Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aged Scotch

As soon as I thought I was near enough to the actual city, I pulled off the highway and took a main drag through Hamilton, so I could see a little of it, at least. Looked like most places in the states, lots of strip malls, though there seemed to be a high propensity for dollar stores. Hmm, I could live here, I thought. Except for that "cold" thing. Brrr. Never did get the hang of cold. Whether being raised primarily in the southwestern US or having a thyroid about as active as your average brick is the main source of this, I can't say, but cold just plain hurts. Too bad there isn't any warm and balmy snow about...
Anyway, I drove on north until I ran out of road...kinda unexpectedly, since the map showed another park ahead. And there was one, but the road dwindled into a residential street and the actual part leading to the park was little more than a bit of back alley behind a tiny apartment building. Bicycle entrance or something. I was interested in exploring but decided I didn't want to leave my car in what might be someone's drive, so I turned around and went down another way, roaming aimlessly for a few minutes. Decided I might as well stop at Dundurn Castle, since it was on the map, relatively easy to get to, and well, I was there.
So I parked and got out. A group of other folks was gathering at the other end of the lot; one asked if I were part of whatever reunion they were meeting up for--something military- or history-related. I laughed a no, just a wandering stranger, and proceeded to wander. (Whether strangely or not is subjective).
Read the historical postings here and there and ambled around the side, and hither and yon. While I'd seen the place on the map I had not heard of the estate. Big ol' mansion of a big ol' Scotsman. Signs pointed to going around to the stableyard...back there was the giftshop and a restaurant. I poked around in the giftshop a bit...I'd like a wee Canadian flag to go along with my US and TX and British flags. I never intentionally started a collection, they just kinda flagged me down. ar ar
I did find a flag but it was a tad pricey for the size, and though I considered getting it, it occurred to me that in a town full of dollar stores, there must be a cheap maple leaf somewhere. So I held off for the time. Tickets for a tour were also expensive, for someone who had no real idea where she was, anyway. I've toured a number of old mansions in my time, and since I'd just done Lyndhurst, I thought I'd pass, but walk around. Never know, I might change my mind. But I was still looking for a phone to call Mr. Frid before I made any other plans. (I had a cell phone, but with my service it'd cost a dollar a minute in Canada, so I needed a payphone!)
Dundurn Castle stableyard (in and around to the left is the giftshop).
I walked around the other side of things, essentially a park, following the fence. Figured I might could see the lake somewhere around here. There was an opening and a rough trail and I followed it (perhaps stupidly of me). I like to think of it as adventuresome. It led steeply down an overgrown hill, apparently a bluff or ridge overlooking some rails, but I could see the lake. If I looked real hard... There was certainly a lot of botanical company. Here's a shock of goldenrod. Exhausting that little jaunt's educational aspects, unless I wanted to explore what breaking a leg in Canada would be like, I climbed back up the wild and re-entered civilization. Walked around to the street and noticed some folks across the street hadn't been so lucky. But I really liked their sign.

I wonder if I could do that in the front yard. Well, with a slight change in message.

For those who enjoy blurring lines, obviously here's where JF/Barnabas hangs out. (a cryptic joke)

It was a very eye-appealing necropolis, but I didn't want to spend a lot of time snapping at cemetery statuary just then, so I took a couple of shots from across the street at Dundurn. Then I got down to business. There was a payphone out front along the road--I'd spotted it going into the Dundurn grounds but I was hoping there'd be one by the giftshop--out of the wind and away from the street noise. No such luck. So I girded my coins and shoved a finger in my ear and called Mr. Frid.

Luckily, I got hold of him! Then my luck went downhill, lol. He greeted me warmly but said he'd expected me yesterday and was too busy to meet today. Bummer. I was taken aback about being actually expected, given his excitement at the whole prospect the other day (er...doubt it...CALL), but there was no point trying to explain all that had ensued between Sunday morning and now. He flattered me in saying that he had the painting and stuff set up for me (though Richard really didn't quite suit his decor). I was laughing and reassuring him that it was just a toy, something to play with, use for parties or for the website or whatever, auction off, just a giftie--he didn't have to live with Richard. He had to attend to some sad business and meetings in a few minutes, and I did understand that it was just bad timing and I'd have done the same. But I did ask if it would help any if I came later (it wasn't like I was in a rush...yet). He thought about it a sec but said no, go on. I figured he didn't want to be held to any obligations if the event ran longer than expected, etc. Definitely understandable, and I wasn't expecting anything, just a thought that if we ever got together longer than a few minutes, maybe we could produce something.

Hmm, that didn't come out quite right.

Project-wise. Art-wise. Idea-wise. Naughty people!

He assured me he'd be sending me stuff and mentioned a few other things, then ended up saying we'd meet up next time. Of course he couldn't see my eyes roll, but I really gurgled at that...pretty sure that this would be the last chance. Just to get back at him, I said, yeah, next time he was in San Antonio. He ha-ha'd at that one, and we went on our separate paths.

Oh well, guess I had time to poke about after all. I headed back to the Castle and took a better look at things. Collinwood's Old House, in gold, I'd say... Now there's a porte-cochère.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hamilton Beach

The temperature continued to drop as I headed into Hamilton. I don't think it was so cold in and of itself, but there was this knife-icy wind gusting through, bringing the region a polar blast. A couple years back it was so hot and muggy I was practically sloshing around in the car seat. Now I kept having to remind myself that it was AUGUST!
The Canadian highways, as far as I've seen, are rather apart from the scenery, so there wasn't too much to see except other cars. I did come to the conclusion that most Canadians seemed to be driving minivans, if not econoboxes. I blended right in with my Sienna. Last trip I had my Ford van and really stuck out, lol. But I missed the height if not the gas expense.
Randomly I pulled off to see if I could get near the lake...there seemed to be a park on the right, so I went that way, following my nose (the map was still fuzzy but indicated there was something over there). I found a little parking lot along a beach park and got out of the car. Went back in and got bundled up, oooooo, it was freezing! And yet people were cycling and jogging by, not particularly phased by the winter wind. Harumph, Canadians.
I walked over to the beach. Signs said this was Hamilton Beach, and all I could think of was blenders and other kitchen appliances. Seemed to be a forbidding and rocky strip against Lake Ontario, at least today.
But it wasn't empty and forlorn. People and gulls milled about on this Tuesday morning.
A trio of gulls posed nonchalantly in front of a breaker.
Rocky shore at the Hamilton Beach.
Some gull's lunch leftovers providing more atmosphere. Though that little stick near the fish's mouth gives the impression the critter had been smoking and finally keeled over from a really bad bout of lung cancer. Or gill cancer, as the case may be. Coffcoffcoffbubbleblubcoff!
The scientist/artist's eye demanded a close-up portrait. I think wind gusts got in the way of sharp focus, though. It was actually pretty good at staying still.
"Fish heads, fish heads..." the silly tune ran through my noggin...nearby was a pile of rocks. Maybe the fishie just ran aground. Not everyone navigates well.
Lake Ontario textures.
A wide shot of the stretch of beach here, facing south.
A pretty view behind the beach grass (which actually took some doing to get into that angle).
Hamilton Beach expanse facing north.
After freezing long enough and getting all the pictures I could from the spot, I looked for a phone so I could call JF. There was one building, an ice cream shop/diner, and seeing nothing outside, I eventually went in. It was rather busy considering it was a frigid Tuesday morning. Interesting decor, but I wasn't hungry yet. I found the restrooms, which were nice and saw that there was a phone outside those, but indoors. So I tried to call JF but it didn't go through. I wasn't sure if I'd dialed it wrong or was just outside of the zone for him, but I figured I'd just drive further before trying again to be on the safe side. I only had so many Canadian coins handy, lol. I went back out and took a shot or two before heading back onto the highway.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Run To The Border

With one final and probably too-quick shot for the road (here's the river towards Ontario, complete with tired-eye double-vision), I finally stopped and headed back, through the dark dark park, back up the hill to the bridge, and over the rapids to the Niagara park I started in. I spent a little time looking around in the gift shop, then walked around the buildings and back through the carnival section to the bus stop. The bus was not there, and I hoped I hadn't missed it and was in the right spot. Seemed to be, other people were slowly starting to congregate in the general area, too. With little else to do in the dark, I got the camera back out, since the view across the street was weird enough to be photo-worthy. This giant looming mushroom was staring back at me from over the Indian take-out place.
I turned around to see what on earth this thing was... a hot-air balloon. I guess you could have balloon rides for yet another view of the falls. During the day. It appeared pretty lonely and spooky at this point.
Eventually my ride did come and dropped a few of us off to skitter to our motels. I went to my room and took a shower, as best I could, recharged the camera battery, and got in bed and died.
I don't think I had much trouble sleeping, considering, although one of the neighboring rooms was rather noisy. The continental breakfast turned out to be a cup of coffee and some toast crumbs. I was there early but I guess restocking was against policy...I was glad that I'd done the Niagara thing last night, for it was raining this morning, and visibility was pretty lousy. I got myself together and left the plush Knights Inn to head for the border. Due to the weather, I missed the turn the first time and had to double-back, then stopped at the duty-free shop. I admired the goodies and debated whether to pick up some vodka for JF, but since he was with two other guys and had travelled this way the other day, I figured he could have gotten all he wanted if he wanted any. I was tempted by some stuffed animals, but I couldn't really decide on any one, and didn't know what I'd do with them after the trip (I can barely fit on my bed as it is). What I wanted to check out was exchanging money....I usually fail to do that, thinking I'll just charge anything I need. But it's hard to charge little things and I'd made that boo-boo last trip. I didn't think the exchange was open yet, but someone came to help me, and I traded in $40. For that I got a whopping $40.80 Canadian. Wow, those exchange rates had certainly changed over the past few years!
Then I went next door to the Tim Horton's coffee shop, telling myself I was on vacation now and could really indulge. I stood there reading all the menu offerings, being unfamiliar with the place...thought I'd use Canadian money but it seemed wiser to use American here, price-wise. So I finally made up my mind and asked for some large coffee-something in hazelnut. There were 5 flavors on the sign, so I'd been debating a bit, no doubt annoying the bored clerk. Then he replied, giving me a look like 'what an idiot,' that it only came in vanilla. I blinked and looked at the board, where it plainly said five flavors, and thought he meant they were just out, and asked about something else. He repeated, just vanilla. Well, I didn't want to pay all that for vanilla (not that I had anything against it) so I just said I'd take a medium mocha and let it go at that. I down-graded the size since I was at least as annoyed with him as he was with me, LOL. But I went out with my sweet caffeine and Canadian mula and crossed the bridge. I answered all the quiz questions and the Canadian border guard decided I probably wasn't too deadly and let me in. And having seen plenty of falls the night before, plus being ucky weather, I just went onto the QEW into Ontario proper. Or whatever road was under my wheels. I went north toward Hamilton.
I spied Lake Ontario on my right and managed to pull over into a little, muddy parking lot and got out to inspect. It was awfully cold....I know it was Canada, but it was mid-August, too. Sheesh. I was glad I had my jacket. I took a couple of pix here, though it was not a good place to get near the water. Some of the plants here were kinda interesting, though.
In fact there was one weed that particularly caught my eye. I looked it up online, it's called the Common Teasel. Common for this neck of the woods, anyway. New to a US southwesterner like me. Like alien burrs.
Always something new. And finally, a shot of Lake Ontario with teasel and goldenrod, complete with a side order of tree.
I ran back to the car to warm up and continue up the highway.

Last Splashes

One more clear shot down Niagara...and one blurry and blue. Niagara Falls frothiness at the bottom of the falls. The ultimate latté machine. Looking downriver, back towards the Maid of the Mist area, with Ontario in the background (and a shaky Rainbow Bridge). A similar shot with different light colors on the falls.
A nifty shot delineating the shape of the waterfall overhangs, aimed at Niagara Falls Park (Maid of the Mist US area).
Softened waterfalls...rather like a strawberry shake or something, with the Canadian Maid of the Mist dock lights in the background.
And a final recording of wet dreams...;-) . Dark and red (!).
video

Cold Suds

Covered the main park side pretty well, so I walked up and decided I had enough time left to cross the bridge and see what was on the other side. Like the bear, I guess.
A bit of the fragile with the tough--a little bloom along the shore.
White sudsy river... Viewpoint looking back towards the bridge I'd just crossed, with a bit of the island park on the right. Some sections of that were very, very dark...glad I took my little flashlight! On this side I could look right down into the maw of the falls. Here it is reflecting the red light, a-blur with speed and mist.
This is a better-focused (focused on the water) shot, when the red light filter is shutting down. And here's the same scene in motion! video

Shooting the Rapids

Upriver a little...actually I think this was a side split of the main river, with an island dividing the main river (going over at Horseshoe Falls). But wherever I was, I walked around it. Looking down towards the cliff, there's where the water plummets over the falls on the American side, with Ontario Niagara Falls' lights flickering colorfully on the horizon.
Turning around and looking upriver, or upsplit, was a bridge, and a lot of raucous water molecules whitewatering their way madly towards the edge of the escarpment.
And people want to ride this stuff in barrels? I guess it would be quite a ride. Once.

Yahooooooo!!! I bet there's a lot of dizzy fish in there.

video

And here's a video-clip of the whole sight...the rushing rapids coming down from beyond the bridge, racing down the stretch to leap over the edge of Niagara Falls. Wheeeeeeeee!

How Much Water Can A Woodchuck Suck?

Again I took a videoclip of the waters, but tried it with the camera sideways to get the feeling of the height of the falls. It did not occur to me until now that it is not as easy to turn a video another direction as it is a photo. With all my little video-toys, I have nothing that will lighten, turn, crop, etc. a video while simultaneously retaining the sound and also being able to save it to a format Google will accept for loading. This program will do one thing but not the other, that program will do this but not that. Argh! Of course the one possibility I had that Would work told me I didn't have the component in question, but neglected to mention what that component would be, so, after far too much time spent on the topic, I'll just put it up as is. You can just squint and turn your head. Actually the camera records in .mov format, but even though Google takes Quicktime, for some reason the processing doesn't seem to work and the little processing logo just twirls around in circles for hours...days...(I am patient). But if I convert to mpeg, it just zips up onto the webpage. So much techno-learning for...loud water.

video

Anyway, after having enough of this view, I walked back down to the park and along the river edge. I was waylaid several times more for photographer-duty. Certainly a lot of different people about. After taking a couple of shots for a group of Japanese students, I sauntered upstream and watched the rapids and looked at some of the flora on the side. As I stood watching the river and looking at the bright flecks of flower color dabbling the greenery here and there, part of the greenery underneath me rustled. A head popped out, cautiously peering about.

What, another beaver?, I thought. Am I being followed by beavers? First the Lyndhurst one, now...I do have the teeth for becoming their leader, but still...and this fella didn't quite look like a beaver. What was it? A muskrat? A vole? I wasn't quite as up on my riverside mammals as I should have been.

It dawned on me, after a moment for my memory banks to run through my massive internal taxonomy lists, that it must be a woodchuck. I'd have to double-check next time I could find a picture of one (yeah, it's a woodchuck). I don't run into a lot of them in San Antonio. He was very funny. He was wary about all the people nearby, up and down the walkway, but apparently I was invisible to him (those ninja powers kicking in again). He came out further to double-check the path--there were some people some yards down the path. In the meantime he set his head on my foot. I was a tree. A tree with a spotlight in its branches, I guess. It was all I could do not to guffaw over this, or jump and startle him silly. Instead I just took some pictures of him, aiming straight down.

He seemed confused, like he knew I was nearby, but just couldn't see or hear me for some reason. Miss Invisibility again. He went on about his business, as I watched, delighted. Eventually he went back into the weeds and I mosied up the path.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dark Niagara

I took yet another videoclip of the falls, but they turned the lights out on me, at least a bit. So this one is darker than the others...though nothing like it would be with no lights at all! That would be rather scary, hearing all that crashing water and seeing nothing...

video

Then I just clomped around, framing what appealed to me at the time. Here's blood going over the cliffs...blood red in some areas where the shadows and color were intense, and more of a cotton candy pink everywhere else.
Wine stains, perhaps? Always white vs. red, isn't it?
Across the river and at Ontario, again.
This is an over-all view of the American park area, though a bit greyed-out in the gamma in order to get enough light to see it all. Rather looks like a pencil drawing, doesn't it? I'm up on the Maid of the Mist overlook deck. I assume, anyway. After a few more shots up here, I walked down over to that part of the river.
I wonder how long that point will be there...? (that's a pointed remark)
Soft watercolors...
Gallons of water crashing and mixing the misty colors...
A purple paint palette...
Disco party lights!