We left the ranch on another beautiful sunny day, where it was expected to be a scorching 36 degrees in the rolling, treeless, prairie lands…..a perfect day to go for a cruise with the air conditioning on!! We took the roughly four hour drive northward to a town named Cochrane, just outside of Calgary. We arrived around 3:00pm, set up the rig, which by now, is seamless and takes no time at all, and got ready to meet up with friends in the nearby town of Airdrie for drinks and dinner later that evening. We met with our friends Michelle and Darren at the local pub “The Pour House”, had a great dinner and a few cocktails and carried on late into the evening.
The next day, we hiked to a nearby waterfall that Darren had recommended and since the hike was challenging but reasonably short, we hiked it twice, the second time without any breaks or rests….which was a good bit of cardio!! The trail followed a meandering creek that came down the mountain in several dramatic waterfalls…it was beautiful of course!! Check out the photos!!
That night, we had our friend Adam Petch (AP!) and his girlfriend Jenny in to the camper for dinner. Adam grew up with us in our hometown of Acton and had since moved out to the west several years ago. We laughed and told old stories and bad jokes for hours and found 50 empty beer cans between the two fellas in the morning…..evidently it was a pretty slow and quiet morning at that!! Thanks for the great time A.P., we had a blast!!
The time in Calgary would prove to be a busy one filled with visits with friends new and old, drinking, carrying on, and having a time in general!!……which is just as well, as the spot we were camped in was alright, but very much an RV park….close, small stalls….no trees, nothing special, but it was in a convenient spot. The next afternoon, we drove into the thick of Calgary to visit with another couple of friends who had recently moved away from town to the wild west. We had plans to have dinner with our friends Brett and Jessica Manes. Jessica is the youngest sister of one of Paul’s best friends and the best man in our wedding, Joel Petkoff, and she is married to Brett Manes, who's parents live on the property across from the home that we just sold before we came on this trip, and played baseball and hockey in town with all the local boys. Great news for this young, little family, they are expecting a baby in the near future, and Jess looked beautiful with her round little tummy starting to sprout!! Brett BBQ’d us some absolutely beautiful, bloody, perfectly rare steaks…..uughhhhh…..I’m drooling thinking about it!!
After dinner, we continued our new tradition of exploring local ice cream parlours; we found a little hole in the wall, tucked away in an alley in an artsy area of Calgary and had maybe the best ice cream treats we’ve had so far….I know, I know, I always say that…..but this ice cream parlour was all homemade ice cream, using clean, organic ingredients, they make the waffle cones as you order them, and put your ice cream in the still warm, cone……I had a berry sundae made with organic vanilla bean ice cream, crumbled, buttered oatmeal crisp and homemade wild berry compote…..yeah, I know right!?! It was killer…..and we were stuffed!! We bid goodbye to Jess and Brett and dropped them back at their place and headed back to our campground, once again aware of how lucky we were and how grateful we are to have such wonderful friends spread all across this beautiful country!
Our final day in the Calgary area found us taking a drive to Banff to see what all the hype was about. It was about 90 minutes from where we were in Cochrane to Banff, so we headed out mid-morning to enjoy a nice drive into the mountains. And what a nice drive it is…..I was happy not to be the one behind the wheel, as the views and the scenery are truly breathtaking, and I imagine distracting if I was driving!!…….we drove from where the scenery was nothing special , into the mountains that seem to explode right out of the earth….they are so big and so widespread and so majestic, there is really no way to describe how you feel once you are moving through the valleys of countless mountains towering above. Just before we entered the park, we had to slow the truck and wait for a group of big-horned sheep to leisurely cross the road in front of us. Unbelievable!! They seem tame….and they are…… from a distance!! Unfortunately the rest of our Banff experience was less than tranquil…..I guess since it’s within a reasonable drive to the Calgary area, it is absolutely PACKED everywhere!! We attempted to go and see Lake Moraine and Lake Louise, and quite literally between the two places, we spent three hours just moving through the traffic, only to turn around at the end of the parking lot….we couldn’t get even close to either lake, and got a fleeting glimpse of Lake Moraine, but decided that it would be better to come back to this area in the fall once the tourist traffic has subsided……for those of you reading this that grew up around me, Banff was like the badlands on Olde Base Line in Caledon on a holiday weekend with the whole of the GTA out there!!……painful!!
The next stop on our tour was Drumheller…The Dinosaur capital of the country and home to the Royal Tyrell Museum!! We camped at “Dinosaur RV Park” in Drumheller…Naturally!! The town has scores of public walking and biking trails all over that go from the centre of town, out through the badlands and to the museum, so we took our bikes through the town for several hours and did a preliminary check out of the badlands around the museum, which we would be visiting the next day. It is surreal to be cruising around on trails through an area where dinosaurs one lived in huge numbers…..I half-ass expected a scene from the movie Jurassic park to explode out of the surroundings, but no such luck!! We headed to the Royal Tyrell Museum the next day and proceeded to have my mind absolutely blown……It is hard to wrap your head around the scale of these great, huge beasts, and all the more mind-blowing to see a gigantic fossilized Triceratops head, found fully intact, by some kids fishing along the nearby riverbank…….or the entirely intact skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, also found by some kids puttering around in the coulee…..the most spectacular of which is aptly named “Black Beauty”.
This dinosaur died in an area of high levels of Manganese in the soil, which caused the bones of the dinosaur to fossilize a dark, shiny onyx colour. There are hundreds of original, entire or partial skeletons of a giant number of dinosaur species, as well as turtles, alligators, sea creatures, prehistoric birds, wooly mammoths, sabre toothed tigers etc. The most incredible thing about it all, is that the vast majority of the artifacts have been discovered in a fairly localized area encompassing southern Alberta, Montana and Utah, and of these, overwhelmingly, the most dramatic artifacts come from the area of Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. After leaving the museum, I believe that I understood a little better my fascination with dinosaurs…. Almost everything of childhood splendour eventually fades and is replaced by reason and logic and adult sensibility, such as Santa and halloween and the tooth fairy and the like……As I exited the museum, I watched around me while children and adults alike, giggled and chattered with excitement and disbelief in regards to the Dinos, amidst an atmosphere of the surreal, as if the general concensus in the parking lot was, “Did I just really see that in there!?!”. It was an incredible experience and I would recommend it to anyone coming through the area……it is only $15.00 for admission and we spent half the day there and could’ve spent more, if we hadn’t already explored the badlands so thoroughly the day before on our bike tour of the town.
Next stop along the way was the Edmonton area, with the intention of spending a few days checking out the West Edmonton Mall. We again, camped just outside the city limits at a place called Glowing Embers RV park. This RV park is huge and has hundreds of campers in it. Lots of people are semi-permanent in this park, you can tell because they have their rigs skirted and have huge propane tanks outside that get filled by truck. It seems that many of these semi-permanent set-ups are working people. They leave early in the morning and come home around dinner. I wonder if they are seasonal workers that do not live in the area and head home to wherever that is, once the bad weather hits. The mall was close to our campground and we had already done our research before arriving as to what we wanted to do and how to go about it. There are several attractions in the mall, but each is about $40.00 each for admission, or for $99.00 each, you get admission to everything that the mall has to offer for two full days, so that’s what Paul and I did. We played some mini-golf, checked out the mall and headed to the Amusement Park of the Mall to ride rollercoasters. The first ride we went on was the “Swings of the Century”, the same one that’s at Canada’s Wonderland; a slow spinning carousel style ride with hanging basket swings to sit in, while the ride lifts you off the ground and spins the swings in a circle……for what, incidentally, seems like a half a bloody hour…..what a terrible idea……Adult brains are not meant to be spun around like that…..after about three revolutions, of what felt like an eventual 2000, I felt as sick as a dog……I was sweating and prickly by the time I got off…..only to find Paul getting off on wobbly legs and feeling about the same! So we did what any sensible adult would do….went on the biggest, highest, rollercoaster in the place with five full upside-down rotations…..in the very front seat of course, at Paul’s insistence!……but not before the “carnie” lost his shit in front of us due to a late break relief……yeah, I felt super safe when he let the switch go….all sweaty and disgruntled, oh Sweet Jesus!! The coaster was awesome though!! It doesn’t have a lot of space to do what it does, so the ups and downs are steep and dramatic……I screamed like a school girl…..It was the very front and all! Anyway, then we were both about to vomit/die, so we split from the amusement park and hit the waterpark and wave pool!!
The rest of our time in Edmonton from here on out consists of us drying off when we got turfed out of the waterpark the first night at closing time, and pretty much returning the next day and not leaving again until 9:00 pm!! What an absolute blast!! There are 12 or so water slides, ranging in intensity from a leisurely “Walk In The Park” to a full-on swim-trunks-soiling “Oh F*@k Me!!”……three of the slides require you to get into a capsule standing up, a door closes around you to encapsulate you in a tube, and the flippin’ floor falls out from underneath you………you can’t just “lie down” on these slides, because the grade is too steep…….I just could not convince myself to get into one of the drop floor slides…….not even in two days could I convince myself……despite Paul’s encouragement that they weren’t “that” scary……But I loved the longest slides that you have to climb all the wall to the top of the roof for……about 10 stories!…..serious leg workout those days!! There was also a massive wave pool that we had a tonne of fun surfing in tubes on. We carried on for hours and hours in our swim trunks like kids, between the hot tubs, the water slides and the wave pool. We had a super time at the mall, and if I ever went back, I would absolutely spend another evening in the waterpark! What a fun time……I probably wasn’t too hard to spot in the waterpark…..I was the person having the MOST fun!! After returning home to our camper and our pup after our second fun-filled day at the mall, we tidied up the rig and prepared to head to Jasper, Alberta the next morning to meet with Paul’s cousin Jennifer and her husband Colin to do some exploring and whitewater rafting in the National Park!