F 1 D 0 -- 02 08 03 at 17 45 Vidalias have arrived. I'm not sure when they happen elsewhere in the inhabited world, but I only noticed Vidalia Onions for sale here last time we went shopping. For those of you who don't understand, this is an expensive special onion variety. They hurt your eyes just as much, but have a gentle taste. They're not for cooking, but for eating just as they are. If you care to experiment on just my say so, then go buy One, and make a sandwich with sliced Vidalia and Cheese. Don't add too much else, lest you forget you are testing how strong this onion is. You'll become a believer. This is one you can eat just as is. We've been talking here, and it looks as though we are travelling to see Ann's family in Alberta starting Friday. We will go through Kenora, through Winnipeg, and eventually end up in Edmonton. I hope we get to see Calgary too, but I'll be happy with whatever urban places we can find. I'm a sucker for transportation. I call it "transit." I like visiting trains and railway yards, just for their own sake. If the sign says "tresspassers will be persecuted" and the place looks entirely vacant, I see "Welcome. Don't steal anything, and remember Anytime is Train Time." Around here there is a road which follows along the tracks for most of it. There is no promise of it continuing all the way to some other side, so you may not like the idea of Driving this adventure. But a mountain bike can handle the gravel. There are usually three tracks, but there are so many yards around here, it often expands to thirty. They have a lot of interesting passenger cars in storage here. I wonder if they could be used for anything good? They look brand new. Our government has been running train service into the ground. There was a time when only students took Greyhound. Everyone else going Toronto to Thunder Bay would go by train. "How else?" Indeed. But I had some good long looks at Sault Ste Marie. Their station has become part of a shopping mall. Thunder Bay's has become a place to buy Ice Cream. The nearest train stop is Armstrong. That is about four hours north of here, by car. Armstrong isn't big. So don't expect to find golden arches or kentucky fried cholesterol. I spoke to a friend of mine, David York, who was explaining that passenger train service has been losing money for a long time. Most of the folks who work the train are enthusiasts. He's an Engineer. They don't run regular services, and give freight priority. How much priority? You may end up coming home perhaps an entire 24 hours later than planned. Imagine: you are riding on one of three tracks. Ahead it goes from three down to two. The train gets a red light. Why? Because there is a lot of lumber coming along, and the train is maybe a mile long. So we wait. I remember waiting over an hour sometimes during my last cross continent ride. Dave tells me that he's always on call. He keeps his cel phone nearby always, so that he can be scheduled to do his run. He goes from Ignace to Kenora and back. I think. I'll ask him again. They have rules about how far each person can work. They pay by the mile, and their rules appear very restraining. I was imagining that the interior compartment of the engine car was small, hot and noisy. Well, in the new cars, it is large, cool and spacious. And in the older ones, it is small and noisy. When I mentioned "hot", he laughed at me. "Do you think we are using Coal to run the Steam Engine?!" Well, I didn't know really. I knew it was diesel, but I guess I've seen too much Thomas the Tank engine. So, when we get to major cities, I'll be hunting first for rail transit. I've been told not to expect much from Winnipeg. It is the capital, and the source of urban pleasures for the province of Manitoba. It may be small, but it has art galleries, and major shopping. When I go to see a new city, I want to see a very certain kind of shopping. I don't want to see the tourist trap. And I don't want to find where the bankers and investment specialists eat. There's got to be a part of town where normal people go for a walk. Where they can be induced to stop and buy a sandwich, have a coffee, or buy a book. A place which survives on walk-in trade for ice cream, for cigarettes, for lottery tickets, for news papers. Bakeries? Whole food joints? Used goods? More and more, I'm finding this a rarity. Downtowns are going out of business. Oh, the downtown doesn't have to be the Real Downtown. It can exist in a suburb. But for it to meet my tough guidelines, there have to be pedestrians there. So a place where people can only drive into a lot meant for thousands of cars doesn't work. We have a lot of this here. Along Memorial Drive, there is the Intercity Mall, with a Sears, Zellers and lots of parking. (Zellers is a department store a lot like Target, but not like Sears) Across Ft William Road is huge Canadian Tire (a place like Home Depot, with Red as its primary colour. While it sells tires, it is a superstore for kitchen ware, electrical parts, building supplies, cleaning stuffs, bikes, barbecues, huge outdoor store, major appliances and more. They often have over 100 aisles). We will be getting a Home Depot shortly too. Not far from there is a 'plaza'. Well, it is a huge place where nobody walks from one store to the next. They're too far apart, even though they share the parking. Chapters books has a Starbucks inside. Winners sells clothing and dry goods. Petsmart does animals and food for them. Sports shop does expensive trendy clothes, and some bikes and sports. By far the biggest place in the lot is Wal-Mart. No, maybe it is the Staples. The old Staples store was recently re-opened as a Value Village. I like the concept, but found only very old books and junk last time I hunted for things (good cookware and not-so-old books). They have a new system for cables, a good system: They bag them! So now if you seek a special wire that you lost, you will probably be able to replace it for 99c if you can find it in a bag at Value Village. So when we travel, what kind of shops do I hope to find? Not another Wal-Mart. Perhaps an Ikea. Definitely some kind of homemade ice cream place, but I'll go in if they simply scoop commercial product. I like small diners, but not when they're scary. I just remembered! I was planning to go eat at a diner in Toronto. It is on the corner of Bathurst and Dupont, and is open 24 hours daily. It has one long counter. I'd heard tales of how people get sick from the food, and it was something I was hoping to experience. Sigh. No Ptomaine for me. Or maybe it was Campylobacter Jejuni. I know it wasn't Salmonella; they don't sell that kind of food there. Wait: can you get salmonella from eggs? They make hamburgers, but they were the frozen patty kind. So maybe they did e coli. (I remember reading something online, where the web author confused E Coli with Ebola, spelling it "E. Bola" - it still makes me laugh, years later) I remember the name now. Vesta Lunch. But I'm wondering if people just liked making fun of the place. I had a coffee there and was okay. They poured out the last half inch of stuff, and made half a pot for me. And I went in with someone else who ordered fries, and they seemed okay too. Maybe this reputation over rated, or just undeserved. When exploring I like to wander along some major streets enough to develop a sense of direction. "Which way is the car? Which way is town? Which way is the Asian district?" It will be nice to see some Canada on this trip. I normally choose USA and so this will be an adventure. Oops! This just in. I keep a DVD on pause in the computer, and play perhaps 10-20 minutes of it at a time. Right now I've got The Matrix in there. In an effort to read the details off of the pictures for today's column, I changed the screen resolution from 1280x1024 to 640x480. All of a sudden, I hear voices. I didn't recognize them as coming from the movie, though. I just heard talking in soft voices. Yes, I flipped out. I didn't have any chat programs going, and I didn't know what I was hearing. Ok, Now I do: it was Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus, saying, "We have a rule. We don't free a mind once it's reached a certain age. It's dangerous." It still managed getting my attention. It woke me up. That's all I know.