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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Me And My (New) Coach

Did I mention that the boss had purchased a new coach to the fleet? Well I was just driving the OLDEST MCI north today when I got the honour of driving the NEWEST fleet addition back south. OMG….I was thrilled and thrilled and thrilled. This 2003 PREVOST is a ROLLS ROYCE to drive. When the old MCIs start panting up the long north Albertan hills this Prevost is FLYING up the inclines. Even though it is actually 11 years old it still smells NEW! It is responsive on gas and brakes like nothing else I have driven. Tons of power are propelling this machine of proud Canadian engineering down the road. Just the thought of taking this beauty down south makes me jittery. It sure would make a great motor home.
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

We Meet On The Road ….Or Do We??

Our roads and highways have become the playground for just about everyone. And when you are out for the big trip you become the witness of all kind of strange behavior from your fellow players. Doing about 4000km a week I feel like I have already seen the most. But of course that isn’t true. There will always be more.

What I did notice is that there are certain categories of drivers (players) which you will see again and again.

Living in the big city the most obvious is THE ZAPPER.  Zappers distinguish themselves by “zapping” from lane to lane as they think the lane they are in is moving too slow. ZAPPERS have a genuine interest of being first to their goal, whatever their goal is. Zappers are also the reason for most in-city traffic accidents. Before they zapp from lane to lane they neglect to look into their mirrors, which eventually will lead to a collision. They also ignore pedestrians and occasional red lights. That is when it really gets dangerous. Except for their irrational behavior you can often detect them by looking at their vehicles BEFORE they commit their crime. Fancy colours, souped-up exteriors and rear spoilers are a sure sign.

What else is there? Well, outside the city we often see the ROAD-HOG thriving in a glad solitude in front of a long line of vehicles. The ROAD-HOG drives 10-20km UNDER the speed limit engaging in a nice conversation with their fellow travelers and enjoying the surrounding scenery. They are very dangerous as they make every driver behind them loosing his patience, thus causing risky overtake maneuvers. Some of these people are actually RVers with no experience of how to drive with a trailer on the hitch. An under-category are those who slow down to a crawl because they are actually ON THE PHONE with their mother-in-law. They can often be seen veering back and forth between the yellow and the white line trying to avoid either landing in the ditch or hitting the oncoming traffic. Oh my….

The straight opposite of the ROAD-HOG is the RACER. RACERS also thrive out on the highways but they do not enjoy the nice scenery and presumably they are alone in their vehicles. You will hardly have a chance to make out their vehicle brand as they are passing you. They are too fast. Before they overtake you they are hanging on your rear bumper for a while. But don’t worry about vehicle brands. Rather look out for the accident scene a few miles down the road when they have ended theirs and other people’s life. Problem with RACERS is they fail to control their vehicle at the chosen high speed.
Many motor bikers are notorious racers. Just 2 days ago one of them was passing my bus at an approx. 100miles/h speed. 10 miles later he was face down and dead in the ditch. Though luckily he failed to kill anybody else. Yesterday I saw another one of the same breed.

Several times I have noticed the “LOOK-AT-ME” type of drivers. Those are almost entirely testosterone-driven young males in pickup trucks or pseudo-sports cars. When they take off from the gas station they depress the accelerator to the floor for just to hit the screaming brakes 20feet later before they screech out into traffic. You encounter them often in small towns where cops are having a much better time with doughnuts and coffee.

Whoa….. look at me! They bought their drivers license at Walmart….on sale!

If you doubt my words….just get out there and have a good look yourself….or simply turn on the morning news-whatever is left of it.

Have a great safe day at play!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Talk About Paradise

Even though I am in Alberta for work.
My heart is ……..HERE – always.

herring CoveNot any exotic place thousands of miles away on the  other side of the globe. It’s CAMPOBELLO ISLAND!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sunny Saturday

After a couple of days wih rain showers and dark clouds this Saturday starts out sunny. The days have gotten shorter and yesterday’s trip to Jasper revealed a lot of beginning fall colours. It’s the seasonal change of scenery which gives us humans the meaning of passing time. As we were driving through a light drizzle my thoughts were wandering off to the year of 2006 when my brother and his oldest daughter were visiting us. We had taken them on a trip along the very same route, along the Yellowhead Highway and camped at the Entrance Ranch where we had a horseback riding adventure. It had been a gift to my niece who at the time was 15 years young. Our camper had been parked in a beautiful mountain meadow which we got to share with a group of grazing horses.
entrance ranch     This picture was taken by my brother and is actually available on Google Earth
The weather was outstanding and we had the most marvelous view across the valley to snow-covered peaks of the Rockies. How fortunate we had been to experience that trip.  And I would never have guessed that one day I would be able to enjoy this area as a bus driver.
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Waiting for passengers                                           Highway into the Rockies
20140822_164249But today I am going to drive the other direction to Cold Lake, our city of residence from 2002-2008.


The old Railroad Station in Jasper

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Too Eager To Get To Work?

I had all my papers, my pens and and my daily lunch package including hot coffee in a thermos packed and stowed in my van, when I halted, looking at my watch. It showed 7:40am. What the heck was I doing outside?  It was an entire hour too early to drive to town to begin another day behind the wheel. Now, is that good or is it a troubling sign of beginning dementia?

Good thing I noticed my mistake before heading down the road.
Alberta weather has cooled down a lot and temps are now down to 17C. That means a light jacket is the order of the day. It also means that we are heading closer to the colder fall season. In Alberta that means temps below the freezing mark are coming soon.

Oh well…it’s soon time to be heading off to Cold Lake. See ya down the road!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rolling, Rolling..Rolling..

When I first got hired into this bus company I made it a point that I was not interested in any part-time work. After all I came out west to work and not to sit around in my trailer. Local manager started to hand out a bit too many free days but all-of-a-sudden work picked up pace. An all-new route has been established from yesterday on offering a direct bus connection between Edmonton and Jasper. On top of that a few of the drivers had been on vacation or simply taken off a few days. That led to me being the most busy of the company drivers. Right now I’m looking back at the last 6 days with 800 clicks every day. That’s about 4800kms a week or about the equidistance from here to New Brunswick across most of Canada. Whether I am tired?  Nope, I’m not. Too bad DOT regulations put a stopper to more than 70hrs/week. Otherwise…..

That is not to say I don’t enjoy my day off, but boy do I ever look forward to get back to work again on Thursday.

On top of all that the boss just sent me an email that he has bought a new 45ft. Prevost coach to be delivered soon.

Of course, there are days where things can go sideways, like yesterday when I was the only person to do all ticket sales, get the bus ready AND drive the 400clicks north, just to “loose” a passenger underway. Some people have problems with time management!  And since the passenger manifest was missing a name, it never got to my attention until too late. But the guy got a free ride today!

Have also started looking for housing in the area. It’s only 6 more weeks before temps will be around the freezing mark and life in a trailer would become a bit uncomfortable.

So what do I do on my day off?

LAUNDRY!

It has been piling up and needed to be addressed. It’s a never-ending moment of irritation that I can’t get my white shirts clean in a normal washing process. North American washers have no self heating temperature adjustable program. So I have started to get my white shirts pre-soaked and hand-washed in the trailer. At least that brought out the white color again. I know that European-style washers have lately become available, but you just can’t find them at a coin Laundromat.  

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  King of the roads: one of our good old MCI-coaches…

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Watching The Morning News

I’m having a day off and I’m watching the morning news. Whether it comes from CBC, CTV, or any other non-descript TV-channel doesn’t really matter. The main characteristics are the same. There are 2 or more “anchors” who try to talk into each other’s mouth producing nothing but rubbish.

What we knew as the morning news has long since migrated into being a silly entertainment show where celebrity gossip and food recipes have taken priority over the real deal – the news.

Has our society grown into an entertainment-consuming monster? Don’t we care over what’s going on in reality anymore? In politics? Do we need to dig into every celebrity’s private or semi-public life in order have a full-filling day?

Real news has the potential to engage us, while a silly morning show may transform us into a passively watching public trying to forget our own little problems. It’s like a drug you take to slip away from every-day’s reality. I mean come on, there is a reason for computer games being so incredibly popular. People are getting addicted to them. And I really think that we are getting addicted to silly morning shows.

Or is there a bigger plan behind all this? Was it the Roman emperor Caesar who said “Give the people food and games and you can control them?” Or was it Nero? I don’t remember and it doesn’t really matter. But it is as truthful as it ever was. Our lives are being controlled by media. And who controls the media?
Whatever the commercial blows into our minds we go and buy the next day. Whatever the Hollywood star says, does and wears we are ready to copy. 

But back to my morning news. I have turned them off, because it turns me off to watch this bull.

How about YOU?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What’s Coming Up

While I was driving north yesterday I noticed that some trees have started to show the first signs of yellow leaves. OK, that IS quite far north, but hey….it’s just barely the middle of August. Guess we have been spoiled rotten by living along the 45th parallel for some years. Nature sure plays a different melody up here in northern Alberta.

Thinking of the change of seasons another “coming-up” occupies my mind. In about 6 weeks we are looking into October and while there has never before been a question of where and how we spend the winter, this year it’s quite different. We have already made the decision to keep working through a tough Canadian winter, but that sure poses the question of where are we going to stay. Bea will be coming over first thing in October. After that we are all together again. Bea, Molly and me.
It is definitely not an option to keep on doing camping in a trailer which never was made to withstand wintry conditions. So we are looking into more solid housing.

Shall we rent a place or buy something? Could there be an Alberta snowbird who is looking for reliable house sitters in the Edmonton area?

Lots of questions and no answers yet. The bus company is looking into moving their bus parking farther out to the west like to the Spruce Grove area. That would be just fine with us as accommodations are somewhat cheaper out there. They are also starting a new bus route on Monday. The new daily departure goes between Edmonton and Jasper. That means more driving for me. And I love that.

Bea might be looking into a hotel job again. Just on my work route into the city I have counted 10 big hotels. Plenty of work offers there.

We have always been ending up in a nice place and I have my unshakable confidence that something will pop up this time too.

Thanks for dropping by.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Money Laundering Going On

Money laundering is labeled as an international crime and is one of the main things customs officials in most countries are looking for. In fact, entire crime investigation units are focused to stop drug money from being “white-washed” through legal business activities.

All this has nothing to do with the money laundering I did today. And I was just lucky that Canadian bills are made of …..plastic.

Yup, I had the day off and needed to do my laundry. From the washer it went into a huge dryer. When the machine had stopped I found my money.

Crisp and clean like it was made this day. Plastic money doesn’t even crinkle!

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Voila…75 Canadian Dollars. I don’t even need to iron them… cause THAT would destroy it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Very Special Guest Onboard

I had noticed this young man when he first came onboard. He was different than everyone else. How different, I should notice some time later.

After almost 5hr driving north we had arrived at the last station. Everyone had left the bus and was standing around outside, except this young man who came back in to fetch a piece of baggage. On his shoulder sat a little green bird. A Butchy… I thought but no….he was just way too green. It turned out it was a little baby parrot just 2 months old. I was just paralyzed but finally asked the guy what in the world…..no….HOW in the world he could travel with such a little bird. And he told me that this bird had been traveling with him all the way from Vancouver! And no…it didn’t fly off even when he ventured outside. And with that he put the bird on my shoulder, where the little guy began to nibble at my neck, my ears, and then climbed on my eyeglasses from where it went on top of my hat.
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This little guy was already well-trained to relate to humans. His cute eyes looked me right into my face and I was totally thrilled to be able to hold him.
I sat him on my steering wheel where he wasn’t quite so happy. Maybe he didn’t want to drive the bus….Smile

And what about the young man?

Well, he was on his way to build a log cabin in the Wilds of the Canadian Outback.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

First Challenges In The Job

I call them challenges rather than problems, even though challenges CAN turn into real problems. (and they nearly did today)

I had a run to Cold Lake,AB and back, and the bus was starting to run behind schedule due to a late passenger arrival and an irregular passenger drop-off along the route. It doesn’t really take much to delay a bus along its route.
Yet, I had made good of much of the delay when arriving in the City of Cold Lake.

Between my passengers back to Edmonton was a mentally and physically challenged lady. On top of that she was extremely obese. I helped her on board, as she had huge problems climbing the steps into the bus.
Leaving the oil city we had only 15 minutes delay and went over to Bonnyville, where we arrived 40 minutes later. Checking at the KFC for new passengers without finding any at or around the fast-food joint, we on, thus saving another 10 minutes of the drive back. (big mistake)
Next stop was St.Paul, but before we got there my phone went off. I hate to answer my phone while driving, but we were just standing at a left turn waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. One of the company’s managers informed me that a lady in Bonnyville had missed the bus by less than a minute. I suggested to put her on a cab and we would be waiting for her in St.Paul. Our company has made a promise that nobody will be left behind.

So there we sat waiting with the bus on high idle to keep the AC running. It was just another hot day in Alberta.

Now, while we were waiting, the obese lady had been shouting all the time that we should go and where we were going. It went on and on and I just had to tell her again and again
After 45 minutes a car pulled up and out came one of the most beautiful girls I have ever laid my eyes on. She had a HUGE and heavy 6ft long electronic piano board with her and a back-back which I could barely lift. It turned out she was from Argentina and on her way home. BANG!

Our next stop was Smoky Lake,AB. By now we had accumulated a tight layer of bugs on the windshield and I needed to get that off. While I was cleaning the windshield I saw the obese lady walking to the front of the bus. A moment later I heard a commotion and she had fallen backwards out of the passenger door and banged her head on the pavement. I was with her in an instant and so was another passenger. I was wildly afraid that she had cracked her head, but no blood was visible and she was still very much conscious. After a few moments we managed to get her back on her feet, which was no easy task, and she went back into the bus. After that she was quiet for the longest time and I had begun to be afraid something was wrong with her. In fact I was on the verge to stop the bus to look after her. But then she started shouting again and even came to the front again asking where we were going. Gosh was I relieved to hear her again.

But more challenges came our way today. We were back in the big city and rolling the last quarter mile to the Continental Inn when we were overtaken by a passenger car wildly using the horn with the driver shaking his fist at me.

What the heck did he want?

After stopping at the hotel entrance he was right there using his worst language telling that his car had almost been hit by a chunk of our exhaust pipe. And how could we……Oh dear….

I encouraged him to file a complaint but he just blew it off and left us in a fury. Most passengers were just watching in awe.

And then there was this female police officer at the curb asking me questions whether we had picked up passengers after leaving Bonnyville. Well, other than the Argentina girl there was none and that was obviously not the person of interest.

And if you now think this was really enough for one day, I’ll be with you on that one.

Thanks for ridin’ along.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

City Time

It was Friday and I was off work. And I slept until 8am, which is extremely rare, though I actually could do it, even when having a work day. My bus route doesn’t start before 10:30am and even though I am onsite at 9:00am, which would be way early, I still could have long morning sleeps, but I just don’t seem to be the type for getting up late. But today, I must have been tired or just needy for the extra hour. 
I had figured it would be a good day for doing some shopping errands, so after breakfast I headed on out. Driving down Stony Plain Road my destination was a thrift store. I needed a new electric iron. The old one had some strange smear on the underside and I had almost ruined one of my white shirts earlier. They had several irons at the BFM-thrift store and I chose a new-looking Black & Decker. Price was 8 bucks. Also found two nice drinking glasses at 50 cts each. Can’t beat that either.
I had a letter posted and went into a Dollar Store to find a few wall hooks for towels to hang on.
Next stop was the Super Store’s Gas Bar where today’s gas was down to $1.10/liter. They give you  3.5cts off as “Superbucks” which you can spend in their huge grocery store. On top of that a guy gave me a 5-Dollar coupon and with what I already had of “Superbucks” it amounted to more than 11 Dollars. Before they reach their expiry date they need to be spent so I walked into the store and got myself food items for the next days. As my bus route doesn’t really give me any time to eat anything substantial during the day, I like to have some food when coming home.
20140731_192528   “My” Prevost at a rest stop in Westlock,AB
 
20140731_211245   …and fueling it up again.
But since my home-coming never happens before 9:30pm or later, my food preparations must be done in advance so I can just warm it up. On days where I had no prepared meals I cheated with box food, but that is not a good way to eat in the long run.

So today I hunkered down and prepared “Svenska K├Âttbullar” which can be enjoyed cold or warmed up.  Sorry, I did not take a pic of this meal. Smile

I was just about having my afternoon coffee when my host showed in the door frame asking whether I could drive out west to Edson to deliver a trailer. Edson is some 200clicks from here and constitutes quite a ride for an afternoon. But I agreed and was soon on my way with an old Dodge Diesel Pickup and a spanking new  30+ft. trailer in tow.

Driving west on Trans Canada Highway 16 I noticed all the RVers heading into the same direction. They were out there by the thousands, most of them probably heading into the National Parks. Yeah it sure was Friday and everybody eager to get out of town.

Will be working all weekend, so no time for blogging.
Thanks for visiting!