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Trip Start Jan 30, 2011
Trip End Nov 16, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Today I said farewell to the land of Tim Hortons, Beavertails, Maple Syrup, and the best film festival in the world, and exchanged it for the land of cowboys, beef, ribs, and what I hope to be the best music festival in the world, or at least in the States; today I said 'hello' to Texas, the place where, apparently, everything is bigger.

My last night in Canada, for a month at least, wasn’t too successful as I couldn’t fall asleep even though I knew a five a.m. wake-up call was looming, maybe it was the excitement of the next four weeks travelling around Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, or it could have been the light left on above my bed as one girl continued to read: granted, it was only nine o’clock and she was well within her rights to do so, but did she not know I had places to go, people to see?

Another of the girls in the dorm was also waking up early, hence her retirement to bed at seven o’clock last night, and her alarm managed to wake me an hour before mine was due. I decided it wasn’t worth snoozing for that short time so I rummaged in the dark and checked the plug sockets for any leftover iPods or chargers, opened the drawers to check I hadn’t left any toiletries or books for the next guest, and finally stripped the bed in preparation for my early-morning check-out.  Of course I had to run the noisiest tap in the world and turn on the oh-so-bright light before I went in order to brush my teeth and prepare my face and hair for the outside world, so I may have accidentally woken up the remaining six girls. 

As I was flying to Texas, it was over $200 cheaper to fly from Buffalo Airport across the US border than from Toronto Pearson, hence the early rise to catch a bus from Toronto over to Buffalo; the bus station isn’t a long way from the hostel, but at five o’clock and with a heavy bag, even if it was just hand luggage size, I didn’t fancy getting sweaty walking over there.  Instead I opted for a taxi, and as soon as I walked out of the hostel doors I was greeted with the one reception had just ordered for me, but when the driver couldn’t tell me the name of who’d ordered it I hesitated about getting in, only to see the bright top light on the car and realise it was an official cab and that I just needed to get in.  A little chat about the Toronto Film Festival filled the silence during the journey to the station before I was greeted by a lad on crutches, but with no bandage or cast evident, asking for money to get to Ottawa.  I apologised for not having any Canadian dollars on me and was informed that that was okay because Greyhound also accepted US currency, whilst I didn’t have any of that either I admired his tenacity, even if he was never destined to see any of money, US, Canadian, or otherwise. 

The wait within the station wasn’t too long, and with only one drunk to fill the quota I wondered if Toronto had banished the undesirables elsewhere during the festival, just as China did during the Beijing Olympics.  I was soon on the bus that had to reposition itself following parking in the wrong bay and on my way through Ontario towards Niagara Falls and the US border; a beautiful pink and orange sunrise lit our way until the blue blanket completed the vista.  Unfortunately the attitudes of the border police weren’t so pretty, and I was soon being held back and questioned about why the Canadian border hadn’t removed something from my passport when I left America back in March, why I’d been in Canada for eight months, why I didn’t know the address of the people I was staying with in Texas, when I was last at home, and when I’ll be flying home.  When she’d finished asking where my ticket home was (online as it’s an e-ticket) she took the $6 entry fee and sent me on my way to have my bags completely emptied by another officer: the bag that had everything strategically placed in it so I could just take hand luggage with me rather than checking in any bags. To top it off my umbrella strap broke, but at least I was in the country, even if I hadn’t had the most warming welcome; luckily I know they’re just doing their jobs and aren’t representative of the majority. 

Buffalo Airport provided another obstacle in the form of not knowing which airline I’d booked my flights with; I booked through Expedia and had somehow misplaced my booking confirmation, meaning I went to United Airlines, Delta, and finally American Airlines before finding the golden ticket, or rather the blue one that stated my name and destination.  The attendant was very helpful and simply scanned my passport to inform me where I was flying and who with, and didn’t even throw a mocking look my way; she must be used to fools by now. 

I went straight through security to ensure there was no last-minute mix-up like there had been on many previous trips to the airport, only to realise my water bottle was still full, the water bottle with a filter that I’d paid $12 for on PEI and wasn’t about to discard, and that none of my toiletries were in the designated clear plastic bags.  I stepped aside with my bursting-at-the-seams bag and tried to down a litre of water whilst relocating the shampoo, conditioner, and nail varnish that hadn’t been placed in one easy-to-get-to position before leaving the hostel, eventually arriving at the new body scanner and standing like I’d just walked out of a building holding a gun.  No dramas regarding anything in my pockets or leftover stolen jam containers ensued, leaving me free to waste an hour grabbing an extortionately priced sandwich, fortunately it was delicious so it was nearly worth the money, and besides, I was famished after five hours of doing nothing.

I landed in Chicago for my connection where it was a far cry from the relatively quiet Buffalo airport, and got a hot chocolate that I could only have cream with, no milk allowed apparently. I boarded and managed to avoid the bag-checking box that every other passenger seemed to be using, meaning I could take my rucksack straight onto the plane without having its forty-five-litre capacity questioned.  I crammed it into the overhead locker before sitting at the back of the plane beside an Indian man who proceeded to check his nose, eyes, and ears for any changes every few seconds, then proceeded to tell me my Rohinton Mistry novel had too much detail in it.  I soon blocked him out with my headphones and the impending sleep that enveloped me.

I was heading to Texas, Austin in particular, because of the Austin City Limits music festival, and was kindly being put up by Brenda and Carly, girls I met whilst on my tour of the West Coast around Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, and San Francisco, but on arriving at the airport I soon realised I’d forgotten to make a note of their phone numbers.  There was a free internet station available, but for some reason the mouse wouldn’t hover over the email I wanted to open, and after ten minutes of annoying the suited and booted man behind me as I tried every which way to get the thing working I was soon relieved from my duties by a tap on the shoulder by Brenda.  Carly had been forced to do a couple of runs around the pick-up zone because of a ‘parking Nazi,’ but we soon found her and retreated to the air conditioning and away from the thirty-eight degree heat, made worse by my Toronto early morning ensemble of t-shirt, jeans, scarf, and cardigan. 

After settling in at their apartment I was soon changing into more temperature appropriate clothes before we headed out to the Hula Bar for some dinner, as the avocados had failed to ripen and needed one more day to do their work. As they took up their spots next to the bananas in hope of ripening tomorrow we enjoyed a variety of Mexican food, a la Texas style of course, alongside some frozen margaritas as the sun went down over Lake Austin, and admired the cowboy boots the woman behind us was rocking; the general consensus was that they wouldn’t be so at home if worn in England or New Zealand, the latter of which Carly and Brenda plan to move back to after their Texan stint, unless teamed with a cowboy hat, plaid shirt, and an invitation to a fancy-dress party.  In summary, the $400 they cost wouldn’t quite be worth it.
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