I learned much from Graham Ross. He genuinely cared about the success of the MPSA project. At our first get together at his home, he had an old friend visiting at the same time. This gentleman's name was John Nelmapius. The name rang a childhood bell for me as one of my father's friends from the late 1950's. A quick bit of mental arithmetic pegged his age to be more or less the same as my own late father's. The fact that John was also a roads engineer tied in exactly with my father's position in the PRD. It was a beautiful get together with a solid connection spanning two generations and the corner stone of further engineering lessons.
Remarkably Graham earned his PhD at the age of 74. Again this was a lesson for me - You're never too old to learn something new. He was one of those people that simply never gave up on learning and teaching. One weekend with my wife being away in Jhb to visit her mother, I decided to film some passes in the Ladismith area. It seemed a perfect opportunity to invite Graham to join me for the day.
He was ready with his backpack of cold-drinks and sandwiches at 7 am when I collected him and off we went on the N2 towards Swellendam. We then cut inland which allowed me to film a range of gravel passes, including Gysmanshoek - a pass that he had mentioned at an earlier meeting that he had never had the opportunity to drive before. He was absolutely chuffed with the outing.
We stopped in Ladismith for a light lunch, then drove through Seweweekspoort and from there down the Bosluiskloof. The day was getting long and dusty, but all my filming goals had been achieved for the day. I think Graham was 80 at the time. The thought occurred to me that he might be getting bored, so I asked him if he would like to drive for a while.
This was perhaps not my wisest moment and at the first sharp bend, I started having some serious reservations as I could see there was a 2 second delay in his reactions. Anyone who knows the Bosluiskloof Pass will know that a misplaced front wheel on any one of those sharp bends, could easily lead to a very long roll down the cliffs.
Not only did we make it to the top of the pass, but he also drove all the way back through Seweweekspoort. My palms were sweaty when I took over the driving again. The day turned out to be very long, with me getting him back at 7 pm that evening. A tough, bumpy twelve hour day and Graham must have been bushed, bumping around in the Land Cruiser all day, but he kept his good natured demeanour the entire day. I am forever grateful for that day I spent with him - adding some excitement and value to his life in retirement.
I have written a different version of this story some years ago (for those of you that have been receiving these newsletters since inception, but I was prompted to write about Dr Ross again, after my radio talk last Monday (you can listen to it on the podcast link lower down on this page) where I spoke about the Anenous Pass near Steinkopf in the Northern Cape, which 1953 version of the pass was built by Graham Ross.
Click here to listen:
- A reading from Graham Ross's book about the rebuilding of the Anenous Pass in the Northern Cape (1949 -1953)
PASS OF THE WEEK
Our featured pass this week is not good for acrophobia sufferers. We drive from the summit of the 1515m high Arangieskop view-point in the Langeberg Mountains, losing 540m of altitude over 4.1 km down a pass with an average gradient of just under 1:8. It's on private land, but it is accessible by making a booking and paying for a permit. Many of you might have already been a passenger up this pass in the form of the Protea Farm Tractor-Trailer experience. We offer a triple video set to enjoy. If you haven't driven this one, bookmark it. It's a winner!
* * * * * A R A N G I E S K O P M O U N T A I N R O A D * * * * *
Words of Wisdom: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind" ~ Dr. Seuss