Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eva Mackenzie

My granddaughter, born 8.00pm Monday August 30, to proud parents Josh and Kim. Right on schedule too!

She is the main excuse for this trip west.

My home

I took possession today, on the other side of the country.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My iPhone

Shortly before I left Nova Scotia I bit the bullet and got myself an iPhone.

I had been thinking of doing this for some time, had discussed it with folks at the dogpark in my Toronto neighbourhood, but until the very end of July just hadn't been able to bring myself to do it.

For many years I have had a "Pay and Talk" phone, a very simple cell phone that I only paid ten dollars a month for and that did most everything I wanted a phone to do: I could call people up and they could call me. No texting or taking photos or browsing the internet or downloading my email, just a simple cheap cell phone.

Our resident geek at the dogpark had advised against an iPhone, he disapproved of Apple because they censor the software apps you can download (upload?) onto your phone. He recommended another brand of smart phone, one just like his that had one of those slide-out keyboards for texting. But for a number of reasons I decided to go with the iPhone, not least of which was the fact that Isaac has one and he could help me get started on it.

So I got my brand new iPhone, and my brand new 3-year contract at $50 a month, in July just before I left Nova Scotia. It worked just fine on the trip back to Toronto. I exchanged text messages with Isaac all the way, checked my email while on the road, and everything was just fine. I didn't know how to use most of its functionality but what the hey. I felt like I had joined the 21st century.

In Toronto Isaac ripped a bunch of my music CDs and uploaded them to my iPhone so I would have music on the road. I learned a few things about how to operate the phone, and Isaac got me a neat little attachment that allows me to recharge the phone battery in the truck and play my music over the truck stereo system. Good idea for a long road trip.

Then I set out for BC.


Somewhere past Sault Ste Marie in northern Ontario my iPhone stopped working as a phone. I could still use it as an iPod, but it didn't work as a phone, I couldn't send or receive text messages, and I couldn't download email or check the internet or use the map and GPS function. I thought my phone was broken.

It took me two days to get from the Soo to the Manitoba border. No phone. At the tourist info centre there the lady told me this was common and I should find that my cell phone works again a few kilometers down the road in Manitoba. But it didn't.

In Winnipeg it suddenly started working again, and I was able to use the map function to find my niece Tara's place. There I called the phone company and gave them hell for the lack of phone coverage in northern Ontario. The fellow I talked to informed me that that was only half the bad news. That aside from Winnipeg, I could expect my lack of phone coverage to continue all the way through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and I would not see my phone working properly again until I got to Alberta!

What an unpleasant joke. My old $10-a-month phone had always worked just fine through these parts, now I was paying $50-a-month for no coverage over 3 days worth of highway.

Sure enough, the phone kicked in again when I crossed the border into Alberta a couple of days later. And all the way through the mountains of BC it worked just fine. Except in D'arcy, but I knew that about D'arcy, no cell phones work there.

On Gambier Island I told my friends there about this highly annoying problem with my new phone. Dave is recently retired from the phone company that I have my contract with, and he explained the background to why my phone didn't work. It turns out to be all politics, there is no technical reason for it, just politics. And unfortunately the politics involved are not under the control of the phone company, so I can't really blame them for the problem. Although I sure wish someone had told me before I set out on this trip.

Coincidentally Johanna had gotten a smartphone about the same time I got my iPhone, but she got a different brand name, a Motorola phone. We've been comparing phones. Her phone seems to have more features than mine, but the features that I do have seem to be better quality. For example, her camera has a flash and various options for manipulating the image, but mine has no flash and no options. However the resulting photo seems to be better quality and the picture taking action is faster on my phone.

I don't have the slide-out keyboard which looks quite nifty on her phone. Also, we both have bluetooth, but the bluetooth functionality on the iPhone is only good for headphones (apparently) whereas she can use hers for sending photos to another cell phone. She tried to send me a photo but couldn't because my bluetooth wouldn't accept it.

I debated reactivating my old "Pay and Talk" phone for the trip back east, I still haven't decided about that. It will cost me an extra $50 to reactivate and I just don't know whether it is worth it. In the past I have travelled through the USA without a phone and relied on the kindness of strangers when I ran into truck-trouble. I think the kindness of strangers probably works in Canada as well.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So here are a few of the photos of my trip from my iPhone. Not very exciting, but better than nothing!

Lunch at a rest area somewhere in northern Ontario:

View of Lake Superior, a small inland sea! It was a windy day with breakers on the water:

The Terry Fox monument, just east of Thunder Bay on Lake Superior. Can't not stop there. He's my hero.

The Sleeping Giant as seen from the Terry Fox monument.

Crocheted cobwebs in a tree at The Forks in Winnipeg:

Bathroom stop somewhere in Manitoba.

A river in the city of North Vancouver. Where else do you get a river like this right in the city?

Leia hunting rocks in the river.

I took no photos in Alberta or BC on the trip because there was no point, it was too smokey. I probably should have taken photos of Saskatchewan grain fields or oil wells in Alberta (actually the first oil well I saw in operation was in southwestern Manitoba) or other picturesque stuff like that, I am just not very good at whipping out the camera when there's something interesting to catch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From D'arcy to Gambier and points in between

I arrived in D'arcy very late on Friday, and while I intended to head to Gambier Island the very next day, it just seemed a little too rushed and I was tired. So I stayed put for a day, walking the dogs and watching videos and just hanging out in one of the prettier parts of the province of BC.

Getting to Gambier Island was complicated. I had to drive to Horseshoe Bay, park my truck in longterm parking and then haul my stuff to the ferry terminal to catch the Langdale ferry. Sam and I stopped for lunch in Pemberton and that kind of made me a bit late---catching the ferry is always a hurry up and wait affair---and so I ended up trying to run from the underground parkade in Horseshoe Bay to the ferry terminal with a heavy backpack, a dufflebag, a shopping bag and my shoulder bag full of stuff for fear of not catching the ferry in time.

But I made it to the ferry and almost an hour later I was in Langdale, where I had to wait another hour for the New Brighton ferry, a little walk-on ferryboat called the Stormaway.

There were five of us and an ambulance waiting for that ferry. It turned out that a young man on Gambier had broken his ankle while hiking, so the ambulance had come to pick him up, but the ambulance could not go on a walk-on ferry, they had to wait for the unfortunate young man to be ferried from the island to Langdale.

One lady waiting for the ferry approached me to find out who I was and who I was staying with on the island; it's a small island and everybody knows everybody so I guess I kind of stuck out as a stranger. In return for that information she proceeded to tell me that she and her husband, who lived year-round on the island, were en route from a hospital in Vancouver to a hospital in Sechelt, but were stopping at their home on Gambier to pick up the necessaries for an overnight stay in the Sechelt hospital. Turns out her husband had been feeling poorly last week so they had gone to his doctor in the big city and he had ordered up a colonoscopy and the colonoscopy had revealed colon cancer. So lickety split they were off to the Sechelt hospital for surgery. Thank goodness the process for diagnosing the problem and getting it treated was so fast (less than a week), but surely worrisome for being such a serious matter.

After telling me all this, she then points to another waiting passenger and confides that that woman had also had cancer. I guess island people have no secrets.

In short order the Stormaway arrived and we all boarded and paid our fares. Ten minutes later we were at the dock on the island, where the young man with the broken ankle was lying on a stretcher on the dock. Apparently the ambulance people had decided that they would not take him after all, but rather ordered up a hovercraft to go get him and take him directly from the island to the big city. But that meant that he had to wait a little longer for the hovercraft to get there. I suppose in the long run that was faster and easier, but at the time it didn't seem so. He was getting lots of attention from folks coming and going though.

My friends were waiting there for me and we packed all my stuff into their island car to head back to their place. I was only staying overnight, but it was equally beautiful there (as D'arcy) and very relaxing. We had a lovely supper out on the deck and then later went for a stroll down to the wharf to see the sunset. We also saw a deer in their yard and a seal off the wharf.

The next day we went for a walk with the dog in the woods, puttered around the house and later in the afternoon headed back to the ferry dock to go back to the mainland. The plan was to spend a couple of days in town and then go back to the island, but life got complicated and we ended up not returning to the island at all. We will probably go back for the long weekend coming up.

So in town I have managed to make all the financial arrangements for buying the house in Nova Scotia and had a brief visit with Josh and Kim who are expecting their baby imminently.

I'll also be going back to D'arcy for the Mayhem, an annual event amongst Sam and his friends. Not having ever attended before I can't tell you much more about it. But I am guessing that when a young man invites his mother to a weekend-long party, it must not be anything he wouldn't want his mother to witness.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I arrived in D'arcy late last night, just around midnight. The dogs, Hapi and Hiro gave me a wonderful greeting, I think they might actually remember me from last winter's visit. It was good to see Hiro healthy again. They were so excited that they had to go off and play together for a bit to burn off some of that energy.

As usual the trip was interesting. I left Toronto Sunday evening to drive the short distance to Barrie where my brother lives. I had a late supper there and a short visit. The next day I set out for northern Ontario. It was so hot in Toronto when I left that I wasn't really thinking about the possibility that it might not be hot anywhere else. In fact I packed my cold weather clothes in a suitcase that I put in the very back of the truck, figuring I wouldn't need it for awhile. Hah!

My second night was spent in a campground just west of the infamous Wawa. It's a place I've stayed before and very peaceful and quiet, by a small northern lake with loons. I almost said I woke to hear them calling, but actually I awoke in the middle of the night, freezing. I had to get up and dig out my warmer sleeping bag. And later in the morning I had to tear my careful packing of the truck apart to get at the warm clothes. The Toronto heat and humidity was a thing of the past.

I spent another night in Ontario, in another campground that was even colder than the first one, but this time I was prepared. It was 10C when I woke up that morning, but I was snugly warm in my sleeping bag.

The third day, I guess I am not really counting my Sunday drive to Barrie as a full day, I arrived in Winnipeg where I had arranged to stay with my niece Tara and her family. My brother had warned me about Tara's futon, and Tara quickly told me that I would not be subjected to that, I could sleep on either couch instead. She asked me if there was anything in Winnipeg I would like to see, and I had to confess that no, there wasn't. Then I asked her, if she was giving a tour of the city, where would she take a visitor. She had a list! She told me of four or five places she would take a visitor, in order of importance and depending on how much time they had. So I told her I had a couple of hours in the morning, where could we go.

Tara first drove me along the route I would need to take to get out of the city, and then we backtracked to the parliament buildings (the Golden Boy) and The Forks. The latter is a market situated at the fork of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in downtown Winnipeg. We went for a little stroll along the river with William her one-year-old, and then through the market, window shopping various craft shops.

Mostly though, we talked. I was happily surprised at how much we could talk about, it was a most interesting visit. I didn't leave her place until 1.00pm on Wednesday. In checking email I had a reply from a friend who had moved to Calgary that he looked forward to my arrival there, but he tended to work late so I thought I could arrive there late and did not have to rush away from Tara's. Nevertheless I did drive all day to make it to Buffalo Pound Lake provincial park in Saskatchewan, more or less halfway between Calgary and Winnipeg. Saskatchewan seemed smoggy, I was wondering how Saskatchewan could have smog, it being a mostly agricultural province. The sunset was an eerie red and grey affair.

My experience of Saskatchewan campgrounds is that in Saskatchewan they like to camp cheek by jowl out in the open. Granted, Saskatchewan does not have a lot of trees at the best of times, but still, you'd think they'd try to grow a shrub or two in a campground. I arrived in this particular campground fairly late, just before dark, so I just camped where the woman at the entrance booth suggested. However, the next day I drove around the park a bit, it was really quite large, and found an empty group camping area that would have been perfect if I had known of its existence the night before.

The smog was worse the next day, and after arriving in Alberta I could start to smell it. It wasn't smog, it was smoke. Wood smoke. From the forest fires in British Columbia. On the radio they were issuing public health warnings for the major cities of Alberta: people with compromised systems should stay indoors with the windows closed, healthy people should avoid exertion. The closer I got to Calgary the worse it got. My eyes burned.

My friend Jerome welcomed me to Calgary. The last time I saw him, a couple of years ago, he was living in Vancouver and then I found out via Facebook that he had moved to Calgary but I never got the details of why. He did not seem to me like someone who would move away from Vancouver, ever. Over a great seafood dinner at a local restaurant, Jerome told me the story of why he was in Calgary.

Briefly it involved job layoffs for him and his partner, union rules allowing a laid off person to "bump" another union member from their job, then further complications that resulted in one of them remaining in Vancouver while the other was forced to sit out almost two years in Calgary. Jerome was the one in Calgary. They had bought a town house and furnished it quite nicely with second hand and borrowed furniture, but no beds.

Jerome told me that I was his first guest since he moved to Calgary over a year ago and he decided not to tell me there was no bed until after I arrived, for fear that I might change my mind and not come. But a foamy on the floor is still more comfortable than a two-foot wide bench in the back of a truck, he had no worries there.

I left Calgary around 10.00am the next morning. I had decided I would head to Sam's place in D'arcy rather than Vancouver, since I was more assured of a place to stay there and it looked on the map to be about the same distance from Calgary. So that meant driving through Banff and Kamloops and Lillooet. The smoke got thicker as I approached the mountains, in fact I did not actually see any mountains until I was at the very foot of one, the visibility was so bad. Quite suddenly there was this grey shape looming out of the fog.

I stopped in Canmore for gas, since I was reasonably sure it would be more expensive in BC than in Alberta. The gas station I stopped at was full serve, the fellow who came to fill up my truck asked me where I was going to/coming from. I told him I was coming from Nova Scotia and he immediately told me he was from Cape Breton. He said BC was nice but if he won the lottery he'd be back in CB in a flash. But no jobs there. I commiserated, told him Cape Breton was beautiful and I certainly understood his sentiment. Asked him what part, he said Sydney, I said I had friends in Margaree Harbour. Then another gas jockey walked by and grinned and said I'm from Nova Scotia too, what part are you from. I told him The Valley and he nodded and said Antigonish. Ah. Saint FX (Antigonish) and Acadia (Wolfville) are college football rivals. He said, Welcome, there's a lot of us here.

That was kind of neat. I had a good feeling about the place already.

The famous scenery of Banff National Park was lost in the smoke. Arriving in BC was kind of anticlimactic, no mountains. The few that I saw were ghostly in the foggy smoke, surreal. The smoke got thicker as I headed westward. It just was not fun or pretty or anything. By dusk I was past Kamloops and Cache Creek, headed toward Lillooet. The moon rose red in the smoke. But very soon the smoke cleared and the moon turned white. I could breathe the cool clean air again.

By Lillooet I was tired. I still had another 150 km to go. I was going to call Sam to say that I thought I'd camp out tonight and arrive in the morning, but he didn't answer so I kept going. The Duffy Lake road was awful. It is up and down, switchback after switchback, never a straight level stretch at all for a hundred kilometers. I was between two other cars, I couldn't put on my highbeams and I had the headlights of the car behind me in my sidemirrors. At one point I pulled off and let them get ahead of me so I could drive in the dark. That was OK for awhile, but I eventually caught up with them again. Then there were cows on the road. The car ahead of me honked to make them move off the road faster, but they seemed in no rush. As if there was really nowhere else to go, they were happy to just stay in the road. They stared at us balefully.

Finally I arrived in D'arcy. It was midnight and Sam had a campfire going with his dogs. I got an enthusiastic doggy greeting from a couple of giant malemutes, they nearly knocked me over.

Good to be arrived.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Off again

I am leaving today or tomorrow for the west, will blog later!
I have officially given up my apartment in Toronto, my belongings are stacked in a pile awaiting removal. For the next few weeks I am homeless.
Good old truck. My home away from home, my home in a pinch.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pit stop

I'm in Toronto now, briefly, before setting out again for BC, probably sometime next week. The first day on the road was pleasant enough but the second day was very hot. I arrived in Toronto hot, sweaty and cranky.

I spent yesterday unpacking and cleaning up. While I was away my apartment was painted and there was some mess leftover from that. Not so much paint mess as furniture and belongings moved and packed up to make room for the painter. I selected the colours long distance and via online colour chips which I don't recommend. The real life colours are not exactly what I had in mind, but not my problem.

I bought one of those IGA barbecued chickens to eat while on the road, and I have to say I am royally sick of barbecued chicken now. Basically I ate lettuce and chicken for two days. The lettuce was OK, I'm not sick of that, but it'll be awhile before I buy another barbecued chicken. Not sure what I'll eat on the trip to BC but it won't be barbecued chicken.

It was nice to get back to the dogpark and renew acquaintance with the dogs and their owners. Taiga looks different, he has crossed the invisible line from teenager to adult. The difference is subtle, he's the same size and shape and colour, but his face just looks older. He's a husky-malemute cross and his face looks more wolf-like now.

But all the other dogs are pretty much the same. Valentine had her DNA tested and turns out to be a mix of 4 dog breeds, none of which look at all like her. 95% husky and pomeranian, 5% shih tsu and greyhound. The husky part explains her constant wandering off, but no one would ever guess pomeranian or shih tsu! She's easily as big as Billy the german shepherd. I'd have guessed some kind of collie-shepherd mix, with something very white thrown in. Maybe that's the shih tsu in her.

Now that I am unpacked and tidied up, today is a day for errands. Pick up library books, put stuff in the mail, do a bit of shopping. Overnight the temperature and humidity here dropped dramatically so it's a good day to get outdoors. By Sunday it will be hot and humid again.

My Canning mechanic fixed one of the rain leaks in my truck and partially fixed another. So now the box stays dry and the cab doesn't get quite as wet in the rain. I finally got a good downpour to test it while driving in Quebec the other day. I am happy with the improvement.

My kayak is going to live on the truck roof for the foreseeable future, until I get back to Wolfville it has no other home. Hopefully the urethane I put on it last summer will protect it from the extended UV exposure. I am still debating whether to drive through the USA or Canada, there are pros and cons both ways. In the east I prefer Canada, in the west I like the USA.

Isaac is proposing that he rent a truck and take a load of my belongings to Wolfville for me on the Labour Day weekend, then he gets to see the changes to our old house. I haven't decided yet whether to go along with that. From experience I don't like having other people do my packing for me, but it would be nice to have the bulk of my stuff moved down while I am away. There won't be time for me to pack up before I leave for BC. Ideally I'd like to go with, but Isaac is not free later in the fall, and I am not free earlier. There are some other considerations as well, so I guess I have to think about it for awhile.