Thursday, August 25, 2011

Congratulations No Limits and The Gypsies!!

These were definitely my two favorite teams on the show "Expedition Impossible", with Country Boys a close third (although they did not place third on the show).  These two teams taking 1st and 2nd are truly a testament to the fact that nice guys don't always finish last.  Sometimes they even finish first.  (I do think that I slightly preferred No Limits over The Gypsies, but it was close.  Slightly off topic comment - too bad that Aaron Isaacson on No Limits is engaged.

Team No Limits was the definition of the concept of "never give up", with one blind team member and another team member who wore a leg cast and dealt with excruciating ankle pain for several legs of the race.  In the past, the blind team member reached the summit of Mt. Everest.  The one who hurt his ankle also served in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you know anything about many of my past jobs and my current job, you know how much respect I have for servicemen and women.  I can't forget the third member of the team either, as he is just as amazing.  He guided the blind team member throughout the race, and he was truly an amazing guide!  The whole team was amazing.

And The Gypsies?  They dominated the competition, winning all but one leg of the race.  Not only did they win, but they won graciously.  They were not cocky; they helped other teams; and, my favorite thing?  During one leg of the race, the winners won a special prize - a chance to talk to family and friends back home.  The gypsies won the leg, but they had already decided to donate the prize to another team (No Limits).  They are also involved in many charity projects.  This team was just incredible at (almost) everything.  Their world travels definitely paid off in this race.

While I enjoyed watching "Expedition Impossible", I still prefer "Amazing Race".  That being said, based on the rules of the "Amazing Race", I don't think a blind team member could have participated on the show.  I appreciate that this show is set up in such a way that the teams work together; and, while tasks may be easier if none of the members were to have disabilities - the tasks are still do-able for teams with disabled members.  If you all were unable to watch the show, you might want to check it out online.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lessons learned in North Dakota, Canada, and Montana

So, My sister Moo (names have been changed to protect the innocent) came to visit me for about a week.  During the visit we went to Medora, North Dakota.  We poked around town and went to the pitchfork fondue.  The steak was great.  The sides were...okay.  While at the fondue, we spoke with some residents of Saskatchewan who informed us that the "Fields of Gold" that sting sings about are the canola fields, of which Saskatchewan has quite a few.  They also gave us advice on the route we should take to Canada. 

We left Medora pretty late, and it was decided that instead of returning home and leaving for Canada from home, we would just start on our journey that night.  I did warn my sister that due to all of the oilfield workers, we may not be able to find a hotel room.  So, my sister go out her travel guide and started calling hotels to no avail.  She was unable to find vacancies.  It was only about 5 minutes or so into that segment of the trip when she said maybe we should turn around and go to my place for the night.  I told her, "Nope.  You already made your decision and we're going with it" (words are not exact). 

So, my sister called my brother Squirrel in Washington and had him use his incredible internet skills to help us track down an apartment that might have an opening.  He gave us a number for a place in Crosby, ND very near the Canadian border.  Luckily they did have a room available for us when we called.  So....

LESSON #1 - It may be difficult to find a hotel room in areas of the country that have a shortage of housing and a lot of oilfield workers.

So, the next morning we continued our trip to Canada.  Our stop at the border took about half an hour.  Maybe it's not such a good idea to keep my temple bag in the trunk of my car?  Our trip to Canada was only spent in the province of Saskatchewan.   Saskatchewan  has oilfields too, and also farmland.  Lot's and lots of farmland.  It's pretty cool.  Lot's of wide open spaces.  The first bigger city we stopped in was Regina.  We weren't really fans.  It was a bit ghetto, and usually I'm okay with ghetto, but I guess not Regina's ghetto.

While in Regina we visited the "Government House" and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Museum.  The "Government House" was actually pretty cool.  I learned a lot.  I especially enjoyed learning about the salesman chairs, and how the furniture, borders, etc. in the bedrooms of the house were indicative of importance.  The RCMP Museum was okay.  I especially loved Exhibits 5 and 6 - you'll have to go there to find out what they are.  We also ere able to go on a tour of the grounds.  Apparently every person in the RCMP trains at the facility for 6 months before being assigned. 

After Regina we drove on to Moose Jaw Canada.  We may or may not have driven on a few gravel roads along the way. 

LESSON #2 - You may or may not have to drive on gravel roads in Canada.  It's pretty cool, but it can slow down the trip. 

Moose Jaw was much cooler than Regina in my opinion.  Several of the buildings had murals on them.  The tunnels of Moose Jaw tour we went on was actually very cool.  The acting was pretty good, and they had really set the scene for the tours well (It was much better than the shootout we watched in Medora).  We also had the opportunity to learn about and see different types of kilns while we were at a pottery shop in town.  When we got into town, I saw signs for Moose Jaw Wing or something like that.  I was curious as to what exactly it was.  I soon discovered that it was an Canadian Air Force Base near Moose Jaw.  Our one disappointment in Moose Jaw was the lack of moose Souveneir options in the town.  Our cousin Liza B is very into Moose's and we were hoping to find something for her there.  We did find something, but we didn't really love it.  Oh, I did learn, though, that in Saskatchewan they call hoodies "Bunny Hugs". 

Knowing that gas is more expensive in Canada than the US, we filled up before entering Canada.  Just before leaving Moose Jaw, we debated whether we should get a few gallons of gas.  I decided that we should see how things go, and fill up some along the way if we needed to.

LESSON # 3 - If you see a gas station in Canada - stop and get some gas.  You never know how far away the next gas station may be.  Also, gas stations in Canada do not always have convenience stores near them.  There may just be some pumps near a crossroads.  I don't know if you need a special card to use those pumps, though.  I did not stop at the one I saw.

Luckily we made it to a gas station in Montana before we ran out of gas, but there were a few tense moments.  The gas light came on just before the Border crossing, and there were bout 6-8 vehicles in front of us.  If this were not the case, I was pretty confident we could have made it to the next gas station, but I didn't know how much idling or turning the car on and off would effect the gas usage.  I chose to turn the car off and let a few cars go through the border crossing process before I advanced in line.

We decided that we should pick up some food at a drive-through in Sidney on our way home. 

LESSON #4 - Fast food restaurants in Eastern Montana are few an far between, and if you do find one, there is no guarantee it will be open after 10 at night.  I was going to stop at a McDonald's in Sidney for a bit of food, but...nope...wasn't open.  We ended up driving all the way home.  I was certain that the Wendy's drive-thru in my town would be open when we got there, but apparently the drive-thru is open later on weekends than on weekdays, and we were there on a week day. 

Well, I think that pretty much describes things for now.  I may add some pictures later to spice the blog up a bit.