Thursday, May 28, 2009

Making a list and checking it twice...

Eight days left... Eight days until I flash Baby up and begin my journey South. The last few days have been filled with researching and list-building. Programming pertinent phone numbers Stateside, trying to sort out what I'll bring and where all it's going to fit on the bike. Can't forget batteries and chargers. I'm even bringing some King Cole tea from home, which I managed to find at our local Sobey's store. That's a throwback from my Navy days, when I would stow a couple of boxes of Morse's or Clipper tea in my locker, before we left on a six-month NATO deployment. I have long had this affinity for a good cup 'o tea in the evening, usually after supper. It's the perfect wind-down at day's end, for me at any rate.

I've gone through everything I can think of: clothing, riding gear, toileteries, tools, footwear, medical... I think I've pretty much covered it all. Maps I'll get as I go along, but I have long had the maps printed off, which cover the first legs of the trip, from home to Cherokee, NC where the Blue Ridge Parkway ends. Still, I might just pick up State maps as I roll through them. I couldn't hurt. I remain very much aware that for as much forethought and planning as I might put into this, I still cannot account for a myriad of variables, which might influence this trip once I get going.

Weather, critters, cagers, bad roads, acts of God... the list goes on and on. I have fussed and fretted over my trusty steed, trying to cover any contingency. Yes, I'll bring that set of spare bulbs, brake pads and spark plugs. I've mounted the deflector plate to the bottom of my rad coolant reservoir, so that some errant road shrapnel doesn't leave me high and dry in the middle of who-knows-where. I'm even bringing a spare length of 1/4" vacuum line... just in case.

But it's all about the uncertainty. The unknown. This is the stuff that when we were youngsters, we were able to recognize as the cause of our excitement. A lot of older people might feel the same feeling, but choose to interpret it as fear. I guess that's what stops many people from doing what they'd like to do. All I can do now is hope that the weather cooperates. I'll go as far as I can within the time that I have. I was going to have company initially, but my partner backed out. True, life would have been far easier with a support unit, which of course was what the van would have been. But I've ridden solo from Nova Scotia to Florida before, so really, this is a much shorter jaunt in comparison.

Travel lighter, pack smarter. That's the name of the game. Should anything bad happen, I'm pretty much on my own. That's the only thought which weighs on me at the moment. Normally? It's something that I would just accept and dismiss. Nowadays, with the physical limitations imposed by last year's injury, it looms a little larger than it normally would. But hey... What am I gonna do? Stay home and let this chance pass by? Wait until I "win the lottery"?

We all know what happens to those type of dreams, don't we. Those are the missed opportunities we look back on with regret, when we're no longer able to physically follow through on them. Well, thanks but no thanks. As a good friend of mine once opined: "I'd rather regret a few things that I've done, than a lot of things that I never did".

Now lemme see... what else have I forgot...???

Friday, May 22, 2009

A little melody from home...

It is Friday and I for one, am so very happy. For a variety of reasons, this 'short week' has felt unusually long. Outside the sun shines ferociously, a portent of the summer temperatures to come. Yet in my mind, to be truly appreciated, the sun must be seen shining on the surface of the ocean.

I have no idea why, whether because of the recent passing of my good friend from 'back home', or the brief, imaginary scent of kelp in the back of my mind... but I feel myslef becoming a little homesick for God's Country, Nova Scotia.

No doubt after we've had supper tonight, I may flash up my i-Pod and play a few tunes from the late and so very great, Stan Rogers.

Make and Break Harbour. (Stan Rogers)

How still lies the bay, in the light western airs

Which blow from the crimson horizon,
Once more we tack home, with a dry empty hold
Saving gas with the breezes so fair.
She's a kindly cape islander, old but still sound
But so lost in the longliner's shadow,
Make and Break and make do, but the fish are so few
That she won't be replaced should she founder.

Now its so hard to not think of before the big war
When the cod went so cheap, but so plenty,
Foreign trawlers go by now with long seeking eyes
Taking all where we seldom take any.
And the young folk don't stay with the fisherman's ways
Long ago they all moved to the cities,
And the ones left behind old and tired and blind
Won't work for a pound, for a penny.


In Make and Break Harbour the boats are so few
Too many are pulled up and rotten.
Most houses stand empty, old nets hung to dry
Are blown away lost and forgotten...

Now I can see the big draggers have stirred up the bay
Leaving lobster traps smashed on the bottom,
Can they think it don't pay to respect the old ways
That make and break men have not forgotten.
For we still keep our time to the turn of the tide
In this boat that I built with my father,
Still lifts to the sky, the "one lunger" and I
Still talk like old friends on the water.

In Make and Break Harbour the boats are so few
Too many are pulled up and rotten.
Most houses stand empty, old nets hung to dry
Are blown away lost and forgotten...

Aye, she's going to be one fine weekend...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On 'star' worshipping...

Okay, here it is... I may be in the minority here from what I understand, but I for one have had enough of voyeuristic media coverage, of pseudo-celebrities who are in full blown self-destruct mode. You know what I mean. Less than flattering photos of losers like Brittney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Lindsay Lohan and a host of others.

I am not one who is star-struck with any of Hollywood's inhabitants. Or New York's, or anywhere else where people of limited abilities are lauded as uber-humans, that we should all kneel in front of and adore. Informing me that a certain individual is a five-time Grammy Award-winning individual, does not alter the fact that they are first and foremost a fucking train wreck as far as being a human being goes. There is nothing enviable, or laudable, or even noteworthy about such a person. They are simply another statistic waiting to happen. Nothing more. News and updates on their continuing downwards spiral, are of no interest to any semi-intelligent or well-adjusted human being.

It's not a tragedy, it's natural selection.

So enough of the cheap cooze shots of drunken bimbos disembarking from their cabs and limos. We don't care who got into a bun fight, or spent overnight in a jail cell, just because they don't know when to say when. For one thing, this isn't 'News'. For another thing, this is not decent. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there is an avid market for those who peddle this type of garbage journalism. I'm sure there are throngs of absolutely miserable, no-life individuals out there, bitter at not having been born into fame or fortune, who love nothing more than to see those who do live such a lifestyle, stumble and fall in the gutter. They are no doubt in the millions.

So basically, the audience that lives on such tales of misfortune and misery of the rich and famous, is made up of those who are even sicker, less endowed and more depraved than these so-called stars.

And I gotta tell ya... I am not fixin' to fit into any one of those groups.

A eulogy for Spider...

As I cannot be there for Spider's final send-off, I volunteered to jot down some parting words and send them off to Cheryl his niece. She has graciously agreed to read these for me, as various family members and friends deliver their eulogies and testimonials.

Thursday, 21 May 2009.

Some words about my good friend, Eric.

It would be safe to say that most of you do not know me. But if you are listening to Cheryl read these words, then it would also be safe to say that you did know Eric.

My name is **** ********* and I first met Eric in the summer of 1990. I was living in Porter’s Lake, Nova Scotia at the time. I was brand new to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and had discovered that they had a group (the Harbours Group) in Mosquodoboit. I met Eric at the first meeting that I attended there and we hit it off right from the start.

I found that we shared the same zany brand of humour, were both devoted Pythophiles (fans of anything by Monty Python) and shared a common outlook on life. Eric had been “that one friendly face” that I had needed to find, in order to keep me coming back to the meetings in the early days of my recovery.

Before too long, I had asked Eric if he would become my sponsor. He agreed and the rest as they say is history. I will be celebrating my 19th year of continuous sobriety this June 6th, thanks largely to Eric.

Eric was a wonderfully giving person. He’d give you the last of whatever he had, if you needed or wanted it. He had never amassed a great amount of physical wealth, but I can tell you that he had many, many friends who loved him dearly for who he was. He was gifted with a quick mind and a wry sense of humour. Quips and one-liners were his specialty.

Eric liked a good joke and he also liked a good story. Of course for those of you who knew Eric, he had only a limited number of stories, so you had to listen to the same ones over, and over, and over again. There were times where I would actually finish the story for him and he would look at me, pretending to be genuinely amazed. “Oh… Have I told you this story before?”, he would ask. I would roll my eyes and we would both laugh. But that was Eric and God knows I would not have wanted him to be any other way.

I never thought of him as being ‘predictable’, but rather as ‘dependable’. Being with him was a lot like wearing a favourite leather riding jacket. It was comfortable and there were no big surprises. Eric was constant. In his friendships and in how he lived his life. He was always there for me and I endeavoured to do likewise for him. We were brothers from different mothers.

Over the years, we shared many meetings, conversations and adventures. We fancied ourselves great fishermen, when in fact we were nothing short of an unmitigated disaster on the water and certainly no threat to the fish. Every year, we would sign up for the big Grand Lake Fishing Derby, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. It was not uncommon to hear us howling like madmen in the boat, as we laughed ourselves silly over our own misfortunes. We would regularly torture the young girls who worked the various Tim Horton’s franchises, across the Halifax – Dartmouth area, breaking out into impromptu Monty Python skits at the drop of a hat.

I remember one spring, at the opening of trout season, Eric and I went to wet our lines in Lake Banook. It was actually snowing that day, with a strong wind to boot. We didn’t care. We both stood there at the point off of Graham Grove, doggedly casting into the teeth of a veritable gale. It was the principle of getting out on the first day of the season. We soon gave up and went to seek the comfort of a hot coffee at the Tim Horton’s down at the foot of Ochterloney Street. As we sat there thawing, still looking like two snowmen, one of the locals came in and announced to nobody in particular: “Boys…you wouldn’t believe what I just saw out there! These two fools standing out there fishing in Graham’s Grove!” Spider and I both looked at each other, put our hands up and said: “Yep…that would have been us!” The whole place exploded with laughter…

I cannot think of Eric, or Spider as those of us from the Maritimes came to know him, without remembering the laughter and happiness that he brought into my life. I am indescribably sad that he has left us and that I will no longer be able to share his physical company. But whenever I think of him, whenever I remember him… I can only do so with a smile. I hope in time you all are able to do the same and celebrate the impact he had on your lives, rather than simply mourn his passing.

We may never have gotten to take that motorcycle trip across Canada, like we talked so often of doing. But if there is a Great Beyond, then I have no doubt that Spider is riding with the best of them, on the classiest chopper ever. I will think of him every time I saddle up and dedicate every ride to the memory of his friendship.

Rest easy, Spider.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On losing a friend...

Sunday morning, my better half and myself were puttering around, getting ready to take a little road trip in the van. She had stopped into the computer room to check on e-mails before we left, when I heard her ask aloud: "Is this a joke...?" She asked me to come in and read what she had in front of her. It was an e-mail from a young woman whom I knew from back home. Her name is Cheryl and in her e-mail, she was informing me of the passing of her uncle Eric, a very dear friend of mine. Very few of us ever called him by his given name. To us, he was simply 'Spider'.

Eric 'Spider' Boutiler hailed from Porter's Lake in Nova Scotia. He was not only my best friend and most favorite fishing buddy, he was also my first and only sponsor in AA that I ever had. Spider and I have been friends for more than 18 years now. He was instrumental in my grasping the program in my early months of sobriety and can well accept some credit for the fact that I will be celebrating 19 years of continuous sobriety this June.

I stood there staring at the words on the screen. He died last Saturday at 8pm Mountain Time, from a massive heart attack. No forewarning, no prolonged illness, nothing. I had an e-mail sitting in my Inbox from him, scarecely 2 hours before he died. I found it hard to register anything. I just felt numb. I could hear his voice in my head as we clowned around and tormented the girls at the Tim Horton's on Number 7 Highway. It just didn't make sense. My wife told me how sorry she was, that I should have lost such a good friend. I had to go. I wanted us to go out and do somehing life-affirming. A little road trip, perhaps retracing the 2007 Ride For Dad. There was a great route. Some truly beautiful countryside.

So that's what we did. Our journey was interspersed with anecdotes of my recollections of Spider and the adventures we had. We stopped and wandered around Almonte for a few minutes, as my back was really acting up and I periodically needed to 'unfold' from being in the van. A short walk was all I needed to straighten up and relieve some of the pain. We headed back on the road taking CR 29 on the way out of Almonte. As we began our journey down CR 29, my better half's hunger got the best of her and, goaded on by a sign promising the Fulton Pancake House, we began a comical and fruitless search for said restaurant.

We twisted and turned down a number of small country laneways and improbable dirt roads, lured on by the promise of food. I did not time this particular effort, but as an educated guess as a longtime traveller of some note, I would hazard to guess that we were at it for a full 40 minutes. I have to say that we finally did find this ill-posted and obscure place, at the end of a road from which I expected to see springing Appalachian mountain men, intent on devirginizing my nether regions. It was basically a sugar shack, closed for the season as reason would have it. All we had managed to do was to whip our already appreciable appetites into a frenzy. My wife laughed that it reminded her of many people's favorite Sopranos' episode, where Michael and Paulie are stranded in the winter woods of upstate New Jersey, fighting over Tic Tacs and packets of ketchup...

Finally back on track and some 35km later, we stopped off in Packenham for a lunch at the local diner. We both ordered up what has to be one of the best hot chicken sandwiches I've ever had. The main course came with soup and dessert. The fries were huge and tasty as well. I topped off my meal with a bowl of 'red' Jell-O. Don't ask me what flavor... It was cold, it was red and it was tasty.

Heading out of Pakenham, we took the Waba Road for the next leg of our journey, which would take us to White Lake. This is a beautiful area which skirts the lake itself. It leads to the Burnstown Road, which in turn becomes the Calabogie Road at the junction of CR 508. Heading West, we passed through Spruce Hedge, Springtown and stopped for a little stretch in Calabogie itself. We stopped in at the local rider hangout, Murphy's Landing. There were a few bikes cooling outside as we entered the parking lot. True to form, they were parked in cliques. The 'Harley' crowd was on one side and the sportbike, motocross crowd was on the other.

My wife had decided that for as good as lunch had been, it didn't feel 'complete' without a little something sweet for dessert. We trooped inside to see what the locals could offer. It felt a little awkward being amongst fellow riders and wearing my 'sidewalk commando' clothes. We both ordered a tea and were informed that apple crumble was the dessert item of the day. Feeling happy about this, we grabbed a booth by the front window, where we could observe the goings-on outside. We amused ourselves by watching some of the enduro-type riders, pulling their socks off so that they could wring them dry and lay them over the fence, in an effort to dry them out. I've often had to do that at the end of a day's riding, but I never got 'em wet on purpose...

Our waitress returned and informed us that the dessert had yet to be put into the oven for the day. A little put off by this, we cancelled the teas and told them we'd have to try them at another time. Ah well... everything happens for a reason, so it seems. No sweat... We bade them farewell and piled back into the van.

On our way out of Calabogie we went by way of Mill Street, to link up with CR 511, or Lanark Road as it's known. At the intersection of these two streets, sat a gas station with a country store attached to it. We had hit paydirt! They had all manner of home-baked goods for sale. We picked up a package of carrot cake squares, a package of Nanaimo bars (Niomi bars, as I call 'em...) and a package of hermit cookies. I also picked up a couple of bottles of ginger ale for myself and a bottle of water for my wife. $14.00 later, we left the store giggling over our treasure trove of 'badness'. So ya wanted something sweet, did ya...???

We took off down Lanark Road, taking our time and enjoying the rolling, swooping bends of the road. It's a very good road and the surface is great. I can hardly wait to take it on again this year on the bike. The 511 ended at Wolf Grove Road and we turned North-East for our final leg back to Almonte. The day had passed so quickly, yet we had enjoyed being out and about in each other's company. It truly doesn't take much to keep us entertained or to make us happy. For the price of a tank of gas and a sense of adventure, we will never be bored. We arrived back home a little after 1700hrs. I backed Baby out in the driveway, intent on washing her from Saturday's ride in the rain. She was a sight, alright. It was slow and laborious, made all the slower by my back which was still protesting.

I decided to wash my wife's van as well, while Baby drip-dried some. Finally, taking several microfibre cloths I use solely for this purpose, I dried Baby off. I knew when I had finished, that there were still some areas that harbored pockets of water. There was only one way to get rid of these. I'd have to take her out and 'air-dry' her...

I told my spouse what I was fixin' to do. She was concerned that it was now passed 1900hrs, the sun's rays were slanting, couldn't I wait and do it tomorrow... I put her mind at ease and dressed to go. The idiot light for fuel came on as I thumbed her to life with the starter button. *Sigh!* Guess I'd have to fill her up before I took her for a romp out in the farmlands. Fine...

I stopped at the Shell station across the street and fed her. Leaving there, we headed down 10th Line and onto Old Montreal Road, heading East into Cumberland. Traffic was light and Baby purred along. I had been thinking about Spider all day. How he would have liked the roads we had travelled, the scenery they had provided. I started thinking about all those conversations we would have back home. Either after a meeting at Tim's, or sitting in a small open fishing boat in the middle of Grand Lake, howling with laughter as we compared ourselves to the reigning Bass Master champions. We would talk about how we would both get back on two wheels and make the great cross-Canada road trip, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. We'd spend hours 'bench-building' these bikes and riding them through the fertile fields of our imaginations.

But some dreams are not meant to come to fruition. Either that or they become lost along the way, superseded by other events, other priorities. We are the ones who lose our dreams. Nobody takes them from us. We give them up. As I rounded the bend back from Dunning Road onto Innes, I thought to myself how this ride was for Spider. "This one's for you!", I yelled over the roar of the pipes, choking on my tears. And the sun shone down on the bike and the road, with that hard-chrome edge that it has near the end of the day. It was one of those beautiful moments when all seems right with the world and there is no place better to be, than in the saddle. I had needed this window, this space of alone time to come to terms with my grief, to process my feelings and give vent to my sorrow. This would be the first of many such instances, I had no doubt.

It is never easy to lose a good friend. But I rejoice in having had him in my life and will always have the memories of good times and roads travelled. I will dedicate my upcoming trip down South, to the memory of his friendship. I too have been putting this off for far too long.
I hope to do the Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park (, the Blue Ridge Parkway (, the Tail of the Dragon ( and the Cherohala Skyway (
In his own passing, Spider has provided me with the impetus I needed, to make this one longtime dream a reality. I guess that's just one more I owe him...

Rest easy, Spider. You will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Saturday's Red Ride...

Well as predicted, Saturday morning dawned overcast and with threatening skies. On the good side, the weather was comparatively mild and at the time I planned on beginning the run from Orleans to the Antrim Truck Stop in Arnprior, it had yet to start raining. I suited up and put on my Joe Rocket protectie armour. Pants and jacket. I also zipped on the weather liner for my lid. I wasn't going to take any chances here. At about 0720hrs, I heaved open the garage door and pushed Baby outside. It was time to git and not a moment too soon. Luck was with us so far.

I stopped at the local Shell station and topped up, prior to taking Tenth Line North to the 174. Traffic was still relatively light as we reached the end of Tenth Line and took the long right-hander onto the highway. I settled into a sedate 110kmh. I stayed in the right lane as there was no rush, we had plenty of time. Traffic remained fairly light and I did not have to carry out any emergency evasive manoeuvring to remain intact, either at the split where we met up with the 417 or further West. I had just passed the Parkdale exit when it began to sprinkle, ever so lightly.

We carried on under a light rain, which lasted all of five to ten minutes or so. By the time I had passed Moodie Drive, the sprinkling had stopped and we were both getting air-dried. Passing the exit for Almonte and now on the 17, we cruised along effortlessly. My back felt good, my arm had yet to begin giving me any grief. The aromas in the air of forest, earth and recently fallen rain, were astounding.

The rain held off until I slowed and exited the 17 at White Lake Road. The Antrim Truck Stop was visible from the road well before the turn and I hung a left at the lights to enter their parking lot. My arrival time was about 0820hrs. I decided to take off the rain pants upon my arrival, and load them into the starboard saddlebag, as I would be there until 1000hrs. There were only four other bikes there so we were ahead of the crowd. I locked Baby up and headed in for some much anticipated breakfast. Having only a coffee under my belt before leaving home, I was pretty much ready for some food.

The truck stop store carries a bit of everything and has a great restaurant section called The Hangar. The food there was great I had the eggs benny...) and the service is what you'd expect from any successful truck stop: first rate. I was surprised I didn't buy a t-shirt from the place, 'course then again I couldn't find a large in black. I reckon I'll head back there before the summer's out... :)

There were a few riders who came in while I was sitting there, though none were overly friendly. I had to remind myself that this was a H.O.G. function and many of their members are yet afflicted with the: "you-ain't-a-real-biker-unless-you-wear-the-Harley-Bar-and-Shield-on-everything-you-own" mental illness. No problems... I normally attend such rallies to meet new friends amongst other things, but if this was going to be a 'business only' function, it was no sweat off my brow. I'm pretty particular over whom I choose to call friend, and my pre-requisites don't centre on what they ride. Any asshole can own a Harley. It don't make him a biker, it don't make him a rider, an' it sure don't make him my fuckin' brother.

The eggs benny were wonderful and my coffee cup was apparently bottomless. I decided to cut myself off, or I'd be looking to find a roadside bush on the way to Renfrew. I decided to go stooge outside and maybe meet some of the other riders as they came in. I settled up my bill and headed out, where it had already started raining softly. Hmmm... I decided to retreive my rain pants from the saddlebag and my skull-face weather mask. I figured I might be using them in the coming downpour. As I stood there under the awning, I took in my surroundings. I was definitely in the country. Country folk, farmers, truckers, et al... they have their own dress code. They fancy country music, they are big supporters of the military, they believe in eating well and for the most part, they don't believe in puttin' on airs. I like them...

I watched riders pulling in, by ones and twos, with the odd group of four or more riders every now and then. We nodded to each other as our eyes met. Time was marching on and it was apparent that the turnout from this rendez-vous would be a small one today. I found myself wondering how many riders would be waiting for us in Renfrew, where we would be headed next to register for the ride. We'd be lucky to leave Arnprior with twenty riders.

As I was standing there, a Chief Warrant Officer came striding out, in his paint-by-number outfit (camos). He wore a REME beret badge and was quite a physically imposing lad. He had a small 8.5x11 poster about the ride which he was trying to tape to the front door window of the truck stop. The poster kept wanting to fall off, the tape obviously giving way to the overwhelming ambient humidity. "What you need there is some good ol' Navy tape, Chief...", I offered. "That's the waterproof type we use to keep the screen doors secured on the submarines...". He turned to me and half-smiled, clearly trying to size up this unknown miscreant who thought he could stand there and torture a bloody Chief Warrant Officer Army type...

I offered my hand to him: "Petty Officer First Class Paul F.Prudhomme... Retarded!", I announced. He laughed. This then was Hugh, whom I had met along with his wife Sharyn, at the Tim Horton's in Manotick, not so long ago. They were the ones who had let me know about the ride. Immediately he recognized me. Hugh would be our Road Captain for our journey to Renfrew.

Slowly, we began getting dressed for the ride. The rain was coming down a little harder now and we formed up in the parking lot for our first run out. Hugh had gotten me a small tri-forces flag to mount on my bike. Apparently he had received them from his unit's RSM and they were highly-prized items. His wife had insisted that I have one prior to the run beginning. I took up a place of honour, riding as the third bike in line on the inboard row. A position I would keep even after meeting up with the remaining bikes in Renfrew. Hugh briefed me that he would be taking some of the regional backroads to reach Renfrew. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way...

We left Arnprior and headed out into the farmlands. The route had been well planned and even with the rain, it was immensely enjoyable. In fact, the harder it rained, the more I smiled. I even began to sing to nobody in particular at one point. Adversity, hardship, to those who have served in the military it is all simply part of the game. Another challenge to be overcome. Another chance to prove your mettle. And let's face it... the men and women for whom we were doing this run, have to endure so much more during the run of their deployment. If riding through a little rain was all we were called on to do, how could you possibly say no?

As we neared Renfrew, we were greeted by some thunder and lightning, fairly close. My brain flashed back to that Quebec rider who was fried in his saddle last summer, as he thundered along the 50 at 100kmh. Hmmmm... My joy units were lessening at this point and I would be glad to see the registration site. The way I saw it, I had a large chunk of steel making up my left arm. I was the group's lightning rod, pretty much. Yeah... I was starting to get a little antsy by the time we got there.

We dismounted without incident in Renfrew, taking refuge in a small building after registration was completed. Two other small groups of riders arrived while we were there. Together, we would make a good-looking bunch as we headed out through the countryside once more. This time, we would have police escorts. They would be leading us out to the town's outskirts and picking us up again as we neared Pembroke. I have to say that my hat is off to these OPP officers. The turnovers of the escort duties were very professionally and neatly done. Bravo Zulu to them! At 1115 precisely, we struck out from Renfrew.

The second stage of the ride, with our full complement, was as enjoyable as the first. The leaders kept the throttle down to a reasonable level and didn't leave the rest of the crew strung out too far behind them. The rain stopped and we actually began air-drying, the closer we came to Pembroke. I remember at one stage feeling elated and just being so happy that I had decided to sign up for this particular ride.

The OPP cruiser picked us up a couple of klicks out of town and escorted us right to the Irving Big Stop in Pembroke. Our arrival time was 1235hrs. I knew I was close to needing a refill on gas, but decided to wait until we had landed on base. I grabbed a coffee and perused some of the assembled bikes, while we all waited to leave at 1300hrs. The rain had stopped and we were actually drying out. The mood was good and you could see smiles all around as we figured we had perhaps seen the last of the wet stuff for the time being.

At 1300hrs sharp, the attending OPP cruisers lit up their light racks and began edging towards the exit. The Ride Captain gave the signal and all the bikes thundered to life in rapid succession. I always like those moments. It's sounds like a large, awakening beast. The lead bikes, myself included, headed out to take their positions behind the cruiser. We were off... We snaked through the town of Pembroke doing about 40 to 50kmh, our cruiser hitting his siren whenever we came to an intersection. We had a clear road all the way through. Our cruiser peeled away to the left as we hit the outskirts of town, bound for Petawawa.

Within 10 minutes, we were being greeted by another OPP cruiser, as we hit the Petawawa township. This time we proceded through Petawawa itself, lights flashing, horns blaring and sirens wailing, as the locals waved and cheered our arrival. We headed on up Petawawa Blvd. to the entrance to CFB Petawawa, where an MP was waiting to wave us through the gates. We halted in a small parking lot to the left of the guardhouse, immediately after entering the base. We then dismounted to meet our MP reception committee, though curiously, I did not see anyone else there to greet the riders. Perhaps some disconnect had occurred, who knows...

We took a few photos with the group posing in front of the WW2 AA battery, then dispersed to find our trusty steeds. We fired them up once more to do a slow parade through the base, led by the MPs. We passed the Canadian Airborne Museum and I felt a familiar flutter in my guts. The last time I darkened the doors of this hallowed institution, was in 1985/1986, when I attended my jump course. I looked at the Dak (C-47 Dakota) parked outside the museum. The early Airborne units referred to it as the 'Vomit Comet'. So much history there... most of which the general public is totally unaware of.

We trundled on at a slow pace. The base was literally deserted. We did not see a single soul. Surely they couldn't have deployed everyone, I remember thinking to myself... It gave me a very eerie feeling. We exited the base and rode perhaps 200 feet outside the base to the Legion's parking lot, where everyone dismounted and got a chance for a rest and a chin wag, as the smells of barbecue filled the air.

I had the opportunity to meet several of my fellow riders, amongst them members of the CAV (Canadian Army Veterans) motorcycle organization. They have asked me a few times now, to drop by their weekly meeting which they hold every Tuesday evening at a place called Christie's, in the city's West end. Thing is, I'm not an Army veteran... I'm a Navy veteran. We'll see...

After a couple of well-earned and nearly burned cheeseburgers, washed down with a Diet Coke (blehh!!), it was time to saddle up and head out for home. The skies still looked promising and I felt re-invigorated by the pit stop, even though there were no seats available during my lunch break. Apparently even with our small numbers, there were more riders than facilities. Not to worry, for I had a very comfortable seat waiting for me in the parking lot. I was joined by a French ex-serviceman from Gatineau, who was looking to ride back with someone so he wouldn't get lost. I told him I just had to fill up somewhere before we hit the highway again and we'd be good to go.

We bade goodbye to our hosts (Hugh and Sharyn) and saddled up. We eased out of the parking lot and headed back down Petawawa Blvd. We found an Ultramar station where we both took time to fill up and within 15 minutes or so, were heading down a secondary road which would lead us back to the 17. We reckoned we would take the straight road back, rather than deak through the back roads once more. It was around 1500hrs by the time we turned left onto the 17 and began our run back in earnest. The air was moist and warm. It was a great ride back. No near-events, no critters leaping out in front of us. We rode at a steady 110-120kmh.

Within 30 minutes of being back on the road, we observed a group of about 12 riders ahead of us. We closed in on them but had 2 cars between their main body and us. The lead car pulled out and passed the group, just managing to pull back in before he would have impacted another oncoming vehicle. Jackass!! The second car stayed with them, but was falling back slowly. We finally had a space where we could pass the second car and join up with the main phalanx of bikes. We slid in at the rear of the formation, taking up station in a staggered formation on the bikes ahead of us. The group was rumbling along at about 90-100kmh. A nice sedate pace.

As we headed down a long decline, eight of the riders ahead of us detached, slowed and entered a gas station on the left-hand side of the road. Obviously a fuel stop was required for this lot. We honked and waved as we cruised past them and headed to catch up with the four lead bikes. I noticed that the head bike had a long flagpole on the stern, which was flying an Army flag. I recognized it immediately as being Hugh's bike. He was accompanied by Andy (the Brit submariner) and his wife and two other riders whom I had rode with for the majority of the ride so far. We were fast approaching a turnoff for an Irving station near Renfrew. As we hit the red light just prior to the turnoff, Hugh turned around and asked if anyone was up for a coffee. We all agreed and pulled into the mall parking lot, where there just happened to be a Tim's.

We dismounted and I went inside to get a small, double-double. I didn't fuel Baby up, as I had plenty to make it back to Orleans on. Having said that, the gas station was selling their regular gas for $0.82.1. Markedly cheaper than anything one might find near or in town. Having downed our coffees, Andy filled his Harley ULHTC while we waited for him. We then headed out as a group on our last leg of the journey. Sylvain left us as we hit Arnprior. Andy and his wife peeled away at Carp. That left the Chief and me, heading into town along the Queensway. He waved and took the Parkdale exit, threading his way through the now heavy traffic heading Eastward.

I remember thinking how Joanna would not have cared for this leg of the trip. She does not feel good about being surrounded by moving machinery. Yet, it is simply another part of riding. I am aware of the vehicles around me, but I do not fear them. I do not let them intimidate me. If I did, I'd be nervous. When you're nervous or fearful, you do dumb, potentially life-threatening things. So no, I do not fear them. I claim my space, my lane. I stand my ground. I stare them down, I scowl and growl and snarl at them. I'll dent their doors, use my horn, blind them with my passing lamps. I will make them aware that I am in their midst. In most instances however, I will simply leave them behind me.

Before too long we had passed the 417/174 split and I was sailing into Orleans. It had been a longish run but a good one. The dampness and the initial cold had played Hell with my shoulder and I was looking forward to a nice hot whirlpool bath upon reaching home. I pulled into our driveway at 1720hrs, very happy to be home at last. I had once more pushed the envelope of my comfort and endurance zone successfully. A good cause had been served and I had enjoyed the freedom of the road. All in all, a very good day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

NATO keeps first strike option...

Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told
Ian Traynor in Brussels
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 January 2008

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

The authors - General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato's military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK - paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.

The five commanders argue that the west's values and way of life are under threat, but the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them. The key threats are:

· Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

· The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

· Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.

· The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

· A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.

· The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.

· No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.

· The use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

In the wake of the latest row over military performance in Afghanistan, touched off when the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said some allies could not conduct counter-insurgency, the five senior figures at the heart of the western military establishment also declare that Nato's future is on the line in Helmand province.

"Nato's credibility is at stake in Afghanistan," said Van den Breemen.

"Nato is at a juncture and runs the risk of failure," according to the blueprint.

Naumann delivered a blistering attack on his own country's performance in Afghanistan. "The time has come for Germany to decide if it wants to be a reliable partner." By insisting on "special rules" for its forces in Afghanistan, the Merkel government in Berlin was contributing to "the dissolution of Nato".
Ron Asmus, head of the German Marshall Fund thinktank in Brussels and a former senior US state department official, described the manifesto as "a wake-up call". "This report means that the core of the Nato establishment is saying we're in trouble, that the west is adrift and not facing up to the challenges."

Naumann conceded that the plan's retention of the nuclear first strike option was "controversial" even among the five authors. Inge argued that "to tie our hands on first use or no first use removes a huge plank of deterrence".

Reserving the right to initiate nuclear attack was a central element of the west's cold war strategy in defeating the Soviet Union. Critics argue that what was a productive instrument to face down a nuclear superpower is no longer appropriate.

Robert Cooper, an influential shaper of European foreign and security policy in Brussels, said he was "puzzled".

"Maybe we are going to use nuclear weapons before anyone else, but I'd be wary of saying it out loud."

Another senior EU official said Nato needed to "rethink its nuclear posture because the nuclear non-proliferation regime is under enormous pressure".

Naumann suggested the threat of nuclear attack was a counsel of desperation. "Proliferation is spreading and we have not too many options to stop it. We don't know how to deal with this."
Nato needed to show "there is a big stick that we might have to use if there is no other option", he said.

The Authors:

John Shalikashvili

The US's top soldier under Bill Clinton and former Nato commander in Europe, Shalikashvili was born in Warsaw of Georgian parents and emigrated to the US at the height of Stalinism in 1952. He became the first immigrant to the US to rise to become a four-star general. He commanded Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq at the end of the first Gulf war, then became Saceur, Nato's supreme allied commander in Europe, before Clinton appointed him chairman of the joint chiefs in 1993, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.

Klaus Naumann

Viewed as one of Germany's and Nato's top military strategists in the 90s, Naumann served as his country's armed forces commander from 1991 to 1996 when he became chairman of Nato's military committee. On his watch, Germany overcame its post-WWII taboo about combat operations, with the Luftwaffe taking to the skies for the first time since 1945 in the Nato air campaign against Serbia.
Lord Inge

Field Marshal Peter Inge is one of Britain's top officers, serving as chief of the general staff in 1992-94, then chief of the defence staff in 1994-97. He also served on the Butler inquiry into Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and British intelligence.

Henk van den Breemen

An accomplished organist who has played at Westminster Abbey, Van den Breemen is the former Dutch chief of staff.

Jacques Lanxade A French admiral and former navy chief who was also chief of the French defence staff.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Islamic lies my father told me...

From the pages of Pakistan's DAWN newspaper today, I found the following enlightening article by Dr. Tariq Rahman. It provides somewhat of an insider's view of several beliefs which are commonly-held by many Muslims in Pakistan. I am acutely aware that this online version of their newspaper, is meant for foreign consumption. Are we being fed the truth of what they actually think, or a convenient package of bullshit? I guess it's up to each individual to make up their own mind on this...

A cobweb of myths
Dr Tariq Rahman
Thursday, 14 May, 2009 08:32 AM PST

NOW that a military operation is going on in the Malakand Division it is imperative that it should be supported by the people and that the IDPs should be looked after with all resources at hand and be treated with compassion and respect.

Unfortunately, we have many myths and conspiracy theories which prevent clear thinking and that need to be debunked.

Myth 1: America wants our nuclear weapons and is destabilising Pakistan through the Taliban.

This myth is dangerous because those who subscribe to it also believe that America pays the Taliban to destabilise Pakistan to create an excuse to take away our nuclear weapons. This makes it difficult for the government to fight the Taliban while accepting American aid as the whole thing seems to be a cruel hoax to ordinary Pakistanis.

The US has over 5,400 nuclear warheads and it is thousands of kilometres away from this country. Moreover, it allowed Pakistan to develop these weapons. America would not gain if Pakistan is destabilised because then Al Qaeda would be strengthened and that would threaten America.

During the 1971 war America warned India not to overrun (West) Pakistan because it was not in America’s interest to destabilise South Asia any further. In 1999 during the Kargil episode America helped Pakistan to cut its losses without further bloodshed.

During the Afghan war the US wanted to defeat the Soviet Union and paid Pakistan to do so. Pakistan helped because it needed the military aid and money (and Ziaul Haq wanted American support). And now, once again, America wants to defeat the Islamic militants because they threaten America and Pakistan needs the money. That is what the Kerry-Lugar bill is for and that is precisely why the IMF and the Friends of Pakistan consortium have lent Pakistan billions of dollars. It is not in America’s interest to destabilise Pakistan because if it breaks up or is Talibanised it will be a threat to America.

So, while America’s policies might not be the most productive, it makes no sense to claim that the Taliban are US agents in a conspiracy against our nuclear weapons.

Myth 2: Nothing gets done in Pakistan unless America wants it to happen.

This is a different version of the previous myth and it is not true. No country is so powerful that it can get everything done. Pakistan made friends with communist China against America’s wishes. Later, it was the US which sought American help to develop its own relations with China. Pakistan also developed nuclear weapons against American wishes. During the lawyers’ movement America was a supporter of Musharraf until he turned weak and it was no longer in America’s interest to support him.

Myth 3: The Taliban want Islam in the country but their approach is wrong.

This depends on personal interpretations of the Sharia. The Taliban want to impose their version of it. However, it is not only a matter of approach, it is also a matter of the interpretation of the Sharia. In fact the Taliban version of the Sharia would make life joyless for all and a torture for women. Secondly, the country would lose a pool of talent to other countries. Thirdly, productivity would decrease as Pakistan would be isolated.

Fourthly, science and technology, indeed all knowledge, would suffer as creative minds would be stifled in an atmosphere of fear. Fifthly, either the US or India or Iran would be so alarmed as to attack us or stop all foreign aid to us because such a regime would be a threat to their way of life and religious practices. Lastly, the Taliban is a name for disparate groups and gangs. They would fight for power, making us another Afghanistan.

Myth 4: If Nato forces withdraw from Afghanistan there will be peace.

Nato forces should withdraw from Afghanistan as a matter of principle but this will not end Talibanisation. Indeed, if Nato forces withdraw, parts of Afghanistan will be ruled by the Taliban once again. If Pakistan sides with them it will be isolated by the rest of the world. If it does not, it will have a hostile neighbour. In either case the Taliban worldview will be strengthened in Pakistan.

The groups seeking power in order to enforce Taliban-style Sharia in Pakistan will continue their attempt to succeed. This will mean that the danger to girls’ schools, women’s freedom of choice in moving around, dress code, art and music will remain under threat.

However, in addition to the principle that one does not want any country to occupy another, one would want America to withdraw since the occupation creates a backlash. So, even at the risk of strengthening the Talibanisation of the Pashto-speaking areas our government and thinkers should raise their voice for a Nato withdrawal. When this happens Pakistan will find it easier to fight the Taliban because Pakistanis will stop calling it an anti-colonial war.

Myth 5: Islamic militancy is created by poverty and ignorance.

This is only partly true. The family background of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musaib al-Zarqawi (killed in 2006) — all leading lights of Islamic militancy — cannot be called a poverty-stricken one. Osama’s family is among the richest globally. Zawahiri comes from a distinguished Egyptian family. Zarqawi’s father was an army officer and mayor of a town in Jordan called Zarqa.

Nor is the leadership illiterate. All were educated though not in the liberal arts or the social sciences. The fact is that their ideas about using militancy to defeat what is perceived as western domination (called ‘Crusaders’ by them) and the corrupt ruling elites of the Muslim world emanate from Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood and Abd al-Salam Faraj of Egypt. Indeed, they go back to Taqi Uddin Ibu Taymiyya (1263-1328) who lived during the tumultuous time of the Mongol invasions.

The leadership disseminates ideas about the permanent grievances of Muslims, such as Israel’s domination of Palestinian land, to young people who burn with a sense of outrage. Here the poverty nexus does come in since the ordinary rank and file of militant movements come from poor, unhappy, violence-prone households. They want money, respect and justice and these are promised to these deprived angry young men. They then become cannon fodder for the militants.

If we understand these and other myths and realise that we have created our own Frankensteins and not foreign countries; that most of the militants are our people and not foreigners (though some are); that foreign countries may help militants but are not powerful enough to keep them alive for ever; that we made mistakes in the past of which we are reaping the harvest — then we can still make Pakistan safe for our children.


One has to wonder if the author here is merely feigning ignorance of the West's options, when it comes to the Taliban taking control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, or simply refusing to contemplate it. I would think he realizes only too well what might happen, but refuses to say or publish it, for fear of generating a panic.

The average man or woman on the street in Pakistan? I don't think they have the mental wherewithall to piece together what the future may hold in store for them, should the Talib take over. They know very little if anything about the world that surrounds them. Elsewise you would certainly not see the level of blatant apathy which exists vis-à-vis the Taliban and their push to take over their country.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Hey... who owns that boat??"

So we get this call on the OBS line today, from some lad in Alberta. He has seen a picture of a boat for sale somewhere and based simply on the boat's license number, he wants us to provide him with the owner's name, address, phone number, etc... Pretty funny, really.

First of all, this lad has obviously never heard about the Privacy Act. Amongst other things, it dictates how various federal departments and agencies protect and safeguard your personal information. It's also the body of federal law that dictates how other entities and businesses must do the same.

So no, there is no way to obtain that information, short of a formal request to the ATIP coordinator (Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator) for either Service Canada or Transport Canada.

What's an ATIP do? Each federal organization subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act has an access to information and privacy coordinator, and must provide access to the records for which it is responsible, while protecting the personal information contained in these records.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Information and Privacy Policy Division administrates the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, provides related information and publishes Info Source, a series of publications destined to assist individuals in exercising their rights under the Access to Information Act.

Transport Canada's Office of the Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator processes requests for information made under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and carries out related functions on behalf of Transport Canada.

There is a $5 fee (non-taxable) for each request for information made under the Access to Information Act. This fee is payable to the receiver general for Canada by cheque or money order.

Depending on the request, additional fees may be charged. When this is the case, applicants are notified of any additional charges before their request is processed.

There are no fees for requests for information made under the Privacy Act.

Applicants must use the Access to Information Request or Personal Information Request forms to submit their requests for information.

These forms are available through the Office or on-line through the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Information and Privacy Policy Division and should preferably be submitted by mail. So no, you can't phone it in...

Applicants who cannot obtain the appropriate forms may send a letter in lieu of the forms stating that they are submitting their request under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act.

Federal organizations must process requests for information within 30 days of the date of receipt. If an extension is required, the organization must notify the applicant within that time period.

So there you have it. A crash course in applying to obtain information from any federal government entity. Just remember that YOU DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO ALL INFORMATION HELD BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Surely nobody could be stupid enough to believe that they do, but I'm just puttin' it out there... in case. Like, do YOU have the right to access any personal information files on ME? Don't make me laugh... You have access to some of the federal files that hold information on YOU, yes... But not the other way around, obviously.

Want the mailing address for any ATIP coordinator in the government? Call 1 800 O Canada (1-800-622-6232, 8am - 8pm, Mon. - Fri.)

On the Tamil protestors...

One thing that should be made clear from the onset here, is that when you move to this country from wherever you come from, you owe us one and all, the courtesy and respect of which all civilized people are deserving. You implicitly agree to follow our laws and regulations and to respect OUR culture and beliefs. You don't have to adopt our religion, but your coming here in the first place instead of heading somewhere else, implies that you also share our beliefs.

Whatever hatreds and dysfunctions are a part of your particular culture, WE DO NOT WANT AND WILL NOT ACCEPT THESE HERE IN CANADA. Like those sicko Palestinians in Montreal who attacked Jewish students, simply because of their religion. Thousands of Canadians went overseas during the Second World War and gave their lives, fighting this very disease. And now we would allow such scum to freely immigrate here? I don't fucking think so... Just as in the fields of Europe and the streets of Berlin, these individuals ought to be shot on sight.

The Tamil Tigers of Elam have been branded as a terrorist group. Not just by the US, but by the UN and Canada as well. Period! That's it... There is no debating the point. For those who may live in either Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver and who actively support this outlaw group: Fuck you! If you want to continue your personal war, that's fine... so long as you conduct it on Sri Lankan soil. Take your bullshit out of MY country!

These morons pulled the same stunt here in Ottawa, causing a snarl of traffic in front of Parliament Hill. I simply avoided the area but there were many other less fortunate who had to go through there on their way to or from work or home. It simply cannot stand. It's well beyond the point of acceptability. And the less the authorities do to contain or curtail these activities, the greater the eventuality that the masses will have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.

For those of you who think that the government of a free and democratic nation such as Canada would come to the rescue of such a terrorist group: What are you using to think with? How stupid are you? And for you to take to the streets and misuse the freedoms which have been granted to you in this country, to thumb your nose at our forms of legal demonstration and flaunt your lawlessness? You have some kind of nerve! Then again, perhaps such happenings are indeed a good thing. Maybe the indignation and anger of decent, law-abiding Canadians will make it's way to their elected representatives and finally force us to re-examine our immigration policies yet again...

There are some residents of Toronto who are all for these displays of contempt for Canadian law and order. They mistakenly believe that championing the cause of a recognized terrorist group on Canadian soil and our rights to free speech and peaceful demonstration, are one and the same. They also believe that anyone is permitted any excess in order to get their point across, like swarming the Gardiner Expressway during rush hour. They are far too ready turn this country over to anyone who would threaten them. They are cowards of the worst kind.

Then too, if you had been born here and tried such a foolhardy move as swarming the Gardiner Expressway, you would end up in jail so fast you'd have windburn. The law enforcement officials by the inaction, basically provided tacit approval of the demonstration. Some may argue that the police's responsibility was to prevent violence. Bullshit! The police are there to enforce the law. That would include halting/breaking up any illegal demonstration, to say nothing of keeping vital traffic arteries open and flowing. They gave up. They retreated in the face of the mob. The mob won. And had the mob wanted to do anything else, emboldened as they no doubt were by the police's cowering, the Toronto Metropolitain Poilice force could have done nothing to stop them.

It would be the Army called in to clear the snow all over again. Christ on a stick!! Is there nothing that Toronto is actually capable of doing for itself? Seriously???

This is just another case of the tail wagging the dog, very much the same as our dealings with the ever-present 'threat' of Quebec separation. Well here's something to chew on... You can go right ahead and call me a racist and/or a bigot. That seems to be the trendy nickname these days for anyone who shows some kind of proof that they still have a backbone and a voice. Those of us who are not afraid to use these to make known their discontent at being treated like third-class citizens in their own fucking country!

Well guess what? Here's a news flash for you lot... My (our) rights and freedoms come first. If that means a call to arms right here on our own soil, then so be it. Maybe it's time for us as Canadians to re-earn what our ancestors gave their lives for. We don't have to travel as far as Afghanistan to find the enemies of our country. It is certainly time for a change in style of government, where we can find leaders (not politicians) willing to protect our rights and freedoms, our culture...our country. This would be far preferable to having our own culture ridiculed and minimized, in favour of those of recently arrived foreigners. I for one am bloody sick of it...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

So you wanna be a 'Captain', eh?

Every now and then we receive e-mails from those who are looking to attain the title of 'captain'. The title of captain simply means the person who has control of the boat. Not to oversimplify things however... The person who has control of any boat or vessel, is also the person who is legally responsible for it and for everyone onboard.

The term captain, in the military and merchant navies of the world, is in fact a more than just a title. In the Navy it is both a rank and an appointment as the person commanding a warship. In the world of commercial vessels, it is also the title of the person commanding the ship, though their Marine Safety Certificate as issued by Transport Canada, would read: Master. In the United States, it is the US Coast Guard which issues professional certification for mariners.

In the USA, there are courses referred to as 'captain's courses'. These are courses which here in Canada, would be accredited by Transport Canada (Marine Personnel Standards and Pilotage Branch) and would qualify someone to hold the title of Master for a vessel of up to 100 Tons. A far cry from our little Boating Safety course. Information on such a course can be viewed at the link below:

Here in Canada, there exist numerous private training centres which exist to provide all levels of nautical training to our budding Horatio Nelsons. How proficient you want to become as a 'mariner', is equally proportional to the velocity of your wallet. The entities that issue accreditation for various levels of expertise in operating a pleasure craft, are all private associations. They are NOT government entities.

One such nautical training centre is Buckeye Marine in the Kawarthas region. Here is a spiel taken from their company's website, on which they too offer so-called "captian's courses".

"Buckeye is pleased to offer hands-on driver training for captains of all types and abilities. We specialize in hands-on courses that teach captains the skills needed (at a mere $60.00 per hour...) to feel at ease behind the wheel. All of our courses are taught by certified professionals and are focused on an enjoyable, safe learning experience. Courses range from beginner to advanced, and are customized to suit the needs of every boater. We offer specific courses for women and youth as well as courses that focus on and teach specific functions such as locking through and docking to ensure the very best learning environment possible. We are sure that we have a course to fit your boating needs...join us!"

You can check out Buckeye Marine's website at the link below:

Clearly they are using the word captain in it's most generic meaning. As in: the person controlling the boat. There is an almost endless amount of information to ingest, if you want to be an honest-to-God captain. And seriously, that goes for any size vessel. From a 16-foot runabout to a 100-foot yacht. You must know the Rules of the Road (Collision Regulations), limitations and equipment requirements (Small Vessel Regulations), chart reading and navigation (Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations), seamanship and boat handling, as well as a sense for reading and interpreting weather. You must know how to operate your marine VHF radio, as well as how to maintain/repair your vessel as required.

If you don't know any of these disciplines on land, it's no biggie. You can simply start over and hope to do better. If you fail at any one of these disciplines at sea, there is a better than average chance that you will not be coming back. Again, if we're only talking about one individual, it's just natural selection. If that person has felt confident enough to bring friends and family along with him... aye, there's the tragedy in all this.

Sure, a lot of boaters out there want to fancy themselves as captains... master and commander, as they say. But there's a lot more to it than simply claiming to be one. And the responsibilities are enormous...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Hey... turn the waves down!"

I could probably award this the "Call of the Week", even though it's only Tuesday. I may be tempting fate, but I would wager that no one stupider will call within the next 3 days. Listen to this one, if you enjoy humour...

One of our agents on the Boating Safety line received a call from a French-speaking gentleman from Québec City. This gentleman was making his way upstream apparently, no doubt with dreams of shadowing in the trail of such legendary greats as Pierre-Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law, Médard Chouart Des Groseillers.

At any rate, this gent was enquiring about what number he had to call, so that the Coast Guard would make the large, ocean going ships which ply the seaway, slow down. Apparently their passage was creating waves which were inconveniencing this budding explorer. When our agent came to quiz me about this request, I was non-plussed. For a moment my brain refused to accept that what I was being told was the truth. Then of course, I laughed. Actually, so did everyone else who heard the question. Clearly our ceaseless pandering to these people's whims, has led to this current state of mind of theirs... Whatever they want, the 'gubmint' will do...

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I informed our young feller that as far as Mr. Man-in-the-Boat was concerned, his job in all of this, was to stay the f*%# out of the way of the big ships and navigate to avoid them and their wake. If the vessel he was in was being perilously rocked by the bigger vessels, this was Nature's way of saying: "Dude... you don't belong here, unless you're bucking for a Darwin Award". Clearly his boat is too small and frail, for navigating these waters. His solution? Apply common sense? Hell, no... I'll call the 'gubmint' and have them change the Earth's rotation to suit my personal wants. As a country, this is our fault. We have led them to expect this of us...

I then offered that this gent might call his regional Marine Communication and Traffic Services office, for information and notices on marine traffic in his area. If nothing else, they might be in a position of telling him straight up to get his friggin' skiff out of the water and take up knitting at home.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A tandem run to Merrickville...

The weather Gods were kind this weekend, providing two days of riding. Sunday saw a chance to hit the back roads with my son-in-law. We met up at our home and spent some time going over each other's ride. He has a beautiful red '07(?) VTX 1800F model. He's modified the airbox some, but still hasn't committed to the Kury or Tornado replacement air kit. He installed a set of aftermarket pipes and recently improved the baffles. It provides a nice snarl...

We lit out from there at around 1130hrs. We decided we would take the well-travelled road to Merrickville, with a stopover at the Tim's in Manotick. The pace was casual, as I don't think we ever really had the bikes above 90kmh during the entire ride. Whenever I caught myself creeping over that speed, I'd let off the throttle and we'd resume our loping style. We actually averaged 80kmh over most of the ride.

The weather couldn't have been better. A little cool but sunny, with a breeze flaring up every now and then... sometimes with some real oomph behind it. We didn't really get to spy many critters, asides from the ubiquitous earth-pigs and the odd wild turkey. But it was a very pleasant romp all the same. Every now and again, we would roll around a bend, to be greeted by some wonderful aromas of spring. Notably in farm country, where the soil had just been tilled. It was truly nice.

I rode lead on this journey and kept him in my right-hand rearview mirror. He followed the inside line with aplomb and precision. I found myself checking his stops and take-offs, after I had already left the line. I smiled approvingly as I watched him come to a dead stop, bike motionless and his feet still on the pegs. His departure was equally controlled and smooth. He rides well and I was not apprehensive on the few occasions where I found him riding very close on my starboard quarter.

Stopping in Manotick, we grabbed a small coffee each at Tim's. We met an older couple who were out for the day as well. He on a cookie-cutter Harley and his better half on a very stylish and well-appointed VTX 1300R. I complimented her on her ride and we also commented on the script on the back of her helmet, which read: "Bas Ass Toys Are Not Just For Bad Ass Boys!" As we stood in the parking lot, we chatted about riding and the weather, as riders always do on a nice day. They were both retired and had the world as their oyster. I thought of how nice that would be... We eventually bade one another a safe ride and saddled up.

The ride along the Rideau River Road is familiar. It's pleasantly scenic, with predictable curves and traffic patterns. There are some who grow tired of this route, but I'm not one of them. The challenge and excitement of a new road, a new destination, is always welcome. But there are only so many roads which lead to a specific destination. And today, that was Merrickville... Then too, there is something comforting about travelling down a well-known stretch of road. It can feel like meeting up with an old friend... it can conjure up memories of travels past.

I was anxious for us to get to the turn-off for Kemptville, which would lead us to the river's edge once more. My son-in-law had not taken this route before and to me, it was the most enjoyable part of the ride. It was normally taken at around 60kmh and it wound through farmland, horse farms, broad fields and charming stone houses. The road twists and bends, dips and rises as it snakes it's way through tableaus of peaceful and aromatic scenery, always with the Rideau River as a backdrop on the right-hand side.

Arriving at the end of Route 19 (Rideau River Road) we enter the small roundabout which would send us off towards downtown Kemptville, we encountered a little bit of construction, with a small trek through some gravel-strewn roadway. We picked our way through without incident and soon were cruising past the McEwen's gas station, on our way to the intersection of Rte. 43 and Rideau Street. At the lights, we hung a right and trundled off down Rte. 44 and finally, banking left onto River Road which would take us into Merrickville. We passed the big right-hand turn at Acton Corners and the second one further down, where River Road meets Rte. 23. I always enjoy passing by the riding schools and their many paddocks on this section of road, where one can always observe some fine horses either grazing or engaged in literal horseplay. The road surface was great, the scenery beautiful.

Coming off the River Road, we rode a brief stint along Main Street East, which in actual fact is Rte. 43. Before long, we were cruising under the little train bridge and entering Merrickville proper. As we pulled up in front of the Goose and Gridiron on St.Lawrence Street, we found a vacant parking spot right outside the front doors. It was as though it had been pre-ordained.

Over lunch, we brought each other up to speed on what all we were up to, he briefed me on a riding club he had hooked up with recently and we discussed the better points of living 'off the grid', as well as a variety of upcoming rides. Outside, the sun was just getting warmer all the time. After settling up the tab, we headed out for a meander down the street. We couldn't help but admire how good the bikes looked in the bright sunshine, as they rested there side by each.

We took a stroll down to the village's notorious fudge shop, where he bought a half-pound of goodness to bring home with him. I demured, as I still had a pound or so sitting on the kitchen counter, courtesy of my last visit there. We were just leaving when I spied this wonderfully carved wooden rabbit, perched in the display window facing the street. I had not seen it from the outside as we entered. It was very lifelike and I felt that my lady might like it's company around the house, seeing how fond we both are of our own visiting rabbits out back. I snatched it from it's perch and had the clerk wrap it for the trip home. We meandered back towards our trusty steeds and began suiting up for the ride back.

We decided to exit via the village's back road, hooking up with Route 16. This route followed basically the same road back, but on the opposite side of the Rideau River. It would eventually take us onto Prince of Wales Drive. We kept the pace mellow and enjoyed rolling along through the countryside, surrounded by small farms, fields and trees... all dressed in the varigated soft greens of spring. There were no tense moments, no near misses, no cagers doing the ridiculously stupid... It was great! All too soon however, we had once more hooked up with Prince of Wales and were cruising past Barrhaven, on our way back into town.

We parted company at Hunt Club, with me veering towards the airport. Down Limebank, left along the airport road, right down Bowesville. Retracing roads I've taken dozens and dozens of times, each one a new physio session, these days. Building my strength, my ability, my capacity, my endurance. All in preparation for that one day when we will strike South, towards the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond.