Saturday, 19 April 2014

On nieces, David Attenborough and lizards I have seen

Due to my brother-in-law Mark's love of David Attenborough nature documentaries, my youngest nieces have a distinct affection for "Aboa's" (i.e. said documentaries on DVD) before bedtime. This in turn has led me to watch more of them than I might have to the point that I went out and bought the "Life in cold blood" series on DVD. The thing about most of the species in these series is that they are usually some incredibly rare species that I am never going to see outside of a museum or which live in some impossibly remote corner of the world. Not "ordinary" places such as Montreal or Sioux Lookout or Broken Hill, NSW...

...or not as the case may be.  It turns out that one of the episodes spent a fair bit of time on a lizard species that I have seen in the wild near Broken Hill, NSW.  On the day I rode out to Silverton from Broken Hill, I wrote about seeing a large-ish scaly lizard that I believed was a Tiliqua rugosa asper. This self same lizard species was the one that David Attenborough found so amazing that he devoted to it both a significant portion of one episode on as well as most of the "making-of" segment.  It turns out that these lizards are really quite remarkable. They are more or less monogamous. They are also viviparous, producing 1-4 young which can add up to about a third of mother's body weight which must be bloody hard on the poor females. No word on whether the male helps out by seeking out any particular dainty that the female might wish. ;-)
The thing is, after decades of watching nature documentaries, this was the first time that I had seen the animal in the flesh and in the wild before I had seen the documentary and it wasn't an animal that was, well, "boring", such as seagulls, white-tailed deer, skunks, squirrels,  raccoons, or moose.  You know, "ordinary" animals. Of course, I am saying this from a North American perspective. Doubtless, an Aussie or a Kiwi might think a skunk or a raccoons would be quite exotic, the same way that that Geoff, a Kiwi acquaintance, once asked me what it was like to live in a country with a land border!

(I.e. something that is hard to define.  My response was that it can demonstrate how the landscape you see is partially a human construct as when you cross the border from Quebec into Vermont the land looks very different (and I am not just talking about the roads.) )

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

On a previous entry, an update

In a previous post, I had stated that Maria's appearance resembled mine at similar age, and "quoted" a photograph from memory. While I was in North Hatley celebrating Désirée's and my Pappy's birthday, I consulted ye olde family photograph album and scanned the relevant image.
 While I was wrong as to the colour of my pyjamas, I was correct in my overall assement of a family ressemblance. It turns out, I was about 18 months old at the time. While I am perhaps a tad slimmer as to skull than Maria, we are chips off the same block.
When I brought the top photograph to my father attention, he inadvertantly insulted me by asking who it was in the picture! I found this particularly insulting as the picture to the left of it showed my elder brothers also in pyjamas playing with the train tracks. As you can see below, they had distinctly darker hair and lesser amounts of baby fat.
Incidentally, I am now wondering if those train tracks weren't in fact an early version of Thomas the Tank Engine toys as I now recall the engines had faces.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

On what the summer holds

After much internal debate, I realised that I had two bike trips that I wanted to do this summer.  The one I had been thinking of for the longest is to continue the AMUAM JUNITO project and do Winnipeg to Sault Ste-Marie, i.e. the particularly dreary bit. Having recently driven a portion of the Trans-Canada in Northern Ontario, I can safely say that I really don't want to ride it. However, my research indicates that by going through the United States, I can avoid most of Northern Ontario.  This will set me up nicely to do Sault Ste-Marie to Montreal next year, quite possibly with my parents for the Toronto to Montreal leg.  However, as mentionned, it is not a particularly interesting ride. (I was talking about it to a co-worker. She asked "Why did I want to ride from one boring city to another boring city?")

I had a much more fun trip in mind, as I rather fancy going to see Alice and family in Clearwater B.C. in order to inspect her new arrival.  While I could make a flying visit without a bicycle, I have the wish to go back and actually ride from Princeton to Penticton, as I was unable to do several years ago.  As luck would have it, Clearwater is served by the Canadian.  This lead me to work out a trip in which I could take Leonardo on the train to Clearwater (thereby fulfill the dream of taking the train across Canada), see Alice and company, then ride to Kelowna via Princeton and Pendicton.  From Kelowna, I would fly back to Montreal.  Furthermore, there is a WestJet flight from Kelowna which goes to Montreal with a stop in Calgary.  This would reduce any worries about transfers. It also works out a shade cheaper.

So which trip do I do?


I sat down with Google Maps and worked out that it would be 12 riding days between Winnipeg and Sault Ste-Marie.  Add in 3 rest days, plus 2 travel days, the whole thing could be done in as few as 17 days. That is one day over a 2 week vacation.  Combined with the early summer legal holidays (St-Jean Baptiste and Canada Day), there shouldn't be a problem.

Clearwater to Pendicton by the route I am thinking of is about 1 week.  The Canadian would leave on a Saturday and arrives on a Tuesday making for a comfortable visit combined with the ride in 2 weeks. Furthermore, it is "cheaper" to take a bike on the train than on the plane.

Thus I should be able to get in two bike trips this summer.  The AMUAM JUNITO leg would be late June/early July.  The Clearwater-Kelowna trip would be late August/early September.  Of course, this is subject the usual bureaucracy and of course the ups and downs of life.