The Sir Isaac Brock Bison Burger

Trip Start Sep 02, 2013
Trip End Dec 05, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Nebraska
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

As the Mr Henry Institute starts to seriously move west across the north of the USA, one thing is becoming clear. The northern hemisphere's moving into winter is manifesting itself beyond Graniteville, Vermont. For that reason, Mrs Henry and myself are currently not encamped but enmotelled in Valentine, Nebraska. Could travel destinations ever be more romantically polarised by name? No, dear donors, they couldn’t, but they do have one thing in common.

It’s cold. "Bloody cold", as Mrs Henry prefers to phrase it.

To summarise the facts of the Mr Henry Institute’s expedition since our previous post, the Institute called into Niagara Falls, Chicago specifically, Illinois generally, Ohio and Iowa and is now poised to 'do’ the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

No wonder we are feeling a bit tired (“Bloody tired!”), but we will keep going in the interest of scientific discovery. It’s a burden, but, you know, we will do our job. Old Mr Henry has impressed on us the need for data to test his theory that people living through brutal winters are taciturn to prevent loss of body heat through the mouth opening. What can I say about the pater’s theory? It’s cold, but Mrs Henry certainly hasn’t acted to preserve her body heat, chatting away as if she were lolling about pool-side in the grounds of a Bali hotel.

Over to Niagarra Falls. In a country that commercialises the be-jesus out of everything, to park for free when visiting one of its foremost iconic sights may have to be rated as superior to the sight in question itself. Yes, dear donors, the parking at Niagarra Falls was unbelievable. We parked the Egg and said – because we are slowly beginning to speak like Americans: “We dee-yust key-ant believe this!” We were reluctant to move away from the parking lot, dear donors!

However, when we did, we were impressed. The Canadian side of the Falls is supposed to be superior (and it is), but if you start from the American side, you don’t know that. It’s just hearsay at that point. Being able to walk along the rapids up to the point where the water almost lazily slips over the edge of the American Falls, well, you dee-yust key-ant believe it!

Because the Canadian side offers a complete view of the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls, it does much better commercially. The American side has a few forlorn souvenir shops with tired-looking, gum-chewing, seriously overweight shop assistants, the elbow of the arm on the counter supporting their head. The streets around these shops consist of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. It’s a slum, frankly.

So after enjoying the American side, Mrs Henry and myself repaired across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side and had lunch in a restaurant right on top of the Horseshoe Falls. Mrs Henry chose the chowder, I opted for the Sir Isaac Brock Bison Burger. I asked the waitress who Sir Isaac Brock was. She did not know. She asked her supervisor.

Sir Isaac Brock KB was responsible for defending Canada against the United States in the early nineteenth century. Brock was prepared when the unexpected War of 1812 broke out and defeated American invasion efforts. His relationship with the bison was something the supervisor could not quite explain, but, with a bit of mayonaise, Sir Isaac tasted good anyway, and how fitting that the Canadians should symbolise outdoing the Americans at the Falls by serving a Brock burger! What could be more cutting?

Mrs Henry and I returned to the American side and the Egg, which had clearly enjoyed a well-earned rest, albeit in a slum, going by the way that its ageing but still powerful V8 engine thrummed. We passed under Buffalo’s Peace Bridge, trucks lining up to pass into Canada, Lake Ontario a-glitter as far as the eye could see. Americans do structural steel so well. In a previous post, I mentioned Boston’s Tobin Bridge and Fenway Park Stadium, but what about Chicago’s Skyway and what about Chicago’s train system? There isn’t a city in the world that would tolerate an elevated train system in its business district. Not even Sydney, eventually, and Sydney’s Monorail was well-maintained! Chicago’s Loop is a heap of rusted metal that looks as though it has been screwed together by a talented four-year old and not been painted since. The combination of decay, functionality and sheer cookiness of Chicago’s Loop is a marvel. Chicago also put on a Marathon for the benefit of the Mr Henry Institute and in return Mrs Henry and I assisted the local Nike outlet (Nike World, or Nike Universe, or something like that – they’re on Main Street, some Avenue or other) in making losing participants (which in a marathon there are many of!) feel like winners.

Illinois, Ohio and Iowa are reputed to consist of cornfields only. This is true, but the subtext (that these states are boring) is erroneous. The monotony of vastness, the vastness of monotony, has a nobility and thrill all its own. Roadtrippers will know what I mean.

The cold has driven the Institute indoors. There is talk about road closures and three feet of snow right where the Institute wants to go. Grizzly bears are reported to be in a tizz because they haven’t quite bulked up yet and winter is already here!

Holed up in our motel, we make the best of things. It is good not to have to worm your way out of the Egg to make your way to the bath house. It’s good to have a TV, or it would be if there was anything to watch. Apart from a baseball game, which left Mrs Henry and I wondering whether professional baseball, like the NYPD, might also be a work creation scheme for fat people (check out David Ortiz, top batter or whatever they call blokes with a bat in baseball, on Google Images!), TV is crap. Mrs Henry is currently talking to the TV (“Bloody crap!”), but try getting the remote off her! You have a better chance of separating a grizzly bear from an Isaac Brock Bison Burger.
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SMM on

Most unusual for the Canadians to be so provocative as to name a hamburger after a Canadian soldier who gained his claim to fame by inflicting a defeat on the dreaded Americans. A bit like biting the hand that feeds them.

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