Category Archives: The Bucket List

Musical Ride

unloading-horse-photo-D-StewartThe RCMP Musical Ride was in Hampton NB last week. The horses stayed at Butternut Stables where I ride. I was there when they arrived and, next day, I ran alongside as they walked from there down Main Street to the soccer field where they performed. Black horses, red serge. Impressive. Imagine them precision riding at top speed.horses on the way to Musical Ride Hampton

“32 horses and riders moving as one, perfect harmony between man and beast, a kaleidoscope of manes and tails and battle lances crisscrossing in a collage of synchronous movement. It takes your breath away.” Lt. Welsh, All the Queen’s Horses, Due South

RCMP-Lenny-photo-D-StewartIt started in the 1870s with the precursor to the RCMP, the North West Mounted Police. The men did fancy drill maneuvers with their horses for fun. In 1904 they performed for the public at fairs in Manitoba. Mounted patrols stopped in 1936, but they kept the horses. The Musical Ride officially became part of the public duties of the Mounties in 1961.

The horses are Hanoverians, raised and trained at the RCMP farm near Ottawa, Ontario. The riders are officers who first learn to ride, then perform. After three years, they return to regular duties.stabled-photo-D-Stewart

I don’t think there’s anything comparable anywhere. Certainly there are armed forces ceremonies that combine tradition and ritual with active duty. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is one. You can watch it – at Buckingham Palace.

RCMP-trailers-Hampton-photo-D-StewartBut the Musical Ride is a moveable feast. The cavalcade (4 tractor trailers and support vehicles) travels across the country annually to cities and small towns to perform. Money raised goes to the sponsoring community groups.

back-of-procession-photo-D-StewartIn much of Canada, the RCMP are the provincial and local police force. But they are also a federal policing agency, equivalent to the FBI in the US. I try to picture FBI agents on horseback, looking non-threatening, looking comfortable. Can’t do it.

Cybil-and-me-ButternutIf you’re in Yarmouth NS, you can see them this weekend. Next week they’ll be back in New Brunswick. June 2 and 3rd, they’ll be in Sussex at the Princess Louise Park. I’ll be there to say hello to the lovely Cybil. Here is the 2015 schedule for NB, NS, Ottawa, SK, QC and NL.

due-southATQH-mtvpersiaPaul Gross’ song Ride Forever kept going through my head as I watched the horses unload. They didn’t come down the ramps the way they do in a Due South episode. Listen, and watch in this youtube video.


The Christmas Gift

This Christmas, I got lots of nice presents but my favourite is a list of stores written on a gift list of stores searchedscrap of paper.  It’s about the gift that didn’t happen, but not for lack of trying.

My brother and I went to Saint John in mid November.  In the uptown mall, Brunswick Square, the annual Christmas craft fair was happening.  Beautiful objects beautifully displayed.  I said to my brother, “I want to look for knitting or crocheting tables.  I’m looking for a crocheted toilet roll cover.”  “Huh?” he said.  “You know, you used to see them years ago – pretty lady dolls with skirts that covered the roll of paper, or poodles on top, or a hat.”  “Oh, I’ve seen hundreds of those – the Sally Ann, Value Village, anywhere.”  “I’ve never seen one there, and I’ve been etsy 104263446 beautiful handmade crochet dolllooking, so if you find one get it!”

There were acres of tables of knitted and crocheted goods, complete with ladies with needles clacking and hooks hooking.  Kitchen towels, scarves, hats, mittens – all lovely but nary a toilet roll cover.

I hadn’t thought of them in years until we moved and I realized that in the upstairs bathroom there was nothing that worked right to keep an extra roll handy.  I remembered the dolls, beautiful in hats and huge skirts, and the poodles.  We never had one in our house when I was a kid, but some friends’ mothers had them as did elderly people we used to visit.  I thought they were just too wonderful for words.  The Spray Poo 1 handmadebymother.blogspot 2010 09 01epitome of la-de-da.  Even as an adult, I’d never had one or even thought of them until this autumn when I realized it was just the ticket for our bathroom.

Since then, I’ve continued to look in thrift stores and craft stores but with no luck.  My brother remembered, and also looked.  Before Christmas he made an all out effort, but to no avail.  So I got the list instead.  Seventeen stores in three cities – thrift, craft, gift, dollar and hardware.   Indeed, it is the thought that counts.  This thought also entailed a lot of driving and going in and out of stores.  Thank you.

Ponta Delgada

I’m not a city person, but one city stays in my mind.  Ponta Delgada, capital of Saõ Ponta Delgada city centreMiguel in the Azores: a tiny perfect city.

Having flown in to another island, I didn’t see Ponta Delgada until it was time for my flight home.  I fell in love with a beautiful old southern European city – in miniature.  It was April, the weather was perfect.  I had been doing research and thought I might find some “talking heads” to give analytic background.  So I asked around.  Yes, there was a university in the city and a Portuguese national radio studio.  Yes, there were people on staff of both who knew about my subject, the Portuguese cod fishery, and would be happy to meet with me.

I was staying in the city centre.  A nice and inexpensive hotel, just what I’d asked my University of the Azores Ponta Delgadaairport taxi driver to take me to.  The university was on the outskirts of town, but it didn’t look that far on my map.  I walked out of the downtown and through residential areas to a beautifully laid out campus.  A very pleasant walk of less than an hour.  There, and later at the radio studio downtown, I met with two informed and informative men who told me about Portugal and the Azores vis a vis the EU, Canada and Newfoundland.

Between working forays, I explored the city and nearby countryside.  Having realized it Public beach near Ponta Delgadawas possible to walk to the university in interview dress, I put on running shoes and roamed further afield.  One spectacular day was spent at the beach near the city.  I was the only person swimming, still too cold for Azoreans, but to me magnificent.

Cantino dos Anjos on the harbour

glass from Cantinho dos Anjos, Ponta DelgadaThat evening I walked the short distance from my hotel to the harbourfront.  Near the yacht marina I went in the Cantino dos Anjos, a bar flying signal flags outside and in.  Busy and comfortable, with several languages discernible in the overheard chatter.  The bartender came over and asked my name and where I was from.  I handed him a business card.  Shortly after, he returned with a glass in his hand.  We make these for new visitors, he said handing me a tumbler with the bar’s name and mine etched on it.  Yes, that’s it in the photo, I’ve taken good care of it all these years.

Four young French sailors, one of whom spoke some Sailboats at Ponta Delgada marinaEnglish, began talking to me.  Nice guys.  They invited me to their sailboat the next day.  We sailed just outside the harbour at sunset, then docked and the cook whipped up a fabulous seafood meal.  They were leaving the next day, as was I, so they walked me back to my hotel and in smatterings of English, French and Portuguese we said what a lovely time we’d had.  No, I don’t recommend girls or women going off alone with unknown sailors, but this time it worked out safely and just fine and gave me a memory of ocean water on a warm Atlantic evening and lights twinkling on the silhouette of an ideal Lilliputian skyline.

City Hall at night, Ponta DelgadaSophisticated clothing and design shops, well-stocked bookstores, good discount stores selling everything, museums and galleries, lovely cafés and restaurants with outdoor patios.   Very few vacant storefronts.  A bustling downtown with beautiful old architecture well maintained, no skyscrapers, easy to navigate, Ponta Delgada is welcoming to tourists but not slathering for their custom.  I hope it hasn’t changed, it felt like an easy place to call home.

North Cape Trail, PEI

North Cape Trail map, from Bed & Breakfast Canada websiteWe went to Prince Edward Island in November for “oh, a day or so.”  Just off the bridge, in Gateway Village, an “olde towne” of new buildings with tourist services and shops, we get a map.  We decide to turn left to Summerside and the North Cape Trail around the west coast.  “Then we can do the centre Green Gables Trail then go to Charlottetown.  That’s probably all we’ve got time for,” I said confidently.

Three days later, we emerge back at the bridge from the northwest.  We never got to Charlottetown or anywhere remotely Anne of Green Gables-ish.  We didn’t even fully circumnavigate the west coast.  But, oh, what we did see!

dogs running on beach, Union Corner PEIAt Union Corner, an old school turned antique store, closed and for sale.  We can see the end of the side road, at the coast.  There is a provincial park, closed for winter, and a lovely shoreline for dogs to run on.  Leo got his first mouthful of salt water – didn’t like it, but loved the beach and the grassy meadows.

Sunset in Mont Carmel, a tiny Acadian village with a huge church.  Jim experimented with a 360º camera setting and I perused the map for motel chances.  Didn’t seem likely, but drive on, I thought.  After dark, we stopped at a gas station.  The guys inside got a good laugh when gate Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, PEIasked about places to stay.  Not outside tourist season, they said, only in Summerside.

Retracing our path next day.  More Notre Dame du Mont Carmel photography and a walk through the graveyard.  Driving west, past a lighthouse made out of bottles.  Later, in the tourist guide, I saw it was part of The Bottle House, chosen by AMEX as a “world destination.”  It was closed for the season anyway.

house, barn and boat, west coast PEIWest and north-west, photography and dog stops, feeling like long-distance travelers and a look at the map – we’ve gone barely any distance.  Inland to the four-laner, heading north.  We miss the coast furthest west doing this, but go back to it before Skinner’s Pond.

Schoolhouse at Skinner's Pond PEISkinner’s Pond, stomping grounds of Stompin’ Tom Connors.  The school house has been restored as a museum with his help.  Closed.  In a field kitty-corner, two young horses play with a dog.  Dog darts toward them, stops, horses jump back then dance forward toward the dog.  Over and over.

From Stompin’ Tom to the North Cape

On up to the North Cape.  A lighthouse and wind farm on a spit of land, it is spectacular.  Probably crawling with people in summer, but dogs at North Cape, wind turbineswe were alone to explore, feel the wind, watch the sea.

South on the other side: a gentler beauty than the windblown glory only a few kilometers west.  Malpeque Bay gives shelter.  Overnight in Alberton, a beautiful town with a choice of four restaurants and several local shops.   Another full day brings us back to Confederation Bridge.

Alberton PEI, view from motel“Closed for season” signs are a clue to how busy PEI is in summer.  I liked it when we were there – places to stay and eat may be scarce but it’s not far back to Summerside, at least on the main highway.  The places and scenery are breathtakingly beautiful, I think, any time of year.


Jeep Rubicon grillI got me a Rubicon!  I’ve never had a Jeep, always wanted one.  In my head, I have a list of vehicles, or types of vehicles, that I want at some point in my life.  Big old tough 4 by 4 is now checked off.

It’s my new winter vehicle, used but in good shape.  The salesman at Elgin Chrysler seemed a bit surprised when he was talking about the fun of summer Jeep driving and we said, oh it’s just for winter.  You can see his point.  A young man, himself a Jeep driver: Jeff in front of Elgin Chrysler with Rubiconyes indeedy he’d be taking his Jeep down to Port in the summer.  Roof comes off, doors come off.  It’s a babe magnet.  He was too polite to look surprised at us buying it – clearly babe magnet is no longer part of our vehicular requirements, either ‘looking for’ or ‘being’.  Probably serious off-roading isn’t either.  But it’s still a thrill knowing you have the horse power and gear range to be able to.

Test-driving it, I was sold when I put it in 4 Low and felt the wheels grab the dirt road.  “Ok, I want this car.”  Until then, I’d been looking at where the dogs would ride, how they’d get in and out, where groceries would go.  But put her in 4 Low and she’s mine; Rubicon in front of Elgin Chryslerdogs and groceries can figure it out for themselves.

Ideally, a girl should have a Jeep in her early 30s – old enough to look capable of handling it and young enough to look really good doing so.  A friend of mine bought one, a CJ, white with black top, brand new when she was that age.  I was envious.  She looked fabulous in it.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough money to keep it supplied with gas and be able to pay any other bills so she sold it.  But that year of the white Jeep lives in my memory as well as hers.  It was hot, and so was she in it.

Other 4x4s

I drove a Suzuki 4 x4, precursor of the Samurai, at the time.  It too was fun – a dinky-toy Jeep.  I loved it, and the incarnations of the Suzuki 4 wheel drives after.  The Samurai and the Sidekick – drove them both.  I became disenchanted with the Suzukis after that, when they got bigger, more comfortable and ceased looking like tough little road warriors.

Jeep Rubicon beside MINIJeeps too have done that.  I had a rental Jeep Liberty once.  No thanks.  If I want a vehicle that drives like a car I’ll get a, well, car!  The Rubicon does not drive like a car.  It’s certainly more comfortable and better “appointed” inside than the old Jeeps, but it still drives like a tank.

You hear and feel the rumble of those big knobby tires.  You feel every kilometer of speed you are going.  The revs vibrate as you shift through 6 gears.  You feel the wind, you hear the rain, you are in direct contact with the road.  You are the Road Warrior.

New England Fall

New Hampshire river - New EnglandDriving to New Brunswick by the American route, through New England. Trying to pick out roads as the crow flies.  But mountains and forests in the north.   Looking at an out-of-date map, it looks like small roads and moose territory.  So a loop a bit south of where the crow would fly.  Across New York state to southern New Hampshire and then go with the crow across Vermont.

Mountains, lots of deer crossing signs, then moose crossing.   Driving at dusk, then in the dark, winding roads up and down hills, lots of turns.  Then people crossing signs in ski and lake resort towns.  Great, I say, not enough you’ve got to watch for moose you gotta watch for people too.  But we see nothing alive on the road.

Church and graveyard in Hopkinton NHPicture-postcard towns take your breath away.  They look like Currier & Ives painted them some time long ago and they never changed.   Outside town, on the small roads, landscape vistas of trees of all colours up and down hills, fast-running water pounding over rocky riverbeds.

Cross into Maine, just as beautiful in a slightly different way.  Rockier, trees more windblown – a rougher woods beauty.

Collecters of New England

tumbledown museum in MaineAll through all three states lots of wonderful small houses with stuff all around them.  Collections of stuff.  Some artfully arranged, some just piled up every which way.  Strange stuff and more normal looking collections of old farm equipment.  But none of it looks like it’s for sale, it’s just people’s stuff.

There are also collections of stuff for sale.  The “Antiques” signs are everywhere.  Go further into Maine and you see “Antiques” and “Books” signs on almost every second building.  Some are massive old barns or warehouses.  I cannot imagine how much stuff they have inside, plus what’s visible outside.

I think you could spend a week in these hills of antique and book dealers and keep very busy and maybe cover 20 miles.  If you also wanted to see the natural beauty by tramping in some woods, add another week to your plan.

We came to the Atlantic coast at Belfast in Maine.  A beautiful old harbour town full of – yep – book stores, craft shops and city centre at night Belfast, Maineantique dealers.  Olde Worlde store fronts on hilly streets that they roll up at 8 o’clock on out-of-season nights.  We found a new Mexican-Caribbean restaurant still open, La Vida.  Very good chili.

Then north on the coastal road.  Antique and book barns all along the way.  Old houses tumbling down with trees and brush growing up around them.  Neat and tidy bungalows.  Neat and tidy big old rambling frame houses.  Bypassing reluctantly the sideroads that take you right to the coast and the fishing villages dotted along the map.  A Canadian man we met in Belfast had said he and his wife tour around those back roads every time they come through Maine.  Easy to spend a whole day on just one, he said.  Next time for us.

Going to Graceland

Thirty-four years ago, Graceland became a memorial shrine.  The day before, August 16th 1977, the King of Rock and Roll had died in it, his home.

Andrea-and-Memphis-Caddy-(photo-H.-Edison)Despite liking Elvis, Graceland had never been on my ‘must-see’ list.  But passing through Memphis once, it seemed wrong not to see Elvis’ house.

Even pulling into the parking lot, though, I had quibbles.  “Our money will be going straight to Priscilla and Lisa Marie’s pockets,” I said, “there’s starving children who need this money.”  Still, we bought our tickets and went in.

Oh, I hope the starving children can understand the cultural value of Graceland.  It is wonderful.  Not just the place itself but those touring it and those working in it.  It is Graceland media-roomMecca for American culture in the latter half of the 20th century.

Our tour group shuffled through the house, oohing and aahing over the opulence, the excess, the fact that Elvis the King sat in these rooms.  The tour guide was informative and clearly enjoyed her job.  She was a child when Elvis died but she “got” him – the house, the magic.

Las Vegas jumpsuit Graceland museumThen the outbuildings, the museums of Elvis stuff.  His collections of firearms and police badges are laid out in glass cases.  There are rooms of display cases filled with gifts he was given.  His costumes, his gold records.  There’s every award and honourable mention he received from anyone anywhere.  Presumably there’s museum curators working behind these public rooms, sorting, preserving, cataloguing a life of a man.

You can tour the grounds.  A paddock near the house had about six horses in it.  A couple of them would remember Elvis.  The others were Lisa Marie’s and Priscilla’s.  They came charging over to the fence, Graceland horse paddocklooking for treats.  I pulled handles of grass, fearful I was going to be yelled at but no one said anything.  The horses happily munched the grass.

Quite close by is Elvis’ grave.  The true believers circle around it, taking pictures, looking down misty-eyed.  They stay there a long time.

Beside the parking lot, near the entrance, Elvis’ planes are parked.  The smaller one is called the Lisa Marie, both have TCB with a lightning bolt painted on them.

Elvis' dog Edmund-and-sitter-GracelandMy favourite moment happened while standing in line for the Elvis memorabilia museum.  Over on the lawn by the house, a small elderly dog was tottering around with an elderly woman.  I asked a young man checking tickets about the dog.  “That’s Edmund, Elvis’ dog,” he said, “he lives with Elvis’ aunt.”  I asked who the lady was.  “She’s a maid and her job is looking after Edmund.”  When I asked if I could go closer, he said no.  “It’s really for your safety.  He’s a nasty little dog.”  I liked his candor but wondered if that was why he was doing crowd control in the blazing sun rather than leading tours inside.

Andrea-at-Graceland-(photo-H-Edison)Edmund has left the building, and probably Elvis’ horses have too.  But I’m sure the magic of them and Elvis are still there in Graceland.  Taking care of business.

The pictures of Edmund and the horse paddock are mine from 1990.  My cousin Andrea Hutchison very kindly let me use photos from her 2011 trip to Memphis.

Show Jumper

Coming up fast to the fence, feeling the muscles gather beneath you, crouching low over Ian-Millar-and-In-Style,-winners-of-WEF-Challenge-Cup-Round-7the horse’s neck, then springboarding into the air. Sailing over the rail, touching down on the other side, horse and you regaining balance and cantering on. The exhilaration of flying. One time I did this.

I had no business jumping, in fact had no plans to. I was taking English riding lessons at a large stable. Lessons consisted of riding around in small circles, learning balance and control. I liked it; just being on a horse’s back was enough for me. I had many different teachers, all young women who had ridden since they could walk. The horse was often different too. They wanted you to learn to ride any horse.

One week, only one teacher was there. The others were at a show or something. She had never taught me before. Maybe she was bored, tired of watching incompetent people ride in circles or, with it just being two of us, felt like having some fun. She said, “do you feel like jumping?” I stared open-mouthed and said “I don’t know how to do that.” She shrugged and said “up to you.” I said ok. I’d never ridden that horse before either. He was a good choice. He knew what he was doing.


Show jumping sequence over fence, DelawareI was like a floppy sack of potatoes on his back on the first jump. I’d chickened out several times leading up to that; getting to the jump, then losing my nerve and pulling him up. I daresay he was fed up with me and probably as surprised as I was when, finally, I let him keep going.

I remember the power surge as he prepared to jump. But I don’t remember the actual jump. I closed my eyes to keep my heart from stopping. I reopened them when we landed on the other side, both of us in one piece and me still on his back.

Then I wanted to do it again. That time was perfect. I made myself keep my eyes open 2008 Olympics poster, Eric Lamaze and Hicksteadand experience it. Riding Pegasus. It was bliss. I was Ian Millar and Eric Lamaze rolled into one.

Third time, I unbalanced myself. He jumped straight, but I came off to the left. He circled around and stood looking at me. My teacher thought maybe that should be the end of my lesson for the day. So I got back up on him – always get back on the horse – and rode around a bit.

After the Jump

I took him to the barn, took his tack off and groomed him. Then I went to my car. Standing beside it, I had no idea where I was. The barn didn’t look familiar and I didn’t know how I got there, or why. After a few minutes of concentrated thought, I remembered my lesson, the jumps and the fall.

The next week, I had a familiar teacher. She didn’t mention jumping and I didn’t tell her about the week before. I kept taking lessons, but never jumped again. My time as Captain Canada was over. But it was worth every second of terror and the concussion to fly that one time.

Fiat Bambina

Fiat 500 - 7439-121-low-wide-rear-5-8-view-480If I could possibly justify another teeny-weeny cute car, I’d get the new Fiat 500. I’ve only seen one around here, a silver grey one. I like the tv ads, and I’ve checked them out online since I first heard that Fiat/Chevrolet was going to remake the Bambina.

I was so much hoping they’d do a good job – keep the look and spirit of the original, as BMW did with the MINI. And Fiat, bless their hearts, did.

In the 1970s, in New Zealand, I had a 1965 Fiat 500. There, at the time, old Bambinas were the car of choice or, more accurately, no choice for students and others with no money. I learned to drive on that little car and my boyfriend’s parents’ 12-seater Land Rover. It was like switching between a Dinky Toy and a tank.

Bambino in Ponsonby, AucklandMy Bambina had the “suicide doors” that hinged at the rear (it was 6 months older than the last of those). The back seat would hold two adults as long as they didn’t demand a lot of legroom. Storage was under the hood and the 500 cc engine was in the rear.

It was two cylinder. In models like mine, both pistons went up and down in unison instead of alternating. That meant a lot of vibration, leading to engine parts and wires falling off.

Fiat repair manual

My boyfriend and I bought a manual for it because we had no money for garage repairs. My father was a mechanic, but he was in Canada and he’d never seen an engine like that anyway. I drew pictures of it and mailed them to him to get his opinion on mechanical problems. But return mail took about 6 weeks so that wasn’t very efficient.

Fiat 500 with cats, Ponsonby, Auckland NZEventually we got so we could put blocks under the engine, haul the bumper off and push the body of the car away, fix it and put the car back together in a couple of hours. That was to replace the starter motor pins that sheared off regularly from the vibration. The starter motor was located at the front of the engine and there was no way to get in to it unless maybe you had a hoist.  We learned to tighten the starter motor every time before starting the car.

Wires also fell off, often at inopportune times like the middle of an intersection. I could push the car off the road by myself. And I learned which wires were more likely to fall off and where they belonged. We learned to check and tighten all wires and cables before starting the car.

But it was a good car. It took us and camping gear all over the North and South Islands one summer. It got crotchety and didn’t like the damp. On those days, it just wouldn’t start. It’s often damp and rainy in New Zealand. Finally, we just kept it for state, opting to walk or take the bus most of the time.

It’s the only car that I’ve known every inch of and known how to fix. And its engine was totally unlike any other, so that knowledge was not transferable. I’ve never had a car that frustrated me more and I’ve never had a car I remembered with such love. I am so happy that they’re back.

Friday the 13th Port Dover

bike and sidecar, with dog, Port Dover, Friday the 13thBucket list item checked off.  The bikes at Port Dover.  Beautiful weather and the only Friday the 13th in all of 2011.  I was a little nervous about it, I get panicky in crowds.  I figured this was going to be a crowd.  And it was, but there were no humungous knots of humanity that you couldn’t get away from easily.

Friday the 13th Yorkie with a new HD hatIt was just about walking around, looking at bikes, talking to people about bikes and dogs.  Dogs got a lot of attention.

The whole thing seemed very well organized.  There was a parking lot in a field near Port Dover.  No problem getting a space.  School buses were waiting to be filled up with people.  The bus driver greeted us and coaxed Leo up the stairs.  He was nervous about it, but soon decided this was fun.  Lots of people petting him.

bike and side car, wrought iron frameBus dropped us in the centre of town, then it was just wowwowwow look at the beautiful bikes!  Regular bikes of all makes, but a lot of Harleys.  Bikes that were works of art in their paint jobs or their entire structure.  Bikes parked with ‘for sale’ signs on them.  Bike dealers.  Every kind of Harley merch you could want.  People wearing commemorative t-shirts from past PD13 events, from Sturgis and other Harley events and clubs.  Biker colours.   Cops on motorcycles, bicycles, foot and in patrol cars.  Almost no other cars on the streets.  Just bikes.

The whole downtown and lakefront was filled with bikes.  And people.  But it was easy to find a quiet shady spot for a little break, but you still could watch bikes.

Then when Charlie was looking like he was going to go in search of the Simcoe Humane Society booth (where we’d bought them scarves), we figured it was time to leave.  Found the bus stop again, buses were waiting.  Leo jumped right up the steps this time, and back to the parking lot.

Nearly home, we saw this sign just outside St. Thomas.  The road warriors passing along #3 Highway tomorrow are welcome at this house.  Nice.