No blog postings these past two weeks. I have been doing what miners do: working on mines. I have been doing what geotechnical engineers do: travelling to sites to see the soils & rocks. I have been doing what consultants do: going to far-away places to see, think, and advise.
Most of what I have done is confidential and the miners I have worked with would be offended if I wrote about what we did and decided. Nevertheless I can write about the peripheral, those things that I saw and heard away from the mine that are fascinating. Here are a few of them.
I have seen nature in the raw. In the far north of Canada I saw a solitary fox skittishly scamper from our view. The fox was lean and golden. He looked us in the eyes as he deliberated to stay or flee, and then with a fast foot fled to the vast rocky landscape and out of sight.
In Whistler, where we gathered for a weekend of pleasure and mining talk, I rode around the town and down to a beautiful lake. As I came around the corner, three Frenchmen gesticulated. I understood not a word, and sought to continue until one shouted “There is a bear.” I looked the big brown bear in the eyes. She seemed unperturbed by us, and merely continued on her way to the bench where I had planned to sit and admire the scene. The Frenchmen blathered on about “staying together.” I took no heed, but turned my bike around and rode away as fast as my old legs would peddle.
In a casino in Reno I took a solitary dinner of steak and wine. Into the Steak House came three people who provided entertainment enough to make the meal memorable. He was old and large and was wearing silver slippers. His shirt and trousers were black of poor quality material and cut. With him were two young ladies of great ugliness. He introduced them to a fellow who paid tribute at his table as Candy andChina.
Candy was thin and pale. Her face was drawn and her white, bleached hair was straggly. She clung to silver sippers in desperation and drank only water. China was of full bosom and wore a black, low-cut dress that revealed all including the straps of her underwear. She drank the wine freely and chatted with constant repetition of the word “Like.” Just like those uneducated folk who need to punctuate their sentences with the word like, just like it was a call to listen to their vacuous chatter.
Next evening, we drank a beer and watched the TV tell of a plane crash and eight dead. My beer-companion had been invited to the air show and missed it only because we had to visit a local mine. He fretted about possible dead friends who had attended the air show. I escaped to the buffet to blot out the horror of the plane crash and the boarded-up IHOP that was kitty corner from the hotel in Carson. Five had died in that IHOP when four law-enforcement men were shot by a Hispanic as I was told.
In Fort McMurrayI dined with the best blogger in the town (see adjacent blog roll.) We chatted about the practice and pleasure of blogging and the fun of the responses elicited.
I travelled to a diamond mine and ate the bland food in the canteen while we speculated on new potash mines that would offer the chance to move to sunny southern climes away from the fresh snow where the tundra is not yet red with fall and the onset of winter.
I endured twelve flights in the past two weeks. Vast spans of time as you put yourself into a sort of trance and stand in utter patience to pass through security and to endure the inane questions of twenty-year old immigration officials/kids asking ‘Where have you been? Why did you go? Any cigarettes or alcohol?” Damn them! Of course. As much as I can smuggle to avoid the unfair prices of BC.
Then there were the clients. Lawyers of smartness and intelligence so penetrating that they caught on to the engineering issues faster than some of the engineers. There were the sad scientists still fighting battles won and lost three years ago. Come on guys, come to the present and deal with reality. You can win if you fight new battles and forget old successes.
There were those casual encounters with beautiful women. The geologist in the seat besides me on the plane. She was coming for a weekend with her boyfriend doing a masters at UBC. I tried to persuade her to do a masters in mining engineering, telling her that the mining industry is changing and women will be in charge in twenty years, and she would be but fifty years old in twenty years time. There was the forty-year old in the wine bar of a generic airport who writes proposals for a construction company serving the oil sands mines. There was the lithe ginger-headed environmental scientist who drove the big SUV fast around tight bends and talked of beavers who dammed the stream and thus induced failure of the vast landslide above the stream. There was the tough gal who sat on a log as we chatted about the bears in the surrounding woods and about her ambitions to run mines. With her I felt at ease and peppered my talk with swearing and other colourful language. “You cut me up,” she said.
The lady, who charged me $20 to have one bag sent through, said she was sorry for me when I moaned about the fact that it would take another twenty to process the baggage charge. Why is the name of logic do airlines charge twenty dollars for a single bag when my client has paid one thousand for the plane tickets?
Then there was the rather dumb broad from Hawaii at the rental car agency who chatted interminably and tired to get me to take satellite radio and GPS that I declined. She charge me none-the-less, for I could not get it through to her that I wanted neither and could not even claim to be able to use either. I tried to get her to tell me why any one would leave the islands to go to the desert. “For adventure,” she ventured.
There were the hotels that brag about fast internet connections. They lie, as the absence of blog posting attests: I could not get internet access fast enough to post. The fact that my computer let the virus-protection program run wild and take over the computer did not help.
Finally, let me remark that on the drive up to Whistler, I saw fat old men, fatter and older than me ride the 120 km inspired me to train for next year’s ride. The only sad part was to see about fifteen riders already returning toVancouver. All in white these fifteen twenty-somethings were the essence of youth and power. Effortlessly riding fast back toVancouver from Whistler they brought back memories of a time when all was easy and physical activity merely elicited adrenaline peace. I tired to recall their power physicality as I plodded the hills of the mine to see the failure of a reclamation scheme that I have to opine on. I would rather be twenty, ignorant, and powerful enough to ride with those fifteen.