Tuesday, June 26, 2012 — Day 32
It was another dreary day up north as I headed from Vermont into Quebec. Today was the first day on my trip that I needed a jacket outside.
I had a heck of a time with the border agents going into Canada. I’ve given some thought, and as much as I’d love to tell that story, I probably shouldn’t post it here. Ask me in person.
Everybody made a point of reminding me before I went into Canada that the speed limits were in kph, not mph. I know this. I didn’t understand why everybody was making such a big deal out of it … until I saw how low the speed limits are. I could’ve easily done 70 mph on this road, but the speed limit is 70 kph. That’s roughly 43 mph. So yes, I had to make a conscious effort to remember the signs were in kph.
You know I love visiting churches. Notre-Dame Basilica in old Montreal was spectacular.
After I spent some time in the basilica, I spent a bit of time in the tourist trap shops along the same street. This part of Montreal felt very European to me. Everything from the way the streets were laid out, to the way the shops were stocked, to the people themselves … it all felt European. Plus there was the fact that practically everybody was smoking. And then add to that that everything was written in French, and yeah, it felt much more like being in a foreign country than I expected it to. I expected it to feel like an extension of the United States instead of feeling like the separate country that it is. But perhaps that’s just Quebec. I suspect it is.
I browsed the touristy stuff, found a postcard for my godkids, and then set out in search of poutine (see also The Poutine Fund and O Canada). Skeptical doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. How could this possibly be good? Fries and cheese curds? Sure, I can see how that’d be awesome. But gravy? Really? Canada, what’s wrong with you? ;-)
Well, unfortunately for Canada, I got some pretty crappy poutine. But I was able to realize it, and I’ll be trying it again before I leave the country. The poutine I had today was made of burned French fries, flavorless gravy, and bland cheese curds. It was quite the disappointment.
Speaking of disappointment, in a conversation more recent than the one about poutine, I was introduced to the idea of ketchup chips. I couldn’t fathom what this could possibly be. Potato chips are made of potatoes. Are ketchup chips made of ketchup? No, these silly Canadians have ketchup-flavored potato chips. Why? I don’t know. But they have them, and I was instructed to try them. When somebody clicks that DONATE button on this site and says “Use this money to try [insert weird food item here],” I do. So I bought and ate ketchup chips.
Before leaving Quebec I tried to get a QSO in the log. This was my first time on the air outside of the United States, so it was a pretty big deal to me. I was incorrectly signing as VE2/NR4CB — I should’ve been signing as NR4CB/VE2. Unfortunately I had precisely zero luck. I didn’t hear anybody on either 2m or HF, so I left Quebec without getting a QSO.
I made my way into Ontario, where I experienced first-hand why the Canadians refer to the 401 as their national parking lot. But the traffic’s being backed up for hours gave me the chance to get off the highway and try Tim Horton’s for the first time. As promised, I got a Double Double and some Timbits. Much better than the poutine!
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 — Day 33
Today is a day of more Eyeball QSOs! One of my best Twitter ham radio friends is Bob, @VA3QV. He’s in the log multiple times on my trip already, and he’s arranged for some of the guys to come down from Ottawa for a cookout and some portable radio ops at the Iroquois Locks. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.
Yes, Ontario feels much more like an extension of the United States than Quebec did. It still has a distinctly different feel to it — I can tell it’s Canada. But it’s not as European-feeling as Quebec was.
On the way to the cookout, I stopped and browsed a small little market. I like shopping in grocery stores when I travel, partly to save money versus buying all my food in restaurants and partly to see how other people shop. When I was in London and Rome several years ago, that was particularly interesting. I know, I’m weird. I travel and make a point of looking at churches and grocery stores. What do you look at when you travel? Leave me a comment. :-)
Anyway, I found some Little Debbies, and I had to grab a picture of them since the packaging is in English and French. That’s certainly not something we see at the Little Debbie store near where they’re made, a few miles from where I grew up.
I met up with Bob and his friends in the afternoon and spent several hours with them. We chatted, grilled burgers, had a nice picnic, and played a bit of radio. I made a contact as NR4CB/VE3, so I can say that I’ve operated the radio and made contacts from two countries now. I’m excited about that.
Bob did a great job documenting our event on his blog. Check it out: Wednesday at the Iroquois Lock Station — and while you’re there, browse his blog. He’s got some great stuff there.
I’m so grateful to Bob for putting this together for me and to everybody who came out and spent the afternoon with us. It was certainly unexpected, but definitely appreciated. You certainly made me feel welcome in Canada. Thanks, Bob.
I still had quite a bit of a drive after I left Iroquois. I headed west and then south, into New York. Crossing the border back into the US was decidedly easier than getting into Canada had been. I spent the night in Watertown, NY.
My first experience with Canada was pretty good overall. I’ll be going back into Ontario at Niagara Falls later, so I’ll get another chance for poutine then.
Trip totals as of Day 33:
- Kilometers driven: 6624
- Countries: 2
- States***: 26
- Logged QSOs: 126
- Ounces of good decaf: 378
- Ounces of bad decaf: 72
- Tow trucks required: 1
- Big metal chickens: 5
- Concrete bunnies: 1
- Terra cotta pigs: 0
- Number of times I’ve heard “Somebodeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee That I Used To Know” by Gotye: 52
*** “States” now includes states, the District of Columbia, and Canadian provinces
73 de NR4CB, Connie