Prologue; In North America I think the most beautiful scenery is in the Rocky Mountains. There are small individual areas that are beautiful, but there is little that beats a huge mountain of stone. In Australia people are impressed with Ayres Rock, and it is impressive, but drop it into the middle of the Rocky Mountains it ceases to be even noteworthy. In the Rockies it would be so prosaic only experts would bother to know its name. I am referring to the US part of the Rockies, but the same is true of the Canadian Rockies. They are just differently trimmed. In the Canadian Rockies you have forests of lodge pole pine and spruce. You seem to have a lot more ground squirrels and incidentally mosquitoes that come by the pound. You do have lakes, but very little clear water. Most of the water I have seen is a light green, but opaque and full of silt.
It might be a minority opinion but I have a preference for the southern Rockies--the ones in the US--but that might be just that I saw them first and because they have more of a cinematic connection. They have appeared as scenery in films, mostly westerns, and have always been majestic. The Canadian Rockies are seen less in films. I guess they are associated with musicals like ROSE MARIE and SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES. But the green lakes and pines and the awesome rock faces that they share with their southern cousins make this one of the most beautiful areas of the world. This is true even if in my opinion not up to the majesty of what can be found in the four states of the Four Corners area.
06/27/07 New Jersey to Youngstown, Ohio
Well, we pulled out of the garage. So how did this trip start? Oddly enough the car entertainment was not an afterthought but the inspiration for the trip. Actually it came about because I record PC radio programs. I have several sources and we listen to them when we work around the house or drive. A big part of what is share with Evelyn comes from the BBC. I also record plays from the LA Theatre Company. Both are excellent sources. And they have enough good material that I record more than we have a chance to actually hear. The oldest un-listened-to tape is 24 months old. The trip started not thinking of the destination but with Evelyn asking how long a road trip could we take listening to our backlog in our driving hours. Our backlog is about 350 hours. It is sort of like flying hours. We could take a sizable trip and have the car entertainment covered. But where would we go? My sister raved about the beauty of the Canadian Rockies on her recent trip. That gave us a destination. If we did not have the Canadian Rockies idea we might have ended up taking a pleasure trip to some place like Guatemala or Newfoundland. So I will log much of what we are listening to on the drive.
Our GPS is shaped like a walkie-talkie or perhaps a cell phone. Unfortunately, I have not found a good stable place to put it on the dashboard of my Toyota Corolla where I can see it when I drive. I have tried all sorts of things from opening the cup-holder and the ashtray and passing it through the cup-holder and resting on the inside of the ashtray. There is a compartment with a 4" by 6" pull-down door. But I could not find a good mounting. I had thought of making a mount from coat hanger wire, but could not think of a good way to do this. There is a hole at the top of the GPS and I could hang it from the inside rearview mirror, but I could not figure how to control the angle it hung and this would be illegal in any case. The day before the trip I found a perfect solution. I opened the compartment door and put a heavy rubber band around it. I put a chopstick into the rubber band so it was nearly vertical going through the cup holder. I stuck the chopstick through the hole in the GPS. It hangs the GPS at just the right angle. I set it up that way and Evelyn chuckled when she saw the simple and inexpensive solution to the problem. So we will use this mounting for the course of the trip.
At home we have been having what I call dog breath weather. Run a big dog around the block three times and then stand in front of his mouth. It will be hot and moist and probably not smell very good. That describes dog breath weather. Our 1998 Toyota Corolla has good air conditioning. It will feel pretty good.
There is not much to say about today. It was driving and lunch. We started with an episode of "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again" and a dark BBC play "Time After Time." Next we listened to an hour of lecture in a Teaching Company course "Books That Have Made History" taught by Professor J. Rufus Fears of the University of Oklahoma. Most places outside of Oklahoma professors have names like Edward or Frederick. Only in Oklahoma would you find someone called Professor Rufus. Actually Rufus is his middle name. I don't know what his first name is other than it starts with a J, and that it must be even worse than Rufus.
His lecture on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON. He talked little about the content of the book instead just talking about Bonhoeffer and how his ideas were informed by his reading of the Great Books.
Homer's ILIAD did talk about content. He talked about the genius of Homer who has answers to the questions of why is there war, and why suffering. Myth is a way of expressing a higher truth. I am not entirely convinced with the usefulness of Homer's answer that wars begin with the jealousy of vanity of the gods. Fears says that the gods punish what is wrong--and I think he is dead wrong. The Greek gods were humanlike and capricious. They had all the human faults and more so. They had little interest in right and wrong. There is no right and wrong. There is only which gods are on your side and which side with your enemies. He claims that Homer would have understood the Bible. It sounds to me like Fears is preparing a religious argument.
None of the towns around this part of Pennsylvania has much in the way of places for lunch. Most have maybe one or two restaurants listed by Triple-A and they mostly seem like some kind of old building, a blacksmith shop or something, turned into a restaurant. Quaint but expensive. Lewisberg is a college town and it seems to have more restaurants.
A local Reptile Farm offers a "live venom show." Does that sound like a big time or what???? I hesitate to think what that would be. What do they do, show a snake killing other animals?
Lunch was at Country Cupboard Inn chosen from the Triple-A book. Still a little twee. The waitresses wear the Pennsylvania Dutch caps and aprons. I ordered broasted chicken and fries. Evelyn got a grilled cheese sandwich.
Our waitress saw our palmtops and talked to us about her computer problems and our palmtops. That got us on to film and we discussed PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. We seem to have gotten one of the more talkative waitresses. She talked to us about our trip. She had not been out of the country except once to Canada when she was four. She is going to see the world soon, or at least Iraq.
As we leave the restaurant it is hot and humid. It has been unpleasantly hot so far, even with the car A/C. As we continued on to Youngstown, Ohio we drove through about three different rainstorms, on very heavy. The topography changes as the road winds among green hills in fog.
On the tapes we hear THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW, made in America by the Focus on the Family people. This is sort of a prologue for the Narnia Cycle. It is not a really good fantasy because the main characters are more acted upon than acting. It is mostly to show the glory of Aslan, the lion Christ figure.
At Youngstown we stayed at the Quality Inn. We did not even go out for dinner. We worked on our logs and watched THE 300 SPARTANS. This is the original film that inspired the film 300.
06/28/07 Youngstown, OH to Detroit, MI: Toledo Museum of Art
I woke up at 4AM in agony. I am subject to nocturnal leg cramps. For years this was a serious inconvenience. Now I am getting it more, but it is less of a problem. You flex your foot and toes to point at your knee at the same time you stretch your heel to be as far away from you as possible. Nobody is sure what causes the cramps and nobody knows why this stops them, but I am glad it does. It used to take a day or so for the pain to go away. This brings it down to a minute or two. Where there is a problem is when my legs are tangled in the bedcovers and I cannot extend. Fractions of a second make a big difference.
I was up for an hour from 5 to 6 and fell asleep again and woke up about 7 which is late for me.
I will try to write some reviews for tripadvisor.com in this log.
Quality Inn of Youngstown
-- The room was dark but comfortable. -- The window looked at a cement wall. --- The room was convenient with a sink inside and one outside the bathroom. The water was very hot when needed. Breakfast was good and featured a turnover waffle-maker.
-- The orange juice did not taste real.
In the car we listened to an LaTW (Los Angeles Theatre Works) production of "The Rainmaker." We had seen the film with Katherine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. This is actually a very moving play and better than the film made from it.
The Great Books lecture was about MEDITATIONS OF MARCUS AURELIUS. Fears mentioned what he called "the noble entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes." Rhodes was noble? This is not generally history's verdict. Once again Fears's lecture seemed to be a reconciliation of a classical philosopher with Christian doctrine. He says the Aurelius believed in a god and a soul. Our fate is already set but our destiny is more in our hands. (I am not sure that this is not a self-contradiction.) I guess my feeling is that Fears is picking and choosing ideas not that live for us but confirm common belief, particularly of Christian teaching. It would have been interesting if he talked about where their ideas varied from current beliefs. But he is ignoring those beliefs to say all the great thinkers of history would have made good Christians. Tomorrow we do the Bhagavad Gita. Now if any work here is different from modern belief that will be it. "My heart is as the burning ground."
At Toledo we visited the Toledo Museum of Art. It is a good museum and is still free to the public. (Parking $3 and I left a contribution of $5).
They had art from all major schools. They have Rubens, Rembrandt, and El Greco. They had a very good room of antiquities from Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. They had a stone courtyard with medieval art. Arts from the Near and Far East.
The best souvenirs of an art museum are pictures of what you have seen. Until recently if you wanted pictures of what you had seen you bought art books in the shop, which was a very expensive proposition. Now nearly every piece that seems striking I can get a picture of.
This was the first time I had visited an art museum since I had gotten a digital camera. The rule at this museum was that you could take pictures of anything (except the contemporary art) if you did not use a flash. The price of a digital picture now is nearly zero. You get about 1500 pictures on a chip. But that is just the good pictures. You can see the pictures almost immediately so you can tell if you got reflections in glass or the picture was blurry. You can throw out bad pictures instantly. I took maybe 100 pictures, maybe more.
Particularly nice was seeing a painting I knew well. This was The Oath of the Horatti by Jacques-Louis David. Early in the life of Rome it came into conflict with the nearby country of Alban. There was a dramatic story of three brothers from Rome--the Horatti-- who opposed three brothers from Alban--the Curiatii. I believe all but the youngest Roman brother were killed in the conflict. The story of this conflict, the Horatti and the Curiatii, has been told through the ages in Italy. It would have been told in Alban, but it ceased to exist long since and became part of the Roman Empire.
I came in contact with it because for 25 cents we bought a DVD of an old Italian muscle-man film called here DUEL OF THE CHAMPIONS. Their film was not very good, but it interested me in the story. I had seen David's painting on the neo-classical theme. This was the real painting, not a reproduction. The subject was the three Horatti Brothers making an oath to fight against the Curiatti. Even a bad film, and DUEL OF THE CHAMPIONS is not a very good one, can spark an interest in history.
Evelyn told me something I did not know (though she specializes in telling me things that I did). We saw a statuette of Genesha missing a tusk. Genesha is the elephant headed Hindu deity. He had broken the other one off because writes with it. So he is always portrayed with only one unbroken tusk. That is real dedication. Incidentally I broke off one of my toes and wrote the last paragraph with it. Just kidding.
They had a very nice collection of Netsuke and Inro, but the netsuke pieces were too small to get really good pictures of even in close-up. There were demons, working folk, animals, and one that had a cat sleeping on top of a sleeping child. Netsuke are tiny carvings typically an inch wide.
We looked at Adam and Eve by Jacob Jordeans. Eve is taking the fruit as Adam looks on. "He looks kind of old," Evelyn said of Adam. I said, "Well, he is about twice her age."
Lunch was in the cafeteria. We ordered a sandwich named "the Van Gogh." It was Turkey, lettuce, Brie, and avocado. I expected the spreads to be slathered on very thick and for there to be there to be an ear of baby corn, just to justify the name Van Gogh, but apparently they did not know much about their subject very well.
We saw a painting with a Madonna and Child on a pedestal with the Madonna looking to angels below looking up. I told Evelyn that the title should have been "Catch."
In the contemporary are section they had a piece of art made of one wooden cube frame on top of four, on top of nine, on top of 16. The lowest level had 81 cubes, nine rows of nine. This is my kind of art. They challenged the observer to figure out how many cubes were there in all. I sat down and derived a polynomial for the sum of the first n squares. It is
(n^3)/3 + (n^2)/2 + n/6. I plugged in 9 and got 243 + 40.5 + 1.5 or 285.
From Toledo we drove to Southgate, Michigan, the town where I used to live 30 years ago. In 30 years it has been greatly built up. There is now a multiplex theater with 20 screens just a few blocks away. There are lots of ethnic restaurants. That is very different. I took pictures of 13830 Fountain Park Apartments.
From there we drove to Warren where we were meeting an old friend for dinner. We had already reserved our motel room to be sure we could make it to dinner at the appointed time. This was a friend we had not seen in 30 years. That was quite enjoyable.
After dinner we returned to the room. We had numerous things to do like recharging batteries. We worked on logs and watched the film THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS.
06/29/07 Warren, MI to Janesville, WI.
Comfort Inn, Warren MI
-- Very standard room.
-- Microwave, refrigerator, TV had no sleep timer control.
-- The view out the window was overlooking a trailer park. This made me a little nervous. We have been having thunderstorms and whenever you hear about tornadoes you hear that they have ripped through a trailer park. Luckily this one did not seem to be attracting any tornadoes, at least while we were there. But I slept with one eye open. The left.
-- The shampoo and soap were outside the bathroom on the sink. When I took my shower I realized that I had forgotten the soap. I had the washcloth, the towel, the shampoo, but no soap. I put the shampoo on the washcloth and washed with that. It worked out for the best because I not only got clean but now I have a nice glossy coat. At least until the next time I roll in something.
-- Breakfast was decent. There were turnover waffles.
-- The orange juice was a light yellow dilute color and I passed it by.
Evelyn had had BBQ ribs the night before and they did not digest easily so she did not sleep well. So far this trip I have slept better than at home. That may be because here I have no online access to get done before Evelyn wakes up.
By 8:30 we headed out on a day's drive that hit four states: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
The lecture for the day was about the Bhagavad Gita. Once again the message was obedience to God. Hinduism is, of course, a polytheist religion, but he sort of glosses over that saying that Rama was the top of the gods. He says that it is the Truth that is God more than God is Truth. But then he goes back to talking about what God wants of us. That implies a personal god. Truth does not want anything, it just is.
Fears says so little about the real content of the book. He says that Arjuna is told he must be steadfast in his search for truth. But the Gita's values are different from Western values. One might as well say that MEIN KAMPF is about the importance of the search for truth. But Hitler's idea of truth is very different from mine. I get the feeling that Fears is using the Great Books to push his own agenda. He does contrast different authors' ideas of the soul, but the variance fits well into the range of current Christian belief.
Fears returns repeatedly to Bonhoeffer and his persecutors. He thinks that Bonhoeffer differed from his persecutors in that he believed truths and they believed lies. But he begs the question of knowing which books have truths and which have lies. Wisdom comes from reading the great books and wisdom tells us which are the great books.
We had left about 8:30 Eastern time and about 12:15 Central we got hungry. We checked the GPS for local restaurants in the area we were passing through and found a Mexican restaurant not far away in Lake Station, Indiana called Taqueria Chapala. So we stopped and each got a combination platter for $5.50 each. That is fairly reasonable. The one irritation was that they had a smoke alarm with a low battery that would chirp every few minutes. The food was great. I tried to convince the woman that she should relocate to Old Bridge, New Jersey. She wouldn't do it.
We pass by a lot of billboards advertising fireworks. Krazy Kaplan seems to be the leading local bomb salesman. His ads claim "Buy one, get seven free." There is apparently a big profit to be made in fireworks in Illinois.
We listened to a very good stage play, "The Value of Names" by Jeffrey Sweet with Garry Marshall and Hector Alizondo. They play two former friends, one of whom ended the friendship by giving the other's name to the House un-American Activities Committee a la Elia Kazan. It is a play of ideas.
Our stop for the night was a Microtel in Janesville, WI. We had the wrong address in the GPS and I had to drive around a little to find it. But we did find our way in.
At about 9:30 I started hearing fireworks and looked out the window. We were very near a field where a Fourth of July celebration was going on. What was better was that in spite of an unfortunately placed tree we had a good view from our window. Evelyn woke from a nap and saw me with my head under the window curtain and asked what was going on. She decided to join me.
The display went on till about 9:55 and had more than our displays at home. Red Bank, New Jersey claims to have a world-famous display, but that is hype. This was a better display.
06/30/07 Janesville, WI to St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Farmers Market
I woke early, partially due to the time change. I wrote a review for about an hour and Evelyn woke about 6. We were going to a local site that would not open for hours. We watched an old film GUN CRAZY. It was decent, but not really a film noir, as claimed.
[See July 30 entry for motel review]
After breakfast we packed the car and set out for Watson's Wild West Museum. We got there at 9:20 and it did not open until 10. From outside the gate it looked a little kitsch. We drove to a dollar store to pass time and on the way we decided to give the Wild West Museum a miss so headed out to Madison.
The view is lots of cornfields. Lots of field fields. Silos. We stop to take pictures of sculptures made from welded machine parts. One is a skeleton on a motorcycle. Another is a dinosaur. Perhaps the first is supposed to be Hell Rider or whoever the Nicholas Cage character was.
Eventually we came to the very blue (at least on this sunny day) Lake Monona with tall buildings on the far side. That is always a beautiful view. The buildings were those of Madison. The centerpiece of the city is the capital with a dome much like the one on the nation's capitol. We drove around trying to get to the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial. It is basically just across the street from the capitol building. However as we approached it was obvious that something big was happening around the capitol. There were large numbers of people walking around. We had a hard time finding a place to park and eventually parked in a hotel parking garage.
The mob was there for a weekly farmers market. We decided to take advantage of that. We walked around and bought some very nice sugar snap peas, which we ate, raw. Then we broke and went to the museum intending to go back later.
The Wisconsin Veterans Memorial is small, only four large rooms. It covers wars from the Civil War to the present and shows the usual artifacts of the war. Mostly it has the typical sort of artifacts: guns, uniforms, models of battle scenes, models of boats: that sort of thing.
One display listed a campaign slogan from 1866-1872. It said, "Vote the way you shot." I told Evelyn I assume this means as many times as you can in rapid succession. There were several displays about local contributions to the various war efforts.
One of the popular features was a periscope set up to give views from above the museum. The barrel was much longer than a real submarine periscope because it had to go up a story of height, but it still gave a good view of the surrounding area including the capitol dome.
There was a mannequin vet in a wheelchair to remember those injured and handicapped in war.
After we were done we went back to the farmers market. By this point it was starting to break up. As a mini-lunch we bought cheese curds. These are called squeaky cheese curds. They are lumps of cheese that are usually pressed into blocks to be sold. When you bite them they squeak against your teeth more or less like window squeaks when you rub it to clean it.
We drove to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. We had picked three motels from the Triple-A book that seemed a reasonable price. The first one seemed a little run down and we decided to check out a second one. We picked one from the America's Best Value chain in Crystal, MN. I have to admit I was a little hesitant. Asian Indians owned both of the motels we checked out. My experience has usually been that that means a lower standard of service.
Dinner was at El Loro, a decent Tex-Mex restaurant fairly busy on a Saturday night.
07/01/07 St. Paul, MN: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Breakfast was terrible. I will go into that in my review.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts does not open till 11 so we spent some time around the room before heading out. We finished the cheese and ate most of the sugar snap peas from the day before.
The MIA is a very large art museum with a very good collection. I suppose one of the guilty pleasures of going to an art museum is seeing "in the flash" paintings that I had seen reproduced before, particularly if there was something that drew special attention to them. I suppose this pleasure is like seeing an actor you have seen in movies actually in the same room with you when you are seeing a live play. I saw, for example, Alec Guinness in a London production of "A Walk in the Woods." For "Oath of the Horatti" I had a film that had drawn my attention to it. I cannot say that I saw any works of art that had previously drawn special attention from me, but I did see works that were at least familiar. There was a Monet painting of haystack that was familiar. The Van Gogh of a woods under a blazing yellow sky I had seen reproduced before.
The MIA is nice big building with free admission. The exhibit is on the second and third floors. We started on third floor and found that took pretty much the whole time we were there. The second floor is Eastern art. The third floor was Western art in the sense of European and American art, they also have art of the American West.
They have a very liberal policy on photography. No items listed as on loan. No flash on textiles or prints. This means you can get souvenirs very inexpensively if you have a digital camera.
They start with early American folk art. This is primitive art and I find it less than enthralling.
That gives way to art of the American West. Of special interest were some N C Wyeth and Charles Russell paintings of Western scenes working in the some reference to Cream of Wheat. It was an ad campaign with pictures of the West. There also was an ambitious bronze sculpture of a cattle stampede. Also bronzes on the common theme of the cowboy on the bronco, a Native American, and one of a bison.
Particularly notable was a vivid sculpture of Ganymede and the Eagle by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Ganymede is giving a drink to an eagle that is Zeus in disguise. Ganymede became Zeus's cupbearer. There are, in fact, many nice neo-classical sculptures.
We took a tour of some of the highlight of the museum. We learned they had a collection of 100,000 objects of art. Of that about 6 percent were on display.
Peace Concluded by John Everett Millais shows a wounded soldier restored to his family after the Crimean war. The docent pointed out much of the symbolism in painting.
A sculpture called The Veiled Woman by Raffaelo Monti is what it says. What is remarkable is that sculptor could create the effect of the transparent veil in stone. Where there are multiple layers due to folds he makes the veil opaque. Where there are single layers hew just does the face below. The effect is like there is a diaphanous veil over the face.
Berthe Morisot had an impressionist painting of his daughter with her nanny.
Van Gogh's Trees, the painting I mentioned above was painted in Provence in 1889. It shows twisted olive trees under a bright yellow sky.
Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc is an expressionist painting in the style of the Fauves. The flowing lines show blue horses on a red, green, and yellow background. The blue represents spiritual and intellectual forces; the yellow is sensuousness and cheerfulness. The red is materialism. Just how Marc expected the viewer to make these associations is unclear.
The Golden Bird by Brancusi is a sculpture golden bronze metal on a stone base. It has smooth integrated lines.
Ensor's Intrigue shows masked people mostly in high society. The faces are unpleasant images. Ensor's sister marrying a Chinese man had caused a scandal and caused the relationship to break up. The masks represent the hypocrisy of the society. The central figures are his sister and her husband, also masked to show their double feelings.
There was an expressionist Crucifixion and Juan Miro's Head of a Woman makes her look like a surreal bird if you can make that much out of it. It is a protest of the Spanish Civil War and is somewhat reminiscent of Picasso's Guernica.
The surrealists used a technique I thought I had invented myself as a game when I was in college. They called it automatic drawing. They draw a squiggle at random. Then they looked at it and tried to see a picture I could turn it into.
Some of the Impressionist paintings are done in pointillism. That is making the painting up of dots. I told Evelyn that Gustav Dore did his lithographs in a style I called "linilism," everything made of lines.
Among the artists represented were Degas, Picasso, Cezanne, and van Gogh.
It began to be obvious that we were not going to cover the museum in anything like the allotted six hours. He spent the whole time looking at the third floor. The Asian and Near East art was all on the second floor.
We left the museum at about 4:30 and returned to the hotel for a rest. This was when we discovered that the room had not been made up. I went out to tell the guy at the desk. He said that he would tell the manager. We got towels and washcloths.
At about 6PM we went to to get breakfast materials: cheese, crackers, yogurt, and juice. On the way we stopped to check out the Vientiene Restaurant. It claimed Thai and Laotian food, but it is also closed for a long weekend and will not be open any time we can get to it. There was supposedly a Mediterranean restaurant at a local mall called Brookdale. The mall was closed but an Asian restaurant called Boba Cafe was open. I had a Spicy Peanut Chicken and Evelyn had Spicy Golden Tofu. Both were quite good.
Back at the room we worked on logs.
At 8PM we put on the movie RESTAURANT.
07/02/07 St. Paul, MN: Science Museum of Minnesota
Breakfast in room was juice, cheese and crackers. We headed out at a little after 9 and at 9:30 we arrived at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Minneapolis has a great art museum but only a mediocre science museum. The time was this would have been a very good science museum years ago. It has not kept pace with other museums. There has been a real revolution in how science museums. What this museum has picked up from the revolution is to have a big IMAX movie at a big admission price. Most of the rest is fairly pedestrian as science museums go.
Mississippi River Gallery is on the uppermost exhibit floor. Most of it is just displays to read. They teach about what are the local animals and what endangers them. Near the restrooms there is a display of things found in the pipes. There are binoculars so you can look across the Mississippi, which flows past the museum. One display shows a movie showing aerial shots over the river at various points down to the Gulf of Mexico. The pilot at one point flies under a bridge. This maneuver is illegal and lost the pilot his license. The film is somewhat dated showing New Orleans intact. You can also walk through parts of a tow boat use try your hand at a not very exciting computer simulation of piloting a river barge.
The most interesting part of the Human Body Gallery, perhaps of the whole museum, is Perception Theater, a 20-minute program that shows how different senses, memories, and instinct work together to affect what we perceive and how we detect it. It gives some interesting information on how the senses can be fooled. It makes up for some less than enthralling exhibits on things like body image. One little corner of a display plays an excerpt from the old Bell Telephone Laboratories documentary HEMO THE MAGNIFICENT. This was from a series of very good science documentaries that played in the 1950s. OUR MISTER SUN was another. Another part of the display had a video game in which you tried with a throat swab to get samples of throat mucus. Thrilling.
One part of this floor had what they called "Collections." These were peoples contributed private holdings. There was an Egyptian mummy that they admitted they did not know much about. There was a full-size model of a house of the Hmong people. There was a rock collectors' section including sand from all over the world. Probably the most interesting collection was of quack devices. One had actually been used on me before people knew how dangerous it was. It was a shoe store x-ray machine. In the early 50s when you bought shoes you could see just how your toes fit into the shoes. I am not sure what you were supposed to learn from that. Nobody would buy shoes that bunched up their toes whether they could actually see it or not. But for the modicum of knowledge the x-ray gave you and everyone nearby got a dose of radiation. Eventually every state outlawed the device. An Electreat administered electrical shocks to the skin. Vibratory Chairs from Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame) simply shook people up.
There was also a display of the stuffed animals bagged by someone named Siems on a 1927 safari. Apparently the guy was actually funded by a local museum and they thank him for his efforts. He had killed several nice looking animals including a lion.
I am not sure what this section had to do with science, but they had to fill the museum somehow. And presumably contributed collections are cheaper than buying their own.
The section on dinosaurs had a Triceratops named Faffner and a diplodocus.
The Siesmofon took current international seismic data and munged it into a single number that it mapped to a musical note that this huge xylophone-like machine played. It played random notes, effectively and was very tiresome.
I had a special interest in the mathematics exhibit, not just because I like math, but because it usually is so poorly represented. It is hard to make exciting exhibits for mathematical concepts. This one did a better job than most. One exhibit had you stand on a sensing carpet. It showed you a graph that you were supposed to follow over time. As the value increase you were to walk forward, when it decreased you walked backward. It was to make you associate your speed with the slope of the curve. Another exhibit taught the concept of slope.
There was some experimental stuff with physics like optics and electricity. There was a demonstrator of color in soap films. The harmonograph uses pendulums to make pictures like a spirograph.
There were a few interesting exhibits, but other than the perception show mostly it was things I had seen before.
From there we walked a few blocks to the City Hall. There are a bunch of sculptures of dinosaurs all over the city. They are sauropods like what used to be called a "brontosaurus." Someone sculpted a basic form and then local businesses and others buy one and decorate it and put it up. There were several near the science museum. We saw them on the way to the City Hall.
The City Hall is decorated in art deco style. The inside on the main floor is in dark granite. It is commanded over by a statue that is 36 feet high and weighs 55 tons. It depicts a tall Native American smoking a pipe of peace. This is supposedly the largest carved onyx figure in the world. It is motorized and rotates right and left over a range of 132 degrees. The ceiling is mirrored. There is more decoration to see on this level and the one below.
We had some trouble getting back to the car. We asked the GPS for restaurants in the area and found one that was Kurdish food. That turned out to be closed. Evelyn suggested we go to a science fiction book store about ten mile away and look for a restaurant near there. We decided to go to dinner first so once we parked we asked the GPS for a restaurant and found a Mexican place not too far away. It was closed. We went to the bookstore, Uncle Hugo's but bought nothing. Then we decided to drive to a restaurant. We did not realize it but we were talking about two different restaurants. We ended up going to Tapatias Restaurant. We were the only ones in the place. I ordered Chile Rellenos and Evelyn ordered Pozole. The waitress seemed to be more interested in Spanish language serial on Univision than in serving us. But the food was good. One problem: If we ate it all we would have died right there. Luckily I ate it wisely and did not finish it. Long experience has taught me not to overeat. When my eyes bug out enough that they rub on my glasses I have had enough to eat. No point in pushing it.
In the room we watched Tim Burton's PLANET OF THE APES which we bought really cheaply. It was probably a mistake. There is no such thing as a good deal on a bad film.
07/03/07 St. Paul, MN: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Breakfast was yogurt and a bear claw.
On the way to the museum we stopped and picked up soda (diet root bear) and potato chips (salt and vinegar kettle) and then went to the museum.
On Sunday we had covered the third floor which was mostly North American and European art, the second floor was everything else including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Ancient Art, Modern (including US and European) and Textiles.
The ancient Near East is a particular interest. There is a Babylonian relief of Ashurnasirpal II. There was Isis and Horus, very much a Madonna and child but predating Christianity. There are a few Greek vessels with mythological themes. Those are fun also.
They had a temporary exhibit of Uzbek embroidery that they use for portable dwellings, furnishings, to express ethnic identity. Evelyn found that more interesting than I did.
The pre-Columbian items included ear spools, which are giant earrings of the king. They had some terra cotta sculptures with humorous facial expressions.
The Japanese collection was modest including a lot on the tea ceremony. No netsuke on display, which is a real shame. The Chinese collection was much larger. The pride of the collection probably goes to a 640 pound jade carving of a mountain with scenes of people at various places at the base. This came from the Ching dynasty. The also had screens with scenes of nature. We watched a half hour or so program on Chinese bronzes. We left about 4:00.
Evelyn and I discussed the museum afterwards. It is really big and has a many familiar pieces. It has a good section on Chinese Art. It has a poor collection of ancient Egyptian. It mostly came together as several local collectors contributing their collections in return for acknowledgements. They seem to have built the museum largely on local collections. It is not surprising they have a lot of some categories and not much of others. Overall I have to say I thought the museum was worthwhile. I liked the Toledo museum and this may have been four times as big.
We chose an exotic sounding restaurant near the museum. Tariq is a Mediterranean-American restaurant. We came in and they seemed a little surprised to see us. Over the next 45 minutes we saw why. It was a busy restaurant, with bout 30 people coming in. Except for us every customer was black and male. The TV was on loud and was apparently in Arabic and sounded a bit strident. It seemed to be one long documentary that repeatedly came back to scenes of people getting shot by uniformed troops. I had to sweep some rice off the table after we sat down. Evelyn pointed out that all the tables were a little dirty.
The menu offered items like "suqar (chickin)" and "suqar (beaf)." I ordered the suqar (chickin) and Evelyn had fish steak. After about five minutes waitress came over and dropped two un-peeled bananas on the table.
The food was palatable enough. It was somewhat basic. I found that suqar was a sort of stew with onions and potatoes. There was also salad on the plate and a little container of a ground pepper-relish, quite spicy. There was also "Japati" which proved to be like Indian Chapati. The meals were $8 each. We each had had cans of Pepsi that were not apparently part of the meal, but the waitress just wanted $16. OK. Fair enough. The meal was good enough, but the surroundings were less than comfortable.
Back at the room I packed and worked on my log. At 6:30 we headed out to a movie theater I wish we had in New Jersey. It plays second run films for $2 admission, $1 on Tuesdays. For $1 admission we saw HOT FUZZ. It is a fairly clever British comedy by the same team that did SHAWN OF THE DEAD. Their comedy appeals to me and to Evelyn. This is a good comedy that gets very strange in the last third. A superb police officer is reassigned to a sleepy English village. He finds himself caught up in a multiple murder. It takes cliches of murder mysteries and uses them to pull the rug out from under the audience.
Back at the room we worked on logs until bedtime.
07/04/07 St. Paul, MN to Winnipeg, Manitoba: Entering Canada
We were out of the motel early. No breakfast was provided, so we had our own groceries.
------------------Americas Best Value Motel of Crystal, NM
-- Continental breakfast was an unadvertised bonus. Essentially breakfast choices are coffee, juice, and a pastry
-- pastry is cellophane wrapped 300 calories, no nutrition
-- only juice was apple and the machine delivered just water
-- coffee is poor
-- On the other hand since the breakfast is not advertised, I don't have much right to complain.
-- Sunday I left the room Sunday at 10:30AM. Returned at 5PM to find the room had not been made up.
-- no shampoo provided (none promised, of course). They had it in a vending machine for about $1.50.
-- refrigerator worked but freezer was filled with frost 2 inch thick
-- no breakfast was put out our last day.
The Kensington Stone was found in 1898 by an American of Swedish stock. It was a large flat stone that was tangled in the roots of an aspen. When his son brushed some of the dirt off they found runic symbols. Initially it was declared a forgery. It was thought interesting but eventually was just used as a stepping stone for years, thought to be worthless. It was later rediscovered and re-evaluated. It has given rise to a lot of controversy as to whether it was authentic. It tells of 14th century Vikings wandering into New World wilderness. After a great deal of linguistic analysis the belief is that these runes could have come from this region. They are still not entirely sure how the stone got to Alexandria, Minnesota. But it could have been brought by Vikings before Columbus. It is strong evidence for a Viking pre-Colombian discovery of America. Our stop today is to see the Kensington Stone.
In Alexandria we pass a branch of the Viking Bank. Why do I not associate Vikings with banking?
Well, today is a travel day. We got to the Runestone Museum ands found that it was closed for the Fourth of July. The Triple-A book did not mention that detail. And they usually say. On the way back to the highway we stopped at Wal-Mart to restock supplies. We bought three DVDs and an armload of soda. We went to check out and after waiting through the line and having our stuff mostly checked out, the computerized cash register froze up. We had to take our purchases out of the bags and wait in a different line. Alexandria, Minnesota was not very good to us. I was sorry we did not stop to see the Library at Alexandria.
As we drove we listened to THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. This is the third Narnia novel.
After that we listened to the Great Books course discuss Beowulf. I have not been talking about it but in bits and pieces we have done BOOK OF EXODUS, GOSPEL OF MARK, THE KORAN, and GILGAMESH. There has been a persistent Right Wing slant. He commented that Beowulf was a real man and nobody tried to take away his right to bear arms.
We intended to stop for BBQ in Grand Forks, but Independence Day predictably got in the way ahead. We ate at a Burger King. Actually I enjoyed my burger more than I expected to. We will have dinner in Canada. They don't celebrate on July 4th.
After lunch we heard the LA Theatre Works production of "Adams Rib" by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. Actually I did not think the play was very good. There were courtroom scenes that were extremely unlikely. No judge would allow it.
While we were listening we got to the border. The border screener seemed quite friendly, but still picked us for a closer check. We drove to an area beyond the gate and we were asked more questions while guards unloaded our suitcases and combed the car fairly thoroughly. Actually they were quite clever in how they loaded the trunk again. It is almost a puzzle to get all the pieces in to fit. They found a different solution to the puzzle than the one we had been using. One water jug did not fit.
We drove on to Winnipeg and chose a Travelodge to stay at. We rested up and Evelyn put on a movie of THE ABC MURDERS with David Suchet.
Our GPS would not work in the room so Evelyn looked through the phone book and found a Vietnamese restaurant Kim Sang. We drove there and found the food OK. Not great. My dish was delivered well before Evelyn's, something like six or seven minutes apart. That makes for an uncomfortable situation. You really want to eat together. Usually we plan to share both dishes, but today we had not done that. Evelyn was not really anxious to have what I had ordered, a sort of combination Chow Fun. I presume it just did not interest her. I eat, and generally like, just about anything. There may be nothing that I love--at least nothing healthy--but there is a lot I like very much and just about nothing I dislike. I am not keen on organ meats. And I have absolutely no fear of the unknown in food. We used to go to a Korean restaurant that had certain dishes they were so sure non-Koreans would not like and did not even translate on the menu. I would pick one of those at random. They might try to talk me out of it, but I would insist. I generally was happy with what I got.
In the room we went to sleep to 1776.
07/05/07 Winnipeg, Manitoba: Winnipeg Riverwalk
This is our first morning in Canada and I will tell you what I miss already. I have been waking early in the morning and listening to the news. Just about wherever we are in the US, if you listen to the radio in the early morning, like 4:30AM there is a radio station that is either playing NPR news or they are playing BBC news and will get to NPR later. Both BBC and NPR try to cover world news. I did find a station that was playing news from Poland and later the same station was doing news from Australia. But there is no real station covering general international news. If you scan for radio station here and in the US there is ALWAYS a station for loud and discordant music. But comprehensive news is just not to be found.
Cheese, crackers, and strawberry nectar were breakfast.
Gas is about $1.10 Canadian a liter. I worked it out and that is about $4/gallon in the US.
The plan for today is the Winnipeg River Walk. It starts at the Manitoba Legislature where every nearby parking space has been occupied since the 1840s.
Finally we did find a place to park. It turned out later there was parking at one end of the Riverwalk, the end toward Provencher Bridge, but nothing we saw told us that it was there. We parked in sort of an ad hoc parking lot. They had put out a bunch of little enveloped and a slotted lock box. You take an envelope and license plate number on it and five dollars in it. Then drop it in the box. Someone probably comes around and collects the money and compares the plate numbers.
The Forks is the region near the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. This has been a meeting place for the local natives going back to 4000 BC. It was a center for aboriginal people, for European fur traders. It later became a rail center for the area. Now it is essentially a large park.
There is a nice walk along the river that has monuments and various stone structures. They give a history of the area with more turbulence than one usually thinks of for Canada. In the US you hear about the conflicts between the Euros and the natives. In the history of Canada there is less made of it, but the Eros did put the natives in reservations and grabbed the land. And there were wars among the various trapping and trading companies.
The Market is mostly shops with foods and souvenirs. Still it is pleasant to walk around. If one takes the elevator to the sixth floor (there really is nothing on floors 3 to 5) there is a lookout tower overlooking the Assiniboine river. It is not tall enough to see to the Red River, but it does give a view of the small boats on the Assiniboine.
Outside the market there is a walk down to the water. I am not sure it always goes down to the water, but the water is high and came up the walk.
There was a sort of large monument to the constellations. It was a sort of amphitheater that seemed to be dedicated to the theme of the constellations. A local summer school was filming some sort of a myth in the amphitheater. We watched for a little while and I filmed them.
There were monuments telling the history of the region.
At the end of the walk is a very mathematical looking pedestrian bridge, the Provencher, across the Assiniboine River. This has a central support that looks almost like a white spaceship with support cables coming down in a regular pattern. You get the same sort of mathematical pleasure as walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. On the other side is a historic area called St. Boniface. We stopped at a gas station got drinks and then went out and sat in the shade. We saw a Segway go past. After a rest we then walked back. In the heat I perspired profusely and made good use of the soda I had drunk.
We were offered a ride by a cart that drives around the park just giving people free rides. They call it the Forks Lift. You should be able to walk directly to the Manitoba Legislature along the river. But much of the walk is under water due to recent rains. We had to walk the city streets. Again we rested in a small park decorated with polar bear sculptures. They are much like the dinosaurs we saw in Minneapolis.
We walked around legislature, which is an impressive building in a Grecian style. We did not go in thinking it was more of local interest than of general interest. After we got some pictures we returned to the car.
My cap was thoroughly soaked with perspiration. My body is an efficient machine to take water in through my mouth and pump it out the top of my head, not to mention my back and chest, and armpits.
We looked for a restaurant. After the morning, which at the time I thought was a pleasant stroll, I was dehydrated and thirsty. I toyed with the idea of getting myself a pint of sherbet and a spoon. We even went into a Wal-Mart to get it, but luckily they did not have it. Instead we got a collection of DVDs that had 15 1950s television dramas. I am very optimistic about that. I would love to get the Rod Steiger MARTY. They did have one classic I was anxious to see: BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY. Most of the rest I had not heard of but they almost all have major actors and programs like Playhouse 90 and Armstrong Circle Theater were sort of a highpoint of television drama.
We have ended up going to a restaurant called Montana's. I hope I can do it justice. I sort of filled up on water.
The restaurant was OK. I got rotisserie chicken and Evelyn had a burger. Actually I traded half the chicken for half the burger so we got to eat both.
Back at the room Evelyn did a wash. This always bothers me because she does all the work. She does enough. We watched a 1960 TV production of TREASURE ISLAND. It was a little abbreviated at 75 minutes. It had Boris Karloff as Billy Bones and Hugh Griffith as Long John Silver.
07/06/07 Winnipeg, Manitoba to Brandon, Manitoba: Riding Mountain National Park
Breakfast was yogurt and cheese. We were out by a little after 7:30.
Travelodge of Winnipeg
-- Long walk to room
-- Desk lamp did not have grip on switch
-- TV did not have sleep cycle
-- Desk called to see if there were problems, they quickly sent a manager to try to fix. Replaced lamp. Andy went beyond call of duty to fix various problems.
-- Room was decent size with sink inside and a sink outside bathroom
-- Large fridge but no microwave
-- Odd room layout curtained window onto hallway with window on the other side of hall
-- Small room with second sink, coffee gear, second desk
-- Peppermints on pillow
-- Extra pillows on shelf
-- Heater cooler a little hard to figure out
-- Good selection of cable channels
-- Mending kit in drawer next to bed
-- GPS cannot acquire satellites through roof
Overall it was a good motel.
In the car we had about a two-hour drive. We listened to PRINCE CASPIAN in the Narnia series.
We pass a truck loaded with animals. From the ears sticking up that can be seen through the hole I assume they are pigs. They are probably out seeing the world for the first time in their lives. I hope they are enjoying it. My spider-sense tells me they are nearing the end of their lives.
The land is very flat farmland so you can see a long distance to the horizon. The crop is something that has a golden green top so it looks like huge fields of gold.
We stopped for gas and they pumped for us and cleaned the windshield. We are not used to that from home, though in New Jersey it is illegal to pump your own gas. But Canadians may have a better work ethic than people in the US do.
The peculiar thing about approaching Riding Mountain National Park is the flatness of the land. The topography is what would be called rolling farmland. We are about 12 miles from the park and no mountain has announced its presence.
We get to the park and there is still no mountain in evidence. I think the principal attraction is wildlife. The park is hilly with forests of evergreen and what may be birch. There are some marshy areas
I have not been to a lot of Canadian National parks. This one is not like our parks. At home you come into a National Park and you immediately get a map of this is what there is to see and this is how you get to it. There is no such map here. If you go in search of it you can get a map of the park, but you have to ask about what are the highpoints.
There are private shops and private houses in the park, apparently. There is even a movie theater. Come out to the wild and see DISTURBIA. We took a nature walk on Ominnik Marsh. There is not much to see. There are insects, birds, small fish, and leeches. I later identified one of the birds as a red-winged blackbird.
There is a long stretch of route 10 and we drove it mostly seeing trees on either side of the road. We did get a quick flash of a bear, but not in time to photograph it. I suppose that compared to some US parks this one is a little disappointing. It is not much on telling you what to see and you really don't see much. The point is more like to be out in nature than see wildlife.
We stopped for a snack at the picnic grounds and had pretty much the same things we had been having for breakfast. I had cheese, plum nectar, and potato chips. (The latter I had not had for breakfast, of course.) I think one of the reasons we could retire so early is that we know how to live without spending much money.
We drove a long way around the park and it was nice but not so different from the nicer parts of the Garden State Parkway.
We drove about 14 miles off the road on an unpaved road for the bison viewing. They have a stand off the road for viewing a large field were bison roam, sometimes. Not today. No bison sighted. Driving the whole bison viewing area there were no bison at all. We drove the 14 miles back, about an hour of driving on unpaved road for a wild goose chase. I have to say that the National Parks and State Parks in the US have spoiled me. Seeing bison would have been nice but it is nowhere nearly a novelty.
It was still about a 90-minute drive to Brandon. We listened to The Great Books, and Fears talked about THE BOOK OF JOB and draw from us conclusions that are directly opposite to those in the actual work. He says that it is about our responsibility to question injustice. However Job has all sorts of injustice done to him and when he questions authority he is simply silenced by God, and asked whom does he think he is to question. Job is restored to comfort but meanwhile a lot of innocent people that Job has loved have died. Further Fears says that God had played his game with Satan. In fact the Bible only identifies the other character as "the adversary." Satan does not actually appear. Fears assumes that the Adversary of the Book of Job is the Satan of the New Testament. It makes things nicer for the New Testament to assume its roots in the Old, but it is wishful thinking. It may be translated Satan in the King James, but that is out and out wrong and later translations ignore it. Satan does not get much mention in the Old Testament. The snake is just a pre-punishment snake ("on thy belly shall thou go," etc.) and bears no stated relation to Satan.
We had chosen the Rodeway Motor Inn from the Triple-A book but it was full. We went to the Trails West next to it and it was just fine. It was now late so we went to the restaurant in the motel. I had spaghetti and Evelyn had a Greek salad. Neither of us thought the food was very good.
We watched a fairly effective Film Noir, directed by Robert Wise, BORN TO KILL.
It was light till after 10PM. I checked the GPS and Sunrise was at 5:38 and sunset at 9:50. That is better than 16 hours.
07/07/07 Brandon, Manitoba to Regina, Saskatchewan: Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
I woke about 6:30. That was a good rest in a good bed.
Trails West Motel of Brandon
-- Generally good quality and clean
-- Sink outside bathroom for convenience
-- Fridge, but no microwave
-- Western theme
-- Sticky drawer due to previous spill
-- Shower handles turned inward, a little hard to get used to
-- Restaurant mediocre
-- PC for use in lobby
At 07:07:07 we noted it was 07:07:07 07/07/07.
We stopped at a place called Husky's for breakfast. The waitress suggested the breakfast special and took about 40 minutes to arrive. The waitress said that the order got lost because the computer ran out of paper. Even after the waitress re-verified the order it took a long time for the food to arrive.
Our stop for the day is the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum. It is the kind of site that Triple-A says allow at least 30 to 40 minutes and we were there for two hours. It was a real pleasure.
On Sunday, December 17, 1939 Canada, at war, initiated their plan to train fliers for the war effort. Fliers were to be trained in schools across Canada. Franklin Roosevelt called the plan "The Aerodrome of Democracy" and Winston Churchill called the plan "Canada's greatest contribution to victory".
The museum is about half-and-half small displays and a hangar of training airplanes of the period. The small displays include artifacts: uniforms, navigation equipment, models, photos and pictures, flying suits, etc.
Where this is a good museum is its attempt to capture the feel of the time. They play in the hangar popular music of the war years and it really recreates the feel of the period.
One of the planes that get the most attention is a Tiger Moth. I am not sure why because it was a biplane and biplanes were only rarely used in WWII. There were biplanes used in the attacks on the Bismarck. But they were not used a lot. There is a diorama of training with tiger moths, and one pilot dropping in on his parents' farm (which was breaking rules). There was information about the International caterpillar Club--an assemblage of airmen whose lives had been saved by parachuting from planes.
There was a description of flipping buzz bombs. It was for planes dangerous to shoot buzz bombs coming over the channel. The explosion could take down the plane that shoots it. What proved to be effective was to fly next to one and to bring the defender's wing under the wing of the buzz bomb. This could point it downward so it would fly into the water. This proved to be a much safer procedure.
There was a bit of a cock up, recounted here when two boxes (that is, groups of six bombers) arrived same target at the same time at different altitudes. and the upper box bombed right through lower box. It should be noted that this was more of a problem for the box flying lower than the one flying higher. I believe that the people in the higher group were better able to see the humor in the situation. That was April 16, 1942.
There was a display that explained the Roundel. This was the symbol that looks like a blue, white, and red target painted on British planes. This is just the symbol of the British colors. It just happens to look like an inviting target. It should be remembered the British were the same folks who thought that red coats for fighting in forests were a pretty good idea.
The trainers were in the hangar and you can tell a trainer because they are painted yellow. Only two planes were not yellow and they were probably not trainers. There were also land vehicles like cars, a jeep, and airfield fire trucks.
We explored the 20 or so planes listening to music like "The White Cliffs of Dover."
Interesting fact for mechanics and math fans: The British system for defining the size of a hexagonal bolt to give the length of one side of the hexagon. The American system was to give the distance between the parallel sides. If the edge length is one, the distance between the parallel sides is the square root of three. This is why American and British wrenches are incompatible. British widths and American widths vary by a factor of the square root of three. To work on both use an adjustable monkey wrench.
There were several dioramas; some with sound buttons if you want to hears the engines rumble. I was able to get pictures of a lot with he camera, something I never would have done with a film camera.
It is about a four-hour drive to Regina, Saskatchewan.
We listened to a recorded Dr Who called The Chimes of Midnight. We also listened to Simon Callow's one man play "The Mystery of Charles Dickens." It turns out that something went wrong in the recording process and the last third was missing. It was very good, however.
We no sooner clean the windshield than we get more bugs splattering juicily on the windshield. About 4:20Pm we pulled into Quality Inn of Regina. This area seems to have a large Cambodian community. The desk clerk and the cleaning staff and many of the people we saw later shopping were Asian and probably Cambodian.
[PS We get a second floor room and there is no elevator. This means I have to carry luggage up a floor. I do so with a little more gusto and less caution than I should, perhaps.]
For lunch we go to Angkor, Cambodian restaurant. We ordered Coca-Cola Hot Pot Chicken and Cambodian Rice Noodles. Both were good, though there was not a lot of Coca-Cola flavor in the former.
Because not all the TV have sleep timers we went to Wal-Mart for timer to turn off the TV. We also went to a dollar store and got some connectors.
Sunset is 10:11PM. You lose track of time when 9PM at night looks like afternoon. Where we are on Jun 21 sunrise was at 5:46 and sunset at 10:13. But on December 21 the sunrise will be 8:55AM and sunset will be at 4:55PM. That is a minimum of 8 hours of light. I guess that is not so different from where I live. We get a minimum of about 9 and a half, but it still makes a big difference.
[P.S. The above is not strictly accurate, as I was to discover the next morning.]
In the evening we watched MRS. MINIVER. We went to bed about sundown.
07/08/07 Regina, Saskatchewan: The Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Government House
I woke up and my watch said it was 5:30. I went into the bathroom for light and put into my palmtop the activities. I got to the instruction that said refill my pill case. I have asthma and take daily medication. But I realized I did not remember packing the prescription bottles. Wednesday I had to refill the two-week pill case. (Well, it is supposed to be one week, but I take pills only twice a day.) Now I was worried. Well the Rockies should be less humid. Do I need asthma drugs? The climate will be dry, but the oxygen might be thin. I take statins for blood cholesterol but if anything my cholesterol is way too low. It is 87 and should be less than 200. I worried for an hour until Evelyn woke up. I asked if she packed the drugs in the duffel bag. She did not remember. Before breakfast we went out to the car to check the duffel bag. The drugs were not there. Evelyn and I discussed that at breakfast and what time it was.
Forget what I said about times yesterday. This area does not go on Summer Time. It is an hour earlier than we thought. We thought someone forgot to change the clocks in the room, but when we came down for the breakfast, which starts a 7PM, nobody was here. It was set up so we ate anyway. I looked at the clock on the wall and it also said it was before 7. Evelyn asked at the desk and, yes they do not go on Summer Time so it was an hour before what we thought it was.
We went back to the room and I checked my suitcase to verify that I had forgotten to pack the drugs. No such verification was possible. Because I had packed them. End of panic. I fixed the clock I had thought I corrected yesterday. We had an extra hour so had time to watch the commentary on the film BORN TO KILL. Good film and a good commentary.
Our first site of the day was the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. This had previously been a natural history museum, and that is what it is for the most part. There are really three attractions here. There is the upper floor, the mechanical tyrannosaurus on main floor and the lower floor. The upper floor talks a little about the topography of Canada and then looks at the animal life, and finishes up with admonitions that we are abusing nature and need to leave less of a footprint. I am not saying that the latter is not true, but it is a message we see at most science or natural history museums these days. The lower floor talks about the geology of Canada and includes dinosaurs and then has a section on Native Americans. Previously this was the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History but it supposedly broadened its scope. Perhaps they decided that it was insulting to Native Americans to put their culture on display in a natural history museum. We were the very first and most the time seemed to be the only visitors to the museum. That is odd for a Sunday, though we were there early. Later there were more people. There is a specific path to follow. The electrical guided tour moves you along. As you get to a new room the motion sensors detect you and turn on the lights.
This starts as the Life Sciences Gallery, a typical natural history museum showing you first topography and climate of Saskatchewan. You see a large contour map with lights as you listen to a recorded lecture.
There several dioramas of animals in natural environments. This has a lot of stuffed animals. Stuffed animals bother me. They say "Welcome! Have you ever wondered about how nature works, and where people fit in?" I am not sure you can say how nature works. And you can say even less how humans fit in.
You see dioramas with moose, wolves, and other stuffed animals, most with recorded animal sounds. The stuffed common ravens are about 18 inches long. They hunt in packs in winter looking for carrion. They have sophisticated language. Ravens are extremely smart birds.
A film on beavers is a little didactic, saying that in some ways beavers are similar to humans, but that beavers are much better for the environment than we are. That began the section on how humans are bad for the environment and how they should conserve. For example talking about cars they say "Vehicles give us a measure of freedom but they also separate us from nature and give us a misleading sense of power and independence. They also cause problems ranging from pollution to traffic jams."
The final exhibits of the floor are all about the human ecological footprint.
The lower level, the Earth Sciences Gallery, covers geology and paleontology including the ever-popular dinosaurs. One of the centerpieces is a mosasaur skeleton and a full-sized model of what one would look like. This is a large and nasty sea creature.
They have a tank with a link to the past, the spotted gar, a species apparently unchanged in 100,000,000 years. Also from more recent times there is a skeleton of a giant bison with what must be a five or six-foot horn span.
A section called the First Nations Gallery is, of course, a study of Native Americans.
Between the two floors but at the other end of the museum is their mechanical T-rex. I don't think it is of much scientific or teaching value, but it roars nicely and moves its head around.
We were a little hot and tired after leaving. Evelyn suggested we stop in a convenience store and get ice cream. I agreed, but then pointed out that for not too much more we could get a liter of Breyer's sherbet. That would be more cool and refreshing. We got Very Berry Mango. We ate it with plastic spoons in the car. I was not as impressed as other Breyer's products, but it was not bad. And it was much more bang for the buck. Refreshed we continued to our destination.
There is a museum dedicated to telling the story of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre. We were there before I realized that they had just two months ago moved it to a shiny new building with a shiny new admission price of $12 a person. It would have been interesting, but $12 a person is just a little too dang pricey. Instead I would read the Mountie materials I had gotten off the Internet. Wikipedia and Answers.com to the rescue. So this is one man that the Mounties did not get.
Just down the road from this museum is Government House, the onetime home of the Lieutenant Governor of Canada. It was built 1881. In 1945 it was replaced by another government house elsewhere in Regina. The furnishings were mostly auctioned off and it was refitted as a hospital for wounded veterans. Now it has been much restored with baroque furnishings like medicine warmers in the bedrooms. It is a museum. Most of the furnishings have been replaced by similar ones. The mascot of the building was the monkey Jocko, a pet who by all accounts had free range of the building. All around there are signs that a monkey had been here.
The place has all standard rooms including the stereotype: men-only a billiard room with bear rug, hunting trophies, etc. Where diplomats went to talk after meals while the women withdrew to the drawing room. That is why the drawing room has that name. It comes from withdrawing room.
One thing that is original is an entire place setting in the dining room. There is a story there. When the furnishings were auctioned off the person who knew the combination of the large safe in the dining room. Later they had to get a safecracker to break into it and there they found the plates, dishes, and utensils. So those were not sold.
Upstairs there were three bedrooms. One was for the Lieutenant Governor and two for guest bedrooms. One bedroom was of higher status than the other was. The less important guest got the second bedroom. There was something of a problem if royalty came to visit and someone was already in the best guest bedroom.
The place we chose to go for dinner seemed to no longer be there so we went to a multi-Asian restaurant called Saigon by Night. We had Pho and a sort of Vietnamese combination platter. Pho is Vietnamese vegetable beef noodle soup. Calling it that is a little misleading since frequently the broth is less than half of the volume. What we call "chunky" soup does not compare. It is a very characteristic part of Vietnamese cuisine and it is usually a good, cheap, nourishing, and filling meal.
It was good, though it left us thirsty and lethargic the entire evening. Well, on a hard trip like this we can use a little lethargy.
07/09/07 Regina, Saskatchewan to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan: Prince Albert National Park
Areas all around us have been reporting strange storm damage. I think Brandon was reporting hail that started the size of tennis balls and in the span of ten minutes grew to the size of softballs. There were also tornado clouds sighted.
Woke about 4:30 local time. We have a rainy day. I suspect that carrying the luggage up a flight of stairs on Saturday and eating a meal with chopsticks on Sunday has strained my hand. It is somewhat painful.
Breakfast was a little weird. We had hard-boiled egg mixed into the Cambodian leftovers from two days ago and cream cheese for dessert. Now I know some readers are going to wonder how I could face a breakfast so weird early in the morning. Travel in Asia has wiped out any preconceived ideas I ever might have had about what is and is not appropriate for a breakfast. In fact, I prefer a weird breakfast to a typical one. Probably in my life the meal I have had most often is cereal and milk. I like variety. Liking pizza as I do what I have been taking at home for a change is mixing a can of tomato sauce, a can of mushrooms, pizza spices, and non-fat mozzarella. Then I heat that for three minutes in the microwave. It is filling, non-fat, and the tomato sauce and mushrooms count as vegetables on my diet.
After breakfast we checked out. Here's what we thought of the place:
Comfort Inn of Regina
-- Clean and modern looking
-- Room was still being made up so left luggage
-- PC in lobby
-- Could not attach portable DVD to TV due to permanent connections
-- Not enough electrical outlets near bed
-- Night light in bathroom
-- Microwave and large fridge (not all rooms)
-- Tub drain slow
In the car putting on the seatbelt my right hand suddenly stung like I had a mousetrap snap shit on it. Not good.
We listened to Eugene O'Neil's Anna Christie from the LaTW. I am not sure why it is considered so good. It certainly is not bad, but it does not have much greatness. Yet it is remembered as a classic play.
The Great Books lecture was on Orestes. He draws from that the importance of resisting immoral orders from the gods (and authority). I don't know how much consideration he has given to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. Probably that it was different because that was obeying God. He takes from the Great Books that which reinforces his own attitudes.
It is costing $40 to fill the tank. Ah well. The Prince Albert National Park seems to be more than an hour beyond Prince Albert. It is a very rainy drive today. Actually luck seemed to be with us and it STOPPED raining as we approached Prince Albert National Park. This is just not what I expect from Luck of Leeper.
Based on a sampling of two National Parks are very different from the US. You come to US Park and you are immediately are handed a map with the highpoints highlighted. You drive a recommended route and see all the highpoints. You might see some restaurants near the park, but not very much in it. Here the parks are more like resorts. People find it very strange that we are coming here only for one day. There are apartment buildings all around at the center of the park. If you want to know what there is to see and you go to an information center. They have maps of the park all right, but no highpoints are marked. They point out things we might want to see and I hastily circle them on the map. I guess the big difference that our parks are geared for the one-day visit and some knock your socks off sites. Here they are geared to people spending a week's vacation and getting in touch with nature. Of course in states like Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico we have some knock your socks off sites that this part of Canada has no chance of matching. I have heard great things about the Canadian Rockies, but I will be really impressed it can match Zion National Monument or Bryce Canyon.
I think Greg Fredericks said he visited Utah on our recommendation. In any case I know that at some point I was raving about it. I believe he pretty much agreed. It is interesting that when you talk about beautiful places to visit, few people in the US think of Utah, but it is really incomparable.
After getting info on what to see we went to the nature center. We have heard a lot about Boreal Forests. I have an idea what it means, but I am not sure what Boreal means. I think it refers to North, though it could be tree also as in arbor. Boreal forest have long snowy winters, short growing seasons, and natural fires that clear way for new growth. In other words when a tree has been very bad in life it gets sent to a boreal forest when it dies. A Boreal Forest is everything any sensible tree would avoid.
There are eight tree types in the North American Boreal forest:
+ Jack pine
+ Balsam fir
+ White spruce
+ Black spruce
+ Trembling aspen
+ Balsam poplar
+ Paper birch
This park is Archie Grey Owl territory. Grey Owl was a naturalist and conservationist in these parts. He is remembered in the parks for his contributions to those who love nature. Outside of the parks he is best known for being a sort of benevolent fraud. He acted as a guide and shared his huge knowledge of the Native American way of life, playing the role of a Native American. He actually was an Englishman who came to this territory and "went native." He was born Archibald Stansfeld Belaney at Hastings, England. Supposedly the secret of his origin was kept until days after he died.
We tried to take a two-kilometer nature walk and did not even get to the starting point. We had bug repellant but had not sprayed for insects. We were suddenly the center of attention and the best thing that happened all week for an armada of roughly 57,256 mosquitoes. To the locals I guess going near woods without repellant is like going without pants. We ran back to the car, our arms flailing around our heads. That was about enough nature walk for us. Instead we took a nature drive. We saw a lot of trees and got a picture of a deer.
We drove back for an hour to Prince Albert and got a room at the Super 8. In the evening we watched the documentary "Spielberg on Spielberg." That was on TCM. We discovered it in the middle and watched the last half.
We went to a McDonalds for dinner. I tried their cold cut sandwich (an experiment for them and one for me. It was OK. Probably inspired by a similar sandwich at Wendy's. I also had the small hot fudge sundae.
In the room they were playing klezmer music on the radio so we listened to that until the replay of the Spielberg documentary. We watched the first half and then went to sleep to the half we had missed.
07/10/07 Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Western Development Museum
[Up to this point I had been keeping pretty much up with my log. At this point I could make only brief notes and I have about a week of backlog. I may not have as much detail.]
I did not sleep well due to pains in my right hand. Several days ago I think I did some temporary damage lifting the suitcase. I have much less strength in my hand, particularly in tasks that use the opposing thumb. And if the hand bends at the wrist in my sleep after a few minutes it starts hurting and in this case waking me up. It was 4 AM, before I could sleep for more than a few minutes.
Super 8 of Prince Albert
-- Good clean motel
-- Cheapest in area, but still high
-- No fridge or microwave in room
-- Full range of cable stations, but not on their provided list
-- Breakfast includes juice, bagels, oatmeal, and cereal
We went to get a bandage for my right hand at local Shoppers Drug Mart. We sat in the parking lot making plans for the day when we saw a large intimidating-looking man in a T-shirt come shambling across the parking lot. We thought he was going to the car next to us, but he came over and knocked on Evelyn's window. This unnerved us a bit. Evelyn opened her window. "Welcome to Prince Albert. You've come a long way." He had just seen we were strangers and wanted to be nice. Things really are different in Canada than in the US. Canadians are quite friendly and Americans are more paranoid.
I bought an elastic bandage and headed out for Saskatoon.
In the Bing Crosby version of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT. Bing is invention a magical chant to fool the locals. One of his magic words is "Saskatoon, Saskatchewan." That may well be where I first heard of the place.
Our modest plan for the day was to see the Museum of Ukrainian Culture. It is however closed and moving to a new location. We went to a tourist office to find what else there was to do.
The recommendation was the Western Development Museum. This is a museum showing Saskatchewan's past. You walk down a street from the early 20th century and see the pharmacy, the telephone office, the doctor's office, the dentist's, etc. That street is the cent of the exhibit, but off on the sides there are side exhibits of interest. Just beyond the far end of the street is a room with a large collection of tractors, many of which looked like the engine of a locomotive. Further on there was a large exhibit on the hard conditions that immigrants faced coming to Saskatchewan. We saw sod huts. And there were exhibits of what made life worth living. The music sounds a lot like Cajun music. That is not surprising since the Cajuns came from Canada. I found the description of the flu epidemic of special interest.
There was an entire funhouse from a fair.
Just as we were leaving we discovered that we had missed another side room, almost a museum in itself, with cars driven through Canadian history. There are electric trains, an ornithopter, and a lot more. These were perhaps more interesting than the main street.
-- The blacksmith shop had a pedal driven hammer and anvil. Makes sense because the legs are stronger than the arms.
-- We had a long talk with a retired schoolteacher, Ken Murray, who discusses the pharmacist shop.
Dinner was at a chain of restaurant called Cactus Jo's. We each had chili and thought it was not very good. We won't go back there.
In the room we watched THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY.
07/11/07 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Did not sleep well even with a bandage on my hand. I was up for a while about 3 AM. It was a little hard eating left-handed.
Our site for the day was Wanuskewin Heritage Park. This is a traditional area for the meeting of Native American peoples. It is made up of a display of Native American life and some trails out back that the Native Americans used. On the whole it was not one of the more interesting sites. There is no shortage of exhibits of Native American life in Canadian museums. And the trails these days are basically nature hikes. It has a beautiful building, but one not particularly evocative of Native culture. Triple-A calls this a gem site, but I was not greatly impressed.
We returned to the room and watched Richard Attenborough's film GREY OWL. As we were watching I took the bandage off my hand. My wrist and in fact the whole hand was very badly swollen. I decided I really needed to see a doctor. Evelyn called the insurance company to see if we were covered in Canada. They would cover emergency room use, but not local clinics. But emergency room care could run into money. We decided to try a local clinic. We could walk right in and pay, then see the doctor. I had an Asian Indian doctor who told me I had tendonitis. He prescribed use of splints, cold packs, and a drug that was a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory. The one problem was that it was harsh on the stomach. He asked me if I had ever had ulcers, did members of my family have ulcers. Since this drug had bad side effects with ulcers. I assured his I had not and I would not be someone prone to ulcers since I am a fan of very spicy food. Note: I did not admit to being a capsaicin abuser if there is such a thing. Nobody talks much about capsaicin abuse because the side effects are actually healthy. For one thing the pylori hat cause ulcers cannot stand capsaicin. It also fights cancer, heart disease, and a raft of other medical problems. Anyway it satisfied the doctor that I liked my food spicy. We took the prescription to the local Wal-Mart. The cost was $27.90 for the doctor, $14.67 for the drug, $3.30 for adhesive tape and a pack of Popsicle sticks. It cost about $47 in all. I guess I am just too used to US medical costs. The US medical system is way out of hand.
We had dinner at a local "diner." and the food was pretty mediocre.
At the room we finished GREY OWL and saw CODE 46. Michael Winterbottom's cinematic style may be just a little off-putting for some people, but in my case it was more than sufficient to put me off the film.
07/12/07 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Brooks, Alberta
This is a travel day.
Between the drug and the splint I slept much better. I woke up in the night, put on a tape to listen to on my Walkman. Woke up to find I had missed it. I flipped it to hear the other side and missed that one also. This, of course, was not a bad thing. At least it means I am catching up on my sleep.
Super 8 breakfast was orange juice, cereal, and a bagel. We were on the road by about 7:30, headed to Brooks.
Super 8 of Saskatoon
-- Ice machine broken
-- Hot water really hot
We listened to two LaTW plays in the car, "A Tale of Charles Dickens" and "Prelude to a Kiss." I did not think the first was very good, but "Prelude to a Kiss" was a nice fantasy play. I had seen the movie and remember when it played on Broadway.
Evelyn did not like the route that the GPS had chosen. Triple-A picked a route on more major roads, the GPS chose more back roads. This may not be good on the car, but our Corolla seems to be perfectly happy with them. Our biggest car problem is bugs on the windshield. We sort of took an amalgam of the GPS route and the Triple-A route. We end up being stuck behind a house that was being carted by truck. It was a long, hot drive.
For lunch we stopped at the Thuy Tien Vietnamese restaurant the GPS pointed us to in Medicine Hat. I had Pho and had to swallow my pride and eat it with a fork rather than chopsticks, though most I could eat with a spoon. The problem was that I was mostly using my left hand and I cannot use chopsticks in that hand.
We checked into a room and saw the TV play "Bang the Drum Slowly" and THE SPECKELED BAND (1931). This is one of the most popular of the Sherlock Holmes stories for reasons I have never understood. First of all the solution makes little sense. Snakes do not drink milk. They are reptiles and never acquired a taste for it. The whole mystery comes about because a dying woman whispers "the speckled band" and nobody knows what she was talking about. Sherlock Holmes comes in to figure out what the heck she was talking about. No human alive would say something like that. What you or I would say in those circumstances is "SNAKE!" Here the woman is dying and the most important detail she can mention is that it is speckled. And nobody could tell she had died of a snakebite? If I were about to be bitten by a snake I would not be saying to myself "oo, look at the speckles." The story is remembered because the victim is so abysmally stupid that she confounds the experts in the story and the reader. The modern equivalent would be if someone was run over by a hit-and-run car, drags herself to a Seven-11 and dies gasping "the rubbery roller."
The acting in the film was not even on a par with that in DRACULA, filmed that same year.
We went for dinner. There is not much in this small town so we went to Wendy's. Since we still had time we also watched PAN'S LABYRINTH.
07/13/07 Brooks, Alberta: Dinosaur Provincial Monument
Our site of the day was Dinosaur Provincial Monument. This is located in badlands rich in dinosaur fossils. The park was created in 1955 to show the dinosaur research and the finds being made in the badlands. There is a museum and there are tours of the research grounds. The subject of the museum is the history of the paleontological work in the area. The museum teaches who were the major investigators in this area, what the work conditions were like, there are, of course, there are dinosaur skeletons and mock-ups. We also took a bus tour into the restricted area. I thought it was aimed fairly low as far as teaching was concerned but we did get a chance to search for bone fragments. At the time of the dinosaurs there was a sea that ran down the center of North America, north to south. This is called the Bear Paw Sea. This left a layer of sand that turned to sandstone. The dinosaur fossils were preserved in this sandstone. As the biological material decayed away other minerals replaced it. The other mineral was generally ironstone, which is harder than sandstone.
They also have a great number of hoodoos to show off. What is a hoodoo? Most of us have seen pictures of large stones seemingly balanced on narrow columns of stone. That really is the result of a natural process where wind and rain have worn a column with a layer of ironstone on top of a layer of sandstone. But sandstone is softer than ironstone so the column continues to wear and get thinner. Frequently you get odd shapes with a big rock on a narrow column. One of the hoodoos is famous. It looks like a camel. The head and the hump of the camel are ironstone and the body is sandstone. Behind the camel is another formation that looks like pyramid. The year the park was being considered for the status of a world heritage site the meeting was in Egypt. The park put the camel and pyramid on the cover of their proposal. The camel was the impetus they needed and they were selected.
We were considering skipping the Royal Tyrrell Museum since we expected that it would probably be a lot the same as this museum. We talked to some of the other people on our bus tour and hey said that Tyrrell was much better without that much overlap. So Tyrrell was reinstated in our plans.
After the tour we stopped for a cold drink and then drove the public road loop of the diggings. This is a loop of part of the badlands that has already been mostly explored. We also walked one of the nature trails most of the way. There was not a whole lot to learn on the path. After that we drove back to Brooks.
Dinner was at Smitty's, a restaurant right next to our motel. We each ordered the special of the evening, steak sandwich and Caesar salad. Service was slow and a touch sullen. This whole area has been complaining of labor shortages. What this country needs is a border with Mexico. Local businesses need the labor; Mexicans need to feed their families. It would be a win for Canada and a win for Mexican immigrants. Smitty's also had a real problem with flies. I looked down the row of booths and could count about five flies buzzing around. The steak and fries were not too bad. The salad was not great, just lettuce and garlic dressing.
In the evening we worked on logs with GOJIRA RAIDS AGAIN and JURASSIC PARK in the background. We decided those were appropriate.
07/14/07 Brooks, Alberta: The Royal Tyrrell Museum
It has been years since I have had Cheez Whiz so just for a change I try having that for breakfast. On does not usually see that among the breakfast spreads.
Yesterday was just for dinosaur starters. Everybody says the great local museum for dinosaurs is the Royal Tyrrell. Earlier I had expressed my doubts to Evelyn that we needed to go to two dinosaur museums, as much as I have a childlike love of dinosaurs. Locals tell us that the Royal Tyrrell is not to be missed. We have agreed that it won't be.
My right hand still give me what feel like electrical jolts now and then. It is the sort of thing you feel when you whack your funny bone. But I am wearing a splint at night and favoring it a little during the day. It is about a 90-minute drive to the Royal Tyrrell in Drumheller. We pass a ground squirrel (erroneously called a gopher) standing at the center of the road. It is my opinion is that he is waiting for a car to come along to dodge its wheels. This is a sport for squirrels. Actually different species seem to use motor vehicle dodging as a sport. I have never heard anyone else observe this but in Africa we did see impalas running right in front of the only car on a dirt road to come along for hours. And they would run in an arc to do it. Here ground squirrels seem to do it.
I don't know if there are tree squirrels around here. The last ones we saw were in Winnipeg. But in the West they don't have the same big tails. In the west squirrels have more modest tails and trains are much longer. Here the trains seem to stretch on for a mile or so. In the East you see big squirrel tails, in the West long trains. Just the way it is. Probably unrelated.
Just about any science museum these days has something about dinosaurs. They are incredibly popular with the public. The film JURASSIC PARK just stirred up and amplified the interest. So if you have a science museum it may be a big expense, but you need a dinosaur skeleton or two. Sometimes more. But if your museum happens to be right in the middle of one of the world's largest dinosaur fossil beds, you can get them much more economically. You can put up a lot in your museum. You are in a position to trade specimens with other museums.
The Royal Tyrrell Museum cuts right to the chase as far as dinosaurs are concerned. It is devoted overwhelmingly to showcasing dinosaur findings. It is the largest dinosaur exhibit in the world. This museum is about half about dinosaurs. It has a build-up with the pre-Mesozoic. And it has a bit on the post Mesozoic. And it has other topics like how paleontology is done. But there is no doubt in anybody's mind that the stress is on dinosaurs, first, last, and always.
The displays on dinosaurs must cover an acre of floor. This is in the middle of the Red Deer Valley of the Alberta badlands. This is an extremely rich fossil bed. A rich source of dinosaur skeletons really constitutes wealth for a museum. They have a lot they can put on display. And they have a lot of fossils they can cast and send to other museums and get casts in return. The fossil beds do them good directly, and they also puts them in a position to do good for other museums who happily do what they can in return. And that really builds up the collection.
In some ways the museum is quietly ostentatious. There is some disagreement on how a Chasmosaurus stood, for example. Other museums might show the difference with two drawings illustrating the two theories. That is not good enough for the Tyrell. Here they show the difference with two full skeletons. One is posed one way, one the other.
We were a little lost finding the museum and we approached from the wrong directions. The museum is on a hill and there is a parking lot at base with a shuttle. There was a higher lot, we had parked in the overflow lot. They had a shuttle to the top.
Admission was $10 + the charge for extras. We paid an extra $2 for a video program.
The museum starts with some preliminaries. Here are some dinosaur models to catch the visitor's imagination, then they show a little about the Earth and continental drift and geology and how paleontologists do their jobs. That sort of thing. Then there is another teaser room. It is a dark room showing off dramatically theropod skeletons. Theropods are the dinosaurs that walked on their hind legs (like the Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and the local favorite Albertosaurus). A few aquatic samples and then the walk starts with the earliest life and goes chronologically until modern times.
There are two periods with expanded displays. The Mesozoic--the age of the dinosaurs--and the discoveries in the Burgess Shale from Yoho National Park near Banff. We will be going to Yoho.
In the Burgess Shale are fossils of a wide variety of life that was wiped out by some cosmic extinction event. Evolution was taking many alien forms that never went anywhere because they were all wiped out. They look like aquatic creatures from an alien planet. They are just nothing like anything that is recognizably earthly. It all looks like something imagined by a science fiction artist.
The visitor follows the path of time of time into the Devonian period with its fierce fish. You continue to the first emergence onto land.
Then you get into the featured Mesozoic. And there is a floor that must be something like a half acre with exhibits of dinosaurs and contemporary saurian life. There are about 40 mounted dinosaurs in the main hall. That does not include their flying reptiles and their sea reptiles (which incidentally are not actually dinosaurs, though people often make that mistake.
They then tie up zoological history with the Cenozoic with ungainly creatures like the Uintatheres and Brontotheres. Then it goes into the Ice Age with mammoths.
When I finished the dinosaur hall my camera had gone through its second set of batteries. I had Evelyn wait while I tried to go back to the car to get more batteries. The signage was not very good and I found myself walking down a long dusty road trying to find the car. Luckily I realized that I had been given wrong directions or I would have climbed down the wrong hill. Finally we got the right directions and made it to the car and got the batteries. We then walked through the museum a second time taking pictures and reviewing the entire museum. That is a new habit of ours. If we like a museum we walk through it a second time more quickly before leaving.
Early in the day we saw two films offered free. One was supposedly on the behind the scenes work being done. Actually this did not have a lot of information. It was more an excuse to introduce the curators, give their background, and then they told a little of what they were working on. The other film was about how you prepare a skeleton for display. This was "hosted" by John Acorn. He is apparently a local comedian.
We also saw their presentation on Dinosaurs in the Movies. It was aimed at a younger audience, but had clips from:
-- GERTIE, THE DINOSAUR
-- THE DINOSAUR AND THE MISSING LINK
-- THE LOST WORLD
-- KING KONG
-- KING KONG VS. GODZILLA
-- THE VALLEY OF GWANGI
-- WHEN DINOSUARS RULED THE EARTH
-- THE LAND BEFORE TIME
-- JURASSIC PARK
-- WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
-- CHASED BY DINOSAURS
We ate in town at a Chinese restaurant called Sizzling House. The service was slow but the food was good. It was about a 90-minute drive back to the motel.
The big story in the news came from the Calgary Stampede. This has been filling up Calgary. It is a huge 10-day rodeo held yearly in Calgary. We rearranged our trip to not be in Calgary until the Stampede was nearly over. Hotel rooms double in price and are nearly impossible to get. It is like Canada's equivalent of Nascar. The big story [which we were to hear many times over] was that two chuck wagons collided in a chuck wagon race putting a man in the hospital. One horse was killed instantly; one had to be put down. [A third died later.] People who know me and my attitude toward animals will know what I think they can do with their whole chuck wagon race and for that matter with the whole Stampede.
Tomorrow we head out for Calgary and the start of the Canadian Rockies. We looked at what there is to do the next few days. The prices are all "advanced." I figure the prices in "vacation dollars." I figure there are two vacation dollars in a real dollar. If a motel costs $140 a night, I cut the price in half. Is this place worth $70 a night? OK, that is acceptable. $70 from me, $70 from vacation expenses. Of course it is self-delusion. I am paying the whole $140. I am paying $70 for the room and $70 to enjoy the vacation.
07/15/07 Brooks, Alberta to Calgary, Alberta: Glenbow Museum
For breakfast I had cereal and bread with cheese. We talked with other guests about travel. We checked out on were on the road.
Super 8 of Brooks
-- Clean and generally well run
-- TV connection to portable DVD player hard to figure out
-- TV has no sleep cycle
-- Breakfast small, Cheez Whiz
-- Borrowing bookcase for guests
As we drove we listened to a BBC broadcast of Arthur Miller's THE DEATH OF A SALESMAN with Timothy West. He sounded American. What a powerful play!
The Glenbow Museum in the heart of Calgary is a little pricey and twee. Fourteen dollars is a bit much to charge for this odd collection of collections. There was no overall design. It just must have gotten unified at some point. The main floor (the third) is a history of this area focussing on 48 mavericks--people who did things their own way. The floors around have other collection. The top floor has a good collection of minerals and crystals, a large collection of some very nice stones. Then you move on to West African art--primitive and mysterious.
What I had expected to be the most interesting is a collection on the warrior through the ages that supposedly was to show what the warrior has been like through five centuries. The approach was surprisingly uninspired. It was weapons and uniforms. It had dioramas of how one became a knight. It has a video display of CWACs. [CWAC is insultingly pronounced "quacks." It is Canadian Women's Army Corp. Why are female soldier units always giving such silly nicknames: WAVES, WRENS, WACS (whacks)? I think they should be given all the same respect that the men get. This is becoming a more popular view. I also think they should be given the same work and the same degree of peril. They should not be made heroes for doing the same thing a man would do and it is considered just his duty.]
My complaint is that the display never really answers the question of what the warrior was. Certainly showing uniforms is not going to do it. The name uniform means "one shape" and represents what they were told to wear so they would give up their individuality and be like everyone else.
The collection does a good job on the uniforms and weapons that the warriors were supplied with. The display should have had more personal accounts if it wanted to tell who these people were.
Going down a floor we got to the exhibit of mavericks like Thomas and Lena Gushal: who improvised their own equipment and photographed immigrant life. This got us into about a 20-minute or more conversation with two docents. The main one was the wife of someone who worked for the oil companies. Topics we saw covered included William van Horne who built railroad. This led to coverage of tourism. There were Northwest Explorers, a bit on the coming of the Mounted Police.
It was at this point that we saw that they were experimenting with a kind of portable audio-visual museum guide. They were looking for people to try it out. You wear something like a palm pilot from a lanyard around your neck and listen with earphones. There are three or four little signs with numbers around each exhibit room. You type in a number and you hear a short presentation about that part of the display. It made it much more interesting. I am sure that when they have it implemented they will charge for it, and with a $14 admission I would not want to pay even more. But I must admit it did make things more interesting.
One of the mavericks was Freddie McCall who was a seat-of-the-pants pilot with his own small open cockpit bi-plane. A couple of stories were interesting. He was flying over Calgary and landed on the outskirts. He landed just fine, but in taxiing the next few feet he ran out of gasoline. He just had not been careful to check it. Had he run out minutes before he would have crashed into Calgary. That would have killed him. And the nitroglycerine he was carrying would have wiped out half of Calgary.
He and his wife were flying over the wedding party of a friend. She was behind him in he second seat. To show off he flew upside-down over the party. That was the last time she flew with him. It seems she was not wearing a seatbelt and could only hang onto the plane for dear life to keep from falling out. Other notables included Charlie Stainaker, who was a nitro shooter, and Tom Three Persons, a native who was the star of the first Stampede for riding a legendary impossible to ride bucking bronco.
On the second floor there was an exhibit of Asian religious art. There was Buddhist, Taoist, etc.
The gizmo they gave us really made the museum visit more worthwhile, but the admission was overpriced in any case.
On the way to the Econolodge we ate a good Vietnamese meal at Viet Hai Restaurant.
We checked into the Econolodge. Evelyn checked her e-mail than we watched a commentary on GOJIRA RAIDS AGAIN and a German Sherlock Holmes film SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE.
07/16/07 Calgary, Alberta: Harry Potter & IMAX 3-D
I woke at 6AM hearing someone saying "Just because you could not sleep does not mean I couldn't." Evelyn was asleep. It must have come from the next room. The walls are thin.
Breakfast is a bit of a climb upstairs. They had the usual of juice, cereal, rolls, etc.
My plan for the day was to walk around the downtown area and get the feel of Calgary. The Triple-A book claims that there is visitor information info at municipal build including walking tours. We drove there and Evelyn could not park, but left me off and I went in. They did not know about any visitor information and sent me to a building for tourist information a few blocks away. They had the usual set of brochures and a woman who seemed to know even less. We had to explain to her what a walking tour was. No they never had had any brochures like that. But we are free to walk around and she pointed to where the stores were. That was not actually what we had in mind. We decided to walk around on our own. Driving is a real mess because there are roads blocked off for construction all over and making things very inconvenient. We decided to find an inexpensive place to park and to walk around for a few hours. More driving and traffic is a mess with construction everywhere. In addition parking lots don't post their rates. After a difficult search we found one that looked like it would be cheap. It was $4 first hour+$2/each additional half-hour. No way. We decided that walking around Calgary's downtown was just too expensive a commodity.
During the Gold Rush there were any people in the Yukon who got very wealthy. And they never had to put on a warm coat. They were not mining the gold fields, they were "mining the miners." They just sold some useful or necessary commodity at prices that were absurd. They kept wages low but prices high. (Much like our medical industry.) If everybody charges high for the same commodity people don't have a chance. Basically they went into the price fixing business. The Northwest Territories have learned from that policy. They don't pay very good wages and they sure know how to charge. That philosophy seems alive and well. The museums, the parking, and who knows how much else in tourism that is way overpriced. On the other hand nearly everyplace we look says they are now hiring. Labor is abandoning this area because they can make more money other places and prices are high here.
We did drive around the four blocks Chinatown. They we chose to give up.
Driving away we pass the Inglewood Fair's Fair Bookstore. Evelyn informs me that this is the main branch of the chain. How does she know these things? She seems to know where all the bookstores are and who the owners are and that the next one we go to the manager has not maintained it well since his wife died of heart trouble in November 2003. There is a cat in the store but no dogs. We spend about half an hour in the store, but a beat up novel would cost something like $4 or $6. Evelyn found on book she wanted.
We drive to another part of town. We pass a business called Explosives Limited. Jeez, I sure hope so.
Evelyn suggested we check out the Chinook Centre. This is a fancy mall. We shopped, bought a book of philosophy, PHILOSOPHICAL CLASSICS, and some freezer blocks (ours had leaked). We had lunch trying Ginger Beef. That is considered a local dish. It is based on a Chinese dish, but they mentioned it at the Glenbow as being really a Canadian dish. It turns out to be fried beef in a sugary sauce not a lot different from sweet and sour beef. It does have a strong ginger flavor.
They have an IMAX theater and we decided to see HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. 20 minutes of the film were in the new 3-D process that I was curious to try. The theater in decorated in a theme of Ancient Egypt. I thought the film looked very good on the very large screen. The 3-D process did not quite work as one lens did not quite block the second image. Most of the images were recessed into the screen, which works better than trying to bring images into the viewer's face.
As for the film, here is my review:
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
CAPSULE: Harry Potter returns in his most complex and political story, not to mention his darkest and least cute one. Harry, Hermione, and Ron have to fight a two-front war against a takeover of Hogwarts and the return of Voldemort. Davis Yates directs.
Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
I suppose I should admit that I have a problem with the Harry Potter films. I have read only the first book and while I have seen each movie in the series, I have seen each only once. With each film the plot becomes more complex and there are more names to remember. A film should stand on its own. The Potter films definitely do not, which does not mean that they do not make an enjoyable watch. Enough of the plot is comprehensible with some reminders. And there is a constant array visual surprises that keep the film engaging. The producers know the right way to use digital effects. While I am on the visual, I will say that there was an interesting allusion to Dr. Who. Not only does every major British actor since Joan Greenwood seem to show up at some point, so do all the favorite British TV series, a little Monty Python here, a little Dr. Who there.
As the film opens Harry (played by Daniel Radcliff) again staying with the Dursleys, his wretched foster parents. An attack by some evil magical Whatsises forces Harry to use his magical powers in the real world. This is an unauthorized liberty and he is apparently expelled from Hogwarts. This becomes expelled pending a hearing. And we are off and running. It seems the Ministry of Magic has it in for Dumbledore and students loyal to him, including Harry. And the conflict makes headlines over and over in the magic industry trade papers. A new teacher at Hogwarts is Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), who is an agent for the now evil and bureaucratic Ministry of Magic. She rules Hogwarts with a large set of new draconian rules to further the ends of the Ministry, playing into the hands of Voldemort (played unrecognizably by Ralph Fiennes).
If you are a newcomer to Harry Potter stories at this point you are totally lost, but this is not a film made to stand by itself. It is a chapter in a much longer story. The overall story covers a long arc in the maturing of the wizard Harry Potter played by actors who are unavoidably also maturing. The character of Harry is showing signs of romantic interests, and this film features no less than three young women who could become amorous interests. He also may be discovering things about his parents he perhaps did not want to know.
The passing of time has other problems implicit. Daniel Radcliff was cute as a child but has matured into unexpected blandness. If he were starting acting at this age he might not have had the appeal to be chosen for the lead of a major film.
The plot seems to have political implication with the villains being a bureaucratic ruling force who use torture (I am told somewhat toned down from the book) to get their ends. The good guys form a secret insurgency. The government is trying to disarm the learning wizards and take away their spells. Make of that what you will.
I rate HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. And for once there is not even a mention of Quidditch.
Film Credits: <http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0373889/>
We had dinner at Nong Khai, a Thai restaurant. We shared Crisp Tofu in Peanut sauce and a sort of Ginger Chicken (not fried or in a sweet sauce).
In the room we worked on logs and watched an episode of Doctor Who.
07/17/07: Calgary, Alberta: Calgary Zoo
We were not going to go to the Calgary Zoo, but we got a half price-coupon. Even at $19.80 for two it is expensive.
This is not a big zoo as the zoos we have visited over the last few months have been. It may be big in space, but there are not a lot of animals. They do have major animals like lions, tigers, bears, elephants, etc. Its largest section is on animals of Canada. Basically they are not all that interesting animals there. Bison are about the most exotic. There are mountain goats, ruminants, bears, bison, but nothing to set the pulse pounding.
There were three educational shows. You have these at a lot of zoos. These were better than most because they have not been given over to pure humor and entertainment. They were mostly information. So many of the educational shows at zoos and museums in the US have given up on trying to educate people and instead talk down to the audience. We want the additional information, but frequently go away no more knowledgeable than when we went. The shows were on Elephants, bears, and gorillas. The emphasis was more on the emotional life of the animals than it would be in the US. They included the animals' sex lives.
Interesting facts gleaned include that Spike the Elephant has the largest capped teeth in the world. He banged a tusk into a wall and cracked it. They had to get dentists from a university to make the caps and to come up with special glue that would bond metal to ivory. Both tusks had to be capped so they would not be unbalanced. Where humans get two sets of teeth, elephants get six. Teeth are constantly being replaced. When they lose the last of the sets of teeth the elephant cannot eat properly and dies. Their elephant Maharani paints. They tried to train all four of their elephants, but only Maharani took to it.
There was a big scandal when Canada put in wildlife overpasses over roads. They cost about two million dollars a piece and the wildlife would not use them. The claim is that it just took time and they are saving animal lives now.
The zoo was on a flight path of a local airport. The animals must have loved that.
We went to get a snack and they were selling something called "poutine." Neither of us had ever heard of poutine. We asked what it was. Well, they offered fries with gravy, fries with cheese, or spiced fries. If you get fries with all three then that's poutine. It wasn't bad, but I would not call it healthy. I think spiced fries are the healthiest. Gravy or ketchup probably next. Cheese at least has some protein. Probably the least healthy is the Dutch and Belgian mayonnaise. But of course they all taste pretty good. We also shared a hot dog. Not much to eat, but it was satisfying.
We were walking around the Canadian Wilderness recreation and right behind us we hear a musical tone and a tall, well-tanned woman in shorts takes a business call on her cell phone. As much as we try to separate us from her we keep coming back together on the path. She gives cursory looks at the animals and makes several business calls over the next half-hour. There is something about looking at elk to the sound of how Jeffrey did not come thought with his report.
We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant, Tokyo Garden. It was decent. Sushi is cheaper here than in the US.
In the room we listened to the producer commentary on GREY OWL and then conked out. We went to sleep listening to Seinfeld.
07/18/07 Calgary, Alberta to Banff, Alberta: Yoho National Park
I woke up about 5:30 to a loud thunderstorm. My favorite weather. It can be a free fireworks display. And they probably need the rain around here.
We packed, had breakfast, and left.
Econolodge of Calgary
-- Walls are thin, I was awakened by voices from next room
-- Older motel
-- Wallpaper peeling behind curtains
-- Fridge, microwave, stove, kitchen cabinets
-- Room small
-- Kitchen sink and sink in bathroom
-- Bathroom is tiny and cramped
-- PC for guest use
-- Busy part of town
-- Room temperature controlled by convenient thermostat
-- Nice responsive air condition that make room keep going from too hot to too cold
-- Breakfast provided but very modest: rolls, cereal, juice.
Our play of the morning is The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein from the LaTW. The rain continues at the level of a sprinkle. Our first real look at the Canadian Rockies is sheathed in fog.
However within minutes we were out of the fog like a cloth being taken off a work of art and we were driving among mammoth mountains of stone. In just a short stretch of road the scenery turns majestic and magnificent. The pictures won't do it justice because of the fog and the loss of scale in a photograph.
The scenery is stone mountains, evergreen trees, and green rivers. Not too bad. The mountains are immense. Trees that close up look like tall aspen just look like thin mold on these huge pieces of stone.
We are in the area where the Burgess Shale was found with its bizarre creatures of 530 million years BC. There is an exhibit showing a bit of the shale. We got a map of the local parks. Today we are visiting Yoho. It is in Yoho National Park that the Burgess Shale was discovered.
Our next stop was at Natural Bridge. It is just what it says. The rushing waters of the Kicking Horse River have worn their way though rock. Nobody walks on the bridge, but it shows that water can wear through rock.
Not far from there on the Emerald River is beautiful Emerald Lake. The green lake and the mountains behind it. In the mountain is the site of the Burgess Shale. We walked part of the way around the lake taking pictures. We had some snacks in the car before heading out again.
Takakkaw Waterfall has a name that means spectacular in the local native language. It is a 750-foot plume of falling water. It has been a hot day, but the first thing I felt getting out of the car was the humidity and the cool. There is a wet mist everywhere. Just to be nice when I seem someone taking a picture of a friend I offer to take a picture of the two together. I certainly see a lot of different cameras. We cross the bridge to get to the falls. As we get closer to the falls there is more and more spray. Eventually Evelyn suggests this is not good for the camera and the palmtops so I take a few pictures and then we return to the car. On the way back there is a strange sight. A ground squirrel comes out of the brush giving loud chirps. I take a picture. They don't seem very afraid of humans. Our squirrels are very shy of people but these ground squirrels are not generally. This one attracts a big crowd of maybe fifteen people in a circle and he just stands there chirping to the crowd. I don't know if he was hoping for a food handout. Maybe he was just showing off. I felt bad I did not give him something for his efforts. It is against the law to feed them.
From there we went to the convergence of the Yoho and the Kicking Horse Rivers. The Yoho is a milky gray from silt. The two joins to be the Kicking Horse River and it has silt. Shows you what happens with a river converges with the wrong sort.
I wonder if these mountains are taller than those at Zion National Monument in Utah are. They are impressive.
Our next stop was the Spiral Railroad Tunnel. The Canadian Pacific Railway chose a route through the Rocky Mountains. In this area the grade was too high for some trains with heavy freight to climb. After several accidents they borrowed an idea from the Swiss. In 1908 and 1909 they made a helical tunnel through the solid stone mountain. A long enough train passes over its own tail.
After that we were both tired and headed for Banff. The park is in British Columbia and Banff is back in Alberta. The GPS told us British Columbia was in another time zone. It turns out that is true, but not these parks so close to Alberta.
The Town of Banff looks like it is trying to be a piece of Switzerland. It is ringed with mountains that are high craggy peaks. Any direction you walk in town you are walking toward some magnificent craggy mountain. The architecture of the entire town seems like a Swiss village.
We checked into the room, I explored what channels were available on the TV and we rested a bit.
We asked the GPS what restaurants were available. Most places to eat in town are expensive. The GPS mentioned we were close to a chain I used to like 30 years ago, The Old Spaghetti Factory. We went and I thought it was pretty good. I had a plate of spaghetti with three sauces. It had mushroom, meat, and white clam. Actually the clam sauce might have been the best, though I would not have thought it. I never had multiple sauces at the same time to compare.
We walked around town, which is in large part ripped up and under construction. The background is beautiful, the foreground not so nice.
We stopped at the grocery to pick up more soda pop. In Canada like in the US mid-west it is called pop. In the US on the two coasts it is called soda. In Canada we have found people who don't know what soda is. It is probably safest to call it soda pop.
We listened to Guillermo del Toro's commentary on PAN'S LABYRINTH. The room is very warm. My thermometer says 80F/27C. That is not very good for a room that costs around $200 a night. I had reported the problem when we went out to dinner, but they could not fix it. [PS: By the next night the problem went away. I don't know if it was because the hot weather ended or because they had someone fix it.]
07/19/07 Banff, Alberta: Rocky Mountain Parks
The room cooled off over night, thank goodness. We left the patio door open. Also breakfast was one of the nicest of the trip. It featured a fresh fruit salad and nice cranberry muffins. Today we are going out to visit some of the parks that make up the Rocky Mountain park system.
It rained over night and continues off and on. We take the scenic route to Lake Louise. I got to film some elk on the road. I hate to open the windows to get better pictures because the mosquitoes are so bad. We keep moving in and out of overcast conditions and rain.
The real attraction today is not the sites we will visit but the roads between them. You thread your way among one majestic mountain after another pushed together cheek to jowl. And I am talking real mountains. My guess is that what I am calling mountains are better than 1500 feet I would guess. For those of you who know only metric I will convert: these mountains are BIG SUCKERS.
We stopped at picturesque Lake Moraine in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Today Moraine was aptly named. The rain continued its down pouring. It is a nice green lake at the foot of two or three mountains. Evelyn found a spot where the water seemed to be running uphill. Actually it was an affect of the slope of the ground being at a slant, but it gave a realistic feel of something really bizarre. There was a shop there and a golden mantled ground squirrel that kept running in and out. The clerks stamped their feet to scare him off, but the brave fellow delighted the visitors.
They were selling coffee flavored with maple syrup as a very Canadian thing. Evelyn pointed out there was not very much coffee in the bag. The bag was rigid and looked full but was mostly air. I used this to create my own mystery spot. I took a bag, turned it upright so the coffee was all in the bottom. Then I turned it horizontal and balanced the base of the bag on a box of maple candy. It looked like the bag just stuck out levitating over empty space with no support.
At the water we looked at the floating wood. Evelyn said the logjam reminded her of Maine. Was it any good with peanut butter, I asked? No but it had plenty of fiber.
Lake Louise in Banff National Park is another beautiful lake. In fact this is the one most people think about when they think of the Canadian Rockies. Films like SPRINGTIME AT THE ROCKIES were shot here. There is a fabulously posh hotel called The Chateau just a little way back from the water. The hotel is of a size rarely found in hotels outside of Las Vegas. You walk in and there is live harp music. The places we stay I am lucky of the room radio gets a classical station. The rooms at the Chateau start at $200 a night and go up to $650 a night even without the hotel providing companionship. The lake is much bigger than Moraine but it is equally framed by snow capped mountains. We walked a good distance around the lake taking pictures and offering to take pictures for others.
We took a very Rockies drive to Kootenay Park. It supposedly has Radium Hot Springs Pools. We weren't sure what these were. They are the modern version of hot springs of 80 years ago or so. Well there are still pools that people are using for their health. But these days the pool is, well, a swimming pool. It is this rectangular pool of a blue color. This passes as a world heritage site. It also is where local kids go to cool off in the summer. As for the radium, yeah it is there. They just claim it is not enough to worry about. Well, actually I have a low radium worry threshold.
The Kootenay Valley Viewpoint is, well, have I been using the words majestic and spectacular a lot? Rockies are just beautiful. Somewhere along the line we saw the Continental Divide.
Mostly it was just riding for hours in the car taking pictures that will never express how amazing it is. A photograph just is not very good at showing big. They make mountains look nearer and smaller than they really are. I took a lot of photos and they will just not convey what was so impressive.
The drive back to Banff was better than an hour and a half. We listened to a reading of "Shambleau" by C. L. Moore.
We had just had some snack food for lunch so were hungry for dinner. We had chosen some places that were reasonably priced for dinner. Guess again. The reasonable places have gone away. You can pay $12 for a sandwich. If you want a complete meal you probably need to go $18 or more. Most are more like $22. We did a lot of searching and a lot of rejecting. I seemed to remember from the night before a reasonably priced place a block off the main street. After some searching I found where it was. It was Barpa Bill's. It is a Greek short order plays with no tables, just stools and a counter. Doner Kabob and Souvlaki sandwiches $6. We both got a sandwich and a soda for $15.
In the evening we worked on logs. We put the remake film MIGHTY JOE YOUNG on as background. I was a little surprised that some of what we had learned about gorillas at the Calgary Zoo was useful in interpreting the film. You never look a gorilla in the eyes. That usually means you want to fight. The want to be friendly and play face is to open your eyes wide and mouth wide making a narrow oval with your mouth. 0this is a gorilla's way of expressing playfulness. Interestingly enough it also seems to express that idea to humans, but we have many faces for playful ideas. But when Joe wanted to play in the film the animator had him make the play face. It was not mentioned in the film, but it was there. I should check out the new KING KONG to see if it does the same.
We were going to go to sleep to MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. But they double-crossed me. I discovered that I had never seen it and that it was actually pretty funny (though at times contrived and illogical). I stayed up for the whole film and Evelyn for most of it.
07/20/07 Banff, Alberta: Misc. Sites
Whatever was the problem with the room being too warm yesterday was fixed. It was actually fairly cold over night. That was my own fault.
The hotel was not crowded yesterday But it is considerably more so today. There seems to be a Japanese tour group. The newspapers were gone when we went to breakfast. I went to the desk and they said I had been a little too slow. But they found me a newspaper anyway, which was nice of them. It is important for me to get TV listings today because it is the premier of a TV documentary Cereal Thriller. I was interviewed for it and I am curious how much of the footage of me was used. I may have ended up the face on the cutting room floor. We got two sets of listings and one says it is on at 6PM and one says 9PM. Nothing is easy.
We are tracing our footsteps of yesterday going on the Bow Valley Parkway. It parallels the main road. You get lest mountain vistas but more wildlife. It goes more through the forest.
The weather is clear and sunny, unlike yesterday.
There is a trail to Johnston Falls in Johnston Canyon. It is a short 1.1 km each way, 1312 paces. There is a bigger falls further up the trail. It was a drop of about 30 feet.
A ground squirrel not too afraid of humans climbed over rocks near us on the way back and I got some nice shots.
Returning we saw a lot more people coming in the opposite direction than we did when we went out. We were talking to people coming the other way.
Back near the lodge I got shots of a baby ground squirrel that was only about an inch and a half long with his tail in the air. Even the young ones seem acclimated to people.
We drove up Norquay Mountain, which has a switchback road, good skiing and good views of the valley below. It overlooks Banff. You cannot get very high up it, but there are stopping places to take pictures.
Lake Minnwwanka has been artificially raised twice. Once it was 16 feet in 1912 and 65 feet in 1941.
As you go through the mountains you see sights that three days ago would have been real jaw-droppers. Majestic views quickly become too common to be taken in and appreciated individually. You also lose track of what mountains you have photographed already.
There are three Vermillion Lakes called respectively First Vermillion Lake, Third Vermillion Lake, and Second Vermillion Lake. They are just off the main road and are the suggested color with mountains on the far side. Probably on the near side also, but those mountains are behind us when the lake is in front of us.
Evelyn has 45 cents in bottles from the trip and wanted to recycle them so made a separate trip to the bottle depot, a recycling collection site. She was expecting 65 cents, but got only 45. Is this a fun vacation or what?
From there we went to the Hoodoo Trail, a short trail to see just a few interesting eroded columns of sandstone. I am not sure they are really hoodoos. We did look into the valley and saw a large building. We decided to go down and see what it was. It turned out to be the Banff Springs Hotel near Bow Falls in the Bow River. We could not park near the hotel, but we could park near the falls and get some picture. This does not look to me so much as a waterfall as it is a rapids. It seems not to fall straight down but at an angle.
Over to my side a woman is saying that she has been to the Grand Canyon and it is not as beautiful as Banff. I agree, but I think the US Rockies, Monument Valley, Zion National Monument, and a few others have the edge.
My new hobby this trip is taking pictures for people who want to be in their photographs. Over the last three days or so I must have performed this service for 30 tourists.
While we sit at the falls a Mountie comes around, apparently to provide photo opportunities. He poses with tourists.
We worked on our logs for a while in the nice surroundings. But now it was getting to be a while since breakfast. We decided to go to McDonalds. It was hard enough just finding a place to park. The center of Banff was still all torn up.
There is a store called Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. Souvenirs. I told the woman behind the counter that there would be a documentary about this self-same Sgt. Preston and that incidentally I was interviewed for it.
After that we stopped into the library to see if Evelyn could get some Internet time. She got a few minutes from on a PC for which someone else had not used up his hour.
We returned to the motel. Different listings list "Cereal Thriller" at different times. One listing said 6PM. That was not correct. I will try again at 9PM. Meanwhile I worked on my log and watched the old Paul Muni film I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG (1932). I am finally up-to-date in my log after having missed a week of writing with the tendonitis.
For dinner we went cheap and went back to Barpa Bill's. We each got Souvlaki on pita with a drink. The owner, who looks a lot like Nathan Fillion, the main character of FIREFLY, told us the reason the whole town was dug up is that the pipes under the town are 80 years old and have to be replaced. It will look better in the future. That does not do us much good. We had a small conversation with him. I told him we would have four dinners in town and two we had from him. When we left I wished him a good life.
Back at the room we saw Cereal Thriller on the History Channel. I got thanked in the credits but they did not use my interview. Oh well.
07/21/07 Banff, Alberta: Icelands Parkway
I had a nasty shock. President Bush is having an operation and Dick Cheney is assuming the powers of the President. Then it got worse when they said after a few days that Bush would be President again.
Breakfast and out.
Today we drive the Icefields Parkway. Contrary to the forecast it is a gray day with occasional rain. What would be beautiful mountains lose a lot of their charm under overcast skies.
We stopped at Crowfoot Glacier whose run-off waters feed the Bow River and are the source for several local communities. It looks near and close on top of its mountain only because it is so big. The trees next to it show how big it really is. The viewpoint was nearly empty when we arrived and within about five minutes five tour busses, an RV, ands several crowds showed up. We almost could not pull out for the crowds.
They have a recorded message to tell about the glacier, but it is too far out to provide it with the electrical power so it has a crank. Very strange. You start cranking, press a button for the language you want, and just keep cranking as you listen to the recorded message. There is a Bow Mountain, Bow Summit, Bow Glacier, Bow Glacier Falls, and the Bow River. I wonder if over the Bow River there are Bow Bridges?
As we were looking at Bow Glacier the raven 18 inches long. One jumped up on the trunk of our car. I thought that was interesting and so I got a picture from about 20 feet. I got a little closer and it did not spook them so I took more pictures. To make a long story short I ended up about two feet from the bird on the trunk and we both were interested in each other. We had a sort of conversation cawing at each other. A mosquito landed on his back and I almost shooed it away. He did not seem to notice or mind. It started to flu off and with one quick twist of his next he picked it out of the air with his black beak. I guess that if you are a raven a mosquito is a welcome guest.
We went to a place where you climb to Bow Summit: elevation 6965 and see Peyto glacier melting and feeding Mistaya Lake. The trail is about a ten-minute walk and goes up about 150 feet. At this altitude my age shows really easy. The oxygen is a little thin.
We stopped on had some of the food we brought at Sunset Pass. We had stopped for a picture of the rock formations ahead of us, turned around, and saw there were better sights behind us. We turned the car around and just ate looking at the view. Nothing like a whole line of peaks a couple thousand feet high. This is spectacular country. As you drive the road you thread your way among giants.
A short drive from there climbing Mount Athebasca... Uh, in the car. We look up the hill and see how small cars are.
We come to the Athebasca Glacier, a huge tongue of ice and snow lolling from between two peaks of the mountain. Nearby is the Columbia Icefield Visitor Center.
Entering the building it feels like an airport terminal. It is very full and people are booking ice treks. There are stores selling the usual souvenirs. There are two dumps on opposite sides of the aisle, each selling an item priced $14.99 for $9.99. On says it is a 33% discount and the other said it was a 35% discount. It is a little more than a 33% discount, but much less than a 35% discount.
How big is the glacier at this place? It is an ice cap 325 sq. km. That is well over 80,000 acres or 125 square miles. It is about 300 feet deep. Now what does that much mass do to ice? At the bottom there is a lot of force. This means that even if the ice is below freezing it liquefies since ice is less dense than liquid water. This lubricates the base of the glacier. The ice is pulled by gravity. As it goes over bends in the ground it fissures conforming to the shape of the ground. Meanwhile more snowfalls are keeping the top thick. The ice at the edges is the oldest ice. It breaks off and melts. Somewhere in the glacier is a World War II jeep they expect to eventually work itself out. It takes 150 years for ice from the peak to reach the toe, so it might take a while.
I had been wondering what defined a glacier. When you live far enough north that the ice patch in your front yard does not melt in summer, is that now glacier. Their definition is that it must be larger than four football fields. (I am not exactly sure how big that is. I don't spend my time on football fields much and don't remember the exact size. They could have chosen a better comparison.) It must be older than a year. It must form on land and move downhill. The ice at bottom melts and makes lubricant. So there you have it.
From there we headed back to Banff, frequently stopping for pictures. Probably I am getting pictures of much the same stuff that I got on the way, but it is less recognizable from a different angle and I do not have a very good memory for mountain shapes. But the weather had turned bad again and a 2000-foot wall of stone is less impressive in the fog and rain. Impressive still, but less. I think we are also a little bushed from following hiking.
We got back about 5:30 and re-provisioned at Safeway, then returned the car to the motel garage and walked to dinner. We went to the Old Spaghetti Factory where I had what they called Hunter's Chicken (fried chicken cutlet with Hollandaise and mushrooms) and Evelyn had pasta with chorizo and pear cider.
In the room we had about three hours before bed so we did our logs to the tune of a Playhouse 90 called "The Comedian" and a new DVD of GORGO. This is a film that had suffered a lot from deterioration of the print. This was a very nice transfer and the film looks much better. Evelyn had brought several films on dinosaur themes because a lot of what we have scene was on a dinosaur theme. I think that there is not a lot left.
07/22/07 Banff, Alberta to Hinton, Alberta: Icelands Parkway
I woke at around 5 AM. I read a little. We were on the road about 8:30.
Irwin's Mountain Inn
-- European flavor (as is much of Banff)
-- Room has small patio
-- First night cannot cool the room below 80F/27C
-- Thermostat does nothing
-- Ceiling fan rattles
-- Nice breakfast: fresh fruit salad, English muffins, nice cranberry muffins, coffee, three kinds of juice, cereal
-- Room has fridge and microwave
-- Light over only one bed, though both beds have a switch for it
-- Shortage of electrical outlets
-- Bathroom tiny without places to put things down
We are starting covering the same road to the glacier we drove last night.
We gassed up. Apparently in Alberta it is illegal to prop the nozzle so it fills without you standing there with your hand on the nozzle pumping. Usually it is filed down so you cannot anyway.
In the car we listen to "The Woman in Black." At last we have some sun. And some clouds. But we still have a fair proportion of rain the further we go.
Somehow almost all the lakes are a light green in color. It must be something in the material at the bottom but they are opaque light green with silt.
After the play we go on to Great Books' discussion of Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus
We stopped at Sunwapta Falls where there are two falls in rapid succession. The name means "Turbulent River." It is two small falls, one feeding the other. Further down the road there is Athabasca Falls with the most powerful flow of any falls in the parks. Athabasca is small, but you can get right up to it. It falls only a few feet but a lot of waterfalls. There is a path around it that is well cemented in, so it is accessible. It is more like going to the zoo than following a wooded trail. I told Evelyn it had a better spectacle vs. effort ratio than Bow Summit has.
We listen to a BBC production of Terry Pratchett's SMALL GODS.
For lunch we stop in Karouzo's in Jasper. Evelyn had Chicken Souvlaki and I had Baked Spaghetti.
In Jasper drive up the Edith Cavell Mountain. Cavell was a British nurse executed for spying in World War I. I think is assumed she was guilty. The mountain has more breathtaking views. At the top of the mountain you are within 100 feet of what I would judge to be a 300-foot stone wall, the side of a mountain that goes up considerably higher. I made the estimate by repeatedly finding a point about halfway up, then a point half way up to that, etc. One sixteenth of the way up looked like about 20 feet. Near the top you see above you Angel Glacier and Ghost Glacier.
Most of today is just the drive. The trees are nice enough, but I think a drive through the Rockies is prettier in Utah without the trees. Too much of the drive you cannot see the mountains for their trees.
The speed limit signs have pictures of wildlife, I guess so that you know what is at stake.
We pass Talbot Lake with mountains in the background and it is just one more really beautiful vista. A sign we pass says that there are hot springs ahead. I am not sure why people with perfectly good bathtubs travel thousands of miles to get hot baths. It is like traveling to Bolivia to get your toenails trimmed.
We are staying in Hinton. As we approach it, it is right next to a Dairy Queen, which right now has fire engines in front of it and a driveway, covered with water. We just missed the excitement by an hour but they seem to have had a major fire. As we are unloading the car someone says something about free ice cream. The firefighters are bringing out ice cream and giving it to the employees and spectators. Employees seem to be putting ice cream cakes in the trunks of their car. We get two boxes of ice cream bars and put them in the freezer of the little refrigerator in our room.
We do not get breakfast here so we go out to the grocery to get breakfasts.
Evelyn watches a Miss Marple called NEMESIS running on PBS. She complains how different it is from the book. I intentionally go to sleep on it.
07/23/07 Hinton, Alberta: Miet Road
I have a whole checklist of things to do in the morning and evening. I seem to be honing these lists day by day but there are about ten things in the morning and at least that many in the evening. I just find keeping a list the best way to know everything gets done. It is a lot tougher leaving a tip for the housemaid in Canada than in the US. We leave a two-dollar coin, but you have to leave a piece of paper that clearly marks it as a tip. Otherwise they cannot legally take it. I also have to fire up the GPS because it takes it a long time to find its satellites. The GPS, like the digital camera, has made a big difference in the trip. Evelyn does not like to admit it, but getting lost used to be a persistent problem when we traveled places we did not know. The GPS will not always find the best route but we are never lost. We used to pull off the road looking for a place to eat. We could drive around for 20 minutes and never find a restaurant. That is a far cry from the GPS telling us we are 1.7 miles from a Vietnamese Pho Restaurant, would we like directions?
We are on Canada Route 16. There is more beauty but much less that we point out with a "hey-look-at-that." It is all "Hey-look-at-that" country. It is one long beautiful site. We see views that if it were the first view of the Rockies would be a real jaw-dropper. At this point we just dismiss it with a shrug as another nice piece of scenery. We see white rock, purple flowers, green trees, gray and beetle infested-trees, white snow, green lakes. But the 3000-foot mountains with their heads in the clouds rule over it all.
Our LaTW play is TWELVE ANGRY MEN. It does not adapt well to radio. It is Hector Elizondo and eleven unfamiliar voices. It makes it very hard to tell the jurors apart.
In 1846 Father de Smet, a travelling Belgian priest had difficulty crossing this Maligne River and named it Maligne or wicked. It is pronounced "Ma-leen."
Medicine Lake is what is called a sinking lake. It rises in the spring and falls 60 feet over the summer and autumn. The Native Americans thought the lake was powerful medicine. In fact there are channels at the bottom that lead to an underground water system. The spring melt fills the lake faster than it can drain at the bottom. Less melt-off and thawing of the underground passages drain the lake up till October.
Years ago in Scandinavia I pointed out that there were forests of some kind of trees that looked blurry when you saw them. The grow branches in all direction each summer. The branches look almost like a straight line of leaves. When you see a forest of these trees the two eyes do not line up the images of the branches well and the trees look blurry. At least on kind of tree that has that property is black spruce.
Maligne Lake we had seen from a distance before and we got to see closer up. Well, what can I say? Green lake, mountain setting, trees, and cool breezes. Anywhere else in the world it would have been terrific.
We posted some post cards and they charge tax on the price of a postage stamp.
Coco's Cafe in Jasper for lunch since about everywhere else would have taken a second mortgage. I had the French Canadian Buffalo Meat Pie and a mango and raspberry smoothie. Evelyn got Smoked Salmon with Havarti Melt. As far as I was concerned it had a bunch of really interesting ideas for dishes, but nothing tasted very good. Evelyn liked hers but they put in a leaf of lettuce that could not be removed because the cheese was melted on.
We have been to almost all parts of Jasper National Par but the end near our motel. We go now to the Pocahontas Mine trail, Coal was discovered there in 1910 and for eleven years was mined. We drive back on 93, one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
There are only a few remnants of the mine, the most interesting being a mine entrance. There were supposed to be printed trail guides, but they were no more there than the miners were. We walked a one kilometer trail where you see what little was left from the mining days.
We checked out the Wal-Mart just to pass time and returned to the room. The room had not been made up. It was four in the afternoon and the room was still how we left it. I called the desk and they said that the house services were "running behind." They finally came at 4:40 and we went to the lobby to give them some space. I spent the time rereading Evelyn's Japan log from a trip 11 years ago.
Evelyn commented hat we ought to finish the ice cream bars we got free. I didn't want to repeat what I already had so I invented a drink on the spot. I call it an Orange-vanilla Swizzle. I put one of the orange-vanilla bars upside-down in a coffee mug and then fill the mug with orange juice. Then let it stand 10 minutes. She was not interested, but I tried it for myself. Some of the bar melts into the orange juices and some of the juice freezes on the bar. I drink the juice and bite pieces off the bar. Wow! That is where the rest of the orange-vanilla bars go. That little sucker is good.
Dinner is in the room. We got two bowls of Asian noodle soup. The kind you add boiling water to. They are not too bad.
I finish off Evelyn's Japan log. It was only about eleven years late. She writes a very good log.
Later she astounds me by inventing a Mocha Swizzle. It is hot coffee stirred with a chocolate ice cream bar.
We watch an episode of Dr. Who and Seinfeld.
07/24/07 Hinton, Alberta to Edmonton, Alberta
Holiday Inn of Hinton Alberta
-- Room layouts little cramped
-- Hard to maintain comfortable temperature
-- Microwave and fridge
-- Thin plastic glasses
-- Breakfast not included
-- Room not made up until 4:40PM
-- Noises from other rooms
The following is an editorial I wrote this morning but it fits just as well here.
I heard an editorial in Canada about somebody who was watching a commercial about a power company whose advertising on television about how they were a "people" company. They love people. They like helping people. Their ads show pictures of children and people with flowers. The writer was a customer of the company and got a really warm feeling about the company every time she saw the ad.
Then she had a problem and had to deal with the company. She called them to report company. (This is the 21st Century so I am sure you know what is coming.) This is a people company but what was at the other end of the line was not a person at all. It was a computerized answering system. It asked her a question. She pressed a number to answer it. It asked another question. She answered that. Well it was a human voice that made the recording. Another question. Another button press. Ten levels down she was finally through the dialog and heard a phone ringing. She was about to talk to a human being. Nope, it was an answering machine asking her to call back during office hours in another time zone. After a long time on the phone nobody even knew that she had called. Unless there was a log some place that registered the call for the company's purposes. There were certainly not going to use it to call her back and offer service.
The woman said that the company's television advertisement was a very bad one. It advertised them as being very people-oriented company when in fact they really were not. Their commercial is not highlighting their strong points.
This editorial seemed to me to demonstrate a great deal of naivete about the purpose of advertising. The Point of advertising is not to give an unbiased and objective view of the company to the public. Let me just explain this for people like my editorial-writer. As obvious as it seems, some people do not understand. The purpose of an advertisement is to make money for a company. There are two kinds of advertising. There is the kind that tells you something like pork and beans will cost you 87 cents a can this week. And there is the kind of advertising that is intended to improve the image of the company or perhaps an event like a sale. This is image advertising.
Image advertising is an investment to either win more customers or to improve a company's image. The power company that the lady called was probably a company that had image problems for reasons that the woman could well understand. The company wanted to counter the image that that they had created with their policies. Yes, madam, a major element of image advertising is a phenomenon known as HYPOCRISY. When you see an image advertisement you should say to yourself that what you see in this advertisement is the opposite of what some or even most people believe.
I have been seeing an advertisement from a well-known chemical company talking about how everything is made of elements but the one element that is most important and which changes everything is "the Human element." They illustrate it like a cell of the Periodic Chart of the Element and give it the chemical symbol "Hu."
I am of the generation that was at risk for being sent to the Vietnam War. That same generation is now making business decisions as to whether to deal with this chemical company. For them this company is a powerful symbol of that war. It was this company who made jellied gasoline to be carried in airplanes, ignited, and dropped on Hu, onto the Human element.
When I see an image advertisement I immediately think that big money is being spent to counter what must be strong opinions to the contrary. Those may be false opinions, but that is not the way the smart money bets.
The Canadian news is full of a fire in South Edmonton. For days they have been saying what happened is still under investigation but I don't know how much more of the story there can be beyond the bits and pieces we have been told. Eighteen houses burned and others were damaged. The vinyl siding was flammable and the houses were about two feet apart by the way it looks on the news. Near the houses is an area frequently used as a party area for teens and firecrackers were heard shortly before the fire. But the authorities don't want to say exactly what happened. The only thing left was to find out whether it was intentional. I have to say that I have my suspicions. (PS I suspected it was just kids with fireworks. Later reports said it was deliberate.)
Breakfast was cheese, crackers and an Orange-Vanilla Swizzle. We packed the car and left.
We are on Route 16 toward Edmonton. Hinton was the last of the park and of the Rocky Mountains. Once again the trees are the most spectacular things around because they are the biggest. A day ago they looked like mold that had formed on the mountains.
I note an increase of the use in family and children's programming the use of phrases that have a sexual interpretation. It seems t me to be just a little vulgar. On such phrase that I have heard increasingly frequently is "size matters." It was already a stale joke when the bad GODZILLA used it as their film tagline. This morning CNN used the line "You never forget your first time." These naughty double entendres may have been fresh and funny at one point but certainly not since the 1980s. Still I don't want to feel I am as prudish as the women from one of my former companies who was hooking up her PC. The Help Desk asked her if a cable end was male or female. She did not know what that meant and the Help Desk made the mistake of explaining to her.
Well, that was my listening of the morning.
It is about a three-hour drive to Edmonton. Now that we are away from the mountains we get good weather. It is a very clear day and the biggest and most spectacular things around are the pine trees. It looks nice, but when we were in the Rocky Mountains, they were just a growth on the side of a majestic mountain. It feels like a fresh new city as we move into it. (PS that was just the part we were in. Other parts are more run-down`)
They have a Costco and we make a stop to get some chips and some bowls of soup to have in the room. We also got some cashews. Costco's Kirkland cashews are the best I ever had. Evelyn's mother was fond of Planters Cashews. I knew these were better so when we visited we would bring her some. She deserved the best.
It is much the same that we had the night before, but they costs only a bout $6 for 12. And they cook up very nicely with hot water from the coffeemaker. The one problem is that there is no way to pace them so they do not take up too much space.
Our site for the day is the Telephone Historical Museum. We tried to approach it three different ways and the roads were blocked all three ways. With no way to get to the museum we decided it must be closed. Tomorrow we had intended to see Downtown Edmonton and see the West Edmonton Mall. N point in going to the room so early so we went to the mall. It has more than 800 stores and shows and statues. We looked at the architecture and went to two bookstores and a video store. Everything seems high energy. Even the hand dryers in the restroom sound like high-powered jet engines. It takes a long time and a lot of walking to get from one thing you want to see to the next.
I should mention Crocs. You see them pretty much all over. It is a popular kind of plastic footwear. It is more popular here than thong sandals are. They completely surround the foot except for vent holes. I think of them as children's shoes anywhere else. Here it is not just kids. They look a lot like plastic boots, but they are cut low. In any case you see them being worn all over Canada
The other thing we saw was a pet shop that had display pens of puppies. Featured in the front window were a red dachshund and a black and tan one. One reason I don't go to malls much. I love dachshunds and everybody loves puppies. My mother said the problem with puppies is that they turn into big, dumb, dirty, dogs. My dachshund turned into a dog who was a little bit big for the breed, dirty as often as he could manage it, but dumb he was not. He thought with a level of abstraction few dogs match, I now know. His understanding of English was surprisingly good. And he was very clever at making his desires known. Smart dog.
For lunch we went to Huang Long, a Vietnamese restaurant in the mal. They had a show after it call "Pirates of the Mall," but it was really just a trained sea lion show. A bunch of animals working hard in return for pieces of fish. We watched for a little while. We also saw the over-decorated movie theater in the mall. They also had a second run theater showing films for $3.50. We would have gone but it opened only in the evening. We eventually got tired of the mall and got ourselves lost going back to the car.
We drove to the motel. It is one of the least comfortable of the trip.
Because there is not that much to see in Edmonton and because we did not like the motel, we will leave Edmonton a day early. The hotel is a big piece of that.
We watched the commentary for THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY on the small DVD player screen since we cannot connect to the TV. Evelyn wanted to see a local comedy show called "Little Mosque in the Prairie." Finally we hear a commentary on BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.
07/25/07 Edmonton, Alberta to Lethbridge, Alberta: Edmonton Downtown and Vulcan, Alberta
It was still light out last night at 10:15 when I went to bed. Well today we enter the last thirds of our trip as planned and start for home.
Edmonton has two classical music radio stations, one in English and one in French, but no CBC morning news could I find.
The room has a heavy opaque rubberized curtain and a thin translucent one and a parking lot on the other side. It has a window air conditioner. If one closes the curtain to the lot, it means closing off the air conditioner. I got around it to some extent by closing the curtain and pulling it up around the air conditioner and holding it that way with a safety pin. Not too convenient.
Rosslyn Inn and Suites of Edmonton
-- Room is $80
-- Priced way beyond quality
-- Second class dorm-quality furniture
-- Only the bare essentials beyond TV
-- $10 extra charge for fridge
-- No fridge, no microwave
-- Feels like a dormitory room, very small
-- Cheap appointments like bedclothes
-- TV does not allow for portable video players
-- Telephone has missing pieces
-- Breakfast not included
-- No plastic liner for ice bucket
-- Bathroom actually a nice design, better design than bedroom
-- Sink drips
-- No grabber in shower
-- In-window A/C unusable when curtains closed, you can not have air conditioning and privacy
-- Air conditioner makes a loud rumble
-- Cigarette burns and not room for much else on nightstand
A Tropical Redbird has landed in Nova Scotia, far off course. The birds in this area are not very colorful as a rule. They tend to be shades of black white and gray. The further north you get the less color there seems to be in the wildlife, in general. The most colorful animals seem to be from the tropics. I have never heard an explanation why that is.
When I was packing Evelyn thought I would and half shirts with long sleeves and half with short sleeves. I would wear the long sleeves if the weather was cold and short if it was warm. I told her I would take only long sleeve shirts. They are much more versatile. I can always roll up the sleeves in warm weather. That has turned out to be a good policy.
Our morning was intended to be a walk around Edmonton. But there was less we found interesting to see. We did not see much that really interested us so after driving around we decided to head out. We have seen Edmonton, but did not find a whole lot of interest. The museum brags a big display of Native culture, but we have already seen a lot of that this trip. So we will be on our way home today.
I do notice that restaurants here actually tout the piquancy of their food in the US most people try to avoid piquant food. No restaurant seems to tout the piquancy of its food. We pass a place called Chili Hot Hot.
As we drive we listen to Ray Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. The novel is not really a novel but an episodic compilation of short stories, most having been done on 1940s radio. A local radio station compiled the stories back into a single long dramatization of the novel.
I think Ray Bradbury is the James Fennimore Cooper of our age. Cooper was considered a great writer in his time. He had a great humanitarian agenda to create respect for the Native Americans. His stories were rather simplistic and often absurd. I remember one incident in which Natty Bumpo escapes from hostile natives when he finds a bear skin, puts it on, and convinces his captors that he is actually a bear. He was at one time considered one of America's greatest writers. Mark Twain wrote an essay on Cooper's literary offenses and it was like the Emperor's New Clothes. Today Cooper is remembered as a minor writer.
Ray Bradbury is considered to be a literary giant. THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES is not a very good novel. It is written like a bunch of episodes that are not unlike Twilight Zone episodes. His science was absurd, even for its time. His writing style is considered good because it is lyrical. But his stories are not very good. I think later generations will wonder what we saw in him. Perhaps he will be remembered for FAHRENHEIT 451 about a future in which classics like OLIVER TWIST will be forbidden. I will point out that if I wanted to read OLIVER TWIST, I could have downloaded it free to my palmtop with about five minutes effort. It was a lot harder and probably more expensive to get it when Bradbury wrote FAHRENHEIT 451. Even Bradbury has had to comment on the book and say it was not really about censorship. Now he says it was about people's tendency not to read. I don't believe that myself. Censorship is currently losing its battle, but aliteracy, people choosing not to read, is very much with us.
We pass a town called Gasoline Alley. I haven't heard of Gasoline Alley since Hector was a pup.
We are passing rolling farmland on route Alberta 2 listening to LaTW's production of Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers." We pass by Calgary.
We add a half-hour dive to our trip to visit Vulcan, Alberta. This is a little town out in the middle of nowhere that is capitalizing off the name it has had since 1910. However, they knew a good thing when it fell in their lap. They have Mr. Spock comes from the Planet Vulcan and so the name got them some attention. They now have an annual Star Trek Convention and the town has gone over to Star Trek themes in their decoration. They have a 15 foot Vulcan starship (one that looks like Enterprise) in front of their town. Purists would point out that Vulcan ships, whatever they look like, would not like like the Starship Enterprise. They would have their own ships. I don't know off the top of my head what a Vulcan ship looks like. I have friends who probably know and care about such things. I am not such a person since I have more important things to remember like about 1950s science fiction films. But if they found out what a Vulcan ship looked like and put up a mock-up, nobody would recognize it. Most people know what the Starship Enterprise looks like--and that is a depressing thought--so when they want to put up a Vulcan ship they make it look just like the Enterprise. By mutual consent a whole town has decided to pretend that this is important.
They have a Star Trek guest center. There is a space mural across the street from the visitor center. The drug store has a large mural showing the five doctors of the five Star Trek series. I am not sure it was worth the diversion, but it was interesting to see how the town used its accidental claim to fame. Everything is tacky, but it is a sort of fun tacky. It is a good view of the Kitsch that ate a town.
After another 40 minutes or so we got to Lethbridge where we got a room at the Pepper Tree Inn. It is as comfortable as the motel the night before and cost less than half the price.
Dinner was at Doura's Pizza and Steak. Evelyn had a steak and I had a calzone.
Back in the room we watched the 1967 PLANET OF THE APES and the Russian film TYCOON (OLIGARCH).
The air conditioner is too weak for the room and it must be about 27C/80F. When it is too small in a room I resurrect my old way of keeping cool I used to use in grad school. You get water as hot (yes, hot) as possible from the sink and soak a T-shirt and then put it on. It is the world's cheapest heat pump.
07/26/07 Lethbridge, Alberta to Cut Bank, Montana
There has been Pork inflation in China. Pigs have had an epidemic of Blue Ear disease. Now pork has gone up 75 percent in price over a year. Nobody wants to pay so much. Under Communism pork was cheap but was hard to get. Now it is easy to get but nobody wants to pay the price. That seems to be a familiar tradeoff.
At this motel you are allowed two slices of toast at breakfast. I don't take either. I have a bowl of KimChee noodle soup from our stock in the car. At about 50 cents it is worth it.
Pepper Tree Inn of Lethbridge
-- Economical price for area
-- Breakfast: toast (limit 2 slices per) and coffee breakfast
-- VCR and DVD player in room
-- Air conditioner not strong enough for room
Our first destination of the day was to be Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston, Alberta. And we would have proceeded directly there but then we saw the Fay Wray Fountain. Apparently Wray came from Cardston. They have a sign over the fountain showing her in King Kong's paw. And there is a short explanation of who Fay Wray was and a short biography. We got pictures. What a pity that even at her memorial fountain she is overshadowed by her fictional nemesis. But she probably would not have minded. She is referred to as the woman with a "problem boyfriend." There is a myth that the character Ann Darrow at some point sympathizes with Kong and is to some degree unhappy when Kong is killed. This is totally false. The two remakes and the two versions of MIGHTY JOE YOUNG and any number of other films, ads, etc. have had the heroine being won over by the huge gorilla, but there is no evidence that Ann Darrow has anything but revulsion for Kong in the original film.
The Remington Carriage Museum is like a car museum, except it is for carriages. I have to admit that it did not seem like a promising basis for a museum but the displays are very well presented and the tours are packed with information.
Hey, here is one for the old CONNECTIONS TV program. How did the invention of steam power make necessary the creation of the Northwest Mounted Police?
The steam engine led to factories wanting to harness steam power. This was done by having the engine drive a large axle. The spinning axle drove small machines all over the factory. The connection between the drive axle and the individual machines was a leather belts. But cow/bull leather was not as durable as bison leather. So industry needed a lot of bison hides. Alcohol could be made cheaply and Canadian Native Americans were willing to trade bison hides and furs for alcohol. This led to all sorts of social problems. The Canadian government countered with an effort to restore order and control the alcohol trade. A policing force was founded to bring order in 1873. Those were the Mounties. Some of the wagons used to supply the Mounties and in the trade are in one aisle of the museums.
Most of the museum walk is of interest from the 1908 Menard auto buggy that starts the tour. (It is interesting that at the start of a tour we read all the explanatory materials. We look at the design. We get full value from the display. A half hour later its "There's a buggy, and there's a buggy, and there are two more...")
We see a photo of horses pulling 20-foot pile of logs. Of course there were always humans to help them along by pulling on their heads and whipping them. I don't mean to imply that people were cruel to their animals. But the real workhorse of enterprises like logging and road building was--well...--the workhorse. It was not just to preserve the wagons but also for the comfort and the convenience of the animals pulling that they put wheels on the wagons. At least I hope it wasn't just to preserve the wagons.
There were about 3000 carriage factories in Canada and the US when the automobile came along. There were 120,000 carriages per year sold by Sears and Roebuck. Many thought that putting motors into carriages was a passing fad. The market for carriages would go on through the century. At least two carriage manufacturers, McLaughlin and Studebaker decided to diversify into self-moving or automobile carriages. A horse wagon could be had for $200. An automobile would cost six times as much. However it cost a lot to keep horses and in the long run an automobile cost less. Also it did not leave dung and urine in the street. A horse created two gallons of urine and 48 pounds of dung per day. That caused a big cleaning problem. Particularly when you consider that there were thirty million horses in US in 1910. When automobiles started coming down in price they ended dominating the roads.
As Ransom E. Olds pointed out in 1887, "The automobile will do the work of six horses at an average cost of $35 a year. Board alone for one horse costs $180"
There was also working carriage factory on the site and in back you could see two levels deep the carriages they had collected in a sort of warehouse. They offered at additional cost carriage rides and you could visit the stables out back. I stood out by a fence on the paddock out back and two stallions came over to investigate me. They seemed to want to sniff me and breathe on me. I tried to pat them, but they wanted no part of the palm side of my hands and would pull away if I tried to pat them only to come back and sniff if I behaved. If they were sure they were in control they were willing to be friendly. They were not big horses, but they had very large eyes, perhaps an inch in diameter. They were deep brown eyes. They also seemed very affectionate with each other.
About the museum. Local Don Remington had collected 49 coaches, buggies, and carriages and donated then to start a museum. It now has 270 vehicles in its collection. There are many video programs to explain the material.
As one more piece of bad luck for this trip a spring broke in my eyeglasses frame while I was in the museum. The whole right stem fell off. When I get to the car I reattach it with the adhesive tape I used for the splint.
We had left the Rockies days before, but one National Park we had not visited was between the US border and us so we visited one more.
The Waterton Glacier National Park is beautiful. That is about all there is to say about it. It is the same sort of terrific Rockies scenery. It has trees, lakes, and above all (in more ways than one) is the huge rock mountains. It is one thing to see a 3000-foot titan of a mountain. It is another to see a row of eight of them.
We drove up and back on the Akamina Parkway, up and back on the Red Rock Parkway and then out on the Chief Mountain Highway.
As we leave the park we are right at the United States border. (Digression: I first said "American border" and corrected myself. I at one point my Canadian-born supervisor said he was not American but Canadian. I said I considered him American and would consider a Brazilian American. He is a resident of the Americas. There is no nice simple adjective for US citizens. Most of the world uses American.)
Anyway, as we leave the park we are right at the United States border. We had to open the trunk and let them look in the back seat. We didn't even have to take off our seatbelts. The border guard talked more about the KimChee soup and the cookies he saw, saying that they were not healthy.
We get to East Glacier Park where we intended to stay, but there are no vacancies. We do some searching, but there is nothing to be found in nearby towns. At about a 40-minute drive we find a motel with vacancy, just barely, in Cut Bank. We are now too far from Glacier National Monument to go back. Well, as nice as we are told that it is, it probably is a lot like the Canadian Rockies parks we have seen. What makes it most different is that it is in the US.
In Cut Bank, Montana we check into Glacier Gateway (Corner Building) Motel of Cut Bank, Montana. Gateway Glacier Motel is full but they have a sort of Annex a couple of buildings over.
Evelyn got in a long conversation with he lady behind the counter. I had to hint that we wanted to go to dinner. We ask for a recommendation where to eat and take the suggestion of a place called Bon Appitit. It turns out to be a small restaurant with a counter and tables. They have three kinds of Tobasco sauce on the table. They had Chipotle, Habanero, and Jalapeno. I had fried chicken and Evelyn had pork chop. It is 8:30 by the time we get to the room. It is right next to train tracks, which makes me a little skeptical.
07/27/07 Cut Bank, Montana to Billings, Montana: The C.M. Russell Museum
I woke up after an hour of sleep. Ugh. No more heavy, greasy meals after 8PM. I was up for an hour or two trying to get back to sleep, listening to the classical music station through earphones. I woke to the sound of NPR radio news. It is nice to be getting it again.
Glacier Gateway (Corner) Motel of Cut Bank
-- $42, extremely economical
-- We stayed in second building called "the corner"
-- Host is very affable and nice
-- Just outside the window are seven sets of train tracks, but not big problem, no whistles or horns at night
-- Spacious room & bathroom
-- Nice handheld shower head
-- Fridge, microwave
-- Building a little used but being renovated
-- Hard to find electrical outlets
-- Dorm-like furniture
-- No breakfast (but when I checked out the host invited me to take anyway. Not knowing I would post it) waffles were included
-- Not many restaurants to choose from in town
-- Room is clean and pleasant
I was surprised turning in our keys when the host suggested we have breakfast. She said we were not entitled but we could go ahead anyway. This is a very pleasant motel.
The road to get on the highway to Great Falls was under construction without a detour sign to tell you how to get where you wanted to go. It was more like a "Sorry, these roads are currently out of order. See you in September." The GPS kept insisting we take the roads that were not there. We found a way. As we drove we listened to a reading of P.K. Dick's "Minority Report." The film was good in other ways but it was not the Dick story, as I have said elsewhere.
The C.M. Russell Museum is dedicated to the Western Art of C.M. Russell, one of the great western artists. He lived in Great Falls. The museum celebrates his work. They had large sections on other local artists also. They also had a good deal of art for sale from other less known local artists.
Russell lived from 1864 to 1926. He was already winning artistic awards in his school days. The tour opens with his history and his early art. His earliest work seemed to have concentrated in large part on images of Native Americans. Later he branched out to doing a substantial proportion of cowboy and nature representations. He did painting, sketching, and sculpture. When they finished with his art they started on a friend of Russell, Danish-born O.C. Seltzer. Both liked to use as subjects the Native American. Neither romanticized the images. If anything they made the images more homely than Natives generally are. On the lower floor they have the art of Gary Schildt, who did about thirty paintings of ceremonies of Blackfeet. They hen have some on F. Winold Reiss. These are all good artists, all local. With the exception of Russell I have not heard of any of them. This is really more a museum of local western art. And in some of the galleries the "western" is not as important as the local is.
At 1PM on Fridays they socialize with the visitors by serving free root beer floats. We hit that one right and at 1PM we went out to the patio and socialized. We were the only visitors there at that point. After we visited Russell's log cabin studio. This is mostly a display of Russell's Native American artifacts and his paint tools. Apparently we were just early to the root beer party since by 1:30 they seemed to have several people.
We arranged a room for the night at Quality Inn of Billings MT. On the way we realized the price they quoted was more than the Triple-A range. They are not supposed to do that.
It is a four and a half-hour drive to Billings and we spent the time starting the BBC adaptation of the next Narnia book, VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. It is in five one-hour segments and we heard three of them. The land turned into rolling prairie with mountains in the distance.
Right near the motel we saw a Costco and decided to see if they could do something about the glasses that I had held together with adhesive tape. They couldn't. The frames have to be replaced. But they suggested that the ShopKo next door could patch the frames better than adhesive tape. They did with a plastic sleeve that can be treated with heat to shrink. No charge. Thank you, Shopko. I cannot close up that side of the glasses, but they are a least usable and the problem is not very noticeable.
We got to the Quality Inn and when we pointed out that they were overcharging us they dropped the rate to the upper limit of the Triple-A range.
We wanted to find a place for dinner. The local Mexican restaurant was packed on a Friday night so we went to the Siam Thai Restaurant. I made the mistake of saying hat they could make the food spicy. I thought Evelyn agreed with that. We usually ask for the food spicy. It turned out to be spicier than Evelyn liked and I was in the doghouse a little bit. Actually it was about at the level our local Thai restaurant calls medium-spicy. But Thai restaurants seem to be about the only restaurants that will actually make food really piquant. But they were willing to make the food spicy. A lot of restaurants refuse to for fear of displeasing Americans.
In the room we watched Sir Richard Attenburough's commentary on GREY OWL.
07/28/07 Billings, Montana to Fargo, North Dakota
I was up early and sat on the recliner writing my log. I am always a little reticent to turn on a reading light. I don't want to wake Evelyn.
Quality Inn of Billings, Montana
-- 2 breakfasts/room (actually restaurant chits)
-- No fridge, microwave
-- Snack served in lobby at 9PM
-- Toilet does not completely flush
-- Recliner in room
-- Odd order system for breakfast, you get two breakfasts per room. You get two order sheets and you fill it out checking what you want. You get a maximum of one or two checks per category. The food is made to order, but it takes something like 20 minutes to get it. It is a good breakfast, but a lot of bother.
Add on CNN has a husband telling his wife she may be suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease or PAD. She seems only vaguely interested at first until she hears that it has an abbreviation, like AIDS or MS. If it is bad enough to have an abbreviation it must be bad. I thing she is suffering from GMAOT or Getting Medical Advice Off TV.
As we leave we are 1756 miles from home as the crow flies as the GPS tells me. This will be a travel day.
In the car we finish VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. We did two lectures on the Great Books: THE GULAG ARCHIPELIGO and JULIUS CAESAR. Then we did a BBC version of H. Rider Haggard's SHE. It went very well with the rocky scenery as we entered North Dakota.
We pulled into Bismarck for lunch (well early dinner, it was 3:30 with the time change) at a BBQ place called Famous Dave's. Evelyn wanted to get the lunch special for $6.99. I suggested instead that we share the large slab at $19. We asked about number of ribs. Three in the special, 12 in the large slab. Sharing was a much better deal, even if it cost a bit more. We went whole hog and pigged out.
We called and reserved a room at Econo Lodge of Fargo, ND.
In the car we listened to "This Happy Breed" by Noel Coward and other small things.
It was about 7:30 when we booked into our motel. Our film of the evening was SLEEPY HOLLOW.
07/29/07 Fargo, North Dakota to Janesville, Wisconsin
I suffer from Sleep Apnea. For six years I have used a CPAP--an air pump that keeps my breathing passages open. Without it I generally cannot sleep for more than a few minutes. At 11:30 PM almost exactly the power went off and I woke up. For an hour and a half I listened to a Walkman and waited for the power to come back. Almost precisely at 1AM it came back. This turned lights on in the room and woke Evelyn up. But for me it was a chance to get some sleep.
Econo Lodge of Fargo, ND
-- No fridge or microwave
-- Clean basic room
-- Breakfast is OK, includes waffles
Today we are starting out 1211 miles from home.
In the news a fire near Glacier National Park has burned 1700 acres. That was the park we were trying to go to but could not get motel space.
CNN had national coverage on a little girl little girl who had drowned in her family's swimming pool. I made a little bet with myself that she was blond. Probably a little attractive. She was. All the news media, but especially CNN seems to have a special interest in attractive blond girls. Be they missing, kidnapped, dead, the story has a lot more coverage if it happened to an attractive blond girl. If you are black or Chinese nobody cares. I think CNN has a separate news division just to track what is happening to attractive blond girls.
It is a decent breakfast and we discuss travel with another group who had been to several places in Europe.
We listened to the sixth Narnia story THE SILVER CHAIR and the LaTW version of "An Ideal Husband." We also hear the Great Books lecture on Orwell's 1984.
Lunch was about 4PM in the Wisconsin Dells at a place called Marley's. It is a Caribbean theme restaurant." I had a Cuban sandwich and spicy fries with Jerk ketchup. Not great. Just OK.
It feels hot and humid. It is over 90 degrees. I inform Evelyn that Wisconsin is the new Florida.
The Dells is a noted kitsch holiday spot. Along the main drag it has roller coasters wherever you look. Recreation places attract with giant mock up of the Trojan Horse, the Coliseum, etc. Evelyn had visited with her family around 1962. It has been considerably built up over the intervening time.
We decide to break for the day at Janesville. I did not care for the Microtel on the way but it seems like the best choice. We listen to a BBC play "Chess Wars" about the Fischer-Spasky tournament. And we hear the second Great Books lecture for the day, THE AENEID.
After the negative review the last time the logical place to stay (see June 30) we stayed there again and got a much better room this time.
For entertainment and to get supplies like soda pop, Crystal Lite, and motor oil we visited Wal-Mart. (Very popular are Crystal Lite packets of flavor powder to add to bottled water, enough for one half liter. We got one box of Crystal Lite packets and one of grapefruit flavored drink of another brand.) Then we returned to the room and watched an Agatha Christie movie. I made up a bottle the grapefruit drink.
07/30/07 Janesville, WI to Wapakoneta, OH
At 10PM we put a mystery on TV and tried to go to sleep to it. I expected that after the problem the night before I would fall asleep easily. No I just did not feel tired. I fell asleep for a few minutes but was up in a few minutes. I was awake until past 1AM. Could I have had caffeine somehow? I immediately thought of the powdered drink I had. But I did not want to get up and check. In the morning I did. Yes it was a caffeinated drink. I had not noticed that. Oh well.
Microtel of Janesville, WI
We stayed here twice in the trip. Quality of experience seems very dependent on when you are there and what room you get.
-- The original concept of Microtel was that some luxuries add little to the value of a room but cost the hotel. Microtel was to do a quality job on the basics, but to cut all the right corners. They would then pass the savings on to the customer. However the price of this Microtel was not very much less than the other motels we have stayed in. For the price the place is Spartan.
-- There are no individual lights over the beds, the room has minimal functional furniture. Certainly no refrigerator, no microwave.
-- I use a CPAP and at first when I plugged it in the electrical outlet seemed dead and then came to life. It must have had bad wiring. In the middle of the night the outlet died again and I had to fool around with it to get it working again when I should have been sleeping.
-- No fridge or microwave
-- The shampoo was in foil envelopes impossible to open when your hands are wet.
-- Breakfast was a pseudo-bagel and cream cheese that had to be thawed in the microwave.
-- There was cold cereal. There were available cellophane pastries. The orange juice came out yellow than clear then yellow. In the glass it was so dilute you could see through it.
-- Had we saved $15 it might have been worth it. But we saved about $5 over a regular hotel. That is simply not enough reward.
-- Much better room this time, individual lights, no electrical problems
-- Fridge and microwave
-- Room actually cost less, but it was the night before a weekday
-- Much more comfortable experience this time
Our Narnia story for today is THE LAST BATTLE. There seem to be a lot of battles in Narnia. Narnia is a Christian metaphor. I guests it is a common idea in religions--particularly Christianity and Islam--that they say, "You want peace. We have come to bring peace. Everything is going to be peaceful. In the name of peace we are bringing on a huge climactic battle, an Armageddon, and all our enemies will be killed off. Everybody will believe in us and there will be peace." Of course in the age of technological empowerment it is a lot easier to bring about battles in the belief they are Armageddon. They may turn out to be figurative Armageddons and not literal ones.
We are about 780 miles from home.
Around Chicago the traffic slowed down. It always does. Any car travel anywhere near Chicago is always slow and painful. Chicago has three different buildings that are trying to be as tall as possible by each putting two broadcast antennas on top. One of the buildings must be the Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world. No longer, but it was. But putting the Antennas on the top seems like cheating.
We went to a Mexican restaurant called Si Senor in Lagrange Ohio. I had a taco and chili relleno combination.
It was about a three-hour drive to Wapakoneta, Ohio. We listened to a BBC play and the Great Books discussion of the Gettysburg Address and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.
We checked into the motel, settled in for the night. Then to get the feel of the area we drove around town. We checked out the Wal-Mart and got dollar sundaes at McDonalds.
In the room we saw BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. It is based on a book by Evan Hunter. Hunter is also known as Ed McBain when he writes the 87th Precinct novels.
07/31/07 Wapakoneta, OH to Akron, OH: Armstrong Air and Space Museum
Travelodge of Wapakoneta, OH
-- Bargain for under $40
-- Dilapidated on the outside, much less on inside
-- Good TV and full cable
-- TV has current features
-- Cellophane wrapped pasties, cold cereal, and coffee
-- Adjacent to Neil Armstrong Museum
-- Apparently mostly for museum visitors (based on futuristic architecture)
The Armstrong Air and Space Museum does not open to 9:30 so we spent some time around the room after breakfast. We listened to the commentary on BLACKBOARD JUNGLE.
Neil Armstrong Museum was started as a project within a few days after Armstrong stepped on the moon. It was sort of a tribute from Armstrong's hometown. The subject is the space program with special emphasis on Armstrong's career. In fact the two get about equal emphasis.
Before you go in you go through a hallway with plaques for Ohio people contributing to the space program like Orville and Wilbur Wright, John Glenn, James Lovell and Judith Resnick.
The museum itself starts with a quick nod to Wells, Verne and Amazing Stories. Then they tell about rocketry and the space program starting with the V-2 and moving on to the Space race. For the Cold War I was amused to see a big can labeled Kroger all-purpose survival crackers. In parallel it tells the story of Armstrong growing up. The museum covers much the same material as Kansas Cosmosphere, but not nearly in the same detail.
They have a dull documentary about the first moon landing. It can be recommended only to people who have not seen a documentary about that first flight. Some of the footage used is horribly shifted to red like old Technicolor film. While the film plays a planetarium shows stars on the ceiling, but little use is made of them.
They were selling FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON at the museum shop. This is the 12-hour HBO mini-series that tells the story of the Apollo program. The cost was $129.98. That was a little steep so we drove to Wal-Mart and bought it for $24.95.
We set out for the trip to Akron. We were 521 miles from home.
We chose a Chinese Restaurant in Findley, OH from the Triple-A book. It was not there any more. We chose a Japanese restaurant. They claimed to serve lunch until 2PM but they locked their door before 1:45. Down the street was Greek Garden. They also stop serving at 2, but at 1:50 they were still willing to serve us. To make things easy we both got the Gyro and Fries special.
We listen to Great Book on the ANALECTS OF CONFUSCIUS and Machiavelli's THE PRINCE.
In Akron we had been hoping to get a room at the Comfort Inn, but there was no vacancy. Instead we got a room at the Red Roof Inn. Usually Red Roofs are decent, but this one is much over-priced due to a golf tournament.
My grandparents lived in Akron from the 1930s or earlier until the early 1960s. I would visit often. We drove out to see the house, now painted yellow. I took some pictures and a little girl inside yelled "Mom, they're taking pictures of our house." The woman of the house came out and I explained to her. She said I could take what pictures I wanted, but I got only the front.
It was getting to be mealtime so we looked in the GPS to find out what where the Asian restaurants. It mentioned Katsu Sushi. The idea of a sushi restaurant in Akron was a little mind boggling. And this neighborhood did not seem like a sushi area. Within the space of a few miles that character of the neighborhood changed considerably. As we go in there a sign on the door that there is an automatic 17 percent tip added to everybody's check. That is not a good start. Inside there are about six tables and a counter. The decor is half-heartedly Japanese with a lot of Cleveland Indians decoration and a row of beer bottles. There is no air conditioning. There is jazzy and definitely not Japanese.
The Itame is the only person at all Asian and he looks like he has mixed blood. He is dividing his time between making the sushi and talking to customers at the counter. Evelyn's takes about 15 minutes and mine about 25. He forgot the wasabi. The tip is not only high at 17% for poor service; they charge tip of 17% on the tax. That I complained about. Katsu Sushi is not recommended. We should have had more sushi in Canada where I think it is cheaper than in the US.
We headed back to the room. We listened to the commentary on GUN CRAZY while we worked on our logs. We went to sleep listening to the last of the heist film INSIDE MAN, Spike Lee's film from a very clever script.
08/01/07 Akron, OH to Old Bridge, NJ: Inventors Hall of Fame
I slept for about eight hours, unusual for me. There is no breakfast so we heated water in the microwave and had KimChee Noodle Soup.
Our site of the day does not open until 10 so we stayed around the room and Evelyn watched THE TRIUMPH OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
Red Roof of Akron, OH
-- Expensive for a red roof
-- Limited cable choice, difficult to use remote
-- No breakfast
-- Good business table, light that allows one not to disturb sleeper
-- Microwave, fridge (without freezer)
-- Nice furniture appointments
-- No facial tissue
-- Tiny night stands
-- No coffee maker
We are just 381 miles from home as the crow flies. It may be a haul, but we probably want to see if we can get home tonight.
We drove into the center of Akron for the last major site of the trip, the Inventor's Hall of Fame. On the way we pass by a window with a poster that shows an American flag and has the legend "These colors don't run..." It is bleached by the sun. These colors may not run, but they sure do fade pretty good. The implication of the poster may be one of US bravura, but currently it is being considered that it is a good idea to cut our losses and retreat.
National Inventors Hall of Fame says it celebrates the creative spirit. Really it is in large part of museum of the US Patent Office. It is largely built around a series of plaques with pictures and descriptions on the wall of each a picture of an inventor whose patented idea became famous or extremely useful. It goes generally chronologically through patents from the 1860s on. In the early parts of the visit it is things with names like "the reaper." It is easy to know what they are talking about. As you follow the patents through time you get more complex with more cryptic patent titles. Eventually you get to titles of patents that are not even made up of ASCII (typewriter) characters. They have Greek deltas and subscripts. At least you have a description that is relatively clear about what the patent is all about--for a while. Eventually you cannot tell what the patent is all about but you know it is good. Each plaque comes with a picture of the patent-holder.
Now this by itself might be less than totally engaging. In fact it all could be in a book. And there is such a book since it was being sold in the gift shop. So to make it more interesting they have displays of patent models to give visitors something three-dimensional to look at. There was a time when the patent office required models for all patents for which submitting a model made sense. I suspect the patent office eventually ran out of storage space and eliminated the requirement for the model. (Picture the last scene of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.) Where they don't have models to display they have computer displays of inventors talking about the invention experience and anything else they can make visual.
The museum is on six levels. You start at the top level (6) and work your way down. About half of the 3rd level has plaques and none of the second level. This, I suspect, is room for expansion. The first level is entirely different. It is an Exploratorium sort of museum where kids can do hands-on experimentation, learn about science, and scream at the top of their lungs heading it reverberate all over the museum. Here they lean to think creatively and independently, which is odd since everything is set up for them. It is programmed creativity, which sounds like a contradiction in terms.
There is also an exhibit on this floor of cars from the famous Soapbox Derby. This is an annual event held in Akron since 1935 for which kids build and race down a hill gravity-powered coaster racecars.
We did not want to stay too long since we were headed home. In Youngstown, OH we followed the GPS to a restaurant that was not open, and a second we could not find. We settled on Belleria Pizza where I had cavatelli and meatballs, and Evelyn had an antipasto.
We crossed over to Pennsylvania. The biggest part of our journey this day was to be through Pennsylvania. We had one stop. We wanted to see the town of Leeper, PA. For obvious reasons this little town had been a place we always wanted to see. It is just a sleepy little town, hardly living up to its august name. We took some pictures and stopped in a sort of general store and souvenir shop. We got ice cream. The woman who ran the place seemed to be interested in us and the fact that our name was Leeper. When I told her the story of how the family got the name and that we were not English or Irish but Ukrainian Jewish she suddenly seemed to lose interest in us. I don't know if Evelyn noticed it, but I did. I wonder if she was not real keen on the Jewish part.
The play we listened to next was Los Angeles Theatre Works' "The Tennessee Monkey Trial," adapted from the original trial transcripts by Peter Goodchild. It starred Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, and Sharon Glass. Asner played William Jennings Bryan. Well, it claims to be an accurate representation of the trial, but we know all we need to know about the Scopes Trial from the play and the movie "Inherit the Wind." We don't need any trouble-making outsiders coming along an' telling us that ain't the way it happened.
We also heard a BBC production of Stella Gibbons's amusing Cold Comfort Farm. And that is about it. We got home at about 11:30PM.
Did disasters follow us, as they seem to on so many trips? We think we may have driven over the Minneapolis, Minnesota bridge that collapsed and made national news. We also were near Glacier National Monument probably not far from where they are now fighting runaway fires.