Latest travel adventure: Motorbike roadtrip through the States

Recently I made a solo road trip of over 4000km through the United States on my pride and joy; my Yamaha Vstar 1100cc.

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The first word that comes to mind about the trip is: Incredible.

It was a bold undertaking and an intense trip – spectacular, inspiring, challenging, peaceful, scary, liberating, humbling. One thing it certainly wasn’t: boring.

I made a giant figure eight as I traveled south from Calgary through Montana, Wyoming and then to my furthest southern point of Salt Lake City in Utah. A slow trip back up through Idaho, into Yellowstone National Park for 3 days in Wyoming, and then north through Montana including riding the famous Going to the Sun highway.

As a relatively new rider of just over three years, this was easily the largest road trip I had ever made and I really had no idea what to expect out there on the open road.

Complete strangers went out of their way again and again throughout the trip to help me out, have a chat, welcome me to their town. Every time I needed help I would turn around and someone would be there right out of the blue to help me out. I simply could not have made this trip without each of their small kindnesses.

I posted each day on Facebook to keep people in the loop who were following my adventures (and reassure those who were worrying about my well being) and I hope these photo’s will capture the summer heat and sense of adventure.

Perhaps they will even inspire you to plan your own magnificent adventure.

 

It took 3 days to ride straight south through prairies, mountains, lakes and desert into Salt Lake City.

 

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Heading out on the road – note the 1940’s train case on the back seat for smaller portable needs such as maps, snacks, water. Both saddlebags were also removable.

 

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Montana is bursting with winding highways, crisp lakes and pine trees.

 

 

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Wide open highway and not a vehicle in sight. Vroooom! That storm to the right did eventually catch up with me. It was worth it.

 

 

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This is a pretty over the top example, but there were patriotic displays at every turn and in every small town.

 

 

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My inspiration for making the trip was to spend some time with my sister in Salt Lake City. She was flying in from Sydney for a conference and we hadn’t seen each other for two years.

 

 

 

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This is what happens when you’re riding in the desert, it’s 45c out and your saddlebags get too close to your pipes. Once I found the source of the smell, I was grateful it wasn’t the engine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I really enjoyed staying in rustic cabins and pretending I was a hermit in the woods

 

 

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I earnt my bike ‘wings’ with all these switchbacks and impossibly windy highways

 

 

 

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And then there was the wildlife. Sometimes small…

 

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Sometimes massive! Note the light brown bison calf in the left foreground. Aw.

 

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And in the case of Idaho. Sometimes stuffed on a wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was the only bear I saw on my trip. Given that I was on a motorbike I was okay with not seeing any bears.

 

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Right place at the right time and I got to watch this free outdoor theatre production. I helped the cast pack the truck afterwards and it was like I never left!

 

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My trusty steed saw me through thunderstorms, intense heat, desert, mountains, Interstates, nasty soft gravel, foreign city traffic and impossibly windy roads.

 

 

 

 

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Are you thinking about that dream trip that you haven’t gotten around to yet? Life is short. Take one small action towards it today. Just do it.

 

Calgary Stampede: Come hell or high water

It’s hard to believe that half of Calgary – including the Calgary Stampede grounds and Parade Route – was underwater just 10 days before Stampede started.

(Check out this video that shows a time lapse of the clean up effort:  http://huff.to/1aTFY19 )

Stampede is more than ‘just a party’ as it injects over $345 million each year into the Calgary economy, with 1200 full-time jobs, 3,500 seasonal jobs and millions of dollars raised for local charities.

With stranger helping stranger, in 2013 this city has truly stepped up to help each other.

Which is probably why this year’s Stampede has been so special.

Here are some of my photos from this year that I would like to share with you –

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This year’s official Stampede t-shirt ‘Come Hell or High Water’ says it all. Funds raised from it’s sale go towards Alberta flood relief.

 

 

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It started off with my first ever cowboy hat – from the very cool Smithbilt factory. They mold the crown and brim right in front of you in the back of the shop!

 

 

 

I had the pleasure of volunteering on the Pre-Parade this year as the sign carrier for the Filipino Community dance group. I was honoured.

I had the pleasure of volunteering on the Pre-Parade this year as the sign carrier for the Filipino Community dance group. I was honoured.

 

 

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A couple of friendly navy boys .. and why yes… I am wearing my volunteer ribbon!

 

 

 

Yes, that's a bull being ridden through downtown Calgary

Yes, that’s a bull being ridden through downtown Calgary

 

 

There's a wonderfully diverse range of performers in the Parade

There’s a wonderfully diverse range of performers in the Parade

 

 

Lots of horses. Lots of uniforms. Win-win really.

The RCMP musical ride is always a highlight.

 

 

This year I got to meet the Calgary Stampede mascot: Harry the Horse

This year I got to meet the Calgary Stampede mascot: Harry the Horse

 

 

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One of my favourite places to hang out on the Stampede grounds each year is the Indian Village. Each tipi has it’s own story and has been handed down through ceremony through the generations.

 

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The top of the tipi represents the sky, the middle part represents the animal motives that are particular to the family, and the bottom part represents the earth

 

 

There is a powwow that takes place throughout the Stampede

There is a powwow that takes place throughout the Stampede

 

 

All seven of the local First Nation tribes are represented

All seven of the local First Nation tribes are represented

 

 

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These beautiful work horses are always a highlight before the chuckwagons

 

 

 

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The crowd was eagerly awaiting the evening’s grandstand show to begin!

 

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The show had some great live flame effects – we were only ten seconds in when we got the first blast of fire! And the show didn’t stop building pace from that point on.

 

 

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The show had spectacular lighting, great pyrotechnics and even flying people.

 

 

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Some of the outstanding talent was this Freddie Mercury impersonator. Not only was he brilliant, but he flew in on this white piano

 

 

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The finale had something for everyone – even a couple of magical flying horses.

 

 

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The evening ended a moving tribute to Calgary and it’s flood volunteers. Followed by the traditional fireworks show.

 

 

Food I’m loving: Lentil breakfast patties

For those of us who don’t eat meat, finding a variety of protein for breakfast can be quite a chore.

That’s where these lentil breakfast patties come in handy – the original recipe is vegan, but I added egg to help the patties stay together.

 

Lentil Breakfast Patties

Makes approximately 10

 

Ingredients:

1 cup brown or green lentils, cooked

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 beet, shredded

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped fine

1/8 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/8 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/8 cup hemp seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp sea salt

1/8 cup tomato paste

1 egg, beaten

 

Directions:

1. Put brown rice on to cook – approximately 40 minutes

2. Put lentils on to cook – you want them to be quite soft

3. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl while brown rice and lentils are cooking

4. Preheat oven at 350F

4. Hand mix all ingredients together and form patties

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5. Lay patties out on a lined or lightly greased baking sheet

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6. Bake in oven at 350F for 20-25 minutes

7. Allow to cool slightly before removing from baking sheet

History Lesson: The necktie (Part Two)

In the early 1900s, men’s neckwear still consisted of a variety of complicated knots and styles which eventually gave way to the necktie, the bow tie and the ascot.

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Standard gentleman’s necktie

 

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Classic bow tie

 

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The gentleman on the right has his ascot tucked into his vest as was the custom

 

These styles remained until 1924 when New York tailor, Jesse Langsdorf invented and patented a method of cutting the fabric on the bias and constructing a 3 piece tie. This technique improved the elasticity of the fabric and helped it to keep it’s shape. This is still the method of garment construction in use for ties today.

Along with the modern tie, came a number of small etiquette’s which play their part in stylish dress.

 

Here’s my top 3 of the unspoken rules for those in the know:

1. The blade ends should ideally reach the top of the trouser waistband and should match up in length. Not as easy as it looks to the uninitiated.

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2. A small dimple at the base of the knot shows a certain finesse.

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3. Bow ties should never look perfectly tied.  Ceaseless practice usually suffices to produce the precise look of subtle imperfection.

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4. The proper length for a bow tie is achieved when the ends sit within the edges of the collar. (Okay. That’s four, but this is important)

 

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(Extra points if you can name all four performers)

 

History Lesson: The necktie (Part One)

Although there is some mystery as to the origins of the modern necktie, it is generally agreed that it descended from the cravat.

Many believe that the French word for tie (cravat) is in fact a corruption of the word ‘croat’ .

During the Thirty Years War in the 1600s the Croatian mercenaries who were in the French service wore traditional knotted neckerchiefs and caught the attention of King Louis XIV.

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The ‘Sun King’ Louis was still a boy then, but he began wearing a lace cravat in court when he was just seven – and in doing so, set a new fashion for the French nobility. They were soon worn by both men and women and were often elaborate concoctions that were held in place by special strings and tied in a bow.

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Louis XIV in his prime years

 

The cravat evolved into a simpler neck garment one hundred years later in the 1700s with the Industrial Revolution. As people moved into the factories for work, they wanted comfortable neckwear that was easy to put on and would last for an entire workday.

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Men on their way to the factory

 

This long thin design was easily knotted and stayed in place all day – and it was to become the precursor to the modern day tie.

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Latest travel adventure: Ukrainian Heritage Cultural Village

One of the best deals in Alberta for the adventurer is the Alberta History Pass.

$30 gives you entrance for a whole year into a comprehensive network of historic sites, interpretive centres and museums operated by the Government of Alberta. You can learn more about the pass here: (http://www.history.alberta.ca/mainfiles/experiencealbertahistory.aspx)

My latest History Pass adventure was to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, 50km east of Edmonton. (Learn more here:  http://www.history.alberta.ca/ukrainianvillage )

This award-winning, open-air museum depicts the history of east central Alberta by telling the story of Ukrainian immigrants who settled in the region from 1892-1930. It’s a living museum (my favourite kind) – with over thirty historic structures that have been relocated and restored, then staffed by costumed role-players who re-enact the historic routines and activities associated with that household, institution or business.

Our tour guide was energetic and knowledgeable – and I highly recommend taking one of the free tours that run on the hour.

You’re going to need 3 hours at the minimum to explore the site, but I recommend taking a half day and packing a lunch.

There’s a lot of walking involved, so wear practical shoes and expect the museum to be much busier in high summer than at the shoulders of the season.

 

Many of the villages sprang up around the railway. The railway station is on the left, the town's grain elevator is on the right - often surrounded by a moat in case of fire.

Many of the villages sprang up along the railway line. The railway station is on the left, with the town’s grain elevator on the right – they were often surrounded by a moat in case of fire.

 

The view of the Main Street of a typical Ukrainian village

The view of Main Street of a typical Ukrainian village. That’s the railway walkway on the right.

 

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This was the go-to store for everything from lumber to paint to coal to nails. The wooden area in front of the building is a scale for weighing cartloads of coal.

 

 

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This tiny shack was the local post office!

 

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Perhaps one of the most important buildings – the Community Hall. Used for everything from dances to town meetings to weddings.

 

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St Vladimir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church – moved in pieces from nearby Vegreville.

 

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Ornate inside – and with seating for the congregation. More visually welcoming than the alternative Russo-Greek orthodox church.

 

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This chandelier is not actually made out of gold – but out of carved wood, and painted to look like gold. Painstaking detail.

 

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The women and men sat separately (to keep them focused on spiritual matters), with each side indicated by a female or male religious figure embroidered on the banner.

 

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The alternative church in town – the St Nicholas Russo-Greek orthodox church. The tall building on the left is not a food storage to keep bears out – it’s a bell tower. No musical instruments were allowed in the church.

 

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These were the only benches in the church – for specific moments of prayer. The congregation stood for the service.

 

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A view of the town centre from the outside ring road. Services were clustered together in town and people lived on the land surrounding. The standard package of land granted to the Ukrainian immigrants was 160 acres – however, it was only considered settled if at least 30 acres had been cleared within 3 years. It was back breaking work clearing the heavy forest with little but axes and bare hands.

 

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Our wonderful tour guide, Andrea. Everyone in the village is dressed in character – including thick stockings and head coverings.

 

 

 

Music I’m loving: Lief Vollebekk

‘North Americana’ by Lief Vollebekk is a thoughtful melodic album that conjures up images of summer roadtrips, dusty American towns and quiet country evenings.

Deceptively simple, this album sounds as though he just picked up a guitar and started playing – when in fact, it was two years in the making to get just the ‘right’ blend.

I have been playing this album constantly since I discovered it last week and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of great ballad writers such as Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan or Gillian Welch.

There’s not one song on here that let’s the set down – each one fits together to form a beautifully nostalgic album.

You can find more about Montreal-based Lief Vollebekk here: http://leifvollebekk.com/northamericana

I’ve chosen his song ‘Off the Main Drag’  for you as an introduction to one of my favourite new Canadian singer-songwriters.

Latest travel adventure: Cheyenne, Wyoming

I spent the long weekend in the wonderful old cowboy town of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Cheyenne is famed for it’s annual ‘Frontier Days’  which is one of the largest rodeo’s in the world – and tourism is the main industry in town.

It was also the original trailhead to the infamous Deadwood City which was traveled by trappers, settlers, first nations, traders and gangsters alike.

The town itself is a ‘grand old dame’ with some of the historic buildings clearly showing their age – while others are beautifully restored.

As a result, the downtown has an interesting blend of architecture from the late 1800s right alongside more modern buildings.

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Here’s a perfect example of a ‘modern’ (1950s) cinema in between 200 hundred year old buildings.

 

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This was easily my favourite western item of the weekend. The teepee has little painted animals on it, surrounded by bison.

 

Being a history buff and a fan of the old west, Cheyenne was right up my alley – and packed full of museums, buildings to explore and friendly locals.

I highly recommend the Nelson Museum of the West – it’s a combination of fascinating western items, some vintage first nations artefacts and a range of stuffed animals taken by the owner throughout his world travels.

 

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There were a number of pairs of vintage cowboy boots with beautiful leather work

 

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When leather became scarce during WWII, cowboy boots were cut shorter to deal with the shortages.

 

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There was a range of Stetsons at the museum – including the explanation that the higher the crown and the wider the brim – the better!

 

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This mountain lion from nearby Laramie was easily the scariest. Look at the size of it’s paws!

 

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This local badger was a close second however. Eek.

 

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There was a small but interesting section of inuit art – these beauties are painted on walrus tusks.

 

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Beautiful Inuit work – painted in great detail

 

Overall, a wonderful adventure – and recommended to anyone interested in old west history.

 

History Lesson: Spatterdashes

Spatterdashes, or ‘spats’ as they are more widely known were a classic shoe accessory that was popularised in the late 1800s.

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They were usually worn by men by looping the band underneath the instep of the foot.

Their original purpose was to keep splashes or spatters of mud and water off the wearer’s shoes – hence the name.

At the height of their popularity in the 1920s, no self-respecting mobster would have been seen without them.

They were the perfect finish to a custom suit, fedora and a gold pocket watch.

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After their decline in popularity in the 1930s, spats came to be associated with wealth and /or eccentricity – as indicated by a wide range of literary characters such as Hercule Poirot, Batman baddie The Penguin and Scrooge McDuck.

 

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Music I’m loving: Slim Harpo

I discovered Slim Harpo quite accidentally when he popped up on the CBC Radio 2 Blues program.

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Originally from Louisiana, he earnt his blues credentials playing in the bars of Baton Rouge in the 1950s with his brother-in-law Lightnin’ Slim.

Known as a master of the blues harmonica, he influenced a great number of mainstream rock’n’roll bands including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and even Pink Floyd.

Given that I often hover around the more conservative music of the 1940s and 50s, it has been a pleasure to foray into this later more ‘developed’ blues of the 1960s.

In particular, with hit songs like ‘Scratch my back’ and ‘Shake your hips’ I have been enjoying the extra sass in his lyrics.

I’ve started with his album ‘The Best of Slim Harpo’ and it’s a great introduction to his distinctive style of laidback blues.

This ‘homegrown’ video for Slim’s ‘Scratch my Back’ will give you a great sense of his music and hopefully encourage you to check out this talented musician.