Friday, June 30, 2023

Old Cars & Trucks

An old tow truck

I like finding old cars and trucks that have been abandoned and left to rust back into the earth. When I find these old “diamonds in the rust” I like to  photograph them for posterity. On my computer, I have over 700 photos of old cars and trucks, and although a lot of them are cars from car shows and gatherings, there are many rusted relics I have found in fields and forests. 

On the train trip across the country, it was interesting to see the old vehicles along the way, especially across the prairies. Many of the vehicles I saw had been parked in the “back 40” out of sight from the highways and byways, but the train often crosses the out of the way sections of the farms. Even as we passed through towns and cities the old cars and trucks were parked behind businesses and homes next to the train tracks. I recall as a very young boy watching my grandfather (Schnare) sawing firewood using his old 1930’s sedan which had been relegated to the back of the house beside the train tracks with a saw blade attached to the drive wheel, and walking the Rails to Trails there I still see an old car frame hiding in the trees. 

A hidden beauty!

The other day as we drove back to my daughter’s house from Sioux Lookout, I spotted an old turquoise hulk hiding in the weeds behind a deserted garage. I had earlier found an old tow truck at a working garage, but this looked like a real find. “Stop” I said “Photo App!”. The faded “No Trespassing” sign was mostly on the deserted property next door, so I went along beside the old garage to have a look. I think it is a 58 Chevy, a backwards step from the beautiful 55, 56 & 57 models in my opinion, but still an interesting find. The car looked mostly intact except for a lot of missing chrome, but there hidden behind the garage and alongside a more modern (Boring) truck was a very rusty GMC from the 50’s. Certainly glad I was looking out for old cars!

So I have a few more photos to add to my collection. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Train Tag

Have you noticed that most train cars have been the victim of the notorious taggers. Some of these vandal taggers are real artists and their work is beautiful, but some are just vandalism. The tags have become prevalent everywhere, on buildings, highway overpasses, retaining walls and train cars. Some of these train car tags are limited to the bottom easily accessible section of the cars, but some are big enough to cover the entire car. While visiting Portugal, we saw some tags that completely covered the entire car, including the windows so you had to choose cars that were not painted if you wanted to see out. 

On this trip on the VIA Rain Canadian I started really noticing these train tags as the freight trains passed our cabin window, and I got to thinking about these artists . . . .

Why are they tagging train cars? Train yards and train tracks are all behind secure fences and marked with “No Trespassing” signs, and I know the taggers enjoy the challenge of putting their tags on surfaces that are hard to reach and difficult to decorate, but why train cars? They do not stay in one place for very long, and why would you spend hours elaborately decorating something that might move to another state, province or even country the next day?

I got to wondering if perhaps there is some “Dark Web” network where these traveling tags are monitored and the location of tags are recorded and communicated. I can imagine an artist decorating a train car with his distinctive tag and then posting a photo of it on the internet where other like minded vandals might see it thousands of miles away and note the location so the original artist can track their artwork. 

I do wonder about it . . . .

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Riding the Rails

The next part of this Canadian adventure is a trip on VIA Rain’s Canadian from Vancouver to Sioux Lookout. 

Our 'cozy' cabin

After using the train systems in Spain, Portugal and France we wanted to experience our Canadian rail service, so we decided to take the train back from Vancouver rather than flying so we purchased tickets on VIA Rail’s Canadian, which is a “Full” service train providing sleeping and meals. The other option was the famous “Rocky Mountaineer” but it does not provide sleeping accommodations just meals, and it is much more luxurious (and expensive). The Canadian is transportation where the Mountaineer is more ‘tourist tour’, so they stop overnight so you do not miss the scenery in the mountains. We wanted the full “Train” experience so chose the Canadian. 

We boarded the train right on time and found our way to our “Comfy” berth, Cabin F in train 211. The cabin features two movable chairs, a little sink and a bathroom. The two chairs are ‘moveable’ because you have to fold them up to pull down the two sleeping compartments. The train also has fancy “Elite” class accommodations with full sized beds and an on-suite with a shower, but we were unable to book one of these. The other options are tiny rooms with two seats opposite each other where the entire room becomes a bunk bed, or a simple seat that can be folded down to sleep in. For the four day trip we opted for the actual cabin with folding beds and a bathroom. 

The Observation Car

After experiencing the modern European trains (many of which are built by the Canadian company Bombardier), the VIA Rail cars were a little long in the tooth; everything worked fine, but they had a very 1960’s feel and the looked a little worn. A fellow passenger from Switzerland said to me “The trains are VERY old here!”. The tracks are old as well, still running on wooden ties rather than the concrete and rubber ones that most of the European rail systems have moved to. The result is that compared to the smooth high speed rail travel we experienced in Europe, the ride here through the rockies is rough with the train swaying and bouncing along on old rail beds. 

The ride did not bother us and it actually rocked us to sleep last night and we have developed our “train-Legs” and we are managing moving around the train quite well. The food is delicious and the views through the mountains have been spectacular. 

Hell's Gate

Early Morning Misty View

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Helicopters

Our "chariot" arrives!

We flew out here to the west coast on Air Canada, we plan to come back east on a VIA Rail train, we were chauffeured around by family and friends while here; all means of transportation we have experienced previously, but to get from Vancouver Island over to Vancouver city, we got a chance to experience a new form of transport, Helicopter. 

This trip out to the West coast was planed originally for spring of 2020, and we all know what happened to travel plans then. We were going out to visit my sister and then take an Alaskan cruise, and she suggested we take a helicopter from the Island over to Vancouver City, as the helicopter terminal is right beside the cruise terminal. Regis was not too sure about this as she is a bit of a nervous flyer, but I thought it was a great idea. 

Tight quarters

The cruise got cancelled but this year we decided to still go visit the west coast sister for a couple of weeks, but we would instead take VIA Rail’s Canadian back east. My sister again suggested the helicopter as an option to get us to Vancouver and after a couple of friends assured Regis that it would not be TOO bad she agreed and booked us two seats on the Helijet to Vancouver. 

So on a Tuesday morning we arrived at the Helijet terminal in Nanaimo and checked in for the helicopter flight across the strait. We watched the shiny blue & white helicopter come in across the water and very gently touch down on the Helipad. Our luggage was all taken to be stowed away because there is no “Carry-on” at all due to the size of the helicopter and 10 other people were booked to go with us leaving no extra room. Even my cane had to be stowed away in luggage.

No backing out now . . . .

Now a helicopter is no commercial aircraft. The pilot and co-pilot are right there sitting in clear view, and you are belted in not with a seat belt but a three point harness. There was a pocket on the back of the seat in front of me containing safety information of the Sikorsky helicopter, but there was no entertainment system or fold down tray for food and drinks. In fact there were not even armrests between the seats. If you thought Economy seats on Air Canada were cramped, welcome to Helijet. 

Everyone belted in and the short safety chat completed, all doors were securely closed and

Flying into Vancouver

the engine started and slowly built up speed and sound - they do suggest and provide free hearing protection. The actual take-off is really very undramatic; rather than the sudden thrust forward as a jet tries to build up enough speed to overcome gravity, the helicopter very gently lifts off the ground and once in the air, slowly shifts from upward lift to forward propulsion. The actual flight is quite smooth. The helicopter vibrates and shakes slightly, due to the massive engine and propellor being right over your head, but the flight itself is smooth with no turbulence. At the end of our 20 minute flight, the helicopter slowed, turned and gently set us down on a helipad in Vancouver harbour. 

In my opinion, it was a pleasant but different way to travel, but you might want to ask Regis her opinion. I purposely did not tell her about the helicopter crash in Ottawa the day before. 

Landed safely in Vancouver

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Elk Falls

Although many hikes or walks are just a chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors in the natural elements in the area you are visiting, It is nice when you have an attraction to look forward at the end of the trail. Our hike to Elk Falls was one of those, with the anticipation of a spectacular waterfall and a suspension bridge our goal. 

You can always tell when a waterfall is going to be a good one when you start hearing it well before you can see it, and this was very true of Elk Falls. Well before we arrived at the falls we could hear the roar of the falling water. 

Historical photo of the wooden pipes

The trail to the falls leads through typical BC forests with the tall trees we have enjoyed on the previous walks, and across a construction site where old wooden Penstock Intake pipes which once carried water from the lake down to the hydro plant had been replaced with underground modern pipes. Pictures of the original wooden pipes show how impressive they must have been. The trail then entered a heavily wooded area with some huge trees and started sloping down to the waterfall, which although clearly heard was still a long way off. The trail switched back and forth down the hill until we finally reached a viewing area where you could see the falls still a distance away. The trail

Lots of stairs

then became a series of steep metal steps to get down to the top of the gorge where a nice modern steel suspension bridge crossed the gorge. There was a viewing platform before the bridge where the falls could be seen, but the best viewpoint was from the middle of the suspension bridge hanging over the deep gorge where the water plunged down into. When you walk across the bridge to the viewing platform at the other end where you can’t actually see anything you realize that the best views are from the bridge itself. 

The location of this lovely waterfall makes it very difficult to actually get a good view, so the BC Hydro have wisely built the suspension bridge to make viewing safer for the public. The gorge the water lunges into is steep and deep, and apparently tourists have slipped and fallen to their death in the past trying to get a better view of the falls. My Nova Scotian friends will be familiar with this situation in our famous Peggy’s Cove lighthouse rocks where the same thing has happened many times. 

Elk Falls Provincial Park surrounding the waterfall has campground and many other hiking trails along the river and through the woods, and once we had our fill of the falls, we did walk a couple of kilometres of the trails, discovering massive trees that survived forest fires leaving them still growing but with blackened hollow insides large enough to walk into. 

Another wonderful adventure in the BC outdoors and no elk actually fell (As far as I know).

Saturday, June 17, 2023

What do you do with an old gas station?

I am always up for a trip to another interesting pub or brewery, and I have managed to sample a few nice British Columbian brews while out her on the west coast. Today we went to the Gladstone Brewery in downtown Courtney for lunch. The brewery is on the site of an old service station and it has made an interesting place to eat and sample another beer. This lunch involved two of my brother-in-law’s sisters who were enjoying a day trip out from their senior’s home. One cannot see and the other has mobility issues, but both were keen for a trip to a brewpub for drinks and lunch and many laughs were shared by all. 

The Brewery is built from a converted old ESSO service station. The brewery and the bar are located in the old service bays and the patio is out where the pumps and parking used to be. I did not realize it was a gas station at first but once I was told I found it fascinating how well it worked and what a nice brewpub they made out of it. It is in an ideal location right on the main street of Courtney and on a busy corner, and it was very busy on this Father’s Day weekend. 

Now to be honest, the tool box flower pot, the wrench clothes hanger in the washroom, the wall paper made form old car adverts, and the shelf of old car parts should have given me a clue, but duh . . .  I was enjoying me beer.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Driftwood, Seaplanes and Totem Poles

Yesterday, walking the Trent River, we had a lonely hike, but we did not see another hiker at all; today we did another interesting walk through the town of Courtney from the salt marsh where the river enters Georgia Strait, along the Courtney River to the downtown area, where we shared the trail with many others enjoying the beautiful sunny day. We enjoyed part of this Courtney Riverway Heritage walkway previously during a day when we explored the downtown area, and I wanted to do the rest of it, so another sunny BC day provided an opportunity to do so. 

We started our walk at the Courtney Rotary Skylark, a nice busy playground, named for the seaplane airport next-door where you can take a seaplane across to Vancouver. At the end of the runway a warning said “NO loitering” and signs warned of low flying aircraft, so plane-spotting is obviously discouraged. 

This walkway was paved and lined for bicycles and pedestrians and ran along the river, giving beautiful views. It is

nice when cities keep waterfront areas as public land so everyone can enjoy the beauty of the river rather than just those who can afford to buy “Water-frontage” and “No Trespassing” signs. There were a few areas closer to the downtown section we walked earlier where some waterfront lots were privately owned, but most of it has been reclaimed as public. One section was owned by a large building supply store but you could see where this location was a historic site where supplies were unloaded to help develop this area in early days. Although no one owned water frontage on the section we walked today, the development along the other side of the walkway featured some lovely apartments and condo development which would have provided lovely views of the river.  

The section we did today featured raised viewpoints looking out to the strait, piles of interesting driftwood, and covered stops with explanations about the natural elements in the area. I learned how the Salt-marsh is being reclaimed and returned to it’s natural state to benefit the natural inhabitants of fish and waterfowl, the entire trail featured many interesting plants and flowers, and we heard many birds. It was interesting to walk beside the seaplane airport and see the many planes waiting to carry people across to the mainland, and a beautiful totem pole decorated one section. 

We ended our walk by going under the 17th street bridge and up into the downtown area where we stopped for drinks and snacks at a local watering hole. A pleasant walk followed by a beer; life is good here on this side of the country.

The Salt-Marsh

Wild Roses (I believe)

Happy Hikers

The Courtney River

Salt Marsh Again

Anyone know what this plant is?

Lots of Driftwood