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Archive for July, 2012

Driving Quote

I am still coming down from my driving trip back East. I am going to have to do more of that. It was fun.

A number of years ago, I was lucky enough to attend an advanced driving course courtesy of Ford (I guess if you buy enough vehicles from them … ). The main instructor was a racing driver of note (at least I had heard of him). The course involved practice on a skid pad, vehicle handling and accident crash avoidance. As the instructor phrased it – an accident implies there was no one at fault. In real life, this doesn’t happen very often.

As I was driving into work this morning, I was reminded of the quote he used at the start of the course;

“We teach people how to operate a vehicle – we don’t teach them how to drive”

So, to the young woman in the Corolla this morning who was tailgating, not using her signals, switching lanes with no warning and speeding in the middle of rush hour, one thought – “karma’s a bitch”.

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The Road

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I just returned from a trip to visit my sister in Ontario. Since we, as in the Big Sky Gliders, had accepted an invitation to play in Bethune Saskatchewan on Canada Day, I thought that since I am already one day closer to the East, I might as well keep going. It is about a 3½ to 4 day drive from Edmonton. I travel through the States along U.S. Route 2 for the most part. Passing through Duluth Minnesota, I continue over to the Mackinac Bridge and then south to the Blue Water Bridge at Sarnia Ontario. On the way back I took a slightly different route through International Falls and crossing back into Canada just north of Warroad Minnesota.

This is not the first time I have done this drive. I first moved to Alberta in the fall of 1975. I never had any intention of staying, just go to school and then head back east. Of course, life has other ideas and I have been in Alberta since then. As a grad student, flying back to visit was expensive and besides I like long road trips. There is something that I can’t really describe about being on the road. Unlike flying where you just get there, driving let’s you absorb the country in between your home and your destination. I did the trip a few times with other people, but the majority of trips have been solo. Unlike some people I know, I am comfortable with being with myself – the long days give you time to think, reflect and contemplate life.

Prairie scenery

The long road trip is about scale. Time is stretched as mile after mile pass by. You have a final destination, but for today it is as far as you can go. You stop where you want to – whether it be the end of a long day or somewhere that looks interesting. If there is a scenic lookout that looks interesting, you stop. If you are not hungry, you keep going. If there is another way of getting there, you can go that way. One of the criteria for selecting a route on some trips is how winding the road is. All this is up to you – it is a sense of freedom that we don’t get a chance to experience often in our day to day lives. And I like the drive.

It might be in my genes as well. My dad was a long-distance truck driver. It was a not an easy life, but I went with him a couple of times on his trips and I really got the sense he liked what he did. Must have trickled down 🙂

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan

It isn’t always pleasant. Winter trips can be difficult and downright dangerous. One trip in my 1978 Honda Civic hatchback, I was driving after dark in North Dakota. The snow and wind were getting more intense and it became hard to even see the road. North of Minot, I hit a snow drift that had started to come across the road – pretty well stopped the car. That was the sign I needed – I turned around and headed for the the nearest town. Driving south on Highway 69 in Ontario, I was driving in a blizzard in my Toyota Tercel wagon. I must have been driving through a rock cut and as I passed out of the cut the full force of the wind hit the car from the side. I caught the car but not before I was in the oncoming lane – luckily no one was in the lane or I wouldn’t have been writing this.

Upcoming weather

And there is the weather you encounter. For a cloud junkie such as myself, it is an opportunity to see all manner of weather. I think sometimes people insulate themselves from the world around us. Yes, there are risks in being out there but there are risks in not venturing out. It would seem that we are more divorced from our natural world, especially younger folks. It makes it difficult to make informed decisions about the world around you when you have little experience in that environment. I have a healthy respect for all manner of the outdoors – but it doesn’t stop me in venturing forth. Maybe we need to replace ‘virtual’ with ‘real’.

Care to see what is on the other side?

How could you not want to travel this road? Highway 501 in southern Alberta

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For the fourth time, the Big Sky Gliders played a set at Flower Fest, a micro-festival held on an acreage west of Edmonton. This is not a mammoth undertaking – Flower Fest is more about the friends of Little Flower (an open stage in Edmonton) getting together and playing music.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate this year – again. For the second time in our four appearances, we found ourselves playing inside the cabin that is on the site.

Playing inside at Flower Fest 2012

However, it was a good set. Don presented us with a new song on the Wednesday before the festival. We were able to take it all in stride and did a pretty good job of getting the song down with only two rehearsals. We seem to be much more together on stage and receptive to the little nuances that, in the past, would have thrown us. It was a satisfying performance and we received a number of compliments.

In the cabin for Flower Fest

The set list was:

  • Black Room (Jim)
  • What I Miss/Yer Smile Blues (Don)
  • Road to Nowhere (Jim)
  • Johnson Brown (Jim)
  • Back to You (Jim)
  • It’s a Lovely Day (Youngbloods tune)

I don’t think we did this on purpose, but we didn’t play any songs from our album. I guess more material for the next one.

The Big Sky Gliders
Brian, Jim and Don

And thanks to Wanda for the photos … Thank You Wanda -> good idea for a song 🙂

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Writer’s Block

Last week I returned home from a 12 day, 7,500 kilometre road trip to Saskatchewan, Ontario and back. You would think that I should be able to come up with some interesting writing after all that.

But I feel as if I need time to process all the thoughts and experiences that occured during my time away. I have done the drive between Alberta and Ontario quite a few times before, but the last one was 15 years ago. This time I took a voice recorder to put down my thoughts on the road but even that hasn’t helped me. I assume the words will come eventually … until then, here are some photos from my journey – with more to come.

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I am in Michigan tonight after about 10 and a hours on the road. No dramas but I did see a billboard that intrigued me.

It read; “Do it for her … get a colonoscopy”

?

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This has been the trip of thunderstorms. I left Estevan Saskatachewan around 8 in the morning. For the first three hours I dodged thunderstorms and it rained from just north of Minot to almost Devil’s Lake, N.D.

I am writing this in a Super 8 in Superior Ws. in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. Lots of rain, lightning and thunder. I am on the top floor and the rain is making quite the racket.

So, some thoughts from the road:

  • This has been a very civilized drive. By contrast, the trip from Edmonton to Calgary is way more stressful. I quite enjoy the vast expanse of the prairies and once you get into the rythmn, the miles just flow by.
  • My tires, Toyo’s, don’t like some concrete roadways – they make lots of noise.
  • I was asked how many miles I expected to do in a day – never think of miles – it is all in hours. Today was a good day – about 11 hours and around 1000 kilometers and I still feel pretty good.
  • The one thing that causes stress is all the changes in speed limits – lots of mental arithmetic as I convert Imperial to metric measurements. On a Canadian speedometer, the miles per hour are in red and almost impossible to read.
  • It has obviously been a wet year on the prairies. There was one spot on Highway 39 in Saskatchewan where the water was up to each side of the road. If the water was a metre higher, it would have been over the road – never seen that before. And the red-winged blackbird population is in good shape.

So, hopefully the car will survive the storm and we have a good day tomorrow.

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We had a fun Canada Day this year. Jim’s home town, Bethune Saskatchewan, was celebrating its 100th birthday on July 1. Jim arranged to have us play on Canada Day in the beer garden during the festivities. Jim and his wife Wanda went early while Don, his wife Linda and I drove to Saskatoon on Saturday and then down to Bethune on Sunday morning.

I must confess I did not know what to expect. It was a bit primitive but we were under shade and there was a nice breeze blowing.

The ‘stage’ in Bethune. Jim and Don during setting up for the sound check.

And it was a lot of fun. Jim had written a song called, Where Randy Rolled a Tractor, that is about one of the folks he grew up with. Randy was in attendence and there was quite a reaction when we played the song. Our second set was better and we settled in and enjoyed ourselves. We had chosen an encore but Randy was selected and we had to play it a third time when it turned out Randy’s wife and mother hadn’t heard the song the second time.

It was a very neat event and one that this city kid hadn’t experienced before. The folks at Bethune were very gracious and hospitable. It was good fun and one that I, for one, wouldn’t mind doing next year.

I am writing this in Estevan, Saskatchewan just north of the U.S. border. Since I was already a day into the trip east, I decided to keep going and head back to visit my sister and friends in Ontario. I figure I have about another 2 1/2 days of driving to get to Ontario. I used to do this a lot when I was younger and I am enjoying being on the road again. This is my first long holiday in a number of years and I am looking forward to seeing friends I haven’t seen in quite a few years.

And there is always the scenery. On the way to Estevan, I ran through a number of prairie thunderstorms. There is something magical about the prairies – I will have more photos to share as the trip continues.

Sheets of rain ahead of a thunderstorm north of Estevan, Sk.

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