August 16, 2004

SD to ND to Edmonton, Alberta

 August 18.  Pierre SD to Minot ND.

A good afternoon and night rest brought us back to normal.    Today we toured the State House in Pierre.   It is an architectural triumph, especially considering that it was built in 1910, when the West was primitive if no longer Wild.    The exterior is domed like the USA Capitol, but smaller.   The inside is spectacularly ornate, with floors of imported tile, Italian marble, and appropriate statuary. 

Here I am seated in the Senate President's chair
The basement walls were lined with photos of previous governors, whose names mostly indicated their Scandinavian origins.

Then we drove north to the capital and capitol of the other Dakota, the North one.    This capitol was built in 1930, so not surprisingly is 18 floors of art deco.   Here the basement walls were lined with photographs of famous North Dakotans, of whom I can remember only Angie Dickinson and Lawrence Welk and Theodore Roosevelt.   The legislative chambers were locked.

Outside, the flowered grounds were beautiful.   A statue of Sacajawea reminded us of how crucial that 16-year-old mother was to our country's history.

The weather, road, and our condition
were all excellent, so we continued to Minot for the night.

TECHNOLOGY:   This year, this trip, we've been coping with things that are complicated on the way to making life simpler... maybe.   Our first digital camera is a marvel, and finally seems to be OK after 3 trips back to the Kodak factory.   Our palm-size GPS has an amazing number of functions, and shows nearly all the roads we travelled in Latin America and are about to travel in the sub-Arctic, and will work even better after I reverse a few surprise enhancements installed by my grandson.   Our Corolla has amazing electronic refinements new to us, for safety and monitoring and entertainment, and we hope backwoods mechanics can make any necessary repairs.   This afternoon (August 19) we realized that we couldn't reach our reserved room in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, before darkness and exhaustion set in, and we wouldn't get to a phone booth before the 4 PM cancellation deadline, so we were surprised and pleased that we were able to cell phone to an 800 number and get our reservation changed to Regina.    I (Dick) am making slow progress in mastering the alleged simplicities of this Apple Powerbook 15" G4 laptop, and this evening received an email from Apple saying its battery could be dangerous, and to arrange to have it replaced right away.    Free, but under the circumstances not possible.

ECONOMICS:   We've read that the USA Great Plains are losing population, because young people don't like prairie life, and because farms are being consolidated into ever bigger ones.   Local farmers told us the same thing.    That's like Walmart and its technological efficiencies killing off smaller businesses.   Our 2 day drive from I-90 north to the Trans-Canada Highway have been on zigzag 2-lane roads, through small or tiny towns where shuttered businesses remind one of old Route 66.   Therefore it was a surprise to see the apparent greater prosperity on the Canadian side.    Big shiny new hi-tech grain silos, construction activity, long trains all indicate Canadians are having better luck with their share of the Great Plains.   The many oil rigs on their side of the border contributed to the difference. 

SCENERY:    All the above makes our trip over nearly flat country a lot more interesting than one might think.    Through North Dakota we drove for miles with yellow sunflowers on the left smiling at us and the rising sun, while on the right they all had their backs to us.

WEATHER: A strong northwest wind has blown for days, so steady that the wings of a landing cropduster did not wobble.   During our night in Regina the temperature went below freezing, damaging a lot of crops.   It is sobering to realize that this is mid-August, and we will be far to the north a month closer to winter.    Until an hour before Edmonton the weather was beautiful for us tourists, which means the long term drought in middle America continues.    Since that rain it has been overcast, cool, and damp.

We are in the Mayfield Hotel in Edmonton for 2 nights.   Either the city has grown a lot since we were here in 1996, or our brains have shrunk, or both.   However, the Edmonton (indoor) Mall, where we shopped and ate today used to be the world's largest, but is no longer.

August 21.   For the next 7 days we probably will be out of touch with phone or Internet.   Three days north to Yellowknife, capital of the province of Northwest Territories, 2 nights there, and two and a half days southwest to Fort Nelson, British Columbia, on the Alaska Highway.   Yellowknife to Fort Nelson is 600 miles, half of it on a gravel road opened in 1984.    Until then the Indian (Acho Dene) villages where we will stay were quite isolated, and even now many of the people use many of the old ways, like trapping, say our books. 


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