What a week it has been, with a lot of ups, and a few downs to make the ups more appreciable.
The basics of the past week are that I and my friend Alaina went to Toronto both for Trillium War and of course to see my friends, hitting the Rush concert in Chicago while seeing my oldest friend Ted and meeting Anne and their baby Alex Neil on the way back. If that sounds complicated, well, that’s me of course, and that’s also why I’m putting in a cut for length.
So the preliminary stuff for the trip started oddly for two reasons. One, the trench that is getting dug in the back yard was not completed, but we were limited in what we could do because of all the rain that keeps coming down, preventing it from drying and allowing the use of Thaddeus’ Bobcat. I really did not feel like I could leave until we had made significant progress on it. We finally decided to just keep trying, meaning it’s not going to come out as initially attractive but it definitely is pretty effective. The we in question, by the way, are primarily Deirdre and Thaddeus, who both worked a ton on this project. Without their help it would not be near so far along. Now what is left is to distribute smaller rock by hand and try and get the ground in decent enough shape to get new grass put down. Still, the back yard no longer has a big stupid mud puddle/lake when it rains.
The second odd reason is that I was hoping that my new debit card would arrive in time. I had never activated my debit card for my account here in Columbia and it expired. I wanted access to it to make sure I’d be OK with money on the trip. I suppose I should have waited, but it did not arrive until Tuesday and that would have been a real lost experience, as you shall see. I would have, in fact, been fine with money except for a stupid Esso gas station that is charging me incorrectly and I have not yet been able to reverse the charges because I haven’t been home to get the paperwork to submit back to my bank. Things will be OK eventually, but what a mess and it resulted in a bit a of problem for both me and my mother (sorry, Mom). I hate it when I have money to do what I need, but I do not have access to it. Still, I’ll take the tradeoff because of the ROM.
So, anyway, at about 3pm on Friday I look around and think to myself: Well, the backyard is as done as it can be right now, there’s no clue when the card will arrive, we’re packed, and we could just go. So we did. We got to Anderson, IN before stopping for the night. Humorously, I forgot to tell Derdriu, who called at 9ish going: “Where are you at?” Anyway, it was a relatively uneventful stop, at least until some drunk guy pounded on our door looking for his friend which surprisingly enough, wasn’t either of us.
Before I go too much farther, I have to say that Alaina is a great traveling partner. She has a pretty diverse taste in music that coincides to a great extent with my own, and neither of us have any issue with just simply enjoying the music together. Sometimes, when you’re in a car for hours and hours, the music detracts from the shared ride, for us, it made it work well.
Anyway, we finish the drive on Saturday, reaching Ajax, ON in time to make it to Nicolaa and Gunnar’s housewarming party. They have a really nice place with a lot of interesting nooks and crannies and plenty of space. Very comfortable, though the cooking geek in me would have wanted a larger kitchen 🙂 Anyway, we were there for a couple of hours, but we were ready to crash so we went to the Marchmount house who, as always, are such generous hosts.
We did not have any real plans for Sunday, so Alaina and I just drove around southern Ontario. We drove about 180miles, all told, and it was an interesting day. We saw a ton of neat houses, of course, and some pretty countryside. Past Uxbridge came the main adventure. As we left Uxbridge we saw a sign directing us to “pine furniture and antiques” which sounded interesting. So we followed the sign. Which led to another sign. Which led to another sign. Which led…, well, you get the idea. We followed the signs for like 15 miles and were sure a few times we’d just missed it until we saw, you guessed it, another sign.
Before we got to the main adventure, we went off on a side quest when we saw a sign for art/pottery. When we got there we were greeted by the Jack Russell terrier who immediately took a shine to Alaina and hated me. I suppose that’s reasonably good taste. In any case, Alaina and the owner went off to talk shop and I roamed around the store when I fell prey to the trap the terrier had left for me. As I was walking around looking at the other stuff for sale I stepped in something squishy, which, you might guess, was a lovely present indeed. By the way, this is merely one of the many animal encounters on this trip. The first was earlier on the drive when a chipmunk ran across the road bravely chittering away. We left after I cleaned up the present and we looked at cool pottery.
So back to the main quest. Somewhere along the way, we were saying to each other that this had better be the best place ever given how long we had to drive to it. Finally, after a bunch more signs, we finally see a sign pointed to a dirt road leading into a dark forest. This was an omen, but we had no idea. We still had to drive another half-mile until we actually found the place, and the initial impression was excellent. The place was in a beautiful house and we got out of the car excited to see what we would find. As we got out, however, Alaina was accosted by a guy with a scar on his face and a grumpy expression.
“You here for the furniture or the antiques?”
“Furniture at the house, antiques in the barn.”
With that exchange he resumed to his natural position of leaning in the door staring at us. We went into the antique part of the barn, which was an adventure in its own right. The barn was stuffed, and I mean stuffed, did I mention stuffed, with stuff. Merchandising? What is this merchandising you speak of? The place was too full to shop. The price tags were so faded they were antiques themselves. We successfully escaped without destroying anything, but the place was oppressive in its dark crampiness and we were glad to reach the light.
Well, the pine furniture has to be better, right? So we trundled down to the house under the watchful eye of the scarred guy, who still hasn’t moved. We get to the house and the customer service takes, wait for it…, a turn for the worse. The house is as beautiful inside as out, and the stuff, not simply the furniture, is quite nice, but the lady at the desk looks like she’s a hag too frightening to be Slytherin with all of the personality of a bored Snape. I ask her if they have a restroom, she responds with: “No…”
“But we have an outhouse.”
OK, well, I’ll pass so I just start looking around. Alaina is braver than I. She tried to actually talk to the hag, especially about the house, but the best response she got was a stare. It’s somewhere around this point that we’re both thinking, “We’ve got to go. No really. We have got to go.” We walk back up to the car, under the ever vigilant eye of the scarred dude. We’re almost free, but the guy decides now’s the time to be personable. He comments on the driving distance and finally wishes us a safe trip, which is especially creepy coming from him. So we’re both leaving wide-eyed wondering if we’ll actually get free from the family of Ontario ax murderers or if they’ve shut the gate. We do, in fact, make it back to the highway and keep seeing the signs for miles around. I mention I’m tempted to take a sign as a souvenir but Alaina points out they’re probably satellite monitored and we really don’t want them tracking us down.
Anyway, so we proceed onward, eventually arriving at Newcastle, where we have a beer at the Grey Goat, which ironically was literally right next door to a house that Hereward and his wife lived at. Shocking that he would live next to this really cool bar. We have a great time in Newmarket looking at cool houses, but now it’s time to trundle back home. We have two main adventures on the way back, one we see immediately, one which is still going on. As we’re driving through Markham, a suburb of Toronto, we just manage to beat a flock of Canadian geese crossing the road blocking traffic the other direction. Did I mention animals? Strangely, this basically happens twice on this trip. The second adventure is that I try to get gas at an Esso, but they don’t accept my debit card, I think. It turns out that they merely took the number, told me it was unacceptable, and then have since applied some fraudulent charges to my account, which I’m disputing of course.
Anyway, so that is the great roaming around Ontario adventure. We pretty much relax the rest of that evening in preparation for going into Toronto to the ROM on Monday. This turned out to be one of the best things of the trip. I have always wanted to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, but never knew when I’d get to go to China to see them. Well, now I don’t have to because they were the special display at the ROM. Talk about serendipity. They were awesome, and I wallowed in the historical commentary a goodly amount, though I have to question some of their sources, especially on population and troop levels. We went through a number of the other portions of the ROM as well, and this time the gem and mineral display was open, as it had not been the last time I’d been there with Yvonne. This display was amazing and took even longer than the warriors did. All in all, a great time.
As we’re leaving, I call Hereward to join us for dinner, and we go to a Korean BBQ place. We then proceed to the Cloak and Dagger, which has a number of really good beers on tap. The initial plan had been for Alaina and I to return to the Marchmounts on Monday night, but we got to drinking and talking and closed the place down and I was in no shape to drive so we stayed at Hereward’s an extra night. I went back and got our stuff the next morning, because we’d planned on staying at Hereward’s anyway on Tuesday so that I could go listen to reggae at the Orbit.
The trip to the Orbit was great as usual. It’s kind of odd to me that they remember me as well as they do, given that I come in ever year or so, but the bartenders remember me and the musicians remember me and they all came over to chat. The music, of course, is as good as ever. They really have amazing skills. It was a great evening, until I went to pay. This is when I discovered the full impact of the Esso fraudulent charges. This was incredibly embarrassing and I am still pissed off about it. I managed to muddle my way through it, but this was very frustrating.
On Wednesday, we matriculate out to site for Trillium War. It is at the point I introduce Alaina to “the greatest store ever,” otherwise known as the Bulk Barn. After shopping there and at Wal-Mart and the Beer Store, we go out to site and get set up. We were camping, as I had done last year, with Anne and Tiberious and the rest of Petrea Thule. They have a nice relaxing camp, and a really good meal plan. I helped with dishes and firewood, and Alaina helped with meal prep. It worked well.
Thursday, I apparently needed to recoup some sleep after all of the previous late nights, so I got up at the crack of 3pm, for which I got a goodly amount of grief. The rest of the day was pretty relaxing and laid back as we sort of eased into the war. That night, we went looking for a singing circle, which was shockingly hard to find. We eventually found a singing amoeba. We stood around Eoforwic singing, and I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Far worse than normal.
Friday was the day that the war basically got moving, though even that was kind of slow. The 6man melee combat and bridge battle were scheduled. There were, however, only a few fighters out, so Ben Dunfirth team 1, which included me, beat Ben Dunfirth team 2 and Septentria. I did a few pickups, especially with Verenko, and went home feeling nicely pushed, but not overly exhausted. It was a nice relaxing evening too, and I finally got to see Andi, a friend I hadn’t seen since Estrella.
I had a fantastic time with the fighting on Saturday. First was the singles tourney, which I did OK, 3-2, but I was looking forward to the 3man and 9man tournaments. However, the singles tournament did prompt something that was a thread for the rest of the day. They asked me what barony I was fighting for. There was nothing to say it had to be an Ealdormerian barony. So I said Vatavia. Then I decided to form a 3man and a 9man team for Vatavia as well. In the three man, Mordain and Rattanicus joined me and we did pretty well with something like a 5-2 record and 4th place or so. In the 9man, Evander sent over Cal and Verenko, Rattanicus got a couple from his household, Argyle and Talon, and then Mencken and Conrad filled us out. We ended up taking third place, which most everyone thought was hilarious that a Calontir barony would do so well.
By the end of the fighting I was toast. The last couple of bouts were especially painful, as I was absolutely blasted in the head in one and knocked over painfully in the other. My hip still has not recovered from that charge. That’s all on top of a bunch of melees. I was done. Very done. Food, ibuprofen, and a shower got me back ready to herald court for Larmer and Annabelle, who had essentially no one from their Barony of Rising Waters attend.
Saturday night was the great quest for a singing circle. Alyce had scheduled one at Eoforwic’s encampment, but that was taken over by the drummers. We were told there would be a bonfire, but didn’t realize where that was initially and so had to hunt for it. This should have been easier, as the bonfire got so big we got a police helicopter buzzing us to find out what was going on. Nevertheless, we did find it, but it really was not a great bardic circle, and more was an extension of the big party. So we just hung out and drank. I ended up chatting and talking more than carousing, but even so I was one of the last people up and got to bed at 4am.
This probably was unwise, as we had to tear down and get to Racine, WI by a reasonable time. Me? Unwise? Shocking. Anyway, we were done by 11am and got on the road with a stop at “the greatest store ever” on the way out. We actually left the gas station in Ajax at 12:06pm local. I was actually a little worried that we’d gotten on the road a little late, but the traffic was brilliant. We were never held up once in the GTA, and we got to the border crossing in Sarnia quickly. Sadly, this was as busy and slow as ever, but by 4pm, we had gotten into Michigan and paid a proper price for gas. In all actuality, the trip was as smooth as could ever have been expected. The fact that it was a holiday meant that traffic in both Chicago and Toronto was nice. Better yet, Bilbo’s was open in Kalamazoo so we got a Dragon’s Feast to go. Yummmm. We got to Ted and Anne’s at about 9, which was my initial prediction and got to meet Alex Neil. We chatted for an hour or two and then Alaina and I passed out.
We spent Tuesday morning chatting and playing with animals. Did I mention an animal theme? They have a free-roaming iguana who was a little irritable with me when I would flop my arm over the back of the couch onto him. He was a pretty cool beastie, actually. They have a bunch of other pets, including a lovebird, which initially bit me, but eventually decided I was worthy of grooming, which is an odd feeling of having a bird groom my beard. We also watched a lot from the Rush in Rio DVD, giving Ted and I some chance to wallow in Rushness together, which was all we could because Ted could not go to the show with us.
At about 2pm we left to drive down to the venue, which is a fairly small intimate amphitheatre on the shore of Lake Michigan right next to Soldier Field and Adler Planetarium. We got on to I-94 to drive south but the traffic was horrible. I decided that if I was going to drive slowly, I was going to at least see cool places, so we got off of I-94 and started down Wisconsin 32/Illinois 137 along the lakeshore. This was another bit of serendipity that made the trip so much better. We got to see the lake, see some neat towns, and interesting to me, go by the Great Lakes Naval Station. We ended up driving through Lake Forest, which is one of the richest towns ever, with some incredible houses. We had to drive back and see a couple. Amazing places indeed. Oh, and at one intersection in Lake Forest, we were halted by the turkey that was slowly crossing the road. Did I mention animals? Eventually, we make to the show right exactly about on time. The traffic on I-94 turned out to be a really cool thing indeed.
The show itself was amazing. I think this is the 20th time I’ve seen Rush. It’s hard not to think the most recent show is the best one, but I think, objectively, this probably actually is the best one. The most emotional one was Vapor Trails, but this was the best. The preliminary videos were hilarious. The boys tried a whole bunch of different things. The 12string thing that Alex did before Closer to the Heart was incredible. Closer, itself, was performed differently. They had a polka start to La Villa Strangiato (Das Haus Strangiato?). They had a reggae start to Working Man. The highlight of the show was Moving Pictures, most especially Camera Eye and Vital Signs. After the show, the epilogue video that they showed was hilarious. I’m hoping to see them a couple of more times, maybe the one in Wichita (Mom, you listening? 🙂
We left the show for the death march home. Racine is 2 hours or so north of Chicago, and the traffic would have been wretched on Tuesday. So, we decided to simply come back. We got home at 5:30am. Without Alaina, I would have had to stop, but with her help and a half-gallon of Red Bull (literally), we made it.
It was a fantastic trip overall. The Terra Cotta Warriors. Fighting. Rush. Bilbo’s Pizza. Reggae at the Orbit. Animals. Enough for a truly Rhodri-length LJ post.