As appears to be customary here on cavok, I’ve taken an extended break from writing..
Partly this is because I have a few posts backed up in the editing process, and mostly because I feel completely overwhelmed with the life I’ve chosen to date. Somehow, I haven’t learned the appropriate lessons to create balance an consistency in my life. As I get older, my resilience from the effects of disarray is steadily decreasing.
My life has always been an exercise in brinksmanship, constantly juggling new projects, commitments and obligations. This has been exacerbated by my chosen profession over the last decade and though I’ve frequently complained about it, I’ve failed to act upon the knowledge to fix the problem with any sort if plan in hand.
With the end of my tenth drilling season approaching, I’m going on record now to commit to making that change effective immediately by removing myself from the full time rotation in the field. As I transition to in-town work, I may occasionally pick up work here to achieve particular goals with the intention to completely extricate myself from the directional drilling world over the coming year.
With that in mind, over the next few weeks I will work on identifying areas to simplify my life and remove the clutter that has been clouding my creativity and diluting the efforts I’ve put in to several recent projects. I will commit to posting my thoughts on the subject and the new plan by end of month.
Commencing in mid-April I will be actively seeking Calgary based, short or long term contract work on a technology or photography related project and I would greatly appreciate any leads in that respect.
For a summary of my qualifications and areas of expertise, please see my LinkedIn profile here.
As always, I appreciate those if you who still take the time to check in here once in a while. Thank you all for your support.
I’m gonna try and to do some really quick updates as I’m heading home.
25 May — breakfast.
As I sit in a greasy spoon waiting on my omelette, an old timer sits across from me. He’s chatting with the staff about his daughter going in in to hospice.
I’m reflecting on the conversation we had as we both entered the restaurant. About the weather. It’s bad here. I’d commented how brutal it’d been for me over the last week or so.
The hospice conversation I’d overhead has just set this trip back in context. Everything I have experienced to date has been a gift. All the wind and bugs and bitterly cold rain are my reward for experience gained and miles traveled.
This whole trip has been a gift of unbelievable intricacy that I shall surely be reaping the rewards from years to come.
This will be ever present in my mind as I make the final portion of my journey home.
Heading in to Lethbridge this afternoon, then back to Calgary. Should be home tonight. Left my Canadian SIM card somewhere along the trail so I may not have a phone for a bit once I cross the border..
Thankfully today it’s sunshiny and beautiful out.. Not at all like yesterday:
Stopped in Buffalo,WY to throw my gear in a dryer and have a quick feed after barely 100mi covered in the rain. It’s snowing to the west, so jellystone is out for this trip. 700 mi to go. Gonna try and push home tonight if I can stay dry and warn enough..
Safe and sound somewhere south of St. Louis MO.. Great ride today with a bit of rain and some craziness.. I totally overshot High Knob Campground which was my intended stop for the evening.. :( Guess I’ll have to save my visit for the next trip.. :(
Got to Nashville last night just in time to head out and grab a bite to eat.. Changing things up from my last visit, I trusted in Trip Advisor to lead me to something cooler than the standard Broadway-Honkey-Tonk-Tourist-Traps.. I ended up at the Back Alley Diner for a bite to eat, and a few drinks and had a pretty great time hanging out with the likes of Chris & Christel, Kevin & Kim, and Miss June, who under no circumstances should ever be called “Miss” June.. Managed to do a bit of a local pub-crawl with C&C and K&K to end up the night. — Fantastic!
I’m off into the country and don’t expect to have much in the way of internet for the next few days, to don’t worry about an update for a bit! :)
Oh, also, I’ve added a little adornment to ThirstyGirl. This really ties the whole bike together.. ;)
ThirstyGirl and I took a break and headed for the coast. I had to see the ocean for at least a little bit… Our proximity to the oft-discussed-in-motorcycle-circles “Tail of the Dragon” ride on US 129 made it a logical start to the trip. The dragon is well known around these parts, and is popular with both auto and motorcycling enthusiasts. There is much lore surrounding the (reported) 318 curves on this 11 mile stretch of road, most of it surrounding the number of deaths this year (apparently 8 already in 2012, but I don’t believe this to be accurate..).
Seeing this, I knew we were in for an incredible ride..
I managed to get some video uploaded.. This is a fairly high-speed version of the footage I shot from the front of the bike. It’s pretty shaky due to some vibration problems I hadn’t anticipated and the really twisty-turny stuff starts about 2:40.. Don’t feel bad about fast-forwarding.. Hope you enjoy..
If you can’t watch, or perhaps can’t wait ’till the end, this is what I found at the end of my ride up the hill: Ooops.
Around the corner from my impromptu stop was the Deal’s Gap store which is really the tail of the tail of the dragon, they’ve got a motel, gas station and a whole pile of souvenirs and tchotchkes to prove you’ve been there!
Beyond Deal’s gap, I took a break from US 129 and headed down Highway 82 along the spectacularly beautiful shores of Cheoah Lake. I can say without a doubt that this stretch of highway was even more enjoyable than the first section of the day. The curves were equally hair-pinned and bendy, but the drive was just a bit more relaxed without the onslaught of oncoming traffic wandering across into my lane..
At some point along its length, 28 joins up with Highway 107 and continued to inspire awe (at least on my part).. I shot this photo around 5:30 PM, just over the South Carolina border.
It was getting nearly time to shut down for the night, but I had a few more hours of road to get behind me to keep moving east.. For some reason every turn I made to head in the right direction headed me back toward Atlanta.. The most detailed Rand McNally maps I could find failed to list the plethora of actual highways that line this countryside, significantly adding to the confusing navigation scenario.. Oh, iPhone maps, yeah, they’re much more confusing. I digress, but it’s possible you’ll hear a rant about them later.
Funny thing with Northern Georgia, in stark contrast to the beautiful little farms that line East Tennessee roads, the countryside here was really barren. Devoid of houses, farms, cities and really any population at all.. I finally found my way to the small town of Lavonia GA and bedded down for the night.
The next day of travel took me through more of northern Georgia and Southwestern South Carolina. (I know this gets confusing, have a look at the map and stick with me!). I took the opportunity to stop and take a walk through a Civil-War era Confederate cemetery in McCormick SC. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to wander through old-country graveyards, I’d highly recommend the experience. History comes alive when you start seeing crucial historical dates etched in stone. The thing that struck me was how long people were living back in the late 17 and early 1800’s.. Several of the stones I read were people that lived well into their 80’s and 90’s, and that’s through the US Civil War! Whoever says we’re living longer today might want to recheck their stats. ;)
The whole afternoon took me through some pretty economically depressed areas.. I saw very little in the way of industry, commerce, or any other viable form of income save a bit of farming..
Often, I’d come across virtual ghost towns that looked recently-prosperous. It was simultaneously surreal and saddening. Crossing the state line between South Carolina and Augusta GA was perhaps the most stark contrast between have and have-not.. After a half day of passing run-down farms and deserted towns, the suburbs of Augusta were incredibly post and well developed..
Augusta itself has seen better days.. Both of my cameras had given up the ghost by the time I got there, but I managed to catch a few shots of the Augusta Powder Works buildings where much of the Confederate gunpowder and munitions were made during the Civil War. Much of the area around the powder works was incredibly depressed and as I rode around I couldn’t help but think that it deserved much more exploration and time with a camera and an open ear.
Pushing on, and after one more speeding ticket (a little more than a hand-slap this time) I finally made it in to Savannah and got settled for a few days of wandering.. That, in the next post. This one is already getting toooo long. Read Part 2 here if you’d like to continue!
– If you haven’t read it yet, you can click this link for part 1 of this post! –
Savannah Georgia turned out to be an incredibly beautiful city to just walk around for a few days (the old Historic District was at least!).. Savannah residents seem to take great pride in the many treed squares and beautiful architecture that fills the old district and they’re well worth an afternoon to wander through, or just to sit down and watch others do the same. Those interested in high-end antiques will delight in the plethora of shops catering to those with a penchant for ancient history and/or money to burn. Sadly, most of the books I found in the stores I visited were written in Swedish or German language, neither of which were particularly useful to me.
Scattered about the same district are numerous buildings belonging to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) an art school with a pretty great story. If you spend any amount of time in the area, you’ll undoubtedly come across the plethora of art students going about their daily lives. Owing to the sheer number of of artsy-types, I couldn’t help the continuous loop of Lydia the Tattooed Lady playing in my head as I wandered about town. :)
The night-life in Savannah is plentiful and full of choice. One of my favourites by far is the Bay Street Blues, a good, honest bar with freakin-fantastic music!
I’m told there was a lot of really great food to eat in town, and I did manage to have a few good meals but with the way my timing worked out a few snacks seemed to do me well for most of my two days here.. Paula Dean’s restaurant did come recommended, and indeed it’s popular (so popular in fact that it spans three floors and sports a waiting list). Ms. Dean is well known for her southern cooking, and indeed the buffet supper her establishment served was pretty tasty, the service and dining experience left a lot to be desired.
I try to be as positive as possible on this site, but my next stop at Hilton Head Island was, well, frightening (in a children of the corn sorta way). I will say, that on my way out to Hilton Head, I managed to find a farmer’s market and food-fair in the small town of Bluffton SC. Also found here was the poshest chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever eaten. I mean, seriously, who puts whipped cream on a cookie? Idunno, but everybody should!
So, yeah, Hilton Head Island. One of the oddest (and oddly uncomfortable) places I’ve visited in a long time. As I drove the long parkway out to the island, I passed perfectly manicured medians that led me to believe I’d headed into suburban hell. This was only the beginning. Hilton Head, it turns out, is FULL of time-share condos and plantation resorts.. I stopped in to a “tourist information” center looking for a bed and breakfast or hostel with no luck. Turns out that it was actually a timeshare sales office. Ergh.. I have to be fair though, the gal there was nice enough to send me to one place that did have hotel rooms too, and gave me some recommendations for food and drink that night. I was still pretty exhausted from an epic night out in Savannah, and called it quits after searching in vain for a place to eat something healthy. In the process, I learned that the plantations (there are many) on Hilton Head have all banned motorcycles from the property. All motorcycles. Huh? Must be that only bad people ride motorcycles.. Or something..
Looking for that meal, I only managed to find a bar that sold food. As I waited for my burger (the healthiest thing I could find), I came to the horrible realization that I was in some really awful ’80’s summer-party-movie.. Really. Awful. Though my hotel was peaceful, I was happy to get out of there in the morning..
Heading north again, toward North Carolina, I happened across Crybabies Tavern (as I was searching for food again) in Beaufort, SC. (not to be confused with Beaufort, NC… One is pronounced Be-U-fort, the other BO-fort to mitigate any chance of mistaken identity.. )
Crybabies is possibly the BEST little dive-bar I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking in. The bartender was awesome, and the patrons were just good, honest, unpretentious, and hospitable. This place is well worth stopping in if you ever happen to find yourself in Beaufort (SC). Highlight? The baseball bat behind the bar. Win!
I made my way up to Charleston North Carolina, the site of the first shot in the US Civil War and home to the highest density of beautiful and fit people I’ve seen in the United States of America. Yowza! Take your ten, add about twelve and you’ve got yourself a good average for Charleston. In all seriousness, I did see an incredibly high proportion of healthy-weight people here, in comparisoon to many of the other places I’ve down in the US. I’m not sure how the demographics play in to this but suffice it to say, if you’re looking to find an active and fit population, this’d be a good place to start looking!
In Charleston, I stayed in a dorm room at the Notso Hostel which turned out to be a refreshing change from the hotels I’d been staying in. I got a chance to mingle with proper travelers and even some relative locals during my two day stay.. The bagels and Nutella for breakfast were an unexpected bonus too! All in all, definitely a worthwhile place to stay.
With the onset of muggy, rainy weather a few days before, I’d been on the move to try and find nice weather. The prospects looked kinda dim for finding sun anywhere in North Carolina, so I made the best of it and headed down to Fort Sumpter, the site of the events that really kicked off the Civil War. It may not look like much now, but in its day, Sumpter’s walls were three stories tall, and it boasted an officer’s quarters that were fit for a gentleman, complete with marble fireplaces, canopy beds and parquet floors.. Unfortunately for the occupants, it was designed to withstand attack from the ocean with 50′ masonry walls and positions for some 130 guns most of which weren’t actually installed yet. Oh, and the Confederate attack just happened to come from the land-side. It fell, and the war was on..
Undaunted, but growing weary of the poor, drizzly weather enveloping the east coast, I made the decision to head inland and get away from the rain. I started the five hour drive in a downpour and ended up in Asheville NC in near freezing temperatures.. As I dragged my weary and weather-numb body into a restaurant for a cup of coffee and a minute to regroup, a local cop mentioned to me that it was supposed to snow that evening. Crrrap! I’m down here to avoid the snow, not find it!
Luckily, that prediction turned out to be false, and I’d found one of my favourite hostels of all time, Sweet Peas. If you’ve ever wondered how to run a hostel right, this is the place to see. Upon check-in, you’re provided with a towel, face cloth, and a Sweet Peas sticker.. Nothing like a little free advertising! The building is super-clean, beautifully designed, and well equipped. I opted for a private room because I had a whole pile of gear to sort out, but there are open four bed dorms and semi-private “pods” available as well. The beds were reasonably comfortable and linens were provided on all beds–Nice!
Asheville itself is an incredible town (city?) full of random art at every turn and this alone puts me in a happy place. Top that off with a dazzling selection of phenomenal food, and a laid-back but supercool nightlife, University of North Carolina and a concert hall that features the likes of (Calgary native) Leslie Feist and you’ve got a hellufva holiday destination, and I can imagine, a pretty great place to go to school!
And even a little leftover from our afraid-of-the-Russians days..
The trip back to Tennessee to meet Christianne is next on my update list, and was relatively uneventful except that one time I stood ThirstyGirl on her back tyre trying to merge back onto the interstate..
Your map for this side-trip:
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As I sit here replying to messages and preparing my list of activities (chores) for the day, I came across this video I’d sent to a friend in October. It struck a chord with me then, and even more now as I look over a grove of trees through which the sun is shining and the wind is gently blowing. I’m reflecting on the last several weeks on the road. I’m so truly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had that enable this sort of trip in the first place. I’m overjoyed by the connections I’ve made with people I’d never ordinarily meet. I’m awed by the incredible diversity in landscape and culture I’ve experienced, and doubly awed by the incredible sincerity and kindness of each individual I’ve met along the way.
One thing that makes me a bit sour is that I’ve done very little in the way of updates here; in fact, you still need to hear about the trip with Christianne, and the trip to Georgia, North and South Carolina before that, a bar called Crybabies and the horror of Hilton Head island. I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about not updating but truthfully, it takes a great deal of time to compose each of my posts, and I simply run out of time each and every day I’m here and I’m quite content to just enjoy each day so the updates may just continue to be sparse..
Some days here are spent doing absolutely nothing, and others are filled with chores and excitement, either way, they disappear so unbelievably fast. That observation serves as a reminder that life itself is just as fleeting and how important it is to enjoy, nay relish each day of our lives. I present you with my favourite comment from the aforementioned film.. Please enjoy both the film and your day!
You think this is just another day, in your life. It’s not just another day. It’s, the one day that is given to you, today. It’s given to you; it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.
A friend of mine posted on her facebook page yesterday:
“Voted, Taxes in, Mom picked up at airport … I play ‘Adult’ well.”
Upon reading that, my first thought was.. “Oh, crap! I’ve been gallivanting long enough that I didn’t vote in the election, the accountant had to remind me that my taxes were due, and I’ve got a very important passenger to pick up at the airport today.. I really hope I’m enough of an adult to get one out of three right.”
I’m unbelievably excited (to say the least) about this trip to the airport though, so we should be all good! I’ll be picking up one incredibly cool chica who has taken a pretty big leap of faith and headed down here on a whim so we can see the Rolex Kentucky together.. You’ll see more of Christianne over the next week as we explore Kentucky and the Smoky Mountains!
With that all said, she’ll be here in less than 12 hours and I still have much to do.. More updating later..
So somewhere in the middle of my last post, I actually manged to sneak a trip in to see my buddy Abi in Lexington KY which, as it turns out is only about three hours away from Knoxville.. I hopped on to ThirstyGirl and headed across the state line to catch Abi for supper.. As it turns out, there’s a bit of a hilly/mountain range between the two cities and that’s always good for a little excitement when it comes to weather. About half-way through the trip, and with the approach of some really ominous looking clouds, I figured it’d be time to suit up and get kinda waterproofed, and it was good that I did..
I also took the liberty of affixing the go-pro to the front of the bike and attempting to film what a ride in the rain looks like from a motorcyclist’s perspective.. And it’s miserable. Particularly when the four wheelers all get scared and decide to pull off the road. Any part of the road, the shoulder, the ditch, the left lane.. Imagine being pelted with rain and hail whilst those same four-wheelers tried to decide whether they wanted to pull over or just drive slow for twenty miles.. (The Nerve! Right?) Needless to say, I had a few choice words for the bulk of those drivers ahead of me..
With hands blackened from the dye in my saturated riding gloves, I arrived in to Lexington just in time to get showered (warmed up) and head out for a bite to eat.. Abi and I met her buddy Chase at one of their local favourite restaurants where I learned about a Kentucky favourite dish: The Hot Brown.. My first thought was that this thing was ‘heart attack on a plate.’ And it is, but I had to try it anyway.. Several layers of sliced meat lay atop a couple of pieces of white bread, and are then smothered in cheese, and melted in the oven. There is a vegetarian option, but really, why would you try that? (Well, Abi did, but she lives there..)
After a good feed, a slice of pie, and a drive out to Versailles (Pronounced Ver-Sails by the locals) to see the castle I turned in for the night.. The next day after a quick lunch and visit, I headed back for Knoxville and a good night’s sleep. This was just a quick trip, so mostly interstate freeways, but it was incredibly pretty territory nonetheless; unfortunately, I was pretty tired from the previous day in the rain and had to pull over to take a quick nap.
Remind me some time to tell you about the fire engine and the ambulance showing up…
Knoxville to Lexington Map:
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Last night in Nashville was a bit of a bust, and frankly kind of a downer.. I made the decision to splurge a bit and stay downtown, but by the time I got showered and a load of laundry finished, pretty much everything was shut down, and there was very little to do but drink. All the bars were open, but it turned out to be a total dude-fest. There were no women in any of the places (save the servers) anywhere in the going-out district.. It was kinda weird. I ended up chatting with a couple of gents that work the rigs down in Texas.. Figures, I drive 2500 miles to meet other people in Oil and Gas..
I’d thought about spending the day in town but frankly, I just wanted to leave in the morning, so I hopped on ThirstyGirl and headed out to see A&R’s place just out of Knoxville. I was really looking forward to that, and it turned out to be a great decision because the whole area is stunningly beautiful.
The city of Knoxville has a really great collection of old brick buildings that have been maintained and preserved really well. They make up a fairly large walking district full of restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. Oh, and architecture firms.. It’s really a great place to walk around. The university campus takes up a fair chunk of the downtown footprint, along with a few sports arenas/stadiums too and to me at least, gives the town a young-happenin’ vibe..
Whilst out at A&R’s place, I managed to just totally decompress, both from the long ride behind me, and the last year and a half of work. We managed to get a few projects done around the yard of the acreage, mostly clearing and burning of brush piles which seemed daunting at first, but really ended up not too bad at all. Therapeutic even..
The property featured an outhouse (another two-seater.. go figure!) which the original occupant of the house built because, if you can believe it, he’d never had indoor plumbing before, and couldn’t bring himself to do his business inside the house. It’s been standing for at least fourty years, and really needed to come down to make way for.. yep, the chicken coup!
We decided to use some left over click together hardwood for the flooring..
And then kept going..
Sometimes, it’s just tough to know when to stop! :)
The nearly finished coup as I left it.. (work will continue in my absence–Life goes on!)
Things on the finishing list:
- Shore up roof, add front peak, tar-paper and shingle it.
- Build chicken box
- Build Chicken door
- Build mesh chicken run out the back
- Plexi-glass window for the door
- Chickenwire the window
The best part of this project is that we used left-over and previously used building materials for almost the entire building. Stuff that would have otherwise gone to waste. The only new materials we used were three sheets of plywood (for the roof, chicken roosting box and chicken door, about 6 — 2x4’s, some extra trim and a screen for the large window. Oh, and chicken wire, we’ll need that too!
So, a little re-cap-over-lap: Upon Smoky Joe’s recommendation, I’d traveled down in to the Shawnee National Forest to head up to High Knob to watch the sunset. As I cruised through the winding forest road, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the tree lined tarmac. After having traveled through thousands of Kilometers of flat and rolling prairie, I’d arrived somewhere familiar, serene and very at-home.
Pulling in to High Knob, which I’d thought was just a viewpoint, I realized it was actually a campground catering to horseback riders, and situated with prime access to some of the best horseback riding trails in all of Shawnee. As I rolled through the grounds, I was immediately impressed with the numerous themed outbuildings that dotted the property and mostly with the serenity of the whole place. Save the intermittent whinny of the stabled horses, the campground was silent..
It was an easy decision to camp there for the night (after all, I’d hauled a tent down this far) but as I spoke with JoJo, the owner of the camp, she offered a couple of even better options. At High Knob, in addition to camping, it is possible to sleep in a communal bunk house or even in a private cabin. I chose the bunk house (as it happened I was the only occupant–it’s usually used by hunters, and, well, this isn’t hunting season). The accommodation is rustic, but perfect for my night’s stay and after moving in I headed to the top of the hill to catch sunset.
After a good night of sleep, and a rather late ten o’clock start, I wandered in to the general store where I found JoJo minding the shop.. Rather than just nipping in for a quick coffee and hitting the road, we ended up chatting for the better part of a couple of hours.. After talking business, mules vs. horses, customer service, travel and culture among other things, JoJo shared a bit more about the area, and the history of High Knob campground. I was thoroughly impressed with her genuine concern for ‘her campers’ their horses, and the areas around High Knob. Were I able to get here more readily, I’d seriously consider getting myself on the waiting list for one of the few permanent camp spots that come available each year. Well, that and I don’t have horses..
Incidentally, according to JoJo, there are mule people and there are horse people (much like dog and cat people). And, as it turns out, mules are actually incredibly intelligent and have a high self preservation instinct (which is helpful if you’re trying to usher the beast through territory that may not be best for the health of either of ya’s).. The things you learn on the road! :)
Anyway, it’s taken ages to get this post up so I’ll fire a few photos up and a quick video for your perusal! :)
JoJo sent me on my way with a can of her favourite Soda Pop (Red Faygo), and a package of mini-doughnuts, and a direct order to visit the Rocks of the Gods a few miles away from the campground. Which I did, and I’m pleased to have done.. It was really spectacular scenery and I felt it fitting to drink my Faygo right there with a toast to JoJo! Thanks Lady! :)
The ride to Nashville was pretty uneventful after all of this, but enjoyable nonetheless!
[PostEdit] Actually one thing about the ride strikes me as noteworthy.. Somehow, the southwestern corner of Kentucky smelled exactly like Grape Soda. I don’t know what it was that caused the delicious aroma, but I shall forever more associate Grape pop with Kentucky..
Your map Sirs and Madams:
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Jordan Cartwright is… Well, um, a lot of things. Most of them are even good.
currentlycontinually seeking a definition for myself that inspires, enlightens and enriches the lives of others. This is long-term work in progress.
Jobs I’ve held run from busboy to bartender, computer guy to directional driller, photographer and tour guide too.. Rarely do I ever identify myself by a job title though.
Over the past ten or twelve years, I’ve traveled through some 34 countries and always relish the opportunity to do things that are out of the ordinary.
On this site, you’ll find musings about photography, the oil and gas industry, travel, robotics, electronics, and social responsibility among other bits of my life.
Jordan is currently..
on the road.
You may catch me by telephone
+1 403 829 2740 (Calgary)
+1 604 229 0225 (Vancouver)
or email, or postal mail if you so choose, but you’ll have to take a peek at the contact page for that info!
Other ways to connect
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