Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Green Grass of Home

We're Back!!!!!!!
Caledonia Bridge, Caledonia, Ontario

We arrived home Thursday 27 April approx 2:00 pm in the afternoon.  As we opened the Jeep hatch, the vehicle exploded with tossed around gear, clothing and just stuff!  Now, time to return our commuter kitchen gear and clothing back to its original place.  But, where,  we seem to have been away so long that we forgot where everything goes.   No, it's not Altheimer's,  it's "Sometimer's" .....Sometimes we remember, and sometimes we don't. 
Being back home is confusing.  We are glad to be home, not in motels, hotels, etc., but we do miss our Western hippie/skibum life.  As we do miss our Western friends very much.
Bob is being ridiculed about his long curly locks of hair !   "Hey, Hippie, where did you come from?"  Our neighbours asked.  "Wow",  as I flash my hairy armpits.  "Lookin' Good" 

As for the house.  There's surprisingly not a speck of dust...anywhere.  Whoa Ho... no housework!!!!
As for the yard?  Does anyone own a goat for hire to chew down the grass and the dandelions that are quickly growing ferociously around our feet?

So out comes the shovel and gardening gloves to begin the yearly spring chore of manicuring the grass and gardens.   Grass is overrated,  (the green grass on the lawns, not the "Happy Hay")
Our Backyard
So the transition from Skibum to ageing Hippies, we dig our herb gardens.  Pull out the Muskoka chairs and watch the weed wars at out feet while enjoying a cold beer.  We watch the apple blossoms and leaves explode open in the trees as we play "The Mamas & Papas', "Pink Floyd" and 'Neil Young" albums.  Sipping our refreshment, we reminisce about our adventures over the past 5 months.
Budding Grape leaves in the morning dew

We thank our viewers...5100+ viewers worldwide who faithfully followed and commented our blog. 

You all shared our dream and thank you.

We travelled a total of 11,000 kms round trip

Bob and I skied 81 days and 120 days respectively.

To all of our Western friends from Invermere, Panorama and worldwide,  you will all be treasured  deep in our hearts for many years to come.
Kayaking on the Grand River
And yes, we will be back next season for another 120 ski days...possibly more. 
How can we not?  We have set the new standard for skiing.  It's in our blood.

And when we are done gardening, it will be time to clean the bikes, pump up the tires and get some serious "ass time" in the saddle.
 We will also be paddling the rivers and lakes of Ontario as we will be enjoying a different kind of paradise, with lazy rivers, mirrored lakes and winding roads.
Caledonia Cycling

As for now, back to gardening.  We need to conquer the weed war, and remember where we put the beer glasses. 
(Oh, and I will be shaving my armpits.  As for Bob, he will keep his curly locks)......

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Gitchee Goomee

Old Woman Bay, Lake Superior
The land of Gitchee Goomee:  Lake Superior. In Objibway Gitchee Goomee means: "Big Water"   
This lake is made famous by the shipwreck, The Edmund Fitzgerald.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Gitchee Goomee
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'.
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya.
At Seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good t'know ya
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when his lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'.
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early!
Lyrics, By Gordon Lightfoot

We left Terrace Bay early to make some tracks and mileage toward home.  A few "pee" breaks along the road and here we are at Wawa.  The daytime this time.   A look at the "wild goose" or Wawa as it is named.  I call the Wild Goose: "Bomber"  You don't want one of these flying over your heads without an umbrella!
We stopped for lunch at  Chippewa River along the lake.  (Enough restaurant food) to empty our cooler of food.  It was full when we left Panorama.  We are a hungry pair of ski bums.  Our appetites haven't diminished with us sitting in the car for hours at a time.
With our cooler near empty, except for a couple of cold beers and scraps of ham and goat cheese brie; we are back on the road.
We fill up our gas tank as well as our bellies.  GAS,  the prices are ridiculous!!!! $1.48.9.  We ask why.  A not so swift gas attendant replied: " Gas is expensive around these parts"  I could have replies with the same intelligent answer all by myself! (we are not impressed) but have no choice in the matter but to curtail to the greedy gas companies as they strip our wallets with uneccisary prices.  
 Yes, I just did another rant!
Back to driving......
We bypassed Sault Ste. Marie. I have two aunts here, but could not contact them for a visit.  We will try next time. 
We came across "Old Woman Bay" on Lake Superior.  It is named by the formation of cliffs.  If you hike the Nokomia Trail across Highway #17, you will see the face of an "Old Woman" in the rock formation. 
As I knit during our drive, I keep an eye out for splendid views and small towns along the way.  We arrive at Blind River, where we will spent the night. Do you remember the song Neil Young wrote while driving through Sudbury and his hears named "Mort" a.k.a.Mortimer Hearseburg broke down in Blind River:

<><><><> <><><><> <><><><>
Blind River

Lyrics by Neil Young
Long may you run.
Long may you run.
Although these changes

Have come
With your chrome heart shining
In the sun
Long may you run. Long may you run...In Blind River
We've been through
Some things together
With trunks of memories
Still to come
We found things to do
In stormy weather
Long may you run.

Long may you run.
Long may you run.
Although these changes
Have come
With your chrome heart shining
In the sun
Long may you run.

Well, it was
Back in Blind River in 1962
When I last saw you alive
But we missed that shift
On the long decline
Long may you run.

Long may you run.
Long may you run.
Although these changes
Have come
With your chrome heart shining
In the sun
Long may you run.

Maybe The Beach Boys
Have got you now
With those waves
Singing "Caroline No"
Rollin' down
That empty ocean road
Gettin' to the surf on time.

We found a cute motel on the waters of Lake Huron, " Old Mill Motel"   Here we will enjoy a hot bowl of split pea soup and a glass of wine.  No restaurant food Please!!!
We are one day away from home.  Tomorrow we will be sleeping in our own bed!!!!

I wonder how much dust has found its way in and around literally...everything?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What Room am I in?

The joys of travelling.....Each night we are in a different town and lodging.  They are all beginning to look the same.

What city\town am I in?

What is my room number and floor?

Where's the door and which way is the bathroom?
Yes, the important question, as I wake up a 2 a.m. to use the facilities.  Now, with sleepy eyes and twilight brain function," what is behind door # 1?  Hope I open the bathroom door and not the exit door into the hallway or lobby of the hotel.  Wouldn't that be a surprise to both myself and the night staff when I appear buck naked in the hall!

The morning brings imagination and determination.  I drink a sludge type nutritional mix of greens, etc.  The rooms are not equipped with many utensils or cups.  Paper and stir sticks is a good as it gets.  So, my toothbrush (the handle) serves both as a measuring spoon and mixer in the tasty paper cup filled with a slurry of chunky, sandy green slime.  I choke it down with all the lumps that my handy toothbrush handle could not destroy.

Now, the joys of eating out. The food!  We eat by default.  I grew up with a Greek Chef for a father and a soup supremist as a mother.  Either way; good wholesome food that felt soothing to the belly.  Restaurant food, on the other hand is not so soothing.  I hope the belly doesn't go to war with the want to be digested plate of process, chemical induced, grease additive and non nutritious plate of who knows what meat I am eating.  Will I be purculating through the night?  Probably. 

Enough ranting as it is time to repack the Jeep and look for our next destination.
Aguasabon river
We leave Thunder Bay approximately 10:00 am and began driving alongside Lake Superior.  Superior it is; with her majestic beauty, even this early in the season.  Navy blue waters still frozen from the winter months.  We stopped alongside the highway with a perfect picturesque view of the lake.
The Highway is quiet this time of year.  Only long distance haulers delivering loads from east to west.   How we miss Northern Ontario. 
It is remarkably different from Western Canada with its hundreds of lakes surrounding trees upon trees and rolling hills.  There are no straight roads in the east.  They all wind, curve and descend as quickly at they climb above the cold waters.
We arrive in one our favorite small towns, Terrace Bay.  We hiked the Aguasabon River Gorge just outside of town.  The temperature only rose to +13 c, but it feels like summer with the sun shining between the white clouds.  

Aguasabon River Gorge
We sat outside our motel room enjoying the pleasant warm weather as we sipped our beer and wine before dinner. 
Dinner will be a shopping trip to Costa's grocery store for fresh fruit, good cheese and wraps to make our own belly statisfying meal, including a bottle of EastDell Black Cab.  Chiao!!

Tomorrow will be a great drive along Lake Superior and we will be absorbing all the majestic beauty Lake Superior has to offer.  It's the home stretch... directly south (only 16 hours drive time) 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Miles from Home...

Steinbach Village Museum
Sunday was uneventful and a long drive.  We arrived in Regina for the night.  Woke up early and again, headed east.  Prairies and more Prairies under beautiful sunny skies.  As we head east we entered yet, another time change and lose another hours sleep.  We arrived at Steinbach, Manitoba, just outside Winnipeg, (Winnie the Pooh was named after this town).  Steinbach meaning (Stony Brook in German) was founded in 1874 by German speaking Mennonite settlers from Russia.  These Mennonite immigrants were led to Canada by the promise from the Canadian Government of military exemption.  Twenty homesteads were laid out alongside Steinbach Creek.  In 1912 a Ford auto dealership opened.  This was also the first Ford dealership in Western Canada, thus the reason Steinbach being labelled the "Automobile City".  The town grew to a population of 463 by 1915.  Steinbach continued to grow, was incorporated as a town by 1946 and a city by October 10, 1977.  There are approximately 25 Churches in Steinbach, a Heritage village museum as well as a Dutch windmill.  
After a sound sleep, we left bright and early to continue our trek eastward.

 We need some miles behind us as we are not yet halfway home. (approx. 2300 kms to go) Our goal:  Ontario.
Wall Mural on the barn of Egli's Sheep Farm
We travelled along the Trans Canada Highway, through Manitoba, Ontario and crossed the Eastern time zone,  as we came upon, yes!!! A sheep farm and wool shop!!!!  Egli's Sheep Farm and Animal Park in Mannitake, Ontario.  We just had to stop (we needed to give our legs a stretch...) a good excuse. 

So, after a quick meander through the shop we came out with three bags of roving wool.  Don't ask!!!
I will spin it into yarn and knit it into a sweater. (another knit project)
 We arrived in Thunder Bay, the emotional landmark of Terry Fox who gave up his run across Canada due to secondary Cancer.

Terry Fox Monument, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Percy Lake, Ontario

Tomorrow will be a shorter drive and we will do a bit more sightseeing looking for hidden lakes pieces of paradise off the beaten track. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sunny Saskatchewan

The skies of Saskatchewan are phenomenal to say the least. The cotton candy clouds you can almost reach out and touch. They are crisp, white and drastically detailed. They coin the phrase "The Land of the Living Skies" an understatement. Saskatchewan is known for it's glorious sunshine as well as the dramatic stormy skies. We were not fortunate to see a storm, but the sun is more than welcome.

St. John's School & Cemetary
St. John's School
Off the beaten path...Dirt roads, gravel, and who knows what. The Jeep will need some tender loving care and a good scrub when we return home. Amidst the Saskatchewan Prairies we came upon this deserted school house from another era.  St. John's School was built in 1924 and sadly closed its doors in 1965.  It was the last of the "one room" schools in the district.  St. John's was the only parochial in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church in Saskatchewan.  In 1942 St. John's became a separate school due to declining enrolment.

We drive down a total of26 kms on a plowed sand road.

The Great Sand Hills
The Great Sand hills.  That they are!  The temperature has warmed dramatically under the clear skies as we tied up our hiking boots for a Great Hike.  Up the first hill as our breath becomes heavy and the wind is blowing tiny grains of sand on our faces.  Dunes, upon dunes of rippled sand.  Grasses the the odd tree weaving through the landscape.  A different kind of beauty.
The Great Sand hills was cared for by John Booth (1926 - 2007)
""John was caretaker of the Sand hills Stockman's Association from 1950 - 2001.  He was a rancher and lived in this area all his live.
57 years of boots!

John was 81 years old and rode saddle horse at every round up for the last 57 years.  He believed in the preservation of this natural habitat.  He understood the fragility of these great hills.."No one should judge another person until you've walked in his boots...that's the start of a great day"
John lived his life to the fullest.  He build an archway of his boots, a cowboy's way to show his appreciation and love for life""  written by Gordon Booth.
After our hike we again, drive down plowed sand weaving through cattle, and rolling hills towards a paved highway. 
Salt hills of Chaplin

We arrive at Chaplin, a salt mining town.  Lakes are beginning to appear.  Lakes with a salt base and snow like mounds cresting the water.  This is salt.  Chaplin is home of "Salt of the Earth" 

We carry on through Moose Jaw, where we stopped for a refreshing cup of java and chocolate chai and finally arrive very tired in Regina, where we spent the night of restful sleep.

It's on the road again. We're not sure where we will end up or how far we will drive today.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bad to the Bone

Horseshoe Canyon
Wheat Fields
Bad, very Bad!  "Badder" than expected. 

We never imagined that Canada would have such diverse landscapes from West to East.  Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, Foot Hills in Western Alberta, Wheat fields, and now Bad Lands in Eastern Alberta where dinosaurs roamed.  If you are lucky, you can still find skeletal remains on the clay soils.

The movie "Unforgiven" with Clint Eastwood was filmed here as well as many others.
The Badlands of Drumheller is a playground for explorers. 
The Alberta Badlands also include Canyons and Hoodoos. 

Yes, you are still driving through the Prairies and would miss all these hidden gems unless you ask, look and follow maps.  We visited Horseshoe Canyon which is totally hidden from the highway.  A little drive off the beaten path and WOW.  Canyon it is.
 We carefully hiked down into the canyon and carefully traversed to the bottom.  We are surrounded by millions of years of mineral deposits, fossils and dessert conditions, all including wild cactus growing at our feet.  You could feel the essence of the past when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  We finished our hike sweaty, bruised and bloody from the mud, rough terrain, cactus and scrub brush as we climbed up the deer path on our hands and knees to work our way back to modern earth.

Next stop; Wayne, Alberta!  Why is it the name Wayne and Saloon have so much in common...  Beer!!!

Wayne is the almost abandoned mining town in the midst of the Alberta Badlands and Hoodoos.  We drove down the heart of the Badlands on a dirt road, crossed eleven bridges and found, yes, "A Ghost Town" of yesteryear.  Still standing:  "The Last Chance Saloon"  Ninety Nine years old and a hot spot from the past as it is today. 
Wayne, Alberta

Eclectic artifacts were abundant within the building's weathered structure from the good times when the then busy coal mining town was at its peak. 
Last Chance Saloon
The saloon is standing room only during the summer months.  We were very fortunate to grab a seat for lunch, and of course, a cold Alberta Beer served in a chilled mason jar.

After lunch it was back in the Jeep homeward bound as our next leg of our travels was to be Leader, Alberta, the gateway to the Great Sand Hills.  We arrived only to be disappointed our B & B was unattended. 

So, we backtracked to find the closest Eatonia, Alberta. 
Eatonia, Alberta
A tiny town almost forgotten by today's standards.  A farming community.  "It's name is derived the the T. Eaton Company who sold catalogue houses. 
Folklore has it according to oral history, this "Pattern Book House" was purchased from the T. Eaton mail order catalogue. 

A bumper crop in 1915 resulted in many catalogue houses. 
Eaton's final house advertisement was in the 1932-33 Fall and Winter catalogue.  This marked the end of an era of Eaton's in providing buildings for the farms and towns in Western Canada".

Here we slept to begin our next leg of our adventure.    The Great Sand Hills...

Bad to the Bone
Lyrics by George Thorogood & The Destroyers
On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered 'round
And they gazed in wide wonder, at the joy they had found
The head nurse spoke up, and she said leave this one alone
She could tell right away, that I was bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
B-B-B-B-Bad to the bone
Bad to the bone

I broke a thousand hearts, before I met you
I'll break a thousand more baby, before I am through
I wanna be yours pretty baby, yours and yours alone
I'm here to tell ya honey, that I'm bad to the bone
Bad to the bone
Bad to the bone

I make a rich woman beg, I'll make a good woman steal
I'll make an old woman blush, and make a young woman squeal
I wanna be yours pretty baby, yours and yours alone
I'm here to tell ya honey, that I'm bad to the bone
Bad to the bone

Thursday, 19 April 2012

On the Road Again.....

Calgary, Alberta
Packing!! What a job!!!  How can it be, we have less food, the same clothing (except for new ski suits and skis, that will be carried on the roof) & the Jeep is ready to explode.  We are leaving our ski gear and skis with friends in Invermere and we have even less room now than when we left Ontario in November.  I can't figure it out. 

O.K. everything is jammed in the back. So, say goodbye to the mountain, down the road to Wilham and Gee's for breakfast.  They will be storing our gear until next season.  We arrive at their home half way down the mountain from Panno.  Fourty acres of serene beauty overlooking Lake Lillian.  Their daughter Catrien and family lives in a rebuilt barn next door. The barn was purchased by Wilham and Gee for a nominal fee was pulled apart board by board and rebuilt by hand.  A perfect and very unique home for a young family.  Every child's dream play house!  We hiked around the property with their two dogs to give our tired ski legs a stretch before our journey to Calgary.  Three hours later we hug one another as we will return next season.  No goodbyes....."see you soon"  
Eau Claire District at sunrise
Yes, we are returning.  We've got the ski bum bug.  We had a great visit, good friends and good food.  Now our bellies are satisfied we point our vehicle towards Calgary, Alberta. 
A short day's drive winding our way down the majestic mountains to the Foot Hills nearing Calgary.  

1886 Cafe

We arrive at our long time friend & ski buddy's temporary residence just in time for a good Mexican feast. ("Go West Old Man") was the phrase as Stan and Liz are relocating from Ontario.  Good Move!!
The evening went quickly as we reminisced, laughed & discussed skiing, and cycling and our future ski trips.  Time for bed.
Rosebud, Alberta
Morning came before we knew it.  Stan went to work, Bob and I hiked around the Eau Claire District just at sunrise as we worked up a hunger for breakfast.
Once our appetites were satisfied, we re-arranged the "Stuff" in the Jeep and headed East towards Rosebud, then  Drumheller,Alberta, our next stop.
The landscape is quieter with the wheat fields in the distance.

Royal Tyrrell Museum

We arrive in Drumheller the home of Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, appropriately name after J.B. Tyrrell (the largest dinosaur find in the world).  We have both visited numerous museums in the past; the Royal Tyrrell Museum is by far the most fascinating.  We spent all afternoon exploring the remains, learning about our Earth's violent beginning millions of years ago and gazing at the skeletal creatures before us.

Now we are tired and found a small hotel in town.  It's is time for bed.  Tomorrow....The BADLANDS
How bad can they be?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Closing Day, The Cardboard Cup & 120 days

The Last Days....
Yes, it is that time of year again.  Time to pack up the skis, boots and wash the long undies.  Time to shave (yes, the more Sasquatch)  Soon enough, it will be back to civilisation and society whether we like it or not.
And a great weekend it was!

Rod and Christine asked us if we wanted to have dinner at Lakeside Pub on the Beach Sunday (the last day) "Sure" , we said since our food supply is dwindling quickly. 
Bob and I are slowing adjusting to "Valley Time"  and not be as punctual (us Southern Ontarians are so anal about being 10 minutes business punctual)  as we arrive 5 minutes late.  Good job at that.  We we admiring the Osprey sitting on a post just outside the restaurant as Rod and Christine are waiting for us outside. 
Not a clue why.....until we entered the dining room.

SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At least 40 of our new found friends were all waiting for the guests of honour.   Us!

Jim & Sheila
Rod & Bob (just a kiss between friends)
Mountain Friends galore!!! and spouses accompanied to participate in the celebration.  They touched our hearts and souls.  We were speechless nonetheless.  It was a night to remember not just in our thoughts, but in our hearts as well.   Our new friends, The "Ambassadors of the Mountain" took us in as orphans opened their hearts, homes and dinner tables.
Bob, Dico, Ed, Myself, Hugh, Rod
 They all supported Bob with his injuries and offered their homes so I could be closer to the hospitals while he was being treated.  They loaned Bob books to read (which was hard to do when you are half stoned with  prescription pain killers)  He did manage to read 1 book and many pages of others.
Gee, our "ski mom"
We were toured around the mountain and found private stashes of powder.  We were sworn to secrecy.  "Don't tell anyone.  Or we will have to kill you!"  Remember, "No friends on a powder day".
 Our new friends shared the beauty of the country side with hikes, snowshoeing and much history of the mountains and wildlife.

Because of you,  we will return.  When we leave, we will miss everyone greatly, but at the same time we look forward to returning home to our family and friends.
 It will only be a short 6 months and we will be back!


Steve (the Hobbit) Marion, Marcel
Retro Weekend at the hill as many dug in the deep trenches of their closets for that special wardrobe of Retro ski suits and accessories.

......3,800 kms half way across the country to the west side
.....120 ski days for myself and 80 ski days for Bob
.....677 centimetres of snow.  A record breaking year for Panorama
.....a lifetime of memories
.....1,000's of smiles from new friends, and staff
Let the Race Begin....

All to finalize the season, with no exceptions... Time for the Cardboard Cup. 
The Rules:  Toboggans must be constructed of duct tape and cardboard....Let's get to it!
At the Start Line.  Ready, Set, and it's downhill all the way.   Who will the winner be?
Three Bobs in Canada's Bobsled...go Canada go!!!!!

Lusti's Moustache Rider

Shauna's Formula #1 Snow Stopper

DNF...but no fatalities..
And the Winner is......Tools in the Tool Box
These Eco friendly racers expertise designed their toboggans with precision and style with the exception of added alcohol had a blast today.   Great Finish to all, well, almost.

It is now serene and quiet as we enjoy the warm sun as we toast to a great season and gaze at the hill as we see a lone snowboarder glide down one last time.

We will take our time travelling back to Ontario (approx 10 days).  But first, a stop in Calgary to visit a close friend as he is relocating to the west.

Now, it is time to pack up.  Will it all fit?  

Stay tuned for the next posting