It is a dark and rainy morning in Toronto and I am sitting in our low-budget motel room just outside the city putting the finishing touches on my painstakingly created slideshow for our Cycling the Erie Canal post. I put the last caption in and click “save draft”. About five seconds later I am screaming into my pillow and throwing things as “gateway timeout” appears on the screen. Sure enough, the 80 slides and captions that took me half the morning to create are gone. The tone for the day set, my mood starts to get as dark as the weather and I start punching keys to get a new slideshow in place (for those who don’t know me, when I get fixated on a task it is pretty hard to draw me away from it). This time I only create 5 slides before hitting the save button. Again, the screen times out and my work is lost.
Kyle enters the room carrying coffee from the lobby, finding me feverishly investigating WordPress help forums and whimpering pathetically. While coffee helps calm me down, any attempt to stroke my back or otherwise soothe me with a physical gesture gets shot down, so Kyle starts packing up our stuff. It is 10 o’clock and we need to be out of the room by 11. Finally, I stumble upon a new tool altogether and it saves, but I don’t have time to create an entire new slideshow so I eat up my oatmeal (now cold) and drink the rest of my coffee before joining Kyle in his task. We roll out of there around 11:04 AM.
Arriving at the subway, Kyle tries to steer me to the left to the accessible elevator. Given that it is clearly marked and I am in the lead, he gets my frazzled death stare (poor guy, I know). Anyway, we find the elevator around the corner and the sign on the outside tells us to go down to purchase our tickets for the subway. Well we get in the elevator (well I get in, Kyle can’t fit), and suddenly there are numbers with no such indicator (I think “3” actually meant “3 down” but I don’t remember). I make it down to the right floor and wait for Kyle to follow with his bike. We purchase our tickets and what do you know, there are only escalators on this floor so us and our tickets have to go back up. Of course I get off at the wrong floor this time and get to wave at Kyle as I see him pass me up through the elevator glass (they call this accessible????!). Once we are again on the same floor, we realize our passes don’t work in the accessible entrance so we stand there rubbing our heads until a lady waves us out a side door to where we can enter the terminal another way. Once we are inside, we realize we have to take ANOTHER elevator down to the subway. While the train itself was there waiting for us, at this point I am so overwhelmed that I just sit down and put in headphones for the first time this trip. Five plays of George Ezra later and we are in the city rushing to get our bikes off the train before it leaves our stop.
Rain jackets come out as a steady downpour ensues. Our hostel is four blocks away. Rather than ride through an unfamiliar and busy city, we decide to walk our loaded bikes the distance we need to go. By the time we arrive at our destination, I am ready for a nap. Still, Kyle had really talked up this hostel, having visited it on a previous trip, so I am excited to experience the vibe. Back at Keith and Tricia’s house, we had found two good options for hostels, one relatively new place with great reviews and private rooms – and this one, which Kyle convinced me was going to be more unique with great atmosphere. The only catch was (I thought) that we would be sleeping in a mixed dorm room rather than having a private room. I was down with that because it meant we were saving a few dollars and according to Kyle, this place was really cool. Well we leave our bikes outside so we can check in at a cute, if a little tight, coffee joint on the first floor.
Somehow we manage to only get whacked a few times by exiting customers before the counter person is able to help us out. As she checks us in, she smiles apologetically and says, “Because we are so full, we have you in separate rooms. So sorry.” Before I have a chance to say anything, Kyle nods his head and says “We know.” What?! Turning to me he says, “We talked about this back in Buffalo.” Seeing red after the day’s culmination of events, it is everything I can do not to explode. It gets better. He apparently put ME in the MIXED-DORM and himself in the male only dorm. The staff person at the counter acknowledges my visible upset, apologizing profusely. At this point, I learn that we have to take our bikes up a flight of stairs and not only are Kyle and I in separate rooms, but in separate buildings. We get taken to my room first, a cramped six person dorm that smells like feet and men’s cologne. The woman giving us this orientation (same as at the counter), turns to me and again smiles apologetically, “Sorry for all the chaos, we have a lot of men staying with us this week.” Great, so I am pretty much the only female in a male dorm for which Kyle does not have a key…
After our tour, I leave Kyle to the task of hauling our bikes up the stairs and lock myself in my room. As I lay on the bed steaming and trying to sleep, one of the two gentlemen currently in the room wakes up from a drunken sleep (at 1 PM), sprays a hefty dose of cologne all over himself, scratches under his armpits, and begins blasting music just outside the door. The music is so loud that I can hear a woman asking him politely to turn it down. Well he storms back into the room having a hissy fit (yes, as if I can talk), grumbling to his buddy about how much he “hates this place.” For the next 20 minutes, he is singing off-key at the top of his lungs from the lower bunk (yes, I am sharing a bed with this guy).
Hunger finally drives me out of my room where I was taking tremendous satisfaction in locking Kyle out. We dive into our foodstuffs and it is obvious the implications of not being able to get into a locked dorm room where his girlfriend would be sleeping with a bunch of male strangers had finally dawned on Kyle. Determined to remedy the situation, he gets on Priceline and finds a daily deal that would get us a four star hotel in the heart of Toronto for only $95. We pack up our stuff and go down to inform the hostel staff. Generously, they gave Kyle almost a complete refund and we were out of there for good!
The subway takes us to right below our new accommodations. As we walk into a grand lobby, I know this day is going to get a LOT better. Entering our new room, I see a huge fluffy white bed that looks like it belongs in heaven and a view of the Toronto cityscape that takes my breath away. A new enthusiasm for life takes hold of me as we plan out the rest of our night. First, to a gluten-free restaurant for a nice dinner out and then to a ride around the city via streetcar.
We eat dinner at Off the Hook, a local dive that specializes in fish and chips (we would thank someone here for treating us to a dinner out, but this meal was on Kyle). They have dedicated kitchen space for those on a gluten-free diet, five types of gluten-free beers in stock and gluten-free batter for almost everything you see on the menu. I order cajun fries (freshly cut), crab cakes, a goat cheese salad, and a Top Hat (locally brewed gluten-free beer). Top Hat takes me back to the days when I drank Blue Moon – by far the best gluten-free beer I’ve had (brewed from millet rather than sorghum). Kyle orders a gluten-free haddock (so I could try it). Not the healthiest dinner ever, but just what we needed to get back in the spirit of exploring a new city. We end our out-on-the-town excursion with a ride on the streetcar. Toronto is one of the only places in which the original street car lines are viable for public transportation use (making this an ideal activity for Kyle, the transit nerd).
Both of us fed, happy, and satisfied (the turmoil from earlier in the day forgotten for the moment), we return to our hotel room just in time for a gorgeous sunset taking place over the city skyline. As we cuddle on our cloud-like comforter and watch the colors change, the world gets just a little bigger and Kyle and I a lot smaller – in that moment we know that it is time to spread our wings and really fly. Funny how the greatest of epiphanies can occur after the craziest of days. Here we come Europe!