Thursday, October 27, 2016

Humber Arboretum Autumn Walk

I drove to the Humber Arboretum on Saturday for a fall walk. I found out about it on the BlogTO site. They were talking about five fall hikes they liked in the GTA and this was one of them.

Located at the Humber College North Campus west off Highway 427 south of Finch, it's not too far from my place. On the weekends you can park there for free at Parking Lot 1 (near the student residences). Technically you're supposed to get a permit from the lot attendant, but no one was there when I went.

I'd say there are three main areas at the Arboretum. There's a manicured upper section where the Centre for Urban Ecology is. In that building are the public washrooms. There's lower grassland section bordered by trees on the east side. And there's a small forested section to the south. As well, there is a trail that follows the Humber River (called the West Humber Trail).

It was partially overcast when I went. I had to wait for overhead clouds to pass so the sun could shine through so the colours would pop when I took my shots. Luckily I went on my own. Others might not have been so patient.

I snapped some photos in the manicured upper section first. They have some pond features and small bridges and wooden structures that look nice.

On my way down to the lower grassland section I saw some cute chickadees. I had seen some the weekend before at Hilton Falls. People were feeding them birdseed out of their hands, so I thought I would try. All I had was a few crumbs from the bag I had my peanut butter sandwich in. One tiny fellow sat on my finger for a second or two. The rest were too shy.

The lower grassland sections have wide, mowed pathways you can walk along. It's pretty nice. The forested areas are well maintained too. When I was there the ground was carpeted with yellow leaves. It looked quite pretty.

I took a short walk along the West Humber Trail too. It's paved. It goes from Highway 27 on the east to Finch Avenue on the north. Overall it's quite a good place to visit.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Gas Station Adventures

Gas station adventures, you're asking yourself. Really? What sort of adventure could you have at a gas station?

It all started on a foggy Monday morning. My delivery route had taken me from Brampton to Georgetown to Barrie. It was a slow, nervous drive due to the fact you could barely see 10 metres ahead of you. And this lasted pretty much the whole day.

By 4:00 p.m. I was nearing the north end of my route in Barrie. Suddenly the skies started to darken. And I mean, really darken. Day turned to night as a huge, menacing cloud enveloped the city. Then, boom, the heavens opened up.

Rain poured down and thunder and lighting came crashing from above. It was pretty intense by the time I got off the 400 at Mapleview Drive. By this time I was low on gas and dreaded having to stop. Even though most gas stations are covered, I was sure I was going to get soaked by the rain that was pretty much going sideways.

On the offramp there were four or five vehicles ahead of me turning east onto Mapleview. The weather was so bad we had to wait for the light to change before making the turn.

Two traffic lights to go before the Esso station.

Now on Mapleview I hit another red light. Then the lightning hit. And the traffic lights went out. It was actually our (the east-west traffic) turn to go. But, like good drivers, we sort of treated it like a 4-way stop.

The next set of traffic lights were out when we got to them too. We waited a few seconds and, presto, they came on again. Same with the power at the nearby Esso station on the corner. Hallelujah! We have gasoline!

When I got to the gas station and pulled up to the pumps they were in the process of being re-booted. The screens showed the progress as it happened. Slowly.

By this time more drivers were arriving and standing around waiting for the pumps to start working. Even though I was impatient I had to wait since I was low on gas.

After a few minutes a couple of guys nearby me had their pumps working. Then the lady's across from me started up. Finally mine came to life. I slid my Esso points card in the machine and then tapped the Esso Speedpass that I use from work.

Nothing happened.

The total ($30.??) from the person who previously filled up was still on the screen. I hit the regular fuel button again and again and again, waiting for the total to reset to $0.00 so I could start filling up, but it wouldn't go.

Finally, I pressed the intercom button and spoke to the attendant. He told me to replace the nozzle and cancel the transaction and just fill up first and then come in to pay. I didn't really want to do that because I wanted to pay at the pump and not have to run through the rain, but I did anyway.

It still took awhile before the pump reset itself to $0.00, but finally it did. I filled up to $88.14 and went inside to pay. At 95.9¢ per litre, the price here was 9¢ per litre less than in Toronto!

I guess none of the pumps allowed anyone to pay at them because the line inside was longer than normal. When I got to the cash I told the guy I was at pump 9 and said something about it being $88.

The guy gave me a confused look and said he had no record of anyone filling up for $88 at pump 9. I asked him if he was sure and he showed me all the transactions for pump 9 on his screen. The last one was for $30.?? which was the one before the power went out.

He asked me if I was sure the pump actually put gas into the van and I said, I think so. Of course I couldn't be sure because you have to put the key in the ignition and turn it for the needle to move. So he asked me to run outside and do it because he couldn't cancel the transaction if I paid for it and hadn't gotten any gas.

So I went outside again and checked. After turning the ignition the needle moved to full. So he completed the transaction and I paid with Sid's Speedpass.

Now if I really was sneaky and wanted to save Sid some money I suppose I could have said, it didn't work, but I didn't. It was just weird how the pump had no recollection of me filling up with nearly 92 litres of gasoline.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hilton Falls Hike

On  Saturday I decided to head out to Hilton Falls conservation area to try and catch the fall colours. It was a lovely day. Warm and sunny with blue skies.

As usual, the traffic was terrible. Normally I have to deal with it during the week when I make deliveries. But, on the weekend too? Even though the weather was great someone decided to get in an accident on the 401 westbound at Mavis Road closing all but one lane.

Before reaching that point I hopped on the 403 and took it west to Erin Mills. After getting off there I headed back up to the 401 and resumed my journey. Exiting the 401 at Highway 25 in Milton, I arrived at the park around 11:00 a.m.. Not too bad all things considered.

After paying my $6.75 to get in, I got a map, parked and headed out to the trails. My main objective was to get a shot of the fall colours behind the Hilton Falls Reservoir. One of my Facebook friends, Steve, had posted a picture from there and I thought it looked nice.

The reservoir was encircled by the Red Oak Trail. Easy enough, I thought, I'll just take the trail around it and get some great shots. Of course, things weren't so straightforward.

My first view of the reservoir was along one of the park roads. As I walked along it I noticed the reservoir was set deep in a pit surrounded by large rocks. As I looked around the circumference I didn't see any access points where you could go down and take a shot like the one my friend took.

I decided to take the Red Oak Trail anyway. After doubling back along the park road, I headed into the forested area. I was going to go clockwise along the trail. Part way through I noticed a side trail that went a bit closer to the reservoir, so I took it hoping it would leaded me to some sort of hidden path down.

By day's end I pretty much ended up bushwhacking my way through dense foliage and up and down steep, rocky embankments trying to get that perfect shot. It was insane. It took so much effort to get through it.

The day wasn't all crazy though. I did do a normal hike along another trail there. This one was called the Hilton Falls Trail and it took you to, of all things, Hilton Falls.

I have to say, the falls were a bit disappointing. It was probably due to the fact it was autumn and the creek leading to it was barely a trickle. So it was more like a dripping faucet than anything else.

The foliage was so-so. The leaves that had turned were mostly yellow. Not too much orange or red unfortunately. I'll probably try again next weekend. Hopefully I'll have more success then.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Musings of Life

I attended my friend Jan's father's funeral on Saturday. He passed away at age 88 after living the past few years at a seniors' residence in Scarborough. His children and grandchildren would often visit him there keeping him company.

At the funeral Jan's sister Helen spoke about her dad. What she said reminded me a bit about my own father. She said he was someone who loved his family, though he never really opened up much emotionally-speaking. They knew he cared about them through his actions rather than what he said. She mentioned they didn't know much about his past because he rarely spoke of it.

This was something I realized about my own parents too - That I didn't know much about their past. So, one day, I decided to borrow a friend's video camera and interview them.

Now, I'm not sure how good a job I did. My mom was better. She had a greater recollection of her life when she was young and growing up in China. My father didn't go into a lot of detail. Maybe because his memory is getting spotty. Not only about things from the past, but from recent events. As well, I think he was more of a loner. So there may not have been as many tales to regale. That's something that continues to this day. If it weren't for my mom, he wouldn't get out so much.

Though sometimes they quibble when she gets naggy, he depends on her for a lot of things. She gets him out of the house to meet with their seniors' group on a weekly basis. And they go swimming three or four times a week which is great for their overall health.

He brings something to the relationship too. Though she's the cook in the family, he does the dishes. As well, he still mows the lawn, even into his early 80s. And since she's given up driving, he's the Uber driver too. He takes her shopping and to do their weekly activities.

It seems like they're fairly content with where they are in life. He likes to chill out reading his Chinese newspapers and watching any Chinese programs he can get on local cable. She likes to tend her garden and hang out with the grandkids whenever she gets the chance.

So far, so good. Hopefully my sister and I won't have to look into long term care anytime soon. A number of their peers have moved into seniors' facilities because of mobility problems or other issues. The residences are quite nice, but they're smaller and you can't putter around outside in the garden like in a house.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2016 Nuit Blanche

Peter and I went to Nuit Blanche this year. It's the 11th year it's been held in Toronto and the 11th time I've gone. This was Peter's first time though. Normally he's in Hong Kong by this time. But, this year, he's staying a little longer.

This is the first year that Scotiabank hasn't been a sponsor. In fact, they dropped their sponsorship of a number of events this year including the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and Buskerfest. Lean times in the banking business I guess.

The weather this year was great. Especially since they had forecast 80% chance of rain Friday through Sunday. It was pretty much dry and warm enough to walk around the whole night without a jacket if you so desired. Weather-wise, there was some fog that covered the tops of the buildings downtown, but that was about it.

I met Peter at Yonge and Eglinton and we took the subway down together. We shared a TTC Day Pass at $12. I have to say, we didn't take full advantage of it, choosing to walk almost our entire route. Besides coming and going on the subway, we only took one extra streetcar ride from Harbourfront to Union Station.

Our first stop was at City Hall. There were three exhibits there. But, one was inside and there was a long line to get in, so we skipped it. That's the thing with many of the indoor installations - there's almost always a long line to get in. With those ones I normally take a pass.

Over the past couple of years or so I used to plan my route out according to whatever I was interested in seeing. I'd go online or, in the early years, check the paper programme and map out my route that way. Now I just see where most things are clustered and work my way around the city that way.

This year there were installations around Yorkville heading west along Bloor to St. George. Also, there were some at Toronto City Hall; others up and down Bay Street; some at north and south around McCaul/John Street; and a bunch at the Harbourfront.

My original plan was to hit City Hall, then go south on Bay, hit the Harbourfront and come back up Simcoe/John/McCaul. We sort of did it backwards instead.

Over the 10+ hours we were out, we ended up walking around 25 kilometres (from 7:00 p.m. to just after 5:00 a.m.). We stopped a few times to rest, and one more time for poutine. Still, by the end, we were totally bushed.

I have to say, Nuit Blanche isn't quite as interesting and creative as it once was. Maybe the lack of funding had something to do with it. There used to be more large installations in which the audience could participate and ones with performers and such. This year there we saw quite a few video exhibitions. Not so interesting.

I still enjoy walking around the city all night looking at things. So I'll keep coming back. It's sort of a tradition for me now.