BC to Alberta

rain clouds in alberta

Or How to Get There From Here.

We thought it would be an uneventful day, but as with any travel adventures, we ended up having two adventures we hadn’t planned on.

Dora the Explorer and the “I’m a Map,” dude. Along the road, through the forest, past spooky trees with faces and to find the house of death.

We’d planned to get to Calgary by 3 so we could see the zoo and the pandas. (If you recall, we had to book a viewing appointment with the pandas. Like they were kings. Or doctors).

So we couldn’t leave Cranbrook too late. It was over 4 hours of driving on the Crowsnest highway.

So, like Dora the Explorer would say, we had to go through the forest, over the mountains, and along the plains to find the city.

The-Youngest was oddly excited about actually crossing the border. I think he wanted gates, armed guards, and searchlights, but all we found were two signs. Leaving BC and Welcome to Alberta.

Not super exciting. Not even a bear or a scruffy-looking pipeline protestor could be seen.

So, feeling a little disappointed, we stopped for Timmies right across the border.

This became our first travel adventure for the day.

Tim Hortons. Mmmmm. Donut. Double double. Fast Service… or not

Now, I am, if nothing, a veteran Timmies guy, and this was perhaps the worst one I have ever, ever visited.

It was super busy, which is not unheard of, but the mass of customers waiting for double-doubles had broken the restaurant.

I’ve seen it happen on my watch in Toys R Us at Christmas time. The staff were simply overwhelmed.

One young employee stood there staring at a machine that stirs the ice drinks like he’d been shelled by the Taliban. A little old lady running the cash register got so flustered, she forgot how to ring in cash and just kept waving it in the air like the bill was on fire. Nearby, two sandwich makers bickered with each other about who had last used the buttering knife as a phalanx of sandwich orders hung on their station overhead.

Now, a good owner would take charge. Shift people if needed. Manage the crisis. Keep things rolling, but I swear to God, not a single coffee or sandwich was made in ten minutes while everyone panicked.

So it took a good 45 min to get a coffee.

It’s a weird thing when something like that takes so long. If someone said, hey Justjoe, it looks like this is going to take 45 min, I would have left, but after investing 10 min, do you give up?

What about after 20, cuz now you’ve invested even more time?

And then 30 min?

Well, Goddammn, after 30,  I’m sticking it out now!

Which I did. I got my coffee, fought my way out of the parking lot and we were back on our way. Minor delay. Major grumpy attack by me.

After that coffee disaster, the sky decided to echo my mood and turn dark. Like winter storm dark.

And with that darkness, came our second unexpected adventure.

rain clouds in alberta
Nothing like a good Alberta storm!

On the prairies, a dark sky either means aliens are gathering to attack, again, or a lightning storm was a’comin’. And sure enough, as we got into the foothills, a storm descended upon us with righteous fury. Lightning forked across the sky. Sheets of rain pounded on the car, making driving nearly impossible, and through it all, not a single boom of thunder.

How amazing!

Both boys oooohed and awww’d at the lightning, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World gripped the dashboard with a kung fu grip as we sped along a highway where we could barely see 2 feet in front of us.

Luckily, I found a gas station to pull into until the storm passed over us. We stood under a convenience store canopy and watched it roll towards the mountains. I won’t lie, I was still shaking from that highway drive and I think the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wished we’d stopped at the liquor store instead of a gas station.

thunder and lightning storm. alberta 2018
Storm’s coming. Alberta, 2018

But we saw a good, old-fashioned prairie storm. Something you just don’t see in Vancouver at all.

And both the Timmies catastrophe and the storm had made this part of the trip more interesting.

“Interesting?” The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World asked. “What next? Driving into a tornado? Dancing on a lava field? Boating in a hurricane?”

The three of us boys thought all those things would be amazing, but next up, those exciting, super energetic pandas, aka the wildmen of the bamboo forest.

******

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Canada Day – What if Everything Goes Right?

In my mind, they’re avoiding either Godzilla or a toll bridge

I’ve said it before, but the best stories don’t come from happiness or things going right.

They come from falling asleep while waiting in the ferry line and being woken up by honking and a ferry worker banging on your window and telling you to get the car in f…ing gear, in dealing with the Greek police after a car accident, in sorting out where you would have left your wallet in a place where people speak English about as well as you speak Mongolian, in pitching a tent in the pouring rain while lightning snaps overhead and thunder shakes the ground.

Now, I won’t say I look forward to those things, but they do make for good stories.

Our destination, this year, however, could prove to be problematic, vis-à-vis problems.

We had chosen to go to Victoria.

Few things are as beautiful as the trip from Vancouver to Victoria.

I booked the ferry in advance because it’s a long weekend and on those occasions, people like to travel to the Island and plug up all the roads. Now, the ferries have an odd rule. You have to arrive ½ hr before departure, but not an hour before. In other words, they give you about a ½ hour window. 5:00 – 5:30 to catch that 6 ferry.

It’s a hard window to hit in Vancouver traffic. Invariably, there’s someone who’s determined to set their truck on fire, crash into someone else or drive at the speed of a tortoise on pain meds.

Then there’s the whole getting the kids ready, packed, yanking them off electronics, stuffing them into the car and panicking as we realize we have to make a 50 min drive in 20 min now.

It can be quite the ordeal.

But not this time.

Dynamite works well, too

This time, we were totally ready to go hours before we had to leave. HOURS! And when we actually had to leave, it wasn’t like surgically separating them from their electronics.

Hell, we even left before we had to leave. BEFORE!

When we arrived within that 30-minute ferry window. No cards were declined. No one threw up in the backseat. No one forgot to bring the paperwork.

It all went fine.

Everyone who hadn’t made a reservation had a 2 sailing wait.

Sailing to Victoria, the weather was magnificent, the ocean calm, and the captain even yelled at a skateboarder over the PA system (stop it, we have cameras and can see you, you totally f…ing moron.) The Youngest read. READ! The Oldest didn’t once punch his brother while thinking we weren’t looking. And we listened to the Oldest’s newest composition (something honestly amazing).

It was horrific.

Like Heaven might be.

Then, we blazed through ferry traffic, found a parking space right in front of our hotel and got an upgraded room so huge that the Youngest said, boy, this room is huge.

Tegan and Sara in concert. Free! On the parliament lawns!

Something odd was happening here.

But it didn’t stop there. On the parliament lawn, right beside us, there was a concert playing – A duo that the Prettiest-girl-in-the-World LOVES. Tegan and Sara.

Musicians played all over. There was a truck that sold mini-donuts. People were dancing and smiling and waving Canadian flags.

So we listened to the concert for a bit, went to get ice cream, strolled along streets shut off to traffic and took pictures of the glorious sunset. The only iffy thing that happened was the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World mis-hearing the cost of the ice cream (“$40 for 4 cones??????, are you kidding me?” “Not $40. $14.”)

No ice cream got dripped on my shirt. No drunken idiots tried to beat up anyone (unlike my last visit to Victoria). No activists shouted at us, outraged at something. No police sirens wailed. Hell, the Youngest didn’t even wander off to touch something that really shouldn’t be touched.

By the time we got back to the hotel, I was reeling.

Nothing had gone wrong. We’d had a perfect time. Perfect.

And all without a plan.

How was this possible?

And would it last?

 

For fun, a Tegan and Sara video (ad kept in cuz that’s how T&S make a bit of coin.)

 

 

10 Best Moments For Me On the Vegas/Grand Canyon Trip

The Venetian sky. Real or not real?
The Venetian sky. Real or not real?

There were a lot of great moments on this trip. Big moments. Small moments. Funny moments. But here a few I might not have mentioned (or in desperate need of re-mentioning.)

  1. Debating with The-Youngest whether or not the sky in the Venetian Hotel was real. He said, no and cited these facts: The Venetian sky was blue, but when we came in, it was night outside. None of the clouds moved. There were no birds in the sky. He could see where the paint had chipped off. He pointed to an access panel in the ‘sky’, like one Truman had seen in the Truman Show. I told him if he hadn’t seen that show, he’d be fine with the sky. Thank you very much, Jim Carey.

  2. Watching The-Oldest follow the piano player’s every move at the Venetian. In later years, he might watch a stripper with such fascination or AI robots controlled by Skynet, but for that moment, that pianist was his world. That we actually found the musician in what I will now describe as ‘an epic quest’ was also a great memory, and I was so happy we could do something cool for The-Oldest who seemed always to be doing stuff other people wanted to do.

  3. Wearing those silly balloon hats in Senor Frogs. Now, this may not be a cool moment for everyone, but I tend to be too serious sometimes or too concerned about what other people think, but on that night, I proudly wore my balloons and didn’t care what anyone thought. PS, I was also a little drunk.

  4. The 1001 faces of The-Oldest. Outside of the Bellagio
    The 1001 faces of The-Oldest. Outside of the Bellagio

    Having The-Oldest vow to pull a different face for every picture we took of him. He pretty much succeeded, though I think we caught him genuinely smiling, once.


  5. Becoming an honorary Avenger. Or a member of the Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network. (Don’t judge me.) I know I wrote a whole blog about this, but whatever, it was totally fun, and I’d do it, again. Only next time, I might wear my Captain American pajamas.

  6. Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
    Grand Canyon almost defies description

    Seeing the Grand Canyon, again. For all the lights of Vegas, for all the concrete used to make the Hoover Dam, looking upon such a great natural wonder should be on everyone’s bucket list.


  7. Getting the nerve up to take a picture of the bikers in Flagstaff. Sure they were French, and with their girlfriends, but had that gone wrong, I would have found out how good the trauma care is in the States or hoped that at least someone would get time for beating me to death.

  8. Watching The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World laugh and play with her children. Her love for them is beyond measure, and the happiness they bring her is beyond value.

  9. I  kind-of actually understood the Cirque du Soleil – Beatles show. I mean, who really understands these things? But I got closer than I ever did before. Plus, the show made me cry. I can’t explain why it would, but something in the way they moved…

  10. You can even find a bit of Paris in Veags.
    You can even find a bit of Paris in Vegas.

    The last walk on the last day. Night time. Full-on Vegas. I loved the smells, the sounds, the sights, the crowds, the energy, the colors, the odd-ball loonies… everything. That was my Vegas. Wild Vegas. Untamed. Sure the kids may be in therapy for years over that short walk from the Bellagio Fountains to the Venetian, but listening to the street preacher preach about sin or pushing our way through a mob of Hangover doubles is something you just can’t experience in Vancouver.

 

 

Oh, you know what, there’s really 11.

The last highlight was getting to spend so much time with the boyz and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. Seeing Vegas, alone, had no great appeal for me. Ditto with the Grand Canyon. Or the Hoover Dam.

Experiencing it with them, though… priceless.

I am one lucky SOB.

******

And that concludes our epic adventure down south. But wait, isn’t there a wedding coming up?

I may have a few things to say about that.