Tagged with " museums"
Sep 28, 2008 -

Calgary, My Enchanted Land, and the End of the Road?


The only thing on my schedule for today was a visit of Fort Calgary. It’s a small museum, but the exhibits about the NWMP and the history of Calgary are quite interesting. I was accosted at one point by a retired RCMP officer who proceeded to talk my ear off for about twenty minutes about his career, his uniform, Mountie training, career opportunities within the force, his son who is serving at the detachment in Inuvik, our mutual feelings about Ottawa vs. The West, and more. It was really interesting!

As I was about to leave the fort, the lady at the admissions desk called me back and gave me some information about another museum that might interest me that is only open tomorrow (more about that tomorrow *g*) and then she gave me information on a walking tour of downtown Calgary, a scenic detour on the way to a cemetery, details on how to find a particularly interesting gravestone, a brochure about a rock garden that is a must see, and, finally, a map illustrating filming locations in the Calgary area. Whew!

I did only part of the walking tour, which was mostly a gentle stroll down Stephen Avenue, Calgary’s former main street. The architecture was exquisite!!! During a pre-WWI boom, a lot of Calgary’s original wooden buildings were replaced by sandstone structures that really reflect the amount of wealth coming into the city at the time. The Doll Building was my favourite.

The Hudson’s Bay store left me awestruck. It takes up a whole block!

I then returned to my car and proceeded to Spiller Avenue, from which she told me I should take the steepest side street I could find and that I would know why at the top; all of Calgary was laid out below me!

Next on the list was the cemetery.

The Reader Rock Garden was attached to the cemetery. I enjoyed clambering up and down the stone paths even if there wasn’t much in bloom at this time of year.
It was two by this point and I had nothing else planned for the day. So, I took a gander at the movie locations map. You wouldn’t believe the number of major Hollywood pictures filmed in the Calgary area, everything from Robin Williams’ ‘RV’ to Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’ to Ang Lee’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (a lot of which was filmed near the town on the outskirts of which I’m currently living).

My Enchanted Land

Until the late ’90’s, I could recognize a certain landscape, or a variation thereof, in numerous movies, but I didn’t realise that it was truly one landscape from one region. It was a landscape of mountains, plateaus, and valleys; the perfect setting for everything from ‘Legends of the Fall’ to ‘The Edge’, movies set in a gentler time or about a rough wilderness. Then one day I watched the dueSouth episode ‘Call of the Wild’ and recognized this landscape in it. I did some research and discovered that my enchanted land is called Kananaskis country and it is in Alberta.

Why my enchanted land? There is a book I reread many times in my youth called ‘Cat, Herself.’ It tells the story of a family of tinkers in Scotland. Tinkers are travelers not unlike the full-time RVer. The main character, Cat, had a grand-mother who referred to Ben Loyal as her enchanted land. The expression stuck in my mind.

So, looking at the movie locations map today, I noticed a route marked the Kananaskis trail. It looked like perhaps three to four hours driving time total.

I wanted to go, but I hesitated. What if my enchanted land turned out to be two beautiful peaks surrounded by condos? Perhaps I should do what I did in 1998 when I purposely avoided Sherwood Forest, just leave it as a land out of dreams.

But I was so close. I decided to go.

I’ll let just a few of the pictures I took tell the rest of the story.

The End of the Road?

There is so much work here in Alberta, more jobs than there are workers. From an employment point of view, this should be the end of the road for me until the spring. But I really don’t think that Miranda could be made comfortable enough to endure a Calgary winter and I’ve endured enough miserable winters in the mobile home to know what I’d be getting into. But all these jobs! So, I’ll confess that I’m looking, just for curiosity’s sake, for an indoor place where I could park Miranda for the winter and live in her, like a heated garage or plane hangar.

To give you an idea of what the employment situation is like, let’s go back for a moment to my very first morning in Alberta, back when I was in Lloydminster. I decided to treat myself to a Tim Horton’s coffee before pushing off. I went in, ordered my coffee and muffin, and was about to leave when someone called to me. It was the manager. He wanted to know if I owned the RV outside and, if so, if I’d be interested in a couple of weeks worth of work.

I haven’t shared that story because I felt no one would believe it. But the woman at the museum today did and she said she had a job for me for the winter if I wanted it.

That doesn’t make actually looking for work particularly appealing.

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Alberta, Canada, Finances, Travel, Work    3 Comments
Sep 24, 2008 -

Fort Edmonton Park

Today was the best sort of day!

First off, the weather was just beautiful; crisp but not too cold, with a bright blue sky that contrasted sharply with the emerald and amber foliage of the park. It was the kind of day meant for strolling outdoors.

As it turned out, Fort Edmonton Park isn’t closed during the week in the fall! It just runs on a very reduced basis: most buildings are open, but there are few interpreters and no concessions are open. There are also wagon rides available that go through the park and give the history of it.

While I was disappointed that the first Rutherford home was not open today, the atmosphere in the park more than made up for that. It was quiet and empty, and it was an absolute luxury to tour at my own pace, unhurried and without having to push my way through crowds.

Normally, there is a train which takes guests from the admissions building to the Edmonton Fort, from which guests can amble back chronologically through the exhibits. I did my tour in reverse and I actually much preferred that, as it felt like I was slowly making my way back in time, from a 1920’s street, to one from 1905, to one from 1885, to the old fort circa 1840.

At the fort, I took the the wagon back to the entrance, then back to the fort again, from which I took a slightly less beaten path back so that I could snap pictures of the few buildings I’d missed which had been pointed out on the tour.

I wound up spending four hours at the park when I had expected to spend just one. Admission for today was just 8.75$!

The entrance to the park is supposed to be inspired by the shape of a boat and that of a fort wall.

I collect(ed?) blue willow dishware and snapped a picture of this enamel piece as I’d never seen one that was so pale. I came close to buying this dish in the gift shop but showed remarkable restraint. 🙂

The first mosque ever built in Canada (and possibly North America) looks Ukrainian; guess the nationality of the architect and builder. 🙂

Private toilet facilities at the fort have only three holes!

The round barn is an original building that was moved to the park. The design (a 20-sided polygon) wasn’t very popular, but made for an efficient use of space as it could hold more cattle per square foot and allowed for a common feed area in the centre that could be supplied by a hay loft on the second level.

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Sep 24, 2008 -

Wild Rose Country

I’m posting from Edmonton, Alberta.



Driving northwest out of Saskatoon on the Yellowhead (16), the landscape begins to ripple and the vast golden expanses of wheat give way to green pastures interrupted by dense poplar copses. By the time you truly enter Alberta, after you’ve passed Lloydminster, you’d think you were back in northern Ontario. But the trees betray your true location, as Alberta along this route has more poplar than it does spruce.

My first night in Alberta was spent in a zoo of a shopping complex in Lloydminster. I was very technically set up in front of a Wal-mart, but, truly, home was squeezed in between a Kelsey’s restaurant and a bank. It was very noisy, crowded, and busy, but provided a good lesson in how far I’ve come in the past few weeks. My first times in such locations, I couldn’t relax and absolutely had to leave the coach. This night, I just got a few groceries to make dinner at home, and then I plopped down with a book for several hours.

I made it to Edmonton around 12:30 on Monday. It had been a miserable morning; rainy, damp, cold, muddy, and windy. Keeping Miranda in her lane had required all my energy. I wanted to go somewhere warm for the afternoon, somewhere I wouldn’t have to think too much, somewhere I could have some exercise.

So, within a half hour of arriving in Edmonton, I was on my way to the West Edmonton Mall.

Now, I have no love for these insane orgies of consumerism. When I went through Minnesota in 2005 I purposely skipped the Mall of America even though I went right by it. But the West Edmonton Mall promised an indoor water park with a wave pool which sounded like just the thing I wanted….

I found the water park and was dismayed by the admission cost of 32$, plus 7$ for a locker rental. I just wanted to swim! I took a chance and asked the lady at admissions if there was perhaps a special fee just for the pool. Not during the week… because access to the whole facility is 17$ since not all the activities are open!

And that’s why I am really beginning to love this life, folks. I woke up Monday in a miserable parking lot, went to bed in a quiet setting surrounded by firs, and in the middle of all that, I spent three glorious hours swimming, body surfing waves, and taking too many exhilarating rides to count down waterslides. Monday was a Good Day.

Yesterday was okay. Everything I really wanted to see in Edmonton is either closed for renovations, closed for the season, or has a drastically reduced program. I did the Royal Alberta Museum in the morning and had mixed feelings about it. The 10$ admission fee felt bloated when I compared the museum to the RSM (2$) and I found the exhibits disjointed and badly organized. But I was able to fall in love with an absolutely adorable little guy (Australian stick bug) and learn about the shipwreck of the Empress of Ireland, which happened on the St. Lawrence River, and which I’d never heard about even though it was comparable in tragedy to the sinking of the Titanic.

I finished up my day early by going to Rutherford House, home of Alberta’s first premiere.

Rutherford House, Edmonton

Rutherford House, Edmonton

Admission was 4$ and got me a private guide who was fantastic. I enjoyed touring this Edwardian home, comparing it to Victorian homes I’d toured before. The Edwardian style is a lot more simple, but the paint colours are shockingly bright.

Today, I’m not sure if I’m doing anything touristy. I had wanted to go to Fort Edmonton Park, but it’s shut down for the season and the only thing going on during the week are wagon rides. Later today I’ll go check out if those are worth doing since the park is just minutes from here. I also need to visit an Elections Canada office to get a special ballot to vote by mail as we have an election coming up on October 14!

I’m very tired and the cold I woke up with last Thursday has hardly abated. So, I’m reconsidering my plans for the rest of the week. I was supposed to go to Calgary tomorrow and stay through to Sunday. I think I’m going to blow off the city and come back in the spring.

So, my new tentative itinerary is to make it as far as the Wal-mart in Red Deer tomorrow, the Wal-mart in Calgary on Friday, and then stop in Canmore for a full seven nights as I found a park there that offers a free seventh night for six paid up (making the average cost per night almost reasonable). From there, I could take a day trip into Calgary (1 hour) and day trips into Banff, similar to what I did in Regina. And then from Canmore, I’ll drive, up and down and through the mountains until I reach the Okanagan valley. It’s getting colder up here (there’s frost on the grass outside!) and the Okanagan Valley is starting to sound like the promised land. 🙂

I must also confess that I’m getting too settled into this semi-retired-type routine of mine and that it won’t hurt for me to start making some income again to remind me that there is still a big old world out there. 🙂

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Alberta, Boondocking/Dry camping, Canada, Driving, Itineraries, Law and Government, Personal, Saskatchewan, Travel, Voting, Weather, Why I Do This    4 Comments