Songs from Northern Britain

With thanks to Teenage Fanclub for the post title. Never heard of Teenage Fanclub?! No? Try this: Ain’t That Enough?

I’ve been driving about northern Britain for the past week, windows down and enjoying almost sunshine and one or two rain showers. Then the windows go back up. They’re also back up whenever I start to sing, seems only fair to the people living here.

St. Andrews Castle

I never lived in northern Britain, but visited often over the years. I felt a little nostalgic for a place I don’t know that well, but I think it was more the music I’d chosen. My driving playlists had a northern leaning, and they made for better listening than the ongoing Brexit/Bloody Boris Johnson stupidity dominating the airwaves. Grrr.

Where was I? Teenage Fanclub, excellent listening for the past three plus decades, and very appropriate for the Scottish leg of the trip. I remember an album review from over ten years ago that described them as “wizened” even then – they were younger than my age now! So this wizened listener enjoyed hearing the old songs, particularly from the Songs From Northern Britain album. “Here is a sunrise, ain’t that enough?” Well, yes, sometimes. The last three tracks on that album are even better than the opening three. Cue beer fuelled debate with sibling.

The pale ale was better, unless you asked my brother…

When I drove away from St. Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife earlier this week, having caught up with Junior McPlaidCamper, the weather was a touch misty – or I may have had something in my eye. Whatever the cause, I’m pretty sure I passed a sign for Angle Park. Let the memories from distant youth flood back. Angle Park? The bonus track on The Crossing by Big Country? Big Country! I was in a big country alright, with high hills and low mountains accompanying me through the Kingdom of Fife. What pleasant surroundings to find yourself in. The North Fife coastal path will call me back for further exploration. Never heard of Big Country?! Try this: Big Country – The Seer

Sunny St. Andrews

Junior is happy enough in St. Andrews, working hard in several of the hotel kitchens, and producing good food mostly made from local ingredients. We visited the store that provides ice cream to the hotel, and if you’re ever up there, can I recommend the pistachio? And the rum and raisin? And the mint choc chip? And the salted caramel? And pants with an elastic waistband? Yup, that’s how some of the evening went.

I get a brain freeze just looking

Before St. Andrews, I stayed a few days with younger Brother PlaidCamper, allegedly to help him out a bit as he recovers from a hospital stay. Mostly we sat in his sunny backyard, talking nonsense about books, movies, and music, and drinking a beer or two. Then more nonsense. He’s on the mend, and probably not because of my medical bedside manner…

Didn’t see a purple moose on this trip. Next time?

My final stop on the northern Britain tour was in North Wales, and an overnight with Pa PlaidCamper. He’s also on good form, pretending to be annoyed with Blue, his constant canine companion. They’ve sold the farm, and will be moving to a small hillside cottage located a few minutes away in the same valley. We drove past it yesterday, and it is in a beautiful location with spectacular views in every direction. If you can imagine steep green hillsides dotted with sheep and stands of trees all about, then that’s where they’ll be. Green and pleasant is an understatement.

Blue!
Green! And pleasant.

Thanks for tuning in this week, and so to a final rousing song – if you know the words, feel free to sing along (I’ll roll the windows up): In a Big Country

There will be more about St. Andrews – and far less music, I promise – next week. Have a wonderful weekend!

Small town daze

Not quite right, should be small town days.

We’ve been enjoying our time in Ucluelet, and were excited to be here for Ukee Days, a celebration of community in this little corner of the west coast. The weekend kicked off properly with a parade, and excitement was in the air. Especially from the young children who had experienced a parade here before. They knew each parade participant would be handing out candy to the young ones lining the route.

It was a noisy and colourful affair, and likely the only time we’ll see a muscle car behind a police vehicle get away with burning rubber on main street…IMG_20180728_105335

Parks Canada, Inland Search and Rescue, local mum and toddler groups, the Wild Pacific Trail Society, Ucluelet Aquarium, various local stores, some fire trucks, police ATVs, an ambulance and other participants made a fine spectacle.IMG_20180728_104431

We’d planned to meet friends from Canmore arriving to camp nearby for the week at the evening show. Unfortunately, they missed a ferry and ended up getting to their campsite just as it was dark. They were rather tired from waiting three hours for the next boat, a two hour crossing with a seasick dog, and then a longish drive across island with a puking dog on the latter winding stages, and two teenage boys getting greener each time Fido threw up. They missed the evening music and beer.

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Tuff session

It was a good line up, particularly the headline set by Band of Rascals – guitars, drums, a bass, and a lead singer giving it all, with the volume turned up to 11. As it should be. When the light faded, and the fog rolled in, the proceedings were perfumed – heavily – by a sizeable chunk of the audience figuring they’d get away with breaking the no smoking policy under cover of darkness. Weed was in the air. Certainly added something to the atmosphere, a little extra haze and daze. We were happy enough with the Tofino Session ale from the beer garden. Quite enjoyed being carded too – I think I look as though I might still be in high school…

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Turned up to 11

We did catch up with our friends in the following days, and they slowly began to unwind and relax into Ukee time. They surfed a bit, hiked a bit, ate good food and drank good beer a bit, and loved having a beach bonfire each night right in front of their campsite.IMG_20180801_185630

They weren’t quite as excited about the bear that had gotten into a nearby tent early one morning (to scavenge for candy a child had left in a sleeping bag) coming back when they were out and tearing a hole in the side of their tent. Sadly, the bear may have to be put down. Doesn’t seem remotely fair to the bear when it is only trying to be a bear…

It takes time to find the time to wind down and follow island or small town pace of life. Once you do, the trick is to maintain it, try to hang on to it even if you have to move on. Small isn’t dull, and slowing down doesn’t hurt – put yourself in a small town daze!

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Ukee evening summer haze

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Going coastal…

It’s time to go coastal! This will have to be a swift post, like my travels, and like the soundtrack in the car. Huh? Your soundtrack will be Swift? Taylor Swift? You don’t seem the type…DSCN6981

Well, really! Of course I like Taylor Swift songs. Just not so much when she’s singing them. I’ll be listening to 1989, but the reimagining or reworking created a couple of years ago by Ryan Adams. No, Ryan, not Bryan (Bryan, you are still loved in Canada, but not for that Robin Hood song…)

Ryan Adams put on his Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen/Roy Orbison hats for the vocals, got the guitars to sound a bit like Johnny Marr, and turned 1989 into something an old fart like me can enjoy. Full of space, drama and echo, with the highlight being Shake It Off – if you give it a go, you might like it.

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I fell off trying to look up at a bald eagle just a few seconds later…but shook it off
What else is on the soundtrack? Well, one singer parts of 1989 reminded me of (you wouldn’t necessarily think of her when listening to the Swift album) is Tracy Chapman. Her first album is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, and that is both a good and bad thing if you are familiar with her themes on that record. We should be Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution – maybe November?

Finally, and for two reasons, virtually anything by AC/DC will also be playing. One, it’ll be a slight contrast to all the sensitivity of the other two artists, and two, Mrs. PlaidCamper won’t be in the car for this trip, so here’s my chance to play it loud. Maybe this one? Thunderstruck – turned up to 11. Oh dear…

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Why are we paddling uphill?
Oh no, where is Mrs. PC? She’ll be following on a little later, and also for two reasons. One, she is not quite finished teaching the academic year, and two, my brother is visiting us out on the coast for a couple of weeks, and she’s letting us get on with it for the first week. The “it” being falling off paddle boards, falling out of kayaks, falling over rocks and logs, playing anti-social music from the late 70s and early 80s, drinking a beer (or two), and staying up past our bedtime. Or that’s what we’ll say we did if our other two brothers ask. Might even find time to watch a game or two where England’s bid to win the World Cup is doomed yet again. We will tidy up before Mrs. PC arrives. Luckily, Scout is with us because we have to have a sensible member in the party.

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Probably shouldn’t try to land a small plane here
My main priority this week is to get to Tofino Airport in time to pick up my brother when his plane lands. It’ll take him almost as long to make his trip out from the DC area as my little road trip. He’s changing planes about a gazillion times, and he’s not too happy that each one is smaller than the last. For the short hop from Vancouver to the coast, I’ve told him to tie the straps on his hat tightly under his chin, and then his head will stay warm. He knows I’m going to write “LAND HERE” in the sand, so that’s also reassured him…

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“Here I am, the sensible one!”
If anything interesting occurs, it’ll make it onto here at some point, but two middle aged gentlemen falling over a few times isn’t all that exciting. I’ll write about it even if relatively little occurs. I know, I know, the suspense is too much…

Brief, as promised. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Old growth green

“To make a bigger parking lot, they should cut down some of these trees. Then there would be more visitors!”

It was quite an effort, but I managed to pretend I didn’t hear this. The would be park ranger was correct, and following his logic, hiking in the mountains would be less strenuous if we levelled a few – and the view would be unblocked.

DSCF6969A few weeks back, I stopped our Big Muddy Taxi at Cathedral Grove, a small patch of old growth forest located a few minutes east of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Whenever we pass through, the time has never been quite right to make a stop. A ferry to catch, it is dark, the rain is heavy, or the small angled parking lot by the side of the road is full. This trip, I’d left time for the ferry, the rain had stopped, and there was a space for the car.

DSCF7002What a beautiful spot! A glimpse into what Vancouver Island must have looked like before it was logged. A lovely place, MacMillan Provincial Park is not a particularly large park, but the spot that makes up Cathedral Grove is full of enormous Douglas firs and huge Red western cedars. A “tree museum” without charge, and a reminder to appreciate what we have…

Dense and green – so green! Mossy and dank, a complex ecosystem full of life, and one I couldn’t capture accurately with a camera. I settled for choosing a few details to try and convey the majesty of this special place. The greens in the photos aren’t as vivid or strong as those I was seeing, but they give an idea.

DSCF7014Next time, we’ll try and visit early in the morning, on a dry day when the sun rises high enough to penetrate the valley and start burning off the mist. I drove through on a morning just like that one October, in a hurry to catch a ferry. Looking back, I wish I’d stopped, not worrying about missing the ferry. There’s always another ferry, but perhaps there won’t be another morning quite like that? It can’t hurt to hope.

DSCF6988If you get the chance, and have the time, stop at Cathedral Grove to wander under the mighty trees and wonder at the beauty of it all. Get there early, and you’ll find a parking spot – no need to suggest making the lot larger at the cost of cutting down some of the giants. If that is what you think, maybe keep it to yourself, keep your voice down…

Old growth green – I feel all spruced up just looking at it. We don’t really want to be paving paradise, do we? I bet you were humming this already:

Big Yellow Taxi

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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Logging some beach time…

A very brief post this week, looking back at what might have been the last warm days for a while.

As I write this, the rain is heavy and winds are high, reminding me it is well into fall now, and storm season is upon us. Big waves and high tides with large surges, best observed from a distance. Anyway, back to those warmer days…DSCF6139

Yes, those first few early October days were pleasantly bright and sunny, so we made the most of them by visiting Long Beach several times. Easy walking on long stretches of sand, with a fine choice of logs inviting us to sit and watch the surf.DSCF6163

I love being on this beach, with the dunes, then the trees facing the ocean, and the distant mountains to the north. It’s so unlike anywhere else we know and, rain or shine, is always a delight to visit. Each time we stay a little longer than we planned, surprised at how much time has passed when we pick ourselves up to leave. DSCF6155My theory is the wave action is slightly hypnotic, at least on a calmer day, and you end up forgetting to check the time. Soothing sounds, and I’ve been known to drop off, nodding and drooling. That’ll be the old in OldPlaidCamper. Nothing wrong with that, and with beaches this empty, no witnesses!

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“Is that the drooling guy again?”

Changing tack, I wanted to note a sad day we all knew was coming happened earlier this week, with the passing of Gord Downie. Musician, activist, actor, poet, Gord Downie chronicled Canada in words and music.  For the good, the bad, or the bizarre, he loved Canada, and sang from the heart in his quavering, growling, and sometimes slightly fragile voice.DSCF6161

We were lucky enough to catch The Tragically Hip in Calgary on their “We Are the Same” tour. Sometimes, it seemed they were always touring, and there would always be another time if you missed them. You had to see it to believe it watching the band perform – they gave everything. I’ll miss his “requisite strangeness” although he’s left a fine catalogue of work to remember him by, and his mission that Canada should aim high for all Canadians. I’ll leave you this week with one of their songs – and it was so difficult to settle on just one – Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Plains, a train, and an automobile…

Hmm. A messy borrowed – sort of – title, and a short post.

We’re staggering towards the end of this academic year – I can’t remember it being this busy in other years, so I guess early middle age must be catching up with me. We did find time to take a short trip out onto the prairies and plains. We passed through grasslands and ranch lands, tracking the Red Deer river, and stopping in the small (very small) town of Big Valley. Friendly small towns and big spaces – that calls for Paul Brandt on the radio:

Small Towns and Big Dreams

Big Valley is nestled in knob and kettle country, and what lovely scenery that is. Plus, you know, knob and kettle. The childish delight I have in writing that…Almost every kettle had ducks on the water – it was a waterfowl wonderland, and a very pretty habitat. And yet I don’t have a duck in any of the photos? To be honest, each little family of ducks looked so content, I couldn’t bring myself to stop and take a picture in case we disturbed them. The kettle lakes are close to the road, and although they were visible in all directions, we would have been too close.

Old train cars and trucks aren’t sensitive, and parked, they can’t escape. Yup, here comes another old truck photograph. This one, parked up in Big Valley, is the oldest we’ve seen recently, and a beauty:


The railway used to run through here, and enthusiasts keep part of the line open and run trains between Stettler and Big Valley. Maybe we’ll make time to take that short trip one afternoon, for the fun of it. We were happy enough to sit in the sun, and then wander around the train cars and old farm machinery. A couple of pleasant Big Valley hours, and then back through knob and kettle (can’t help it) country, heading home, with a little more Paul Brandt. He is Mr. Alberta summer soundtrack!

Alberta Bound

A brief post, as promised. I hope you enjoyed the music, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend – thanks for reading!

This river is wild…

Or if not wild, certainly rising. Keeping a close watch, given the heavy flooding Calgary and other places on the Bow experienced a few years ago.

I like this truck!

As spring turns to summer, or as we skip spring for summer – tornado warnings/sightings, and gajillions of mosquitos being my prime evidence – I’m putting together the dreaded OldPlaidCamper road trip mix tape. Just to be clear, and for the record, Mrs. PlaidCamper has excellent musical taste, and a remarkable ability to fall asleep in the car when my mix tape is up next. That might be one of the rock solid foundations of a successful road trip…

You might be asking Why the bit about the river, and then the bit about mix tapes? Good question! This River is Wild is a track on the Sam’s Town album by The Killers. I like the album, and I like the track, and it has popped up in my head each time I’ve crossed the Bow this past week and seen the surging waters. Yup, I’ve got a fairly empty head most mornings, and this is what fills it – plans for a road trip mix tape.

That Killers track! I do enjoy their wailing histrionics, in small doses. You can’t fault them for effort, and the albums Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town include killer, haha, tracks. If you’re interested, follow the link for a live version – I prefer the studio version, but couldn’t find a link – The Killers – This River is Wild 

I like this truck as well!

On my little walks around Sunnyside, in between downpours and battling the bloodsucking bugs, I’ve stumbled across some more old trucks and snapped a few pictures. Old trucks always get me thinking about road trips and wide open spaces. The sad truth is, if I owned a cool old truck and was responsible for the maintenance, our road trips would be short. We’d see lots of verges, and be on first name terms with tow truck owners. Sadly, I can only look and dream when it comes to older trucks (or I could learn to be a mechanic – don’t let Mrs PC read that last part, she’s seen me fix and build…)

I really, really like this one!

Oh summer, I can almost see you there, just a little way ahead, and around the next turn! Here’s hoping the river isn’t too wild, the road is long and open, and an as yet unknown distant (wealthy) relative decides to lend me an old truck on permanent loan…

Thanks for reading. Keeping it short this week – mix tape planning can take a lot of time, you know – I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and please feel free to share a road trip song suggestion!

And I like this one!