Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blasting across Canada's Prairies

"Getting to Know You is Getting to Love You"

The School Wars were heating up in B.C., just as I was ready to leave for my journey east. I wanted to be there to support my colleagues in their fight for justice and parity, but I also know that I need to let go of that aspect of my career: hopefully the younger teachers and voters will understand the implications of these drawn out battles, and eventually elect a governing party which supports and defends public education and legitimizes the collective bargaining process.

I pretty much fulfilled my aim of blasting across BC and the Prairies. My goal is to have as much time as possible in the Maritimes, and particularly Newfoundland.  The weather in BC was wet, rainy, and cold through the southern route via the Kootneys.  It was very cold and rainy as I came over the pass into Alberta.  I travelled through Southern Alberta in less than a day.  I began to have troubles with my credit card, in that I was being declined at a few gas stops.

I stopped in Medicine Hat and visited a Bank of Montreal, where I asked the teller to double check my particulars.  The card seemed to be working, but she pointed out that my back up card, in US funds, was expired.  Apparently a new card had been mailed to me.  So much for planning.  I made a wrong turn in downtown Medicine hat, and a fast approaching moto cop yelled at me.  He didn't run me down, so he must have felt that it was not too serious an offence.

Somewhere between Medicine Hat and Winnipeg I managed to lose my tent poles. I had been scheduled for a stay with a fellow ADV rider in Regina, but I was close to a day ahead of schedule, so I blasted on through and managed to "wild camp" close to the main highway and of course the ever present transcontinental trains.  It was during one of those packups that I lost my poles.  I remembered that Mountain Equipment Co-op had a store in Winnipeg, and fortunately they were open on Sunday.

Winnipeg was fairly straightforward in terms of navigating, and very soon I was downtown, waiting for the store to open on a nice Sunday morning.  I was the first customer through the doors, and I was packing the tent in order to make sure that I was able to purchase the correct length of poles.  This was not as straightforward a  process as I had envisioned.  Fortunately, as my luck would have it, a very attractive and helpful young lady spent the next hour cobbling together a new set of poles for me.  We measured and built up a set of functional tent poles, and she did all the hard work of measuring and installing the shock-cords to the new system.  I was very grateful for her help and advice.  I was reminded of my last experience in a sporting goods store in southern Chile, where I spent way too much time wandering and circling around a beautiful sales girl, finally buying a tent that I don't think I ever did use in Patagonia.  I was soon on the road east, happy for my tent and very happy that the cooperative concept of Mountain Equipment was still very much alive and well.

A brief stop to check out Lake Superior...

The change in scenery and geography was welcome after the endless straights of the prairies.  It seemed that the transition to Ontario coincided with a dramatic increase in trees, rocks, and rain.  The two days "over the hump" was very cold and wet.  I was glad that I had decided to bring my MEC long underwear, as well as the Helly Hansen hi-viz rain gear.  I know that I looked like a rolling lime popsicle with the rain gear on, but I was able to stay relatively dry in spite of rain and wind which was reminiscent of west coast storms.  I found it difficult to see the road during the heaviest downpours, and fortunately the traffic was light enough that I could find my own pace and still track eastward towards Ottawa, where new tires and good friends awaited. 

I easily found my friend Bills' place.  He had hung a British Columbia flag below his every present Canadian flag. I knew right away that I had arrived at the right address.

It was great to see Bill and his wife again.  We had gone to high school together and then life had got in the way.  I had not seen Bill in over 25 years, and it was wonderful to reminisce and catch up on our lives.

Bills' wife is as beautiful as she was back in high school, and I it made me feel very warm and fuzzy to see that this couple had worked  together and produced a wonderful family.   Our  high school albums were pulled out, and the stories and memories soon flowed.   Even though 50 years had evolved since those days, it was gratifying to rediscover the bonds which embody true friendship.

Bill is retired now, after a very successful career in Ottawa. One of his many interests and passions involves the heritage homes and buildings of the city.  He opened up for me a whole new way of appreciating the value of heritage structures within a community.  He has a wonderful grasp of the architecture and history of Ottawa, and I am very grateful for the tours and insights that his local knowledge brought to our visits within the city.

 I remember my Dad talking about the Spanish Civil war.  He would have been 20, and in the midst of an economic  depression. It was interesting to read the names and see how many Canadians had been involved in that fight against fascism.

 Dr. Bethune had served in this battalion.

Bill took me downtown to the Ottawa Farmers' market, where Beavertails completely ruined our diets.

I found the canal system fascinating, and Bill has a clear understanding of the importance of the waterways and rivers in terms of the history of the development of ByTown.  The locks in the canals were well-thought out, and of course dug by thousands of Irish immigrants overseen by British officers, and I wondered how that was managed.

Too many beavertails for this guy.  I am going to have to avoid Timmies, I think.

The weather in Ottawa was brilliant, and it looks like Spring has finally arrived in the East.

Bill came to Ottawa and made a great career for himself.  While he now rolls with the policy makers, our early years in the Okanagan created a firm foundation of friendship and respect. 

Our tour of Parliament Hill made me feel very proud to be a Canadian, and the grounds and buildings evoked a strong emotion of appreciation for what we strive to be, as Canadians.  

Bill lives on the same street as the Vietnam embassy.  We were treated to a tour of their offices. 

When we were young boys, Hanoi was being bombed and boys our age were going off to be slaughtered and to kill.  "There but for the grace of God, go I", as the saying is.....