Dinner Debriefing: A Weekend in Thunder Bay

Caroline had a conference in Thunder Bay last weekend, so we drove down. I was warned that the drive was a bit bleak, but it was beautiful sunny spring weather, and the scenery was of the rocks and trees persuasion, which works fine for me.

Lakes were thawing, so we saw some that were open water, and others that were largely covered in candled ice. We stopped for lunch at the Riverside Lodge in Dryden. We were told it would be good, and it was.

We pushed our dinner reservation at The Caribou back by half an hour to be on the safe side, and arrived in plenty of time. We had a nice dinner there, with exceptionally fine service. Example: Shauna always came by to check on us just a minute or so after our dishes arrived, so if there had been a problem, it would have been rectified right away. The meal got off to a strong start with an original bread-basket accompanied by hummus. I always feel that if a restaurant does well with basics such as bread and soup, the food will be good overall. See the dinner menu here. We shared an order of Calamari to start. The squid part was very agreeable- lots of tentacle bits, which we both like. We were less sure of the tamarind dip. Caroline took a dislike to it right away, and switched to the hummus that came with the bread, while I persevered for a while before deciding it really wasn’t for me. We shared a salad, the warm goat cheese one with Dijon vinaigrette. For our main courses, I chose a fish special—I forgot to take notes, but I think European Sea Bass, with barley done like a risotto—while Caroline ordered the Mafaldine Braised Rabbit with Pancetta, mushrooms, truffle butter, and Parmesan. Both were tasty and tender. There was a fair selection of wines by the glass, and many suited our personal tastes. We picked the Noble Vines Merlot, and liked it so much I went looking for it in an LCBO the next day, but they list it as discontinued. We finished with a chocolate torte thing that rounded out the meal nicely. We would go back on any future visit to Thunder Bay. We might try for a quieter night; Friday evening was busy and rather noisy.

Saturday I had a day to myself while Caroline did conference things. A helpful front desk clerk printed me a map showing how to get to the scenic lookout on Mount McKay. I wanted to go there because every time I land on runway 30 in Thunder Bay, I get a good look at it from the pilot’s seat: Mount McKay is right beside an approaching aircraft. Map in hand, I programmed Dingbat, our long-time GPS, (notice I call him long-time, not trusty) and he knew a better way to get there. Which took me to a closed bridge. I told him to detour, and he diverted me to Boundary Road, which is blocked by gates to the mill property. When I attempted a second detour, Dingbat tried to guide me back to the closed bridge. Apparently, the Garmin algorithms do not deal well with double detours. I got the map out and did it the old-fashioned way.

The trip up the base of Mount McKay was serene, and a sign at the base said the scenic lookout was open from May to October, between the hours of 9:00 am and 11:00 pm. They didn’t mean all of May, apparently, because there was no one at the toll gate when I arrived at 9:15. Still, I had been told it would be okay to park my car outside the gate and walk in, so I did. It was about a twenty minute walk up the winding blacktop lane to the lookout.

Because we went by road, I had my titanium hiking staff with me! I can’t take it when I travel by air, because: one, it’s oversize and the cost is prohibitive, and two, it’s packed with survival supplies including some fire starting thingies that are prohibited on aircraft. Click to zoom in on this picture, and you can see that my staff is on its third wood grain paint scheme.

But I digress. Scenery!

This is as close to the edge of the drop as I cared to get; there’s a vertical drop of a hundred feet or more. You can see Thunder Bay’s runway 30 in the distance. There was a hiking trail that started at the scenic lookout, but it quickly became steep, and crossed scree slopes that I didn’t care to try alone with the ice still coming out of the rocks.

Saturday we went for dinner at Bistro One. We’d heard good things about the food, and we weren’t disappointed. On the other hand, the meal was slow getting started. We began with some classic French bread with roasted garlic and butter, but then there was a long pause before we saw anything else, and our server seemed to be avoiding us. I started with the Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna, while Caroline chose the 5 Hour Roasted Confit of Ontario Duck Leg. We were both happy with them, although the duck leg was salty, as it often is; some chefs believe this dish should be rinsed, some do not. The wine list here wasn’t quite as tailored to our tastes, but there was a good choice of wines by the glass. For entrees, Caroline had the Roasted Fillet of Atlantic Salmon while I decided on the Cognac Flamed Breast of Duck. Both dishes were superb. By the time we were done, it was getting late, the staff were clearing things up, and there was a hockey game on, so we didn’t linger for dessert. We wouldn’t be likely to go back, but this restaurant was tranquil, and might suit people who wanted to take their time and talk.

Caroline’s conference finished before noon on Sunday, so we hit the road, pausing for lunch in Upsala. We were told it would be okay, and it was.

There were two incidents of note on the way home. First, I saw moose. Not one, but a group of four. They were down by the ditch, so it was more interesting than startling. I flashed my hazards at the next truck, in case they moved onto the road.

Second, we got flagged down by motorists with two cars stopped at the side of the road. I pulled over immediately, in case someone had been hurt in an accident, but they just needed a screwdriver to remove a wheel-well liner that was rubbing on a tire. Boy Scout that I am, (well, was once) I had tools including a Leatherman and a multi-tip stubby that was just the thing. We had them fixed up in minutes and were back on our way.

All in all, a nice little trip.

 

Seattle to Kelowna

Federal Way is south of Seattle, so our clever plan was to wait until the morning rush-hour was dying down, and then get going in time for a late lunch in Merritt, BC, where Caroline has family.

It worked, mostly. With two of us in the car, we could use the HOV lane, which had lighter traffic and sometimes higher speed limits, and we got past the city in an hour or so.

Border crossing was okay. Advance signs said five minutes for customs, which was like the trip south: no line at all. Well, no. It was twenty-five minutes, but aside from the line, no hassle. Apart from three bottles of wine, which are duty-free, we spent just five dollars in the US on things that we brought home. To wit, some stainless steel coffee filters for my Keurig. I have one, and it lets me to use my own coffee beans, but it allows grounds into the mug. My exciting new five dollar filters have lids. We’ll see.

Side note. Drive-through espresso shacks have the best names/worst puns in America. Case in point: Brewed Awakenings. My favourite from this trip.

Nice lunch in Merritt, at Lynda’s Cafe. Full disclosure: I am related by marriage to owners. Still, good burgers, soup and fries.

Pulled in at hotel just before 17:00, so the drive was a full day’s work. Now laundry, then late supper.

Portland to Seattle

We’re retracing our steps now, heading north towards Canada. Portland to Seattle (actually Federal Way, between Tacoma and Seattle) is supposed to be a two-hour cruise.

We decided to pop in to the Mount Saint Helens Visitor Center to kill an hour so that we wouldn’t arrive too early for check-in. That was well worth while, even though we chickened out on doing a hike there because 17°C felt so cold!

Construction on the I-5 added another half hour to our trip, and we were still too early to get into our room, so we went for lunch.

Tonight we’ll return to Los Bigotes de Villa for Mexican food, and tomorrow, we’ll drive to Kelowna to catch Tuesday’s plane to Winnipeg.

Kelowna to Seattle

You can get a t-shirt that says you drove the Coquihalla. I have no idea why. Caroline has made me drive over every mountain she can find, and the Coquihalla is a piece of cake.

Lunch in Hope, at 293 Wallace. Fabulous burger, delicious salad. Full marks.

Road coffee from Jungle Juice down the block. New-wavy atmosphere offset by AC/DC on stereo at till. Manager formerly from Winnipeg. French Press dark roast with Almond milk. Best coffee this year. Yes, seriously. Wish I knew what it was, I’d buy every bean.

Border crossing very quick: Pleasure, Portland, one week. No fruit, one bottle of wine. Thank you, you too.

Seattle, at the start of rush hour? That, I want a t-shirt for. Dingbat kept us in the right lane as the I-5 tried to fake him out by designating random lanes as mandatory exits, with emergency vehicles as wild cards to keep you from sitting in the middle.

Summer Travels 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about our travels. This summer, we’re taking to the road. Dingbat, our beloved(?) GPS will be joining us for a road trip to Portland, OR. But we’re starting with a flight.

First stop: Calgary, Alberta for When Words Collide. My publishers, Five Rivers, will be launching two books at this convention.

5R Poster 2016

And lookit! Way down at the bottom of the poster, it not only says I’m doing a reading from Avians, it nails down the release date in print.

Immediately before the Five Rivers Salon, I’ll be doing my presentation on Alternative Aviation in SF, and I’ve been stressing a little over how to juggle my notes (one handed on an e-reader?) and the slide show (touch screen tablet?). Good news! Lindsay Kitson, critique partner and fellow pilot, has said not only will she be in attendance, she’s willing to help with setting up and running the projector for me. That’ll be a huge help.

There’s far more to the con than just those two things. There are a slew of panels and presentations I’m eager to attend; my schedule often has two or three highlighted at the same time. I’ll blog those as I go.

After that hectic weekend, we’re hopping over to Kelowna for some family time with the western part of Caroline’s clan.

From there, we’re sticking Dingbat in rental car and heading down into Washington and Oregon. We’d like to see the Museum of Flight in Seattle, then I have novel research to do at Mount Saint Helens, because it is a rare example of a stratovolcano with lava tubes, and you can hike through them. Then Portland, OR for some seafood dinners and as a base of exploration for some local wineries before heading back to Kelowna, Winnipeg and home.

Then just a week or two later, we’ll take an extended September weekend to go to Can*Con in Ottawa. That’s one of my favourite cons, and this’ll be my third visit. It looks as if I might get to moderate a panel there, which will be a great chance to meet authors and readers of SF. More later, as details get firmed up.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Can Con 2015

I had to cancel my plans to travel to Spokane for Sasquan this summer for reasons related to health and health insurance. I cautiously set my sights on Hal-Con for the fall. I’ve always wanted to see Halifax, and there would be lots to do: the Cabot Trail, the Maritime Museum, Halifax Harbour, Theodore Tugboat. However, by the time I felt ready to book, Saturday had sold out. This is probably because the costume ball falls on Halloween, an opportunity not to be missed by Cosplayers. For writing geeks like me, though, it meant I would only be able to attend the Friday and Sunday events, amounting to about half the total schedule. It’s likely that I would have missed some major panels and workshops. Maybe next year.

This year, Ottawa’s Can Con also falls at the end of October, so while I was thinking of Halifax, I was resigned to missing Ottawa. I loved Can Con last year. I pitched my novel to Dragon Moon and Bundoran, did a workshop with Jo Walton, and met a bunch of other writers. So I’m going.

We have enough Air Miles to fly to Ottawa from Winnipeg, and enough RBC Rewards to rent a car. The Sheraton has arranged a splendid room discount for convention guests, so it’s all starting to gel. We’ll start by driving out to Prince Edward County to see some wineries and sceneries. There are also cheese producers, and the whole county is a foodie paradise, with many fine chefs and restaurants. If we’re really lucky, there might still be some fall colours.

We’ll take Dingbat, our quirky but lovable Garmin GPS. He gets left and right mixed up sometimes, and there’s always some excuse: the museum expanded and was relocated across the road; the intersection was redesigned; the official address is on one street, but the parking lot entrance is on the side road. The lovable part is that if it wasn’t for Dingbat, Caroline would be navigating, and heated words might be uttered. I can utter all I want at Dingbat- he neither hears nor cares.

Once we’re back in Ottawa, we’ll return the car. The Sheraton is walking distance to Byward Market, the restaurants of  Elgin Street, and many other attractions. And enough coffee shops to get me a different dark roast every day. I’m starting to get excited.

Merge!

A little over a year ago, I split this blog in two. Tim’s Road Noise has remained my intermittent vacation blog, while news of my writing life moved to Timothy Gwyn Writes.

However. It has become increasingly difficult to separate the two. My vacation travels often include a visit to a Science Fiction convention now, and I end up blogging both the con and the restaurants nearby. Some topics don’t fall neatly into either category. Also, some followers started by reading the travel posts here and took up following my writing blog as well.

I propose to merge the two blogs into one again. I will assign category labels to each post to make it easy for those readers who are interested more in one topic or the other.

This brings us to the question of which blog will host the combined content. Tim’s Road Noise is older, and contains far more photographs, but the web address is an awkward one. And whereas Road Noise has always been intermittent, going live for short bursts only when I am on vacation, Timothy Gwyn Writes is more consistent, with a steady trickle of posts. So I’m going to move all the Road Noise content to TGW.

There is one other reason. This summer’s vacation has been cancelled. We had been planning a trip to Spokane in August. I was going to attend the World Science Fiction Convention (home of the Hugo Awards, and called Sasquan this year) and then check out Mt. St. Helens for some book research before we visited some of our favorite wine country spots in Washington and headed home. This is not a good time for me to leave Canada, as I have two new coronary stents. I’m feeling fine, but health insurance might be a problem.That leaves Road Noise with a very long hiatus.

Perhaps later in the year we might visit Halifax. Yes, there’s an SF convention there, too, called Hal-Con. It’s on the Halloween weekend. We could check out the Cabot Trail beforehand and we might pop over the Confederation Bridge for a look at Prince Edward Island.

Tim’s Road Noise will still be here, at least for a while, but there will be no new posts. Our trip to Halifax, if we go, will be written up on Timothy Gwyn Writes. The familiar Drive: and Dinner Debriefing: headers will be there to help everyone to find the travel articles and restaurant reviews.

If the merger works as I expect, the posts will be in chronological order, and for periods when both blogs were active, such as last fall’s visit to Ottawa for Can-Con combined with a leaf-peeping road trip through New England, the posts should be interleaved. Like my life.