Saturday, October 4, 2008

A week in Ft. McMurray Canada

I spent this last week in Ft. McMurray Canada teaching a private custom WLAN Class to a bunch of fine folks from Syncrude at the Keyano College campus. This BOOMTOWN of a place is rapidly growing by leaps and bounds! Currently over 75,000 people call this place home... in addition tens of thousands of 'contract' workers come up and work on construction projects that are going on. Over 7 Billion in construction projects just this year!Trucks are everywhere! Big trucks, little trucks, construction trucks, haul trucks... for those of you who love trucks... this is Truck Heaven!

The town was initially a trading post for the Hudson's Bay company back in the late 1800s where the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers joined up on their way North to the Artic Ocean. (Kind of weird to me watching a river head North...)

The elevation here is only 850' or so - so today on my way home I'll head 'up to Utah'... but actually 1200 miles dues South of here.

Today the main industry around here is the mining and extraction of oil from the Oil Sands in the land around here. Over 300 billion barrels of oil in the ground up here! Surpassing even Saudi Arabia's oil reserves.

This place is in the middle of a 'Taiga' or 'Boreal' forest... a band of forest that wraps around the world at these lattitudes covering Northern Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia, and the lower part of Alaska. There are trees EVERYWHERE!
I also learned about 'muskeg' - the soft spongy lowland swamps that exist all over this area. I wondered about that term from watching the 'Escape from the Barrens' movie the kids used to watch.

In this economy houses are selling at a premium... scary high premium... A 35 year old single-wide trailer for $300,000... a little tiny 'house' with tiny yard... $640,000. No wonder jobs around here have to pay so much. Just working at McDonalds or Pumping Gas pays $18 to $22 per hour. Not bad for kids who still live at home. Its such a temptation many kids are dropping out of high school just to hold down two jobs and have lots of cash to play with.
One afternoon after class I went on my 'recoinoiter' kind of drive out in the areas around the city, and while on a little dirt road trying to find a place to turn around I came across this fox who stopped and looked at me.This place must get very cold in the winter... look at all the parking stalls have electrical outlets for engine warmers. I hear it has long periods of -40... brrrr.Though this is still in North America, and only some 1,200 miles North of Utah... my flight up here cost much more than even travelling to Europe. This 'boomtown' is hard to get to. I barely made it here on Sunday when the AirCanada portion of the flight from Calgary to Ft. McMurray was oversold... and if it wasn't for a nice man who got up out of his seat to let me have it... I would have been driving up the 12 hours from Calgary to Ft. McMurray.

But now I'm on my way home... yea!

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