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Wed Jul 10 2013: Tourists in Toronto

We are thoroughly enjoying summer in Toronto, catching up with family and friends, lots of eating, laughing, eating, being wide-eyed tourists, fighting traffic and eating. Over meals, we recounted our travels to our friends, and by far, the most common question they asked us was, "What has been the best part of your trip?"

Before we answer that, let's start from the beginning.

30-40 foot high geyser of drainage water spews above the Don Valley Parkway

We left rainy Guatemala hoping to catch the sunny season in Toronto. However, not a week after we arrived, we found ourselves stuck in the car on the highway during the worst rainstorm the city has ever seen. We normally get 75mm of rain the entire *MONTH* of July, but during a *TWO-HOUR* period, 123mm of rain fell down around us! Cars were stranded on the highway as water levels rose past their windows, city streets were flooded as people waded out of submerged subways and underwater parking garages. Power went out for hours throughout most of the city and as we watched the news from a safe place uptown, suddenly Guatemala didn't seem that wet and gloomy anymore...

Our ride for the summer in Toronto - picture by Neda's dad, Vjeko

Thankfully the rains only lasted a week and we were able to get some riding done.

We have amazing friends! So many of them have been so generous, offering us motorcycles, cars, accommodations and taking us out for dinners and cooking us meals. We're thankful to my parents who let us crash in their basement for a few days while we looked for a place to stay for the summer. Our friends Dave and Dee basically gave us a V-Strom as well as their car while they were away on vacation. Our other friends Jeff and Ed also lent us their cars for the weekend and I can't count the number of two-wheeled offers we got! If you're reading this, thank you all so much!!!

Big Shitty traffic

So what's it like coming back to Toronto after a year on the road?

It's like we never left. When my parents picked us up from the airport, we hit a traffic jam on the highway and it was such a familiar feeling, like we had just left a week ago. They say when you've been gone for a long time, everything looks and feels different, you even feel different in your old environment. I don't think we were gone long enough, though. We'll have to work on that...

I think the biggest change is how bad traffic has become. Toronto is now the 4th largest city in North America and has the congestion to match. I used to be able to judge exactly how long it would take me to get from any point in the city to another at any time of the day, arriving within 2-3 minutes of my appointment. Now I'm either 15 minutes late, or 30 minutes early - the traffic patterns have changed drastically in the last year.

Our condo was so high up, we could see outer space from our window!

While I was looking through the pictures Neda had taken on the contact sheet, this one looked like the earth from outer space. It's actually the sunset over the skyline taken from our condo. The shutter button on iPhone is on the right, but since she's a lefty all her pictures are displayed upside-down! So I warped the edges of the skyline a bit and got this cool spacey-looking shot.

We're on the 48th-floor of a condominium right downtown overlooking the western part of the city. Having never lived in the heart of the city before, it was great walking everywhere and being tourists in our old hometown.

Neda blames this injury on her being a lefty

We got our first serious casualty since the start of the trip. Neda had a major altercation with a can opener and sliced her finger very deeply. She blames the fact that the can opener was made for righties and not southpaws... uh huh... We had to take her to the hospital where they put 6 stitches in to close the wound. Unfortunately, there is a risk of tendon damage, and since it's her clutch hand, she's off motorcycles for the duration of our time in Toronto.

A friend commented, "You traveled around the world for a whole year on motorcycles and the only time you injure yourself is back home in the kitchen..."

Neda's Davy Jones impression

OMG, we really miss the food in Toronto! I think this city is the most cosmopolitan place in terms of food. While I enjoyed the Mexican and Central American cuisine, it's all so homogenous! And after months of rice, beans, tortillas and fried meats, we really craved soft-shell crab rolls, lamb vindaloo, curried goat, all washed down with some ice-cold Hobgoblin ale. We really miss all the varieties of food you can sample in Toronto, and I've got the extra 15 lbs around the midsection to prove it!

I competed in a Moto Gymkhana competition

Gymkhana is an ancient Japanese sport involving motorycles, swords and ninjas. Or in this case they are CBR250s...

I didn't do too well. But because this is Canada, everybody is a winner and gets a medal!

The Skydome is Toronto's baseball stadium. A few years ago Roger's Communications
paid a lot of money to rename the building to, um... the Skydome...

Watched some local artists in action

The intersection of Yonge St and Dundas St is Toronto's mini Times Square

Cruisin' the streets of Toronto is a popular pastime for urban riders

In Toronto, green means go. In Toronto, red also means go... True story.

Fishing in Algonquin Park

Every weekend in the summer, tens of thousands (or at least it seems like) of Torontonians sit for hours in traffic on a Friday afternoon to engage in an activity called Cottaging, which I don't even believe is a real word. Then they'll sit for hours in traffic on Sunday afternoon to get back to the city. Minus the time spent sleeping, these urbanites will spend more time during the weekend Trafficking than Cottaging.

"We made it to Algonquin Park! Time to leave soon..."

So anyway... What *HAS* been the best part of our trip so far?

Reaching the Arctic Ocean in Alaska may have been the most rewarding achievement of our trip. Utah may have been the most scenic place we have visited. Mexico may have had the friendliest people in our travels. Crossing the Darien Gap by sailboat with our motorcycles may have been the most interesting part of our journey. But both Neda and I agree, the best part of our trip has been "Freedom" - the ability to go anywhere we wanted, staying as long or as short as we desired and not having any destination, plan or schedule to map out or stick to. *THAT* has been the most amazing feeling in the last 12 months!

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