Odds and ends OR how I kill 3 hours at CVG 

After hearing the horror stories about wait times at TSA checkpoints, I made sure to give myself plenty of time to get to airport in case I needed to spend 2 hours going through security. It wound up being closer to 2 minutes, and while I am not complaining about that, it means I have quite a bit of free time and little to do, so I might as well tie up some odds and ends with the travelogue and put a ribbon on this trip. Continue reading

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A day in the Queen City 

I frequently write about how a good deal of the time I spend when I’m alone in a new city is just spent “wandering,” that I walk around, see what grabs my attention, maybe look for striking compositions of buildings 

like this here


and just keep moving until I find something that draws me in or my feet start to feel like they’re about to fall off. I didn’t have any trouble finding something to draw me in this time around, coming into my hotel, it was impossible not to notice the building poking over some trees that looked like an old-time radio, except this one is about 7-10 stories high: 


Turns out that used to be the Union Station (and Amtrak still uses a tiny corner of it for passenger rail), but the building is currently the home of three separate museums. And—sadly—they are all halfway into the process of clearing out in preparation for a two-year remodeling project, and for whatever reason, rather than moving one gallery out at a time, it seemed like individual pieces had been removed from all the galleries. 

The most striking exhibit (and one which was surprisingly hard to find) was a recreation of the public landing on the banks of the Ohio River in the 1840s or so. I mean, you turn a corner and there’s a paddle wheel steamship docked at the pier with half it’s cargo unloaded, and there’s the streets with storefronts for a printer’s shop, a dry goods store and an apothecary’s shop. And if I hadn’t been paying good attention to find the spot where the guide told me to “make a left turn before you go through that door,” I would have missed it completely.

[I did take some photos of the steamer, but the lighting was not good.]

I also discovered that there is a contemporary art museum downtown with free admission. They had several small but varied exhibits, not much to my personal taste, but at least the price was right.

That’s part of an exhibit of entire rooms, including furniture, power sockets and trinkets rendered in colorful gauzy textiles.


At the top floor was what they call the “Unmuseum” which I don’t know how to describe briefly. So rather than trying, I’m just going to show you this: 

Now, if my arms were longer or I had a selfie stick, you’d be able to see that’s a woman with the head of a shark sitting at a bus stop. I was trying to get a face to match those dark clouds over my head, but I don’t know how well I did.

Adrift in Detroit 

I write from my hotel room in Cincinnati after a long and not particularly comfortable bus ride. I didn’t get to say half the things I wanted to say about my day and Detroit yesterday, and I still won’t get to half of them, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. I guess I caught a one-day window in an otherwise dreary weather week, here’s what it looked like:


As frequently happens when I am left to my own devices, I found myself walking along some body of water. Back home it’s usually an irrigation ditch, but yesterday it was the Detroit River, where I found a very nicely maintained riverwalk trail complete with public art, parks and even one of these things:


I even wandered into a unique bit of street theatre by Renascence Center: 


The story here is that apparently the LAPD challenged Detroit Police to do a video of their officers to do a “running man” dance… for reasons that were not made particularly clear. So, there were several equestrian units, a SWAT team and two classes of new recruits all participating.

From there, I went to the Detroit Institue of Arts, which was a refreshing change from many art museums I’ve been to. I guess the best way to put it would be to say that usually I run out of patience with an exhibit, where I either am presented with absolutely no context for the artwork or else am drowned in information. At DIA, I didn’t run out of patience, I simply ran out of time. 

Layover Blues…

I write from Houston, where I am midway on my way to the trip to cross the last two ballparks off my list: Detroit and Cincinnati. I’m sure once I’m actually on my way or on the ground, I’ll be more excited than I am now. I will have been to every Major League ballpark. It’s something I have been wanting to do and working towards for the better part of fourteen years now. 

But right now, what I find myself thinking right now is that flying itself is a lot like work. Or, at least I come away from a flight (or a long layover, or the line to the check-in counter or the line to security or the line to board the bloody plane) leaves me as drained as work does but without any of the feeling that I actually accomplished something. So, today I had to be up and at the airport earlier than when I ordinary have to be at work, and I wouldn’t have touched down in Detroit until very nearly the time I would be leaving the office. 

And that’s on a good travel day. Between mechanical problems on the plane from Albuquerque and a slew of delays caused by bad weather in Houston, I’ll be lucky if I get into my room before midnight. So, hopefully there will be exciting discoveries, good baseball and happy blogging on this trip, but it looks like that’s going to have to wait for the morrow.

In the cards 

I’m blogging from a Lobo baseball game. As usual, I’ve got my scorecard. But I am finding my attitude towards them are changing. I used to get real involved in wanting to make sure my cards accurately reflected what happened in the game, to the point of wanting to go online after a game was over and looking up the play- by- play and all the roster moves and everything. But I’ve decided because all that stuff is already being stored a hundred fifty million places online. So I still enjoy the exercise of completing a scorecard, the way it makes you more aware of patterns during the game and then how it enhances memory of remarkable plays after the game is over.

But what if I miss a play? I won’t know if a run is earned or not. I won’t know how many at-bats a player has. In short, I won’t be able to fill out all the player stats on the edges of the card. And this year, I don’t care. I just want to watch a baseball game.

Learning to spell

I’ve been having a hell of a time getting the knack of how to spell the name of the city of Cincinnati. I’m trying to get it down so that I can type it without the dreaded red squiggly lines popping up. I got the first part down, it would be like a Can-Can but with “i” instead of “a,” but the second part is giving me more difficulty. I keep wanting to put one “n” and two “t”s.  I’m sure the folks who grew up there have absolutely no problem with it. In fact, they’d probably need some spell-check assistance if they needed to write out my home town of Albuquerque.

Perhaps you’re wondering why this has become such a pressing concern of mine, to want to be able to spell the word “Cincinnati” correctly. As though I expected to be writing it a lot in the coming months. Almost as though I felt like I was going to be going there soon, in fact…

Back home—a little late

Yes, I know I’m a little late getting to this post. As I was preparing to leave, I was told by some of my co-workers that I might just decide to stay in Toronto and never come back. If you’ve been following my process solely through this blog, I certainly can’t blame you if you’re beginning to speculate that this is what happened. Well, I did, in fact, go home the day following the Blue Jays game and returned to the grind of the work-a-day life the day after that. There are a number of reasons I have not written to put a finishing touch on this trip. The most mundane and obvious being that I’ve been busy having returned to a job that is not physically taxing but emotionally and creatively draining.

But it’s something more than that. After returning from a foreign country, it seems to be expected that I say something really insightful about the differences; either in the people, the landscapes, the food, the culture, whatever. That’s what’s been eluding me. I don’t want to say that there’s nothing different between Canadians and Americans—it’s just been very hard to find any sort of broad-brush generalizations, and while I was certainly perceiving that there were subtle differences, it’s been very hard to find the words to articulate exactly what it was I was noticing. Yes, I did meet a few people who ended practically every sentence with “eh?” but quite a few more who didn’t. Canada has big cities separated by vast swatches of big, empty country. There’s a lot going on in Toronto, and a lot to do, but I don’t feel rushed the way I would in a comparably sized city in America. These are the things I tell people when they ask about my trip, and they work perfectly fine to occupy the time in the elevator to get to the 6th floor, but they hardly make compelling writing, and that’s why this post is—most apologetically—tardy.

Maybe I need more time to reflect on it. Or maybe I just need to go back, eh?

Back on my feet

Well, I’m in Toronto. I came to the conclusion that the seats on the train were designed to be comfortable for 72 hours. I came to that conclusion at about hour 74 of the trip, with the destination definitely coming up but still achingly out of reach, an unfortunate side effect of such a big country. I don’t want to give the impression that I was just sitting around while I was on the train. We had chances to get off and stretch our legs at several stops, including extensive stops at Jasper and Winnipeg, but for the most part, physical activity was limited to a trip to the dining car or the observation bubble (the rest of the train being off limits to third-class passengers such as myself), so I was very glad to get a chance to move around again.

The train came in at 11 and I was able to check into my hotel room a little before three, so I did get some time to walk around and explore. I found restaurants in the “Entertainment District” offering any number of culinary options and eventually picked a place mainly because they had a gentleman outside happy to discuss the menu with passersby. After lunch, I continued exploring. It was pretty hazy and foggy, so I didn’t get very many pictures, but this view did present itself:

toronto

Days on the train 

When I first planned this trip, it was in the broad-brush way of thinking about it. I would somehow get to Toronto for a Blue Jays game. “Now, how to get to Toronto? Well, wasn’t I seeing all those ads a few years ago to see Canada by rail? Vancouver to Toronto, that sounds like fun.” I saw the 3 1/2 day duration of the trip without really thinking of the implications of that. And actually, a more accurate way of thinking about it is three days and four nights, we left Vancouver Sunday night and arrive Thursday morning.
Now, I find train travel to be extremely relaxing and have enjoyed many long trips in the past. But almost four days? The only thing I’ve done comparable to that would be that Baltimore-Albuquerque trip I took (and blogged about) back in 2011. And for that trip, I made stops in Washington, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago. Aside from a few hour-long stops where we can get off and stretch our legs, this whole journey will be on the train. I spent some time wondering about whether that would be too much, but by then the pieces were in place (and paid for), I had a plane ticket to Vancouver and Blue Jays tickets five days later.

In all, I am still glad I chose this particular route, but some things—most notably the fact that it’s very difficult to get more than three or four hours of continuous sleep makes me think I should spring for a sleeping car or break up the trip in some way if I plan something similar in the future.

Something I’ve noticed about the three days so far. I don’t know how the Canadians have gotten their country so nicely organized, but we had all mountains on Monday, prairie and farmlands from sunrise to sunset yesterday, and so far today has been entirely lakes and forests:

   

 

The Canadian 

I want to say a little more about the train I’m on. I could tell simply from the VIA Rail website that it’s the crown jewel of their fleet (for lack of a better word). However, it wasn’t until the numismatist in me got curious before I discovered that it is a National icon. Check out what’s on the ten dollar bill: 
And that’s not any old train, it is specifically the one I’m on: The Canadian/Le Canadien (I feel like I’m picking up a lot of French because the farther east you go, the more of it you hear and see) I’m sure there’s a rich history and tradition behind the train and the line—I don’t imagine the passage through the Rockies we made yesterday was a small feat—but I don’t pretend to know that history, so I won’t claim to be an expert.

Here’s what I do know: this train is a monster. At one of the station stop we were given fifteen minutes to walk around. From the coach car in the very front where I am to the last sleeper and back took the entire time. As I’ve indicated, I’m used to traveling coach on Amtrak. Naturally, there are a few differences, but here’s the one I appreciate the most. Look at the size of this window:


Today I saw a lot of farmland out that window as we went across the prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Here’s a sight I saw so many times I’ve completely lost track of exactly where this particular farm was: