Notes from the Road and Homecoming

Well I have survived three days of twists and turns, rock and water that is northern Ontario.  A few thoughts emerged along the way.

1. The slow lane is great.

I left on a Uhaul truck pulling my car on a trailer.  I knew I could not be an aggressive driver and so I left with an entirely different pace and mentality.  While I am usually trying to jockey for position I was now unconcerned about passing or being passed.  In three days driving I passed maybe five people.  This was far and away a more enjoyable ride.  I also felt free to be gracious to those trying to merge and forgiving to those cutting me off.  I simply did not care.  I was driving by an internal orientation not a reactive one.  It was wonderful.

2. Think ahead when it comes to coffee.

My greatest nemesis on the road was bad coffee.  For a solid day and a half I endured weak, lukewarm coffee that for some reason always has a hint of cinnamon or something to it.  Finally in Thunder Bay I ran into a Starbucks where I stocked up on their instant VIA packages which brought me the rest of the way home.

3. The Greasy Spoon is a romantic illusion (no that is not true . . . the food is all too Real).

I thought that for at least one of my breakfasts I would stop at the smallest little town and pick up a some local flavour.  Well the ambience of the little cafe in Iron Bridge was great.  Locals discussing the accuracy of long-range rifles.  The owner describing the perils of my journey ahead . . . had I been driving in winter.  A framed hand drawn picture on the wall of the family’s trip to Vegas.  But the breakfast . . . or the ‘special’ it was called (I did not know bacon and eggs could constitute a special anywhere) . . . was horrible.  I am trying to forget the chewy potatoes.  Well, it was just something I needed to do.

4. You will always stop at the wrong place.

You need to make decision.  If you want to eat or you want to stop for the night you need to make a decision.  You could wander forever.  And no matter how selective you have been you will always pass something that looks better after the decision was made.

And so finally I arrived in Winnipeg and with that, on the first day, two things happened.  One event was singularly encouraging while the other a cruel reminder of my new reality.

The first was simple.  In five years in southern Ontario I suffered perhaps five mosquito bites.  In the first five minutes of my walk in Winnipeg I suffered the same.

Second, I was hoping to drop my books directly off at the church so that I would not have to move them twice but unfortunately no one was available.  There was, however, a 7-11 across the street from the church.  Now Winnipeg is the Slurpee capital of North America in its per capita consumption.  Slurpees I must remind you is not a generic term but a product of 7-11 in distinction from the Slush Puppy, Thirst Burster, etc..  Now I have been known to be a little bit of a Slurpee connoisseur in my day, often breaking off in 15 minute tangents on what constitutes the perfect Slurpee (including both internal and external factors as well as subjective orientations).  Needless to say I was excited to have my first Winnipeg Slurpee upon arriving.  When I was selecting my blend (I am no purist, and have little patience for a purist as such) another woman was about to get one.  I told her to go ahead as I was deliberating.  She leaned over and told me, “I think they have been messing with the Pepsi.  It used to be the best at this location.  It was the, the . . . ”  “The consistency,” I said.  “Yes,” she replied.  She understood.  I was home.

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4 comments on “Notes from the Road and Homecoming

  1. Kampen says:

    I’m mostly a purist when it comes to Slurpees. Pepsi or Coke. They’re also great for drink mixing. But yes, right consistency is crucial. I hear you loud and clear. Welcome back to the Peg.

  2. jonathan says:

    Having just made a significant move myself (from Winnipeg to Edmonton), I wholeheartedly agree with your points (especially 2 and 3). When it comes to coffee, gas stations and Tim Hortons just don’t cut it. All the best with your new position.

  3. I shouldn’t be too hard on the purists I suppose. I am typically a two component Slurpee drinker. I tend to stick with a cola (in order of priority Dr. P; Pepsi; Coke) that sandwiches a ‘cleaner’ flavour like a Sprite or even Gatorade as a type of midway palate cleanser.

    Jonathan, there was day when Tim Hortons could cut it and I try not to be a coffee snob but coffee drinking has continued to be an evolutionary process for me that is slowly weeding out the weaker species (I actually prefer McDonald’s new coffee to Tim’s if worse comes to worse). I never realized the anxiety it would raise for me though . . .

    Are you studying to working in Edmonton?

    • jonathan says:

      Studying. I’m doing an MA in English at U of A. My initial plan was to write a thesis on Milton, authorship, and early modern print culture, but I’ve opted for a course-based MA, which should, in the long run, give me better coverage.

      There was a time (treeplanting in northern BC) when I too had to rely on Tim Hortons for my coffee fix. It was also a time when most of my choices were conditioned by thrift. Dark days indeed.

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