The responsibilities of being married to a Northener include the occasional need to travel...well...north, to visit relatives sprinkled from Parry Sound to Sudbury. Prior to meeting my wife Dee, I was a typical Southerner who implictly believed that Ontario sort of 'stopped' at Barrie. What makes this extra odd is that I've lived in many parts of Canada that one could consider 'north', but northern Ontario was like this blind abyss for me.
Now, in daylight, a drive to Parry Sound or Sudbury (our usual destinations) can be fairly scenic - even engaging at times. Ironicly, this only happens once you're north of Barrie and away from the concrete clutches of Trawna. But do this trip after dark - as is often the case for us - and you're in a whole different ballgame.
When the sun goes down, highway 400 is simply too black to be interesting. Trees and rocks line each side of the highway. Regular bends in the road serve to obscure. All in all, this is a recipe for several hours of driving boredom. And lest anyone think that several hours of conversation with spouse and kids could fill the void, consider that (1) spouse will be sleeping in that way that just begs for photographic evidence and (2) kids will have headphones glued their ears and be plugged into either a Gameboy or DVD player.
To sum up - it's dark, it's lonely, it's boring, and there's an element of danger should I succumb to sleep. Oh, and let's not even talk about winter travel!
But there is hope somewhere on the radio dial. Whatever one's opinions might hold about our publicly-funded broadcaster, CBC Radio is nothing if not available. No matter where we are on these trips - London, Trawna, Barrie, Port Severn, Britt... - you can always tune into CBC Radio.
There was a time, many years ago, when CBC Radio was my warm, comfy sweater on these long trips. Throughout the evening I could drive, be entertained, and feel informed by the likes of As It Happens, Prime Time with Geoff Pevere, Ideas with Lister Sinclair, and more. No matter how isloated and dreary it was on the outside, there was a sense of familiarity, continuity, and intelligence on the inside.
But times has changed. Sure, we can still find CBC on the dial no matter we are. But the sweater isn't so comfy anymore. Some of the old CBC is still there, but it all feels cooler these days. Slick, derivative, and trying far too hard to be hip. Where the BBC and even NPR have an eclectic - even eccentric - personality to them, CBC Radio seeks out a mainstream that does not seem to exist outside of Toronto and Vancouver. Furthermore, the programming day seems to stop somewhere around 10pm when our country's public broadcaster sees fit to play hour after hour of blues and classical music. Why, oh why, cannot they simply repeat the day's programming overnight, or even broadcast the best of BBC (which I believe was once the case)?
Whatever the reason for their decline, I still pine for those days when CBC Radio was my familiar, old sweater as I drove those dark, lonely roads. Maybe that newfangled satellite radio has a purpose after all.