Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stormy weather

Last night, in the middle of the night, it sounded as if the Rattler wanted to blow its way back to Kansas. The winds were rocking the unit so hard, it felt about to roll over in the grassy field where we were camped. The thunder-and-lightning special effects were out in full force, as was the rain -- a steady gush of sideways stream.

I didn't get any pictures of the nighttime storm, but did have this shot from a week or so ago, when stormy gusts forced us to stop and shelter near a farm equipment business (all we could find out in the middle of where we were).

When the rains and wind eased, I decided to take a snap of the 'metal flowers' I'd been watching from our bed while the storm ran its course.

These rainstorms have been doing a job on much of the Midwest, as we were to find out yet again.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A day for firsts

Today is the first time I rode a golf cart around a course. There were even a few short bursts where I had to drive the thing (a definite first). Still, I was glad we didn't walk the course, as the dedicated bunch I was with decided to get their money's worth and played 27 holes. Hey, while the weather's good here, grab it! And yes, that really is snow lurking behind them on the ski hill.

My other first? Gnats. They seem to be a kind of high-flying sand flea, but at least they don't bite, something I was grateful for, as they loved zooming in under my glasses and climbing into my eyes. Gnatsty little things, that's for sure.
The other first today went to driver Dan Wheldon who snuck in from behind to take the checkered flag at the Indy 500. J.R. Hildebrand, the rookie who'd been leading this, the 100th anniversary of the race, nicked the wall on the final corner, but scrootched in for second. No winning bottle of milk for him.

I bet those race car drivers didn't have to deal with gnats. But then, they also didn't get to look at the kind of scenery I did, riding and driving around at Superior National Golf Course. They also didn't have to deal with the kind of weather we came upon next.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Idyllic campsites

Although the rest of the group who are visiting this weekend have taken off to the golf course, as far as I'm concerned, it's a day for staying in, thinking about days when the weather was better.

The campsite above was about as perfect as it could get, especially as we were the only ones there.

I'm sure, come July, it's busy and crazy, but for one perfect evening, it was just us -- having a late night fire along the shore of Lake Besser, with no one for company but the geese and their newly hatched babies.

P.S. The golfers came home. Thunder and lightning don't mix well with metal clubs. But, as they know, there's always tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Re Highway 61 Visited

One of my heroes made an album with a similar title. Same highway, even if I didn't make it as far south as Minneapolis and St. Paul. Or for that matter, even Hibbing. So much for birthplace quests.

Must say, I like the fact that the green sign offering distances lets you know how far to the Canadian border. There was a time when that distance was mighty significant to a lot of travellers, especially young men seeking asylum.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On a quest

Not necessarily for the perfect pasty (and please note, the 'a' is short as in past; it's not pronounced like paste), though apparently we seemed to have found the spot for that. On the shore of Lake Superior: Number One in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where this -- one of the original fast foods -- is famous.

My understanding is that they are actually Cornish pasties, which would have them originating in Cornwall. Wherever they began, they've served as traditional lunchbox food for miners. And for years, mining served as the basis of Upper Michigan's economy. And when you consider the extremes of weather here, maybe going down into a mine wasn't all that bad an idea.

The reason we're crossing this stretch of country is that we're going to visit relatives who've booked a holiday on the northern tip of Minnesota (do we have crazy relatives, or what?). It's also an opportunity for me to visit the town where my father was born: Ironwood, Michigan.

As we've seen in so many towns in the U.S., the community is putting its heritage buildings to good use. The old cinema is now used for theatrical productions of all sorts, from travelling professional companies to hometown dance recitals.

I had to take a snap of the Ironwood Theater, as my dad actually grew up to manage just such a place. I couldn't help but imagine that he'd been here as a boy.

While we were growing up, my dad used to cajole my mother, often asking her to make the proverbial pasties for supper. Try though she did, she never succeeded. And now that I've tasted Number One (we encountered several more bakeries making the same claim), I know what she was doing wrong. Hers had too much gravy, were more like beef pot pie -- not a bad thing at all, but not very good for holding in the hand and eating on a hurry-up lunch break underground.

Now that we're really not in much of a hurry, we're heading into the wilds of Minnesota

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Between two nations

This campsite, though in the U.S., couldn't be any closer to Canada unless it were on a float of some sort. We're right along the St. Mary's River, part of the Soo Locks, the network of mechanical canals that make up the St. Lawrence Seaway. 

Watching the big ships make their way along the route was better than anything that might have been on TV.

And after a visit with relatives on the other side of the river, we're moving on to explore other family connections.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hangin' around

Whoever stayed in this campsite before us hung a seed-loaded birdfeeder in the tree. But this morning, when I woke up, I saw that the feeder was attracting more than birds. A family of squirrels were all over the free breakfast, including this guy, who'd figured out a way to hang upside down and get a big mouthful.

The image is a bit confusing, looking through the rungs of the ladder. It isn't there for benefit of the squirrels, that's our access to the roof of our RV, and I'm taking the shot from my 'bedroom' window. If you look beyond the trees, you can see just how close we are to the shore of Lake Huron. And once we get around the lake, we'll be just about in Canada.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another lighthouse, another great campsite

Heading for Sault Sainte Marie (both Soos -- the one in Michigan and the one in Ontario), we decided to take the 'quiet' highway, something we're doing more and more of. The Interstates don't offer much to see, and competition for the road from other traffic can feel brutal. 

Moseying up Michigan's Highway 23, I spotted a sign for a state park. There are plenty of these along the way, but this one seemed to beckon.

The place was filled with birds (even I, not a birder of any sort, saw a Baltimore Oriole and a Red-headed Woodpecker). And as you can see, the lighthouse was picture perfect.

I was glad we'd taken the turn -- and doubly glad the park was one with campsites so we could stay a while longer. You might well enjoy it too, especially when you see one of our 'visitors'.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rituals of spring

As we've travelled across the continent, spring has followed along with us. Sure, there've been the rain and winds at our back, but we've also been greeted by just-uncurling violets since California.

Lilacs have been with us since Kansas (I pinched my first bouquet back at Amelia Earhart's memorial site in Atchison). Here in Ontario, quite a few of them are still shut, but looking ready for that first burst of warmth to lure them open.

March is usually the month when we seek out the year's new crop of nettles. It's important to get them while they're tender as possible, so the earlier the better. Since they weren't out before we left, I thought that we'd missed them, but lucky for us the nettles behind the shed here are only now ready for harvest. Even when they're small, they carry quite the sting. But G's uncle put on his big gloves and picked a bundle for us to take along.

Earlier today, I managed to rock up with my own pair of gloves and cleaned the nettles (basically just sorting leaves from stems) in the little sink, then cooked a few batches.

Steamed up for supper, I think they're better than spinach. I've even managed to tuck two little packets into the freezer. Just in case we need to pretend it's spring all over again.

Stocked up with such special supplies, it's time to go towards the west.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Clear skies

The last few days have seen us staying with relatives, who have a beautiful property in the countryside near Hamilton. Aside from going into the city for the book launch, we've mostly managed to lie low and wait out the cold, rainy weather.

The change began yesterday, and it was lovely the way the sun brought people outdoors. I saw lawn-cutters, sidewalk-sweepers, kids playing with hula hoops -- even a boy with fat coloured chalks making art on a sidewalk.

This morning was clear and bright and tonight was warm enough to have a picnic on the deck. Tomorrow will be a day for moving on -- provided, of course, that the world doesn't decide to end.

When Ontario weather behaves like this, it's pretty much paradise. And heck, when that's the case, who needs thoughts of the Rapture? And since I'm planning on having the world carry on, I even plan to do some 'foraging' while I'm here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Night train

Tonight was the official launch of Shrinking Violets. Along with three other readers -- a poet and two other novella-ists (is that a word?), I read to a most supportive audience at Toronto's 'Supermarket'. I loved that venue as the site for the launch, as Reggie, the book's main character, works as a cashier in a supermarket. And even though the evening was drizzly and cold, it was fun to wander around Kensington Market before the reading began.

The photo above is from when we made our way 'home' -- to where we're staying with relatives, near Hamilton. For a while, we were the only ones riding the streetcar, and even through the mist, seeing the lake near Harbourfront was magical.

A pokey ride home on the GO train, and we were back in the country, fog-bound but content after an evening of seeing good friends (and making new ones).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Last stop before Canada

The weather's still on-and-off, less than ideal. But our lucky stars led us yet again to a wonderful spot for our last night of camping (for a while at least) in the U.S.

The map showed one of those dotted-line scenic routes, so we decided to see where it would lead. The place we discovered, Letchworth State Park, turned out to be great, both for daytime hiking (even if we did get sprayed like crazy by the various falls) and for camping overnight.

As with so many places we've discovered on our trip, the park is loaded with history. The story I like best is that much of the land was logged-out and covered in nothing but stumps, but that William Pryor Letchworth acquired it and added it to the site of his museum, to remain a forested wilderness in perpetuity. I have to admire him, and credit him with having a great deal of vision. If only there were more of his style of philanthropy around.

Once again, we were nearly the only people around, so it felt as though we had our own private forest. If you listen carefully to the little video, along with the crackling of the fire, you'll hear the call of evening birds -- a far cry from where we'll be in the next post.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Both timewise and geographically, we're at the midpoint of our trip -- and a point is all that it is. We're on Ocracoke Island, one of the bits of land that make up North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Only fourteen miles long and mostly a stroll wide, it's barely a dot on the Atlantic.

Besides being charmingly beautiful, it's filled with history -- some of it dark, as Blackbeard worked these shores, luring boats onto sandbars then plundering their wares.

The photo above was taken near Teach's Hole, one of the places here named after the famous pirate (who was also known as Edward Teach).

Today's island population seems dominated not by pirates, but by much-too-tame ducks. Mallards have staked their claims nearly everywhere you look. A pair tried inviting themselves for dinner last night, only they weren't volunteering to jump on the barbie.

They didn't seem to get it when I said, "I don't feed ducks, I eat them." Still, they did begin to shy away when we mentioned hoisin sauce.

Starting today, we'll be heading north then west -- all part of the route that will eventually, we trust, lead us back to that other coast and home.

Sunday, May 08, 2011


As we drive through the U.S., we keep seeing reminders of the many terrible storms this year's spring has delivered.

Near the airport in St. Louis, we saw flattened buildings and trees. In Kentucky, near a roadworks site, there were trees that at first appeared to be the result of a very botched job of mechanized logging -- the complete branchwork torn off, the trunks sloppily torn. But then, the terrible realization: this was the work of a tornado.

When we saw a house with a tree resting over top of it, our theory was confirmed.

While we haven't experienced tornadoes (touching wood and being thankful), this has been a week of some personal disasters. The small ones were a smashed jar (but what a miserable task finding all the tiny splinters of glass that exploded all over the little cabin of the RV) and later the same day, the discovery of tiny moths in one of the cupboards. Ack. It meant some small bags of foodstuffs (almonds, sunflower seeds, and sadly, the quinoa) had to be tossed.

But the worst? My computer. Major crash. For me, this is a personal disaster, although fortunately, critical files are on a back-up stick.

It's probably going to slow me down in the blog and other writing departments. Still, I'll do what I can. Interesting that all of this should occur when we're just about at the halfway point of our trip.

It's certainly made me realize just how much I depend on a machine as an extension of myself. For without words, who am I?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

We're sure as heck not in Kansas anymore...

Tornado warnings have been almost continuous (along with thunderstorm, wind and flood alerts) while we've been here near Louisville (Kentucky), but I'm glad to report that we're still on terra firma, with The Rattler intact.

While I'm glad I haven't been in any tornadoes, the last few days have been (for me) a whirlwind of sights and sounds and dare I say 'colourful' experiences -- all part of the wonders that were Montreal.

In addition to the horse with the pink mane (pulling one of the tour buggies that traverse the brick roads of the Old City), another colour played a role because I was part of a literary festival called 'Blue Met'. And what was I reading at the Blue Met, but a section from my new book, Shrinking Violets. So, three colours in one paragraph (and one day) -- not bad.

I also closed off National Poetry Month by giving away the last item in my book-a-day project. A book that seemed to suit both the festival and the urban setting was
Evelyn Lau's Living Under Plastic, a book I love very much. And I'll admit, it was my second copy that was left behind. My own special signed one remains at home on the poetry shelves.

Back to the road tomorrow, where there'll be more posts from who-knows-where.