Toronto & Mississauga, Canada

Last week, I had a one day business trip to Mississauga, Ontario, Canada that turned into a three-day business trip.  The late winter snowstorm in New England left me stranded at Pearson International Airport. I’ve been fortunate to avoid serious travel delays on recent trips, but it all caught up to me on this trip. I did a pretty good job chronicling it as it happened via social media, but for those of you who read blogs, but avoid Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, here is the summary.

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The trip started at 6:15 A.M. on Thursday and by 6:35, it was already in trouble. I was headed for Logan Airport in Boston. It was snowing lightly and the roads were quite slippery, particularly on the hills. The worst part about the delay that I’m going to tell you about, is that it was avoidable. I was coming up on Exit 68 on I-84 in Tolland and out of the corner of my eye, spotted a digital highway sign with the following message: “Accident between Exits 68 and 70, highway closed, see alternate route.”

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I ignored it. Sigh. I’ve been through so many of those without problems, but this time, it wasn’t to be. I had no time to tune in the traffic on the radio. Traffic kept flowing, but then it slowed, and then it stopped. When it stopped, it really stopped. I was stuck on the highway in the original snowstorm for nearly four hours. Apparently, about a  mile ahead of where I stopped, there was a multi-vehicle accident involving at least one tandem FedEx truck, whose contents was strewn across three lanes of traffic. The jacknifed tractor trailer was just one of many accidents in the northeastern part of Connecticut.

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I was in the left lane, boxed in by an entire line of other trucks. I turned off my Subaru because I was low on fuel (the readout said I could go another 40 miles at highway pace), and waited. I made a lot of phone calls, read all of my email, and worked on my to do list. Since I wanted to keep my phone alive, I was charging it even though the car was off. About three hours into the ordeal, I walked over to the right hand side of the highway, and scrambled up the snowy embankment to get a better look at the backup. I returned to the car and my feet were a little cold from my snowy walk, so I decided to start the car for a few minutes. It didn’t start.

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My battery was dead, stuck in the left lane on a highway, with wall to wall traffic. I got out again and asked a few of the other motorists if they had jumper cables. Then, in a flash of brilliance, I recalled that I had jumper cables. I always have jumper cables. That was a “doh” moment. Anyway, I got some help from a guy who pulled his truck alongside my car and we got the battery jumped. It was a harmless mishap. Word had traveled up to us that it was going to be another four hours. My feet were cold, so I walked around a bit.

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I made the decision to call off the trip. I was looking forward to visiting a customer at the grand opening of their North American headquarters, but this was nuts. I phoned Air Canada, cancelled my flight, and arranged for credit on a future trip. I phoned the Hampton Inn and cancelled my room night.

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Then, a miracle occurred (sort of). Within 30 minutes, traffic started to  move. I fired up the engine and slowly made my way past the wreck. Seeing the accident scene confirmed why the traffic was stopped. I got off the nearest exit and filled my tank. I checked the time and realized that I might still be able to get to Boston for a later flight. It was snowing heavily, but I phoned Air Canada and learned there was a later flight with openings.

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I booked the flight and figured I would deal with lodging when I got to Canada. This next part of the trip was smooth sailing. Despite the snow and a short delay, I was able to get from Logan to Pearson. A short cab ride got me to my meeting only 30  minutes late. The customer visit was worth the effort.

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That night I stayed at a  local motel. On Friday morning, I learned that the snowstorm in New England had intensified overnight and that there was a lot more snow than predicted. We ended up getting 18 inches in Bolton. Getting home was going to be a challenge, but I went for an early morning run in Mississauga and then did work from the motel room before returning to the airport for my early afternoon flight.

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I made it all the way through customs and made it to the gate. The flight was on time. We were a little late, but eventually they announced boarding. Then a moment later, the next announcement said that the flight was cancelled. Logan Airport in Boston wasn’t taking any more planes. There were some irate passengers, but I just shrugged it off.

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After some wrangling with Air Canada on the phone, I took the conservative approach and booked a flight for late Saturday morning. I decided to spend the night in Toronto. It was a real pain going back through Canadian immigration and customs since I never left the airport and had been pre-screened for the US, so I had to virtually “leave the country.” I caught a bus to a train, and was standing outside Union Station in Toronto by mid-afternoon.

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I walked to Tim Horton’s, grabbed an internet connection, and booked a room for the night. I had a nice vegan dinner at Fresh on Spadina, which is highly recommended. The joint was buzzing with energy. It was an early night for me, but I got up early on Saturday and went for a nice run along Waterfront Toronto. It was cold and breezy.

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After the run, I reversed my train/bus trip and did the airport drill all over again. I was back in Boston by 3:00 P.M. I stopped to visit my cousin at Boston University and got a $25 parking ticket while parked “illegally” in front of her brownstone on Bay State Road. There were open spots as far as the eye could see, but I guess that doesn’t make me innocent for not putting coins in the meter. C’est la vie!

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I was home by six and ready for a “day off.”

As a note, both Toronto and Mississauga are booming. The industry in Mississauga was serious stuff. Our customer established a location there because of the aerospace industry manufacturing talent pool, and logistics. The airport is one of the busiest in the world. I saw locations for many automotive OEM’s and a variety of other Fortune 500 businesses. The Mississauga development folks were pumped about their prospects. The place is absolute sprawl, but I guess that is par for the course. Pavement, asphalt, and buildings. That is my memory of the place.

Toronto was also busy, with multiple downtown infrastructure projects. There were cranes everywhere. Their financial sector is rebounding and the appearance was that the economy was growing despite minor setbacks. It was the dead of winter when I last visited, so it was nice to get out and about. It really is a nice city and I understand why a recent National Geographic listed it as one of the world’s most livable cities based on safety, economic growth, and other factors.

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