Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The recovery room...

As I regained consciousness following my bout in the O.R., I realized that I was now in the recovery room. Any time spent here is kinda like purgatory. It is not something that most people remember well, if at all. It's where your body begins recovering from some of the necessary brutalities visited upon it during surgery. No, that is not something I would want a copy of on DVD. Being even remotely cognizant of what my injuries were and what might have been required to rectify these, I have no desire to view such a horror show.

As I lay there, unmoving, I let my mind slowly drift through my body, stopping at different points to examine how they felt. My shoulder was the primary area of concern. It was sore, yes... but it felt 'normal'. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized I could now feel my arm, wrist, hand, fingers... I wiggled them slowly against the warm, heated blankets which covered me. There was no added sensation of pain.

Through the bandages on my arms I could feel the road rash, but it was more than manageable. Hell... at this stage it was actually comfortable. My knee? I could feel it but no pain. I did feel thirsty, though... I closed my eyes and drifted off again, revelling in the feel of those heated blankets and the warmth they provided. I hovered in this 'in and out' state for some time. On the last occasion I had of coming to, the nurse was bending over my gurney. We chatted briefly and she asked if I felt like I was ready to return to the ward. I told her that I was and she went to summon an orderly to bring me back upstairs.

As we reached the sixth floor, I was greeted by my spouse and both of my daughters and their men. I was somewhat surprised by this reception, as it was by now 0300hrs. on Monday morning. We spent some time together, during which I did my best to convince them that I was not yet done for. I was very happy to have seen them. The time came for them to part and for me to resume my resting. I dozed, only to be awoken every couple of hours, for either meds of vitals. So began what was to become my ritual for the next four and a half days.

I was finally released home from the OGH on Friday, 25 July. The saga continues.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On nurses...

Of all the occupations that individuals might dedicate themselves to, I think nursing would have to be among the most noble of callings. I had, with one minor exception, a bevy of the very best assigned to me. At least two of whom had been trained at St.F-X in Antigonish, NS. Between them, they tended to my needs, keeping me comfortable, hydrated, healthy and hopeful. Far beyond simply changing my dressings and monitoring my vital signs, they provided direction and encouragement, as well as a much needed human interaction during this, my initial period of convalescence.

Louise, Lindsay, Heather, Ashley... all were superb examples of those who receive the call for this field of service to others. The last nurse I was assigned during my week's stay in the hospital, was the sole exception. She was a young French gal by the name of Mariève. It was obvious that she was enamoured with the position, but had little understanding of the job itself. She began her downward slide on my respect-o-meter, by criticizing the dressings performed on my wounds by one of her very competent colleagues. By the time she had replaced the dressings, I was properly horrified that she had no clue as to what she was doing. Nobody who knows how to actually dress a wound, will apply tape directly to bare skin. She would ignore her patients and their needs, preferring rather to socialize with her colleagues.

Her attitude towards patients was cavalier and apathetic. She demonstrated far more concern for the amount of materials expended on a patient, than she did for a patient's actual welfare. There may be a place for her somewhere as a hospital administrator, but the nursing field would be better served if she offered up her early retirement from their ranks. Like I said, she was happy if people thought of her as a nurse, she just didn't want to actually be one.

During my stay there, I always made it a point to thank every one of my nurses and orderlies. For whatever service or kindness they provided me with. I tried my best to make them understand that I appreciated what they were doing and was grateful that there were still people like them, who chose such careers.

We can always hear horror stories about poor medical care received by certain people. Then again, if you send 4 people to the same resort, at the same time, you will undoubtedly hear 4 different reports on the quality of the experience there as well. All I'm saying here is that given the reality of my situation (how comfortable could I realistically expect to be, considering the nature of my injuries), the constraints within which hospital staff must operate (nurse to patient ratio on the ward) and the quality of care I received, I have nothing to complain about and I'm ever so grateful that I live where I do.

Life is obviously very different as an out patient, but I'm dealing with that day by day. But my stay in the hospital? In one of Ottawa's most often reviled medical institutions? Wonderful!!

What more can I say?

"When I regained consciousness..."

We arrived at the emergency department of the Ottawa General Hospital and I was handed over by Rob and his partner to their capable team. His buddy who had been driving the rig, had made sure to hit only the potholes that he knew I would truly appreciate... In all seriousness, their professionalism and sense of humour inherent with such a trade, made the transit just about pleasant. After their initial assessment, Rob had started an IV drip and mercifully provided something for the pain.

Before we parted company, I threatened to mention him in the blog. He asked me for the title and I was only too happy to oblige him. So Rob, for what it's worth, Buddy... here's your fleeting moment of fame. Thank you for taking care of business and providing more than just a first response. I then became the new curiosity for the emerg ward.

A parade of largely nameless faces drifted in and out of focus, alternately poking, prodding, lifting and enquiring about my general health, state of mental acuity and what type of bike I had. I'm asked about any allergies that I might have pertaining to morphine. Field dressings were stripped off and wounds cleaned a little more thoroughly. A new IV drip was started... A young female intern was assigned to have a look at my wounded knee and it was decided that some sutures would be required to close the laceration it had sustained. I watch the procedure with a somewhat detached interest, feeling pretty 'floaty' by then... She excuses herself for her freezing technique, but I reassure her that she's doing just fine. My spouse re-emerges with her daughter and her hubby, much to my delight. So nice to see them. She is fascinated by all procedures medical. I'm thinking the staff members here should keep her well entertained.

I drift in and out and hear rumblings of a trip up to the ward... or was it for X-rays? At any rate, we move out. I'm brought to the sixth floor. I have no more concept of time. We drift along. I'm booked into 1601, a double room. My roomie is recovering from surgery on his right foot. I'm whisked away to x-rays... X-Rays is a long, laborious, painful and yet necessary series of moving from one table to the next, pose, shoot...repeat... After 4 shots, we're done and I'm afforded the chance to relax on the way back up to the ward. My shoulder is still seriously messed up. The entire left side of my body just doesn't feel right. Finally, back on the ward, I'm briefed on my situation. As far as timing goes, I could not have done any better.

The resident surgeon on call that day, just happens to be the hospital's bone specialist, Dr.Pollock. We meet and discuss my options. My surgery is serious, but like any pro he would rather think of this as a challenge. The shoulder is not only dislocated, it's detached... and fractured in 4 places. The O.R. is already booked and shortly, I'm on my way back down. There'll be no waiting for me...

I'm wheeled into the O.R., many more new faces there to greet me. There is classical jazz music playing low in the background. A feminine pair of eyes hover over me. Someone is informing me that after I'm under they will be intubating me... For some reason, I have this fleeting vision of a turkey baster... I smile... "Do whatever", I think "I won't be around to know". Hands hold up a surgical anaesthetic mask and this dreamy voice invites me to breathe normally... I know what is to follow. I breathe slowly and deeply as the room rapidly dims... Nightie-night...

After an actual elapsed time of seven hours, I slowly begin coming around in the recovery room. I have a soundtrack playing in my head and can hear some Improv comedian saying: "And when I regained consciousness...". There is no soundtrack of course and where I lay is very dimly-lit. I lie there, very still and slowly assess my situation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Nobody is exempt...

You have to know that when I sit here, ranting and railing against human stupidity and it's inevitable consequences, I don't hold myself to be above these very same rules and laws. At no point in my life, have I ever deemed myself to be exempt from the reach of "Ma Nature".

So last Sunday, 20 July 2008, I had decided to take a little trip along the Parkway and into town. I had spent the previous Saturday changing Baby's oil and filter, in preparation for Monday's ride in to see my Mom with my eldest daughter. Some quality father/daughter time... Reaching the end of Dorima, I pondered briefly. Left or right? Right, out to the farmlands of Cumberland? Or left onto Innes, down Jeanne d'Arc, etc...

A trip downtown won out and I tipped the bike to the left... I suppose my fate was pretty much sealed from that moment on. As I was trundling along St.Joseph, heading towards Youville, I was in the outside lane. Approaching the intersection, I noted a car in our left-turning lane. There was also a small black four-door sedan in the oncoming left-hand turning lane. I doubted that he could see me, though due to my height advantage, I knew he was there. He had not yet showed any sign of movement, as I was drawing nearer to the intersection. My eyes were rivetted on him... All of a sudden, he began his turn... right the fuck in front of me! It was Daytona Beach, February 1997 all over again... I attempted to slow the bike while veering to the right, not always the best of plans.

I have drilled myself over and over again to respond correctly to such instances, yet apparently I applied too much front brake. In the space of a heartbeat, the front end folded under and we were in a slide. The car which had begun entering the intersection had stopped and fortunately we slid by him. I noted afterwards that he had conveniently backed his vehicle up, by the time the police had arrived at the scene.

I never lost consciousness during the slide, but at that speed (70-80kmh) your brain doesn't really register everything accurately. I can remember letting go at one point and seeing Baby travelling down the road, 'sans rider'. What a horrible feeling in the pit of one's stomach that produces. When I finally came to a halt, I took a couple of seconds to assess how I felt. What I could move, what hurt, what I couldn't move... My left arm was dangling there, in my peripheral vision. I could not feel or move it. I heard someone tell me not to move. I grinned: "Yeah... I'm gonna stay out in the middle of the road... Not!!" My shoulder was just a big bunch of pain. My legs worked enough to get me up, so I hauled myself up and scooted to the median which provides a staging point for pedestrians who are crossing the street. The very first thing I wanted to do, was to remove myself from the flow of traffic. Having reached it, I collapsed, my back supported by a light stanchion.

I saw a black vehicle stop, blocking Baby from the rest of the traffic. She was resting on her left-hand side, thank God... Someone approached and knelt beside me, advising me that they had called 911. I can't recall if the police or fire teams arrived first. The Constable I wound up talking to was Dave. As the Fire Department (Fireman Larry... a fellow rider) took steps to assess the damage and stabilize my condition, Dave was questioning me as to what had gone down. I remember a woman hovering on the periphery, shoulder-length grayish blonde hair, mid-forties maybe, wearing a blue and white doo rag. I figured her for a fellow rider and was subsequently proven right. With the help of another bystander, she had managed to get Baby up off the road and back on her sidestand. I will be forever grateful to her... For as much as my own wounds hurt me at the time, it pained me far worse to see her lying there.

I recall at one point providing directions to someone, on where to find my phone and I then had them dial my better half's number at work. This was one of those calls you should always preface with: "Now...don't freak out, but...". So I let her know what all had happened and that I'd be in touch when I knew where they were taking me. I was being bombarded with questions, finally the EMS crew arrived on scene, led by Rob. We rehashed the accident timeline so he could establish my state of mind and consciousness, checked me over, cut off my gloves and part of what was left of my Oklahoma t-shirt... Next thing I knew, I spied the familar profile of our car. I advised Fireman Larry that the XO was inbound to the scene. He went to meet her and escorted her to where I was sitting, giving her a sitrep enroute.

She leaned over me and sighed... not that sigh that you get when you've done something she disapproves of for the twentieth time, but that sigh which is reserved as a kind of unspoken 'thank you'... like when you get home and discover that you did remember to turn off the iron... or that your spouse still has all his limbs. I tried to sound casual as I chirped: "Hi, Hon... how ya doin'?" I wasn't foolin' either one of us. There was just too much pain there. She noted the absence of a riding jacket but was considerate enough to save that for a later date. I don't really recall what we discussed as we waited for them to cart me off to the Ottawa General, but I can tell you that we took some comfort in simply listening to the sound of one another's voice...

I had been caught doing the stupid and had paid the price. I had survived what could have been a much more severe event and from the reports I was receiving, so had Baby. Oh, there would be some comeuppance to pay as a reminder... there was no doubt of that. But for the time being, I had an experienced female rider who was volunteering to take Baby home with her, until such a time as we could collect her. I thanked this fellow rider for her offer and took her up on it. I would later discover her name was Julie Durocher. It was time to go. Rob packed me up into the meat wagon and we headed South down Youville, towards the 174.

As I listened to the thin wail of the ambulance's siren from within the box, I remarked: "Someone's not having a good day...". The attendant looked at me quizzically. "Oh, it's just something my wife and me will say to one another, when we hear a siren outside...". "And this time, it's you...", he nodded. I thought for a second on this before replying: "Well actually... all things considered, it hasn't been all that bad...".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On boating and alcohol...

Unless you are a practising alcoholic or from another planet, we would pretty much have to agree that the concept of drinking and driving is a universally bad idea. To say nothing of tempting the Law of Natural Selection... In certain Muslim countries, it's actually punishable by death. Then again so is female education, but I digress...

For some reason, many people have some sort of mental block when it comes to transposing this rationalization to the operation of pleasure craft. They somehow believe that piloting a boat while out of your mind on booze, should be totally acceptable. That it is in fact one of their inalienable rights of summer. Once again, this would only apply if you were a practising alcoholic. So a word to the wise here: drinking and boating is every bit as dangerous and retarded a practise as drinking and driving a car!! Or drinking and piloting a plane! In the Province of Ontario, it'll cost you your automobile driver's license when you're snagged! And that's not counting the fines you'll incur as well. It's $600.00 for your first offense, not counting administrative fees, etc... And if you injure of kill someone else? Well, you'll be paying for a very, very long time.

One of my fellow information officers here recently asked me: "Still don't get why they would even question about alcohol… it seems pretty logical to me, driving something…. responsible for others lives… when drinking you barely know which way is up, imagine in the water…... humm no alcohol means no alcohol… not brain surgery here… seems pretty simple to me….why the questions and arguments….????"

I of course had to reply: "Because apparently people are innately stupid, sad to say...". I can only hope that there are those out there who will want to prove me wrong. Trust me, nothing would make me happier...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Omar Khadr...

I've been reading of late the pundits' take on the Khadr affrair. Here is a young lad who was captured by American Special Forces troops on July 27th, 2002, during an action which took place in Khost, Afghanistan. During the action, he was found responsible for the death of a U.S. Special Forces Medic (28-year old Sergeant 1st. Class Christopher Speer). I've taken the liberty of including a link to the funeral services of Sgt. Speer, who is not simply another faceless, nameless statistic. He was a selfless, dedicated soldier, husband and father of two. None of the information below has ever been carried by a Canadian newspaper. That would slant the story in favor of the victim in this case, and we can't have that, now can we!! They never even had the decency to mention his name when describing the events that happened that day.

I note with high amusement the various articles appearing in Toronto newspapers (naturally), which roundly condemn American detention policies in Guantanamo Bay and whine that a 'Canadian' youth is languishing illegally in an American military jail. What absolute tripe and bullshit!!

For one, no goddamn 'Canadian' winds up in Afghanistan, fighting on the side of the fucking Taliban! If you have the balls, the unmitigated gall to do something so perverse and stupid, considering the rights and priviledges that have been extended to you here in Canada, then you richly deserve every bit of hurt that is coming your way. We disown you! You have forfeited any claim to citizenship that might have been granted to you!! Anyone who aligns themself with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban, has no place whatsoever in Western society. They have in fact given up their rights. You cannot and will not use this country as a base of operations for such heinous acts.

This lad wasn't there on some errant high school field trip! He wasn't simply busted for panhandling or public nuisance!! I just love how the media has tried to minimize his role in all of this. How they've tried to make him appear as a victim... He was there to kill Westerners!! He used a goddamn grenade against attacking forces. To offer up a very personal opinion, he should never have made it off the battlefield. None of them should have. You don't win a war by taking prisoners. Why do you think the bullshit "war on drugs" is still going on, after all these decades?

The press is all too eager to make it appear as though this lad was kidnapped from the bosom of a loving family, by the evil forces of the Taliban, who then forced him, against his will, to partake in hostilities against the Christian West. The truth, should it be known, is a little less appealing.
This young man was recruited by none other than his own family, who also share this brand of sickness. They sent him off to slaughter, in order to satisfy this religious insanity of theirs. The same family whose remnants still reside in my country, I might add. With the same sick, twisted view of the world. Here amongst us... posing as 'Canadians', spitting on my country's flag and honour. How galling is that?

To state, or even suggest that a hostile combattant who was apprehended fighting in a foreign country, should be released by his rightful detaining authority, simply because his parents duped the Canadian immigration screening system, is nothing short of fantastic.
It is spectacularly ignorant and imbecillic. He is NOT a Canadian!! He is NOT one of us!! None of his family are!! The fact that the remainder of his family can still claim refuge here, after spitting on our culture and our values, is simply a testament that our days as a rational and free civilization are numbered.

"Well... they released all the Australians at the request of the Australian government...". Really?? And were any of them found responsible for any coalition deaths? I'll wager not. Had they been found guilty of coalition deaths, you can bet your ass that they would still be cooling their heels in Guantanamo... and rightly so!

In time, he should be offered a chance at rehabilitation, yes... But I say enough! ENOUGH, GODDAMNIT!!! Enough of treating the perpetrators of crimes as goddamn victims!! What the Hell is wrong with the bloody media?? Democracy and sanity have rarely had a worse enemy, while those who would slit our throat have never had a better ally. Let's minimize the actions of the evil, let's shift the responsibility onto people who don't have a goddamn thing to do with any of this... How stupid and self-serving can you be...

Shakespeare's character King Henry the VI is quoted as saying: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers..." (King Henry the VI, Act IV, Scene II). That may have been only because at the time the play was written, there were no media of any note.

If you want to know who is ultimately responsible for all of this, look no further than Omar Khadr's own family. To this diseased culture of theirs which would spread such venom throughout the world and ultimately (wait for it, it's coming...), unleash the forces of a third World conflict.

"If people knew..."

"If people knew what was out there hunting them... they'd never leave the house...". - CSI Gil Grissom.

On learning...

I can recall several instances in my life, where I was called upon to learn a new skill. Sometimes it was out of dire necessity, sometimes out of choice. When we were young and attending school, it was viewed as natural. It was basically our job as a kid. To attend school and to learn. We also attended school and played afterwards, to acquire and hone our interpersonal skills. To learn how to interact with other people. Our parents worked and provided a household for us. That was their job.

Nowadays it has become not only trendy but commonly accepted, to view these years as a bothersome burden. Even in pop culture, education is seen and promoted as a waste of time and we've convinced our children that it's a 'psychologically scarring period' for young adults. What utter bullshit!! After school hours are largely taken up with young people isolating themselves away from actual people and living out their lives online in a world of make believe. No wonder we're breeding generations of morons who can scarcely tie their own shoes and who are socially retarded.

School, just as any other method of education, is NOT a chore. It is NOT a burden. It IS a golden opportunity. It IS a natural part of evolving into a sentient human being. To believe otherwise, is to condemn oneself to a life of limited opportunities. I'm not necessarily talking university here, unless you have a specific calling that'll justify incurring that type of debt. I'm talking the basics: English, math, science, geography, history and social sciences.

Learning anything new is not hard. All that is required is interest, concentration and practise. If a person brings these three elements to any learning session, they cannot help but succeed. Without interest however, they might as well not bother showing up. If a person does not want to learn, they will only waste their time and that of their teacher. Nothing happens overnight and most skills require some time to perfect. That is why they are called 'skills' and not simple deeds. I have become quite accomplished over the years, with the use of tools. If I were to think back on my first encounters with a hammer, I'd have to say that my thumbs were not very happy. Did I give up using a hammer? No... I went one step better. I learned not to hammer the snot out of my thumbs! As a result, I have gone on to complete many tasks in my life, which have brought me satisfaction and have also built up equity in many of the properties we have owned.

During my Naval career, I was called upon to become a radar tech, in order to move up to the rank of Master Seaman and progress in my trade as an RP 271 to an RT 272. I had had my share of naysayers growing up and if I were ever to have given credence to their assessment of me, I would never have been able to take on the daunting world of advanced trigonometry, binary math, electronics and microprocessors. Upon returning to my next unit, I would be responsible for the maintenance of countless Naval Combat systems, ensuring the ship's readiness and combat survivability.

For many people, the one thing which holds them back is fear. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule... This fear is grounded in a poor self-image. An image which firmly believes that what others think of us, matters more than what we think of ourselves. An image that tells us we're 'not good enough', or that we're 'less than'... endlessly comparing themself against others whom they see as being 'better' in some way. We settle for a life of mediocrity, never daring to challenge ourselves or expand the envelope of what we think we know. Again this is unhealthy, dysfunctional thinking. Where does it stem from? Our parental upbringing, just about every ad you'll see or hear in the media, our friends and relations... the sources are endless. And all are wrong!

But just as surely as we have learned to think and feel wrongly about ourselves, we can choose to replace these ideas with healthier ones of our own design. Impossible? Not at all. As I've already said, all you need to bring to the table is an interest in making this happen in your life, the concentration and the practise. It really is as simple as it sounds. By employing these three elements, there is nothing you can't accomplish. It is just as easy to believe that you can do something, as it is to believe that you can't. It is far more reasonable and healthy to have faith in your own perception of self, than to turn over control of your life to strangers. The only difference is in the end results.

Probably one of the worst things I hear on the phone from some of our older callers, is that: "Ohhh...I don't own a computer. I don't want to get into that stuff... I'm too old for that...". Too old to learn? I don't think so... God forbid that I should reach a stage in life where I give up. Where I stop doing anything I love... like learning. How beaten down have you become, when the prospect of stimulating your mind seems like an effort not worth making? And this comment I hear from people younger than me! My friend, I sure as Hell wouldn't want to be in your skin in another 10 years...

But then again, this is only one man's opinion. :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

On lifejackets for dogs...

I would like to begin by stating that yes, I am an animal lover. No I do not collect them or imprison them to prove to other people that I do love animals, or to fill some horrible void in my life. But believe me, I do love animals. Just ask my better half how moronic I can become around dogs, or how I react when I see earth-pigs (groundhogs) as we're riding along. They're just the cutest little buggers ever. I also believe that I have a fairly healthy outlook on where they fit in to the overall scheme of things. No... I do not treat animals like people, or people like animals (for as much as some might indeed deserve it...).

With this said and out of the way, I have to tell you that there are people who phone up our services enquiring about lifejackets for dogs and cats. Transport Canada's Safety Equipment section here in Ottawa, sets the standards for and approves life-saving equipment for small and large commercial vessels, as well as for pleasure craft.

Life-saving equipment on vessels includes the following:

- distress signals
- emergency boats
- immersion suits
- lifeboats- lifebuoys
- life jackets
- marine evacuation systems

This is life-saving equipment designed, tested and approved for human beings, not animals. Please do not ask us: "And which section of the government does the same thing for animals?" Show some semblance of intellect, for the love of God... would ya!!??

The gubmint does not test or approve (and they certainly don't design or research...) life jackets or PFDs for animals of any type. Period! Before you ask me who does, I haven't the foggiest. I have never had the urge to look that up. Asking me this is the same as enquiring about why the government doesn't make blast vests for earth-pigs that might find themselves in the middle of an urban development project. The sad thing is that for some of you having read this, you're now gonna start wondering why in fact they haven't.

I have a news flash for pet owners: DOGS CAN SWIM!! IT'S INSTINCTIVE!!

Let's face it... if you bring your animals somewhere you think they'll NEED a life jacket, you're not only an idiot but a bad pet owner as well. You clearly shouldn't be entrusted with the life of another living creature. You're in the same league as people who phone us up and bitch that they can't find a life jacket to fit their 1 month old child... D-Uuuhhh... Can we say: A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N, kiddies? Or better yet: "Ward of the State"?

Why not have: "Hi! I live in a fuckin' trailer!!" tattoed on your forehead...

Gimme a break!

On patience...and teamwork.

I'm not sure how this came to mind, but I was recently thinking of a particular event, which took place while I was in Boot Camp in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec. I started my basic training there on 05 December 1975. At 21, I was the old man of the group. Back then, we lived in the old asbestos shingled 'H'-huts. They were notoriously cold and drafty. Real fire traps and they regularly practised fire drills during the night. These would leave you and your mates standing outside in the snow, barefoot, with nothing but your skivvies and your fire blanket wrapped around you.

But I digress... During my early training phase, much of our time was dedicated to our kit. How to mold our beret to our head and get just the right crease in it, mastering that goddamn half-Windsor knot that our ties called for and of course... the polishing and shining of our parade boots and service shoes. We had two pairs of boots... one for everyday use and one for parades. Our service shoes had to be our very best pair. We were in our third week of training and any initial niceties they showed us 'civilians', were long gone.

Our kit was inspected daily. Normally in the morning and at night as well. We would fall in at attention at the foot of our bed, our locker door open, our shoes resting on top of our folded fire blanket. Our personal weapon (the venerable FN C1), was field stripped and laid out on our bed. All clothing in the locker was pressed, hung up and folded. T-shirts each had to be folded to the exact same dimensions and formed a perfectly square cube when stacked.

The standard to which we had to aspire, as far as presentation of our shoes, was that the Sergeant had to be able to see the second hand of his watch sweep, in the reflection from your shoe's toe. If it did not measure up, he would grab your shoes and fling them to the other end of the dorm. Hmmm... no rest for you that evening.

It was maddening, trying to attain just the right combination of water on the rag, to wax from the tin of polish... small concentric circles... don't breathe on it!!! As our shoes were brand new, it took many, many coats of polish on our brand-new Oxfords, brushed into the leather with a shoe brush, before the pores began to fill up. Once they were full, the polish took on a uniform gloss. That's when we knew we were ready to begin 'spit-shining' our toe. Spit-shining, as the name implies, began way back in military history as just that. Soldiers would spit on their cloth while polishing, in order to bring out a higher shine in their uniform boots.

In our case, we would simply use the lid of the shoe polish tin, to hold a small amount of water. Into this we would dip the end of our rag-covered finger, in order to wet the cloth. We would then smear a dab of black boot polish over the tip and begin rubbing our small circles on the shoe's toe. We would spend literally hours on this task, every single evening of our 11 week training period. How frustrating it was to watch our efforts produce but a mediocre finish, as the heat from our own body made the polish cloud over. It took forever before I finally discovered the secret.

Cold water... This discovery happened quite by accident. I was sitting at the head of my bed, the polish container on a piece of cloth next to me and the lid holding the water, up on my windowsill. The window was open a crack and a flow of wintery, evening air was passing directly over the top of the lid. I could feel the cold when I dipped the rag into the water. I began to notice that the cold water was making the polish harden, set up... and shine!! I didn't want to tell anyone just yet, in case it was a fluke. I did both my shoes until the toes positively glowed on them. Just to make sure, I took my watch and held it close to the toe. As clear as day, I could see the second hand sweeping it's arc. I felt as though I had just discovered plutonium, the Northwest Passage, the Fountain of Youth... I was elated.

Calling my fellow greenhorns over, I invited them to gaze in awe at the perfect pair of shoes... In unison, they gasped and cried out: "You have to tell us how you did it!!!!" And so I did, proving that the training that we had received, even just up until then, was taking hold. We were a team. We looked out for one another. The individual was not as important as the unit. The following morning at inspection, all twenty-four of us had gleaming shoes perched proudly at the bottom of our bunks. The Sergeant nodded in approval, the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, as he slowly walked the line. "Vous avez bien fait, les gars", he said. ("You have done well, gents"). From the end of the line came a voice: "It was --------- who showed us, Sergeant!". He looked back towards me and smiled: "Un vieux renard parmi les jeunes, hein? Bravo!" (An old fox amongst the youngsters, eh? Bravo!).

I was made Class Leader the following day and remained so until we all graduated 2 months later. And we all graduated. If any member of our platoon had a difficulty with any element of training, we would all help him overcome it. It is a lesson I have taken with me as I have gone through my life. The unit is always stronger than the individual. The mission is the thing.

Those many, many hours spent polishing shoes and boots, taught me far more than simply how to polish. It taught pride in one's appearance, it taught patience. It also taught me that a victory shared, is more fulfilling than one savored alone.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Search and Rescue...

One of the many services provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Canadian Coast Guard is of course Search and Rescue. There are dedicated ships, small craft and aircraft across Canada, with specialized crews, whose sole purpose is to respond to life threatening situations at sea. The link below will provide a quick primer on the Canadian Coast Guard's mandate with regards to SAR.

With that said, the Canadian Forces are the main federal authority charged with Search and Rescue across Canada. There are many differences between SAR services provided by the Coast Guard and the Forces. For one, the Canadian Forces conduct inland SAR Ops across Canada. This is done through 3 main Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs). These are located in CFB Halifax, NS, CFB Trenton, ON and CFB Esquimalt, BC. There are also 2 Rescue Sub-Centres located in Québec City, QC and St.John's, NL.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCC) coordinate and carry out air and marine search and rescue operations in Canada and its adjacent waters. The Centres also carry out land-based search and rescue operations at the request of the responsible authorities. They are manned by both Forces and Canadian Coast Guard personnel.

There is a dedicated trade within the Canadian Forces which is SAR Tech (MOC 131). It is a very small trade with an exclusive membership. There are currently only 130 SAR Techs serving all of Canada. Their motto: "That Others May Live", pretty much says it all. The training and qualifications required to become a SAR Tech, make Airborne school look like a walk in the park. People will frequently e-mail us, asking for information on becoming a SAR Tech with the Coast Guard. Well kiddies, there ARE NO SAR Techs in the Coast Guard. If you want to wear that particular distinction on your jumper, you had better enlist with the Canadian military.

SAR Techs are highly trained specialists who provide on-scene medical attention and rescue for aviators, mariners and others in distress in remote or hard to reach areas.

They are trained in advanced trauma life-support, land and sea survival, rescue techniques from helicopters, precision parachuting, diving, mountain climbing and rappelling.

In the air, they act as spotters, providing medical care during medical evacuation flights, direct the dropping of equipment and supplies by parachute and parachute and hoist from the planes and helicopters. On the ground, they render on-site medical care to casualties, organize and lead ground search teams and perform mountain rescue operations to assist and recover casualties.

They are trained to operate boats and to perform both surface and underwater rescues using scuba gear. They are trained as survival experts under all Canadian climatic and terrain conditions including on land, at sea, in the Arctic, on mountains and on glaciers. They are also trained to communicate with over-flying Aircraft by use of radios, flares, smoke, ground and hand signaling devices and other methods. The only military personnel who outshine these lads, are the American Combat Rescue Specialists, who practise all the aforementioned disciplines and are also highly trained in Combat Arms.

With a combined responsibility of 15,540,000 square kilometers (Canada's landmass, territorial waters and mid-ocean sections of the Atlantic and Pacific) and the challenges of terrain and climate, search and rescue in Canada is a demanding and daunting task. Yet it is one that our SAR Techs take on with aplomb and dedicated professionalism.

Following the release of the Hollywood movie "The Guardian", we were deluged with e-mails from young lads who: "want to be the guy that jumps out of the helicopter". For as much as I admire those who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard as rescue swimmers, they cannot hold a candle to our own SAR Techs. Besides, I think the romance of that particular job would wane quickly, the first time they realized that they would often not be alone in the water. (Cue the sinister cello music...).

Search and rescue in Canada is conducted on a variety of levels. There are a slew of municipal organisations that one can volunteer to get involved with, your provincial EMO (Emergency Measures Organisation), even the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary has it's Marine Search and Rescue - Volunteers program, which recruits volunteers to help the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Forces in marine search and rescue operations, and to promote safety awareness in Canadian waters through the following activities:

- demonstrating the use of marine safety equipment- developing safe boating practices

- conducting inspections of pleasure craft and small fishing vessels in order to ensure that the necessary safety equipment is on board.

True, the life of a rescue specialist can be seen as one full of glamour. The reality however is somewhat different. It takes very special individuals who are willing to put their life on the line every day, not for the fame, or the adulation, because there are none. But simply because somewhere... someone needs them. It is probably the most selfless career a person can embark on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Who owns the shoreline...?"

Of all the ambiguous questions we might get asked, the worst to sort out (and explain, apparently...), are the ones which deal with shorelines. There exists a train of thought it seems, that so much of the shoreline 'belongs to the federal government', another few feet belong to the provincial government and the remainder belonging to the landowner.

I recently had a French lad from Québec call us up, wanting to know which section of the shoreline "belonged to the federal government". After pressing him for details, it turns out he had been ticketed by the municipal police in Repentigny, QC, for having his boat on the shore of a municipal park. The park was closed at the time (2200hrs) and therefore he was in fact trespassing. Hence the ticket. This chap wanted me to tell him that his boat was resting on "the federal part of the shoreline", so he could refuse to pay the ticket. Needless to say, he did not hear what he wanted to from me. In a perfect world, he would have gotten an extra ticket for being a jackass...

I would like to go out on a limb here and attempt to de-mystify some of this.

Riparian Rights are accepted as the inherent rights of individuals who own properties bordering water. The following might help clear things up:

Riparian Rights -- A Detailed Discussion.

In common law the owner of lands adjoining a river, stream or lake has certain rights related to the use of water. The rights arise from the ownership of the bank, that portion which adjoins the upland with the water itself. The latin word for bank is "ripa" hence the rights are called "riparian", and the owner is similarly referred to as "riparian owner". Since riparian rights are part of common law, there is no requirement for them to be expressly conveyed in a deed or title certificate.

In Canadian law riparian rights may be classified under six categories:

1. the right of access to the water,
2. the right of drainage,
3. the rights relating to the flow of water,
4. the right to undiminished quality of water (pollution),
5. the right to use of water, and
6. the right of accretion.

1. The Right of Access.

Access to the adjoining water is the basic right of a riparian owner. Without access to the water, a riparian owner could not enjoy the other rights.
The right includes access both to and from the water. On tidal waters, this involves the right to go on the shore (i.e., the land between the high and low water mark). On non-tidal rivers or lakes, this involves a right of access over the shoal waters to deeper waters where navigation can practically begin. The right of access extends across the entire length of a riparian owner's land fronting the body of water.

An example where a riparian owner would lose a right of access may involve a situation where land is required for a public work on a portion of the shore located in front of the riparian owner's land. Even though the owner may still have access from a portion of the lands to the water, the owner has lost the right of access to the water from lands fronting the public work itself. This would be considered a compensable item in an expropriation settlement even though no land is taken, and access is still available from other points on the riparian owner's remaining waterfront lands.

The riparian owner's right of access to waters must be distinguished from the public's right of navigation on the water and the public's right to fish. Navigation on a body of water may legally interfere with a riparian owner's right of access to some extent (e.g., a ship or a log boom, depending upon circumstances, temporarily anchored in front of private lands). The public in the exercise of its right of fishing, may, for example, land fish on the shore or dig for clams. While these acts may temporarily obstruct access to some degree, the right of access cannot be blocked by permanent fishing installations.

2. The Right of Drainage.

Owners of land adjoining a natural stream have a right to drain their lands in the stream. Since the natural function of watercourses is to drain land within a specific drainage area, draining lands from areas outside the natural watercourse may increase the flow of water which could have an adverse impact on lands further downstream.
An upper riparian landowner may be held liable for damages to a lower riparian owner's lands. This could occur where an increased flow of water causes damage to the lower lands which is attributable to drainage of lands outside the natural watercourse.

3. The Rights Relating to Flow.

A riparian owner is entitled to certain rights respecting the manner in which water reaches and leaves the land. An owner is entitled to permit water to flow through the lands as it has been accustomed to flow, substantially undiminished in quantity and quality. A riparian owner is also entitled to have water leave the land unobstructed.

There are some underlying rights which have evolved through practical considerations and court decisions. These rights include:

a. The right to have water flow in its natural course.While the riparian owner is entitled to have water flow down the stream to his/her land along its regular channel, a riparian owner may alter the course of the stream so long as it is returned to its normal channel without affecting the flow downstream.

b. The right to prevent the permanent extraction of water from the stream.If water is diverted from a stream, it must be returned to the stream substantially undiminished in quality and quantity. Accordingly, courts have decided that water diverted for the purpose of irrigation must be done without sensibly diminishing the flow of water downstream.

While a claim for minimal diminution (as in some irrigation projects) may not result in legal redress; where the damages may be appreciable, a claim for damages or an injunction to prevent the diversion may likely be successful. An example of damages being appreciable is where a town will divert water from a stream to suit its municipal requirements, resulting in a diminished downstream flow that leaves the remaining water stagnant and foul.

c. The right to prevent the alteration of the rate of flow to downstream property.

While a total flow of water downstream might not be affected over a specific period; an upstream owner could potentially alter the times when the water will flow, by increasing or decreasing its rate. This might be required for replenishing a reservoir for an irrigation project, or a head pond for a hydro-electric facility.

With strict interpretation of the principle of an undiminished flow through downstream lands, an upstream riparian owner could be severely restricted in the use of water. The development and maintenance of control dams on an upper riparian owner's lands would be impractical with this type of interpretation. As well, it would be unfair since the upper riparian owner would not have a right equal to that of the lower owner to make use of the water.

Courts have made it clear that a riparian owner is entitled to a reasonable use of water in a stream or on adjoining land which of necessity, affects the flow downstream. Whether a use is reasonable requires consideration of all the circumstances including the size of the stream, the season of the year, the nature of the use and the operations involved.

d. The right to have water leave land in its accustomed manner. As indicated in a) above, a riparian owner has a right to have water enter lands unobstructed. A riparian owner also has the right to have water leave the land unobstructed. The most frequent source of obstruction to be faced by an upstream owner are dams built downstream which can result in a flooding of upstream lands.

Court decisions have made it clear that any person who interferes with the course of a stream must ensure that the works substituted for the natural channel can adequately carry the water brought downstream.

4. The Right to Undiminished Quality of Water (Pollution).

A riparian owner is entitled to the flow of water in its natural state. While an upstream riparian owner has the right to drain lands, the owner is not permitted to collect and discharge contaminants into the stream to the detriment of downstream riparian owners.

An upper riparian owner would not ordinarily be liable, where water in its flow carries with it, for example, oils or salts found naturally in the earth which affects the quality of downstream water.

5. The Right to Use of Water.

While a riparian owner does not own the water running in a stream, an owner may use it as it passes through the lands. Water cannot be granted, however access easements can be granted by land owners for its use.

Riparian rights of use differ between ordinary and extraordinary uses. The use of water for drinking purposes, watering stock and other domestic purposes such as washing are categorised as "ordinary uses". The use must be closely related to the adjoining land. Should an owner exhaust the water supply through ordinary uses, there is no liability for damages to a downstream riparian owner. Further, water from a stream that is used to supply properties that do not adjoin the stream would be considered extraordinary.

A riparian owner may make use of water for extraordinary purposes so long as it is incidental to the use of the lands. What amounts to an extraordinary purpose will depend on the general conditions in the area and other uses of the stream. A common example is the use of water for running a mill. Unlike a person who uses water for ordinary purposes, one who uses water for extraordinary purposes, must restore it to the stream substantially undiminished in quantity and quality. There is no right of first appropriation. A riparian owner has no first right of use of the water for extraordinary purposes over downstream riparian owners.

6. The Right of Accretion.

The riparian owner is entitled to land created by accretion. There are two types of accretion. One is created by the gradual and imperceptible deposit of alluvium on the banks of a riparian owner's land. The other results from the gradual and imperceptible recession of the waters to a lower level. In either case the additional dry land normally belongs to the riparian owner. On tidal waters, a riparian owner's right to accreted land occurs only where the lands accreted are above the high water mark.

In practice, distinctions have been made between accretions which result from natural causes and those which result from man-made structures. An accreted portion of land which results from the action of water on man-made structures such as wharves, dikes, or breakwaters may not belong to a riparian owner. Court decisions concerning title to such accreted lands normally consider the circumstances of the land either forming gradually and imperceptibly or suddenly.

Riparian owners have the right to protect their property from invasion of water from the shore. The owners may take steps such as building a bulwark, dike or berm on their side of the water's edge to protect the lands from being washed away.

Encroachment of the water through erosion of the banks can occur because of changes in the flow caused by neighbouring owners. Anyone who for example, either removes material such as sand and gravel from a bed of a stream that may weaken the supporting bank structure, or constructs a barrier such as a breakwater which causes increased wave turbulence in front of a riparian owner's land, can be held liable for damages caused by the resulting erosion.

Riparian Rights and Current Legislation.

It may be said that the common law of riparian rights is geared to simpler times where perhaps only an adjoining owner was affected by waters. Today water affects more than the rights of adjoining owners of land, it affects the interests of the public.

To meet the demands of contemporary society it has been the practise to obtain statutory powers whenever they are seen to be for the public good. Over time, a waterfront owner's right to exercise riparian and littoral rights has been limited to some extent by federal an provincial legislation.

In Canada to-day, the issue of riparian rights as developed under common law, is linked with the demands of contemporary society through many acts and regulations. This legislation includes the Navigable Water's Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and its provincial equivalents, the Fisheries Act, the Commercial Fishing and Recreational Harbours Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the National Harbours Board Act, the Dominion Water Power Act, the Railway Act, the Public Works Act, the Expropriation Act, and the Land Titles Act.

As an example of the above, the Navigable Waters Protection Act limits an owner's riparian rights. By this act, federal government approval is required to construct works on navigable waters. The federal government may also remove all works built without federal approval.


So... in a nutshell, it is never a case of "who owns the shoreline". It all has to do with who wants to do what and where. Odds are that there will be several entities involved, certainly if the caller's enquiry has to do with any type of construction or development work, which is destined to take place either on the shoreline (which could directly affect fish habitat) or in the water (which would then involve both fish habitat and navigable waters).

Riparian rights provide a guarantee of sorts that landowners will be able to enjoy access and usage of the water. These rights DO NOT translate into the right to dictate how boaters or swimmers may use the waters. For some insane reason, many landowners think that they have to right to decide who anchors out in front of their property, or who swims in the water near their property. Riparian rights apply only to the land and the access and usage of the waters. They do not transform an individual into some sort of feudal baron who holds sway over any portion of a watercourse. Nobody died and made you God...

By the same token if you're a boater, you have no right to pull your boat ashore on someone's private property and decide you're going to have your shore lunch there. The first few feet up from the water's edge DO NOT BELONG TO THE GUBMINT!! So you have no right to park your carcass there. If you have any civilized upbringing whatsoever, you will go to the landowner's house and ask his permission or better yet, go find an uninhabited stretch of shoreline.

Either way, that's why there are services such as ours, which can send folks to the appropriate level of government (if the government is indeed involved at all...), for the information they need.

My thanks to Public Works and Government Services Canada's (PWGSC) Real Property website, which provided the bulk of this information. You can view it yourself at the link below:

A dream trip...

So what would a dream road trip be? As I've mentioned previously, it would be the trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We would begin with a run back down to Alexandria Bay, NY via the 1,000 Islands Parkway, where I would pick up the I-81 Southbound. We would no doubt stop over in Syracuse to feed and water ourselves.

Leaving Syracuse, NY it would then be another 467 miles (751kms) until we reached Middleton, VA. In all likelyhood, we would stop overnight in Pennsylvania. There are a number of great online search engines for locating accomodations along the way. The link below is just one of many I found, but is even more helpful than most, as it is 'Interstate specific':

The following morning, we would complete the leg of the journey which would lead us to exit I-81 at Middleton, Virginia. We would then take Rte.11 to SR55. Heading East for a mile or two, we would then arrive in Front Royal, VA. This is the North Entrance to the Shenandoah National Park, and the beginning of the Skyline Drive.

Travelling South some 105.5 miles, we would then arrive at Rockfish Gap, which is the South Entrance to the Park and Mile 0 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway meanders South for 469 miles (755km), along the backbone of the Blue Ridge Mountains, through some of the most breathtaking scenery the Eastern U.S. has to offer. I would expect we would take a good 2 days to complete this part of the trip, taking our time and participating in many walking and hiking tours as well as enjoying some good Southern cooking. Again, online information about available resorts along the Parkway is plentiful and you can book a reservation before you even leave your driveway. Failing that, I would carry a list of potential rest stops, along with their coordinates.

For such a scenic trip, some thought has also been given to bringing along a small laptop. This could be used for not only providing internet and e-mail access while on the road, but also for uploading pictures from our digital camera, enabling us to then clear the memory card and carry on taking pictures.Reaching the end of the Parkway in Cherokee, NC we would then take some time to browse around there and rest up. FromCherokee, we would then take Rte.19 to Almond, where we would pick up Rte.28 to Deal's Gap, which effectively is the beginning of the notorious Tail of the Dragon, US Hwy.129.

The Tail of the Dragon is a mere 11 mile stretch and as such will not take up a major amount of touring time. With that having been said though, one would want to complete it in both directions, to truly say that you had 'slain the Dragon'. And an extra run through would not be out of the question, just for the sheer fun of it. After having travelled all that distance, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it...

Following a thorough exploration of the Dragon, a more leisurely ride would be called for, after having returned to Deal's Gap to retrieve a well-earned t-shirt and other souvies. The Cherohala Skyway was completed in the fall of 1996 after being under construction for some thirty-four years. It is North Carolina's most expensive highway carrying a pricetag of $100,000,000. Winding up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 15 miles in North Carolina and descending another 21 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee. The road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests thus the name "Chero...hala". The Skyway is becoming well known in motorcycling and sportscar circles for it's long, sweeping corners and scenic views.

This road enthusiast's dream connects Robbinsville, North Carolina with Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It can be desolate at night and extremely dangerous in the winter months. There are no facilities other than restrooms for the entire 36 miles so travellers are advised to make sure they have enough gas to make the crossing. There is little evidence of civilization from views that rival or surpass any from the Blue Ridge Parkway. With it's elevations, it is said to have views to rival or surpass those offered by the Blue Ridge Parkway itself!

We would return to Robbinsville, NC for the evening, bedding down at one of the many local inns. At this point one would imagine it would be early in the evening, with plenty of time left to walk about, feed our faces and take in some of the sights. We could sit down and plan the next day's activities, which might include an expedition southeast of Robbinsville, which would lead us across the State line into Georgia. A scant 15 miles to the East of that and we would be in South Carolina. We could visit all four states in one day: Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia! Then would be the time to begin planning our return strategy.True, we could simply reverse directions and take the BRP back up North. Who knows...when the time comes, we may very well do just that. I have been nursing thoughts about reliving some of my previous trip to Daytona Beach, by meandering up through Virginia along Route 1. That however, would be a pretty long haul. Just as long as we manage to squeeze in a side trip to Gatlinburg, TN before we leave...

Man... what a trip that would be... :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A thought on tattoos...

Throughout my life, certainly during my time in the Navy and by attending various motorcycling events, I have seen countless hundreds of tattoos. Some good work, some bad work. Tattoos are a very personal thing. I myself don't have any, although for a time I used to draw the odd tattoo design for my messmates onboard. They'd have them done up by Jerry Swallow. He was quite popular with the matelots back in the day and had a tattoo parlor on Barrington Street in Halifax. I can see or understand why a person would choose to have something etched indelibly into their skin. I think for your very first piece, it would have to be something that you're incredibly passionate about, or something that would mark a major milestone in your life, a defining moment... I guess that so far, I have just never found something that I would want to have etched on me forever. Life is a series of changes. Our pursuits, passions, dreams, goals... all these change over time. For many people, after your first tat it seems that the criteria for what is acceptable, expands to encompass just about everything.

Having someone's name inked on your body, unless they're family, is usually a bad idea. We all know how relationships can go... I have seen some pretty outrageous things tattooed on people's bodies, for a multitude of reasons. What they choose to have inked, as well as the reason why, is totally their business. I have often thought about getting my first ink, once I've completed my projected trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway/Tail of the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. Why? It is a lifelong goal of mine. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Yet the completion on this journey will be a major accomplishment in my riding career. It would be for me, a badge of honour. Oddly enough, I never got inked in Daytona, after riding down there solo from Dartmouth, NS in September of 1996. But that's another story... I am largely defined by the years I spent in the Navy, yet my forearms and biceps are conspicuously lacking the classical 'heart, ship and anchor' of a sailor... Go figure. I never saw one nice enough to wear on my body.

I have never looked at someone with tats in a bad way, regardless of the work they have had done. There are some who seem to take as a personal affront, the artwork adorning another person's body. If they were being dragged against their will to have the same done to their bodies, I could see a reason for such remonstrations. Otherwise, who cares...? To them, I can only say what many people with tats will tell you:

"The only difference between people with tattoos and those without, is that people with tattoos don't care if you don't have any".

Would that we were all so well adjusted.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A date with a Dinosaur...

It was Saturday, 05 July at 0725hrs. I looked at the odometer after just having filled Baby's fuel tank at the Shell station on Innes. 48,611kms it read. Getting pretty close to joining the 50,000km club by now. And it's just barely been 3 years since I first took delivery of her. Just 3 riding seasons... Time flies and so do the klicks, apparently.

Today we were off on a longer run that we were used to as a couple. We'd be going as far as Syracuse, NY and back. The purpose of this trip, besides the ride itself, was to pick up some vitamin supplements my wife had ordered, but was all about trying out the vittles at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q in Syracuse! I planned on stopping a little more often that usual for the occasional stretches, but I was about to discover that even the best laid plans of mice and men, sometimes avail little. The air was already warming, though the breeze was cool as we wound our way towards Anderson Road and Manotic. The sky was clear and it promised to be one of those stellar riding days. The air was infused with the aroma of the dew-drenched fields and wildflowers. Arriving at Timmie's in Manotic, we dismounted for a little stretch and some brekkie.

Following a breakfast sandwich and a medium double-double, we struck out along the River Road until it intersected the 416 Southbound. As we began our crossing of the overpass which spans the 416, I turned my head to the left and saluted smartly, in the direction of the flag and the cenotaph which marks The Veteran's Memorial Park. This has become an instinctive ritual of mine, ever since I first noticed it there. Reaching the other side, we slowed and tipped the bike into the left-hander which led us onto the on-ramp.

Traffic was light on the Veterans' Memorial Highway and we travelled along at a steady 110kmh. Baby had settled into a low growl as we sailed effortlessly along. One by one, the exits zipped by until we arrived at ours, which would lead us to the bridge to Ogdensburg, NY. I've never been a big fan of that bridge as the deck is constructed of metal slats. In a car, it just gives you that humming sound. On a bike, you have the sound and a ride that can best be compared to an evening at the Ice Capades. The front tire tends to skate around and it feels as though you're rolling along on ball bearings. A very light touch is required on the controls here and it's best to just settle into the seat, breathe normally and enjoy the view. We've never had any really exciting moments on this bridge yet but we're always both relieved to reach the other side.

Stopping at the U.S. Customs checkpoint, we were engaged in conversation by an affable young chap, who was also a rider. He noticed the submariner's shell vest from HMCS Okanagan I was wearing. He was part of the Hardly-Dangerous crowd and we discussed where we were headed to. When I told him about our destination in Syracuse, he looked at me and smiled: " ain't ridin' a Harley!" I filled him in on my background and told him I didn't anticipate any attitude down there and that I could certainly give as good as I got, should the occasion arise. He waved us on, wishing us a safe ride. The time was 0915hrs.

By the time we arrived at the small strip mall where the UPS Store was located, it was 0920. We had some time to kill before the store opened up at 1000hrs. My better half decided to investigate her favorite 'stuff & fabric' store, Jo-Ann's Fabrics... Thinking better of taking a nap on the lawn, I figured I'd tag along with her. She had found some fabric with which she intended to make a kaftan for her Mom back home in Nova Scotia. We wound up our purchase and headed to the UPS Store at 1000 sharp. Unfortunately, they had yet to receive the package she was expecting. It was a bit of a disappointment, as she would have to come back yet again at a later date. Still, the day was young, the sun was shining and the road was calling us...

We headed out from Ogdensburg, NY heading west along Rte. 37 on our way to Watertown. The signs along the rolling farmlands advised us that were were in Amish country and we delighted in our surroundings, including the view of the St.Lawrence to our right. As this was the day after the 4th of July, most homes were still decked out in their national holiday finery. Very few were the houses which did not have Old Glory flying in the morning breeze. Fences and railings everywhere were still festooned with red, white and blue bunting.

We rolled through Hammond, NY which is a very pretty, typical rural community. The Fire Hall, the local elementary school, the neatly trimmed lawns around the old, established houses. So picturesque. We travelled on through, my spouse spotting deer here and there that I seemed to be missing. True, they were further back from the road than what I'd normally scan, but I rarely miss any signs of wildlife when we're out on the road. This had me a little baffled...

Coming up on South Hampton, we reached the end of Rte.37 and embarked for 1 mile onto Rte.11. This led us straight into Watertown. While we could probably have pulled over for a spell and mapped out alternate routes through the countryside, we opted to take I-81 from Watertown to Syracuse, in order to save time and speed things up a tad. I was starting to get that hungry feeling... Looking back on it, a stop in Watertown would have been a good thing.

We wound our way through Watertown until we found our on-ramp to I-81. We joined the rest of the traffic which was considerably heavier now than it had been on the 37. The average speed on the interstate was 120kmh. The bike has no problem with this, but I find it tiring. We passed a rest area early on I-81. I did not pull over, never realizing that the next one was not for another 74 miles. My better half was getting antsy and I could feel her shifting around back there. We had been in the saddle the better part of an hour and a half now and it was pretty close to time for a break. I would love to have pulled over, but the interstate was clearly posted: "No Stopping!!" It was one of these "once-you're-on-here-you're-done" deals. I came off the 81 briefly as we came upon a parking area, but there were no amenities so we launched back onto the interstate.

The Yanks have something to learn from us when it comes to expansion joints on their highways. About every second one we hit bounced us in the saddle. Eventually though, we passed this less-than-perfect segment and all complaints ceased. We passed many fellow riders on the road. Not surprising as the weather was simply perfect for it. As we approached the outskirts of Syracuse, we were finally greeted by a sign which proclaimed: Rest Area, 2 miles. Hallelujah!!

I rolled off the throttle as we took the off ramp, with Baby emitting that characteristic "Ffnnrrrrrr..." as we downshifted to fourth, then third. We pulled up to a vacant parking slot, right in front of the walkway leading to the facilities. Hauling ourselves out of the saddle, we began to stretch as a troop of 6 fellow riders pulled in behind us, parking a couple of slots away. We exchanged greetings as they dismounted and headed towards the washrooms. One of them commented favorably on Baby's paint job. They were riding a mix of older, smaller displacement bikes. Their dress seemed to reflect their rural roots and was composed of everything but actual riding gear. I remember having been astounded by how many riders I had spotted on the way down, who were wearing shorts and either runners or sandals... Unbelievable!!

I cleaned some of the bugs from the windshield as my better half massaged her rump. That Mustang seat is great, but every saddle has it's limitations. I wanted to see where I was going as we entered Syracuse. Having composed and watered ourselves, we headed back out onto the I-81. We were less than 2 miles from Syracuse at this point and quickly found the 23A exit for the Carousel Centre mall. This was our first stop as my spouse wanted to scout it out for her daughter. For those who live to shop the higher end stores, this place is a boon, I reckon.

I noticed a lot of military connotations, as well as a plethora of "Support Our Troops" paraphenalia. Then it dawned on me... Watertown, New York (just a bit further back) is the home of Fort Drum. This is the home base of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. These guys and gals have been deployed to Iraq for some time now. Syracuse, like Watertown, was a true 'military town'.
Having completed our intel gathering in this air-conditioned oasis, we headed back out into the heat of the day. As we were preparing to leave, we spied a comely young maiden strolling towards us. My spouse asked the young lady if she might know the directions to the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q. In short order, she relayed some pretty good directions, which involved finding a Clinton Street, but the way the young lady prononunced it with her NY accent, it came out sounding more like "Clin'in". We thanked her profusely and left her, my stomach growling in anticipation. My wife kept shouting in my ear: "We gotta find "Clin'in"...Hahahahaha!!". We hopped onto the I-690 as instructed, but there was some construction work going on, lanes had been closed, on-ramps sealed off... to make a long story short, we went and got temporarily lost. We passed a long line of bikes at one point, headed in the opposite direction to us. We soon found out why they were going the opposite way... The road we were on dead-ended!

Figuring those fellow riders must be travelling to the same spot, we reversed courses and headed off after them. We looped back onto the 690 and kept our eyes opened for an exit onto "Clin'in"... Not seeing one and being at a downtown exit, I chose to get off the 690 and check out directions with yet another local. We exited onto W.Genessee Street and I stopped in the parking lot of an automobile detailing centre. I asked a lad who was outside if he knew where we could find... "Oh, the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q? It's just down the road there." Judging by the looks on our faces, he must have known he caught us off guard. He laughed: "Just seeing youse two on the bike, I knew what you was lookin' for!!".

We thanked him for his help and wheeled out, heading right onto Genessee. We hadn't gone two blocks when I looked to my left and saw a large lineup of bikes. Bingo! We travelled the one short block to the intersection where sat the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, purveyors of all wonderful things grilled! We initially parked a little ways down the street on the opposite side, as there was no room in front. Even before I let the jiffy stand down, I could smell the Bar-B-Q goodness... It wafted on the air. My stomach was just about crying by now. We gathered our kit and trudged across the street. As we did so, two fellow riders were just leaving. I handed my gear to my spouse and went to get Baby. Soon, Baby was in her rightful place out front and we were being hustled inside by our female host.

The place was jumpin'! There were folks all over the place, riders and citizens alike, with an army of wait staff flyin' by with plates of goodies. Some were waiting for a table inside, some for a seat inside or by the bar. I was immediately reminded of the Boot Hill Saloon on Main Street in Daytona Beach.

The place was decorated in 'early biker trash', the walls and ceilings festooned with all manner of riding related paraphenalia. We put our name on the list with the joint's matron, the keeper of the seats. I never asked for her name although I should have and will definitely do so the next time we go. She is quite the card. We moseyed up to the bar for a couple of drinks, to wash down some of that road dirt. I loved the ambiance of the place. It was so long since I had been in one of "our" places.

Before long, we hear: " of 2...raise your hand, darlin'...". My hand shot into the air and we were rewarded with a: "Place for two at the hi-top right here...", said she pointing to our table and stools. We were right in the stream of things. We sat ourselves down and just watched the activity around us. Before long, our server was at our table, ready to take our orders. Her name was Erin and she was absolutely delightful. My wife ordered the catfish and rice, while I ordered 2 pulled pork Bar-B-Q sandwiches with a side of slaw. The anticipation was killing me... I had researched this place some time ago and pretty much knew what to expect, or at least what to hope for. There is not much else that I would rather as far as food goes, than good Bar-B-Q or a good ol' pig roast. By all reports, this place had been awarded some pretty lofty accolades and I reckoned I'd be the judge of it.

When our food arrived, I looked down at these 2 good sized sandwiches. They were filled with the most tender, most succulent barbecued pork I've ever tasted! When I bit into them, I'm sure my eyes rolled back in my head like a shark. As my better half is fond of saying: "I had a mouth-gasm!" I was in piggy heaven. I will definitely make a return trip before the season is out, to sample their ribs this time and maybe to bring home some of their patented Bar-B-Q sauce. For her part, my wife thoroughly enjoyed the catfish as well. They were well worth the trip down there and we will be repeat customers of theirs.

As we were sitting there enjoying our food, a troop of Canada's 1st CAV arrived. This is the Canadian Army Veterans' Motorcycle Association. It's comprised of veterans from all three services and their supporters. They gather for runs, comradship as well as to support special charities or organizations. This lot was from the Vimy Unit, based in Kingston, ON. I've been canvassed to become a member of our bunch here in Ottawa, but I don't know if I'm ready to don another 'uniform' just yet... I intercepted a member of theirs (Dave) and chatted for a spell until he was summoned by his mates.

I had to buy a t-shirt as a souvenir of this trip (of course...). It was getting around 1500hrs by now as we sat there, fat, dumb and happy. For as much as I didn't want to leave, we slowly made our way to the exit, after having thanked all those who had made our stay there so great. We promised them we'd be back and we will. As we loaded Baby up again, my spouse mentioned wanting to pick up a set of Hannah Montana sheets for her little granddaughter (also named Hannah...), who lives away in Perth, Australia. She believed she had found some at a Target store in Watertown and asked if we might stop in there on the way back. Watertown was as good a place as any for a stretch and a breather, so I agreed. We made our way out of town and back to I-81 Northbound.

The sun wasn't as fierce as it had been, but I could still feel it warming the left side of my face. The air was very dry as well. I cussed myself for not picking up a pop or a bottle of water to throw in the saddlebag before leaving. The Gods were smiling on us however, as some 30 miles later, at the very first parking area we came to, the local Mannville fire department had set up a coffee and juice stand for thirsty motorists. For a nominal donation, you could help yourself to either coffee, tea, lemonade, iced water or iced tea. We pulled over and for a buck, I helped myself to a big cup of ice cold lemonade. What a treat! We had learned on the way down that anytime a rest or parking area came into view, it was always a good idea to use it, as they were very few and definitely far between!

Refreshed, we hit the road more alert than what we had been. The full bellies and warm temperatures had slowly been getting to us up until then. My wife continued with her deer-spotting activities and we literally lost count of the number of Blue Herons we had seen since leaving that morning. The air started cooling as we approached Watertown. We saw an exit for Pulaski and decided that we'd pull over so that my spouse could put her liner back into her Joe Rocket mesh jacket. As we came off the Interstate, I saw dead ahead of us Fat Nancy's Tackle Shop.

It was too good to be true! We pulled into the parking lot and my wife reinstalled her liner. "I want a picture of you in front of that sign", I told her. Obligingly, she posed... it was too funny. Time to get back into the flow of traffic... but hold on. It ain't as easy as it looks.

We had to go hunting to find our way back onto I-81. Our detour took us all the way through the little village of Pulaski, NY. Charming as it was, it was a little frustrating navigating this way and that, when an on-ramp, right where the off-ramp was, would have been a far simpler solution. Of course then again, no one would ever get to see Pulaski, NY then, now would they?

Finally, we hit the exit for Watertown. Finding the Target store was a cinch and we meandered through it's well-lit and air conditioned aisles. My wife found the sought after sheets, so we were good to go. They even had a Starbucks inside, so we both grabbed a small House Blend coffee for the road. It was getting close to 1800hrs and they were just starting to close up by the time we were done. Leaving Watertown, we headed out once again on I-81.,_New_York

We had all of 25 miles to do until we hit the 1,000 Island Bridge, which would lead us across the St.Lawrence and back onto Canadian soil. As we headed towards Alexandria Bay, we found ourselves charging down a nice slope in the road. We were nearing the bottom of the slope, at which point it began an uphill arc to the left. At that moment, a large doe crossed the median to our left and came bounding across the Interstate, right in front of us. All I could hear in my left ear was: "Ohh!! Oohh!! Deer! Deer!! Deer!!!". "I got 'er", I advised my better half as I gently applied the brakes, scrubbing off speed remarkably fast. At the same time, I downshifted to fourth and eased out the clutch. The doe made it across unscathed and we had yet another special moment to add to our trip. I got back on the throttle and we surged uphill, bracketed by tall rock spire formations, made orange by the lengthening rays of the sun.

Fifteen minutes later, we were cruising through Alexandria Bay, NY. Like so many other communities along this region of the St.Lawrence, it's a gorgeous place to visit.

It's also the home of the fabled Boldt Castle, appropriately located on Heart Island. It symbolizes a truly touching story of love and devotion amongst the super-rich of the times.
We veered onto the approaches to the 1,000 Island Bridge, bound for Lansdowne, ON. Arriving at Customs we were greeted by what my spouse referred to as "a young, cutie-patooty". He was a very pleasant young man, all bright-eyed and full of piss and vinegar. He was, if I may say, the very antithesis of the Canadian civil servant. It was a refreshing change from what one sees in Ottawa, on a daily basis. We bid him good day and sailed straight onto the 1,000 Island Parkway. What a glorious way to end the day, with a ride along one of my all-time favorite roads. 34kms later, we were stopping into our old haunt in Brockville... Timmie's. An iced tea would do the trick this time. We rested up and were soon back on the road. We cruised along Hwy.2 until we arrived at Iroquois. We then opted to take the 416 North, until we reached the exit for the River Road.

Our last stop on the way home was the Timmie's in Manotic. The sun had just about set by then and we had slowed to our normal backroads pace. We followed the River Road to where it met Rideau Road, then on down to the Ramsayville Road, left to Eighth Line, a right to Anderson Road and finally onto Mer Bleu, Innes and home. We were both happy to "make it stop", by the time we pulled into the driveway at 2130hrs. Once again, the kids were still out and we had the place to ourselves to unwind. Total mileage: 675kms. A wonderful day on the road, great weather, new acquaintances and a new return destination to add to our growing list.

All in all, it was a very successful Saturday.