Winner: Gold Saskatchewan Article

It’s too bad we couldn’t be at the Western Magazine Awards gala in Vancouver this evening. I had been to two awards banquets previously. Each was a marvellous affair, an opportunity to socialize with some of Western Canada’s excellent and dedicated writers, photographers, editors, art directors and others who contribute to the success of publishing.

But, we couldn’t get away. So, instead, we were following along on the WMA’s Twitter feed, when this appeared:

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Water under the bridge

Cottonwood Falls Park. (Darrell Noakes)

Cottonwood Falls Park, Nelson, BC. (Darrell Noakes)

Deep in the recesses of my mind is a distant memory of a place my parents took me to once. It was a beautiful place, a canyon with groomed pathways, a lush garden, and a long waterfall that saturated the air with a cool mist. The water seemed to flow out of the sky. It splashed over rocks into a creek and then ran under a bridge and out into a wide, deep, slow moving river that shimmered with hues of green and blue.

I doubt I could have been more than two or three years old at the time, and we spent barely an afternoon there on a hot summer day, and we never went back. The memory of that place has persisted all my life. Whenever I think of the home where I grew up, I think of that place. Sometimes it enters my dreams, where I can still see myself running up and down the pathways of the canyon.

Whenever I asked my parents where that place was, they always shrugged. Continue reading

Bike Alley

The Bike Alley is a whimsical exercise in community development from within, says its creator, Dan Haley, owner of Casa di Cioccolato in Trail, BC. The bicycles line the alley behind his chocolate and tea shop at 346 Bay Avenue. (Darrell Noakes)

(Darrell Noakes)

“You should take a walk down there,” says Bruce, pointing to the lane in back of the old Arlington Hotel, a popular watering hole where a group of us had just wrapped up lunch over beer.

“Let’s see how many you find,” he adds as he and his sister, Sandra start across a deserted street.

“We’ll meet you over at the other end in a few minutes. We’re headed for the Artisan store. See you there.”

The Bike Alley. (Darrell Noakes)

The Bike Alley. (Darrell Noakes)

So, while the rest of the group went left, I hung a right and traipsed on down the block.

It’s pretty quiet for a Saturday, especially on a holiday weekend. There’s practically no traffic. Pretty much anyone who stayed in town must be at the Arlington.

As I reach the entrance to the lane, I spy a bike tied along the guy wires of a telephone pole, then a line of bikes overhead, pinned to the building wall. Further down, more bikes. Continue reading

Hemingway’s world

Hemmingway haunt: La Bodeguita Del Medio Empedrado, Havana, Cuba ‎ +53 7 571375 (Darrell Noakes)

Hemingway famously spent a lot of time at La Bodeguita Del Medio Empedrado, a popular restaurant-bar in Havana, Cuba. (Darrell Noakes)

At Saskatoon’s latitude, February 15 is the date when the sun reaches above the horizon high enough to chase away my winter blues. Every year, it’s like someone waves a magic wand over the landscape. That’s the date when you can really feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Before that, from the beginning of November, the sun shines a cold, blue light — bright enough to need sunglasses, to be sure, but lacking in warmth and colour. Each year, I look forward to February 15 the way a kid looks forward to the day after the last day of school.

Winter can be a lovely time of year. I love the way freshly fallen snow sparkles under a full moon. I love the bright, clear night skies with so many brilliant stars. Looking out on a winter landscape is like living in a sentimental Christmas card. But I hate what the darkness of the long night does to me. Continue reading

Quest for coffee

I love a strong cup of Dark French roast to start the day, especially when I’m travelling. That first sip of Joe breathes an air of familiarity into whatever corner of the world that you might find yourself. It grounds you.

 (Darrell Noakes)

Mmm. . . . first coffee of the day, a rare treat on this tour. Binscarth Regional Park, Manitoba. (Darrell Noakes)

Camp coffee is my favourite. The aroma wafting through the morning air starts the day off right. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or if it’s minus 40 degrees Celsius. Coffee makes every day warm and sunny.

I don’t mean cowboy coffee, either, although that’s pretty good — coarsely ground beans dropped into a tall enamel coffee pot that has been brought to a boil, then left to cool slightly (a dash of cold water helps settle the grounds just before serving).

I prefer to travel with one of my little macchinetta coffee makers, setting the pot on a compact alcohol stove to heat and brew while I go about other camp chores or preparing breakfast. Whether I’m bike camping or car camping, it’s always possible to find someplace to tuck the coffee supplies. Continue reading

Sagging for GASP 2013

GASP 2013, Lake of the Prairies (Darrell Noakes)

A broken spoke can really wreck your day, especially if it’s an outside spoke on the sprocket side of your rear wheel. Fortunately, someone had a spare “S” spoke for such emergencies, and we got our cycling colleague back on the road in fairly short order. GASP 2013, Lake of the Prairies (Darrell Noakes)

“So, what does ‘SAG’ mean, anyway?” someone asked.

Well, as long as I can remember, cyclists where I grew up referred to the support vehicle that accompanied them on trips as the “sag wagon”. Where the name came from, nobody really knew. What the term meant, everybody had their own opinion.

On the club tours that characterized my early tour experiences, the sag wagon was there to offer support and encouragement to tired riders, besides carry gear. We referred to the driver as “mom”, regardless of her or his gender or age, knowing that whoever was in charge of the van would look out for us and take care of whatever we needed. Continue reading