Tree hugging for beginners

Well, the final shocking denouement which heralds the end of the B&B will have to wait, because I’ve been up to mad stuff again.

This escapade began with an email from my reporter pal Valerie. We met when she wrote a (surprisingly positive) review of my book for the local paper. Some wine, conversation and parties later, I am a frequent sidekick for any freebies she may be invited to write about.

The email was deceptive. Would I like to go ziplining and then on to an observatory? I had visions of a theme park somewhere, a bit Disneyish, with a little zip line and a big bouncy mattressy thing at the bottom. And I have liked a bit of stargazing ever since Ben had his astronomy phase as a kid; so I agreed to go along for a media day out and pretend I would be writing about the place for British Mensa.

Read on...

Rule # 1: Hang on. Rule # 2: Don’t let go: Winter Camping part 5

This is the final part of the ‘Algonquin’ series of posts, find the others at part 1part 2part 3 and part 4. And if you enjoy off-beat Canadian adventures, have a look at Carolyn’s zip lining exploits too.

We set off in single file, with the lead chap in front of me, Barb behind me, Karen behind her and Valerie at the back. Valerie had done this before and was therefore trusted not to need nursemaiding. The first few seconds were terrifying.That optical illusion of speed near the ground kicked in…perhaps experienced skiers are used to this but, well I’ve mentioned that little issue. Holding on was about all I could manage and there was a bend looming. Frantic that I’d forgotten which way to lean, I ran little diagrams of train crashes in my head to make sure I was going to get it right, but I got my weight on the correct ski, stayed on the sled and made the turn.… Read on...

By the way…Winter camping Part 4

I’ve been asked about the bells and pepper.
 

(This is a short interlude in the ‘Algonquin’ series of posts, find the others at part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 5.)

 
It’s probably an inevitable aspect of being an immigrant anywhere; the tendency of the host population to tell a few tall stories. Countries with an indigenous sense of humour do this so well that it can be hard to sort the gentle ribbing from the genuine advice. Brits excel at it of course. ‘Be sure to check out the echo in the reading room of the British Museum’…’It is customary to shake hands with each passenger in your carriage on an underground train’…you know the sort of thing.

Well, Canadians do it too. We were regaled, quite early on, with tales of the traditional pumpkin hunting season for Thanksgiving. The hunt leader blows a whistle to frighten the pumpkins so that they run about in their patch, then you can pick one and shoot it; it is considered most unsporting to shoot a resting pumpkin.… Read on...

Mush: Winter Camping part 3

 If you missed the other parts of Carolyn’s great Algonquin adventure, catch them with these links: part 1, part 2part 4 and part 5.

 

 
Day three, after another sensational sunset. We weren’t due to start dog-sledding until 1.30, so spent the time with showers and a leisurely breakfast. I’m generally a yoghourt and muesli sort of person in the morning but all that bracing fresh air and fallingover in the snow seemed to make bacon, eggs and toast quite welcome. Although I have decided to introduce the ladies to the concept of kedgeree next time, that must be possible on a camping stove.

Espying The Mad Musher restaurant on the way to our appointment with winter fun, we decided to pop in for (remarkably decent) coffee and thoroughly get ourselves in the mood. Much of the talk was about how it’s just like skiing. (Valerie had tried it before, but then Valerie has done most things before.) I had my first inkling that this might be harder than it appeared.… Read on...

Wildlife and Haute Cuisine: Winter Camping part 2

If you missed the other parts of Carolyn’s great Algonquin adventure, catch them with these links: part 1, part 3part 4 and part 5.
 

 
Fresh salmon sauted with red peppers, savoury rice, caramelised baby carrots and salad. It’s amazing what you can rustle up on two burners in the freezing cold. The task fell to me to invent a salad dressing, since we’d forgotten to bring any. Some oil, red wine, lemon juice, mustard, fresh herbs and seasoning saw to that and we were not embarrassed by a lack of dressed salad.

The seasoned campers stuck to wine for their evening’s imbibing. The idiots drank beer. After a final late night drive to the comfort station for last wees and teeth cleanings we settled down into our sleeping bags and divvied out the ear plugs. Hey, we all snore ok? Then of course, the stupidity of beer made itself apparent.… Read on...

Dogsledding in Algonquin? Me? You must be joking: Winter Camping part 1

Been months, I know. I only seem to write when I go places, don’t seem to have perfected the ‘had an idea today’ form of blogging. The good news is that I went somewhere this week, the even better news is that the doc says I can get back in a truck because I’m officially recovered. So, Trucking In English may be about trucking again quite soon. I’m in the midst of refresher lessons and job applications, it will be interesting to find out just how much the North American freight industry wants a slightly rusty driver.

In the meantime, winter adventures.

This account of a daft bunch of middle aged women camping and dogsledding in Algonquin is in five parts, click the links to read part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

It’s a four hour drive from Kitchener to the eastern gate of Algonquin Park,but four middle-aged women with badly packed stuff, who’ve decided to stop off on the way for groceries and booze, can make it last all day.… Read on...

No sign of June either…:Taking a wedding cake to Florida part 5

This is the last post of a series, if you missed the others, click for part 1part 2, part 3 and part 4.

The Skyline Drive is part of the Shenandoah National Park. There are campsites, cabins, nature trails and information points, you could spend a month there quite happily. The road runs along the Ridge bit of the Blue Ridge Mountains and bends and curls about for just over 100 miles and contains 75 lookout points where you can pull off the road, gawp and take photos. It took all day to drive, but we weren’t complaining. Happening to drive it as the trees were turning colour in that part of the world (Canada’s ‘fall colour’ season has been and gone) every bend brought a new orange carpet to look at. We quickly realised that stopping at each lookout would mean extending our journey by a day or two and became a bit selective.… Read on...

No sign of Hannah…Taking a wedding cake to Florida Part 4

This is the fourth of a 5 part series, if you missed part 1, or want to find out what happened next, click for part 1part 2part 3 and part 5.

 
There was one sightseeing trip that none of us could resist, although I think it was Julian’s idea to begin with. How could I not have noticed that we were within an hour’s drive of the Kennedy Space Centre? A grand day out. You pay to get in these days (I understand it used to be free) but being used to the cost of London tourist destinations, I reckon you get a lot for your money. A bus takes you about from place to place, there are movies, exhibitions, explanations, dramatised reconstructions, a bit of moon rock to fondle; but mostly there is the sheer brain-numbing scale of everything. The entire Saturn 5, a pukka shuttle.… Read on...

Florida and chocolate: Taking a wedding cake to Florida Part 3

This is the third of a 5 part series, if you missed the others, click for part 1part 2part 4 and part 5.

Arriving at Cherry’s house late and exhausted we started to become transfixed by the whole issue of the random and inexplicable Swedes. Two or three silent people nodded gravely at us as we fell in through the door bearing mountains of cake-related impedimenta. ‘Who are they?’
‘They must be the Swedes.’
‘What Swedes?’
‘Cherry said she had Swedes.’
‘Are they here for the wedding?’
‘Well, why are they here?’
‘I don’t know.’

Tired as we were, it was perplexing and we wanted to know about the Swedes. We couldn’t ask of course, not until the following day… it would have been rude. ‘What’s with these Swedes already?’ became the number one topic of conversation, eclipsing both the trip and the cake. They were silently there in the morning, the inscrutable Swedes.… Read on...

Nine states in two days: Taking a wedding cake to Florida Part 2

This is the second of a 5 part series, if you missed part 1, or want to find out what happened next, click for part 1part 3part 4 and part 5.

New York State, Pennsylvania, Maryland. We stopped to peruse the maps and make a routing decision. Heading directly for Interstate 95, which would take us directly into Florida, would entail driving round Baltimore and Washington DC during the evening rush hour. This looked like it might be an unpleasant delay. There was a detour through West Virginia and Virginia which would bring us onto the I95 south of the major conurbations; it looked a little longer but much less built up. Clearly a good idea. I had driven the first six hours, it was Randy’s turn to take the wheel and I settled happily into the passenger seat to start enjoying the view and note down some of the truly bizarre road signs we’d been marvelling at.… Read on...