Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Toronto From The Perspective Of This Dude

Well, I guess there's no good way to introduce this smoothly, but last week, I went to Toronto for three days with four other close buddies from the architecture school.  I drove us from Ann Arbor through Detroit since I knew the way and we switched drivers a couple times once we got into Canada.  We ended up looking at things that we'd otherwise pass by if our parents were the ones to organize the trip.

We stayed at a super nice 20th floor apartment looking right at the CN Tower.  Steam Whistle Brewing was right below it and it didn't take long for something to catch my eye, namely a '58 Chevy pickup with "Retro Electro" written on the hood, a '70s Dodge van, and what looked like a mid '50s Chevy delivery van.

The first major thing I noticed was the abundance of interesting architecture and new construction.  As a matter of fact, there was construction and scaffolding everywhere.  On the other hand, there was a satisfying absence of boring brown boxes that are so common in suburban Michigan where I'm from.

I got the impression that this is the kind of city that replaces most of itself every few decades.  Shown below is an interesting juxtaposition of old and new.

Hundred-year-old bank buildings just down the street from this shiny rock.

"Dude, they must have thousands of corner offices in that building." A few semesters of architecture history classes really do leave an impression.

We made our way to the Royal Museum which had an addition that Daniel Liebeskind designed.  There was an interesting rain-wash pattern on the layer of air pollution that had landed on the building.

But wait, what's that?

Must be a shrine for this little ... vehicle?


There was this sweet plaza in the middle of town that we returned to on the last night to play soccer.

Actually, we found a few different places around town to play.

Cool boats.

Wait, what?

The railing was probably there to prevent people from biking or skateboarding on it.  I know I would if there wasn't a railing.

Boards were angled to prevent sliding.  Also, the plaque was much harder to spot than the actual slopes.  I bet that was a liability issue.

Bamboo stems and a '20s era vaulted ceiling that could rival the Art Deco ones in Detroit.

Little details like sewer grilles and funny chairs also caught the attention of us architecture students.  

We visited the OCAD University because someone had pointed us to its architecture student exhibition.  One of our friends discovered that this was the very building that he wrote a short paper on a year ago.  We did not expect the front door to be like a Hot wheels windshield.  

Steam Whistle Brewing had some nice-looking locomotives including this Northern in front of its roundhouse-converted-restaurant.  I wish I knew the history behind them.

We tried to go in and try it out, but on the day we planned to go, there was a private event going on.

The city was no less picturesque at night.

Even the plaza we had seen earlier had taken up a new personality.

On the way out, we visited the historic distillery district where everything was expensive to the extreme.  We joked that I could get and F-150 of my liking and 6,000 egg tarts (3 for a dollar at the bakery we visited the day before) in place of a $3,000 jacket we saw.  

They had a couple old trucks from the '40s there. One was a Dodge and one I could not identify.  Also, an Indian single speed rod brake roadster was sitting on display (pardon my finger). 

Despite the fact that we were not in America, there was no shortage of 'Merican icons.  Pictured here are a '67 Firebird and a new Mustang.  One night, a group of Corvettes zoomed past us, a '67 and '62 in the mix.  

My favorite part of Toronto was how bike-friendly it was.  The car traffic was atrocious, but that meant that they seldom exceeded biking speed.  People everywhere were on bikes.  The whole time we were there, I wished that I had my '58 Raleigh Sports with me.  There was even a gigantic bike share system, many times the size of the one I work for in Ann Arbor.  Stations of twenty or more were located within minutes' walks from each other and people were using them left and right.  Although I stared jealously at the cyclists, I'm still grateful we were able to take everything in at a walking pace.

But get this: Classic Raleigh 3-speeds just like mine were everywhere! Everywhere I looked, they were either trucking along or waiting for their riders to return.  Ancient steel hulks being ridden like they should be, taking the daily abuse just fine like the tanks that they are.

I even found Gilbert's sister (a green '70s Raleigh Superbe) and a Pashley Princess, which runs the exact same hubs that I bought for Gilbert.  The green Raleigh here had a new stem (as does mine) and a new alloy front wheel for better braking, sans dynohub.

There were quite a few where the owners clearly saw the value of the tough, heavy frames and instead of throwing them out as components died, they just installed new ones.  Both of the Sports frames below have new forks and the yellow one has a coaster rear hub and more new parts.  It was like my Ross road bike - nothing attached to the frame is original.

There were three classic Raleighs parked in front of our apartment alone.  Technically two of them were Eaton Gliders, which are just re-badged Raleighs for the Canadian department store.  Also, although abandoned bikes are far less common in Toronto as they are in Ann Arbor, there were still some here and there.  Below and to the right is an abandoned Raleigh lady's Sports suffering from a bent seat tube, something that I am afraid of that happens to ladies' frames.

Vintage road bikes were also everywhere.  The Raleigh Super Course below is one example, but Peugeots were far more common.  There were also lots and lots of beautiful mixte frames.

Some more interesting finds include this Raleigh Coaster with a Shimano 3-speed automatic transmission and these aero bikes.

There were lots of fixed-gears and single speeds which the flat terrain of Toronto was a lot more forgiving to.  Really, the only people who run those in Ann Arbor are people who try to look cool (I apologize to those who truly love single speeds!).  I have also never seen a diamond frame bike with the slender twin top tubes of a mixte.  I wonder if it changes the ride quality.

Two Sturmey-Archer-hubbed bikes on the same rack: one with an X-RD5 drum brake 5-speed like mine, another with an AWC 3-speed coaster.  Also, rod brakes without the actual brakes.  I think this one had a single speed coaster hub in the back.

I don't even know how old the bike below is.  As far as I know, they stopped making that kind of chain guard 80 years ago even though this one probably isn't that old.  Also, a Raleigh mixte and a Raleigh loop frame parked next to Steam Whistle Brewing.

I drove most of the way back, which was good because I was the only one in the group who really liked driving.  Highway 401 was super straight, super smooth, and void of cops.  Top speed test track, anybody?