This week, my rental car took me into the Kawarthas, home of the butter tart rivalries, to Fenelon Falls.
Reflections on Car Rentals
For most of my travels this past year, I've managed by public or commercial transit, or a combination of both. But there is no commercial flight to Fenelon Falls, and the bus from Toronto only goes as far as Peterborough, so I had to bite the bullet and rent a car.
I must be getting old. And also, cars are evil!
I've been car-free since 2013, renting only when necessary, mainly on PEI each summer to transport my kiddies back and forth between our pastoral north shore retreat there and the bustling city life in Charlottetown, a half hour's drive from our house. And to drive to lobster dinner in New Glasgow. And to the North Rustico Bakery.
But I digress.
So, I haven't been in the driver's side of a car since last summer, and now, suddenly, there I was, turning left onto a busy Toronto street in a rental car, and then out onto the highway, and there were BIG TRUCKS everywhere and it was fast and busy and crowded and it just kept racing along with me in the middle of it!!
Taking public transit has -- for me -- been hugely convenient. I've become accustomed to relaxing and reading the paper most days while someone else pays attention to the road. I also get a lot of email and organizational work done on route. And biking to work when I am not taking a bus, plane or subway is such a viscerally rewarding way to experience the grittiness of the city streets.
None of these realities was mine as I tried to just keep moving and merging and stepping on the gas in the not-so-little and gadget-bespeckled black Nissan which the good but perhaps somewhat naiive people at Enterprise had entrusted to me.
Thankfully, driving is a bit like riding a bike; once you get going again after a long break, your muscle memory takes over, and soon it's all good again. I managed to make it out of Toronto unscathed, and within approximately one hour of driving, the busy highway scenes had been replaced with a more tranquil Vista...
Music and Big, Open Skies
Somewhere between the 404 and Richmond Hill, I had managed to fish my iPhone charger out of my bag in the back seat, and had figured out how to plug it into the car's stereo system (turns out most cars now have a USB charger built in -- standard. Who knew?!), though discerning how to select specific music from my playlist remained a mystery, and I was compelled to enjoy any and all songs on my phone in alphabetical order only.
While I awaited the mercifully-close-to-the-beginning-of-the-alphabet Bach I had been hoping to cue up (the country driving had inspired in me a hankering for a little listen of his aria, "Bist Du Bei Mir" ), I was treated to Malosetti's Acampantes and Nina Simone's Ain't Got No -- I Got Life (a stupendous Pop-Soul medley that inspired a rap-over by Lauryn Hill not so long ago!) The first several bars of Rush's the Anarchist also made it to my eardrums before I pressed the FF button when the lyrics came on (I so love that band's groove; the singing, not so much!!)
Then it was on to the B's, but I got no Bist Du until I had first dealt with Baby Beluga and Disney's Bare Necessities, as well as Louis Armstrong's Be my Life's Companion and Michael Jackson's Billie Jean (two versions of that one, my friends!) Then I almost had to pull over I was laughing so hard at the "two slightly sampled electric guitars" and "the Venetian Effect" of The Bell (from Mike Oldfield's classic, Tubular Bells), which I had not heard in AGES!!!
Almost alone on the wide, open country roads, I drove confidently now, humming along to my alphabetized playlist, and marveling at the magnificent skies that rural Ontario offers.
After some time, the novelty of the pastoral scenery (and its accompanying iphone track) wore off, and my hitherto gentle hunger pangs turned into an incessant gnawing in my tummy. I'd had enough of cows, horses and endless farmers' fields, and was more interested in finding something to eat, preferably a beautiful thing like a Harvey's veggie burger with cheese.
I began to curse myself for not having stopped at the roadside stop-and-eatery along the 401 earlier.
Saved by Butter Tarts
Blessedly, I finally came to a small town, one with a bake shop that also made sandwiches to order.
Not long after the bakery bun debacle, I found myself in the quaint town of Fenelon Falls, home to Lock 34 on the Trent-Severn waterway, and the site of my impending workshop.
Indeed, everything was within walking distance in a town this size, including the restaurant/bar where I requested a take-out meal after having set up for my workshop and checked into my unremarkable roadside motel.
Hanging out with Teachers in Summer
The first day of the workshop was relatively uneventful: 32 committed educators appeared the next day and played nicely while we talked about assessment, evaluation and reporting in an equity context.
I was somewhat glad I had not completed all aspects of my three-day presentation, as my interactions with the participants during Day One allowed me to head "home" to my hotel room at the end of the day and customize tomorrow's gong show a little to meet their needs as perceived during today's informal diagnostic and formative assessment: I practise what I preach!
A quickly cooling take-out tea from a local diner, and a generous slice of peanut butter cheesecake -- while not as decadent as yesterday's Chelsea bun -- offered some sustenance while I worked on preparing Day Two of our Assessment Workshop here in Fenelon Falls.
The memory of butter tarts from yesterday's sandwich and bun bakery, and the promise of bringing some home to Toronto after Thursday's session is complete and everyone's been sent away with a hundred new assessment templates and ideas, are my inspiration for the next 48 hours here in rural Ontario.