Monday, October 27, 2008

Acclimated and Oriented

Whew! I am back in Fort McMurray on my third trip on this project and am feeling a little more like I'm getting in the groove. The project is rolling along and the first 10 day rotation went very well, so now it's time to get back to keeping everyone up to date. I think I'll start tomorrow with a couple of posts on how what an American professional has to go through to legally work in Canada. It's an interesting bit of paperwork, made easier for me by the company I am contracted with, but still very interesting. It was also easier for me living about 20 minutes from the bridges into Canada. I just went up on a Saturday morning and submitted all the paper work. It actually took longer to cross back into the US than it did to get my NAFTA Professional work permit in Canada! I can officially report our borders are secure and those Canadian shoppers aren't going to pull the wool over our eyes anytime soon!

More tomorrow!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Best Restaurant in Fort McMurray

Believe it or not, one really difficult thing about living on the road, especially in the Oil Sands and Fort McMurray, Alberta is finding a decent restaurant that understands and cares that most of the people dining out HAVE TO and have spent at least 3 hours that day travelling to and from the mines.
This evening, my teammates and I had experiences at both ends of the customer service restaurant spectrum. At one end, The Fort McMurray Raddison Inn restaurant. We sat down in a crowded restaurant and did not even see a waitress for 10 minutes. When one of my teammates motioned to one, she promptly ignored him. After 15 minutes and not even a glass of water, we got up and left. Boo to you Fort McMurray Raddison Inn. You do not care about your customers, your prices are way too high, and your service stinks.
We then decided to try out the Sawridge Inn. We walked in to the beauty you see pictured above....a restaurant that understood that most people just want some good food, reasonably priced, quickly, so they can get some rest and get up tomorrow and do it all over again. I have yet to see another restaurant here with a customer focus like this one. The food was excellent, the variety wonderful, even had the choice of pumpkin pie for dessert! And...the best part, $23can!
Hooray, Sawridge Inn! You really impressed us this evening and we will be back again. And here's a link to their site:
( consultant turned food critic....could be an interesting career change...grins....)

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Picture 222
Originally uploaded by Gokul Thirumalai

Found this pic on Flickr and it about sums up the way it feels to stand beside one of these behemoths! I finally got to climb around on one and it felt like someone hit me with a shrink-ray!

What an experience it is here in the Oil Sands. It truly is unique and unlike any place I have ever been. When you think "boomtown" you think excess and an unreal quality to normal things. One fella told me he purchased a 1500 sq ft mobile home on a 1/2 acre lot for...get this....$450,000! No kidding! A starter home is going for $650,000. Basic. 3 BR on a 1/2 acre. Incredible!

It's the oil, my friends. There are many companies tapping into the bitumen resource and the reserves are vast. The faster they can process the oil at the current high prices, the more money there is to be made. As long as oil stays high, this boom will continue and people know it.

I've heard that people come here to work for 12 days and then fly home for 12 days. and the companies they work for pay them to fly back and forth as well as incredible wages. Like you would not believe.

What a great time for our Canadian friends. If you live in Canada, you know a lot about the opportunity here. And many will make their fortunes here and retire early.

Can't wait to see what winter has in store! LOL!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fort McMurray, Alberta...What a town!

So I got here yesterday, right on time and had to rent a car. When i went out to the car, I noticed a 3 foot long crack snaking it's way across the front windshield. When I went back in to the counter and told the young lady, she said "yeah, they're all cracked."

Welcome to Fort McMurray!

The reason "they're all cracked" is that people typically drive the rental cars 75km north on the only real highway in the area to the Oil Sands mines. This is an incredible place where everyone here is making lots of money working long hours to extract Bitumen from the ground. The economy is crazy with a typical hotel room costing $209cn a night and gas at $1.25 a litre! They also charge a daily rate PLUS mileage for the rentals with or without the cracked windshield.

People are travelling from all over Canada to work up here and "strike it rich." It really is an amazing site, especially on the hour and a half drive north, just to get to the mines.

Stay tuned! More to come!

Monday, October 6, 2008

And so the Adventure Begins!

And so, with the alarm going off at 3:45am this morning and a brief cuddle with the Mrs., I am up and into the shower and off to the Toronto Airport where, Grande Chai Latte consumed, I sit writing to you this morning at 8:30am waiting on a flight. Though the day started early, the trip by taxi shuttle from home to the Toronto Airport (border crossing included) can take much longer if I leave later in the day, so I am content to get up early and wait here to ensure no travel issues.
My consulting work will take me to the Athabasca Oil Sands in northern Alberta, Canada. My project will be very interesting and challenging and I will post here what I learn about leadership, consulting, travel, working as an American professional in Canada, being away from home, and anything you ask me to write about.
On that note, please feel free to contact me here if you want me to address any concerns or questions you might have about things I write about. I know I found very little information on the Oil Sands that was of use on a personal/professional level, so I hope to chronicle as much information as I can about simple things like:
  • Who has the best Cell coverage in Fort McMurray?
  • Where to stay and when to book
  • Best travel options and things to consider
  • NAFTA professional status acquisition and documentation
  • Crossing the Border regularly
  • Staying in shape on the road
  • Attitudes and personalities in the world of consulting
  • What it's like to travel to work

Later this week, I will try to chronicle the adventure of getting a work permit as an American NAFTA Professional working in Canada from a practical viewpoint. It's something I had no idea about, but have completed and gone through and can share tips and pointers.

Wish me luck and come along for what should prove to be an interesting ride!