Thursday, February 28, 2013

No rest for the weary

It's been a busy week since returning home. Work has been non-stop, with reviews, reports, and projects aplenty. I've only partially unpacked, and everything is strewn about my living room. I've been going to work later than normal so I can sleep a little extra, but by the time I get home I'm wiped and don't have the energy to tackle what needs to get done. The good news is that all this laying around means I can work on going through my photos and getting things posted, always a tedious task after any trip. This year, I found that I took fewer photos because I had the GoPro running through the most interesting stretches. And until the last few days, most of the scenery just wasn't all that interesting. So my job is a little easier this time.

The first thing I wanted to tackle was the time lapse of the ferry ride from Newfoundland. I tried GoPro's software and was getting an error after the conversion step. Nothing seemed out of place, as all of the files had images with them, and you could even watch the time lapse within the software, but trying to export it in any way caused a crash. After a day, I gave up on that route and figured my fancy new copy of Photoshop must be able to help.  I found a tutorial somewhere and followed along, but found I could only add 1000 photos at a time, and then I was still having issues getting it into a video. Worse, my brand new high-power laptop was maxing out and having all kinds of issues. Then I realized I was following a tutorial for an older version of PS, so I found one for PS6, and had an easier time of loading all the photos. But there was still an issue somewhere and it told me there was a gap. Some more Googling (seriously, what did we do before that?) told me I should try renaming the files. Did a batch rename and before I knew it I had a complete, functional time lapse. I even had a song picked out, and popped that in, worked out the timing, and was exporting within minutes. This was a good learning exercise and will make my life easier in the future.

There are still hours and hours of other videos to go through. I'm not sure how I want to tackle those, either as separate videos for that day, or try to make some kind of compilation video combining all the videos and some photos. I think I have a song in mind for that, as well, but the task of putting it together is daunting. One clip I did get up was that one of us nearly hitting the plow on Esker road. It's not my smoothest work, but anytime someone stuffs a car in a snow bank it's entertaining.

So far I have up to Wednesday loaded on my Smugmug site, and may even get Thursday up tonight. That's good progress for me. Hell, I think I still have a day or two from last year's trip I never got around to uploading. You can view what I have so far here: Labrador photos.

Much like last year, I came back from this trip with a desire to do something greater with my life, and more importantly, to do a better job of strengthening the relationships I have. I do think I took that to heart last year and spent more time with my friends. If that means I have to be the organizer that tracks everyone down so be it, because in the end we're always glad to have spent the time together. This year, there were several people from CT on the trip, so there really is no excuse to not get together. I look forward to seeing what this year brings. I also hope to do a better job of updating the blog with the smaller outings I take. Maybe it will inspire you to explore what's around you :)


Monday, February 25, 2013

So who's going to clean this mess?

Sorry about the missing post yesterday, we were busy driving. The timing of the ferry meant that we were now 12 hours behind schedule, and had some catching up to do. I'm happy to say that I'm typing this from the comfort of my couch in Branford, and I'm eagerly awaiting sleeping in my bed tonight!

The second ferry ride was very, very different from the first, and even from my last time crossing this channel in 2006. After verifying that we weren't trying to start a black market Newfoundland potato farm with smuggled soil and potatoes, we pulled up to the dock to find what appeared to be a small cruise ship. Also of note was that this boat opened on both ends, meaning we didn't have to replicate the elaborate turning around and backing in process of the previous day. Not that it would have been a problem, as there was all of 20 cars on the boat, and 5 of them belonged to us.

Now that's a ferry!
When we got up to the main level, we were smacked in the face with luxury. Computer center? Check. Lounge complete with coffee and snack bar? Check. Gift shop? What ferry is complete without one? There was even a first-class reserved seating area whose lone passenger was kind enough to let us into to snap some pictures. I don't know what animal had to die to make those buttery-soft seats, but it can rest knowing it wasn't in vain. Not only did they recline, but they had a leg rest as well. Both lounges had multiple TVs, each tuned to a different channel that you could listen to ala airline headphone style. There was a second lounge that was closed for the season and we couldn't get into, plus a third one that was a smoothie/ice cream bar, also closed. Then there was the formal dining area, where we could get lunch. There were several options, but I went with one last taste of cod since I figured it would be cooked properly and finally wasn't fried. We were all rather excited by the option of a side salad. Greens! Fresh, wonderful veggies! Plus it came with strawberry shortcake, complete with real whipped cream. There were two major disappointments: 1) Where the hell was all of this when I was stuck there for 32 hours the last time? and 2) The bar would not be opening.
I'm pretty sure these are made with unicorn, they're that awesome.

Dessert is part of the meal!
There was a seating area with a great view ahead of us, so we commandeered a few tables and chairs and quickly mounted our GoPro's. I went with a full time-lapse of the voyage, Blaine shot a time-lapse in facing our table, and Ben moved his around several times. As soon as I can figure out how to speed up the time-lapse and output it, I'll post it, but so far it looks cool.

Blaine and Ben set up their equipment
It was smooth sailing with not much to look at for a long while, but then we started getting into the ice again. This time I got by a window early and was rewarded with a few seal spottings. Soon, though, the ice thickened and there was less and less water visible. The ship didn't even slow down. Clearly, this was a heftier hull than the previous day, as this was the same type of ice that delayed us as we steered around it. This boat just plowed on through, creating some interesting sounds as the bergs banged and ground against the hull. It was really impressive, but most locals said this was an unusually warm winter and the ice wasn't nearly what it should be. I can't even imagine a normal year!

Proving it's what's below the ice you should worry about. Look how big it is!
One of 3 bald eagles spotted
20 hours on boats and these are all the seals I get to see
Before docking we said a few goodbyes as some of us would be driving on while others would get rooms somewhere. Ross was able to book a flight home and found a hotel near the airport, several hours away. All of 5 minutes after leaving the boat, of all people, Dave got tagged for speeding. Blaine and I were in front of him and saw the cop driving in the other direction turn on his lights, wait for traffic to clear, and swing around to catch up. It was a bit of a trap as they pegged him on an uphill in the passing lane as we went around a semi. Thankfully, they let him go with a stern warning and a message to his friends that Nova Scotia wouldn't tolerate that kind of driving. Yeah, I'll keep that in mind.

There were some gas and bathroom stops, and then Ross, Brian, and Sarah left us. While the remaining cars were all heading in the same direction, they indicated they were stopping for coffee, and frankly I just wanted to get a move on at that point. So we took off, and embarked on a very boring drive through New Brunswick. Driving in the pitch black with no other cars and nothing but the road lines is a sure fire way to nod off at the wheel, and soon I was getting very sleepy. Thankfully, Blaine woke from his nap just in time to start talking, which perked me up a bit. We also reached St. John's, and there were finally other things to look at. Just before the border we swapped seats again, as he knew the roads home well. The guard seemed like she was going to give us a hard time, but eventually let us through and we took off, just 3 hours until we were at his house.

About an hour in, we hit some black ice and called the other group to warn them. We were shocked to hear they were just crossing the border at that point. They had fallen behind quite a bit, and I was glad for having not hung around as we were both exhausted and couldn't deal with an extra hour on the road. Blaine knew every bump and twist in the road and got us back with ease around 3 am. We didn't even bother to bring anything in, we just walked in the door and crawled into bed. Unfortunately, my stupid internal timer went off at 6:30, so on not much sleep, I loaded my car and headed home. It was an easy drive and I was back by early afternoon. Just enough time to order a pizza for lunch! Oh, it was so wonderful having flavor again! I shared it with Maggie, who was thrilled to hear about the trip. Feeling an exhaustion migraine coming on, I left and headed to the chiro. After an adjustment, I went up to my parents where I was "greeted" by a suspicious Ruthie. When I hopped into bed, she curled up right next to me, and I knew I had been missed. I woke up to the smell of sauce, and dinner was waiting. Another good meal in me, I showed them some pictures and gave them their maple goods, and managed to grab Ruthie for a return home. The house is a disaster, but I'll tackle it a little at a time. It will take a few days to catch up on sleep, especially since I have to jump right back into work tomorrow. Plus there's the arduous task of uploading pictures and figuring out what to do with all this video. Welcome home, Annette.
Hi mom. I'm going to eat you in your sleep.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I'm on a boat!

Today I learned that me and ferries just aren't a good combination. We knew we had a tight schedule to begin with, but there was a chance we would dock in time and get down to Port aux Basques to catch the second ferry, scheduled to depart at 11pm. I kind of had a feeling it wasn't going to happen, but no guts no glory.

The first indication of trouble was when we left dock 53 minutes late. But an hour was still within the realm of possibility, so we didn't worry too much. Then we noticed there was a bit of ice in the water. It wasn't very long before we were hearing murmurs from the locals that we would be delayed. At this point it was time to start thinking of contingency plans. Plan A: We dock and there's even a glimmer of hope of catching the next boat, so we Cannonball Run it to Port aux Basques. Plan B: We know we can't make the boat and have to catch the morning ferry. Do we stay in Corner Brook and get up early, or drive down tonight through some rough areas, but take it easy in the morning?

When you're stuck on a ferry for any length of time, there are only a few options to prevent insanity: Sleep, walk around, play a game, or watch whatever is on the one tv in the lounge. I went outside briefly to get some pictures while in port during sunrise. Then the brutal wind and cold got annoying, so I went in and took a nap. After that, it was back outside. Basically, Ben, Carl, and I spent pretty equal amounts of time in and out of the cabin. 

I don't entirely remember when, but at some point we went outside and were standing just below the bridge. I'm not sure if we were supposed to be there, the gate leading to it was closed, but there wasn't a sign telling us to stay out. We did notice them coming over to the window and looking at us and Carl commented on how much he really wanted to go in there. Finally, we turned around to head back inside, and all of a sudden a guy appears behind us and asks if we want to have a look around. Um, yes please!

Inside was pretty much what you'd expect, but it was still cool to look at all the instruments and charts. They weren't entirely chatty, but they weren't rude. Any question we had they were happy to answer. But most of the questions came from them about our cars. They really can't believe those little cars can handle that terrain, but they were rather excited about the horsepower and mileage. We were also informed that the ship would definitely be docking late, probably around 9 or 10, after our cut-off. After a while the inevitable question came: Could we mount our GoPros there? Sure! We practically ran back to grab our gear. Several others heard what what going on and followed us back. I made sure to ask before just barging in with 6 people, but they didn't seem concerned. However, in the five minutes since I'd left, it was a completely different mood. Suddenly we were in the ice again and there were four men in the windows looking for thick ice, with I assume the captain calling out headings to the man behind the wheel. I made a hasty retreat after setting up my camera, not wanting to disturb them while they tried to keep us from going Titanic. 


I don't see Ludicrous Speed
After that, a good chunk of time was killed with a disturbingly funny round of Cards Against Humanity. It was kind of surprising who the most shocking answers came from at times. A few of the locals were intrigued by our boisterous laughter and came over to see what was going on. We would show them a few cards, and every one of them broke out in a big grin and chuckled. The Newfies are not prudes, I'll give them that.

Around 8pm I ran up to grab my camera. I found it amusing and unsettling that they just didn't care about me letting myself in. Clearly security is a little different than back home. We still weren't near port, but it was pitch black so I wouldn't have been able to film anything anyway. It also appeared that while I had prepared the camera to do a time-lapse, I hit the video button instead so my memory card had gotten full at some point. We popped it into the laptop and I was relieved to find that it had stopped filming right after sunset. I have almost 4 hours of us just cutting through ice, which I'm very excited to go through. It occurred to me that since I had set up the camera inside the bridge, I picked up any conversations they'd had, including anything about us. The ole fly on the wall! So I will literally sit through all of this hoping to catch just one funny line.

In the end, we docked around 10, and I'm actually typing this in the car so that I can upload it as soon as we get to the hotel. It should take us about 2.5 hours to get there, and Ross called ahead to book rooms. They even transfered our ferry reservations, so everything is good to go in the morning. Once we get to Nova Scotia around 5, it's going to be a mad dash to Blaine's. He thinks we should get there around 5am. I'll sleep for a few hours and then head home, hopefully getting back in the evening. I miss my bed dearly, and I'll have to wait a day, but I'll be happy to see Ruthie again. More than anything, I want a giant salad and all the fruit I can find!

Imagine staring at that for 12 hours

Friday, February 22, 2013

No soup for you!

Today was an interesting one. I went to bed thinking I needed to get up and go snowmobiling. When I got to the dining room, Carl informed me that not only would there not be snowmobiling, as the guide's babysitter got sick, but we also wouldn't be going anywhere because the roads were closed. Awesome. Actually, I was pretty excited, as I loved the little hotel we were at and was kind of pleased with the idea of sitting around doing nothing all day. I had breakfast and we noticed people deicing the helicopter right outside the window. It was a good hour and a half of them prepping this thing, and during that time we decided to head to an eastern route, taking us to the easternmost road in continental North America. As we were ready to pull out, the helicopter took off. What is apparently a common occurrence there was a source of much amusement to us, and the cameras came out in force.

It wasn't much outside of town before we hung a left onto the Iceberg Alley. The roads here have such great names! It was obvious that the wind was whipping and we encountered some blowing snow along the way. But it was nothing compared to the frost-heaved, cratered road as far as hindering us. Finally, we came upon the town of St. Lewis, our destination. After getting sandblasted on an open plain taking pictures, we drove through town to check things out. We saw something called Main Rd and figured that would be a good place to head. It was a very steep slope of pure ice, and once one car lost momentum, several others required a restart from the bottom of the hill. Once we made it to the top, we were greeted by the wind, a stunning view of the bay below, and burning garbage. That's right, we found the town dump. In the middle of this pristine land, where there are signs everywhere telling you not to litter and do your part to keep Labrador beautiful, here was a man shoveling bags of garbage off his truck and lighting them on fire. Then he drove away. It was seriously the saddest thing I've seen.

Enjoy our stunning views!
Don't worry, the fire hazard is low today
 After that bit of depressingness we turned around and headed back to the hotel. Along the way we saw an oil truck going out of town. The driver was a guy we had spoken to at the hotel, and he was heading the same way we were. So when we saw the truck, we knew the road must be open again. At this point it was early afternoon and we knew it was a short-ish drive to the town we needed to get to. Apparently some people felt that a lunch break wasn't a good idea in case the road closed again, but honestly I think we could have. There were some drifts, but really the roads were fine and visibility was better than when we'd driven up the day before. However, it did provide us with some great sunset lighting over the gorgeous landscape. Today made up for yesterday's borefest and then some. It reminded me a lot of the road from Eagle Plains to Inuvik last year. Rolling hills, little to no trees, whipping winds, and massive snow banks!

We came across a guy clearing the road. He said he'd been working since Monday and hadn't been home in all that time. I guess that means I can't complain about storm duty at work anymore. He was more than happy to let us take pictures and check out his awesome snow-eating machine. Once we were frozen, we went on our way again. Eventually, we broke out of the plains and made it to the coast, and were greeted with more great vistas. Thankfully, we found asphalt again, which made driving much more comfortable. We found the B&B and learned that 3 people would have to stay in a separate cabin up the road. Carl, Blaine, and I took that option, and we're loving it. It's the most modern thing we've stayed in all trip, complete with kitchen, LCD flat-screen, two bedrooms, bathroom, and fold-out couch.

Taken while standing out of the sunroof. Yeah, it was a bit chilly.

Connecticut needed this thing after the blizzard
Before the sun totally set, we headed just outside town to find a big sign welcoming us to Newfoundland and Labrador. Took a few pictures and FINALLY were able to eat something. But not just anything! That's right, we finally found some caribou on the menu, along with bakeapple pie. Bakeapple is also called cloudberry, and as the name implies, is a berry, orange with large seeds like a black berry. It wasn't super sweet and I can't say it's my favorite, but they apparently love it up here. Also of note, Carl ordered the first-ever bacon poutine in Forteau Bay, Newfoundland. Because as we all know, bacon makes everything better.

Tomorrow is a 20 minute drive to the ferry, but we have to be there by 6am. Then it's a 12 hour ride to Corner Brook, Newfoundland, then a mad dash to Port aux Basque to catch the second ferry to Nova Scotia. If you recall, this is the ferry I got stuck on in 2006 for 32 hours. So do whatever happy sea dance you know and sacrifice something to Neptune, because I swear I'll jump overboard if I get stuck on this boat again!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

If it's not fun why do it?

Here's everything you need to know about today:

Just imagine that for 10 hours, and you've got it. It was mind-numbing. It also had me thinking that maybe this will be my last Arctic MINI drive. Last year just set the bar way too high as far as scenery and adventure. Whereas last year I was scaring myself on a daily basis and expanding my driving skills, this year I've pretty much set the cruise control and taken a nap. And when you have 10 hours of driving with nothing to look at, you'd hope to at least be driving in a spirited manner to keep your interest, but it's not happening. I really enjoy once we get to town and I can hang out and chat with everyone, so I think I just want to get the driving over with and start having fun.

I did get to have some delicious A&W today, even if I couldn't finish it all. But that root beer float really hit the spot! Unlike previous years, we haven't even seen a trace of caribou. There was a fox in the road today and loads of ptarmigan, but that's it on the wildlife front. Also of note were the occasional white-out conditions on the Trans-Lab. At least for a few moments I had to pay attention to what I was doing.

The hotel we're at is a welcome change from the previous few nights. The rooms are nothing special, but they're clean and the woman running it is just lovely. She was also running the kitchen, so our large group proved quite a task for her. But I don't think they get much traffic through here in the winter and they appreciated the money we brought in, enough so to bring us a round of beer from St. John's. It's made with iceberg water!

Here's a few other random shots from today. I stopped taking pictures after a while because there are only so many trees you can look at. I didn't have an option, but I won't subject you to the pain.

Carl fluffs his beard to look pretty for the camera
We think it was a silver tail fox
 Something about a camera makes people do stupid things:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Thanks for not being a stereotype!"

Today I woke up with one thing in mind: get the hell out of Fermont! Second on that list was tear across the 20k to Labrador City and go to the Horton's there. It's a sad state of affairs when you're excited about the food at a Tim's, but at least I know there was some form of health inspection there. As is typical, Ross had other plans in mind, and instead of the speedy escape from hell I'd hoped for, he took us on a tour of the city. Let's see, there was snow, a lot of snow, and a crap ton of snow. We even stopped at a snow mountain, an artificial mound that they build every winter with the excess snow from the town. The workers seemed awfully confused by the idiots in tiny cars watching them dump snow over a cliff. Then we saw a big truck. I guess it's a mining truck. I didn't bother to get out of the car to learn more, I just wanted some caffeine.
Did I mention how shady this place was?
Unless it was filled with coffee, I had zero interest.
 Finally we hit the road out of town and within minutes were over the border. The first thing you'll notice about the people of Labrador is that they speak English. The second thing you'll notice is that they're REALLY frigging friendly! We were pulling into a spot at the Horton's the same time as a guy coming from the other row. He saw us, waved us in, and just backed up into a different spot. People smiled and said hello and held doors for us. I didn't have to try to interpret things or use charades to order my food. It was wonderful! Also wonderful: my Bagel BELT. That's Bacon, egg, lettuce, and tomato, plus cheese, and dammit it was tasty! I started eating it so quickly, my deprived stomach couldn't keep up and it hit me like a ton of bricks. First cup of coffee in 3 days was also music to my brain.
So long, Queebs!
I saw this sign several places in Lab City. I guess the selling of cars is a big problem there.
Since we really didn't have far to drive, we decided to attempt a side route that headed toward Esker. It would take us the same latitude as Radisson, when we went to Hudson Bay, but there was no way of knowing if it had been plowed or not. We saw the turn off and figured we'd go until we couldn't. For some reason we let the RWD car take the lead, and we in the Landy followed. Brian looked like he was having lots of fun drifting around the bends. Right up until we nearly collided with a massive plow. I have video of all this, but the crappy internet here is making the upload take forever. You'll have to wait a day.

We continued on a ways and Blaine got out to have some fun with Brian on the ride back. I took over the Landy and Sarah's back got some relief courtesy of our air-ride suspension. The group split in two, those looking to have some fun and those that just didn't want to crash. I think I did a decent job of steering the boat around in the snow and nearly keeping up with Brian. When we reached the end, Carl pulled in behind me and thanked me for not being a stereotype. I asked if that was in reference to being in an SUV or my gender, and he said the latter. That's right, pal, girls can drive, too! While we waited for the last two cars to catch up, Blaine decided to chance eating one of the rather stale pastries. A few bites in he realized the error of his ways and chucked it into the snow. In a way, I feel like a missionary, converting the local wildlife with my zeppole for the Feast of St. Joseph. One little bird noticed them, and took a bite. You could clearly see his little bird tastebuds go crazy as it was unlike the usual dead things he has to scavenge for in this winter wasteland. Then his little bird friend appeared and a turf war broke out as their first introduction to sugar blew their minds.
Best day of my bird life EVER!

"I'm Carl, and I'll be your guide to Labrador today."
After that, it was a very bumpy but boring ride into Churchill Falls. We had stayed here in 2007, and I'm pretty sure not one thing has changed. This is the hotel/grocery store/library/post office/restaurant building and gets a lot of traffic. Some locals noticed Dave pull in and said "Look! A MINI!" I said more were coming and we started chatting. Did I mention how friendly the people are here? They were interested in where we were from, what we'd seen, where we were heading, and of course, if we'd toured the hydro plant. As I took the tour last time, I elected to pass as did Blaine, but the rest of the group was going later. We checked in to our smoke free rooms and met in the restaurant for a quick dinner before they had to take off. It's kind of nice to just have a night to relax and do nothing. Tomorrow is our longest day, as we pass through Happy Valley/Goose Bay and move on to Port Hope Simpson.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Comment dites-vous "shit hole" en fran├žais?

The good news is that I feel better today. Woke up this morning having slept a full night and kept down my McDonald's. Had a light breakfast and we hit the road, ready to take on the Ice Dragon. Not long out of town we were clearly out of civilization and snow and ice began to cover the edges of the roads. Also not long out of town my phone decided to go nuts and continually reboot. Yeah, that required a factory reset, wiping all my info. Hoping Google's back up system works!

We started to come upon the Manic dams. If you have power, you get it from here. They are a series of increasingly large dams that build up to the powerhouse that is the Manic 5. I finally had the pleasure of driving the land-yatch that is the Range Rover. It actually was surprisingly stable and didn't roll as much as I thought it would. It took a little bit but I adjusted and kept up with the pack. It felt good to finally pitch in with the driving. I felt bad I couldn't help Blaine yesterday.
Our route for the day
The cars look like toys against this thing
 One of the attractions for me was a return to the Manicougan crater. This was created by a meteor impact and appears as the giant ring in eastern Canada when you look at a map. Last time we went by, I tried to walk to a gate and didn't make it far before sinking in to my waist in snow. This year we found an access road and had a fairly easy walk to the reservoir. About 3/4 of the way down, I noticed something sticking out of the snow. What's that? Oh, a lovely hoof!

Is there a body to go with that? As we found out, no.

 The trail opened up into a remarkable view of the reservoir. It was a blue sky day, no wind, and just perfect. I couldn't believe how massive that body of water was, and to think of what created it made it all the more impressive. In the picture below, you can see the inner island of the crater. I believe Ross said it's 16 miles to the other side of the island. That's crazy!

Yes, it does say "You are here"
After a long walk to a frozen tree way out on the water, and then an even longer walk back to the cars, we continued on. There was a lunch stop at a gas station with a limited restaurant, but they actually had some tasty alphabet chicken soup. At this point, I handed the keys back to Blaine as I didn't trust handling the yatch on the Ice Dragon. Light was fading fast, and we picked up the pace so as to avoid driving in the dark on it as much as possible.

Notice the little symbol? Kind of looks like a dragon ;)
Some people claimed it wasn't as much fun as the real Dragon, but we still had a blast. The train tracks certainly added an element of excitement. Blaine did an excellent job of handling the Landy and keeping it straight. The sun clung until almost the end, creating some great vistas. We even had to wait for a freight train to pass before continuing on.

Finally, we pulled into Fremont. As far as I can tell, it's just a massive building that has housing for the workers of the nearby iron mine and a mall for all of their needs. Upon walking in, I gave serious consideration to just sleeping in the car. For one night I think I can tough it. Smoking is still very much embraced here, and a thick haze hangs over the building. Blaine and I got our room, unpacked and headed down to dinner. While sitting there the guy from the front desk appeared looking for some people. Apparently, they had given us a room that was already assigned to someone else. Yeah, we're in a top-notch establishment. After dinner, we came back to the new room to find that we were placed next to a chimney. Good lord it's dingy in here. The smell is overpowering, the rooms are less than clean, and I'm pretty sure I'll just be sleeping on top of the sheets in my clothes. It's the kind of place where taking a shower could actually make you dirtier. I don't have high expectations on these trips, and we've certainly stayed in our share of shady places, but this one takes the cake by far. I think it's the proliferation of scary mine workers that makes it seem unsafe. Maybe I'll sleep with my pocket knife handy.....