Ontario Northland // Destination Novar, Ontario

People had said that the accident ruined their weekend, and the longer we waited the more it wasn’t worth having gone. Nothing could have made my 2nd visit to Novar not worth it. Not even the 3 hour delay – making it a 7 hour commute home, which was supposed to be only a 3.5 hr train ride back to Toronto – could have ruined my trip to Novar, Ontario.

Part One:
Leslie and I drove from Ottawa to Novar about 4 months ago. That Road trip was beyond memorable. I saw moose for the first time! Very exhilarating. Our pact was that this summer we would meet – her from Ottawa, and myself from Toronto – in Novar to hang with Auntie Kyna (AK) and Uncle Britt (UB).

Without a car of my own my only mode of transportation was Ontario Northland‘s bus or train. From Bay street I hoped on the bus to Huntsville. There were a few characters on the bus. Ones I had never experienced before, and I’ve travelled across Ontario quite a bit on Via Rail and even Greyhound. One in particular was an old man who continuously kept glancing over at me, but he seemed harmless and more like a grandpa than a creep. He got off a stop before me, and as I looked over he smiled and winked at me. Caught off guard I could feel myself smiling back to be polite. Once I realized I was smiling I stopped. I still don’t know what he meant by the gesture.

I was so excited to be in the country that the minute I got off the bus I looked in desperation for AK. She wasn’t there. Of course after a few hours of being on the bus I was more antsy than usual. Just as the bus was about to leave AK rolled into the parking lot. With a long, and ecstatic embrace we went on our way. Leslie was already at the house in good ol’Novar and I could hardly contain my excitement. For some unknown reason we hadn’t seen each other since I left Ottawa for the summer – about 3 months ago – and that was way too long. We had tons to catch up on, and it was lovely to see my kindred spirit again. Not to mention UB and the doogies.

Taken by Leslie Jay

Part Two:
Les and I were a little bit displaced this time. Ak and UB are generous enough to rent out their spare bedrooms to their good friend Jenna, and a young guy named Taylor who are both working in town this summer. We got cozy on the blow up mattress in the hallway just outside the upstairs bedrooms, which turned out to be a slumber party.

It has become an unsaid tradition that we have a bon-fire, casual drinks, and living room/kitchen dance parties when in Novar. I love this! It adds to the whole country-esk atmosphere, and vacation. At the end of the night Les and I hadn’t realized that we had devoured a mickey each of spiced rum. We did this gradually of course and over the span of about 5 hours so we weren’t by any means belligerent. It did make us better dancers, and singers though. What happens in Novar and especially around the camp fire stays there. I can’t share with you UB’s famous song, or the song Les serenaded us with in the early morning hours while drinking our “night caps”. I was unfamiliar with this term, and if you are as well it simply means the last drink before bed. Ours was a fancy, imported brand of tequila. It tasted delicious. A mix of tequila and Amoretti.

Port Carling

Part Three:
After somewhat sleeping in – being in and out of sleep hearing the dogs get fed, Jenna get ready for work, Britt going downstairs – and slowly coming to it was time for our mini-road-tour. AK wanted to show us where she works, Port Carling, and all that town had to offer and we very much wanted to see it. I usually love being in the back seat, and yet this time it was too much. The ups, downs, side to sides, of the country roads was making my hangover worse than it was. I was feeling woozy. Once we got out and walked about I found myself recovering quickly and really enjoyed everything AK showed us. This time around we even saw a brown bear! It was a cub, and crossing the street. Again like the moose this was my first time seeing a wild bear, and it was A-MAZ-ING.

Part Four:
Thanks to me the soundtrack of our weekend was Selena Gomez and the track “I love you like a Love Song” in particular. I could not get enough of it, and it was my pleasure to introduce it to everyone else. That night when getting ready for our big night out on the town – Huntsville to be exact – we were exhausted but excited. We coaxed ourselves into “party-time” mood by having caesar and showers of course…

First we went to a small pub where long island iced teas became my new drink of choice! I’ve never had them before and quickly learned they are deadly. We decided that after hearing some songs from the live band we’d head over to The cottage or “cabin” as us Ottawa livers were calling it. The line was huge, and we couldn’t get in. It began to rain and we didn’t like the crowd that formed around us. I figured, “what was the point of paying for a dance party when we can make our own anywhere we wanted?” We left. Grabbed some pizza, and waited for a cab. Of course we had a little taxi dilemma. In the country there aren’t many cabs and you have to order one in your name or else people begin fighting over them. Eventually we made it home, but only after witnessing two groups of people attacking a taxi driver, and the driver turning off the car in a hissy fit about the commotion…

I love Novar more than Huntsville. By the end of the night we all agreed that going into town just isn’t worth it. Bon fires, Sauna’s, and private dance parties are the way to go. I was excited to take the Ontario Northland train home because like the bus on the way up I’ve never experienced it before. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I had expected at all.

Part Five:
Initially about 25 minutes late AK and I began to get restless. I began to get an uneasy feeling about the train, which was much different from my initial excitement to take it. Finally it arrived, and just like in a classic movie I waved good-bye to AK through the window. I was restless but not tired, and wanted to look out the window at what we were passing.

2 hours into the trip I heard the whistle blow. There was no break in sound, and I remember thinking to myself that it was unlike via rail. I thought that maybe it had to do with protocol when approaching a crossing or an animal the driver was trying to scare off the tracks. I got up to go pee since I had held it the entire trip… when in the washroom, which was in between the car and the driver’s area the train began to rock, and shake heavily. It felt like really bad plane turbulence. When I got out of the bathroom and began to walk to my seat the train came to a complete stop.

20 minutes later it was announced that there had been an accident, and to sit tight. The people working on the train constantly kept asking if we were okay.

3 hours later – without having moved – I overheard an older woman (maybe in her fifties) speaking to the lady behind us. She had said that she spoke to the driver, and he was really shaken up but handling it well. We had hit a car. It was a suicide. The person in the vehicle was dead at the scene. Initially, I didn’t grasp that the train had killed someone. Obviously no fault of the driver since train’s are unable to stop at short notice. Apparently the car just wouldn’t move, and was parked on the tracks. Police arrived and took down our names, birthdays, and phone numbers. They had decided to outline the train in order to drive us (about 100 people) to the next intersection where we would be let out and take buses down to union station.

4 hours later we were getting off the train on Princess Street in Newmarket. They had two yellow school buses ready. Clearly not enough for the amount of people on the train. The buses filled and I handed my cell phone over to a police officer to give my parents directions on where I was. They left to come pick me up. In the end I was the last one there with the police officer waiting for my parents because the excess amount of people were then re-loaded onto the train which would switch crews and continue downtown to union. It began to rain.

This entire experience has completely rattled me. Just a week or two ago I attended another funeral for an off duty police officer Ricky Torchia who was my uncle’s nephew. He was only 30 years old, and the motorcycle accident wasn’t his fault, but that of a truck driver making a last minute decision to turn a different way. The last two years I’ve been acquainted with death, and fluke accidents. This train crash really got to me. I’ve learned through my own experiences that people grieving have an unsaid bond. It forms without consciousness and exists even after the shock subsides. No one on the train was hurt, and the train didn’t go off the tracks which I’m grateful for. I will never forget the experience, nor the people I met while waiting for hours to get home, and starving. During all the protocol Ontario Northland staff didn’t offer and refused to feed us. Thank goodness for my mother’s meatballs she had just made and the sandwich she brought in the car.

The unorganized staff, and lack of an “in case of an emergency plan” was very unprofessional and inconvenient. The police were more helpful than the train’s staff. My weekend ended in an unexpected way. I can’t say that this would stop me from revisiting Novar. Les and I plan to visit in the Fall, but this time we are driving together from Ottawa. If it came down to taking the train again I’d pass.

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About Dee

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3 Responses to Ontario Northland // Destination Novar, Ontario

  1. Emilia says:

    I will never forget the return home and all the delays which occured; including the texts back and forth with you…..There is no place like home.
    Love mom.

  2. Michael says:

    What happens in Novar stays in Novar! I was rattled toooo that evening of the train accident because I was ready for bed and my lovely wife Emilia told be to get my butt in the car becasue we were going to pick up Daniela our adverturous daughter. It was an ugly rainy evening but we were happy to see Daniela safe and sound.

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