Vulcan to Great Falls, MT

Woke up around 9am and I am feeling a wee bit better. Thank goodness! We haven’t done much this morning. I just cooked some eggs and toast that Will picked up. Our plan is to encourage Will get his stuff packed up (it takes more than a carrot and a stick!), and maybe take a day-time tour around town.

Funny small town anecdote: Will’s general repairman is his landlord here in Vulcan, but there’s a notice that any appliance repairs (oven, microwave, etc.) are to be sent to Tom. Tom coincidentally happens to also hold the post of Mayor of Vulcan. Talk about multitasking. I wonder which job he held first, mayor or appliance repairman?

So it ended up at 4pm before we had the car packed and Will’s apartment cleaned. I learned a new skill: how to change a toilet seat. Lucky me. Finally when we were all packed up we took a quick driving tour around town and we went to the pharmacy to take some photos of the mural and pick up some more Neocitrine. I should seriously invest some money in Novartis at the rate that I get sick.

We had some A&W before we left (it was either that or Subway, the only two chains in Vulcan). The town gift shop was closed, but had good sign in the window, “Loiterers will be sent to planet c-12 in star sector 8c194”. They really like this Star Trek thing.

After we hit the road there really wasn’t much going on until we came close to the border. This took about 2 hour or so if my memory is not mistaken. When we got near the border we decided to put on some Johnny Cash and tried our best to look like cowboys. We were entering Montana after all.

At the border things went off without a hitch for the most part. The guy was actually pretty friendly at the booth. As soon as he found out I was British though … I heard “Kid.” And a pause. “We need you to pull the car up to the left there and go in and wait on the bench with the sign above it that says, ‘Group W’. Now kid!“. OK, he didn’t quite say that, but I still had to go inside and get inspected, detected, deflected, and all kinds of mean and nasty horrible things in there. Mostly had to pay $6 and deal with some snotty attitude, but then I was free to go into the Wild West where they shoot each other for leaving their lights on, on the highway (dun dun dun … foreshadow).

After this we had a relatively short night time drive towards Great Falls. Once we pulled into town we had to laugh at the fact that every second building had a casino in it. We stopped at 3 hotels, all of which had casinos, but found they were too expensive so we made our way to the Super 8 finally. The clerk at the desk is probably still telling us about the breakfast special. He was truly the slowest person alive in the service industry. I’m sure there had to be some non-living persons, so he can’t compete there – but in the living category, he takes the cake.

We got set up in our rooms (Will had his own), I took a look through the Gideon Bible for a bit to see what that was all about. It just started as two travelling Christian people apparently and then grew to this whole organization of people putting bibles in drawers. Our stomachs then dragged us around town to find food, and after searching for a long while we ended up at McDonalds. At this time of night McDonalds was the least disgusting thing you could get in Great Falls. I got a salad to eat back at the hotel which was quite nice and had Newman’s Own dressing. That’s all folks!


Edmonton to Vulcan

Woke up sicker than ever. Sucks! I dragged myself out of bed and packed up. We said bye to Josh (Liz had gone to class already). We drove around town for a bit to find this restaurant where we were meeting Will’s other friend, Joe. Joe also works at NINT but doing MEMS and NEMS. More specifically doing magnetic microstructures from permalloy and seeing how quickly they switch polarization after being biased with an outside field. Interesting stuff! He’s also almost finishing up his PhD. The place we originally wanted to have breakfast was packed, so we walked around the block to another place. The staff barely spoke English but were quite nice. I had a bison sausage + eggs breakfast. I found out that bison is not the best thing to have in the morning. Really dry. Makes you feel like you’re turning into a bison a little bit.

We said “Bye” to Joe and then made our way to the West Edmonton Mall, consumer Mecca. WEM is almost funny in terms of it’s size. I literally saw 4 of the exact same hat store, Lids. There were two Radioshacks, two Fido booths, two of most things. It almost seems like they were trying to get big with being big as the only goal in mind. There is no functional benefit to having several of the exact same store in the same building. Unless the bovine shoppers can’t roam to the other side of the mall. Anyways, all insults aside – the mall is fantastic! There are several rollercoasters, a theme park, a water park with a HUGE wave pool, a sea lion demonstration that was actually pretty top-class, a shooting range, oh and did I mention two of every store? There are also a lot of cool stores that you don’t normally see which are more dedicated to a specific brand. There is a Lacoste store, Tommy Hilfiger store, and many more brands. I had a good time there actually.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the road towards Calgary and Vulcan. I am not expecting much from the drive as it seems to be very barren according to Google Maps. We shall see.

The drive turned out to be quite nice, and seeing wide open fields as far as the eye can see is actually a beautiful complement to the staggering mountain ranges. It really is “big sky country” out here. The moon was red and massive because it was so close to the horizon. Usually you never see the moon rise from that close because it’s always obscured by buildings or hills. There weren’t too many stars out though. I guess it’s partly because it was pretty cloudy and partly because the moon was so bright (full moon). I’m reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking, and I’ve made it quite a few chapters in. It’s very interesting and so far I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the formulation of our modern view of the universe. The book has a lot of historical information on scientists and theories which is one of my favourite things to learn in science. I like to learn about how scientists came to discover things about the universe; the poor judgements, the brilliant moments of clarity.

Pulling into Vulcan was hilarious because the town is very heavily Star Trek themed. Pulling into town they have a massive starship Enterprise with plaques written in various Trek languages such as Klingon. The visitor center is designed like a starship but looks creepily like a new-age cult’s headquarters. The pharmacy in town has a huge mural of all of the doctors from the Star Trek seasons. “Jim, man, this man’s dying of lurgee! Five lurgees!” –Eddie Izzard

We drove to Will’s apartment and watched some TV before bed. I’m still feeling sick, but fingers crossed this is the last day.


p.s. My cross-country beard is coming along nicely. Well, scraggly as all hell, but that’s nice enough for me.