Category Archives: Road Trip

Bunyips

There is a mythical monster in Australia, one that is even feared by the biggest killer of humans, the Estuarine Crocodile or ‘Saltie’. I write of course of the Bunyip, that terror of tourists, ravager of ‘Roos and consumer of the cutest Koalas. The name appears to have devolved into slang, where having ‘a case of the Bunyips’ is a minor but undefinable health inconvenience akin to being a bit upset or nervous about something.

On that subject; Mrs S woke me the other morning while we were staying in a pleasant little off the beaten track B&B to confess that she had felt a ‘presence’ which had disturbed her otherwise unblemished repose the previous night. I knew what she meant, as I’d felt the same thing too, as a vague sense of unease, a sense of something not quite right drifting across the room. She characterised it as an unhappy feeling with no material stimulus of connection that clouded her consciousness. For myself I had a sense of a disturbance in the unseen just as I was drifting off. Then it was gone. All sins forgiven.

Rather like the Interweb being on the fritz across Southeastern Australia. Which has something to do with lightning strikes over the last few nights, so we’re told. Lots of fried routers, or should that be routers with fries. Thanks Telstra. Mobile phones seem to be working though. At least they haven’t succumbed to the heat and rain. Although our recent heat wave has apparently been ‘boiling’ Fruit bats alive not far from our current location. Someone should have told them about drinking plenty of fluids staying in the shade and slapping on the SPF 50 sun cream.

Oh yes, we actually had rain yesterday afternoon en route to last nights picturesque little lodging. First big drop hit our windscreen like a paintball round with a loud ‘Spack!” Then another and another for twenty seconds until it was like automatic fire. After about a minute this bombardment settled down to regular rain which the windscreen wipers could cope with. That lasted about thirty minutes then everything dried up again until the evening when the wind it blew and the rain it did fall, but by then we’d consumed a couple of bottles of a very quaffable Savignon (Not Sauvignon, it’s a hybrid grape) and couldn’t have cared less. Temperatures have now returned to the mid to high twenties Celsius. So the Fruit bats will be back to their normal habit of shitting out of the trees instead of falling out of them.

In the wake of the recent brief heat wave have come brief but very intense storms flooding over the Blue Mountains, which is where we rest our weary heads this very eve. Thunder, lightning, high winds and torrential rain have paraded past our windows in the last three hours. In the wake of these storms followed an almost ethereal sunset and a single truncated pillar of a rainbow.

The local Aboriginal peoples claim this land has magical powers, and after the last few hours, I’m inclined to believe them.

BTW: There is nothing ‘intrepid’ about this trip. Indeed I have gone to great lengths to avoid any hint of derring-do, knight errantry or bravery against hostile elements of any shape, form or substance. Indeed, we have employed all the magical arts of modern techno-magery such as air conditioning, bug repellent, booking websites and the financial assistance of Mister Mastercard to avoid having to be even slightly courageous or resourceful. Courage is a fine thing and a useful tool, but should be kept in reserve for those occasions when you cannot help but need it. Let it be known that if the Bunyips come calling again I will have made strenuous efforts not to be there when they arrive.

That’s all for now. Back in Sydney to begin our last week in the Fabled land of Oz tomorrow. So perhaps we’ll have a more reliable Interweb connection by then.

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A Sunday Post

I love Tech, both old and new. Particularly tech that has stayed the course and proved worthy beyond any predicted life. See below two pictures of Catalina’s or Canso versions of the PBY flying boat, designed in the 1930’s and still flying today. The one on the left can be found slap bang in the middle of St Anthony’s Newfoundland. Not near any airstrip, just parked on a vacant lot as a museum type exhibit. The second we sighted from the northern perimeter road at Victoria International Airport 21st July.
These two venerable airframes have been around since the late 1930’s / early 40’s and still have that look of, how should I phrase it, worthiness. Solidity. Yes, they’re an old design, but in their heyday were known for staying in the air on long range patrols of up to 24hours. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another manned production aircraft that can match that.

Don’t ask me what it is but there is a strange kind of beauty about these grande dames of the air.

Oh yes. Have a look at the map below with the locations marked, then take a look to the extreme right at a small group of islands off the coast of Europe. We drove all the way between these points (Apart from two ferry trips) A shade over 17,000Km or well over 10,000 miles. I still don’t think I’m fully recovered.

Windows 10 and other crap

Since I’m ‘in funds’ at present with spare disposable income, I decided to buy a few things that will make life a little easier. No problem, right? On so many other levels, oh so many other directions, completely wrongety wrong-wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes, dear reader I bought two new Windows 10 Laptops for our business. Silly me. But they looked a good deal, had a reasonable spec and for a while worked quite well. Email was processed. Applications processed data. Web was browsed. Skype conversations had. Even movies watched.

Until the last ‘upgrade’. Bloody Windows upgrades.

For the last 72 hours my new laptop has been making a loud buzzing noise before crashing and rebooting, and all the changing of sound and video settings was to no avail. My professional virus checker found nothing, even after update to the latest version. When I tried to watch Youtube flash video, five minutes later; BZZZZZZZZZ! And the whole machine went tits up and rebooted. Until I delved into the dusty recesses of Windows Device Manager and found that something had added an Intel Video chipset as well as the onboard Realtek. So what was causing the crashes was a conflict between system drivers which provoked me into tearing out what remains of my once-flowing locks. However, it’s an easy fix. The Intel drivers and chipset have to be deactivated, which is what I did, and since then all is well (Fingers, toes, nose and eyes crossed). Until the next ‘upgrade’ (snort of derision).

Then when we get home we find that we’ve been ‘selected’ for something we didn’t volunteer for. Erm excuse me. I don’t have to, so I won’t. I’ve got better things to do with my time and have no truck with complete bullshit like ‘social cohesion’ which is a complete nonsense term peddled by complete nonces to force their values upon you. The Trudeaupians can talk about ‘Canadian values’ all they like, but there’s a problem. I’m not Canadian born and don’t kiss arses any more. I’ve paid all my bills and my taxes are up to date so this particular branch of officialdom can Arkell vs Pressdram as far as I’m concerned. They will find my studied politeness is finite.

On the upside, whilst we were away, our landlord, nice chap with whom we have a reasonable working relationship, had bought our apartment a new washing machine because a worn out bearing in the old one was making the whole house vibrate. This new one bleeps, plays little tunes, has a lovely light show built in and sometimes it even deigns to wash our clothes. Strange but cute. And we have a lot of clothes to wash.

Anyway, that’s one thing about an extended road trip. No matter how far you go, or how long you’re away, you’re always stuck with the dirty laundry when you get back.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Last day and Ikea

Last day of the trip the other day and it was both interesting and amusing. Mrs S and I were having little fun within the confines of IKEA Richmond. Fun? In IKEA? Bill, are you completely barking? Well maybe, possibly, and then again, completely, positively, not. There is always method in any madness I might superficially exhibit.

On this trip I’ve discovered a few things about myself, and have taken more steps to embrace my inner monster, as has Mrs S. For example; We dropped by IKEA this afternoon after a fruitless morning spent on other tasks and paused for lunch. Someone’s child was screaming the restaurant down. I commented; “Someone is torturing that child.”
“Do they sell tickets?” Mrs S commented with a small smile. Well she’s entitled. Thirty plus years of dealing with other people’s unruly brats can give you a little darkness in the soul. With a little help from me, of course.
“I didn’t know IKEA did dungeons.” I replied.
“New product line.” She nodded sagely.
“Nice to see they’re keeping up with the new trend for BDSM in parenting.” I responded.
“Not before time.” She remarked darkly. We essayed a small shared chortle. You can get heartily sick of other people’s low standards and having a little fun at their expense is insufficient payment for having your eardrums reamed out. Yes, I’ve got a bad case of chronic misanthropy. I got it from coming in contact with a lot of stupid. On both sides of the pond.

On that topic I’ve often maintained that only 15% of humanity is actually using much of their brain at any one time. The other 85% are coasting gently through life on automatic without observing or paying attention. Often using less brain power than a heavily sedated slug. Well that’s their problem. If they want to go through their lives learning little that is new, then that’s their loss. Personally I’ve examined most of the religions and political positions of this world and found only one that suits my needs; that’s to leave well alone, give yourself and other people space, and bite them only if they give you trouble. Not to interfere in the actions of others unless they are metaphorically screwing under your figurative front porch. There are far too many moronic meddlers all over the place, inventing ‘problems’ to ‘fix’ (Usually by making previously harmless stuff illegal) and who should be regarded as nothing more than chicanes on the race track of life.

Anyway. They aren’t my problem. I have elected to start my Summer mornings with hot tea and fresh baked croissants today. Thus refreshed I will go out upon my daily round, attempting to be witty and amusing where possible. Shining light in the darkness, and if no one pays any attention apart from the cockroaches, buggering off to do my own thing. Not my business to fix the world. Most of it is too thick to be fixed. Pass the marmalade.

Back in BC

Bloody hell, are we back in Pacific Time? I do believe we are. “Holy crap!” said the Joker as he force fed the Pope Castor oil. Drinking half way decent wine, trying not to watch the news because it’s all drama for the masses anyway.

Although there’s no such thing as ‘the masses’. Just individuals who move, for a while, in the same (Or approximately the same) direction. And despite what some political scientists will aver, many people, including myself, have changed their views over the course of their lives. Some don’t, and never will. This is human nature. We are all individuals. Even if some of you aren’t.

Any old road up, we’re only a day away from Vancouver. The car needs repacking before we head out on another wine tasting day. The wines around the northern end of Lake Okanagan tend towards the dryer, even astringent end of the spectrum because of the climate. However, we’ve identified a number of what we think are good dinner wines. More on those particular VQA’s later.

We’ve also raided a place called ‘the Jammery‘ which does exceedingly good chutneys and jams, which will be consumed over the Summer with various cheese and charcuterie platters. Which will make a light and pleasant change from the often rather stodgy staples of more traditional Canadian cuisine. Honestly, most Canadian ‘restaurant’ food is either fried or smothered in some sugar loaded sauce with far too many competing flavours. Subtlety is not a characteristic of mainstream commercial Canadian cooking. To them, ‘gourmet’ often means with extra cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I like Canadian cheeses. They make some very good ones (Some quite exceptional). Just not over everything I eat, that’s all. Less is more guys, Capisce?

There’s also the issue with being interrogated by the waiting staff mid mouthful. Which to me is the mark of a third rate (or worse) restaurant. The waiting person can see I’ve got my mouth full, so why do they feel the need to ask diners “How is everything?” When we’re in mid conversation or mouthful? I was always taught that butting in to another’s conversation or forcing them to speak with their mouth full is plain bad manners, and when I’m feeling particularly evil, will pause with a pained expression and launch into a long and detailed description of what isn’t quite right with the food. See example below:

Waiter (Enthusiastically, interrupting diner who is in the process of speaking to his fellows): “Hi guys! How is everything?”
Diner (Pauses, puts down fork, glances sidelong and takes a deep breath before delivering this kind of critique in a thoughtful but polite tone): “Mmm. The steak is a little rubbery for my liking. A little over done. I did specify medium, not medium rare or well done. Whilst I’m thinking about it the salad dressing tastes a little past its sell by date. There’s something not quite right, an additional acidity on the back of the palate. Tell me, do you use one of these low-fat or low-salt dressings? That might account for the strange aftertaste. The lettuce is also a little limp at the edges for my liking. Look here, are these the tracks of the Common Cabbage White caterpillar or some other species? Also the fries are a little overdone and floury. They taste like they’re out of a packet.”
Waiter: (Panicking) “Errr! I’m sorry it’s not to your liking. I’ll get you another one.”
Diner: (In the same thoughtful manner) “Very well. But you did ask.”

Expect a visit from the manager or owner shortly afterwards. Don’t take any bullshit, just stand your ground and don’t blink, metaphorically speaking. Make him earn his money.

Especially if the restaurant you’re in is charging top notch prices for poorly prepared food. I can get a half way decent steak at a Denny’s truck stop restaurant for 14 dollars (about 9 quid) and a cheap but tasty burger from McDonalds, A & W, Wendy’s or DQ for around five bucks. But if I’m paying between 25 and 30 bucks per course (15-18 quid) I want a proper steak or piece of chicken, not something that’s been warmed over for two hours and in the process has turned into one of Mr Goodyears or Mr Bridgestones road safety products. I also pay not to be bugged by the staff and having my train of thought sent chugging off into the sidings when dining. I may be talking business or of philosophical matters and don’t want to be interrupted by some room temperature IQ before I’ve even taken a forkful. If there’s something wrong with the food I will quietly bring it to their attention. If all is well I pay to be left alone.

If the waiting staff who butt into my conversations knew how much their interruptions have cost them in tips over the years they would have a collective fit. I’m a generous man and reward good service, but not if someone gets pushy or serves me overpriced crap. I can also pour my own wine, I’m not bloody disabled. And don’t hover. Only drones hover.

I will not go as far as one guy from my student days who notoriously pulled out a starting pistol in the college canteen and fired it at one of their barely edible burgers, shouting “It’s still moving!” Needless to say, he was suspended for this behaviour. Still a good laugh though. Oddly enough the quality of the food did improve after that.

Yes, I’m a revolting diner, but in response to that calumnious slur I have this to say: I’m the customer. The person who pays restaurant staff wages with my custom. Don’t take the piss or I’ll dine elsewhere and tell my friends to do likewise.

Diners of the world rise up! You have nothing to lose but your plague of third rate restaurants serving little better than deep fried leftovers. Canada has far too many of these establishments and a cull is long overdue.

Flat and out

“Bill, you’re exhausted.” Quoth Mrs S this morning. She’s feeling much better and much more like her usual self. On the other hand, the heat and long hours of the past few days have finally caught up with me and given me a sharp slap on the back of my head for being such a dipstick and trying to do everything. I was already fatigued after something like ten continuous days on the road, but now I’m completely out of gas and in need of serious rest.

The problem is, I can’t stop. Despite hitting the wall last night and flaking out, now the crises of Mrs S’s tooth and the need to get to Calgary are done it’s like my internal flywheel is still spinning at 10,000rpm. All my nervous energy is still spinning in circles and can’t stop whilst all my bodily particles chorusing; “Pack it in Bill. We’re knackered.” This is not fun.

Right. Calgary. What can I say? Fast growing town. Houston of the North. Not quite as big as Vancouver, but catching up. They also call roads ‘trails’ here, which can be a bit confusing, but all you need to know is the Deerfoot trail and the Trans Canada and you’ve pretty much cracked navigating your way around the city.

The Stampede, which rather overshadows Wimbledon this side of the pond, is in full stamp. While players whack their balls over nets at over a hundred and twenty miles per hour in a suburb of London, Calgary is (Mostly) a Rodeo festival with people (Sometimes literally) taking bulls by the horns, having whip rounds and displaying huge amounts of balls riding bulls and horses which essentially don’t want to be ridden. Also racing chuckwagons, which, I’m reliably informed was the original attempt to create fast food. Of course there are also lots of people wearing hats which should be renamed one and a bit litres rather than ten gallon and going “Yee-Haw!” at inappropriate moments. Ten gallons indeed. Three pints more like. Then there’s the country music festival which at last glance was devoid of any names I recognised (Apart from Alabama and Meghan Patrick), but that means nothing. My wife is the country music fan, I’m kind of ambivalent about the whole milieu. Apart from Steve Earle. But I do claim a virulent allergy to line dancing. Sorry, just can’t do it. My legs are all wrong and me bums not the right shape.

However, there are parades, breakfasts, and someone’s even worked in some trail motorcycling events. So there’s quite a lot going on. Of course ticket prices are high, but what the hell, this is something you only do once or twice in your life, unless you’re a real rodeo diehard or one of the competitors.

Oh yes. Did I mention it’s been raining? That Alberta has nicked all of British Columbia’s rain this year? Something to do with trying to see all the Provinces get to share each others weather. Ergo we’ve got to run the gauntlet of some serious wildfires in the next few days on our way home. Not that we’re worried because most of the big fires are in mid BC on the route we took east. We should miss most of the fun and evacuation risk because we’re heading West on the Southern route (Mostly) along Highway One.

Notwithstanding. That is a day or so ahead. Tonight I need to rest, properly.

Past ‘The Hat’

Wham-wham! Grumble, Wham-wham! And another bridge is crossed as our tyres slam over poorly patched potholes and worn expansion joints. Mrs S stirs sleepily in the passenger seat, moaning softly in complaint. She’s had a reaction to the painkillers the dentist prescribed and been throwing up all the livelong day, poor lamb. Now with some Gravol to quell the queasiness, she’s out for the count, leaving all the driving to me.

The resulting delays from having to pull over on high speed roads to let her chunder have turned what should have been a happy seven hour shared drive into a ten hour chore for me. Fortunately I had a good breakfast, and with my camel-like constitution didn’t need very much to eat or drink on the long hack into Calgary, where we’ll be resting up and going to see the Stampede for the next few days. In my younger days I’d be on the road for up to twelve or thirteen hours some trips, driving a delivery van up and down the UK, but now ten is hard work. Maybe I’m getting soft in my frail dotage.

After the last two days I could do with a break from driving, even under the wonderfully broad blue skies of the prairies. It’s been hot too, 36 Celsius recorded by our little SUV’s external thermometer, which means it might have been anything between 30 and 39 Celsius. But it’s a dry heat like in a sauna, and therefore quite bearable, even pleasant.

Now we’re in the air conditioned comfort of a modern hotel, Mrs S has crawled into bed exhausted, leaving me to the perverseness of keyboard and mouse. No bother, she’s past the worst and finally keeping fluids down. We’re past ‘The Hat’ (a strange place called Medicine Hat) which many old expat Canadians considered the break even point of any trans-continental trek. As in if you make can it this far, the folklore goes, you’re likely to make it to the other coast. I don’t care for the place myself, and after a rather unpleasant experience trying to book into one of the local ‘pet friendly’ hotels ten years ago, don’t much care to stay there again.

As far as the rest of the trip is concerned we only have four more days actual serious driving to do before we are back home. However, that’s a couple of weeks away because we’re stopping first in Calgary for a few days, thence in a spa break and wine tour before we stop over in Vancouver to pick up some furniture for the new residence. I’ll also do a bit of calculation on how much in the way of resource we’ve used in terms of petrol (Gasoline) and such. We’ve been keeping a log to see how many miles to the gallon our little SUV can deliver on really long run, thence it’s off to the dealership for a new windscreen and a thorough service and what they call ‘detailing’ over here. Which is rather like a thorough in and external valeting of the vehicle, including the engine compartment. The way I reckon it, the car has done us proud and deserves a proper treat. Maybe I do, too. And I’ve got an idea about that.

From the land of living skies

I blinked and all of a sudden we’ve crossed another time zone, this time overnighting in Regina. Today was fraught with the drama of Mrs S cracking a tooth requiring urgent dental treatment. So I found myself in a strange town in a land that even pancakes would vouchsafe; “That’s a bit flat, that is.” searching for an emergency dentist.

The Gods of fools must have been smiling because within thirty minutes of Mrs S declaring in tears; “Bill, I can’t do this.” We had located a suitable dental practice and she was waiting for a chair to become available. Another hour and a half (and four hundred dollars) later, we set off back on todays trek into deepest Saskatchewan.

My powers of persuasion must have been on form because we went from a ‘No can do’ at front desk to a ‘No problem’ inside five minutes. Must have been the kicked spaniel look that I gave the receptionist, and the pitch and roll I put on my voice that carried into the back treatment room to bring a Dentist scurrying out to declare that one of her other patients had just canceled and she could fit Mrs S in right away. Which left me filing out the paperwork, and Mrs S being helped into a welcome treatment chair.

Now I’ve cracked teeth before and am fully aware how bad it feels. So I was fretting a bit, but even so managed to keep running interference on a parking meter, reading a book, and translating Mrs S’s slightly muffled voice into something everyone could understand. Filling in the gaps of her medical history and just being generally helpful. Thus we went from pain to no pain and the balance of my world was restored.

One of the things I will say about North American dentistry is it’s quality. From pain relief to diagnostics, these guys kick your average NHS Dental surgeon into touch. I’ve even got to the point of looking forward to my twice yearly checkup because fillings are fraughtness free and the one time terror of a dental examination is now a relaxed sit down with a pleasant windowed view of trees. Yes, they’re all (OMG!) private. But they are very, very good.

I did all this fuelled by a single Werthers Original because what with one thing and another I completely missed my morning coffee and any semblance of a breakfast. My sole sustenance was a single hard Caramel candy. The sort Scott of the Antarctic should have taken along because he and his team would not have frozen to death in Moose skin sleeping bags if they had. They would have had the energy to man-haul their sleds all the way to the pole in jig time, beating Amundsen to the punch by a week. Sadly they did not have any such candy (Probably because they’re made by the beastly Hun) and paid the ultimate price for this omission. But everything is obvious with 20/20 hindsight, isn’t it?

Which may be one of the possible downsides of a hard BREXIT. No more Werthers Originals. Or BMW and VW spares. Although those companies will be looking to keep their markets by funneling cash into a British import business to bypass any extra tariffs imposed by vengeful EU Bureaucrats.

The EU needs a good hard kick in the bureaucratics anyway. These petty little tyrants have been busy empire building and siphoning money out of the European economy for far too long. All it needs will be a number of the other member states to tell them the magic money tree will not be giving the pompous plutocrats any more fruit and tell them their new offices are in the basement. Not the French, because they’re used to being subjugated by turbocharged globalist Sir Humphreys. The type I’m referring to are the pompous little pricks who take over the best Parisian Restaurants and double park their Mercedes, blocking the street while their bodyguards practice their bladder control outside trying to look tough. I’ve seen this on numerous occasions in Paris, and twice been unable to book a table because some over promoted suit has decided they have to have the best because they are the masters, not the servants they really should be seen as. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the copybook of other empires (Ottomans and Chinese) and have the bastards castrated when they get above a specific pay grade. Want a government job? – here’s the downside of your pension scheme.

Anyway. Mrs S is now well and recovering from this mornings ordeal. She has said she may be fit to drive a little tomorrow. We shall see. I’m a cautious man, and would prefer to shoulder the burden of driving until the pain has ebbed enough for her to be painkiller free. So we’re off too see Alberta tomorrow, because we’ve heard they’re stampeding for something in Calgary, and we want to see what all the fuss is about. Especially since Justin Trudeau has said he won’t be going. And that’s good enough reason for me.

Werefakawi

Back in the deep distant days of my youth there was a joke about a tribe of Pygmies who were so short that they were first identified by their exasperated cries of “Werefackarwi! Werefackawi!” as they desperately leapt up and down in the Elephant grass, trying to find identifiable landmarks and avoid being trodden on by careless passing herds of grazing fauna. A sad fate that overtook the last known group in 2013 when the last of the tribal elders was found plated to the bottom of some Elephant tracks near the Namibian border. Whenever it comes to Montreal’s road system I feel equally lost as those now extinct natives of Sub-Saharan Africa. Leading to Mrs S and I repeating their famous lament ad nauseum.

All this despite Satnag and a reasonable map of the area. The problem is, what these shiny, whizzy techno-thingies never tell you is that some clever dick has stuck a concrete divider exactly where you want to change lanes to get to your exit, and unless you’re a local, won’t have a clue how to get back on the right track. Don’t forget the road surfaces, which readily conjure up the adjective ‘corrugated’. Honestly, I don’t see how the self-driving car is ever going to become a reality if the very satellite navigation system it runs on is this unreliable. I’m told the technology is coming on in leaps and bounds, but frankly me dears, this is probably why they keep crashing.

As you can probably tell, my last remaining reader, we’ve been out of touch of all media, both online and off. No TV, bugger all in the way of reliable Interweb yet having a jolly nice time. For example, yesterday saw me chilling and alternately toasting at a Nordic Spa, which in methodology resembles the mechanics of a Roman Bath house. Steam Room, Sauna, Warm pool, cold plunge, rest area and even some sunshine to try and spread my ‘farmers tan’ a little further than merely my arms face, and neck. You know, if I ever make a million or two I’m going to have a house with a Nordic spa built in, and sod the renewables hyped cost of Electricity. Although I’d probably go for some kind of wood stove heating for the Sauna and Steam rooms. Wonder if I could get a couple of decent female body slaves to scrape scented oil off me with Strigils? On second thoughts, better not. My wife is a jealous woman, and would insist on the body slave being male, which would kind of take all the fun out of things. Oh well. A chap can dream.

As for satellite navigation, we’ve decided that it’s not the most reliable way of getting from A to B, and have fallen back on good old fashioned paper maps and dead reckoning as the rain catches up with us after a rather pleasant five day hiatus of sunshine and cloud. Tomorrow sees us scooting out into the wilds of Northern Ontario, which means more rocks, more trees, more rain. Hi ho.

So what have we missed? Not a lot by the look of things. BREXIT grinds on and that Trump fellow south of the border continues to raise the blood pressure of a lot of deserving people. I occasionally find myself wondering about who will be the first of them to collapse and die, having first worked themselves into a froth over his twitter feed.

The only real blots on my particular landscape are other people’s screaming kids and a windscreen with a spreading crack, which will require replacement. The crack first started when we were following a truck in Manitoba. There was a bang on our insect encrusted glass, and when I cleaned the charnel house of insect remains off the glass a couple of hundred kilometres later, found a two inch split from a single mini starburst on the drivers side. Now the crack has spread to over a foot and a half long, and a windscreen replacement will be the order of the day when we get home in three weeks. Hey, we’re insured and our little Subaru will be getting a full service as well. It’s also going to be the last of these continent crossing road trips for us. While we love parts of Quebec and fully intend returning because it’s the one place in Canada with any real style, next time we fly. It will probably end up cheaper.

How to?

Mrs S and I converse about a lot of things in the car, and to amuse my one remaining reader, I would like to enlarge. Yesterday we were heading south, me at the wheel dodging the plague of potholes on the 430 from L’Anse Aux Meadows when she asked me; “Bill, what sex is an iceberg?”
Caught off guard for a moment I mentally scratched my head before replying. “I have no idea.” I confessed honestly.
“Ships are usually referred to as ‘she’.” My good lady enlarged. “But what about icebergs?”

My wife likes to challenge me with these apparent non-sequiturs from time to time. I think she likes to keep me on my mental toes. As in ‘tenterhooks’. In the German Medieval sense. Nastily inventive people those medieval Germans. The English version comes from around the same period in the 15th & 16th Centuries when torture was considered de rigeur for all those pointed little questions like “When did you last talk to that heretic Luther?”

“Erm. I didn’t think icebergs had a gender. Ships, yes. Even cars. Bugger.” Was the answer forced out from between my teeth as I failed to miss a brace of suspension rattlers.
“Yes, that’s true. As inanimate objects they wouldn’t.” Was she testing me to see if I was getting bored with driving? Okay. I thought I’d throw out a few ideas.
“Upon reflection.” I said as we cleared the trees and the sea, with it’s complement of blue-green masses of ice hove into view like ghosts on the horizon in the mist. “Perhaps icebergs could be described as female. Sedate. Queenly. Even regal.” I averred carefully.
“And cold?” She joked.
“Definitely.” I replied. “At least until they melt.” Maybe there was an oblique message in the original question. Which is giving me pause for thought. We have had cross words in the last week or so and apologies have been made, but I have the feeling all is still not well in our relationship.

Now I know she’s not happy with our current accommodation (And neither am I), and this neck of the woods is a bit remote for her, (and me) but I’m getting the distinct feeling I’m in deep trouble. However, in keeping with my policy for these remoter sections of our epic road trip, I’ve booked us in for a nice spa break near St Johns for the day after tomorrow. Maybe that will get me out of the hole I appear to be in. Or the potholes that have had me swerving like a drunk to avoid our cars suspension being shattered, at the very least.

A few miles later while slowed to avoid yet more of these bloody potholes, we were treated to the spectacle of the RCMP making an arrest on the other side of the road as we drove by. Handcuffs, the whole thing. Which sparked off another discussion. Further questions about iceberg sexing were forgotten.

Icebergs and Vikings

Well there’s a turn up. I’ve seen my first iceberg. Only a grounded tide-rolled growler less than thirty metres across about a hundred metres offshore, but more than enough cold stuff to chill a million Martinis. Oh all right, officially it was a ‘Bergy bit‘ but it was cold and made of ice, so in my book it counts as an iceberg. So there. There’s actually a web site that tracks them, here. Cute or what?

Today we’ve sighted enough ice to keep Vancouver nicely chilled and am still blown away by the sedate blue green majesty of these berg cast offs. On the way back to our hotel we saw a Catalina PBY on display. Right in the middle of a tiny Newfoundland town. And the two Moose on the roadside. One of which stayed still long enough to let Mrs S catch it’s image before doing a lolloping high step into the brush and swamp at the roadside. Pictures will follow as soon as we’re home to my photo-editing software.

Well this is the area first settled by Northern Europeans in the 10th Century AD. At least the first evidence thereof. Other suspected sites have been found further North on Baffin Island and South at Rosee Point, Newfoundland. Indeed, Norse sagas specifically describe three lands; Helluland (Baffin Island) Vinland (Newfoundland) and Markland (Labrador). And if you read this article, a 10th century Norse coin was found at a North American Indian settlement as far back as 1957. Nineteen fifty seven? Sixty years ago and no one’s made a big deal out of it? Bloody hell. That’s like being told the Holy Grail actually exists and gets used as a toothmug by a Mrs E.Thrigg of Acacia Avenue, Watford, UK who picked it up at a bring and buy sale.

Mind you, I can see why the Vikings picked up and left after only a decade. This part of the world is a desolate place, despite Corner Brook & the northern tip of Newfoundland being rated as one of the most beautiful drives in Canada, at least according to the Canadian Book of Lists. Yeah, right. The bumper crop of potholes might put a crimp in that experience. We passed salt burned, stunted trees with blackened trunks, salt marshes and acres of rocks with little or nothing growing. I also hear tell the Norsemen kept on getting into spats with the local tribes over trade, so in the end the Vikings simply called it a day and buggered off back to Iceland and Greenland. Why? Because even in June it’s cold as a witches tit up here in the Northern finger of Newfoundland, with piles of snow still hanging around from Winter, even after solstice.

While I was asking some of the locals about why it was so unseasonably cold and damp, some elderly woman opined, quite seriously, that it must be caused by ‘global warming’. Sorry, but I almost laughed out loud. Some people are so brainwashed and ignorant that they’re inadvertently quite funny. Especially when the there’s more ice in the bay than usual. So tomorrow we’re doing like the Vikings did. Getting the hell out to warmer climes and stuff the scenery.

Bear fifteen

Another Black Bear sighted legging it across the road a scant two hundred metres ahead of our speeding metal box in of all places, Newfie-land. Or rather Newfoundland. A spectacular place in the early morning light. At present drying out like an old time British rail sandwich, but not quite curling at the edges.

Crap overnight ride in on the ferry with no air conditioning. Even in our cabin we almost found it too hot to sleep. The weather has turned summer in a single day, as it is wont to do in this part of the world. The air heavy, like warm wet silk on your skin. So much so that after the morning fog lifts it’s almost suffocating. Scenery a bit like the nicer parts of the north west of Scotland. With even less habitation and warmer weather, at least in Summer.

Watching the UK news in the comics can make you shake your head in despair. Buildings with cheap ‘green’ insulation going up in flames, all to save two squid a square whatever. So much for eco-friendly, eh? Not the Tories fault, more the housing association and local functionaries from what I can make out. Shonky upgrades made the building vulnerable, so with Grenfell the worst has happened. Rather like with Ronan Point in the 60’s.

This is the thing about the state taking responsibility for more and more. Eventually you get total wankstains like Corbyn blaming the party in power for anything and calling for a ‘coup’ just days after his party failed to gain an electoral majority. Oh the faux-outrage, oh the virtue signalling, oh the posturing. Makes you want to vomit.

On the BREXIT front, the Brussels mafia have scented blood in the water and are going to offer less acceptable terms from their kamikaze negotiating team. Seriously, if May hangs on in there and is forced into a ‘Hard’ or no deal pull out, the EU will be hurt ten times as much as the UK. But that won’t matter to the Eurocrats. Their global ambitions have been snubbed and pride wounded by the rebellious Brits, so they want to punish those perfidious albionites. Someone should remind them about the meaning of a pyrrhic victories. Frankly the story is this; in the case of a ‘hard’ BREXIT the UK can simply set up shop as a free market and offshore banking haven right on Europe’s doorstep and the money will flood in. If Madame Tracey has the guts to do it. Short term pain, long term, big gain.

As for that bloke from Wales giving back what has been dealt out by radical Islamists, like the radical Islamists he went for the entirely wrong target. Colour me un-surprised. The radical Islamists take it out on UK civilians and everyone acts all surprised when there’s a backlash? Don’t they understand the nature of the native British? Britain, like most European nations, is a seething pot of low level resentment. Give them enough of a sting and they’ll turn on you. Of course running down people in the street was a stupid act, but so were the terrorist attacks that gave him the idea. Quid pro quo, Clarice. Quid pro quo, said he in his best Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter impersonation.

The remedy of course is in the hands of ordinary Muslims. They must be more active and vocal in outing the radicals. Same as any other minority group must be. Disown the radicals publicly, turn in the crazies to plod and in turn assimilate. Which means no more calls for ‘Sharia’ law etc, if they want to live under that regime there are plenty of hard line Muslim states to move to, or they will burn in the resulting inferno. And that fire will burn worse than Grenfell Tower.

The rewards for assimilation are great; the penalty for irritating a host population greater. Hey, but I’m just a blogger. An over fifty with a keyboard and a set of hard formed opinions. No one’s going to bother to listen to someone like me who bothers to read history and has seen a lot of this stuff before.

Stuff it. This morning we’re off northbound to the turnaround point on this epic road trip. Into the land of Northern Lights, trees, sea and yet more Bears. Of which, in the words of Otto Hairybreeks, Skald to Leif Ericcsson when they first set up in this neck of the woods; “But boss, there’s bugger all here but Cod and Skraelings, and too much seafood brings me out in a rash.” Ericcsson’s reply is not recorded.

Five Bears and a Moose

Have made it across Ontario , dodging the occasional item of wildlife that’s forgotten their membership of the Tufty club. Bright sunny skies, rocks and trees as we scootled Ottawa bound for a brief rest stop and pause for breath before launching into Quebec.

Well chums, we’ve crossed a lot of Ontario and it’s still full of trees, rocks, lakes and the odd human. As far as the insect life is concerned, there’s been a lot of that too, and those little suckers are hungry. Indeed we’ve woken up on several mornings to find the outside of our hotel room windows plastered with famished looking mossies and no-see-ums crooning softly to be let in to feast on our winsome flesh. It’s also quite eerie to see them clustering in clouds around our wing mirrors at traffic stops attempting to get at us like zombies coming over for a meat feast special.

As the title implies we’ve sighted another five Black bears. A mother and yet another two cubs in a culvert at the side of Highway 11, peacefully munching away. Another likewise indulging it’s appetites. (What is it about ditches and Canadian wildlife?) and a fifth legging it across the highway like all hell was in pursuit, forcing the car in front of us to brake heavily to avoid a radiator full of Ursine panic. A young Bull Moose was spotted in broad daylight. Sorry no pictures, but I haven’t any decent picture processing tools on this laptop. I’ll create a new set of pages when we get home with some of the pictures and observations.

Watched the UK election campaign with interest. Was amazed Corbyn’s Labour party even got in the running. But considering the campaign run by the incumbent and her party’s policies, is it any surprise they missed an open goal? Now the UK has a hung parliament, which fortunately means little bill passing, so if they don’t focus on BREXIT, the Tories are toast. With old school radical labour in the wings coming to trash the economy. Not an edifying prospect.

It’s cost me money of course. On the near Tory defeat the pound took a three cent tumble, so I ‘lost’ about $20,000 on the exchange rate, but markets always panic like stereotypical teenage girls in a slasher movie. When the fuss is over, by the end of the month things will stabilise, and my ‘loss’ will disappear. Put not thy faith in Prices, young Bill. The Bear market isn’t over by a long chalk, and the obese person of gender has yet to start practicing for her aria.

Well, Mrs S and I are currently enjoying the louche charm of Quebec city now, having paused in Ottawa for a quick tootle round the usual sights. Lots of construction going on in the federal capital. We can see where the money is being spent. But honestly I prefer the slightly scruffy, quasi-French charm of Quebec. Paris it ain’t, but at the moment, with all the trees in leaf, it’s a very pretty place.

One last thing; in a business conversation the other day about west coast matters, I was introduced to the amusement of the New Age Bullshit generator and it’s more corporate counterpart, the corporate buzzword generator. Both produce complete and utter woo, but the only problem is that there are far too many room temperature IQ’s who uncritically believe in that sort of thing. And what’s worse is that they have actual political and financial power. Horrified shudder.

Oh well

Catch ya later.

Oh by the way, if you want to ‘cite’ a scientific looking ‘paper’ to generate even more lefty-think nonsense try this bullshit generator which can conjour up all manner of pseudo science. Just one thing; it does look eerily similar to the real thing. Oo-er.

Back roads and pizza

Alberta is a completely different place to the one we first experienced when we did this trip almost ten years ago. Did I mention I’ve driven the trans-Canada end to end before? Must have done. All the way from Port Alberni in the far West of Vancouver Island to the Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the east. And it’s the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary since Canada began the process of confederation. About seven thousand five hundred Kilometres or a shade over four thousand seven hundred miles. Each way. In a ten year old Ford van. Mrs S, me and the dog, sleeping on an inflatable mattress on top of our worldly belongings. Beating up the highways and navigating with an out of date Michelin road map book across the flatlands.

Today found us scooting along arrow straight secondary roads past farms, woodland and fields in a six year old Subaru, (would you believe we’ve had it since new?) Mrs S at the wheel having all the fun. This part of Alberta isn’t as flat as it is along Highway One, on more northerly routes the land undulates gently like a gentle swell on the ocean. It’s a perfect landscape for a certain sport. Like God had decided this is where he wanted all the golf courses put. Not much traffic, but the cops were around so we stuck to the speed limit. Not that we would ever break it, heaven forfend. It just gets a little bent sometimes. But only slightly, honestly officer.

Even so we arrived at our next overnight on the Saskatchewan border two hours early, dined on very nice pizza and red wine and my policy of booking really good hotels after long and otherwise dull journeys paid off. This nights stopover put us in a King bedroom suite no less with two TV’s we don’t have to switch on, an absolutively bloomin’ big bed with a sod off big leather sofa in case either one of us snores too loudly.

Which turned out well. Unlike the UK election debate. What happened to Madam Tracey? I read in via my FT subscription that she was a no-show and had sent along the Home Secretary and even then Corbyn was fashionably late? What on earth is going on over there? Does Tracey want to miss an open goal? Are the UK Conservatives pacing themselves for a last minute surge? Or is this just tactics? There’s not enough information available to reach meaningful conclusions, especially as we’re on the move.

The other big news story as we speed across the midwest of Canada is Trump pulling out of the hideous Paris Climate accord which is the biggest wealth transfer con in history. I’m inclined to describe the Paris accord, without hyperbole, as the crime of the century, asset stripping the productive world to give a few powerful people and their proxies all their disposable income. Well, because it’s only fair, innit? It’s why certain Billionaires have been observed to be funding their own networks of advocacy groups. As well as funding media whores like Bill Nye and David Suzuki to push their message in a touchy-feely way. Which begs the question; when is a crime not a crime? To which the answer is; when politicians do it.

Arrgh!

Woken at ugodly hour by the hotels fire alarm making an ear piercing, screeching noise that propelled me out of bed down to reception. Then there was the additional sound of running water inside the wall between our room and the bathroom. Jesus H Christ on a Speed Twin! I thought the damn wall was going to come in. This morning I felt like I had a serious hangover. Tired, woolly headed and seriously out of sorts. Checked out of the hotel with only an insincere apology from the staff and got the hell out of Dodge. However, an hour, two coffee’s and one Red Bull later I began to return to my usual irascible self.

Eventually we found that the cause of the issue, and thus my lack of blessed repose, was down to a compressor failure on the sprinkler system caused by a lightning strike on a remote power line. The surge had caused the sprinkler system compressor to fail and the failure had set off the shrieking alarm. We were lucky it hadn’t triggered the bloody sprinkler system. Heavens to Murgatroyd! This was a newly built hotel. Had the hotel builders never heard of surge protection? Especially when their electrickery comes from the storm-prone Rockies. Argh!

As an aside, I’m beginning to take a distinct dislike to most hotel ‘breakfasts’. Rubbery scrambled eggs devoid of any real taste and something supposed to be cooked ham, but might as well be salty tofu. In establishments that advertise themselves as having three stars no less. It’s like this particular standard of hostelry are trying to shave more and more off the bottom line and are trying to tempt people in with the promise of a free meal. Better that they didn’t provide anything at all. Tim Hortons or McDonalds provide much better fare. Anyway, we’re moving on, and leaving such unpleasantries firmly in the rear view mirror.

On the plus side, on our way to our next port of call we discovered one of Alberta’s hidden secrets; lake resorts. Small communities off the beaten tracks where there are beaches and water sports facilities hundreds of miles from any coast. Quite smart little places with everything from grocery, drug and liquor stores to their own Police Station. Restaurants, bars, all that is necessary to refresh the hungover traveler. We sat and enjoyed the view at one such, just sitting and reading in the shade. Me ploughing through Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and Mrs S enjoying what she calls ‘a right bodice ripper’. I think it’s called ‘Outlander’ or some such. It makes her laugh anyway.

Also on the positive side there is news of a successful temporary treatment for Autism from a group of researchers in San Diego. It’s not a cure, but the old treatment for Sleeping Sickness, Suramin, has proven to bring positive effects for all of those given the treatment in a double blind trial. While it’s not a real cure, what these human trials have achieved that there is hope for the 1 in 68 afflicted, and once they’ve identified exactly which brain chemistry triggers are responsible for ASD, a better and more permanent treatment can be developed.

Despite a rough start, not a bad day, all things considered. And the sun is shining. Yeah.