Indigo Surprise

Updated December 1, 2004 (incomplete)

Miles driven: 2530
Spent on gas: $32.52
New stores visited: 34
Secret stores discovered: 10 (includes 8 Indigo)
OZ drip coffee consumed: 136 + 2 DoubleShot + quadruple tall half soy latte

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

It's All About Timing

I debated for several weeks the route I'd take for my usual Thanksgiving trip, even considering Florida until I calculated the distance. Finally, it was Scrabble madness that decided it for me. I hadn't planned on playing Scrabble that weekend, but when I learned that I was only 10 win away from the players with the most tournament wins for the year, my competitive streak kicked in. There was a seven game tournament on Saturday in Farmington, MI, which would give me time to visit Starbucks on Thursday and Friday.

After working out some more distances, I decided I couldn't go as far as Maine and chose a path through Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont into Canada. I took the opportunity of passing through New York to schedule a massage at 8:30-9:00 PM with a massage therapist who was the best I'd found so far through Craig's List. The radio had been reporting that high travel volume on the freeway was predicted, and when I returned from long I saw that traffic on I-95 was already backed up, so I gave myself even more extra time and left around 3:00. I saw delays into Baltimore, where I had to make a stop, and didn't start to clear the city until 4:00. Traffic out of Baltimore was moving so slowly that I had only drive about 20-30 miles by 5:00, and I worried that I would not make it. I lost more time in Delaware along the 11 miles from the Border to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Thankfully, traffic along the New Jersey Turnpike was moving quickly along most of the way, except for some patches of the accordion effect, and the Holland Tunnel was free of backups. After all that traffic, light rain, and 200 miles, I made it to my appointment at 8:45, right in between the window I had predicted.

The massage turned out to be even better than I had hoped, which was a good thing after nearly six hours on the road, and given the two disappointments that followed. The massage studio/oxygen bar was located on Ludlow, just south of Houston, and at that corner was Katz's Delicassen. For years I had thought the New York Katz's was the original version of a restaurant I loved in Austin. When I saw it on the corner I began to look forward to a heart late-night breakfast. But when I walked in I noticed right away that the atmosphere looked completely different, and so did the menu. Breakfast wasn't even served 24 hours a day, the place closed at 10:30. I was disappointed, but hungry, so I settled on a hot dog. The menu read "frankfurter", and when I asked for one, the (guy who works behind a deli counter) seemed to find the term amusing. Not sure if he was making fun of me or not. Anyway, when I paid I asked the cashier about the other Katz's, and she said that they were not affiliated, and that Katz's had considered suing but decided it wasn't worth the expense.

I went back to the car with my hot dog so I could wash it down with some Tradewinds and drove over to the Angelika, a few blocks down on Houston. In a second incident of excellent timing, I arrived at the ticket counter at 10:26 for a 10:20 movie, and after buying my ticket and returning to my car to retrieve my toothbrushed I entered the theater right at the very end of the previews, just in time for the movie. Unfortunately, The Machinist, starring Christian Bale, the next Batman, did not deliver on its compelling premise, of a guy who had not slept in a year. The ending was, frankly, flat. I regretted having sat through the 100 minutes, fighting fatigue as I sat there.

Yet more great timing as I reached my car just minutes before a patch of heavy rain passed through the area. The rain lightened, but was strong enough that, combined with my fatigue, I was struggling to stay in my lane up the FDR and then I-95 into Connecticut and to the first service area.

November 25

When I woke up around 8:00, I wanted to fall back asleep, but I was concerned about missing the Starbucks in South Burlington that closed at 3:00 PM. I booted up the laptop and calculated the distance--343 miles, doable in 5 hours. I didn't have much time to spare, so I got moving.

The rest area had a Bank of America ATM, and I was able to put my mind at ease by confirming that my direct deposit had been made, ensuring that I had plenty of money for my trip.

I missed the exit from I-95 to the Milford Parkway, but I dind't mind too much. I was hungry, and driving through Milford allowed me to look for a bagel shop. I almost settled on Dunkin Donuts, but as I was considering turning around I passed the Village Grill and Cafe . Then I got on the Merritt Parkway like I had originally planned and took it up to I-91. Along the way, I had a cool view of the Heroes' Tunnel from a steep grade. Unfortunately I couldn't grab my camera fast enough to shoot from the top of the hill .

As I walked into the Hamden store, I spotted a magazine in the trash. It was some tittie magazine I'd never heard of, Scores, and a cheap one too from the looks of the photos on the cover. Since the busty girls were visible to any kids that entered the Starbucks, I took the magazine to protect their innocent young minds from developing a warped view of female sexuality. Plus, it was a special issue, featuring all-natural models. I was reminded of those "very special" episodes of shows like Family Ties or Growing Pains, the ones that tackled some social issue like runaway children or drugs.

I called home to see if my parents had plans for Thanksgiving, and I learned that there was more drama at home. I was greatly relieved to be far, far from Houston, and I hoped that the situation with my sister would be resolved in December as expected so my mother could finally get some measure of peace.

The 102.1 DJ called it a "spontaneous Beatles break", and the three songs starting with "Nowhere Man" helped to get my mind of the Houston situation.

Keene, NH, is somewhat east of I-91, so I exited at Bernardston to took a more direct route, highway 10, into New Hampshire and to Keene. As I entered Northfield, just before the NH line, I had the odd, and surely irrational, feeling that putting on my shirt might help me avoid being pulled over by a local cop. So I did. When I got out of the car in Keene, I was surprised that the weather was so mild. I hadn't even needed my third blanket back in Connecticut. However, I kept hearing on the radio that we should enjoy it while it lasted, because it was going to get real cold. I began to feel scared.

From Keene the shorter route back to I-91 north and into Vermont was SR-12, but it wasn't direct. I had to follow the path of the Connecticut River north about six miles to Walpole to cross the river that divides the two states. As I entered I-91, it began to rain very heavily, and I started to become concerned that I wouldn't reach South Burlington by 3:00.


The rain cleared, but an emergency broadcast on the radio reported a severe thunderstorm around Woodsville, NH, further up along I-91. Thankfully, I interchanged onto I-89 and headed northwest towards Burlington, and I saw no more heavy rain.

When I realized I wouldn't reach Burlington on the gas I had, I pulled off in Sharon and almost did a double-take until I realized the sign was much too good to be true . Unfortunately, as I should have anticipated in a small town on Thanksgiving, the Citgo was closed, and I had to wait until Montpelier to gas up.

As I drove I took a break from studying to look at my log from the previous year. I was right, I had driving into Vermont exactly one year ago on Thanksgiving day.

I reached the South Burlington Starbucks around 2:30, with plenty of time, so I was dismayed to find a sign on the door stating they had closed early. I knocked on the door and mouthed that I wanted to speak to the manager, but the two baristas closing down wouldn't come to the door. So I called, and thankfully one answered the phone and I explained the situation, and that I might not be back in Vermont for years. The didn't have coffee or espresso, but they did have a DoubleShot. They couldn't ring me up, but the other barista had read about me, so she just gave it to me. Whew!

The Kinko's didn't seem to have T-Mobile, as least not that I could pick up from the street, and the other Starbucks was closed, so I had to drive around to find Wi-Fi and update my log because I couldn't count on being able to log on with my laptop in Canada.

The weather was much colder than back in Keene, or even Montpelier. A cold front was coming in quick! Only 75 minutes after I reached the Starbucks it was discernably colder! And as I headed out to the interstate, I could see snowflakes starting to fall.

As I approached the Canadian border, I once again noticed a sign demarcating the 45th parallel, the mid-point to the equator. This time, however, it occurred to me that maybe it's not an accident that the border is so close to the 45th parallel--maybe that's how they chose the border! Man, I'm a freakin' genius sometimes!!

I had to wait for a few cars, but that didn't mind because I had my recently-arrived shipment of comic books, and the trip across the border was smooth. As I drove towards Montreal, my focus was split between things. One, trying to figure out where I was on the map, which didn't seem to match, and also whether I'd be able to listen to the Mary Chapin Carpenter interview. With regards to the former, the reason was simple--I was looking at the highway leading into Quebec from New York, not Vermont! As for the latter, I had heard that morning on NPR that All Things Considered would include an interview with Mary Chapin Carpenter. I assumed that the interview would take place at the end of the first or second hour, and that, because I had to reach the new Starbucks in Vermont by 3:00, I would already be in Canada. But I didn't leave Burlington until almost 4:00. As I drove north, the second half of the first hour began, and it was a traditional Thanksgiving story that lasted until 5:00. At that point, I figured there was no way reception would last until the end of the second hour. But lo and behold, 5:30 rolled around and VPR was coming in strong. The interview began soon, and I started to here some static, but Mary Chapin Carpenter's sweet voice was still coming in clear. So I got to listen to my interview after all, and I, amazed that reception had reached so far into Canada, likened the situation to a miracle, like that Hannukah miracle where the oil lasted for eight days.

As I approached the CVI-Sources store, or at least where I thought it was, I looked more closely at my map, and I began to have strong doubts that the Rue de Sources plotted on the map was in an area where a Starbucks would likely be located. Also, I remembered partners mentioned a year earlier that a new store would open on the "west island", and the area plotted on the map did not appear to fit that description. So I paid for the roaming minutes and called for directions and learned there was a Boulevard des Sources. Grrr...

I wasn't craving a massage, having just had great one the previous night, but I couldn't resist the opportunity of meeting a French-speaking cutie. Plus a shower never hurts. Canadian massage spas tend to have showers in the rooms more than their U.S. counterparts. The girl, Stefanie, did speak English, but when I asked her, in French, which language she preferred, she of course said French. I spoke in crude French as much as possible, and I understood much of what she said when she spoke slowly and was pleased I hadn't forgotten it all yet. Earlier, I had been listening to French-language news on the radio, and it seemed I was having more difficulty than the previous year picking up words and phrases.

Down the street from the studio was a Peruvian restaurant. The didn't have green plaintains, but I could have gone for yucca instead... if they had not run out of beans. A Latin American meal without beans--unacceptable! Fortunately for my appetite, the owner of another restaurant was sitting at the counter, and he assured me that his place, nearby and on my way, had beans. No green plantains, unfortunately, as is common of Salvadorean restaurants I've encountered, but the beans, rice, and yucca, for only $6, hit the spot.

At the second new store in Montreal, on what they call the "west island", I put too much sugar into the sample cup, so much so that I could hardly drip the stuff. Literally it was making me sick, and I had to alternate with water. One of the baristas who was curious about my project offered me a different drink, but I didn't want more coffee since I planned to pull over shortly to sleep.

I could have made it to Ottawa before 11:00 and visited a couple of stores, but then I would have had to find a place to sleep and reshoot the stores in the morning light. I didn't see the point of that, so I stopped at the visitor's center at Rigaud (one of the few I've seen along Canadian highways). It was early, before 10:00, and there was a strip club in town, minutes away, where I had had a good time the previous year, but I figured I'd had enough fun with the French girl earlier. Plus, I had built up fatigue from the previous night and was able to fall asleep quickly. Well, I was a little uncomfortable as long as the pickup on the other side of the building was parked there with his lights on. I was trying to decided what he was doing--was he the guy maintaining the building? Or...? I kept looking at him in my rearview and tried to climb into the back of the car as surreptitiously as possible.

With the addition of the third blanket I had bought on Wednesday, my cave of warmth protected me until around 3:00 in the morning, when I had to turn the car on. As usual, the dryness of the air led to dehydration and an hang-over/like headache. I'd never yet managed to drink enough water during cold nights to stave off that headache. In the morning I learned the temperature had dropped below 20.

November 26

At the new store in downtown Ottawa I was shocked to learn that the canned DoubleShot product is not offered in Canada! I was amazed that, in the 2-3 years since the introduction of the product I'd never noticed its absence in the country.

Outside, in the absence of sunlight (because of the tall buildings), the sub-freezing temperature took a toll on my hands in the few minutes it took to take a photo, so much so that it was hard to type immediately afterwards.

As I approached the Terry Fox exit in Canada, where there was supposedly a new store across from a Canadian Tire, I got a sense of deja vu. Sure enough, there was the AMC and the Kanata Centrum shopping center and an older Starbucks. The newer one had not yet opened, but I wasn't upset about the wasted time, because there was another new store nearby. I probably lost no more than 5-10 minutes.

After passing the third Tim Horton's located across the street from my direction of travel, I finally said fuck it and turned around because I was really hungry. They had the ham and cheese biscuits I'd discovered a few years ago. Yay!!! But they offered a worse exchange rate than I had gotten at Starbucks. Boo!!!

Down the street at the new store in Kanata I got into a discussion with a gentleman who worked in the archives department of the RCMP. He was very interested in my project and asked if a story about me had been done in Canada, so I imagined he might be looking for a career change like Bill. After I chatted with him I was fortunate enough to chat with another partner who asked what other stores I was visiting in the area. I ran through my list, and she asked about another store on a road called Hunt Club. The name sounded familiar, but the store was not in my database. The manager called and found out they had opened in December, which meant I couldn't possibly have visited. So I had to make a slight detour before I could get on the road to Toronto, and I started to wonder if I would have time to visit them all and play Scrabble too.

I guess you can write a blue song about anything I thought, as I listened to a song about the "oreo cream sandwich chocolate covered cream filled cookie blues."

I was about to risk running in and out without buying a parking ticket in downtown Kingston, but right in front of the Starbucks was a Kingston police officer. Ordinally I would not have expected regular police to ticket cars, but this one had a pad for writing. I asked if he was ticketing. He said yes and gave me a look as I turned and walked (quickly) back to my car and moved it around the block, paid for 10 minutes, then sprinted to the Starbucks. The district manager happened to be in the store, and I inquired about the third Kingston Starbucks I'd been told about earlier. He said it was in the Indigo bookstore down the street, and revealed that Starbucks had bought out the Indigo cafes and turn them into proper Starbucks locations. Oy, vey!!! Scads of new locations!!! I pretty much knew right there and then my schedule was screwed.

Princess Street ran one way. I probably could have walked to the Indigo faster than it took me to drive up the parallel street and ask people where I needed to turn. But it was cold, and the time on my meter must have run out. So I drove a few blocks.

After getting my coffee I asked a cashier to pull up a list of Indigo locations around Toronto. She pulled up four just in Toronto proper, and I could see on the screen that the Indigo family of bookstore had locations in about 30-50 suburbs. I knew some would be Chapters or Coles, not Indigo, but I'd have to search through each municipality individually to find out. I expected 10-20, and my mind was reeling at the work that was ahead of me. I could see myself having to return to Toronto after my tournament to finish the job.

But I'd worry about those later--I needed to get back to my car before the meter expired. Even though I already knew I wouldn't have time to get them all, part of me remained hopeful and still wanted to hurry, so I walked over to the pizzeria a few doors down and took away a couple of slices of pazunda.

Traffic on the 401 towards Toronto moved at ridiculous speeds, over 90 MPH for long stretches. I began to think I might have time make it up to Barrie and Collingwood and back to Toronto. But that was just silly. As soon as I reached Toronto I knew it was hopeless, as traffic was a mess, not just on the 401, but seemingly all around the city according to the radio.

It was slow going from the 401 up to Steeles, and as I drove I could see that the return would be no better. In the past I had had success attacking the outmost store and then working my way inbound during the evening rush hour. No such luck this time in Toronto, as I found traffic a mess outbound and inbound. Watt falk! Why, why, why!

On Dufferin St spotted a sign for a Katz's Deli. Another fake one??? They were obvious trying to capitalize on the fame of the original in NYC because a neon sign read "Last stop for great corned beef before NYC".

When I reached the fourth Indigo location of the day, at Bay and Bloor, I still had four more stores around downtown, plus two around Oakville. Even though my Scrabble tournament was only 250 miles away, I had already figured out that my most logical move, from the perspective of the project as a whole, was to visit the three new stores in London, located roughly halfway between Toronto and Detroit, and effectively inaccessible unless I was making the drive from one of the two major cities to the other.

Because of the delays due to traffic and the newly discovered Indigo stores, I wouldn't have time to stop at a local strip club that had become my favorite in the city, and so while at the Indigo I used up the Canadian currency I had acquired by purchasing a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons, the new novel by Tom Wolfe I'd been hearing about on the radio.

I spotted a hot dog vendor on the corner. I needed to hurry, so I had him give me the spicy dog that was already cooked. As I waited for the light, a homeless youth asked me for change. I said no. He asked if I could buy him coffee, and I shook my head. He asked if I could spare just 50 cents, and I still said no. He was practically begging, and then just ask quickly he said "Fuck you, idiot" and walked away.

At the next store the manager seemed intrigued enough with my project that when I mentioned I had lost the special Starbucks card with the maple leaf she gave me hers. The next day, she e-mailed me. Very few partners and managers that had asked for the URL to my site actually bothered to e-mail me.

I had parked in some lot down the street from the Starbucks. When I returned to my car, some guy waved at me and "informed" me that parking wasn't free. I told him there was no sign. I had pretty much lucked out because he didn't notice when I ran over to the Starbucks. I wouldn't have paid, not to go get coffee, but I might have had to walk farther.

As I headed west towards London I listened to some cool tunes on a station with a cool name, "Jack" FM 92.1. Later, on the CBC station, I listened to fascinating lecture about civilization, the last in a series of "Massey Lecture" by a professor named Robert Wright.

I reached London and visited all three stores with time to spare. When I returned to my car after visiting the third, some girl was encouraging another, who had apparently had too much to drink, to throw up. They had been waiting for a taxi for twenty minutes, and the girl asked if I could give her friend a ride home. They were both cute, but I was worried that the drunk one might throw up in my car. Still, I started moving stuff from the passenger seat to the trunk, but then the taxi finally arrived and made the point moot.

In downtown London, there was a bar with the coolest name ever, the Call the Office Bar and Nightclub.

It was drizzling in London, but one upside was that the temperature was much warmer than back in Toronto, at least 10-20 degrees I say. I had to park a few blocks away from two of the Starbucks I visited, so I really appreciated the warmer air. The drizzle, however, cut down on my speed. I left London later than I should have, because of the blind girl, and when I reached the service plaza for some rest I had 112 miles to Farmington.

November 27

I reached Windsor shortly after 6:00 AM, in time to visit a new, unlisted, Starbucks there. At the border, I encountered the most laid-back US border agent I'd seen since September 11th--he just leaned back on his stool and didn't even take my license or passport.

I was indecisive about whether I wanted to sleep more, or visit the only new store (listed) in Michigan, in Roseville, before the Scrabble tournament or after. As I approached the interchange to I-696 I finally decided I wasn't going to be able to sleep in the 80 minutes I had to spare. But I waited too long to call the store to confirm it was open, and because I got no answer, I headed west. I called a nearby store and confirmed that Roseville was in fact open. I grumbled and turned around and headed to the store, on Gratoit. I forwent the intro, bought a DoubleShot that I'd need to stay away during Scrabble, and I

Johnny Rocket? Johnny Turtle is More Like It

I called Jodi immediately after the tournament, but she was not answering. As I drove down towards Perrysburg, I hoped she would call before I reached the new Starbucks and had to decide on which direction to drive. She called quicker than I expected, and because of the distraction I ended up taking the wrong freeway and going some 10 miles out of my way before I turned around. But there was no hurry--Jodi had had to deal with some sadness in Springfield and was not up for driving to Indiana to meet me.

I reached the Perrysburg Starbucks without further delay, but then I made the mistake of ordering a burger from Johnny Rocket. I figured it would be ready by the time I finished with the Starbucks. Wrong. Even after chatting with the manager, who was wearing a t-shirt I'd not seen elsewhere and hoped to get, not only was the burger not ready but they weren't even sure about my order. Since I was already there, and because I had not spotted any other restaurants November 28

I had worried that by going to sleep so early I would end up waking early, being unable to sleep, and having to kill time when I reached Erie. Not so. I slept solidly through the night, doubtlessly made more comfortable by the warmer temperature. When I finally awoke and sensed daylight it was already 8:30, which gave me just enough time to visit the new store in Mentor (where they finally had T-Mobile, in Ohio, yay) and make it to Erie right around 10:00. 11 hrs

The rest area was so close to the Starbucks that I barely had time to change into my uniform before I arrived.

I got on the Indigo web site, and it took a few minutes to go through the 30-40 cities in Ontario that had Indigo-family bookstores, but I was pleased to discover that there were only three Indigos in the cities around Toronto--I had been worried there would be ten or more--that would make it practically impossible for me to finish on this trip.

My schedule might have been working out, but somebody was having a bad Thanksgiving break--just off the entrance ramp to I-90 were two cars, collided, with glass strewn everywhere. Not much to be thankful for there. Deja vu!!! While waiting to turn into the parking lot of the Millcreek Mall. I was about to resign myself to a photo of the Millcreek Plaza with a big honking minivan in front when I spotted a pair of ladies walk out and get into the van. reaction was typical, suspicion, eagerness I was a bit off my game in Buffalo. After visiting the Walden Galleria store I misread the map and started to exit onto SR-33 from the interstate to cut across town, but on the ramp I glimpsed a sign for I-290, Niagara Falls, and when it glanced at the map again it was clear that was the shorter route. Fortunately, that interchange was a full cloverleaf and I was able to get back on I-90 eastbound in less than 2 minutes. However, when I looked at the map again to see where in Niagara Falls the Starbucks was I realized I was headed to the wrong bridge entir There was some buildup on the bridge, presumably because there were reduced lanes and because of the toll plaza, but I saw no delay at the border cross. Actually, I wasn't sure which side of the bridge U.S. customs was on, but the Canadian customs agent said he did not expect any delays, not that time of year, and with no football game in Buffalo. But he motioned me over to have my ID verified. I looked at the yellow slip, and he had written "Reason for visit?" He was suspicious.

I had to wait 5-10 minutes for the other customs agent to get to me. She wasn't very nice--she wouldn't let me bring my Tom Wolfe novel inside the building, saying "you don't need to be reading in there." What the...??? Inside, she asked me lots of questions. I showed her my Washington Post Magazine article. She asked more questions. Then she went to verify my ID. I sat on a bench next to some dude taking apart his wallet and making a reference to some "motherfucker" having weed. Not me. Not that stupid. After a few minutes the agent came back out and questioned me some more before letting me go. Strong winds in St. Catharine's didn't just make it cold, but hard to hold my camera still. extra 6 dollars queens quay parking, foto It was almost 5:00, and I really needed to be on the road back to the U.S., but the Eaton Centre Indigo was so close that how could I pass it up? Thankfully, the barista at the previous store had been wrong--the Indigo was visible from the street--not Bay, but James. Which meant I didn't have to hunt for it. Just risk a parking ticket I didn't even have to get to the border to see delays. The Gardiner west was 77 min delay, skip toll, almostr 16 oz uryine, 10.53 gaL FGAS, 5:15, 5:45, 7:40 thisjuiceis food, wait bkfsst til us-15 museum of glass corning future 99 corridor us-15 s of tioga, finally a route thru central pa I was getting mighty hungrig "NO COMFORT FACILITIES" yellow pills running out I wasn't sure if I'd have time to stop for coffee, so I had to rummage around the small pocket of my duffel bag and pull out Further south I saw something new to me, a man in the brightest orange jumpsuit I had ever seen. I assumed at first he was with a road crew, but when I passed I spotted a rifle slung across his shoulder and realized he was a hunter. But of what? My question was answer later, when the radio reported that deer season had begun that day. About 75 miles from work traffic came to a near standstill on I-83. After all the delays I'd suffered through, to be so close, and yet so far. Mark Steiner shiw, miss ewxit, try to call but too late

A local Baltimore public radio show, The Mark Steiner Show was talking about development and the loss of neighborhoods. Early during the show Steiner

After an abbreviated day at work, I arrived home to discover my second bundle of joy, my package of videocassettes of the shows I had not been able to record or watch between the time I left Houston and when I found a room. I needed sleep, but I also didn't want to let the shows pile up, so I started in on the third episode of Desperate Housewives. While I watched, I sorted through the photos I had taken during my trip. In my distraction, I overwrote the photo of the South Burlington store. Great. Of all the photos to lose, it had to be one of a remote, remote area that I've only gotten to three times ever, and who knew when I would be able to return. Why, why, why!!! -->

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