Monday, December 13, 2010

That long and winding road...

The road of recovery is a long and tortured one, it would seem. Yet no two days are ever the same. It's been five months and three weeks since the accident. There are days when I feel genuinely good. Days when I toy with the idea, the "eventuality" of my return to the saddle.

I can feel myself hurtling down the road, the hot sun and a warm breeze in my face... the sweet smell of freshly mown lawns and wildflowers forced up my nostrils and over the top of my brain. I am weightless and limber. I am once more as one with my trusty steed and that endless black ribbon. It is a most glorious rêverie.

Then there are the days which are not so good. Days when I totter around my room pained and stiff. Legs and hips barely cooperating with one another. My arms still hopelessly weak... These are the days when I cannot see past the despair and where I berate myself for even thinking such lofty thoughts. I try to visualize myself pushing a 748 lb. motorcycle, or even holding it up. Such thoughts seem so foolish on days like this. I find myself doubting that I have that amount of "amazing" left in me.

But even after five and a half months, I have to reconcile myself to the fact that I have only begun this journey. I have only started going down this road to recovery. In a year or two, I should have a better idea of where I stand in the overall scheme of things. Until then, there is much work to do. And that is simply in order to become functional. Let alone to think about responding to the siren call of The Road.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's been a while...

So here it is, December 06. Exactly 2 months since my last entry and a little over 5 months since the accident. It seems so far away now and my present situation feels as though I'm spinning my wheels in time. It's like that Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day".

My job is to get better. To eat my meals and convert that protein and other nutrients into muscle, sinew, new skin... to replace that which was destroyed, displaced and atrophied. I attend physio 3 times per week, to have my limbs mobilized, stretched and worked. I now exercise with weights. Leg presses, lateral pull-downs, leg and arm curls, on machines and with free weights. This week I am slated to begin pool therapy on top of that, to further aid in mobilizing my extremities.

I hobble around my room unaided, I do my walking outdoors with a walker and bring along a cane just in case. I am thinking on returning the electric wheelchair, as it will force me to rely on my own legs to get me around. People are inherently lazy. If the chair remains here, I will use it. It's just how I am.

I want to be home for Christmas... I want to get back to work... I want my life back. I want a lot of things and the list is getting longer. My wife's niece sent me a get-well card this week. It arrived here today. On the front, there is a picture of the most adorable little puppy. He looks like a Border Collie mix. I stared at the picture for the longest time. I felt an ache in my heart and that old familiar sadness. Whenever I think of dogs (and I do so quite often...), I invariably think of our dog 'Bailey'.

He was the sweetest black Lab mix, but whose temperament had started to turn as he was afflicted by arthritis and other ailments. I had known him since my wife and I had first got together. He had been her dog but adopted me as his Alpha male. He died one day, while both of us were at work. He succumbed to gastric torsion. So all I could think of at the time, was that he had died an agonizing death, alone and most likely frightened.

About 3 years later, after my better half had spent months perusing dog rescue internet sites, we found and adopted a little terrier mix female by the name of Paisley. We drove to a shelter about 40kms North of Toronto to "just have a look", as my spouse had put it. I don't know who she thought she was fooling... Nobody drives for 12 hours just to go "look" at a dog.

Paisly had been rescued from a puppy mill, where she had been bred and bred, without any regards to her health or welfare. As soon as she saw us, she came limping to us, head low and tail wagging frenetically. She was thin, frail and appeared quite timid. But she wouldn't leave our side. It was as if she knew that we were there to rescue her and give her the home she had always wanted. We had a Dodge van at the time and all the way back, she sat right up front with us, between the two captain chairs. My wife talked to her soothingly, stroking her head, as she leaned against my wife's leg.

She graced our lives for just about a year before she suffered a stroke and eventually had to be released from her suffering. It was an unbearably painful process. While she was with us though, we made sure she had the very best of everything and that every comfort was provided to her. Most of all, we made sure that she always felt the love we had for her.

Nowadays, every time I see a dog I realize how very much I miss having one in my life. Yet with both of us working, it wouldn't be fair to leave a young dog at home all by itself. Dogs are gregarious, unlike their feline counterparts. They thrive on companionship, attention and exercise. They need to be treated and fed as dogs, not as human beings. Otherwise they will lead confused and miserable lives. Cesar Milan said it best: "Exercise, discipline and affection... in that order!"

So yes... I want a lot of things. I want a dependable vehicle to replace my bike. I want to take some time off and travel. I want a decent camera when I do so. I want a gym membership so I can remain healthy and viable as a human being. I want to feel my toes pushing through the hot, Cuban sand this winter... and I want a dog.

I want to hear the click-clicking of nails on the kitchen floor. I want to hear the low: "Ruff!" when there's a knock on the door. I want to feel a snout nuzzling against my hand while I'm lying on the couch watching TV. But most of all, I want to look into a pair of big, watery, devotion filled eyes... and see my smiling face reflected there.

That's not so much to ask, is it...?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where the Hell have I been...???

It has been a long, long time now since I have sat in front of a screen, with this blog in front of me. "So where the Hell has he been?", you may well ask. I would like to be able to regale you with stories of travels to wonderful shores, sandy beaches, nubile, skimpily attired wave babies laying langorously around me like so many sun-drunk kittens...

Or even that my better half and I have been criss-crossing North America, from the glorious fjords of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, to Custer State Park in South Dakota and beyond. I'd like to be able to tell you such happy tales, but alas I cannot. I am revisiting a Hell from my recent past. On the 24th of July this year, I hit and was subsequently run over by a pickup truck, as a friend and I were heading North along Rte.31 (Bank Street).

We were returning from a day trip to New York State and were probably 20 klicks from home, just outside of the village of Vernon, when it happened. Mercifully, I was affected by what the doctors call retrograde amnesia, and therefore I do not remember the accident itself. Not the moment of impact, nor the undoubtedly horrifying last seconds before same. I have been advised that in time, these memories might come back to haunt me. I will deal with them as best I can, should that moment arise.

My travelling companion was a neophyte rider whom I had been glad to take under my wing this summer. We had already travelled many klicks together, along some of my favorite roads. It would be entirely fair to say that he was in fact traumatized by the experience, but much to his credit, did not think of bailing on riding, just because of my particular misfortune. I am so happy, for his sake, that he decided to stay with it.

Unlike my last misadventure (now referred to by my wife and I as my "little accident"...), I was not content to simply screw up one shoulder. No, no... This time we went for all four limbs and a hand. It has been months now and I am only beginning to walk with the aid of a walker. For most of my days, I am still relegated to a motorized wheelchair. My entire plane of existence has shifted. Just about every action is now hard, painful, frustrating. My days end invariably on an exhausted note, yet a good night's sleep continues to elude me, as I am constantly woken up by my pain. I know that my injuries will heal in time. To what extent I will remain affected, I cannot say. I do know that my capacities will be limited to a certain degree.

Yet of all the injuries I sustained, the most serious has been the one inflicted on my confidence. On my willingness to get back on the horse. And for that, I will never be willing or able to forgive the other driver. My physical injuries will leave me with a dubious quality of life. My life without riding? I don't know how to even begin addressing this possibility. If you are reading this and do not ride, don't even bother trying to understand what I am saying here. You simply can't. It's not a "sport". It's not a "pastime" or a "hobby". It's not only a large part of my life, it is a major part of who, of what I am.

Find my other posts which I've compiled on here, about riding, about the road. Read them. See if you can glean even the slightest bit of my love and devotion for this lifestyle. The freedom, the bliss that it provides me, to travel either strange or very familiar roads, always looking to discover, to explore, to experience.

But lest we forget, I am not alone in this. My wife has become the everything person by default. My income has dwindled to less than half, not even able to apply for EI, as the insurance's Wage Loss benefits basically zero any amount I might have gotten from the Feds. It's simply not enough to meet our financial obligations. So she finds herself scrambling to get the house ready for sale. We can't afford it and I can't live there due to the number of stairs. The stress in unbearable...

Me??? I can do literally nothing to help her. For a man of my personality, who has always been independent, self-sufficient, "man-the-provider", as it goes... it has come as a crushing blow to my self-esteem. My job has become to heal. To get better. To get mobile so that ready or not, I can be thrust back into the workplace, in a desperate bid to head off the wolves. To keep them at bay until I can begin earning my habitual wage.

Life is seldom if ever, fair. I have been trying to figure out who I ever pissed off in a past existence, to deserve such a karmic kick in the stones. Particularly at this late stage of my life. This ordeal has aged me, I fear. I can hear people whispering in the near future: "He was never quite the same after his last accident, you know? He just sorta slipped away after that...".

Yes as you know, I am stubborn... and obstinate, and ornery. I am so goddamn contrary that if I ever drowned in a river, you would have to go upstream to find my body! I am Navy proud and disciplined. But how much of that do I have left in me? That well can't be bottomless, I'm sure. I'm tired, folks...

So okay... Mark it on your calendars. It is Wednesday, 06 October 2010 and I am back on the blog. I'm sorry if this entry has not been my usually uplifting and humorous type of banter. Then again, my rants usually aren't either... :)

I promise to return to my normal entries at the next sitting. Really...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On "Twilight: Eclipse"...

Okay, so here's the thing... Over the weekend, my better half and I had ourselves a little 'movie marathon'. We attended a total of three movies over the weekend, consisting of Harry Brown, Despicable Me and Twilight: Eclipse.
Just for the record, Despicable Me: Very funny. Great writing and artwork.
Harry Brown: Awesome. Even if some might view it as a Brit version of Clint Eastwood's 'Gran Torino'. Michael Cain is brilliant and still very much at the top of his game.
Now... as for Twilight: Eclipse...

Right off the bat, (no pun intended...) I'm going to say that I had not seen any of the previous two 'Twilight' installments. My wife had attended one show while in Australia, along with her granddaughter. I suspect it was out of some sense of attachment to her, thet we went to see this latest offering. The whole plot line seemed silly, to be charitable and judging by the target audience these flicks were aimed at, I didn't hold out much hope for substance. As it turned out, I was not to be disappointed. While most fantasy movies rightfully ask that the viewers check their sense of disbelief at the door, this one asks that you leave your entire brain at home.

Now as you all know, I do not fancy myself a critic of movies. Like, at all. With that said, I am someone who grew up on a whole laundry list of good ol' vampire movies, so I'm pretty well-versed with the legend and lore. For any of you who are the least bit conversant with vampire mythology, you'll know why for me, this movie sucked from one end to the other. And it had nothing to do with the sucking of blood, which in this supposed vampire movie, was strangely lacking. For the most part, the 'good guy vampires' spent most of their on-screen time doing outfit changes and looking mildly annoyed.

The entire film is based on the premise of this young tart who is clearly jaded with her life as a 'mere mortal'. That very mindset assures this particular movie franchise a huge following amongst the overly-entitled, non-creative, dispirited youth of today. She has fallen in with both a 'clan' of vampires (who are so NOT vampires in any of the accepted descriptions provided over the last few centuries) and a 'clan' of werewolves, who are native North Americans and are actually shape-shifters and not werewolves per se. For as much as these werewolves are the size of small delivery trucks when they morph, they are woefully inadequate/savvy on the field of battle.

Our young heroine's quandry in this series, revolves around whether to marry her vampire love-interest (if that doesn't strike you as a gaping oxymoron, I don't know what would...), or let herself be seduced by the warm-blooded and generally shirtless young lad who poses as a werewolf. So her dilemma during the whole movie, is basically a choice between necrophilia and beastiality. In one scene, the leading lady and her blood-sucking Romeo are about to get down and do the nasty. He of course assumes the role of the moral guardian and declines her obvious wantonness. My spouse almost hit me when I explained it aloud for her and anyone else who might have been listening in: "He's dead. He has no heart... no heart, no pulse... No pulse, no blood flow... No blood flow, no hard-on. She ain't getting any, regardless...".

Then of course there was the 'vampires lolling about in the light of day' scenario. Anyone knows that exposure to direct sunlight for a vampire results in SHC (Spontaneous Human Combustion). These badly made-up refugees from the GAP? They emit like a shimmering 'glow'... almost like the light sweat found on a prom queen's thigh. "Could this possibly get any gayer???", I asked myself. Oh yes, it did. Turns out that these young lotharios attend the local high school... in broad daylight. As do their equally palid yet very trendily attired female counterparts. And of course, none of the other 'normal' kids notice a thing. That is the one aspect of this movie that I actually found believable. The whole movie was kind of like 90210 meets the Breakfast Club, meets De Grassi High, meets The Count on Sesame Street... (Except De Grassi had far better writing and acting).

In the end, campy vampires and ersatz-werewolves band together to fight an army of rampaging 'newbloods', which have been mobilized by some vampire super-bitch, who has an axe to grind with our movie's vampire hero. Apparently the latter offed her mate in one of the preceding episodes of this saga.

There are probably many scenarios in life that could stand to be 'romanticized' and which might leave us all the better for it. This is certainly not one of them. While many writers have taken 'creative liberties' when it comes to the definition and character of such mythological beings as vampires, et al... none have stooped to rendering them so bland, mindless and pitiful as these brand-conscious wannabes are portrayed. If you're looking for a shot of anything stimulating, you can safely pass this one by. This one is more a giant overdose of brain pablum, a true study in pre-pubescent shmaltz. If you're over twelve years old, you'll likely find this intellectually insulting.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On Sable Island...

The decision back in May of 2010 to accord Sable Island the designation of a National Park, showed a fair degree of insight and good judgement by our federal government. This designation however, seems to have been severely misinterpreted by a vast segment of the Canadian populace. All of a sudden, we are contending with all these calls and e-mails from people who want to visit Sable Island. Like it's suddenly some kind of theme park...

The following information is courtesy of the Sable Island Green Horse Society:

Sable Island is a sand bar - 42 km long and roughly 1.5 km wide - located far offshore, approximately 160 km southeast of Canso (300km from Halifax...), Nova Scotia, the nearest landfall. The island has been the focus of human activities, imagination and speculation for roughly 500 years. Shipwrecks, wild horses, seabirds and seals, and inaccessibility have endowed this narrow wind-swept sliver of sand with a special mystique. The island is the subject of extensive scientific research and of numerous documentary films, books and magazine articles.

Although most people traveling to Sable Island are those involved in operations or science, others have been able to visit. There is no formalized tourism, however, small numbers of people – including politicians and dignitaries, artists, news media, and people simply interested in seeing the landscape and its flora and fauna - have traveled to the Island. The latter includes individuals and groups who have organized their own trips, or have won the opportunity in a lottery or purchased it at a charity auction. Such events have been held to benefit worthy organizations such as Clean Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. During an average year about 50 to 100 people visit Sable Island (not including those involved in unintended “visits” necessitated by accident or emergency).

Regulations respecting the administration of Sable Island are the
Sable Island Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act. All visitors must obtain permission from the Canadian Coast Guard.

The following provides some details pertinent to visitors, which also generally apply to people visiting Sable Island as part of the operational and scientific programs. Anyone considering a visit to Sable Island should refer to “Sable Island Policies and Procedures”, available from Canadian Coast Guard.


Request for permission to visit Sable Island must be made in writing to the Director of Marine Programs (Canadian Coast Guard, see Contacts, below), and the request must include the details regarding the purpose of the visit, mode of transportation to/from the Island (type of aircraft or vessel), the number of people in the party (and their names and addresses), the anticipated arrival and departure dates, and requirements for logistical support on the Island.

Accommodations & Logistical Support

The Sable Island Station, administered by the Meteorological Service of Canada (Environment Canada), provides the year-round infrastructure for all programs conducted on the Island. Although support of operational, scientific and conservation activities is the primary role of the facility, the Station also provides support for visitors. Arrangements for logistical support on the Island can be made by contacting the Operations Manager (Sable Island Station, see Contacts, below).

Logistical support must be organized well in advance because availability varies depending on operational requirements and programs underway. Camping is not permitted on Sable Island. Visitors who have obtained authorization for overnight stays must arrange for accommodations at the Station. The Station has no vehicles for rent, but visitors may be able to charter a Station vehicle and driver, subject to operational requirements.

The Station is equipped with a variety of radio and satellite communications systems, similarly available for use by visitors subject to operational requirements. Visitors are expected to be as self-sufficient as possible, and fees are applicable to any services required (see Fee Schedule, below). Station activities have priority and visitors are permitted on site only as long as they abide by Station procedures and guidelines.


Once permission to visit Sable Island is obtained, visitors would usually organize their own transportation to/from the Island (charter aircraft or boat; or private boat). In recent years, the most common modes of transport for visitors have been fixed-wing aircraft chartered through Maritime Air Charter Ltd (the only fixed-wing charter service to the Island, see Contacts, below), and private boat.

Air and sea travel to and from Sable Island can be confounded by weather, sea state, mechanical and personnel problems, and offshore emergencies. For the fixed-wing aircraft the most common causes of delay are poor weather conditions (either in Halifax or on the Island) or lack of a landing area on the Island. Cruise ships have encountered difficulties with weather and surf conditions, and of the fourteen such ships that have come to Sable Island, ten had to sail away without having landed their passengers on the Island.

Most boats and cruise ships visit Sable in July and August. August through October offer the most favourable conditions for travel by air. Throughout the year the normal delay due to weather or beach conditions is a day or two. However, flights are occasionally delayed much longer, and visitors must be prepared with enough supplies, and a healthy attitude, to deal with such delays.

Maritime Air Charter Limited uses a Britten-Norman Islander, a fixed-wing aircraft designed for short distance take-offs and landings. Some visitors come as groups of five or six persons for a “day-trip”. The Islander’s payload is 485 kg (1070 lbs), so when a party of people arranges to use the Islander, they must consider their combined body weight and strike a balance between number of people and amount of baggage. All flights – fixed-wing and helicopter - depart from the Halifax International Airport. Depending on the direction and strength of winds, the air travel time between Sable Island and the airport is between 1.25 to 1.50 hours.

In addition to the aircraft charter costs, visitors should expect other charges associated with the landing on the Island as well as any required ground support provided by the Station.

Briefings & Cautions

On arrival, a briefing will be provided for all visitors regarding environmental issues and restrictions; persons staying at the Station will also be briefed on facilities and emergency procedures (fire alarms etc).

ZL is occasionally available to provide environmental briefings, and, if visitors are interested, ZL will take them for a walkabout, providing explanation of the Island’s landscape, flora and fauna, and personal introductions to some of the Island’s four-footed residents.

Sable Island is remote and isolated, and is at times inaccessible. Commercial and medical services normally provided on the mainland are not available on the Island. Although Sable Island is not a highly hostile environment, there are many natural hazards associated with weather, surf, flooding and high tides, unstable terrain, beach conditions and soft sand, and wildlife. Visitors must be cautious, and they should consult Station staff for advice regarding their proposed activities. Anyone using a vehicle or working alone should carry a hand-held marine VHF radio or cell phone, and make arrangements for emergency support.

With travel delays common, and no health services available, medical problems can be aggravated and become life-threatening situations on Sable Island. Visitors must be financially prepared to assume the cost of chartering aircraft for medical evacuation or other emergencies.


Still feel like heading out to explore Sable Island? By all means, be my guest. But don't assume the Canadian Coast Guard will sail or fly you out there and then cater to your needs once you're there. After all... it ain't Six Flags.

Sable Island Fees Schedule:

Aircraft Landing (Includes transportation to main station area)
Fixed Wing $500 each
Helicopter $200 each

*** NOTE: The landing fees DO NOT INCLUDE the price of your flight.


Diesel $1.55 per liter
Gasoline $2.60 per liter
Propane (emergencies only) $150/cylinder

Electricity $1.48 per Kwh

Vehicles (1 hour minimum, plus driver at labour rate)

Crew-cab Pickup $90 per hour
Gator utility vehicle $40 per hour
Bombardier tracked vehicle $140 per hour
Tractor $85 per hour
Loader $85 per hour

Accommodations $300 per person per night
Access to station food supplies $55 per person per day


Mon–Sat, 0800–1630 $90 per hour
Outside of normal hours $135 per hour
Sundays $180 per hour
Callout (less than 4 hrs notice) Minimum of 3 hours at applicable rate

Communications Services

Fax $5 + $1 per page
Phone $1 per minute
Cell call $2 per minute
Internet Access $0.50 per minute

Waste Processing and Disposal

Burnable waste $0.50 per pound
Recyclable waste No charge if properly prepared
Non-burnable, non-recyclable $0.60 per pound
Hazardous material $1.50 per pound

Freight Storage and Handling $1 per day per Kg

All charges must be paid with cash, traveller's cheques, or credit card (Visa /MasterCard).

Personal cheques are not accepted.

A copy of the Canadian Coast Guard's Sable Island Visitor's Guide is available in PDF format at the link below:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A trip in the country...

Last weekend was pretty much a peach as far as the weather went. It was a little on the warm side if anything, but certainly not too hot to enjoy a ride out in the countryside to see my daughter and her hubby. I find that when the air is hot and humid, it does a better job of carrying the scents of trees and flowers. It's simply the best time of all for riding, as far as sensory perception goes. Fall riding may be the overall champion by far, but hot summer riding has a special place of it's own in my heart.

It was early afternoon as I flashed up Baby and headed down the Anderson Road. I was being bad, as I opted to leave my riding jacket home. It was just too hot to consider wearing one. Baby hummed along as we threaded our way along the back roads which would lead us to Bank Street, also known as CR 31. I took my time, enjoying the feel of the wind against my body. I made a mental note to look for a lighter pair of riding gloves... something that wouldn't make my hands sweat in these temperatures.

Before long, I was turning off onto John Quinn Road, past the llama farm and toodling down the two-lane blacktop, watching for deer. I hooked up with the 31 just North of Snake Island Road. There is a little, black Yamaha cruiser which rests under a shade tree there. It looks so forlorn sitting there, with it's little 'For Sale' sign pasted to it's windshield... I keep thinking it would be a perfect first bike for my better half... The coast was clear so we wheeled left onto the 31 and headed South for Winchester.

Even though this road is still a two-lane road, the pace of traffic is a little brisker here. Nothing under 100kmh, unless there's nobody else riding your tail. I tend to like going a bit slower, as you never know when a critter is going to decide to make a guest appearance in your day. I was fortunate in that the traffic was relatively light and I wasn't forced outside my comfort zone, speed-wise. I stopped at the Timmie's in Winchester for a short water break.

As I pulled in to the parking lot, there were several 'Hardly-Dangerous' riders who were involved in an animated discussion. I noted that they were from 'The Dark Side' and after I leaned Baby onto her jiffy stand, nodded at a couple nearest me. They turned away, rather than engage in a conversation. No sweat off my back... I'm used to bumping into pretend riders by now. I'm sure that for riders from Gatineau/Hull, making it to Winchester must seem like a really long ride. Yeah, right... I just ignored 'em. Their friends were hard at work, trying to impress one another with tales of how many overpriced, bolt-on, genuine H-D parts they had added to their rolling boat anchors. The funny part was that they seemed to believe that some people actually cared about that shit...

I gave my little girl a call and provided her with a sitrep on my progress, before downing the remainder of my water bottle. I was glad that I had brought a couple of bottles with me today, although a black leather saddlebag does not make for a really great cooler. I heaved Baby off her jiffy stand and we lit out of there. I only had a short jaunt from there to reach the Little Nation Road. Heading South once more on the 32, we arced over the overpass which sweeps gracefully to the left. I always like the view from this vantage point. It's all very country and farmland.
Before long I was threading my way along the side road which would take me across the Little Nation River and to my daughter's homestead. Arriving there, I backed the bike into the top part of their driveway and dismounted. I was greeted by a series of incredibly loud cock's crows. My daughter and Matt met me outside and I was taken for a tour of the shed, where they had quartered the mama duck and her brood. As we passed through the entrance, I could hear the loud humming emanating from what was left of the recently-discovered beehive. Best not to piss them guys off...
The ducklings were just too cute. There were 12 of them all bustling around their mama. Their resident rooster, Walter (named after Walter Cronkite, due to his stern demeanor...) made a guest appearance to check out the new arrival in the coop (me). He was the one I had heard as I arrived. We then sat and chatted for a little bit outside, before being forced to retreat inside by the relentless sun. It was much cooler indoors and we busied ourselves checking out sailing sites and viewing pictures of a recently renovated property of theirs.
We chatted about their recent interest in sailing and 'the life nautical', as it were. They are weighing their options with regards to abandoning their life on land, in favour of one on the water. There was plenty of discussion of things to consider, recent innovations for living aboard and stories of those who had made the transition. It was a very enjoyable visit. As I was leaving, Matt showed up with his camera and took a few shots. It was very nice of him to do so, as I had been whining about not having any shots of me and Baby. I even got to do a ride-by with a little parade wave which he captured perfectly.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ride back home. The air was sultry and warm and the breeze created by Baby and I thundering along the blacktop was just perfect. Another by-product of the air being so warm... less bugs. After I arrived back home and housed Baby in the shop, it took less than 5 minutes of cleaning to have her back in showroom condition. The rest of the evening was spent in air-conditioned bliss...

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Rifleman's Creed.

About a month ago (June 10th) I posted an article on the blog entitled: "My Bike". In it, I wrote an 'hommage' to the Rifleman's Creed.

For those interested, this brief entry will lay it out for you:

The Rifleman's Creed (also known as My Rifle and The Creed of the United States Marine) is a part of basic United States Marine Corps doctrine. Major General William H. Rupertus wrote it during World War II, probably in late 1941 or early 1942. All Marines learn the creed at recruit training and they are expected to live by it. Different, more concise versions of the creed have developed since its early days, but those closest to the original version remain the most widely accepted.

"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A culture of suicide...

Dr Babar Awan denies any wrongdoing on the ground that he cannot be blamed for keeping a tradition alive. - Photo by APP.

I found this article in today's (Pakistan):

A culture of suicide
By I. A. Rehman
Thursday, 08 Jul, 2010

Quite a few recent happenings have thrown light on the kinds of disaster Pakistan courts as a consequence of its adherence to what can only be described as the culture of commitment to suicide.

A considerable stir was caused among the uninitiated when an honourable member of parliament pooh-poohed civil society’s concern and anger at incidents of suicide commonly attributed to the absence of livelihood. Everybody who had access to the media went hammer and tongs for the pir known for his felicity in changing political gaddis and ignored the fact that he was merely articulating a hallowed cultural norm.

He argued that neither society nor the state had anything do with a desperate Pakistani’s decision to kill his children before destroying himself. All this and matters related to poverty revealed the will of the Almighty and humans had no business to question or interfere with His order of things.

It should not have been difficult to see that the honourable parliamentarian was only elaborating one of the Pakistani elite’s main cultural traits — the culture of denial. This norm was adopted first by the elite in nearly all fields of life — politics, warfare, economy, academics and even theology — and has been turned, through centuries of practice, into an essential pillar of belief by the commoners too.

Thus, we the Pakistanis have never done anything wrong. If we ever lost a war the reason lay in the enemy’s perfidy or the duplicity of a traitor in our ranks. All our miseries in pre-partition India were the result of a malevolent alliance against us by the British and the Hindu and at the global scale we are innocent victims of the conspiracies continually hatched by ahle-Hunud-o-Yahood. We had no part in pushing East Bengal out of Pakistan; this was achieved by a ruler who drank and womanised and who was helped by the Soviets and India. Those who are killing people in mosques and shrines are not from us, they are aliens unleashed by hostile external forces.

Pakistanis do not even hesitate to deny their part in their biggest accomplishment, the creation of Pakistan, and blame Congress for this, and this theory gathers more and more supporters as the people see their condition becoming increasingly unbearable. No, we are not responsible for people’s poverty and for making a mess of almost everything. And apart from a distorted interpretation of the belief in a pre-ordained world, there is great material advantage in blaming Providence for all our follies, excesses and misadventures.

When in the early years of independence, the much-maligned progressive activists started reminding the rulers of their pledges regarding land reforms, they were accused of daring to interfere with a heavenly designed system. (This was much before the honourable judges of the highest Shariat court in the country decreed that land reform was un-Islamic.) So strong was the rich landlords’ hold on the minds and bodies of the victims of their exploitation that the latter gleefully threw stones at the organisers of land-for-the-tiller rallies.

If anybody ventured to protest against inequality, old and venerable teachers would raise their fingers and declare ‘khudawand punj angusht yaksan no kard’! Since the fingers on the hand of a human being were not equal in length, this was offered as conclusive proof that God had enjoined inequality! An argument in favour of pluralism was turned into a sanction for inequality. That culture endures.

The variety of patterns of behaviour the culture of denial creates is endless. Dr Babar Awan denies any wrongdoing on his part as he crisscrosses the land in his search for cash-starved tehsil bar associations on the ground that he cannot be blamed for keeping a tradition alive. This is only a small illustration of democrats’ repudiation of their duties and commitments by taking shelter under precedents established by dictators.

Incidentally, the PML-N’s display of anger at the flights of the minister with a purse bulging with public money is also a form of denial — denial of the possibility that the gentleman under attack could be the opposition’s secret weapon operating behind government trenches.

Another aspect of the culture of denial can be seen in the 18th Amendment committee’s denial of the Pakistan Bar Council’s authorship of the proposal for a judicial commission for the appointment of judges. It is difficult to believe that Mr Raza Rabbani and his esteemed colleagues were unaware of the Pakistan Bar Council’s trail-blazing resolution on the subject.

Much before the Charter of Democracy was signed, on April 29, 2000 to be exact, the Pakistan Bar Council, under the guidance of the stalwarts of the lawyers’ movement for the independence of the judiciary, had called for the establishment of a ‘judicial commission’ for making appointments to the superior judiciary.

And they were quite generous in accommodating non-judges/parliamentarians in the commission. The body proposed by the bar council was to include: the chief justice of Pakistan (as the chairman), two most senior judges of the Supreme Court, the four chief justices of the high courts, the vice-chair of the Pakistan Bar Council, the president of the Supreme Court Bar, the four presidents of the high court bar associations at the principal seats, an MNA nominated by the prime minister and another nominated by the leader of the opposition, and one senator from each province. The committee on the 18th Amendment betrayed its adherence to the culture of denial by depriving the bar council of the credit due to it.

The most salient feature of the political culture of denial is the tendency to belabour the rival parties for actions and intentions for which the accusers also could be held liable. This attitude is based on the denial of the people’s right to individual as well as a collective memory. The biggest risk in persisting with the culture of denial is that nations unable to give up this habit cannot escape extinction. The culture of denial in its final form becomes a death-wish, a culture of commitment to suicide.

Pakistan will not be able to begin its journey out of the woods unless the people (because the elite everywhere is incorrigible) start accepting responsibility for what they do to themselves and to others and for every ailment that afflicts the state and society — be it poverty, terrorism, corruption, separatism or anything else that replaces the joy of living with a nightmare and a curse.

Clearly there are sentient, intelligent, educated, forward-thinking people in this country. Unfortunately there are simply not enough of them or they do not occupy any positions of responsibility and/or influence. We do certainly agree however on his particular description regarding the so-called 'elite'. Of ANY country...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On the real plight of dolphins...

About 2 months ago I happened to rent the movie: The Cove.

It was a compelling and very well produced movie which centered on just one of Japan's dolphin exploitation programs, in the tiny village of Taiji.

I could try my hand at critiquing the movie, but I will let Justin Lowe of the Hollywood Reporter do that for me, as he pretty much nails it:

Until I had seen that movie, it had never occurred to me (simplistic moron that I had been...) that all those dolphins in these burgeoning 'swim-with-the-dolphins' concentration camps, had to come from somewhere... Strange... I had always shied away from contributing to them when I was in tropical locales. To me it felt like being asked to pay to view the local prisoners...

This article from the New York Times probably puts things into context better than I could. Notably when you consider the person they're quoting:

Santa Lucía Journal; Flipper's Trainer in Crusade Against Dolphin Exploitation
Published: July 3, 2001

SANTA LUCÍA DE MILPAS ALTAS, Guatemala— When the sun sets over this town, Turbo and Ariel leap into the air in a ritual that dolphins have known for millions of years.

Their thick, slick bodies arc gracefully through the cool mountain air in a moment of fleeting freedom before they resume their current reality: swimming circles inside a training pool that is 40 feet across.

The two were abandoned in late May by the owner of Latin America's last traveling dolphin show after the Guatemalan authorities expressed suspicion that the pair had been captured illegally in coastal waters.

Their plight, animal and conservation advocates said, is a sad result of the brisk business in capturing dolphins who are trained to perform tricks or give swim-along rides in a rapidly increasing number of Caribbean and Central American resorts.

The rapid growth of those shows, animal advocates say, has been spurred by their success in American aquatic theme parks and by the fact that tourists are willing to pay $100 or more to cling to a dolphin and glide through a pool.

Though the shows and swim-alongs are promoted as having educational or even therapeutic benefits for humans, animal welfare advocates say they are little more than prisons for the dolphins, which have been displayed in such odd places as a Swiss disco and a Canadian mall.

''Dolphins in the mountains,'' said Ric O'Barry, as he watched Turbo and Ariel swim slowly in their pool here. ''That's bizarre.''

He should know. Mr. O'Barry made his name training the five dolphins that starred in the ''Flipper'' television series.

But he has been an ardent opponent of shows featuring captive dolphins ever since one of the ''Flipper'' dolphins died in his arms more than 30 years ago.

He has been asked by the Guatemalan government to return Turbo and Ariel to the wild -- the first time any Central America nation has rescued illegally captured dolphins. In doing so he will not only give the dolphins the freedom they briefly savor in their leaps but will also earn a bit of absolution for his past.

''I learned a lot about dolphins,'' Mr. O'Barry said of the years he spent working on the popular 1960's television show. ''I caught them, trained them, watched them give birth to babies, and I put them in the ground when they died. I did everything but turn them loose.''

These are busy times for Mr. O'Barry, who spent 30 years heading his own protest group, the Dolphin Project, before becoming a consultant to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, a London-based coalition of 400 conservation and preservation groups.

While the society has returned some captive dolphins to the wild, it has focused its efforts on a campaign against the dolphin shows popping up at hotels, resorts and aquatic theme parks.

In recent months, parks have opened or been announced in the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Tortola and Anguilla and in the Dominican Republic. Many of them offer programs in which guests are allowed to swim with the dolphins.

At Manatí Park in the Dominican Republic, Mr. O'Barry said, up to 200 tourists a day pay $100 for a brief dip with the dolphins.

''It's just New Age snake oil,'' he said. ''The Dominican swim program is the worst. The dolphins are overworked. People go to these places and think it's a great experience. They pay 100 bucks. The dolphin pays with its life. They are just there to amuse an endless stream of people.''

Many of the animals for those programs, conservation advocates contend, are obtained on the black market from fishermen, who are paid a few hundred dollars for each dolphin, or legally from Mexico or Cuba, where a trained dolphin can be sold for as much as $130,000.

''We want Ariel and Turbo to be a banner for something larger than just their own individual salvation,'' said Gerardo Huertas, the Latin America director for the World Society for the Protection of Animals. ''They represent what is happening in Mexico, the U.S. and South America in a big business.''

None of this would have happened, Mr. O'Barry said, had it not been for the success of dolphin shows and swimming programs in the United States at places like Seaworld or the Miami Seaquarium. Mr. O'Barry used to work at the Seaquarium during his ''Flipper'' days, and he sometimes returns there to protest.

A spokeswoman for the Miami Seaquarium declined to comment on Mr. O'Barry. Brad Andrews, vice president of zoological operations at Seaworld, said Mr. O'Barry had no credibility as an expert.

''He doesn't know what he's talking about,'' Mr. Andrews said. ''We educate people. We spend millions of dollars a year in conservation. We have many guests who want to experience this in a controlled, safe environment.''

Mr. O'Barry says the notion that the programs have educational value is as illusory as the dolphin's famed smile.

''It's about jobs and money,'' he said. ''They say they want to educate people to protect the dolphins. Protect them from whom? It is inherently hypocritical to destroy their quality of life to enhance ours.''

He added that keeping dolphins captive anywhere -- be it a five-star park in the United States or a small pen in Latin America -- subjected the animals to sensory deprivation inside a concrete tank.

''They are self-aware animals that make decisions and choices,'' he said. ''They're entitled to freedom of choice. Thus they are entitled to freedom.'' And, he added, his group intends to let the captors know that ''the porch light is on and somebody is home.''

No one was home, though, until four weeks ago at the hillside complex here where Turbo and Ariel were trained by Rubén Roca. He owns Mundo Marino in Venezuela, which is a theme park as well as the home base for his traveling dolphin show.

He and several trainers rented the house along the road between Guatemala City and Antigua and dug a 40-foot hole, which they lined with plastic and filled with water. Originally, four dolphins were taken there to learn how to jump through hoops, stand on their tails or play with balls.

Earlier this year, when Mr. Roca wanted to send two of the dolphins back to Venezuela, Guatemalan wildlife authorities arrived to check the paperwork, as required by their laws and international treaties.

They found that the papers for the two other dolphins were in order, but discovered some irregularities with the papers for Turbo and Ariel.

While Mr. Roca, who could not be reached for comment, told the authorities that the two had been caught legally in Honduras, the Guatemalan authorities suspected that they had been caught illegally and began legal proceedings.

Mr. Roca fled Guatemala about a month ago, leaving Turbo and Ariel stranded in the 12-foot-deep pool, whose filter was barely working. A local environmental group contacted the world society, which ultimately was given permission by the Guatemalan government to rehabilitate the dolphins and set them free.

''The dolphins were underweight and dehydrated and suffering from ammonia toxicity after swimming in their own waste,'' said Juan Carlos Murillo, a veterinarian with the society. ''They were behaving erratically, and the water was dirty. We got here just in time, because they couldn't take it much longer.''

Mr. O'Barry now spends his days feeding the dolphins 30 pounds each of snapper and butterfish and observing their behavior. Assistants have prepared a nylon net and will soon use it to lift them onto stretchers and place them in padded boxes before flying them by helicopter to a large pen nestled in a bay on Guatemala's Caribbean coast.

There, Mr. O'Barry and his wife will begin to wean them off people and a diet of dead fish, hoping their natural hunting behavior will be rekindled.

His critics have said that not all captive dolphins can or should be released, since they lose the ability to forage for food and defend themselves after becoming accustomed to humans. In the late 1990's, Mr. O'Barry and an associate were fined $59,000 by the federal government for improperly releasing two dolphins that were later found in poor condition.

Mr. O'Barry disputes that claim, but said he paid the fine -- a sum raised through a benefit concert by his musician friend Jerry Jeff Walker -- rather then spend years and more money on legal fees.

Mr. O'Barry, who says he has returned 14 dolphins to the wild in the last 30 years, said he would not release the animals unless he was sure they were disease-free and able to be independent. As for not being an expert, the man who trained the dolphin known all over the world just laughed.

''They've called me a terrorist, said I don't have a biology degree or that I'm not a veterinarian,'' he said. ''I say, Ray Charles can't read music. That about sums up my attitude.''


So maybe the next time you're down South and your travel company's rep is briefing you on the fun attractions of your particular resort, when he tells you about how you can swim with the dolphins, maybe you can tell him to take a huge bite out of your ass.

Or maybe better yet, maybe before you book your flight, ask him if your particular resort has a dolphin encounter feature.

When he says: "Yes!!", tell him that you're sure as fuck NOT gonna book with them... Not until they clean up their act and cut themselves loose from that sordid business!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A special place in Hell...

I am not a 'religious' man. I do not put stock in the existence of Heaven and Hell, or in the existence of any man-made deities for that matter. The Late J.C., Mohammad, Allah, Yaveh, Buddah, Krishna... they're all, without exception, fairy tales invented by those who are unwilling to accept their own mortality. We are the only animal on this planet which denies the basic reality of our own ephemeral lives. I also believe that we make our very own Heaven and Hell, right here on this Big Blue Orb of ours. The life you make for yourself, is in fact your own heaven or hell.

With that having been said, if I did believe in Hell, much like many of you probably do, I would also desperately want to believe that there was a very special place there, reserved specifically for the following types of people.

Read on if you dare and if the picture for this article isn't enough. If you are a dog lover like myself, you may have trouble accepting what you are about to read.

Be forewarned!!

Dogs Used as Shark Bait on French Island
By Maryann Mott for
National Geographic News
October 19, 2005

Live and dead dogs and cats are being used as shark bait by amateur fishers on the French-controlled island of La Réunion, according to animal-welfare organizations and local authorities.

The small volcanic island off Africa's east coast is bursting with stray dogs—upward of 150,000, says Reha Hutin, president of the Paris-based Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis (the Thirty Million Friends Foundation).

Hutin sent a film crew to Réunion this summer to obtain proof that live animals were being used as shark bait. The goal was to expose the practice on the animal rights group's weekly television show.

It didn't take long for the film crew to find three separate cases, she said.

A videotape and photographs show the dogs with multiple hooks sunk deep into their paws and snouts.

"From then on everyone started to take the whole story seriously and realized it was true," Hutin said.

Photographic Evidence.

A veterinarian successfully treated one of the canines, a six-month-old dog with a large fishhook through its snout (see photo), at an SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux, or Animal Protective Society) clinic in Réunion's capital, St.-Denis.

Unlike most of the hooked animals, the dog was someone's pet, according to Saliha Hadj-Djilani, a reporter for the Thirty Million Friends Foundation's TV program. The dog had apparently escaped its captors and was taken to the SPA by a concerned citizen. Fully recovered, the animal is now home with its owners.

The other two cases uncovered by Thirty Million Friends were strays. They now live in France with new owners.

The foundation plans to finance a sterilization program on the island to reduce the stray overpopulation. But the job won't be easy.

Hutin said many locals view the strays as vermin. "There's no value to the life of a dog there," she said.

Practice Not Widespread.

Stephanie Roche of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, another animal-welfare group in Paris, confirmed that live animals are used as bait on Réunion. But, she said, it is not a common practice.

The Bardot organization has been fighting the practice for a decade. But this is the first time Réunion politicians have reacted strongly and swiftly to stop it, Roche said

Last month, it became illegal for fishing boats to carry any live or dead dogs or cats.

The French Embassy in Washington, D.C., issued a written statement condemning the use of dogs as shark bait, emphasizing that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated in the French territory.

The embassy maintains these are "very isolated cases and authorities on the island are closely monitoring the situation."

Earlier this month the first court case was held involving a person charged with using live dogs as bait.

Authorities had found a seven-month-old puppy on John Claude Clain's property in July with three fishing hooks in its paws and snout.

Clain, a 51-year-old bread deliveryperson, was found guilty of animal cruelty and fined 5,000 euros (U.S. $5,982), according to Clicanoo, a Réunion newspaper.

The amateur fisher said he did not use the puppy as bait. Instead, Clain said, the dog had been injured by a trap he had set to protect his hens, the paper reported.

Clain's case isn't an isolated one, said Fabienne Jouve of GRAAL (Groupement de Réflexion et d'Action pour l'Animal, or the Grouping of Reflection and Action for Animals), an animal rights organization based in Charenton-le-Pont, France.

"Lately, almost every week, one dog has been found with hooks on the island, not counting the cats found on the beaches partially eaten by the sharks," Jouve said.

Once fishers capture the animals, she said, the dogs and cats are hooked "the day before, so they can bleed sufficiently."

Some escape before being tossed into the ocean. Others aren't so lucky.

After hooks are plunged into their paws and/or snouts, the animals are attached to inflatable tubes with fishing line and dumped into the ocean, Clicanoo, the newspaper, reports.

To avoid detection fishers place their bait in the middle of the night, according to the newspaper account. In the morning the men return to see if a shark has been caught.

"Barbaric practices have no excuses, whatsoever, in the 21st century," GRAAL's Jouve said.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Friday Harbor, Washington State, is offering a U.S. $1,000 reward to any Réunion police officer who arrests anyone using live dogs or cats as bait for sharks.

Both the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the United Kingdom and the Thirty Million Friends Foundation are asking animal lovers to sign a petition urging the French government to step up enforcement of laws against the use of live dogs as bait.


You know... if we as a species are in fact headed towards our own self-generated extinction, it's probably for the best. Christ... could you see unleashing this brand of sickness on an unsuspecting galaxy? Those fucking creatures in the 'Alien' series, have nothing on us humans. And we're not fictional... To be fair this article first appeared in October of 2005 as the heading up above indicates. I am doing some investigating of my own to see if this absolutely horrific practise has been successfully snuffed out in La Réunion.

I will definitely keep you posted on this one...


Update: 09 July 2010...

I e-mailed the French animal advocacy group 30 Millions d'Amis (30 Million Friends), asking them about an update on the situation in La Réunion.

I cited that on their website, they proclaimed that after them raising a petition with some 800,000 signatures, the prefecture of La Réunion on the 06 September 2005, issued a decree which "henceforth forbade the detention of all domestic carnivores, either alive or dead, aboard vessels registered in La Réunion".

I commented that the way the law was written, it provided loopholes for the unscrupulous. The law does not apply to either unregistered vessels or vessels which are registered in other territories. I asked them point-blank as to whether any follow-up had been done with regards to this situation, to ensure this practise had well and truly been stopped. I am currently awaiting an answer.

I also wrote an e-mail to the representatives of La Réunion themselves, asking the very same question. I am also awaiting an answer from them. Their government and tourism websites do mention the phenomenon of the 'Errant Dogs', but no mention has been made of any progressive program which might begin to address the control of these huge numbers of strays.

I will post further on this if I hear anything at all...

Monday, July 5, 2010

A discovery in NY State... Harrigan House

Saturday was the type of day that totally validates our belief in the serendipitous. We headed out to the New York State side at about 1015hrs. We really wanted to see something different this time around, though. The weather was beautiful, hot and sunny. We drove with the windows open and a cool breeze blasting through the SUV.Our first surprise came as we came off the Cornwall bridge and through US Customs. There were no cars lined up... It was pretty amazing. We breezed through customs and headed for the Mall in Massena first off.

I picked up 2 road maps (one for New York State and another for New England) and a new pair of shades.

As we made our way out of Massena, we decided to head Northeast to Malone along Hwy.37. It was a trip I hadn't made before and any new road is bound to be a good road, in my books. When I travel, I always try to take in as much as I can. The scenery, the smells, the architecture, the feel of an area... I use all these to gauge whether or not this would be a route worth retracing on a motorcycle. In this case it was a resounding 'Yes!'.

From Malone we figured we'd head to Potsdam via the 11 South. We toyed with the idea of striking out for the Adirondacks for a spell, but we had been errant children that morning and had left much too late to consider such far-ranging thoughts. Not to worry, we would tuck that idea away for future reference... As we left Malone and proceded down State Rte.11 South, about 4 miles into it, we drove through the little burgh of North Bangor. It was there that we spied the most charming bed & breakfast.

The Harrigan House as it was named, is the home and property of Daniel Benware and his wife Barb. I was so struck by it that after we had driven past the first time, I asked my wife to turn back, so that we might get a shot of it. She parked a short distance from the driveway, so that I might cross the street and get a clear shot of the building's front. It had a long and deep verandah along the front, on which Daniel and Barb just happened to be taking a well-deserved rest. We struck up a conversation and before you knew it, I was calling my wife over to meet these newfound friends of ours.

They invited us to join them in a tour of the property, of which they were justifiably proud. Daniel was also the groundskeeper and the front garden, along with the immense and beautifully planned back garden areas, were a testament to his abilities and creativity. The way their home presented itself to those passing by, was as a purely quintessential piece of Americana. It was absolutely iconic of the time and the area in which it was first built. An evergreen turned into a bonsai tree, archways skillfully crafted through hedges, a wonderful assortment of shade trees and decorative flowers and plants... all against the backdrop of a lush, green and well-manicured lawn.

Around back in their 'small garden', was where we were informed that breakfast was served in the morning. Breakfast prepared by the way, on an old wood stove which sat in an alcove just steps away. What a wonderful setting in which their guests could begin their day. I could definitely see myself here in my housecoat, pyjamas and slippers...

We were then invited to tour the inside of the house, if we so felt like it. I was quite taken with the house's exterior, I can tell you. I certainly wanted to get a look at the inside as well. Dan and Barb had been living in this house for the last 31 years. I believe they have only been running it as a B&B for the last few years now. The interior, both their personal quarters and the guests rooms, were absolutely exquisite. Many of the furnishings harken back to an earlier day and are well in step with the vintage of the house itself. The overall feeling is one of comfort, or permanence, of a home.

I could go on at length, but I will content myself with leaving the link for their fantastic abode. We will be going back there in the very near future, this time as overnighters.
From our stop in North Bangor, we carried on along Rte 11 South. It is such a lovely road and one I certainly intend returning to with 'Baby'. It was another 32 miles until we reached the outskirts of Potsdam. By this time, we were starting to feel peckish. We parked the SUV along their main drag and set out on foot for a local eatery. Lo and behold, we found ourselves entering the local Pizza Hut and being hustled to a booth.

I ordered some wings (which were delish, I gotta tell you...), while my better half ordered a 'personal veggie pan pizza'. The food was great and so was the service. My wife ordered a little (5oz) bottle of Barefoot Wine (a Chardonnay if I remember correctly...), which just about put her on her ass. It was the funniest thing. She handed me the keys to the SUV and drowned her shame in a plate of Chocolate Dunkers, complete with Hershey's chocolate dunking sauce. We made our way giggling to the SUV and headed out of town.

We embarked on State Rte. 56 North, which was another very pleasant road in the countryside. It took us all the way to Massena and the bridge back Cornwall. The remainder of the trip home was uneventful, other than spying the odd deer along the edge of the CR 138. We pulled into our driveway at 2 minutes past nine. It was still daylight outside. What a wonderful day we had had. New discoveries, new friends and plenty of fresh ideas for future travels. Life is just never, ever boring...

Friday, July 2, 2010

It makes you want to shake them...

This article comes from Pakistan's today...

Pakistanis blame US after shrine attack in Lahore
Friday, 02 Jul, 2010

LAHORE: Pakistanis lashed out Friday at the US, blaming its alliance with their government and its presence in Afghanistan for spurring two suicide bombers to kill 41 people at the country's most important shrine.

The reactions showed the challenge facing Washington and the Pakistani government when it comes to rallying public support against the extremism that has scarred the South Asian nation, even after an audacious attack.

On Friday, few Pakistanis interviewed saw militants at the root of the problem.

''America is killing Muslims in Afghanistan and in our tribal areas (with missile strikes), and militants are attacking Pakistan to express anger against the government for supporting America,'' said Zahid Umar, 25, who frequently visits the shrine.

Pakistanis are suffering because of American policies and aggression in the region, said Mohammed Asif, 34, who runs an auto workshop in Lahore. He and others said the attacks would end if the US would pull out of Afghanistan.

Washington ''is encouraging Indians and Jews to carry out attacks'' in Pakistan, said Arifa Moen, 32, a teacher in the central city of Multan.

Pakistani officials condemned the bombings, using language they have frequently used to try to convince the population that the fight against militancy is not one they can ignore.

''Those who still pretend that we are not a nation at war are complicit in these deaths,'' said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

The US Embassy issued a statement Friday condemning the attack and saying it ''demonstrates the terrorists' blatant disregard for the lives of the Pakistani people and the future of this country.''

The targeted shrine is that of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, who lived hundreds of years ago and traveled throughout the region spreading a message of peace and love. He eventually settled in the Lahore area, and his shrine is the most revered and most popular of Sufi shrines in the nation.

Some recent attacks in Punjab have been blamed on the ''Punjabi Taliban.'' The group is a relatively new network of al-Qaida-linked militants who have split off from other local insurgent groups but also has ties to the Pakistani Taliban, which has its bases in the northwest tribal regions.

The suicide bombings have fueled anger against Pakistan's weak police forces, who appear helpless to stop the killings. In the hours after Thursday's bombings, demonstrators gathered outside the shrine to protest the security lapse, only to be dispersed after police fired into the air and threw rocks at them.

Senior Lahore government official Khusro Pervez said recent intelligence alerts about possible attacks lacked details.

''The intelligence agencies alerted us that terrorists could target prominent places, shrines and mosques in Lahore. They mentioned names of major places as a possible target, but no specific information was available to us,'' he said.


So many of these people still don't understand that their major enemy is not the Americans/NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan. It's not even the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements who continue to slaughter them with total abandon and impunity. It's their own willful obstinacy and ignorance. Their pig-headed refusal to see the world for what it is...

Sounds like natural selection to me...

Canada Day on the road...

This year Canada Day fell on a Thursday. The weather however, was much more conducive to riding than last weekend had been. There is no better way in my mind to celebrate this country's birthday, than to spend time on the road taking in the natural beauty of some of my favorite areas. Not being close enough to take a leisurely tour of Nova Scotia's enthralling coastline, we settled for a trip along Rte 2 to Kingston.

My better half and I left Orleans at about 0846hrs. Plenty of time to make our appointed rendez-vous with Claude at the Tim Horton's in Manotick. We were scheduled to meet by 0930hrs. True enough, there were some darkish clouds hanging about as we wheeled out of our neighborhood, but I was confident that we would be leaving them far behind us.

It was cool and quite blustery as we headed out down Anderson Road. In fact as we travelled down Rideau Road, we literally had to tack into the wind by leaning the bike to the right. Fortunately we had dressed warmly, as it was just like late fall riding at that point. We met up with Claude at Timmie's and there were several other riders there as well. The line-up inside was ferocious but was moving at a fairly rapid clip. We sat and had a coffee and a breakfast sandwich before heading out. Sated and fuelled with caffeine, we struck out on the road.

Having decided we would forego the 416 in favour of the back roads, we made out way to Merrickville first. The clouds stayed with us but were showing more and more patches of blue sky.The ride to Merrickville was wonderful. We stopped for a little break at their local coffee shop, while Claude headed for the Country Bumpkins' Fudge Store. Apparently we have created a monster... I managed to show some restraint this time around but hey, the summer's young.

After a stretch and a washroom break, we headed out of town on the 15 going South. The wind persisted but seemed to have lost some oomph and by now the temperature had also started climbing so we were well comfy. We toodled along enjoying the sights and smells around us. Traffic was light on these roads and our pace was unhurried. We averaged around 80-90kmh in all our travels, less when on the Parkway or travelling through towns and villages. It was idyllic. Before long we were on Rte 2 and heading into Brockville.

I had intended to stop in Brockville to top up on fuel. The Ultramar station near the end of the main drag was way too busy to contemplate getting into that schmozz, so we carried on past. I knew that once on the 1,000 Islands Parkway, there was a gas station not too far along there that would do. We did the mad dash along the 401 and finally arrived at the exit ramp to the 1,000 Islands Parkway. I was looking forward to today's ride, as it would be the first time in quite awhile that I would be getting to ride the entire length of the Parkway. From it's beginning off the 401 to it's end in Gananoque. I was pretty stoked about this.

I stopped for fuel at the same spot that I had when I was headed to Virginia. It kind of brought it all back to me again. I grabbed some water while we were there, then we were off again. The air was warming perceptibly as the day progressed. The ride to Gananoque was great, where we then branched back on to Rte.2 proper and made our way to Kingston. The ride to Kingston was a pretty one. It had been awhile since I had last been there. The downtown area was bustling and they had blocked off the main street down by the water to vehicular traffic.
We ended up parking down by the Holiday Inn on the water. The rates were reasonable and our bikes would be under someone's watchful eye. We walked up the block and turned left, travelling just one more block which led us to the Lone Star restaurant. We always enjoyed coming here as the fajitas were the freshest you would find anywhere.

Before long our waitress had us sorted out with drinks and it wasn't long before our orders were taken. We chatted about journeys past, riding and families and the ride so far. Claude asked about the route we would take going back home. I told him that one of the better points about taking the 1,000 Island Parkway, was that you got to see it all over again in reverse, when you went back home. I never, ever tire of this road. Our meal and the time spent in Kingston were very enjoyable.

The quality of the food lived up to our expectations, although to be truthful, the prices were higher and the chicken portions smaller than what I remember from the past. Too bad. Still, we decided to have an Apple Sizzler for dessert... So-oooo bloody decadent and delicious. After a final coffee, we were now in fine shape to get back out on the road. We took our time getting back to our trusty steeds, as we soaked in our meal, the sunshine and the fresh breezes by the water's edge. It had been a peach of a day so far and we could look forward to an equally enjoyable trip back home.

We headed back out along the main drag, across the bridge and past the Royal Military College. Up the steep hill which would lead us back onto the 2. The winds had abated somewhat by this time and we found ourselves in ideal riding conditions. We had decided that we would follow Rte.2 all the way along until we reached Morrisburg. At that point we would head North along Rte.31 (Bank Street) all the way to Snake Island Road, where my better half and myself would then branch off along John Quinn Road.

We actually ran into some slow-moving traffic as we tried to make our way out of Brockville. We decided to stop at Tim's for a water and a pee break as some darker clouds began gathering ahead of us. Within 10 minutes, we were making our way back to the bikes. Once back on the road, there was no end of curb-crawlers who for some reason couldn't manage to find the long flat pedal by the radio. It actually stated spitting, then raining as we were logjammed behind these unskilled cretins. I'm sure it only seemed to last longer than what it did and we finally found ourselves behind someone who actually wanted to get out of town.

Once we made it past the Honda dealer, the skies began to clear once more and we picked up speed. We made one more stop in Prescott, to top up our tanks before beginning the final run home. As we exited Vernon, I let Claude take the lead and we parted ways after cruising through the lights at Snake Island Road. I like taking John Quinn Road, as it allows me to slow down and take it easier that the flow of traffic on the 31 would normally allow. The remainder of the ride home was a decompression of sorts. We had a wonderful day of riding and would sleep very well that evening, what with all the fresh air we had rammed up our nostrils... :)