Reporting on a wonderful trip

Things are, of course, behind schedule - mainly because our furniture arrived yesterday (August 5th) instead of the 3rd as promised; but the computer survived the trip and the internet connection works, so I'll be catching up on comment reading and a few other things tomorrow and returning to regular blogging on Tuesday the 8th.

Meanwhile I thought people might enjoy a brief note on a throughly enjoyable trip.

We drove from Kitchener/Waterloo Ontario to Lethbridge, Alberta via Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan - a total distance of about 2,400 miles including some minor detours to visit friends.

Along that whole route we ran into only three speed traps - all of them along the 62 mile corridor between Duluth and Eveleth (home of Hockey's Hall of Fame) - before getting into Alberta, where, of course, writing tickets to the unsuspecting is a major source of police revenue.

So far, I think I've escaped; but you never know - Alberta loves to mail out camera tickets long after the perpetrator has lost any memory of any real or imagined offence - download this example if you want to see what an unexpected $120 charge on your Hertz account looks like!

Wife, world's best small boy, good car, beautiful weather, and no hurry combine to spell a happy time - marred only on crossing into Michigan by seeing the flags at half mast because the thugs in Iraq had succeeded in killing another local soldier.

On the positive side the upper peninsula features a local delicacy called a pastie - a meat pie and delicious, but not related to the unreal thing you probably (and I certainly) thought of first.

We stopped for lunch at a Steverino's near a Shell station just outside Flint where I got a great, and very cheap at $9.99, steak that was cooked just as I like them (lightly warmed) and a lesson in Canadian taxes - in southern Ontario that morning Shell wanted $1.20 per litre or about $4.37 US per gallon: a dollar ten more per gallon more than the local price near Flint and for gas from Alberta oil at that.

We stayed that night at a "highly (over) rated" motel in Munising - beautiful views of the lake and a lovely tiny waterfall tucked behind the place.

Note: you can click on the images in this column to get the full size versions but be warned that these are large (2.X MB) and that I'll be playing with server routing over the next few days and things may not work when you try them the first time.

Our next memorable stop was in International Falls where the surprise was a place called Grandma's Pantry in nearby Ranier. As they put it, they're north of the "tension line" (as in, if you want it fast, go to Minneapolis). Their sense of humor doesn't stretch to serving Ranier beer but they whipped up a custom plate of Walleye fillets for me that I enjoyed tremendously.

More interestingly, I'm sure we've all been in places where there are one or two (sorry about the flash effect) pictures done by a customer and proudly displayed but not offered for sale.

Grandma's Pantry takes this to a bit of an extreme: it's a work in progress that's currently up to 38 - each one a drawing of an historically significant home or other structure in the Ranier area. I know nothing about this kind of thing, and I'm not even sure I liked the work, but it's building toward a legacy artifact that will, I'm sure, someday be considered of historical, and perhaps also artistic, significance.

Most of the places we stopped were great - but at least one waitress, at a place in Saskatchewan, made it abundantly clear that travellers come and go, but aching feet and a bad attitude really are forever.

Speaking of which, take a look at this picture - I didn't think to take it until after crossing the border from Minnesota to Manitoba, but a lot of the roads, particularly on the upper peninsula in Michigan, were like this: empty, tree lined, flat, and apparently going on forever.

And then, of course, we came to sunny Alberta: new friends, a new home in a truly beautiful city, and, after four days of camping in an empty house, I have boxes to unpack, a small boy to amuse, and a wife who wants to move something big - so I'll be back Tuesday.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specialising in Unix and Unix-related management issues.