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Hunting Wild Houses

May 25th, 2004  · stk

Well, it's official, we're moving to Edmonton. Rachel has decided to accept the University of Alberta's Nursing School slot, so look out Santa ... here we come!

We drove to Edmonton for as house-hunting/camping trip and have booked the moving van for Jun 17th. It took us 3 driving days to get to Edmonton (camping east and west of Jasper National Park). It was a beautiful drive and along the way, we saw a bunch of deer, 9 elk, 2 bears and a moose. Unfortunately, the Oop missed out on the animals because she was strapped into her carrier, facing backwards, and either sleeping, playing with toys, or staring blankly at the roof of the automobile. She was a great traveler, happy to be out of her car-seat, but not complaining while she was strapped-in.

For those keeping score at home this move will be our second of 2004 and our sixth since January 1st, 2003!

We know very little about Alberta and Edmonton, so Scott researched both on the 'net and constructed a write-up on each. To learn more about Alberta [click here]. For more information regarding Edmonton [click here].

Rachel had been to Edmonton 3 times previously, as this was home for Patti, Rachel's friend who was battling cancer until just recently. Rachel described it as, "flat and cold." Scott wasn't really sure what to expect, this being his first time there. Maybe Innuit would be building igloos off the main drag?

We were out of the Rockies, having passed through Jasper National Park, and about 90 km from Edmonton. The terrain was quite hilly and for the most-part, covered with Aspen and Conifers. What wasn't tree-covered, was cleared for farming and the scenery was beautiful. Alfalfa-covered fields looking almost like clearings, lakes and trees as far as the eye could see. Scott asked if this is what Edmonton looked like and Rachel replied to the affirmative. (Having lived in Dallas, Scott thought flat meant FLAT, but was pleased to discover that Edmonton even has ski runs in-town - granted, they're just down a single hill, but to even have a HILL meant that it wasn't flat!)

We camped on the outskirts of town and contemplated moving campgrounds, to one inside city limits (yes, they even have campgrounds INSIDE the city. Not trailer parks, but actual campgrounds, complete with streams, hiking trails, pine trees, etc.) NICE! The only reason we didn't move, was because we found a place to live straight away, even though it was Victoria Day (the Canadian holiday that precedes the American Memorial Day holiday by a week). Actually, we ended up renting the VERY FIRST place we looked at.

It took us a day to get our bearings. Edmonton is divided in half by the (large) Saskatchewan River. The University of Alberta is located near the city center, almost on the south bank of the river. Originally, we had been told, by Patti's sisters, to concentrate on the south side of town because it would be an easier commute to campus. So that's what we did, but without much success. There are lots of high-rises and apartments very close to campus and we didn't want that, we were hoping to find a duplex or rental home. The neighborhoods near the campus looked exactly like what we wanted: older homes in various states of renovation (and decay), quiet streets, plenty of rentals, etc. The only problem was that most rented out the top floor (tenants in the basement), individual rooms, or was too expensive. We were going to look further south, but first, thought it best to find a bus-route map, because we wanted to live near to a bus-route heading to campus.

Getting the bus-route map opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities. There was a LRT (Light-Rail Transport) that opened up the northeast and a couple bus lines went to the western part of the city, all across the river. We tried calling on a number of places in these new areas and finally connected with Ron, whose wife, Laura, was just showing their rental home in the northeast. He said that he'd return our call after she returned, but he never did. Because it was the long weekend, we were having difficulty setting up appointments to see rentals. Either the owners weren't home and we had to leave messages, or we connected to management companies who were closed for the holiday. We were eager to start looking, so Scott urged Rachel to call Ron and ask if we could view their place. Rachel spoke with Laura on the second call and no, she didn't mind returning to the rental to show it to us.

Well, we found the house in less than 25 minutes (even though Edmonton is a big city, it seems to be fairly easy to move around and isn't nearly as congested as Vancouver ... perhaps because it is spread out a lot more). We viewed the house, a two-story affair which was built in 1957. It has a big back yard (complete with a swing-set for the growing Oop), and a detached, single garage (and most importantly - it's INSULATED!). The house shows it's age, the kitchen isn't the greatest and the bathroom comes complete with some horrid blue fixtures, but ... it has FOUR bedrooms (two upstairs, one on the main floor and one in the finished basement). The first floor is home to the older kitchen, with a pass-thru counter to a separate dining room, a good-sized living room, a bedroom (that we're thinking will be the "office") and the full bath (oddly situated off the kitchen). The second floor has two LARGE bedrooms and that's it. The finished basement holds another bedroom, the utility room (washer, dryer, furnace, a whole-house vacuum and a not-too-private toilet), a cold-room/storage area and a HUGE game room. To say that we 'fell in love' with the place is a bit of an over-statement, but at $800 CAD per month, we thought it was within our price range and would fit our needs nicely. It had everything we were looking for: three bedrooms, a shop, nice neighborhood, easy access to the UofA and fit within our budget. (Rachel's commute to school consists of a block and a half walk down to the main drag, a short bus-ride to the LRT and then the LRT across the river and straight onto the campus).

The best part is that we really enjoyed the landlords. We got to meet both Ron, Laura and their 9-year-old daughter (who fell in love with the Oop, babysitting her while we browsed through the house). We met up with them again, the next day, to give them the damage deposit and have a second look at the place (mentally figuring out where we'd put our various belongings). We headed straight back to Vancouver, driving straight through and are now busy trying to get our affairs organized so we can move on June 17th. On the long return trip, we saw lots of deer, some Big Horn sheep, elk and evidence of beaver, but no bear.

What timing! After our return, Rachel was accepted to the University of Calgary. (The University of British Columbia hasn't even really BEGUN their application review and we probably won't know about Rachel's standing with them till the end of JULY! By that time, we will be settled into our Edmonton home, ready for the start of the semester in early September). We're happy with our choice. The cost of living in Edmonton is much less than in B.C. and while the thought of living closer to the mountains (Calgary) appealed to us, it's doubtful with Rachel going to school full-time and year-round, that we'd get as much time to enjoy them as we'd like.

We don't have any pictures from inside the house (we were too busy looking around). You'll just have to come up and visit! (With four bedrooms ... we actually have a guest room now, unless Scott commandeers that room too, for some project or another.)

So ... we're off to Edmonton, Alberta.

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Topsy-Turvey: An Update

May 3rd, 2004  · stk

Family News (Short Version)

New Abode: It's our first move of 2004, but our fifth since Jan 1st, 2003! We've moved out of our little coach-house, boxed our belongings, left out only what is necessary, stored the rest, and are (once again) house-sitting the Pilley residence while they are away to England. It won't be for 5 months, this go-round, but only for a month or two. We've said it before and we'll say it again, "Moving sucks!" (but house-sitting is easy on the old wallet)! We think that Scott fractured his right thumb during the move (what a klutz)! We're now ensconced in the main house and busy updating our site from the 3rd floor office.

Trip to CA: Before we began boxing, hauling, stacking and carting ... we took a 1,200-mile trip down to northern California to visit Scott's folks at their ranch. It was a long trip, especially for tiny Alex. We left at 3:30 in the morning (so Oop could sleep). We crossed the border with nary a problem and drove and drove and drove and drove. (Okay, we stopped for breakfast at a Denny's and lunch at a Burger King ... Alex needed to get out of her car seat and Mom needed a fried potato fix). She was quite the little trooper (not one tear shed). We had a wonderful time at the R2 ranch. Grandma and Grandpa Kimler fell in love with their little granddaughter. What's NOT to love? She's such a happy baby, such an EASY baby! Below are some snaps from that visit.

Alex rode a swing for the first time, at the Pilley house, only day's before we left for California. She enjoyed swinging SO much, that at the last minute, we tossed the Pilley toddler swing in the back of the van. We're glad we brought it along, as she just had a ball, swinging under the patio at the R2 ranch. (We're a tad concerned that if she likes swinging at this young age, that Alex might grow up to be an 'adrenalin junkie').

While at the R2 ranch, Alex was introduced to a variety of farm animals. While she can growl like a bear, she hasn't learned the fine art of mooing like a cow. She got plenty of instruction from the big beef cows on the ranch, who - despite their size - were far more afraid of Alex, than she was of them.

Tricky Tranny: As easy as the drive down to California was, the drive back was even easier ... that is, until we got to Seattle. We stopped to spend the night with our Big Ride friend Dave (and his super girlfriend, Karen). The next morning, when we got into our van to come home ... NO POWER in ANY GEAR! Tranny GONE! We had to have the vehicle towed (thanks Dave, for having the premium AAA membership) to a garage across town. We hopped on a bus to Vancouver and managed to get home around 7pm. It was a looooonnngg day and (AGAIN) the Oop was terrific. (Even managed to make friends with several of the bus passengers with her quick smile and perky demeanor). Our van, on the other hand, is on our #%@#-list. Cost of repair? $2,675.00 So much for our "bargain" used car!! (A reminder to ourselves: NEVER, NEVER-EVER buy a used car off a lot.)

Moving Again: Oop's Canadian tour is now on hold. Van isn't powerful enough to tow the old fold-up camper. Neither Mom nor Dad can imagine car-camping for that length of time. Plans are up in the air. Rachel has not yet heard from the University of Calgary, but expects an acceptance letter any day now. We're leaning toward the University of Alberta (Edmonton) anyway. Perhaps we'll take a drive out to look for a new place, so that we can get settled before the term starts in early September.

Oop @ 7 Months: Hard to believe that our little girl is now 7 months young. Dad baked her a 1/2 birthday cake on her 6th-month "birthday". (It was a double-layer, half-circle vanilla-chocolate cake. It was quite cute and admired by all). Oop had her first taste of 'cake' and decided it was PRETTY GOOD! In fact, Alex liked it so much that she thought every fork-full should end up in HER mouth. None for the commoners, only the princess!

She's now gotten the hang of "solid" food and her repertoire includes: (pureed) peas, apples, bananas, carrots, rice cereal, oatmeal cereal, and various tidbits gleaned from the plate when mom and dad aren't looking! Oh yes, and CAKE! The BIG news for little Alex is, however, that she's MOBILE! We can't claim "crawling" yet, but it's a squirmy, rolling, pushing and pulling bundle of energy that knows no bounds. She's had a couple of disasters (pulling things down on top of herself), which result in tearful crying fits, but they don't dampen her spirit of adventure (5 minutes later she's off and into new things). We've now got our HANDS FULL!!

Gran Pilley gave Alex a "jolly jumper" for her half-birthday. What a wonderful gift (for BOTH Alex and her parents)! "Thanks, Gran," Alex says, bouncing between the door of the bathroom and the kitchen (darn near the only place in the house the bloody thing hangs from, because of the way the doorways are constructed). She growls, bounces and coos ... keeping herself happy and entertained for long periods of time. A great baby-sitter.

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The Medan Bus

May 8th, 1986  · stk

My first post in the "hisstory" category, this article discusses the road hazards one might come across in the Aceh Province of northern Sumatra, in Indonesia. I supervised two remote jungle seismic crews (over 1000 men on each crew) for two years, from 1985-1987, while working for Mobil Oil Indonesia. I kept a journal of my experience and am finally getting around to getting some of it posted.

Driving Hazards of Northern Sumatra
Both Real & Imagined

About This Article

 mobil oil logo

For two years, from 1985 to 1987, Scott worked for the Field Operations Group for Mobil Oil, based out of Jakarta, Indonesia. He was the company geophysicist, working in the remote jungle region of the Aceh Province, at the northern tip of Sumatra, supervising two helicopter-supported, remote-jungle seismic crews. Each crew was made up of over 1,000 men. During this time, a National Geographic photographer visited and some of those photos are included in the August, 1989 National Geographic article "The Quest for Oil".

This journal entry was made during Scott's first 2-month tour (Scott worked a 2-month "on", 1-month "off" schedule and when he was "on" he worked from 6 AM till 6 PM, 7 days a week.

The journal topic for tonight is "Driving Hazards".

There are many driving hazards in northern Sumatra (Note: I am only talking about the driving hazards in the countryside. So far, I have little experience driving on the roadways of Indonesian cities, but from the little bit I have experienced - it's a constant hazard! Avoid city driving if you can!).

We have paid drivers that do all our driving for us. This is mostly keep us foreigners out of trouble. If an accident occurs, no matter who is at fault, all fingers (by mutual agreement) point to the "orang puti" (white man). He is the one with the most money! The police will back-up this policy. (Graft is alive and well).

Sometimes it's nice to have drivers, but it is hard to be a passenger in a car when you're sitting in the drivers seat! (Indonesians drive on the left-hand side of the road and because of this, most steering wheels are on the right side of the vehicle. "On the passenger's side," is where I describe the location of the steering wheel, to all those that will listen.) As a passenger, I am always - out of habit - trying to sit on the passenger's side of the vehicle, which is the driver's seat in Indonesia. All of our drivers think this is really funny.

Aceh Road Hazards

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