Horizon Oil Sands Day 0

We made it. I am currently on a greyhound-style bus, only much nicer. The seats are imitation leather, there is free wifi and a pair of power outlets for each pair of seats, and it is nice and quiet even on shitty northern roads.

We are currently leaving the Horizon oil sands site, which is absolutely massive in a way that is impossible to convey if you haven’t seen it or anything like it. There are miles and miles of large clustered runs of pipe, some of which appear to be around five feet in diameter, down to ones that look to be about three inches. Where they are going and what they are carrying is completely unknown to me, although I expect that I will know all too well their function and purpose soon enough. Everything is absolutely huge out here – it is going to take a little getting used to. I’d include pictures of the facilities but any photography or taking video is strictly forbidden, and is an offence punishable by termination.

The flight to Calgary on a packed Dash 8 was uneventful. Once in Calgary we had to take a “short” taxi ride (about $40) to the Canadian North terminal, where we got ourselves settled in for a three hour layover until our flight to the Horizon site. Upon attempting to check in, we were advised that we were allowed a total of two checked bags, no more than 45lb each, with a total combined weight not to exceed 75lb. This was a source of some concern for me as my two bags totaled 70lb and 53lb respectively. After some discussion with the desk agent and advising him that I was heading out on an eight month work term rather than the usual one to four week term, I was able to convince him to allow me (and my travel-mate from UBCO) to redistribute the items in my bags into an extra garbage bag and allow me to check all three as long as I could keep them under 45lb each. Unfortunately, upon opening one of my bags, it appeared that the bag containing my rock climbing chalk had popped open in transit from Kelowna->Calgary, coating a large number of the items in said bag with a fine white powder. C’est la vie. This was dealt with and the bags were duly submitted.

The flight from Calgary to the Horizon site on a ~40% full 737-300 was also uneventful, and a much more pleasant experience overall than the earlier Air Canada flight. The flight attendants were chipper, there was a complimentary in-flight meal of a choice of roast beef or vegetarian wraps (unheard-of on other one hour flights), and if you asked for a beverage they gave you the whole can.

Once we made it to site, we all boarded a yellow school bus and were transported to the main security checkpoint at the West Gate. After much hurry up and wait and confusion on the part of the people manning the office, we were given our site access forms and started the process of registering and paper-working and whatnot. About ten minutes into this a nice lady from HR showed up and told us that there had been an error of some sort and that we were not supposed to be processing these forms just yet – they would be dealt with first thing in the morning. Such is the corporate environment, and I am not really all that surprised.

We then headed to the main camp area to collect our luggage and wait for our transport to town. There is a Tim Horton’s in the main lobby, but they don’t carry my favorite breakfast of champions (iced capp), which is probably for the best, all things considered. My improvised garbage bag suitcase blew up a little, but I don’t believe I lost anything in transport.

We are about 45 minutes from town at this point, and tomorrow will be my first real day of work after getting my site access figured out first thing in the morning. This should be an interesting experience.

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