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.
We got started on the driving today, but not at our usual early hour. Before we could head to the airport and pick up our rental, I had to fit in my morning walk. I’ve been out every morning since we arrived in Ottawa, and today I headed over to the Rideau Canal and walked the towpath all the way to the locks and back. It would have been easier if they had put the locks on a more level piece of ground.
Cabbed out to the airport to pick up our car at National. Our RAV4 or equivalent turned out to be a Jeep Cherokee. This did not sit well with Caroline, who has never forgiven Jeep for the Great Rental Debacle that saw us making an unplanned overnight stop in Tepic, Mexico, and then cutting short our trip from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta without visiting our friends. I won’t recap it here, except to say that up to that time, I had never spoken such a long sentence in Spanish as “I need a little bottle of brake fluid.” Nor attempted so much in such an untouristy place as a truck stop. Anyway, feet were put down at the car rental counter. We ended up with a Mitsubishi Outlander. It’s a similar shade of black to our Honda CRV at home. Speaking of being at home, I am very pleased that we brought Dingbat with us. Regular readers will recall that Dingbat is our GPS, and that many of our adventures would have been either impossible or unneccessary without him. I had thought that Dingbat would be a waste of space if the rental had a built-in, but that was not actually the case. National offers the use of a Garmin Nuvi and a suction mount, but you have to pay extra. For our two-week trip, this would have amounted to $139. Dingbat has comprehensive and up-to-date maps, a larger screen than the unit available from National (I refuse to call it a loaner) and I get to drive with the familiar voice of my old friend.
We set off out of the Ottawa airport and were delighted to find that we had virtually no city driving at all. ‘Mitsu’ drives a little larger than our CRV, more because of the smaller windows than any real increase in size, but it was nice not to be getting acquainted in a crowd. The run down to Cornwall and the border was as easy as pie. Never driven a pie, but I hear it’s a piece of cake. Customs was some other metaphor, and also very quick. The main delay was in waiting for the woman driving the car ahead of us to hop out of her car to open the back door to retrieve her purse and presumably her passport. Caroline wonders why women do this. I wouldn’t dare. Wonder, I mean. I have no qualms about conducting a one-man Chinese Fire Drill under the watchful eye of the Customs Cam. That’s not the sort of thing that makes them curious at all; that only arises when you switch drivers at the last minute. Appearing to take the opportunity to move things from part of the car that the officer can see when you stop at the booth is okay. Suffice it to say that our visit at that booth was significantly shorter than hers. About three cars shorter.
We’re in South Burlington now, after a lunch stop in Rouses Point. The hotel here is artfully concealed. It’s not easy to hide a Best Western when there’s a sign right at the side of the road, but it can be done if you set the hotel back a full block, build it with the entryway at the back, and avoid conspicuous signage on the building itself.
As you may be able to tell by the re-emergence of my sense of humour, I had a nap before opening this blog. Get used to it, it’s going to be a long trip. Next up, dinner at Leunig’s Bistro. Tomorrow, local sightseeing and shopping for a few odds and ends to make the trip go smoother.