Sunday, June 13, 2010

The spring that never arrived

Took a little day trip to Vancouver the other week. It's a great boat ride over, through all the islands. They let us old codgers ride for free during the week, and I've been meaning to check out the new rapid transit line that goes from Richmond to downtown. You still have to get on a bus at the ferry but it's no longer necessary to transfer to another bus at the Ladner exchange. Instead the bus continues on to the Bridgeport Road station where you board the Canada Line for downtown. The train crosses over the Fraser River and on the other side plunges underground, and I did not see the sky again until I emerged from the bowels of the earth at Granville and Georgia. Time to there from the Bridgeport station, 20 minutes. The cars are much bigger than the Skytrain cars. On the other hand, the view from the sky train is much better. It was a grey day when I went over, but warm. Oh, and by the way, you can now purchase all day transit passes on the ferry at the news counter. They are $7.00 for seniors and students and good for the whole system.
It started out as another grey day this Sunday in Victoria. Over the past three months we have been lucky to get two nice days in a row. It was beautiful yesterday and it looks to be beautiful again today, so maybe the interminable wait for spring is over... just a week before summer is due.
I've been reasonably happy without much money, having chosen somewhere along the line not to devote any more time than necessary to its acquisition. The way I see it, you either have time and no money or money and no time. I chose time. But sometimes I do get wistful. For instance, it would be so much simpler if I could just pop down to the car dealer and buy something fresh from the factory. But I can't.
At any rate, I've been busy looking for a new old vehicle- this time a van with room to sleep in so I can do some travelling in the fall. Buying a used vehicle is like walking through a mine field. You never know when some innocent looking bit will blow up on you. You can minimize the risk by buying an almost new unit, but that doesn't guarantee that the transmission/starter/alternator, etc. won't pack it in when you are trying to make it up a steep grade in Yellowstone, a hundred miles from the nearest mechanic. And the trouble with newer machinery is that it is vastly more complex- and expensive to fix- than that of years gone by. And I don't know if it's any better. I used to have a 1975 Dodge pickup with a slant six and a three speed column mounted transmission. No matter how much I loaded it down it would get 20 mpg. Mind you, it wouldn't win a drag race with a wheelchair, but so what. It did what sensible and honest engineers designed it to do, and it did it well. My ideal would be to find a Dodge van with the same configuration, but that's hopeless. They stopped making those years and years ago.
In order to comply with environmental and safety rules, cars have become heavier and their innards have become more complex. That means it takes more power to move them, ie more fuel to do the same amount of work. That means replacement parts are very expensive. That means they are beyond the expertise of your decent back yard mechanic. It now takes more and more elaborate engineering solutions, like the Prius, to achieve the same kind of mileage achieved by any little econobox of the eighties. I think it's very strange that a car powered in part by a battery made of a large chunk of toxic metal should be considered some sort of environmental triumph. But that's environmentalism for ya. Like those curly light bulbs filled with toxic mercury.
To my surprise I did find a vintage van that I hope will deliver an honest 30 mpg on the highway while doubling as a comfortable bed at night. Not one of those old Dodges, though, sorry to say. It's a Toyota that seems to be very well looked after and I'm hoping for the best. Hope I don't find out I was wrong on one of those long grades in Yellowstone, but then I didn't pay a whole lot of money for it either.
A lot of things have been happening in the old town the last few weeks. Last weekend it was the Oak Bay Tea Party, which I missed, and a bike race downtown. This weekend it's the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Navy. Several other navies have ships in port to help mark the occasion, including ships from France, Britain, Australia, Japan, and of course our next door neighbour, the good old USA. It's largely thanks to the Americans that we have had an era without major conflicts in the last half of the century. Their control of the sea lanes has made it possible for world trade to flourish and has discouraged the many dictators around the world from carrying out their ambitions. I have been on an aircraft carrier- just as a visitor- of another era, and even then carriers were an awesome symbol of military power. The Ronald Reagan trumps the old Oriskany many fold. I wonder if the Iranian leadership has the slightest inkling that the weaponry on this one ship could destroy their country. In a day. But of course that doesn't matter to them because they expect the Mahdi to appear any day to bring in a new era and the destruction of the old. And all good Shi ites need not fear death because they are assured of a place in heaven.
I am hoping the present world order holds out long enough for me to take my little sentimental journey this fall.

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