Friday, September 30, 2016

Montreal has lived up to its reputation. A place where modern art and history synchronize. The clamor of the city in harmony with the ubiquitous churches offering peaceful refuge. It is also motorcycle friendly, with free parking downtown as well as creative parking everywhere!

The summer is construction season and many of the sites need navigation through plywood walkways and makeshift lanes. The Old Port is beautiful. The buildings of intricate design and immaculate gardens abound. We are enchanted by narrow streets with cafes and a sense of the times of yesteryear.

We visit the clock tower, the first observation point of those entering the city. We happen upon Rue de Remembrance with the largest graveyard I have seen. We begin where there are only headstones of various shapes and sizes, in somewhat chaotic arrangement as there does not appear to have uniform spacing. There are family plots with stairs to the area, not to be outdone by a sarcophagus looming behind. There is an plan, inasmuch as heritage, and we see the Japanese area, orderly and well appointed. There is Russian, Italian, Jewish and at the point we realize how truly large this place is when we have wandered and are not sure of the exit.

We find Schwartz's deli, apparently a must, and he says the sandwich did not disappoint. I am more taken with the view from the deli across the street. A dilapidated, graffiti ridden building that really isn't out of place except for the lineup of tourists from all over the world have not shamed or influenced the owner to change a thing. I love that! The deli itself is well-used and tired, but the outcry if it was changed I expect, would never be tolerated.

We also find our way to Mile End - the "hip" part of town that boasts artists, musicians, boutiques and cafes. At one time described as the heart of the independent music scene in Montreal it is also the Jewish area of the city and payos are abundant. We park the bike on a side street and see two young girls conspiratorially whispering as they surreptitiously watch us shed helmets and jackets. When I smile and wave they quickly look away, though I can hear a faint giggle confirming their naughtiness at their voyeurism.

The houses are walk-ups that encroach the street, very much like Brooklyn. Bicycles of all sizes are chained to decks on each level, curtains wave out open windows and the sound of babies crying and mothers scolding are the backdrop of our walk.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

nous sommes ici

La Belle Province it is! Picturesque rural plots as we edge toward Montreal. We are rejuvenated at the conquest of our travel this far, only to have it drained into panic as the bike is showing signs of overheating in rush hour.

I am surprisingly, nonplussed at the chaotic weaving of cars and buses...having a large city bus brush my pant leg - making his own lane - it feels like carpe diem. Do what is necessary - and yet I sense no anger or frustration - more an observation of the creativity of wending your way through a parking lot. A fiat rides a curb - three cars abreast in two lanes..I am enjoying this, while trying to locate landmarks to our destination.

It is now critical that we stop and we tuck into a Macdonald's parking lot and bask in shade and observe the bedlam. We navigate to our apartment for the next few days, quickly change and armed with cameras we take to the streets.

It feels foreign immediately. The signs are all in French, and old churches and buildings abound in the area. We are in Mont Royal area and the kaleidescope of ever changing beauty has me looking in every direction. Filles/Garcon entrances at a school, Notre Dame College and finally we are at Saint-Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal.

This took our breath away...not only was it hundreds and hundreds of steps to get to the top...but when you looked out from the terrace Montreal was in all its glory like a skirt spread on a picnic blanket. We had been in the city for less than two hours and the sounds and sights were proving to be well worth 5,000km journey. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mid years

We head out of Sudbury to the bucolic setting against Highway 1. Skiffs of pollen dust the air and the sky is deep-steel blue. The drone of the motor mixed with my playlist has taken on the familiarity, not unlike the sounds of a household with the furnace and dishwasher providing background noise.

Thoughts creep in that I wish I could be doing more...driving or navigating. This is not a new sensation as I recollect the years of babies and play-dates, water fights and swings. Then too, I tried to wrestle the feeling of wanting to contribute, and I couldn't. 

Well... I did, and I could probably navigate the BMW, though I would still need him to be the grounding...I am quite far from reaching the ground...even on tiptoes. 

Suddenly we are flying through Ottawa, and much like teenagers, you need to go with the flow of traffic...stay alert and keep your confidence. It was as though my headphones were turned to full blast and the cacophony provoked a tension throughout me. I found myself gripping knees and hands. When we were finally extricated from the din the sense of relief was palpable. And...that is pretty much how I rode out the teen years. Aware, exhausted from the stretching and pandemonium of our busy household.

He was always the fun one. Taking them to shows, understanding their music...I was the white-knuckled one. His role was to assuage my fears and mine to remind him of the fragility of life that requires warnings. The push and pull of our relationship worked...we mostly understood we needed the other to balance. 

The smile on his face from the ride through Ottawa juxtaposed against my wide-eyed, relieved but pale one makes me laugh. "That was fun!" and all I could do was agree, knowing that he had been flooded with adrenaline as we wove in and out of traffic doing 120k +. 

Quebec is not far now...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Sliding into Ontario we were fresh after our rest in Manitoba. We were gliding on new tarmac that was bendy and twisty the rock formations on each side seem chiseled. Trees and traffic were more abundant, as were warning signs for speeders, reminders of 90 km/h and water views inviting us to stop.

But, like those years in a marriage where there is lots of change, beauty and fragrance, it seems you press on to a destination and miss a lot along the way. Jobs are more demanding, kids are more demanding and you're tired at night, tired in the morning and your relationship slips into push mode. You acknowledge the lakes and changes along the appreciate you are moving forward together...but the meals are getting boring, the routine is mundane...

This was Ontario for me. My head was itching in my helmet where I could not reach, the playlists I created were predictable and annoying me. We blasted through towns, stopping for gas though our sojourn in a town that were all wearing Melissa Bishop tee shirts reminded us to ask the story...and we heard all about the Eganville native that was running the 800 meter race in Rio the next week. The town more than beamed for in the field and older ladies having tea in their red shirts got me excited to cheer her on.

We also learned that our unplanned extra day in Manitoba meant that we had missed one of the worst storms. The cafe owner was dumping buckets of water from her planters, and in small town familiarity weaving the story of how truly unique and unpleasant this downpour had been.

We have dodged a lot of storms..we have also ridden into some at full force...I was grateful for the intimation that we had listened to our inner wisdom to avoid this one..Many times through out the years there has been intuition, promptings and God's voice suggesting what I already know is true. I have abandoned some relationships, shifted course and navigated through questionable friendships and situations that would tear me or my family down. I have watched others ignore the plea, the advice and crashed. Purposefully, I have tried to keep my selfdom in check...deliberately rationalizing that it could not always be about me.

I have been blessed by a partner who does the same. The expression of want and need is free and the dialogue around priority, timing and finances ensues. This has meant he has attended plays, dinners and social gatherings he would be less inclined to, and I have entertained bands, slept in a school bus and worn the same clothes for a few days. It has also meant that I have left on bike trips in the pouring rain and he has poked in stores for hours without complaint. Our kids have been, and continue to be the light of our life.

We head back on the road, fed and watered, having abandoned no carbs with a grilled cheese sandwich. The compromise of diet is necessary, especially in a small town. The coffee renews me enough to study the topography of limestone and fossil valley.

We press on!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Manitoba is awesome!!

I wasn't always a tea person. In fact I have had quite a few "must-have" phases in our years. I used to drink my coffee with milk and then I changed to heating the milk for 20 seconds in the microwave and then adding coffee…about 8 years ago I happened on tea and it is currently the staple of my life. Were I to choose only one beverage - that would be it. I can drink it hot, warm, cold…and thus far have not tired of it..But I recognize that fads and phases come and go and I am open to change.

We have now stopped at least 6 times on the way to Winnipeg and I can feel the energy draining out of me as I have connected with the Clements and find out that we are 3 hours from our destination. i am not sure if tea can even pull me through right now..but it has to - there is little choice. 

The sky is dark, I am tired, hungry and yet he continues on without complaint. He is really doing the heavy lifting. Planning routes, riding, keeping us out of harms way. He must be exhausted and bored and knowing this helps assuage my grumpiness. We need to muster up energy to visit people we barely know, and soon to meet again tonight.  Heading to the lake - past Grand Beach and onto Lester - I can feel waves of relief as we head into a beautiful sun dancing on the water. 

Past three stop signs and what I read as a tree (instead of Creek) and we find a little dirt road with a few dots of cabins. Hair askew, parched and  windblown we are treated to a  welcome that comforts me. Bonnie, Spencer and Chris are so lovely - so easy to be with. They have things settled - we will stay at the "other cabin" and we really need to stay another night. It was perfect timing as we both knew it was good for us. 

Lester Beach is glorious and sandy on Lake Winnipeg. A remembrance bench for Dorothy is a reminder how important this place is for an important part of our family.

I am fuller than full as we leave. I feel stuffed with love and hugs from the Clements family as we embark on the journey through Kenora to the Great Lakes and beyond!!

Rested, fed and eager to hit curvy roads we are off early enough to need to wipe the dew in August. The input of beauty surpasses all my expectations as we wend and wind our way through the lake country of Winnipeg and Ontario. Water is as common as trees and breathtaking sights abound. I am pleased and surprised at my naivete. I had always pictured the Canadian Shield like the Atlas rendition of a rock mound surfacing was so much more..and Ontario won me over with spectacular views, sandy beaches, clear lakes and how huge this fricking province really is!  

Canadian history taught me that BC was a force to be reckoned with…the railway took twice as long through the mountains..yada yada yada…. I have a new appreciation for the beginnings of that railway…they didn't lose hope…that astounds me.

The middle years of marriage…the raising of children, mortgages, driving, driving, driving…those years seem are home for moments when you are out again….or everything is synchronized to have a child fall ill in the middle and you wend your way to a school, sleepover or dance class unexpectedly…and then, there are the rehearsals, detentions, missed busses and unexpected projects.  Those are the middle years....interminable..defining, wonderful....

Calgary to Saskatoon or bust???

The company at Al Von Zipper's was fantastic as we poked through themed rooms, collections and cool music. The tiki room was so comfy and we had a great sleep in anticipation of a long ride  to Saskatoon.

Much like being a newlywed, the beginning of the journey you are fresh, clothes are fresh and you set out with great intentions of early nights and healthy food. At the start of Day Three I could feel my butt losing feeling and the early night was an early morning and so we left on little sleep. I am grateful the roads are straight and won't require too much energy to manoeuvre through. 

Heading out on the plains of a loop of endless fields and cattle with gentle humps and bumps until we reach Drumheller.

Drumheller is a unique valley of dark loam and excavation and a place of dinosaur and anthropological fame. If you look beyond the replica Tyrannosaurus and pterodactyl to the topography of this incredible area, I was in awe of the history that lay beneath this dirt. Although overrun with tourist attractions, you cannot help but appreciate that the story beneath could answer a lot of questions and reveal some mysteries.

We caught up with a friend and their family camping here. They were enjoying the pools and laughter of children….it is great to be reminded of this stage of life…..

We press on after hugs and put the same tape back on of fields and cattle, humps and bumps..though every now and then I would get a nudge to take a picture of verdant valley or copse of trees that made him take notice.

We arrive in Saskatoon bedraggled and hot to meet new friends Brian and Lindsey. We are welcomed with food, drink and great conversation. They are easy to be with and I felt like we had known them for years. Brian fills us in on rides and photo shoots, but the pride he has in his family is evident. 

You often collect friends along life's path and some are for a time, and others come and go. My heart feels full already with Al giving up his bed and Lindsey washing sheets and preparing the most amazing fajitas - and we still have more people to see and things to do. 

Next stop - Winnipeg or thereabouts. We try to catch breakfast with Brian as we leave…unfortunately still on Maclean Crescent gas is pouring from his bike…nonplussed outwardly he hops in my place and Norman returns him to his house to get his truck….a few crafty turns and we arrive at our destination that does not open for a few hours. We hastily say goodbye and set the compass east.

I had no idea what I was really getting into…if you have done it before - it still doesn't matter because it will be different - physically, emotionally - weather - life. Both in relationships and this journey we were now in what we thought was the middle. 

Crossing into Manitoba there was a change. There were now trees and hills, and different flora lined the highway. The weather was hot and the journey was now hard. My legs were restless, my hair was itchy, my music felt stale I couldn't seem to stay comfortable for more than a few minutes. My saving grace was tea. I brought 80+ peppermint herbal tea bags with me and every time we stopped I would try to get a hot water refill. 

This was more than just being frugal. This was one requirement for my hydration and I am extremely picky about the tea. Starbuck's has a hint of lemon in their peppermint…and Tim Horton's is just "okay"….I used to have a different brand in my purse or pockets at all time…but when I tried my current brand I have not gone back. As we were packing I had a few ziplocks…"You need all that?" was his query…I did…in fact as we arrived at Pearson Airport to leave I had  2 bags left…Had we stuck to our original plans I would have been out…so perhaps this is why we had to change plans? Maybe this is how the universe works?

the wedding..sort of..

We consider this the start of our cross Canada Journey; on our way through the Okanagan. Can you really get tired of this??

Marriage is a lot like this starts beautifully..

We embarked after months of planning and preparation, both checking in about how we would do this…enamoured with the thought and really not sure what will unfold.

We should stop here first and then…the details started filling in with the understanding that we would adjust as we went.

Day two we were on our way to Calgary…it is a familiar route, though not on a motorcycle. We make our way up and down the curvy esses of the mountains. We stop in Banff to take in the tourist mania. T-shirts, knick-knacks and maple syrup are hawked at every store, kiosk and panhandler you can spot.

The scenery is breathtaking with the reflection of the mountains in the turquoise Lake Louise.
As we approach Calgary a rainbow crosses over the city bisected by a black cloud. The prism appears to be half an arch as a result and I am intrigued. It becomes obvious we will be riding into a storm….at least it is obvious to him. We stop and don rain gear and within a few minutes are riding through a sheet of water. Cars are stopping randomly on the highway and inside I wonder if they know something we don't. It wasn't just a few cars either - there were so many that it cleared the way for us to ride as though we were the celebrities - or the crazy ones. He could barely see through the windshield and the visor would fog up, but if you kept the visor up the drops of rain were like small pebbles pelting you. Rivulets of water were making their way down my neck. This is DAY TWO…and we have so much farther to go.

Most relationships are nurtured in the greenhouse of passion, intrigue and excitement of the future. The relationship moves to a new phase of commitment and you find yourself all in. All in is unique to the relationship itself I have found. Some have the stick-to-it-ness because their innate sense that what brought you together was your core and the storms and blips are surmountable. Yet, I cannot ignore that I have been the observer of relationships run amok with all the typical disturbances of life…ego, sex, finances, insecurities and fit.  Alliances are formed with the conscious or unconscious knowing that it isn't a true fit. Perhaps it is the itch for the moment, but it is not ideal. 

This notion of ideal has sometimes confounded me. I could never be anyone's ideal mate all of the time…not even 75%. Ideal would need a definition to me of someone who helps me to be the best that I can be. I also believe in the commitment to forever, not just with the romantic values, but just as storms and swells will come into our life, having someone remind you to don your rain gear and also rides with you through the tempest - you get through the other side of the deluge. 

We arrive in Calgary, soaking wet and anticipating a visit to the famous or infamous Tubby Dog. I have heard of this place for more than 15 years…nostalgia and kitch meet with bands, dogs and some interesting combos. Musicians were setting up as Heidi and I were christened with our inaugural visit. The dog was okay…though it was a processed soy dog that is hard to lose the taste and texture of play-doh on a bun. 

more to come....Canada is a fricking big country!!!!!!