Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:06 am

BTW... a little side story....

It was somewhere around Wawa we began to notice a gentleman on a triumph (newer) who we kept passing, and then he'd pass us at a stop, and then we'd repeat.

We finally caught up to him in a small town (or he, us) and we chatted for a while.

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Turns out his name is Mike, is an artist, and he makes this trip (usually by truck, he'd just gotten the Triumph and was still breaking it in... the long way!) every year. He's documenting in his own way, through his art, some of the people and places and how they've been changing over the last few decades.

Now thats interesting enough - and he rides a Triumph (which was the bike Jack owned after the war.) but then we found out a few more details.

Like the sidecar he plans to add to it? A Ural sidecar.

Or the vintage Norton he owns (Jack's favourite bike.)

Or that the mechanic who rebuilt his Norton? Exact same guy who is a good friend of my brothers - and happens to be the same person who restored the red norton my brother was riding at the beginning of this ride report.

You can call it a minor coincidence if you like. Me? I think Jack's having a bit of fun with us, somehow.


(To be continued shortly)

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:31 am

(Just realized I forgot to add an important disclaimer at the beginning of this ride report...)

Ahem.

No stuffed Koalas were killed or injured in any way during the trip.

However three stuffed moose and an anteater were shredded for a quick giggle.

That is all.

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:33 am

So... we're somewhere round Wawa (why does that city name make me giggle just a little bit every time I say it?)
and cruising along at 90 clicks per hour.

There's no hurry when you're having fun - and the Ural is the slowest fast ride there is. (You might be cruising at 95-100kph... but when you are doing that on a Ural it FEELS far faster than it is.)

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jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:45 am

Mind you not all the scenery is on the road, sometimes you have to stop and take the odd little walk out to see something... a little deeper.


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Those two gents were up from the States for a weeks trip on a pair of BMW's as I recall.

This is what they're all looking at.

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We spent a pleasant while here - before going back on the ride.

And occasionally going by the side of the road.
(Little hint gents... if you need to take a pee by the side of the road, confiscate all camera memory cards beforehand.)

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It was shortly after this, while I was looking for another place to "Drain the spare gas tank" that we had a pickup truck pull up next to us when we pulled over, had a gentlemen step out - and begin his own "liquid disposal" while talking to us over his shoulder.

Things are apparently just a little casual in Northern Ontario.

He did like the bike though.

Oh and no... it didn't seem appropriate to back that up with pictures.

Before we left Ontario entirely, we did have our first clothing casualty. It wasn't to be the last either. While having lunch I left my inner layer behind on a chair.

We realized much too late to go back - and it didn't seem a big deal, after all it had been pretty warm up to that point right?

Oh did I mention that inner layer also had the only plug I had with me for my heated vest and gloves?

Yeah.

Shortly, this would start to be.... just a wee bit of an issue.

I just found some more Wawa shots. (And I just giggled saying that) so here they are - even if they are out of order a bit. But who says a story can't jump back and forth a little bit?


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And now back to our road travels...

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Ok.... remember when I mentioned misplacing my inner layer and heated gear plug?

It started to matter... oooh... right about.... here.

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Two weeks before our trip they'd had a freakish snowstorm in Alberta, and weather was running quite cold all across the prairies - even as Ontario was mostly experiencing record heat.

So suddenly - we were driving into a cold, cold bitter steady wind.

This was wind with an attitude. Wind with a personality. Not a likeable one either.

Fortunately - our first stop in Manitoba wasn't too far along - the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Steinbach.

Now, I'd told my wife I wanted to see things like this -

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But in reality, I wanted to go into here....

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and eat some of this....

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(Homemade pork sausage, perogies in cream sauce, home made bread and coleslaw)

and also some of this....

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(Home made rhubarb dessert)


And some of this....

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(Home made borscht)

An army might travel on its stomach... I travel where my stomach tells me to go. And once you've eaten Mennonite, you'll know that they know good food.

Oh yeah they had some historical stuff as well after the food was out of the way.

Like a log cabin - built with numbers cut into each log so it could be disassembled and reassembled later. The original mobile home?

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Or a "Soddie" - one of the first prairie settler's homes. And yep, they're made from sod.

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This one came complete with a tragic past - with a plaque telling the story of a family where two daughters died during the winter. While they were snowed in. The bodies had to be kept in the rafters - for weeks til they could get back out.

I stood there and tried to imagine arriving on a giant empty plain of grass - nothing else in sight for miles and miles. Cutting your home from the earth and grass. Spending months trapped by the snow, just bare minimal survival untl you've clawed your way up to something better.

Sometimes finding opportunity asks a harsh price.

We would have stayed longer, but the wind was still cold - and the clouds started to look just a bit more threatening of rain. Of which Manitoba and the prairies had seen record amounts just the week before.

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We were threading a needle between weather systems - and despite the cold, it could have have been much worse conditions to ride.

We continued on.... heading out into the plains. And I found... something interesting.

Something surprising.

If you take the side roads, avoid the trans canada through the prairies you'll see it has a different aspect.

It's not that the prairies lack scenery - it's just..... stretched.

La Riviere for example lies down in a valley... with a few actual hills. Not big ones. But hills nonetheless.

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Katie can back me up on that one.

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Even on the flat stretches, you'd see farmsteads rising like islands in a sea of grass.

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And the prairies hold their ghosts as well.... wood and stone holding spirits of the vanished. Peering memory from empty windows.

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And the disappearing giants... grain elevators. Rising from miles away from the horizon, marking the diminished towns that once served them like fiefdoms around a keep. Dinosaurs now mostly, vacant and rapidly vanishing as they get torn down. I think soon these icons of the west will be.... mostly ghosts themselves.


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We actually didn't take that many pictures in Manitoba.... not that there was a lack of scenery... it was just... too big for pictures.

It's something you can't appreciate until you see it - the sheer size of horizon. The way grass fills your ears and eyes in the wind, moving in waves.

When the clouds go away - how its all just blue all above.

And the sky makes you feel... just a little small.

No pictures really capture that.

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We slipped into Saskatchewan after miles of Manitoba side highways - feeling very alone on long straight roads.

More grain elevators - grand old towers, gentle falling piece by piece.

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We stopped for the night, after a bit of trouble finding hotel. Half the province seemed to be booming, and hotel rooms were very much in demand even for long term workers. We paid too much for too little of a room after going to 4 different hotels just looking for one.

We also needed to fix the latest clothing casualties.

Rain paints - which didn't like a hot muffler. And yes, that's duct tape. Handyman's secret weapon doncha'know.

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My wife's glasses - fixed with some spare wire stripped of insulation and braided around the broken hinge. (She's still wearing them now actually... and it looks a bit better than duct tape which was the only other option.)
( later added more wire to the other side to "Balance" them for her.... she actually got a compliment from someone who thought they were arty frames. Go figure.)

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Oh and one more repair.... I was thinking "If we run out of duct tape we'll be arriving naked"

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Trust me, that wouldn't be pretty.

(to be continued...)

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:33 am

Time for another Jack story.....

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Now my grandfather Jack met my grandmother Joan during his time in England, in WW2.

They met in a village outside London, she was just 16 at the time and walking the family dog with her mother by the local river.

Jack, normally NOT the sort to be lost for words, was apparently quite nervous - finally getting up the nerve to walk up to her and asking (by way of introduction)

"Can I wheel your dog?"

They married in 1943 in England, moving back out to Victoria in 1947.

66 years, filled with laughter, love, and banter.

From watching them I learned a great lesson about life and love. It isn't what you say - it's what you do every day.

And after that many years of days - you just need a touch to speak whole encyclopedia's worth of words.

Thanks Jack, for showing me that too.

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jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:40 am

And back to our report....


Remember how I mentioned a wee incident involving a high speed house?

Well that happened in Saskatchewan.

We mostly stuck to the 100kph, side highways. What would be an 80kph road in Ontario, two lanes with one lane going in each direction.

This particular one had a very deep ditch on either side - way too deep for the Ural to get into. And no shoulder.

And the lanes were not very wide either. With no real cutoffs or side roads to duck into.

Suddenly, after a while of seeing no other cars whatsoever we see a pickup truck with a sign mounted on the roof - "HOUSE MOVE"

With no other real choice - aside from backing up at 80kph really suddenly - we pull as far over to the right as we can. To the point where I'm kinda hoping nobody sneezes as our sidecar wheel will likely then go into the ditch.

The truck passes.

The house looms on the horizon.

It takes up most - but not quite all of the road.

Shortly before driving past, the driver manages to veer over just a touch, and it passes us with about 6 feet to spare.

"Phew" I'm thinking.

And right then... I see the SECOND house.

Bigger house.

And the driver.... is... not... veering... over.

Or slowing. He's doing a good 80kph. (Because along the prairie roads, you HAVE to do at least 80kph just to get anywhere. A trip out for a thing of milk is what would be a major road trip back home in Ontario.)

He comes closer.....

I've got nowhere to go.

Closer....

He still isn't veering over.

He passes - close enough that I have to duck at the last second and lean WAY over to the right.

Ever see floorboards from the underside? How about when they're moving at 80kph?

And meanwhile I'm just thinking "I'm about to be killed and the insurance company will NEVER BELIEVE THE HOUSE HIT ME!"

It did miss me... but lets just say the doctor says 6 more operations will be needed to remove the leather seat cover from my clenched butt cheeks.

At least I had my minor revenge moment of glee mind you.

I'm pretty sure the floorboards on that bastard had a bit of dry rot.

After that... we stopped in a little town called Ogema.

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Neat place... where other towns are disappearing into grey weathered ghosts and shuttered houses... Ogema has changed from it's grain elevator centred economy.

They put in a pig farm.... a museum. They moved a historical train station and reassembled it.

They bought out their spur line, got diesel locomotives - and are planning to run tourist trains.

And every single person you talk to - they'll spend time telling you exactly where you need to go to get the best pictures.

You could see the pride the residents had... and deservedly so. In a day where people move to find better things, they'd stuck it out... and were gaining when other towns were losing.

Here's a few of those pictures...

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(One of the very last BA gas stations in Canada)

They also have a large outdoor museum area - but we had to go before exploring that. The weather was turning bad.... and the wind was picking up.

And there wasn't much shelter out there....

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We headed west, towards Alberta.

And finally... the dream of every Ural owner.... I passed something on a highway!

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I'm pretty sure I could have passed this guy as well, but as he was going the opposite way I never got to find out. Damn.

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We spotted something... and stopped to take a few more pictures.

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Even Katie got into the picture action (She crept out from the bag in which she mostly slept in the sidecar... or at least, this iwhat my daughter was told in Katie's emails to her every night. (Every night we had internet anyways)

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Now we'd also been seeing all these curious little signs along the way saying "Point of Interest - 2 KM" and you'd get out there and basically.... see nothing.

So we finally stopped at one, and found a little plaque...

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Nothing else really... just the plaque. Kinda... a little.. anticlimatic. But at least the signs DID provide just a wee bit of amusement.

The wind meanwhile, had kept climbing up and up in intensity... to the point where our speed started to drop.

95kph turned into 85....

Then 75.....

Then 70.... the Ural was doing its best, but this wind was something... unreal.

We later learned Tornado funnels had been spotted in the area, but hadn't in fact touched down.

And then we turned to the north... and were basically hanging off the handlebars on one side trying to keep the rig steering straight. We'd hook our wrist on the left hand side around the grip because our hands couldn't keep up the necessary pull on the left hand side, and push with all of our body weight on the right. And we were STILL barely keeping in a straight line.

We were swapping out every 45 mins... then 30... then 20.

We ran out of gas at 120km on a tank. Which was a VERY new low mileage record for the beast. 20l gone in 120km. We had to pull over and resort to the Jerrycan again... and I was worried that might not get us to our destination.

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It was brutal.

But we were heading up to Drumheller, AB for our nightly stop and along the way we had chosen... it was pretty much.... nothing until then.

Just wide open prairie.... and wind.

How much wind?

This much.

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It was weird as well.... in Ontario winds like this would be coming in gusts.. giving you moments to stop and rest and adjust.

Here it was steady - like a gigantic leafblower on high.

Finally, we began to pass some farms... with trees alongside the road to act as windbreaks. And if you ever wonder if those trees do anything? Out there... OH MY GOD YES!

It was the only thing that allowed me to keep driving... my wife had to finally retire to the sidecar only, as she wasn't able to keep things going straight.

Those trees kept me from losing my grip - I'd get a few minutes of rest and then the wind would hammer us again, driving us to the side, tossing the fully loaded heavyweight Ural around like a tinker toy.

And then.... finally... thankfully... wonderfully...

Something up ahead....

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Is that....??????

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DRUMHELLER!

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I've never been so glad to drop down into a wonderfully, wind sheltered valley before in my life.

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We stopped at a local Hotel, and basically collapsed into bed.

Drumheller, we decided, would be worth a full day to explore a bit - so we'd book the hotel for two nights and check the area out.

That turned out to be a very wise decision.

(To be continued... hopefully tommorow, but since I'm going away for the weekend it might end up being Sunday night. Unfortunately the lack of electricity or internet or phone lines.... or even cellphone signal actually... means our Bunkie up north is.... primitive.

As in carry in our own water primitive.

(To be continued)

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:41 am

Some hints as to what is coming.....

Going wild in the Hoo Doos.....

Going underground....

Getting to BC and getting radioactive....

The continusing saga of replacement clothing....

The GPS that tried to kill us....

Bavaria, Russian, Mediterranean - err... what country are we in again?

Hot, Cold, Hot, Cold.... why you can NEVER dress properly for a motorcycle trip through the rockies....

And a wee bit more.

All guaranteed** to amuse and astound you!

**Any guarantee given is completely null and void. Any amusement may be entirely incidental, or a side effect of excessive amounts of prescription medication.

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Fri Nov 02, 2012 9:58 am

Just a quick couple little mini stories from our first day in Drumheller, AB (more to follow after the weekend)

First thing, the clothing chaos continued. The jacket I bought as an inner layer to replace the one that had been left behind in northern ontario?

Zipper broke. So ANOTHER one was purchased.

My fedora, brought along to my oh so sun unfriendly head from much burning - died from excessive crushing during packing. It was no longer hat shaped, and the brim was beginning to seperate.

Goodbye bayley fedora... you served me well for several years. And in return I abused you horribly... I salute you, felt hero!

Both it and the jacket were replaced with a trip to yet another Canadian Tire.

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I now have the dubious honor of having been in a Canadian Tire store in every province between Ontario and BC - all in one trip!

So.. after taking care of that - we were off to visit the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur museum (This is something well worth visiting if you make it into AB anytime)

Katie immediately took a shine to the place.

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As we walked up to the front door, we spotted a couple of museum staff acting as Greeters - and they had a couple of puppets.

Now from what I understand, there are so many aspiring paleontologists - and so few working spots - that the Royal Tyrrell gets it's pick of staff, and quite frequently they end up working as ordinary museum staff, just to be a part of the field.

So these guys could very likely be very highly educated specialists - working the job just to get a foot in the door so to speak.

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God knows what they thought of us, two people in a combination of duct tape repaired clothing and Canadian Tire finery so new it still had price tags - and me carrying around a small stuffed Koala with no child in sight.

I walked up and explained how Katie was along as my daughter's "Special Stuffed Representative" - and asked if we could take a picture with them and their puppets.

Now these guys, who had just been standing there looking a little lost as we pulled up - they got right into it!

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We're talking full on roleplaying, with (no doubt authentic and well researched) animal noises and miming playing and biting with the puppets.

It was hilarious, ridiculous, and granpa Jack would have loved it all.

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(Grandpa Jack loved kids - and was the first to lose all dignity and get down and play with them on an equal level. Mind you, it could be because the men in my family just.... err... don't really mature past a grade 5 level.)

We thanked them for helping with the photo... and as I walked away I could see one of them turn to the other and say.... quite loudly... "See I TOLD you puppets were a good idea!"

I think we made their day. And they helped make my daughter's day when she got the emailed pics that night.

The Royal Tyrrell is definitely something else!


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Katie thought the place was neat, but didn't like the idea of stone trees. Harder to eat the leaves.

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Also, she thought that dinosaurs might be a little too large for a small Koala to play with.

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We only had one "Incident" after visiting the museum...

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But, after convincing the dinosaur that Katie was likely not as nourishing as she first appeared - we left the museum.

Next it was time to hit the HooDoo trail....

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:10 am

So - when we left off last we were leaving the Royal Tyrrell museum, in Drumheller, Alberta.

And of course, Alberta, as we all know, is flat and contains absolutely no scenery of any kind.

Apparently - that is a wee bit wrong.

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Those are from the HooDoo Trail outside Drumheller, we were taking that to go to the Atlas Coal Mine - a coal mine which closed down in the 50's, when coal demand dropped off steeply after WWII.

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A strangely majesty, decrepit ruin. It looks over the river, visible for miles and marking... essentially... the remains of a hole in ground.

But a hole in which thousands sweated, bled, laughed, cried
essentially living their lives mostly in the dark - to make a living of which they were very proud.

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I think Jack would have understood the men who worked here. You did what you had to, to make a living. To support your family. It didn't matter if it was dirty (was was being a chimney sweep, which he did for most of his working life) or dangerous (as was being a despatch rider, or a lumberjack, which he also did.)

You took pride in what you did.


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My wife's relatives worked in the mines years ago. At the Atlas mine, they offer a tour that goes up the long rubber conveyor belt, eventually going underground. At one point, they shut off all the headlamps on the helmets, and you sit there - 40 feet underground and in complete darkness. In a tunnel barely 5.5-6 feet high.


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And in that cramped tunnel, you'd have trains. Mules pulling carts. Hundreds of miners, carrying out literal tons of coal each day.

All deep within the earth, deep within the dark.

Trusting to a carbide lantern and an acetylene flame.

The carbide lights reminded me again of Jack - because he had an extensive collection of them. Bicycles used to use them before electric lights were available. You'd put the carbide into a container - add some water. The carbide then produces acetylene gas - the same gas they use for welding - and you'd ignite it with a friction striker.

*POP* and you'd have a bright light, for as long as the extra water you kept in a old whiskey bottle, and the carbide you kept in a tin lasted anyways.

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The coal at the Atlas was of a low grade - suitable really only for heating. And it didn't store well (It absorbed water easily) so you dug it during the winter.

Climbing an icy hill, ironically, just go get to the mine entrance and climb back down.


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We left the Atlas mine - and it was time to head off to dinner. Following the GPS a ways away to someplace we had spotted in the local guide books.

(To be continued....)

jleonard
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Re: Chasing Jack: A ride report through seven decades

Post by jleonard » Mon Nov 05, 2012 9:05 am

We entered in Delia, AB into the GPS. The GPS suggested a "Shortcut" - which basically involved taking a very steep, VERY soft gravel road up the sides of the river valley, and out into the badlands.

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It was a soupy kind of pea gravel, and the narrow tires of the Ural just kind of sunk into it. Fortunately with the sidecar we couldn't fall over (with two wheels it would have been..... probably very unfortunate when we hit it.) but still, it was so soft that it was like steering with a boat tiller. Going around every turn you heard a "swish" of gravel being pushed by the front tire, and felt it kind of slowly skid into the direction you wanted to go.

After a while though, this gave out - and we ended up back on pavement.

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Out under that impossible, gigantic prairie sky.

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And then, into Delia.

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We arrived at the Mother Mountain Tea House - which served up some very delicious Alberta beef, and home made desserts.

(sorry, no pics of the actual food... we were too busy eating to think of it!)

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We went back to our hotel in Drumheller, sleeping well after a very busy day of dinosauring, hoodooing, mine visiting, and exploring. There's more to see in Drumheller, and we plan to go back someday - but that was it for today.

Tommorow, it was time to point the handlebars at the Rockies and see what British Columbia would have to offer us.

I didn't think it would disappoint.

(To be continued)

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