July 12, 2007 GMT

Due to the higher definition and larger size of some of these photos please click on the bold type to see photos


Friday July 6th
The booking-in clerk at Heathrow asked me to place both of my bags on the conveyor. I knew they were overweight and fished for my wallet. He looked at me and asked me to take one case off, printed a label, wrapped it around the handle, gave it a shove to make it disappear into the Heathrow Machine. ‘Now the next one.’ Another label, another shove, a printer burbles and I have my boarding card. ‘No charge?’ I ask, ‘Nope.’ He smiles. ‘Well that all went smoothly’. ‘Just like I like it at the end of a shift.’. Comprehension dawns and I rejoin my son Adam who has driven me here today. After a coffee together we wait by the entrance to the Security Clearance and Departure Lounge watching the flight loading indicators. After a while Adam takes his leave, and I return to watching the flight details, except they look as if they are refreshing, but the time stays steady at 12:27. My God! How long have I been standing here looking at a crashed screen? I arrive at the departure desk perspiring, it is just about the furthest one there is, possibly in the next county I had mused, striding along the moving walkway. Funny how, when using them, it looks as if you are moving normally, and the people approaching are the ones hurrying.

My seat on the plane is opposite the entry door, so no shuffling down gangways and plenty of room to spread out. The flight is everything a flight is designed to be, bland with a little turbulence now and then, just to remind you that you are in the air and then the door opens in Canada.

As we queue for Immigration, I strike up a conversation with a cheery, bluff Canadian with a grey beard of about my age, by the name of Sandy Monroe. I explain my reasons for being here, and he has questions and advice. His own story is quite startling, he has just returned from London following the abduction and kidnap of his wife. She had been missing for 17months, had the onset of Alzheimer’s disease when he last saw her prior to the kidnap, and did not know who he was when he was reunited with her in England. How cruel to be robbed of those last flickering moments of cognition, to have missed the opportunity to say the things that husbands and wives say that make the journey beyond life’s gate a little easier to contemplate.

Saturday July 7th
The Dalhousie University logo has the words ‘Inspiring Minds’ written beneath it. Well all I can say is that The Gerard Hall of Residence is probably one of the most uninspired buildings in Halifax. Don’t get me wrong, the accommodation is fit for purpose, if somewhat industrial, the view is fantastic from my 11th floor window, the location, close to the docks is perfect for me; but this is an off the shelf design that 40 years later looks passé and ill judged.
Gerard Hall

The new Dalhousie buildings look as though they were designed by a man and not a machine though, so there is hope that soon this will be a pile of rubble through which elegant halls of residence will emerge. The architecture here is a delight to me. The painted clapboard and wood shingle buildings all oozing a message that says ‘men built me out of what they found here’. Wide tree lined streets, shady residential roads, open parks and gardens, all blend into a feeling of friendliness. Yes, this is a contented, friendly town where the people don’t rush headlong, have time to smile and greet each other in a laconic way.
Typical Halifax house


Mind you, the taxi driver did say that as it was the first week of the holidays, the streets were very quiet, just as well for I have been studying the traffic at the cross road junction where Hollis meets Morris, (sounds like a play). Ok, so if you are not European then this will be of no surprise to you, but some traffic ignores the red stop light, some don’t. Pedestrians are still crossing when the green light shows. A car draws up to the traffic lights, stops, decides he doesn’t want to go that way anymore and makes a u-turn to go back the way he came. All of this in a polite, well ordered and considerate manner. I think I get the hang of it. Pedestrians have right of way, always. They do in Britain, but everyone ignores it and the pedestrians jaywalk anyway. You may turn right, even with a red light showing, provided that your exit is clear and you yield right of way to cars from the left (who have a green light anyway.) That clear? No! I spend a couple of hours doing the Ontario Drivers Test online, and finally get the idea, they are a bit like a traffic light controlled roundabout, but not quite. Hmm not much use is it, I will just have to map my way out of town by the straightest route with the fewest turns, and once I get on the country roads I will absorb it all by example, a little at a time.

View from my window
If you are ever in Halifax I can recommend that Bistro on the corner of Hollis and Morris, The Wired Monk.(after Thelonius Monk, the jazz musician) It has a Chocolate Pecan Pie that is not for mortal man and fit only for Heroes and Gods. Since I am a Hero, at least in my own mind, I shall be going back for another helping before I leave Halifax.

Sunday July 8th
I have blisters, I walked too far yesterday, and now have blisters. My shoes are still too new and hard and my feet too soft. Perhaps if I soak my shoes in water and my feet in vodka, that would help. The easiest way to get vodka to your feet without making a mess is to drink it and let it work its way down from the inside. Trouble is I don’t like vodka so I might try beer later. I have walked up and down the board walk once more and taken some more photos.
I feel really guilty about leaving my son Adam and his wife Sam clearing up the mess I left behind me, but on the one hand I was getting desperate to leave, on the other I did not want anything to change. I think that if I did not have this Around the World Trip to escape to, I would eventually have committed suicide. That sentence looks hard when written down, but there is truth in it. A nice comfortable home and a smooth self induced exit from this life, or an uncomfortable, basic existence on the road yelling at the gods that they are all bastards, easy choice really, rock on.

Monday July 9th
I have spent all morning trying to find someone to insure the bike. Catch 22 is you can’t get visitors insurance unless you have a permanent address in N.America!!! If I had a permanent address, I’d already have frigging insurance, wouldn’t I, but it’s no use shouting at the computer, it just stares back with the same answer. In the end I email Motorcycle Express the details and pray that they can do all the business from my email, otherwise I’ll need to find a fax bureau and do it from there, may mean a couple of extra days in Halifax, but not if I can help it. My great fear is that Customs will want the Insurance paperwork before they release the bike, if so I will try and blag it with the Eagle Star faxed copy I had for Germany. Perhaps then I can get on with loading the bike up and final preparations while the insurance comes through
View from dorm corridor window

I walk down the hill to The Wired Monk for a coffee and cigar, to calm my nerves a little. I always take a pavement table so my cigar smoke does not create a nuisance for other customers. Of the three tables, the middle one already has an occupant. A slight, intellectual looking young man is reading a book, so judging the wind direction I take the first table. Since it is on a corner, the wind eddies and swirls, taking my cigar smoke straight across all of the tables as it follows the wall and drifts off down the street. I apologise and hope that it is causing him no bother. It is not, and we are soon talking together of many things. This is Dan Freer, poet and script writer. He has travelled quite widely for an American from New York, recently having spent time in Germany connecting with the art and literature circles there. Now he has rented a little cabin just outside Halifax so that he can work on a script without disturbance. After what must have been at least an hour, we exchange email addresses and head off in opposite directions, I to my supermarket of choice, he to his.

Tuesday July 10th
I have spent all morning and early afternoon in my room for two main reasons. Firstly I have been up and down the harbour boardwalk three times now, so don’t need to see any more of that, although it is pleasant, and secondly I am giving my feet a chance of some fresh air to help my blisters heal. Besides which there is a fret on (sea mist) and it’s a bit gloomy out. As I write, the midday sun is doing its best to drive the mist away, so I may either go up to the Citadel, or Point Pleasant Park, where I can see if the Ortello has birthed yet.
Later…. I have been for a walk through Point Pleasant Park, and it is, as the name suggests, pleasant. No sign of the Ortello though and a cool wind has sprung up, blowing from the sea. I return to my room and begin to read a book that I bought at the Camping and Mountaineering Co-Op, the book is called Backcountry Bear Basics, by Dave Smith. Hmm, I’m not sure if it has improved my feelings about an encounter with bears.

Wednesday July 11th
The Bike has arrived and been discharged from the ship!! Hurray, now I can get on with it. First a trip to the 17th floor offices of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. The Google map is a bit vague as to the exact location, as the pointer appears to be sticking out of the unpopulated grass verge opposite the Casino. Still, I’ve got a tongue in my head, I can ask. So once more down the Harbour Board walk, only this time two things have changed, some more of the Tall Ships have arrived, and the sea mist obscures the few to about 100mtrs. Reaching the Casino, I have two choices, there is an obvious looking building with a docks and fenced around, to the left a few hundred yards down, or there is a multi-storey Car Park next door. Obviously I take the obvious choice, the Navy Base!! Back to the Car park and behind it I spy office buildings, like 20 stories high office buildings.
At the reception desk on the 17th floor of 1959 Upper Water Street, Halifax; sits a very equitable lady who informs me that Gary is on the phone, but will be with me shortly. It is relaxing to wait in all this luxury, knowing that you helped pay for it. I expect that I paid for one petal of the bouquet on the table, and Audi paid the rest.
Gary inspects my way bill, leaves, returns with another version of it and extracts $170 ‘Port Charges’, not what I call an ‘all in’ price when I confirmed with Tony in England, so remember if you come this way, that there are ‘Port Charges’. Having paid I get three pieces of paper, the waybill stamped ‘Paid’, a map and a list of instructions. Next stop the Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA) for custom’s clearance.
The CBSA is just inside the doors of the Bank of Canada building, and is busy with people dropping in paperwork for clearance, fortunately most don’t stop and wait, just leave their paperwork in the ‘In Tray’. The lady officer, asks one or two questions about my visit, warns me not to sell or scrap my bike in Canada, and informs me that it is illegal for any other person to ride my bike while in Canada, and, reluctantly it appeared to me, stamped my waybill ‘Released’.
Next I have to pick up my bike at the Autoport Terminal which is across the harbour on the edge of Dartmouth. No wonder I could not see that the Otello had arrived, it is across the bay and the fog is getting thicker.
Ortello in the mist

So back to Gerard Hall, pick up my helmet, gloves and jacket and back again to the boardwalk. The ferry to Woodside will be about 3 hours, it only runs during the rush hour, but I can get the ferry to Aldeney Gate and then a free transit on the number 60 bus, $2 total. While I wait I pick up a free bus map but don’t have time to look at it as the ferry arrives just at that point. We sail across the bay looking through windows that are muslined in fog. At Aldeney Gate, no one knows where the No.60 bus stop is, so I hail a cab instead and we are soon at the Autoport Terminal. There another polite young lady examines my papers, declares that she has never seen a release note that was made out before the vehicle has been physically checked over, but arranges for the CBSA men to look at mine next. Ten minutes later and I am inspecting Christine and sign the waiver that everything is as it should be. The cab driver tells me there is a petrol station just a bit further on down the road, and I head up there to refuel. He’s right, about a mile up the road is the petrol station, I pull in and notice the temperature gauge in the red and the cooling fan on, and I’ve only come a mile!!
I pay for the petrol, drive to the side lot, and remove the seat to check the filler tank. It’s full. I changed the coolant before I left but didn’t have time to check it, now I’m paying the price. I expect there is an airlock or something.
While thus engaged another bike arrives and I meet Denis Beaulieu, who asks if he can be of any assistance, we chat a little and then another figure walks up in a Harley T-shirt and introduces himself as Kerry Adams, another local biker. We talk a while longer and agree that it’s probably just an airlock and should sort itself out. Saying good bye we exchange web addresses, and Kerry makes up for my lack of forethought by buying a small notebook so I don’t end up writing on scraps of paper again. Thanks Kerry. I ride off, get lost, use the bus map, and get stuck in rush hour traffic on the bridge, fuming about my temperature gauge, and what this may be doing to my engine, get lost again and finally arrive emotionally drained at Gerard Hall. Tomorrow I need to check the bike out. Hope it’s not a water pump strip down, they are a notorious weak spot.

Posted by Derek Fairless at July 12, 2007 04:15 PM GMT

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