So I ventured up to Ottawa this weekend. And I got my wish on the athletic front; two kilometres of the Rideau Canal had finally frozen up and were open to skating the very day we set foot in the city.
But it came at a price; winter is still alive and well in the Ottawa Valley, even if it came a bit late this year. The first clue that you have entered a whole new climate is when the car starts to make a low-level squealing noise. This has happened to me twice now in Ottawa; my theory is that the cold is actually changing the molecular structure of the engine block. The first night was -24C (-33 including the windchill).
The morning skate took us "up" into the -20 range. Yes, if your monitor resolution is high enough you can probably see the boogers frozen to my goatee. But what a classic Canadian way to kill a morning. The National Capital Commission, which runs the place, says the canal has been officially open for skating for 37 years now. Unofficially, well, who knows?
The other thing that always strikes me about Ottawa is how compact it is. It seems as though you're driving along through nothing but miles of empty farmland when all of a sudden there it is, lurching out at you like a sleepy bear in spring. Truth is, Ottawa isn't really located that close to anything. It was originally a lumber town, but was chosen as the capital precisely because of this remoteness. It needed to be far enough inland to be defensible from the Americans, who had only invaded about fifty years before and, in the aftermath of the Civil War, looked as though they might be game to try again.
Also like the proverbial bear in the woods, it has a reputation for being a little sleepy. The long-running joke in Ottawa is that the best thing about it is that it's only two hours from Montreal. That may be a little unfair, though she certainly does go to bed early (probably because it is physically painful to be out after dark for a good chunk of the year). An evening walk past Parliament found only a lonely RCMP officer putting in time and a couple lost tourists who probably didn't make it.
Anyway, for Christmas I got Amy a ticket to see a Senators game. From the looks of it, live big-time hockey was a hit. Besides, for the price of two tickets to see my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs (if you move in the right circles to actually get your hands on 'em) one can spend a whole wicked weekend in Ottawa, and have a good chance to see some quality hockey, as opposed to what one sees here, which can often be described as, to steal a phrase from my father, "piss poor."
Oh, well. A safe journey, a safe return. I'm going to go count my toes.