30 Aug

NFL Announces New Security Measures


NEW YORK – Following a pre-season filled with confusion and adverse fan reaction to the most recent bag restrictions, the National Football League today announced a more streamlined security policy.

Effective immediately, the NFL has decided to ban fans from the stadium entirely.

At each NFL stadium, temporary seating will be erected in adjacent parking lots and the games will be shown on a series of large, HD-quality screens that will ring the facility. Ticket holders will still be subject to a full cavity search before taking their seats and a more relaxed bag policy will be in effect.

“Fans will still get that in-game experience that makes the National Football League the greatest sports entertainment value in the nation while watching the world’s finest athletes in pulsating action,” assured a spokesman for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Though there may be some initial concerns over seat locations in front of the television monitors, we are confident that this new policy will strike a fair balance between the need for increasing security and the safety and comfort of our fans.”

Goodell himself was unavailable for comment as he was meeting his counterpart, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, as well as one of the newest NHL owners. Goodell was reportedly interested in the NHL’s controversial policy of stringing nets in front of the seating area, while Bettman and the unnamed NHL owner were considering implementing a version of the NFL’s security measures at their games.

“The two leagues share a similar commitment to their fans,” said Goodell’s spokesman.

Critics charge that this is just another sign of how the NFL has lost touch with its customers and has become arrogant, a charge vehemently denied by the league.

“These measures are an unfortunate fact of life in the world today, but I can assure you that the needs of our customers are paramount,” said one NFL owner, who wished to remain anonymous. “To suggest that we are an arrogant organization is absolute nonsense. Why, I can tell you that one of our staffers personally called someone on our season ticket waiting list who declined to the opportunity to move up in line by licking my boots clean. His concerns were addressed with the utmost amount of care.”

Others suggest that the NFL’s security policies are motivated only by concession revenues.

“All because I didn’t buy that extra over-priced beer. What a bunch of (expletive),” said a New York Giants’ season ticket holder, who wished to be identified only as “Jimmy.” “I can barely put food on my table and these rich guys just want to use terrorism an excuse for shaking me down. My buddy needed a prostate exam and I told him that he should just buy a ticket to an NFL game and he would get one for free. If he wanted the deluxe version, just stick a can of Coke in his shorts. Then, they’d really give it to him.”

Goodell’s spokesman offered little relief for fans.

“All I can say is that we will be monitoring the implementation of this new policy in Week 1 and that any unresolved issues will be discussed at the league’s next owners’ meeting.”

The regular season opens this coming Thursday in Denver as the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens take on the hometown Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
29 Aug

Ode to the Skywalk


The bums stagger by and accost you most of the time

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Others walk with their heads down

Married to their phones, texting everyone in town

Meandering in all directions, sun or rain

Showing less awareness than those with a white cane

Merchants crowd the already cramped space

With tables full of everything from purses to lace

It’s all on sale, or so they say

Shop elsewhere, half the price you’ll pay

Modesty has gone out of style and no one wishes to repent

Slutwalk has become a daily event

Filling the airwaves with noise the buskers play

How much to make them go away?

Another day in the skywalk amid many a nut

At least no one thrust a knife in my gut

23 Aug

Camera Shy

While I was out today
I saw someone riding his bike on Sterling Lyon Parkway

Wobbling back and forth and moving from side to side
While juggling all his worldly possessions on his ride

I pulled out my camera to capture this sight
Before he could no longer remain upright

As he saw me ready to snap a shot
He began to swear a lot

Scared of the camera, he turned to cross the street
Nearly his maker he did meet

Pulling in front of a speeding car with no indecision
The driver had to brake to avoid a collision

On his merry way he did go
He came so close to death, you know

All to avoid a camera, no more
I had never thought of it as a weapon before
19 Aug

An Epic Adventure in Sioux Narrows

On Friday, along with 34 other passengers, I set out for my last major bus tour of the season. It would also prove to be the most adventurous tour of the season.

Our destination was Sioux Narrows with stops in Falcon Lake, Rushing River Provincial Park and Rat Portage along the way.

As I approached the waiting bus, I groaned upon spotting our tour guide for the day. I had been with her on tours on two prior occasions and both times, her inexperience and/or ill-preparedness had hampered the tour. Unfortunately, this time would be no exception. For reasons that will become evident as you read on, I will not name her publicly.

I was not surprised in the least to hear that she had never done a tour to Sioux Narrows before. Equally unsurprisingly, I would discover quickly that she had made little effort to find out about our various destinations. Instead, she would rely upon her passengers to do her job for her. Sitting in the front seat, I would do more to point the way than she would. 

Upon our departure from Winnipeg, I was encouraged to hear when she had asked our driver to point out when we were near the GWWD railway crossing and the Aqueduct so that she could read a spiel about it. That slightly encouraging feeling faded once she and the driver became engrossed in an hour-long conversation as we headed east. It was I who interrupted and pointed out the approaching Aqueduct, enabling her to deliver her material at the right time.


In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed the drive and I was almost disappointed when we reached the Whiteshell and arrived at Falcon Lake. Even though I already have the drive filmed on video, this scenery never gets old.


Eschewing the large lot nearby, our driver parked in front of the Falcon Lake Meat and Grocery store and squarely in front of a “No Parking” sign.



Later in the day, he would park in front of another “No Parking” sign at Rushing River.



Noticing that he had done this for the second time today, I jokingly mentioned the new site WPGParkingFail.comto him. He responded by going into an angry tirade about how that site’s operator was “poking his nose into places it shouldn’t be” and “who cares if someone is taking up two parking spots.” He then proudly proclaimed that “he doesn’t pay much attention to that stuff.”

Needless to say, I was quite taken aback at his brazen contempt of parking regulations. I was doubly appalled that he would be so open about it with a customer.

I would also later reflect upon the interesting stories that he had told during his conversation with the tour guide about his year in China teaching English. What impressed him greatly was how much respect his Chinese students showed him as a teacher.

Perhaps it might serve him well to show the same level of respect for those regulations that he flaunted with such apparent pride.

As with the tour guide, I will not name him publicly either.

I didn’t have much to see in Falcon Lake, but I did take a stroll around.


The bakery.



A nearby trail.




Is it “Cottonwood” or “Cotton Wood”?



Shops in the area. 

After our half-hour break, we headed east towards the SPRM/Ontario border. As we passed the weigh station, I looked to my left and spotted our driver writing while driving.



Sadly, this would become a repeat occurrence on our return.




On numerous occasions, he would pull out a small piece of notepaper and jot something down while driving. Each time, his note taking would only last a few seconds, but that’s all it takes to lose control. The risk factor with distracted driving is only multiplied on the two-lane highways through Northwestern Ontario.


Crossing the frontier into Ontario. I made sure to take this shot before Greasy Greg decides to take a page out of Nikita Khrushchev’s playbook and build a wall.

Upon nearing Rat Portage, we took the bypass to the north.






The scenery is even more breathtaking than it is west of Rat Portage. I was in awe of these rock formations and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to build this highway. Travellers often complain because the highway hasn’t been twinned, but the fact that there is a road at all is remarkable.


East of Rat Portage, we turned south on King’s Highway 71 and headed for Sioux Narrows.







A short time later, we arrived in Sioux Narrows. Or, as the sign says, “SIOUX NARROWS.” I know that at least one reader will appreciate that.



Just on the other side of the Sioux Narrows Bridge was our lunch stop at Big John’s Mine Shaft Tavern. No, I’m not making that up.



I am still wondering what would ever possess a tour company that caters mainly to elderly ladies to book a lunch at Big John’s Mine Shaft Tavern.



Once again, however, it was left to me to point the place out as we went by. Our tour guide was not paying attention and, furthermore, had not bothered to investigate as to where this place was. We might have driven halfway to Nestor Falls by the time she had realized that we missed it.





Inside, I took my place with three others and surveyed my surroundings. It’s about what I would have expected for a hunting lodge in the middle of bush country.



The view behind my seat.



Our meal.

There are those who will eat anything that is put in front of them. I am not one of those people. For the record, that is cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup.

I used the time to get some shots around the Sioux Narrows Bridge.







More shots of Big John’s:




Walking down to the lake:



A little deferred maintenance here.

After the others had devoured their meal, we boarded the bus for a one-block ride south. Naturally, our tour guide had no idea where the gift shop that was on her itinerary was. Once again, it was left to me to point it out.

Later in the day, it would gall me to see a couple of passengers giving her a tip. If they had been sitting near the front, they might have given that tip to me, since I had done more to earn it than she did.

Instead of gathering more items for a future garage sale, I used the opportunity to walk around the town.



The Lazy Loon restaurant. It couldn’t have been any worse than what we had.



Gill’s Trading Post.



You had to know that this was coming. The only King’s Highway marker in town was not going to go unphotographed.





More shops.



The Sioux Narrows Motel. I don’t think that the Hilton chain has too much to worry about as far as competition.


The Northern Lights of Sioux Narrows, where the bus was parked.

In short order, we were headed back north towards our next destination, Rushing River.





Passing by Old Woman Lake.







As we passed Andy Lake, I remembered a former colleague, Lloyd Klassen, who had passed away last year.


During our many conversations at his desk, he had mentioned Andy Lake on occasion. Like me, he was also an avid photographer and I am sure that he had plenty of shots around the area.

I know that he would have been astounded to learn that this was my 746th shot of the trip this far. He might have shot back with a quip like, “How many more shots of highways can you get?”



Approaching Tower Lake.

We soon arrived at Rushing River Provincial Park for what would become the day’s biggest story.

Prior to our arrival, our tour guide announced that we were limited to only 20 minutes due to limitations imposed by the Province of Ontario.

Huh?

The Province of Ontario will let you stay as long as you want as long as you pay for the privilege, something that the tour company was apparently unwilling to do. She explained that she did have to go in and pay, but that they could get a refund if they left within 20 minutes.

At that moment, I heard a flock of birds flying overhead. They were all singing, “cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap.”

Ah, but it gets better.

It should come as no shock to any reader at this point to learn that the tour guide had absolutely no idea where within the park we should go. When going inside to pay, they gave her a map, but she instead rolled it up and used it to swat flies. Maps are for sissies.

We came to a fork in the road. I told them to go left. They went right.

Ten minutes later, the driver was earning himself a gold medal in the Bus Driver Olympics trying to extricate us from a narrow one-way trail surrounded by small campsites. One camper had to move her pickup truck to allow us to turn around and, despite my criticisms of his distracted driving, our driver did yeoman work in getting us out of this mess. One false move and we would have been crashing down a hill.

It was only after we had come to the end of this winding trail did it dawn on the tour guide to unroll her map and look at it.

After returning to the main area of the park, having burned up so much time with this senseless maneuvering caused by an ill-prepared and indolent tour guide, she announced that we had only ten minutes in the park.

We had come all the way from the degenerate capital of the SPRM for ten minutes in the park.

Yes, I feel cheated.




I managed to get a couple of pictures and not much else.

Soon, we were back on the road headed for Rat Portage.




We parked near the harbor and I took the opportunity to go and get some shots of Husky the Muskie.





Engraving your name on Husky’s tail is apparently a rite of passage in Rat Portage.



A view of the harborfront from Husky’s perch.



Winkler Harborfront Park? I thought that we were in Ontario, not in the SPRM. For those of you who are not aware, Winkler is a city in the southern part of the SPRM.



Before getting back on the bus, I went to the washroom. Druggies welcome, obviously.

After our half-hour stop, we were rolling west back into the SPRM.



My heart sank after re-crossing the frontier.



After another brief stop in Falcon Lake, we were back on the road. En route to Winnipeg, our driver told us one of his favorite jokes. I’ve heard it before, but it was more appropriate than even he may have realized, given his penchant for note taking while driving on this day.

To summarize, a bus driver and a preacher meet St. Peter after going to Heaven. St. Peter gives the bus driver a palatial mansion on a mountain top, then gives the preacher a small house at the bottom of a hill with smelly sheep nearby. Puzzled at the apparent injustice, the preacher humbly asked St. Peter why the bus driver had received such a nicer home. St. Peter answered that the preacher, though a faithful servant, had put people to sleep during his services. The bus driver, meanwhile, had made people pray.

Normally, our arrival in Winnipeg would wind up the adventure peacefully. Not so in this case. Our tour guide had announced that there was an additional drop-off point at Donwood West, near Polo Park, the same place where they had made a pickup that morning.

This news triggered a backlash from the peanut gallery. Cranky old ladies started yelling, “That’s a crock” and other assorted verbal barbs.

The fact that they were making an additional stop to let people off was not the problem, rather it was that the office had not let passengers know about it in advance. There were people from Charleswood who had travelled across town to avoid having to wait downtown due to safety concerns and would have loved to have been able to be picked up near Polo Park instead.

In this case, the tour guide was completely blameless as this was undoubtedly a matter for the office. Nonetheless, instead of being apologetic and promising to raise the issue with her boss, she shot back with an angry, “That’s just the way it is.”

There was a right way and a wrong way to handle this situation. She chose the latter.

In many respects, it was a fitting way to end the day. The high standard of customer service that I have come to expect from this tour company was not met on this day. Not by a long shot.

Though I was cheated out of some valuable time at Rushing River, I did enjoy the experience. I always like seeing Northwestern Ontario and I got plenty of pictures to show for the day. I wanted an adventure and I got one.

04 Aug

My First Islendingadagurinn

On Saturday, I visited Gimli and attended my first Islendingadagurinn, the annual Icelandic Festival of Manitoba.


Though the 60-mile trek would fall within my range on two wheels, instead, I went with www.winnipegbeachbus.com, a new business that offers shuttle service to beach destinations throughout the summer.


Bright and early, we boarded the bus at the Government Forks. Just as the pictures suggest, it was indeed a school bus. There was a sticker on the outside by the door from la Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the kids even had stickers over the seats with their names on them.



There was sufficient leg room for a large cockroach. I am not a large person, but I felt cramped even though I had a two-seat bench to myself.


Arthur and Anna, our facilitators for the day.

Moments before our bus arrived, there was another bus pulling away from Union Station nearby. A mother and her daughter began frantically running after it, thinking that they had missed the Gimli-bound bus until I told them that it was a different bus. The other tour bus was taking some train passengers around Winnipeg.

We took PTH 9 north and came across this group of cyclists.


As a fellow cyclist, I can appreciate that they have the right to be on the road. However, they do not have the right to act like jerks. This behavior falls into the latter category.


This “TheftMate” anti-theft device was prominently displayed above the driver, reminding us that we were indeed in the Socialist People’s Republic of Manitoba, Crime Capital of the Western World.


Regrettably, they played some loud music in both directions. However, the noise from the souped-up 1917 Model T engine powering the bus did wonders to drown it out.

I was lucky that it had been a while since I had last eaten. My bike has better shocks than this bus did.


Disembarking after our arrival in Gimli.

Before setting off to explore Gimli, I toured some of the displays set up on Center Street and First Avenue.  





I saw nothing there besides the seeds of another garage sale. Or make that a bílskúr sölu. It is, after all, Islendingadagurinn.



Perhaps they only recycle Icelandic oil. Nota olíu.

In my last trip to Gimli, I found this vendor who might be the town’s worst speller. What I wasn’t aware of was that he had the same errors replicated on the signs of each of his bikes.


I did the traditional walk on the pier and toured the harbor area.




Though the attraction is lost on me, many people do drink to excess. Naming your boat after this disgusting habit, however, is a little over the top.


Catch of the day. 


Seagulls galore.



Come back, y’all!


OK, I won’t park there on “Saturaday.”


I stopped and toured the Viking Village, sponsored by Mysterious Telephone System.


These three ambassadors gave us an introduction before allowing us to pass.










The actors playing the roles of Vikings have been living on “Bill’s Hill” for a week. Why is a question that popped into my head, but I didn’t care enough to ask. I might have stayed a little longer were it not for some foul-smelling smoke coming from something that they were burning. Whether it was cooking smoke or Icelandic incense, my sinuses didn’t need it.

I headed south and found the first of many out-of-country plates.









The Nebraskan that I spotted in Loni Beach obviously has poor choice in hockey teams.


In addition to the plates shown above, I also spotted plates from the Farmers’ Republic of Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

Once I got to Moonlight Bay, I was floored by the sight of an empty beach.


I sat down on a rock and stopped for a lunch break.


Sacrebleu! La Gendarmie Royale du Canada?! What’s this, a visible sign of law enforcement? I had to rub my eyes to make sure that it wasn’t an optical illusion before capturing this picture.


The two of them sped off down the beach towards Willow Island Road, then returned and headed back towards Third Street while I continued eating.

After my break, I walked south along the shore towards Willow Island.



I made it to Willow Island Road, the causeway that connects the mainland to Willow Island, before returning to South Beach.


I saw more birds than people on this stretch of beach.


A happy face left for me.


Back on Center Street, I headed north to continue my journey.


Elvisfest? I wouldn’t attend if they paid me $20.



If they want a dog party, all they have to do is visit Winnipeg, Manitoba’s largest off-leash dog park.


I ended up at Gimli Park, where a collection of rides had attracted children of all ages.








I didn’t have the energy to do any “runing.”


Keys, phones, beepers, shoes “ec tetera.”


My next stop was back at the harbor area, where the popular Islendingadunk was taking place.


Two unlucky participants sat at the end of a greased pole and whacked each other with sacks of water. The more unlucky of the two fell into the diluted waters of the Red River. Fun, indeed.



Crowds had begun to pick up as the afternoon wore on.


 


Parking spots on local streets became hard to find.


As my father might say, this is someone who got his driver’s license out of a Cracker Jack box.


Three of the plates that I spotted. You may understand. You may not.



The local spider population has been busy.



I made it north to the lighthouse at Pelican Beach.



From behind the lighthouse, you can see the shoreline up towards Camp Morton and Arnes.

After a long day, I waited with the other passengers at our pickup point. One of them didn’t make it back and we left without him. Part of me wished that I had been that forgotten soul. I really didn’t want to leave, but I knew that I had to.

Fortunately, that ancient piece of machinery got us back to Winnipeg, where I caught a Transit bus that took me back home without incident.

As always, I enjoyed my visit to Gimli. The festival itself, however, left me a little underwhelmed. Besides the Viking Village, there seemed to be very little Icelandic about the Icelandic Festival that one would normally not otherwise see in a visit to Gimli. One vendor was even peddling East Indian wares.

I would encourage anyone to visit the area, but it would probably best be done during a weekday in the spring or fall without all the crowds and noise.