Pride London

Last weekend John and I participated in our first Pride festival, Pride London, starting with the interfaith service. 

The service was led by a pastor from a local United Church of Canada congregation and mostly focused on reconciliation and hope. It was moving and lovely, a great start to the day. I'd really like for my church to participate in Pride next year, and it was interesting to get a sense of what we could participate in, and what other church groups were present. 

After the service, we met up with our friends to march with General Population in the parade. We saw lots of other groups getting ready to march. For example: 

The New Democratic Party (below in the orange) and the liberals were both present. I assume both parties participate every year, but they were especially vocal as we're about to have a "by-election." From what I can tell, it's an election for some Ministers of Parliament (MP) in our area. It's sort of like an election for a representative to your local state house or senate, and it seems to be happening only in the West part of London where we live. 

Anyways, back to the parade, we saw the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection. 

And our group was right behind ARF - Animal Rescue Foundation Ontario. We saw lots of dogs who were excited for Pride! 

John and I marched with a sort of mix of people from UWO's Women's Studies department, our local Graduate Teaching Assistant Union, and Gen Pop, which I've mentioned before. 

Several people present overlapped with all three categories - students, TAs, and fans of Gen Pop.

John and I walked with bookmarks with info about UWO Women's Studies degrees and handed them out along the route.

The "Keep London Queer" banner didn't fare so well in the breeze, but it looked great. In this photo you can see the roller derby girls, the Violent Femmes, waiting to move behind us. 

The dogs from ARF made their way out, bedecked with floral collars. I can't wait to dress our greyhound in a rainbow bandana next year!

I took a picture and cheered for the church groups I saw, including Metropolitan United Church. All but one church group were from the United Church of Canada, the other being Unitarian. It would be great if my Anglican church could participate next year!

We marched behind a pick up truck that played a special Pride playlist to keep us energized for the parade. Anders and Matthew held the Gen Pop banner.

Several people commented on how buried the parade mostly was inside the neighborhood along Queens Ave. Not surprising in conservative London, really. I was pretty impressed with how many people were out to watch the parade, as well as the size of the parade itself. 

We only encountered a handful of conservative Christian protestors. Counter-protestors tried to cover up their signs with rainbow flags.

They quietly held their signs. And this man was peaceful enough to take a photo with some of our group. 

As we exited the park we saw a car painted to celebrate Druids for Pride. It takes all kinds to celebrate Pride. 

Preparing for the Royal Arrival

Yeah, yeah, Wills and Kate had a baby last week, whatever. I'm sure it's great. 

John and I are anticipating an arrival of our own. The week after we returned to London from our wedding trip, we went out to Greyhound Relocation and Adoption of Canada to adopt a greyhound. We can't pick her up until August 4th, but we wanted to pick her out anyways and have everything ready for her arrival. 

Get ready for what is likely the first of a few hundred posts about our new dog. 

The retired racer we chose is a 3-year-old brindle named was CTW's Royal Gait. Sine that's not easily shortened into a nickname, we've decided to change it (more on that another time). Before her year of racing in Alabama, Royal was born in Texas - just like me! And now she lives in Canada, also like me.  Greyhounds are registered with their own breed association, rather than the AKC, and all of their racing and breeding information is stored online. Using Royal's racing name we were able to look up her pedigree going back five generations and look at pictures of her parents and ancestors. I love the names they give these dogs - her grandfather's name was Molotov, and further back she had a relative named Thunder Cheeks. 
Once I created an account with the site I was able to look up her racing history. Royal raced 51 times during 2012 and won seven times; she took second place nine times. Obviously I know she can run a lot faster than me or John, but it was crazy to see how fast she runs. They run either 300 or 500 meter races: her time for the 300m was 17 seconds and change, and her time for the 500m was 31seconds. Crazy fast! 

GRA Canada is run by a really nice man named Bill who started placing greyhounds with families as a sort of side gig and then turned it into his full time job. When we met with him he suggested Royal because he thought she'd do well in an apartment, as she's pretty calm and smaller than the male dogs they had at the time. Bill has an agreement with the race track in Birmingham, AL where she raced - they don't put any dogs down, and he sends someone to get a big load (20-40 dogs) every 4-6 weeks. Then they spay/neuter, give medical attention where needed, update the shots, and place them with families all over the place, especially in our area and Toronto. I'm also grateful that the GRA has a great forum where other greyhound owners can ask and answer questions about anything health related or other general topics. From the forum we've learned of a couple other greyhound owners in our neighborhood with whom we can get together for walks. This page of the forum lists adoptable dogs (you can see Royal at the top of the list, with "adopted" next to her name!) 

While it was super sad to leave her at the kennel after signing the adoption papers, John and I had a lot to do before bringing Royal home. We bought a crate at Tractor Supply Co. on Bill's advice (since we got a greyhound adoption discount!) and we filled it with mostly old blankets. 
Side note: above the crate we hung the framed poster from our 2012 Fort 4 Fitness half marathon we did in Fort Wayne with Kira. Because, you know, we're racers, too. And we wanted her to know that. 
We had to move some furniture around to create a logical space for the crate. Since the crate is open, rather than solid plastic, it actually makes the room feel bigger.

We also got rid of the old coffee table that John and his friends scribbled all over during undergrad. I had wanted to paint it to make it more attractive anyways, but getting rid of it altogether was a better idea, as it was heavy and awkward to move. With the coffee table gone, we had room for the dog bed. Bill suggested waiting until Royal is completely potty trained before investing in a real dog bed. We took his advice and got several blankets at Goodwill (for a total of $6) that could be disposed of later, if necessary. For now this fleecy pink one will do well as a dog bed. Of course we'll remove The Stick and John's GQ once she gets her, since neither are good dog toys. 

Besides the bed and the crate, we had to get her city tags, a tag collar, a toothbrush and peanut butter flavored tooth paste (why don't they make that for humans?), some rawhide, as well as a stuffed mole that makes a growly noise when you squeeze it, and a nylon bone she can chew that's good for her teeth. She'll come with a leash and a Martingale collar, made for dogs like greyhounds whose heads are smaller than their necks. I've read on the forums that it's dangerous to leave that collar on them because of the "D" ring that attaches it to a leash. Martingales work sort of like a noose, for lack of a better analogy. They tighten when pulled, rather than having a buckle or other fastener. If she's unattended with that collar on, it's possible for her to get the D ring caught on something and then get choked by her collar. I also read a rather funny story of a greyhound getting the D ring stuck on a peg inside the bottom rack of a dishwasher; the panicked dog yanked out the whole rack, dishes/pots and all, then ran with it through the house until it could be calmed down. So we want to avoid all of that and put her everyday name tag on a separate collar that she'll wear in addition to her Martingale, and keep the Martingale attached to her leash for when she's outside.

At some point before winter arrives, we're going to have to acquire a coat, since greyhounds have very thin skin and little body fat. Things we will not be getting her include: this dog sweater from The Bay. I'm holding the one for a small, Molly-sized dog, and guess how much it costs? Go on, guess. 

$55! No thanks. As John said, I rarely spend $55 for a full priced sweater for myself.

Every day we get more excited to bring her home and we talk more and more about all the things we want to do with her. But it will be a period of adjustment, since she's never lived in a house before, and she may never have walked up or down stairs. Until then we're looking forward to welcoming her into our home.


Bloomington, Post-Honeymoon

John and I have loved having Bloomington as our American home base, and as it was the center of all the wedding activity, we got to spend a big chunk of time there this summer. 

For me, that meant walking the dogs a lot and trying to teach them to like the water. I think I made some progress on that front with Toby, who will now walk in Jackson Creek until the water is up to his neck.

There are so many beautiful places to walk them just around the corner from my parents' house.

We saw lots of deer. Too many of them, really. This one, nicknamed Golf Ball because of a knot on her injured back leg, likes to hang out in the shrubbery in front of the neighbor's house.

One of the deer in the neighborhood has two little fauns that travel with it.

I saw wild raspberries growing in Bryan Park.

I like to take the dogs to parts of town and campus that they don't frequent with my dad, like Dunn Meadow and Kirkwood. They're much better behaved there than I would have expected. But maybe that was just because they were hot and wanted to get back to the Jordan River to cool off.

We ran lots of errands with my mom, both before and after the wedding.

We got to hang out with Mark and his girlfriend Jessica (not shown) several times. 

I learned how much they both like pre-made piña coladas.

And of course we made a couple of late night trips to Crescent Donut.

Bloomington is so liberal. It still kind of surprises me that it can exist in Indiana. For instance, this sign at the Owlery

My parents were/are hosting two Japanese students who were playing in the USA International Harp Competition. They were both taken with the deer on the cul-de-sac. My dad came outside to look at the deer with them and translate their conversation for me. John and Dad both felt the need to teach the girls some American slang. Dad taught them to say "Okie dokie" when they agreed with something, while John tried to teach them as much profanity as he could, starting with "Asshole." One of them cheerfully said "Okie dokie, asshole!!" while we were at Max's Place for dinner. And then we set about trying to describe what "asshole" meant by telling them about Donald Trump. John said he was a very rich business man, and they said, "Like Bill Gates?" And we said "Yes! Like a bad Bill Gates! Donald Trump is like a bad Bill Gates." We had a lot of fun with ESL. 

John and I took the dogs to Hoosier National Forest for a hike. Walking really helps my motion sickness calm down, so I walked them a few times a day for the last few days we were in town.

Toby gets hot and tired fairly quickly on a hot day like this, but Molly could go for hours.

 John got to help Mark with Ether Game just before we left town, and I decided to take the dogs on an evening walk around campus during the show. I felt Toby should see where we got married.

It'll be sad not to have wedding planning to do in Bloomington, since it may mean we travel there less frequently. John and I are both so glad my parents' moved there. And I think Molly and Toby are, too.


Honeymooning in Asheville Part 4

During the first couple of rainy days in Asheville, I would look at the forecast for Saturday and think yes. Saturday will be my day. My voice will be back and it's not supposed to rain. And later on I figured I wouldn't be (as) motion sick by then. So we planned a long hike in the Blue Ridge mountains. Our first stop was the Visitor's Center in the Blue Ridge Parkway, a sort of national park highway that extends through several states with various scenic spots and places to hike and be outdoorsy along the way. I was impressed with the resources and quality of the visitor's center, shown below.

A park ranger steered us toward a trail that led to a waterfall, and after consulting the map, we were on our way. Unfortunately, the Blue Ridge Parkway winds quite a bit, and we determined after a few minutes that we should abandon our original idea and try a different path. It wasn't a hard decision to make, since we saw plenty of places along the road with parked cars and trailheads. We decided to try one of the trails along the road and hoped it led somewhere interesting. It was marked with white paint on the trees per usual, but we never saw anything indicating how far we'd gone, or where we were going. 

Most of the trail was wide and clear enough that we could have run on it, but it was also a pretty steep grade. We hiked for over an hour in one direction and then turned back. Based on the tree line and all the climbing we kept thinking that the top MUST be close. But we never came to any kind of look out point or clearing. The path just seemed to keep going. We veered off on a smaller path near the top to see if there was a view. The only thing we came upon was an abandoned camp site that didn't look too old to me and the whole thing kind of gave me the creeps. So back down the mountain we went, setting a timer on my phone to remind us to drink from our fuel belts every 15 minutes.

We bought sandwiches at City Bakery before heading out and ate them when we returned to the car. We were both hungry and tired by that point, and those sandwiches were pretty much the best thing I'd ever eaten.

Before leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway we stopped at the Folk Art Museum. 

First we looked at funny things in the gift shop, like these 3" musical instruments. 

I jokingly suggested that we buy one of these hand carved wooden hats for our future dog and John pointed out that they cost about $95.

Then we saw exhibits of folksy art, like cornhusks made into dolls and other figurines.

Large moose statue.

Then it was time to drive a little further to Black Mountain, NC to taste beer at Pisgah Brewing. 

Their bourbon barrel stout was also delicious, and I was happy that it came in 4 oz pours. This might have been John's favorite brewery, but it's hard to choose a favorite in a place like this. Like a lot of the breweries we visited, Pisgah is basically a giant warehouse with the garage door open. Across the parking lot they had a music venue with a little hippie festival set up. Those tents had booths with people selling soap and petitioning to legalize marijuana. You know, the usual. 

John knew of another brewery in Black Mountain so we left Pisgah to try to look around the little town, and we took turns sitting in this rocking chair at the visitor's center.

I know you're thinking, "Black Mountain? Like, the Black Mountain?"
And the answer is yes, it's the same place where John Cage and his friends started Black Mountain college. We saw a historical marker about it in the downtown area. 

We walked around and found a bakery where John got a pastry. 

I offered to keep driving if he wanted to taste more beer, but I think Pisgah did him in. John was officially out done by the breweries of North Carolina. 

Once we had returned to Asheville and washed the mud off, we went to Salsa's for dinner. We hemmed and hawed for a while before choosing this place, and we were so glad we did. It's like you can throw a dart at a map of Asheville and find a good restaurant. We both had an enchilada dish that was out of this world. 

The next morning we had one final southern breakfast at Mayfel's, a New Orlean's style place that had some of the best vegan sausage I've ever tried and heavenly grits. It was a great end to our stay in Asheville. 

And so our trip to NC came to a close. We both feel like we just scratched the surface in terms of food, beer, and hiking in the area. I hope we can go back!