Friday, August 31, 2007

Pics and final words...

As I type I am in Waskaganish, a Cree community on the James Bay in Quebec. It is a small village that promises to be pretty quiet and leave me lots of time to record and write new music, live life, learn how to "Not live out of a can" as my wonderful friend Pauline from New Brunswick said.

How does one sum up something that spans such a large period of time? The overall feeling I have now is one of gratitude towards all the kind people that I met. The kindness I am shown by strangers and friends helps to restore my belief in humanity. I found that no matter what beliefs people had, political or otherwise, when you need something as simple as somewhere to sleep and water everything else falls away. Maybe thats what I take away from this, how little it takes to see the good in people, and how little it takes to make me happy.

I would like to thank Richard Paxton for the guitar that rang across this whole country, it is a grand instrument that I will play and treasure for the rest of my life. Also to VIA Rail for getting me out and home safe, it is the greatest way to travel.

To the nice people who came out to the shows, it was always a treat to see faces smiling as they join in the tales told, my thanks. And last but not least Johnny for doing all the booking, it was no small feat and for your hard work, thanks.

On the way to the Black Sheep with Tim and Ghyslain

After party in Montreal with friends and family

Following the St Laurence from Quebec City

Kamouska country! Mountains, water, road, what more can you ask for.

Welcome to New Brunswick indeed, one province left...

Pauline the wonderful woman I met in New Brunswick, a trip highlight.

Touchdown!!!! NOVA SCOTIA!!!!!!!!


Halifax, on my tongue for months and months!

The Rupert River right near my new home in Waskaganish Quebec on the James Bay

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Home for a rest

Stories stories... I left Quebec City a little late because I just didn't want to leave, I had such a great time seeing my friend and playing the little concert that I didn't want to move on. The feeling of the house concert is something I have only experienced in Quebec, a bunch of people get together with some good food, drinks of all kinds, and share their lives, it is one of the reasons that Quebec always feels like home. The funny part is that my friend is actually a Dutch transplant! The ride along the St Laurence was jaw dropping. I have been out that way before but nothing looks the same from a bike, on a bike you can smell the air as it changes, feel the temperature go up and down depending on how close you are to the water. All the way to Rivier du Loups was something to take in, inhale all of it, the way the houses started to become more maritime in style. That night I went to sleep with a bit of a soar throat...

Next day I was feeling a little less than wonderful, but I was committed now and had some serious ground to cover so I got to it. Some of it feels like a blur now but a beautiful blur. I had heard a friend talk about Kamoraska country but had never seen it, fields, mountains on the other side of the river. By the end of the day I had covered 150km so I put in a good day even while feeling a little on the slow side.

When I got into New Brunswick someone had put mountains in that province! It felt a lot like, well, Quebec. One thing that I noticed is how the lines between Quebec, New Brunswick are there only in accent. New Brunswick also brought about a few bike pains, as in the bike was in pain. The chain broke, no biggy really as I have the tool with me to fix it, however when it broke it messed up the front deraileur. When I fixed the chain I had to shorten it, which made it so the gears in the back didn't work very well or not at all sometimes. This all happened at the end of my day while feeling sick, and still haven ridden 140km.

That night I went to a camp ground after not having seen a shower in 3 days. Did I mention that its cold in the mountains of New Brunswick? Not a big deal as I have a nice sleeping bag, but still having to cook dinner with a shirt over your head to keep warm is not ideal. The funny part came once I was asleep... The gentleman who ran the little camp ground was, well, odd. Imagine if you will an overweight, gay man that talks like a stereo typical gay man does, and to top it off he has a little Hitler mustache. Ok so now that I have set the scene a little imagine if you will I am dead asleep at this point, no late parties for me, sick, cycling 120-150km a day makes a boy tired. So I have my earplugs in because I really needed to sleep well that night, and then I hear some voice "Sir, Sir" I wake up, take it the ear plugs "Its very cold, I have two extra beds in my camper, would you like to come sleep with me in my camper, I could make you breakfast." As much it was a nice offer, I passed and went back to sleep.

At this point I am waking up with a throat of fire, coughing, feeling just wonderful, but "shut up and ride boy you've got a lot of ground to cover" Oh did I mention the best town name I have ever heard? I passed it all ready but can't leave it out "St Louis Du Ha! Ha!" I would someday love to say that I lived in Ha! Ha! Ok where was I... right, sick, broken bike, riding lots... the best part of this day was getting to Woodstock! Yes I was in Woodstock, not that Woodstock but none the less something wonderful happened there. I stopped to ask the nice old man who was selling some of his produce off the road for suggestions of what would be a better road to take. There was a woman there buying some veggies. In the end she offered a place to crash in her backyard, which I accepted even if I hadn't gone as far as I should have, only 120km but I felt like death warmed over. She drove off ahead and I caught up as she was about 2km down the road. Now to set the scene a little, her house is a humble little place on the river, her name is Pauline and she is 80 years old. With more energy than most people I know she asks if I would like to stay in the little bunk house "It used to be Ron's Barber shop..." and she rips into a long story of how her "common law" husband of 28 years had cut hair there before he died. The common law part was important to her, she had been married and had kids with another gentleman and she wanted to make sure they kept his last name.

That night she cooked dinner and we talked, well I talked a little and she talked a lot. I was happy to sit and hear stories of her life that she told with such vigor. I always feel that it is one thing to be young and do trips like I have just finished but to maintain that until 80 is something that deserves the utmost respect and admiration. Of all the things I hope for in life I think that is the greatest challenge of them all, maintain my love of life until I am old and gray. Pauline had seen many hard times in life, in the space of a year she lost her common law husband Ron of 28 years and her daughter. Hearing her tell the stories you can see the tears begin to shine in her eyes but she pulls them back and tell stories of the good times. I am getting better at doing the same, tell the best part of the story.

That night I slept in a bed, but I slept like crap because I coughed all night. This was the 3rd night where I didn't get much sleep. That morning I dragged my butt into the house and Pauline was a whirlwind. I had told her where I would be living for the next year, she had found it on a mad of Quebec, that is the kind of energy she had. We talked lots more that morning and after leaving with a full belly, sandwiches for lunch, and the best part of all, homemade apple sauce!!!! It was the tastiest apple sauce I have ever eaten. The night before we had talked about getting back to basics as she had spent the day canning pickles and other things for the winter. She had a big freezer full of fruit she had picked. When I told her I was excited about being up North and learning how to fish and hunt she said "Learning how not to live out of a can."

That morning the cable for my back gears broke, which was a drag, but I just laughed and thought "Now I get to do all the hills standing up." I had to ride some big hills with no easy gears to Fredericton which was 100km away. So rain, no gears, but man I had some great apple sauce! Once I got to Fred Town I found a nice bike shop that helped me get my bike back into shape so I could get to Halifax in one piece. Thats when I noticed that the back wheel was about to die as well. Everything was coming undone on my poor bike, it had been a long haul with a ton of gear so I couldn't be mad about it. I gambled that it would make it as I didn't want to spend the 200 dollars on a new wheel. I camped behind a church that night and after have been rained on all day, the night before frozen, and now I was soggy and sweating from the heat, go figure. I didn't sleep that night as I was too busy coughing.

All this on my head, but damn it I was all most there so I was still in good spirits. I made it to the ferry from St John to Digby, but barely as I got 2 flats on the way! I must admit I swore a little when I got the second one. Riding into the ferry was a great feeling as the last bike trip I had done with Kristin and Riley had started and ended here. Finishing that trip would be hard to beat as it was a huge success for Riley who had never done a trip like that before, he was 10 and cycled 2500km in a month! All this to say that I had a lot of wonderful memories with me as I rode in. As the ferry started to pull in to Nova Scotia I was standing out on the deck with many other people around me but I just couldn't help but let out a huge scream of joy, I was going to make it!!!!! Once I touched the ground I was bouncing, it was true I was in Nova Scotia! I had another cyclist take a few pics of me in all my joy. That night I went to sleep feeling victorious, only 232km to Halifax now... so I didn't sleep again as I was up coughing all night.

The next two days I just found myself thinking about the tour and the whole trip, thinking overall how great it had been, ignoring a few details. Nova Scotia is a place I feel very at home in, I think it is a place I could live someday. As I rode down Highway 1, which seemed the perfect number to be on as I finished this event, meandering along this old road along the Bay of Fundy on my left for a portion of it. I had all kinds of songs in my head, songs that I love of other artists about the feeling of accomplishing something great. I was so close to Halifax it was hard to believe as signs on the road said 92km...70km...52km... after all the riding I had done it didn't seem possible that it would be ending.

As I rolled into Halifax it was a little surreal, thinking, dreaming and wondering for so long if I would make it to this point there I was. The song that I had in my head was fitting, its below, a tune by RUSH.

If we burn our wings
Flying too close to the sun
If the moment of glory
Is over before its begun
If the dream is won --
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

When the dust has cleared
And victory denied
A summit too lofty
River a little too wide
If we keep our pride --
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

And if the music stops
Theres only the sound of the rain
All the hope and glory
All the sacrifice in vain
[and] if love remains
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the cost

I played a little concert in Halifax at my friends place, I sounded like Darth Vader as my voice was shot at that point. It was a nice way to end, not how I had pictured it but its best not to let our own pictures get in the way of life. I will post some pictures and that will be it, the end of the MUSICYCLE tour.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



I will tell all as soon as I get back to Montreal on Thursday, tomorrow I am on the train back home! I made it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been sick, bike troubles, and bad weather but I made it!!!!!


Monday, August 20, 2007

Johnny Out

Hey folks,

Given that Derek and I are not remotely a union anymore, I am not going to contribute to this blog anymore. I am going to post thoughts and what-nots on a new blahg (a spelling I like a lot) at - I suspect it will have much of the same poetry, thoughts, etc that I`ve been posting here, so if you`ve enjoyed my writings, please check it out. I will update it as the words come.

Thank you for reading this and supporting the tour.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quebec City....

I left Montreal on Friday morning a little late after having enjoyed visiting with friends late into the night. I biked to the Jean Talon market, my old stopping grounds from when I lived in the city. The market was bustling with people and loaded with fresh produce. I went to all my favorite places, got myself some good cheese, croisants, fresh berries, fresh queezed apple juice and started on my way. I had picked up 12 bagels that I have been dreaming about for months and was ready for a nice long ride. I put in 170km even after only getting rolling after 12 and rode until the sun was down. The next morning following the river I saw more cyclists than I have the whole trip! Highway 138 is one of nicest stretches of road I have been on in a while, such a joy to ride.

Now I sit at my friends in Quebec city with the sun on my hands as I type. I
have been looking forward to this visit for a long time. I have a show to play here and then it is the great race to Halifax, 950km in 6 days. I'm gonna make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Aug 18 - Quebec City - discovery of couchsurfing

After getting a ride up to Montreal from family friend Jerry Golland, chatting away about life, love, music etc, I got to pay a visit with my dear friend Jerome-Antoine Wednesday night, as well as hang out with my sister for a bit later on that evening. Every time I see J-A I really miss playing music with him. Of all the people I have met over time, my best chemistry has been with him. He told me once we`d have a band when we were 30. The day is coming, J-A - the time grows near....

My sister Heather has a new boyfriend, Grant, who I`ve gotten to get to know a little more now. He seems like a good guy so far. I like his sense of humour. When I first met him I made fun of his beer - Pabst Blue Ribbon. He bought me one as a special cheeky gift, so I had to drink it. According to Heather, he was touched. Ha ha ha.

While in Montreal I discovered a web-site called - this is a world-wide network of people who are willing to put travelers up for a night or two on their couch. Through it I found Catherine, the girl I stayed with in St-Hyacinthe, who turned out to be kind, fun, and accomodating. She brought a bunch of friends out to the show at Le Zaricot Cafe Acoustique, which went really well, considering the language barrier, and that I had to play twice as long as I`ve been used to for this whole tour. One precious moment was when her friend, Marie-Josee, came in and I played Bon Nuit Ma Cheri just for her, sitting on a chair right in front of the stage. Ha ha ha. Derek did a similar thing to Asta back in Vernon, but I think this was much more outlandish because I had not even said hello to her yet before I sung a very sexually explicit song to her. She took it in stride, though. The French-Canadians do not seem to have too many sexual taboos lurking in them, and their senses of humour are well-intact.

Today I am in Quebec City, staying with another couch-surfing host, Ariane. She has just gotten back from a trip to Syria, and that has opened her heart to meeting new people. She seems very nice so far, though I only chatted with her for about 20 mins before she had to run off to the Quebec Expo with her sister. So here I am, updating the blog. It is raining outside, but I think I might take a walk to a Turkish cafe she told me about, and get some groceries. This feels... almost like having a home, for a few days... how sweet.

Be well everyone. Oh, and for an updated schedule of my shows, check out - backslash - TheLastTroubadour - sorry I haven`t completely figured out this french keyboard yet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Breaking away from the peloton

So yes Johnny and I will be parting ways soon, having someone who freely admits to being depressed since Alberta and not really wanting to be on this tour you can imagine that this might affect my desire to be around Johnny. Since a big part of the tour was supposed to be about doing a music-cycling tour and he will still not be able to cycle, and his general depression I decided to make a break for Halifax. I am working on booking a few gigs along the way as I still want to be playing shows as I go. I hope he finds a way to be happy sometime soon...

I on the other hand had a good time on Sunday at the Black Sheep. I arrived at the eternal flame to find Ghyslain and Tim waiting to ride to the Sheep with me! What a treat to have a few people there to join me, there was also another gentlemen there to wish me well and a photographer to take some shots. The ride up was a total pleasure having some people to laugh and share stories with. We arrived at the Sheep and dove into the lake. I had been imagining getting to the Sheep for a long time and there were some familiar faces there that made it all good fun. I was happy to spend a little more time with Richard, the luthier, and his family.

Monday morning I left Ottawa and made a break for Montreal, where I have spent most of my life and said goodbye to Ottawa, which has been my home for the last year. On the way to Montreal I found myself thinking about the first time I ever biked to Ottawa when I was 21. I was amazed at how much of that route I remembered. It was my first bike trip ever, from Montreal to Algonguin park. All the details of that trip came back to me, where I camped the first night after having done around 135km, which was my biggest day ever at that point, why I took the trip... I have loved cycling trips for a long time, it was back on this trip that I realized I could never do a bike trip again without a guitar as it just didn't feel right without one. I have dreamed about cycling across Canada doing a music tour since then...

As I got closer to Montreal rolling down roads I have riden more times than I can count, taking roads that you have to be a local to know, the nice backroads that my Dad first took me down, I had a smile on my face from ear to ear. When I crossed the bridge onto the island of Montreal and rode into Saint Anne de Bellevue, my home town I was cheering out loud! I have always wanted to cycle from Ottawa to Montreal in a day so once again another dream coming true! I have ridden 6700km to get here so it was an amazing feeling. Since this tour began I have had a plan, to ride into my home town and go right down to what used to be a dive of a pool hall and now is all clean and eat a poutine! Imagine if you will walking into a place you have known all your life and seeing the same woman who has owned it forever sitting there with her son like they have always been. There is something about coming to a place that you know this well, will always know.

Then I made my way to my friends parents place who I have known since I was born. I said my Hellos and then went to surprise their son, who I have been friends with for 30 years! We played in a our first band together, went to my first concert with, have dreamed of being a rock star with!!!! We got to catch up and he joined me for the little ride to my brothers where I am now. All told 191km in a day to get here, I am now hanging out in the basement with the kids and am heading to the pool, life as simple as it should be.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Aug 13 - Ottawa, ON - from Blue Skies to the Black Sheep

Post-Blue Skies is a very hard time for people who go there. After experiencing a weekend of euphoria - friends, great music, sharing - the coming down can be hard. Children and adults alike find themselves welling-up or crying, because the realities of more than two-hundred days of the year creep back into their minds, or simply because good times for the time-being are over. I am as susceptible to this as the next person, if not more so. I have always taken the end of Blue Skies hard, and this year was no exception because I'm in the middle of a difficult tour. I spent the days between Blue Skies and the show in Kemptville contemplating quitting this tour. What I arrived at was a decision to abandon the bike, to make the rest of it more comfortable, perhaps just to make it do-able. After talking with my mother, though, I had that guilty feeling of not finishing what I started, of breaking a promise. So, I decided I would cycle to the house concert on Friday, and up to the secret show and Black Sheep gigs on Saturday and Sunday.

Let me write about Kemptville before those gigs, though. The Branch Restaurant used to be Amanda's Slip, which was a fantastic place to eat very fine food by a very fine chef, AJ. Things have changed, but only subtly. The decor is still intimate and warm, the food is still amazing, the desserts are still mouth-watering, the music is still going. There is a different set of friendly, hospitable faces. The main difference is that The Branch is committed to using local and organic products as much as possible. This, in many cases, equals delicious. I had some broiled tofu for dinner and granita for dessert while drinking Heritage Dark Ale - and all were extremely satisfying. But what about the show? Well, Derek played the best set I've heard him play since back in Waubaushene. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand the whole time, or so it seemed. I felt a little daunted to get up there and follow him, as I imagined the crowd was into his style and wanted more. None the less, I got up and did my thing, and did it better than I'd done in quite a while, and though some people left, I don't think it was because of my music so much as because of the hour. It was a great show, and I can't say good enough things about our hosts. From the chef to the waitresses to the Maitre D, these people have made something cozy, classy and delicious.

After a crazy day running around trying to get ready to tour by bicycle again, I set off for Rachel Hauraney's house. On the way, I stopped into MEC to get some new gloves to see if they would help pad my hand better. They seemed to be doing the trick at the start, but by the next day, things had changed [more on this later]. The concert at Rachel's ended up as more of an informal get-together. A total of five people - apart from Derek, myself, Rachel and her ?boyfriend? - showed up. These included my friend Jerry and his new girlfriend, two friends of Rachel, and Melwood Cutlery. Instead of playing official sets, we just passed the guitar around and played the odd song in between chatting and getting to know each other. In a way it was disappointing, but in another it was nice. Even Jerry joined in on the playing, and at that point I began to think - this is what music is for - sharing. When the place had cleared and things were winding down, I went to play piano. In the middle of it, Derek came and said "Let's end this." I was caught off guard, so it took me a little bit to get his meaning, but he meant "let's end the tour". Everything came to head. Neither Derek or I particularly want to be around each other anymore. There seems to be very little that is positive that we can get from each other. We have been much quiter in public than we have been behind the scenes. Backstage is a mess right now. We can't comfortably be in a room together. I am disappointed in both of us for not being able to find a way to work together, but I also realize that we shouldn't be obligated to get along. We were never friends, and right now we seem to be the embodiment of each other's pet-peeves.

So, Derek's idea is to play the shows until Quebec City and then ride straight to Halifax from there, so he can say he crossed Canada by bicycle. My idea is to play the rest of the shows, so I can say I finished the music part of the tour. So it looks like we'll be splitting into a music/cycle tour - me on the music, him on the cycling. It is most likely for the best this way. We'll both have something to be proud of, and hopefully not too long from after its over we'll be able to look back on it all and laugh some. Wish us well!

Now, on Saturday I got up early and took the long, winding bike bath through the experimental farm and along the Rideau canal to the Parliament Buildings to meet - that's right - no one to cycle to the secret show, which took place at Le Depanneur Sylvestre in Hull. I was disappointed, but not suprised. On this trip, we have met with much disinterest and apathy. People have come out to the shows and said, "You guys are amazing. I would never do that." I have kept thinking, "Well, thank you for coming out to the show and supporting us, but you're not really supporting our cause, are you, since you seem to be missing the point." While the media has shown that they are really only interested in us because of the cycling part of the tour, many audiences across Canada have shown that they are only interested in the music. Often times, it has felt like encouraging people to cycle has been a process of preaching to the converted - people who are already avid cyclists. We seem to be a deeply car-dependant nation. And I could rant for a while about this, but all I can do is re-state "Do as much as you can" and "Catch yourself making excuses". With excuses at my side, I could've pulled out of this tour way back in British Columbia, but I didn't, because they weren't legitimate excuses. "I don't like cycling that much" is not a legitimate excuse for polluting the environment that sustains us. So there, that's it, rant over. I was disappointed that no one joined me on the ride to the Depanneur. They missed a fun little show at Hull's coolest venue. Le Depanneur Sylvestre is a wonderful community co-op with delicious food, coffee, funky clothing and gifts. It is a place that should be supported for the contributions it makes to its community. That's that.

After the show at the Depanneur ended, I took off toward my family's cottage in the Gatineau hills up the green cycling paths that are plenty in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. I was very thankful for them, for they made for much more pleasant riding than the highway. However - I got lost several times because the paths are either poorly or not labeled. I think I cycled an extra dozen kilometres or so because of wrong turns I took. The one I was most bitter about was on the Lac Lemay path where there was a map with a "You are here" arrow pointer on it, and it told me I was somewhere different than I was. I turned right because, according to the map, that would get me on the Gatineau pathway heading north. So, I cycle along for about 4km when the river appears on my left. Well, I swore a bit, realizing I'd just gone 4km south out of my way thanks to a sign that was wrong. I cycled back up to Lac Lemay, and found the actual spot that the sign said I was at (about 200m ahead of the sign) where I was actually supposed to turn right, and finally got myself heading north again. Because of all the wrong-turns, the ride took me a lot longer than planned, and I ran out of water in Chelsea (Tanaga). This made the last stretch through the last few satellite hamlets of Chelsea quite difficult, especially because my hand was numb and pain was shooting up to my elbow again, and I was tired from my first day of serious cycling in a while, etc etc etc. Bitch bitch, wine wine. I made it - that's all that matters. I tore off my shirt, shoes, gloves and helmet when I got to the cottage and immediately dunked myself in the river - oh sweet refreshment! I spent the night drinking tequila with friends Ann, Lara, Allison and my parents, laughing hard and quoting movies familiar to us. It was a good way to spend the night.

The Black Sheep show, though not horribly attended, was also a bit of a disappointment. For a homecoming, I felt very unsupported, and to be honest, it is shows like the three we did this weekend that make me seriously think about quitting music. Folks - if you want someone to keep playing and recording music, show your support for them - show up to the frikkin' shows when they come to your town for the ONE TIME they will be there in the whole year! I am sorry if I am bitter, but there's a chance I'll come off this tour and decide to say "screw it" because, as Timothy Hutton said in Beautiful Girls: "It's just NOT happening". Back at Blue Skies, Clayton Yates was talking about me to someone and said, "This guy had the worst draw of anyone who's played at our venue, but our owner absolutely loved him and said he's welcome back anytime he wants a gig." Welcome to the story of my music career. Maybe I just need a publicist, or a promotional agent?

Well, that's it. It's Monday now, and I am once again re-packing from bike set-up to backpack. I'll likely get a ride to Montreal on Thursday, which is good. We're on the homestretch!

Johnny Resigns the Bike - will finish tour by bus, thumb and train

Ok, folks - here it is: I have been in a slump since Alberta. I've been constantly feeling low. I feel like a chocolate chip cookie with not enough chips, where the chips are my joys and the batter my sorrow. This tour has taken its toll on me. Well, it's not just this tour - it's the last three years of touring. When I went to Hawaii the winter before last, things seemed to change. My luck shifted. And while good things have happened since then, my good times have been short-lived, and my chances at love haven't panned-out. I've been lonely and craving stability where there has been none. For those of you who imagine being a musician is living a dream, living the high-life, living it up - please don't use your imagination like that. Don't perpetuate a myth that, frankly, doesn't exist even for some of the richest, most pampered musicians. We do what we love, yes, but very few of us can be comfortable while doing it. On this tour we have slept in ditches, been hailed on, run off the road, played to the empty room and played to the loud and obnoxious. There is no romance in any of this. It is hard, and while it can be tolerated, while odd times are comfortable and amazing, it is extremely difficult to maintain for years on end. We all need a place to come home to, a refuge, shelter from the wind. As Kevin Head wrote in one of his songs: "Everyone needs a backyard to return to / Everyone needs a place to call home / We all need some friends that are more than friendly / 'Cause this old life is hell when you're on your own"

I am at my breaking point. For this reason, and for the reason that, on the rides to Rachel Hauraney's and to Chelsea this weekend, my fingers went back to square one as far as numbness and pain is concerned, I have decided to finish this tour in the most comfortable fashion I can. This means I will be taking the train or the bus instead of riding a bicycle. I realize this is probably a disappointment to many who expected to see Derek and I finish the tour cycling together. I can only ask you to put yourself in my shoes, and know that I am disappointed and frustrated myself in the way this tour has developed. That said, Derek and I were trying to do something crazy: a four-month music tour (which is nuts), by bicycle (which is nuts), with someone we barely knew before we left (which is nuts). Three nuts makes crazy, if you ask me.

Rest assured that for the next three weeks I will give the best shows I can, pouring my heart into my music, and that I am not off the bike permanently. After the tour is done, I will commute on it and ride it everywhere that riding is a viable option. I hope you are doing the same, will do the same, for it is a service to this planet and the life that is on it. Do as much as you can.

If I have learned anything from this, and other, tours, it is just that: DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.

You need not be a zealot. You need not be a martyr. You need not be an evangalist.


Catch yourself in the middle of making excuses, and let them fade off into the distance while you take positive action.

Thank you for your support!
Johnny Eden

Friday, August 10, 2007

So much good, and one looming shadow

Since last time lets say that I have been busy. Toronto was great, friends, just seeing friends has been something that a body needs. I suppose mentioning names of people I saw is a little silly, nobody else really knows who they are so I will just tell stories. I played a nice game a road hockey in a T.O. parking lot with a friend I have now known for 13 years or something like that. It was good to run around since I have spent this whole tour sitting on my ass! I walked all over Toronto to meet with old friends, seeing how things have changed, or how they have stayed the same.

One highlight was finally getting to meet up with Jowi Taylor and the Six String Nation Guitar To hear Jowi tell the stories of where all the pieces of that guitar came from was truly moving and all most had me in tears at one point. The story of the top of the guitar is what got me. It was a wonderful little visit and to trade stories about crossing this country was a treat.

Then there was the gig at Mitzi's which was a show I had been looking forward to as I had never heard Noah play before. He was wonderful, left me wanting my guitar a a room to play in, inspired, which is the greatest gift one can receive from a show.

Leaving Toronto was a boring ride, nothing but stores for the 12 km or more out of town. Oshawa brought a pleasant surprise as my friends Micah and Doug showed up. That nights sleep however was something a little less joyous. I slept in an extra room on the floor of the bar beside the patio where people were drinking and being merry, while I was praying for sleep because I had a long ride a head of me. The next morning I head for Consecon, 140km from Oshawa on about 4 hours of bad sleep.

Consecon however was a show I had been waiting for since this journey started as it was where I would see Richard who built my guitar for this tour, which has been such a great pleasure for me to play. Seeing him and his wife Tanya was like completing a big circle. Richard was happy to see that I hadn't ruined the guitar and that it has taken to being on a bike very well! There were 3 people at the show that night who had come to play the guitar which was amazing to hear that people had been reading the stories about Richard and the tour.

So I haven't slept a lot at this point, then I go and sleep beside a little river not even setting up my tent, then waking up at 5:15am, yes in the morning after having gone to sleep at after 12 and then hitting the road. I had to make it to Blue Skies by 5:15 which was at least 150km away. That was a long day, knowing you have no choice but to ride that far is always tougher than just riding long distances, that and having a deadline so early in the afternoon. Anyway I made it, it was long, it was 170km and I was tired, but the welcome was a treat. Lets be realistic about this tour, there is not a lot a glory but show up to a festival like that with a bike and all the gear, guitar strapped on top and people want to talk to you, encourage you, actually tell you that they are proud of you. We did our little workshop on enviro touring and then just went and listened to music, to other people making music! I love to listen, I am always playing these days so its great to listen. I met a nice guy from Mexico who said he could help me plan a bike tour through Mexico as well...

I went to Ottawa for a few days, then back to Kemptville to play the show here at the Branch which was a highlight show at this point! It was a treat to have people come all the way from Ottawa to see me, old students from the Folklore Centre, Arthur from the Folklore Centre and a high school friend who heard me on the CBC and came to the show! I hadn't seen him in about 12 years so what a surprise that was.

Then there is Johnny and I trying to get along... which, to say the least, we aren't... to what point... lets just wait and see a little more...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Aug 9 - Ottawa, ON

OK... from Toronto to now:

Finally! A good show in Toronto! Old friends I haven't seen in many years came out of the woodwork to say hello and show support. The house, though not full, was present, warm, and listening. What a treat from the Big Smoke! After all the traffic shenanigans, and walking several city blocks from Spadina (where The Deuce dropped me off) to the Roncesvalles neighborhood in the still sweltering heat, it was great to arrive to a groovy place with atmosphere, tasty food and good beer. I arrived quite early (about 3hrs), so I settled in with my book.

[The book is fabulous, by the way - "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell". It's about a couple of fictional magicians, and their impact, at the turn of the 19th century. I highly recommend it.]

Slowly but surely, the show got going, as Derek and I were both mingling with steadily arriving friends. I remember little of the set, except that I was in the mood to play every humourous song I had in me, and for the second time on this tour I dropped my pants to play "My Hammerhead Baby". I guess it is getting to the point that recording that song is a necessity for the next album.

At the end of the night, a rather explicit girl decided to make-out with my old tree-planting pal Gabe right beside our table, which was pretty amusing. She literally mounted his lap right there. Ha ha ha! I think Gabe ended up going home with her only to put her to bed. What a gentleman!

I got myself home on the streetcar by 3:00am, and was blessed with a light shower while walking from Queen up to Gerard. I dragged myself in, threw on the new CD I bought from Noah Zacharin, and after having listened to it through (it's great) passed out cold in The Deuce's vacant bed. Turns out I was viciously tired because The Deuce came home and plopped her exhausted paramedic butt down beside me and I had no idea until I woke up around 2pm. We decided to go to Kensington Market to check out a new vegan restuarant for lunch, and it was well worth it. I can't remember what the place is called, but it is closer to College St and has vegan ice cream that flat-out blew the mind of my tastebuds. Black sesame ice cream is one of the best things I have ever tasted!

After our taste explosion, we fought traffic yet again to get out to Oshawa for The Velvet Elvis gig. [Now, The Elvis is where Deuce and I met - she was a waitress and I was playing. So there was nostalgia in this.] Deuce dropped me at the door and took off to walk her lonesome dog and take a dip. I spent most of the lead-up to the show trying to figure out how to get to Consecon the next day, and finally linked up with Jake Willis from down in Guelph who was heading up to Blue Skies the next morning and was kind enough to offer me a ride there, even though it was a little out of his way. The show was good, I think. Derek did his thing for some friends that came up from Hamilton to see him. I'm not sure what I did, though I know I grew a big smile when Billy Blasko and Trish Robb walked in. I hadn't seen Blasko in years, and hadn't seen Trish since last I was in Montreal, I think. I finished my set relatively early for an Elvis gig, and spent the next while visiting with Deuce and Blasko, catching up and reminiscing and talking new too. I ended up going back to Blasko's place with the plan to sleep, but a few beers, great conversation, a few songs, and one recording later, it was 5:45am and I had to get up in an hour to call Jake to see where he was at. So I napped and called him and he was in Milton, so I slept a bit more and called again and he was nearer to Oshawa, so I groggly dragged myself down the stairs and out the door and over to The Elvis' parking lot, ate Tim Horton's sandwich on the asphalt in the morning. Ha ha ha! How many times have I been in this ridiculous situation?

The ride to Consecon with Jake was splendid. That's the only way of putting it. We went up Hwy 2 just above Lake Ontario, which offers some beautiful country views. Rich greens of summer leaves and vast expanses of tall grasses - an occasional brook babbling its way down to the the big water. The towns along this stretch are some of the most aesthetically pleasing towns I've ever seen. Huge oaks and red brick houses - the kind of places I knew when I was a teen trapsing about Perth and parts of Lanark County. Except these places were sunnier somehow. Maybe it was the way the sun was hitting them, but there seemed a lot of joy in them. Maybe it was Jake's positivity rubbing off on me. You see, Jake is a pretty phenomenal man. He's a lot of things, but I think most of all he is a philanthropist and humanitarian. He's a man of faith and a political activist, and he does not seem to blend the two - he merely seems to let them co-exist as independants. On the ride he expressed his concern about a document that might be signed on August 20th that might deepen the political, economical and military ties between the countries of North America. His view was that the United States of America was trying to take over Canada and Mexico "with a pen". I don't know much about what's going on politically. I am out of the loop. But I hope our leaders will not act in such a way that will compromise our integrity as a nation. If we are going to conglomorate with the US and Mexico, it needs to be a mutually benificial action, and there are too many things I do know of that wouldn't be beneficial to share, like privatized health care, for instance, or a deep disparity between rich and poor. Canada was once a more socially-minded nation. The social programs we've had have provided us with an identity. I would hate to see us drown in the deep waters of a North-American capitalism that is, frankly, viciously Machiavellian. There is no arguing it. America's profits are built on blood, sweat, tears and broken dreams - mostly outside their borders, but more and more the tragedy is creeping in.

OK. Enough of the rant. On to Consecon, where the beaches look tropical and old mills are made into drinking holes. I arrived at the Cascades Pub & Grill at 11am, and decided I needed to have a nap after the 1hr sleep absurdness. The girl at the bar drew me a little map, and I only got lost twice before finding the beach two hours later. It was worth it, though. The wind was blowing in off the lake, the sun was high, the waves were breaking, and I found a patch of shade on a patch of sand. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... I woke up sweaty and hot, as the sun had found me, and jumped in the lake fully clothed before I began walking back to town. It was a glorious walk back as my clothes dried around me and I kept cool as the wind blew them. When I got back, the Cascades Open Stage was jumping, and it reminded me some of Irene's here in Ottawa - people even had songs with the name of the bar and the regulars in them! After the open stage, the place cleared out, and I spent my first set playing an up-close-and-personal set to a couple of tables. By the time Derek got up to play the second set, though, the place had filled up some, and though he fought the noise of the crowd a little bit, he did a pretty darn good job of keeping their attention. Fifteen minutes later, I went up to do my second set, and by that point the bar had erupted into a very noisy situation. Oh - did I mention we were unplugged? Yep. I had to blast my way through every high-tempo, high-volume tune I knew just to keep a scrap of attention. Luckily, it worked, as a lot of people responded very well to me. (There was even a guy who gave me his card who is a Nashville-based promotion outfit - pretty cool, eh?) We were supposed to earn $250 that night, but neither Derek or I felt we'd earned it, so we offered to take a pay cut down to $170, which would cover our expenses, but Chris wanted to pay us $200, so that's what we got. I guess it worked out OK for everyone. It is a hard thing, though, when you've made a deal for a certain amount, and you feel like you haven't earned it. I have trouble with that, anyway....

Later that night I went home with Richard Paxton (the fellow who made Derek's beautiful sounding guitar) and his wife, and they gave me a ride in the morning up to Belleville where I met my dad and headed to Blue Skies. Before I left I got to play some of the guitars he's made, and see his workshop. Guitar-making is an art form that boggles my mind. Sometimes, upon seeing the process, I feel unworthy of playing the things. =)

Ahhhhh... Blue Skies. Home sweet home. Familiar faces and warm embraces - the kindness and love that I need right now. Blue Skies was a whirr of reunions, music, joy. I arrived and felt uplifted. I got my bracelet on and felt liberated. I saw my friends - so many friends. I stayed up all night playing music along Washboard Hank, the good folks from Galitcha, Trevor Mills, Tannis Slimmon, my sister and my dad. I felt sad sad sad as everybody left on Monday and I got an all-too-short jam in with Jerome-Antoine, my greatest playing partner. By Monday night I just wanted to get stoned to erase how melancholy I was feeling, but ultimately it didn't help.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Aug 2 - Toronto, ON

Apologies for the delay in blogging. The tour lately has been busy, and wonderful, and hard. My psyche has been a mess.

Where did I leave off? South River?

Renee's Cafe in South River was a really cool spot that for no good reason people in the area didn't seem to know that much about. Well folks, if you live or cottage anywhere near South River, get your adventurous buns over there and listen to the great music they have in on the weekends and try their ridiculously amazing desserts. I have authority on these desserts, you see - I had two. Yum. That's all I gotta say.

The one part of the show at Renee's that sticks out in my head is how I played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" that night. Sometimes I get in a zone with a song, and that night I felt every word. This experience is what makes music worth playing for me, and I find when I can lose myself in a song like that, it is more enjoyable for the audience as well. It was relieving because I hadn't really felt like that since Nanton, Alberta, where almost my whole show felt "in the zone".

After the show we slept in a funky little hotel on the highway that is all painted up on the outside. I think Derek posted a photo of it here. Despite the beauty of the place, I slept horribly due to vicious late-night over-consumption of caffeine and sugar (remember the two dessert thing?) and the next day I felt pretty horrible. I just lounged about the front deck of the hotel, making conversation with the quirky owners, and only going into town to purchase a personality-full shawl and some glass-bead earrings for Asta, which are apparantly a hit now. Geoff Holbrook's (Derek's pal from Montreal who has been promoting our show there and showed up seemingly randomly in South River) family gave me a hugely helpful lift right to Vki Lucier's Zen Waffle Inn (which isn't an Inn, by the way) driveway. My sigh of relief was long and wonderful.

I got in Vki's door and quickly went swimming in Georgian Bay. We feasted on healthy organic soup and steamed veggies, watched a movie called "The Time Machine," and got to bed relatively early. The next morning I got up and dipped in the bay again, feeling happy about using cool water and sunlight to wake me instead of coffee. [Since I stopped cycling, I've been leading a little more typical musician's life: lots of booze and late night partying. It really isn't for me, but old habits die hard.] At the noon hour was the "Waffle Off" sporting a head-to-head competition between Vki and her beau Peter who made independant and incomparable and delicious waffles that the crew that was slowly amassing enjoyed very much. One thing that was discovered was that the circular model of the waffle iron produced thicker, fluffier, tastier waffles, so Vki was working with a handi-cap with her square waffle making iron. No matter, though - chocolate and cranberries always taste good! The atmosphere was relaxed as we started the show a little late. I felt a little off that day, musically, but Derek was ON ON ON - he was making jokes and had that little group of people in the palm of his hand. My failings passed right by me, though, as I enjoyed more swimming after the show and a good conversation with a woman named Kate who is very vibrant and animated. She is always moving, like she has constant music going on in her head. We all stayed up a little late. Derek jammed with Peter and Vki and I played with the kids. Sleep was deep that night, and I woke up refreshed. Peter gave me a lift into Hamilton which turned out very long because of a 60-car accident on the 400. Welcome back to Toronto, I thought - what a dump!

Asta came and picked me up in Hamilton, gracious enough to wait for me though I was close to two hours late. We took off down to her sister's place in Simcoe and spent a couple of sweltering days there, exploring what Port Dover and Waterford had to offer. The heat was so strong it seemed to drain the life from us, and we spent most of both days lounging stupidly, unable to come up with inspiring ideas for things to do and generally lacking spontenaity. A little bit of bad timing on the weather's part for when I was visiting a new flame. How can you recognize heat when you're in a fire? Ha ha ha. I was thankful for the visit, all the same.

Up to Toronto I went on the Wednesday, when another friend, The Deuce, came to my rescue and graciously gave me a lift all the way up to Alliston through more Toronto traffic. Why anyone lives and drives a car in that city, I do not know. Its charms are lost on me, I must admit.

The show up in Alliston was in conjunction with "ladies night" at Groundswell Coffeehouse. Derek missed out, as I was one of two males in the joint, and the other one was wearing pearls, so I don't know if he counts. It was a fun little show, and I got to partake in the delectable desserts there. Mostly I remember swimming afterwards in one of the employees friend's pool. I swam (again wishing I didn't need a bathing suit) and watched the stars and talked to the girls - again I was the only guy. Yep - it's good to be me sometimes! Ha ha ha.

I got myself on a bus to Toronto today and here I am, at the apartment of The Deuce, preparing to take off to play music for a living while she goes to save lives as a paramedic. Nope, my life ain't so tough, is it?