Sunday, October 29, 2017

Emerging from hibernation..or Thelma's first big adventure

Yes, finally here I have time to sit down and write a post or should I say finish that I am home again.  This post has been a long time "in the works" but I just did not have it in me to finish it. It was a busy and sometimes very stressful month on the road but a good one for the most part. 

I will be writing in more detail about different part of the trip but here's an overview of what I got up to.

I started off in mid September with some time in Hamilton, Ontario with my sister.  My niece came down the first evening I was there and took us out for a lovely meal to celebrate my 65th or as my niece "kindly" put it "your entry into old ladydom".  Um...thanks Erin!!  Regardless, it was a lovely evening!

A couple of days later my sister and I  visited part of the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington which were just a short bus ride away.  I would love to see more next time I am there but as it is huge and because of my knee we stuck to one area - Hendrie Park.

The next day I rented a car and we drove around Hamilton (with strict instructions to my sister not to lead me onto any freeways as I hadn't driven in a year..and I hate freeways anyway) looking for waterfalls.  The best one was Albion Falls. We drove over to Devil's Punch Bowl to find it barely trickling.  Oh well!  It was a dull kind of day but no rain so that was a bonus.

Beautiful Albion Falls 

We went for a little walk on the trail at Albion Falls.

I loved seeing the beginning of the fall colours

Hamilton's beautiful waterfront

We also visited the waterfront again and went to a nearby cafe where we had some great fish and chips...we both enjoyed it so much last time I was there we had to go again!

The next day we took the bus into Toronto.  Colleen went to Erin's apartment to do some things and I headed out to shop.  I must say I found Toronto overwhelming which puzzled me as I have been there too many times to mention and after all, one of the world's largest cities is my "second home".  I felt like country mouse in the big city.  I guess that's what happens (to me) when your world for 7 months is your apartment and a small (225,000) city.  I think I last stayed at home for 7 months straight sometime back in the 70's. My sister had given me gift certificates to Mountain Equipment Co-op which is an adventure sporting store (I get quivers of excitement every time I walk in...) and New Balance.  I happily got myself a new pair of running shoes/trainers and some socks and various goodies for upcoming trips.   I then met her at the Christie subway station and we went to the Poop cafe in Korea town which is near my niece's apartment.  Okay don't judge...after reading about it online it was on my "bucket list" so to speak, the next time I was in Toronto.

We shared this dessert!  It wasn't that good..yes that is supposed to look like poop on a stick

Oh yeah we sat on toilets too...okay I admit it was crass but it was good for a laugh - but one visit is enough.  I kept thinking of my dad and how he would have laughed at this - he always loved a fart joke!  That evening it was out for another meal with my sister and niece.  After the subway stairs (why does Toronto only have escalators going one way..if at all) and so much walking Thelma was pretty grouchy so the next day was spent mostly resting with a trip to the Farmers market and a pick up of delish food from the International Market in the mall.

Then it was time to head off to Buffalo which required me to take the bus into Toronto as the only bus from Hamilton to Buffalo goes at a very inconvenient time.  Rather than drag my luggage down the stairs into the subway I opted for a taxi and had the most interesting conversation with the Turkish driver.  A surgeon in Turkey, he is now studying to get his papers in Canada.  He loves Canada but told me sadly he has encountered prejudice, specifically in western Canada which makes me really sad and ashamed.  So he will no doubt settle in Toronto which is more multi-cultural.  In Buffalo I stayed with my friend Pat where I mainly rested as the main reason was to see Paul McCartney in Syracuse.  We drove to the concert which was another great one (of course!) but can you believe they had no air conditioning in the wasn't too bad in my area but apparently the floor was very hot and caused some to pass out.  The arena was not the greatest for a concert by any means - it was on a university campus with no parking nearby.  When you paid for parking you got a ticket for the shuttle bus - it took absolutely forever to get one back but on the plus side the parking lot was nearly empty so we found the car easily. We pulled an almost all nighter by the time we got back to Buffalo.   At a rest stop we were in the line for a breakfast sandwich (as you do at 2 a.m. when you haven't eaten in hours and hours) at Dunkin Donuts we met a fellow who could not stop raving about the concert, Paul, the Beatles, showing us video and regaling us with how he managed to sneak into the first row - and was given a bottle of water by security no less...the only time he stopped talking about them was when he was placing his order.  Not to miss a moment, once he had done that and gotten his food he came over to talk to me and then when Pat came with her food he carried on..all the while ignoring text messages from his wife - even one saying "where the hell are you".  When his cell phone started ringing he said "oh shit, it's my wife" and started running....with the rapidly cooling coffee and food.  We had a good laugh over that one.

I then headed south to Wilmington, North Carolina for five days, staying with my oldest friend Linda and her family.  Enroute I had to change planes in Philadelphia and of course I had to have one of these babies at the airport as I just could have planned it so I had a stopover long enough to have one.  And I asked one of the locals which place in the airport was best.  Yes, I do take my food seriously!

My time in North Carolina was a great time of catching up, visiting two beaches, a bit of shopping, good food and getting a pampering pedicure.  The first morning we headed to Kure Beach to see some of the wave action that Hurricane Marie had created.

Oh yes...I tried walking on the sand in bare feet and Thelma did not like that one little bit.  I did a couple of twirls in the sand that were not entirely planned. You can bet Thelma let me know about her displeasure the next day!

Another day we went to Carolina Beach. Are you seeing a theme here?  I confess I love the ocean.  In fact this blog came close to being called "Misplaced Ocean Child". 

The Boardwalk is something new since I was last here 8 years ago....

Bodies on the beach?  I was here in January and March previously and we were the only people on the beach so it was a shock to see people.  I have no intention of visiting in the summer - I can only imagine the crowds and let's not even discuss how hot it would be.  Nope!

I love the dunes!

Of course, I had to have me some southern food!

Here's some North Carolina style pulled pork with coleslaw and collard greens as my side.  Can't get more southern than that.  A weird thing happened though.  At noon they played the Star Spangled Banner and everyone stood up, some going to the middle of the room under the flag and put their hand on their heart.  We stood of course (but Canadians don't do that hand on the heart thing thank you very much) but it was so weird.  I should have clued in with all the military stuff in the restaurant but I was more focused on the food. Oh well, I can say I have stood for the American national anthem in a restaurant.  Bizarre!

It was a great visit and so good to catch up as Linda and I hadn't seen one another in five years - we have never gone that long since we met as toddlers.  It won't be that long again!!!

Then it was time to get my Rock and Roll groove on and off I flew to Detroit. My splurge of the trip was here - I stayed at the Inn on Ferry Street which was a delightful grouping of five Victorian houses.

This was the building that housed reception and the breakfast room.  

This is the building I was staying in - second floor (first floor if you're British) the two windows on the left 
I loved the area I was in and while waiting for my room to be ready I visited the nearby Detroit Historical Museum which was so interesting.  Of course cars and music were a big part of it but it was sobering to read details about the Detroit race riot of 1967 which killed 43 and injured nearly 1200. It was well worth visiting and I highly recommend it.

That evening I attended the Paul McCartney concert at the brand new Little Caesars Arena.  Before the concert I met up with a couple of friends from Cleveland and we had a meal at Mike's Pizzeria which was adjoining the arena.  Mike was the founder of Little Caesars in case you are wondering so the pizza was just a pimped up version of Little Caesars.  However I hadn't eaten much all day so I gobbled it down. There was a group of six of us and we waited about 40 minutes for a table and ended up eating outside.  It was cold! When empty plates, warm out of the dishwasher were brought to us for our pizza we held them up to our chests for the warmth!  As always, the concert was great - my seat was on the right side of the stage but not nearly as close as I prefer! In the back row of the first section so at least I could boogy to my heart's content without disturbing anyone - yes Thelma knows how to "get down"!!  The hotel provided shuttle service around a five mile radius downtown so I was able to take it to and from the concert.  It was finding the darn thing after the concert in all the crazy traffic that turned out to the problem but finally a friendly young woman directed me to the corner they had told me they would be at.  Late the next morning after a buffet breakfast (not a lot of variety but it was good food - I would rather have that then a bunch of mediocre food) I got the shuttle over to the Motor City Hotel Casino where I was meeting up with my friends Mary and Linda.  I've known these two from way back in the 60's when we were penpals - as Paul McCartney crazed teenagers. (not much has changed then 50 years)  How I wish I had kept some of those letters...!!! You can say what you like about Facebook but I love it as have reconnected with so many people through that forum.  On the way into Detroit the driver of the shuttle had mentioned how nice Detroit's waterfront was so we took a taxi there.  It IS very nice and we walked around briefly before settling in on a patio looking across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario. I will be doing a post on downtown Detroit and my impressions of it. (which by the way is one of Lonely Planet's Top 10 Cities in the world to visit in 2018)

The Underground Railroad statue  - Detroit was the end of the Underground railroad as Windsor, Canada  is just across the river. 
Drinks and good food were consumed (I had crab cakes) and we had a great visit.  A few fellow "Fans on the Run" were walking along the riverfront so we yelled out and they came over for a quick chat.  People ask why I go to so many concerts...well of course I love the man and his music but it's the friends and fellow fans you get to spend time with that is such a big part of it.  When the rest of the world thinks you are a bit of a "loony" sometimes it's fun to hang out with others who "get it". So many of my friends I have met through the Beatles and I can't imagine NOT having them in my life. We then took the People Mover, a monorail to the area near the arena.  From there Mary and Linda did "limo watch" which is basically waiting for Paul to show up in an SUV for soundcheck and wave at the crowds.  I gave up doing that years ago as it's too much standing for a few seconds of a wave out the SUV.  I want to be in good shape for the concert!  I got the Q line tram back to my hotel - something else I wanted to try and it was pretty cool.  I relaxed for a bit and gave Thelma a good icing before getting the shuttle back to the arena.  The concert tonight was good but I didn't enjoy it as much as the previous night.  My seat was in a similar area although a few rows closer to the stage but the people around me were a drag.  I knew it was not going to be good when the man behind me commented on the "crazy Japanese guy" (his words, not mine) in the front row by the stage  jumping up and down before the concert - and how he was going to block everyone's view.  He obviously hadn't been to any rock concerts in a while. And when Paul came up on stage and everyone stood up they groaned.  Let's just say I was told to sit down while I was boogying to "Lady Madonna".  Until then I only stood/boogied when others stood.  But to have to sit during "Band on the Run", "Live and Let Die", etc. was torture pure and simple.  These were not my people.  I belonged in the crazy section at the front but in my so-called "wisdom" I decided it would be easier on the knee to not be somewhere I had to stand...although I am used to being much closer.  It makes me feel sad that what could be my last concert (one never knows)  was one that I felt so uncomfortable and unhappy at.  I used my fold up cane for the concerts as it helped with stairs and also let me use the elevator.   I pulled out the cane from under my seat as I was leaving that night and a woman said to her husband "Let that poor woman go ahead of you".  Poor woman??  Excuse me!  (she obviously didn't see me boogying earlier - until I was "shut down") Okay I was a bit stiff after being forced to sit down for ages and was slow but that comment set my teeth on edge   Then to add insult to injury she said "is she on her own" like I was out from the home for the evening!  I can laugh about it now (well..almost) but the cheek!  Honestly! I may be using a cane but I am not deaf! (well not quite yet anyway)   After finally locating the hotel shuttle van again and being the last one (after walking around talking to the driver on my phone as he was in a different place that night...)  I would have had to climb in the back and the driver said could someone move so this lady can sit in the front with me.  As I climbed in I heard someone say "oh that poor thing"  I was livid!  So let's just say it wasn't one of the best evenings of my life.  As I have mentioned before on here it has certainly opened my eyes to the challenges disabled people face on a daily basis and the comments they must hear too.

By the next morning my feathers weren't quite as ruffled (although a bit unkempt) and after a delicious late breakfast I got the shuttle to the Greyhound depot for my trip to Lansing. In retrospect I wish I had had another night in Detroit (although couldn't have afforded three nights at that hotel...yikes!) so I could have visited the Motown Museum and the Underground Railway museum, both closed on Sundays and Mondays.  So I wouldn't object if my travels took me back to downtown Detroit someday.

There was lots of room to spread out on the bus and three hours later I was there.  A taxi took almost half an hour to get to the depot and the driver sat and watched while I  slowly and with difficulty pulled my suitcase across the back seat as the back was not opened for me to put my luggage in nor any assistance given.  I got a warm welcome from my airbnb host Jessica and her adorable dog Cricket. 

Look at that face!!! 
She was such a good host and a fellow Canadian living in Lansing temporarily while her husband attended university there and we had some good conversations discussing life and puzzling over certain parts of American culture (I will say no more!) Good espresso as well!!! Her little boy George is adorable and I don't say those words about any baby, trust me. Over the next two days I did the 6 km Capital city walk visiting the State Capitol and the Michigan History Museum.  6 km turned into 15 km according to my Garmin watch.  I liked Lansing and my airbnb was only a few blocks from downtown which was so handy.  One of the highlights was the walk along the Grand River.

Fun fact: Lansing was the first capital building to use a dome and thus started "the trend".

Looking up at the inside of the dome of the State Capital building.

So another state capital done - only about 20 more to go!  Oh well, it's a life long project.  I will be doing a post on my walk around Lansing. Then it was time to head off for my last stop, Chicago.  I got my very first Uber to the rail station as the taxi service sucked in Lansing - Uber worked really well and I like that no cash exchanges hands and you can even tip on your credit card.  The fellow was friendly and told me some "interesting" stories of picking up college students in East Lansing - he doesn't go near the college anymore!

The 4 hour train journey went well although got a bit confused why we were arriving "late" until I realized Chicago is an hour behind Michigan.  Okay!  Gloria was there to meet me and we took the train back to her car - well the train and the "El".  That night we had stuffed pizza...because in Chicago that is a MUST.  Oh yeah and we just may have picked up a large bag (each) of Chicago mix (half caramel/half cheese) popcorn at Garretts in the rail station.

Here is Casper, the little guy I looked after.  He is such a sweetheart!

Yes, definitely a cutie.  He sat in his chair and I sat in the recliner beside him. That was our default position.  Unfortunately, he was feeling poorly the entire time I was there.  It was probably dental problems so I was in close contact with his mama as Terry went to Colorado for a week and I looked after the little guy.  It was a worry I must is scary enough when your own dog isn't eating properly but when it's someone else' seemed I was running out daily to get different food for him to eat as what he liked one day he seemed to turn his nose up at the next.  We still went out for our daily walks - usually two or three times a day as I kept hoping it would stimulate his appetite.  All it did was stimulate mine..I think I stress ate for both of us!  It was fun to see the Hallowe'en decorations on our walks though.

I did manage to get out to do a bit of shopping however but not much sightseeing.  One day I decided to go to Trader Joe's and REI (a sportng goods store like Canada's MEC).  I had to take a long bus ride and then catch the El.   The El was right by Wrigley Field and on the way I noticed there were people hanging around but assumed it was tourists.  You have to understand - I don't follow sports.  On my way home I was horrified when I got on the train and it was packed to the rafters.  Once at the station I scurried around trying to get to the elevator without getting knocked over by the crowd - there is no way I could have done the stairs in that mob.  Once out I made the stupid mistake of walking on the wrong side of the road (the road itself was closed out to vehicles and pedestrians with huge trucks blocking every road entrance and cops with AK47's as obviously a World Series play off game would be a prime terrorist target in this crazy world we live in) and got caught up in the bottle neck of people trying to get into the stadium.  Yes I arrived just as the game was beginning.  Finally I was able to walk back and get to the other side of the street and had to keep walking for about 15 minutes before I could find a bus stop that was open.  What I thought would be a four hour outing turned into a six hour one!  Oh yes, did I mention it was raining?  Rain seemed to be the theme of the trip with a torrential 36 hour deluge at the weekend - it never seemed to stop.

One evening I took myself out to a nearby pizza joint known for its stuffed pizza.  Instead of pizza again I tried the above - a combination of Italian Beef sandwich (which Chicago is famous for as well) and stuffed pizza.  The filling was beef with a cheese stuffed crust.  It was good but too much - I wouldn't have it again but I am game to try (almost) anything once.  By the time I left the restaurant another thunder and lightening storm had begun.  Fun times.

I also went to Wicker Park one day...I like this area of the city.  I found out they had a Nepalese restaurant and I had to go!!!  Momos!!!

I also may have visited a donut place...what's with the donut thing?  I never eat them at home...well very rarely.

View from the Damen El station (Wicker Park) - I remember thinking "is this the closest I am ever going to get to downtown"?

Another view from the El station - Mr. Stan, you make good donuts! 

When Terry arrived back Casper perked up and while still not eating normally, he was at least eating more so that was a relief.  I left Terry to it and the day after she got back (and my last full day in Chicago) I finally was able to get downtown.  It was a glorious day weather wise - I was so lucky!

Cloudgate - known as "The Bean".  Apparently, the sculptor Anish Kapoor, was there just minutes before I was!

 I had to walk along Lake Michigan - Chicago's crowning glory.

Taken from the River Walk - which had just opened that day after being closed due to flooding from the weekend rains.  
Chicago redeemed itself that day.  Now I can remember a glorious day downtown instead of rain and constant worry about Casper.

After a month and two days away I was more than ready to come home.  I never thought I would say those words but there they are.  Not that home is a bad thing...I love my cozy apartment filled with books, music, photos momentos of my travels and everything I love.  I love my life at home with a fabulous network of friends - it's just that I need more. 

Thelma has improved daily and going on a holiday was the best thing I could have done for my recovery as it challenged me to get outside my comfort zone.  I still can't walk too fast most of the time but I have proven to myself that I can walk a fair distance and not suffer the next day.  The difference between the beginning of my trip and the end were amazing.  Friends and acquaintances cannot get over how well I walk now.  So Thelma...buckle up girlfriend, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

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