Went for a wan­der about Que­béc today with a real­ly love­ly French cou­ple that’ve been stay­ing here at the same airbnb. Such a spec­tac­u­lar loca­tion, and good peo­ple (along with some tasty food) made for a won­der­ful day. I’m not much for words tonight, but this city is stun­ning­ly beau­ti­ful and deserves a prop­er explo­ration.

 

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The last few weeks have been well spent explor­ing Mon­tréal and look­ing for a place to hang my hat this win­ter. I’ve done some research in to lan­guage schools, and will be look­ing at get­ting that set up for the new year.

In the mean­time, I’ve head­ed up to Québec City to do a quick one week course to get my head in shape to start this part of the learn­ing jour­ney.

More on this lat­er, but for now, a most­ly pic­toral post. A few images from the very beau­ti­ful dri­ve between Mon­tréal and Québec.

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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I’ve been post­ing a lot to face­book late­ly.  It’s easy.  And it has a way of draw­ing me back in despite cavok.com being my pre­ferred method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  I have a post com­ing up about my time in Har­lan, Ken­tucky, and the time I spent with my good friend J.D. Napi­er there. I had the incred­i­ble for­tune to meet J.D. after get­ting myself com­plete­ly lost on my first trip to Har­lan.   More on that lat­er, but for now a quick shot of us togeth­er with the Giant Blacksmith’s Anvil J.D. has con­struct­ed right there on site.

J.D. Napier and Jordan with the world's biggest anvil?

J.D. Napi­er and Jor­dan with the world’s biggest anvil?

 

For now though, I’d like to record a few thoughts from today’s trip toward Chica­go while they’re still fresh in my mind.  Parts of this are pulled from a face­book post, and I’ve added a few things in too..

A chilly start in Harlan, KY

A chilly start in Har­lan, KY

Had an incred­i­ble day out on the move today. Leav­ing Har­lan this morn­ing, fog coat­ed the fall coloured for­est on Pine moun­tain, and filled the Hol­lows beneath. The air was frigid and numbed my face as it flowed over ThirstyGirl’s wind­shield. Rid­ing over the gen­tly curv­ing moun­tain roads, I expe­ri­enced a moment of pure joy that I’ve not felt in decades. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I yelled whoops of pure elate­ment in to my hel­met visor. I’d set a cam­era up on the motor­cy­cle fend­er to cap­ture that sec­tion of the ride, but it end­ed up not record­ing so you’ll have to take my word that it was one of the most incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful scenes I’ve encoun­tered in my life­time.

Martins Fork, Harlan KY in the early morning

Mar­tins Fork, Har­lan KY in the ear­ly morn­ing

Head­ed for Chica­go, I had the incred­i­ble for­tune to catch up with some incred­i­ble peo­ple. First a cof­fee and an ever so short vis­it with my good friend Jeff Ross in Bar­bourville.

Jordan and Jeff at The Ugly Mug

Jor­dan and Jeff at The Ugly Mug

And anoth­er stop for lunch with an awe­some dude, Chase Sat­ter­white in Lex­ing­ton. (Oops, we should have grabbed a pho­to too..) It was fan­tas­tic to catch up with both of you guys, and I appre­ci­ate your tak­ing the time out for a vis­it today. That was icing on the cake.

Bed­ded down in Lafayette, Indi­ana and man­aged to get the last room in the hotel.. The Pres­i­den­tial Suite. Oh yeaaahh… The only thing this room is miss­ing is a spe­cial some­one to share it with. Giv­en the epic nature of today’s trip, I’ll con­cede this isn’t a total neces­si­ty!

I feel as though I do lead a charmed life, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to tru­ly appre­ci­ate it. I’m filled with grat­i­tude for every­thing that I’ve expe­ri­enced today and lead­ing up to today.

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Okay,
I’m gonna try and to do some real­ly quick updates as I’m head­ing home.

25 May — breakfast.

As I sit in a greasy spoon wait­ing on my omelette, an old timer sits across from me. He’s chat­ting with the staff about his daugh­ter going in in to hos­pice.

I’m reflect­ing on the con­ver­sa­tion we had as we both entered the restau­rant. About the weath­er. It’s bad here. I’d com­ment­ed how bru­tal it’d been for me over the last week or so.

The hos­pice con­ver­sa­tion I’d over­head has just set this trip back in con­text. Every­thing I have expe­ri­enced to date has been a gift. All the wind and bugs and bit­ter­ly cold rain are my reward for expe­ri­ence gained and miles trav­eled.

This whole trip has been a gift of unbe­liev­able intri­ca­cy that I shall sure­ly be reap­ing the rewards from years to come.

This will be ever present in my mind as I make the final por­tion of my jour­ney home.

25 May

Head­ing in to Leth­bridge this after­noon, then back to Cal­gary. Should be home tonight. Left my Cana­di­an SIM card some­where along the trail so I may not have a phone for a bit once I cross the bor­der..

Thank­ful­ly today it’s sun­shiny and beau­ti­ful out.. Not at all like yes­ter­day:

Northern Montana Storms

24 May

Stopped in Buffalo,WY to throw my gear in a dry­er and have a quick feed after bare­ly 100mi cov­ered in the rain. It’s snow­ing to the west, so jelly­stone is out for this trip. 700 mi to go. Gonna try and push home tonight if I can stay dry and warn enough..
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May 21:

Safe and sound some­where. Rus­sel? Sure, lets call it Rus­sel.
Wish you were here.
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May 20:

Safe and sound some­where south of St. Louis MO.. Great ride today with a bit of rain and some crazi­ness.. I total­ly over­shot High Knob Camp­ground which was my intend­ed stop for the evening.. :( Guess I’ll have to save my vis­it for the next trip.. :(

May 19:

Got to Nashville last night just in time to head out and grab a bite to eat.. Chang­ing things up from my last vis­it, I trust­ed in Trip Advi­sor to lead me to some­thing cool­er than the stan­dard Broad­way-Hon­key-Tonk-Tourist-Traps.. I end­ed up at the Back Alley Din­er for a bite to eat, and a few drinks and had a pret­ty great time hang­ing out with the likes of Chris & Chris­tel, Kevin & Kim, and Miss June, who under no cir­cum­stances should ever be called “Miss” June.. Man­aged to do a bit of a local pub-crawl with C&C and K&K to end up the night. — Fan­tas­tic!

I’m off into the coun­try and don’t expect to have much in the way of inter­net for the next few days, to don’t wor­ry about an update for a bit! :)

Oh, also, I’ve added a lit­tle adorn­ment to Thirsty­Girl. This real­ly ties the whole bike togeth­er.. ;)

Hula girl on an FJR 1300?  I say YES!

Thirsty­Girl and I took a break and head­ed for the coast. I had to see the ocean for at least a lit­tle bit… Our prox­im­i­ty to the oft-dis­cussed-in-motor­cy­cle-cir­cles “Tail of the Drag­on” ride on US 129 made it a log­i­cal start to the trip. The drag­on is well known around these parts, and is pop­u­lar with both auto and motor­cy­cling enthu­si­asts. There is much lore sur­round­ing the (report­ed) 318 curves on this 11 mile stretch of road, most of it sur­round­ing the num­ber of deaths this year (appar­ent­ly 8 already in 2012, but I don’t believe this to be accu­rate..).

See­ing this, I knew we were in for an incred­i­ble ride..

Road sign: Truck Advisory. US 129 South. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate routeRoad sign: Truck Advisory. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate route (US 129 South)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Edit:

I man­aged to get some video uploaded.. This is a fair­ly high-speed ver­sion of the footage I shot from the front of the bike.  It’s pret­ty shaky due to some vibra­tion prob­lems I hadn’t antic­i­pat­ed and the real­ly twisty-turny stuff starts about 2:40..  Don’t feel bad about fast-for­ward­ing.. Hope you enjoy..

[tube]jV-TLMZmNCo[/tube]

If you can’t watch, or per­haps can’t wait ’till the end, this is what I found at the end of my ride up the hill:  Ooops.

Busted!

Around the cor­ner from my impromp­tu stop was the Deal’s Gap store which is real­ly the tail of the tail of the drag­on, they’ve got a motel, gas sta­tion and a whole pile of sou­venirs and tchotchkes to prove  you’ve been there!

Beyond Deal’s gap, I took a break from US 129 and head­ed down High­way 82 along the spec­tac­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful shores of Cheoah Lake. I can say with­out a doubt that this stretch of high­way was even more enjoy­able than the first sec­tion of the day. The curves were equal­ly hair-pinned and bendy, but the dri­ve was just a bit more relaxed with­out the onslaught of oncom­ing traf­fic wan­der­ing across into my lane..

At some point along its length, 28 joins up with High­way 107 and con­tin­ued to inspire awe (at least on my part)..   I shot this pho­to around 5:30 PM,  just over the South Car­oli­na bor­der.

Highway 28 and 107 in South Carolina: Road, motorcycle mirror and open road

High­way 28 and 107 in South Car­oli­na

It was get­ting near­ly time to shut down for the night, but I had a few more hours of road to get behind me to keep mov­ing east..   For some rea­son every turn I made to head in the right direc­tion head­ed me back toward Atlanta..   The most detailed Rand McNal­ly maps I could find failed to list the pletho­ra of actu­al high­ways that line this coun­try­side, sig­nif­i­cant­ly adding to the con­fus­ing nav­i­ga­tion sce­nario..  Oh, iPhone maps, yeah, they’re much more con­fus­ing. I digress, but it’s pos­si­ble you’ll hear a rant about them lat­er.

Fun­ny thing with North­ern Geor­gia, in stark con­trast to the beau­ti­ful lit­tle farms that line East Ten­nessee roads, the coun­try­side here was real­ly bar­ren.  Devoid of hous­es, farms, cities and real­ly any pop­u­la­tion at all.. I final­ly found my way to the small town of Lavo­nia GA and bed­ded down for the night.

The next day of trav­el took me through more of north­ern Geor­gia and South­west­ern South Car­oli­na.  (I know this gets con­fus­ing, have a look at the map and stick with me!). I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stop and take a walk through a Civ­il-War era Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery in McCormick SC.  For those of you who haven’t had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wan­der through old-coun­try grave­yards, I’d high­ly rec­om­mend the expe­ri­ence.   His­to­ry comes alive when you start see­ing cru­cial his­tor­i­cal dates etched in stone. The thing that struck me was how long peo­ple were liv­ing back in the late 17 and ear­ly 1800’s.. Sev­er­al of the stones I read were peo­ple that lived well into their 80’s and 90’s, and that’s through the US Civ­il War!  Who­ev­er says we’re liv­ing longer today might want to recheck their stats. ;)

Robert Bayless Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Confederate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Robert Bay­less Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Con­fed­er­ate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Lewis Bozeman, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Lewis Boze­man, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Elizabeth T. Dean, consort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, October 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Eliz­a­beth T. Dean, con­sort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, Octo­ber 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Confederate Cross

The whole after­noon took me through some pret­ty eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed areas..  I saw very lit­tle in the way of indus­try, com­merce, or any oth­er viable form of income save a bit of farm­ing..

Building for Rent: Bracknell's - This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISE - WILL NEVER -

Build­ing for Rent: Bracknell’s — This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISEWILL NEVER -

Often, I’d come across vir­tu­al ghost towns that looked recent­ly-pros­per­ous. It was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sur­re­al and sad­den­ing. Cross­ing the state line between South Car­oli­na and Augus­ta GA was per­haps the most stark con­trast between have and have-not..  After a half day of pass­ing run-down farms and desert­ed towns, the sub­urbs of Augus­ta were incred­i­bly posh and well devel­oped..

Augus­ta itself has seen bet­ter days..   Both of my cam­eras had giv­en up the ghost by the time I got there, but I man­aged to catch a few shots of the Augus­ta Pow­der Works build­ings where much of the Con­fed­er­ate gun­pow­der and muni­tions were made dur­ing the Civ­il War.  Much of the area around the pow­der works was incred­i­bly depressed and as I rode around I couldn’t help but think that it deserved much more explo­ration and time with a cam­era and an open ear.

ThirstyGirl at the Augusta Powder Works

Thirsty­Girl at the Augus­ta Pow­der Works (Now a cot­ton com­pa­ny)

Push­ing on, and after one more speed­ing tick­et (a lit­tle more than a hand-slap this time) I final­ly made it in to Savan­nah and got set­tled for a few days of wan­der­ing..  That, in the next post. This one is already get­ting toooo long. Read Part 2 here if you’d like to con­tin­ue!

 

– If you haven’t read it yet, you can click this link for part 1 of this post! –

Savan­nah Geor­gia turned out to be an incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful city to just walk around for  a few days (the old His­toric Dis­trict was at least!)..  Savan­nah res­i­dents seem to take great pride in the many treed squares and beau­ti­ful archi­tec­ture that fills the old dis­trict and they’re well worth an after­noon to wan­der through, or just to sit down and watch oth­ers do the same.  Those inter­est­ed in high-end antiques will delight in the pletho­ra of shops cater­ing to those with a pen­chant for ancient his­to­ry and/or mon­ey to burn.  Sad­ly, most of the books I found in the stores I vis­it­ed were writ­ten in Swedish or Ger­man lan­guage, nei­ther of which were par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful to me.

Savannah Harbour Diptych

Scat­tered about the same dis­trict are numer­ous build­ings belong­ing to the Savan­nah Col­lege of Art and Design (SCAD) an art school with a pret­ty great sto­ry. If you spend any amount of time in the area, you’ll undoubt­ed­ly come across the pletho­ra of art stu­dents going about their dai­ly lives.  Owing to the sheer num­ber of of art­sy-types, I couldn’t help the con­tin­u­ous loop of Lydia the Tat­tooed Lady play­ing in my head as I wan­dered about town. :)

The night-life in Savan­nah is plen­ti­ful and full of choice.  One of my favourites by far is the Bay Street Blues, a good, hon­est bar with freakin-fan­tas­tic music!

[tube]O1pYyaaU0Lw[/tube]

I’m told there was a lot of real­ly great food to eat in town, and I did man­age to have a few good meals but with the way my tim­ing worked out a few snacks seemed to do me well for most of my two days here..  Paula Dean’s restau­rant did come rec­om­mend­ed, and indeed it’s pop­u­lar (so pop­u­lar in fact that it spans three floors and sports a wait­ing list).  Ms. Dean is well known for her south­ern cook­ing, and indeed the buf­fet sup­per her estab­lish­ment served was pret­ty tasty, the ser­vice and din­ing expe­ri­ence left a lot to be desired.

I try to be as pos­i­tive as pos­si­ble on this site, but my next stop at Hilton Head Island was, well, fright­en­ing (in a chil­dren of the corn sor­ta way).  I will say, that on my way out to Hilton Head, I man­aged to find a farmer’s mar­ket and food-fair in the small town of Bluffton SC.  Also found here was the posh­est choco­late chip cook­ie I’ve ever eat­en.  I mean, seri­ous­ly, who puts whipped cream on a cook­ie? Idun­no, but every­body should!

Posh Cookie in Bluffton, SC

So, yeah, Hilton Head Island. One of the odd­est (and odd­ly uncom­fort­able) places I’ve vis­it­ed in a long time.  As I drove the long park­way out to the island, I passed per­fect­ly man­i­cured medi­ans that led me to believe I’d head­ed into sub­ur­ban hell.   This was only the begin­ning.  Hilton Head, it turns out, is FULL of time-share con­dos and plan­ta­tion resorts..  I stopped in to a “tourist infor­ma­tion” cen­ter look­ing for a bed and break­fast or hos­tel with no luck.  Turns out that it was actu­al­ly a time­share sales office. Ergh.. I have to be fair though, the gal there was nice enough to send me to one place that did have hotel rooms too, and gave me some rec­om­men­da­tions for food and drink that night. I was still pret­ty exhaust­ed from an epic night out in Savan­nah, and called it quits after search­ing in vain for a place to eat some­thing healthy.  In the process, I learned that the plan­ta­tions (there are many) on Hilton Head have all banned motor­cy­cles from the prop­er­ty.  All motor­cy­cles. Huh?  Must be that only bad peo­ple ride motor­cy­cles.. Or some­thing..

Look­ing for that meal, I only man­aged to find a bar that sold food.  As I wait­ed for my burg­er (the health­i­est thing I could find), I came to the hor­ri­ble real­iza­tion that I was in some real­ly awful ’80’s sum­mer-par­ty-movie..  Real­ly. Awful.   Though my hotel was peace­ful, I was hap­py to get out of there in the morn­ing..

Head­ing north again, toward North Car­oli­na, I hap­pened across Cry­ba­bies Tav­ern (as I was search­ing for food again) in Beau­fort, SC. (not to be con­fused with Beau­fort, NC… One is pro­nounced Be-U-fort, the oth­er BO-fort to mit­i­gate any chance of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.. )

Cry­ba­bies is pos­si­bly the BEST lit­tle dive-bar I’ve ever had the plea­sure of drink­ing in. The bar­tender was awe­some, and the patrons were just good, hon­est, unpre­ten­tious, and hos­pitable. This place is well worth stop­ping in if you ever hap­pen to find your­self in Beau­fort (SC). High­light? The base­ball bat behind the bar.  Win!

Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SCThreat deterrence: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

Interior photo: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

I made my way up to Charleston North Car­oli­na, the site of the first shot in the US Civ­il War and home to the high­est den­si­ty of beau­ti­ful and fit peo­ple I’ve seen in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.  Yowza!   Take your ten, add about twelve and you’ve got your­self a good aver­age for Charleston.  In all seri­ous­ness, I did see an incred­i­bly high pro­por­tion of healthy-weight peo­ple here, in com­par­isoon to many of the oth­er places I’ve down in the US.  I’m not sure how the demo­graph­ics play in to this but suf­fice it to say, if you’re look­ing to find an active and fit pop­u­la­tion, this’d be a good place to start look­ing!

In Charleston, I stayed in a dorm room at the Not­so Hos­tel which turned out to be a refresh­ing change from the hotels I’d been stay­ing in.  I got a chance to min­gle with prop­er trav­el­ers and even some rel­a­tive locals dur­ing my two day stay.. The bagels and Nutel­la for break­fast were an unex­pect­ed bonus too!  All in all, def­i­nite­ly a worth­while place to stay.

With the onset of mug­gy, rainy weath­er a few days before, I’d been on the move to try and find nice weath­er. The prospects looked kin­da dim for find­ing sun any­where in North Car­oli­na, so I made the best of it and head­ed down to Fort Sumpter, the site of the events that real­ly kicked off the Civ­il War. It may not look like much now, but in its day, Sumpter’s walls were three sto­ries tall, and it boast­ed an officer’s quar­ters that were fit for a gen­tle­man, com­plete with mar­ble fire­places, canopy beds and par­quet floors.. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the occu­pants, it was designed to with­stand attack from the ocean with 50′ mason­ry walls and posi­tions for some 130 guns most of which weren’t actu­al­ly installed yet. Oh, and the Con­fed­er­ate attack just hap­pened to come from the land-side.  It fell, and the war was on..

Fort Sumpter NC

Fort Sumpter NC

Undaunt­ed, but grow­ing weary of the poor, driz­zly weath­er envelop­ing the east coast, I made the deci­sion to head inland and get away from the rain.  I start­ed the five hour dri­ve in a down­pour and end­ed up in Asheville NC in near freez­ing tem­per­a­tures..  As I dragged my weary and weath­er-numb body into a restau­rant for a cup of cof­fee and a minute to regroup, a local cop men­tioned to me that it was sup­posed to snow that evening.   Crrrap!   I’m down here to avoid the snow, not find it!

Luck­i­ly, that pre­dic­tion turned out to be false, and I’d found one of my favourite hos­tels of all time, Sweet Peas.  If you’ve ever won­dered how to run a hos­tel right, this is the place to see. Upon check-in, you’re pro­vid­ed with a tow­el, face cloth, and a Sweet Peas stick­er.. Noth­ing like a lit­tle free adver­tis­ing!   The build­ing is super-clean, beau­ti­ful­ly designed, and well equipped.  I opt­ed for a pri­vate room because I had a whole pile of gear to sort out, but there are open four bed dorms and semi-pri­vate “pods” avail­able as well.  The beds were rea­son­ably com­fort­able and linens were pro­vid­ed on all beds–Nice!

Asheville itself is an incred­i­ble town (city?) full of ran­dom art at every turn and this alone puts me in a hap­py place.    Top that off with a daz­zling selec­tion of phe­nom­e­nal food, and a laid-back but super­cool nightlife, Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and a con­cert hall that fea­tures the likes of (Cal­gary native) Leslie Feist  and you’ve got a hel­luf­va hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, and I can imag­ine, a pret­ty great place to go to school!

Chicken Lane artwork, Asheville, SC

Ashville, NC Back Alley

Creative Addressing: Asheville, NC

Piano Garden: Asheville, NC

And even a lit­tle left­over from our afraid-of-the-Rus­sians days..

Cold War Remenants: Asheville, NC

The trip back to Ten­nessee to meet Chris­tianne is next on my update list, and was rel­a­tive­ly unevent­ful except that one time I stood Thirsty­Girl on her back tyre try­ing to merge back onto the inter­state..

Ooops.

Your map for this side-trip:

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As I sit here reply­ing to mes­sages and prepar­ing my list of activ­i­ties (chores) for the day, I came across this video I’d sent to a friend in Octo­ber. It struck a chord with me then, and even more now as I look over a grove of trees through which the sun is shin­ing and the wind is gen­tly blow­ing. I’m reflect­ing on the last sev­er­al weeks on the road. I’m so tru­ly grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ties I’ve had that enable this sort of trip in the first place. I’m over­joyed by the con­nec­tions I’ve made with peo­ple I’d nev­er ordi­nar­i­ly meet. I’m awed by the incred­i­ble diver­si­ty in land­scape and cul­ture I’ve expe­ri­enced, and dou­bly awed by the incred­i­ble sin­cer­i­ty and kind­ness of each indi­vid­ual I’ve met along the way.

One thing that makes me a bit sour is that I’ve done very lit­tle in the way of updates here; in fact, you still need to hear about the trip with Chris­tianne, and the trip to Geor­gia, North and South Car­oli­na before that, a bar called Cry­ba­bies and the hor­ror of Hilton Head island. I’ve been feel­ing a bit guilty about not updat­ing but truth­ful­ly, it takes a great deal of time to com­pose each of my posts, and I sim­ply run out of time each and every day I’m here and I’m quite con­tent to just enjoy each day so the updates may just con­tin­ue to be sparse..

Some days here are spent doing absolute­ly noth­ing, and oth­ers are filled with chores and excite­ment, either way, they dis­ap­pear so unbe­liev­ably fast. That obser­va­tion serves as a reminder that life itself is just as fleet­ing and how impor­tant it is to enjoy, nay rel­ish each day of our lives. I present you with my favourite com­ment from the afore­men­tioned film.. Please enjoy both the film and your day!

You think this is just anoth­er day, in your life. It’s not just anoth­er day. It’s, the one day that is giv­en to you, today. It’s giv­en to you; it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appro­pri­ate response is grate­ful­ness.

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A friend of mine post­ed on her face­book page yes­ter­day:
Vot­ed, Tax­es in, Mom picked up at air­port … I play ‘Adult’ well.

Upon read­ing that, my first thought was.. “Oh, crap!  I’ve been gal­li­vant­i­ng long enough that I didn’t vote in the elec­tion, the accoun­tant had to remind me that my tax­es were due, and I’ve got a very impor­tant pas­sen­ger to pick up at the air­port today..   I real­ly hope I’m enough of an adult to get one out of three right.”

I’m unbe­liev­ably excit­ed (to say the least) about this trip to the air­port though, so we should be all good! I’ll be pick­ing up one incred­i­bly cool chi­ca who has tak­en a pret­ty big leap of faith and head­ed down here on a whim so we can see the Rolex Ken­tucky togeth­er..  You’ll see more of Chris­tianne over the next week as we explore Ken­tucky and the Smoky Moun­tains!

With that all said, she’ll be here in less than 12 hours and I still have much to do..  More updat­ing lat­er..

:)

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So some­where in the mid­dle of my last post, I actu­al­ly manged to sneak a trip in to see my bud­dy Abi in Lex­ing­ton KY which, as it turns out is only about three hours away from Knoxville..  I hopped on to Thirsty­Girl and head­ed across the state line to catch Abi for sup­per..  As it turns out, there’s a bit of a hilly/mountain range between the two cities and that’s always good for a lit­tle excite­ment when it comes to weath­er.   About half-way through the trip, and with the approach of some real­ly omi­nous look­ing clouds, I fig­ured it’d be time to suit up and get kin­da water­proofed, and it was good that I did..

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I also took the lib­er­ty of affix­ing the go-pro to the front of the bike and attempt­ing to film what a ride in the rain looks like from a motorcyclist’s per­spec­tive.. And it’s mis­er­able. Par­tic­u­lar­ly when the four wheel­ers all get scared and decide to pull off the road. Any part of the road, the shoul­der, the ditch, the left lane..  Imag­ine being pelt­ed with rain and hail whilst those same four-wheel­ers tried to decide whether they want­ed to pull over or just dri­ve slow for twen­ty miles.. (The Nerve! Right?) Need­less to say, I had a few choice words for the bulk of those dri­vers ahead of me..

With hands black­ened from the dye in my sat­u­rat­ed rid­ing gloves, I arrived in to Lex­ing­ton just in time to get show­ered (warmed up) and head out for a bite to eat.. Abi and I met her bud­dy Chase at one of their local favourite restau­rants where I learned about a Ken­tucky favourite dish: The Hot Brown..   My first thought was that this thing was ‘heart attack on a plate.’  And it is, but I had to try it any­way..  Sev­er­al lay­ers of sliced meat lay atop a cou­ple of pieces of white bread, and are then smoth­ered in cheese, and melt­ed in the oven.  There is a veg­e­tar­i­an option, but real­ly, why would you try that? (Well, Abi did, but she lives there..)

Kentucky Hot Brown

After a good feed, a slice of pie, and a dri­ve out to Ver­sailles (Pro­nounced Ver-Sails by the locals) to see the cas­tle I turned in for the night..  The next day after a quick lunch and vis­it, I head­ed back for Knoxville and a good night’s sleep.  This was just a quick trip, so most­ly inter­state free­ways, but it was incred­i­bly pret­ty ter­ri­to­ry nonethe­less; unfor­tu­nate­ly, I was pret­ty tired from the pre­vi­ous day in the rain and had to pull over to take a quick nap.

Remind me some time to tell you about the fire engine and the ambu­lance show­ing up…

Knoxville to Lex­ing­ton Map:

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