the GO Train for a year, I had a kind of sixth-sense that told me we had to hurry — and the time wasn’t my only tip-off. No sooner than we had our tickets in hand and were walking up the stairs to the platform did the train arrive. Like clockwork.
The train went express at Clarkson, which meant we were downtown in about 20 minutes — a feat that is virtually impossible in a car at that time of day. (Of course, now that I’ve said that, one of you will probably try to prove me wrong.) Arriving at Union Station, we followed the other lemmings into the GO Concourse and into the subway.
The furthest north on the Yonge line I had been was York Mills, where I got off during my tenure at Digital Equipment. That was nearly six years ago. (Six years? Oh boy, I can feel them gray hairs just popping out of my head … and the other hairs falling off.) We were heading to Sheppard, two more stops beyond that. Allison had no idea just how far north we were going.
We were starving by the time we arrived. Luckily, there was a friendly neighbourhood McDonald’s on the McCorner. We indulged ourselves with a bit of McBreakfast (which is known to bring on period bouts of McNausea). The McPlace was not even half-full of people, but still took a while to get our McMeal. At first, I thought my McServer’s name was “Ebola” — imagine getting stuck with that name! As it turned out, her name was “Errola”. Dunno if that’s any better…
About 9:30, we headed to the building where Allison was to have her meeting. During her departure, I was going to make a few phone calls to obtain information and make a general nuisance of myself.
Allison was up there for two hours. It took me only 45 minutes to complete my tasks. (I also ran out of quarters for the payphone.) During that time, I got a tonne of information about setting up a webserver over an ASDL line, made arrangements for lunch and dinner, made an appointment for Allison at Arkipelago (my old Toronto haunt), and dropped a line to a few friends … none of whom were at their desks.
That left me with a hour and 15 minutes to be bored out of my mind. I watched elevator load after elevator load walk by, none of them being Allison. After a while, I felt like a dog that watches all the cars go down the road, hoping one of them is its master. (No allusion drawing, please.)
Following her seemingly-successful meeting, we headed downtown to meet with my cousin, Lauren. We went to one of her favourite restaurants, a tiny Thai bistro about a block south from Bloor. We had to wait a few minutes, but the wait was worth it — the food was good, and not too expensive (for a business-style Toronto eatery, that is).
After lunch, we hopped the subway back down to Queen Street to walk to Arkipelago. It was strange walking down streets I hadn’t been on in two years. Things were at the same time familiar, but not. It was like someone had taken a picture of my old world, changed a few things, and then shown me the picture without telling me what they had changed.
The familiar smell of Arkipelago was weaker than I remembered … but it had been two years since I last smelled the aroma of the wood and varnish that permeated the air. The space seemed a bit more cramped, especially with the additional people. When I had left Arkipelago, there were about 15 people. Over 30 people occupy its spaces. The people scattered everyone reminded me of what Arkipelago looked like when I started there.
The meeting was with Diedre, one of Arkipelago’s newer acquisitions. We had hoped to meet with Tim or Todd, but they were both in Europe. Be that as it may, the meeting went very well, or at least so we thought. Following the discussion (which I was mostly a silent witness), I quickly visited with the Arkipelago veterans who were still there.
We walked down to St. Lawrence Market, so I could show Allison Toronto’s idea of the Granville Island Market. Then it was off to meet Brenda and Marek at the Movenpick in BCE Place. We enjoyed an interesting dinner and a good discussion. Then we had to split ways and go home.

Visit to Ontario, Visiting with Friends

If Sunday was quiet, Monday was dead. Being Thanksgiving Monday, it also meant that every store in Ontario was closed. (Stupid Holiday Shopping Act.) As it stood, Allison had work to do. Unlike myself, who was trying his best to distance himself from work, Allison had brought work with her. In an attempt to extend her client base, we were going to visit two companies in search of more work.
One of them wanted a proposal that Allison would present during their meeting. Allison also wanted (well, not really, but she had no choice) to work on a series of factsheets for another company. I set her up on my mother’s computer downstairs, and let her run free.
I spent part of the day calling friends, seeing who was available and who wasn’t. Some people I couldn’t get a hold of — bad phone numbers, no answer, no answering machine (it’s nearly the third millennium, people — get with it!).
We met up with Kathryn that evening. It was so good to see her again — her insanely busy schedule often keeps her correspondence to a minimum … as did the long distance phone call she had to make to get her email. (I honestly can’t remember the last time I sent a snail-mail letter.)
The three of us drove around Oakville in search of a place to have a light bite and a long conversation. After a bit of frustration, we ended up in Jack Astor’s, ordering bruchetta. The long conversation ensued.
It was good to talk with Kathryn again. She’s one of my closest friends, even though I’m lucky if I get to see her once a year. It was pure luck that were in the same vicinity at the same time, so I was more than happy to take advantage of it.
About two or so hours later, we called it an evening, and headed home. We wanted to get to bed a little earlier than usual — we had a train to catch the following morning.

Visit to Ontario, Oakville and Caledon East

The fire was still going the next morning. I don’t know if they rekindled it, or if the fire had just simply burned all night.
Breakfast was eggs, bacon, leftover ham, and potatoes (not the deep-fried ones, thank Heaven). It was just as tasty as ever. Following our repast, Allison and I hit the road to go home.
We retraced most of our route, including a stop at Weber’s for a quick hamburger. As we entered Barrie, we spied a familiar-looking RV travelling south. Pulling in behind, we followed my parents until my dad signalled to get off the highway at Highway 89.
Here, we were given directions on how to get to my Aunt’s. We planned to (briefly) stop by Aunt Ruth’s place in Caledon East. I hadn’t been there since April 1996, and was very curious to see how the landscaping renovations had gone. I was also wanted to see my relatives.
My parents weren’t coming — they had to return to Oakville. Instead, Allison and I took off across remote Ontario in search of the Lockton Spinney (the name of Aunt Ruth’s home). They weren’t there. The home was deserted, only a small fluffy cat (Iggy, so I’m told) was there to greet us.
I was surprised that I could find my way out of the area with little difficulty. My dad had attempted to give me fairly complicated instructions that involved a lot of turns. I opted for three: turning onto Gore Road, turning onto Old Church Road, and turning onto Airport Road. That got us to the 407, and eventually home.
The rest of Sunday was fairly relaxful. We ate dinner with my parents, and later went out to take in a movie (Mystery, Alaska). After the movie, I took Allison on a short tour of Oakville neighbourhoods. Although I often compare Oakville to Nanaimo, I know there are a lot of significant differences. Most notably, the “scummy” part.
In Nanaimo, the not-so-nice parts of town are not-so-nice. In Oakville, it’s Kerr Street. For those of you who don’t know Oakville, let me provide a simple example as to what Kerr Street is like. Let’s say your normal scummy part of town is like a beat-up 1974 Ford Pinto. Let’s say your typical part of Oakville is like a Rolls-Royce. Kerr Street is like a somewhat muddy Chrysler Neon.

Visit to Ontario, Cottage in Huntsville, Thanksgiving Dinner, Algonquin Park

We awoke to the smell of bacon. It must be an instinctual thing — no human can sleep through the smell of bacon. Your body takes in the smell and promptly yells: “Get up ya lazy oaf! There’s bacon to be had! GET UP!”
Breakfast was huge. Omelettes, bacon, and potatoes. There was also champagne and orange juice (mixed in the stronger-than-usual 1:1 ratio) to wash it all down. When all was said and eaten, we were stuffed beyond belief.
The item of the day was Algonquin Park. Huntsville is a short drive from the massive greenspace, and Allison and I wanted to see it. I’d never been to Algonquin before (Allison was shocked that I’d not gone before with friends or family, though that wasn’t due to lack of interest), and was curious to see what it was like. Allison was itching to see the fall colours (which really don’t exist here in BC).
The day was warm, so we dressed comfortably. We passed by Huntsville and in just over a half-hour, were entering the south-western entrance to the park. Algonquin Park is huge — 7,725 square kilometres. Not nearly as large as Wood Buffalo National Park (weighing in at a hefty 44,807 square kilometres), but larger than Prince Albert National Park (3,875 sq. km) and Banff (Bamf!) National Park (6,641 sq. km). We had missed the best time to go through the park (the colour peaked probably a week or two earlier), but it was still magnificent.
After purchasing a day pass from the main gate, we headed for our first stop: Hardwood Trail. This was the shortest one in the park, and was described as “moderate”. We took this to mean “relatively not too bad”. At only 0.7 kilometres, it didn’t sound too bad.
In BC, they make trails easy to follow, and will quite frequently build raised platforms and walkways to prevent the trampling and compacting of the ground. In Ontario, they tack little blue circles to trees along the way.
By the time we reached the top of a hill (which gave us a spectacular view over Smoke Lake), we were tired. A lot of it had been crawling up and down hills, carefully walking so you didn’t plant your foot in a mud pit, and keeping an eye out for rogue tree roots. We passed on any more trails for the day.
We headed further into the park, stopping at the Algonquin Museum about halfway through the park. This gave us an opportunity to view some of the Group of Seven paintings the museum had.
Not far past the museum (still heading east), we realised that we had gone a bit too far, and turned around to head back. Along the way, we stopped at Canoe Lake, site of Tom Thompson’s tragic death in 1917. The only indication of the lake’s notoriety was a bronze and blue sign erected near the gift shop and restaurant. I think Allison and I were the only ones who read it.
Following our visit to Canoe Lake, we went into Huntsville, in search of something light to eat. We weren’t interested in anything heavy — we were still reeling from the previous night’s dinner (oh, if we only knew what we were in for). But Ontario is not exactly known for light fare, and certainly not more northern Ontario.
Downtown Huntsville is quite picturesque. It’s hard to tell if what we saw was genuine, or a carefully constructed charade for the tourists. We drove up the main strip, turned around and headed back (passing my mom and sister in the process) and headed back toward the cottage. We stopped at the Harvey’s along the way to indulge in a salad.
There were people all over the place when we arrived back at the cottage. As of the previous day, there were 10 people: Cathy, Craig, Dave, Steve, Kathy, Madison (the baby), my parents, Allison, and myself. We now had at least four more (in all honesty, I lost count). So much for a small, cozy Thanksgiving dinner.
Dave had gone overboard with dinner. The turkey was stuffed with apple/raisin/sauage stuffing, there was a ham coated in pineapple/brown sugar glaze (it apparently did a number of the pan), beans that were seemingly cooked in butter (as opposed to water), carrots (the tamest of the items), and mashed potatoes.
No comments about the potatoes, you say? That’s because it takes a bit to explain them. Take your ordinary potato. Cook a few and mash them with cream and butter. Lots of it. The potatoes should be ultra-creamy. Mix in bacon bits. Real ones. Refrigerate over night. The next morning, scoop out potatoes with an ice cream scoop. Roll the potatoes in flour, then in beaten eggs, then in breading. Deep-fry until the breading is golden brown. Heat in the oven.
I almost wished I hadn’t learned how those were made. There were sooooo good, but I can never eat them again.
After dinner, we sat around and talked. Craig and Steve set a fire in the back yard. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, until you realise what they were burning: Three mattresses, at least one box spring, several table legs (and possibly the tables), and about 1,000 square feet of carpet.
And this was a small fire. Their other fires have been massive blazes that have actually frightened them. (You’d think they’d learn…) Although I don’t have hard figures, these are some of the other things these people have burned:

  • Two vacuum cleaners
  • One fibreglass jacuzzi tub
  • Countless square feet of carpet
  • Countless board-feet of lumber of all kinds
  • Leaves. Lots of ’em.
  • Mattresses. Who knows how many.
  • 27 couches. Yes, 27.

The neighbours don’t like the cottage group too much.

Visit to Ontario, Getting a new Apartment in Vancouver, Traveling to Huntsville

We awoke to three deafening pounds on the bedroom door. Cathy had arrived at the Sowrey homestead, and wasn’t going to wait for her poor brother (and future sister-in-law) to adjust to the time change. She wanted to start up to the cottage, and she wasn’t keen on waiting.
The cottage? Cathy’s significant other (more than a boyfriend, but not quite a husband) owns a cottage just outside of Huntsville. (Huntsville, for those of you without a map, is about 250 kms north of Toronto.) Huntsville’s claim to fame, aside from being a nice little town, is bringing Shania Twain to the world. She got her start at the Deerhurst Resort, which sits on the eastern edge of town.
Allison and I weren’t off and running with the bulls that morning, it took us a while to get going. There was a reason for this, of course — we needed to make a phone call. What’s so special about that? Well, for one thing, it was to British Columbia, three hours behind Ontario. For another, it would settle our problem with finding a new apartment.
Finally sick to death of the apartment we’re currently in (lots of noise, endless renovation, and I’m getting tired of the commute), we started looking for a new place to live. Because of the way our lease is structured, we had to hand in our notice to vacate one month and one day before our last day — September 30. This was long before we had a place settled.
We had searched high and low through Kitsilano and the West End to find a place. We found a few promising ones, but nothing definite. We were getting a bit uptight about finding an apartment in time before we left for Ontario. Then, on the Tuesday before, we went to see a place in the West End. It sounded promising: Two bedrooms, balcony, view, and a dishwasher. The dishwasher was a big thing for us — we’re sick of having our counter space sucked up with a dish rack.
When we arrived, there were several people directly on our heels. It was only because I thought we should get there early that we got there first. Allison whispered in my ear “we’ll take it” after only barely stepping into the apartment. But we had to wait for the manager to show the apartment to two more groups.
The next group bribed her $100 to give the place to them over us. The second group offered $250 more per month. (There were two more groups from Toronto who both offered $350 more than the advertised rent.) I began to understand why prices out here were so out of whack. (In retrospect, Toronto has caught up in the Rent Race as of late.)
We were told that we would find out Thursday morning if we got the apartment. When Thursday morning came, Allison (who accepted the call) discovered that the owner of the apartment (apparently it’s a condo) was concerned that Allison is self-employed. We’d expected to run into this problem … when we bought a house, not renting an apartment. Allison hastily faxed nearly every quasi-financial document that proved she was trustworthy.
The call Friday morning would tell us either A) we got it, or B) we’d be apartment hunting as soon as we got back. We were hoping it wasn’t B).
I dialled the management, and asked for Dana, the woman we had been dealing with. (Interesting fact: Almost every single building manager I’ve dealt with since I got here has been a woman — only one man.) Her response was: “Are you ready to sign the contract that says you’ll take me for two weeks of the year?”
This is Dana’s little joke — she thinks the view at our new apartment is great, and joked that she would like to stay there two weeks of the year when she’s retired. It’s harmless … I hope.
So that brings me to a new point: Our new address information. You might want to jot this down…
[Information not available on the web. Sorry…]
Anyway, back to the story…
The whole famn damily (as my dad would say) was going to up to the cottage. Allison and I would pick up my sister, and my parents would drive up in the RoadTrek. We’d meet either in Huntsville, or at Weber’s (if we got there at the same time).
Following the simple directions, Allison and I arrived at my sister’s house. Yes, house. She owns a house with Craig (hence the more-than-boyfriend, not-quite-husband designation). It’s a nice place, it just needs a little bit of work to make it their own — they’ve only been there a couple of months.
And off we went. I drove for the first bit, about 80% of the trip. This took us north of Toronto, through Barrie and Orillia, and finally to Weber’s, home of the best burgers in Ontario (and possibly the world). As we blitzed north, we passed my parents, who then engaged in a game of “keep up with the children”. We met for lunch.
Weber’s is a landmark in the Muskokas. Everyone travelling north of Orillia on Highway 11 knows about Weber’s. You can’t miss it. It’s the only hamburger joint with it’s own bridge across the highway (the bridge is the only privately-owned bridge (or walkway) across a highway in Canada — bought from the CN Tower in the early 80’s). They serve up to over 110,000 people in one month (up to over 6,000 in one day).
Yes, they’re *that* good. That’s why the bridge is there — to get the southbound traffic.
We arrived at the cottage around 3pm in the afternoon, and were promptly presented with with draught beers. They have a beer fridge, complete with taps in the front. The beer fridge did not last long, however, it was moved downstairs to make room for the pool table.
In turn, the power drill came out. Two holes were bored — one in the floor, the other in a post that supported the loft. They ran a clear plastic hose from the beer fridge in the basement, up through the floor, and into a beer tap that now occupied the hole in the support post. Beer now flowed from the basement to the kitchen.
(Ever seen those beer commercials where a bunch of 20-somethings romp around in this mythical cottage lifestyle? I think we found the model cottage for those commercials.)
The cottage is two floors, with a loft. The main floor is the kitchen/living and dining area. There are no walls. Except for the ones around the bathroom (kind of a necessity). Downstairs are most of the beds, with walls separating most of the areas, and one room that holds Steve, Kathy, and their baby. The loft is accessed from the living area up a fairly steep ladder. There are numerous mattresses up there, capable of sleeping a large number of people.
Dinner that evening was a roast — nothing horribly fancy, other than it was a roast. (This was a cottage — I was expecting hot dogs and hamburgers, maybe a steak.) It came with roasted potatoes and fresh vegetables. All courtesy of “Scarborough” Dave.
(There are two, actually three, Daves at this cottage. “Scarborough” Dave comes from, you guessed it, Scarborough. This is not to confuse him with “Huntsville” Dave, who lives just down the road. The third Dave is my dad. He doesn’t need a prefix for his name though, he’s just “Dave”.)
Anyway, Scarborough Dave is a cook — used to own a restaurant. He loves cooking, or so it seems. (Cathy told us that they eat far too well at the cottage.) The meal was quite tasty, but nothing compared to what awaited us the following night.