Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Day The Rest Of It: Calgary AB - Larrington Towers

By popular request1, the last instalment of this year's Automatic Diary.

"I hope you realise this weather is not typical of Calgary in late September, eh!" said a fellow snoutcast on Friday night, as we stood shivering in a bus-shelter-stylee Designated Smoking Area.  It was twelve degrees and raining.  Meanwhile, my grate frends Al'n'Alice, en route to visit various of Al's family in Red Deer AB and following much the same route as I had a few hours earlier, had reported SNO.  Red Deer is about 150 km north of Calgary...

In the morning the view out of my window looked very much exactly like this:
Instead of being 12 degrees and raining, it was now 3 degrees and raining.  And although I had until 15:30 to return That Shitbox Dodge to Hertz, and the flight didn't leave until 18:25, Calgary is spread over such a vast area that the countryside, such as it is, starts so far away that I could almost have nipped up the road to gatecrash the Krauses' party and not see any.
The above is slightly more dramatic than the fare to be found closer to Calgary, as it's taken from the top of the cliff at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.  With nothing better to do I went to the airport.  Mr Hertz Man pounced on the chipped windscreen and totally failed to spot the damaged bumper until I, schooled in the traditions of honesty by the staff of Focus 12 (RIP), pointed it out to him.  Form filled in, nothing to pay because insewerants, Hertz Man cheerful.  Probably because he didn't have to mend it himself.

By now the weather in Red Deer was exactly like this:
so it appears that my decision to hole up in a nice warm airport for six hours was probably the right one.

I finally got into the Shiny Metal Bird and some time later got out again, in a Londonton where it was 12 degrees and raining.  Bus to Woking, taxi to Fort Larrington, drink battleship-floating quantities of coffee in an attempt to stay awake.  Sunday was much the same; Monday morning was spent picking apples, restarting the router, trying to mend my specs, filling in forms and suchlike before heading back to a Larrington Towers which was, to my relief, unburgled in spite of the outer front door being so warped by the summer that it won't close properly without being repeatedly kicked.  Which is difficult to achieve from the outside.

Notice that the blinkenlights on the router are, instead of spraying shiny green LED-sourced peace of mind across the Great Hall like miniature lighthouses, blank.  Some considerable faffage later shewed this to be because the landline was dead.  This may or may not be connected to my having arranged to switch to a different broadband package while I was away, but it wasn't until this morning that BT plugged stuff back in.  I have still not opened the backlog of post, started to unpack The Luggage or figure out what's been broken by SCS Software updating Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator while I was away2.  And I have two Formula 1 Grands Prix and two and a half British Touring Car Championship3 meetings to catch up on, so I may re-emerge in time for the BHPC AGM on October 21st.  Thank you for watching.

1: Miss von Brandenburg.
2: I finally got a fast enough network connection to download the ProMods v2.30 map mod for ETS2 v1.31 while in Heber City.  The day afterwards, v1.32 was released.
3: As commentated on by the husband of Professor Larrington's hairdresser, trivia fans..

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Day 31: Whitefish MT - Calgary AB

The Pole at last!!! The prize of three centuries, my dream and ambition for twenty-three years, Mine at last....
Also schreibt Robert Peary in his diary when he claimed to have reached the North Pole.  Or rather on a loose sheet of paper which he stuck in his diary afterwards.  Yes, mate....  Anyway, today I had a North Pole moment:


I finally reached the summit of Logan Pass at the third attempt; in 2009 they closed the road over the pass the day before I arrived in Whitefish and last year they closed it because burny fiery DETH. This year they reopened it after burny fiery DETH on Tuesday.  Harrumble1!  It lives in the middle of Glacier National Park, which is also dead good:

Lake McDonald
Mountains, USAnia, Thursday
The glaciers are mostly shrinking like a badly-washed woolly jumper and someone in the Trump Junta as slipped up, since there's still a reference to man-made climate change on one of the info boards near Jackson Glacier.  Could be because the park is joined at the hip to Waterton Lakes National Park over the border, creating an "International Peace Park" (sic) and the Canadians wouldn't let them get away with it.

Jackson Glacier
The east side of the park is pretty good too.  Lake Saint Mary, for e.g., and MOAR mountains.

Saint Mary Lake
And the Saint Mary River, complete with fierce and disorderly duck-sized birds fighting each other.

The fierce and disorderly duck-sized birds on the Saint Mary River.
Click to embiggen and you may find them looking somewhat grebe-like.
On leaving the park I could have gone haring straight off up US-89, which turns into Alberta's Highway 2 when it crosses the border, but went in search of interest up a side road.  This passes Chief Mountain:


and then crosses the border.  As can be seen from the photos taken in the park, USAnia was sunny and basking under shiny blue skies.  On the Canuckistani side: this.

The border is just around that corner...
Literally two Shitbox Dodge lengths into Canuckistan before rain, thunder and lightning.  It didn't last long but a fellow snoutcast told me just now that this kind of weather - viz. 10C and raining - is not typical of southern Alberta at this time of year.

Many road signs today bearing the word "TWP".  As any fule kno, "twp" is Welsh for "daft" or "stupid", so this threw me for a while until, with Emily's assistance, I worked out that it's short for "Township".  And I have to confess I'd completely forgotten about the best-named World Heritage Site in the history of all things evvah until I saw it on a signpost:


The name derives from the legend - possibly concocted as a joke at the expense of the credulous White Man - that a young Blackfoot brave wanted to watch his fellow hunters driving buffalo off a cliff, thereby killing them utterly to DETH, from below.  You can guess the rest. They charge fifteen dollars to get in but the T-shaped shirts were half-price.

The cliff in question
It may not look much, but in its heyday it was about 20m high instead of the current 10 - it shrank due to rock falls - and even from ten metres a half-tonne cow landing on your noggin would do you a power of no good.

After that it back onto Highway 2 and straight up to Calgary.  Which starts about 45 km from where I am now, practically next door to the airport, and was having a rush hour when I arrived chiz.  Tomorrow I shall not be moseying off into the countryside, partly because it's obviously a long way away but mostly because it's stereotypical Prairie Province of Canada™.  And I don't have to leave here until 2 pm anyway, so I can do some orderly repacking, refill That Shitbox Dodge with motor-spirit and confess my sins to Hertz before getting in the shiny metal tube back to That London, that they have now.

1: This Unit has been listening to all five series of "Bleak Expectations" this week.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Day 30: Grangeville ID - Whitefish MT

I haz a Shiny!!1!

Shiny Thing make everything all better
Big ups to Manager Mike at the Downtowner motel in Grangeville who gave me this Shiny in exchange for being allowed to bend my ear this morning.  He finally let me go, and it was down highway 13 to Kooskia, right onto US-12 and past one of my favourite road signs ever.


When your choice of motor-car is not tempting you to drive like an Hooligan the run up to Lolo Pass is approximately twice as scenic and even having to wait at the temporary traffic lights was no great hardship.  Anyway the traffic, such as it was, was nearly all going the other way.  I overtook two cars.  This is now the fourth time I've been along this stretch of road - twice in each direction - and it's still teh Aces.

Arthur contemplates the misery of having to wait at the lights amid all this ugliness
Ghastly, isn't it?
Mr Google found me an alternative route for part 2, as otherwise I'de have found myself flogging through the middle of Missoula and then either up the east side of Flathead Lake (which I did the other way in the smoke last year) or up US-93, which I remember as being horrid in 2009.  Instead I cut off the corner to reach I-90 and headed west for a while before describing a sizeable loop back to US-93 just south of Kalispell.  As motorways go, I-90 is a Good Motorway, or at least this bit of it is, and at one point there are no fewer than four bridges across the Clark Fork River practically on top of each other.  Because Joyce reads this nonsense:

Twin I-90 bridges off to the right behind those trees
and for everyone else, here are some people in a boat:

Rectangular thing at top left is a pillar of the I-90 W bridge...
Turned off at St. Regis to follow the Clark Fork River downstream on divers Montana state highways before being spat back onto US-93, which was just as horrid as it was nine years ago, although Flathead Lake is still as big and wet at is ever was.


Happily, Kalispell has had a new bypass installed since 2009 so I didn't have to go through the middle of it, and so to Whitefish.  The Downtowner (no relation) scores for being central and bijou but loses for having neither a fridge nor a table in the room.  So I am typing this on the bed, propped up on one elbow.  Which is how I managed to snap one of the arms off my specs.  Piss.  And the pizza place wasn't playing Neil Young like it was in 2009 either.  Piss encore.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Day 29: Idaho Falls ID - Grangeville ID

It was the gal on reception I felt sorry for.  She probably knocked off at midnight, so it must count as Cruel and Unusual to have her deal with a busload of Japanese tourists at 23:30.  Still, she had already proved capable of dealing with a stroppy punter who thought he'd been overcharged last week - "Do I look like I manage anything?" - before I charmed her with Englishness.  Unlike the bloke here tonight, who is the latest addition to the long list of USAnian twerps thinking I hail from the Antipodes.  Anyway, the Shilo in Idaho Falls backs onto the Porter Canal, and thus has Ducks.  The Japanese tourists were so taken with the Ducks that their guide was getting increasingly miffed at his failed attempts to get his charges back on the bus and off to Yellowstone, or wherever.

"Got any bread?"
Or they could have been going here:


It is a measure of how acclimatised I am to the language of USAnia that I didn't laugh at this.  At first.  It is unclear from the sign which of the three nearby buttes is Big Butte, fnarr fnarr, but it's probably this one:


Not far up the road - US-20 - is the Idaho National Laboratory, home of civilian Nuclear Stuffs; if it was military it'd be in the big bit of Nevada with no roads and dudes with lots of guns.  I'll still probably end up in Gitmo if I post this photo:


And now you've seen it, so will you.  Eventually US-20 morphs into US-93, which has come up from Twin Falls and, before that, Nevada and Arizona, and heads north up an extension of the Snake River Plain thinly disguised as a valley.  In Mackay there was a BEAR bunrab:


Normal size, unlike the Giant Bunrabs of Calgary chiz.  The geography of Idaho is a bit confusing, because all the rivers ultimately end up in the Snake River, and thus the Columbia and ultimately the Pacific, but because:

  • the Snake makes a gert big loop around southern Idaho, and
  • the large mountains stopping the rivers from flowing in a logical direction

it's easy to believe there are, for example, two completely different Salmon Rivers.  Which there aren't.  I turned west up the valley of the Salmon River v1.0 near Challis.  It is this: stunning.


At Stanley, the valley flattens out into a mini-plain and ID-21 takes off up a side valley, over the top and down into that of the Payette River's south fork.  Which is just as stunning, only downhill.  Subsequent consultation of the memory-branes reveals that I'd driven over this bit before, probably in 2005, but on that occasion I didn't turn off at Lowman to follow the river down the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway to Banks and its confluence with the North Fork.


Also at Banks is ID-55, which heads straight northwards and is busy with berks who are incapable of keeping to a constant speed.  Doesn't every motor-car in this country have cruise control?  At McCall, where I spent a night in 2015, Emily sends me down a back road to avoid the busy town centre, but it makes little odds as they're still resurfacing the road to the east of town.  Single lane traffic.  Bah!

Confluence of the various bits of the Payette River, Banks ID
At New Meadows I continued the northwards business by turning left onto US-95.  Where ID-55 was Berk Central, this was devoid of berks and, indeed most other traffic too.  It was actually possible to maintain ["the speed limit" - Ed.] all the way here, including up Seven Mile Hill.  The whole section of the 95 between New Meadows and Grangeville has been done two or three times before, in both directions, so nothing new to see.  Though the last time I went up Seven Mile Hill, where the road abandons the valley and climbs 800 metres to the plateau atop which Grangeville sits, it was so foggy I could barely see the end of the bonnet.  Actually I couldn't see it today either, but only because That Shitbox Dodge's example is short and stubby.

For no fathomable reason, northern Idaho is in the Pacific time zone, while the rest of it is in the Mountain one.  So I gained an hour here:

Salmon River v2.0
which I'll have to give back again tomorrow, but tomorrow is a shortish day so it doesn't really matter.  This bridge crosses the Salmon River, which is the same one as this morning after it went west, north and east in a big loop through the mountainoidal and canyonated wilderness, only now I was going down the valley instead of up it.

The motel in Grangeville has declined to accept both my credit and debit cards.  Since the former happily purchased sixty dollars-worth of motor-spirit this morning I am not unduly bothered, but if it doesn't do for a similar purchase tomorrow morning, Horsey Bank plc will be on the receiving end of Harsh Words.  I have $64 in crispy banknotes left and don't want to have to get any more out of a machine at ruinous expense.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Day 28: Heber City UT - Idaho Falls ID

The quality of the Muzak in Sunday night's hotel left a lot to bee desired.  To describe the ballads on offer as "soupy" would be to overstate their general level of grittiness by an order or two of magnitude.  Consomm√©, perhaps.  When the most rock'n'roll track on the loop was "Blue Velvet"...

Back eastwards on US-40 for the first part of today's anabasis.  I must have down this bit in the opposite direction on the very first proper USAnian road trip in 2003, but that time I arrived in Vernal in the dark and probably left it before sunrise too.  I don't remember any of it.  Vernal is Fossil Central for dinosaur fans; to mark this I filled up That Shitbox Dodge with Sinclair motor-spirit, as it's made from actual dinosaurs1

Dino-infested hills near Vernal
More dino-infested hills near Vernal
From Vernal it's northwards up US-191, which climbs up to around 2500 metres, has lots of wiggly bits and, as a consequence, someone else's accident.  A pickup hit something with its right front corner in a spot where only a madman would attempt to overtake.  The 191 turns right where what I thought would be the more scenic route goes straight on, but I went down it for a bit anyway to visit the Flaming Gorge Dam.


Our old mucker John Wesley Powell thought the Flaming Gorge was one of the highlights of his trip down the Green and Colorado rivers, so it was inevitable that some bozo would want to put most of it under water.  While The Mgt has some fresh and spiffy signs telling the visitor to the dam all about the wildlife on offer in the area, the one telling us about the environmental consequences of the dam has faded into near-illegibility.  I wonder why.

The potentially-scenic route does have some scenery that isn't under water yet, though after Manila it's pretty much high desert all the way past the Wyoming state line and down into the town of Green River.

Sheep Creek - part of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Descent into Green River WY.  Runaway truck ramp closed.  Ulp.
A brief burst east on I-80 and then back on US-191 heading north-east through high desert so relentlessly dull I had to stop for a nap.  Ominous-looking smoke cloud billowing up in the west too.  I'm sure I've done this bit before too, in the other direction but ICBA to look up the year.

The Boar's Tusk - volcanic core in the high desert NE of Rock Springs WY
Smoke, Wyoming, Monday
After a lot of desert, the road suddenly drops off its plateau and heads into the valley of the Hoback River, and subsequently into that of the Snake, over the Idaho state line and down to Idaho Falls.  The last few miles being across the cleverly-named Snake River Plain, which is dead agricultural and thus in marked contrast to most of the previous 500 miles.  Longest drive of the trip thus far and unlikely to be exceeded unless something goes Horribly Wrong.

Lots of this sort of stuff down the Hoback and Snake rivers
Snake River coming out of the mountains and onto the Snake River Plain
1: Not, in all probability, very high in truthiness

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Day 27: Battle Mountain NV - Heber City UT

A lie-in until eight o'clock may not sound that impressive but it does represent an extra two and a half hours in bed.  There were not a few part-worn PSOs stumbling about the Super 8.  And what of ace photographer Bas de Meijer?  Al plonked Bas' ever-present Boston Red Sox baseball cap down on a table.  Bas was not under it.  Happily he showed up a bit later, none the worse for his alien abduction1.

The slick operation that was packing everything has reverted to being a total shambles again, but I got going at ten.  Fill That Shitbox Dodge up with motor spirit, turn left off the 305 just after the freeway bridge and say hello to three hundred miles of mostly tedium.  Apart from this:


It stands north of I-80 between Wendover and Salt Lake City.  You cannot park at it.  And in spite of having driven past it about half a dozen times I still have no idea what it is.

I later learned that Denise Koronek was at the Bonneville Salt Flats today, breaking the motor-paced speed record for a bicycle, at 189.932 mph.  I drove straight past without stopping, having clocked a large number of vehicle parked at the end of the access road to the salt.  No room for That Shitbox Dodge, I thought.

As Salt Lake City does a mostly unthreatening and very Mormon kind of looming in the distance, there are actual proper mountains in the distance:

Arthur contemplates the mountains of Utah
and eventually I-80 takes some time out from being dull with the climb up Parley's Canyon.


After this it goes back to being mostly immensely dull until eastern Ohio.  I escaped the dullness by turning off down US-40, where there Scenery and what appears to be Weather.  Or possible smoke, as the hotel has firefighters.  In it.  I hope not.


And now I shall have another cup of tea and then go to bed, because tomorrow is a long day and I am still knackered.  Nightie-night.

1: Or something

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Day 26: Battle Mountain NV

Highlights of Saturday morning:
  • Jennifer Breet finally got a wind-legal run on her second attempt of the day: 72.42 mph.  Yay!
  • Calvin Moes got his 80 mph Hat with 80.83 mph.  Yay!
  • Karen Darke increased her own arms-only World Record to 46.54 mph.  Yay!
Lowlights of Saturday morning:
  • Your correspondent driving That Shitbox Dodge into the rear quarter of Danny Guthrie's van in the car park.  Sturdy aluminium mudguard 1 - 0 That Shitbox Dodge.  Piss!
Arty sky photo through the rood of Paul Gracey's Tesla
Matthias waiting on the start line
After the morning debrief it was time for the annual photoshoot outside the Civic Center.  Fortunately the light shower we'd encountered while packing up and driving back to town failed to follow us.

Machines and riders.  CO2 was on its way home and Soup Dragon was absent because the LSBU gang read the schedule instead of being at the meeting to hear the revised timetable.  Bas de Meijer managed to 'shop them into his pics afterwards.
Officer Aten then showed up to nick various villains:

Ken and Karen about to get framed arrest warrants
These two have been inciting people to break Nevada's traffic laws since 2006...
The forecast said the wind in the evening would be Evil.  It was.  Valina was the only runner not to scratch heat one; she got Bluenose down the course OK but stacked the old warrior just after the bridge while slowing for catch.  She had a bit of a headache afterwards, having gone in hard enough to break the helmet she'd borrowed from Calvin for the occasion, but was more concerned about having crashed the bike than any damage to herself.

No-one ran in heat two, while Fabien elected to give heat three a miss too.  Mike Head, a long-standing member of the Scouse Mayhem Crew, wondered whether it was because his team-mates had rendered IUT Annecy's Catcher-in-Chief hors de combat after giving him a BEER, but apparently it was the wind.  Andrea made a slow pass in the windy conditions to show off Team Policumbent's latest tweak, the slacker:

Forza Italia!
Calvin actually managed to break Eta Prime's chain this time and thus couldn't get further than the grassy knoll and the culvert that Bluenose fell in last year.  Lieke got in one final bid for the record but, although the wind had now dropped to legal levels, she could only just over 70.  The Mgt and the teams had already decided to squeeze Matthias into heat three after he'd asked nicely (and later apologised for doing so, the daft so-and-so), so it fell to him to close the event, with another 75+ run.

Thence to the Awards Dinner at the Civic Center.  Taco buffet.  Nom nom nom.  Our table sat Team Wahoo (John Jackson and the three Lem siblings), Peter Borenstadt, the Ligtvoets and the Reicherts - Todd, Jenny and Bump.  While they know Bump will be a boy, they don't have a name yet.  Following the mirth that ensued every time Alice Krause tried to spell the first name of Annecy's chef d'equipe, I suggest "Guillaume".

Todd, Jenny and probably not-Guillaume
I picked up a Nevada Highway Patrol BEAR, advising me not to get into the blind spot of big rigs, and whom I shall call "Arthur", as a door prize.  Joyce Lem won overall, with a bottle of 12 year old single malt whisky.

Frank Lem gazes at a BEAR behind
Officer Aten returned to present warrants to the various violators of Nevada's traffic laws; Soup Dragon pilot Russell Bridge got a special one for operating an unsafe vehicle:

Back: Russell, Andrea, Calvin, Fabien, Ellen, Matthias, Valina, Lieke
Front: Ken, Karen, Jennifer
Marieke handed over 2D Thomas to Mike Sova to care for until next year.  Mikey is off back to his boat tomorrow.  In Grenada.  Git.


Hats for newcomers to the divers speed categories were handed out:

Back: Matthias (75), Lieke & Jennifer (70), Russell & Greg (55)
Front: Andrea & Calvin (80), Valina & Guillaume (55), Ken & Adam (50)
Couchant: Fabien (75)
And teh W1nz0rz from the various categories, excepting Ishtey, who had to head home early coz he's got skool on Monday.  Getting second in the men's multitrack was an unexpected bonus for Russell after the bloody awful time had by the LSBU team.  They're not bothering to take the fairing back home.

Standing: Fabien, Lieke, Jennifer, Ellen, Russell, Greg
Not Standing: Calvin, Andrea, Karen, Ken, Adam
The Young People looked set to party pretty hard so us old fogies went back to the Super 8 for a nice cup of tea and a sit down.  Also, no-one said my hair looked "awesome" this year, so I am sulking.

While Andrea clocked the highest speed of the meeting, I reckon most people would agree that Karen Darke, Ken Talbot and the University of Liverpool Velocipede Team were made of thee highest concentration ov Win.

My room is booked for next year.