Friday, February 20, 2009

A Long Drive On A Winter's Day

Lake Front Haliburton Village Winter

It is still early in the morning when I reach Highway 35 and turn the car north. On the radio, John Denver is singing about sunshine on his shoulder, but there is no sign of the sun in Ontario today.

I have two hundred Kilometers to travel toward a land slowly being encased in ice. The radio reports the freezing rain storm, currently sweeping across the north, began at six in the morning and the roads up there are treacherous, the OPP reporting numerous accidents.

Here in the south it isn't raining at all, the pavement is dry and traffic is light. I'm racing toward the ice storm, doing 110 km on the two lane highway, in a 100km zone, hoping the OPP will be too busy with those whizzing past me at 120 to be bothered picking on me.

I'm also hoping the predicted warmth of the day will have melted the ice by the time I get to Haliburton Village, where I have a brief presentation to give, before turning the car around and heading back down south.

Half way to Peterborough, Highway 35 veers north west to the City of Lindsay. I think of my own little black dog, with the same name, who will spend the day alone today.

Outside Lindsay I turn north again on Highway 121, the road now reduced to a single lane in each direction. It is 11:30 and I wonder about stopping in Lindsay for lunch, but decide to push on. I picture a quaint restaurant in one of the villages ahead of me, something rustic but where they take pride in preparing basic wholesome food.

Main St Haliburton Village Winter

But the restaurants along the highway are all closed for the winter, and I don't feel like turning off onto the main street of the villages, not knowing what I might find. Fearing a major delay.

I have reached the rain and it washes the accumulating salt off the side windows of the car and away from the edges of the front window where the wipers miss.

By now it is just rain, not freezing rain, and the tires grip the road safely.

On the radio some woman is preparing to go down with the ship refusing to raise her white flag in surrender even though her love is a hopeless cause.

The snow along the sides of the highway is dirty and black with the sand and salt that have been poured on the road. The beautiful north of summer looks ugly and mean.

I finally find a restaurant in Mindon attached to a gas station. But the cooking is no one's idea of wholesome. It's burger and fries or find somewhere else to eat and by now I'm hungry.

I look my presentation over while wondering how meat could be prepared to be so lacking in taste, and try not to listen to the elderly man and woman arguing in the next booth. I discover I know the presentation well and get bored with further review. So I start reading The Shadow Of Poe, by Matthew Pearl, a hardcover I found for $5 in a bookstore's over stocked bin back in Toronto. I've read Pearl's stuff before was was surprised to see it there. The book starts out well and distracts me from the tasteless burger.

I finally find Highway 118 just north of Mindon and start the last leg of the journey. Still no sign of the freezing rain that made this area the top news story on the radio. The temperature out side is up to 5C, about half what they were predicting for Toronto. There will be no more villages to pass through between here and Haliburton. Just lakes and rugged forest on either side of the road.

And political signs for the local by-election that is being held. I've been passing them for hours now.

Election HaliburtonVillage

A Forest Fire sign flashes past and think of the raging fires and searing heat ripping through Australia where my cousin lives. It is a tragedy difficult to contemplate.

By now I've passed the reach of even the strongest of the Toronto radio stations and discover I've forgotten to restock the car with CDs. My choice is either to tune in Lindsay's Radio Bob ("Turn Your Knob To Bob!") or turn it off altogether. I drive on in silence.

I reach Haliburton by 1:30 and have an hour to kill before the presentation at 2:30. Most of the trendy stores along the main st are closed. But a few are open and I browse without seeing anything that tempts me. I drop into an inviting restaurant for coffee and wish I'd held out on lunch until I'd reached here. I read a little more about Edgar Allen Poe.

By three thirty my talk is done and well received. I turn my car south and head for warmer climes.

Leaving another day of my life behind me.


Old Train Station Haliburton Village