Saturday, August 1, 2009

I would drive 300 miles

...and I would drive 300 more.

Good morning, Montreal. Last night, I drove the 500+ km between Toronto and Montreal through rain and shine, light and dark, Ontario and Quebec - my most extensive driving feat ever.

Traffic was pretty shoddy coming out of Toronto and slowed to a crawl every time there was an accident for the vultures to stop and gawk at. I maintained driving-level alertness by blasting the AC and sinking into Utada's upbeat pop stylings (I started to get a bit drowsy when I switched over to Yi Sung Yol's soothing voice). Because of the the congestion, the Kingston leg of the trip took significantly longer than it usually does. I have to admit, my heart ached a little as I drove by my once-home-away-from-home.

By this point, I had driven more than 3 hours, so we decided to make a pit stop at a nearby service centre. Service centres are a necessary evil of long-distance driving: On the one hand, few people can make it six straight hours of driving without taking a stretch, taking a bite, or taking a leak. On the other hand, service centres are crowded... and nasty.

Overpopulated by long-weekend commuters, the service centre was characterized by messy tables and a mile-long line at Timmy's. The most dreaded aspect of any service centre, however, is the washroom. Seeing dozens of new commuters ever minute, service centre washrooms are characterized by neglect and wetness - wet counter-tops, wet floors, and wet toilets. The smell of ammonia is so strong, you might as well be inhaling aerosolized piss. Disgusting.

After braving the service centre washroom, I turned my attention to my grumbling tummy. The time being 10 PM, we managed to catch the KFC mere seconds before it closed down for the night. They weren't making any new food, so while we ordered the popcorn chicken, we had to settle for the "crispy strips." These were cold and not at all crispy. The worker at the counter also forgot to fork over our French fries. "Sorry... very tired," she muttered as she excused herself. Still, my stomach agreed: Food is good.

This trip marked my first foray into driving outside of Ontario. Usually, I switch with my Dad before we hit the border (of Quebec or New York). Why? Well, because Quebec is crazy. Their roads are different: Highways generally have no merge lanes leaving you little wiggle room to get up to speed - just throw yourself in and hope for the best. Right turns on red lights are prohibited in Montreal. Drivers are nuts. Yes, ever since my brother started living in Montreal, his once modest and rule-abiding driving habits have seen some deterioration... though ricers everywhere (as well as Mello and Stewie) might describe such changes as "more skilled."

For the uninitiated, the transition from the Ontario side of the 401 to the Quebec side is fairly obvious. Yes, the signs are all in French, but even more importantly, the roads become really shoddy. Road quality really emphasizes Ontario's many decades as a "have" versus a "have not" province. When you hit Quebec, the lines on the road become a little bit fainter and the bumps on the road become a lot bigger and more frequent.

That's why I was extra shocked when after driving for a few dozen kilometres, the highway turned into a pristine, perfectly paved, beautifully lit stretch of the Route Canadienne. No seriously, this stretch of highway was so new that it not only made Ontario look cheap, but it was almost on par with New York (a definite "have" state when it comes to road maintenance). I guess they must have been tired of being made fun of.

Don't worry, though, once I got off the highway, all was as it should be. I bumped and banged my way along Montreal's neglected roads all the way to my brother's condo. End story.


Joyce said...

So that's where you poofied to! xD;;;
And yeah, service centre washrooms are absolutely disgusting, but unavoidable. T-T;;;

Hope you have a good trip!

sandlot said...

At least the service centre washrooms are better than any washroom in China.