Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In This Country

Pulled into the driveway just after midnight this morning after two straight 1100 km days.

You don't know discouraged until you look at the clock, its coming on dinner time and you've only put about 500 kilometres behind you.

We stumbled out of the van like POWS getting out of the hole after the camp has been liberated. Staggering, gaunt, hollow eyed, the stench of urine and feces and most of all desperate fear.

And that was just me.

Yesterday morning we piled into the van after a night spent in Berthierville and my eldest announced that the van smelled like underwear.

Since Thursday we've driven 3000 kilometres.

But we made it. And the amazing thing is that after this the 1700 km back is going to seem like a piece of cake.

Northern Ontario is one of those parts of Canada that should be seen. You have your standard Canadiana that everyone sees or knows about - Vancouver and the mountains, Banff and Jasper, the Stampede, West Edmonton Mall, the Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, PEI, the Cabot Trail, the Bay of Fundy, your great national parks, Ottawa.

You have the places that most folks make it to or experience - St. John's, Halifax, the endless Prairies, Vancouver Island, the Okanagan.

And then you have those that bubble underneath. Places that have to be seen to be believed but that are often overlooked due to distance or size or just pure anonymity. Cities like Winnipeg and Edmonton (a friend of mine has been across most of the country and rates Edmonton after Montreal and Toronto as his favourite town), the Gaspe, the outports and interior of Newfoundland, the Yukon, the Kootenays, the south shore of Nova Scotia, Acadian New Brunswick.

And Northern Ontario.

We were in Goulais for two days and when there you can see what those crazy settlers saw in it. Nestled on the shore of vast Superior, the cliffs of the rugged Highlands behind it, pine and spruce and the enormous sky. Its beautiful. From Goulais we rushed east along the north shore of Huron, over three hundred kilometres until Sudbury, the forests and rock cuts interspersed with some farmland and scrub where long gone homesteads once rose from the Shield and a dozen tiny towns, all but Blind River home to six hundred folks or less. In all but the smallest there is a war memorial and a chipstand. The next biggest would have an LCBO and then the largest would have a rink as well and more then one chipstand, of course. In many there are tiny museums that tell of the loggers and miners and farmers who arrived in the middle of nowhere two centuries ago, from Scotland and Ireland and Finland and Germany and all over Europe and the States, all to carve out a new life in the wilderness. And between the towns trading posts selling moccasins and Indian crafts and on the reserves the small stores advertising cheap smokes.

East of Sudbury its old French settlements and neat farms as the highway wends east past Verner and Warren and then Sturgeon Falls. More trading posts and more chipstands with fresh cut fries and sweet pickerel battered brown and poutine drowning in gravy and then great Nipissing extending into the distance south of the highway as you come into North Bay, perched on the northeast corner of the grand lake.

This is my country, of course, and so I am biased through and through, but a week spent wandering the forests and lakes and tiny towns uninterrupted in Northern Ontario is something each Canadian who wants to know their country should do. Even all of the nothing is truly something.


Now I have a ton of reading to do. I haven't the foggiest about the draft other then the Swede and the Brodziak trade.

Not sure about that move. A third and a fourth for Brodziak and a sixth is a decent return but on a club that was inexperienced and weak up the middle, on draws and on the PK trading a centreman who was over 51% on draws and was on the PK and had a couple of years under his belt strikes me as a bit odd especially when I read that his spot may now be Brule's to lose. I guess they plan on bringing in a centre who can play tough minutes, PK and win some draws because if not Horcoff will never come off the ice.

I liked Brodziak and its a shame to see him go. Remember two seasons ago when he and Glencross and Stortini had that nice run eating up the other clubs' dregs? And now both Glencross and he are gone, both to division rivals, both for reasonable dough and likely Brodziak, like Glencross, to take on a bigger role.

Oh well, we'll see, I guess. Not much has happened but its not just the Oilers who are running in place. Some small signings and a typical bold move from Sutter. Say what you will about the guy (and I think I'd be grumpy too after thirty years of answering inane questions from the likes of Terry Jones and Pierre Maguire) but he never leaves anything on the table - he is not afraid to go out there and try and improve his club.
In general though we're talking about the calm before the storm, I think. There will be some movement overnight and then tomorrow the madness.


hunter1909 said...

Montreal is my favourite Canadian town. Where else in Canada is there a fort that was ever used in wars against the indians? The women are crazy, and the place looks and feels like the Canada of Dominion Day, and the Red Ensign. And you don't get treated like a fool for wanting to buy a drink at a convenience store.

I keep getting deleted at Lowetide's. It's all my own fault, because ever since hearing about the Bouwmeester trade, it more or less(to my mind) guarantees Calgary dominance for the next ten years. This is the most appalling news imaginable. I'm kind of too stunned to think straight about hockey. So instead, my evil imagination genie runs rampant, a little like that tall guy from Manhunter. I might have to even concentrate on work.

Darren said...

I've driven through Northern Ontario. Beautiful area, would love to do it again given the time off. Must have got some sweet pictures out there

Scott said...

I've never been through Northern Ontario. When I took to the road from Edmonton to Statford we went down through the States both times. Some beauty down there as well and I was glad to see some of Chicago but the next time I shall take your advice and meander through Canada.

As for the Brodziak deal... I don't mean to burst your bubble at all, but the trade was for a Brodziak + 6th for a 4th + 5th so the return is a bit worse then you'd thought... I think it was an awful deal for the Oilers.

Anyway, glad to hear the long drive is over for you.

Black Dog said...

Scott - yeah me too.

Yeah I wasn't sure of the deal when I thought it was a 3rd/4th and now ...

Someone said that Brodziak failed as a third liner last season (although his audition lasted all of a dozen games maybe?) and so let him go but the guy is cheap and given decent linemates can totally outplay the other team's dregs and he is a FO man and he is a PK guy.

Don't get it.

Hunter - yeah I'm a Montreal guy too. As for Bouwmeester and Calgary, don't sweat it, Yet anyhow. ;)

robert cleave said...

I drove to Cornwall from Dauphin, MB twice back in '01, via the north route, through 'earst (sic) and Kap. Hell of a drive, and I didn't have any urchins along. The western part of that drive, especially in the rock cuts around Lake Nipigon and near Kenora, is something worth seeing as well. Then again, I'd just finished working in Norway House, MB for 5 years, so the Shield wasn't exactly unfamiliar.

Bouwmeester. Well, as a Flames person, we'll see how things work out. If Sutter had unloaded Kiprusoff for a bag of cheeseburgers, I'd feel like they could put some of that cash into an extra forward or two. They're pretty thin up front if they sink 6+ million in another defenceman, quality as he is.

Baroque said...

I love the Great Lakes. There is nothing quite as funny as showing them to someone from another state who is just amazed at the idea of a lake so large that ocean-going vessels routinely sail on them. They think a "lake" is something that you can see to the other side of.

I tell them in Michigan, we call those ponds. :)

I'd like to see all the Americans that derisively call the Midwest "flyover country" spend a little bit of time in the Great Lakes region. There is a lot more to life than both coasts, no matter what they think.

mattwatt said...

I am a fan of all lands too Mr.Mclean. As someone who grew up on a family farm near Lloydminster (on the Alberta side), then lived in Vancouver for the past 6 years while I went to university, I have yet to travel as much of this country as I would like. That said, from what I have seen and witness of this country always leaves me amazed.

My friends who grew up in probably one of the prettiest cities in the world (Vancouver) came out to the farm last year for a long weekend visit and were amazed by how beautiful the prairies can be. They started to see what I always saw. It is that weekend that we all came to the conclusion that so much of this land has its own beauty and that we all need to see more of it.

Another Canadian hidden gem is the Cypress Hills is Saskatchewan. Truly awesome.

I guess there is just a hell of a lot nicer place to be then an Edmonton Oiler fan right now, that is for sure. Why we keep "building for the future/must win tomorrow" I will never know. This Heatley trade makes my blood boil. Or go to the back of the 40 acres to build some fence and swear at the top of my lungs. Beautiful having your nearest neighbour a mile away.

Black Dog said...

R.C. - well Sutter pulled it off. Interesting to see who he moves - Phaneuf I would guess.

OK Hunter now you can walk into traffic or whatever you were planning.

mattwatt - well Heatley is a spoiled prat now, isn't he? Wouldn't want him on my club. Guess they might still work it out but this is ridiculous.

mattwatt said...

Just crazy. When I last saw your post, it was a supposedly a sure thing (a la Nylander). Then he "wants to sleep on it." I really don't know what to think, all I know is that he is a good player who all of sudden wants to be moved and the Senators are asking for a fair bit. My brain hurts with all this commotion. Is he a prat? From rumblings within the negotiations (Heatley supposedly had private talks with Edmonton with Ottawa knowing), it does seem that way.

What I do know is that it was great watching Doug MacLean this morning blow a gasket over Heatley. Always great to see someone with a questionable track record ridicule another person and come off as correct.

Black Dog said...

mattwatt - its an embarassment but there are so many conflicting stories and confusion who knows what is going on

if he did talk to Edmonton and then had a change of heart then that says it all right there

in any case they should just walk away - fly to go and convince the guy? what a jerk