In March of 2008, I learned that my all time favorite music artist; Weird Al Yankovic was performing at Casino Rama near Orillia on July 24-25. I had been to two of his previous concerts in the Toronto area.
Weird Al at a previous concert.
I decided to go to the show on the 24th because I stood a better chance of getting the day off work. I made two plans in case I got the 25th off work or not. My plan was to ride the Northlander to Gravenhurst and take a bus to Orillia. I would check into a hotel for a night and head off to the show. The next day, if I got the 25th off, I would take the bus to Bracebridge and then catch the Northlander home. If I had a shift that day, I would take a bus straight back to Toronto. However, I got the 25th off work. I would end up making a last minute adjustment to the trip plan.
July 24, 2008:
I got to Union Station shortly after 8:00 am despite sleeping in. I managed to buy a ticket for the Northlander in plenty of time. I then caught a glimpse of the Canadian awaiting its 9:00 am departure.
Boarding commenced at 8:25 am. I headed out onto the platform and took some photos.
I was seated in ex GO coach #614. The train had its typical consist of a GP38, HEP generator car, two ex GO single level coaches, and a lounge car. I also observed train 86 pull in led by VIA’s CBC locomotive.
The train left one minute early, but no one complained. As we departed, I filmed the rear of the Canadian with Strathcona Park, the Park car that was on the Canadian on my western Canada trip.
We soon passed a CN local and the new GO Transit storage yard which happen to have a couple 12 car trains led by new MP40 locomotives.
The lounge car soon opened. A little while later, as we passed through the Green Lane railroad crossing, I saw the older man who comes out every time the Canadian leaves town and waves to the people on the train who I had met several times in the past since the Canadian would be coming through later.
I talked to a mother and her two children seated across from me who were on their way to North Bay. I mentioned I was going to Orillia. They asked who I was going to see, so I said, “Weird Al Yankovic”. The mother didn’t know who he was, but her son told her he’s a singer.
We passed a couple freight trains and stopped at Washago. There were quite a few people waiting, but not all got on. I suppose the rest were waiting for the Canadian. I went to the lounge car for a snack. I mentioned that I was on my way to Orillia for a concert at Casino Rama. She asked why I didn’t get off at Washago and take a cab since Washago is closer to Casino Rama. I explained that my hotel was in downtown Orillia and it was cheaper to take a bus to Orillia from Gravenhurst.
I went back to my seat. We were soon approaching Gravenhurst. I got myself ready. The train arrived 23 minutes late. Once I got off, I took a couple photos.
I then walked to the end of the platform and took one more photo.
I filmed the train pulling out. I went into the station and bought a ticket to Orillia on the next bus that leaves at 2:45 pm. I now had 3 hours and 30 minutes to kill.
I bought lunch from the snack bar in the station as Gravenhurst is a layover station for Ontario Northland buses. I then took a walk and stopped at a TD Canada Trust and withdrew money from the ATM. I could hear thunder, but I saw plenty of blue sky. The thunder soon subsided.
A little while later, I went across the street from the station and found a beach on the shores of Gull Lake. There were many cottages dotting the lake and it looked nice. I was reminded of my family’s cottage near Burk’s Falls. My family’s cottage is on a lake. At one end of the lake is a beach that I often go to.
I decided I still had some time to kill and decided to go swimming. I got changed and headed to the beach. This beach was different than the beach near my family’s cottage because this beach has a lifeguard and the allowable portion to swim is marked out with buoys and two docks. The beach near my family’s cottage has no lifeguard and is only divided by invisible property lines.
While I was swimming, I found a yellow and orange golf ball on the bottom. I retrieved it and dove for it a few times before I threw it into a deep area. I dove under the water, but missed it.
Just then, we heard thunder in the distance and the lifeguard told us to get out of the water. I swam to shore and got changed. I admitted that going to the beach was a good idea. I then headed back to the station. On the way, I photographed a highway coach from Cha-co trails in the parking lot.
Soon, I was back at the station. The bus showed up just before 2:30. When it pulled in, I photographed it.
The bus laid over and 10 minutes later, I was allowed on. The bus was pretty full and I had an aisle seat. It didn’t matter too much since Orillia was only 35 minutes away. The bus left on time.
About 25 minutes later, I was surprised to see the former TTC Info bus. The Info bus was converted from an older fishbowl and renumbered 0015 until it was retired and donated to the Canadian Transit Heritage Foundation which also owns former TTC Flyer D800b #8257, Oakville Transit fishbowls 720 and 724, and for a time my favorite GO fishbowl #1122. I filmed the info bus and then filmed the railroad equipment at Weber’s restaurant just south of the location. At Weber’s, they have five boxcars, a former 1903 vintage Grand Trunk caboose, a former CN steam generator car, and former VIA “Daynighter” coach #5734. I have been to Weber’s on a number of occasions.
A few minutes later, we got off the highway and were in downtown Orillia. We arrived at the bus terminal where I got off and photographed the bus.
I noticed the bus station was at the former Orillia VIA Rail station. Until 1997, the Canadian stopped at Orillia until CN abandoned the sub it ran on and tore up the line between Barrie and Washago which forced the Canadian onto its current route. If VIA was still running through Orillia, I would have been able to take the Canadian straight to Orillia as this was a day the Canadian left Toronto. I took some photos of the old station.
Plants have overgrown the former right of way of CN’s former Newmarket sub.
I then walked to my hotel four blocks away. It took about 5 minutes to get there. I checked into the Quality Inn in downtown Orillia. I went into my room and dropped my stuff off.
I left my room an hour later and walked to the intersection of Mississauga Street and Peter Street as that is where Orillia Transit’s four bus routes converge. I waited a few minutes before I photographed four buses.
I then decided to walk to the Ossawippi Dining Express near my hotel. This restaurant is made from former CN and CP heavyweight coaches, an express box car, and former London and Port Stanley interurban #4 which is a sister car to L&PS #8 which fully restored at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum in Rockwood Ontario. I took some photos of the restaurant before I went inside.
Former L&PS interurban #4 as it sits today.
I went inside and before I was seated, I saw a cabinet with various train merchandise including a wooden Rocky Mountaineer Railtours train. I commented they didn’t have anything by Rapido Trains in there.
Dinner was good, but expensive. After dinner, I walked back to the bus station to pick up a 6:40 pm Greyhound bus to Casino Rama. The ticket cost $0.50 more than I thought, but I wasn’t going to complain.
On certain days of the week, a complimentary shuttle service is run between Orillia and Casino Rama. Unfortunately it wasn’t running that day. While I was waiting for my bus, I took a walk down the former station platform and on the former CN right of way.
6:40 pm came and went, but no bus. I heard from the agent in the station that the bus was 15-20 minutes late. I became impatient. The bus finally arrived 24 minutes late. I photographed the bus.
I boarded the bus for the 15 minute ride to Casino Rama. The bus soon left. Along the way, I saw a section of a former VIA rail coach. Months earlier, my friend Jason said he discovered a section of a former VIA blue and yellow coach, but didn’t remember where it was.
We soon arrived at Casino Rama. I took a picture of the casino from the bus.
We soon parked at the back. I got off and took a photo of the bus.
I then went inside. The concert was to start at 8:00 pm, so I still made it. I went inside and found directions to where the concert was being held. I then went inside. Guards asked to see the inside of my backpack and made me throw out a bottle of Pepsi I had. I then went inside. Casino Rama doesn’t allow people to take pictures, so I decided not to risk it. It’s bad enough being hassled at places where photography is allowed like many transit systems.
In place of a photo of the concert, I scanned my ticket.
There were signs saying that Weird Al may be recording us. If only we were allowed to film/photograph him as well.
Weird Al sang 29 songs they were as follows: Polkarama! Canadian Idiot, Close but no Cigar, Why does this always happen to me? It’s all about the Pentiums, You’re Pitiful, Wanna be your Lover, Couch Potato, Do I creep you out? I’m in love with the Skipper, Confessions part 3. A complicated song, EBay, Bedrock Anthem, Ode to a Superhero, Pretty Fly for a Rabbi, Trapped in the Drive-Thru, Gump, Eat it, I’ll sue ya. The Saga begins.
The next song was Yoda. Near the end, Weird Al stated singing gibberish before he finished the song. The next five songs were “Weasel stomping Day”, “Smells like Nirvana”, “Amish Paradise”, “White and Nerdy”, and “Fat”.
The next song was one he had written in a video “interview” with Michael Stipe. It repeated the phrase, “We all have cell phones, so come on let’s get real. Cell phones-let’s get real.”
Weird Al then ended the concert with the song “Albuquerque”, which he stretched it in the middle. I noticed that many other concert goers were taking pictures, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to risk it.
I then went into the main casino and did a little bit of gambling. I lost $1.70. I then went outside. I thought I saw Weird Al outside so I went to investigate. It wasn’t him. I eventually took a taxi back to my hotel for $25.00. On the way back, I saw a couple gas stations selling gas for $1.235 per Liter which is the cheapest I’ve seen gas in awhile. I soon got back to my hotel. I went out to a nearby Shopper’s Drug Mart and bought a carton of milk before I returned to my hotel. I then asked for a wake up call at 8:30 am and called it a night.
July 25, 2008:
I got my wake up call at 8:30 and I got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. I then went back upstairs and got my stuff together. I watched a little TV and saw on CNN that a Qantas Boeing 747 had made an emergency landing in Manila after a hole had opened up in the fuselage. I checked out shortly after 9:45. I decided to kill some time by riding Orillia Transit to the bus station.
I headed out and noticed a portion of Mississauga Road was closed off for a festival. It reminds me of how a portion of Yonge Street and Center Street get closed off for the Thornhill Village Festival. I walked around a bit before I took a photo.
I’m not sure what was going on. I then walked to a bus stop and waited. About 10 minutes later, my bus came. I photographed it before I got on.
I took a brief ride on the Orillia Transit El Dorado bus #0414 before I got off and took two photos of the bus as it pulled away.
I then went to the terminal where I saw the 10:35 am bus to Toronto but didn’t make any attempt to catch it.
I had been planning to go to Bracebridge, but the weather seemed like nice beach weather so I finally decided to save a little bit of money and buy a ticket to Gravenhurst instead.
I waited awhile and filmed El Dorado 0415 passing by. The bus showed up 3 minutes late. When it pulled in, I photographed it.
The bus was again pretty full and I had another aisle seat. We soon departed. As we passed the Weber’s location I filmed it and the former TTC Info-bus again. We stopped at Washago. As we passed through Washago, I noted it looked pretty much the same as it did in October of 2005 when I visited. I also saw CN Dash 9 #2590 on a siding all alone. After we left, we stopped at a gas station north of Washago to let someone off. We soon arrived into Gravenhurst. I got off and took a photo of the bus.
I bought a ticket to Toronto on the Northlander and then walked over to Blondie’s restaurant for lunch. After lunch, I went to the TD Canada Trust and withdrew $20 from the ATM. I then walked back to the beach and got changed and went swimming. It took a little while longer to adjust to the water as it felt colder than the day before.
After awhile, I started looking for the golf ball I had thrown in and lost the day before. It took many tries, but I finally found it. After diving for it a few more times. I headed onto shore. The lifeguard asked me to return it as it was their golf ball and they had lost a few. I returned it. A little while later, I got bored and headed got changed and returned to the station.
I got back to the station at 2:45 pm just as the next bus to Toronto was leaving. One person working at the station asked if I was going on the bus, but I told her I was going on the Northlander.
A little while later, I asked how late the Northlander was going to be. I was told it was an hour late. Unfortunately, the Northlander still can’t keep to its schedule. Ontario Northland is also doing track work north of North Bay which further slows down the Northlander.
I then walked over to the Giant Tiger a couple blocks away and looked around. I then returned to the station. I then heard the train was now 75 minutes late. The train finally showed up at 5:30 pm; 80 minutes late. As it pulled in, I saw it was on the track furthest from the station, so we had to walk over to the nearby grade crossing to board. When the train arrived, I filmed it pulling into the station.
I noticed the train had the same GP38 and HEP Generator unit as the train I took yesterday. However, the coaches were different. I was seated in former GO coach #601. The train soon left.
We didn’t get pretty far though. We stopped for about an hour to let a northbound CN freight pass us. I went to the lounge car for dinner. The person who was in the lounge car the day before was now on the train. She asked how the concert was. I told her it was good.
Meanwhile, they showed the movie Robots in the lounge car. I watched most of the movie. The CN freight passed part way though and we were underway and stopped at Washago. We took the siding on two more occasions. Meanwhile they showed the movie Johnson Family Reunion in the lounge car.
After the movie was over, the lounge car closed. I went back to my coach seat. A little while later after the sun went down, we were approaching Richmond Hill. I wished they could have stopped somewhere along the Richmond Hill line to let me off closer to my house.
We finally arrived into Union station three hours late. As we pulled in, I saw the Canadian in the station. It had beaten us even though it was coming from Vancouver and scheduled to arrive 45 minutes after the Northlander and was coming from Vancouver. Once I got off, I took some photos.
I went into the station and around and took a photo of the locomotive and the Canadian.
I then phoned home. My mom told me I had to get home on my own. I then saw the arrivals board and saw the Canadian had only arrived six minutes before the Northlander.
I then went to the subway and caught a northbound train to Finch. The train ended up hitting the trip arm as it entered Summerhill station. North of Summerhill, we were tripped again. We soon got to Finch and I saw a work train in one of the tail tracks. I then caught an YRT D40LF on 99 home.
Aside from the Northlander’s lateness, this trip was very good. Going to the beach in Gravenhurst was a good idea I had and I saved a little bit of money. This was the first trip where I went to see a major celebrity. Weird Al’s concert was good, though I wish I could have taken a picture of him without fear of consequences. The concert was the same as the last Weird Al Yankovic concert I went to except he sang one less song.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, my next trip won’t be until mid September earliest when I plan to go to Chicago once again. It will depend on my work schedule. Until next time…
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