Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How are things in Pakistan...?

At least one person in Pakistan seems to have the right idea. A glimmer of sanity in an otherwise, neanderthal and self-destructive nation.

This following article comes from the online pages of Karachi's DAWN Newspaper:

The grand debate
By Mohammad Waseem

Wednesday, 29 Apr, 2009 09:29 AM PST

"Currently the people of Pakistan are operating like the blind men who tried to make sense of an elephant by touching different parts of its body and then reached different conclusions about the beast. Where militancy is concerned, a nationwide debate revolves around basically two sets of positions.

One is that the Taliban are (slightly or massively) overzealous about the implementation of what is dear to believing Muslims and that they should be treated as good boys gone berserk — deserving of accommodation and affection. The second position is that the Taliban are thugs, devoid of all compassion for humanity, ruthless in their style of operation and destructive in nature vis-à-vis the legal, institutional, cultural, economic and political order of society.

The first position reflects the thought patterns of increasingly conservative and radicalised sections of the public. Those who comprise this group range from the educated, commercial and professional middle classes to the ‘de-peasantised’, urbanised and, in other ways, mobilised social strata. They have a dichotomous world view based on a contradiction between Islam and the West. The US is characterised as the big bully out to destroy Islam all over the world. This view focuses on victimhood in terms of a clash of faith-based civilisations.

Any partnership with the Americans is deeply suspect in their view. After all Americans are aliens (and Christians) while the Taliban are ‘ours’ (and Muslims). Aren’t Americans friends of Israel and India, the two most poignant symbols of the grand Judeo-Hindu conspiracy against the Islamic world? Don’t US drone attacks violate the sovereignty of Pakistan? Aren’t counter-terrorist operations against the Taliban, such as in Fata, and against proto-Taliban groups, such as the female students of the Lal Masjid madressah in Islamabad, deserving of strong condemnation?

‘Rightist’ intellectuals and politicians, retired generals, bureaucrats, and diplomats and Islamists of various shades express their sincere opinion that the agreement with the Taliban in Swat should be given a ‘chance’. Their critics point to the fact that five to six weeks of Taliban rule have destroyed state institutions in the area and has led to women being denied access to education at all levels and being barred from visiting markets, even from stepping outside their homes. They say that a harsh regime of crime and punishment has been established leading to incidents such as hanging a bullet-ridden dead body from a pole and flogging a 17-year old girl.

Middle-class apologetics and defenders of the Taliban jeer at the ‘liberals’, who are accused of following a western, secular and alien agenda. However, they have their own dilemma of supporting the Taliban on the one hand and practising ‘liberalism’ on the other by not imposing purdah on their womenfolk and allowing them to study at coeducational schools, colleges, universities and pursuing a profession thereafter. They also send their children to the ‘infidel’ West for study and work and operate through an interest-based banking and export/import regime.

Their exit strategy lies in the argument that the Taliban should be allowed to have what they want in their own area and not in ‘our’ cities; they have no relevance or power to implement their brand of Islam at the all-Pakistan level and they lack exposure to the modern ‘civilised’ world but would learn if given a chance. Of course, the Taliban find the views of their mainstream ‘supporters’ demeaning and patronising, if not downright racist. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those classified as liberals. They see in the Taliban the Narodniks, anti-modern elements in czarist Russia, who erected roadblocks on the road to modernisation but were eventually thrown into the dustbin of history. They think that the whole approach of giving a chance to the Taliban is tantamount to surrendering the nation’s sovereignty to perpetrators of barbaric acts of terrorism.

These ‘liberals’ find it extremely frustrating that capitulation to non-state actors as a consequence of the lack of will or capacity of the state apparatuses to act in Swat was termed as peace. They find a whole series of acts and ideas unbelievably medieval and therefore unacceptable. These include the burning of video shops, barring female patients from being examined by male doctors, stopping the administration of polio drops that are deemed un-Islamic to children, preventing access to lawyers and destroying the institution of magistracy as a mechanism of holding the hands of the oppressive state machinery.

The liberal sections of society condemn the insular vision of potential and actual supporters of the Taliban. They feel that the current wave of Islamic radicalism can destroy whatever has been achieved in the last 200 years: technological advancements after the industrial revolution, economic liberalisation, constitutionalism, parliamentarianism and federalism, the function of the legal-institutional mechanism to stop social violence, a non-arbitrary form of government and majoritarian democracy.

The liberals argue that the nation must outgrow its siege mentality, which has been operating as an all-encompassing deadly insecurity syndrome. Masochism pervades all around, which is incommensurate with the relatively middle-power status of Pakistan in the Third World. The more the liberals seek to go beyond xenophobia and join the ranks of the world’s forward-looking nations, the more they are criticised for pursuing an American agenda.

Samson-like, the nation is headed for disaster. It sees conspiracy round every corner and traces this to the world hegemon. Liberals are alleged to be American agents by conservatives as are the MQM by the religious parties, in-service generals by retired generals, President Zardari and Gen Kayani by the likes of Imran Khan and so on.

Should deals struck with the Taliban under the shadow of the gun have been allowed to materialise in the first place? Should the law-enforcement agencies and the state’s various security apparatuses ever have surrendered what is proudly claimed to be sacred national territory? Should Pakistan have avoided the diplomatic crisis which its actions have led to in world capitals? During the following weeks and months, these questions will continue to form part of a grand debate throughout the length and breadth of the country."

I will give this author points for being so optimistic as to give his country months, before they are incinerated in a cleansing, nuclear apocalypse. Does he really think they have that long...?

One of two scenarios will play out, there is no other choice.

1) The Taliban will take over Pakistan, seize and use it's nuclear arsenal against the West (the US, India and Israel), or

2) The West and/or it's allies will conduct a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan, temporarily removing the threat of a Muslim Extremist first-strike on them.

Either way, I don't think I'd want to be an odds-taker on this one.

Yet another article reads:

Dir operation
Dawn Editorial Tuesday, 28 Apr, 2009 08:15 AM PST

The point of no return could be crossed in the near future if the Taliban are not subjected to decisive and telling action. The government dithered and the army stayed its hand even as the militants who want nothing less than the state’s overthrow flexed their muscles and moved from Swat to Buner and then into Shangla. They have now agreed to withdraw from Buner, but not without conducting a huge recruitment drive that ensured that the district would remain under the control of ‘local’ Taliban.

Pakistan is ceding territory by the day and anyone who thinks that the Taliban advance can somehow be confined to ‘that’ part of the country is sadly mistaken. These barbarians cannot be confined. We have tried buying time from a position of weakness and been witness to the results. Every single ‘deal’, and there have been many of them, has only allowed the Taliban to regroup and prepare for fresh assaults against the federation. It has to be acknowledged once and for all that the Taliban are the single biggest enemy the country has ever faced since 1947.

The supposedly secular ANP has let Pakistan and the NWFP down with a thud, and the religio-political parties have made it clear, yet again, where their sympathies lie. The security forces did well to take on the Taliban in Lower Dir on Sunday. Let’s not ask at this stage why they didn’t act earlier. It is said that they moved against the militants following requests to do so by local elders and the provincial government. It is also a fact that the operation was launched after security forces came under fire.

Can we argue then that the response was more reactive than proactive? Welcome as it is, the operation in Dir may also strengthen the impression that the military cracks down hard only when its own are attacked. Taliban violence against civilians is largely ignored for some reason. The army chief said the other day that the military would drive back the Taliban if they made any further inroads. Why just ‘drive back’? These people are merciless and have no qualms about indulging in savagery.
It can only be hoped that the operation in Dir is not a one-off move aimed at countering western criticism of Pakistani inaction. To be successful, it has to be part of a wider strategy of taking on the Taliban with all the force the military commands. Tribesmen who opposed the Taliban have been losing heart ever since the Swat deal. They thought the government was on their side, and acted accordingly. They are now running scared. A clear message needs to be sent that the government, the army and the people of Pakistan are all on the same page.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On Alexandria Bay, NY...

Sunday morning we awoke at varying times. My first time up out of bed was at about 0430hrs. It was bloody freezing in the room. I looked at the doorway and could see a strip of light filtering in from the outside, illuminating the gigantic crevice between the door and the doorframe. Hmmm... That explained where all the cold, damp air was coming from. But why the no heat? As it turns out 'the noise of the fan was bothersome' to my better half, so she had gotten up previously and simply shut off the heat to the room.

A better man might have woke her up to ask her what she had been thinking... Me? I opted to crawl back into the sack, after standing by the heater for a bit to thaw out. After a while, I believe I might have gotten back to sleep. Slowly, the room began drying out and warming up again. Our innkeeper at the front desk had assured me there would be coffee on by 0730hrs, the previous evening as I signed in. By that time, we were moving about, trying to decide as to whether to get up yet. I wanted a shower before we headed out to find food. Why is it that a bed never feels as comfortable, as it does right before you get up? I have yet to figure that one out. I got up and showered, feeling pretty happy we had made that stop at the Target store in Watertown.

By the time I was done, I felt great again. And I smelled pretty good too, thanks to ol' Karl Lagerfeld. I stopped by the front desk, really feeling the drop in temperature since yesterday. It was overcast and breezy, feeling pretty much like 5 or 6 degrees tops. Br-rrrr!!! I asked our innkeeper for some ideas regarding breakfast. He and his wife recommended a couple of places like the North Star (Just outside the village's entrance gateway) and the Kountry Kottage Restaurant on Route 12. Both sounded as though they would meet the requirements for a nummy breakfast.

We decided on a little drive out in the country, to try the Kountry Kottage. Their breakfast was great and so was their coffee, which they did their absolute best to keep filled to the brim. You have a choice of toast made from homemade bread (go for it...) and remarkably enough, they serve up biscuits and gravy as well. That gravy by the way, is actual sausage gravy too... Nom...Nom...Nom... This is normally a Southern dish, so to find it this far North is a treat.

Their hash browns are made fresh from real shredded spuds and when you order 'sausages', you'll get sausage meat patties, which are delicious! We paid $8.00 each and it was worth every last red cent. I ordered three eggs, easy-over, with sausages, hash browns and homemade toast. My wife ordered an omelet with some hash browns and homemade toast as well.

We returned to Alex Bay and parked downtown on James Street, by the 'touristy' shops we had spied the previous morning. By now they were open and we browsed to our heart's content. One shop in particular was just brimming with all types of pirate regalia. The Gift Zone (located right next to Good Dog Charlie's), was loaded down with all manner of souvenirs, pirate statuettes, hats, swords, eyepatches, pirate beads, pendants, posters, jewellery boxes, wall hangings, ballcaps, the list is endless. The store clerk was friendly and well-informed as to the circus of events which transpired every summer in Alex Bay.

June is the month of their 3rd Annual Bike Rally. The Thousand Islands River Run, as it's known, will take place on June 26-28 this year. Their official website below will provide all the particulars. I for one, plan to attend!

In August from the 7th to the 16th, they hold Bill Johnston's Pirate Days. To quote their esteemed Chamber of Commerce: "The following is a list of our 10 days filled with family fun and special events. Our sword-fighting group, known as the 'Tales from Remikreh,' will be performing throughout the Village streets and at various Route 12 locations. Be sure to stop by and visit the Entertainment tent for a list of activities planned for that day. Also visit our life size chessboard at the Entertainment Tent all week to see if you have a worthy opponent. Enjoy!

Bill Johnston was a renegade after the patriots war, who blew up the British steamer, Sir Robert Peel, hid among the 1000 Islands, and was hunted by both U.S. and Canadian authorities. The annual Bill Johnston's Pirates Days celebration commemorates some of his exploits. Fill your senses with the sound and spectacle when pirate ships attack the village from the St. Lawrence River, as the brave villagers try to stave them off. The air is filled with smoke and the sound of musket fire and cannon, and eventually the villagers succumb as the pirates invade the town. After the mayor turns over the key to the village to the invading marauders, everyone becomes a pirate.

The Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce, through the hard work of our members; sponsor all of the above events. You are invited to join in the spirit of Pirate Days and dress as a Pirate, Patriot, or Indian when attending any or all of these events. All times are subject to change. Please check the Event Board at the Entertainment Tent or at the Chamber Office at (315) 482-9531.

A band of Sword Fighting Pirates will be available during all 10 days at most events listed for photo opportunities. The Tales from Remikreh group will be throughout the Village so BEWARE! Please see the schedule at the Entertainment Tent for specific locations and times. Photo opportunities always available at Pirate Face Boards located downtown. Check out local merchants for sales of event flags. Most events are free and for the enjoyment of the public."

Now I ask you... if an entire town being taken over by pirates doesn't sound like some kind of fun, then I really don't know what does!

By the way, for those keen on renaissance fairs and pirate events worldwide, check out the website below:

I loaded up on t-shirts, snagged a ballcap and a couple of wall-hangers. One in particular for a cantankerous workmate of mine. The local joke around the office is that he's pretty much of a grouch and he plays along very well. So the sign that stated: "Don't worry, be Crabby", was a natural for him. I also picked up a light windbreaker, which I handed to my honey so she could keep warm as we wandered around town. She had brought a little hoodie, but the low temps and the wind by the water were chilling things off considerably. As we took the van through the sidestreets and up and down hills, we arrived at a look-off. I parked and we went to investigate. There was a huge elevated and covered picnic area, facing the water. There just off to our right side and in plain view, sat Heart Island and Boldt Castle. It was absolutely beautiful, even under an overcast sky.

My eyes were then drawn to my left, by a dark object which captured my attention. It was a small cenotaph, made out of black granite. A memorial to one of the village's own sons, who had laid down his life in the defense of all. I approached slowly, reverently. There atop the memorial, cast in bronze, was a pair of G.I. desert boots. Rising from between them, was an inverted M-4, it's M-9 bayonet planted into imaginary soil. Atop the buttstock of the M-4... a MICH helmet. How often had I seen this image. How often had fellow soldiers mounted this iconic 'homage' to brothers lost in combat? It was at once stark, eloquent and moving. I drew closer to find out more about who this soldier was.

The memorial had been erected to honour the memory of 19 year-old PFC Jack T. Sweet and his brothers of the 10th Mountain Division. He was a native of Alexandria Bay and had served with the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment (the Triple Deuces), 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based out of Fort Drum, NY.

He was KIA 08 February 2008 in Jawwalah, Iraq when the Humvee he was driving hit an IED. He was buried in the Barnes Settlement Cemetery a few miles away on Alexandria Central Road, with full military honours. I took a few photographs of this monument, pausing to pay my respects to this young warrior who had given his all. Taking a few steps back, I observed a moment of silence, then offered up a crisp and fitting salute. I remember thinking at the moment, how appropriate the cold wind and overcast skies were. It was the one somber moment on this trip...

We spent another hour or so, poking around here and there, looking at new construction going up by the water's edge (brand new townhouses, one right next to the other and on the 'ground' floor where a garage should be... a boathouse!), for a modest $279,900.00 US. These brand new properties were springing up right beside the Pine Tree Point Resort.

Soon enough, it was time to start thinking about heading back home. Just as we were nearing the left-hand sweeping turn that leads to the 1,000 Island Bridge and Canada, we decided to take an unplanned visit to Dewolf Point, the very last exit off to US territory you can take, along I-81. As we were taking the exit, we passed a crowd of turkey vultures feasting on a fresh deer carcass. It was kind of eerie. As we travelled along slowly (there was no other traffic), we came upon a Dewolf Point State Park by the water. We decided to stop in and have a little walk around, even though the park was not officially open.

After snapping some pictures, we climbed back into the van and headed for home. It rained a gentle mist, on and off as we made our way first to Merrickville for a stop and a stroll through some shops and then home to Orleans. We arrived at about 1800hrs. Plenty of time to rest up and get ready for the coming Monday.

For as much as we did not hit all the spots that we had initially intended, the trip was still a resounding success and left us with the yearning to return to the 1,000 Islands many more times this year. But in the meantime, we are feeling the call of the New England States. Hm-mmmm... we'll have to see what that brings to our travel itinerary...

On the trip to Syracuse, NY and beyond...

I have always heard good things about Alexandria Bay, NY. I can't tell you how many times I/we have drove or rode past there, over the last few years. This last Satuday though, as we headed towards Watertown on Route 37, I decided we would take a little detour to see it for ourselves.

We had left Orleans bright and early at 0645hrs. By 0815 we had passed through customs at Ogdensburg and were headed West along the river on Route 37. This road is a nice relaxed one, but for better scenery and a more 'active' road, you may want to branch off the 37 at Morristown and take Route 12 to Alex Bay. It's a beautifully scenic road, in great shape, with lots of swoops and bends to it. We arrived at Alexandria Bay by 0900hrs.

Turning right at the set of lights, we passed under the archway which announced that we had arrived at the "Heart of the 1,000 Islands". We made our way to what we reckoned was the centre of town, passing all manner of inns, B&Bs, pubs and other sundry shops and boutiques. We hauled the van around at the town's main pier, where cruises for Boldt Castle and Heart Island departed. The town was just about deserted at the time and most shops were still closed.

So... there is plenty to see and do in 'Alex Bay', as the locals refer to it. This is a boating community, make no mistake about it. There is a very nautical flavour to everything here. More specifically, the many shops and boutiques carry more 'pirate-oriented' goods than I've ever seen anywhere else... We were intrigued and decided to stop in for an actual visit and maybe even a layover. The reason for all the pirate regalia would become evident to us, once we had returned.

Leaving Alex Bay behind us, we embarked onto I-81 South, which actually starts at the bridge leading into Canada. We were off to our next destination. My better half had been recently informed of an outlet mall in Waterloo, NY. There presumably one would find 100 outlet stores from such companies as Calvin Klein, Guess, Aldo, BCBG, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy, Nike, Reebok, Nine West and the list went on and on. They were supposedly located some twenty minutes the other side of Syracuse. This was to be our initial target which should leave us plenty of time to double back to the Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue in Syracuse itself. I had printed off a map of our proposed itinerary prior to leaving, but had unfortunately left the map at home. No matter... How hard could it be to find?

As it turned out, the map would have been pretty handy. We made our way past Watertown and sailed on towards Syracuse. Unbeknownst to us at the moment, we should have looked for and taken I-90 as we approached Syracuse. We should have, but we didn't. We skilfully followed the 690 as it threaded us through Syracuse itself and led us back onto I-81 headed South. Feeling rather smug at having been responsible for such an adroit job of driving, I settled in for a short trek to Waterloo.

Well, 20 minutes turned into an hour. We had climbed into the mountains of upstate New York and were thoroughly enjoying the panoramic vistas. We also noticed that there were scores of New York State's finest hiding here, there and everywhere along the interstate. We had yet to see any signage for Waterloo, though. I began to suspect we might be headed in the wrong direction. By the time we reached the small burg of Cortland, we had pretty much had enough of the guessing game. I took Exit 10 and we looked for a place to double back on our tracks. Stopping into a small convenience store, I asked for directions to the Waterloo outlet stores.

Sure enough, I was informed that we had overshot by quite a bit. We would have to return to Syracuse and take the I-90 (New York State Throughway) to Waterloo. Fine... Time was marching on at this point and I could feel the day start to slip away from us. It was as though destiny had taken the wheel from me and we were now just along for the ride. Still, we refused to become verklempt over a little navigational error and the day was just great. Incredibly warm, sunny, wonderful scenery... So what if we felt like we were running a little late. If worse came to worse, we'd bunk dopwn stateside somewhere tonight. We didn't have to make it back home or anything.

Before long, we had made it to the outskirts of Syracuse and fould ourselves at the toll for the beginning of the I-90. This is a toll road, so you pick up a toll card when you enter the throughway. When you decide to get off, you go through another toll, where you pay. It's not expensive or anything, as I recall paying $1.62 (US) as we got off the toll road in Waterloo. We were both under the impression that the outlets were in Waterloo itself. So turning off the toll exit road, we turned right and followed the signs into Waterloo, another 5 miles down the road.

Reaching Waterloo downtown, we decided to turn right and see what we found. I should point out at this point we still had seen absolutely no signage for these wondrous outlet stores of theirs. We cruised along at a sedate 40 mph, looking, looking, looking. After a further 15 to 20 minutes, we were again sensing that we were headed out into the wilds. We stopped at a service station for gas and some friendly directions. Gas down there by the way is a fairly good bargain. At most stations, you can buy a US gallon of regular gas for $2.24 (US). Considering that there are 3.7854 litres in a US gallon, that works out to $0.59 a litre. Pretty much of a bargain, even counting the exchange rate.

As I paid for the gas, I enquired about the outlet stores' location. The attendant was 'not from around there', to be kind about it and the directions he offered were sketchy at best. I knew that we had to retrace our steps, though. As I made my way back to the van, a heavyset, older greybeard called after me. I could tell he was a local and better yet, one of 'my people'. He sported a well-worn set of dungarees, a faded Seal Team t-shirt and the almost compulsory Harley-Davidson ballcap. His right arm bore a half sleeve tattoo, commemorating his time served in Vietnam. He provided a clear set of directions, in 'inglese' this time. He told us we were looking to take Route 318 off the main road. He advised us to be careful as the locals referred to the 318 as 'Death Alley', due to the many collisions which had occurred on that stretch. I thanked him, promising that we'd keep our eyes open and wished him a good day.

It was not long before we had found the elusive 318. It was in fact no more than 200 feet South of the toll exit road. Had we taken it immediately after exiting the I-90 throughway, we'd have been there some time ago. Again, no sweat. It was probably all of 2 miles until we sighted the Waterloo Premium Outlets.

We were famished by the time we arrived. Needing sustenance first, we headed for the air conditioned food court. The choice of food on hand was not terrible, as they had Arby's, Ben's Ice Cream, Burger King, China Express, Subway, Sun Garden Grille and Villa Pizza.

In little time, we were 'fed and watered' and ready to go explore. To be honest, my better half had become a little exasperated by the journey itself. It was well after 1500hrs before we got underway. Outside the sun was blazing. Kudos to the designer of this mall however, as each section of shops had a large overhanging area, which provided shade as you strolled along gazing into the shopfronts. There was a breeze blowing outside, but even the air itself was hot. Each store was of course air conditioned as well, which proved to be a boon as the day wore on. I have no trouble at all believing the temperature hit 29 degrees.

I found some shirts which pleased me, but my biggest score was a 4.1oz (125ml) bottle of Lagerfeld Classic, which I found at Perfumania. I paid $36.00 (US) for this, when the same bottle here in Canada is selling for like $74.00. My daughters will always equate me with the smell of Old Spice, but Lagerfeld is my very favorite cologne of all. My lady found herself a much sought after crepe maker and a variety of colourful tops for her performances with Samba Ottawa. It was the better part of 1700hrs by the time we had completed our rounds of the shops. We were feeling a little frazzled by that time and needed a little rest back at the food court before saddling up and moving on.

I decided that we would drive as far as Alexandria Bay that evening and we would camp there for the night, so that we might explore the village on foot the following morning. It was agreed then. A nice cold drink and we were on our way. I changed out of my jeans in the back of the van, opting for a set of shorts I had judiciously brought along. I swapped my runners for a set of sandals and my t-shirt for a wife-beater. I was ready for the drive back. Before long we were back on the I-90, heading for Syracuse this time. As we approached one particular overpass, I spied a dark blue State Trooper cruiser hiding in the weeds. Checking my speed, I noticed I was a bit over the State-mandated limit of 65 mph. Damn! I eased off the gas and just touched the brake, hoping to scrub off enough speed, although if he was targetting me, he already had me dead to rights.

As we cruised by him however, I was stunned to see a young twenty-something in a silver Mazda come rocketting past us. "And there's our Thompson's gazelle...", I smiled. I checked my rear view mirror and sure enough, Smokie had left his hidey hole and was headed right for us. My window was open and I could hear that big ol' supercharged engine revving as he wound 'er up into pursuit mode. He sailed effortlessly past us and you guessed it, zeroed in on that young feller in the silver screamer. As he was pulling even with him some 300 yards ahead of us, he lit 'er up and slid in behind the Mazda. My better half smiled as well: "Yep...there's our sacrificial lamb". I love it when things turn out that well...

These lads pride themselves on an aggressive program for targetting speed limit violators. Like any State police department, you really don't wanna mess with these lads. They're very good at their job and they do take their work seriously. I waved sadly in the direction of the Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue, as we passed through Syracuse. No yummy ribs or pulled pork BBQ sangies for this boy today... *Sigh!* Ah well... as I stated to my better half, it just wouldn't have felt right pulling up in front of place like that, in a mini-van. Perhaps fate had saved me from the ultimate embarassment, as a rider. That was one gift horse whose mouth I had no intention of looking into.

Arriving at Watertown, we stopped briefly at the Target store. They sell miniatures of everything, ideal for travelling, or making up care packages for military personnel serving overseas. As we would be staying the night in Alex Bay, I picked up small containers of body wash, shampoo, deodorant, a travel toothbrush complete with mini toothpaste and carrying case (these will be regular items we'll keep in the van...). They have everything from mini makeup removers, cleansing pads, q-tips, moisturizer, makeup, you name it... And in several brand names, I might add...

Having stocked up, we checked them time. It had to be all of 2000hrs by then. Fortunately, Watertown comes with it's very own Red Lobster, about 500 feet from the on ramp to the I-81 North (It's on the Arsenal Street exit). We pretty much knew where we wanted to eat... We parked as some raindrops started to fall. Nothing steady or heavy, but they were there. Harbingers of what we were in store for on Sunday, no doubt. Whatever... we entered the restaurant and were guided to a booth. I was happy to be seated away from road noise for awhile. We had been scanning pretty steady for deer since we left Waterloo, so a break was nice.

The hour was getting late and the joint was still busy. I've seen glaciers move faster than our waitstaff, but we just let it go. We were in no rush to get anywhere really, but when folks come in off the road, even if it's gonna be awhile for the food to come out, take their drink orders. At least it'll give them something to take the edge off and they won't be tempted to slash you with the steak knives as you walk by to feed other people...

Eventually, the food came and all was well. I had the steak and shrimp, while my lady went for the lobster-stuffed mushroom caps and a baked potato. We bypassed dessert and trundled off at a little after 2100hrs. It was maybe some 20 miles to Alexandria Bay from Watertown, so we took our time. I will often engage the cruise control maybe 5mph over the limit and forget about it. No cop, regardless how devoted they are, is going to stop you for 5 over. Not unless they're lonely and just want someone to talk to.

It was well dark and just about 2200hrs by the time we pulled into Alex Bay. I followed the signs for the Otter Creek Inn, down by the water's edge. Within 10 minutes, I had our room booked and had received a military discount to boot. We lugged our odds and ends into the room and began setting up for ending the day. The room initially was cool and damp. I flashed up the thermostat and very shortly, the room was warming up and drying out. Within very long, it was time for lights out. asleep. Tomorrow, we would go walk-about...

Friday, April 24, 2009

On those who ride bicycles...

I remember the days of my youth, when having a bicycle seemed to be like being handed the keys to the kingdom. What freedom! What a wonderful sense of empowerment to be able to cover so much ground without walking! I never seemed to hang onto my bicycles though. As I recall, every one was stolen within a short period of time. That's when I discovered borrowing bikes from friends. All of the perks, none of the major responsibilities for loss.

Years passed and I eventually grew up and abandoned the cycling phase. I believe I was 19 when I gave up my last 10-speed. The realities of life demanded that I have an adult mode of transportation. As recently as 2000, my better half went out and picked up an ageing but mint condition 10-speed bike for me, shortly after we arrived here in Ottawa. I used it briefly to commute to work along the Rideau Canal, though normally opting to walk the 20 minute trek. In the winter, I would sometimes skate in on the Canal itself, having the chance to enjoy a hot cider on the way home as well.

When cycling though, I would always abide by the rules which I had learned when I was just a child.

1) Always cycle with traffic.

2) Always cycle on the shoulder of the roadway, out of traffic.

3) Always signal your intentions to traffic.

4) Vehicles of any shape or description, always have the right of way.

5) When more than one, always proceed in a single file.

Those used to be the rules for cycling. Apparently sometime within the last 50 years, all that has changed. Now cycling is no longer about any of that. Nowadays we have those who imagine themselves as being Tour de France material, those who use their bikes simply for commuting, or those who think they are courrier messengers in New York City, newborn knights of the asphalt kingdom.

Those who thrash themselves against cars and busses in the bowels of the urban sprawl, clearly have a death wish. They do not so much circulate with traffic, as they do through and around it. This can only lead to bad shit happening. I have seen them many times, darting in and out, hopping lanes, cutting in... all without the benefit of any appreciable hand signals. Are they simply mentally deficient? Or perhaps like so many nowadays, they have been raised to believe that their safety is the responsibility of everyone else except themselves. We periodically read about one of them taking on a bus and losing badly. This leads to a mighty hue and cry for the next week or so, where like-minded cyclists rail against cars and trucks, while steadfastly refusing to exercise the least bit of common sense or to comply with the rules of the road.

The commuters, I'll give them space as they are normally well dressed for the ride (including reflective materials, lights when it's dark-ish...). They're just trying to get through the day and have decided that cycling is for them. They run solo or in pairs. They usually respect the rules of the road and I have absolutely no axe to grind with any of them.

The biggest chip on my shoulder is reserved for those 'Lance-Armstrong-come-latelies'. Those rolling clusterfucks, dressed in their howlingly gay-coloured spandex atrocities, who believe that simply because they are travelling in numbers, they possess some divine right to sprawl across a lane and a half of blacktop. I particularily like running into these retards as I'm wheeling along a county road out in farm country. You know... Those narrow two-lane jobbies where to run into a herd of these clowns forces you out into large, directly oncoming farm machinery. In my opinion, any of these assholes who extends beyond the single-file row, is fair game. It is patently illegal, not to mention dangerous.

Just because you happen to know ten or twelve other losers who like to dress in gear that leaves their tackle dangling in the breeze for their fellow cyclists to admire, does not mean that you have permission to create chaos on the roads. Running in a pack like that is only permissible if you are participating in an organized race, where the roads have been closed to vehicular traffic and you have a police escort. That's it!! Other than that, you're just another target on the road, my friend.

Bear this in mind: If you are on my roadway and you leave me with the choice of eating a combine harvester or possibly killing six or eight of you... that combine harvester is going to be plenty safe. Who knows... Maybe something like this is needed to send the message out to the rest of you lot. YOU are responsible for your own safety. Just as I am for mine. And I take my safety very, very seriously indeed...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ever closer to the edge...

Even though the following article comes fresh off today's CNN website, it does speak to what I have been inferring for some time now. The Pakistani are either incapable or unwilling to take control of their country. As a worse case scenario, they actually share and embrace the Taliban's and al-Qaida's fundamentalist view of Islam and share the insane belief that the entire free world should be subjugated under Sharia Law.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Taliban militants who implemented Islamic law in Pakistan's violence-plagued Swat Valley last week have now taken control of a neighboring district.

"Control of the Buner district brings the Taliban closer to the capital, Islamabad, than they have been since they started their insurgency. Islamabad is 96 kilometers (60 miles) from the district.

"Our strength is in the hundreds," said Moulana Mohammad Khalil, as heavily armed men openly patrolled the roads in pickup trucks, singing Islamic anthems.

The militants had taken control of the area to ensure that Islamic law, or sharia, is properly imposed, Khalil said.

The government called the advance into Buner a breach of a recently-signed peace agreement.

"Now Taliban are violating the peace agreement, and if they continue the government will take strict action and not allow the Taliban to create a parallel government in that area," said Mian Iftikhar, a spokesman for the regional administration in the North West Frontier Province, where Buner is located.
Last week, the
Taliban imposed sharia law in Swat Valley as part of a peace deal with the government. Under the Taliban's strict interpretation, the law prevents women from being seen in public without their husbands or fathers.

Earlier this month, the militant movement made forays into Buner and clashed with locals before withdrawing.

Now the Taliban appear to have returned in force -- a move that indicates the recent government concessions may have emboldened the militants to expand their reach.

(Awwwww... no shit? Do you really think so...!!???!!?!??)

The Pakistani government appears unable or unwilling to stop the Taliban's steady advance deeper into the territory of this nuclear-armed country.

In the days after the government's April 13 decision to implement sharia law in Swat, pro-Taliban clerics have staged rallies in Swat and Islamabad. They have demanded the imposition of Islamic law across Pakistan and beyond.

Speaking before an audience of tens of thousands in the Swat Valley town of Mingora on Sunday, cleric Sufi Muhammed declared democracy and Pakistan's judicial system "un-Islamic."

A Taliban spokesman in Swat went a step further Tuesday, calling anyone opposed to his strict interpretation of Islam a non-Muslim.

"Let the judges and the lawyers go to Islamic university," Muslim Khan said. After "they learn Islamic rules, Islamic regulation, they can continue to work."

The rise of the Taliban in Swat has alarmed and frightened some members of local civil society there.
"This is a time bomb for the country," said Aftab Alam, the head of the lawyers' association in Swat district.

Meanwhile, in another Taliban-run region called Orakzai, details emerged of militants forcing a small community of Sikhs to pay a jaziya, or "minority tax," of 10.5 million rupees (roughly $130,000) earlier this month.

Khan said if his vision of an Islamic society is fulfilled in Pakistan, terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden will be welcome to travel and live openly here. "Sure, he's a Muslim, he can go anywhere," Khan said.
Khan added that he would like to see sharia law implemented beyond Pakistan
, even in America, a country he knows intimately.

For four years, the Taliban spokesman lived in the United States, working as a painter near Boston, Massachusetts.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Wednesday that Pakistan is in danger of falling into terrorist hands because of failed government policies.

"I think that we cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by continuing advances, now within hours of Islamabad, that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state, a nuclear armed state," Clinton said in Washington.

She added the international community is working closely to combat extremism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Pakistanis themselves need to take responsibility."

These people truly have no inkling of how close they are to being nuked.

Me? I'm just waiting for the news flash:

"The missiles are in flight! Hallelujiah!!"

And in other news....

Police: Taliban executes eloping lovers
April 14, 2009 - CNN

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Taliban gunmen executed a young couple for trying to elope in rural Afghanistan, a local police chief told CNN Tuesday.

"The woman was forced by her parents to become engaged to a man she did not like, said Police Chief Gabar Furdali, and decided to leave home with another man.

Local Taliban commanders found out and set out to punish them, said the police officer in the village of Man De Khe in the Kash Rud district of Nimruz province, a remote southwestern province that borders on Iran and Pakistan.

The Taliban gathered residents of Kash Rud to watch the execution of the two. The man, Abdul Aziz, and the woman, who was not named, were shot to death, the police officer said. He did not say when the killings took place.

NATO troops who patrol the country have "limited presence in that particular area," a spokesman told CNN.

The killings were not "within our area of responsibility, but we are aware of the reports" said the spokesman for the NATO mission who declined to be named, in line with policy.

There is a tradition of "honor killings" in the region that long predates the Taliban, said Barnett Rubin, an Afghanistan expert at New York University."

Aaaahhh, the wonderful intricacies and delicate religious nuances of Islam. I can see why Toronto might want this as a way of life, but frankly I think the rest of this country, until we're overwhelmed by Muslim immigrants that is, would fight you to the death.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The old Biker...

A crusty old biker out on a long summer ride in the country, pulls up to a tavern in the middle of nowhere. He leans the bike on it's jiffy stand, cuts the engine and walks inside.

As he passes through the swinging doors, he sees a sign hanging over the bar:

COLD BEER: $2.00




HAND JOB: $50.00

Checking his wallet to be sure he has the necessary cash on hand, the ol' biker walks up to the bar and beckons to the exceptionally attractive female bartender, who is serving drinks to a couple of sun-wrinkled farmers.

She glides down behind the bar to the greybeard. "Yes?" she inquires, with a wide knowing smile. "May I help you?"

The ol' biker leans over the bar. "I was wondering young lady" he asks her, "are you the one who gives the hand-jobs?"

She looks into his eyes with that wide smile and purrs: "Why yes... I surely am".

The ol' biker leans closer and into her left ear whispers softly: "Well, wash your hands real good darlin'... 'cause I want a cheeseburger."

Monday, April 20, 2009

A nice weekend...

Well... what a nice weekend that was. Saturday was not much of a riding day, but against all odds, I found a motorcycle shop whose service department did tires on the weekends. After dropping my Honey off at work, I decided to swing by Wheelsport Honda in Orleans, to see if I could organize a date to drop off the wheels. They being much closer than the folks out at Powersport, it seemed like a good idea. Their service person advised me that they could swap them out that day, while I waited. I couldn't believe my ears. What a stroke of luck!

So hurrying home, I put Baby up on the lift and proceded to remove her wheels. Loading them and the new Avons into the van, I sped back to the dealership where I was met by my sidekick Ben-Ben. We killed some time looking at the new rides and other sundry riding gear, until we were advised that the tires were done. We returned home to begin re-installing the wheels. It was a very good thing that Ben decided to give me a hand. It would have been pretty dicey swapping 'em out without having him there. We did some spot-cleaning while we were at it, getting to areas normally made inaccessible by the presence of wheels and tires (like the inside of the fork legs...). He also was kind enough to bring along 4 litres of Honda GN-4 10W40 oil, which he had won at a mini-rally he had attended.

We mounted the rear wheel first and she really filled the space back there well. That 200 tire looked great! Ben was a big help in wrestling the wheel into place, before torquing the axle down to 91ft/lbs. We then hung the front wheel and snugged up the axle, before quitting to go pick up my Honey at work. She was happy to see Ben-Ben as always and they chatted away as we made our way back home. I ordered a pizza on the way and upon returning, Ben finished torquing the axle nut to 67ft/lbs and the front caliper mounting bolts to 22ft/lbs. I spun the both front wheel and the rear wheel. Both turned effortlessly. A great job! I verfied the air pressure that the shop had inflated the tires to and adjusted it to meet the manufacturer's (Avon's) specifications. We cleaned up just in time for the pizza to show up.

I was tempted to take the bike out that evening, but it just didn't seem right to bring Baby out for a romp with new tires, when she was dusty and dirty from being parked outdoors all week. I told myself that I would wash her Sunday morning and then take her out for a little run, just to scuff up the new tires' surface and make 'em rideable...

Sunday morning, 0645hrs saw me with a cup of coffee, a bucket of soapy water and a commandeered luxury facecloth, washing down Baby. As I cleaned areas normally hidden by her seat and side covers, I couldn't help but feel good about getting this job done. I was fasting this morning, not counting the coffee of course. I wanted to get out and get in a walk before I did anything else. My arm and shoulder were sore and aching by the time I had finished washing and drying off the bike. My back was also joining the chorus of protesting body parts, due to the bending to reach obscure areas. A good walk would fix all that, get the blood flowing and loosen up all my joints.

My better half was soon ready and we drove out to the Rockcliffe Parkway, parking beyond the Aviation Museum, so we could then walk bak towards it. The air was brisk, the sun was out and it was very pleasant. We walked at a good pace, observing life around us and delighted in watching the odd Cessna or Beechcraft fluttering in for a landing. As we walked, I could feel my body loosening up. By the time we had reached the Museum and turned around for our return leg, I had a pretty healthy sweat going. I also noticed that my stomach was now making it's presence felt. "Feed me, you bastard!", it howled. Hmmmm.... It was eleven o'clock on a sunny Sunday morning. Where the Hell were we going to go for breakfast that wouldn't be absolutely packed???

I thought about the Elgin Street Diner. Great breakfasts, great crew... but a veritable zoo on any weekend day! Nope... What about Zack's? Says my better half: "Are you kidding me? They're right in the Market. Right where everyone else is going to be. Do you really think we'll get a seat there?" I thought on it for a spell before telling her that I was going to challenge conventional wisdom and we would try Zack's. We reached the van and headed out to the Market. As we both knew, there was a bit of a line-up, but within 10 minutes, we were comfortably seated and awaiting to order our breakfast. It was great. For as much as the Diner is our favorite place, Zack's never disappoints! Good food, good service and totally awesome mango-banana-pineapple smoothies! The best I've ever had, actually!!

The drive home was uneventful and I outlined the route I had envisioned for taking Baby out. I would retrace our steps down the Parkway, follow the Rideau Canal out to Hog's Back, before deaking acrosss the little bridge to Prince of Wales. Left on Prince of Wales and up to Hunt Club. From there I would take the River Road out to Manotick, prolly stop in at Timmie's, before taking Mitch Owens down to the Ramsayville Road.

Arriving home, I took my time getting dressed, thinking through what I wanted to wear so that I remained comfy and didn't wind up either sweating or freezing. By about 1330 I was on my way. Simply backing the bike down the driveway, I could feel the difference. As I snicked her into first and headed towards the 'chicane' at the end of our street, I could feel how effortlessly she dove into each curve. I would have to deliberately hold myself back until I got used to such a responsive front end. It was wonderful...

I followed my planned itinerary, stopping at the Ottawa Goodtime Centre (Kawasaki, Triumph, Ducati dealership) to have a little look around for some new boots and of course Powersports on Laser Drive, for the same reason. No such luck... One can of pop later, I was tipping the front end onto the River Road, heading out to Manotick. I love riding this road. It swoops and bends, and twists and turns. Up, down, all around. Before I knew it (and all too soon...), I was reining her in as we coasted to a stop in the Tim Horton's parking lot in Manotick. There were three different groups of riders there. I exchanged pleasanteries with all of them, as I walked amongst them sipping my Timmie's.

As I was getting ready to pitch my empty cup, another couple emerged from Tim's and the male rider approached Baby, eyes levelled at her tank badge. "Is that an 1800...?", he asked. "Yup...sure is", I replied. He called his better half over and they both complimented Baby on how she looked. "Yeah, I try to keep her looking good and working well. She's just trying out her new tires today...". We chatted for a bit and they asked if I was going on the Red Ride. I told them I knew about the Ride For Dad, the Ride For Sight and many others, but had not heard about the Red Ride.

They quickly brought me up to speed. The Red Ride is a ride which is carried out in support of our troops and their families, hence the 'Red'. There is one slated for May 16th this year, a Saturday, as I later found out. They invited me to meet them for breakfast at the Big Stop Restaurant in Arnprior. From there, our group would be leaving on the ride to CFB Petawawa. All proceeds from the ride will go towards providing family support services for the military families at CFB Petawawa. I told them that I would certainly make it a point to attend. In the meanwhile, I have posted some information on the Canadian VTX Riders' website as well.

They provided me with an e-mail address and a phone number, so hopefully we'll be able to connect and I'll be able to disseminate more information on this impending ride. It's certainly for a worthy cause.

I lit up Baby and we headed out of there, pulling into the driveway at 1730hrs. Wow! Where had the time gone? We were due to meet my daughter and her beau at the Turkish Village at 1800hrs. Timing or what? I quickly washed up and changed and we headed out for supper. We met up and spent an enjoyable time dining and chatting. So much going on in my little girl's world... Training, marches, home renovations prior to marketting properties, a looming deployment to Afghanistan in August... So much to do in so little time. I wish I could be of more help...

All in all, a very nice weekend. Now back at work, this week bringing the beginnig of our 'April Showers'. Won't be much for riding weather. Ah well... Perhaps we can always look towards the weekends.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another killing season begins...

And so another season of carnage has begun. Early Thursday morning (0525hrs), the 16th of April, a rider was killed in the West end of town by a hit and run driver. The driver was in a gold or tan coloured Buick Regal or Century. Later that day (1510hrs) in the East end of town (Rockland), a couple were taken out on the 174 by a cager who "didn't see them" and turned onto the road right in their path.

An air ambulance was called to the scene and the passenger, a woman in her 20s was airlifted to hospital in serious condition after suffering a fracture to her upper leg. The rider, a man in his 20s was treated for a serious lower leg fracture and facial injuries. He was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition.
Predictably, the driver of the car was not injured.

I will be the very first to admit freely, that there are riders out there who certified, Grade A assholes. They break every rule of the road in existence and are a menace to themselves and all around them. I will also be the first to state unequivocally that they are in the minority. As a conservative guesstimate, I would say that a full 95% of all motorcycle/vehicle incidents are the fault of the cager (motorist).

As it turns out, one of my work acquaintances knows the individual who was responsible for the second 'accident'. It is in fact, her man's brother. Apparently he feels very badly about the whole incident and not totally because his own vehicle is a write-off. She of course feels badly for him, if for no other reason than out of loyalty to her boyfriend's family.

I'm going to go on record here as saying that I do not feel the least bit sorry for these drivers. I cannot find it within me to feel badly for anyone who would commit such a mindless and basic error of judgement. Why? Because it simply shows a complete and utter disregard for the well-being of others. I do not personally know either one of these drivers who were involved in these incidents. If I did, it would forever alter the dynamics of our relationship. These are the people that all riders fear and loathe. These are the people that kill and maim so many of us every goddamn year on the roads of this nation and around the world. These are literally, the people our mothers warned us about...

On the other side of the coin, I do not know either of the victims, but I can certainly feel empathy and sympathy for them, because any one of them could well be me.

Speaking from a very personal viewpoint, I have had far too many drivers materialize in front of me, inexplicably, when to do so would be to challenge any description of sanity itself. I know the absolute horror of that moment and how if you survive such an encounter with your life, how you will revisit that horror many times over the years, in your dreams. Do those who inflict such calamity on those who ride, have the same type of 'flashbacks'? Are they left to deal with the pain, the disabilities, the costs of their actions? No.

Motorcycle enthusiasts continue to be marginalized and persecuted by our society, even as more and more people seek to join our ranks. It makes no sense. Motorcycles are not dangerous! If they were, it would be us killing hundreds of motorists each and every year. As the truth bears out, it is in fact those mindlessly complacent morons in cars who are dangerous! The problem is that most if not all of them, are entirely too stupid to realize this.
What do the provincial governments do? They jack up the costs of our license and our plates. In Québec at the moment, it is unthinkable to own a bike. It simply costs too much. What do the insurance companies do? They rape us unmercifully with horrendously inflated premiums. Why? Because in their considered estimation: motorcycles are inherently dangerous. Or: people steal motorcycles. Seriously? How 'bout for every motorcyclist who is killed or injured, you jack up the premiums for everyone who drives a car? That would actually make sense. Why? Because most motorists out there are criminally negligent, if not out-and-out homicidal.

As far as theft goes, there were 146,142 motor vehicles stolen in Canada in 2007. That's an average of 400 each and every single day. Of this figure, 4% were motorcycles. Did you hear that, Mr. Insurance Adjuster... FOUR FUCKING PERCENT!!!! That's 16 bikes per day, Canada wide. These figures are straight from Statistics Canada, by the way. So tell me again, with a straight face this time, why our insurance rates keep going up and up when our driving records are far better than most?

Everywhere we see these insipid signs telling motorists to "share the road" and depicting bicycles. Are you fucking kidding me? How about signs reminding these mindless fucks that there are motorcycles out there???? Motorized vehicles which are licensed and fully entitled to use our roadways... Not people who cannot progress beyond the age of 10 and insist on employing a child's toy as a primary means of travel. I have plenty to say about this lot in a future post...

The month of May has officially been earmarked across the country, as 'Motorcycle Awareness Month'. That's all well and good, but riders are out and about on the roads well before May. Many haul their steeds out of the garage in March, if the weather permits. What will it take to be recognized on the road? What will it take for motorists to give us the space and respect that we so rightly deserve?

I have thought on this long and hard over the years. Clearly 'the government' (municipal, provincial and/or federal) has no interest in any of this. As though motorcycle fatalities are not deemed as actual deaths, simply because bikers don't count. So... if those elected to govern have no interest in your safety or in dispensing justice when members of your clan are slaughtered on the nation's roads, what can you do...? What is your only recourse...? Answer: You take the law into your own hands. There really is no alternative.

Picture if you will across the country, a small armada of leather-clad, helmeted and visored riders, whose sole purpose is to dispense instantaneous and dispassionate justice in the name of their fellow riders. An eye for an eye. Call it vengeance if you will, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with exacting vengeance. It is how to keep the other man honest. And never mind this bullshit spouted by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi about: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind...". An eye for an eye makes the other person think before he acts, because he knows there will be consequences. Is this really what it would take to have people wake up?

The only consequences that exist these days are those endured by the victims of these crimes and their families, not the perpetrators. It's high time for this to change.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On parachuting blind...

I was conversing with a friend the other day, when our talk turned to parachuting. He stated that not many blind people parachuted and asked me if I knew why that was.

Deciding to play along, I answered no, I did not know why.

Says he: "Have you ever heard a seeing eye dog at 12,000 feet?"

Carrying on the conversation, he asked me if I knew why women wore men's athletic cups when skydiving?

Again feigning ignorance, I answered: No.

Says he: "It's 'cause if they don't, they whistle like coke bottles on the way down!"

"Good one", I say. "You got any more?"

"Just one...", says he.

This lad's been taking skydiving lessons for a week now and he's pretty much got the drill down.

- Jump clear of the aircraft.

- Count slowly to 10,

- Pull the ripcord on the main chute,

- Look up... check the canopy and lines.

- If the main chute doesn't deploy... DON'T PANIC!

- Pull the ripcord on the reserve chute.

- Observe the deployment of the reserve chute.

- Bend the knees... feet together on landing.

- Drop and roll.

His big day comes and as the Cessna reaches the correct altitude, his coach gives him the thumbs up sign and taps him on the shoulder. He rises from the jump seat and makes his way to the open doorway, grabbing the wing strut to steady himself against the onrushing wind.

His instructor taps him on the helmet and he launches himself into the void, arching his back and spreading his limbs as he does so.

Slowly he counts to 10... then pulls the main ripcord.


His training kicks in and he refuses to give way to panic. Calmly he reaches for his reseve chute's ripcord. He pulls it free.

Again... nothing.

At that precise moment as he is hurtling earthward, he is passed by a body hurtling upwards!

Amazed, he screams out hopefully: "HEY!! DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT PARACHUTES????"

From the rapidly receding figure he hears: "Nooooo... Do you know anything about gas barbecues????"

A little motorcycle wisdom...

Every now and again, while cruising a motorcycle forum, I'll stumble upon some truisms about the wonderful world of riding. This gem of a list I found on our very own Canadian VTX Riders' website.

For those of you who ride or used to, many of these will make you smile and nod your head in agreement. For those of you who do not ride, it just might give you an inkling as to why we do:

Motorcycle Wisdom ....

- Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.

- Life may begin at 30, but it doesn't get real interesting until about 60 mph.

- You start the game of life with a full pot of luck and an empty pot of experience. The object is to fill the pot of experience before you empty the pot of luck.

- If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.

- Midnight bugs taste just as bad as noon time bugs.

- Saddlebags can never hold everything you want, but they CAN hold everything you need.

- It takes more love to share the saddle than it does to share the bed.

- The only good view of a thunderstorm is in your rear view mirror.

- Don't ride so late into the night that you sleep through the sunrise.

- Sometimes it takes a whole tank of fuel before you can think straight.

- Riding faster than everyone else only guarantees you'll ride alone.

- Never hesitate to ride past the last street light at the edge of town.

- Never do less than forty miles before breakfast.

- One bike on the road is worth two in the garage.

- Respect the person who has seen the dark side of motorcycling and lived.

- Young riders pick a destination and go. Old riders pick a direction and go.

- A good mechanic will let you watch without charging you for it.

- Sometimes the fastest way to get there is to stop for the night.

- Whatever it is, it's better to do it in the wind.

- Two-lane blacktop isn't a highway, it's an attitude.

- When you look down the road it seems to never end, but you better believe, it does.

- Winter is nature's way of telling you to polish.

- Motorcycle boots are NOT comfortable for walking. That's why they are called "motorcycle boots."

- People are like motorcycles; each is customized a bit differently.

- Sometimes the best communication happens when you are on separate bikes.

- Good coffee should be indistinguishable from 50 weight motor oil.

- The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.

- A friend is someone who'll get out of bed at 2 a.m. to drive his pickup to the middle of nowhere to get you when you're broken down.

- Catching a yellow jacket in your shirt at 70 mph can double your vocabulary.

- If you want to get somewhere before sundown, you can't stop at every tavern.

- There's something ugly about a NEW bike on a trailer.

- Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don't. Some can't. Be careful...

- Don't argue with an 18-wheeler, a bus, or even a car.

- Never be ashamed to unlearn an old habit.

- A long ride can clear your mind, restore your faith and use up a lot of fuel.

- If you can't get it going with bungee cords, wire and electrician's tape, it's serious.

- If you ride like there's no tomorrow, there won't be.

- Bikes parked out front mean good chicken-fried steak inside.

- There are old riders and there bold riders. There are NO old, bold riders.

- Always replace the cheapest parts first.

- You can forget what you do for a living when your knees are in the breeze.

- Chrome won't get you home… but it does look nice on the side of the road.

- Patience is the ability to keep your motor idling.

- Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out the car window.

- There are two types of people in this world; people who ride motorcycles and people who wish they could ride motorcycles.

- Never try to race an old geezer, he may have one more gear than you.

- Gray-haired riders don't get that way from pure luck.

Have a great day, y'all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A fine Easter weekend...

So yes...Easter has now come and gone and I find myself riding into work today for the second day in a row. I could be tempted to say that riding season is now here, though there is still the odd day with snow in the forecast. So that might be a little premature. Still, I had a luxurious 5-day weekend to share with my Honey, all except for Saturday where she had to work a 7-hour shift.

We had no major plans, other than having 'the kids' over for Sunday brunch. We put in a couple of road trips to NY State (Massena, Ogdensburg and Watertown) on Thursday and Kingston on Monday, while I got to take Baby out for a couple of romps in between. I began my Saturday by thinking of riding down to Kingston. A few hours tooling around in that cold wind however, made me realize that it probably wouldn't be the best plan for a rider who is still convalescing. I settled for a day trip to Merrickville and a fine feed of fish 'n chips at the Goose and Gridiron.

I also brought back a pound and a half of unbelievably tasty fudge, courtesey of their little Country Bumpkins' shop. I couldn't resist picking up a small cushion on which had been embroidered the truism: "You never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist's office". *Sigh!* I love Merrickville...

Still no movement of the tires I ordered from Honda Direct Line in Tennessee and the shiney bits ordered through XtremeRevolution in California, won't ship until the 20th of the month. No matter. There is still plenty to do and the tires on Baby at the moment will serve for a little while longer, though I will avoid taking her out in the wet for the time being. All the same, as I ordered the tires on the 30th of March, they should have at least been shipped by now, unless of course they're on back order. Hmmmm.... Must phone them later on today to investigate this matter.

Our little road trip to Kingston on Monday was wonderful. We managed to find a great matching set of wet weather gear, something we have both been lacking for years now. We bought this with a future trip to Cape Breton in mind. If the universe unfolds as it should, it will never rain again when we are visiting back home in Nova Scotia. Certainly not if we remember to bring our rain gear, at any rate. We topped off our visit by stopping at the Lone Star for supper, where they make the absolute best chicken fajitas I've ever had. As fate would have it, it was "all-you-can-eat Fajita Night". I pretty much had to be rolled outta there... It was great.

The drive back was spent spotting deer along the side of the road. As we headed North along the 416, we avoided an upright vacuum cleaner and other sundry junk which had been thrown onto the centre of the highway. This occurred near an overpass, about 2 klicks South of exit 25. I phoned it in to the OPP and discovered (as I had predicted to my better half...) that nobody had phoned it in before I had. So many people equipped with cell phones, lots of traffic and nobody wants to get involved. Go figure...

The rest of the drive home proved uneventful and we pulled into the driveway at about 2110hrs. All in all, a very restful and long weekend. Something that I had been hankering for, for some time now.