Not to know is bad not to wish to know is ...

Trip Start Jun 29, 1999
Trip End Dec 04, 1999

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Sunday, August 29, 1999

"Not to know is bad, not to wish to know is worse." - African proverb

Yeah, well, after having spent too much time on a train last week I was just in the mood to get out of Manitoba and keep moving westward. So instead of visiting Winnipeg's Museum of Man or the Art Gallery I just got in my car to see how far I could get... not far. After 200km my body and brain were at the meltdown stage so I camped in Brandon. Meadowlark Campground deserves a big thumbs up for their excellent showers - one that I needed badly. They also had someone I had yet to encounter in a washroom... 2-ply toilet paper!

Brandon is a nice place. The downtown area is well kept but at 6pm on a Saturday the sidewalks were already rolled up. It was absolutely dead. I went to bed early and enjoyed my first night of totally horizontal sleeping in 5 days. I got a great 11 hours of zzz's.

Sunday, August 22
I had no real plan for how far I wanted to drive on this day so when I got to Swift Current (620km later) I figured this was as good a place as any to stop. The wind was just whipping out of the west all day. It was hard enough to make a visible difference in my fuel efficiency. Swift Current is set amongst the rolling grassland of western Saskatchewan. It's another pretty little town that goes to sleep pretty much at sundown. I found a good sheltered site to set up my tent but the wind died just before dinner anyway. I headed into town in the evening to catch "American Pie" at the theatre. "American Pie" is good but not great. Not surprisingly I found SCTV alumnus Eugene Levy the best part of the film. I'd recommend this movie on video but I must warn the humour is very low brow (i.e. a teenager screwing an apple pie is what passes for humour these days).

Monday, August 23
I made a short drive across the border into Alberta and headed south to Cypress Hills Provincial Park. This park is actually the only interprovincial park in Canada (and the only one named after a rap group) but I had been warned that the Saskatchewan side of the park sucked. The Alberta side was great. I camped right on Elkwater Lake. For anybody who might end up in this park I highly recommend making the short drive over to Reesor Lake. On this drive you reach on of the highest points in the park and the view is just incredible - miles and miles of rolling ranchland. From this viewpoint the drive down to and along Reesor Lake is outstanding but not for the feint of heart as I was amazed at how many blind corners and hills they could put into only 3km of road. At the far end of the lake you can take a short hike up the side of a hill for a great look into the wooded interior of the park.

Tuesday, August 24
The weather was so great I decided to spend another day at Cypress Hills. I got up early and took a 16km hike up to the top of Horseshoe Canyon. On the way you pass several impressive beaver dams. I think beavers are the only real exotic wildlife in this park. There are no bears or moose. Actually you're apt to see a lot of cattle from neighbouring ranches that decide to make a visit into the park. I spent the afternoon lazing on the beach beside the lake, something I haven't had the opportunity to do since I was in Ontario. I forced myself into the very frigid waters of the lake, as my campsite didn't have showers. I'd rate it colder than Lake Superior but not as bad as the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Gaspé.

Wednesday, August 25
My plan was to make it into Calgary today but not before I made a side-trip into Drumheller. This is the badland area of Alberta along the Red Deer River. The river sits in a deep canyon and the surrounding hillsides resemble moonscapes. Owing to a sudden glacial melting this canyon was carved out it only 3 weeks. You can see many different layers in the sediment along the hillsides. I first went to see the Hoodoos, which are column-like formations, caused by harder sandstone protecting the softer soil underneath. If you see them you'll immediately think to yourself "Roadrunner & Coyote." I then headed up to the Royal Tyrell Museum just outside of Drumheller. This area and another area to the southeast are very rich in dinosaur fossils and the Tyrell is a museum dedicated to ancient animal life. The museum is excellent. They apparently have over half a million bones in their collection. I also had the opportunity to take a hike to a nearby dig-site. That was fascinating. You could talk to the paleontologists as they worked and you could find shards of bone lying all over the ground. The scientists were in the process of removing a pelvic bone and there was a large jawbone, a rib, a leg bone, and a huge Albertasaurus tooth in plain view jutting out of the rock. It was astounding to think that these artifacts are 65 million years old. It kind of makes you feel excited and insignificant all at once. After leaving the museum I followed The Dinosaur Trail which is a scenic drive mapped out by the province. You enter and exit the canyon a couple of times and even get to use one of the last remaining river ferries still in operation in this part of the country. You also pass a church that can only seat 6 worshippers but the highlight of the trail is a stop at an outlook over top of Horse-Thief Canyon. On the way to Calgary I also stopped at (a different) Horseshoe Canyon for some hiking. I arrived at Tara's house in Calgary just in time to watch Jeopardy! The couch was great, the TV was great, and seeing Tara again was pretty good too.

Thursday, August 26
This day was dedicated to my ass and sitting upon it. It was a whole day of nothing. I did some laundry. I cleaned up my tent. I aired out my sleeping bag. I watched CNN. I read the Globe & Mail. I went through Tara's CD collection (The Best of David Lee Roth). I watched The Young & The Restless. I read The National Post. I was back in civilization. When Tara came home I made a big dinner and then we watched more TV. After getting a little loopy on cider we got real crazy and went on the Internet! I don't know if I can take any more of this wild lifestyle. Fortunately for me, I didn't have to get up early with a hangover and drag myself into work... heh heh heh

Friday, August 27
After dragging my ass of the couch I headed downtown to the Glenbow Museum. The main focus of this museum is life on the Canadian plains from the first native arrival up until the 1930's. There are other excellent exhibits as well. The temporary exhibit focussed on Native Indian art, both contemporary and traditional. They also had a great display of Hindu and Buddhist sculpture. I loved this because western religions are kind of boring what with all their pious holy men. Hindu has all these female gods who can kick anybody's ass (and, according to the sculptors, all have very, very large breasts). The Glenbow is an excellent museum but the atmosphere was completely different from the Tyrell. The Tyrell was absolutely jammed packed with people (mainly families) whereas I found myself alone most of the time at the Glenbow. Once Steven Spielberg does his action-packed movie about the great Doukhabour migration the kids will all want to go to the Glenbow. After leaving the museum I walked along the Stephen Avenue Pedestrian Mall. The shops along here all maintain the original facades of some the city's oldest buildings. It's also an unusual place for downtown because in most other places all the storefronts are located inside malls (i.e. designed for harsh winter weather). I then walked north up the Barclay Mall to Eau Claire Market which is a really nice commercial area right on the river with a lot of restaurants. Then I headed back into downtown and made the journey up the Calgary Tower. It was a disappointing trip. There was a haze that prevented a good view of the mountains to the west and there are a few buildings now that are taller than the tower itself so your view is blocked in some places. I've been up a few towers in my time (CN, Stratosphere, Space Needle, Sears Tower) and this was the worst one. Save your money. I quickly dropped by Calgary City Hall (built 1912) since it looked very interesting from the tower. It's design and use of local sandstone makes it stand out from the other downtown architecture.

Friday Evening
Tara and her friend Sarah decided to show me the Calgary nightlife. First we headed to Crazy Horse. I laughed at this name because it reminded me of all those giant billboards in Myrtle Beach advertising a Crazy Horse stripclub. The bar is a pretty nice place in the basement of an old building. To add to the ambience the proprietors have kept the giant furnace doors and bellows. While the interior was quite original this isn't really my kind of bar. The DJ stuck to dance remixed 80's classics and you could barely carry on a conversation. I must say that this is where all the beautiful young people in Calgary come to on Friday nights. We got a table right beside the dancefloor which is perfect because there were a lot of Solid White Dancers to mock. At one point both Tara and Sarah got up to dance (I think it was an Erasure song) and I was left alone at the table. There were a group of ladies dancing close by and one grew tired and asked if she could sit at my table for 5 minutes. She was cute so, of course, I said yes. She decided to strike up a conversation...

"So how come you're not dancing?"
"This really isn't my kind of place. I like to sit down and have a few drinks and talk when I go out. I'm just visiting some friends and this is where they wanted to go."
"Oh, you're from out of town?"
"Where from?"
"I drove here from Toronto."
"Oh yeah? Welcome to Canada!"

Okay, timeout. Now I'm not the kind of guy to issue an IQ test when meeting someone of the opposite sex but this girl had just turned me off completely. I had to make a quick decision and I had a few options.

Option #1 - Correct her.
I might as well just point my finger in her face and call her stupid. Pass.

Option #2 - Ask if she heard me correctly.
Although I'm not sure of what other place you could confuse with Toronto (Tirana, the capital of Albania maybe) I could have gone this route. Did I want to take the chance that she really was that stupid and just return to Option #1? No. Pass.

Option #3 - Speak intelligently and eloquently and either you'll find out she didn't hear you correctly or you'll bore her to death.
Ding! Ding! Ding! This is the way to go.

So I pay no attention to her mistake and start talking about my trip and all the wonderful things I've seen out west and all the observations I've made. Her eyes slowly glaze over. She's lost. Thankfully, her friends decide that it's time to go.

Our group also decides to move on and since I want to see a genuine redneck bar we go to Cowboys. Now I'd like to give credit to a bar that names itself after the greatest football team of all-time but if you opened a bar called Cowboys in Toronto it would definitely be a gay bar. Afterwards I noticed that there are a lot of redneck bars out here that would be gay bars back in Toronto like Ranchmen, Outlaws, and Bull Shooters. I was getting a good laugh out of this and I was kind of hoping I'd see a bar called Wranglers or Cowpokes. Cowboys was odd. It was a very mixed crowd from ordinary guys to like their hard rock to the kind of people that wear cowboy hats with no sense of irony. The highlight of the bar is the big dance floor with couples two-stepping away to any speed of music offered. Another good part is the plethora of really hot waitresses. I was told (and this wasn't confirmed) that the bar will pay for half of their boob jobs. It looked as if every female employee had taken up on that offer. After a couple more drinks we called it a night.

When we got home I flicked on the TV and wrestling was on TSN. Since I hadn't watched it in 8 weeks I just had to catch up on the storylines. I also realized that here I was in the hometown of Bret "The Hitman" Hart and I hadn't tried to find out where Hart House is. That seemed like a good plan until I passed out.

(heh heh heh Microsoft's dictionary keeps trying to replace Hitman with Whitman. Never before would you ever think of Bret Hart and Walt Whitman at the same time.)

Saturday, August 28
When I got up I scrapped the Hitman plan. If I managed to figure out where the Hart family lived it would be kind of intrusive even if only I'd drive by their place. I went to Canada Olympic Park instead. This is where 1988 Winter Olympics had the ski-jumping, bobsledding and luge runs. Driving around Calgary you'll notice an abundance of green space. It kind of reminded me of Ottawa in that respect. I took a guided tour of COP and it was pretty fun re-living the "glory" of the Jamaican bobsled team and Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards. The best part was going to the top of the 90 metre ski-jumping tower. It provides a far better view than the Calgary tower. There is also an Olympic Hall of Fame/Museum that has some good interactive stuff. The simulated bobsled ride is a must-do. I spent more time here than I expected. On the way back to Tara's I got trapped in a carwash. That kinda sucked. Then I stopped for lunch at a local fast-food place called Willy's Burgers. For some reason I find fast-food places that you can't find in Toronto so exotic. Willy's is pretty good. They make a good double cheeseburger and the onion rings are excellent. I also recommend the banana shake. I took it easy this evening and since the classic movie "Cannonball Run" was on I didn't move far from the couch.

It's Sunday morning now and I'm enjoying another episode of "Saved By The Bell." I think I'll spend another lazy day here in Calgary cleaning up the rest of my camping stuff and then on Monday I'll head down to Waterton Lakes National Park for a couple of days of hiking and then I plan on hitting Banff, Edmonton, and Jasper in that order.

Bradley T Hughes

You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose
- Dr. Seuss
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