adventure #17 – the toronto cottage commute

the long-weekend exodus
looking sharp in the shades
harrowing 0km/h
torrential rains
the beautiful cabin
the beautiful outhouse
the beautiful moon
the beautiful lake
the beautiful dock and boat 
summer affords torontonians a rare and exclusive privilege and that is to partake in a mass exodus from the metropolis to head out in droves to the wilds of nature in what i like to call the cottage commute. every long weekend, literally millions of automobiles clog the 16-lanes or so of highways leading out of the city to… well, every possible direction away from oven-hot concrete and towards lake-side cottages, cabins, camps and other assorted get-aways.

the experience is singular, and for a lad from a much smaller city, provides many unique frustrations. i set out to my friends’ cabin on the saturday to avoid the panicked traffic of the main exodus that occurs throughout friday afternoon to evening. things were looking pretty good while i was still within toronto’s city limits. i was making good time along one of the main highways, the 401, heading east towards the kawarthas. however, even departing after noon on saturday, construction outside of ajax (which i couldn’t actually see, but there were signs to indicate its presence) brought the traffic to a stand stil… i’ve provided a lovely shot of the highway as seen travelling at a maddening 0km/h as evidence.

there’s a certain pathos associated with this lethargic exit traffic – the shared experience of 100,000 automobiles creeping along a major highway in the middle of the afternoon – it builds the requisite anticipation of escape and relaxation without which, it might be hard to really appreciate having three days off from work in a row. nah – try as i may to romanticize it, when it takes half an hour to travel 4 km, and you happen to be able to get out of your car and run 6km in the same amount of time, it’s nothing but bloody aggravating. it’s amazing to me that there aren’t more incidents of road rage in toronto than there are.

and of course, what long weekend would be complete without its share of shitty weather! the further from lake ontario i travelled the more unstable the weather got until i hit peterborough and the skies opened and let me have it with a torrential downpouring that i was terrified would last all weekend. in the end, i drove through the storm, but unfortunately, much of the weekend would see this spotty, cloudy cool weather.

finally, i arrived at lake anstruther, about three and a half hours after i left toronto (it’s 200km away – it should have taken half that time to get there), and i called up my friends to come and fetch me across the lake. my friends have one of the nicest cabins that i’ve ever seen, easily capable of sleeping eight adults and with every amenity from a waffle iron to wireless internet over cellular and bluetooth. the star of the weekend was the outhouse though. i’ve never… ever… seen a ventilated outhouse, with electricity, classical music playing on a ghetto blaster, and some sort of makeshift plastic urinal (not hygienic enough for everyday use, but if you don’t try to use it to serve lunch later on, it seems to serve its purpose).

as i mentioned the weather was not really warm enough or sunny enough for us to make good use of the lake on saturday or sunday, so much of the weekend was spent preparing the most extravagant meals that i wouldn’t even bother preparing at home. the other key ingredient to enjoying your time away from civilization is the consumption of ridiculous quantities of alcohol. for myself i brought a dozen beers and a bunch of strongbow ciders, and even that wasn’t enough for the weekend. i was resigned however to avoid my signature drink for the long weekend, in the hopes of having some recollection of my time there at the lake!

saturday night, the star of the show was the moon. this photo that i took with my little canon elph can’t possibly convey the glory or the enormity of the moon seen far from city lights. it’s been about a year since i’ve been so far from so much civilization, and it struck me as an incredible shame that it’s such a rare sight for so many people. i was certainly thankful for the chance to see it all this way.

monday, the sun came out and the weather warmed enough for us to sunbathe and swim in the lake! the lake was gorgeous, quiet and serene and we lazed around the entire afternoon soaking up the worry-free, stress-busting relaxation.

i feel like i’ve had a pretty stressful year in the last 12 months or so, and these opportunities to just unplug and shut down have been too few and far between. hell, even my fun times have been hyper and energy-consuming. my favourite pastime is to run as far as i can until i’m exhausted! it seems i’m constantly learning that there’s value in slowing down, taking it easy, and spending great times with great friends.

– g

ps. the drive home took about 2 hours, and i got to drive an average of 130km/h the whole way. that’s what’s finally great about a 400-series highway!

adventure cost:
one tank of gas (in the past two months): $41.35
weekend groceries: $52.46
weekend liquor bill: $44.40
two nights parking at the marina + one oh henry ice cream bar: $10.50
three days of unparalleled relaxation and serentiy: priceless