Canada 40, 10th September 2006

Camping on the top of a hill turned out to be not such a good idea. It got windy during the night and the wind whistled round the van. It was noisy and woke me up. I had to get up and re park the van facing into the wind. That was much quieter, much better! Of course the van is designed to expect the wind to be blowing from the front.

On my journey south I turned off to look at a little town called Big Valley. No reason really, I just thought it might be interesting. Well it was. The museum was open. Nice little museum, lots of local artefacts, labelled donated by x, or y. There were half a dozen cars and carriages, and I thought that was all.

But no. Do you want to see the station says the lady I took to be the curator? Or the grain elevator? I can unlock them for you.

We started with 2 baggage cars. The first one held a huge collection of hand tools. There were 5 panels similar to this one.

There must have been 5,000 tools in all. I would think they could safely claim to have the biggest museum collection of hand tools in North America. Especially if they can pick up another couple of panels like these. No problem says my guide, he's got lots more tools in his garage, these are just a fraction, about 1/3 of his total collection. So if anyone disputes their claim to be the biggest, they can just get more tools from him!

Strange. Yesterday I go to a museum based on a huge collection of machinery, made by one man, today it's hand tools.

Here is a view on the main street.

This village has a population of about 350. Amazing that they can run a museum as varied as this with such a tiny population. The historical society also has the only remaining wooden grain elevator in I think the whole of Canada.

This needs to be repainted every 7 years at a cost of $30,000. Because it is so tall they have to hire gantries etc.

I went to the Royal Tyrell Museum at Drumheller. They do dinosaurs in a big way.

They have over 30 complete dinosaur skeletons on display.

Going from big to small, this little church seats 6 people only in the congregation.

They have badlands here too.

And oil............

Not to mention a (free) cable operated ferry

And a (free) suspension bridge. Will this list never stop?

There used to be 139 operating coal pits in the valley. The Atlas is the last one to be operational, closing in 1979. Here my $6 entrance fee includes an optional guided tour which took me to the top of the tipple. What's a tipple I wondered?

Ah. A tipple operates under the same principle as a grain elevator. Lift the coal, or grain, up to a large height and after sorting dump it into big storage bins from where it is fed into road or rail trucks. It can't have been much fun working in either, vast quantities of dust and in the case of the tipple earbreaking noise.

There's also some funny shaped rocks around, wearing hats composed of harder rock than underneath.

After all this I sped away to Calgary to meet my cousin Jan and her husband Martin. I got a great welcome. Thanks Jan and Martin.

My computer tells me we are actually 3rd cousins once removed but, hey, whose counting? Jan and I are both interested in our family tree, but Jan makes a very serious documented research compared to my simple listing of people, dates, places. Makes my work look very amateur.

Here's me with Jan.

I had planned to visit Del Michaud while I was in Calgary, we last met when we both competed in the World Balloon Championships in York 1977 but sadly I couldn't get a response on the phone.

I headed south and diverted to the Bar U ranch. This lady, acting as a ranch cook, plied us with tea and scones with jam and stories, supposedly cowboy style but I am sure they didn't eat so well. Eating was important though, the cook was paid 3 times as much as the cowboys.

I talked with the harness maker and learned a little more about leatherwork.

I also, later, learned about prairie grass. The sample towards the left is the best, to the right the worst.

I had no idea the root system was so extensive. No wonder this sort of grass holds the prairie soil together, and stops it blowing away as dust.

I pulled off the road, up a gravel road, and eventually found a spot where I could pull off onto the roadside. A pickup marked fisheries and wildlife protection officer drove past, paused a few moments, and continued on. I guess he thought I did not impose a threat to the local wildlife population. Fortunate indeed that he was not aware of the automatic death penalty imposed on all flies that have the audacity to enter into the van. I have 2 swatters strategically placed, and 2 flyspray canisters. I haven't seen flies for weeks and weeks, just these last few days. I'm also getting insect spatter on the windscreen, I haven't had that happen at all on my journey until now.

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in Canada

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