The Vacation Chronicles, Vol. 7

Our second day on the road was by far the worst. Although it was only the second, I can easily predict it will be the worst when held up against the two days to come, as well. This is likely because we crossed through that bullshit part of Ontario where none of the highways are twinned, the speed limits are lowered to 90 km/h and there’s a fucking construction zone every few miles. We actually had a very decent start of day, eating a wonderful, hot continental breakfast at Best Western “Glo.” Those bastards do free breakfast right!

The entire day was a nightmare of trying to pass slow-moving vehicles and staying still for long periods at construction zones. Luckily, there was plenty of caffeine to get me through the day but there’s no denying that this leg of the trip had me testing every tool in my Zen belt. One of the things I try to remind people is that I’m not usually calm BECAUSE I study Zen… I started studying Zen to help me FIND that calm. And it works pretty well. Most of the time. But like an overwhelmed dam, eventually my temper gets the better of me and overflows, regardless of my ability to practice waking meditation.

Our goal was Sault Ste. Marie and by the light, we made it. If you recall from a previous post, this city’s hotels were all booked up because of some bullshit bicycle event. Considering yesterday was a Wednesday, so I assumed that things would be much smoother. We checked three different large-chain hotels, which turned out to be all booked up. My temper got deeper with every refusal. Although it must be great for business for them to be fully booked, it says very little about them as a business for their fellow Canadian guests.

We ended up booking into a seedy, piece of shit motel where the rooms smell like old factory closets that had wet clothing stuffed into them before the place was abandoned. My morning is starting with some leftover pizza and caffeine. Our goal is to hit Ignace or Dryden today. Hopefully, things will start looking up as we get farther west. ☯️

The Vacation Chronicles, Vol. 6

So the first day of our return trip to Saskatchewan started surprisingly well. Although I had assumed we were setting alarms for 6:30 in the morning, my wife’s went off at 6:00, effectively waking me up. I started sipping caffeine and leapt out of bed (yes, in that order) got dressed and started loading my things into the car. My wife, mother-in-law and kids were surprisingly swift and efficient and we were all loaded in the car at 6:50, despite our departure time being scheduled for 7:00. This is both miraculous and appreciated, as there is usually SOMETHING that delays us.

Hell, even the local Tim Horton’s had no lineup in the drive-thru, allowing us to quickly grab some hot liquid joe without delay. We were on the road and heading west before we were fully awake. We reached Campbellton and crossed over to the Quebec side relatively smoothly and without issue. The streets were quiet and once we crossed into Quebec, we automatically gained an hour on our day. An hour as far as the clock is concerned; our time in the car would remain unchanged. But I digress…

We encountered the usual bullshit along the way; light rain, semi trucks slowing us down, etc. We reached Mont Joli and stopped in at the next Tim Horton’s and grabbed further coffees as well as apple juice and snacks. It was shaping up to be a reasonably good day, making good time and crossing the Province reasonably quickly. Then, the toddler fell asleep. Then he woke up. Then the issues started. I’m not really certain why I was surprised; this is basically what he did on the way out, as well. It’s rough for a tangy Cook male to be strapped into anything for any long period of time.

We made such good time that by about 4:30 in the afternoon, we had crossed into Ontario and reached Ottawa. Since we had no chance to do so on the way in, I chose to have us eat dinner at Zak’s Diner, which is one of my favourite diners in the country. When we reached the Byward Market, the boys made their presence known by being rambunctious, running across streets without looking and being all-around pains in the ass. Kids, am I right? We ordered food and as we waited, it dawned on me to go check the Asian shop where I usually buy my prayer beads.

My mother-in-law and toddler joined for the short, five-minute walk that ensued and I was sorely disappointed to find that the shop carried none of the beads I typically purchased from there. I returned and ate my meal, which depressed me as it was almost literally twice the price of what I had paid for it in 2007 when I would have eaten there last. My two kids were being noisy, knocking things over and generally ruining the experience. Am I bitching about my kids too much? TOO BAD, IT’S MY BLOG!!! But seriously, I love them to death but kids and road trips don’t agree. With me. They don’t agree with me.

My goal had been to have us spend our first night heading home at the Chateau Laurier, right in the heart of downtown Ottawa. When the price of an individual room caused rapid breathing and random chest pains followed by profuse sweating and my left arm going numb, I chose to drive us out of town to Kanata, where I found a subsidiary of best Western called “Glo.” A chic looking, clean-cut little hotel, it was a comfortable night’s stay, after some screwing around to get the wifi to work.

There is apparently some free continental breakfast downstairs, so we’re going to go see what’s up with that before hitting the road again. Although we’re already in Ontario, the safe bet is that we’ll be spending a second night in this Province, given how long of a transit it is. Hopefully but the end of today, we’ll be close enough that there third day will carry us back into the Prairies and closer to home. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some caffeine… ☯️

The Vacation Chronicles, Vol. 5…

Alright, folks! Here we are… It’s the end of the road or rather, the beginning of the road back, I guess. It’s been a rough week on the North Shore, for a variety of reasons. Despite posting and messaging several people that we would be here during the first couple of weeks of August, our time here has been reasonably dull. We basically paid a small fortune so that the boys could play in various parks, which they could have done at home without costing us so much. But I digress…

This morning, and I sincerely hope I got the time change right (my blog doesn’t change time zones), we will be packing up the car and heading back to Saskatchewan. All good things must come to an end but in all sincerity, this trip wasn’t ALL that great. There were some good points, such as seeing my parents. I also got to briefly visit with the friends who chose to make time for me (you know who you are!) despite being either ignored or having excuses made by the ones I DIDN’T get to see (if you follow my blog, you also know who you are!).

I could go into further depth about the good aspects and what parts were the most heart breaking, but I’ll be chronicling our trip back on a daily basis and plan on writing a lengthy post covering the entire time here, once I’m comfortably back in my home basement. So basically, tomorrow’s post will be about today’s travel, and so on and so forth. The reason I’m doing it this way is that I’ve been taking tons of photos with my point and click and will have to upload them to my computer and see which ones are usable or not before writing the post. In the meantime, stay tuned for the next few days as I write about how gaining an hour at every border heading west is a GOOD thing… ☯️

The Vacation Chronicles, Vol. 4

Well, here we are! We’ve made it to Dalhousie, New Brunswick and checked into our hotel in one piece. We will now be here for approximately one week before starting the trek back west in order to go home. Our fourth morning actually started pretty well. We awoke in a little place called St. Apollinaire, Quebec. I had done laundry the night before and I think everyone got a reasonable, albeit short night’s sleep.

We got on the road and drove through a fair amount of rain for a while but it didn’t dampen our spirits (see what I did there?). We made a number of stops along the way, including a chocolatier and several Tim Hortons. We reached the New Brunswick border at about mid-afternoon, local time…

If any of you have been following the vacation posts through all four days, you’ll notice that on the first day when I reached the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, I took the time to stop the car, pose for an actual photo and was damn proud of it. When we crossed into Ontario, I snapped a quick photo without getting out. Crossing into Quebec, there was no godly way to stop without causing a collision but at New Brunswick, I was in full-blown “fuck it” mode and snapped a a pic while rolling at about 100 km/h. Y’all can believe it’s my photos or not. My exhaustion and I couldn’t give a shit. But I digress…

Upon arriving in Dalhousie, my mother met us at our hotel and we unpacked the vehicle. Once that was done, we made our way down to Pizza Delight, a staple of New Brunswick eateries, and had a semi-decent supper before making our way back to the hotel. Nathan decided to spend the night with Grammy Cook, which suited us just fine. Since it was early and we had nothing planned, I opted for a quick drive where I paid a special visit…

I always make a point of visiting my brother’s grave, every time I go home. On this occasion, I chose to go on my own. It was quiet and peaceful and I could see fresh dirt from a shallow grave dug for the interment of my uncle’s ashes on my grandfather’s grave. A heavy thunderstorm kicked up while I was there, adding to the macabre tableau of a bad 80’s horror movie of the unwitting victim being caught alone in a grave yard. Since none of that actually happened, I was instead focused on this creepy little foreboding…

This is my parents’ burial plot. As you can see, neither of them is occupying the space. The dates for my brother are filled in and he’s buried right next to this plot. Despite the fact I won’t be buried here, my parents had my name engraved on the stone and it always creeps me out a bit to see my name on a grave stone. It’s just one of those things, I guess. All this being said, you can’t beat the view my brother has, from up there…

All in all, it was good to get home and great to see my mother. My children will get to see my father as well, and we have plans to visit the southern part of the Province for a day or two so that everyone can see some of the beauty and history contained within the Province. IN the coming days, I’ll be posting regular, good old Diabetic/martial arts/health posts. I figure I can take away break from all the vacation talk, especially since I would like to retain my followers, and pick up on the trip once we head back next week. Once I’m home, I’ll be able to draft a composite post on all the fun we had while we’re here. Stay tuned…☯️

The Vacation Chronicles, Vol.. 3

Our third day of the odyssey that is crossing our country as a family started off as one would expect… With someone waking me before my alarm! We were lucky enough to find a motor inn, last night but even with my alarm set for 6 am, some wretched little bastards were running the halls at about 5 am, waking me well before my alarm went off. Here’s to day 3! But I digress…

I started by cleaning up and getting dressed. Nathan was out like a light, so I helped myself to an energy drink and loaded all of our stuff into the car. It was about 6:20 by this point, so I texted my wife, who responded that she was up and they were making coffee in their room. I tried waking Nathan by gently shaking him, but he was out! I shook him, smacked his bottom and pinched the skin behind his ear. Nothing. This kid was giving a coma patient a run for their money.

I would have been concerned, if not for the steady breathing and the low snoring. I finally yanked his blanket off and sat him up. That got his attention! He petitioned my communist treatment for a moment before stumbling off to brush his teeth and curl back up into a blanket. It took serious effort to keep him from going back to sleep. That’s what happens when one stays up half the night on one’s Nintendo Switch. Some lessons need to be learned the hard way,

We piled into the car and took note of the current thunderstorm ravaging the neighbouring town and sped off before the rain could touch us. We drove for all of about twenty minutes before hitting up a Tim Horton’s coffee and grabbing a few cups with some muffins to get us on our way. If this would have been the worst aspect of our day, it might have been the best day of our trek. But it wasn’t…

We were only a short ways down the highway in Ontario when we realized that the main highway crossing the Province towards Ottawa (Highway 17) is only a single-lane highway, loaded with semi trucks, camper trailers and general fucking douchebags who don’t know how to drive. Can anyone guess how long it took for my Zen composure to start cracking? Less time than it took me to finish the coffee I picked up. But once again, I digress…

We made it as far as Arnprior, Ontario before Alexander made it very clear by his screaming that he was done being in a car seat. I realized that morning that I packed everything Diabetes-related that I needed with one exception… I had no Guardian sensors to go with my CGM. We parked at what was the only McDonald’s restaurant in the city so the boys could play while I went across the street to see pa pharmacist.

Imagine my surprise when he said he had no idea what Medtronic was! Needless to say, he had no CGM sensors, either. Turns out the McDonald’s play place was still closed due rto some remnant of the pandemic that the manager was too lazy to deal with. Nathan was very much less than understanding and sulked his way back to the car, Cranky and despondent, we made our way back to the car and carried on.

Crossing into Quebec

We had originally planned to make our way into Ottawa’s Byward Market and have an early supper at Zak’s Diner, one of my favourite eateries in the country. But by the time we would have made our way into Ottawa’s downtown core, found parking, ordered and ate and got back on the road again, we would have burned a solid few hours. As it was, we made our way to Levis, Quebec and booked a room at a very nice Econo Lodge for a load of laundry and a good night’s sleep.

Now, I’m off to my first free, continental breakfast of the trip. We should be making the last six to seven-hour treat to New Brunswick and into Dalhousie, where we’ll check into our hotel and enjoy an actual week without ridiculous travel to exhaust everyone. Maybe a little R&R will get us all back in a better mood. Maybe my mother will appreciate seeing her grandchildren and WON’T bring up how often we visit. Maybe I should shit in one hand and wish in the other to see which one will fill up first… ☯️

The Vacation Chronicles, Vol. 2

So, Sunday was our second tour of duty… umm, I mean, our second day of transit across the country to go visit my family in New Brunswick. I learned something interesting… Ontario is split in half, time zone-wise. Half the Province shares it’s time with the same zone as Manitoba and the other half shares the same time as Quebec,

The reason I bring this up and why it’s important, is because our smart phones didn’t seem to jump an hour ahead automatically when we crossed into Ontario. This struck me as odd and I adjusted the in-car clock accordingly. When we all crashed, I set my alarm for 4 am because I thought it would actually be 5 am in the area of Ontario we were in. I was wrong. So fucking wrong…

Fast forward to Sunday morning and I awoke a few moments before my alarm went off, as is my custom. My phone displayed 3:48 am, which I thought was actually 4:48 so I slipped into the washroom, brushed my teeth, got dressed and gathered my things. I was going to duck out to the convenience store to grab some energy drinks and coffees for my wife and mother-in-law.

The outside of our motel in the middle of the fucking night…

They woke up before I left so I explained what I would be doing and although they mumbled that it was the middle of the night, they agreed they would start getting ready and preparing for the day. Once I realized everything was still closed, I made my way back. Our motel was the kind of place that locks all the doors at night and key cards get you into nothing but your room. We had to make the difficult choice of getting on the road without caffeine. It would be well over two hours before we’d manage to grab coffee. No animals were harmed…

We made a few stops along the way, mostly focused on stretching our legs, getting fuel and letting the boys run around freely. One place was particularly charming, called a “Trading post” and had authentic antiquities strewn on the property and inside the store itself. We all took the opportunity to use the washrooms, especially since the washrooms were genuine, honest-to-goodness outhouses! Pictures are worth a thousand words, so please see the following photo…

The outhouses… For true!
The big rocks that the boys climbed near the outhouses.

The day dragged on tediously. Such is the way on the open road. Nathan was once again pretty good, keeping to himself and playing with his devices. Alexander was a little less understanding and would screech and cry to voice his displeasure. Some of it was caused by the sun in his face. All parties in the vehicle managed to sneak some naps while I drove. I have to admit that despite my caffeine intake and crooning to the music, my eyes started to droop and I was getting sleepy.

Eventually, we came to the area that lines Lake Superior and my wife had managed to grab some photos. She sent them all to me and I chose the one that showed the view as spectacularly as possible. Check it out…

Lake Superior

Once we managed to stop for another break and we were hammering hard towards our destination, everyone helped themselves to another nap and I over-caffeinated. Our end destination was Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Once we got there, we stopped at three different hotels and were told by all of them that they were completely booked. Apparently, there was some bullshit bike tournament in the city. I couldn’t believe that all of those hotels were completely booked. I’d never seen the likes of it.

Since we couldn’t book a room anywhere, we wound up deciding on supper instead and pushing onto Sudbury, which was about three hours away. We chose McDonald’s because it would allow the boys to burn off some steam in the play place as we ate. Unfortunately, there are several McDonald’s in Sault Ste. Marie, and not all of them have parks. We went to three of them before landing on the right one.

We enjoyed a meal and decided that we would keep our eyes open for a hotel, motel or motor inn along the way to Sudbury. We stopped at three further locations, all booked! What the fuck was this bike tournament all about, that it managed to book up every accommodation to an hour outside the city. Total bullshit. We ended up in a small area called Iron Bridge and found a motor inn that provided us with a couple of rooms. Here’s hoping for a good night’s rest before starting day three! ☯️

The Vacation Chronicles, Vol. 1

Alright, so this post represents our first day of transit across the country to go visit my parents in New Brunswick. Last Saturday, the entire household woke up early in order to pack the vehicle, have a quick bite and get on the road. It went exactly as how you would imagine it…

First and foremost, I made a pig of myself on stuffed-crust pizza, the night before. This means that I went to bed with a swollen, bloated stomach and yes, more so than usual. Shaddup! I barely got any sleep, which sounds about right considering I had to drive for ten to twelve hours the following morning. Nathan was up all night on his Nintendo Switch instead of sleeping, which meant he was a cranky piece of shit until he was in the vehicle and could go to sleep. Heaven forbid, he actually sleep while he was in bed…

Packing was the usual adventure that my household faces while travelling, which included the overpacking of a number of items, misunderstandings about where and what we would be using and how, and leaving the house 30 minutes later than originally scheduled. We made our way to a local gas station to check our tie pressure, only to discover it didn’t open for another half hour. Sprinkle on one item that we had to return home for, and you have yourself a Cook family vacation…

So long, Saskatchewan! Hello, Manitoba…

The first leg of our journey went as well as could be expected, with Nathan putt cold in the back seat with his grandmother and Alexander entertaining himself accordingly. We had snacks, fluids and the adults were getting caffeine into their systems. Despite a rocky start, it was working out to be a well-rounded first day. Once we crossed into Manitoba, we made a couple of stops for washroom breaks and further caffeine, as well as fuel. Nothing out of this world.

Unfortunately, as with all things in life, the peace couldn’t last. Alexander decided he had all he could take of being in a car seat and began screeching at the top of his lungs. We stopped at a gas station just outside of Winnipeg for about twenty minutes to allow him to stretch and run for a bit. I took the opportunity to once again fill the gas tank. Thank the light that gas prices have gone down a touch.

I didn’t stop to pose for this one…

By the time we crossed into Ontario, it became very clear that despite the dry, summer roads, we were significantly behind and wouldn’t reached our expected first stop until almost 11 pm, local time. This is a problem as the boys are usually in bed well before that time, despite the fact it would only be 9 pm, Saskatchewan time. We stopped at a McDonald’s in Dryden to have some supper, and it allowed the boys to blow off some steam in the play structure. We got on the road with intentions of making as much headway as we could.

We wound up travelling to a small town called Ignace, which is actually a French name. We booked a cheap room in a seedy motel that looks like something out of a bad 70’s horror movie. The night’s sleep was fitful and shitty, but at least we got to wake up early and do it all over again. It’s roughly 3,500 kilometres from our front door to my mother’s. With three days of travel plus the fourth day where we need to arrive and check in, we need to achieve a minimum of 1,000 kilometres a day in order to ensure we’ll stay ahead and arrive on time.

Life rarely cares about one’s plans. You’ve heard me say this, before. Know who else doesn’t care about one’s plans? KIDS! Kids don’t give a shit about one’s plans. My folks better enjoy their time with these two little monsters. I think I’ve aged ten year and it’s only the first day. The next couple of days should be interesting… ☯️

Zero Hour… The Vacation Chronicles.

Here we go. Day 1 of vacation. I haven’t been home in over two years. My parents have never met their second grandson, Alexander. They’ve never met my mother in law, Judy. Today is the first day that we work towards changing that. This morning, my family and I will be piling into the family vehicle and starting the 3-day trek across our wonderful country to make our way to New Brunswick. Some may call me crazy and say that we could have taken a flight and been there in one day. This is true. But then, we’d miss out on the adventure of seeing our country up close. Plus, I’d be a fool to try and deal with any of the fuckin’ airports, right now.

My posts over the next couple of weeks may be shorter than usual. In the interest of sharing the experience with all of you, I’ll be posting as we go along, showing you all the crossing of Provinces, the scenic views in all the fun places we plan to stop. But I WILL be on vacation… I’ll share, but it will be in small doses and on my own time. I have a fantastic USB keyboard and can write posts through my phone. It’l be fine, everyone just calm the fuck down… But seriously, this should be an epic trip for all of us. I look forward to seeing my family back home. And maybe if I’m lucky, a few friends, as well. ☯️

Boy Scouts Aren’t The Only Ones Who Are Always Prepared…

Today is this weird thing called a floating stat holiday. I’m not even sure WHY I have a day off but I ain’t going to refuse it. Today will be a bit of a long day. My family and I will be preparing, packing and prepping for a long drive as we travel across Canada to go visit my family. The amount of pre-planning and preparation is absolutely ridiculous. I need to calculate and estimate how many pieces of each item I need for the two-week absence from home I’ll be on. Not least of which is the fact that I have to maintain a small supply of fast-acting carbs for on the road.

Travelling with type-1 Diabetes comes with it’s own set of challenges. As much as I’d love to just jump in the car and go, I very rarely have that benefit. Ensuring I have insulin and the supplies I need is always the priority when I travel. the only happy caveat is that insulin is no longer a “prescription required” item and I can purchase some if I need to. But without the integral pump parts that I need to replace every three days, I’d be relegated to manual injections, which would send my blood sugars into chaos and prevent a pleasant vacation.

I’ve already got a separate bag, packed with all of my diabetic necessities. Now, I just have to worry about packing my work gear (I’m on vacation but I’m not “on vacation”) and a suitcase with the clothing I’ll need for my time away. Then, I get to set up the cargo box on my roof rack, fill the gas tank and ensure seating will be comfortable and accommodating for the entire family and we should be good to go for tomorrow. The open road is a favoured thing, for me. I look forward to it. But if y’all will excuse me, I need to get to it. My preparations won’t complete themselves. ☯️

Musical Chairs, But With Decades Instead Of Chairs…

One of my oldest and dearest friends proposed a game for our old high school gang to play, a few days ago… He challenged us to provide a list of ten songs from out high school years that we enjoyed. They didn’t have to be in order of importance or favour, but they had to have been released during our high school years. This was an interesting challenge, considering that in high school I was mostly a 70’s and 80’s kind of guy. But I met the challenge, and found ten songs I could provide. Then, the rest of the gang started providing their choices and it opened up my memories and tossed me back to 27 years ago…

Before I get to the lesson this game taught me, I think it would be interesting to provide y’all with the list i came up with. Without judging how old I am, bear in mind that all the songs listed below were released in 1996, which is when I graduated high school:

  1. Macarena – Los Del Rio
  2. Follow You Down – Gin Blossoms
  3. Name – Goo Goo Dolls
  4. The World I Know – Collective Soul
  5. Time – Hootie & The Blowfish
  6. Wonderwall – Oasis
  7. Santa Monica – Everclear
  8. Where It’s At – Beck
  9. That Thing You Do – The Wonders
  10. No Diggity – Blackstreet

The nice thing about this list is that it’s beautifully incomplete. there are so many other songs from my youth that I’ve gained an appreciation for and that I love listening to, even today. My friend Leon named Mr. Jones by Counting Crows, No Rain by Blind Melon, Let Her Cry by Hootie & The Blowfish and certainly not least… If I Had A Million Dollars by Barenaked Ladies. Just about everything by Green Day… So many great choices and so little time…

As with all things in life, there’s a lesson to be learned from this simple game. Much in the same way that I was listening to music from a decade or earlier when I was in the 90’s, I’ve only truly come to appreciate the music from the 90’s in recent years. The nostalgia adds a certain something to the whole equation. The thing of it is, I didn’t appreciate the music from my high school years WHILE I was in high school. It took a couple of decades before I truly started to enjoy the music. I have well over 3,000 songs on my iTunes and growing.

Music has a way of helping with everything. It can calm you when you’re worked up, motivate you when you exercise and soothe you while you meditate. When you add some memories into the bowl, it’s a sure recipe for happiness. In a chaotic world where happiness can be a fleeting thing, a little added boost can go a long, long way. And there’s also something in there about appreciating what you have when you have it. Maybe I could have appreciated some of that wonderful 90’s music, well… back in the 90’s! Instead, I get to enjoy it only through the lens of remembering my youth. Food for thought… ☯️