Archive for the 'Travel Adventures' Category

One Last Drop of Summer

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

The Sweetie and I decided to squeeze out a final summer road trip to Grand Bend last weekend. Along with having a glorious beach and beautiful sunsets it is one of those quintessential beach towns, lined with tacky shops selling straw hats with Corona emblazoned on them, cruising teenagers and bars blaring requisite Jimmy Buffet music. We decided it would be the perfect place for a final summer blowout.

I tried to ignore the turning leaves and the autumnal chill in the air. “It’s a summer road trip and it is going to feel like summer even if it kills us!” I declared, although my voice sounded forced and rang a little hollow. I secretly wondered if I was like the bearded, portly guys I see in March wearing shorts and sandals when there is still snow on the ground, or the young girls wearing mini skirts, oblivious to the fact that their legs are turning blue.

On our way into town we stopped at an antique market nestled in the woods. Unfortunately, instead of antiques  there  were more flea market type finds such as flags with cannabis leaves on them, belly button rings and dusty DVDs. The Sweetie pulled out a DVD called Roads Trips From Hell, a compilation of movies where road trips go horrifically wrong.

“Put it back!” I hissed, seeing bloodied bodies and a machete wielding masked killer on the cover. “We’re on a road trip, don’t even look at it!” I worried that it was a warning from the summer gods that I was pushing it and forcing the season past its prime.

As we left the dusty DVD section and bypassed moldy books we passed a vendor doling out samples of sausage. I politely declined saying, “Thank you, it looks delicious but I don’t eat meat.”

He turned to The Sweetie and muttered,“Lucky you,” with a disdainful toss of his head in my direction.

I pretended I didn’t hear him and hurried towards an old lady hunched by a stall with antique looking items. I spotted a pair of salt and pepper shakers shaped like turkeys and asked for a closer look. I have a cousin who collects tacky salt and pepper shakers for Thanksgiving and thought rainbow coloured turkeys would be a welcome addition. The old woman sighed and groaned until she finally managed to grab the shakers. When I turned them over I noticed they were cracked and one was missing a stopper.

“It’s an antique, of course it’s missing a stopper!” The old lady barked at me before I said a word.

I touched the intact stopper wondering if I could find a replacement somewhere.

“Well don”t push it in! You’re going to break it!” She chided. I gingerly handed them back to her. She snatched them from my hand and turned abruptly.

The treasure hunting adventure had taken on a darker tone. Instead of cheery banter and good-natured haggling, I seemed to be making everyone angry. I tried to cheer myself with some kettle corn and immediately started to choke on a kernel. Passersby gave me the stink eye and a little dog growled at me. As I sputtered and hacked, wondering if this was going to be my untimely and undignified end, I began to even annoy myself.

“Let’s get out of here and find a cozy little cottage for the night. Everybody is cranky here,” I whispered to The Sweetie.

The sausage guy gave me a final smirk as I passed and I think I swallowed a gnat as we trudged back to the car.

The cute looking cottages I had hoped to rent for the night were locked and empty, looking ghostly and forgotten. We went to the corner of the main strip and saw that the decidedly less romantic looking Rod & Gun hotel and lounge had rooms available.

The lively stores along the street fell silent as the sun started to set. I hurried to an ice cream stand and asked the girl, “What time do you close tonight?”

“Now!” She snapped and turned her back, quickly slamming the serving window shut.

I started to get cold, pulling my hoodie around me and wistfully reminiscing about those heat wave July days when it was almost too hot to breathe.

As we walked back to the Rod & Gun we stopped to peer in the darkened shop windows. Suddenly I felt an urge to look up. Dangling from the awnings were spiders. Huge dark thick legged full bodied spiders. The town was filled with them. There were menacing spiders dangling and crawling everywhere. Every hanging basket was a threat. Every neon light was a showcase for a spider colony. Maybe that is why everything shut down after dark. “It is a town of spiders!” I shrieked, my voice becoming more and more shrill. The Sweetie was equally disturbed, which heightened my panic. “What the hell?” he kept repeating over and over again as I left deep fingernail imprints on his arm. “Wouldn’t they have reported this is the news? Do you think they’ll have this on the internet? What if the spiders band together? There are enough of them and they are big enough that if they worked together as a team they could take us out!” I babbled until we got back to The Rod & Gun.

Everything was strangely desolate and still at the hotel. It felt a little spooky. The room and silent hallway felt oppressive. The Sweetie started getting sleepy, strangely so, almost like he was under a spell.

“So sleepy,” he murmured, as I lay next to him in the bed, thinking of giant spiders, crabby old ladies and growling dogs.  I remembered reading somewhere that the average person swallows eight spiders in their lifetime. As The Sweetie’s breath deepened I began to worry that maybe the old hotel was haunted. Perhaps there had been one too many drunken brawls at the Rod & Gun lounge and a disgruntled hunter had been shot over a glass of whiskey. His ghost could be wandering the halls in a bloodied flannel shirt looking for revenge. The spiders had been a warning and The Sweetie and I were like those dumb people in horror movies that ignore all the signs and are always the first ones to meet a grisly end. I felt myself drifting off and felt a pressure around my throat, realizing as I started awake that it was my own hand gripping the sheet closely around me.

As I lay in the dark listening for ghosts, I thought again of the bearded guys with their bare legs when the air is still icy cold, pushing the season, and how I scoff at them, my forehead furrowing in a mixture of concern and disgust at their pale hairy legs looking like plucked chicken flesh. As I drew the covers around  me, my own skin covered in goosebumps,  I thought about the planned outing to the beach the next day and realized that I am a bearded sandal wearing weirdo myself, foolish and touchingly optimistic, destined for icy toes and an early seasonal flu. Perhaps pushing the boundaries and insisting it is still summer in an abandoned beach town is not the best choice after all. Maybe there is something to be said for accepting things gracefully.

Cousin’s Cottage Weekend

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I am currently rehydrating after a boozy cousin’s cottage weekend. This was the third year that my cousin generously opened up her cottage to extended family for the long weekend. There were many bottles of wine, margaritas and slurred songs around the campfire. There were organized games including a high stakes game of capture the flag played around a wood chipper for an extra element of danger. The games usually end in controversy, ours being a family of type-A, competitive overachievers.

The first year I was apprehensive about a cousin’s weekend. I am the opposite of a type-A and far from an overachiever. Games involving teams and competition stress me out. I do everything in my power to avoid being seen in a bathing suit unless it is by strangers I will never meet again. I worry that I will revert back to my shy childhood self, complete with coke bottle glasses and dorky outfits.  Somehow though, through the skinny dipping, the booze and the lounging I managed to carve out my own place. I realized that I love these people who are all quirky, sweet and fun in their own way.

The weekend provided many opportunities for relentless teasing and future blackmail. My glamorous urban cousin nearly drowned herself and those within her splashing vicinity during a midnight swim. A few of us were having a starlit skinny dip when there was a blood curdling scream.

“Oh my God! What the hell is that?” she screamed.

She practically levitated from the lake in her haste to get away from whatever was attacking her.

From the horror in her voice I expected a bull shark (known to swim in fresh water, although never in Ontario) or at least a snapping turtle. It turns out is was The Sweetie, serenely floating on his back.

“Good God”, she panted as she tried to recover, ” Why are you so stealth? I thought you were a loon!”

Typically, a loon on a lake does not invoke shrieks of terror. It feels like a lucky thing to spot one, akin to seeing a peaceful deer in a meadow. Of course, as I teased her mercilessly I didn’t admit that I was nervous about going kayaking because I was afraid that spiders might crawl out of the kayak while I was in the middle of the lake. I would certainly drown in my desperation to get away from them. My squeamishness towards insects also resulted in attacking two relatives with bug spray that I was wielding like a can of mace. Enjoying the wilderness does not come without casualties.

Crazed loon attacks and deadly spiders aside, there is something magical and quintessentially Canadian about the cottage experience. It is in our collective blood. Seeing the water as still as glass early in the morning, plunging into a cold lake and sipping beer on a dock embodies a Canadian summer in all its glory. It felt extra special to share the experience with family members and feel truly connected. It is true that you can’t choose your family. Because families usually have a few duds we often create a tribe of our own. I’m lucky that my tribe includes family and I feel stronger for it.

Camping High Hopes

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

The Sweetie and I are making another attempt at camping. Hopefully this trip will not involve torrential rains and zombie teeth as it did last year.

I love the idea of being in nature, sleeping under the stars and cooking over a fire. It is only once I’m out in the woods that I remember that mosquitoes love me, I am afraid of bears and I have a nightly bubble bath habit.

As I am packing the cooler with tasty snacks and planning a cute camping outfit I am filled with delighted anticipation. I am looking forward to feeling like a brave, rugged frontier woman.

Manicured fingers crossed!

Summer Road Trip

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

It is officially summer, which means I am already panicking that it will fly by too quickly. Rather than live in the moment I spend the winter wishing the dark days away, then when summer finally arrives I immediately begin to dread the return of itchy sweaters. Between bouts of winter anxiety I am determined to squeeze out every drop of summer until the first awful autumn leaf falls.

To kick off my summer campaign, The Sweetie and I are going on our first road trip of the season. We will drive with the windows open and the tunes blaring and I will force him to sing duets with me. Jacked up on sugar and caffeine, my car singing will be even more tuneless than usual. We will see a Hollywood blockbuster at the Mustang drive-in. It is owned by an old, hairy hippy who shares rambling peace and love soliloquies over the sound system before starting the movie. The next day we will swim in a sparkly lake that will be so cold that we won’t be able to feel our legs, but we’ll do it anyway, shrieking the entire time. I’ll get a stupid sunburn as I do every year because I will miss one patch of skin when applying sunscreen. We will eat tomato sandwiches on the beach and get gritty sand in our teeth. I will eat blueberries and have bright blue lips. I will read a trashy novel and smear the pages with greasy sunscreen fingerprints. The sound of the water and the sunshine warming my skin will lull me into a glorious, hazy stupor.

We’ll drive back into the city rejuvenated, greasy and relaxed. I feel very Buddha-like after a summer getaway, partly because of the bulging Buddha belly escaping from my bathing suit, but mainly because of my ability to feel mindful and present. It is easy to have a fresh perspective and to feel like all is right with the world when the sun shines. Summer is easy that way. If only it would last forever.

Lovely Beach Vacation

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

I am ready to retire and become a snow bird. Why I still live in this godforsaken climate I don’t know, but I can safely say that I was meant to live somewhere warm. Four seasons are so overrated. I would never get tired of summer. I would still appreciate spring’s arrival without a harsh winter preceding it. If I want to see fall colours I could take a trip and hike in a forest for a week. I wouldn’t miss winter for a second.

Until I figure out how to escape winter forever, tropical escapes will have to tie me over. Blues skies, sunshine, drinks with little umbrellas and hanging out with a delightful friend works wonders for one’s mental state. I stuffed myself at buffets, had ice cream and spaghetti as a snack every afternoon, slept, read and had a gloriously lazy time.

Isn’t it great that we are so in sync as travel buddies?” I asked at one point.

“You mean, isn’t is great that we want to do nothing?” My friend answered.

It was lovely to not have an agenda. I have returned from my beach vacation with renewed vigour and the belief that I will make it through the rest of the winter without a complete collapse. Doing nothing is glorious. Doing nothing in warm sunshine with a full belly and a Pina Colada is heaven.

The Cleanse Before the Storm

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Remember what I said about abundance and how I seemed to be surrounded by it? It has continued in spades.

My contest-addicted girlfriend won an all expense paid trip to Punta Cana and is taking me as her guest! The timing couldn’t be more perfect for this Seasonal Affective Disorder suffering sad sack. Despite a campaign of vitamins, acupuncture, morning walks and my light box, I am slipping into a wintery pit of despair. It is hard to sink too deeply, however, when there are flip flops and fruity drinks to look forward to. Naturally I am fully prepared to be my friend’s lady servant. The sand is too hot for her delicate toes? I will piggy back her to her beach chair. Her drink needs refreshing? I will happily fetch her a fresh one. She is feeling too hot and needs to be fanned with palm fronds? I am her personal fanner.

Regrettably, all this good fortune cannot come without a dash of neurosis on my part. I have just recently emerged from a shortbread stupor and have spent the past few dark months self medicating through carbs. I am now in a panic. In a week’s time I will be in a bathing suit, leaving me little time to deflate my carb bloat. I went to the gym this week to see if I could cardio away my gut, only to have the snotty girl at the front desk confiscate my gym card.

Your membership expired in December,” she informed me. “When was the last time you were here?”

Not in December I guess,” I answered.

I was too busy eating chocolate and pasta in December to go to the gym. Obviously I need to take desperate measures.  I tried the Master Cleanse a few years ago where all you consume is lemon water with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. I have never been so close to eating my own arm just to have something to chew. I tried it again last year, thinking that perhaps it would be easier the second time around and gave up after three days. I am now considering something gentler called the Kitchari fast that my yogi friend’s Ayurvedic doctor recommended. It is a mono cleanse where you eat a porridge-like gloopy concoction of mung beans and brown rice in order to centre your doshas, give your digestive system a break and get balanced.

Balance shmalance!” I cried to my girlfriend, “I’m not worried about my doshas. How much weight can I lose on this thing, and how fast?

There will be chances to balance my energy another time. For now vanity takes precedence over the state of my well being. Enlightenment can wait. I need to squeeze into a bathing suit soon.

The Sweetie is regarding my latest cleansing plans with some trepidation. His memories of my sniffing his food like a dog, the glares, the whining and suggestions that he eat his meals in the car are still too fresh and painful.

Don’t you think you are setting yourself up for failure? Can’t it be a moderate plan?” he asked.

No time!” I snarl, thumbing through dusty workout DVD’s and measuring out my mung beans.

What’s going to happen when you get to the resort and you are faced with the buffet?”

I know what he is getting at. My gluttony at buffets is a terrifying sight to witness. In fact, The Sweetie has admitted that he fears that one day I will die at a buffet.

So you’re going to starve yourself for a week and then you’ll get to this resort and gorge at the buffet and drink tonnes of alcohol. Anything you lose will come right back on.”

Not right away“, I reason. “I’ll have a day or two before I suddenly explode out of my bathing suit on my beach chair and hopefully by that time I will be so blissfully happy and delighted by life again that I won’t care.”

By the time I get on the beach I will realize that I am surrounded by strangers I will never see again who are probably either as neurotic, or as drunk as I am. I will be warm. I will have ice cream and fancy drinks with umbrellas.

I really should tone down the atonement, eat a few mung beans just for fun and revel in my good fortune.