Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sunfire to the Sea

A Christmas holiday car trip from Toronto, Ontario, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and back, by the numbers:

Kilometres clocked on aforementioned Sunfire: 3,680

Total driving time: Over 40 hours

Number of coffees consumed by three travellers: 14

Number of hours waiting to get onto the Champlain Bridge in Montreal: 2.5

Number of misunderstood French road signs: roughly 7

Total number of tears shed: 12 (all in Montreal)

Number of different weather conditions encountered: 10 -- sunny, foggy, drizzle, heavy downpour, flurries, white-out conditions, blowing snow, blowing rain (my personal favourite), extreme cold (-25C at Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec), unseasonably mild (+9C in Stillwater Lake, Nova Scotia)

Number of accidents encountered: 4 (all in the Toronto area; draw your own conclusions)

Number of anxious sighs heard from Amy: 61

Number of bored sighs heard from Luke the dog: 61

Total number of days away: 7

Total number of days Grammar the cat spent ignoring the catsitter: 7

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kayak sweep roll

The sweep roll took me an entire summer to learn. The process mainly involved a lot of falling out of the boat, pumping it out, cursing, getting back in and trying again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Escape to Alcatraz

I spent much of last weekend wandering the streets of San Francisco. While I was there, I had the opportunity to cruise San Francisco Bay in an old wooden fishing boat, and sail around the notorious federal prison on Alcatraz Island. Here are the photographic highlights:

The prison, which held some of America's most notorious criminals (including Al Capone) opened in 1934, and was closed in 1963, mainly due to the high cost of keeping inmates there.

You can feel the isolation of the place as you approach. Only a handful of prisoners are known to have escaped. According to the guide, most escapees were shot before they made it to the fence, and the few who did make it were likely swept out to sea by the strong current in San Francisco Bay.

Not all of Alcatraz's buildings were used for prison purposes. According to the guide, this old ruin was once a storehouse during the California gold rush in the mid-19th century.

The guards were very worried about escape attempts by boat, so they fired warning shots if any vessel got within 200 yards of the island. I suppose this sign was considered fair warning:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Point Pelee in winter

One of the things I love to do is visit national and provincial parks in the off-season. When the leaves fall and the gates close, the wildlife reclaims these areas. When you visit in the dead of winter, like we did at Point Pelee National Park a couple weeks back, you'd never know that many of these places were flooded with campers and tourists just a few months ago, and will be again a few short months from now.

That was certainly the case at the tip of Point Pelee, which was the very definition of desolation when we walked out a couple weeks ago. Feared in the summer for its treacherous currents, the point is eerily silent in the winter. On this windless day, all we could hear was the cracking of the ice.

Amy spies a flock of waterfowl in the far distance off the east side of the tip, and briefly considers skating after them across Lake Erie's marble-like surface.

The tip itself could easily be confused for Baffin Island or some other Arctic locale. In the far distance, a small group of people scramble over the crumpled shore ice. Swimming near this same spot, where the currents are at their worst in the summer, is a recipe for disaster. But today it's a good place to have a little fun, and be distracted from the monotony of another long Ontario winter.