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Brandon Air Museum

August 22, 2014

This morning we went to see the Air Museum in Brandon.  Its where they trained the Canadian pilots during WWII.  We saw a lot of cool stuff.  The volunteers there gave us a personal tour when they realized that Dad actually flew some of the airplanes they had in the hanger.  The hanger itself is quite a structure – having been built out of enormous pine logs – the structures might look like steel but they are all wood.  They were designed to last 20 years, but are still standing today.

This is a small wooden trainer they used for instrument training – and Dad remembered using one in the Civil Air Patrol as a teenager.

They have an impressive array of WWII training aircraft.  Some of which they still fly for demonstrations.


They also have a number of vehicles that were used by the training facility.

This radial engine is the same type that Dad and his buddy tore down and put back together during engine shop class in high school.  As they were putting it back together their shop teacher came by to remind them that they needed to hand turn the engine before starting it so that the engine oil that had collected in the lower plugs would be cleaned out.  Alas, when they started it up a stream of oil came out of the engine exhaust hitting their instructor square between the eyes.  Oil dripping from his nose, the instructor said to them, “I see you boys forgot my instructions, huh?”

During the war numerous pilots were captured by the Germans.  In care packages the British put games of Monopoly.  They had worked with the game manufacturer to hide escape instructions, small bits of useful items like nail files, along with real money inside to help them escape.

Here is Dave explaining to Dad and our tour guide how the old radios worked inside the airplanes.

The museum has a small chapel where there are numerous tributes to the fallen.

The text of this telegram reads, “Deeply regret to inform you your husband sergeant Granville Andrew Jackson is reported missing believed killed as a result of air operations 15th February 1942.  Letter confirming this cablegram and giving all available information follows.  The Air Council express their sympathy.”  Telegrams like this were delivered by the town priest whenever possible.  However during really large battles that wasn’t possible, and often these were delivered by children on bicycles who happened by the telegraph office.

This chalk board was from a local school and shows how much the kids were able to contribute each month to the war effort.  The board would have been destroyed, but a smart contractor hid it inside the walls of the school he was refurbishing – preserving it to later be found and sent to the museum with the writing intact.


After our visit to the museum we were off for Kenora, last stop before we head to Lake Manatou and Uncle Bob's cabin where we will be off the grid for a week eating nothing but fish we catch ourselves.  We stayed tonight at a beautiful B&B log cabin on a lake.  When we arrived the proprietress was in a bit of a tizzy as she had forgotten we needed two rooms and had inadvertently rented the other room to someone else.  So she gave up her own suite to us and stayed in her small loft.  Can't really ask for better service than that!

Canmore to Brandon

August 21, 2014

The past few days we have basically been lazy.  We hung out in Canmore, just outside Banff because with this view from the hotel deck, who could resist just hanging out!

We were supposed to spend one day in Calgary but no one was feeling “big city” so we just drove through the town to say we’d seen it.  From Canmore eastbound there is nothing to see.  NOTHING.  Did I mention NOTHING?!  The plains are duller than dull.

The most fun was the day we spent in the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.  We took a couple of tours that demonstrate how the tunnels under the city were used.  First by gangsters like Al Capone during prohibition to hide out, and then by the Chinese immigrants to live away from the white folk.  Canada (like the US) has a history of mistreating the Chinese immigrants and the actors on the tour did a good job of showing you a picture of what it must have been like for them.  They don’t allow cameras on the tour, so unfortunately we don’t have any pictures.  The Chinese tour made us crave Chinese food for dinner that night.

On our way into Brandon a rock hit the windshield and took a good sized chip out.  So Melissa found a windshield repair shop – conveniently outside the wine store – and had it repaired for $55.  She then went and filed a claim with USAA – and amazingly they let you file the claim online without having to send in the receipt (you tell them the company and the invoice number) and voila – a check is already on its way.  Gotta love that.

Kimberley Underground Mine

August 17, 2014

After a great breakfast at the B&B, we headed off to see the Kimberly Mine.  The tour starts off with a train ride up to the mine operation the same way the miners got there years ago.  Though their trains weren’t painted bright red:

This is Bill Roberts our tour guide.  He was a miner his whole life and has now written a book, The Best Miners In The World, a collection of miner stories he recorded over a 20 year period (yes, we bought a copy!).  He was quite the character.  He started off by telling the parents that he had no plans to compete with crying kids.  So if their kids got out of control, they should remove them to a room where they had Legos and coloring books.  And if they didn’t he and everyone else would question their parenting skills.  Later when he asked if there were any questions he would be happy to answer them or make something up because none of us would know the difference anyway.

Bill is among a number of retired mining personnel that maintain the park.  One mining executive who once had 8000 mining engineers working all over the world now drives the train because its fun.

Bill explained how they would use explosives to mine the rock.  They would drill three large holes in the middle, surrounded by a number of smaller holes.  The smaller holes were filled with explosives.  They were then set to blow in sequence starting with the ones closest to the big holes, and then spiraling outward.  This way the rock would collapse starting with the hole in the middle and making successively bigger holes with each explosion.

In the early days each miner carried a canary into the mine with him as an early warning system for methane gas.  If the canary died, they ran for it.  Later they used these specially made lamps.  The top part would allow the air into the lamp, and if there was methane, the lamp would make a small explosion inside, but be contained within the lamp.  Similarly if there was little oxygen present the lamp would go out.

These are the air packs that rescue miners wore.  They had enough air for 2 hours and rescue workers would cycle in and out of an area they were trying to dig people out of.

Bill then demonstrated some of the equipment used to scoop up the loose rock and put it into carts to be hauled out on the train tracks.  They primarily mined silver, tin, lead, and zinc.  Over its lifetime the mine put out $60 Billion (in today’s dollars) worth of ore.

We then moved out of the mine and into the generator plant.  They used water from a dam up on the mountain to drive an air compressor system that ran all the mining equipment.  The giant cables looping around the wheels are made of industrial hemp.

They’ve done a great job of preserving the history of this place.

Dad couldn’t resist some clowning around:

Then it was back to the interpretive center to see a bit about how the miners lived.  This was the one room school house where there were about 16 kids in attendance:

And up on the mountain, the miners lived in these tents.

For those with houses back in town, they might have looked something like this:

Then it was back in the car to head for Banff.  We drove through the Canadian Rockies to find that much of the landscape had been badly burned this year.  In one area alone, 250,000 acres burned.  Dave said that the mountains looked like porcupines with all the dead trunks sticking up in the air.  Here's a shot of what it looked like when the fires were burning.  Yikes!

Our plan was to stay at a hotel in Canmore - 10 minutes outside Banff - because the hotels are $100 a night less than Banff.  We had heard that the scenery was just as spectacular.  After hanging out on the hotel deck with a glass of wine, we can attest to the truth of this:





Saltydog is where?

August 16, 2014

This morning we headed back to Coeur d'Alene to pick up the UPS overnight package with Marla’s passport.  It arrived with no issues, so all was well.  Meanwhile, Melissa tried to get her Verizon phone replaced as its now burned up two batteries in the past week.  This was the usual fiasco where Verizon wants you to send the old phone back within 5 days and they will only ship the new phone to a US address.  Not gonna work since we are in Canada for two weeks starting tonight. So the tech support guy promised us a call back the day we plan to be back in the US to arrange shipment of the new phone.  Want to lay odds on that all working out as promised?

After we got all that taken care of everything in Coeur d'Alene we headed back to Sandpoint Idaho to take the lake tour we got rained out of yesterday.  They served us a nice glass of wine and cheese and crackers and Marla was like "ahhhhhhh".

Lake Pend Oreille is a beautiful recreational lake.  There were numerous vacation houses dotting the shoreline:

Unfortunately a couple of storms and one strong microburst took out a whole bunch of trees and damaged some of the houses a few weeks ago:

We did get to see some osprey:

Melissa was working on getting a few portrait pictures along the way, this one capturing her Dad pretty well:

But here is what Dave thought about Melissa's picture snapping:

But eventually she managed to get him anyway:

Last night we found out last night that Saltydog (Steve and Joan) were in Sandpoint Idaho.  What are the odds of that?  So after the boat tour we met them at their hotel for a drink.  Unfortunately we couldn’t stay near as long as we wanted to!  But it was great to see them and hopefully they will be in Panama about the time we get there to take Apsaras through.

Then it was off to Canada.  We crossed at a tiny crossing called Kingsgate that had only one lane open.  Took us about 10 minutes.

Then we were in Canada!

We arrived at our hotel - Alpenglow Bed and Breakfast in Kimberly.  The B&B is lovely and we wish we were staying longer!

Your passport is where?

August 15, 2014

Today we headed back to the bistro we ate at last night because the food was so good we wanted to try their breakfasts.  Eggs Benedict and fresh made corned beef cash did not disappoint.  Had we been in town longer we would have tried the Ruben sandwiches for lunch.  Then it was off to Lake Pend Oreille.

We had planned to take a boat tour of the lake, alas it was raining and we could see lightning striking the lake when we arrived at the dock, so we decided not to go.  Pizza and beer consoled us.  When we arrived at the hotel, Marla discovered she had forgotten her passport.  Since we are supposed to cross the border tomorrow, this caused a moment of panic till we reached someone who was able to get into their house, retrieve the passport, and drive it to a UPS store to have it delivered in Idaho.  Closest delivery point for a Saturday delivery is Coeur d'Alene.  So that means a bit of backtracking tomorrow, but provided it shows up on time, won’t be much of a glitch.

Off on the next adventure

August 14, 2014

After running some errands, we picked up Melissa’s Dad, Chuck and his wife Marla and headed for Moses Lake.  Not much to see, but we did find a really good restaurant in Moses Lake called Michael’s Market & Bistro.  It’s a casual deli style place, but they have great food and service.  And they have a huge wine selection in the store and will open any bottle you buy.  Dave, Chuck and Marla all had burgers and Melissa had a steak with mac and cheese on the side.  Yum!

Just how secure is an airport anyway?

August 13, 2014

We got home yesterday and spent the bulk of the day getting our doctor’s checkups in.  Dave visited Zetron and had lunch with the COO.  In the afternoon we headed to the hanger to pick up a second car.  We were shocked to discover it had been broken into.  We had thought that a facility with barb wire fence, security guards, the only access with ID badged card keys, and huge padlocked doors would be a safe place for our stuff.  Alas apparently not.  In April we had an email from the guy in the hanger next door who had found the man door open and closed it for us.  Presumably that is when the break in occurred.  How we don’t know exactly, but the man doors (as opposed to the giant hanger rolling doors) are kind of funky so they may have been able to jimmy the door.

They took the car keys – why isn’t clear because they couldn’t get the cars out because they couldn’t open the big doors.  They took Dave’s flight log book – which had no purpose other than to just be horribly mean.  It has no value to anyone other than Dave and will now cause numerous headaches because proving his flight time (required by the FAA for additional certifications) will prove a giant pain.  Yes, the FAA has a procedure for what to do in the case of a lost log book, but it isn’t pretty.  They took a pair of speakers and a brad nail gun tool.  They could have taken thousands of dollars worth of additional tools, but they didn’t.  Probably because they only took what they could carry.  The neighbor that closed the door may well have prevented further loss as they could easily have come back and took another armload.

The biggest lost was Melissa’s jewelry – worth about $6000.  Sickening because there were some family heirlooms that cannot be replaced.  Moreover, much to our shock, we discovered our insurance agent totally screwed up.  When we lived in Woodinville Melissa had added a $5000 jewelry rider to our home owner’s policy, in addition to the standard $1000 in coverage included in the policy.  But when we moved to the condo in Kirkland in 2008, the agent neglected to move the rider over to the new policy.  So they will only cover the policy minimum of $1000.  And we’ve been advised not to even file that claim because Safeco will change our risk profile which will affect our premiums on all of our rental properties – not just our own homeowner’s policy.  So we are likely to pay way more than the $1000 we would get in premiums over the next few years.  We are debating whether there is anything we can do about the fact that it’s very clear that the agent screwed up.  Yes, Melissa didn’t catch their mistake when they omitted the rider from the new policy, but quality checking for omissions is problematic at best.

We ended up canceling most of our plans for yesterday and today in order to deal with the break in.  Melissa even drove around to a number of pawn shops looking for the jewelry, but we learned that is pretty much useless because the police have access to the pawn shop records and because most thieves know this, 95% of stolen jewelry is just melted down for the gold and gemstones. 

Bottom line is that it’s a sickening loss.  Though it might have been even worse had all our belongings been there.  When we left Seattle we had originally put all our stuff in the hanger, but a fire inspector told us the boxes had to be moved, and hence most of the rest of our belongings weren’t in the hanger because in January we moved the stuff to another storage location.

Home Again

August 11, 2014

After an uneventful trip – 19 hours door to door – we are home in Seattle!

Melissa is super excited as she has been writing a few articles and submitting them to sailing magazines.  Today she got word from SAIL (one of the two largest sailing magazines in the world) that they want to publish an article she wrote.  Once it becomes published she will publish the link to the article.

The most interesting part of the trip was in Miami where they have a new immigration system.  You go to a kiosk – similar to an airline check-in kiosk, and have your passport scanned.  They know what flight you arrived on, take a photograph of you, and you answer the standard questions about where you have been and what you were doing.  Then the kiosk prints a ticket with your passport info and picture.  Then you take that and your passport to an immigration officer who stamps everything.  Super efficient and we were through immigration in a matter of minutes.  Of course in the end it’s not clear this gets you through any faster since you still have to wait for your bags to clear customs.  So it was over an hour before we were sitting comfortably and drinking a glass of white wine in the American Airlines lounge.  (We booked business class tickets on the oodles of miles we had piled up on Alaska Airlines.)  None the less, we love the idea that the government is starting to use technology to reduce labor costs.  We had a debate over whether the kiosks (or their back end system) was actually using facial recognition to compare to the photo on the chip embedded in our passports or not.  They must be at least approaching capability to do that, and potentially eliminate the human factor all together.  Because let’s face it, Dave today looks nothing like (to a human) the photo in his passport.  But his bone structure would still be a match.  He does look happier in his chair on the boat, eh?

Due to thunderstorms our flight was late coming into Seattle and hence the pick up lanes outside baggage claim were crammed with cars.  Many people parking and waiting for people who had been delayed.  Everyone knows you aren't supposed to park but keep driving around or wait at the cell phone lot.  But it was one of those things where the traffic was so bad that no one wanted to drive around again because it took so long, so people would park, thereby making the mess even worse.  One woman went berserk and started screaming at drivers, getting in their faces over the hoods of cars, "you can't park here", "move along people", "no one wants you here!"  Ok, we came home to civilization cuz why?