Crude Observations

On The Road

Another shorter blog this week folks as I have just recently returned from a fever dream of a trip inspired by none other than Jack Kerouac’s seminal novel of American Discovery and road tripping – On The Road. And the reason the blog is shorter of course is because I was away so long, I avoided doing any actual work, so I have many emails to return. Oh, and in this glorious retelling, there are no hallucinogenic drugs and other illicit activities. Sorry, this the G-Rated version.


To set the scene, I am vehicularly challenged and found myself with a car stranded in Phoenix that, in my estimation, needed to make the trip north so that the family (me) could have use of it for the summer rather than seeing it spend another year of melting runner and drying gaskets and hoses in the 49C heat of Arizona.


So determined was I to get this done that I told my wife of my intention to fly down to Phoenix solo and drive the car back. She thought this was the stupidest idea she’d ever heard and reminded me that a car that sat unused during COVID was probably not as road worthy as I thought. Especially for a 1600-mile journey.


Undeterred, I mentioned my plan to a neighbour and when he, probably this where the hallucinogens come into play, offered to accompany me, the plan was set in motion.


Fast forward to last Sunday and the two of us jetted off to Phoenix eager to start a journey of self-discovery and exploration across the great expanse of the Western United States. Well, at least parts of it.


The Journey


Getting from Phoenix to Calgary seems like it should be relatively straight forward given that on a map, they are almost directly north and south of each other. One thousand six hundred and fifty miles (1650) plus/minus. Easy peazy lemon squeezy. Until you consider the fact that there is a massive fissure in the earth blocking your way, otherwise known as the “Grand Canyon”. So you have to make choices and the first choice you make determines what your experience is going to be.


That choice is “west” or “east”. The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and maybe a Stanley Cup hockey game or the empty highways, high desert and desolation of northern Arizona. Get on the 101 and at the I-17 exit veer off to the right or continue to the left?


We chose to go right.


Day one – woke up with a bit of a food hangover (Mexican – great prep for a day of driving, right?), but rallied after a frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich and subpar Keurig coffee to head out on the highway, looking for adventure, or whatever came our way. First stop was at a Safeway to load up on liquor and then we were heading North.


First stop out of Phoenix was Flagstaff – home to the University of Northern Arizona where I have it on good authority that Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo’s son is a newly minted assistant basketball coach. The temperature drop from Phoenix (110F) to Flagstaff (78F) was every bit as impressive as the elevation gain (1000 ft to close to 8000 ft).


No time to visit though so we opted for some healthy food (McDonalds) and headed off to our main destination for the day – the Grand Canyon, South Rim.


Parking mid-afternoon was surprisingly easy. I continue to be blown away by the Grand Canyon. Nothing can prepare you for seeing it the first time and the second time is no less impressive. This is mainly because unlike a mountain, you don’t see it coming. You walk along a path and BAM, it’s there.


We walked the main observation area called Mather’s Point then took the free shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead which is where we started our epic backpacking trip into the Canyon in February 2020 before COVID wrecked everything (I wrote a blog about that trip too!).


At any rate, I convinced my travel mate to do a short hike, down about a mile into the Canyon to a popular observation spot called, appropriately, Ooh Ahh Point. Even getting a few hundred metres below the rim of the canyon is a humbling from both a hiking standpoint and a feeling of your place in the world. The serenity, the quiet, the beauty of the canyon and its layer upon layer of ancient rock is truly stunning.


Then we had to walk back up, which reminded me of a number of things. No matter how much you work out, walking the giant steps is HARD. The second is my knees are 3 years older. Finally, without water, you will surely die.


Back in our car, we cruised out of the park heading towards the east exit, which I have never used, but the route features many overlooks as well as the coup de grace – a firetower/lookout that allows you to look up the Canyon from a different angle and perspective.


Once out of the East Gate, it was a straight shot through the most isolated and arid desert moonscape know to man until reaching the city(?), town(?) of Page, Arizona.


We checked into our hotel and then proceeded to eat at the local paddleboat turned Sushi and Japanese Bento Box restaurant with a giant busload of Chinese tourists. As one regularly does in a small, isolated desert town in the middle of nowhere Arizona.


The next morning we piled our junk in the car, put the roof down (did I mention it was a convertible) and started the drive up highway 89 to Kanab Utah and points north, looking to cross over onto I-15, which would be our home away from home for the next two days until we reached the Canadian border.


This part of the drive was serene and a pleasure. Landmarks along the way included Zion National Park, almost Bryce Canyon and a disconcerting number of coffee shops. Plus we were out of the desert.


All this came to an end after we climbed up and out of this verdant valley and found ourselves dropped into the mean streets of Utah and I-15.


Lunch was in Beaver, Utah at a Burger King. Saltless fries, a distinct lack of beaver t-shirts and a wind and dust storm of epic proportion. Sadly the roof had to be closed to protect ourselves from the elements.


Three plus hours on the interstate got us to the outskirts of Salt Lake City and an HOV lane that stretched for what seemed like 70-80 miles. Aesthetically, Salt Lake City is beautiful, but when you consider that there are mountains on one side and a lake on the other, the world’s longest urban/suburban area ensues.


However, we persevered and no later than 2 hours later, we found ourselves in Idaho! Free taters for out of staters!


Gassed up in Malad, Idaho. In good shape for our dinner time run to Idaho Falls. Pulled out onto the highway – hey that’s weird noise isn’t it? Yeah but the pavement is different here in Idaho. But still it’s weird.


Reached cruising speed of 83 mph and then…




Rear tire annihilation. Pulled over to the side of the road, halfway between Malad and Pocatello (Go Bengals!) Idaho.


30 miles from nowhere and anywhere.


Oh well, there is a spare, right? Well, there’s a donut, because like all true German cars, you must have different sized tires in the front and the back.


No matter, jack it up and off we go… Except someone forgot to make sure the spare had air. Good lord we are screwed. Oh look, here’s a state trooper. We are doomed.


Except we weren’t. State Trooper Bob actually ended up doing 50% of the tire change work, but sadly couldn’t stick around to wait on AAA as he had to get back on the highway looking out for dope runners and other felons. Good thing he didn’t notice the three bottles of premixed margaritas I had in the trunk!


We had called AAA in Calgary to help us and they connected us to someone in Oregon who dispatched someone in Idaho to our specific location so we knew we were in great hands. Meanwhile, the beautiful sunny day morphed into a combination tornado, dust storm and thunderstorm, so that was fun.


An hour or so later, our friendly tow truck dude from AAA showed up, the sun glinting in his miraculous and billowing mullet. Literally 30 seconds later our tire was inflated and we were ready to go.


Out of an abundance of caution we took the backroad into Pocatello (Go Bengals!) to spend the night and contemplate our options.


The drive was a definite slice of America. Small towns. 10 to 300 houses. Farms. No less than 3 dogs wandering down the middle of the road, but we made it. To Pocatello (Go Bengals!).


Which, on a random Tuesday in early June, is apparently the single most popular tourist destination in the NW part of the United States.


Three of the first four hotels we tried were sold out. We got the second to last room at some random suite hotel and proceeded to a local restaurant to enjoy some meatloaf and fish and chips because really, why not?


The next morning, after another breakfast sandwich, this time wrapped in plastic wrap, I headed down to the local tire shop – part of a chain – in the hopes of securing a replacement tire or two first thing so that we could get on the road.


Imagine my surprise when the manager told me that there was zero chance I would be able to find a tire that size in all of Idaho, let along Pocatello (Go Bengals!), but I could double back to Salt Lake City if I was so inclined. On a whim, she went into the store room and managed to find a random winter tire, less than 50% tread that she said I could have if I wanted. Hell yeah! Said I.


I wonder where this came from she said. Probably from the last idiot driving a random German car through Pocatello (Go Bengals!) who got a flat and needed to replace a set of tires.


Thinking a bit, the manager, perhaps contemplating the lawsuit that would inevitably follow selling me a garbage used tire, suggested that the tire was free, and that she would have it mounted on the rim for me by her clearly undocumented immigrant labour and that I should quickly leave, pretend I was never there and never speak of this incident again.


I concurred, tipped the young man doing the work $50 and we were up and out of Pocatello (Go Bengals!) before 8:30 AM.


A miracle!


Having now driven just over 1000 or our 1600 miles we knew we were on the homestretch and would soon be home. All that was left to conquer was Montana and the Canadian border guards.


The miles, hours and towns counted off – Butte (McDonalds for lunch!), Helena, Dillon, Great Falls, even a Dutton…


What great time we are making! And the new mismatched tire is awesome. No more explosions. Sure the radio is weak and there is no Apple Car Play, but we are passing the headwaters of the Missouri!


The only dragon left to slay is the border.


What’s that you say? No, I’m not smuggling. Let’s rewind. I have this car. I bought it in the US. It is plated in Arizona. It’s an American car. Owned by a Canadian. Who wants to bring it across the border for the summer. Against the sage advice of his wife. Should be simple right?


I had done my research. I was able to bring the car up. It was after all more than 15 years old. And it was used. And it was on the list of permitted vehicles anyway.


Sadly, this was not the case. I had told my friend there was a 1 in 10 chance I get turned away at the border by Transport Canada. But ultimately they were fine. Canada Border Services? Not so much.


Apparently, if you are bringing an 18 year old car into Canada, even for temporary personal use you need to pay the piper on GST and duty. Wait a minute I said, this car was made in Mexico! It should be duty free! Nope. The W in the VIN? That means Germany. And Germany means extra duty.


Good lord, why wasn’t this on the government website?


Panicked, I briefly contemplated turning back. Then changed my mind.


“This is the stupidest idea ever” the wise words of my spouse echoed in my ears.


At any rate – many hundreds of dollars and 30 minutes later a fully chastened driver climbed back into the car for the sad 300km drive home to Calgary.


On the bright side, I can now bring the car back and forth anytime. Without government approval.


Which is cool, right?


8:02 PM I roll up to my house. Wife is golfing. Kids are on their computers in their rooms. Cats are indifferent. Aahhh…. There’s no place like home.


SO what did it all mean? Was it as life-affirming/changing as the road was for Sal in On The Road? Probably not.




The blown tire. Too much McDonalds. Not being able to open the roof more. Psycho truck drivers.




The Grand Canyon. The Ooh Ahh Point hike. New York Teriyaki, my newly discovered favourite Japanese restaurant in a boat in the desert. An extended drive through some of the most diverse geography in the Continent. No less than five separate micro climates. 1600 miles and 30 odd hours of conversation. The 3 CDs stuck in the changer than saved us from having no music. Pocatello (Go Bengals!). My new “New York Teriyaki” hat. Making it home without the engine catching on fire (apparently the coolant WAS low – oopsie poopsie). Visiting Pocatello (Go Bengals!).




America is weird. But America is also awesome. The continent is huge yet traversable.


America is big and welcoming and filled with people doing random acts of kindness. The people are friendly, open and helpful to a fault. Even the one guy I cut off saluted me with his finger. The only time we felt unsafe was when we were stranded on the interstate with semis blasting by at warp speed, especially since our State Trooper friend had told us how he got rear-ended on the shoulder, with his lights on!


America is roads and cars and getting from Point A to point B. I spent probably $225 on gas, saw a few EVs – less proportionately than you would see in Calgary and never saw a charging station. I made it all the way home for less than the cost of a flight and learned a lot along the way – about myself, my friend, my car, my neighbour country.


The most popular car was the Kia Soul and all the “soul drivers” were literal maniacs.


America is going to be fine. Canada needs some help on the whole duty thing. Nickle and diming duty on an 18 year-old junker while the US repaves its giant spiderweb of four lane interstates just because is yet another reason we can’t have nice things.


It was a great, but exhausting drive.


And I get to do it again in August – whoohoo!


Who’s with me? I promise to have the AC properly fixed by then.


Prices as at June 9, 2023


  • Oil prices are down for the week (boo!) again. WCS gap shrank. WTF – didn’t Saudi Arabia just say they were cutting production
  • Storage posted an increase week over week
  • Production held flat
  • Rig Counts: Alberta up marginally; US down week over week
  • Natural gas storage above last year; above the 5-year avg
  • WTI Crude: $70.33 ($71.96)
  • Western Canada Select: $58.20 ($55.84)
  • AECO Spot: $2.06
  • NYMEX Gas: 2.25 ($2.18)
  • US/Canadian Dollar: $0.750 ($0.744)




  • As at June 2, 2023, US crude oil supplies were at 459.2 million barrels, an decrease of 0.2 million barrels from the previous week and an increase of 42.4 million barrels above last year.
    • The number of days oil supply in storage is 28.3 compared to 25.8 last year at this time.
    • Production was up for the week at 12.400 million barrels per day. Production last year at the same time was 11.900 million barrels per day. This increase included a 110,000 barrel re-benchmarking
    • Imports fell to 6.400 million barrels from 7.217 million barrels per day compared to 6.154 million barrels per day last year.
    • Crude exports from the US fell to 2.475 million barrels per day from 4.915 million barrels per day last week compared to 2.232 million barrels per day a year ago
    • Canadian exports to the US were 3.504 million barrels a day
    • Refinery inputs rose during the during the week to 16.647 million barrels per day
  • As at June 2, 2023, US natural gas in storage was 2,550 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is 16.1% higher than the 5-year average and about 28% higher than last year’s level, following an implied net increase of 104 Bcf during the report week
    • Overall U.S. natural gas consumption rose by 7.5% during the report week.
    • Production was up 0.6% for the week. Imports from Canada were up 18.6% from the week before. Exports to Mexico were flat for the week.
    • LNG exports totaled 81 Bcf for the week.
  • As of June 9, 2023, the Canadian rig count was up 39 at 136 (AB – 90; BC – 14; SK – 28; MB – 3; Other – 1). Rig count for the same period last year was 141.
  • US Onshore Oil rig count at June 2, 2023 is at 556, up 1 from the week prior.
  • Natural gas rigs drilling in the United States were down 2 at 135.
  • Offshore rig count was flat at 22.
  • US split of Oil vs Gas rigs is 80%/20%, in Canada the split is 40%/60%

Bizarro Factoid of the Week

By pausing the Baie du Nord project for at least a two years, Equinor is now the most hated thing about Norway in Canada, replacing A-Ha. Take on me, as they say.

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