Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dream Rangers

Interview: The old man and the Vertical Sailing


(By Jon Amtrup) Bob Shepton is an institution in northern waters. The 76 year old sailor and climber is following in Bill Tillman's wake by combining his two passions – and doesn’t let age stop him. 

He has done six Greenland expeditions and last summer he brought the Favresse brothers, Nico and Olivier (Belgium), Sean Villaneuva O’Driscoll (Ireland), and Ben Ditto (US) there for some big wall climbing. Shepton even got to climb himself and the route was named “Never again”. 

A highly experienced Arctic explorer who has led several Sailing and Climbing Expeditions to Greenland and Arctic Canada in his yacht, a Westerly 33 called 'Dodo's Delight', Shepton is an inspiration and a storyteller of magnitude. Leading expert on the waters around Greenland, he won the Tilman Medal twice for his exploits. 

When not out on a expedition in colder climates, he is living with his wife in Scotland. ExWeb caught up with him for a email interview. 

Exweb: You must be one of the most experienced Greenland sailors around: What is the fascination about the area that makes you return year after year? 

Shepton: Yes, casting modesty aside I probably am by now the most experienced Greenland sailor, for the west coast, except perhaps for Willy Kerr who edits the Faroe, Iceland and Greenland Pilot but he is retiring now being even older than me! 
- Yes, what is the fascination? Difficult to put in a few words: But sailing, and climbing, for me has always been about challenge. I have written somewhere, 'I really must try this sailing for pleasure sometime', which sort of sums it up. So it is the challenge: the ice, the unknown, the remoteness, the getting furthest north in Greenland (not Svalbard of course) in a production fiberglass boat, and the fact that there are unclimbed mountains and rock routes awaiting first ascents in Greenland is perhaps part of this. And as I have written somewhere 'I can not begin to describe the feeling that you are treading somewhere where nobody has ever been before on God's good earth'. There are still places in Greenland and arctic Canada where that is so. And then there is the totally illogical fact that it is desolate, barren, glacial, dramatic, which in some peculiar way is part of the attraction. The call of the wild, or at least of the desolate. 

Exweb: Was it Tillman that inspired you to sail and climb in the area? 

Shepton: Well, when I retired and circumnavigated the world, with 'school leavers' from the school where I had been Chaplain, (the First School Group to sail Round the World was the splurge) we went via Antarctica and Cape Horn (being ex-Royal Marines I couldn't go the easy way, is the party line). Antarctica, desolate, dramatic, majestic was one of the highlights of the trip. I don't know whether I read Tilman during the trip or later, But when I got back I quickly realized that Antarctic was a very long way away whilst, as Tilman realized, Greenland could be done in a summer. So I started commuting across to Greenland and climbing from the boat as per Tilman. And whereas it is touch and go whether you can get in by boat on the east coast, and this was perhaps especially so in the past, the west by and large is always open. All my expeditions have had this Tilman handle in the title. I have rather lost count but I have made some 25 personal first ascents and my expeditions well over 50 or 60 in Greenland and arctic Canada to date, by ski, mountaineering, and rock climbing. 

ExWeb: You are sticking to the Westerly when it comes to cruising in the high latitudes. What do you think is the most important features of a cruising yacht that is sailing in cold climates? 

Shepton: Oh dear, difficult question, in that my boat would not qualify as an ideal boat for high latitudes. Rather have I had to start from the other end. With very limited means I found myself with a Westerly 33ft Discus which we had bought in 1981as a family thing to do, when we sold the house in Scotland and moved into school property. I began to use it more and more for the school and on retirement circumnavigated in it with the lads, not at the time thinking it was small for that (smaller boats have circumnavigated) but nowadays it would be considered small. But that's all I had, so that's all I had for sailing across the Atlantic, again (1986 First School to sail across the Atlantic and Back - Portland UK to Portland USA), and to Greenland, so that's what we did. Nowadays all boats are bigger, except my friend Willy Ker's 32ft Contessa!, and most are steel (or aluminum), well insulated, with heaters and back-up systems. 

- So it is not an ideal boat; but it's all I have got, and can afford. But having said that, the lay up in fiberglass boats was much stronger in those days, and I have found in experience that it is remarkable what fibreglass will take. I have scraped through frazil, brash and floes and hit sizable chunks all without damage. I would not want to get into a position where we were going to be squeezed by pressure ice, but reading the account of my Irish friends who did the North West Passage and North East in Northabout neither were they willing for that, even in their specially built aluminum boat. So the brief answer to your question is that the hull should be strongly built. Also you do need a reliable engine as owing to the high pressure over the ice cap (e.g. in Greenland) there is often little or no wind (or too much!), and you sometimes have to do a lot of motoring. 

ExWeb: Or is it the people on board that makes all the difference? 

Shepton: Not necessarily for the safety of the boat, but the crew on board do make a tremendous difference. Over the years I have been lucky - of course it has always been groups of friends or acquaintances, private expeditions, not commercial with fee paying clients which can be disastrous (as I have found elsewhere). But there were/are Bob's Angels (Polly, first Scots girl to climb Everest - I had the privilege of marrying her and Rich of High Latitudes two or three years ago, Tashy (halfway across the Atlantic at the moment skippering Chris Tiso's new boat, and Jesse (disappeared into the blue somewhere; I remember we had lively discussions about God whilst waiting to pick up Polly and Tash after their 30k ski traverse of Herbert Island at 77 25N!) who called themselves Bob's Angels and whom I love to bits, and then there was this last summer's crew. If you have read the stuff, and I am sure you haven't, then you will know I had dubbed them the 'Wild Bunch' long before meeting up with them, owing to the high fives and yells at the tops of their climbs on their website, but in fact I couldn't have had a nicer, more friendly, more cooperative bunch on my boat. 

I know they wondered what it was going to be like sailing with this old 'priest' (being mainly Belgian they were from a Catholic background) and I suppose I wondered what a group of crack modern climbers were going to be like. But I suppose too that they had respect for someone who had done a lot of hard sailing, had done some climbing stuff in the past, and had been to Greenland 6 or 7 times, and of course I had great respect for their incredible climbing abilities and record. But it was just great that we got on so well together and it made such a difference. 

Reading between the lines in the accounts of some of the other expeditions (and again there is no reason why you would have seen them, unless you are a member of the Ocean Cruising Club or whatever) you might have picked up that it has not always been so. It has not necessarily affected the success of the expeditions, but it has meant some have been less enjoyable than others. 

ExWeb: As the nautical mile in high latitudes rack up it usually means that the near disaster incidents also increases. Any pointers/happenings you want to tell us about? 

Shepton: After a very successful summer in 2004 when we made a number of first ascents up there and Polly and Tash completed their 30k traverse of Herbert Island in the far north, and we had got the boat to the furthest north of a production yacht in Greenland, I wintered alone in the boat near Upernavik. The aim was to be the first fiberglass boat to winter in the Arctic. All was going well, much better since we were properly iced in, came back from an afternoon skiing across and along the fjords, 'oh yes I must refill the diesel tank for the heater', picked up the diesel container, took the plug out of the deck head and started to pour in the diesel. Only when I saw the red flames through the hole did I realize that I had forgotten (after months of doing it) to put in the vital connecting funnel down below. I rushed round to the hatch and started to go down below to fight it, took one breath and instinctively knew I must not go down there. Even in those few seconds the fumes were so noxious. 

- Then it was hopeless. Nothing to fight it with, all extinguishers down below (lesson learnt, too late) tried to scrape snow up in a bucket and throw that on, hopeless, and to cut a long story short the boat burnt and sank through the ice. I was left virtually with what I was standing up in, with a third of the mast sticking up out of the ice next day. 

- Fortunately, again a long insurers played completely straight and I was able to obtain a replacement boat. I soon came to the conclusion that for what I wanted to do and for the money available (i.e. the insurance money), I couldn't do better than what I had had previously. So I have got another Westerly 33 Discus and the Registrar of Shipping allowed me to carry the name over as the other one was no longer in existence. Dodo's Delight was reborn. 

Exweb: How was it to skipper the Wild Bunch? 

Shepton: It was fortuitous that two of them had done a lot of sailing before, even if only in the Mediterranean. The other two had done virtually none. We soon broke it down from two on watch at a time to one on his own and me on permanent call, and this worked well even across the Atlantic. There were hairy moments in a sense, but not because of the crew. I am fond of saying about this passage, 'and this is the meanest Atlantic crossing of them all' (from Scotland to Greenland or vice versa). We had a lot of headwinds (it was meant to be the downwind passage) and we were caught in the tail end of Post Tropical Storm Danielle, and another vigorous double depression joining up together. But being a bit older now I do tend to heave-to a bit earlier, and was rather pleased to hear Ben say on one occasion 'I suppose Bob with his experience knows when to heave-to and then the storm comes' No, actually just getting a bit older... 

The only minor problem was that the experienced Mediterranean sailors always wanted to sail whatever the conditions, and would surreptitiously pull sail out when really it was better to motor if they wanted to get to their climbs with time enough left to climb. But we soon got over that - Royal Marines Officer you understand...! 

ExWeb: Tillman was know for his very relaxed cruising style. How is yours? 

Shepton: Tilman's cruising style - yes I am relaxed as I said. I hope the crucial difference is that as far as one can make out Tilman communicated with his crew very little. Whereas I do chat and hopefully remember to tell them what I want done and pull their legs etc. 

Approach on the water the same. Yes I hope so, free, friendly, jokey, quite happy as long as I've got corned beef and condensed milk for the coffee - hence the names of two of the climbs on Shepton Spire (their name, very kind) in the Cape Farewell area! 
On the other hand, this does not mean I run a tight ship. In fact I am probably too relaxed. I like the watch keeper to run the ship, but I do like to be informed of what's going on. And I cannot be accused of running a tidy ship, except perhaps for the sailing systems! But down below many would think we live in a shambles. I think this was one of the things this last crew were afraid of. Was this so-called seasoned sailor and boat owner going to insist we kept everything tidy and in its place? I think it was a relief when they realized we could live in the usual comfortable shambles down below (my view; I have got into trouble in other people's boats in the past!). 

ExWeb: Sorry for mentioned the age-issue, but at 76 you are pretty fit and ready for more adventures than most your age. Any formula I can follow? 

Shepton: No great secrets to pass on here, I'm afraid. I have always been very fortunate, nothing broken yet, and I seem to keep pretty fit. I did stop breathing when ski instructing in Germany a few years ago and spent some time in intensive care, but that's another story, another time. Maybe it was well that I went down south again and away from the mountains and instructing virtually every day at about 45, so that life was more paced and not so wearying. Somebody looks after me.... 

- I have just written a short article for our mountaineering Instructors' magazine - I am/was a Mountaineering Instructor - where I say 'What do you do if you think you are now too old for instructing? You get a team of world class climbers on your boat in Greenland and get them to climb for you' - or words to that affect. But that doesn't help you. 

Military to test new Arctic search-and-rescue plan

The Canadian icebreaker Henry Larsen in Allen Bay, near Resolute Bay, Nunavut, in August, 2010. - The Canadian icebreaker Henry Larsen in Allen Bay, near Resolute Bay, Nunavut, in August, 2010. | Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
The Canadian Forces is planning its first test of a disaster response team that would speed to the site of an airplane crash, environmental incident or shipping accident in the North.
The Rapid Reaction Force North is to make its first deployment next week as part of annual Arctic training manoeuvres, said Lt.-Col. Gino Chretien, who will be commanding Operation Nunalivut from Resolute, Nunavut.
“It's a project to try and get troops up as fast as possible if an incident happens up here in the North,” said Lt,-Col. Chretien.
With thousands of passenger airplanes and dozens of ships passing through Canada's Arctic every year, search-and-rescue capability has long been a concern — especially as climate change makes the North more accessible. As well, Canada is about to sign an international treaty obliging it to take responsibility for a vast section of the Arctic that is difficult to get to and tough to work in.
One of the military's own analysts has acknowledged the problem. In January's Canadian Military Journal, Maj. Tony Balasevicius said there has been little improvement since 1991 when a Hercules transport place crashed 30 kilometres from Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.
“Unfortunately, in terms of actual capability, little has changed,” wrote Maj. Balasevicius, who works for the Directorate of Future Security Analysis. “Currently, any attempt to mount even a small-scale operation would be difficult.”
The new reaction force is an attempt to address the issue, said Lt.-Col. Chretien.
The Force's main component would be the Rangers, largely aboriginal reserve units that exist in almost every Arctic community.
In case of emergency, the nearest available Ranger patrol would head to the scene using snow machines or locally available private aircraft. Communications and headquarters officers would be scrambled from Yellowknife to set up shop in the closest community and co-ordinate rescue attempts from there.
Arctic rescues are currently co-ordinated out of the Search-and-Rescue Centre in Trenton, Ont.
The goal, said Lt.-Col. Chretien, is to get boots on the ground almost anywhere in the Arctic within six hours.
“We might be talking six hours for the first group, 12 hours for the second wave and 24 for the third,” he said. “It's something that we still need to refine.”
Nor is it clear what help the Rangers would be able to provide beyond basics such as first aid, translation, polar bear security and “comfort.” Lt.-Col. Chretien said there are no plans right now to create rescue supply caches for Ranger patrols.
Arctic historian Whitney Lackenbauer, who has written extensively on the Rangers, said the military shouldn't rely too heavily on them.
“We need to keep our expectations of the Rangers realistic,” he said. “Turning to the Rangers for everything is setting them up to fail.”
The proposed rapid reaction force is a long way from the search-and-rescue capability outlined in the Balasevicius paper. He calls for improved satellite surveillance, a network of ready-to-use airstrips and ports and supply dumps that would be able sustain an operation for days and weeks.
“Defence must develop a greater capacity to operate in the North for extended periods,” writes Maj. Balasevicius, who was not available for interviews due to the military's policy of not commenting on future plans during an election.
Mr. Lackenbauer agreed, adding anything like the plans the major outlines are five to 10 years away.
The military “is striving to get towards an initial Arctic operating capacity,” he said.
Maj. Balasevicius points to a rescue in 2009 in which a hunter stranded on an ice floe was located by a private airplane, which also dropped supplies. The Twin Otter was based in Iqaluit, about 725 kilometres from the hunter's home. A military Hercules flew out of Winnipeg, 1,800 kilometres to the south.
Quoting another author, he writes: “So why does (Defence) insist on basing (search and rescue) at bases skirting the US border?”
For now, the Forces will focus on developing the rapid reaction force, Lt.-Col. Chretien said.
“It's just a question of mobilizing and doing with what we have right now.”
The deployment will be part of Operation Nunalivut, which will involve aircraft from Comox, B.C., and Greenwood, N.S., in addition to regular army staff from Yellowknife and Ranger patrols. The Forces will conduct land and air patrols April 6 to April 22 between Resolute and the Isachsen Peninsula on the northern tip of Ellef Ringnes Island.

Ken McGoogan - Northwest Passage author of The Fatal Passage Quartet

Ken McGoogan
A globe-trotting ex-journalist who chased the ghost of Lady Franklin across Tasmania, survived shipwreck off the coast of Dar es Salaam, and placed a commemorative plaque in the High Arctic, Ken McGoogan is best-known for his quartet of books about the Northwest Passage. McGoogan is the author of a number of biographies, histories, fiction and non-fiction books. His most recent work is How the Scots Invented Canada. He has received many awards for his work including the Pierre Berton Award for Canadian History.

“Ken McGoogan is required reading for any Canadian who wants to know the real history of our country.”

A globe-trotting ex-journalist who chased the ghost of Lady Franklin across Tasmania, survived shipwreck off the coast of Dar es Salaam, and placed a commemorative plaque in the High Arctic, Ken McGoogan is best-known for his quartet of books about the Northwest Passage (seeHome Page). Born in Montreal and raised in a French-speaking town, Ken is multi-ethnic and deeply rooted, his ancestors having arrived as early as 1619, and no later than 1823.

Ken has visited every province and territory, and has lived in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon. He has sojourned in Greece and Tanzania, rambled around Europe, the United States, and Scotland, and visited Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and Sri Lanka.
 Ken has a bachelor’s degree in journalism (Ryerson) and a master’s degree in creative writing (University of British Columbia).

For two decades, Ken worked as a journalist, moving from The Toronto Star to The Montreal Star and The Calgary Herald, where he served as books editor and literary columnist. These days, he reviews for the Globe and Mail and writes a column for Canada’s History (the magazine formerly known as The Beaver). Ken has worked as a writer-in-residence in Fredericton, Toronto, Dawson City, and Hobart, Tasmania, and currently teaches narrative nonfiction at the University of Toronto. He lives in the Toronto Beaches with his artist-wife, Sheena Fraser McGoogan, with whom he has two adult children.

Selected Awards
-- Pierre Berton Award for Canadian History (body of work)
-- University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography,Lady Franklin’s Revenge
-- Evergreen Award, Ontario Library Association, finalist, Lady Franklin’s Revenge
-- Writers’ Trust of Canada / Drainie-Taylor Biography Award,Fatal 1Passage
-- Canadian Authors’ Association Award for History, Fatal Passage
-- Grant MacEwan Author’s Award, Fatal Passage
-- Christopher Award (U.S.) for “a work of artistic excellence that affirms the highest values of the human spirit,” Fatal Passage
-- B.C. National Book Award for Non-Fiction, long-listed, Race to the Polar Sea
-- Keith Matthews Award, honourable mention, Nautical Research Society, Race to the Polar Sea
-- Reader’s Digest Magazine: Canada’s Best Historical Writer (body of work)
-- National Magazine Awards, finalist in profiles, Literary Review of Canada
-- Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, Lady Franklin’s Revenge
-- Sandpiper Books / Calgary Freedom of Expression award
-- Writers’ Guild of Alberta Non-fiction Award, Canada’s Undeclared War

Biographies and Histories
-- How the Scots Invented Canada. HarperCollins Canada, 384 pages, October 2010.
-- Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures and Romantic Obsessions of Elisha Kent Kane. HarperCollins Canada, Counterpoint Press U.S., 366 pages, 2008.
-- Lady Franklin’s Revenge: A True Story of Ambition, Obsession and the Remaking of Arctic History. HarperCollins Canada, Bantam/Transworld U.K. 468 pages, 2005.
-- Ancient Mariner: The Amazing Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor Who Walked to the Arctic Ocean. HarperCollins Canada, Bantam/ Transworld U.K., Carroll & Graf U.S. 334 pages, 2003.
-- Fatal Passage: The Untold Story of John Rae, the Arctic Adventurer Who Discovered the Fate of Franklin. HarperCollins Canada, Bantam/ Transworld U.K., Carroll & Graf U.S., 328 pages, 2001. (Basis of Passage, a docudrama aired on BBC Scotland & History Channel.)

Other Nonfiction Books
-- Going For Gold, co-author with Catriona Le May Doan. McClelland & Stewart, 174 pages, 2001.
-- Canada’s Undeclared War: Fighting Words from the Literary Trenches. Detselig Enterprises, 277 pages, 1991.

-- Visions of Kerouac: Satori Magic Edition. Willow Avenue Books, 285 pages, 2008;  Pottersfield Press, 293 pages, 1993;Kerouac’s Ghost. Robert Davies Publishing, 292 pages, 1996; Quebec and France:  as Le Fantome de Kerouac. Balzac-Le-Griot, 281 pages, 1998.
-- Chasing Safiya, 1999. Bayeux Arts, 267 pages, 1999.
-- Calypso Warrior, 1995. Robert Davies Publishing, 187 pages, 1995

-- Public Lending Right Commission, vice-chair 2008-09, chair 2010
-- Royal Canadian Geographical Society, fellow & expeditions committee, 2008-present
-- Tasmanian Writers’ Centre, writer-in-residence, 2006
-- Toronto Reference Library, writer-in-residence, 2005
-- University of Cambridge, Wolfson College, visiting fellow, 2004
-- University of New Brunswick, writer-in-residence, 2003
-- Pierre Berton Writers’ Retreat, writer-in-residence, 2002
-- Banff Centre for the Arts / Writers’ Guild of Alberta, writer-in-residence, 2001
-- University of Cambridge, Wolfson College, press fellow, 1998

Festival Appearances
-- International Festival of Authors (Toronto), 2009
-- London (Ontario) Writers’ Festival, 2008
-- Edmonton LitFest, 2007
-- Ottawa Writers’ Festival, 2005
-- Tennessee Williams Writers’ Festival (New Orleans), 2005
-- Melbourne Writers’ Festival, 2004
-- Alden Nowlan Writers’ Festival (New Brunswick), 2004
-- Banff-Calgary Writers’ Festival, 2001, 2003
-- Vancouver Readers’ and Writers’ Festival, 1995

Wikipedia / Ken McGoogan

Juno Awards: Top 40 songs about Canada - Missed one - Stan Rogers - Northwest Passage

The Juno Awards celebrate their 40th anniversary this week in Toronto, so here’s a Top 40 list of songs by Canadians that reference the country. The first 25 or 30 songs are pretty much off the top of my head, which might explain the questionable ordering (that and some differences in taste!). Debate welcome.
1. Helpless – Neil Young (There is a town in north Ontario …) [Cool duet with Bruce above]
2. It Hasn’t Hit Me Yet – Blue Rodeo (Snow falling in the middle of Lake Ontario)
3. Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip (Sundown in the Paris of the Prairies)
4. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot (when the Gales of November came slashin’)
5. Coyote  Joni Mitchell (On the road to Baljennie near my old home town)
6. Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire (Growin’ up in some strange storm, nobody’s cold, nobody’s warm)
7. Acadian Driftwood – The Band (Canadian cold front movin’ in)
8. Lakeside Park – Rush (Everyone would gather on the twenty-fourth of May sitting in the sand to watch the fireworks display.)
9. The Night Paddy Murphy Died – Great Big Sea (They stopped the hearse on George Street outside Sundance Saloon)
10. Oh … Canada – Classified (I know where I’m from and I told ya before North of America hard to ignore)
11. Your Ex-Lover Is Dead – Stars (Captured a taxi despite all the rain we drove in silence across Pont Champlain)
12. Spoonful of Sugar – Matt Mays & El Torpedo (Spoonful of sugar in Montreal city)
13. Hard Road – Sam Roberts (And her soft brown hair is as long as the Canadian highway)
14. My Old Apartment – Barenaked Ladies (We bought an old house on the Danforth)
15. Spadina Bus – The Shuffle Demons (Well, I start to cuss on the Wellesley bus and you can’t go far on the College Street car you know the Yonge Street train is a real pain and the LRT—that’s not for me)
16. Sudbury Saturday Night – Stompin’ Tom (The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are getting’ stinko)
17. Bobcaygeon – The Hip (it was in Bobcaygeon I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time)
18. Three Pistols – The Hip (Tom Thomson came paddling past)
19. English Bay – Blue Rodeo (I listen to the rain and the sounds of the passin’ cars and the waves on English Bay)
20. City of Lakes – Matt Mays & El Torpedo (And at the end of the day I will return to the city of lakes where the real people roam close to where all the real waves break)
21. Comin’ Home – City and Colour (I’ve been through Nova Scotia, Sydney to Halifax I’ll never take any pictures cause I know I’ll just be right back)
22. The River – Joni Mitchell (I wish I had a river I could skate away on)
23. Weakerthans – One Great City (I hate Winnipeg)
24. The Ballad of Wendel Clark Parts 1 & 2 – The Rheostatics (Wendel was a man with a stick in his hands he learned how to play in Kelvington S.A.S.K.)
25. Montreal – Blue Rodeo (We met in Montreal far from the crime)
26. 38 Years Old – The Hip again (Twelve men broke free in ’73 from Millhaven maximum security)
27. Evangeline – The Band (Evangeline, from the Maritimes was slowly going insane.)
28. Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon – The Guess Who (Moose Jaw saw a few)
29. Hockey Skates – Kathleen Edwards (Going down in the same old town down the same street to the same bar)
30. Canadian Railroad Trilogy – Gordon Lightfoot (For there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run when the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun)
31. Miles from Our Home – Cowboy Junkies (The moon hangs like a question mark, pale as milk, bold as a promise)
32. Northern Touch – Rascalz (yes from the northwest and the t-dot, o-dizot check)
33. Escarpment Blues – Sarah Harmer (We’ll keep driving on the Blind Line if we don’t know where we want to go)
34. The Old Sod – Spirt of the West (Canada’s been good to us we’ve a living and a home. We’ve all got central heating and most are on the phone)
35. The Old Black Rum – Great Big Sea (I think a bloody racket might soon begin I must have said something to the George Street queen Now the boys are joining in)
36. An American Draft Dodger in Thunder Bay – Sam Roberts (Crossed the border late at night and it was high stakes until he saw the Great Lakes)
37. City is Mine – Drake (Yo, the city is mine ((Which one?)) T-O-R-O-N-T-O)
38. Parkdale – Metric (I’m flipping out in the magazine neighborhood)
39. Canada vs. America – Broken Social Scene (I’m from the city of love we all don’t feel loved)
40. Far From Home – Neil Young (Walking down the trans-Canada highway I was talking to a firefly)
Yes indeed - Stan Rogers - Northwest Passage (to the sea)

Last week, in advance of the Juno Awards, we listed some of our favourite road tunes that reference Canada’s cities and geographical landmarks. Apparently, you thought we left out a few. Quite a number of people chastised us for failing to mention Hamilton-born folk singer Stan Rogers and for leaving out “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane. What can we say? Our iTunes collection needs some new downloads.
Here are a selection of your responses:
“I read your article ‘Best Road Tunes’ with enthusiasm. Thanks for that. I hope to download them onto a CD (legally, of course) and present copies to my family and friends in England. These songs really capture The Canadian Spirit. Bravo has been running an excellent show on the Toronto music scene 1955-75. It brought back many memories especially seeing Neil Young in his youth. This song [Ambulance Blues] concerns his memories of ‘T.O.’ Some of the stanzas are a bit obscure but it captures a strong sense of time and place and also reflects Young’s own emotional complexities at the time. I do hope you will have a ‘Part 2’ list soon. I was disappointed to see that Toronto was not included in your list!” —Nicholas Mitchell, Toronto
“How about ‘Lakeside Park’ by Rush? Not sure if it’s Toronto, or a park in the Niagara region actually named ‘Lakeside Park.’ With a line like ‘everyone would gather on the 24th of May, sitting in the sand to watch the fireworks display,’ I’d say it’s pretty patriotic.” — Jeannette Goulin, Toronto
[Editor’s note: Lakeside Park references a park in St. Catherines, where drummer Neil Peart spent some time as a kid.]
“How could you not include ‘Canadian Railroad Trilogy’ by Gordon Lightfoot? It’s the railroad! That’s what defined Canada!” — Dan Sideen
“Fun article! I thought of these additions: Skydiggers – ‘November in Ontario’; Sloan – ‘The Rest of My life’ ( I know I’ll be living it in Canada); Kathleen Edwards – ‘Oh Canada.’” — Linda McIlwain
“Your column was great and I realize you can’t capture all the ‘best road tunes’ in one small article but how could you miss ‘Life is a Highway’ by Tom Cochrane? . . . he mentions Vancouver. And also Bruce Cockburn’s ‘The Coldest Night of the Year’ — he mentions Yonge Street and Scarborough — a true Toronto song! And don’t forget Gino Vanelli’s ‘I Just Want to Stop’ . . . When I think of those nights in Montreal. . . . And my favourite Canadian band, The Barenaked Ladies, with their song ‘One Week.’ The last words of the song are ‘Birchmount Stadium, home of the Robbie.’ It refers to an annual soccer tournament held for charity at Birchmount Stadium in Scarborough. And also Barenaked Ladies song ‘Hello City’ is about Halifax.” — Shelley Barnett
“Some other suggestions: ‘Donkey Riding’ by Great Big Sea (Quebec, Miramichi, Fortune Bay). ‘Poutine’ by The Dreadnoughts (obvious from the title, but still Rimouski, Repentigny, Chicoutimi, Lac Megantic, etc.). ‘Western Skies’ by Blue Rodeo (mentions Queen Street in Toronto, but compares it unfavourably to . . . well, western skies. Duh.). ‘Your Ex-Lover is Dead’ by Stars (I know, I know, this one is a stretch, but this is such a great song that I had to mention it. The image of two ex-lovers travelling in a taxi across Montreal’s Pont Champlain in silence, with the guy struggling to remember the woman’s name . . . brilliant.)” — Alex Lofthouse, Toronto
“You missed a great song called ‘Moody Manitoba Morning’ [by Rick Neufeld]. For those of us who grew up in small Prairie towns in Canada this song says it all.” — Orry Kirby
“Check the many songs of Stan Rogers regarding songs of Canada — there are many that reference towns, cities and sites of Canada.” — Alvin Tilk
“I’d add Joel Plaskett’s ‘Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’’ to that list: ‘The yellow lines are glowing, Oh, highway roll me home.’ It’s a beauty, eh?” — Andrew Patriarche
“While your picks are great, we feel you missed a couple of no brainers: Northwest Passage – Stan Rogers; Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane.” — Jim Hair, Toronto
Want to keep the debate grooving? Check out the list by Star Travel’s Adrian Brijbassi and let us know what you think.