Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Hey, I have an idea..."

"Hey... I have an idea...". In the anals of human history and certainly within my experience, these words are almost always the harbinger of a bad scenario. So it was last Sunday, as my better half and I actually had a day off to spend together. We began by an early departure from the house, to try a new breakfast locale in Orleans. The Café Tournesol on St.Joseph, certainly lived up to the positive reviews we had heard.

The fare is very good ansd reasonably priced, the service first rate. I could not finish my particular breakfast platter, which included two eggs easy-over, ham, bacon and sausages, a ball of home fried spuds, toast, cretons, a fruit cup and a wild blueberry pancake with genuine maple syrup. Their coffee was excellent as well and they were very good about keeping your cup filled, if you wanted more. We were advised that they would soon be obtaining a liquor license and would be serving dinner as well, shortly. We will definitely be going back.

Following our breakfast treat, we headed home to pick up the camera and headed out South towards Morrisburg. There was a Flea Market not far from there that my lady wanted to check out and the road down there is one of my favorites through the countryside. So off we went, the weather being overcast with the occasional mist of rain, but nothing steady. We took the back roads from our place and were treated to some wonderful fall scenes as the trees in many outlying areas are in full colour.

We finally arrived at our destination, a nondescript little building with some local farm folks selling fruits and veggies outside. There was no entry fee charged and we ambled inside to have a look around. These were real farm folk, I have to point out. The difference between them and city folk was plain. Most of these folks knew one another by their first name and obviously had for some time. I could remember a period of my life that was like that and I found myself yearning for that sense of comfortable familiarity. I actually felt a twinge of jealousy...

We were surrounded by what my better half fondly referred to as 'kitsch'. (Kitsch: A term applied to art or artefacts characterized by vulgarity, sentimentality, and pretentious bad taste. In German the word means ‘vulgar trash’ (from the verb ‘verkitschen'—to cheapen or sentimentalize) and was ‘originally applied to ephemeral and trashy works, especially sentimental novels and novelettes, and their graphic equivalents, and to poetry of like character’ (Oxford Companion to German Literature, 1976).

And rightly so, I'd have to say. But even so, I found myself transported back into time as I recognized many small items from my childhood era. From bottle caps to Dinky toys, to honey containers when you bought it by the five pound pail. Lunchboxes, trading cards, Coca-Cola adverts and serving trays... The list was endless. The building was deceptively large and we found ourselves branching out in one direction after another. And all this before we even realized there was yet a downstairs section... I think it would be fair to say that we were overwhelmed by the mountains of "stuff" that we found there. It was pretty amazing...

Finally, our heads reeling from the visual assault of so much 'kitschiness', we stumbled outside and made our way to the tables that held some delicious-looking apples. There I saw something that I would have bought on the spot, had they had one for sale. It was the most clever device, designed to peel, core and slice an entire apple at one go, simply by spiking the apple on it and turning a handle. It was a totally ingenious device which performed flawlessly... I was impressed. It also allowed the vendors there to produce samples for prospective customers, so they could taste what they were about to buy. Such a great idea!! We finally bought a small basket of MacIntosh apples, which were delicious!

Leaving the flea market, we continued on South along the 31, to Morrisburg itself. I suppose if I had the money, I would love to buy a house along the St.Lawrence right there. Of course, I'd also have to get a well-equipped boat as well... I mean, you can't live on the water and not have a boat. It's simply not done! You'd never be part of the riverine community. We disembarked at a little park by the water's edge for a short walkabout. I have never been able to be near water and not give in to the compulsion to look into it. Water is fascinating to me. There is always something to see, if you have a little patience and know what to look for. You can always count on seeing baitfish at the very least and who knows what else.

Even before we had reached the water's adge, we could see small fish breaking the surface. As we peered over the edge, sure enough, amongst the rocks on the bottom and the waving vegetation, there were small spotted and smallmouth bass fingerlings, darting about. As my eyes got used to the gloom underwater, I could see better. I spotted a rather large crawfish who except for his one remaining claw, sat motionless, blending in perfectly with the rocks in which it hid. I thought to myself how any larger bass would love to find this tasty morsel and wondered if that was how it had lost it's other claw...Or perhaps it had managed to survive an encounter with any of the dozens of seagulls, which wheeled tirelessly in the sky above us.

Having satisfied our curiosity, we clambered back into the van and headed out East along Hwy.2, which runs along the seaway. We took a nice slow drive through the mist, to Cornwall. The fall foliage takes on a different quality when seen through a light rain. The colours are more vibrant, though subdued through the mist. The landscape appears softer, dreamlike. We coasted along until we came upon a series of parks along the St.Lawrence, among them, the Crysler Farm Battlefield Memorial. We pulled off Hwy.2 to do some exploring. The grounds were littered with Canada geese (branta canadensis), which invade the province around this time of year. They occupy every open farmer's field, as well as many greenbelts throughout Ontario, as they gobble up anything in sight. They are very intent on building their reserves, in preparation for their long flight South to their wintering grounds. They leave the Eastern shores of the Hudson and James Bays, cross central New York and Eastern Pennsylvania and continue South to the Delmara peninsula, in the Chesapeake Bay area.

We climbed the long sloping hill which leads to the monument up top. The view from there is quite lovely and one can see just how close New York State is across the narrow stretch of water. We snapped a couple of photos and then carried on. On the way out, we stopped by a small pond which also holds a rather powerful little fountain. The pond was populated by domestic geese, wild ducks and some very impressive orange koi. These suckers had to be a good foot-and-a-half in length! A couple of pictures later and we were back on the road, heading once more towards Cornwall. Arriving in Cornwall, we stopped briefly for a Timmie's and a snack, before continuing on the 138 North. We drove leisurely, taking in the scenery and bantering about whatever came to mind. Eventually we hooked up with the 417 and headed back into town.

Arriving home, it was still quite early in the afternoon. I got a sudden idea. We had been discussing the need for us to get more physically active. We had both agreed that it would be a good thing.

"Hey, I have an idea...", I stated.

She looked at me, unsure.

"What would that be?" she asked.

"I figure you and me should go for a walk", I said.

"Okay... and where do you want to walk to?" she asked.

"How about we walk from here to downtown?" I suggested.

"Are you serious???"

"Well...okay. How 'bout we drive down to the first parking area along the Rockcliffe Parkway and then walk into town from there? The weather's nice and I don't think it will rain on us...".

"Okay", she smiled. "You're on, mister!"

We both went inside to change into some comfortable walking attire. At this point, I felt quite sure that it would be a piece of cake. Had I not endured so many marches over the years? So many physical requalifications for the military fitness standard? And what about all the construction work and renovations? Surely I could not be so out of shape, as to consider this simple walk a challenge to my capabilities?!?! So off we went. I was so cocky as to bring along a backpack, with two drinking bottles in it and a sweatshirt, should it turn cooler on us. We drove down to the Parkway, locked the van up and set out for downtown. It was 1425hrs.

The weather was perfect, really. Cool with a slight breeze, overcast so the sun was not a debilitating factor. I felt grand as we stepped out at a brisk pace. Our first water break was at the small bridge after the second parking area. We stopped for a couple of minutes while we hydrated and stretched. My spouse was giving me bad looks on account of me carrying the backpack with a bum shoulder. She took it over and we carried on with me being unfettered by the extra weight. I felt great and remarked that we were making good time, as we reached it in all of 25 minutes. I had visions of reaching the Market in less than 2 hours for sure. Clearly, I had a warped recollection of how long the Parkway was, due no doubt to my countless leisurely cruises on Baby. We enjoyed the walk immensely, I have to say. But my God... It went on and on forever.

We pressed on as I recognized the first of two long S-turns, leading to the Rockcliffe Airport and the Aviation Museum. My legs were fine by this point, but I could feel the beginning of a familiar burning feeling on the balls of my feet. Ouch!! This seemed like the precursor to blisters, if I remembered right. Just before we reached the airport, we shifted from the roadside to the jogger/cycle path which ran along the perimeter of the airfield. The ground was smooth and level, making walking easier. As we neared the Lookoff, we struck a bargain between the two of us. We would stop at the Rockcliffe Boathouse there for supper, as we both had heard that their fish and chips were very good.
As we drew nearer, we observed a signpost stating that The Boathouse Restaurant was indeed open. I began to imagine the feeling of sitting down in a comfortable seat, a view of the river and some mouth-watering fish and chips!! Yummm!! I was getting pretty stoked. Rounding the corner, we began the long descent towards the waterline below. The path showed remnants of maybe having been paved at some point in it's history, but precious little was left now. Even most of the gravel was gone, leaving large gaping holes in the bare, muddy earth. I made a mental note never to attempt this road on the bike. Two thirds of the way down, we were met by a sign advising drivers to slow for the 180 degree turn. They weren't lying!!

Finally we reached the bottom of the hill and advanced towards the floating restaurant... only to find the gangway barred by a chain and a sign which advised us cheerily that no, they were not open. I'm not going to repeat the words that came to mind at the time. The walk back up the hill at this stage was a killer. Talk about feeling the burn!! A good workout, really. We stopped at the Lookoff to regain our composure and our breath, while we enjoyed the view. We were not done yet, however.

"Okay... So we don't get to have any fish and chips", she quipped. "But if that little dairy bar in the Rockcliffe Park is open, we can stop there for a snack before heading back...". We made our way to the Pavillion, then down the stone steps towards the rear, where the Dairy Bar is located. True to our luck, it was of course closed. Fate was conspiring against us. I had initially said that we were going to walk all the way into town and the Gods, whomever they might be, were not about to let me go back on my word, apparently. My spouse stated: "There's no way I can make it back to the van, without having some food first!" I agreed wholeheartedly with her. We needed some fuel, pronto! So we began the last 3.4 kilometer trek from Rockcliffe Park to Timothy's here on Clarence Street. I wasn't so much exhausted when we finally reached the comfort of their overstuffed chairs, as I was in pain. My feet were really giving me a hard time of it, although I did not feel a blister forming as yet.
We collapsed and ordered food and drink. It was 1720. It had taken us the better part of 3 hours to make the trek. As we sat relaxing, I picked up my cell and phoned 'the kids' back at our place. My stepson-in-law answered the phone. I informed him where we were and asked if his wife (my step-daughter), would do us a large favor. After a brief discussion and being briefed on what all had transpired, she readily agreed to come and pick us up, to return us to where the van was parked. We heard varying versions of how we were insane and how they would never attempt such a trek. We had to smile. Maybe it's just because we are old school that the thought of doing something like that came to mind. Besides, we really did enjoy ourselves overall and it gave us a chance to challenge ourselves a little bit.

Driving back to the van, we kept tabs on the trip meter. The total distance we had covered was 12.2 kilometers. Okay, not a marathon but a good distance nonetheless. I recalled to my spouse as we drove home how at the very end of my Basic Training course at St.Jean, how our platoon ran for 13 kilometers, on snowshoes, in full winter combat dress, with our 80lb. rucksack and toting an FN-C1. We were all probably in the very best shape of our lives at the time. I felt good about what we had done and was impressed by my spouse, who had come through the trek with ease. Maybe this is the start of a new habit...?

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