Mr. Smith's Neighborhood

It's a beautiful day in the Neighborhood for teachers everywhere! Anything and everything is fair game!

On the Road Again July 20, 2007

Driving through Hell in Buffalo and Toronto

After loading the CRV, I was on the road at 8:30 AM and headed northwest towards a little area called Spanish, Ontario, Canada, for 9 days of relaxation, fishing and general keep-me-out-of-the-house fun. Most of the drive was uneventful with the exception of a few brief showers here and there. By the time I hit Rochester, NY, the Sun was out for the remainder of the day.

While driving through my least favorite city on this planet, Buffalo, I hit the first traffic jammof the day. Somebody needs to explain to the folks at the NYS Thruway Authority that E-Z Pass was designed to reward drivers who invested in the tag. The Thruway Authority in Buffalo decided that E-Z Pass should only have two lanes, and both lanes have the old “stop-and-wait-for-the-gate” technology. Traffic control at other tolls, bridges and the border is none existent. In fact, I think we will wait until midnight on our return to go through U.S. Customs to avoid the five-mile back-up we saw today.

I actually found something in Buffalo area that I liked (besides Rochester and R.I.T.), WLGZ-AM Legends Radio 990 from Penfield, NY (just outside Rochester). After losing oldies stations from Syracuse, the scan button landed on this gem. The format is hit radio from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s … the best music of all-time … mixing standards from Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Edie Gorme, Robert Goulet and more with The Beatles, Del Shannon and more. This is definitely worth an on-line listen.

I also picked up CHUM 1050-AM from Toronto … the greatest oldies of all time. This station has been broadcasting since 1957 and is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. They have several great posters and other memorabilia for sale … hopefully they will package their award-winning documentary (“The Evolution of Rock and Roll”). It has 64 segments about one-hour long full of music, history and commentary. I heard part 40 tonight and it was simply awesome. Yes … you can listen online.

Also from Toronto was CHWO 740-AM, which advertises itself as Prime Time Radio. I caught some bodacious oldies that you rarely hear, including Clyde McPhatter (“A Lover’s Question”), Linda Scott (“I’ve Told Every Little Star” – one of my favorites) and The Fifth Dimension (“One Less Bell to Answer”). Their programming seems it is a lot like Legends, and I would tell you to give an online listen.

It would be great if a few radio stations in the metro New York area grabbed this format. I like hearing Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Julie London and other standards singers along with my oldies. I think it would be a hit. I just hope they keep the Broadway show tunes to a minimum.

Here is something I don’t understand. If it is the traffic exiting and entering the highway in the right lane that causes many a traffic jam, how come it is the left lane, the passing lane, the “through” lane, that always comes to screeching halts? I saw two stupid accidents north of Toronto with drivers who slammed into the back of cars in front of them. There was one moron who, with at least three hundred yards between him and the car in front of him, slammed on his brakes for no apparent reason. I think he was tired of his 1993 Chevy Cavalier and hoped that my insurance company would buy him some new wheels.

I also did my job to exacerbate bad feelings with the locals. My bumper has a couple of New York Ranger stickers on it, along with NY plates, so the locals weren’t exactly polite on the road (lots of sign language). The QEW and Route 400 make the Long Island Expressway in New York seem like a deserted South Dakota highway. However, when I passed a local and pulled in front of him, he swung on the shoulder and tried to cut me off. As an experienced “chicken” player from my high school days about 35 years ago, I refused to let him back in.

I am not sure if he was reacting to the Ranger stickers or my refusal to back down, but he rolled down the window and gave me a universally-accepted, non-verbal communication in sign language. I eventually wound up in the middle lane, and he slowed down in the right lane so he was along side me. I blew a kiss at him (I was driving so I could not moon him), and he responded by rolling down his window and yelling at me. His wife was hitting him and his kids were in the back seat laughing.

My summer travels have had a mystical quality to them, accidentally putting me in places that couldn’t have been better planned. Tonight, I’m in Parry Sound, Ontario, the birthplace of hockey great Bobby Orr. Before Wayne Gretzky, this superhuman player helped to redefine the game and was amazing to watch. Parry Sound is home to “The Bobby Orr Hall of Fame” and I hope to spend some time investigating next week on the way home.

Right now, it’s beddie-bye so we can get an early start to the lodge, and be fishing by early afternoon.


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