Thursday, August 26, 2010

Colossal, mind numbing stupidity

I’ve lived long enough to know that there are a lot of stupid people in this world.  They in fact likely outnumber the intelligent folks.  Obviously that depends on where you draw the line between stupid and intelligent.  No matter how you draw that line the fact remains that you never know when you might get hit by a bout of stupid.  They can come out of the blue when you least expect them.

We were leaving Nipawin last week when Marilyn mentioned that one of the back tires on the trucklet looked soft.  When I stopped for my early trip walkaround sure enough the rear driver tire was soft.  So when we stopped a few miles later in Tisdale to fix the previously mentioned rock chip I also blew the tire up.  It turned out that we had a slow leak that needed to be topped up every two or three days so no big deal.  I decided that I might as well replace both rear tires so didn’t bother fixing the leak and when we got to Drumheller I headed over to Walmart to buy a pair of tires.  No luck – Walmart in Drumheller doesn’t have a tire shop.  Walmart has sort of become my tire shop of choice because they don’t gouge – everybody gets the same pricing no matter where you buy the tires and they usually have enough staff on that you don’t have to wait unduly.  But I checked the local tire shop in Drumheller and they confirmed that they were ready and willing to gouge the tourist so we waited until we got to Walmart in Airdrie.

We pulled into Airdrie yesterday around noon and immediately got unhooked in the Wallyworld parking lot.  I drove the truck over to the tire shop and walked in.  The guy at the counter had a tag on his nice little blue coat that said “Department Manager” so I thought “this has to be good – I’ve got the main guy.” And then WHAMMO BLAMMO out of the blue comes the galactic sized bolt of stupid.

Mr. Manager asked me the standard questions – tire size, vehicle, etc and said he had 4 255 70/16 tires.  That’s all good – I’ll take two please.  No problem, they be this much and then it came.  “Because its on a 4 wheel drive vehicle we will mount the tires on the rims but we won’t mount the rims on the vehicle”.  “Say what???”  “We’ll only mount sets of 4 tires on 4 wheel drive vehicles”.  “Since when?  I’ve bought 2 tires from Walmart in the past?”  “Oh its not a Walmart rule – the tire manufacturers won’t let us do it because it could damage your transfer case.”


By this point I had kind of recovered from the shock of being hit by the bolt of stupid and I had realized that I was dealing with a fool.  Since the fool was in charge of the tire department it didn’t seem like it would be useful to talk to his manager so I said I thought I’d look around town a bit. 

But this was no ordinary fool – he dived right in again.  “You won’t find anybody who will do it for you.”  Yeah right I won’t …………. “WANNA BET??” sez I.  Oh no, he didn’t want to bet.  “Well then SHUT UP.”  If there’s any galactically stupid fools reading this they should take that old adage to heart – better to remain silent and be thought a fool rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt.

Not surprisingly the next tire shop I stopped at was more than willing to mount two tires for me but didn’t have any 255-70/16s in stock and when I got to Ukrainian Tire they booked me in immediately, mounted the tires and sent me on my way.  They did warn me that Transport Canada advises people to mount a new pair of tires on the rear rather than the front but father told me years ago that he would rather handle a rear blowout than a front and that has always made sense to me.  It occurred to me though that if Transport Canada has an actual advisory about mounting pairs of tires on a vehicle then even the morons at Transport can’t be concerned about mounting pairs rather than fours.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Still raining

It rains wherever we go.  It even rained in Nipawin while we had the windshields out.  Not much mind you but it rained nevertheless.

Marv got our windshields changed and I think he actually got them sealed up so they no longer leak.  The original glass that was in the bus when we bought it leaked and when Robbie at P.A. Northern replaced it that glass also leaked but based on our travels today it looks like Marv’s glass is leakless.  Time will tell and this bloody rainy summer will certainly give us lots of chance to test it.

After we got the glass in we hung around Nipawin waiting for a tire to arrive at O.K.Tire.  It still wasn’t there at noon on Friday so I finally had to pull the pin in order to be in Saskatoon in time for a haircut.  I’ve had the same woman cutting my hair for over 30 years now and I’m not really interested in training a new one.  She won’t commit to how much longer she will cut it so we’re kind of going haircut by haircut now but so far she hasn’t made any retirement plans.

We weren’t 20 miles out of Nipawin on the way to Saskatoon before we took a rock dead centre in the driver’s windshield.  There’s a couple of patched spots on the road between Nipawin and Tisdale and we had the misfortune to meet a Grade A asshole driving a Super B right smack in the middle of that stretch.  I was pretty well stopped by the time he got to us but he was going as hard as he could and he threw a great bloody rock right square at me.  I even saw it coming but there was bugger all I could do to avoid it.  I’d have cheerfully throttled the miserable prick if I could have caught him but instead I pulled onto the parking lot at the mall in Tisdale and did a pretty good repair.  There’s still a little bit of a spot visible but its about the size of a pinhead so its not too noticeable. 

Yesterday we drove down to Regina to visit father.  He looked pretty good – bruised a bit from his frequent skydiving episodes but otherwise healthy.  He wakes up and thinks he needs to get up to do something – lord knows what – so he proceeds to get out of bed and of course lands on his beak.  He hasn’t been able to walk reliably for several years now and hasn’t been able to walk at all for the past year but he conveniently forgets that.  Wascana doesn’t want to restrain him but they are really struggling to come up with any other alternatives.  They’ve got a gym pad beside his bed now for him to land on.  Yesterday they had elevated his feet for his nap.  I suspect that was so that it was harder for him to get sitting up which would be the necessary first step to crawling out of bed.

Today we headed west with a stop in Alsask on the way out of the province.  I had 6 quarters of land to look at which I did wearing my rubber boots because it was pissing rain the whole time we were there.  Then it cleared up while we drove to Drumheller and then socked in for a good old fashioned thunderstorm while we were setting up.

This place is another of our Holiday Trails membership parks.  It doesn’t look like much when you arrive but its one of the nicer places we have ever stayed.  Even when the storm was blowing this afternoon I had the awning out because we are so well sheltered under all the trees.  Its still pretty full with summer campers but I expect they will start leaving tomorrow because the little cake snatchers have to be back in school pretty soon now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On the road again

We’re in Humboldt for a 2nd night.  Marilyn has a meeting here tomorrow morning and I had a couple of files here.  We had a pretty easy go of it getting our Saskatchewan inspection done.  The Frenchy-bus is almost 30 years old now but the repairs it required to pass its inspection cost me less than 1/3 of what the repairs to the 2005 Exploder cost. 

We had a busted tailpipe which took about 24” of SS flex pipe to repair and I’ve got a tire on order that we will put on tomorrow.  Other than that we are pretty well perfect mechanically.  The tire probably would have passed but I don’t like the looks of it so I’m going to replace it anyway.  I ordered a bunch of brake parts delivered to Darrel’s shop because I was so certain that we would need to do the drive axle.  As it turned out the rotation on one side of the drive axle was 80 degrees – the other was 65 degrees – I’m allowed up to 140 degrees.  My front linings measured 11/16” and we debated whether to call them 11/16 or 3/4.  New linings are 3/4” thick and these have been on the bus since we bought it.

Now we’ve got a complete set of brake parts stored in Darrel’s shop and I intend to put them on next spring anyway.  That will certainly be the last brake work that we ever do on the bus.  Our windshields passed but I’ve got a set of glass sitting in Darrel’s shop and we’ll put them in tomorrow night.  Prevost glass is so cheap its hardly worth repairing it.  We’ve got one long crack on each side plus the normal complement of stars and chips.  I’ve repaired most of them over the years but its replacement time now. 

The tailpipe must have been coming apart for a long time now.  I can hardly hear the engine running anymore & I can’t hear the Jakes working at all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rubbing their noses in it

I said to Marilyn yesterday that I didn’t think New York should prohibit the damnterrorists from building their mosque in the former shadow of the towers.  That’s not the way the US works and it’s not surprising to see public figures lining up to support the right of the damnterrorists to build wherever they want to.  The fact that they want to build in territory that is sacred to so many people says bundles about what kind of people they are.

As usual Rex Murphy nails it completely here.

Grandstanding in the Gulf

Yesterday the news reported that the First Tourist went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.  Or maybe that should be the Traveler in Chief.  Damn sharks – there’s never one around when you need it.

We’ve moved a lot in the last few days.  From Buchanan we headed across the province to Landis

We spent a couple of nights parked in Lorne & Karen Hadley’s yard while I did some farm inspections in the area.  We haven’t seen the Hadleys for several years so it was a good chance to catch up on visiting and their yard was about as centrally located for me as it could possibly have been.  After that we moved to Saskatoon and parked in front of our favorite laundromat there.  Its very convenient to just park in front of a laundry and do everything with the bus to relax in while the machines do their thing.  We can’t always do that but in Saskatoon we’ve found one with good on-street parking. 

While we are at Landis I replaced our water heater.  It was only 5 years old or maybe only 4.  Me and the lady plumber in Nipawin installed it but I don’t remember exactly when we did it.  Her involvement was limited to selling me the parts and lending me her Pex crimper but she was still a pretty important part of the process.  I guess I should complain to her though because even a 5 year life is pretty shabby for a water heater.  The bottom had rotted completely away and it was starting to leak badly.  We noticed that the pressure pump was cycling fairly regularly and I traced the source to the water heater.  By the time we left Buchanan there was a pretty steady trickle of water running out of that bay.  Between the plumbing I did in Buchanan and my water heater adventure I’m getting to know my way around Pex pretty well and I kind of like what I’m learning.  There’s still a certain satisfaction in making a perfect solder joint on copper but Pex is definitely easier.

This morning we woke up behind Crossroads Esso at Wakaw.  Its not my favorite place to buy fuel – in fact I consciously try to avoid buying fuel there – but it sure was convenient to park there last night.  And really quiet too.  The parking is far enough off both highways that we didn’t hear a thing all night.  We didn’t even hear the brunch crowd rolling in this morning and were surprised to see how full the parking lot was when we finally got up.

Today we’re back in Prince Albert.  Our tenants have given notice and are in the process of moving out.  That isn’t all that bad from our standpoint.  We really wanted to sell the place but they were such good tenants that we had held off putting it on the market.  In fact this spring we met with them and asked what their intentions were.  At that time they assured us that they had no plans to move within the next year.  I guess that assurance and 2 bux will buy you a cup of coffee.

Now we don’t have anything to hold us back other than a lethargic appraiser who wanted to be paid in advance and now doesn’t seem particularly motivated to deliver her report.   We’ve got some work to do on the house but for this trip we mainly want to get some signs up so that anybody looking for a home before school starts will at least know its on the market.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Running back to Buchanan

I expect I’ll be posting this from Buchanan.  Our favorite spot on the street in Regina has let us down three times running now.  There are wifi hotspots in the major cities in Saskatchewan and one of them happens to be the street south of Wesley Church so we often park here overnight.  It makes for convenient access to Wascana Rehab (and church too for that matter but that never seems to be all that big an advantage).  However that service has been hors de combat the last three times we have been in Regina so we need to come up with a new Regina plan.  There’s other areas of town that are covered by the free wifi but none that are as convenient for parking a 60’ train like we travel with.

Tonight I’m waiting for Marilyn to come back from Toronto.  She’s stuck on the ground in Calgary right now waiting out a storm.  Westjet is my only airline but they have a bad habit of being late for their connections late in the day and tonight is no exception.  The storm is the excuse but I expect its just normal end of day Westjet scheduling.

I got my files in SW Sask wrapped up this morning and moved up to Regina.  I got to Wascana in time to visit with father while he ate supper and then took him for a walk in the park.  Then I went up to the NW end of town to pick up the booze that we put in storage before we crossed the US border.  After that I was in Home Depot for a very long time gathering up supplies to install a 50 amp service on the house in Buchanan as well as enough plumbing supplies to install a water hookup for the bus.  I need to have a closer look at the sewer before I will know what we can do in that regard.  I’m hoping there’s a conveniently located cleanout tee that we can dump into.  The alternative is something called a Sewer Solution which is a device for making shit run uphill. 

(from Buchanan) We arrived here early this afternoon after a stop in Whitewood to look at some more Assiniboia land.  The house was still here and maybe looked a little better than either of us remembered. 

Marilyn got the village organized to turn our water on tomorrow so that left me with a deadline to get the water ready to be turned on by tomorrow.  As so often happens in those situations, something that should have been dead simple turned into an ordeal but I think I now have it under control.  The town had disconnected the water at some point in the past and somebody had torn the whole system apart so there was no longer a connection to the town line.  That should have been a simple matter of connecting to a 3/4 inch copper line and reducing it down to 1/2 inch for the house but for some reason the 3/4 slip adapter I had wouldn’t go over the town water line.  I ended up making a run to Canora where I found a great little Home Hardware and bought a torch and some brass fittings.  Even the brass solder-to-pipe-thread adapter didn’t want to go on the town line but I finally managed to get it swelled enough by heating it and then was able to beat it onto the line.  I won’t know until tomorrow whether I was successful in my soldering efforts.

Well its tomorrow and the water worked out just fine.  The town guy came around about 8:30 and turned the water on without incident.  He came inside, ostensibly to read the water meter but I think he really just wanted to see inside the house.  My solder job appears to be holding.  This was my first experience with twist-on Pex connections.  Its pretty straightforward plumbing – more expensive than copper but a lot easier.

With the water out of the way I tackled the 50 amp RV plug installation.  That went well too so now we are plugged into a 40 amp service ( I put it on the range breaker which happened to be 40 amp).  It worked out that I could mount the plug on the corner of the garage so it even looks like it belongs.  We still haven’t figured out how to handle the sewer but we have water and electric so that’s 2/3 of the problem solved.

Meanwhile Marilyn was cleaning.  Some of the cleaning was leftover from the previous owners and some of it was cleaning up behind me.  All in all it didn’t look as bad as we remembered it.  And the basement was dry so that’s always a good thing.  I made a point of directing the drains away from the foundation before we left last time.  I think that was likely the problem – the previous owners had knocked the drain spouts off and the eaves were draining into the basement.  At least I hope that’s all it was.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

OMIGAWD it might be over

The media is reporting that the well killing operation in the gulf is working.  This is on top of the reports for the last couple of weeks that the cap that BP put on the well was also working.  Any sane person would have said that with a cap bolted on the well and the oil being pumped to the surface it was time to quit and get on with life.  After all – isn’t that how wells work?  You drill a hole, hook up some pipe and start pumping oil.  In all likelihood the capped well had more security and safety measures in place than 90% of the rest of the wells in the gulf that are still producing.

Instead BP has been compelled to kill the well and they have done that and that appears to be working too.  So what’s the chosen one to do now?  He’s been enjoying the image that his government was clamping down hard on the evil foreign oil company but the evil foreign oil company has done everything they were asked to do and done it successfully.   Now with over 3/4 of the leaked oil either mopped up or evaporated and the beaches for the most part clean its going to be hard to continue to use BP as a diversion from the rest of O’s disastrous record.

oilspillThe biggest problem the O-administration has now is that all those gulf fishermen have fallen in love with their new government paycheques.  Skimming oil pays better than fishing and its regular income.  You don’t have to find those pesky fish in order to get paid, just go out every day, drive around looking for oil, come home and get paid.  Its going to be hard to wean them off that system without at least some of them getting mad at the government.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This is a pretty good gig

Actually ………. this is an AWESOME gig. 

Today we left Miles City around noon.  I finished up the USDA installation despite the best efforts of USDA’s security drones.  In order to bypass some of the security bullshit we bought one of those Verizon internet sticks that plugs into the USB port.  That enabled us to take their computer off their internet connection and get the client software that we needed installed.  What I never expected though is that the little Verizon dongle works north of the 49th. 

After I got done at USDA I still had to package up the Growsafe tools and equipment that they keep in the US and ship it off to Havre where we expect the next project will happen.  At the same time I had a fairly sizeable shipment of defective parts to send back to Airdrie.  By the time I got through all that it was noon so we were a little late getting away from our campground but they didn’t seem to mind.

Then we headed north for Raymond/Regway and arrived at the border around 5:00.  For the second time in a row we had a relatively uneventful crossing.  Marilyn thought for sure she would get called inside to pay duty on the 5 litre box of wine she was importing.  She had also bought a bottle of Baileys and I had a token amount of beer but I guess the guy didn’t want to do the paper so he just waved us through.  He actually had to come outside and move some orange traffic cones so that we could get out of his little booth.

We only went about 10 miles north of the border and then turned west on a goat trail headed for Coronach.  I’ve got about 30 Palliser Farmland files to complete in the next two weeks so I got started right away tonight with a bunch of land near Big Beaver.  The land I was looking at tonight is in Range 1 so none of it was more than 6 miles from the US border.  Some of it is on Section 4, 5 and 6 so that puts it not close to but ON the US border. 

We found a spot on top of a hill with a view to die for and just parked there for the night.  I looked at about 10 quarters before it got dark and made an appointment with one of the tenants for coffee in the morning.  Then I plugged in the Verizon dongle and discovered that it works.  It don’t get much better than this.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Left the smell of cowshit behind us

We’ve been everywhere man.  Last time I posted we were in northwest Nebraska.  Since then we’ve been back to Miles City, Montana and then back to Nebraska and now we’re back in Montana.  That’s what happens when you are playing catchup and trying to keep two customers happy with limited resources.  For some reason it became ridiculously difficult to move 3 pallets of stuff from Nebraska up here to Miles City.  I have my opinions about why that was but that’s all they are, opinions.  Eventually I kind of lost it and called a hotshot company in Omaha.  Within in 6 hours of that call they had a 1-ton van in Olsens’ yard loading the wayward equipment for immediate transport back to Montana.  That’s an expensive way to move equipment but those guys are good. 

For those of you that don’t know, hotshotters are an oilfield phenomenon.  They live for emergency equipment moves.  We used to use them occasionally to move differential guts from Edmonton to Nipawin.  Our floater trucks regularly ate differentials.  When you put tires on a truck that are 3x the diameter that the manufacturer designed the differential to handle and then put a deep reduction box behind an Allison transmission ahead of the differential it’s only a matter of time until something breaks.  “Something” was pretty well always the diff.  I recall one time when we had to winch the floater off the lowbed because the diff was so badly lunched that the truck wouldn’t even roll on the incline of the lowbed.  That time the noises coming out of the diff sounded like somebody stepping on broken glass only much louder (and more expensive).  In those situations I would get on the phone to Edmonton Gear, give them the serial number and my credit card number and they in turn would call a hotshot truck.  About 10 hours later some goof would arrive in Nipawin, usually in the middle of the night.  By that time we would have the diff torn apart and washed out waiting for the new guts.  By morning we could usually be back in the field.

The hotshotter moved the equipment up to Miles City.  Those pallets were getting pretty tired of making that trip because they were here once before but the trucker/idiot couldn’t figure out that the labels on them saying “USDA, Miles City” meant that he should unload them at USDA in Miles City.  Instead he unloaded the other two pallets that said “Olsen Ranch, Nebraska”.  On the other hand there had to be a forklift operator from USDA involved in that transaction as well so clearly there was more than enough stupid to go around.

We left Nebraska Tuesday morning and decided to take a leisurely trip through the Black Hills because at that point the hotshotter was still on his way to Olsen’s.  Somewhere north of Hot Springs we saw a sign that said “Crazy Horse – 2.5 miles”.  We hadn’t really planned to go to Crazy Horse but when we were that close it seemed silly not to stop.  We briefly wondered if it might be miles and miles off the road and the 2.5 mile thing might just be to the junction where we needed to turn but those doubts were quickly dispelled by the sight of an Indian head looming on the face of a mountain in the near distance. 

As with Rushmore, our expectations were very low.  I figured the reason it wasn’t finished was because it was an Indian project working on Indian time.  Not so.  It turns out the real story of Crazy Horse is actually the story of a crazy Polish immigrant, Korczak Ziółkowski.  Like Gutzon Borglum who he worked under on Mount Rushmore, Ziółkowski was driven to carve a monument that would endure long after he was gone from the earth.  Unlike Borglum, Ziółkowski managed to infect most of his family with his insanity.  His wife and several of his numerous children are carrying on his work under a not for profit association that derives some of its revenue from tourists who stop to view the work in progress.  At the rate they’re going I won’t live long enough to see the completed work and there’s a strong chance the boys won’t either but it’s definitely worth stopping in to see.

I won’t bore you with the details of the story – and I don’t remember them all anyway – but evidently Crazy Horse is famous for a quote something to the effect of “my lands are where my people lie buried.”  So the outstretched arm is supposed to represent him pointing to the horizon where his land lies before him. 

It turns out the Playboy logo is the outline of where the horse’s head will end up.  Just for reference, the little tiny circle that you can just barely see within the larger bunny head is actually roughly the same diameter as the bus is long.  This thing is freakin’ huge!

We won’t bother coming by here in the immediate future but it will be fun to come back in about 10 years to see what has changed.