We now return you to your regularly scheduled irregular schedule...
Posted Jun 05 2009 5:06pm
As you can tell, I'm back from my Road Trip in one piece. I figure this post is going to be a real thrill for the boys (if there are any guys who read this lol). Why, you ask? It involves very very Very large Trucks. Balm to the soul of any man who retains memories of Big Wheels and Tonka Toys as a kid (since most men aren't mentally beyond that, this should be exciting!).
My almost-ten-hour-round-trip drive took me up North to the Oil-booming, heavily-forested boondocks city of Fort McMurray. A city of some 60,000 people, 430 km away from civilization (aka Edmonton) with abundant forests - there are even areas called 'no-man's-land' - and freezing weather in the winter. It's a city built for the oilfield workers, so there's five men to every one woman and I tell you, is there ever some serious eye-candy to see!
I arrived in town a little before midnight, after having gotten slightly lost during my (almost) five-hour long trip and driving the last 200 kms in a thunderstorm...in the dark. Without having ever driven there before. Oh yes, that was fun! Molly - who is now three months old - came along and cut her proverbial driving teeth on this first trip. Long drive? Think Pig's Ears! (and boo to you, Health Canada; try enduring an antsy puppy in a small car for that length of time!) I swear these bad boys are the universal puppy pacifier and the one thing that saved me from insanity while driving up.
Tip #2) If you want to transport your insulin without spending money on some fancy schmancy cooler or lugging a large beverage cooler around, get a little hot/cold thermos. (if you're a camper, you've probably been doing this for years as well) I fill the thermos half-way with crushed ice, leaving enough room for the vial/penfill of insulin to fit. I like to wrap my insulin in a bit of paper towl to keep it from becoming too cool; yes this can happen, I had an insulin slushie once as a teenager. Then I put the wrapped vial in a ziploc baggie and Voila, insta-cool insulin container that's easy to carry!
Saturday's weather was rotten, but the 10 degree celsius and forty feet of cold rain did not stop me from playing tourist and sightseeing. Unfortunately, it did prevent us from seeing any wildlife beyond nine Canada Geese crossing the road. I was hoping for some wolves and bears.
What I did have the immense fortune of seeing, however, was the Syncrude Oil Sands (clicking on the link will open a picture library). At the gates of Syncrude's vast stretch of land stands a herd of rock-carved bison, in tribute to the real herds of Wood Bison that can be seen from the road and are honoured for their continuity with nature.
It takes about twenty minutes of driving to reach the core of Syncrude; the signature Smoke Stack, processing plants and immense buildings. Sand as far as the eye can see, interspersed with lakes of water and the horizon, in the distance, is broken only by the massive machinery that is used to harvest the Oil Sands. Walking Draglines and Bucketwheels are scattered all over and can be seen from miles away as they collect the oil sands. Conveyer belts stretch for kilometers like gridlines on a map, strategically placed so as to expediently carry the appropriated sands to the home base. And, best of all, the behemoth dump trucks that slowly make their way back and forth across the land like yellow ants in a colony.
It's the Largest Truck in the World. Weighing in at over 1,000,000 lbs, it has a top speed of <70 km/hr and the tires stand some 14 feet high. My sister's better half is a heavy duty mechanic for Syncrude and does repairs and maintenance on these monsters as required (I think he's gotta have one of the coolest jobs); he took us to a yard and let me climb on one. It is one of the neatest things I've ever done. It took two flights of stairs just to get on to the truck, which has got to be over two stories high. I sat inthe cab and checked out all the bells and whistles. There is no steering wheel; the truck is manoeuvred using a joystick, two flat panel computer screens and a host of unidentifiable buttons. It has side-view mirrors as long as my torso and even a CD Stereo for the listening pleasure of the driver. According to the better half, these machines are so large that conventional braking systems cannot be used alone (too much friction on the brake pads), and a reverse-flow electrical method is employed in order to slow the rotation of the tires. It's amazing to me to think that something on such a large scale was built by humans and is being operated as I type. I figure on the next trip I'm going to con the BH into letting me drive in one...I'll even play passenger!
Sunday was more rain, brunch and then the long drive home. I ended up pushing my car a little harder than I should've (140km/hr at some points) but it got us home quicker. And that, in a nutshell, was my weekend Road Trip. I plan on doing it again soon, although hopefully I will have a relief driver!
Aside #1 ) Harry Potter...all I can say is FAB!!! It was a smaller book than the previous two, but the author is doing a fantastic job of maturing her characters. I read it twice!!
Aside #2 ) Molly has a thing for the bathtub. She likes to jump in the shower with me in the mornings if I'm dumb enough to leave the door open. Sunday night the tub was filling with water...Molly takes a flying leap into the bathtub, lands in water up to her neck (which she clearly wasn't expecting), does a quick reverse and boogies out of there as fast as she can! It was a Kodak moment...and me without my kodak!!