Canada 39, 10th September

Although it was only a tiny campsite, 7 spaces, most were filled. I spoke with a couple in one of those huge coaches (RV's), with car hung on behind. They'd been to Edmonton to look at a new coach, but decided against it when they discovered the vendor wanted $200,000 in addition to their "old" coach. They are not cheap, these big motor homes! They had spent most of the last year travelling, staying at various camp sites, but had only just sold their house, so they had been full timing for only a week they told me. In the motor home world, those people whose only home is their motor home are called full timers.

But they told me one piece of information that rocked me back on my heels. They had spent 2 months at the Quartz Mountain camp site last Christmas, I've heard of it before. The is a free site in the desert on the border between California and Arizona. They said there were usually about 75,000 motor homes and tents of various sizes on the site. 75,000 they said. Wow!

But wait. At the height of the winter period there would be 750,000 motor homes etc parked on this patch of desert. Can you imagine that? That's about 1.5 million people. I've got to say it again. One and a half MILLION people camping on the desert. I got no words for that. To use a Yorkshire expression I was gobstruck. (gob=mouth, struck=stuck open)

I'd been suspecting that I was getting an abscess under a tooth, it was painful during the night. So I thought it was time for antibiotics. I discovered I needed a prescription. I went to a dentist. Best go to the hospital she said, it would take us ages to open a dossier. At the hospital they said better go to the medical centre, if we give you a prescription we would have to charge you $139 to open a file. At the medical centre I discovered it's $50 if you are non resident, $30 for residents. Just to write prescription! What a way to treat visitors! Suddenly I realised I actually was resident, how silly of me to get that wrong, so it only cost me $30 instead of $50.

It took the doctor all of 3 minutes to have a quick check around, and write a prescription. But the really good news is the antibiotics worked, and quickly. By the 3rd tablet, early evening, the pain was much reduced. Which was fortunate indeed because I was visiting Daryl and David Levine and they were wanting to take me out to prime rib dinner! Daryl has recently had some major surgery, this was to be her first trip out since the surgery.

I have heard the road from Jasper to Edmonton described as monotonous. Certainly it is a highway, and for most of the 200 miles it is running through forest, with pine trees all around, but I didn't find it monotonous. The trees were nice, and there is the odd lake on the way.

Having met the Levines, the rib was delicious, in keeping with the amazing welcome I received from both. It was as though their long lost son had returned, even though we only know each other through occasional email correspondence and even though I am close on 15 years older than either of them.................

We made our goodbyes in the morning and I headed off a little way south to Leduc to meet up with Stan Wereschuk, a veteran balloonist I have had occasional contact with over the years.

When I found Stan he brought out a beer, and we talked. Well, mostly it was Stan who talked........Then he brought out another beer and talked some more! I enjoyed the visit with Stan. He suggested the museum at Wetaskiwin which had lots of aviation stuff, so I started of in that direction before I fortunately remembered that I was planning to visit the tumbledown remains of a farmhouse near Leduc where a relation used to live.

There was a barn alongside, tumbledown, with rubbish inside, but some bits of sadlery hung on a broken beam.

I wonder if they belonged to Robert Crosby Barker, who sold the farm in the 1930's, but no-one lived there after he did. It was a letter written by RC in 1893, from Marengo, Iowa, that triggered my search for an American branch of the family. Before this letter we didn't know that my great-grandfather had been married twice - I'm a descendant of his second family. In two days I will visit another descendant of his first family, Jan Booth. I say another, because the Richmond MacDonalds are also descendants of his first family. There are others.........

I continued on to the museum Stan had suggested, but in the local information office the charming girl there told me that while it was still open I wouldn't have enough time to see everything. She said overnight parking was OK just behind the information office, or at Walmart, I went to Walmart, organised an oil change, and settled down for the night

I arrived early at the museum, it didn't open until 10 am, so I looked at the outside exhibits.

There were lots more things outside but seems I only took pictures of traction engines. Ah. I did see this. Now on the balloon list there has been some discussion about fans. This one is over 6 ft in diameter but would need some work on the fan blades and a fairly substantial power source. It had flat blades because the intention was to test the power output of the motor not to move air.

This was another big machine.

Inside I can only give you an idea. (My camera battery needed a recharge!)

The real beauty is in the way the exhibits are organised, and in the way they are described. It is a museum for transport and machines, with a temporary exhibition of motor cycles. Being in an agricultural area, the machines were mostly farm related machines.

The museum started with the collection of Stan Reynolds, a car dealer who would take anything in part exchange. He collected 1000's upon 1000's of machines. Outside the museum there are fields full of these old machines. Rows and rows of old tractors, any farm machine you can care to think of. There are about 50 old threshing machines parked next to the highway, loads and loads of other machines behind. He was a pilot and had his own plane, he would fly around looking for abandoned farm machines.

I watched a film about his life, I wish I could remember more numbers. A couple of numbers I do remember is that he collected 1100 cars and 90 aeroplanes.................

This is the restoration workshop.

This is first plane that flew in Canada, in 1909, I presume it's a replica.

By the way, only about 60% of the machines that are on display here are from Stan's collection, the rest are donated from other sources.

Although I had arrived at the museum before it opened in the morning I was still there enthralled when it closed. A museum that can keep me fascinated for almost 8 hours has to shoot near the top of the list. I can't offhand think of a museum I have enjoyed more. Barkerville, the Oregon Heritage Centre, Baker City, they have to take second place. Even the Aviation museum at Le Bourget in Paris. Reynolds is right up there with the Railway museum in York (2 days plus) or the Natural History museum in London (I've never finished a visit there!).

I couldn't decide whether to take my safe parking place for the night, at Walmart, or continue. Although the Walmart park was one of the better ones, with no traffic noise, I eventually decided to continue. After driving for an hour or so I saw a sign for a heritage marker. It was on top of a hill just at the side of the road and although I generally prefer to hide in trees decided to stay there for the night. The view was OK.

I took the photo late evening, you can see the shadow of the van bottom centre.

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in Canada

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