Friday, July 29, 2011

San Francisco ~ Cable Cars ~ California

We arrived in San Francisco, CA to visit friends who live in the city and to spend the day sightseeing. We were excited to be able to have that time with them and get an inside look of the city that we’d not seen for many years.

Cable car in San Francisco, CA
The one thing that we’d never done on previous visits to San Francisco was ride the cable car and we were about to get that and even more.  Our friend is a retired ‘gripman’ who might be called the conductor or driver by those of us who are not familiar with the workings of the cable car.  The gripman is the one who drives or controls the cable cars and we were going for a ride and a tour of the garage.  Rice a Roni ! that was pretty exciting!  (this would only mean something to those over 50, hopefully, who watched TV commercials way back!).

Cable Car ride in San Francisco, CA
The gripman controls the grip, which will grab onto the moving cable under the street and depending on how loose or tightly he grips, will determine the speed of the car. The cables move at a constant speed of 9.5 mph all day long. It takes awhile to learn the right grip, no doubt but once he gets the perfect feel for it, it works great. This cable system has been around for a very long time and still works in this day of modern technology.

Maintenance for the cable cars
There are 26 cable cars in operation on any given average day and the rest of the 40 cars are in the garage for maintenance work.  We were able to see the undercarriage and we got the 'royal' tour of what and how things are done.  It is amazing how these use a simple process to move them up and down the hill.

Cable Car Barn in San Francisco, CA
The San Francisco Cable car is considered a National Historic Monument. It is the only manually operated cable car system in the world and the only remaining permanently operational one.  It has been in use for well over a century and well deserves the title.   

Cable Car Powerhouse
The Cable Car Barn and Powerhouse is very interesting and like a trip back in time. There are many museum pieces to see and a gift store to purchase a special reminder or gift of the cable cars. The Powerhouse shows the workings of the cable and how it actually makes the system work for San Francisco cable cars, it is big, it is noisy and it is amazing.

Riding the San Francisco cable car
There were some cars that weren't overflowing but we happened to be on one that was pretty full, so Keith was one of those hanging out the door. I think the guys might prefer to ride this way, seems to fit the adventures we remember from seeing the cable cars in the movies.  

Pushing the cable car around the corner
We'd been told that there might be the occassional time that the cable car doesn't quite make it around the corner and may need a push.  That did happen, how cool was that?  Once some were getting out to push, there was more than enough manpower to get it to the crest of the hill and be on our way.

The streets of San Francisco
There are plenty of  hills in the city of San Francisco and it was a fun afternoon that we were able to ride the cable car and experience what locals and tourists have been enjoying for over a hundred years.  We were the lucky tourists today, we got to see it all and even more with our friends in San Francisco.

There is so much to see in San Francisco, we saw lots and had a wonderful time and hope to share more.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kamloops Chinese Cemetery ~ Kamloops, BC, Canada

The Chinese people in Kamloops once represented over one third of the population of the town before it was incorporated to the City of Kamloops. They had come to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railway and for some, with dreams of building a future here for their families they'd left back in China. For many that dream did not materialize. Once the railway was completed, some settled in Kamloops, BC.

Their presence and hard work helped Kamloops become the city that it is today. They were not allowed to be buried in Pioneer Cemetery in the early days but were allowed a plot of land that was to become their own cemetery which is the burial ground for 123 burial plots today.

Kamloops Chinese Cemetery

The Kamloops Chinese Cemetery was meant to be a temporary burial place for the Chinese people who would later be disinterred after seven to ten years and their bones returned to China for a second burial in their family plot.  This was a ritual practiced by the Guangdon Chinese who were the majority of the Chinese who came over to Canada for work.  Only 50 of the 123 buried in the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery were disinterred before the ritual was stopped in 1920.

Markers of 123 graves in Kamloops Chinese Cemetery
The Kamloops Chinese Cemetery is one of the largest and oldest of its kind in Canada.  The location was chosen for its feng shui, resting on a sloped site with a north south axis and views of the Thompson Rivers.

Special tribute to the workers on the CPR

This plaque was constructed to honor the Chinese workers who lost their lives building the railway in British Columbia.  The numbers vary from 600 to 2200 Chinese workers who lost their life while working.  To see more of the Chinese contribution to building the railway in BC, click here.

To learn more about the Chinese workers on other Canadian railway construction, click here to learn about those who lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Monuments of the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery

The Chinese people began to settle permanently in Kamloops  in the 1920's and the first permanent tombstone was dated 1927.  Most of the graves are marked from the 1930's to 1960's then the cemetery was closed in 1979.   The funerary burner is a safe place for ritualized burning of spiritual tributes like facimilies of money and possessions that will serve the deceased in their afterlife. Burning ritual objects is a daily part of life in much of Asia.

The Pagoda and the Chinese History
There are great storyboards inside the pagoda that will tell and illustrate some of the history of the Chinese people of this area.

Information found says the cemetery is being upgraded through a partnership between the Kamloops Chinese Cemetery Heritage Society and the City of Kamloops and much is being done by the Kamloops Chinese Cultural Society to bring honor to those that died building the railroads of British Columbia.
There are plans to build a museum that would honor those and tell the story of the contributions they made.  To learn more on that, visit their webpage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pincher Creek ~ Fort Macleod, AB., Canada

We’d spent the day driving from Creston, BC and then sightseeing the Frank slide and the Lundbreck Falls with Karen's cousin and friends. Once we'd seen these great falls we went into Pincher Creek to the restaurant to have dinner before calling it a day. We planned on staying here overnite before going onto Radium, BC the following day. But plans change……….

Lifesize if not bigger

The road off Highway 3 into Pincher Creek, Alberta has several silhouettes of cowboys and horses, roping and riding ! It is a great welcoming committee to this part of the country.

Great welcoming committee
We really didn’t even get into Pincher Creek, as we stopped at the first intersection that had hotels, fuel and eating spots and it wasn’t till later that I realized we should have driven further to see the townsite. I am sure there must be more ! But we were now onto another adventure.

                                                    Mountains seen across Plains of Alberta

After a delicious dinner with Karen’s cousins and friends, we decided to carry onto Ft. Macleod to spend the nite so we'd have an early morning start to our next stop. We had been told by many that if we were going to be anywhere close to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump that we were not to miss it, so we’d decided to heed their advice and include that in our trip. Why not ?? So we headed to Ft. Macleod after a late dinner, thankful for long summer evenings.

                                                       Downtown Fort Macleod, Alberta
Getting a motel around 9 pm at nite turned out to be a challenge. Part of that being because there was road construction being done thru town, and although it was not working hours, the paving crew had closed off the two blocks where most of the motel choices were, with no room made for local traffic ! We did manage to get a room and the motel manager kindly walked down the street to remove the barricade for us to get into his place. We had a decent room and internet, too.

                                                  The Empress Hotel in Fort Macleod, AB
The Empress Theatre opened in 1912 and is the oldest continuously running theatre in Western Canada. It has a summer program that would be great to see but we were too early in the season to see it. There are dressing rooms that have signatures on the walls from 1913.

The most famous attraction in Fort Macleod, AB is the Fort Museum of the North West Mounted Police. They’re now known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP. The Musical Ride was first done in Fort Macleod in 1876. The riding tradition performs daily in May and June.  Click here for more info.

The Provincial Historic Site of 1884 Barracks has period displays of firearms, medicine room, prison, gallows and saddlery.

Head~Smashed~In Buffalo Jump ~ Interpretive Center ~ Fort Macleod, Alberta

Sometimes the unexpected turns out to be the greatest surprise.  We had travelled through southern Alberta with very few plans other than to see the sights.  This was a region I had never seen before and was looking forward to visit all we could, but the one location that we hadn't even planned on was the one that left the greatest impact.  We had dinner with a cousin and friends who asked if we planned on going to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. We knew nothing about it but this was the second time we'd heard this, so that must mean we'd best not leave the country until we paid a visit.  Plans were changed and we headed east to spend the night at Fort Macleod so we could visit the Interpretive Center in the morning.

 Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
We arrived before the Center opened.  Their hours are 10am to 5pm every day of the year except they close for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Day and Easter Sunday.  We later saw a shuttle which could take you from the parking lot up the hill as there is no parking right at the Center.  We were early so we we decided that we would wander the grounds and visit the site that had some picture boards and information about the history of this landmark.

Rest area on the path below Buffalo Jump
The trail was not a long one but had some reststops on the way and the information was quite amazing.  As we stood on the path below the cliff and read that under our feet was dozens of feet of buffalo bones, artifacts, rock and rubble that had accumulated over the thousands of years of buffalo jumping over the cliff above.  These cliffs were now much smaller than they'd been those many years ago when the bottom was dozens of feet lower.

The path leads us up to cliffs of the Buffalo Jump
 The Blackfoot have lived on these plains for over 6000 years and would come here every Fall when the bison would come this way for water and food. The natives would then maneuver the herd and create a stampede that drove the buffalo to jump over the cliff. They would then dry the meat to later use for food, the buffalo skin would make their clothes and bones would become tools. They knew how to utilize most of the carcass and would leave little behind. The buffalo neared extinction in 1881 so the Blackfoot could no longer follow this tradition.

Overview of Heads-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump site
There is a short movie to watch in the Interpretive Center that through modern technology, shows this story in such a way that as you feel the pounding of their hooves, it is easy to believe you are watching real buffalo jump over.  The actors are dressed in authentic clothing and talk their native tongue and play out what they would do all those many years ago to get the buffalo to this place.  Even though I knew those were not real buffalo, I found it difficult to watch the jump but the film is a wonderful way to show the history of the Blackfoot and how they survived those many years on the Plains of Alberta.

Three grand buffalo overlook the interior of the Interpretive Center
The Head-Smashed-In Interpretive Center is one of the most interesting ones to see.  You need to allow yourself lots of time to see all that they have included at the Center.  In 1981 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the wonderful job the center does to tell the story of the aboriginal people of this area for over 5500 years.  The puts it on the list with the pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in England plus others, a very elite list of heritage sites in the world.

Tipi Village at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
There is a compound of tipi's (also spelt teepee) that is not available for public use but is available as an educational site for Sleepover Programs in June for school kids and youth groups.  The kids are able to spend the night in the tipi and learn the legends and take a guided walk on the path.  They will eat a buffalo stew with bannock for dinner and experience the history, sitting below the cliffs of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, under the stars and overlooking the Plains.  I cannot imagine a better way to have a history lesson.

Beautiful Buffalo at Interpretive Center
Drumming and dancing celebrations are held every Wednesday of July and August in the Plaza of the center. The performers are from Pow Wow competitions and have shows at 11am and 1:30pm on those days. They proudly show their beautiful costumes and honor their forefathers with their music and dance.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is located just 18 km west of Fort Macleod, Alberta on Highway 785. I highly recommend anyone that is anywhere nearby that they should see this wonderful Interpretive Center. Click here to learn more on the Center.


Related Posts with Thumbnails