Thursday, May 31, 2007

On The Road Again

I wish I could get a Death Ray mounted on the roof of my truck.

Have you ever been driving at night, with your headlights on low beams, and someone flashes their lights at you because they think you have your high-beams on? It happens to me a lot. My car and my truck both have halogen headlights, which are quite bright. Actually, most vehicles today have those same headlights, so maybe mine are just cleaner (which I doubt). Anyway, I was driving from Kamloops to Prince George the other night when we were moving our planting camp, and I got flashed quite a few times on the trip, which prompted this post.

Let’s talk about halogens for a minute. The halogens are from Group VII of the periodic table, which includes flourine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astitine. At room temperature and standard pressure, flourine and chlorine are gases, bromine is a liquid, and iodine and astitine are solids. This makes the halogens the only group in the periodic table which exhibits all three states of behaviour. Halogen headlights took over from the previous generic sealed-beam headlights in the 1980’s, and produce a whiter glare than the typical old yellowish sealed-beams did. But since practically everybody is using them, why am I getting flashed all the time? Perhaps it is because I always drive with my low-beams on. My eyesight is pretty good at night, so being lazy, I feel no need to turn the high-beams on when I’m on a deserted stretch of road – I’d just have to turn them back off when a car is coming at me. So maybe the drivers assume that since I haven’t “switched” my lights when they come in sight, I must still be on high beam. I don’t really mind the people who do a quick flash and then don’t do it again, because they probably realize that my headlights WERE on low-beam after all, and they feel silly. But when I get a second, last-minute flash from someone who thinks they should “punish” me for not dimming, that’s when I feel the need to slam into them head-first (although I can’t do that, because it would ruin my perfectly clean driving record). This headlight problem should get even worse soon with the new HID headlights that are starting to become more popular. Those lights are even brighter than halogens, and since they tend towards the blue end of the visible spectrum (due to the xenon gas), they are even more annoying to oncoming drivers. But enough about headlights.

The next afternoon, I drove from Prince George to Alberta, and luckily, since it was during the daytime, I was able to keep my road rage to a minimum. I also got to drive by Mount Robson, which wasn’t surrounded by clouds when I drove by, so I could see the summit pretty clearly. That happens about once in a blue moon (I think that saying just popped into my head since tomorrow night is a blue moon). Anyway, Mount Robson, at 12,972 feet (for the American readers) or 3,954 meters (for the rest of the logical world), is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It isn’t the highest peak in British Columbia – that’s Mount Waddington in the Coast Mountain Range. It isn’t the highest peak in Canada – that’s Mount Logan in the Yukon. And it isn’t the highest peak in North America – that’s Mount McKinley in Alaska. But Mount Robson is a nice little mountain to drive by. Here’s a photo that I took of it:

Not much else of interest happened on the trip. I stopped in Jasper and pretended to be a tourist, and ooh’d and ahh’d over the elk running around downtown, and asked some other tourists nearby if they’d ever seen horses that big. Then I stopped and filmed some wild mountain sheep a bit further down the road. Finally, I pulled over and went to bed on the side of the road, because I had meetings starting shortly after 7am. The trip took far longer than planned, but then again, camp moves always do, because something always goes wrong. In fact, one of the girls in our camp hitch-hiked from Kamloops to Alberta with her dog, and arrived before we did, because one of our trucks broke down as we were about to leave Kamloops.

Switching topics abruptly to something with a musical connection (how much does a seg weigh?), you’ll probably eventually notice that I slip a lot of lines from classic rock & country songs into my blog posts, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes just out of reflex. “On The Road Again” is the title of a song by Willie Nelson (country), and also the title of another song by Canned Heat (rock). Maybe I should make a little trivia contest so the first person who correctly identifies a song title or a line from a well-known song in any of my blog posts gets a free CD in the mail (that is, if you figure out the specific song that I pulled the line from).

And back to the whole point of this, if anyone knows where I can get a Death Ray kit, please let me know ...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Billy Bob's Jerky

Have you ever driven past a particular store and wondered how it managed to stay in business? Being a business owner myself, and knowing a fair amount about the behind-the-scenes costs that can be involved, I often find myself thinking about that sort of thing when I look at certain businesses. Sometimes it is high costs that drive someone out of business, other times it might be insufficient customers, and sometimes it is just a "bad business concept" to start with. Sometimes I even feel sorry for the owner, because I just can’t help but think that the business was doomed from the start.

The other day, I was waiting for Alice (one of my crew bosses) to finish writing her First Aid exams at St. John Ambulance. It’s a pretty involved course that she was taking, so the exams lasted from 10am until 6:30pm. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time, and I figured she would be done around 4pm, so I sat in my truck in downtown Kamloops from about 3:30pm until she was done. It wasn’t entirely a waste of time – I had lots of paperwork with me that I managed to finish, but I also spent a lot of time staring out the window at a store across the street: Billy Bob’s Jerky. And now, you probably see where this is going.

Billy Bob’s was closed when I first noticed it. I studied it for a few minutes, and decided that it must be out of business already. But then, at around 3:40pm, someone opened the doors and lit up the “open” sign. I was curious to see why a business would not open until 3:40pm on a Monday afternoon, but then I started thinking, “maybe they’re targeting the after-school crowd.” However, that was pretty doubtful, considering their product line. Among other things, they featured products such as King Crab legs and claws (10 lbs. for $99.95), hot sauces, and Ostrich Jerky.

I paid close attention to this store for the couple hours that it was open. Billy Bob’s closed at 5:30pm that afternoon, but unfortunately, they didn’t have any customers that “day.” Hopefully for the owner, it was just an off-day. I will admit though, that by the end of that afternoon, I had a burning curiosity to see what Ostrich Jerky tastes like. You see, I just can't think of a lot of other stores that I've run across which specialize in Ostrich Jerky. I may have to go visit Billy Bob the next time I’m in that part of town, looking for a quick snack.

On the drive home, we saw someone driving a shopping cart down the highway. Literally. Kamloops has a four-lane highway that has a three or four kilometer section that goes downhill at a fairly sharp slope. Someone was riding a shopping cart down one lane, at around 50-60 km/h, with cars in front and behind and beside him. I don't know whether I was more amazed that he was keeping pace with traffic without crashing, or the fact that the cars around him didn't seem that surprised by his presence.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Stoner, British Columbia

When driving from Prince George to Kamloops last week, we drove through a small town called Stoner. I'm sure that hundreds of thousands of people have been amused by this name over the years, and I can't imagine what their road signage budget is, because I bet the "Stoner" signs have been stolen repeatedly over the years.

British Columbia is a very pot-friendly province, in fact, it is probably the most tolerant Canadian province when it comes to the use of marijuana. I have no doubt that the anti-drug population in Washington State must just hate having BC as their northern neighbour.

According to Stats Canada (info provided by the RCMP), in 2005, the value of the five highest ranked industries in British Columbia by financial value was as follows:

Forestry = $10 billion
Construction = $7.9 billion
Marijuana = $7.5 billion
Hotels, restaurants = $3.8 billion
Mining, oil and gas = $3.5 billion

That's pretty impressive. Cultivation of pot is estimated to contribute more to the province's GDP than hotels, restaurants, mining, and oil & gas put together. That's not small "pot"atoes.

I'm not a pot smoker at all. However, I don't think there is anything wrong with other people smoking it. I just have absolutely no interest for the same reasons that I don't smoke cigarettes - because I don't want to abuse my lungs with the smoke. But although I am convinced that there are some negative health repercussions to smoking marijuana, I still think that pot is probably quite a bit less harmful to the general population than my own drug of choice - alcohol. Canada appears to be slowly moving towards decriminalization of marijuana, which I think is a smart idea.

Anyway, I know that people from around the world have a lot of different views regarding the consumpation of "soft" drugs, and since I'm not a smoker myself, I don't really pay a whole lot of attention to debating the pros and cons of marijuana use. However, I am always amused to see the business value of this underground industry, and I always have to smile when I drive down Highway 97 and see that sign.

So the big question is, if you actually live in that famous small town, how do you describe yourself? I guess you would just have to stand straight up and proudly say, "Yes, I'm a Stoner."