Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Winter is Coming"

Canadian Winter

I spent the fall reading most of the Game of Thrones series, that was until I discovered Netflix.  God what a decadent and sedentary life it has been, wintering in Canada.  Now that winter is truly coming to my friends riding in the Southern Hemisphere, I can concentrate on getting Blondy fired up for more adventures.  Spring is here on the West Coast and Blondy has been sleeping too long.

Clearly Netflix is the lazy man's way to cover an excellent series such as the Game of Thrones, but I do have to  disclose that I also filled my fantasies with the full blown series of the Sons of Anarchy while I watched the rain and snow gather on the west coast of Vancouver Island.  Talk about torture: the ribald actions of the motorcycle gang in Sunny California, contrasted to   the ever- encircling frosts and black ice of a west coast Canadian winter.

 Blondy was put to bed by early October, and she hibernated for almost 4 months, occasionally being awakened as I  fought the IPhoto and IMovie wars on my computer, attempting  to make sense of the 10,000 or so photos  that I shot on my trip to Ushuai and back.  I did figure out how to show the pictures on my Television, so technology has not completely overwhelmed me in the past year or so.  I did succumb to impulse and purchase an Ipad Mini, so we will see if this addition to the Technology trunk is an asset or a further electronic cross to bear.

My sojourn back in Canada has not solely been limited to sitting on my ass in front of the TV or computer, as I have  managed to reacquaint myself with my teaching roots, and I have enjoyed being a substitute teacher in a number of the schools in the small school District which I live in.  It has been gratifying to reaffirm  that I do in fact like kids, and that I am still  confident about my abilities to channel some sort of learning experience into their often distracted minds.  After 6 years working for the Teachers as their full-time union representative, I had misgivings that I had permanently lost my enthusiasm for the sometimes challenging classrooms and/or my shift to dealing with adults had somehow  jaded my ability to   relate to kids and the learning process.  As a teacher-on-call I have been able to work in  a great variety of classrooms, from Kindergarten to Grade 12 physics, and my respect for those folks who work with those students on a regular basis has increased significantly.

For me, the main focus on my return to Canada and taking a rest from the road was to make sure that I was present and accounted for as my eldest son married his sweetheart. I am happy to say that their January wedding went  flawlessly, and it was a excellent opportunity to spend time with my daughter, sons, and daughters-in-law.

I also had a great time getting reacquainted with my sister, her hubby, and my nephew.  We had a great party and the wedding was a fun time for all.  I now have a batch of shirt-tail relatives living and working in the Philippines, which gives me another riding destination.

I have begun to do some planning and thinking about my next ride, and I have determined that I wish to experience Canada from coast to coast.  The current plan is to leave Tahsis by the end of May and head for the east coast.  There is a maritime Horizons Unlimited meeting in Nova Scotia during the first week of July, and if my planning is correct, I should be able to experience a bit of Newfoundland prior to this HUBB meeting.  I may be totally unrealistic about our riding weather across Canada, and in all likelihood my time frame for getting to the east coast may be a bit optimistic.  We shall see.   I have blocked out a tentative route, with the hope that I can meet a few old friends along the way, as well as make the July meeting in Annapolis Royal.

Larger Map

On my last ride, I chose not to bring along my GoPro camera, largely due to my ignorance with the editing portion and  the production of videos.  Recently, I have spent a couple of days experimenting with a some  different editing software programs, as well as viewing some YouTube tutorials.  I am learning that the production of videos  requires a lot of editing time, and equally important, a lot of Hard Drive space.

I am hoping to add some video to my travels this time...we shall see.

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.....

Ottawa Canada

Lest We Forget

With my friend Bills' able guidance, I am sure that I received a very comprehensive tour of our countries' capital.  I felt very proud of the city and the buildings and structures within it, and I am sure that this is true of any Canadian who has an opportunity to visit this fine city.

 We visited the Canadian War Museum.  This "buzz bomb" was one of Farley Mowat's prizes from WW11.  Farely had the foresight and courage to gather tons of war booty and have it sent home to Canada during the last months of the War. Perhaps he saw that the Americans were sending the  V2 scientists to the States, or maybe he had a better inkling of the post war scenarios.  Nevertheless, he was wise enough to gather evidence and artifacts from the war in order to show Canadians at home the tremendous sacrifices that men and women made in the European theater of war.

These plaster casts are part of the design elements for the monument at Vimy Ridge.  As near as I can determine, my grandfather was a Vimy and survived 4 days of being buried in a shell burst.  The War Museum does a wonderful job of describing the major battles of World War 1 and Two, as well as including vivid descriptions of the Boer War in South Africa, where my Dad's father was caught up in the fight between the English and the Boers.  He was encircled by the Boers during the siege of Mafeking.

Of coarse, the carnage and wreckage of war did not really get going until the First War.  During this period, Scientific developments greatly advanced the ability of man to kill man.

The deadly machine gun was a terrible weapon of war, and many thousands of young men died as a result of its use in WW1.

We cannon fathom the life in the trenches for the soldiers, nor can we understand the terrible losses which were experienced by both sides in these terrible battles.

There is very little photographic evidence of the major battles of the first war, and the museum relies upon paintings to illustrate the horrors of the trench battles.
 Chlorine gas was first used in 1917, with deadly and horrifying results.  Many men died not knowing what was killing them.  These crude masks were preliminary attempts to deal with yet another invention of war...

 Trench warfare was dirty, disease ridden and mind numbing.

I believe that my grandfather was a sniper, and in all likelihood, he would have been positioned at one of the forward posts.

The air war came into being during World War 1.  This is a replica of Billy Bishops' aircraft.  He was a famous Canadian ace.

This cut out of an artillery shell gives one an idea of the thousands of rounds of shrapnel which would be showered down upon the men during an artillery barrage. 

I was reminded of the terrific sacrifices that Canadian families made during this war.  I came upon a medal honouring a veteran of WW1.  I have three of these, naming my grandmothers' three brothers who were all killed during World War 1.  What would our family have been like, or, better yet, what would Canada have been if the terrible sacrifices had not been necessary during the "War to End all Wars?"

In my view, the War Museum does a fair and honest depiction of the War, and transistors through the post war and the Great Depression with a fair view of people and events.

As this is the War Museum, the ensuing years between World War 1 and World War 11 were alluded to, without giving one a full understanding of the difficulties of being born post World War 1 and coming into adulthood during the Great Depression.  My Dad and his brother both experienced the full onslaught of World War 11.   They both enlisted in the Royal Canadian Airforce.  My uncle served in Vulcan, Alberta as well as elsewhere in Canada.  Dad was stationed in Trenton.  He was a LAC, (Leading Aircraftsman) and I remember him telling me about flying in Harvards and other aircraft used for training pilots.

 The museum has an interesting exhibit focussing on the war in the West of Canada.  The firebombs which were sent from Japan over the Pacific were far more numerous than I had imagined.  Although their purpose was to start forest fires, I found it interesting that many of these balloon bombs made their way as far as the Prairies.   I have been told that it was from the development of these weapons of war that a better understanding of the jet stream was developed.

This is a painting of a World War 11 bomb aimer aboard a Lancaster.  My good friend Jim was a WAG for the RCAF, and he told stories of flying at 10,000 feet and the air around him being on fire from the bombs and the turmoil below.  He was 19 when he flew over Dresden....

The Mosquito bomber was built from spruce harvested in British Columbia.

I very much enjoyed the Canadian War Museum.  I do not resent my tax dollars being used to represent the sacrifice and pain which so many men and women endured in order for me to be able to bitch and rant against the stupidities of local politicians.  I am afraid that many folks do not fully understand that the ideas of democracy and freedom of speech and association do not come lightly, and that  many men and women died in pain and anquish to protect what may appear to be trivial and insignificant to some.  Touring the museum enabled me to better understand the sacrifices of my own family, and also helped me to better appreciate my place in the world.