TD Children’s Book Week Tour: In which I survive vultures, parking lots, and possibly zombies

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre did a marvellous job in organizing my tour in Souther Ontario for the TD Children’s Book Week. Everything has been meticulously planned.

But there was one thing the organizers didn’t know and that’s my ability to get lost.

Do I have google maps printed out with directions to every destination? Yes.

Do I have a high-tech GPS system to guide my way? Yes.

Do I have an innate sense of direction? NO.

It all began when my plane landed. I was with fellow author Tanya Lloyd Kyi. We dutifully plugged the GPS into our rental car and proceeded to exit the airport. Which, for us, meant circling right back into the airport. Twice. I’m pretty sure if Tanya wasn’t there, I might still be at the Toronto airport.

Nonetheless, we eventually made our escape. Yesterday, I made it to my hotel near London, Ontario. I knew I had an early start today to reach my first school, so I decided to check in at the hotel, then go out and fill my car up with fuel. Did I ask for directions at the hotel desk? Of course not.

So, of course, the one petrol station I find isn’t an actual functioning station at all. My first clue might have been the old style pumps. You know the ones—they have pre-digital gauges, and little plastic balls that float around when you’re filling up. It only took me ten minutes to realize I was in an abandoned station. I’m pretty sure there were zombies living in the shadows, and they probably would have gotten to me if I had waited for sundown.

Then, today, as I was travelling towards my first school on the tour, I dutifully followed my GPS, only to suddenly find myself on a gravel dirt road. I grew up in the country so gravel roads aren’t unfamiliar to me. I’m just surprised they’re familiar to my advanced GPS system.

At first it was quite pastoral. I saw farmhouses and barns. I saw squirrels and sparrows. And then I saw strange, red-faced birds. They looked pretty big. At first I figured they were just ugly chickens. Then the ugly chickens starting flying. And circling above. I thought, Circling vultures are never a good sign. Then I saw another pair of vultures (do they work in pairs?) pecking away at a carcass on the side of the road.

At least it wasn’t MY carcass.

In any case, I arrived at the school, Ekcoe Public School, and asked about the birds. The teachers earnestly informed me that they were vultures—turkey vultures, to be exact. And it also turns out that we have turkey vultures back in British Columbia, where I grew up (as my Facebook community has been eager to point out). But I had never seen one until this trip.

For the record, this is what they look like:

Turkey Vulture.

(photo courtesy of Devra.)

You can clearly see the resemblance to a chicken, right? Especially an ugly one?


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