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Kawhi Life: Preparing for life on the road

The Raptors are on the road for much of December, so it’s time for Kawhi Leonard to start thinking about travelling around outside Toronto.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week in Toronto

As ludicrous as this may sound to some, it’s useful to remember that there are indeed places, whole cities even, outside of Toronto. I selfishly mention this today because, well, I’m heading out on a little road trip this weekend for an extended (e.g. four day) stay in Montreal. Now, do I like MTL better than Toronto? Hell, no. But it is an enjoyable place to visit, to enjoy some unique Canadian culture, to eat and drink, and to generally imbibe a different vibe from that of my home town. (Here’s hoping it won’t be overly cold.)

While we’re anxious here every time Kawhi leaves the city — as if he may decide to steal off into the night and never return to Toronto — it’s important to consider what exactly is around this city. The Raptors have a pair of extended road trips in the coming month, and are due to play nine of their 15 games in December on the road. They won’t be visiting any other places in Canada of course, but they will be out and around, which isn’t the worst thing. Sometimes a person’s spirit just needs a break from its stasis at home.

So then, where to go? As mentioned, to the east their lies the allure of Montreal, perhaps the most European of Canadian enclaves. There are ancient (relatively speaking) cathedrals of note, people speaking French, and public consumption of alcohol is not as big of a deal. Or, if you don’t want to leg it that far, a drop-in on renowned college town Kingston is a decent compromise. You can cruise around some of the Thousand Islands, or just stop off at the Kingston Penitentiary museum. (I went as a kid, and I weirdly still remember what I saw there.)

To the north we get the rugged lands of the Canadian Shield, and some of the more well-known vacation spots in the province of Ontario. There’s Georgian Bay, or the cottages of Muskoka to check out. Or if you wanted to get really out there, a person could drive up to North Bay and really see what all this Canadian wilderness is all about. I admit, this part is not for me, but who knows, maybe someone (Kawhi?) just wants to be alone with his thoughts.

Heading west is also a tad harder for me to appreciate, and in part is why living in southern Ontario poses a bit of a problem. As the crow flies, you’re hitting the cold waters of Lake Huron pretty quickly after leaving the greater Toronto area. From there it just takes so long to get anywhere of note as you inevitably veer northwest. I suppose Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay have their partisans, but I do not count among them. I visited Winnipeg, Manitoba for the first time this past summer, but it’s a multi-day drive just to get there (I flew). Dang, I’m not doing a great job of selling this home and native land.

Ah yes, but the south! Heading deeper into southern Ontario eventually sends a traveller to the beaches of Port Dover and Point Pelee, a renowned national park, as they head down to the tip of the province. Or a person can loop around Lake Ontario (to the southeast) for the mix of natural beauty and kitsch that is Niagara Falls. There are wines to sample in that region, of course, and wonderful feats of engineering like the Welland Canal (or one can enjoy both at the same time; why not!). Despite our We the North branding, people often forget that some of these areas are quite south indeed — it’s all part of the differences in this broad country.

And if you wanted to get even more south (and really do miss America that much), it’s max, like, 11 hours by car to get to any of New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh. I’ve been to all but one (Philly) and can vouch for each of them — assuming you too are coming from out west like Kawhi and perhaps haven’t spent much time in the east.

Just make sure to take care on the roads and state highways: there are cops everywhere laying speed traps. Take it from me, using “I was just trying to make up some time” does not get you out of a massive speeding ticket.

Happy travels!

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(In truth, none of the areas we’re discussing here are like Kawhi’s home state of California, or like San Diego where he spends his off-season time. But on the other hand, we know all about his new New Balance shoe deal, kicks he may want to show off around the continent soon. And, what’s even more pressing, he’s got a steady Chevy Tahoe to take him from one place to the other. It may be a “gas guzzler” but I suspect he’ll fit right in out on the back roads of Ontario, the highways in Quebec, and the various by-ways of the Eastern Seaboard.)