trip preparations

I continue to plan my bike trip to Europe. Yesterday I went to MEC, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and as usual I was like a kid in a candy store in the place. I’ve belonged to MEC since it was in a ‘closet’ in Kensington back in the late 70s.

A memorable aside about that old store; I was with my boyfriend at that time, about 1977, and we were preparing for a cross country trip into Lake O’Hara Lodge if memory serves. What I know for sure is that they had this huge, battle-scarred and ancient black cat who lived in the store and on this day, he was partially hidden under low-hanging cross-country knickers. I read and speak cat fluently and as my boyfriend went to pet the cat, I warned him, “You might not want to do that. He’s old and cranky.” My boyfriend pointedly ignored me, started petting him which was fine until the cat flopped over and exposed his belly. Then as I went, “Noooo, don’t do that!” my boyfriend began to scratch his belly. The cat instantly grabbed his arm with his front claws and proceed to kick him furiously, as they do, with his back claws. He got the hell scratched out of both sides of his arm. Funny what we remember.

Anyway, every time I go into the amazing, state-of-the-art, two storey Calgary MEC store I still marvel at the grandeur of the place since its humble beginnings. I exchanged my small mummy bag for a medium sized one, bought two small camping pillows (this had been on my list since Viet Nam in 2009 – everything about Viet Nam was spectacular EXCEPT the pillows; mostly tiny and hard as concrete) and a little protective foam case for my teeny Mac Book Air. The only thing in the camping department I need now is my tent, and that is a 30 year old but beautiful and still functional MEC tent which is presently in for a minor repair. I do enjoy planning a trip almost as much as taking it!

I’m going to camp at least part of the way. One place I particularly want to camp is near the small village of Oudezele, Belgium which is exactly where the soldiers I’m going to be following, were billeted just before they got their orders and marched east about a dozen miles straight into the terrible 2nd Battle of Ypres on April 22nd of 1915.

Today I’m going to start nailing down the French part of my itinerary with the aid of detailed maps of Normandy and Brittany. Flanders area in Belgium I know very well so that information is already in my head. The planning continues…

Flanders monument to the fallen of Calgary's 10th Battalion (now the Calgary Highlanders) and the 16th

Earthquake and Tsunami

Anything I could blog about today would be trivial in light of what’s happening in Japan. I cannot imagine here in geologically stable old Alberta, (relatively speaking since the earth is an inherently unstable planet) what it would be like to have the earth shaking, swaying and shifting under my feet. Terrifying to think about, not to mention the inevitable Tsunami to follow in this sea-surrounded nation. My heart goes out to them all.

As for their nuclear power plants, it is exactly my darkest fear about that source of energy coming into reality. Nuclear power is a fantastically cheap and efficient power source, under ideal conditions, but now for these people, bona fide worst case scenario! As the literal nuclear melt-down plays out, we can only support the Japanese by whatever means possible. To think of having these sorts of plants right on top of or anywhere near the ‘ring of fire’ with any amount of of safety systems and plans in place, seems beyond any logic to me. It’s a terrible cautionary tale for the world to witness. In terms of the human cost, we may not know the true gravity of this for decades.

attitude adjustment

Like just about everyone else around here in Black Diamond, Alberta I’ve been whining about the seemingly endless winter this year. I don’t remember a colder, snowier winter in years. Well I was driving down the road this morning back from the post office I saw some sure signs that despite the gigantic snowbanks lining the road, Spring is coming!

Not only did that lift my spirits but I was reminded once again what a true gift it is to live here, near the back door to Kananaskis Country and this close to the Rockies. Eagles! Not just one, but four altogether in my neighbor’s poplars. Always a thrill and always a harbinger of Spring.

eagle looks down imperiously

Her Royal Highness

blindingly sunny Sunday in Black Diamond, Alberta

Okay, this is day 2 of attempting to navigate this blog thing. I am a technical moron so I am having serious difficulty getting this thing up and running but I shall press on. I want to blog on my motorcycle tour of the Western Front in June/July so this is practice.

I hope to keep everyone apprised of my trip as I go, what I’m seeing, what I’m thinking about what I’m seeing, photographs, video and actual history from the 1st Brigade C.F.A., Canadian Field Artillery of which John McCrae was a part from 1914 to 1916.

In other news I’m just about finished the book, The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. Excellent book. I have always thought of Jon Krakauer as about my favorite non-fiction author but this guy is just as brilliant a writer. He has woven in the mystery of an eccentric, fascinating and tragic character, Grant Hadwin; logger, survivalist, activist and a lot of interesting history of the Haida people and their homeland and the logging industry in the Canadian northwest. I highly recommend this book.