Hello and Good-bye!

I've created this blog for several reasons, primarily as a way to stay in touch, without staying in touch. There are a lot of folks who've expressed interest in this solo adventure of mine and so I welcome the cyber company as I travel this great country.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hello from North Sydney, Nova Scotia JULY 23, 2010

Imagine my surprise when I realized I had not downloaded this update.  Opps!  It's a long ramble so here goes: 
Where have I been, you may wonder.  Well, I was keeping a low profile in Cambridge, Ontario only because it was hot, hot-like-hell-hot, in Southern Ontario since shortly after I arrived.  So all plans to take daily excursions were kiboshed as I opted for the cool of the pool and the air conditioning of my sister house.
I got a lot of family visiting in, which was wonderful.  I met my nephew Russell (aka Rusty) for the first time and he is a delight.  He turned two while I was there. 
He's crazy about fire engines.  My sister told me he likes to spend time on youtube looking at anything and everything to do with fire engines.  Apparently a few weeks earlier, another of my sisters took Russell to a fire hall and he was awe struck.  We talked about how great it would be to have a fire engine at his birthday party.  The next day I went to the fire hall.  The young man I spoke with said his crew would love to drop by but they were off on Saturday.  He encouraged me to return and speak with the crew working that day.
I returned twice Saturday and each time the place was empty, except for the fire engines.  I called and shouted up the pole but to no avail.  I left and decided I would have to buy my nephew a gift as this surprise would likely not take place.
Two hours before the event I made one last attempt.  As before, I walked in to an empty hall and called out.  This time I got a response.  Fireman Brad, who could also be nicknamed Rusty, called back then slid down the pole to greet me.  Cool!
I told him about the party and asked if they could drop by for a few minutes around 4:30 p.m.  He seemed tentative.  I suggested if he needed a reason, there was a fire hydrant on my sister's property which looked like it needed some attention.  He smiled and said his crew would be delighted to come up for a few minutes but added if something else came up (ie: a fire) they would not be able to make it. 
I returned home and tried to keep the news to myself.  Just as everyone arrived, so did the fire engine.  Regan, the little fell's dad, knew something was up.  I mean what were the odds that on his son's birthday, a fire engine would just show up out of the blue.
I think Russell was a little overwhelmed and probably a little flustered by our excitement.  The crew stayed for at least 10 minutes.

It was a great day and before long we were in the pool.  At Chris' house, volley ball is the game of choice when in the water and for some reason, I've have a reputation for being the champion at it.  Not sure how that happened but I do enjoy it.
I've seen big changes in the kids.  My 14 year old newphew is a strong, aggressive player while his eight year old cousin is quite the competitor and his knowledge of sports is amazing.  My nieces like to play but at a calmer pace and seem to prefer coming up with their own water games.
When the grown ups are in the pool and a game is in progress, I imagine the next door neighbours get a charge out of hearing middle aged people reduced to children when we miss the ball or feel the 'umpire's' call was unfair.  Move over MacElroy!
Whether it's volleyball, Scrabble or Yahtzee, it's about being together and enjoying each other's company.
I stayed in Cambridge for three weeks.  Since I wanted to be in Newfoundland especially St. John's by July 24th, it meant touring the Maritimes would also have to wait. 
I was to leave Cambridge on Monday, but as Tuesday was my siser's birthday, she persuaded me to stay one more day.  The heat and humidity extended all the way east and I knew when I hit the road, I would not be taking side trips.  Also leaving Tuesday meant I would do nothing more than drive which is how it turned out.  On day one, I drove almost 10 hours stopping only when necessary.  The next day was six hours.  I was to stay overnight in Amherst at my cousin's but at 7pm with three hours left to go, I decided to get a motel room and start early the following day.  Thursday turned out to be very wet. 
Oh speaking of wet, after I left Montreal, parts of the city flooded. Yet again I had missed foul weather.  My good luck continued.  The rain on the drive to Amherst was  torrential.  It freaked me out a little but I pushed on deciding against the visit because I knew it would be the excuse I needed not to keep going.  I was running out of time to catch the ferry.
I arrived in North Sydney at dusk to find there was no room at the inn, or the hotels, or the motels in the area.  The gal at the front desk of the Clansmen called around and found a room for me 15 minutes back down the road, the Seal Island motel.  It was dark and I dislike driving in the dark so I was grateful to find a place. 
The motel overlooked the water and for the second night in a row I had a room with a view.  Like the day before, I was up early and worked out before getting ready for the day.
That last night I supped at the Seal Island restaurant.  I chose pan fried haddock and oh my, wasn't it good.  I ate too late though.  The next morning I left the hotel just after 9am and stopped in at Fitzgerald's restaurant for a light breakfast then I saw fish cakes with eggs on the menu and that was that.
As I write this, I'm seated outside the Marine Atlantic terminal in N. Sydney, at a picnic table, by myself, in the shade, connected to their internet and killing a few hours until the Caribou sails at 1:45pm, two hours off schedule.
I've been told by a number of the locals that the ferry service has been atrocious this year, and last, what with the Swiss vessel, the Vision, being in dry dock more than on the water-one time because of a fire. 
I'll arrive in Port aux Basques around 8pm tonight and will stay overnight, if I can find a room.  Otherwise, I will park somewhere and catch a few hours sleep.
Driving east, it was difficult not to stop and take in the gorgeous scenery and beautiful architecture.  I almost turned back at the world's longest covered bridge but decided against it.  I'd like to return in the fall when the colours are prominent to travel around and take pictures.
That's it for now.  I'll have a lot more to input, mostly pictures but that's for another time.  Bye for now!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ottawa, Kingston and rooted (temporarily) in Cambridge, Ontario

I consider myself so fortunate to have missed the terrible weather that's affected so many places I've travelled from recently, mostly especially Saskatoon and Yorkton areas.  I can't believe what's been happening out there these last days.
The morning I left Saskatoon, the rain was torrential and has continued much of the time since then.  In Yorkton there have been a number of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings.
The afternoon after I left Stonewall, Manitoba, there was supposedly a tornado touchdown outside of town.
And it goes on and on. 
The most I can complain about right now is the heat and you know I will.  It's so hot!  There, that's it.  I'm sitting at the public library in the Hespeler part of Cambridge so am content in this cool and am grateful to have such a place close by to wile away a few hours on my laptop.
This blog will mostly be photos again as too many days have gone by without me writing anything down of my impressions of the road so the emotion of the moment is again missed.

This I took in Webbwood, Ontario.  I'm amazed that there are still folks who live almost unaffected by the craziness of the modern world, especially young folks.  As they passed, the driver beamed a big smile.

Ok, so there's one "L" missing off the end of the name but when I saw the next name was Mary (my mother's name) I thought that was a sign to turn around and go buy a Lotto Max ticket.  I was wrong!

I knew I couldn't come to Ontario and not head toward Ottawa.  I was there last twenty-two years ago on a cross Canada (east to west) trip with JYO.  He took sick and spent three days recouping in Hull, just over the bridge from Ottawa.  I rose every morning early and took a bus into Ottawa and spent those three days walking the city.  Just days before Canada Day, the place was crowded with people, roads were detoured as prep. work for the big day was well under way.  I was still glad I came just to eye the architecture once again and visit the Notre Dame Cathedral as well as the National Art Gallery.
I love architecture especially these old stone structures.  These buildings will outlast anything built in the last 75 years.  When I look at buildings such as this, I recall a show from years ago named, "If These Walls Could Talk" and wonder what stories they could tell.

The tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  I stood there for a few moments thinking about the futility of our modern wars, certainly in comparison to WWI ("The War to End All Wars") and WWII and wondered if mankind is capable of peace.

A side profile of the monument directly behind the tomb of the unknown soldier.  The detail is absolutely mind blowing.  It's a spectacular piece of work like so much of the buildings and statuary of Ottawa.

The entrance to the Connaught building on MacKenzie Ave.

The Notre Dame Cathedral.
When I walked into this building all those years ago, a young 'priest in training' walked up to me, chest heaved out in pride and asked "what do you think of our church?" to which I answered, "I think it could feel a lot of people" meaning the cost that went into building it. 
This time my perspective is a little different.  I don't see it so much as a momument to God as I do the desire of someone's imagination coupled with the artisan's ability to translate that vision to reality.  It is truly a spectacular structure and I'm glad it exists so I can look upon it and be overwhelmed by humankind's creativity.  I wondered though how many died to see this vision realized. 
Then I thought about a documentary I saw about the building of the Great Wall of China, a structure known and admired the world over.  Supposedly, tens of thousands of people were ensalved and many died so that one man's vision could be made real. 
So much of what we admire from the ancient world was purchased through human suffering and death, yet there's something that captivates us about it.

The central alter of Notre Dame. 
So ornate.  Every square inch, from floor to ceiling, was adorned somehow.

The second of many pictures I took inside the church.

This is the walk up to the entrance of the National Art Gallery just across the street from the Cathedral. 
I paid $15 so I could see the latest exhibit of 'pop' art fromt he Andy Warhol area.  It was interesting and I'm not sorry I spent the money.  The debate about what constitutes art intrigues me.  There was certainly things there that I would not consider art, like the full on pornographic pictures of an artist and his adult film start girlfriend, later to be wife.  Of course, I take no more objection to that being called art than I do those paintings you see where squares are painted all in different shades of the same colour.  I don't get that.  Then there's Pollack's work that looks like paint slapped from a brush onto a canvas.  Perhaps art is simply that thing that evokes conversation and/or controversy.  I'm a realist but I've seen some abstracts in the past to which I had a physical reaction.  So who's to say.  I just know I saw Van Gogh's "Iris" and was made happy as a result.  I left after 2.5 hours because I was feeling overwelmed by too much visual stimuli.  When I visited in '88, I was permitted to take all the pictures I wanted.  I'm glad I did because camera's are no longer allowed.

I was permitted to take a picture in the room where visitors could use coloured chalk to make a statement.  I chose to write my name sdrawkcab!
The Rideau Canal. 

One of the biggest changes was Sparks Street.  Now it's a rib pit.  A dozen vendors, at least, all claiming to have the best ribs in Ontario.  I especially liked the next one.

What more is there to say!

I spent the afternoon in Ottawa then headed south to Kingston.  I thought Ottawa was busy because, well because it's Ottawa.  Kingston was busier.  The place was crowded.  There were vendors set up in a square selling everything from books to antiques.  I was glad I didn't have a place.  I could so easily have purchased a number of objects.
When I arrived in town, I decided to take a run into Kingston before calling it a night.  As I approached the city, I heard what sounded like a swarm of killer bees close by.  Turned out to be the noise of vehicles driving over the bridge. 

This was the first picture I took in Kingston and knew immediately it was a place worth investigating.

Like Ottawa, Kingston is a historical city with splendid architecture.  The thing I love about digital photography is the number of pictures you can take and heaven knows, I took a lot, that day and every day I was on the road but I won't bore you with too many of the same thing.
This fellow, the one under the red tent, is an author living in Toronto but born and raised in Nfld.  He's writing a viking saga.  Of course I supported him by buying one of his books and gave him my card so he could one day return the favour.

This is Eric, a young fellow down on his luck.  He was looking for travelling money.
I passed him by at first but returned because I was curious.  I asked him to tell me about himself.  What I really said was, "so what's your story?"  He told me he had been employed in Calgary, Alberta but lost his job.  A girl he knew here (Kingston) was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He came here and moved in to try and help her.  He introduced her to a guy, they hooked up and he moved out with nowhere to go. 
I have to say I didn't give him any change.  I just looked at him and probably thought, there's no reason this young man, who appears healthy and strong, can't find something to do.

He beamed when I told him I was travelling too.  He said he had a few signs made up but the rain from earlier ruined them.  After the last line Spare Change, it reads or girlfriend.  So he's not only broke but he's  also lonely!

Down the block, I came across this fellow (Tom) who also had worked out west.  His performance reminded me of a cross between John Denver, Willie Nelson and Valdy.  Here, I thought, was a guy who was actually doing something that warranted a few coins. 
After he had finished his song we began to chat.  I told him about the young fellow up the street to whom I gave nothing.  Tom looked straight at me and said "he has as much right to do this as I do" and right there I was confronted with my own shortcomings and was reminded, yet again, "judge not least ye be judged'.  Tom's statement, unlike mine, was without judgment.  It was filled with empathy and compassion and I was reminded how quick we are to judge.

Before I left Kingston I took a walk along the harbour and came across this large vessel which, as you can see from the boat next to it, is quite large.  It's called Her Way and I wondered about the her that could make that possible.  I watched as they both approached the harbour exit and there was no doubt which one would leave first. 
I left Kingston and headed further south to Cambridge and after missing all the bad weather from Calgary to Kingston, I was finally caught in some bad weather about forty minutes from Cambridge. 

The rain was coming down pretty hard and I had my wiper blades swishing back and forth at top speed but thankfully, everyone was driving for the conditions and I made it there without incident.  So here I am, planted for a few weeks in hot, sunny Cambridge, Ontario getting to spend time with family, soak up some sun and hopefully get out and see some more sights.  I was hoping to go to the Riverbank Restaraunt, my favourite eating place in Cambridge but learned, sadly, it is no longer in business, another casualty of the recession, no doubt.  Guess I'll have to find a new favourite. 
Dang!  I keep forgetting the time on my laptop is off by a two hours.  Make no wonder I'm hungry.  See ya, gotta go eat somethin'!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spending the night in Bruce Mines, an hour east of Sious St. Marie

I left Thunder Bay around 11 am Thursday morning but before I got too far, I took a side trip.
The last time I saw this statue was June 1988, twenty-two years ago.  I remember how I felt seeing it.  I stood there today thinking about what it took to run a marathon every single day.  Imagine!  He was an extraordinary young man. 

Lake Superior with Thunder Bay to the right.
I headed east on Hwy. 17 which meandered around Lake Superior.  I could have stopped so often but thought better of it since I was determined to get to Sioux Ste. Marie by 8pm.  There were a few occasions when I couldn't help myself.
Abuasabon River Gorge with Lake Superior in the background.

We got us a convoy.  I noticed a few things along the way.  First, most the traffic was going in the opposite direction (Yes!) and second, there were no dead bodies on the road, ie: gofers .  On prairie roads there are deer, gophers, skunk but not a one in Ontario.  Just as I thought that, I passed this critter.

I confess ignorance to knowing what this fellow is.  But he must have known I wanted to snap his picture because he stayed there long enough for me to turn around and drive back.  Unfortunately, since I took this pic. three days ago, I've seen two or three, the largest one a skunk.

Oz can't be too far away.

A complete surprise and wasn't it lovely.
I really did try to not pull over but there were just some pictures worth stopping to take.  Case in point-

It's just so beautiful along Hwy. 17.  You either have Lake Superior on your right or other bodies of water on your left, either way, it's hard to just drive passed it all.  But that was it, I wanted to get as far as possible before night fall.  That first stretch of Ontario is a long haul.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hold up in Thunder Bay

When I got up the Saturday morning, instead of heading out immediately, I thought I needed to find out what was behind the name, Qu Appelle.  I asked a young fellow hanging about the previous night but he said someone else might better tell it.
I found that person at a farmer's market on main street.  I think his name was Ken but it might have been Burt.  Turns out he's a history lover and proceeded to tell me lots about the surrounding area, how it was founded, the fact that the Dakota aboriginal people in town were the only first nations people without status in Canada because the gave U.S. status.
I sampled some cabbage rolls then drove a few blocks to Fort Qu Appelle where there's a beach.  

Though it was cool when the clouds closed up, these kids ventured out.

I stuck around for a few hours, getting out my folding chair for the first time since I hit the road.  I read a few chapters of  To Kill A Mockingbird then the clouds came back, the wind picked up and soon I headed out.

Oh, Qu Appelle, means Who Calls.  Apparently there was this young brave and his love.  While he was away, she took ill and as she died she called his name.  From his canoe on the river, he heard someone call out his name but could see anyone around.  He called out "Who Calls?" but got no response.  He returned to his village to find his love had died. 

I left Qu Appelle so glad I took the time to see what the town was about.  Again, the highway through revealed nothing of the town's beauty so I was rewarded for my curiosity.

Ah, tree-lined street - that deep shade on hot summer days.  Nothing like it!

I love these old stone churches.  Some of the oldest buildings in Canada I'd say!

Same church, St. John's Anglican. 

Speaking of churches, I was somewhere around Insinger, Sask. when I happened upon these two Ukranian churches and graveyard.  You can see the old country roots in the architecture.
I went round the side of this building and noted the lawn was like a wet sponge.  This was a week ago and there's been so much more rain since.

Right out in the middle of the prairies!

Tombstones written in Ukrainian language.

I arrived in Regina by mid afternoon and drove part of the way downtown, enough to find the government buildings.  I stuck around long enough to take some pictures, walked around the park a bit then left. 

Regina Legislative Building.

There was a lovely park just behind where I stood when I took the legislative building photo.  These fledgling Canada geese were only a few of the hundreds that took up this large lawn.

A beautiful park right in the middle of the city of Regina.  And I thought Saskatoon was exceptional!

The reflection of the water around this Mallard was exquisite.

A wedding photo shoot at the university buildings.  The little fellow is pretending to take my picture.

I tried locating accommodations in Regina but thought better of it.  I really wasn't in the mood for a big city so headed out after a few hours.  I couldn't image seeing anything more beautiful than I had already seen so sticking around had no purpose.  So I moved on.  I was going to head north, then east to Manitoba.  It was time to leave Sask. behind.  Then I remembered I had forgotten all about Neepawa which I thought was just east of Yorkton.  
I completely forgot.  Neepawa was the birth place of Margaret Laurence, that well known Canadian writer responsible for such works as Stone Angel.    She was also laid to rest there when she passed in '87.  Now I'm not a groupie (Bruce Springsteen doesn't count) but as an aspiring writer, it seemed like a pilgrimage worth making.  So I said to myself as I headed north, if there's a turnoff to Yorkton, I'm taking it. 
Well, there it was.  I thought for a moment about not going then turned west onto Hwy. 9.  I thought it was just an hour out of my way.  Turned out to be a bit longer.  I noticed that the sun sets around 8:30 here so time was running out.  

Texas Longhorns in Saskatchewan?  Note, two of them, the brown and the speckled one behind her are a little deformed in the horn department.  I mooed and they all looked my way. One actually answered me back, in English.  Freaked me right out!  You don't believe that do you?

When I drove down into the Qu Appelle Valley I was sure glad I took a detour.  OMG it is exceptional in its beauty.  The prairies continued to surprise me.  When I thought I couldn't see anything more beautiful, there it was. 

The west end of the valley, about an hour from Yorkton.

Looks like Sask. is a garbage dump for U.S. helicopters.

Another sunset.  Do they ever get boring?

So I arrive back in Yorkton and drive up to a motel that I had passed on the way out of town less than 48 hours earlier.  I wish I could remember the name of the place but the fellow who runs it was a funny guy.  I drove up to my room and was confused at first.  There was no key hole in the door.  I turned the knob and opened it.  Inside there was another door.  Usually outside doors are screen/glass combos.  Not this. 
It was just this door.  It freaked me out a little especially when I saw this odd looking young man handing something to a woman in the suite next to me.  A drug deal I thought! 
I was at the rear of the building, with little light and a lot of imagination.  Turned out he was a pizza delivery guy.  Still, I went back and told the guy I didn't really like the room and why.  He looked at me like I was a little weird.  I explained I was a bit claustrophic.  Not sure if he bought it, but I did get another room, on the street side of the motel with a 'proper' door.  I was happy.  
Before I left Yorkton, I decided to find a laundry mat.  I got there and realized I needed some change.  I had laundry detergent but no fabric softner.  I noticed a woman about my age had a box so I asked if I might buy one from her.  Marion gave me a sheet but insisted she wanted nothing for it.  I told her about my adventure and we chatted for a while.  Before she left I gave her one of my blog site cards.
One thing I learned not long after I arrived in Yorkton is Neepawa is not in Saskatchewan, it's actually in Manitoba.  I hit the road shortly after lunch.
I pulled into the Wayside motel around 5:30 pm and headed immediately into Neepawa and searched for the cemetery.  I found it in short order and quickly located the 'stone angel'

I looked online to make sure it was the one referenced in her book.  A passage from the first chapter reads as follows: 
Summer and winter she viewed the town with sightless eyes.  She was doubly blind, not only stone but unendowed with even a pretense of sight.  Whoever carved her had left the eyeballs blank.  It seemed strange to me that she should stand above the town, harking us all to h eaven without knowing who we were at all
The eyes might be hollow but there's a 'life' in them.  Remarkable work.

So that was two days ago and you might think that was the end of it but as has happened a number of times on this trip, one thing leads to another.  I had gone to the home where Margaret Laurence had spent six or eight years of her life.  There I met Elizabeth, a young woman attending the University of Manitoba who knew everything there was to know about the years M.L. lived there. 
When I asked her to recommend a place to eat and that I liked 'family restaurants' she suggested Wilson's.  That turned out to be the location of my next encounter.  I enjoyed a slice of home style veggie quiche and a wicked slice of rhubarb pie.  I sat there and watched the owner greet people she didn't know with the same enthusiasm as folks she knew. 
Val was the owner of the restaurant and I asked if I might speak with her.  Her Uncle Henry and Aunt Angele had just arrived but she took the time to give me a calendar and some information about the community and what I should see.
I ended up joining Val and her relatives including her cousin Doug at their table.  You'd think we'd known each other forever.  I'm sure I was there for a good hour or more. 

I'm holding a lottery contract and a lottery ticket we purchased together.   Val is in red.  Henry and Angele are behind me and Doug is to my left.  Angele and I have something in common, we share the same birth date.  Received an email from Val tonight to remind me to return when we win the $50 million.  No problem!  Wouldn't that be grand?  I left Neepawa grateful for yet more wonderful encounters. 

Just outside of Neepawa there's a lilly farm that ships out all over the world.  It started with a man's love of gardening who was looking for something to keep him busy during retirement.  They offer 2500 named lillies, eight of whom they developed themselves. 

It was outside of Neepawa that I saw something I hadn't seen across the prairies, something growing.

A field of conola.

This was a more common sight.  Bales of hay sitting in water.  So many farms were saturated if not flooded.  Tonight the weather network was talking about the emotional toll of this wet season on the farmers. 

This amazing looking building is a prison in Stoney Mountain, Mb.  The community of Stoney Mountain is right next to it - I mean right next to it. 

 It was about 8:30 p.m. when I rolled in Stonewall, Manitoba to stay with a Leah (my former branch manager in Calgary).  It was a short visit but I was glad to have had a chance to spend some time.  When I saw Leah and Kevin last, they had one child, Kaitlyn and she was just a baby.  Now there's another addition, the energetic Matthew.  Thanks guys for the bed and thanks Kaitlyn for making it so comfy and thanks especially for the early morning hug before I left. 

I crossed over into Ontario yesterday morning and I have to say, it was a bit depressing.  There was a thick cloud cover, oppressive really, and I drove for hours through a wall of trees on either side.  After the prairies, it was claustrophic.  I noticed when I headed towards Kenora through the rock cuts there were Inukchuks erected.  I kept going and soon feared the rock cuts would end and I would miss my chance.

So I pulled over, stepped into a ditch next to a rock cut & created my own Inukchuk with a buddah on top. 
I believe they mean "I was here".  If not, that's what mine means.  Thanks Brendan D. for the buddah.  It's one of the many protective things I have in my car.  There's a dream catcher, a St. Christopher's medal, a  medal that belonged to my mom Betty, a pink chrystal, a frog angel, holy water, a stuffed bear and bumble bee.  I feel completely protected and it must be working because I've missed all the dangerous weather that's been going on around me.   It's amazing really. 
Finally, I'm caught up.  I sure hope I didn't miss anything but it's heading for 2 a.m. and I want to be on the road before noon 2moro.  Been relaxing in Thunder Bay last two days - reading and updating the blog.  I needed the rest.  The hot weather was taking the good out of me.  It's only been hot one day, that's all it takes.  I'm a hot weather whimp!  
A gal from a local business said the there may be a blockade 2moro by the area first nations people to protest the upcoming summit in Toronto (yeah the one costing $1 billion in security).  I'm sorta hoping there will be a blockade.  It'll make for an interesting story and, if I'm lucky, photo opps.

That's it,  I leave you with these last images.


Northern beauty!