Below is the narrative behind Mark II, or as Pacific Region called it Van Kluver and its’ journey to Vancouver.
20 November, 2013
As a member of DAA-T (Maurice Drew’s section), I was working with the various contractors in the readying of the Spectrum Monitoring Systems – Spectrum Surveillance System Mark I and Mark II monitoring vehicles prior to their transfer to Central (Winnipeg) and Pacific Regions (Langley) respectively and a new monitoring season. It was the year of Expo 86, a time when travel to Vancouver was restricted, requiring the Deputy Minister’s signature. Mark II was seen as a necessity as the group covering the security of the site saw a need to monitor for activities in the unlicensed portion of the land mobile frequency bands.
Early in 1986, using Clyde Avenue Lab facilities as well as some of their techies, like Ross Ritchie, (responsible to use Mark I to monitor the spectrum across Canada), we began the process of modifying Mark I and Mark II computer systems using Perkin and Elmer who literally tore out and rebuilt the PDP11 systems to ensure they were working to 100 % efficiency. This also meant cleaning the disk arrays, and ensuring tape drives were updated so that monitoring data could be captured and sent to our computer facilities at Shirley’s Bay for conversion and uploading to the Automated Licensing System.
Vehicles were deployed to Shirley’s Bay so that Max Burke, Tim Cloyne, and I could reload and update the operating system and software. Max and Tim ensured programs were current, though unlike Mark III and IV, these systems were only capable of monitoring the land mobile frequencies 138-150 MHz and 406-470 MHz bands and not the trunking channels from 806 to 890 MHz. However, programs were amended to ensure if monitoring equipment changed somewhere down the line, they could operate at the higher frequency ranges as well.
The Ford and GMC vehicles were inspected and given the green light by CRC Fleet Services once Malmberg serviced engines, tires, and breaks. The Onan generators were as well given a clean bill of health ensuring they could operate in areas where shore power was unavailable.
After almost 3 months of readying the vehicles for travel to their destinations, Ross Ritchie, and myself were approved for travel, Ross and Mark I were off to Winnipeg, and I with Mark II off to Vancouver.
The beginning of the trip started bad. About an hour out of Shirley’s Bay, we were fueling up the vehicles at the Antrim Truck stop, when one of the gas attendants miss heard me state to fill the vehicles tanks with regular fuel. He must have “ASSUMED” the GMC was similar to other motor homes he had been filling and topped the tanks with diesel fuel. After explaining to me that the vehicle sure took a lot of diesel fuel, my tongue dropped, when I tried to explain to the attendant that I had asked for gas, not diesel … twice! Long story short, it took over two hours for them to drain both tanks and then refill them with the proper fuel. We started the vehicle and let it run for about fifteen minutes before the Antrim mechanic gave us the go ahead to be on the road.
En route, and because we could not precisely prearrange hotel / motel accommodations, let alone where we would eat we would simply show up in a town. On almost every occasion we were stared at with trepidation, as towns folks didn’t like to see DOC monitoring vehicles showing up possibly because many didn’t have GRS licenses at that time. After we explained we were simply passing through and were not going to be monitoring their town, tensions would quickly lift and they went about their business not paying too much attention to us as we talked.
Other than the diesel and tension due to the DOC and Canadian Government symbols on the sides of the vehicles, the rest of the trip to Winnipeg was pretty much uneventful.
Ross spent the rest of the day with radio inspectors in Winnipeg going over the equipment and after he felt comfortable they knew how to operate the system he went back to Ottawa while I continued on my journey to Vancouver. We certainly saw a lot of flat terrain, little scenery per sae and none of the animals warned throughout the route from Ottawa to Winnipeg. While in Winnipeg, I was warned of a bad snow fall in Calgary and that my trip could be hampered by work crews that were trying to rebuild the hydro and telephone lines where the poles were snapped like toothpicks.
On my own now to travel through the central region, for the most part, other than very flat land which reminded me of my birth country, Holland, I can recall prairie dogs because they would literally stand up in your path and await the oncoming of a vehicle. Also many golden hawks, antelope, farms, etc.
It wasn’t until I got to Saskatchewan when once again a black cloud would stick its’ head up to greet me. Never having experienced heavy winds in a mobile home type vehicle, winds, sand, and grain dust made it almost impossible to drive until finally I found a truck stop where I could duck behind a large sign and take shelter from the prairie dust while having a coffee or two or three. Somehow it seemed to leach its way all throughout the vehicle. Within no time at all, the place became crowded with truckers taking refuge from the dust bowel that seemed to circle the building forever. It literally took hours before the interior was free of all the dust. It got into everything, including the PDP-11, disk arrays … everywhere. After some time had passed I finally got back on the road to continue on my journey to Vancouver and could only hope at this point all would be fine when I reached my final destination.
All was quiet as I neared Calgary. One could see the devastation from the snow storm as telephone poles literally snapped into two and sometimes three pieces. The snow had all but left, but the downed lines and poles could be seen for miles along the Trans Canada.
Once through the centre of Calgary, the scenery change was unbelievable. Before, driving was over flat lands and pretty straight highway, and now, your eyes were mesmerised by what appeared to be hills in the distance as roads began to meander. Cowboys on horseback, cows, hills, and in the far distance, snow capped mountains. A true picture of beauty! The scenery over the rest of the trip was captivating!
It was great that we had Mark II serviced, because going up and down those grades could have been quite tough. With leveling suspension, the ride was quite enjoyable. Soon though the black cloud would hover over my head once again when I got to areas where they had snow slides to protect the road and vehicles from avalanches. Though it would have been better to take the Conquitlin Pass, it was not opened to large vehicles at that time so I had to venture on roads that were fairly steep and dangerous. In one occasion I was flagged down by an RCMP officer and had to proceed for quite some time by RCMP escort on reduced air tires so that I could proceed onwards. The Clarke mast and antenna were just too high to clear some of the snow slides. After a slow go of it, the RCMP officer finally escorted me to a gas station where I was given the green light to refill the tires and go on my way.
Finally smooth going until I got to an area near Hells Gate. The newly paved road was wet, steep, tight turns, and a down ward treks on roads posted for reduced speeds and caution for oncoming traffic. It was quite hard to maneuver the vehicle as it slipped and slide, and at one point I thought I was going over a ravine. It was all I could do to stay on the road until finally a rest stop on the right hand side of the highway. My nerves were shot, I was shaking, and it took all my energy to finally get out of the vehicle and into the restaurant where I began to have a cigarette and coffee, one after another. A short time after I had sat down, a trucker came over, excused himself, and asked if he could join me. Having seen me exit the DOC vehicle he explained that he too was having similar driving challenges and like me figured he was going over the ravine of no return! We sat, talked, smoked multiple cigarettes, had many coffees, and I believe we ate there as well, as Chuck and I were clearly shaken by the event. After telling him where I was going he told me to follow his rig, as he knew all the roads. That freed me from looking at maps (no GPS back then) from time to time. We finally parted ways around Salmon Arms BC.
Once inside BC, I turned on the transceiver and began to listen to see if I could hear anyone from the BC office. It was pretty early during the day and all you could really hear was white noise from time to time, nothing audible at all. However, after sometime had passed, I could begin to hear someone talking at which time I pulled over when I could hear the other persons loud and clear. I broke into the conversation stating I was Mark II – Kluver on the road. Ron Brown asked where I was and at that time we determined I was over 200 miles away, far exceeding the expected distance for the DOC frequency. I experienced ducting and later we determined the signal followed the valley as it reflected throughout the path. Ron gave me a land mark en route where to try raise someone at the office and would ensure the bay area would be ready for my arrival.
Ron Brown and Nigel Bell were there to greet me. After a good night sleep, I returned to the Langley office where I began to check out the system to ensure that the wear and tear from the trek from Ottawa to Langley BC did not jar anything from working. I was more or less left alone for a whole day as I checked and rechecked the entire system from head to toe. The next day, all was ready for giving the gang training on what Mark II was all about and preparing them for monitoring Expo 86 from just outside the grounds.
After several days helping monitor just outside the gates of Expo 86, it was felt there was no longer a requirement for me to stay so I made plans to go back home to Ottawa. The last day at the Langley Office is when Ron thanked me for bringing them Van Kluver and thus the beginnings of Van Kluver. I was later sent a picture of Mark II with a blue dyno of Van Kluver.
On another note, the van was later donated to Pacific Emergency Preparedness (PEP) and retrofitted by Peter Anderson for the province. I don’t know if the van has been retired at this time, but was still around back in the early 2000.
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