Farther Into Canada!

Final Update: April 28, 2005 log continues here

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Once again, my excitement about leaving on another trip (albeit a mini one) was blunted by severe allergy symptoms and the accompanying worry that it might be another bug. If it was a bug, running 4.25 probably wouldn't help it, but I hadn't run at all that week, and I couldn't let my legs get too far out of shape.

Though my dev lead had nixed my plan to take Monday and Tuesday off to play in a big tournament in Tennessee, when I switched my itinerary to a tournament in upstate NY and saw that it would make sense to strike at Ontario along the way, he agreed to Friday off.

I went to Scrabble club for practice, but I took off early. Still, it wasn't 'til around 1:00 when I reached the first rest area, where I hoped for 7 good hours of sleep.

April 29

8:29 was a later start than I had hoped for, but I had about 500 miles to drive before the first new Starbucks, so I'd need that sleep and to help ward off my usual travel illness too. I was already extremely stuffed up and felt pressure in my head, especially around my forehead.

At 9:06, I decided enough was enough and reached back into my bag for some cold pills. And the way I was feeling, I had to stop in Breezewood for some coffee and a pastry-- I didn't need caffeine jones and hunger adding to my discomfort.

My shortest route to Canada put me on the infamous and controversial I-99, an interstate I'd wanted to drive for a long time. I'd been told a Starbucks was going up around Altoona, and I was hoping it had opened already, but at Breezewood I was told sometime in the next 18 months. So I'd have to return. As usual.

The day before I had googled "wi-fi" and "pennsylvania" and found a page that listed a Panera and a Sheetz in Altoona as having free wireless access. I'd forgotten to plot the Panera on my map, but the Sheetz was in plain sight just off the 17th St. exit. The setup was new to me--the wi-fi was indeed free, but to use it I had to log on with a username and password obtained from a printer inside. I guess this was to entice users inside where they were more likely to make a purchase. It worked--I got a biscuit sandwich because the danish from Starbucks wasn't going to last me 'til Canada.

I wasn't the only one. Another guy, also a traveler, had heard about the wi-fi and stopped in to get online and some breakfast. Seems like a good way to bring in business--I wonder if it's paying off for them,

I finally got around to my due diligence, calling stores to see which were open, and how late. In an amazing coincidence, I learned that two Toronto stores, Queen & Brookmount, and Danford & Langord, both opened that day--timing worked in my favor for once!

With at least ten new stores around Toronto, and the clock ticking, I began to hurry more. My leftover spaghetti heated at the gas station saved me having to get lunch, and I blew through the new store outside Buffalo, in Williamsville. I was relieved that the line at the border seemed short. At first it seemed like my line was not moving, and I began to get anxious. But in the end I was only delayed 20 minutes, and the border agent only asked me a few questions, no inspection.

My relief turned to despair as I approached Oakville and traffic came to a standstill. WTF??? I was heading against the rush hour! I tried to bypass the backup on surface streets, but I ended up losing more time. Still, my original plan worked, to travel to the Collingwood store via rural Ontario, thus avoiding much traffic. Once I got well outside the GTA (greater Toronto area), traffic thinned out and I made good time as I pushed further into rural Ontario than ever before.

At Collingwood, the manager gave me disturbing news, that there was a company-owned Starbucks in North Bay. I thought she said it was 800 miles away, and I shuddered to think at the drive I'd have to make for just one store. Later, I calculated the distance using my mapping program, and it's really only 180 miles. Whew! But she also said there was a location in the Yukon, and that truly would be a drive!

I sped off towards Barrie, and from there as fast as I could to eight other stores, reaching the last one in Milton just 15 minutes before it closed at midnight. That was 11 stores in about 8-9 hours, with detours only for a royal burger and later bad breath at the House of Lancaster.

I drove as far as St. Catharine's and pulled behind a truck in an auto repair shop to get sleep so I wouldn't waste time in case there was a backup at the border. Off in the bushes I spotted something moving, with what seemed like a white strip on its back. I approached, slowly. Sure enough it was skunk, only my second close-up encounter with such a creature. It looked so cute, I wanted to pet it and maybe bring it into the car with me to keep me warm. Later, I spotted a different anymal, brownish in color, that I couldn't identify. It was like animal planet out there!

Around 2:00 in the morning I finished the drive and got across the border and drove on to Geneseo to sleep as long as I could before I had to visit the Starbucks and head to my Scrabble tournament.

May 1

After yet another disappointing Scrabble performance I sped away from New Hartford towards Easton, PA. As if going 5-7 in Scrabble wasn't bad enough, just a few minutes into my drive I broke my window handle!

How the heck does that happen??? Is this fixable? A perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Oh, but the day was far from over. The route from New Hartford to Easton took me along New York SR-12, a curvy two-lane highway, the driving of which wasn't made any easier by a strong wind that drive to push my light car off the road. Do you know how hard it is to type on a laptop when your car keeps trying to run off the road? I just knew I was going to die.

I stopped for gas in some nowhere town named Sangerfield, at this gas station.

What kind of a name is that for a gas station? That sounds more like something you say to a bank teller when you are robbing the place, or to a girl when you are having sex for the first time.

When I looked at my route to Easton I noticed Scranton along the way, and I have a vague thought of something asking me to drop by the Dickinson City (outside Scranton) store and say hello. None of the partners recognized me, but the stop wasn't wasted. I got some better shots of the store, and, and, and as I walked back to my car some guy in a jeep points at me and shouts "I saw you on TV!" Yet another person who had recognized me from "Unwrapped". That show had yielded me more recognition than any other media appearance, even one with larger circulation like Fortune. Maybe it's because my image was onscreen so long on TV versus just a single photo in the print articles.

I survived the killer wind, but the fun hadn't ended. As I approached Scranton I started to feel a headache coming on. I thought it was hunger, even though I had had a good lunch. Or maybe it was the lunch? Anyway, I ordered a personal pizza from a place I'd found during my original visit to Dickinson City.

The pizza wasn't very good, and rather messy to eat, but what was worse was that food did not good. My headache continued to get worse and worse, and I started to feel some nausea. Swallowing my phlegm seemed to make me feel sicker, so I started spitting it into a large frappucino cup that I emptied of water. From Dickinson City I had detoured to Wilkes-Barre, and I was glad that the route back down towards Easton was along another state highway in case I needed to pull over quickly to hurl. Driving was agony, but Easton was not along my usual travel route, and I didn't want to miss this opportunity to get it out of the way.

Well, I made it, and I actually started to feel better, but I still stopped when I reached the service area in Allentown, until about 3:30 in the morning. It was good my headache had gone away, because I had to clear the Philly area before I morning rush hour, which the radio was always reporting as insane.

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