Oh. Canada.

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In Ontario, the leaves are turning, the people are saying “eh” a lot, and everyone’s abuzz over a newly released audit examining problems in state funding for the gradual transition to electronic health records. Seriously, people are going nuts over this.

In the last few days, I’ve driven about 665 miles 1070 kilometers, mostly in the Ottawa Valley along Highway 17, the Trans-Canada Highway. I recommend this drive, although I also recommend doing better planning than I did. I can’t use my iPhone up here, meaning I’m completely on my own for directions, lodging, and other travel logistics. In America this actually wouldn’t have been such a problem, since most highway exits boast huge signs telling you exactly what you’ll find if you exit: A Super 8, a Travelodge, a Hardee’s, a Taco Bell, and a Mobil station, say. But in Canada: NOT SO.

I had lunch at an extremely classy restaurant in Blind River, ON, and this was hanging over the toilet.

Canadians are a wise, sophisticated people who hang works of art above their toilets.

In Canada, you’re pretty much on your own. Though Highway 17 is dotted with adorable, wooden, seemingly 50-year-old signs for one-off entities like Velma’s Motel & Family Restaurant, at least 70% of the Velma’s (et al) have been abandoned. How is the Canadian economy doing? Seriously, I have no idea. I’m curious. It seems like maybe not great? Anyway, I’m a good, predictable early 21st-century Brooklynite with all the correct views favoring the local entrepreneur over the national chain. But if Velma’s has closed, maybe Canada could find a way to just go ahead and tell its tourists about the Travelodge. Eh?

Five times the pooping power of a single baby.

Five times the pooping power of a single baby.

Oh, well. Typical American, everything’s always about convenience and profit. I would hate to provoke another disagreement between Americans and Canadians, like back in the Civil War when Canada seceded (pretty sure about this one, but have to check). Let’s move on to a topic that will unite our warring peoples:

The Dionne Quintuplets.

Five times the ephemera capacity as a single child.

Five times the ephemera of a single child.

In North Bay, Ontario, I visited the Dionne Quintuplets museum, devoted to the five Canadian girls whose birth and girlhood riveted North America during the Depression. The Dionnes — Annette, Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile and Marie — were basically the Gosselin kids of their day, exploited by everyone around them, ogled shamelessly by a voracious public, and doomed to unhappy adulthoods. (Sorry, Gosselin kids, but you’re doomed.) At the height of their fame, the Dionnes were one of Canada’s top tourist attractions: “Quintland” received 3 million visitors between the girls’ birth in 1934 and 1943, when they were returned to their French-Canadian family.

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But at least their pain wasn’t all for naught. In 1998, the three surviving quintuplets were awarded $4 million in from the Ontario government. That will teach them not to exploit the Dionnes. Well, the chamber of commerce does charge admission to the girls’ childhood home, which the government has turned into the museum and filled with the girls’ toys and clothes, but, um, they’ve gotta raise that $4 million somehow.

Obviously, I had to confront the Canadian government about this travesty. So I headed to Ottawa, which is Canada’s capitol. I know you know, I’m just reminding my OTHER readers. When I arrived, I stopped at the Canadian Parliament building. My plan was to take the tour and then, when we got to the floor, yell “JUSTICE FOR THE DIONNES” at various members of parliament and/or people wearing official-looking suits. But the next tour was an hour off and also in French, so instead I went to the top of the “peace tower” and got a great view of the city.

Finally, here’s something else about Canada: Thanksgiving is this Monday!

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View from the Peace Tower.

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9 responses to “Oh. Canada.

  1. The Gosselin children will be featured on future episodes of Celebrity Rehab.

  2. Ruth, once again you are killing your adoring fans by holding back: we want to know more about this audit! How does it make you feel?
    Also, I don’t want to embarrass you, but the capitol of Canada is actually British Columbia.

  3. Canada!

    Are you visiting Huron County and doing the Munro tour?

  4. Are you joking about an Alice Munro tour? It isn’t funny to joke about that. Because if it isn’t true, people will be hurt.

  5. I do not think there is an Official Alice Munro Tour, but if I were in that part of the world I would certainly drive around and hunt up familiar sights among the small towns.

  6. Five babies? It doesn’t take much to impress in Canada.

    The Dionne-girl memorabilia online is amazing, and makes it all the more surprising that there aren’t Gosselin-kid dolls. Maybe John and Kate aren’t as bad as the Government of Canada.

  7. You should check out the TransCanadahighway.com for highway details along Highway 17/417 in Ontario, and the rest of Canada’s national highway. The site has detailed itineraries, links to hotels & campgrounds, nearby attractions, and more. The site recently launched a more detailed version (“Phase One” west of Sault Ste Marie to Victoria, BC) last week, and includes notes on construction, road history, and cycling route tips.

    Of course if your iPhone doesn’t get you iternet access, that maybe tougher to use. in which case, its great for trip planning.

  8. I’m confused. This post doesn’t relate to Christian kitsch.

  9. Pingback: Sherlock Holmes and the case of the avenging Mormons « Public Road

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