Archive for May, 2014

Alberta Wilderness Stories

During the many years living in Alberta’s wilderness outside of the big cities of Calgary and Edmonton, along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains NW of Calgary, I have encountered situations which to most city dwellers may seem frightening.
During the years I worked on my 80-acre ranch with my horses, building barns and rail fences. Adjacent to my acreage was crown land, miles of it, leased out as grazing land to the big ranchers for their cows. Somewhere in the midst of all that wilderness – grass and many trees – was that saw mill. I often went to the saw mill to get rough cut lumber, using my 3/4 ton 4-wheel drive Dodge truck. There were no roads, only rough rutted trails. One day driving in there, a smaller truck came out towards me, two men sitting in it, cheesy-white in their faces, obviously scared of something they encountered in the vicinity of that saw mill. Indeed – when I came closer I saw the yellow warning tapes from Alberta Wildlife around a larger area (grizzly bear), right close to the saw mill. I drove on to see the saw mill guy. He was not around. Obviously because of the grizzly bear warning. Later I read up on this in one of the local papers. A grizzly had taken down a cow. Scary ? well, not really. Just always be careful and do not aggravate such large wild animals without first announcing your presence. In that case, though, being a big bear feeding, an even more careful approach is needed.
[More stories, next time around.]


WeCanDoIt 001

I always loved this image. Reminding me so much of the end of WWII, when there were only women (and some old men) who had to rebuilt the country out of all that rubble. The first time I saw this particular picture had been in Europe. Lucky, the other day I could acquire the last of these (tin, a bit bent) at our store here on Vancouver Island.
In Germany after the end of war in 1945 there were lots of these women, with their head scarfs – not as sharp looking as this beautiful model. Nonetheless, they could do it. Yes, Sirree. Working with shovel and pick axe on the endless mounds of rubble of what had former been century old houses.
Not only in that most seriously destroyed country, but definitely the same happened with all those hard working women in Russia, where many more men had been killed during that war [ see also one of my previous posts WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION = ].  My head off to all those who knew how to work  hard, rebuilding their countries ! [I was just seven years old, maybe a bit too young to pitch in.]

I had decided by the end of 2006 to do a end-of-the-year Christmas cruise. At that time I had chosen Celebrity Cruises, on the Zenith. Zenith – this was an older ship and has been retired since – and Horizon were the first ships introduced to the Celebrity fleet
[ ].
The cruise was around 5 nights, embarking from Tampa, FL, ports of call including Nassau – Bahamas, Philipsburg – St. Maarten, San Juan – Puerto Rico, Key West, FL, past Miami and ending in port Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Both my flight to Tampa and from the disembarkation at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, were from Vancouver, BC.
As far as the ship itself goes, what I observed and experienced was not what I would call a nice, exciting and interesting Christmas cruise. The food had been standard as far as I recall. The cabin – being this was an older ship – started to take water soon after departure, such that I had to call a steward to pump it out. At night after dark, on the upper decks, unfortunately one could see the roaches running up the walls. Who knows, maybe my cabin on a low interior deck was close to the kitchen as well ? Effort had been put into preparing a real fancy Christmas dinner and Buffet including large fanciful ice sculptures decorating the tables. The towns of the ports of call were pretty much empty around this time of year. Maybe not a good idea to expect a shore excursion during that season to be worthwhile.

The “from hell” comment does not really refer only to the cruise and ship portion, but what followed after disembarkation once arrived at Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The ‘Flight from Hell’. (Dates: Approx. between 21 and 23 December 2006.)
The flight back to Vancouver was to take off from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Dallas, Fort Worth Airport, TX, then on to Vancouver, BC, which should have gotten me safely in one day back to Vancouver. Instead, we had gotten into the middle of a hurricane. All regular planes wanting to touch down at Dallas Fort Worth Airport [ ] could not do so and had to be re-routed to Shreveport, LA. [,-93.828496,469m/data=!3m1!1e3 ].
Prior to landing the pilot had to wait for approval by the control towers and circle the air plane for quite some time (with advice that we are running low on fuel). Terrible feeling. Lots of families on board with smaller children.
Upon touch down and due to extreme airport security, we could not leave the air plane for five (5) hours. Even more terrible situation, as there was no water left on board, toilets could not be used and were all clocked up, children were crying.
Shreveport is a smaller airport, with a few landing strips only (most re-routed larger planes that night had to find a place to set down somewhere). When eventually leaving the plane, all passengers had to walk in those hurricane winds and heavy rain to the Airport building across a length of tarmac.

Then waiting in endlessly long lines for a solution. Where to go and spend the night. The airline American Airlines company eventually gave each passenger US$20 to spend the night in a motel. Twenty dollars for one night ? you must be kidding. It cost much more. I spend a terrible noisy night in there in that sleazy place. Next morning up early, some breakfast, then to the Terminal Hall and check out when to leave.

By noon finally we were allowed to leave (after re-fuelling the plane) and go on to Dallas Fort Worth Airport. There a situation like during a war. Passengers in all halls on the floor in sleeping bags (some had spend already days at that airport). Waiting for planes. To go home. Vancouver announced late that afternoon.
Amazing to observe passengers’ reactions. The first to crack were usually men, also presumably people who never experienced a war. I myself found the entire experience during those days and nights rather amusing. I went through an entire war, WWII, from start to end as a very young child. This here was nothing to me !

Lucky I had met earlier some nice people on board the ship, we shared some chocolate (the only food for a day and a night for us) while waiting in lines at that airport.
Anyways, finally got my return flight to Vancouver, landing at midnight. Another night at a hotel at Vancouver Airport. Next morning finally caught the ferry back home to Victoria, Vancouver Island.
Thanks for that trip !

more travel tips

Besides worry about what clothes to take ** – being that carry on and other luggage is now severely limited – the most important item when traveling is still the passport. Without passport you cannot get anywhere easily. Example of compromised passport: During the sixties we spent each summer vacation in Italy with the family. Once while boating on the Garda Lake, Northern Italy, my friend lost his passport in the lake – slipped out of his back pocket together with wallet and drivers license. Difficult situation to resolve, there was no proof of passport documention. I personally always take with me a copy of my passport (outside pages, couple of inside pages with picture). Not that I have lost my passport, but I have used the copied pages many times, when in certain countries where even a passport is required to get some foreign currency in a bank. The copy of my passport was accepted.
Credit cards. I also always take copies of my cards with me, in case of loss or theft, for proof at a Bank or Police.
The other important gadget is a small LED flashlight. Also needed many times when in a country where power outages occur. Especially couple times in Mexico, where night comes early and fast. Besides that, also a small radio. Usually I buy a new one in any of the continents I travel, because those do not last long. Good for local news and keeping up with the language of that particular country. OTHER gadgets I always take: Mini KC Pro travel tool kit; my Swiss Army knife; mini (credit card size) OptiCard (magnifier/light)  [some items go into check-in luggage].

CLOTHING. When leaving Canada it it always cold, and therefore  when leaving I wear multiple layers of clothing, that I need again when returning to Canada. No need to pack in any suit case.
** clothes – easily can be bought anywhere in the world in second-hand stores