Archive for May, 2012

THE BOYS FROM CORNELL

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

ITHACA is a small town (pop. approx. 30,000) in Upper New York State about 4 hours drive southwest of Toronto.

It is quite well-known for just another typical small town in middle-America. That’s because it is the North American base of the 14th Dali Lama’s extended Namgyal Monastery. And the home of a major manufacturer of shotguns with the same name as the town. But it is also perhaps best known as the home of the august Ivy League institution, Cornell University.

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The University’s student body (over 20,000) is 2/3 the size of the entire town.

Our Toronto hostel was just invaded by 9 members of the fraternity Chi Phi at Cornell. The students were all studying different disciplines, the one thing they had in common was they were all under 21 years of age – the age of majority in the U.S.

Hence, the drive to Canada. In the Province of Ontario, the legal drinking age is nineteen. (Our boys from Cornell were all over 19 but under 21).

They crossed the border for a four-day bacchanal with little luggage and lots (14 cases) of American beer. (Suds are quite a bit less expensive south of the border).

One thing about the invasion of university students from the U.S. is although they are often loud and boisterous (always in full party mode), they know when and where to draw the line.

The students from the university known for its’ academic excellence, really let loose in Toronto! Just ask the young gentleman who came back to the hostel after a hard night of partying and woke up with a body piercing – a ring through his left nipple.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Too all future University “Beer Tourists” fron south of the border: When you book a hostel in Canada DO NOT choose one with a bar. It is illegal to drink your own beer at hostels with a bar!

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FIRST LONG DISTANCE CYCLIST OF 2012

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Our winter (such that it was this year) has truly ended and we are in the mild, double-digit temperature ranges very early in May.

Our first long-distance cyclist of the season just pitched up having arrived from Boston after a week on the road and well-over 900km of riding. Tom Morris is a long way from his home in Leeds, Northern England. He’ll be a good deal farther away when this adventure is over at the end of summer.

You can spot the long-distance cyclists with ease. They arrive on heavily-loaded, special-purpose “hybrid” bicycles equipped with side bags (front and rear) with extra water bottle attachments.

These “hybrid bikes” are built for strength and endurance and considering that Tom expects to log at least 5,200 miles in Canada and the U.S. alone.

He is also no stranger to long-distance riding. He traveled Europe last year from Norway to Turkey on a 13 week oddessy.

His bike is rather a Rolls Royce of touring bikes. It is a Dutch made bike with a Japanese sounding name. It is a Koga-Miata Bike originally designed in Japan but taken over and manufactured by a Dutch engineering concern.

You can be assured that anyone up riding a Koga-Miata is a serious bicyclist.

In our experience, long-distance cyclists are a rather unique breed of traveler. They are usually fiercely independent and  pursue their stated goals with a singular will.

Tom was last seen heading south. If we recall our conversastions correctly, he is California bound. The most direct highway route involves a road well-over 4000 kms. But that route is not an option for bicyclists. Bicycles are forbidden on major highways and turnpikes.

Tom will be taking a rather indirect route to sunny California. He feels that his bike will allow him to savor the rich scenic beauty of America.

We wish him well.

Having a Drink in Ontario

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

A lot of backpackers arrive here on a hot summer’s evening and immediately begin to search for a store selling alcoholic beverages. Most come from juristictions that allow the sale of beer and wine at the local convenience/grocery store.

Not so in Ontario.

The time was (1960′s and ’70′s) that “Toronto the Good” had embarassingly puritanical liqour laws that among other factors, thwarted the city’s chances of rising to “World Class” status.

Alcohol in Ontario has but a single purveyor. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) is the Provincial Government’s “Crown Corporation” with a virtual monopoly on the sale of alcoholic beverages in the Province of Ontario.

With a population of over 13 million, Ontario is home to more than 40% of Canadians. And if you want to purchase booze here, there is no real alternative.

There is “The Beer Store” performs the same function but represents and is owned by the breweries. There is also no competition in beer sales (although the LCBO also sells beer); but the Beer Store can not sell hard liquor.

With a “captive customer base” the LCBO is the largest single purchaser of alcoholic beverages on the planet. In 2012, their sales topped $4.7 billion Canadian dollars (profits of $1.6 billion).

It seems to us, that if the “LCBO” was NOT a Crown Corporation, (i.e. “Government Owned”) they would likley be in violation of anti-trust laws.

Nonethless, we’ve come a long way over the past three decades and the LCBO and BEER STORE are a reality. Retail liquor/beer outlets are quite a distance apart and, at times, rather inconvenient.

The closest LCBO to our hostel’s doors is:  @ the corner of King Street and Spadina Ave. Simply exit the hostel, turn right, one block down and three blocks right on King to Spadina.

We recommend that our hostel guests carry suitable I.D. as they enforce the prohibition to minors faithfully.

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