Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday odds and ends

Depending on how it goes, we may or may not get the first big snowdump of the season. Most likely we will. Supposed to go to a Boxing Day open house this evening, I think I'll go early rather than late. It's just out of town, I don't want to be driving home in a blizzard.

Yesterday, Christmas Day, there was a community dinner down at the Lions Club, I went. It was organized by someone I used to know here, but in the last week she came down with a life-threatening infection and has had to spend Christmas in the hospital. Her husband says she's in recovery but it will be a long haul. So a lot of people had to step in to make the dinner happen, and they did and it did.

This is a phenomenon across the province, in the past few years many communities have started these community Christmas dinners. Not just for folks who might be needy but for everybody. Great idea. I had a good time.

I went alone, but arrived at the same time as one of my neighbours and his mother-in-law. She quickly took me under her wing and introduced me to many people there. It was kind of cute, some of those people already knew me and were wondering why I was being introduced to them. But it was nice too.

We had a full table, the food was great and the conversation fun. There were leftovers, and for a toonie you could buy a special dinner made up from the leftovers. I've got too much food in my fridge that I have to eat before it goes bad so I declined, but lots took advantage.

Before I went to dinner I talked to two sons and DILs via Skype video. That was great too. Little Eva can see the computer screen and she was fascinated with watching me wave at her. She's a going concern now, smiling and laughing and raring to go. Almost 4 months.

I also had a more traditional phone call with my brother who is in northern Ontario with lots of snow. But he says there is more snow at his southern Ontario home than in northern Ontario, due to the same storm that knocked the power out here a couple of weeks ago.

After dinner I called the third son who insisted he was about to call me. I should have given him another few minutes. He was headed to Christmas dinner with his boss's family, a tradition in his isolated west coast valley.

The last few days my birdfeeder has been getting enormous traffic, I love it. On Christmas Eve, I had a nuthatch and a (yellow shafted) flicker, and on Christmas Day, a hairy woodpecker and a pair of cardinals. Cardinals! In the winter? The male of course is bright red and the female a lovely brown tinged with red and they both have bright orangy-red beaks. On that male you don't notice it so much because of how bright his plumage is, but on the female that bright orange beak is stunning.

Besides those birds there are the usual jays, starlings and chickadees. I am so happy with all the bird activity. I'd love to show photos here but the moment I approach the window they all fly away. Maybe they'll get used to me with time.

The last couple of days I have been lounging around in my PJs till well after noon. As I am now. Today I read on the internet some of those year summaries that will be out there all week. Not just the summary of the year but of the decade because of this being then end of the first decade of the century.

Interesting obituaries (to me): Anna McGarrigle and Lena Horne. A lot of musicians actually, but those two are significant to me.

Interesting weather story: how the lack of snow in Siberia is causing heavy-duty winters around the northern hemisphere, in apparent contradiction to global warming (but the lack of snow is of course caused by global warming). And how meteorologists are missing the major weather catastrophes by focussing on the warming of the oceans rather than the warming of Siberia.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Birdfeeder and fishbowl

It's kind of a dull grey day, it snowed briefly this morning but not enough to stick.

The bird feeder is going great guns though. Today I've seen the usual jays, chickadees and juncoes, but also nuthatches and a flicker. They're too skittish to photograph though, as soon as I approach the window with my camera they're gone. I love seeing them all though.

Right in front of my house is a streetlight that sways in the wind. It is half full of water. It's kind of funny seeing that little pool of water suspended over the street, especially at night when the light is on. I imagine creatures living in the water, like a little goldfish bowl suspended over the street.

I wonder if it will freeze in the cold weather.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Truck goes away and stays away?

Twice last week I took my truck out to Canning to get it undercoated for the winter. Twice Garage Guy told me to come back another time because he couldn't do it that day, even though we'd set up an appointment. He was very apologetic and offered me a discount when he finally did do it.

I told him about the water leak and how since the storm last week the truck has been full of water and I couldn't dry it out because it is too cold. He said that if I left the truck with him over the weekend, he'd dry it out, find the leak and fix it. And I could have my truck back on Monday.

Well, I thought that was a good deal, I could get through a half week or so without the truck.

Then on Saturday morning my brand new espresso maker stopped working. Just when I was becoming nicely addicted to my morning espresso.

The store I bought it at said, No problem, they'd replace it, just bring it in.

Which I couldn't do, because of no truck. Well, I hauled out the old French Press coffee maker but it was just not the same. But for a couple of days I could manage.

So today, Monday, I packed up the espresso maker in readiness for returning it to the store as soon as my truck was ready. While packing, I thumbed through the manual and noticed there was a 1-800 number for the manufacturer so what the heck I thought I'd give it a try.

Wouldn't you know it, the customer service person there identified the problem right away and told me what to do about it and she was right and now the espresso maker works just like it is supposed to. So I don't have to return it.

My neighbours asked where I'd been all weekend.

I told them, Right here but my truck is away. Told them it was coming home later in the afternoon.

Of course, another major storm is on its way and they were worried about me driving back from Canning across the dikes in the blowing snow, so they suggested that if I waited until tomorrow they would drive me to Canning themselves.

But I was looking forward to getting my truck back today, I was prepared to drive through a blizzard if necessary.

Then Garage Guy phoned.

He dried out the truck and he found the leak, but he didn't undercoat the truck, yet again. He said the leak was due to the detached rubber seals around the doors, and if I took the truck home today it would only get wet again because of the storm we're supposed to get tonight. And also, if he undercoated then he wouldn't be able to install new rubber seals, the doorways would be too greasy.

So he suggested I leave the truck with him until he could get the rubber seals, maybe tomorrow, maybe later.


He said he was really hoping this storm would dump three feet of snow. He badly wants to get out on his snowmobile.

I said, Yeah right, if we get three feet of snow I'm never going to get my truck back.

He said, That would be OK with me. I could just hear him grinning.

Well I might have something to say about that, I said.

OK, my dear, call me tomorrow and we'll talk. He laughed.

He's got my truck hostage. Weatherman is on my side though, Weatherman says 5 cm of snow and 25 mm of rain overnight, I think Garage Guy's out of luck with the three feet. And for the meantime my truck is indoors, warm and dry.

First thing tomorrow is the lunar eclipse and the winter solstice. We won't see the eclipse here with all that snow and rain but hopefully someone will see it. Happy solstice! At the very least it means the days will start to get a little longer now. That's gotta be good news.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The tour, part 2

OK, we've seen the kitchen and livingroom at the south end of the house, now we are looking at the loom room and my bedroom at the north end of the house.

13. Moving counter clockwise around the loomroom. This room has two windows, facing north and west (toward the street). In this photo, bookcase, bureau, north-facing window and chair.

14. Loom and computer desk...

15. Computer desk, west-facing window and storage shelves. Through the window you can see the front door...

16. Open clothes closet. There's no closet in my bedroom because it isn't really intended to be a bedroom. The loomroom is supposed to be the master bedroom so it has the closet. With no doors. Another one of these days...

17. Across the hall, looking into my bedroom. I built that chest of drawers when I used to live here before. Between the chair and the chest of drawers are two apple boxes I use for shelves. I have nine of them around, used to have ten but one broke. I bought them for fifty cents apiece back when the boxes were being replaced with big bins, carted them from the Valley to Ottawa to Vancouver to Toronto and back. I suppose they're antiques now.

18. Bed and window. You can see the branches of a pine tree and a plum tree through the window. The plum tree doesn't bear fruit because it is too shaded by the house and the pine tree. Not a good location for it, but too late to move it and I am not going to chop down the pine tree. Or the house.

19. Back in the hallway, looking toward the kitchen (on the left), the livingroom (on the right) and my Dad's bench in between. That door on the right is a closet, but when I used to live here it was the door to the stairway to the basement. I keep walking into that closet when I want to go downstairs.

20. Sailboat, turtle shell and snoozle mug on the kitchen window sill. The turtle shell is from Tennessee. It's the shell of a box turtle and the underside part is hinged so it can pull the front part up to completely cover its tucked in head. I'd never seen such a thing before.

21. The snoozle mug is one of a pair, but the other mug is long since broken. They belonged to my parents.

On the back of this mug is a poem:

"Will someone please produce a cloth
To wipe away the cloud of froth

That's settled on the Snoozle's snout --

He simply dotes on foaming stout?"

There was a similar creature with its own poem on the other mug.

22. Sunset on the livingroom wall above the couch. There's no pictures on the walls yet, but isn't this a pretty one?

23. The lamp on the bookcase is an old kerosene lamp converted to an electric lamp. It belonged to my grandmother, and when I was a kid she asked me to paint it for her, so I did. I filled the inside of the kerosene well with black paint and then painted birds, fish and flowers on the outside, I think in oil, but I am not sure. Long time ago.


The tour, part 1

OK this is the tour. The photos don't really convey the wall colours that well, they're an approximation.

1. We're going to start with the back deck because usually people come in the back door. That's the playset in the backyard. Notice the skim of snow on the deck, but the grass is still green.

2. The back door, in the kitchen. Immediately to the left (the right, in this photo) is the stairway down to the basement. We are not going down there today, it's a mess of emptied boxes, recycling, and stuff I haven't unpacked yet.

See my little stone Buddha at the door?

The great thing about having the stairs to the basement in the kitchen? I can just throw my junk down the stairs! That's why it's such a mess down there. One of these days I'll go down there and clean it up.

One of my friends wants me to put a gate across the stairway, she nearly fell backwards down it because she didn't see it (she's blind). One of these days.

3. The left hand side of the kitchen counter...

4. ...and the right hand side.

5. Looking from the kitchen toward the livingroom. The bench in the foreground was built by my Dad in high school shop class. He carved his name in the bottom and gave it to my Mom who used it as a sewing bench.

6. The front of the living slash dining room, looking out onto the street.

7. The front door and vestibule. The floor there is uninsulated so I keep the inner door closed. It's cold out there!

8.The wooden bird on the bookshelf is a Bufflehead, I carved that when I lived in Ottawa. Couldn't get this picture to upload, but you can see it in the picture above.

9. Big armchair slash rocking chair (that doesn't really rock that well so it's safe to put a mug of coffee on the big wooden arms) and couch on the left facing toward the kitchen. The tartan on the chair seat was woven by a childhood girlfriend, it is the Canada tartan. Her grandmother taught both of us to weave. I crocheted the shawl on the back of the chair in my early 20s.

10. Woodstove and desk on the right. The desk used to belong to my great aunt. I had it as a teenager, then my brother inherited it, then he returned it to me. It has graffiti carved into it from when we were kids and had no respect for such things.

11. Heading back toward the kitchen.

12. The hallway between the livingroom and kitchen, headed toward the bathroom, loomroom (on the left) and bedroom (on the right).

Come back for part 2...

Friday, December 17, 2010


We called my grandfather Deda (dee-da). The story goes that his first grandchild called him "Deda", which was "Da-ddy" reversed, and it stuck.

I was poking around on the internet and guess what, I found a photo of him in Wikipedia! Back row, second from the left, that's my Deda! 1929...

In case you're wondering, this photo is part of the Wikipedia article "Forest Hill, Toronto".

The Spirit Level

The little public library in my new hometown doesn't compare with the Toronto Public Library system. However it is part of a larger network, the Annapolis Valley Regional Library system, and has connections to other libraries, including university libraries, across the province. The interlibrary loan system lets me borrow from them all. And as a local university alumna, I also have a university library card here. Over the past few weeks I have been building up my Books on Hold list and it is starting to bear fruit.

A book that I had put on hold in Toronto almost a year ago just came to me via the local library, after only a week or two on my Hold list. So there are a few advantages to a much smaller system. I imagine the one copy in the Toronto library was much in demand necessitating a lengthy wait for it, while here in the Valley hardly anyone had ever heard of the book and I got it almost immediately.

The book is The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009). The authors are experts in social determinants of health and the book is a look at the statistics of various social and physical health indicators compared to relative income inequalities in various countries and American states. The final chapter of the book explains which statistics and countries they used and why they chose them. For the most part the countries are European and North American, generally the more affluent countries of the world. That's not why they were chosen, but rather for the availability of comparable statistics. No point comparing apples and oranges.

The most obvious conclusions one could draw from the many graphs in this book are:

1. There is a very clear link between levels of income inequality and both individual and social health indicators. The authors argue that the link is directional: income inequality causes health and social problems, not vice versa.

1. The USA does very badly: it has one of the highest levels of income inequality and very poorest levels of social, mental and physical health and educational attainment. The UK is in a somewhat distant second place for badness.

2. In almost every instance Canada stands in the middle of the pack, neither very good nor very bad. We Canadians are not surprised.

3. Japan does very well on all fronts, the Scandinavian countries also do well for the most part.

The authors attribute these findings largely to our human need for status. We are crushed by a sense of low status and thrive when we think we have high status. A sense of low status brings out the worst in us, young men respond with violence, young women with early pregnancy, everyone with headaches and sick stomachs.

In our modern world status is largely dictated by financial well-being, and the further the distance between the most well off and the least well off then the greater the inequality and the greater the pressure on status. Curiously, other forms of inequality do not have such a large impact. Gender inequality does not have the same repercussions for either men or women as does income inequality. In Japan women generally do not have the same levels of gender equality as we have here in North America and Europe, but nevertheless appear to fare very well with respect to mental, physical and social health. And educational attainment.

The achievement of greater income equality is accomplished in different ways in different countries. In the Scandinavian countries high redistributive taxes ensure that the after-tax income of all citizens is within a fairly narrow range; in Japan the same result is achieved by simply having a much narrower gap between high and low before-tax income levels. CEOs and labourers are not that different from each other.

A very interesting conclusion to this study is around the issues of climate change and social justice. The authors discuss what needs to be done in order to reduce carbon emissions globally, and essentially it requires the popular acceptance of serious curtailment in carbon consumption. The level of cynicism in a country with high income inequalities works against such acceptance. At the same time, it is clear that the greatest contributors to carbon emissions are the wealthy, those who can afford it. In broad strokes, the way to reduce global carbon emissions is to reduce the carbon emissions of the wealthy, which almost automatically alleviates income inequality as well. The two issues have the same solution, but will be difficult to implement in countries of high income inequality.

At the end of the book there is a graph plotting environmental footprint against income level for all of the countries of the world, and two lines indicating an environmentally sustainable footprint (horizontal line) and threshold of adequate income (vertical line). All of the poor countries of the world are also the most environmentally sustainable with respect to carbon emissions; the rich countries of the world are hugely unsustainable.

With one notable exception. One country---one country alone in the whole world---manages to be both environmentally sustainable and provide an adequate income for its citizens. Cuba?!?

Within the USA there is a range of income inequality levels across the states, and the global correlation between inequality and health also applies within the USA. Curiously, the state with the lowest income inequality level is Alaska. I guess the very wealthy don't see Alaska as their Shangri-la.

Something I did not know but learned from this book is about crime and punishment, penal policies in different countries. The USA has one of the highest per capita prison populations not because of its extremely high crime levels but because of its harsh sentencing policies. In California alone there are 340 prisoners doing life sentences for shoplifting. Amnesty International has repeatedly protested what amounts to torture in the American prison system.

Ironically, most of the routine forms of punishment in American prisons are far more likely to produce hardened criminals than to reduce crime levels. Prisoners are systematically isolated from normal social interaction and generally rendered incapable of functioning in normal social life once they are released. Prisons are being created and built at a much greater rate than universities, 'supermax' prisons are essentially and deliberately the most socially degraded environments possible.

Japan has one of the most civilized penal policies with noticeable good effects: low prison populations and low crime rates. In general accused lawbreakers are shown extreme leniency if they confess and express remorse and contrition. Once in prison the rules are very strict but social life is encouraged and positively directed. Prison guards are expected to perform as mentors and counsellors to prisoners. Former prisoners generally express satisfaction and even gratitude for the experience, it turns their lives around.

Another interesting factoid is around the issue of teenage pregnancy.

We generally think of teen mothers as a bad idea: bad for the mother and bad for the baby. However, in some populations the health of the mother is at its best in her teen years, and babies born to such mothers are ironically better off than babies born to the same mothers at a later age. These would be mothers of such low income and social status that their health is seriously challenged, and these would also be the ones most likely to bear children in their teen years.

The rate of teen pregnancy in the USA was declining until 2005, since then it has been rising again (likewise for the rate of violent crime). Most teen mothers in the USA are unmarried. In Japan the rate of teen pregnancy is low and the mothers are far more likely to be married. As a result these mothers and babies fare much better than their counterparts in the USA.

In light of all this, I think that it is very ironic that the USA was created out of the ideals of freedom and equality. The concept of equality was about equality of opportunity, everyone gets a shot at the goal. These ideals are still cherished but their reality in practice has not lived up to expectation. The USA has turned out to be a land of great inequality, and in some ways one can attribute that to the very pursuit of freedom and equality.

It should also be noted that many of the greatest critics of American achievement are Americans, they hold themselves to very lofty standards.

It is not surprising that Canada has turned out to be somewhere in the middle, not too good not too bad. Never in our history did we take on freedom and equality as our ideals, it was all about keeping the peace, whatever it takes. We try not to get too excited about stuff. Not to say we don't care about freedom and equality, but I think our attitude is more along the lines of good housekeeping; it saves a lot of trouble to not let things get too far out of hand.

Our country was born out of the passions of the American Civil War, we wanted to avoid that at all costs. The American Civil War ended in 1865, Canada began in 1867, it is not coincidental. Recent Wikileaks cables indicate that some American diplomats think Canadians watch the USA enviously and snipe at American political actions out of that envy. There is an element of truth in that, but we also watch in a bit of dread: whither thou goest...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In the teeth of a booming gale

They didn't call it a hurricane, or even a gale, but it might just as well have been. I guess because it didn't come up from the Caribbean but across from Lower Canada (aka Quebec), and before that, Upper Canada. Anyway it knocked Kings County on its backside. I haven't been out today so I haven't seen the damage, but apparently a lot of trees came down and power poles were just snapped in half. This morning the list of roads closed was endless, you couldn't go anywhere. And it looked so benign out, no wind or rain and blue sky moving in from the west.

Yesterday was another story though. The wind just howled. Crazy. No rain at first, but when it came it came hard.

Around 8.00pm the power went out, all over the county. This morning they were giving different numbers, anywhere from 62,000 to 79,000 households. That would be the whole county I think.

When the lights went out I was taken by surprise. I had to stop and think, where are the candles? the matches? the flashlight? Nothing has its own place, I am still in the process of moving in and when I put something down I lose it because I can never remember where I last put it down. I knew I had candles and matches and I had seen them recently, but where, I had no idea. I did find them, but it took a bit of stumbling around in the dark.

I had just bought a share of a pig and put it in my new freezer, I wondered if I was going to lose it. As each hour with no power went by it became more and more a possibility.

We were lucky, this storm came with rising temperatures, so there was no risk of freezing. This morning I heard about a seniors residence whose roof blew off in the storm and all the residents were taken to an arena to spend the night. In the morning they said the arena was pretty cold, they would have been warmer staying in their own apartments at the seniors residence, even with the damaged roof.

In the middle of the night I got up to tie down the tarp on my truck, it had gotten loose in the wind. Still no power. The sky was amazing, clouds raced by and every once in a while the moon put in a brief appearance.

In the morning the lawn was littered with roof shingles, but not mine. From somewhere up the street. I dug out my campstove to heat water for tea. I could listen to the radio on my iPhone and my next door neighbour said that NS Power was saying the power would be back for most people by evening. The house had cooled off a few degrees but was still livable, and there was sunlight. I thought I would start putting up blinds and curtains, which I have been procrastinating on. There wasn't really anything else to do, except maybe go for a walk. And I ended up being glad of the coolness, it made working more comfortable. Around 4.00pm the power came back, my radio leaped into life scaring the heck out of me.

Tonight after the power came back I got my wireless router working, I am back online. There are still lots of boxes to unpack---mostly books and odds and ends---but things are starting to look settled in. I still have an endless to-do list, address changes and emails and that sort of thing.

In spite of the tarp my truck is full of water. I don't know where it is getting in, and it makes the floor carpet smell. At this time of year I have little hope of drying it out.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm in

Got the keys to the kingdom yesterday, emptied the truck and parked the kayak under the porch. Most of my stuff is in the house, and I got a delivery of new furniture this morning.

So I'm into my house---finally---and going to be busy with the unpacking for awhile. Don't know if I have internet in the house or not.

If you don't hear from me, you know where I am. And what I'm doing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

More waiting

I am not a good waiter. I am having a very hard time with keeping my spirits up. The weather is just great for feeling sorry for oneself, it alternates between snow and rain, with the odd period of just plain overcast and cold.

I try to keep busy, I make lists of things I should do before I move into my house and then attempt to do some of them. But it's a tough slog.

The last couple of days I have gotten a library card, made appointments for various move-in things to be done (phone, furnace inspection, blah blah blah) and done an awful lot of window shopping for needed furniture items. The selection is poor and the prices high. Oh for an Ikea!!

I am not sleeping well, I have a hard time getting myself moving because I just don't feel like it. And I keep counting the days. Time crawls backwards it seems like.

And I worry. What godawful things are the tenants doing to all my stuff in the house?!? The property manager assures me they are good tenants but I don't care, they have my stuff and I don't. They have my house and I don't.

I feel like this is all one big fat mistake and it's too late to do anything about it. I hate it.

So, it's the 26th and I have five more sleeps to go. When you are not sleeping well the nights are very long, and five nights seem like just this side of eternity. And apparently the weather will not be any better for some time to come.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Arrived. Arrived but not quite home yet. The tenants in my house will be out on the 29th and the property manager wants the 30th to ensure everything is shipshape for my move-in.

The truck is loaded to the gills with my stuff and the kayak sits on the roof, waiting. It is getting snowed and rained upon but there's no place to put it so what can you do. Mike tells me that it should be no big deal, another week of this shouldn't be a problem.

I called my mechanic to discuss the fate of the truck, he wants to "give it a listen" because he doesn't think things are as bad as I think they are. Besides, he says, we can just plop another engine into it, shouldn't cost me more than $1500 or so.

I'm thinking, Yeah but, a new vehicle with new features (and reliability!!!) would be kinda nice...

Of course a mechanic would rather see the old truck repaired and saved than a new vehicle that doesn't need repairin'.

I long for the good old days when I could set out across the continent without wondering what terrible truck breakdowns I am letting myself in for this time.

But then, sitting here at my friend's house waiting for the day when I can move into my own place, I start doing the back-of-the-envelope calculation of how long my money will last me, what can I afford and where do I have to start cutting corners. The net result is, my travelling days may be over. Unless I come up with a new source of income.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The last leg

This post covers the period of November 17 - 20, 2010, the trip from Toronto Ontario to Wolfville Nova Scotia.

I ended up leaving Toronto a day later than planned. The week before my doctor had sent me off for a round of standard tests, the kind that you are supposed to do periodically. I had not expected that but rather than explain the situation to her I just went off and did it. Well, it turned out one of those tests had a questionable result and they phoned to make an appointment for me to do some follow-up testing.

I told the lady that I was leaving the city that very day and so would do the follow-up in Nova Scotia, she freaked and strongly advised me to hang around for the appointment, the next week. I said that was just not in the cards.

So the lady in question asked me to give her an hour or so while she made some calls, and then called me back to say she had me rescheduled for that afternoon. Reluctantly I agreed and postponed my leaving until the next day.

As it turned out, the follow-up test was negative, there was no problem after all. I suppose I should have been relieved, but mostly I was just annoyed at having spent my day in a medical facility and postponed leaving for nothing.

The thing is, I had been carefully following the weather along my route and I knew I had a brief window of fair weather if I left as planned, now that window was closed. If I hung around for another week another window might have opened, but all this waiting is starting to get to me. So I left first thing the next day.

My plan was, drive to Ottawa and stay with a friend there over night, then drive from there to Nova Scotia in a day and a half, with one night on the road somewhere in New Brunswick. I did manage to do that with clear weather all the way, but it was bloody cold. And I had one of the coldest nights I have ever spent, at an Irving Big Stop near Fredericton.

The catalytic heater I bought worked fine, but the stupid butane lighter I bought to start it with did not. Fortunately I had matches as a backup which was fine just before going to bed, but when I woke up with frozen feet a few hours later, I managed to also freeze my hands fumbling with the matches trying to light the heater again. Crawling back into the sleeping bag piled with blankets didn't help, so I was up well before dawn and back on the road just to warm up. The kind overnight attendant at the Irving gave me my mug of coffee for free.

The upside I guess is that I arrived at my destination just after noon that day, a good hour before the snow started. And I got to watch a pretty impressive sunrise. Not only was the southeast lit up with red and purple clouds but the northwest was also lit up with a purple glow. There was one sundog to the east of the rising sun, but its western mate not apparent in the dark snow clouds in that direction.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Eastward bound

This post covers the period of Nov 2 - 4, 2010, the trip from Winnipeg Manitoba to Barrie Ontario.

Driving through north Ontario is kind of a treat. I did not have great weather but still, the scenery was fine. I made it to Thunderbay in the first day with no problem, and spent the night at Kakabeka Falls just outside of town. I was very pleased with the 'snake oil' additive, the engine noise seemed quieter, my gas mileage better, and I did not appear to be burning oil at the former alarming rate. In Thunderbay I stopped at a shop in the same chain as the one in Winnipeg to find out the name of this amazing little oil additive and maybe pick up another bottle of the stuff for the rest of the trip. As it turned out they told me I could get the stuff at any Canadian Tire store. I didn't bother go looking for the local Canadian Tire but just continued on the next leg of the trip with somewhere between Wawa and The Soo as my destination.

I made it to Wawa with no problem and thought I may as well continue on to The Soo as I still had a bit of daylight left. But the weather went downhill after that, heavy rain and poor visibility. Several potential overnight stopping points turned out to be inaccessible so I continued to drive. By the time I got to The Soo I'd had enough, I wanted off the road. Now my cell phone worked again, so I tried calling my Edmonton friend Inger because she had said she had a friend in The Soo that could put me up, but this was her Toastmasters' night and all I could do was leave a message. I decided to continue driving.

Fortunately the weather cleared substantially after I left The Soo and a few kilometers down the road I found a boat launch place on a small lake that I could stop at. It was quiet and pretty, the lapping of the waves on the lakeshore close to the truck was soothing.

On the third day I made it to Barrie where my brother lives. I got to wash the clothes I had not changed in three days and have a nice hot bath for myself. We watched videos while we ate supper, and then I toddled off to a big soft bed for the night.

On numerous occasions through the prairies and northern Ontario I saw a curious little bird, somewhat smaller than a robin and looking a bit like a sparrow but with white patches on its wings. I have since found out that that bird is the Snow Bunting, otherwise known as the "snowbird" of Anne Murray fame. Neat.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Sun., Nov. 21: Arrived in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, yesterday shortly after noon, an hour before the snow. Spent one warm night at a friend's place in Ottawa and one very cold night at an Irving Big Stop just south of Fredericton, New Brunswick. Cold enough to get me out of bed and back on the road long before dawn.

The snow was beautiful in Wolfville, especially knowing I didn't have to drive in it. Huge soft flakes filling the air, and very quickly a thin white blanket covering the ground. Last night the downtown was beautiful with Christmas lights and decorations in the snow.

Speaking of snow, I saw snow geese in Quebec. Driving by farmers' fields, one field in particular looked like it had its very own snow storm, the whiteness filling the field and boiling in the air above it. Not snow, but snow geese. Wonderful.

It feels a little strange now, this time I am not visiting but here to stay. Just waiting to get into my home.

Tues., Nov. 16: Still in Toronto, but planning to leave tomorrow. First stop Ottawa, then on to Nova Scotia. Had a pleasant time here visiting with family and my Toronto friends, the Dog Ladies. The truck is almost all packed---I am picking up a few last possessions still remaining in Toronto---and I am almost ready to leave.

Sun., Nov. 7: In Toronto for a week or so, got warm greeting from Dobby and gave Tristan his birthday present.

Thurs., Nov. 4: After 3 days on the road I am in Barrie at my brother's place. Truck did fine, I guess the Winnipeg 'snake oil' was just the ticket!

Mon., Nov. 1: I will most likely leave Winnipeg tomorrow, and if all goes well I should arrive in Barrie very late on Thursday Nov. 4. Expecting lots of weather over the next few days, but right now it is sunny and warm and at least a few of the trees are leafy and green.

Sat., Oct. 30: I am leaving Edmonton, planning to spend Saturday night on the road somewhere in Saskatchewan and arrive at my niece's in Winnipeg on Sunday.

We went for lunch near where Inger works (the Maz), walked on Whyte Ave and checked out some funky stores, and then later went to see "Red" at the cinema. It was fun. In honour of the movie we had vodka shots when we got back to the house, Dale downed his in a single gulp. I sipped.

Wed., Oct. 27: I am posting a little behind, so if you're interested, I am currently in Edmonton, waiting for weather further east to improve...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Again with the AGO

I love Toronto. I don't want to leave.

When I am in Vancouver, I love Vancouver and don't want to leave.

When I am in Wolfville, I love Wolfville and don't want to leave.

Anyway, I love being here in Toronto.

I go to the dogpark every morning and see some of my favourite neighbours and their dogs, it's a great way to start the day. However a couple of days ago, three of the dogs---including Dobby---were chasing each other around the field and simultaneously ran into Barbara from the rear, bowling her over and breaking her ankle. The dogs of course were oblivious and careened off as if nothing had happened, but Barbara was left lying on the ground in considerable pain. One of the dogs that knocked her down was her own dog, we are now taking turns walking him since Barbara is confined to home in a cast.

Today I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario and spent a few hours wandering around the different galleries. There were special exhibits of Henry Moore and Shary Boyle, as well as the regular exhibits. I especially wanted to see the African gallery since I didn't get there on my last two visits, however it was somewhat reduced due to the Henry Moore exhibit.

I have never had any particular interest in Henry Moore, I know him only as the sculptor who did The Archer in front of Toronto City Hall. But I learned two things of interest about him that made me a little bit more interested in his work. One was that he studied aboriginal and African art and took a lot of inspiration from those sources, and the other was that he was the survivor of a gas attack during World War I. Of his battalion of 400 men, only 52 survived and Moore was marked for life by the ghastly experience. These two things were great influences in his art, and after learning those facts about him I could see that it was true when I went into the gallery where his sculpture was displayed. His figures have distinctively African appearances, and some of the imagery seems to me a little haunted.

In the African art gallery I watched part of a video of a West African artist talking about his work. He talked about his mother and how she had joined the ancestors, he said how fundamentally different the African view of life and our position in it is from the conventional western view. When I was walking around the AGO that idea reverberated everywhere for me.

Sometimes it seems to me that our conventional view of what constitutes reality is but a thin sliver of what is possible. When we look at things from the point of view of different cultures, we get a glimpse of things we hardly can imagine. Listening to that African artist speak about his mother joining the ancestors, I caught a view of life that is endless, and tried to imagine what it would be like to live within that framework as my everyday reality. Looking at works of art by aboriginal artists who worked within mythological frameworks very different from our European-centred western mythology, I tried to imagine worlds of strange gods and goddesses, spirits and myths that might permeate my everyday life. Where the spoon I ladle soup with is carved in the shape of some totem animal or spirit with a meaningful story I might think about every time I served a bowl of soup. Or not. I might use that spoon so often that I don't even see the carving.

I don't know how well I am communicating what was going through my head looking at all this art, but it seemed like in every gallery I was transported to a different way of looking at the world. When I walked through the European galleries, my conventional worldview came into focus, but I could see it as just another way, one of many.

There were a couple of interesting quotes on the walls of the art gallery. One was that when aboriginal people saw European artists going around painting what they saw in North America, they perceived it as a way for Europeans to possess the land, that by painting it they were tacitly expressing ownership of it. I would guess that European artists didn't see it that way, they probably simply saw it the same way we see taking photographs. Although, isn't it funny that when painting or photographing something we talk about "capturing" it?

The other was a quote from Ansel Adams the great American photographer:

"Myths ... are heroic struggles to comprehend the truth of the world."

A couple of galleries of European art were devoted to Biblical subjects, a good deal of one gallery centred on the story of Jesus' crucifixion. There were also quite a few paintings around the birth of Jesus, and I was thinking about the focus on birth and death so obvious in these paintings. There were no works of art devoted to what Jesus actually taught. I was thinking about how that particular religion, Christianity, seems to focus on a very mythological birth story and a rather horrific death story, and that very little of what Jesus taught seems to be central to the faith. If you want to be considered an official Christian, you need to acknowledge a creed of belief in those two events plus a third, a very mythological resurrection story. I remember once attending a class on the basic tenets of Christian belief, and the major lesson I learned was that the point of Jesus' life was to "die for our sins", which always struck me as a very odd purpose in life. I have great respect for the teachings attributed to Jesus, but not a lot for the strange slant subsequently applied to his life and unfortunate end.

I'm rambling. But thinking about all this in the context of the Ansel Adams quote, that myths are heroic efforts to understand the truth of the world, I just wonder what kind of truth we are getting at in the mythology of Jesus' life, which seems to be the fundamental myth of our European/western worldview. Not that the myths of other cultures aren't equally horrific. There was a painting by Emily Carr of Sonoqua, a kind of northwest coast Wild Woman of the Woods that mothers used to scare their kids into good behaviour ("if you don't behave, Sonoqua will get you!"), and another of an Inuit sea goddess who performed a similar role in their culture. And in one gallery there was displayed a buffalo robe of a 19th century Plains' Indian that was inscribed with pictures relating the exploits of his life, killing one Indian after another and managing to steal a herd of horses. Quite the heroic life.

I guess we humans are fundamentally fascinated by birth and death, beginnings and endings, and the question of whether that's all there is or if there is some greater context for our finite lives.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Last trip home

The truck is not in great shape. We are now making ominous engine noises and burning oil, the gas mileage is way down.

There was an unfortunate side effect to the wiper switch fix in Edmonton, the headlights stopped working. I did not find this out until dusk of the first day on the road, somewhere just west of Regina. Needless to say I had to get off the road right quick. I had highbeams but no lowbeams, I took side roads to get to Buffalo Pound Lake Park to camp overnight.

In the morning the inside of the truck was lined with ice, probably a good thing as it would have dripped on me if it hadn't been frozen. All of Saskatchewan was cold and there was lots of snow and ice on the ground. It was cold and windy, and east of Regina I ran into ice fog which lasted pretty much into Manitoba. However by Brandon it was clear and sunny, and snow was a distant memory.

I made it into Winnipeg by dusk on Hallowe'en, and I am staying with my niece Tara and her family. In "The 'Peg" there are still a few green trees, it is autumn not winter here.

First thing this morning I called a shop in the same chain as the one in Edmonton and they got my truck in right away and fixed the headlight problem, charging the cost back to the shop in Edmonton. I asked them about the engine problem, they really couldn't say much about the prognosis, told me to keep the oil up. They put in some additive---couldn't promise it was anything more than snake oil but at this point I am grasping at straws---topped up the oil, and sold me an extra liter for the road.

So I guess I will do some laundry (I've been sleeping in my clothes because it is cold at night), clean up the truck a bit, make sandwiches for the road and hope for the best. Once I leave Winnipeg I will not have cell phone coverage for almost three days, a bit disconcerting to say the least but what can you do. The weather forecast for the next three days is a mixed bag: sun, rain, snow, warm, cold, windy, fine. November weather.

In Edmonton Dale said, You're on an adventure, you'll laugh about all this when it's over. But until then I am just gritting my teeth and trying to think positive thoughts.

I guess this is the last time I do a road trip in this truck.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Edmonton, and best laid plans...

I arrived in Edmonton around 5.00 pm on Saturday, finding my host's home without too much difficulty.

Inger is a woman I worked with way back when in Vancouver, we have kept in touch over the years. She and her husband moved to Edmonton shortly after I moved to Toronto, to better jobs, more affordable housing, and wonder of wonders, a way better social life. They pay the price of a nasty winter for all that. I have been promising to visit ever since they moved here, finally I've made it.

I told Inger about the dog at the rest stop and wondered if it would be rescued or euthanized. Inger said, Around here they don't euthanize dogs. They'll find a home for him.

I planned to stay a day or two to visit before heading on. Sunday morning we woke to sleet, mixed snow and rain. It only got worse.

My host---who was off to a course at 7.45 am---said, No snow, that's just Fat Rain.

She refused to admit to the possibility of the white stuff.

Sure as heck looked like snow to me.

Inger left for a conference in Vancouver on Monday and I got an invitation to stay in Calgary on my trip east. Although making my trip slightly longer it worked well with my itinerary plans so I packed up to leave the same day as Inger. On her way to the airport Inger was surfing the net on her Crackberry and found a catalytic heater she thought would make my nights on the road a little more comfortable. She sent the info to me and I looked a little further and discovered that a nearby Canadian Tire had such a beast so I hopped in the truck to go pick it up.

Turns out that sometime since I arrived in Edmonton, the windshield wiper motor switch on my truck gave out. Not a good thing when it is snowing, it meant I had to physically hold the switch on to get the wipers to work which is hard to do when you are signalling a turn and then attempting to actually make the turn.

So, I returned to the house and woke up Inger's husband Dale, who is working night shift this week. He was gracious about being woken up and immediately got on the phone looking for a garage that would repair my truck toute de suite.

This was the first snow of the season here, which means most of the city was trying to get into a garage to get their snow tires on. Trying to find one that would fix a wiper motor switch the same day was kind of out to lunch. Nevertheless he tried, and managed to find a garage that would do it the next day. Dale went back to bed and at the appointed hour got up and went off for his night shift. The idea was that when he returned at 6.30am we would then drive the truck to the garage.

However, we did not write down the name and address of the garage, and sure enough, we both forgot where we had the appointment. In a mad scramble at 7.00am we found another garage that would "take a look" at the truck. When we got there though they were booked up and couldn't even look, they sent us off to another garage further out of town. That garage said it could do the job almost right away, however Dale was exhausted and needed to sleep before his next shift, so the earliest we could pick up the truck was considerably later in the day.

The garage called to give me their cost estimate: $350. The switch is inside the steering wheel column, making it a labour intensive job.

Then they called back to say that they had broken something inside the column and would have to replace the entire column.

Then they called back to say that they couldn't find a steering wheel column for my truck. Still later they called to say that they had found one at a wrecking yard, but it was going to be different from my original steering wheel column (something called a slant column), and that they were having trouble removing it from the vehicle it was in at the wrecking yard, so they were very sorry but they would not be able to finish the job until the next day.

My invitation to stay in Calgary is fairly open-ended, they even went so far as to say that if I got there after they were planning to go to Vancouver, they would leave the key at their neighbour's so I could stay over even if they were not home. Who knows when I'll get my truck back. Or what the new steering column is going to be like. I do know that the cost is going to be higher than the original estimate, but the fellow at the garage thinks he can keep it down to only a $50 increase.

He gave me a bit of a rant about car companies that discontinue perfectly good truck models and then don't keep up parts inventories for them. As if we can all afford to buy a new vehicle every couple of years. He expressed some admiration that I had kept this particular truck going for as long as I have, and some chagrin at failing to support me in that endeavour. But he hoped this substitute slant column would be acceptable.

I sure hope it does not have one of those safety air bag thingies in it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Heading eastward

The Duffy Lake Road was fine, no construction line-ups, no snow, spectacular views, and even a rainbow.

I stopped to look at Seton Lake near the end of the Duffy Lake Road; this lake connects to Anderson Lake at its far western end, and D'Arcy is at the south end of Anderson.

On my first day on the road I got as far as Valemount on Highway 5, just before the Yellowhead Highway.

Just before Valemount I stopped for gas and the attendant there eyeballed the stickers on my windshield. One is my Nova Scotia safety sticker, the other is my Toronto parking sticker.

He recognized Toronto City Hall on the parking sticker and asked if I worked for the City of Toronto.

I said, No but I used to live there.

He said that he used to live in Ontario too, in Kingston. He liked Toronto he said, he felt safe there.

He said he'd walked the streets of Toronto at night---he rhymed off a few---and he never felt unsafe there. Vancouver, he shook his head, is a different story. Downtown Eastside...

I agreed with him.

He said, You know, Toronto is multicultural, but Vancouver is, just mean. The people are just mean.

Hmmm, haven't heard that one before, I wondered what his experience was. It's a beautiful city set in a fabulous landscape, but some parts of that city are very hard.

He wished me a good trip.

The next day I drove through Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park on the Yellowhead.

The boundary between the two parks is also the border between British Columbia and Alberta.

I think Jasper is way more interesting than Banff National Park just south of it, but not nearly as famous. I saw lots more wildlife in Jasper Park than I did on my trip through Banff on the way to Vancouver in August. But that may have had something to do with all the road construction going on then.

I saw mostly elk and mountain goats, hanging out close to the road. In Jasper Park, the valley between the mountains is relatively broad so you can get wonderful views of the mountains without craning your neck upward. There are broad swaths of grass along the highway and I think that attracts the elk and goats in the fall, they appeared to be fattening up for the winter. On one occasion the cars slowed to almost a halt, passing by a couple of nonchalant mountain goats on the shoulder. They seem unafraid of vehicles, or of the people that emerge from them with cameras in hand. And they are huge, easily as big as large deer, almost as big as the elk. And fat.

I stopped in the town of Jasper just to see it, and also to deposit a cheque that Sam gave me in exchange for cash to hold him over till the next time he got near a bank machine.

The next town on the highway after Jasper Park was Hinton. Passing through Hinton brought back memories. It is the gateway to the Rockies on the Yellowhead, it is also the CN train station where the Mounties used to come on board westward headed passenger trains to remove the drunks. For all I know they still do, but it's been a long time since I travelled on that train.

In 1969 I headed west on the train with my boyfriend, for the grand price of $50 for a one-way ticket from Toronto to Vancouver. That got you a seat in coach class for the 3-4 day trip. They were bench seats, if you were lucky you snagged two facing benches so you could sleep more or less lying down. Everyone smoked and many drank. The air was pretty gross by the time you got to Vancouver.

The drinkers got their come-uppance in Hinton, the worst of the lot being removed by the aforementioned Mounties. I am not sure why they did that in Hinton, maybe it's OK to be drunk in the north woods and across the prairies, but not in the mountains. Or maybe it took that long for them to become obnoxious enough for the train people to be fed up with them.

And that is pretty much all I know about Hinton.

In a rest stop somewhere after that an old dog was wandering around. There were a lot of vehicles there, but after a few minutes most of the vehicles were gone and the old dog was still there. An older fellow in a car gave the dog scraps and asked me if it was my dog. I said No, and we looked at each other and the one other truck still at the rest stop. The fellow in that truck didn't own the dog either. The truck driver tried to read the dog's collar, but the dog growled at him. The old man phoned somebody to report the stray dog.

Aside from growling at the truck driver, the dog seemed friendly. If I wasn't planning to spend the night at a friend's place I would seriously have considered picking him up. He let me look at his collar but there was no tag. I hope whoever the old man called came to get the dog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Goodbye to D'Arcy

I am staying at Sam's place in D'Arcy before heading east for the winter.

Doesn't that sound backwards? Shouldn't I be heading west or south? Silly me!

On Tuesday night I slept in the truck. It was cold but fine in my warm sleeping bag.

On Wednesday night, knowing that it would be colder than Tuesday, I thought I'd sleep in Sam's guest room, the attic. But the place is absolutely infested with stink bugs. I started out killing a bunch of them, they are slow-moving and easy targets, but it didn't stop the tide. I read in bed for awhile, occasionally smashing a stink bug, but when one crawled up onto my chest I gave up. Shaking out all my bedding and clothes I beat a retreat to the truck.

Sam has closed off his attic in hopes that the cold will do in the miserable creatures, but at the very least the closed trapdoor should keep them up in the attic rather than downstairs in his living space.

They're fairly harmless, just disgusting. Sam tells me they are not native to North America, so they have no predators here. They are vegetarian and cause problems for some farmers, but do not bite humans or carry disease. They are large and slow-moving and when they fly they seem incapable of landing, they just crash into things. Also they emit a bad smell, hence their name.

Nights are getting cold, in the truck it dropped to +3C. By the time I reach northern Ontario it should be closer to -3C.

I am debating whether to take the Duffy Lake Road (the switchback road from hell) from here, or retrace my steps to Vancouver and take the Coquihalla. Apparently there is construction on the Duffy Lake with one lane of traffic for almost 50 km. On those switchbacks that means a good hour or more, so if you get to the flag point at the wrong time you could be waiting for up to 2 hours to go through. Normally that road would cut hundreds of kilometers and a couple of hours off the trip east, so it's a dilemma. Also it's very scenic when driven during the daytime with no snow on the road.

I have friends in Edmonton that I will stay with and visit, a night on the road in Saskatchewan---hopefully I will make it back to Buffalo Pound Lake Provincial Park for that night---and another night with my niece in Winnipeg. Then two nights on the road in northern Ontario and a visit with my brother in Kirkland Lake. Another dilemma. Take the colder northern route or the slightly warmer but considerably longer southern route? I will have to play it by ear, it will depend on just how cold. I think I can handle -5C, but I am not sure about -10C.

Yesterday I went walking on the mountain with the dogs, and they took off on me. There was no hope of finding them, they move a lot faster than I can. I didn't know if they had found some shortcut home or if they were off hunting (they do that sometimes). I called them a bunch of times and then started walking back to Sam's place. The lousy buggers caught up with me about 15 minutes away from the cabin. Hapi (the female) is the instigator, Hiro (the male) is more inclined to return when called than she is, but he gets anxious when she doesn't come too so he tends to stay with her.

While walking home without them I was thinking bad thoughts about them. They don't like to abandon each other in the mountains, but they sure don't care about abandoning me. However they did stick close to me after they returned, waiting for me to catch up whenever they got just out of sight. And they were completely beat for the rest of the day when we got back to the cabin.

This will probably be the last time I visit this place, I will most likely not return before Sam moves to Windsong.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I finished the last Larsson book and packed up to leave Vancouver on Friday. Beofre leaving however, I had to get snow tires on the truck, and Dave insisted I get the engine noise checked out before I left. It has been noisy for so long that I was used to it and didn't think it was unusual, but he did. He thought it was my water pump and as it turned out, he was correct. Good thing I got it checked out I guess, but between that and the snow tires I dropped $1400 in two days at the same auto shop. That hurt.

My intention was to visit yet more friends who live in Whistler and then pick up the last of my stuff at D'arcy before heading east. I had wonderful sunny clear weather for the scenic drive to Whistler, and arrived in time to go for a lengthy hike around the neighbourhood. Lots of great views of the surrounding mountains. This picture is of the Armchair Glacier, just to the "left" of Blackcomb and Whistler ski mountains.

We walked out to Green Lake, where we saw a beaver lodge built into the shore and considerable beaver damage among the nearby trees. They had felled a bunch of trees, some of them quite large. One tree had been girdled but not felled. Several trees had fallen only partially, hung up in other trees. The girdled tree had another felled tree leaning on it so if they ever chew threw they will get two very big trees in one.

Whistler is a well-known resort town, houses there sell for millions of dollars. We walked through a neighbourhood of some of those million-dollar homes. They are fairly spectacular, with large wooden beams and lots of glass to take advantage of the surrounding mountain views. But they are also crowded together like a subdivision. If you want privacy in Whistler, you pay way more than a million or two for it.

My friends in Whistler live in a cabin that he, Keith, built in the early '70s, before Whistler was a money destination. It is well done, he being an engineer, but he says that for Whistler it is a tear-down. They are doing some renovations to make it more comfortable but there is no point in renovating for resale value because all the value is in the site, not the house.

We watched the Stellar's Jays on their deck, they come for the peanuts that Keith and Judy throw to them. One jay is quite fearless, he takes the peanut from your hand. In the morning he perches on the patio door frame, insistent on his peanut handout. Other jays are not so bold, they wait hidden in the surrounding spruces to pounce on a thrown peanut. They are very beautiful birds with large black crests bigger than the eastern Blue Jay's crest. But just as raucous.

On my second day in Whistler we drove out to the Olympic Village, built near the old site of the town dump (I have to laugh at that). We then followed a trail up the Cheakamus River, across a suspension foot bridge and back down the other side of the river. Along the way we looked at many mushrooms. Judy had recently been on a mushroom identification walk in Whistler and wanted to reinforce her newfound knowledge of mushrooms. It was quite interesting all the different kinds of mushrooms we saw, but being rank amateurs none of us knew their names or edibility status.

At night we could see lights on the two skiing mountains, Blackcomb and Whistler. Tiny lights outlined the lifts to different ski runs and one bright light identified a shelter high on Blackcomb. We speculated as to why it was lit up, Judy told me their was a summer road up there and we wondered if maybe they were provisioning the cabin for the winter when the road was closed.

Besides the Stellar's Jays I also saw my first Clark's Nutcracker, hanging upside down from spruce branches prying loose the seeds from the spruce cones. Smart and handsome looking bird.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My alter ego

Johanna and I in our matching jackets, holding our matching water bottles.

I'm off on the road again.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sechelt renos, Vibes, smugglers and eagles

I visited friends who live near Sechelt for a few days. They are in the midst of renovations, so it was hard to pick a good time to visit between all the scheduled (and rescheduled) rounds of contractors and renovations. They were redoing the floors, windows and doors, and installing an all-new kitchen. We finally managed a couple of days when they were between contractors. The floors, windows and doors were done and the old kitchen largely dismantled, but the new kitchen still in the works. That meant no kitchen cabinets and no dishwasher or kitchen sink. Dishes were stored temporarily in a laundry room cabinet and water came from the laundry tub (good thing they had one!). Carpets were rolled up and furniture was shoved into corners.

The visit was fun though, we spent one day in town doing errands and shopping and another day hiking out to nearby Smugglers' Cove. While in town I checked around for the cost of snow tires for my truck, I need new tires and they may as well be snow tires at this time of year.

I told my friends about a car that friends in Nova Scotia think I should consider for my next vehicle, the Pontiac Vibe. We saw one parked on the street in front of a store where they cut keys, it turned out to belong to the store owner. When he wasn't running the store he was out gold prospecting, he said he used the Vibe for everything and it was a helluva good car. He couldn't understand why they discontinued it, it was so good. Maybe that's why.

Anyway, after that Morrie was spotting Vibes everywhere. It's based on the Toyota Matrix, and looks almost identical to it, but Morrie quickly determined and pointed out the small differences in styling. I would never have figured that out.

Smugglers' Cove is a little cove hidden from view on the coast, as most smugglers' coves are. This particular smugglers' cove was used for human smuggling. When the first national railway was completed in 1885 many Chinese labourers were let go and had no work. They were unable to leave the country and were mistreated because of racism. So human smugglers transported them, for a price, into the United States to find work there. This was one of the points of embarkment.

We hiked out to a rocky point where we enjoyed the sunlight and beautiful view. A bald eagle in a tree there was disturbed by our arrival with three dogs, but it did not budge from its perch. We took a few pictures of it while it pretended not to notice us.

We watched a tugboat slowly towing a huge log boom, the logs looked to be very large and at least three deep. I think the tugboat was moving at no more than one knot, it took a very long time to cross our line of sight. We had lunch while watching its progress.

On the walk back we encountered a couple of mushroom pickers. They were from one of the yachts moored in the cove, and were looking for edible mushrooms in the woods. They said it was a poor year for them, too dry.

We later went for an early supper at a nearby pub with a view of another cove just up the way. I had a hamburger and fries with beer. Although the walk was not strenuous or long, we were quite exhausted by the time we got back to my friends' house.

While at their place I was happy to be sleeping in the truck, it was not cold and was more comfortable than an air mattress on the floor. I don't much care for air mattresses.

The ferry trip back to Horseshoe Bay was uneventful and I got in some reading. Johanna and Dave, my hosts in Vancouver, and I have been working our ways through the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy (The Girl Who... books). I recently bought the last one and am trying to get through it in time to leave it behind for Johanna and Dave to read after I leave. So I have a bit of a deadline and it is a huge book. Reading time is valuable.