Archive for August, 2010
I fully expected the WBCCI Oregon Unit members to know how to have a good time when I met their club president at the International. Expectations fulfilled: The HiWay Haven rally in Sutherlin OR—a nonstop block party with Airstreams and the people who love them—pegged the fun meter.
A little Airstream history was thrown in between the eating and drinking; the weekend commemorated the 50th anniversary of the famous Cape Town to Cairo caravan with a special lecture and a screening of two films about Wally Byam and his followers to Africa and Mexico. Other movies on the old drive in screen included the unwatchable RV and The Long, Long Trailer, unwatchable for other reasons.
Grand Coulee Dam is 550 feet high! 5,223 feet long! Generates 6,809 megawatts of electricity! And other measurements as well. The best statistic comes from a jaunty pamphlet provided by the Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation: “Grand Coulee Dam is one of the largest concrete structures in the world. What else could you build with 12 million cubic yards of concrete? A sidewalk four feet wide and four inches thick and wrap it twice around the equator (50,000 miles), or a highway from Seattle to Miami.”
Ok, ok. Wow. A visit to Grand Coulee on the Columbia River sounds like it might be boring but it’s quite the sight and has the most fun visitor center.
“Profond, froid et magnifique” (that’s on a plaque), Lake Louise in Banff National Park is thrilling and unspoiled. Tourist guides claim that as a protected World Heritage Site, the vistas that greet visitors today are virtually the same as those that Swiss explorers experienced more than a century ago, and I believe it. The present day village mini-mall with its high end grocery, sports shop and artsy fartsy gift store now only adds to the ambiance.
After driving through the monotonous prairie to the south, the abrupt appearance of the colossal Canadian Rockies can take your breath away.
Traveling to Regina? (What an embarrassing name for a city. Like that Seinfeld episode. “Mulva?”) Don’t miss the contemporary Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Saskatchewan where you’ll learn about the formation of the original 300 Mounties in 1873, what the RCMP is up to today (with a force of nearly 5000), and how you’d look as a Mountie in that smashing scarlet tunic and Dudley Do-Right hat.
Back to back theme rooms explore aspects of RCMP history including their presence during the Klondike Gold Rush (when the worldwide image of the Mountie was formed).
“Experience History With A Bang at Canada’s National Artillery Museum in the Central Museum of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery at Canadian Forces Base Shilo”. That’s a mouthful to put on a road sign but we didn’t need to read it; Ralph scoped out the RCA Museum early on and we made a crooked beeline for it when we passed through Manitoba.
I couldn’t have less interest in war lore, but through Ralph I’ve grown to appreciate military museums as an alternative way to connect with the regions we visit. They often house peculiar items found nowhere else and present a different perspective than the usual insipid pioneer museum.
Joining the “Most Overrated Attraction” list, Devils Punch Bowl is described in the Spruce Woods guide as thus: “Sand slips and slides down a bowl-shaped depression 45 metres deep and disappears into an ever-moving, eerie pool of blue-green water.” Worth a two-hour hike in the hot sun, right?
After a long uphill slog on sandy soil, we reached an elaborate footbridge and a platform overlooking…some trees. Ralph actually hiked back to the trail marker to make sure we had come to the right place.
For those entering Canada from North Dakota: take heed. There will be no gas on the way. We coasted on fumes into Pembina, the last chance for everything before the border crossing at Emerson where the passport guy grilled us with a lot of intrusive trick questions about our personal lives (“How did you two meet?”) and our reasons for visiting. We were already pitting out over the pack of fresh pork chops we were bent on smuggling in and watched in horror as two motorhomes ahead were pulled into secondary and boarded by customs officials.
Maybe it’s because I came up in the suburbs of the west coast and have never seen oddities like weatherworn drake decoys and antique muskie lures. Maybe it’s the way said items were displayed. Maybe I just hadn’t been shopping in awhile. But I was positively mad
A bit like Les Puces de Saint-Ouen without the newer merchandise and pickpockets, Shady Hollow is not about transients unloading their castaway crap. Here, professional antique dealers traffic hand picked items from teeny, tasty little store-sheds and tables piled decoratively with fabulous junque. Shabby chic people, you’ll go out of your mind.
Look up “good clean fun” in the dictionary and you’ll be directed to the Detroit Lakes, Minnesota annual Water Carnival. The community recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of the event in the usual way: turtle races, boat parade, firehose water fight, “polka in the pavilion”, kid’s ship building contest, and 63 other events.
The money shot of the two-week festival is the Parade of the Northwest, involving every Shriner in a 200-miles radius, every emergency and service vehicle in the city (including the Kentucky Fried Chicken delivery van), assorted entrants (like the bed race champion), and local elected officials and festival organizers waving from towed pontoons.