Thursday 23rd October. Blenheim, Ontario, Canada.
Allan likes his sleep. He runs the equivalent of two or three marathons a week, and said his body just doesn't recover with less than nine or ten hours' sleep. I couldn't sleep in later than nine o'clock, so spent a couple of minutes working on my now much anticipated book, before he dragged himself out of bed for breakfast. By that time, breakfast kind of merged into lunch, and it was time to head to Blenheim, just another hour down the road.
It was seven degrees outside when I woke up, but that dropped to three degrees by lunchtime and as Allan drove me to the highway, there was a light snowfall. Of course, when I went to put on my fantastically warm gloves, I only had one. Somewhere my other glove lies cold and lonely, without a purpose. I couldn't bear to put on just one glove. I thought that would just make my gloveless hand feel really cold and pissed off.
Blenheim is a small town about fifteen kilometres off the highway, so it took a few lifts to get there. From where my first lift dropped me, I didn't even have time to sit my backpack down before an approaching van pulled over for me. He dropped me at the Blenheim turnoff and the guy who picked me up from there, was a friend of Tony and Olive, my hosts in Blenheim. I wasn't surprised; it's that kind of small town. Remember Nicole from Toronto, who was kind enough to let me stay at her home for five days? Tony and Olive are Nicole's parents, and had invited me many months ago. Brian dropped me at the 7-11. Across the road was a Tim Horton's coffee shop and a dreary looking old pub called the Cadillac. Brian suggested I grab a cup of coffee from Tim Horton's if I had to wait for any length of time, but cautioned me against going inside the Cadillac. Hmm...that made me curious.
I'd tried to call Tony along the way from a driver's cellphone, but there'd been no answer. This time, he answered straight away. He'd be right down to get me. Ten minutes later, a big white sedan rolled into the 7-11 carpark and the big smiling man behind the wheel waved to me. Tony said he'd read my journal update about the Diplomat hotel in Guelph, and insisted on taking me to the Cadillac across the road for 'a cold one.' He reckoned the Cadillac could match any dreary pub Guelph had to offer. At first glance, I agreed. Later I realized that the thick spiders webs hanging from the ceiling were actually halloween decorations!
We had a couple of small beers in the Cadillac then Tony took me for a drive around the farming neighbourhood. The fertile farmlands along the lakefront produce a lot of the seed corn and vegetables for the country. We drove through a particulary rich farming area known as the 'boglands' because the whole area is actually lower than the water level of Lake Erie, and has to be continually pumped dry with a series of channels to keep it from reverting to a muddy swamp. In Erieeau, a pretty lakefront community, we stopped at a little bar where Tony's youngest daughter used to work. There, we savoured a couple of large brown beers, and Tony enthusiastically introduced me to the staff and many of his friends.
"You really must check out Steve's website. Give them your card, Steve." I felt a bit like a visiting celebrity.
On our way back to Tony's home, there was a spectacular sunset over Lake Erie. I didn't have to ask Tony to stop. He pulled over and insisted I get some shots of the sunset.
Olive was waiting for us when we got there. She'd already eaten, but Tony fired up the barbecue and cooked the two of us some mighty good steaks. After dinner, they showed me a home movie from their time in Australia. Wow, what a spinout to see my home city on television- the bar I used to work at, restaurants I supplied with fruit and vegetables when I had my wholesale business, even the cheap little Gold Coast motel where I used to stay when I was a teenager on a wild weekend away! I recognized most of the places before Tony had a chance to identify them. It was almost midnight when Tony called it a night. He had to be up early for work- 'buggering around at the golf course'. I had a couple of hours work to do on the computer so it'd be another short night's sleep for me.
Tony and Olive had offered to let me stay for a couple of days, and it would've been a lovely place to relax, with my own room and bathroom downstairs. However, I felt I should keep moving. So much more to see and do...
On a side note, Tony had expressed disappointment that I hadn't been more detailed about my stay with his daughter Nicole in Toronto, or that I hadn't explored Toronto more thoroughly. Aftre re-reading my journal from Toronto, I understand what he was saying, but there was a reason. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with Toronto. Those of you who know me well, or those few who I manage to keep in touch with regularly, will have noticed that I haven't really been myself lately. This is a bit personal but hey, it's a personal webpage so here goes...
Travelling alone has been my preference. I began my first trip eleven years ago with an old schoolmate and it wasn't long before we both realized the trip would be more enjoyable for both of us if we weren't 'chained together', so to speak. We would split up and set off on our own individual adventures, only to meet up in another city down the road. My girlfriend Sara came with me on my second trip, and the stresses of travelling together saw the end of that relationship after just a few months. Since then I choose to travel alone. It's great to be able to be flexible and spontaneous, without having to consult anyone or constantly compromise my plans to suit a companion. However, when you meet someone special along the way, and you have to leave them behind, it ain't easy. Yes it happens! People always ask me "Doesn't it get lonely travelling by yourself?" Until two weeks ago, I could honestly answer that I've never felt lonely. You meet so many great people when you travel, and on my previous trips I've often stayed in one place for some length of time; three months in Hollywood, four months in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, nine months in London, four months in Israel and so on. When you put down roots, even for a few months, travel takes on a whole new dimension. You have the chance to build strong friendships, and a strange city can begin to feel like 'home'. But on this trip, it's just been moving, moving, moving. And so in Toronto, Ontario at the age of thirty-four I finaly discovered something I'd not been trying to find. Loneliness.
It's a strange feeling, too. Not at all like 'boredom' which I'm all too familiar with! Loneliness, I think, can only exist when there's something to miss, someone to be lonely for. Combined with a twinge of homesickness after phoning Mum for the first time in months, it was quite difficult to be enthusiastic about life while I was in Toronto. What I did was the best I could do. So if my journal updates vary in nature and mood from time to time, it's because my feelings vary. This journal is a reflection of my experience, not necessarily a journalist's objective analysis. That's the way it is. That's the way it will be.
Every day brings a new start.