Tag Archives: Travel

And now for something..

…completely mundane. We’ve been nursing our Deer Decimated pot plants back to health, and I am happy to report that our Geraniums and Fuchsias are well on their way to a full recovery. Indeed, here they are. Along with the small herb garden I started a few days ago. Nothing exotic, just some culinary basics and perennials that will survive BC conditions the year round. Sage, Dill, Rosemary, Lavender and a variegated leaf thing that Mrs S liked. You might notice a little white bag at the far right of the picture which is currently sprouting a number of tiny tomato plants. There’s a Basil pot in the kitchen, so during the Winter months I will be potting the resulting tomatoes out so we can enjoy my home made Tomato and Basil soup recipe (To go on the sidebar when I can be bothered to write it up) made from the fruit. No idea where I’ll leave the plants out. Maybe in our West facing kitchen window.

Yes I know tomatoes are from the poisonous Nightshade family of plants, but seeing as you’d have to subsist off the damn things to see any long-term ill-effects, it won’t stop me cropping and cooking them. Just hope I’ve got enough space in the freezer for all the Pasta Sauce I’ll be making.

So, what’s the news from chez Sticker? Well not that much actually. Saw Wind River on Friday. A thought provoking drama which touches on the sensitivities of First Nations North Americans and the scandal of missing young women. Jeremy Renner puts in a workmanlike performance as the Cowboy hunter and Fish & Game officer and there’s just enough detail to give an insight into how the reservation system both protects and harms the indigenous tribal peoples of North America. Worth a view.

Well, travel news. We’re off to see the Ozzard, the wonderful Ozzard of Whiz. Australia is the next venue for the grand touring ambitions of the Sticker family. Sydney and the Blue Mountains first while we get over the jet lag. Then up to Queensland to visit family for Crimbo, thence off to Melbourne for New Year before a small road trip back to Sydney to be packed onto the flight by Eldest in January. Flights are booked and paid for. Which is why I had to walk away from the motorcycle thing. It boiled down to an either / or. Couldn’t afford both. Family takes precedence.

Sorry to hear about the bit of inclement weather the Texans are suffering with. There are the usual voices trying to make political capital out of it, but by contrast there’s the heroism of the ‘Cajun Navy’ turning out to help the afflicted. However, I’ve seen how quickly Houston’s streets drain, so knowing the Texans it’ll be business as usual ten minutes after the Hurricane has gone. One can only wish them well.

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Ouch

Our Interweb access has been playing up. Despite an upgrade to our service it was still running like a heavily sedated slug. The modem worked, the Router was fine but Internet searches and suchlike were just slow and running at least 35-40Mbps slower than the service we’re paying for. Any old road up, we made a call and the cable guy brought us a new and faster modem. We had a little informed chat since we speak the same language about signal and network interference, the upshot being that a new Router was required. And one of the local stores was having a Router and wi-fi sale. Aaaaand what’s that Sooty? Allo, Bill’s got a new Router? Channelling Alexi Sayle in his manic heyday. (See below)

We didn’t put on the optional go faster stripes as they would have clashed with the decor, but it’s still bloody quick. What we now have is a dual band Gigabit which is blisteringly fast compared with what we had. As an adjunct, I upped our security as well to prevent anyone logging on and piggybacking our service. No guest accounts for one. Might add two later on the 2.4Ghz band, but otherwise not.

Oh yes, and I also went out and bought a motorcycle, a 2002 BMW R1150RT, delivery next week. Hey, it’s a little old and cheap, but then so am I. Posting may become even more sparse as I spend more time on the road and less at my desk. A little rearrangement of the garage may be in order. Next years travel plans also include a biking road trip down the coast to Califor-ni-a and back. Just because.

On the topic of vehicles, one of the problems I hadn’t thought about pertaining to Vehicles part or wholly powered by electrickery was the weight of their battery packs and the various problems this induces. Tesla’s for example seem to be particularly prone to suspension failures because the weight of their battery packs adds inertia to the vehicle, so that when the ball joints are subject to the additional stresses of hard (Some reports indicate merely gentle) cornering or braking, or even in one case a (reported) minor kerb bump, the risk of losing a wheel or suspension due to mechanical failure is magnified many times.

In comparatively small production runs the number of fires and failures reported for this class of vehicle seem disproportionate to say the least when compared to the more mature technology of the Internal Combustion Engine. Yes, yes, we know about development cycles, but over a hundred years to get this far? Especially with the government subsidies thrown at them since the 1970’s.

We should also not need reminding that GM recalled all its Electric Vehicles back in 2003 and had them all crushed. That was over ten years ago. Also that the most recalled Electric Vehicle is the Ford Focus EV (Also for suspension and transmission related issues) with the Fiat 500 currently a close second. Not sure what the figures are for the Toyota Prius.

While the recorded high rate of suspension failures can be tied to the extra weight of an electric vehicle’s battery pack and insufficiently robust suspension design, the fire problem mainly boils down to Lithium-Ion batteries. It’s well known that high capacity Lithium-Ion can be a fire risk, even when not in use if a manufacturing fault or wear has, like with the notorious Galaxy Tab 7, left the batteries prone to overheating, and like we have seen in many instances, can catch fire and burn spectacularly. The reason behind this is found in a peculiarity of Lithium-Ion batteries when they are charged.

Normally the rate at which Lithium-Ion batteries charge is carefully limited so that the Lithium within each cell doesn’t move too quickly – which, incidentally, is why batteries take time to charge. If charging is too fast, lithium ‘plates’ the anode, creating a potential short circuit which can generate heat. That heat, if allowed to build up, will go into thermal runaway and ignite the flammable electrolyte, and hey presto! – a very hard to extinguish fire and headache for the local fire department. Also if the battery pack gets too hot for any other reason, the Lithium cobalt oxide releases oxygen at high temperatures and the resulting highly-exothermic reaction with organic compounds in the cell proceeds at high speed and can result in thermal run-away, and yes, the local fire department have to be called. Now amplify that with the many high capacity battery cells in an Electric Vehicles battery pack. Any collision that ruptures a cell or cells in the battery pack can also do this in very short order. The casing of the battery does not even have to be breached.

Then factor in the known degradation of Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Manganese (Which aren’t so prone to catching fire but have lower capacity and limited range) batteries over multiple fast recharge / discharge cycles. We’re all used to laptop, phone and tablet batteries ‘wearing out’ in 2-5 years of even moderate use. Now factor that known degradation rate into the hundreds of cells making up the battery pack of an Electric Vehicle. The cost of replacement still hovering around USD$15,000 for the Tesla, a little less for Lithium-Manganese (Currently over GBP£11,500 or CAD$19,000 for L-Ion). Every five years. Eight maybe, for a very lightly used vehicle. Maybe.

For an honest comparison, I’ve just totted up the service costs on our little 6 year old mid range SUV over the first 5 years of its life which came to a gnats under CAD$5,600 (About USD$4,400 or GBP£3,400 at the time of writing). Total mileage slightly under 110,000km or about 68,3500. This cost includes two replacement tyres and two brake discs, pads and piston assemblies. Two tyres because of a blowout deep in the heart of Texas and the brakes discs the year before because we left it too long between services and dust seized the braking pistons in the calipers. Virtuously we are now ahead of the maintenance schedule – just. Add in the replacement cost of one OEM windscreen at CAD$700 (All right, GBP£420 or USD$550) which our insurance company paid over a half of and we still haven’t come anywhere close to half the predicted on-cost of an Electric Vehicle. Never mind that an EV won’t make even a third of the mileage we’ve put on our little SUV within the same time frame.

Incidentally, Tesla’s are known to go through a set of tyres in as little as 12,000 miles (A shade under 20km) while we have two that are still in good order at 110,000km or 68,000 miles. As are other Electric Vehicles and Hybrids. So being kind, let the average life of an EV’s tyres be 30,000km (Around 19,000 miles). Now look at the tyre life 110,000km plus of a mid range SUV like ours and the replacement cost for two full sets of around CAD$1350 (inc tax) each. That’s another CAD$2700 on top of any other maintenance costs like routine brake inspections etc. The like for like expenses just don’t stack up.

No matter how often I look at them, Electric vehicles appear a fine idea with all the subsidies (All that taxpayer dollar to discount the purchase price – yummy) the problem lies within the execution of the concept. Batteries as a primary power supply create more problems than they solve because of the volatility issues, recharge times, lifespan and overall weight so there has to be an alternative power source before any arbitrary ban on ICE vehicles is imposed. Even when you’re only dealing with UK distances.

As for EV on-costs, ouch, that’s gonna hurt.

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.

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.

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.

Oh the humanity

In Winnipeg this morning touring the ‘Canadian Museum of Human Rights‘ where I feel they were missing an exhibit. A small headstone inscribed thus; “Free speech in Canada. Killed by M103 and Bill C16 May 2017. Let ’em Bleed.” The last phrase in that epitaph being borrowed from our current PM’s daddy talking about the heavy crackdown on Quebec separatists back in 1970. Which reminds me somewhat of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. It should be noted that junior is not a patch on daddykins. Although he’s quite capable of getting us into a similar mess.

I was quite intrigued to see the mass murderer Che Guevara lauded in said museum. Someone missed the memo there. Old Che was a nasty piece of work, more in the category of oppressor than oppressed. More Pol Pot than Mohandes K Ghandi. He may be a favourite on your student unions wall, but read up on what he and Castro really did to Cuba. Guevara ended up shot in Bolivia, which couldn’t have happened to a more deserving case. Castro garnered a fortune from the suffering of the Cubans under communism. Don’t believe me? Look it up.

Yes, they included the Holodomor, the name given to the deliberate starvation of 7-12 million Ukrainians 1932-3 by Stalin, but the Holocaust or Shoah 1938-45 which is credited with around 6 million deaths gets way more shelf space. Maybe the Nazis had better press agents than the Communists. I don’t know. The slaughter of Poles in events like Katyn and various other bits of extreme WWII nastiness were omitted, maybe through lack of space. And if the museum had a section on the Rape of Nanking I must have missed it. Yet it’s not as though the museum is short of space. Space is what occupies it.

Overall the museum itself is an architectural masterpiece more inside than out. Beautiful open spaces lauding those historical figures who demonstrate the best part of humanity with the aforementioned exception scumbag Guevara. The garden of contemplation could have done with a few more Japanese elements in my opinion but generally served as a quiet place to stop and think about the general thrust of the exhibits. Mostly about the lack of books in the gift shop. Now for a museum of human rights I’d have stocked it with the works of every related volume on the law code of Hammurabi through Socrates, Aristotle and Cicero to Tom Paine and Bertrand Russell. Did we see anything but lip service to these noted thinkers? No. Just toys and the usual gift shop tat. So in that sense it left me a little underwhelmed and only served to cement some of my own thinking about the absolute need for freedom of expression as enshrined in article 18 of the fundamental declaration of human rights and in particular article 11 about the right to a fair trial, which is something lacking when it comes to the CHRC. Human rights, huh? Whose? For a country that purports to believe wholeheartedly in the rights of the individual, such a court of the star chamber should be a mark of shame.

After visiting the very top of the central tower for a quick dose of vertigo but splendid views of the city, we dodged out as the freak show (Pride week) next door got properly underway. The one thing that struck me was the majority of the attendees appeared young(ish) and predominantly female(ish). There were a few children there too. A few corporate sponsors cashing in on the Pink Dollar, well the more well-heeled attendees tend to have a high disposable income so why not?

Lots of bright colours and balloons like an attempt at a kind of poor persons Mardi Gras. Very festive. Although not the kind of thing I’ve ever been interested in. Doesn’t matter what I think about it anyway. They’ll all have died out in fifty years or so. Maybe these proclivities are natures way of editing the gene pool? Lots of unconsummated sexual activity means that those who don’t breed die out. Anyway, that’s all rather academic unless some form of politically mandated cloning comes about.

However, the one thing that really struck me about Winnipeg was the state of the roads within the city. Winnipeg is a beautiful city with much to commend it architecturally, fabulous green spaces, lots of trees, a superb foot bridge just across the way but when you get up close and personal it’s crumbling kerbs and poorly maintained city streets which tell the real story of low infrastructure investment of a city in real decline. Once we got back out onto Highway 1, we could see Federal money being spent on resurfacing the main highway, but inside the huge square ring road, the rot was obvious, like a tooth dying from the inside out.

Which is a shame.

Cruise control and wide open skies

One of the things that we don’t generally use on our car is the cruise control feature. Until yesterday when I was getting bored with the unending flatness of rural Manitoba and clicked on the ‘cruise’ button on the steering wheel followed by the ‘Set Coast’. There was a sense of the accelerator pedal developing a mind of it’s own, then as I gingerly pulled my right foot off, our little Subaru took over, taking care of all the throttle controls, leaving me nothing else to do but hold onto the steering wheel. Now when it comes to driving I’m a bit of a control freak, I don’t like not knowing exactly how much pedal goes to the metal or which gear I need to be in.

Like with riding a motorcycle, you are not really a rider, your machine should really become no more than an extension of your own body. Your hindbrain takes care of the weight distribution, line into corner, throttle, gear and so on, and the bike provides the power and grip, letting your higher brain functions enjoy the ride, occasionally making conscious decisions like trying to scrape your sidestand on a particularly fast left or right hand bend. Depending on which side your sidestand is fitted of course, unless of course you own a particular model of Vincent, which is one of the few motorcycles ever to be fitted with two sidestands. Saw one back in the 80’s on the ferry to the Isle of Man TT races. Something to do with rapid wheel changes as I recall. The guy who owned it did admit his machine had been modified, and joked about it being one of the ultra-rare ‘White Lightnings’. Although I think what he really had was a repainted Black Shadow.

Any old road up, after that brief sashay down memory lane, back to the main thrust as it were.

It’s a bit disconcerting to find yourself sailing up hill and down dale at the same speed without your right foot being involved. But after a while you get used to it. It even becomes fun. So after the initial discombobulation I simply sat back and enjoyed myself cruising across the (very) flatlands of Southern Manitoba until we arrived for tonights stopover in Winnipeg. Holding on to the steering wheel, for want of anything else to do, chatting idly to Mrs S as the scenery rolled on by under magnificently cloud decorated skies, chasing the coat tails of a recent storm.

In our hotel we checked the news as is our wont, and were greeted by the grim item of another couple of terrorist attacks in London. So we got on the phone to Youngest to check that she was okay, which she was. Reading further I noted with grim satisfaction that the attackers sponsors both for Manchester and London, are about to get a very nasty shock. The real dogs of war have been set on their trail, no doubt with orders not to mess around and dispose of any evidence without fuss. I would not like to be in the Islamists traditional dress right now. A lot has been learned since the Gibraltar Fiasco, when three IRA murderers got offed in public on their way to attack an army band giving a concert. I am led to believe matters are dealt with a little more discreetly nowadays. While the PR team do the flashy stuff like jumping out of helicopters for the cameras, the hard core specialists will be down at street level disposing of the garbage.

At which point I’m moved to comment that sometimes society at large needs the protection of its meanest sheepdogs, and with the Daesh facing annihilation in their current domicile, they are lashing out in desperation, exposing their UK operatives and networks with these last ditch terror attacks. Of course the terrorists eventual demise will be no comfort to their victims, or the inevitable collateral damage to the innocent, but digging out a cancer like the Islamists can be a messy business and not always possible without amputation, even with the best of surgeons. Sad but true.

Just hope Youngest doesn’t get caught up in the resultant mess, that’s all. Despite the fact that she’s old enough and wise enough to make her own life choices, we still worry. Why? We’re parents and worrying is part of the job.

Anyway, it’s past bed time and my presence in same is being demanded.

TTFN

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.