Left early again the following Friday, the 11. In keeping with my returned commitment to public-transit, Linda drove me just a mile to the Tysons Westpark transit station, where the #981 took off for Dulles Airport, your scribe the lone passenger. I was bound for Kingston, Ontario, at foot of Lake Ontario, about halfway between Toronto and Montreal. Rather than fly to either of those and take a train or rental car, it was far easier to fly 300 miles north to Syracuse. Bought a pass on United Express; flying standby is still a bit stressful, but my United Airlines friend Lora said the flight was wide open, and it was. Landed SYR, hopped in a Hertz car, and in no time was zipping north on the same I-81 that I drove in November enroute to our new home. The difference was amazing: the road ends at the Canadian border, and there was almost no traffic, compared to a choke of trucks further south. Set the Nissan Sentra on cruise, tuned up the local classical station (Tchaikovsky’s splendid Serenade for Strings was the starter), and enjoyed the woods and gentle hills.
The landscape became spectacular at the Canadian border. The St. Lawrence River drains Lake Ontario, in an the aptly-named 1000 Islands region. The freeway ended and I crossed two high toll bridges over the river, both affording splendid views of small islands generally edged by cliffs. Unhappily, I couldn’t stop on either bridge to snap photos. Entered Canada after getting the total third-degree from the border man, who seemed to have trouble understanding the concept of voluntary service: “No, sir, I am not being paid . . . No, sir, the schools generally don’t pay me.” He waved me in, and I zoomed down Highway 401 to Kingston, checked into the Motel 6, dropped my bags, and motored downtown to a Holiday Inn, site of the Queen’s [University] Marketing Association Conference, entirely student-run. An energetic recent Queen’s graduate, Nick Pateras, invited me to QMAC two months earlier at the Business Today conference in New York. I had never been to Kingston, nor to Queen’s, so I accepted.
It was a good meeting, 130 students, a couple of really good speakers (and some weak ones). There was lots of time for one-on-ones (and -twos, -threes, and -fours) that day, at meals and between. A number of big companies (Kraft, Unilever) had clearly participated in the conference for years (it began in the mid-1980s), and they were there in force, principally for recruitment. There were mountains of free samples, and the students scooped them up. After the dinner speaker, the students headed out to party, and I drove back to the Motel 6 and clocked out.
Up at first light, out the door for a good look around Kingston, a city of about 100,000 founded principally because of its strategic location at the foot of the Great Lakes – old fortifications were still visible along the lakeshore. Lots of solid stone and brick buildings from the 19th and early-20th centuries. From 1841 to ’43, it was the capital of the colonial Province of Canada. Queen’s is a medium-sized university, one of Canada’s oldest (founded by the Church of Scotland, 1841). Snapped pictures from the car and on foot.
At nine, I was back at the Holiday Inn, joining the students for a full Canadian breakfast, eggs and sausages and potatoes, and a lively discussion of the airline business with Sam, Jessica, and other bright young Canadians. At ten I presented the Crisis Management talk, yakked a bit more, and peeled off at 11:30.
I had plenty of time to get back to Syracuse, so I headed out of Kingston on County Road 2, fairly close to the water, toward the lovely old small town of Gananoque. Some Victorian B&Bs, a couple of marinas, some nice-looking restaurants all signaled a visitor economy. A gastropub looked tempting, but after 26 hours in Canada I still hadn’t visited The Institution, namely Tim Horton’s, so I zipped into the one at the east end of Gananoque for a bowl of soup and a donut. As always, the place was crowded and, as always, everyone inside had health insurance (and elsewehere in Canada, of course). I continued on route 2, which had become the 1000 Islands Parkway; I checked the route earlier on the map and on Google Earth, and it ran close to the river for the eight miles to the bridge to the U.S. The scenery was spectacular – I didn’t see 1000 islands, but I bet I saw 50, including some tiny ones with barely enough room for a house (one, below, had two). It was way cool. Here are some views:
I crossed into the U.S., welcomed by a friendly and civil inspector, way nicer than his Canadian counterpart, and zipped south on an unseasonably warm (50º), clear winter afternoon. I was back at Syracuse Airport about three, and while bringing this journal up to date paused to admire a local public-art effort called the “Poster Project,” a student-created art and poetry project. This one reads “Flotilla of ducks swimming toward Armory Square / Don’t know summer is gone.” Nice!
Flew to Chicago, spent a couple of hours in the Admirals Club, then back to Washington. Trip two of 2013, check and done.