Moving Extravaganza 2012

After ten years in a very cool apartment in the awesome city of Hamilton, I have up and moved to Toronto!

In some ways, it isn’t a huge change.  I’ve worked in Toronto for twelve years. I’ve shopped, hung out with friends, gone dancing at funky goth clubs, crashed on many couches and overall, enjoyed my time in TO.  And even though my little home in Hamilton has been 1-2 hrs away (sometimes 3 depending on traffic!), I always liked being able to leave the hustle and bustle of Toronto behind.

So what triggered the decision to move?  I’ve been stubbornly clinging to my Hamiltonian life for so many years…why now?

Well, I could say that it’s because I’ve been dating someone in Toronto for two years.
But he would have just as easily moved to Hamilton and found an apartment with me 🙂 so that wasn’t the deciding factor.

I think one of the biggest reasons is simply that I got tired of the commute.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself spending 3, 4, sometimes 5 days in a week at B’s place in Toronto. Spending so much time here gave me a sense of what life would be like if I wasn’t commuting back and forth to work. How much extra time I would have in each and every work day.

Yep, commuting.  Twelve years!  It’s hard to believe it has been that long…I started when I was 21 and spend my 20s on trains, buses and subways.

Commuting in this instance meant getting up at 5am, catching the 6:15am train to Toronto, followed by the subway, arriving to work around 8:20 or so.  It also meant getting off work at 3pm, but arriving home around 6pm.

Initially, commuting back and forth wasn’t a huge deal.  I admit, getting up at 5am was a struggle at times, especially when the weather was crappy or when I’d decided the night before that I could stay up “a little later than normal”, but more often than not, I enjoyed my hour-ish long train ride. I wrote, read, sometimes got a lot done!

Okay…or I slept.  Sometimes there was just no choice in the matter! 😉

Over the years, I’ve also met some awesome people on the train!  The Train Gang!  My fellow commuters, who have more than once caused me to laugh to tears!  Dora the Explorer, Cranky Lady, the Tree Cow, Kumbaya, Itchy Cabbage Farts…the craziness and fun on the WestBound Lakeshore GO Train was never-ending! It’s THAT stuff that I’m going to miss!

Even some of those Train Gang members who stopped commuting over the years continue to be close friends and that, if nothing else, makes me thankful that I commuted for as long as I did.

But over the years, I’ve just grown weary of the travel.  The days where I finished work at 3pm and just wanted to be home without the long ride, became more and more common.

One evening, many years ago now, I sat down and calculated how much time I was spending travelling back and forth every year.  I included the walk to/from the train/subway station to my home/workplace, the GO train ride back and forth, as well as my subway ride to/from work.  It was years ago that I figured this out but the total stuck with me.

28 days spent annually, just traveling!

A a month of my life, every year, spent getting to where I was going. Times twelve years….that works out to be a year of my life. Granted, that was assuming I was commuting back and forth Mon-Fri for ten months of the year…and towards the end of the 12 years, my travel was less and less as I stayed in the city more and more….

But still!  28 days!

It was eye-opening.  A little shocking.  And thus, years later, I remember the number. It stuck with me, nudging me every so often when I was cranky and cursing the 5am darkness.

But over the past couple of years, as I mentioned, I began to spend more time in Toronto and I found myself enjoying the wake-up call at 6:30 or even 7am instead of 5.  I could stay up a little later, sleep in a little more and hey, I could be home by 4pm rather than 6.

And so, after more than a decade of stubbornness and  hundreds of conversations ending in “But I *LOVE* Hamilton!! I like being able to leave the big city behind!” I began to rethink my living arrangements.

Sure, the consideration began with a boy 🙂 but as I thought about the amount of time I was spending in Toronto already, the amount of work I was able to find that seemed to all be within the Greater Toronto Area, and the time I would save on a day-to-day basis…that 28 days loomed larger and larger.

So I made the decision and now, here I am…surrounded by corrugated boxes and chaos!  Well, day-by-day the chaos is giving way to organization and I have to admit, I like this part.  It involved trips to Ikea!  Always fun!

And although the move means I leave many friends in Hamilton, I know from massive experience that the trip is do-able and now when I commute, it’ll be because I choose to go and hang out with everyone!  (Or it’ll be when I want to rent a car as it’s SO much cheaper renting from Hamilton! *wink*)

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PACKING

I began packing a month before the actual move date.  I spent a lot of time purging and getting rid of stuff.  Ten trips to the Thrift Store later, an apologetic woman with a somewhat panicked look in her eyes turned me away at the door.

“So sorry but we can’t take anymore donations.  No space! Our back room is packed to the ceiling!”

Wonder if that was all my stuff? Hehe

I even shredded old bills and papers…the four garbage days in April at my Hamilton apt looked somewhat like this:

I just have to say…I LOVE my paper shredder!

I did get rid of a lot, but not enough.  The Great Purging of 2012 continues at the new apartment and even though it can be time-consuming and frustrating, I really like the feeling of starting new…getting rid of old stuff that’s just weighing my down…that I don’t need…never use…can’t even identify…Ten years in the same apartment and stuff kind of piles up on you.

I attacked cupboards with gusto, especially in the kitchen.  Expiry date from six years ago? Into the bin it goes!

The problem with attacking cupboards first, is that you then find yourself going back to double-check…triple-check…quadruple-check (is that even a word?) and your brain is going,

“IT”S EMPTY!  YOU”VE ALREADY CHECKED!”

Eventually I solved this problem:

“We are empty! Leave us alone!”

“See that tape? DON’T TOUCH IT!”

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MOVING

Moving was an interesting experience.   I began the search for helpful minions…I mean friends!!…weeks prior to the day 😉  I am SO appreciative to those who helped out on the day because they had to deal with this….

My stairs!

Yep, I lived in an attic at the top of those 40 stairs.  B counted them for me. Then multiplied them out by how many trips he made up and down the staircase.

It was far! 😉

Or is that high?

Anyway…so yeah, I can’t blame anyone for being busy that day! LoL I *also* wanted to be otherwise indisposed but you know, it was my apartment and stuff so I figured I should be there. *wink*

The wood planks on the stairs were my friend Mimi’s idea…Thanks Meems!  What an awesome suggestion!

Non-fragile boxes were slid down the planks and even heavy boxes were held but moved via sliding…SO much easier!!

We took about four hours to load up almost everything, with a break in there of course!

Feeding the minions! …Ahem…friends!  My lovely most awesomest friends!!!

Chilling after hours of stair-climbing

Where’s the beer?? 😛 (Peter! You crack me up! lol)

Response to the question…”How you guys doing? Shall we head up and get the remaining boxes?” 😛

By the end of the four hour loading…we were all starting to lose focus and the silliness was creeping in!

Peter winding up my lights for me. Ineffective! 😛

The ECSTATIC and HAPPIEST part of the day?
Arriving at the new place…which is on the main floor of a house…and unloading the 4-hr load in barely 90 minutes!!!

Our new place is behind the windows to the right of Ben, who was trying out our new porch!

To all my insanly awesome and supportive friends, those who made it out on the day and those who were unable, I love you all! I am so lucky to have such amazing people in my life!

Thank you all so much!

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Curling up with 200+ legs

Millipede by A Dash of Noir
Millipede, a photo by A Dash of Noir on Flickr.

B and I were hiking at Tiffany Falls in Hamilton, Ontario a few weeks back and came across this little guy curled up on the side of a rock.

I thought the colours were quite beautiful on a creature that would usually tend to freak me out a bit…okay, a lot. 😉

Taken down by Garbage! (Oh…and Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail pics!)

I am sad to report that I haven’t been cycling in over a week now.  About a week and a half ago, I fell on both my knees…on cobblestone no less.  Needless to say, my knees have been somewhat stiff and sore ever since. Just in case, I had x-rays taken yesterday and all seems well, they’re just taking their sweet time to heal properly, as knees tend to do.

Notice I didn’t explain *how* I fell.  That’s because it was dumb…and  didn’t involve cycling at all!  If it had, I’d be typing up a great adventure with climatic knee damage but nooooooo, all I am able to report is that I tripped over garbage!

….Ok, stop that.

Stop laughing!

Yup, good ol’ Toronto garbage.  A piece of circular strapping was on the ground…I was in a hurry…and all I can guess is that I stepped on the edge of it, anchoring it with one foot and tripping the other.  Definitely a manoeuvre few people could manage…guess I’m special 😉

EVIL Strapping!

So, due to that little spill, cycling has been out for a while.

Today, I came across pictures I took when cycling the Hamilton Rail Trail a few weeks back.  I’ve gone riding on it a few times now and it’s an awesome trail for cycling and hiking.  Mainly gravel, it starts in west Hamilton and heads to Brantford.  From there, you can jump from trail to trail and eventually hit Paris and Cambridge if you were so inclined.  So far, I have only gone to the outskirts of Brantford, about 25 kms one way, but what I have seen of the trail and the landscape has been absolutely lovely!

About 8km in, you come to the Dundas Trail Centre, an awesome place to take a break, sit in the shade, refill your water bottle, purchase a snack, and hit the loo before carrying on.

Two things to note….1) Bring water and some type of food if you plan to head out beyond the Trail Centre because after that, there is no store until Brantford.  2) Watch for deer!  You’ll notice in my slideshow below that I’ve taken many shots of deer along the trail.  They are numerous and not overly skittish, so I tend to slow down or stop to take a peek before continuing on my way. 🙂

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Cycling the Red Hill Creek Recreational Trail – Part 2 (With pictures!)

A friend and I decided to go cycling yesterday.  We planned on a morning ride about 20 km long.  We were out for over 4 hours and rode over 40km instead.  That, in itself, wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, except for the fact that around lunchtime, the temperature shot up above 30 degrees Celsius!  Needless to say, the ride home wasn’t necessarily fun…and the wind we had to fight made it that much more difficult.

Overall, though, we were both glad we went out.  We had a good time and since we planned on an easy, leisurely ride, I was able to stop and take pictures of the ever elusive Red Hill Creek trail, something I didn’t get to do the first time around.

It’s a lovely route to cycle, as long as you keep an eye on the spots of over-saturated gravel.  There are hills to challenge and wonderful scenery to enjoy.

The route we took is mapped HERE.  This map shows our route one way so by the time we had doubled back, we had hit 40km.

Wavy Day on Lake Ontario

While I was out cycling this past Sunday, we ended up on the shores of Lake Ontario.

I grew up on the coast (the east coast of Canada for those who are wondering) so, although I love living near such a large body of water, it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.  Actually, that isn’t accurate.  Je sais what it’s missing…salty air, life/living creatures around the edges, and a certain depth and movement that you instinctively feel when you stand on a coastal beach.

Regardless…Lake Ontario DOES have personality (and pollution unfortunately, but let’s not get into that) and on Sunday, there was no lack of movement.  We pulled over near Baranga’s, a restaurant on the beach strip that owns the large plastic dock you see in the pictures below.  The colour of the water was gorgeous…a sea-green as beautiful as a coastal shore. That day, the Lake reminded me of the Bay of Fundy, except without smell…which, on some days out east, you could argue that’s a good thing!

 

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The dock was snaking up and down along the crest of the waves…it was wicked and part of me wished I wasn’t dressed for cycling so I could manoeuvre out there and test my balance.

 

 

Doesn’t it look like a blast?!  Eventually, some people on the beach stole my idea. 🙂  A mother went out with her three children, one at a time, gripping the backs of their shirts to keep them from flying off the dock.  I of course, had to video that too!

 

 

So, yes, I miss the coast.  I try to get their at least once a year.  But on days like Sunday, the lake makes a good substitute.

Cycling around the Hamilton Harbour

As I re-cycle this route and perfect it, I am updating this post.  June 7, 2011 was the first time I cycled around the Hamilton Harbour.  June 15, 2011 was the second time.  You’ll find each trip listed below with links to the maps of the various roads and trails I took.

June 7, 2011

Last Sunday, I took my cycling to a new level and decided to attempt a 35km route I had mapped out a few weeks back.  My goal was to tackle the route by the end of June but my cycling had been going so well that I felt ready to try it out now.  It was an absolutely awesome cycling route! Tough hilly areas, gorgeous scenery, lakefront and beachfront views…not to mention a nice mix of city streets, and off-road (gravel and paved) trails.  There were also some issues including major potholes and dead ends that weren’t present on my Google-mapped route…all of which I will share with you in this post.

As I say, I googled the route we would take but unfortunately Google doesn’t know everything (who knew??) and made some errors along the way.

Here is the route we took, errors and all….CLICK HERE

I plan to do this route again, but with some improvements.  A few major errors that Google made:

1) Beach Road – The beginning of this road wasn’t clear.  We crossed train tracks going north on Ottawa St N and immediately saw a sign that said Beach Road.  We both assumed it was the name of this path:

Nope.  The path went for a few hundred metres and then spit us out in a random neighbourhood.  We had to stop and check the map.  Beach Road was a little further north, running slightly diagonal.

2) Google also told us to take Dofasco Road (to Dominion, on to Strathearne and Pier 25).  None of this was possible as it was private property owned by Dofasco, gated and locked.

Once we got to Beach Blvd, all was good.

I plan to take this route again to attempt to perfect it.  I prefer avoiding main streets if I can so I’ll have to explore some random neighbourhoods on the way next time and note the quieter streets.

So, now that I’ve mentioned Google’s errors, let’s back up and start again….I took some pictures along the way but unfortunately I forgot to check my camera battery (which died almost immediately).  So, I took many shots with my Blackberry, not the best camera.

We headed out around 8:30 AM….

Up and at 'em on a Sunday morning!

… and almost immediately jumped onto the Escarpment Rail Trail, taking it as far as Wentworth…quite a lovely ride.

Escarpment Rail Trail

WARNING: At Wentworth, we turned left.  At the corner of Cumberland and Wentworth, on the east side, here is a *deep* dip in the pavement.  It is right after you cross train tracks and just as you’re attempting to single a right turn. Be aware and do your best to avoid it.  I survived but I could see a bike deciding to take a spill there.

We continued on and ended up on Dunsmure, where I took another shot.  It was so quiet.  Sunday morning was a perfect time to attempt this route.  Few people and little traffic on the roads.

Dunsmure

Due to the Google malfunctions, we had to cycle down Barton for a bit of a distance to get to Woodward, where we headed north to Eastport Dr and Beach Blvd.  Woodward has a bike lane most of way north of Barton, but if I had a choice, I would avoid Barton St…perhaps going south a bit to travel on side roads.  Barton St is busy, with fairly fast traffic…not to mention, we had to avoid two needles on the way. :S

So after some U-turns and remapping, we finally ended up on Beach Blvd, cycling along the Waterfront/Beachfront Trail.  I love cycling there.  The Hamilton side of the beachfront trail is paved and it is 16km in length, with each 200 metre section painted on the concrete to allow you to keep track of your distance.

Swans on the beachfront

The Hamilton portion of the trail ends underneath the highway at our ever popular lift-bridge.  At this point you have to carry your bike up the stairs, walk in across the bridge, and down the stairs on the other side.  I was concerned about dealing with stairs but luckily these had grooves so you could roll your bike up and down rather than carry it.

Steps heading up to the lift bridge...the bicycle grooves are at the far left and right.

View as we walked across the lift bridge

The Burlington half of the beachfront trail was just as lovely at the Hamilton side, with picnic areas and grassy areas to stop and take a break.

Along the Burlington Beach Trail

Burlington Beach Trail and baby geese! So cute!

Wood Fungus! B, my love, this is for you! 😉

 Once we arrived in Burlington, we headed west on North Shore Blvd.  I didn’t take any pictures at this point but I think that was my favourite portion of the ride!  (Well, except for the ice cream break that’s coming up! Hehe)  North Shore is hilly, just hilly enough to get your heart going.  I felt as though I was doing interval training.  It was fun and the views were gorgeous!

The end of North Shore spat us out (not literally of course!) onto Plains Road near the Royal Botanical Gardens.  I know the area quite well and I knew that the upcoming Spring Garden Road/Valley Inn Road was going to be the biggest incline of the route.

So….in a case like that…what do you do?  You stop for ice cream!

Sitting at Easterbrooks with a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream! Yum!

The interior of Easterbrooks - Don't think it has changed since the 1930s!

After some leisurely ice cream intake…we tackled the hill! I didn’t really get any pictures of this…as I was huffing and puffing my way to the top!

The final obstacle?  Carrying my bike down the staircase on York Blvd, which attaches to the waterfront trail, again a staircase with grooves so not a huge obstacle.  Lots of stairs though 🙂

Heading down the stairs at York Blvd

So, in hindsight, aside from some dead ends and route re-mapping, I consider the trip a huge success!  36 km in 3.5 hrs, including an ice cream break, plus a few other stops along the way to eat a bit and stretch…AND I could walk the next day! 😀  Unlike the first time I took out my bike this season and spent the following two days limping around.

After all was said and done…I arrived home and immediately went out for a treat!

Treats for the tired cyclist!

I definitely plan on doing this trip again!

June 15, 2011

Well, today I cycled this route again with some variations in street choices.  I didn’t take any pictures this time around, pretty much the same as above.

The map for today’s route can be found HERE.

I decided to try using the ‘pipeline’, a paved trail that runs diagonally through residential neighbourhoods between Ottawa/Main and Kenilworth/Barton approximately.  All went well except for….construction!  I suppose it’s the time of year for it so I shouldn’t be surprised but I had to skirt around or through three different construction sites in Hamilton alone this morning.  I also took Melvin Road going east a few blocks.  Turns out Melvin is a busy road with a rough surface and a crappy, bumpy shoulder…even though it’s supposedly a bike route….so I wouldn’t take it again by choice.

Aside from that, it was a great ride.  As you can see on the map, I made a few stops in Burlington…headed to Brant Cycle to buy sunglasses and met a friend for lunch…I also avoided the Spring Hill/Valley Inn Road hill today…by that point, I was really feeling it.  I think stopping for lunch gave my leg muscles a chance to take a breath and say “WTF?” LoL.

Anyway, this route shall be attempted again.  I already have another route in mind…for those who know Hamilton, I’m thinking I will take Lawrence (which runs behind Gage Park) to its end, near the Red Hill Creek Parkway.  Apparently there are a few access points to the Red Hill Creek Recreational Trail around there.

And, as a sidenote, that is a trail I’ve been trying to check out.  A couple of days ago, I biked up the escarpment along the Rail Trail to Albion Falls and planned to use the Red Hill Creek trail to head back down….but I couldn’t find it.  I spent 45 minutes searching for it, asked 6 people …fail.  Perhaps attacking it from the mid-point at Lawrence would be more successful.

Anyway, that’s the future plan, even though today’s route was quite good and straightforward.

Cycling the Chedoke Radial Trail, Hamilton ON – Well, a bit of it!

This morning I decided to go and cycle along the Chedoke Radial Trail in Hamilton.  I recently discovered that the starting point is quite near my apartment so I figured I would go for a short ride to check it out.  I rode 2km to the starting point and 3km further along the trail…so roughly 10km total back home again.  You can see the route I took HERE.

It was a good workout as heading west on the trail is all uphill.  It’s a gradual incline, so not overly steep or anything, but steep enough that I was winded.  Coming back on the other hand, was awesome!  Coasted most of the way and took pictures of scenery I had seen on my way up.

I hadn’t been able to find much in the way of pictures so I had no idea what the trail would be like.  As a result, I have included a number of shots below (including one for you, B!), so people can see the path quality and know what to expect.  There were many people on the trail, at least more than I expected to see on a Sunday morning.  So many were friendly, greeting me with smiles and ‘good mornings’, I couldn’t help but fall into line and start greeting everyone as well! 🙂

I stopped to chat with a few different people, asking about the trail, how far it goes, etc.  I even took a moment to get a shot of Lady, who I think was having more fun than the rest of us!

A proud Lady...bath bound 🙂

So, onto the sights…..The first couple of pictures are where I decided to stop and turn back….

Shot from the lookout where I took a break

Some random shots of the path I took on the way back down…

During the initial kilometer or two, you cross the Chedoke Golf Course.  I assume I would see rolling hills on one side…well manicured lawns and wee flags off in the distance….which I did see….

Chedoke Golf Course

But I also saw wee flags on the *other* side of the trail….

…and my first thought was “Isn’t that dangerous?  I wonder if anyone has ever been hit.”  On the way back down, I came across this sign which says it all…

That suggests to me that Yep, someone has been hit before.  I mean, no one thinks to put these signs until it happens, right? 😉

At that point, my second thought was…”Caution?  How does one avoid a golf ball barreling towards their head at 90 miles an hour?  You’d be whacked before you even heard FORE!!!”

So, needless to say…heed the sign people…be ‘cautious’.

I also came across some lovely fungus…B, this is for you!!

For you, Lovely!

As well as some unexpected, albeit seemingly man-made, waterfalls.

Finally, I have to introduce you all to the lovely booby-trapped Fountain of Doom!

The Fountain of Doom

To get to the start of the trail, I headed to Dundurn St and biked towards the escarpment.  I was told I would find the trail marker at the end of the street.  Which I did.  Unfortunately, the trail began at the top of a hill…a small hill…tiny hill…that kicked my ass….the teeny-tiny Hill of Doom as it shall be called from here on out.

It forced me into my lowest gears and as I approached the top (wow, it sounds like an actual hill but if I had a picture, you’d see it’s simply a bump in the road…more a speed bump than a hill….lol) I saw a fountain and someone drinking from it.

Excellent! I thought.  I was out of breath, a little tired, and that fountain was a holy grail…the Snickers bar at the end of a marathon! 😉  What I didn’t know was that the fountain is ready to defend itself against the likes of me …

Fountain of Doom spreading its doominess across the land!

A spritz of water about two feet long shot out of that fountain like an unexpected fart (it made a weird noise, okay?) and I almost fell backwards!  (I didn’t…I said *almost*!)  There are benches nearby and you just *know* that people have sat there to have a good laugh.  I know I would! *wink*

Anyway, outside of Killer Golf balls and Fountains of Doom…the trail is spectacular.  I look forward to following it further next time as it actually goes for quite a while…over 30km if I recall correctly.  Definitely go for a jaunt if you’re in the area.  It’s worth it!

Cheers!