Overland Expo to TBEX: Outdoor Chick in Toronto

As you know, the Camp Granola crew had quite a time getting to Toronto for TBEX so we spent the first night in the hotel detoxing and regrouping. After a little breather, some laundry duty, and some seriously gross, overpriced pizza, we were ready to face a few days in Toronto.

This is as close to nature as this outdoor chick could get during our time in Toronto.


I’ll spare you the details of the conference. I got a good bit out of the sessions and met some groovy people but it didn’t have the same vibe as last year. All-in-all last year’s conference in Keystone was really a much better event in terms of venue, social events, and fostering a community amongst the travel blogging set. The Toronto sessions and speakers were very good but I think a lot was lost by housing TBEX in a giant, urban, convention center. I give it a solid “Meh.”

So will I go another round with TBEX? Probably not. If it proves to be a compelling location and the timing works out, then maybe. Given the effort to get there and the chunk of the travel budget it took to spend just a few days in Toronto, it really wasn’t worth it.

Fred and George survived another TBEX…


TBEX may have been underwhelming but it did provide the catalyst for us getting to the northeast which is something George was intent on accomplishing. The bulk of our time was taken up with conference stuff of course but we did squeeze in a little exploring in between events.

Staying several consecutive nights in one hotel is quite a novelty for us. If we’re doing hotels, we typically roll in late, sleep a few hours, then blast right back out again the next morning… just layovers in between campsites. Fred and George wanted to explore the strange world of a large, urban hotel, especially the pool, which is an all-too-rare treat for them. That certainly went a long way towards getting us reset after our grueling journey.

Fred and George get a bird’s eye view of Toronto from the CN Tower.

Pick one…

With our limited time, we had to choose our explorations wisely. When pressed to pick one place, Fred and George picked the CN Tower… conveniently just a block from our hotel. I love it when they make it easy on me! George was busy spouting off everything he knew about the tower on our walk there… things I had no idea he knew but that’s George for you. He’s not much of one for fiction but that kid will devour atlases and almanacs. Since it was our one big thing we would do in Toronto, we splurged a little, opting for the ride all the way to the top of the tower.

You know my preference will always be mountain-top views but I will admit the scenery from the top of the tower was stunning. Being road-schooling mom, I couldn’t resist querying Fred and George to see if they could figure out the lay of the land and find our hotel. They didn’t quite get it but they were close and their reasoning skills left me satisfied.

I will hand it to Toronto for giving us quite a show while at the top of the tower. As we stood gazing over the vastness of the city, a fast-moving storm came through. We stood mesmerized as it raced towards us, enveloped us, and just a quickly moved on. It was only a matter of minutes but they were intense and amazing.

My first iPhone panorama was inspired by trying to capture the intensity of this cool storm.

Getting out of Dodge…

I’ve glossed over a lot of our time in Toronto for many reasons. Truth is, we were only there for TBEX and it was just a necessary evil of our journey. As much as I tried to enjoy my time, it took effort. Cities are just hard for this outdoor chick and it was time to get out.

There was humor to be had in our exit though. If you’ll recall, we made quite an impression on the hotel valet upon our entry to Toronto. As pricelessly funny as that was, the valet who assisted us on the way out was infinitely funnier.

He stood there with our enormous pile of stuff, casually waiting for the car to be brought up. When he saw my little Blubaru he did a quadruple-take between our luggage and the car, clearly doing the packing calculations. He gave me the there’s-no-way-on-this-planet-all-that-stuff-is-fitting-in-your-car look. I gave a hearty laugh and told him to stand back and watch a professional do her thing. He tried to help of course but, in the kindest way I could muster, I had to tell him he was just in my way. In less than 5 minutes we were on the road. Dude was dumbfounded and I left Toronto laughing.

The windblown Camp Granola crew at CN Tower.


Setting forth into Stage 2 of the Overland Expo to TBEX Expedition, I was hopeful about slowing down and rediscovering the Camp Granola groove we enjoy. We had a rough idea of our route and time-frame but we kept it loose so we could explore without an agenda. Originally I thought we’d have some time to explore the Niagara Falls on the way into Toronto but since rerouting that didn’t happen.

I’ve only seen the falls once before many years ago as a senior in high school and I didn’t want to boys to miss out so we swung through National-Lampoon-style on our way to Rochester to visit the Strong National Museum of Play. They were satisfied with our brief visit and I was satisfied they grasped the magnitude of the falls. After Toronto, the crowds at Niagara were way more than we wanted to deal with so lingering was not appealing even though the falls were impressive.

This is Fred and George being impressed by Niagara Falls. 😉

Border Crossing #2…

And with that, it was time to head back into the U.S. Border crossing #2 was uneventful other than the tortuous line to get through. Once clear, we boogied towards Rochester…

Stay tuned.

And now for your moment of green…

It was tough to find a vantage point that didn’t include throngs of other visitors, but Niagara Falls is a powerful place nonetheless.