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“Searching for my lost shaker of salt”

6 Jul

If you didn’t have it, you simply would die. Since you’re not dead, salt is part of your diet no matter what you think about “low” sodium or whether or not you’ve even pondered about the most important culinary garnish in mankind’s history. However, if you think of salt as being that white stuff in the shaker that’s found in every dive, diner, and four-star restaurant then you’re not on the flavor trail.

Salt is a mineral known as halite and more commonly as the compound sodium chloride. Both sodium or chloride will quickly kill you, but without the compound made up of these two elements you’ll also die. In the history of mankind salt was often worth more than gold and elaborate trade routes were established to transport this commodity. Roman soldiers were paid in salt (hence the word, salary); wars have been lost and won over salt (including the U.S. Civil War); and it is mined in places most people never imagine (1,000 feet beneath Detroit are over 100 miles of tunnels and 1,500 acres of salt production). The elaborately carved, palace-like chambers in the salt mines of Wieliczka in Poland are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and over a quarter of a million tourists visit the Khewra Salt Mine in the Crystal Valley region of Pakistan each year. Obviously, there’s a bit more interest in this than “please pass the salt” at the dinner table.

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A Trip Back In Time: Touring Vermont’s Historic Route 7A

10 Jun

Change comes slowly here. Many of Vermont’s roads were built a couple of centuries ago when oxen pulled wagons. Merely covered by asphalt these narrow serpentine roads still undulate across the landscape through the moist shade of forests interspersed with fields bordered by stonewalls. It’s motorcycle-riding paradise.

In 1749 Bennington became the first town charted in what was a frontier wilderness known as “The Grants.” Located just a few miles north of Massachusetts and on the border with New York a majority of riders coming to Vermont pass through this crossroad.

Hemings museum_9873          On West Main Street—Route 9—I pull into the Hemmings Motor Oasis Sunoco. This is more than just a gas station: next door, in the basement of a converted factory building, is the Hemming Motor News museum that’s jammed packed with vintage and antique vehicles.

The Bennington Battle Monument is the tallest building in the state.

The Bennington Battle Monument is the tallest building in the state.

Old Bennington holds some of Vermont’s earliest history. Old First Church (c. 1805) is considered to be one of the finest Federal-style churches in New England and in the Old Burying Ground headstone markers date back to the Battle of Bennington. Yet, it is the 306-foot high monument of gray dolomite that commands attention. The Battle of Bennington, the turning point of the Revolutionary War, actually took place in nearby Hoosic, NY but this marks the site of the critical storage of militia supplies that British intended to capture. Today I simply loop around the monolith and head for North Bennington, crossing the elegant, red-painted, Silk Covered Bridge over the Walloomsac River.

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The Benzine Motorcycle: the first production motorcycle.

3 Aug


It wasn’t just the illustration that caught my eye it also was the date of the newspaper –1896. The front page of the December 12th issue of the Scientific American was devoted to two illustrations of a sophisticated two-wheel vehicle that were identified as a “motor cycle using benzine.” My curiosity was piqued. Continue reading

Racing Against The Tide Along the Bay of Fundy

29 Mar

Like something out of a Stephen King novel, the fog – a cold, bone-chilling density – rides the tidal bore as it rushes across the vast plain. Advancing faster than a person can run is a volume of seawater equaling that of all fresh water rivers in the world. In six hours this land will be forty feet beneath the sea. It’s the flood epic as described by the ancient Sumerians and retold in the Bible, and it happens every 12 hours and 26 minutes.

The deep orange trench of the Chocolate River is to my left and Moncton, New Brunswick’s largest city, lies behind me as I head south on Route 114. The big Harley trike seems to roll down the highway of its own volition, which is a good thing. In the gray light that lies between dawn and sunrise I’m still half-asleep while racing against the tide.

The Bay of Fundy is the most extreme tidal environment on the planet. Twice a day, 23.5-quadrillion gallons of seawater rushes into this cul-de-sac inundating mudflats the size of Rhode Island forty feet beneath the waves. And twice a day a 100-billion cubic meters of water disappear to expose what is known as Hopewell Rocks.Image

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Touring the “Maggies”

4 Nov

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I arrived at the dock in Souris not knowing what to expect.  Even with my research they remained a mystery and, despite stories heard, I’d never met anyone who had actually been there.  Basque fishermen had been voyaging to this archipelago to hunt “sea cows” since the early 1500’s, but then, as now, the best-kept maritime secrets don’t appear on maps. Yet, when the Traversier docked at Prince Edward Island, nine bikes rolled out; when it left, it carried four.

The Madeleine Islands (Îles de la Madeleine) are one of those rare “in” places to ride, but few have heard of them. Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence approximately 134 miles (215 km) east of the Gaspe, 65 miles (105 km) north of Prince Edward Island, and 60 miles (95 km) west of Cape Breton, the “Maggies” are considered to be a northern segment of the Appalachian Mountains and belong to the province of Quebec.  Authoritative sources can’t even agree on the extent of their land area (somewhere between 77 and 88 square miles), but there are seven inhabited islands and all but one are connected by a single highway.  The sole purpose of my long journey was to ride this road. Continue reading

Fashion and Style

18 Oct

My girlfriend has often—quite often—accused me of not dressing stylish and having no fashion sense. The reality is quite the opposite. My boots are from Italy, my jeans are not something you’ll find anywhere but in the most exclusive boutiques, the logos on my shirts are very limited editions, and my suits are absolutely haute couture made by some of the best designers in the business. Even some of my underwear is made of high-tech, micro-mesh, space-age fabric. The problem is that we read different magazines and I ride motorcycles. Continue reading

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