Alice in Wonderland

The 905 is the nickname based on the area code for the suburban sprawl that stretches East, West and North of Toronto and smacks up against the border of the 519 and 705 (area codes that used to be in the ‘are you nuts?’ category of commuting consideration but are now the new normal coordinates for those who hope to pay less than $500,000 for a detached house). I am a reluctant new arrival at the bottom of the suburban rabbit hole, although I cling steadfastly to the 647 number that places me within bone fide ‘real’ city boundaries.

I am also holding on by my fingernails and wits to my eccentric methods of travel: walking and biking. This all goes well until it goes horribly wrong. Like sidewalks that terminate abruptly at the intersection of two sets of four lanes of traffic and motorists that treat cyclists patiently waiting for a green light in the curb lane as a figment of their imagination, as they gun it for a right turn to catch the waning hours of Walmart Dollar Daze. On the plus side, no one is likely to steal my bike helmet if I leave it strapped to the handlebars during a grocery store run.

But riding my bike to get to the city is not a viable option, so I have resorted to regional transit. Which, on the whole, is not a bad experience. It’s much more restful than a crowded subway, for example. And the bus in particular gives me time to just gaze out the window to admire the vast tracts of dubiously built new housing that is snapped up faster than the Leafs can lose a playoff game.

And as you wind your way past the swaths of semi-detached dwellings and big-box malls and ‘suite’ hotels for those unfortunate enough to be visiting office outposts not even remotely close to the charms of downtown, you see roller coasters. That’s because Canada’s Wonderland, which has earned the sufficiently modified honour of being the “most visited seasonal amusement park in North America” (and I admit I have not done the research to determine whether or not it is the only seasonal amusement park), is situated smack dab in the middle of the fine suburb of Vaughan. Of course, it didn’t start out that way.

When it first opened in 1981, there was nothing but fields of corn and barely a two-lane highway winding its way to the gates. I know because I was there that summer (but that’s another story). If you purchased your suburban dream strategically, you have ended up with an excellent view of the sixteen roller coasters and various other amusements that attract a bazillion people (mostly under the age of 25) during black fly, mosquito, and unseasonable frost seasons.

In the imminent Ontario provincial election, the pundits say the balance of power will be won or lost in the 905. But don’t complain to me – I just got here. Pretty much like whoever wins is going to say…

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