Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Calgary Stampede 2014

I have now lived off and on in Alberta for nearly 10 years and prior to my 35th birthday I often lamented that I had never been to the Calgary Stampede. So, this year for my birthday Chrissy surprised me with a special belt buckle gift and a note proclaiming that my true birthday gift was that we were going to the Stampede.


First off - I love this belt buckle! A man fighting a bear sacrificing the left arm to attack with the right is badass. Completely unknown to Chrissy I have an affinity for this image as it nearly mirrors one of my favorite comic books of all time; Weird Western Tales #32 where Jonah Hex fights a bear in a similar manner. As soon as I saw the buckle I ran downstairs to my comics and showed Chrissy the image below. I don't think she realises some days just how much of a nerd I am.


Wearing my belt buckle proudly we attended Stampede. Our activities while there include:

Stampede Parade

Chrissy and I stayed downtown on the Thursday night so I could take in the parade and Chrissy could attend some work meetings on Friday morning, After watching the parade on TV for so many years I was looking forward to seeing the spectacle live.





Even the horse poop street cleaners were decorated

Those of you who know me well know that I can't stand still for long, let alone a whole parade. Eventually I started walking towards the beginning of the parade route to get the full parade experience at half the time. As I was walking I noticed people watching the event from the sides of parkades. Nearing the start point I climbed the stairs to the 6th floor of a parkade and took in the birds eye view.



Chuckwagon Racing

As near as I can tell it's been about 25 years since I last seen a chuck-wagon race. I don't really remember much of my previous experience with the exception of the excitement watching cowboys standing on those rickety wagons hooting and hollering at their horses. On the opening night of the overall competition we arrived to the venue early and were treated to an impromptu interview with the Calgary Stampede Parade Marshall, William Shatner.

Suspenders were a good purchase

Following a delay (apparently PETA protesters slowed things down) the races began.


Some of us couldn't contain our excitement - others simply played it cool.




Midway

Neither Chrissy or myself like midway rides. However, we both love the ridiculous greasy food, games of chance and the lights and cacophany sound that comes from the midway. 







Cowboy Cuisine

Looking to get the full Stampede experience I found a place serving the pinnacle of cowboy cuisine, Prairie Oysters (aka bull testicles). 


They were served pate style on a cracker and were completely and udderly (cow pun!) disgusting. I held them down but it was a struggle. I have no desire to ever have them again.

The Peace Bridge

When not revelling in "Cowboy Halloween" on the Stampede grounds we wandered through downtown Calgary taking in the sights. Eventually we found our way to their trails along the Bow River and at the Peace Bridge. The bridge has been quite polarizing between those who believe in hawkish financial restraint and those who advocate for aesthetics in public projects. I think it looks great and as an Edmontonian am very jealous of the beautiful river crossing.




Other Highlights


Browsing through a 'few' boots at Riley & McCormick Western Wear

Working dog competition

Creepy mascots

Retaining my mini-golf championship

I thoroughly enjoyed the Stampede but it is not an experience that I feel I need to repeat every year. Maybe in a couple more summers we'll head south and do it all again, except for the testicles,,,

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Visiting Canmore

Earlier this summer Christina and I took a couple of trips to Canmore. We never intended to make two trips but opportunity and a celebration led us there.

In mid winter I was searching for a cheap vacation trip and on the Groupon Vacation site I found a fantastic deal for off-season in the Rockies. I swooped it up and come late May we found ourselves at the Windtower Lodge and Suites.

The hotel location wasn't what I would call central but in Canmore it doesn't really matter too much. We actually really liked the location as the walking path to downtown was along the scenic Policeman's Creek Boardwalk  exiting at the 'Big Head'.


After exploring the downtown for some time we took a short drive for a hike along a dried up gravel creek bed - Grotto Canyon Hike. It's an easy hike with very little grade but I wouldn't recommend it for the very young or aged. The uneven rocks will just eat up ankles. 




Our second trip to Canmore was specifically for a wedding of an old colleague and mutual friend of Christina and myself.  This time we ended up staying at the charming Georgetown Inn. This Tudor style hotel hosting the wedding supper was an apt choice as the bride to be is English born and still converses with an accent.  

Chrissy and I woke up early on Saturday for a picturesque walk and big breakfast then got all gussied up for the wedding ceremony on a hill overlooking town. 


The weather was almost as beautiful as my date.


I really enjoy outdoor weddings. Something about it seems more informal and much more congenial. 



Love the car battery power source




After a long night of celebrating and talking Redwings hockey (much to Chrissy's dismay) we woke up a little late to do any ambitious hikes. So instead we went back to one of our favorite spots; Lake Minnewanka for a shoreline walk.



Thanks Karen and Zac for allowing us to be a part of your big day. We wish you many happy and healthy years together.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Victoria in the Spring

After visiting the Butchart Gardens Chrissy and I took a whirlwind tour of the Victoria area in between my conferencing....try to keep up!

Mile Zero of the TransCanada




The Empress





Hatley Castle and Gardens

Home of Royal Roads University but more importantly the 'manors' of the movie X-men, and TV 'abodes' of Lex Luthor and Oliver Queen.







Cathedral Grove

The rain-forest home of giant redwoods.






Wine and Cider Tours

Fantastic cider tasting at Merridale Estate Cidery. Every cider we tried was phenomenal but probably the best drink was just the plain old apple juice. Sooooo gooood.



Somehow the lavender and rhubarb wine at Damali Winery just worked. There is no reason it should taste good but it does.



Cool Pepsi Machine




Whiffin Spit Park in Sooke






Craigdarroch Castle





Exploring Victoria Harbor





Quick Hits


Watching the marathon from our hotel room


Crashing a Chinatown art opening and holding a rickety ladder


Fisherman's Wharf from a water taxi


Lounging Around


Worlds biggest hockey stick in Duncan BC


Coombs Country Market (aka - Goats on Roofs)

Visiting Victoria in the spring from Edmonton and experiencing a temperate climate, rain-forests, a beautiful harbor, and flowers in full bloom was a little disorientating.  A few times we caught  ourselves discussing our customs allowance for our trip home. It's hard to believe that we were in the same country the whole time.

We liked the whole area so much we even looked around at real estate and want ads. Unfortunately I don't think we could find jobs that would allow us to buy the type of house we have become accustomed to in Edmonton. I guess the trade off is a beautiful surrounding and weather all year or a pretty decent home and disposable income. I almost feel lazy in our choice.  Maybe we'll just have to take another 'overseas' trip to Victoria again.