As my learn­ing jour­ney here in Ontario begins, I have left the won­der­ful home of my hosts Dave and Simone, and head­ed for Ottawa in time to attend the Remem­brance Day cer­e­monies in our nation’s cap­i­tal, Ottawa. This jour­ney is as much about learn­ing new skills as it is about under­stand­ing what it is to be Cana­di­an, and I feel that spend­ing time in this part of the coun­try is essen­tial to achiev­ing a more com­plete under­stand­ing of the lat­ter.

In my youth, and as a mem­ber of an Air Cadets squadron I par­tic­i­pat­ed in more than a few wreath lay­ing cer­e­monies. Back then we unques­tion­ing­ly donned woolen socks, long sweaters and trench coats to parade in frigid tem­per­a­tures at a vari­ety of ceno­taphs and war memo­ri­als to hon­our our fall­en sol­diers. At the time, it seemed a tiny sac­ri­fice in com­par­i­son to the one we were salut­ing.

Since those days, I’ve seen much more of the world, and acquired what I hope is a more com­plete under­stand­ing of how the world oper­ates. It’s also my hope that I’ve devel­oped a bit more wis­dom, and the capa­bil­i­ty to think for myself.  I’ve long strug­gled with the oft repeat­ed mes­sage “lest we for­get” and with every year that pass­es my frus­tra­tion grows.  My hope with attend­ing the cer­e­mo­ny here was to con­nect with what it means to Cana­di­ans, or Cana­di­ans in the cap­i­tal, or even just what it means. I went with an open mind.

I watched as men, women and an assort­ment of teenagers in pointy hats, and fuzzy hats, and cir­cu­lar hats, and flop­py hats all marched past me.  I lis­tened to the con­ver­sa­tion of col­lege stu­dents, home mak­ers, and retired mil­i­tary per­son­nel that sur­round­ed me in the crowd.  We all watched as dig­ni­taries showed up for their duties, but it wasn’t until the parade of vet­er­ans arrived that I real­ized how emp­ty these words we utter so repeat­ed­ly real­ly are.

I grew up in a time when the num­ber of WWI & II vet­er­ans was dwin­dling and Kore­an war vets were also in short sup­ply; Cypress was but a text­book mem­o­ry.  Every year of parade saw less vet­er­ans and small­er cer­e­monies. It was almost a mark of pride that we had none to replace them as they died of old age.  What shocked me with the Ottawa parade was the num­ber of young vet­er­ans present. As I watched them march past, the real­iza­tion that we have indeed ignored the mes­sage hit me full-force.  We here in Cana­da (aid­ed by our inter­na­tion­al part­ners no doubt) have come up with increas­ing­ly effec­tive and stu­pid ways of wast­ing human life, destroy­ing fam­i­lies and mud­dy­ing our name inter­na­tion­al­ly.

In my crit­i­cism, I nev­er want to under­mine the efforts, and the legit­i­mate sac­ri­fices that our mil­i­tary per­son­nel have all made in their var­i­ous deploy­ments, but I do ques­tion the rea­son for most deploy­ments in recent his­to­ry. I’ve always believed that mil­i­tary should pri­mar­i­ly be a defence force, and as a Cana­di­an I’ve sat back and watched our mil­i­tary be con­vert­ed to an inter­na­tion­al aggres­sive police force as a result of polit­i­cal pos­tur­ing.  I do have great hopes for our new gov­ern­ment, and a new era of peace­ful inter­na­tion­al behav­iour. Time will tell whether this will change.

With that, I shall step down from my soap box, and share some images of the day’s activ­i­ties.

First, the pletho­ra of ser­vice branch­es rep­re­sent­ed today:

The peo­ple keep­ing us safe today.   The real heroes of the day were real­ly the para­medics, who saved count­less sol­diers from the inevitable con­se­quences of stand­ing per­fect­ly still for long peri­ods of time.  Those who haven’t tried it, ought to before judg­ing. With­out prac­tice, it’s an incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult task.

Also, the snipers.  Prob­a­bly more there for the Prime Min­is­ter than for us as spec­ta­tors.

 

Vet­er­an ser­vice dogs were well rep­re­sent­ed in the crowd today too.

Veteran service dog

And a few shots of the tomb of the unknown sol­dier, sur­round­ed by onlook­ers lay­ing pop­pies.  The wreaths were laid at the base of an enor­mous stone and cast sculp­ture depict­ing our troops charg­ing in to bat­tle.

On the lighter side, I caught my first glimpse and took a tour of our Par­lia­ment build­ing today:

The Parliament Building in Ottawa, Canada

The Par­lia­ment Build­ing in Ottawa, Cana­da

And had my first ever beaver tail. Yes, they’re deli­cious, and no, I’m not going to share.

Well, okay, maybe if you ask nice­ly. :)

A cinnamon and sugar beaver tail. The classic, and a very Canadian experience.

A cin­na­mon and sug­ar beaver tail. The clas­sic, and a very Cana­di­an expe­ri­ence.

Over­all, it was an inter­est­ing day spent sur­round­ed by a peo­ple unit­ed.  I’ve not man­aged to get any clos­er to rec­on­cil­ing my feel­ings on the cer­e­mo­ny but I’ve added anoth­er expe­ri­ence in my quest to under­stand what this place is all about.

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So, a lit­tle re-cap-over-lap:   Upon Smoky Joe’s rec­om­men­da­tion, I’d trav­eled down in to the Shawnee Nation­al For­est to head up to High Knob to watch the sun­set.   As I cruised through the wind­ing for­est road, I was struck by the sheer beau­ty of the tree lined tar­mac. After hav­ing trav­eled through thou­sands of Kilo­me­ters of flat and rolling prairie, I’d arrived some­where famil­iar, serene and very at-home.

Pulling in to High Knob, which I’d thought was just a view­point, I real­ized it was actu­al­ly a camp­ground cater­ing to horse­back rid­ers, and sit­u­at­ed with prime access to some of the best horse­back rid­ing trails in all of Shawnee.  As I rolled through the grounds, I was imme­di­ate­ly impressed with the numer­ous themed out­build­ings that dot­ted the prop­er­ty and most­ly with the seren­i­ty of the whole place.  Save the inter­mit­tent whin­ny of the sta­bled hors­es, the camp­ground was silent..

It was an easy deci­sion to camp there for the night (after all, I’d hauled a tent down this far) but as I spoke with JoJo, the own­er of the camp, she offered a cou­ple of even bet­ter options.  At High Knob, in addi­tion to camp­ing, it is pos­si­ble to sleep in a com­mu­nal bunk house or even in a pri­vate cab­in.  I chose the bunk house (as it hap­pened I was the only occupant–it’s usu­al­ly used by hunters, and, well, this isn’t hunt­ing sea­son). The accom­mo­da­tion is rus­tic, but per­fect for my night’s stay and after mov­ing in I head­ed to the top of the hill to catch sun­set.

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After a good night of sleep, and a rather late ten o’clock start, I wan­dered in to the gen­er­al store where I found JoJo mind­ing the shop..   Rather than just nip­ping in for a quick cof­fee and hit­ting the road, we end­ed up chat­ting for the bet­ter part of a cou­ple of hours..   After talk­ing busi­ness, mules vs. hors­es, cus­tomer ser­vice, trav­el and cul­ture among oth­er things, JoJo shared a bit more about the area, and the his­to­ry of High Knob camp­ground. I was thor­ough­ly impressed with her gen­uine con­cern for ‘her campers’  their hors­es, and the areas around High Knob.  Were I able to get here more read­i­ly, I’d seri­ous­ly con­sid­er get­ting myself on the wait­ing list for one of the few per­ma­nent camp spots that come avail­able each year.  Well, that and I don’t have hors­es..

Inci­den­tal­ly, accord­ing to JoJo, there are mule peo­ple and there are horse peo­ple (much like dog and cat peo­ple).  And, as it turns out, mules are actu­al­ly incred­i­bly intel­li­gent and have a high self preser­va­tion instinct (which is help­ful if you’re try­ing to ush­er the beast through ter­ri­to­ry that may not be best for the health of either of ya’s)..  The things you learn on the road! :)

Any­way, it’s tak­en ages to get this post up so I’ll fire a few pho­tos up and a quick video for your perusal! :)

High Knob Cemetery

Telegraph Office

High Knob Saloon

Fort Knob

High Knob Gun Shop

Used fairing-saver
Jay, you’re one of the few peo­ple that’ll appre­ci­ate the irony of this..  I man­aged to dump the bike while I was load­ing it..  Soft ground, the fair­ing-saver just dug in.. :)  Rook­ie mis­take.

JoJo sent me on my way with a can of her favourite Soda Pop (Red Fay­go), and a pack­age of mini-dough­nuts, and a direct order to vis­it the Rocks of the Gods a few miles away from the camp­ground. Which I did, and I’m pleased to have done.. It was real­ly spec­tac­u­lar scenery and I felt it fit­ting to drink my Fay­go right there with a toast to JoJo!  Thanks Lady! :)

Red Faygo

The ride to Nashville was pret­ty unevent­ful after all of this, but enjoy­able nonethe­less!

[PostE­d­it] Actu­al­ly one thing about the ride strikes me as note­wor­thy.. Some­how, the south­west­ern cor­ner of Ken­tucky smelled exact­ly like Grape Soda. I don’t know what it was that caused the deli­cious aro­ma, but I shall for­ev­er more asso­ciate Grape pop with Ken­tucky..

Your map Sirs and Madams:

View Larg­er Map

After a few great days with John and Kate, I hopped back on the bike to get mov­ing south again..  The weath­er has been incred­i­bly warm, and this after­noon when I left was no excep­tion. I did bun­dle up in my rid­ing jack­et but jeans would have to suf­fice..  By after­noon, I was down to rid­ing in a long sleeved shirt for com­fort alone.

Most of the day has been spent on the Inter­state, in part to con­serve time, and most­ly because it was head­ing in the direc­tion I want­ed to go. By the time I got past the city of Mt. Ver­non, I was start­ing to get a bit peck­ish, but also kin­da frus­trat­ed that I couldn’t find food oth­er than chain restau­rants and fran­chised rapid-meals..  Yuck.  I’d actu­al­ly resigned myself to skip­ping lunch entire­ly and find­ing a good sup­per once I’d found my way back to in to the small towns again.   Only, this was Sun­day, and East­er was com­ing, so very lit­tle in the way of non-essen­tial ser­vices (oth­er than gaso­line, cheap tobac­co and fire­works again) were even remote­ly close to open..

After stop­ping at an estate sale in hopes of find­ing some good antique books (no luck..), I head­ed down the 45 free­way in the hopes that I’d make it some­where with a bit of food by night­fall.

In a bit of a lull, I found myself fly­ing down a stretch of open high­way, sur­round­ed by trees on both sides when I passed a small BBQ sign on the side of the road.  I didn’t quite clue in to what I’d read until in the cor­ner of my eye I noticed the restau­rant on the side of the road, and across a gul­ley that I was rapid­ly pass­ing.   Once I’d near­ly flat-spot­ted my tires, I hauled Thirsty­Girl around and head­ed back for the dri­ve­way..

Big Daddy's Barbeque

As I pulled up and tried to park my bike on the grav­el road behind the smoke shack, I was imme­di­ate­ly impressed by the smok­ers and the build­ing itself. There isn’t much to it, and to call the place rus­tic would be kind, but it’s an hon­est, no-non­sense kin­da place and the smok­ers were hand built. To me, this is pure heav­en.

Big Daddy's Smokers

Inside the restau­rant was built like a place you’d want to hang out.. Signs and mem­o­ra­bil­ia cov­er the walls, a col­lec­tion of mod­el cars and var­i­ous relics make the whole place awe­some!

Smoky Joe - Big Daddy's Barbeque Depot

Smoky Joe him­self has build most of the build­ing you see behind him, and the lac­quered bar­top tables under his arm. He took the time to sit down and vis­it with me after mak­ing an incred­i­ble plate of ribs up for me.

To be clear, I was so excit­ed about the food that I’d already dug in before real­iz­ing I need­ed to take a pic­ture for you.  I was in such a hur­ry to get back to my meal that the pho­to I did take was kin­da half-heart­ed.. It doesn’t do this phe­nom­e­nal meal any jus­tice, but take my word for it–SO tasty! :)  This was only half of my rack of ribs, the pota­toes are hand cut and the cole slaw made from scratch. Again, good, hon­est, food.  I can­not stress enough, how much I val­ue good, real food.

Make sure if you’re in south­ern Illi­nois, that you make a point of stop­ping in to Big Daddy’s.  It’s just off the high­way so be care­ful not to miss it, but you’ll find Smoky Joe there on the week­ends for sure..

Big Daddy’s Barbeque Depot

One mile north of 141 on 45, Nor­ris City

Open: Wed. & Thur 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, Fri. & Sat. 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Closed Sun­day, Mon­day & Tues­day

(but call first: 618÷962−3602 I think he may have changed the hours.  I can’t quite seem to find the card with them list­ed!)

Try the ribs, try the samich­es!

 

Half rack of ribs

Joe was a true char­ac­ter, and we man­aged to talk pol­i­tics, cul­ture and local his­to­ry all in my short time there..  I was look­ing for a good place to camp for the night and he sug­gest­ed head­ing up to High Knob Camp­ground in the Shawnee nation­al for­est to watch sun­set with the eagles.

Which I did..

And in [THIS] spot you may even see a video if you check back..  My lit­tle lap­top had a ter­ri­ble time doing any sort of work with HD video so if it ren­ders before Sun­set tomor­row, I’ll post a video of the sun­set from tonight.. ;)

Turns out, this is a fan­tas­tic lit­tle hide­away, espe­cial­ly for horse and mule rid­ers..  More on that tomor­row..

And your map:

View Larg­er Map

Well, it didn’t feel like a trip through Scot­land, but it seems that there may have been more than one bek­ilt­ed set­tler around these parts at some point in the past. Regard­less, there def­i­nite­ly is some pret­ty coun­try­side between the towns of Glas­gow MT and Aberdeen South Dako­ta.

Best burger EVER!The morn­ing, as is my cus­tom, start­ed off pret­ty slow. I woke up late, and took my time get­ting ready. On my way out, the hotel staff rec­om­mend­ed I stop at Bergie’s in Nashua MT for a bite to eat.. I’m so pleased that did, this was quite pos­si­bly one of the best burg­ers I’ve eat­en in ages. FRESH bun, incred­i­ble hand­made pat­ty, tasty but uniden­ti­fi­able spices and a sauce to beat all sauces..: I could wax poet­ic about it for ages, but I shan’t. Instead, please be sure to stop by there if you’re in this neck of the woods!

Room for more.. Small Town Bar

Fertalizer Plant

Con­tin­u­ing on, (with bel­ly full) I made my way south through some pret­ty incred­i­ble ter­ri­to­ry. Sim­i­lar to the Bad­lands in Alber­ta, the Mon­tana Bad­lands include the req­ui­site dinosaur muse­ums and tourist traps com­mon to these areas..

Montana Badlands
Along with some spec­tac­u­lar coulees and wide open fields, there came one of the most ridicu­lous wind­storms I’ve expe­ri­enced on the bike. Since it was com­ing direct­ly out of the west (I was actu­al­ly rid­ing across the weath­er front) it was either at my back or direct­ly at my side. For those of you who don’t ride, a cross-wind push­es the tires of a bike out from under the rid­er in a lean that’s sim­i­lar to high-speed cor­ner­ing. A big bike like this FJR presents a pret­ty big tar­get for the wind (think barn door) and some of the gusts I caught were awful­ly aggres­sive. The bike han­dled them with ease, but it was exhaust­ing as a rid­er to con­tin­u­al­ly fight the wind over this 400+ Km leg..

I had an inter­est­ing encounter with an old Indi­an man who called him­self Low Bear, on the Stand­ing Rock Indi­an Reser­va­tion.. He and anoth­er man approached me to chat whilst I fueled Thirsty­Girl and had a quick snack of chick­en wings..

We spoke of his trav­els to vis­it fam­i­ly up in Cana­da, and his love of the Rocky Moun­tains (and fear of bears of all things!). Toward the end of our con­ver­sa­tion, he shook my hand and with­out let­ting go, sang me a tra­di­tion­al song for trav­el­ers.. It was one of the most touch­ing expe­ri­ences I’ve had in my trav­els to date.

I stopped here short­ly after that encounter to col­lect my thoughts and look over the val­ley below.
My first sunset stop

And, as promised, the movie (I’m dis­gust­ed with the video qual­i­ty) of what my sun­set sound­ed like.. If you squint, it might just look nor­mal.. :)

And Today’s map

View USA — Day 3 in a larg­er map

Pou­tine au foie gras at Au Pied de Cochon, Mon­tre­al, QC

Just got to Mon­tre­al with my bud­dy BigRich a day in advance of the F1 race fes­tiv­i­ties..   This city is tru­ly incred­i­ble, uber bike friend­ly and full of great restau­rants, pubs, and cof­fee shops, not to men­tion a pletho­ra of beau­ti­ful peo­ple.  Our first meal in town was at Au Pied de Cochon (The Pig’s Foot) and the whole expe­ri­ence was, in a word, stu­pen­dous.

(Veg­e­tar­i­ans beware, what you see next may be dis­turb­ing. But real­ly, this post isn’t for you any­way. For the rest of you, pre­pare to let your mouth water)

We start­ed with the Pou­tine au foie gras served with both white and dark gravy and prop­er Que­bec squeaky cheese curds.  We soaked up the gravy with a loaf of fresh­ly baked french bread and washed it down with a pint of PDC’s own beer.  Spec­tac­u­lar.

Au Pied de Cochon, dai­ly spe­cials.. Deli­cious (also, par­don this crap­py iPhone pho­to, it doesn’t do this food jus­tice..)

The two of us opt­ed for two of the sup­per spe­cials, PDC’s pork ribs and a white fish dish that I’d nev­er heard of but savored every bite of nonethe­less.. Each of the dish­es was por­tioned per­fect­ly, full of fla­vor, clear­ly pre­pared with care, and cooked to per­fec­tion..

The ser­vice, offered in French (and Eng­lish for this mono-lin­guis­tic hea­then) was atten­tive, friend­ly and puts any­thing I’ve encoun­tered in Cal­gary to shame..   When we arrived, the restu­rau­rnt was very warm (due to the 32 degree high tem­per­a­ture in the day­time). Staff were extreme­ly con­cerned with rec­ti­fy­ing this issue by turn­ing on the air con­di­tion­ing and when that failed, open­ing the patio doors to encour­age air­flow from the tree-lined street.

If you hadn’t guessed, I’d high­ly rec­om­mend Au Pied de Cochon if you’re out din­ing in Mon­tre­al!

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