Sunday, June 22, 2008

All good things come to an end.

Sunday, June 22, 2008, Jacksonville, Texas

Here I sit in my worn out recliner, laptop on lap, trying to think of just what is important to report in this, the last, installment of my trip log. We have been home less than ten hours at this writing.

First order of business: Go on your own adventure. Words cannot express the sheer joy the trip brought to me. All the logical reasons not to do such a stupid thing melt into absurd excuses when I think of what I've experienced in the past three weeks.

I am so glad I stopped in Logan, New Mexico, to get the exhaust system tightened. Had I not, I would never have met the delightful couple who have been running the A-1 Muffler Shop and gas station since 1974. Providence put them there for me, to experience, to add to my life, to treasure forever.

Driving into Taos in the snow, in June, will be with me from this time forward. Three of the first four days on the road were driven in snow. In fact, Yellowstone was closed to us on the first day we got there; we camped in the Grand Tetons in a tent-cabin; logs on two side, the remainder was canvas. It had a wood stove. That was a good thing; it got pretty darned cold that night.

I saw the sun rise over the Great Slave Lake. In fact, I saw several beautiful sunrises, all the same, all different.

I saw grand vistas so numerous they came to be expected. I saw the Rocky mountains stretching along the entire western horizon as we drove south along Canada's Highway 2. I saw single rocks so big they covered acres. I saw one rock that towers over the surrounding terrain 1200 feet; Devil's Tower.

I saw Old Faithful spout into the fog. The hot water, vapors, and steam mixed and danced with the low lying cloud until the geyser was completely lost in the mist. Most everyone around me moaned about how they had expected more. I was mesmerized by the scene.

I saw five rainbows in three weeks. Did you know that rainbows in the far north are more tightly arched than those closer to the equator? I didn't. I do now.

I saw more large mammals than I can recount. Some I had only ever seen before now in Disney films from the fifties. I saw funny little gopher guys. I saw huge prarie dogs. I saw foxes, wolves, and coyotes. I saw geese and ducks and eagles and falcons and, well, you get the idea; I saw birds on the wing.

I saw mile after mile of trees. I saw spruce, pine, beech, aspen, and more that I cannot name. Did you know that the trees on the north shore of the Great Slave Lake are much smaller than their cousins on the South Shore? I didn't. I do now.

I crossed the McKenzie River. I crossed the Missouri River. I crossed the Yellowstone River. I crossed so many beautiful and important waterways I cannot count them all. I saw waterfalls large and small.

I saw the clouds alit by the rising moon as if on fire.

I met people so diverse from one another, some in the same spot, that I was made to realize just how narrow my perspective can be.

I met Inuits.

I met a lady generous to a fault. I met another lady who loved her lot in life and wanted to share it all with anyone who would listen.

I met a young man who lives in a tent and will let tomorrow take care of itself. I met an even younger man with a plan for making a fortune before he turns thirty. These two were sitting side-by-side in the coffee house in Yellowknife.

I encountered a French speaking waitress in Saskatchewan who was unbelieveably rude and obnoxious. She was so rude that Tyler wanted to leave immediately. I wanted to stay. I wondered what on earth could piss-off a woman so much that she would deliberately attempt to drive away the only paying customers in the place. And, it was deliberate; no one could possibly be that rude without trying. Maybe there was some life changing event going on at that very moment we were not privy to. Maybe she had just received word of a tragic loss. Maybe her help for the day never arrived; she was running the place alone. Maybe, just maybe, she simply was a rude bitch.

I stood in the tracks of Lewis and Clark. I saw a frontier fort, founded by the American Fur Company. There I listened to an explanation of the life of the traders on both sides of the deals.

I saw Mt. Rushmore. Even more impressive to me, I saw the Crazy Horse Memorial. I visited the Motorcycle Museum and ate lunch in Sturgis, South Dakota. I drove through the Custer State Park. I cannot tell you how beautiful that park is; it has to be experienced to be believed.

I met the lady who holds the Guiness Record for the largest collection of Teddy bears.

I ate buffalo and muskox and caribou and char. I ate some awful concoction in Nebraska that was supposed to pass as Mexican food. I had the best salad I have ever eaten in Canmore. Go to the Bear Paw pub and ask for the Thai Noodle Salad. I promise you will not regret it. I had a really good Greek salad at Dale's house. I had a kick-ass breakfast at Michael's in Taos. I had no digestive problems during the entire trip, though I ate more abundantly and with greater diversity than I have ever before.

I attended the Mid-Sommar Festival in Lindsborg, Kansas. I listened to a man my senior recount his life in Lindsborg as a young man. I heard about a machinist who lived there who was so colorful he could have sprung from the pages of a novel. He made a tiny car. He built a small steam locomotive from scratch because he liked to take kids on rides around his tiny railroad. He was, by the accounts of the story teller, such a gifted machinist that Boeing and General Motors and others came to him for the patterns to make the parts they needed. I saw Swedish Folk dancers.

I mingled with like-minded Volvo owners.

I saw the end of the road on the Ingram Trail. (There is a beer can in the lake there, what a shame; that too will stay with me forever.)

I drove to Yellowknife.

We are home two full days earlier than I had anticipated. That is a good thing. I was ready to be home. Tyler was a patient passenger but I was not. I snapped at him several times on this trip. It was never his fault, it was mine. The last time it happened, Tyler was driving and we were talking. He didn't see the turtle on the roadway and crushed it with the passenger side tires. Smashed turtles on the roadway have always been a pet peeve for me; I have never understood how anyone could run over a turtle. It isn't as if they dart out in front of you. Tyler did not intentionally crush the critter, he simply did not see it. I nearly melted down. I yelled some incoherent babble and I told him to stop the car, right now, I will drive. It took me hours to calm down. Stupid? Yes. My outrage did not help the dead turtle. It only served to add to the building tension of three weeks of more togetherness than either of us had prepared for. Tyler, this is a public apology for my tirades. I am sorry.

Don't misunderstand. It wasn't as bad as all that. Do not think that we spent the trip in indignant silence. We did not. For the most part we shared some great experiences. The one area we could not agree on at any point on the trip was the need to stop for pictures.

I was a bit of a curmudgeon about stopping for photos. I regarded the stops as unnecessary delays in the day's travel. I would usually, grudingly, do so. I know that Tyler wanted to stop more often but remained silent because we had just stopped five minutes prior.

I have never been a photographer. I have traveled through Europe, North Africa, and most of North America. The only pictures I ever took were of the pyramids at Geza. (I have no idea what happened to those pictures.) I have my memories and I don't think anyone would be interested in seeing photos that could not possibly convey the power or the absurity or the awe of the moment.

Tyler is a photographer by training and avocation. He believes in his heart that the photo will capture a moment in time. He did capture some remarkable images. Trust me; he did not catch the moment. No photographer could. If you did not witness the "moon fire" of the rising moon under the storm clouds of Kansas night before last, no picture would have stopped time for you to see it at a later date. It was dynamic, evolving, beautiful, awe inspiring. A photo would have, at best, been an interesting play of color; nothing more.

Tyler has not yet added up the gas receipts for the return trip. When he does, and he must to square our ledgers, I will update the MPG spreadsheet. Beyond that, I don't foresee any more updates to this trip journal.

Good bye, readers. Thank you so much for sharing my little personal adventure.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Black Hills of South Dakota


Greetings from the Motel 8 located just down the road from the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. We chose to spend the money on this room last night because of the threatening weather. There was still hail in the parking lot when we pulled in here last night.

Despite my vow made prior to departure to not sleep outside during severe weather we were caught out in a maelstrom of significant strength night before last. We were camped at the KOA located at the gate to Devil's Tower National Monument. There was no sign of inclement weather when we pulled in to the KOA. If there had been I would have gotten a Kamping Kabin. We tented instead. About 01:00 all hell broke loose. Rapid and successive lightening strikes, luckily not near enough to concern me were followed by heavy rain. With the rains, the wind intensified. As the storm seemed content to stay right over us, the winds continued to get stronger. I had awakened briefly, recognized the sounds for what they were and went back to sleep. At some point the winds were strong enough to break a tent pole on my tent and on Tyler's tent. Tyler's tent was not pegged. (Lesson learned according to him.) With the tent-come-sleeping pod come bathtub filling with water, I was left with no option but to get into the car. Tyler was already there and had been for about half an hour. My tent lasted a bit longer against the gale than did his. If the storm had not lasted so long (at least 90 minutes by my reckoning), I may well have been able to finish out the night sleeping soundly. Alas, 'twas not to be. I did fall asleep sitting upright in the driver's seat. I slept for about 2 hours. Tyler has never had to sleep in a barracks environment. If he had my snoring would not have kept him awake. Join the Navy. See the world. Learn to sleep through (almost) anything.

I just realized that it has been several days since I have updated these pages. Let's see, where did I leave off? I believe we were bedded down near Edmonton, with Calgary scheduled for the next morning.

Canada's Highway 2 from Edmonton to Calgary is a freeway. With no stops necessary we made it to Calgary by about noon at a leisurely pace. Our first stop was at the U-Haul Rental store. Imagine my surprise when I was told that even though trailers were in the lot, none could be rented one-way. It seems there was a shortage of trailers in southern Alberta and until this could be rectified, no one-way rentals would to be allowed. For emphasis, the lady behind the counter pointed to the email from the corporate office forbidding one-way rentals until further notice.

Time for situational analysis and action plan modification.

I bought a top rack bag to house lighter cargo. The cost was one-sixth that of a trailer. No preparations needed. No wiring. No worrying for the next two thousand or more miles about the appendage dragging behind the mule. With the bulky items out of the cargo area there should be room for the booty I was about to acquire from Dale. This was an altogether better solution that Tyler pitched endlessly for the two days prior to arrival in Calgary. Being an old dog, my trick was to drag a trailer. Tyler's idea was (and proves to be still) a better idea. Don't tell him I said so; I'll not hear the end of it.

Dale and Beth fed us again. I should say, Beth fed us. Dale and I were loading the third member and transmission I bought from him. By the time we were finished supper was ready. Our meal was highlighted by beer soaked grilled chicken and a marvelous Greek salad. I can't believe they eat like this every day, they would all be as large as me. ;-)

I met Dale's friends and serious Volvo fanatics Matt and Ian. Matt had his young daughter with him. She was a bashful toddler of about 18 months or so, whose name I have already forgotten; forgive me, Matt. I have never had a good memory for names. Beth occupied the baby. Or maybe it was the other way around, I couldn't really tell. At any rate, the men folk sat in the kitchen and swapped tales.

Matt wanted to know why. That is, why would I spend the time and money to go to Yellowknife? I had no answer for him. It is not really a rational move by any measure I can think of. Because I wanted "to see the end of the road" seems a bit lame to me, after the fact. It was a grand adventure to be sure. I am glad I did it. But, I cannot justify the expense or time separated from my family to do it. I do not regret the trip; only the time lost with my family and the expense of it all. If I were wealthy the second consideration would not be a factor. If I was heir to Bill Gates, the first concern would still annoy me. Regardless, it is done.

Ian is building a teardrop trailer. His will be more elaborate than my similar plan. He has a leg up on me because he is a wood worker. I can cut a straight line. Sometimes it takes two tries, but I can cut a straight line. His trailer will be based on the popular model that was available in the fifties. It will be complete with a kitchen and lighting. I am a bit envious. But then I remember the goal of my trailer is to be lightweight enough to trail behind my VW trike, carry camping equipment, and give me a place to sleep out of the weather, and I am consoled.

After business was concluded for the evening, I retired. On awakening I sat and talked to Beth for awhile while she and Ben readied themselves for the day. When Tyler was ready, we hit the road. Man what a long road it was on that day. We traveled across Alberta west-to-east into Saskatchewan. At about 16:00 I had had enough of the eastward track and decided to cross the border at the next opportunity. We crossed into the US at about 17:30. There was no repeat of the entry search so we were only five minutes crossing into our own country. We traveled about another hour and a half. Our accommodations for the night were at a small motel in the Montana crossroads town of Culbertson. It was, by far, the nastiest place we have encountered along our trail. I would not stay there again. But it was late, we were tired, and it is now history.

Next morning we beat it due east into North Dakota, swung south and made it to Devil's Tower. The remainder of the trip, up to the point of this writing, you know already. Well, there was a stop in Sturgis, SD. We saw the Motorcycle Museum and had a good lunch. There, now you know it all.

Stay tuned. More to come...

Monday, June 16, 2008

1100 Miles South of Yellowknife

If this post seems like a hodge-podge of subjects and thoughts, it is. I haven't had internet access. This single post covers three days.


The object of my desire is now in the rear view mirror. We departed Yellowknife at 03:30 this morning. Why so early? Well, I was awake when Tyler came in from a night on the town at 03:00. I knew that if he laid down to sleep it would be noon before we got on the road. So, I sheparded him into the car and he slept while I drove the 9 and a half hours to High Level.
Yellowknife is what I expected but, then again, it is much different. There is Old Town where the first populace settled. It had a comfortable feel for me; very much as I would have wanted things if I lived here even today. Then there is New Town, where the modern and very progressive citizens thrive. New Town is a city, home of the Territorial Parliment. The face the city fathers want to project to the rest of the world.

There was a great little coffee shop in the Northern Telecom building where many people from all walks of life gathered for coffee, conversation, and people watching. We spent nearly three hours there as Tyler used the internet connection to upload pictures to his site.

Old Town had houses and shacks dating back to the 1950s interspersed between cutting edge architectural gems. Our couch surfing hostess rents one of the shacks. It is in the back yard of a house that looks like it is may be twenty years junior to the shack. The whole place is for sale for over $300K. For that princely sum you would get a lot with a hugh rock behind it; the buildings would have to come down to be replaced by new construction to justify the investment. The top of the huge rock behind the property is currently occupied by a tribute marker to the bush pilots. It is the highest spot in Old Town and once supported the municipal water tank.

Leaving out of Yellowknife we encountered one car that passed me leaving and two coming in to town. I saw a couple of Inuits crossing the road in an old pickup. There was also a trucker sleeping in a roadside pullout. That was the total count of vehicles for the 200 miles to Ft. Providence.

The one image that sticks in my mind from the morning of departure was a tiny grave. It was so small it had to be that of child. It was in the middle of a marsh on the only patch of ground large enough to support the cross and picket fence that outlined the grave. Behind the marshy area was a home. From the appearance of the place, I would say an Inuit family lived there, but that is purely speculation based on my limited knowledge and preconceived notions.

The sun was, at 04:00, just above the horizon and it struck that white cross and picket fence with an orange-red intensity that made it stand out from the background of muted grays and greens of the marshy surroundings. There was a light on in the home behind the grave. My mind filled-in the details. So can yours.

06/15 -- Father's Day in the US and Canada.

We left High Level at about 09:30. The drive was uneventful. The trees are much larger down here than they are up in Yellowknife; perhaps an indication of just how severe the winters are on the edge of the arctic circle compared to the south shore of the Great Slave Lake.

My only regret is that I did not charter a plane to overfly the tundra. I should have. But, money is money and everything comes at a cost. I simply did not have enough money to charter a plane in Yellowknife.

Austin, my son, called me from his personal adventure (with his grandfather, exploring Colorado) to wish me happy Father's Day. We made 600 miles today and I got to talk to Austin. It was a good day.


Good Morning from Leduc, AB. Leduc is a small town just south of Edmonton. It is the location of the Edmonton International Airport. We passed through the city of Edmonton last night before stopping for the day; I didn't want to deal with the morning commuters this morning.

Edmonton is a beautiful city. At least the portions of it we saw are beautiful. The place is squeaky clean. There are parks everywhere. Bike and walking paths followed every route we took. The city appears to be in the middle of a boom cycle. I wish we had some time to explore the city more. But time is a thing I don't have in quantity. I've got to get back to work.

Today we will only need to make about 250 miles to get to Calgary. I will spend some time trying to get a replacement tire for the worn right rear. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that we had to move that tire from the front to the rear because of extreme wear brought about by worn front suspension components. Well, it might and it might not make the trip home. I have been inspecting it every morning and every gas stop since that day in the Tetons. I am beginning to get a little uncomfortable with the wear along the outside edge of the tire; the tread is gone in several spots. I think just for piece of mind, I am going to replace it.

Also today, I need to rent a U-Haul trailer to carry the parts I am buying from Dale. With the large and bulky rear end and transmission, I just don't have the real estate inside the Mule to haul the parts and the camping gear. I could do one or the other, but not both. So, U-Haul is necessary.

As much as I would like to put down some miles I think we will again stay with Dale tonight. It doesn't make much sense to get back on the road at a late hour only to stop again before crossing into the USA. So, we will get moving in earnest tomorrow.

Hungry for more pictures? See Tyler's Blog. I'll warn you here and now; the site is image intense and slow to load on a poor connection.

Stay tuned. More to come...

Friday, June 13, 2008

City of Yellowknife

Hopefully Tyler will upload some pictures taken yesterday on the trip to the end of the road. The Ingram Trail runs for 70Km out along the north shore of the Great Slave Lake. The end of that road is truly the end for an automobile. But, in winter months the ice truckers continue out into the bush to supply the diamond mines located about 350Km further on. So, now I can say I went to the end of the road.

We camped at a NWT Park, Prelude Lake, about 1/2 way back toward town from the end of the road. It was a really nice campsite with a huge rock that runs all the way to the shoreline of the lake as the main feature. We sat and drank gin and tonic and talked for about an hour or so with Bruce the park attendant. Bruce seems to be representative of most of the younger folks we've encountered here in the far north. Most are idealistic free spirits who have found some soothing influence here where the winters are hard and long and the summers short and mosquito infested. Bruce works the park in exchange for shelter and a stipend. He does own his own cabin somewhere on the lake but for the summer his neighbors are using his cabin while he stays in the park. I reckon come winter Bruce will reoccupy his cabin. He told me that his cabin cost him about $95K a few years back. That is typical of what we've seen here. Houses in town, double-wide mobile homes, are listed in the local paper for $320K. I cannot imagine paying that for a prefab home but the folks here accept it as a part of life in Yellowknife.

The town is divided into Old Town and New Town. Old town is where the Wild Cat cafe is located. That little cafe is where we had lunch before heading out to the end of the road yesterday. I had Muskox and Caribou stew over poutine. Poutine is apparently as common in Canada as are french fries in the USA. The ingredients are fried potatoes and melted cheese covered with a significant helping of salt; a heart attack in waiting. It was good though. And now I can say I've eaten muskox and caribou stew. For those curious about the taste, I can only say it does not taste like chicken. ;-)

Tonight we will stay in a shack here in town. Tyler arranged for this through the Couch Surfer's website. (I'll provide a link later.) Tomorrow bright and early, we head south. We will do the 300 miles or so to High level and hopefully alight early enough to get some clothes washed. Sunday morning we will contine on to at least Edmonton and finally on Monday on to Calgary to pick up parts at Dale's house.

Stay tuned. More to come...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good Morning from Yellowknife, NWT

I'm here. I would like to report I am ecstatic or disappointed or nonchalant or something. The truth is I was exhausted when we rolled in last night. We got a room at the Red Coach Inn, recommended by some ladies running a truck stop down in Enterprise, NWT. I was mostly numb upon arrival.

I just woke up and so have not explored the town or surroundings yet. I will let everyone know how I feel about attaining the object of my desires on another post.

It occurs to me that some of the Volvo folks reading along might want to know how the Mule is doing. She is fine. We lost a belt coming down a steep grade in Banff. We have been running the alternator and water pump on one belt since then. I do have two new belts but they are 10mm shorter than the ones currently installed and so will have to be mounted as a pair when the time comes. It is not as simple as slipping the belts on. The power steering has to be loosened to get the belt off the A/C because the alternator belts live behind that one. The alternator has to come down to slip the belts around the pulley; it cannot be done with the alternator mounted. It took me the better part of an hour to come to that conclusion when I mounted the alternator before the trip.

The tire on the right rear once resided on the right front. That tire has cupping and capping wear along the outside edge of the tire. Besides making for a really rough ride, I was afraid it was going to wear through to the cord if left alone. We moved that tire to the rear down in the Grand Tetons National Park before we hit the road for leg to Yellowstone and thence into Montana. I am keeping a close eye on that but I think we will be at least back into the states before it becomes an issue.

I am going to post this little bit now. I will add more later today. Right now I have to tend to the coffee.

OK, I'm back in front of the keyboard. I have made breakfast and cleaned up the dishes, showered, packed and repacked the car and Tyler just now rolling out of bed at 09:45. I'm ready to find out what the town has to offer. I've waited for all these years, I reckon another hour won't matter a hill of beans.

Back to the Volvo for a few minutes...

A couple of weeks prior to leaving on this trip the Volvo exhibited a high idle condition for a short while. It cleared itself on the next restart. Last night on the way in, it did the same thing. I can only assume the Idle Air valve is sticking open. I say assume because I really have not investigated it all. This is another of those items to be addressed when it becomes an issue, if ever.

The MPG has been pretty good. Even though it calculates out to 24MPG, in actuality it is closer to 22MPG; the odometer and speedometer both read about 10% high. There is still the smell of fuel under boost as it has had since I got the car. After much debate with Tyler about the cause of the fuel smell, he has convinced me to replace the seals on the injectors. It could be the seals. The problem I have with trying to locate the source of this fuel smell is that I can find on evidence of fuel washing the area around the leak. In every instance I can recall when I've had a fuel leak it was apparent once I found it because the area adjacent was clean as a whistle. I dunno. I'll get to it when I get to it. I've got to have seals first.

Today we will go out on the Ingram Trail. It runs 70km out to the NE from Yellowknife. The terminus of Ingram Trail is indeed the end of the road.

Stay tuned. More to come...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Canadian Rockies

With about 900 miles remaining between me and my destination I am anxious to get underway today. Tyler has requested a "sleep in" day. I haven't awakened him earlier than 06:00 on the entire trip. But he claims to need the rest. He has until 08:00. The Mule will be packed and have her nose pointed north by 08:45.

On the day before yesterday we left out of Great Falls, Montana at around 07:30. We had a bit of a scare with the alternator not regulating early-on in the day but I never did find the cause and running the headlights on high beam keeps the voltage down to a livable level. It almost has to be a loose wire at the back of the alternator; it comes and goes. I will deal with it more fully when and if necessary.

We got to the Canadian border at Sweetgrass, AB, at about 10:30. For whatever reason we were chosen to join the select group of those who get searched. We were there for 2 hours and 40 minutes. Most of that time was spent waiting. The actual search took them about 20 minutes or so. They had the Mule pretty well unpacked by the time they decided there was nothing to find. They never searched the car proper, only our bags and part of our camping equipment. I have no idea what they thought they would find but I was certain that I had nothing to hide. It was merely inconvenient because I had an appointment with one of the Brickboarders for early afternoon and the delay put us way behind.

We alit at Dale Walmsley's home. I met Dale in virtual space on the Brickboard and on Turbobricks. We had arranged to meet on my way to Yellowknife to socialize. I will stop again on the return leg to pickup some parts Dale has for me. Dale and his wife Beth opened their home to us, fed us, and generally made us feel welcome. His sons are sociable teens; a rarity in my experience. We had a great bar-b-que dinner. Conversation about Volvos and alternative country music filled the evening. It was a most enjoyable visit. I tried to hang with Dale and Tyler until the very end of the evening but found myself nodding by 23:00 and so retired.

We left Dale's house at a few minutes after seven. I kind of rushed Tyler out the door because I knew that Dale had to get to work and with us bending his ear he was not going to make it work on time.

We headed out toward the mountains and made good time. We stopped to wash clothes in Canmore, AB. Canmore appears to be a center for tree huggers, extreme sports addicts, and pot heads. It does have a lot to recommend it to the traveller and I recommend you spend at least some time there should you travel this area. We washed our clothes, exchanged money, bought groceries, and had lunch at a delightful micro brewery pub; the Bear Claw. It claims to have been named among the 100 best micro breweries in the world. I don't know about that but they do have a fine Pilsner on tap. Try the Thai salad.

I am sitting here trying to think of a way to describe the experience of driving from Canmore to Jasper. Words will not convey the absolute majesty of the scenes that appear in the windshield around every bend in the road. Pictures cannot capture the magnitude and awe inspiring vistas. We saw a black bear, several elk, mountain goats, big horn sheep, geese, ducks, eagles, and a little gopher looking guy that ran with an unusual gate wherein he popped his head up to get a better look at where he was going. We saw glaciers (plural). We drove up hill and down, through snow and sun, sometimes at the same time. The woods and lakes alone make the trip worth the time and effort. But the mountains are the stars of this show. A seemingly endless array of shapes and colors and textures and just plain beauty presented for over 100 miles, one after another. By the end of the day you become saturated and desensitized to the beauty. When every nonchalant glance in any direction provides beauty before only read about the mind closes out the splendor of it all just to process more mundane tasks like driving.

We probably had an average speed of about 30MPH. It was worth it. If ever you get a chance to visit the Banff area do it without hesitation. You will not be disappointed.

This morning there is a perfectly flat gray overcast sky. It is raining, has rained most of the night, and looks as if it may be with us all day today. We are in Hinton, Alberta. This was about as far as I wanted to go yesterday after leaving Dale's house and getting super saturated with the experience of the Canadian Rockies. Today will hopefully be a mileage day. One day and a wakeup until Yellowknife.

BTW, for those interested in the gas log: I will update the spreadsheet in Yellowknife. Tyler has been keeping a running tally in his spiral notebook but I haven't been able to get that information over to the spreadsheet. I should have time to do that in Yellowknife.

Stay tuned. More to come...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Great Falls, Montana

Good Saturday morning from the Big Sky Country.

As most of the country swelters in record breaking temperatures, we have been snowed upon for three of the four days we have been traveling. I must live a charmed life. ;-)

I have only a few minutes this morning. We have to get rolling to make Calgary by any decent hour.

Because this update is so rushed I will save the major thoughts about our experiences so far for another post once I get to Yellowknife. There is just way too much to tell and no time to do it.

For this morning, I just want to get across one point.

Yesterday we stopped at Old Faithful. There were a few hundred people standing around the barrier that keeps the stupid and the brave away from the thermal vent. The appointed time came, the geyser did what geysers do. I stood and watched the hot water and steam mixing with the snow fall and the fog and listening. I was not listening to the geyser. I was listening to the people.

The number one remark I heard was, "Is that it?". Even Tyler remarked that he was disappointed.

We had just witnessed a truly remarkable thing. This geyser spouts it's contents about 70 ft. into the air at semi-regular intervals. It has been doing this for as long as anyone can know. This is an awesome thing. The mechanism at work builds pressure in an antechamber until some block, plug, or something can no longer contain it. When that critical pressure is reached, Old Faithful vents for about 5 minutes. That in itself is enough of a mystery to fuel my sense of wonder.

Because so many people hear so much about the geyser, they expect more. They want, to quote Marvin the Martian, an "Earth shattering kaboom". When you come to Yellowstone please do not let your preconceived notions, formed by media hype and well meaning mentors, cloud your perception of beauty. Take it for what it is: marvelous, mysterious, and wonderful. It is not, and never has been, a towering display of power.

Stay tuned. More to come...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Snow in June

Finally a little update as day three dawns.

The trip is well and truly underway now. As I write this I am looking at the sun coming up over some hills just outside of Grand Junction, Colorado. I see purple, orange, blue of several shades, and what can only be described as the color of a ripe peach. In the length of time it took to write that I can now add orange sherbet the pallet.

Packing the car proved to take a bit longer than I had anticipated. We departed my house at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. That was only about 3 hours later than my "planned" departure time. That has set the pace for the entire trip so far.

(Add neon red to the array of colors in this sunrise. Gorgeous.)

Killough Monument

Our first stop was Killough Monument.

The monument marks the approximate spot of the most deadly Indian attack in East Texas. Eighteen people were killed or captured into slavery. Some were never found so it is hard to say just exactly what the fate of some may have been. The monument is located about seven miles from my home. If you ever stop by to see Killough Massacre Monument, let me know; you are welcome at my house.

(The sun is almost above the rim of the hills. The colors are muted. The clouds have just passed from pale yellow to dingy white.)

The first day was a meandering path across central Texas to avoid the DFW Metroplex. It took a little longer but was well worth the time. We stopped for fresh veggies and peaches at a little stand in Athens, TX. Very friendly lady who overpriced her wares by about 40%. That's OK. We needed the fresh squash and she needed the money.

We passed through the wind farms that stretch from Abilene to Lubbock. An entire service industry has grownup in the area to supply the needs of the contractors building the giant turbines on a stick. I heard on the Wall Street Journal Morning Report just a few weeks ago that Texas is the number one producer of wind generated power in the US at 600 Megawatts. At the rate they are building out here in the panhandle that figure is going to grow substantially.

The first day ended at Post, Texas in a Budget Inn. We had been fitting a very stiff wind all day. The air conditioner in the Mule will never win any prizes for efficiency. It is barely adequate to compensate for the Texas heat but we glad to have the cool air it could provide.

Cadillac Ranch was on the agenda for a visit on the second morning. We came. We saw. We photographed.

In Logan, NM, we stopped at the A1 Muffler Shop to attend to a broken exhaust hanger. That stop turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The older couple running the A1 Muffler Shop were friendly, gracious, and gregarious to a fault. The old man fixed the drooping exhaust, filled the transmission with ATF, and calculated that I owed him $32. I gave him forty. It was money well spent. I needed the repair and they desperately needed the money. Experiences like this are why I travel on old mules along paths others shun.

We stayed the second night in Cimmaron Canyon State Park. $10 to throw up a tent. It is about 80 miles from Taos so we had not traveled as far as I would have liked on the second day.

The third day dawned overcast and cold. The closer we got to Taos, the colder it got. It started to snow. It snowed heavily. It snowed in every mountain pass all morning long. It turned to rain before we got Grand Junction. This morning is beautiful.

(The sun is fully up now. We have to get on the road. More later)

Here are some pictures of wind turbines and cogs. More pictures and words later.