Friday, August 26, 2011

My ain’t that purty?

We’re settling into site 43 in Dogpatch section of Sask. Landing Provincial park.  I don’t think it’s actually called Dogpatch section but it’s some other stupid name like that.  It was a little challenging getting into the site but we made it and we got Clifford’s awning rolled out so I can sit under it with a cold beer.  SWMBO is doing her favorite camping thing – making a great big fire. 

It’s hard to believe that this campground is pretty well smack dab in the middle of the famous Palliser Triangle.  Somebody planted a lot of PFRA trees down here in the river bottom many years ago.  You can see the bald prairie hills around the edge of the campground but it’s pretty pleasant in the shelter of the trees.  I guess the “lake” outside the campground is what’s left of the south Saskatchewan river backed up behind Gardiner Dam which is probably 90 miles away from here. 

We left Buchanan about a week ago, stopped close to Weldon for a few nights, moved out west of Saskatoon for a couple more nights and spent the last two nights south of Biggar.  I’m on my annual Saskatchewan circuit looking at farmland and interviewing tenants for Assiniboia Capital/Palliser Farmland.  They’re an investment group that buys farmland and packages it for investors who don’t want to mess with the dirty business of holding the physical farmland.  Along the way we’ve been mooching parking spaces from friends with large yards, always being careful to move on before they ask us to so that we can come back next year.

We’ll likely spend at least another week on my round the province road trip and then end up in Nipawin.  I’ve got a few thousand dollars worth of brake parts stored in Ozmun’s shop.  I asked him today if he had sold them yet but apparently he hasn’t had any takers so I’ll likely get to hang them on the bus after all.  I bought them last year thinking that I would need to redo the brakes on the drive axle when we did the brakes on the tags but it turned out that the drives were actually still in really good shape.  Darrel said he could store the parts for as long as I wanted so we ground another year’s wear out of the drive brakes and now we’ll have new brakes pretty well all around.  The fronts were in like new condition last year.  My rebuild on the tag axle is still hanging in there but I’m paranoid about it so we stop way too often to check it. 

Harvest is just getting rolling in Saskatchewan.  Marlan and Michael crossed back into Canada earlier this week so that must mean that things are ready to roll in southern Alberta too.  RJ has already posted harvest pictures on his Facebook page so they have started.  There’s not a lot of combines rolling  yet in eastern or northern Sask. but there’s lots of swathing going on and it’s not unusual to see a combine going either.  All that means that fall isn’t far away – we haven’t seen any flocks of geese yet but I suppose it won’t be long before we do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saint Jack & Romanow Road

It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead so I’ll be careful but I’m more than a little tired of the platitudes that are raining down on Jack’s corpse.  Just in case you didn’t realize it, the man could NOT actually walk on water.  As far as his spectacular electoral prowess is concerned it seemed to me that on election night he failed miserably outside Quebec and rode a wave of separatist disconnect in that peculiar jurisdiction.  Here in Saskatchewan, supposedly the socialist heartland, he was shut out completely.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that except to note that it was a pretty class act on Harper’s part to offer up a state funeral.

Now back to Saskatchewan where we are reminded about our years of NDP mismanagement every time we drive anywhere.  Which is why I am proposing that we start naming stretches of provincial “highways” for those shining stars out of NDP history who are directly responsible for the catastrophic state of our provincial highway system.  How about “Blakeney Boulevard” for #25 highway between Birch Hills and St. Louis?  Its not that long since this highway was decent pavement but you’d never know it now – its barely up to main farm access standard gravel.  I’m thinking it wouldn’t be hard to come up with a Romanow Road, Calvert Crescent and Lingenfelter Lane to commemorate those other provincial socialists who put safe injection sites for crack whore mothers ahead of maintaining the provincial infrastructure.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What a difference a year makes

Back to Buchanan.  Last Friday I tracked down John-the-welder and got him to cut off the remains of the dead bearing on the tag axle.  John’s eyesight is not so good anymore – I’m pretty sure I could have done a better job cutting the bearing and I KNOW I’m no damn good.  But it was his torch and I didn’t have a whole lot of options so I kept my mouth shut.  He blew away most of the spacer behind the bearing and nicked the axle in a couple of places but I think everything is still usable.  I should have ordered the spacer along with the rest of the parts anyway so its really my own fault that I was stuck for a few more days waiting for that to arrive.

Even after John had cut through the bearing in three places it was still about a 4 hour job to get the 3 pieces beat off the axle.  Actually I damn near gave up and gave the whole mess to Lecuyers in Nipawin.  I had visions of them having to cut off the spindle, build a new one and weld it back on.  I saw them build a new stub for the end of the axle on one of our floaters one night so I know they could have done it.  In that case we lost a bearing and the weight of the unit ground the axle completely away on one side.  Kevin showed up at the shop with a micrometer, measured the axle on the good side and headed back to their shop.  We got busy and pulled the axle out from under the truck overnight and delivered it to Lecuyers’ shop in the morning.  By then they had built a new stub about 18” long.  I still don’t know how they kept it straight while they welded it back on but they had the axle assembly back to us by mid-morning and we had the truck back together and in the field that same afternoon.  In that case it was the drive axle so the piece they added had to be hollow.  So I’m certain that sticking one little solid spindle back onto my tag axle would have been child’s play. 

Marilyn has been busy painting the hovel.  Just having the primer coat on it has made a huge difference in it’s appearance.  Its still a miserable little hovel but at least it is no longer a bohunk yellow hovel. 

We’ve been hooked up to town water since we bought the place but all we had was a connection for the bus.  While I was waiting for the axle spacer to arrive I got us cold water hooked up in the house so we can use the bathroom there now.  That’s no great advantage except for Marilyn’s cleanup while she is painting.  Now the paint mess doesn’t have to come into the bus. 

We figure we’ll probably hire a pro to put the top coat on the hovel.  Not because we think it needs such a level of expertise – we just won’t be here to get it done.  That won’t be as easy as it sounds though.  Yesterday I had a long phone conversation with a Ukrainian fool (is “ukrainian” redundant in that situation?).  Getting a painter lined up may take longer than actually doing the work ourselves.  Marilyn talked to someone with a functioning brain last night so perhaps we have that problem solved.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heading home

Yesterday I checked in one last time at CRV Lagoa then left Sertaozinho and drove back to Uberaba.  I had a couple of adventures when I arrived in Uberaba – first I needed to find a flight from here to Sao Paulo.  They don’t get many Canadians at the TRIP counter in Uberaba.  In fact they could only remember ever having one other foreigner check in there – he was from Iraq.  It took a long time but they got me a ticket and then got me checked in this morning.

After I got the ticket the next order of business was to find a hotel.  The flight out of Uberaba was supposed to leave at 8:00 AM but what with fueling the car and then returning it prior to the flight I didn’t want to subtract the drive in from the ranch from my get out of bed time.  I’ve been getting up at 3:30 AM because these silly buggers work on a time that is three hours removed from real time.  This morning I set the alarm for 2:30.  It took a little doing but I found a hotel which serendipitously was located about 1/2 a mile from the airport.  I certainly didn’t plan it that way, nor did I realize how close it was until I checked Google maps before going to bed last night.

Some last minute grief at Matinha kept me out at the ranch well into the evening so I ended up driving into Uberaba late at night.  The “road” from the ranch out to the highway would be called a goat trail in Canada.  I’ve done pasture checks for Assiniboia Land Management on trails that are better than the road to the ranch so I wasn’t wild about driving it at that time of night but you do what you have to do.

This morning I was welcomed back like a long lost friend at the TRIP counter.  The guy who spoke no English at all yesterday had practiced how to say good morning and asked his buddy how to say “aisle or window?”.  Then I went through security which was considerably different than what Homeland (in)Security would have put me through but I’m inclined to think I’m safer here than I would be in the United States. 

After I got through security I watched a grandpa go through.  He set the alarm off probably a dozen times, laughing and joking with the attendants the whole while.  Once he got through he leaned over the rope barrier to kiss what was probably his daughter goodbye.  But no terrorists need try entering here because they know everybody.  When I went through they were professional and careful but with the locals they used common sense – a property that is sadly lacking in our airports. 

When my flight was called my buddy came over to say “ma fren, yowah flah”  - made perfect sense to me.  Then again as I passed him on the way to the plane he grabbed my hand to say goodbye.  I could have used him at the stop in Uberlandia.  At Uberaba there was only one flight leaving so it was pretty clear – when a plane arrived, I needed to get on it.  However in Uberlandia there were 6 flights on the board.  I usually can’t understand the announcements even when they are nominally in English so there was no hope in Portuguese.  Fortunately they seemed to be keeping up with flight status on the arrivals/departures board so I trusted that and it worked out OK.

Now I’m waiting in Sao Paulo for my 10 hour flight to Toronto.  I’m still not sure where the Air Canada counter is but I think I was told that it only opens 3 hours prior to flight time.  It doesn’t seem to exist so maybe it comes into being 3 hours before flight time as well.  I’d be happy to get security behind me if for no other reason than that there’s a host of people in yellow t-shirts singing songs out here and the silly broad next to me thinks its necessary to sing along with them, loudly.  She claps loudly too.

(later – much later)

The TAM airlines counter eventually turned into an Air Canada counter – it’s a pretty low budget operation our national airline is running down here.  We got herded around like cattle, stood in line forever and finally dealt with some Air Canada stupidity, which I suppose was inevitable but was frustrating nevertheless.  My Aeroplan/Passport name difference bit me again and with the language barrier it was more difficult to deal with.  The difference between the episode in Regina and the one in Brazil was that the Brazilian attendant was clearly embarrassed that she couldn’t just check me in and did her best to get it sorted out as quickly as possible.  In Regina the attendant had received the mandatory injection of Air Canada attitude so she made it clear that the problem was entirely my fault. 

We had one last bout of bureaucratic silliness before settling in to wait for the flight.  When you enter Brazil you go through a police entry procedure which leaves you carrying around an entry document.  To return that we got to stand in line again after we cleared security but before we could go to our gates.  As near as I could tell we could just as easily have dropped them in a bucket but that would have put about 20 people out of work so I guess that would be a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This is pretty frightening ……..

……………. but it confirms what some of us have suspected for a long time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

That ain’t the Geiko ghekko

When you travel you see different stuff.  When Marilyn came home from Japan all she could talk about was the damn electronic shitters they apparently have over there.  I haven’t seen any electric shitters but the bathroom I have here is different than the ones I’m used to.

Now it wouldn’t seem like a bathroom offers much room for innovation.  The functions we perform there are pretty much standard fare whether we’re Chinese, Czekoslovakian or Canadian but you might be surprised.  To start with we often see wildlife in bathrooms when we travel in Mexico.  Over the years Marilyn has had showers with a bat and with a variety of lizard-type critters.  A few nights ago this little guy was living in my bathroom.


Then there’s the whole issue of ass-wipe.  Without getting into too much detail I am coming to believe that the notion that ass-wipe should go down the hole with all the rest of the crap is a particularly North American thing.  Mexico for sure and my limited sampling in Brazil suggests that these countries don’t like paper with the poo.  There’s also a hose thingy beside my shitter that I’m afraid to experiment with.  I can only imagine what disasters might befall me if I started playing with it.  The image of Paul Hogan washing his boots in the bidet springs to mind.

Moving to the shower, mine comes equipped with an electric heater.  Now we’ve seen this technology before.  Carlos Juan, C-J as we call him, installed one of these in the bathroom in Guasave while we were visiting one winter.  At the time I didn’t give it much thought but now I wish I had paid closer attention.  I’m not sure how I’m supposed to use this one.  Like - - which tap am I supposed to turn on?  They both go through the heater thingy and the water doesn’t seem to get hot at first but then after a while it gets really hot.  There’s some switches and controls on the heater but I’m reluctant to play with them for a couple of reasons.  First off messing with 110 volt controls while I’m buck naked on a wet floor goes against everything I have been taught all my life.  Second the controls have words on them that I haven’t the faintest understanding of.


And while we’re on the topic of not understanding the labels, there’s the taps on the sink.  They show “Q” and “F” which I believe stands for Quente and Frio, hot and cold.  However no matter how long I run either one of them they consistently deliver the same not quite cold water. 

So mainly what I’m learning through travel is how little I really know.  Which I guess is the first stage of learning.  As learners we move from Unconsciously Incompetent to Consciously Incompetent to Consciously Competent and finally to Unconsciously Competent.  Right now I’m firmly stuck in conscious incompetence and I doubt that will change during the course of this visit.

A couple of days ago I moved to Sertãozinho – try saying that three times in quick succession.  I can pretty well guarantee you won’t get it right because they manage to extract the most amazing collection of sounds out of the same alphabet we use.  Mind you they put all sorts of squiggles, accents and dots on and around the letters.  But even leaving the various accent-type things aside they have completely different pronunciations for some of that damndest letters -  Walmart for example is “Walmarch”.  That makes figuring out the spelling of words that you hear a significant challenge.

Right now I’m waiting for the software geeks to iron out some wrinkles in the system.  It seems to be a given that on every installation there will come a time where I sit and wait for the remote geeks to do their thing.  This afternoon I drove in to Walmart/ch in Ribeirão Preto.  According to my hosts Ribeirão Preto is home to 800,000 people and I believe that today most of them had their cars parked at Walmart.  Either parked or going like hell on the highway. 

Michael said when he was down here that he didn’t think there were any speed limits.  There are definitely posted limits but he is right – they appear to be guidelines rather than directives.  Similarly with the “Pare” signs which are octagonal and painted red.  I had pretty well concluded that “Pare” must mean “Yield” based on how they were treated but I looked it up last night and it’s meaning is consistent with the shape of the sign.  I think Brazilian drivers are like Mexicans in the sense that the only time they are in a hurry is when there is a steering wheel in front of them.  Today I was passed by 6 crotch rockets while I was going slightly over 100 km.  They literally went by me like I was standing still – now you see them, now you don’t.  Every one of them had a woman on the back hanging on for dear life.

Thank God for Skype.  Every night Marilyn and I can hear the sound of each other’s voice for the grand total of …… nothing.  Last night there were something over 16 million other users online with us but the connection was better than most cell connections.  And on her end we’re doing that over a satellite feed that isn’t supposed to be able to support Skype.  The only way you could tell it was a satellite connection was a slight delay.