Maritimes Road Trip, Part 1

Day 1: Home to Livonia, Michigan

 This started off well enough, at least. I had the car packed up and ready on time, and drove up to Chad’s place to drop off Nora. It was raining pretty steadily and I found that after applying the sealant to the windshield the wipers were chattering with every pass. I conferred with Piper, and he confirmed my suspicion: they needed to be replaced. Fortunately there was an Autozone just up the road in Kenosha, but after a brief detour and installation of new wipers, Charlie and I were good to go!

Our route took us through downtown Chicago to the Chicago Skyway, then up I-94 to New Buffalo, Michigan. There we stopped for a pit stop for Charlie and a beer break for me at Seedz Brewery. The beer was tasty, though again their no-flights/no-half-pours policy mystifies me. At least they did offer samples, though, so I was able to try a couple and found a sweet potato saison that was quite good.

After that it was back on the road through a number of torrential downpours until we reached our next stop: Candice and Nik‘s place in Ann Arbor. I haven’t seen these fine folks in entirely too long, so it was delightful to have some time to hang out and catch up. I got a tour of Candice’s shop (so many fun toys!) and Nik’s hydroponic garden (something I’ve been tempted by in the past). Candice knocked herself out to prepare an absolutely delicious meal, something I much appreciated. That soup was to die for!

I’m also happy to report that Charlie was a perfect angel during the visit, wandering around a bit then curling up happily and going to sleep. He even finished his dinner, something that is unusual for him while traveling! I take great pains to be a good doggy daddy and a good guest since I know many dog owners are…less than conscientious at times. Today boded well for the coming weeks of travel, I think.

All too soon I had to take my leave and drive just a little further up the road to Livonia, my stopping place for the night. Once we were checked in, Charlie got a nice long walk and happily fell asleep in his dog bed next to my bed.

Day 2: Livonia, Michigan to Mississauga, Ontario

 Driving through the Ontario flatlands today. I got out of Detroit with minimal traffic delays and headed up to the Blue Water Bridge for the border crossing from Port Huron, MI to Sarnia, ON.

The Canadian border agent wasn’t particularly interested in Charlie (though I did have his rabies certificate), just wanted to know if I had anyone else (besides a dog) in the car, and if I had any firearms. After a few other questions I was off into Canada.

I found myself once again driving through periodic torrential downpours, but we made good time. After brief stop at a truck stop in Ayr, we stopped for lunch at Four Fathers Brewing in Cambridge. This was a great find! Good food and good beer, and a lovely shaded patio.

As much as I liked the food and beer, I also really liked the ethos of this place.

After that it was a short drive up to Misssissauga (a Toronto suburb), though traffic on the 401 was terrible, and at one point Waze even detoured me off the highway to avoid a backup due to an accident.

We finally got to the Hyatt Place Mississauga and I took a couple of hours to catch up on work email and requests. I had made dinner plans with Scani and Olefin for a fun-looking restaurant in Burlington, but the possibility of thunderstorms rolling in had us considering alternate plans. Instead, they were kind enough to come over to the hotel and we ordered in (lots of sushi for me, yum!). Scani’s care package of tasty Canadian beers was also much appreciated! The evening was filled with great conversations about the pharmaceutical industry, furry convention management dynamics, and general silliness. It was so good to reconnect with these guys again!

After a last check of work email, I was off to sleep soon after they left.

Day 3: Mississauga, Ontario to Ottawa, Ontario

 Having learned my lesson the previous day, I was feeling someone profligate and after a brief Starbucks stop (because the Hyatt Place breakfasts are pretty grim these days), I headed up to the 407 ETR (Express Toll Route).

Although it was a topic of much Twitter debate, at the time I went through and where I entered and where I left, the total toll will probably be around US$28. Considering I made the entire trip at 70-75 mph and avoided all of the Toronto congestion and construction, I think that was an acceptable expense for me.

Once I was back on the 401 it was pretty smooth sailing. Unfortunately, it’s far enough from the St. Lawrence River that there’s not much in the way of interesting views, though the terrain got more hilly as I proceeded northeast.

We arrived at out lunch stop right on time: Waterfront River Pub in Napanee. We had to wait a bit for a table, but I didn’t mind at all.

Lunch was delicious as well.

We had a nice walk around the park by the restaurant afterward, then it was back into the car for the two-or-so hours to our next destination: Stray Dog Brewing Company, in Orléans, ON. Traffic was…well, city traffic. Bleah. Fortunately we had great company when we got there: Pyhrra and his dogs Ella and Bolt.

We had a great time chatting and the time just flew by. The beer was tasty, and the staff were all about all of the dogs. It turns out that Pyhrra (who I hadn’t met before this) and I have a bunch of mutual friends.

We wrapped up so I could get back to my hotel for evening activities. I’m staying at the Andaz Ottawa, one of Hyatt’s upscale brands. As a slightly-better-than-base member (“Discoverist”) in the World of Hyatt program, I got a nice room upgrade to a large corner room. This did not suck.

We are in the heart of the Byward Market, a fun and interesting area with a ton of shops and restaurants. I met up with Conreeaght for dinner at the Clocktower Brew Pub (yay, more Untappd checkins!). There was much con geekery discussed, and generally catching up. He’s good people, and I really enjoyed the meal with him.

We walked off dinner (or at least attempted to) with a brief tour around the market and the lovely parks nearby.

After that, Charlie and I retired back to our hotel room to wind down for the night.

Even though I brought up Charlie’s bed, that’s not where he wanted to sleep.

Day 4: Ottawa, Ontario

No driving today. I had committed to working remotely on this day, since I have the kind of job where I can’t just disappear for three weeks with no problem. I’m also keeping up with work email through most of the trip, though only dealing with the must urgent of matters then. At least the working conditions were nice.

After putting in a solid morning, I decided a break for lunch was in order. After wandering around Byward Market for a while, I decided on The King Eddy, mainly because they had some nice shady tables in an area that wasn’t too crowded.

The cocktail? “Treat yo self!”

I rushed back to the hotel to prepare for a call with a supplier at 2 PM. We met, agreed on things discussed in email, and were done in…six minutes. The irony is, the supplier’s rep was on vacation too. Misery shared, or something? Anyway, that kind of took the wind out of my sails and I decided I was done for the day. Charlie and I walked over to a place called HeadQuarters, a combination hair salon, coffee shop, cocktail bar, and restaurant.

After that Charlie and I walked around Major’s Hill Park. I had hoped to walk down by the Rideau Canal Locks, but while Charlie is good at going up stairs, going down stairs is a whole other problem. We walked around the market a bit more then retired to the hotel room to relax a bit before dinner.

For dinner, I met up with Pyhrra, Sid, and Arc at Lowertown Brewery (within view of my hotel room!) for a tasty meal and great conversation. Afterward they introduced me to a local delicacy: the BeaverTail. I ordered the “Meh-ple” flavor, and my arteries my take another few weeks to recover.

Unfortunately just as we were finishing our desserts, and unforeseen bit of schedule conflict popped up: It was Canada Night for Les Grands Feux, three-week-long fireworks competition. Charlie reacted as one might expect him to: in sheer terror, trying to run away in some direction, any direction. Pyhrra’s pup Bolt was in a similar state. After walking around we accidentally discovered that parking garages can at least mute the noise somewhat, and we were able to calm the dogs down. With that, we broke up for the night. It was so great to see old friends and make new ones on this trip!

I had a lot of misgivings about this hotel stay because were were on the 12th floor of the hotel. Any time Charlie needed to go out, it was prefaced by a walk through the hallway, and elevator ride, then a walk through the lobby. I’m happy to say he handled it perfectly, and has even learned to sit patiently during the elevator ride so he doesn’t crowd other passengers. If anything, I think he has gotten calmer as this trip has progressed, dealing with public spaces and noisy crowds with aplomb. Witness how we sacked out as we were at the edge of the busy (and loud!) patio at Lowertown Brewery. He really is working out to be the perfect road trip companion

Next up: Into the World of the Francophones!