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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sunshine On My Pie

When I walked with Molly at around 8:30am the birds were singing and it was so warm that I felt totally overdressed in my usual cold-weather jacket. Over the day it continued warming until 18C (64.4F) So when we got into the afternoon it was all decked out for coffee and pie outside. We had just bought a nice Rhubarb/Strawberry pie. Topped with real cream this was a festive treat. I just wished I hadn’t left my shorts in our trailer. It was very, very hot in the sun. Our afternoon walk with Molly just about exhausted her on the way home.
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But all the nice summer weather will be very short-lived. And you won’t believe what the weather guru is telling us: It’s gonna be cooling down a lot overnight and……we will be getting somewhere between 1 and 4 inches of SNOW.

That happens after all snow of the previous bout of winter has disappeared and roads have dried up.

If I have to push snow tomorrow I will not be a Happy Camper.

Watch for tomorrow’s update!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Bus Trip, A Great Lunch And A Brave Swedish Foreign Minister

Just returned from another bus trip with a bunch of youth from a Calgary Church. The folks visited the West Edmonton Mall and had an overnight stay at a church. Next morning we all went for brunch at the Buffet Royale at Gateway Blvd. in Edmonton. As a driver I was invited and boy, did I relish that lunch. One of the better places I have ever seen. Excellent food, friendly people and they had something I have never seen in “real life”, a chocolate fountain.
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Wow!20150328_115612

You put some fruit, (quite a variety they had) on a small stick and hold it into the running chocolate so it gets coated with that nice stuff.  What a dessert!
Ice cream was very good as well, so of course, I had to try that too.  I had the feeling I barely fit behind the wheel afterwards. Smile
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I am now on a one week “vacation” as upcoming Easter makes for bad business in the charter industry.

Our recent snow has all disappeared and we are back to a spring-like weather here in Edmonton. This week is also the end of March which gets us into the last month of our delightful stay in this house.

On the other hand that brings Campobello and a trip east into focus. But yet it is still way too early. After all we don’t want to get into shoveling snow again, and that’s what we would have to do back home.

This morning I was perusing the book of faces and stumbled upon an article about the Swedish Foreign Minister WALLSTRÖM who has stepped into some hot waters. She has dared to sharply criticize Saudi Arabia for how they treat their women. They are not allowed to drive a car, marry without consent of their father and are often being forced to marry older men when they are at teen-age. Women are Play-things in the Arab world. And that’s what the Swedish Foreign Minister addressed.
104482277 Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström

One would think that she earned a lot of support in the western world. Not so! After “Je Suis Charlie” became so popular one wonders where all those people who condemned islamistic behaviour are hiding.
Saudi Arabia reacted by barring Swedish business men from receiving visa for the UAE. And they are rallying for more Islam countries to join them. But
not only is Wallström not getting any support but she is also facing massive political pressure as Sweden is the world’s 12th biggest weapon exporter meaning that there will be massive losses of trade volume in the aftermath.

So this is what we got. Peoples rights are not important if the economy is suffering.

For balance I like to say that the Arabs are not the only ones telling women how to live their life. There are countless religious groups in the U.S. and Canada who are pursuing (and achieving) their goal to keep women behind the hearth, even though they don’t take it quite as far as the Arabs are doing.

I will leave this with you to ponder about.
(
link to the story)

Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can We Trust The Airline Staff?

By now we have all heard about the disastrous crash of a German Airliner on its way from Spain to Germany. As it appears the airplane was crashed deliberately by the co-pilot being alone in the cockpit. The pilot himself had been locked out by his co-pilot and apparently has tried to smash the door in an attempt to get back into the cockpit.
This information was derived through the black-box recordings.

Everyone who has flown with a commercial airline has a certain idea of what terrible situation ensued in this case.

If this despicable act is not the result of any organized terrorism it must be the action of a “Lone Wolf” who thought he had to contribute to damage the West. It is not known whether this man had made an attempt to contact any terror organisation prior to making plans to down the airliner. His motivation might be a different one and I am sure that investigators and police will make any attempt to find the cause of what was going on. 

There is no meaning in speculating too much about it without having hard facts.

However, the emerging question is whether or not we can trust that airline employees are screened carefully prior to employment.
Ever since after 9-11, authorities have made passenger access to airplanes much more restrictive. Security checks at all airports have all but eliminated terror acts on board of planes.

But is there a loop-hole in the system? Could under-cover terrorists get jobs at airlines to do massive damage? The disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370 comes to mind.  Where did it go, what happened?

We will never be able to rely on that technical failures cannot happen, but when people’s reliability is involved, we should be able to trust them.

But can we?

Monday, March 23, 2015

And Then Came Sunday…

That little bit of snow shown in the pics of my previous posting is nothing compared to what we got the next day. Yes, Sunday rolled around with dancing snowflakes and about 15cm (6inch) on the ground.
Departure time was set to 7:30am, so I kicked myself into gear to get the bus going and cleared of heaps of snow. It was –6C and freezing cold, with other word, a real kick-back into winter. Would the big diesel start up? There was no plug-in available anywhere.
On the way out I stopped by the coffee bar and poured myself a hot cup.
First I got out the long broom to get the snow of the windshield and around the door. Then I lifted off the engine cover to check on the oil. All fine there!
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I flipped the power switch and after letting the computer do its thing, turned the starter. I heard a cough from behind, then another and yet another and then…..then there was a noise like I an old ship diesel came back to life after sitting unused for 20 years.

OK, there was some life.

Gradually, the engine got into a normal heartbeat, YEAH…it was running.

I did some more snow removal and walked back to the warming hotel lobby where I had a hearty breakfast.

Driving around in Spruce Grove this morning was no picnic. Apparently the city managers hadn’t noticed that winter was back, at least no snowplow was in sight. It was hard to get off when the lights turned green, and I had the feeling we were more swimming than driving.

Our return home approx. a 2.5-hr. ride, was scheduled for the early evening, hopefully with the hockey team being Provincial Champions.

Well, at the end of the day, they didn’t make it. But they got the silver medal and I must say they took it in stride. In no way it showed that they were in a subdued mood. Actually, they were making one hell of a noise with their singing.
At 6:45pm we were heading out of town. Luckily, old sol had thawed off the pesky snow, so all major roads were in the clear.

A few girls had to be dropped off in Lacombe, a tiny town just north of Red Deer. The drop-off point was a small Range Road. Turning in there I realized that the road was still full of snow. I knew that there was a T-intersection ahead of me for turning the bus around. Cautiously, I proceeded to the turn, swung the bus around……and got stuck when I reversed. There was no going ahead and no backing up. It was like the inside temperature dropped with 10 degrees – except I got a bit hot under my shirt. What did I do? What could we do?

First I lifted up the tag axle to increase weight on the drive axle. It helped a bit but then we got stuck again. Next, I got out and hauled a pail of gravel out of the service compartment. We always carry gravel with us. With the gravel spread behind and in front of the rear wheels I managed to rock the coach into motion and all-of a sudden we got traction. A high-pitch scream of victory erupted behind me. The girls got ecstatic. Before we knew it we were all back on solid ground, doing the rest of the trip to Red Deer.

Tis is the life of a bus driver.  Smile

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Oh No….See The Snow!

Looking out my hotel window I see an all-white landscape. The weather guys were right this time. We did get snow yesterday. And it is no different today….heavy white stuff is falling out of the sky, making roads treacherous and mushy. Ironically the snow came back with the official start of spring.
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I am still shuttling the hockey girls between hotel and ice rink and it’s been an easy job. I have mostly been watching TV and doing some computing in my room.

Intended to go over to Boston Pizza again yesterday evening but was shocked to see that the place was packed to the brim. People had already lined up on the waiting bench. Surveying the situation I turned in my tracks and made it over to SUBWAY for just a sandwich. I have too short a patience to wait endlessly for my food. By the way it turned out to be a money saver as well. And I don’t mind having a sandwich for supper….once in a while.

Yesterday evening I lost my parking spot in front of the hotel to a couple of pickup trucks and had to get the bus half a mile away onto a parking lot of a huge rec-centre. No fun to walk back in all this slush on the roads. As nice a hotel this is but they have no designated bus parking. Poor planning I’d say.
20150321_074921   bus park
Well, the snow is not gonna last very long. With the sun running high it’s too warm during the days. At least, that’s what everybody is hoping for.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Very Bright Side Of My Job

There is no doubt that being a bus driver can be very, very stressful. Just imagine a 200 mile stretch of driving in the dark with a blizzard going on. So far I haven’t had “the pleasure” of it. And right now I don’t want to think about snow at all, though some is gonna come down on Saturday. That is if the weather guys are right. I hope they are gonna be wrong.
20150319_192534-001             The “Shadow”
But the very bright side of my job is being on a multi-day trip to a nice place with an excellent hotel like the one I am in right now at Spruce Grove, AB.
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The Holiday Inn Express in Spruce Grove is not only very new, but has an excellent standard of service. The rooms are huge and extremely comfortable.
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And this particular one is located within walking distance of a BOSTON PIZZA restaurant a chain you can find on both sides of the border. They do offer the best pizza available this side of the Atlantic Ocean and they have a few unimaginable good desserts. I tried both and of course forgot to take a pic of my dessert “The Chocolate Explosion”. I haven’t had such an excellent dessert in a long time and was too eager to dig in. And the individual size pizza was a Double Bacon-Cheese. Too good to describe in words. But hey… I got a picture.
My group of young ladies are a hockey team trying to go to the semi finale. But they lost the first round.
We are gonna be here for a few days and all I have to do is shuttling them between the hotel and the arena.

Love that.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Alberta – a U.S.-State?

Alberta has often been compared to Texas. Mainly because of its oil based economy, but also because of its population which seems more American-style than in any other province.

Yet, Alberta as the 51st U.S. State is most likely never gonna happen. After all, and luckily, there are still significant differences in ways how Albertans have organized society, compared to their southern neighbour. And just that might be something American author Peter Zeihan might have missed in his book, where he expresses his opinion that: (citation)

"Alberta as a U.S. state would not simply be rich — the richest in the Union, in fact — but would have a vibrantly well-financed and diverse economy that would put its former (and a lot of its new-found) countrymen to shame," writes the American author in The Accidental Superpower.

"Alberta produces more energy than the rest of Canada put together, their primary export market is the United States and a merger would eliminate everything from tax liabilities to foreign currency fluctuations.

It’s like saying Donald Trump is gonna “shack-up” with the poorest 10 Million of Americans in order to increase his power and wealth.

For one thing I have no belief in that Albertans would want to put up with the American Congress and its rather childish behaviour. Neither some U.S. Senator’s general opinions rooted in the middle ages would seem attractive to Canadians. And last but not least with Albertans enjoying free health care membership, the prospect of forking over 1000 bucks a month or more to an American-style health insurance would definitely ruin Zeihan’s idea of turning Alberta into an American State.

Even though Zeihan’s focus on monetary benefits cannot be dismissed entirely, it doesn’t need to go hand-in-hand with a political union. Mentioned benefits like no currency risks and no trade barriers can easily be reached by creating a common North-American currency. (See EURO within European Union) Even less probable seems the idea of Saskatchewan joining in on “shacking up”

I would recommend Mr.Zeihan spends some considerable time between Canadians on the grass-root level, before he writes a book about a sensitive topic like a political union with the U.S.

The entire CBC-article can be found here:  https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/alberta-richer-shacked-u-171715055.html

Monday, March 16, 2015

And How Do We Like Big City Life?

Over my entire life I have been hating big cities. The thought of having to beat traffic, of having potential low-life neighbourhoods around me – yes the entire hustle-bustle of a big city has put me off.
I still maintain that big cities are not my preferred place for living,
Downtown-Skyline-Edmonton-Alberta-Canada-02-2
BUT, over the course of the past year I have been adapting to this “other” form of life. My adaptation came with the appreciation of having certain qualities in close proximity.  Mostly it is the fact that I don’t have to drive 80 miles to get to a shopping centre. Likewise I enjoy meeting strangers (like I always did) along the trails. Of course, the actual neigbourhood we are part of, has a huge impact of how we experience the city.
tree-lines
Ever since we started to be house sitters in this lovely old-time neigbourhood with its stately tree-lined streets, our appreciation of life in the city has soared. And in spite of having city traffic not far away we have enjoyed an extremely quiet neighborhood with nature hiking trails less than 200 yards away.

A little bit more than one more month and we will be moving back into our trailer. With that comes also a change of neighborhood.

Naturally, we are still appalled by the level of crime in this city. Stabbings and drug-related violence is part of the daily menu in Edmonton, as it is in every large city.

And frankly, having this beautiful island we call home, way back in the east is a re-assurance that we always can return to our quiet island life. I don’t know who is most home-sick of us. I would rather return today than tomorrow and I think Bea feels the same way.

And we are slowly developing plans for the coming summer. At some point it will include Bea returning to Campobello Island. But we will have to wait until the incredible amount of snow on the east coast has turned into water again.  Just a few days ago the Maritimes have again been pounded with yet another snow storm. All that while Alberta has enjoyed spring-time temperatures up to 16C (60.8F).

A while back I was writing about Molly having digestive problems. I am happy to say that these problems have been overcome. Molly is back in her usual good spirits. Every time I am coming home from a charter tour I am overwhelmed of joy by seeing Molly wagging her tail in the door frame. She is 12 years old and has never had serious health problems. People we meet think she is around 5 years old, that’s how good-looking she is. Over the past years she has also developed social skills with other dogs. While she in early life never even cared to “greet” other dogs, she is now a confident lady and walks straight up to other dogs wagging her tail.

Thanks for stopping again!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring In The City And A Police Encounter

We are just one week away from the official start of spring, but it seems that Edmonton (and the southern part of Alberta) has taken an advance on spring temperatures. Snow and ice has been transformed into a wet slush. The sun is sending its warming rays and make us feel well again. Even the North Saskatchewan River got rid of its ice cover. On the southern river valley slopes green grass is sprouting like it’s been waiting there for way too long already. We see people walking and sitting in the parks and yesterday I saw the first open convertible passing along. A group of small kids were walking by today, the girls with short-sleeved white blouses. What a pleasant sight.

But today is Friday the 13th.!
I was heading west on one of Edmonton’s freeways when I saw police cruisers parked on the left lane. They had stopped a vehicle. Maybe a case of speeding, what did I know? I slowed down for passing the site, then accelerated again down the road. Suddenly I saw red and blue right behind me.

What the heck?

I stopped on the right shoulder, wondering what was wrong.  The appearing officer asked for the usual papers which I handed him through the window. Then he disappeared in his cruiser. He stayed there for the longest time until I saw him get out, open the cruiser’s trunk and returning with a book or manual.  

Huh…???

Another long time later (was he reading the book?) he finally got out and walked over to my van. First he asked me whether my ambulance emergency lights were still working.  No they are not. All disconnected.
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He then proceeded to tell me that de-commissioned emergency vehicles need to have the lights removed. Now THAT I did not know which I told him. Next thing he was asking for my email address offering to send the particular section of the law, so I could get myself informed. No ticket was issued and he left “as a friend”.

So, while he was in his cruiser, was he trying to find the paragraph about lights on former emergency vehicles?  We’ll never know but if he did, he sure didn’t find it in his book.

Later we tried to find it on the internet, but were unsuccessful. Maybe there is no law against it?
I haven’t received his email either. Not yet anyway.

I have been driving this van for almost a year criss cross through the city. And I have seen numerous police cruisers going by. Never ever had anybody any remark on my van.  So what got into this officer, who was actually stationed at the scene of a checkstop, warning off the following traffic about the irregular stop on the left side of the freeway, that he left his spot chasing my vehicle?

Maybe it was because of Friday the 13th.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Home For The Weekend

No charter orders for this weekend. Spending time with Bea and Molly is sooo good. But Molly has digestive problems again. She’s had that problem a couple of times over the past weeks and we wonder whether she licks up the poisonous road salt.

Hopefully, all this winter stuff is soon over, Spring is right around the corner and the temps are nice now.
spring corner
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Turmoil

While the Keystone XL pipeline discussion continues, another crude oil rail transport has derailed in Ontario, causing rail cars ending up in a river and a blasting fire. I think it’s safe to say that rail transport of oil is not secure. Maybe companies take shortcuts on safety. Already we have heard voices demanding that rail lines would have to avoid populated areas.
train derailment gogama mar 7 15
The alternative to rail would be more pipelines, but Pres. Obama has fired a strong salvo towards Canada. (see CBC link down below)
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/canadian-oil-extraction-is-extraordinarily-dirty-process-obama-says-1.2985655

Needless to say it wasn’t received very well in Canada. Would the American reaction be the same without having discovered oil on U.S. territory? Maybe not.

Meanwhile, Alberta’s Premier Jim Prentice has said that Albertans “should look in the mirror”, meaning the entire population is at fault for causing the economic slow-down. Or did he really mean the excessive use of public funds for exclusive luxury expenses the Alberta government thought to be entitled to?
hand-mirror-prentice
It’s gotta be the gaffe of the year. Angry Albertans have been meeting with mirrors in front of the legislative building demanding the Premier to look into HIS mirror. How can a Premier say something so stupid??

Jim Prentice must be utterly dismayed over Pres. Obama’s latest announcement, especially after lobbying American politicians for goodwill towards  the Keystone XL which might have helped Alberta’s economy.

Yup, Alberta is in turmoil.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Great Kids!

After picking up the students at an early hour in Leduc we drove over to Jasper where the group later enjoyed a full day of skiing at the Marmot Basin. The road up there reminded me a whole lot of a very famous road in Norway – The Trollstigen.
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Map of Marmot Basin Road                     Marmot Basin – The Mountain
 
It’s a narrow winding road, steep a few places and quite long. Up at the top lies the Marmot Basin Ski Lift with numerous facilities all around. After unloading the bus I had to drive back to Jasper as there really is no room for parking any number of coaches.
20150305_160036_resizedArrival at Marmot Basin

I pretty much spent the early afternoon with solid napping. After all, I had been on duty since around 4am.
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Unloading the gear
At 4pm I was back at marmot Basin to pick up the youngsters. Everyone was right on time, there was no extra waiting and everyone had a happy face. What more can a bus driver ask for?
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Part of Icefield Parkway towards Jasper
After return to the hotel I drove the bunch to town for supper.

This morning we did it all over again. Kids were at the bus early and we were one of the first buses at the ski slope.

Tonight we are gonna return to Leduc and when I hit my pillow around midnight I will be very tired.

So why not take an extra nap right now?

Yup…good idea!

See ya.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

OMG… 9 Hrs. Of Curling? NO THANKS

I can fully understand that a northern country like Canada has its focus in sports directed towards games with snow and ice. After all, winter is a pretty dominating part of the Canadian climate. It’s like central Europe is mostly focused on playing soccer (Fussball) which they can play basically at any time either outside or in a covered arena.
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Like a crash-landed flying saucer – The Saddledome

But of all winter sports in Canada I think Curling is the most boring game EVER.

YAWN! 

I mean there is no what-so-ever action in this game. Nobody is running or catching something (a ball??) There is no acrobatic grace over it and it seems to me as a pretty static game where we see the very same picture all the time. I mean I can understand why people are watching Hockey, as that game is full of action. Players are running and beating on each other with the clubs and they are falling on top of each other --- like I said: Full of action. The goal of the game would not interest me, but watching the players do their artistics can be quite entertaining.
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But look at Curling, there’s nothing of interest. A stone is pushed across the ice and lands somewhere with no meaning at all. Other stones are sending the previous one a bit further on his way.  Strange indeed!
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Bea has a name-sake in Calgary

And would you know it, I had the honour of driving a bunch of retirees (most of them were) to this curling game at the Saddledome in Calgary. We arrived around 1pm, and after dropping folks off I found a parking lot for the bus somewhat out in the southern peripheries of Stampede Park (Calgary Stampede) There was nothing around other than a 4-lane freeway where any attempt to walk along would have been suicidal. My schedule said that these fine people would be back from the game at 9:30pm, (yup that’s 8 hrs of watching a stupid game) so I re-appeared with my bus outside the west entrance and waited.
By that time waiting was my middle name.
Peter Waiting Harwerth, so to speak. But the game went longer than expected. First right around 10pm my group was piling into the bus again. Of course, now there was this one lady gone missing so her husband went looking for her.  Meanwhile we were waiting and I had just started to entertain the bunch by telling stories from my colourful past
when the lady was found and re-joined her husband  and rest of the group.
20150303_150325By now traffic had exploded to a scary FRIDAY-AFTERNOON-TRAFFIC- SCENE.
After another 30 minutes we had fought our way through the throngs and were eating miles to the north on Highway 2.

Today I am holed up in a hotel just south of Edmonton in order to pick up a bunch of 41 kids who are gonna try to break their legs on the ski slopes of Jasper National Park.

Junior High School!
How old are these??

I will let you folks know how that adventure goes.

Meanwhile have a non-boring day/evening or whatever you are having.

And thanks for stopping by!