Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Badlands

I met up with some of my friends from Edmonton: Jocelyn, Amanda, Anna, and Ross in Drumheller, Alberta. We were camping for the weekend, so we spent the Friday afternoon/evening setting up, cooking over the campfire (Ross is a good campfire cook) and just hanging out.

The farming plains of southern Alberta:

Saturday morning, Ross went golfing while the rest of us went to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleotology which has a great collection of dinosaur skeletons, skeletons of other prehistoric creatures and loads of fossils. My favourite was this little guy, who clearly looks like a pre-historic Ey-ore and its name is even Erysis?

We met up with Ross in the afternoon and all piled in one car to go see the hoodoos (the pillars in the picture below). They're formed by erosion, so of course they're also changing due to erosion, getting smaller but then new ones can form as well. The hills in the background are typical of the Badlands with the sedimentary layers forming stripes.

Then we visited the old Atlas coal mine (there's still coal in Drumheller, but it's not being mined any more because it's more the household cooking type so not in demand anymore - although with the price of other fuels going up, who knows?) and we got to ride on the restored, battery-powered (so it didn't produce any source of ignition) coal/man train and climb up the tipple.

Then, on the recommendation of our tour guide, we went down a gravel road to check out the ghost town of West Monarch (once had 500-1000 people living in it). This is what it looks like now.

Anyway, the road was fine except to where there was some puddles, which when trying to avoid we fell into a grass-concealed ditch-of-sorts (perhaps created by spinning tires before?) from which we tried valently to extricate ourselves, but to no avail. Here you can see our attempts to build up height and traction under one wheel (there was conveniently a scrap heap nearby so I scuttled under the barbed wire fence to bring back useful things).

So we ended up stuck out in the heat waiting for a tow truck, after I had said earlier in the day "Wouldn't it be terrible to be stuck out here in this heat?" (thinking of all the old cowboy films). And after having wondered whilst on the bus the day before if cactus plants did grow in the Alberta Badlands, I discovered first-hand (literally) that they do when I got this fellow stuck in my forearm and then hand:

Anyway, the getting stuck was an unexpected adventure, but dinner that night, once we got back to the campsite, never tasted better.

On the Sunday after we broke camp, I went up to Edmonton with Ross and Anna, and I stayed with Anna's welcoming house until I flew back. Anna and I wandered around Edmonton and the university campus, both of which have become massive construction sites since the days when I was there.

Then it was time to fly back to Charlottetown and end my holiday to prepare to move to St. John's (and find a new place to live, but that's another story).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

West Coast finally

I arrived in the city early on Monday afternoon, hardly able to hear a thing because my ears had been popping going up and down the mountains on the drive from Kelowna (my ears pop even on small hills, like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick size and up. I assume it's because I'm from PEI and was never up a mountain until fully grown. I'm a sensitive barometer, basically).

While walking around trying to find a hostel I had to admit to myself that Vancouver is a nice city. I hated to do so because Vancouverites are always bragging up their city - "oh, it has the ocean, and the mountains, and it's international..." and so on. Anyway, they're right, dammit. I ended up staying at the Univeristy of British Columbia because all the hostels were full, presumably because of the Radiohead concert that I found out was going on. My room had this great view of the mountains and the city.

On the bus out there, I was even pleased to see that the locals say hello and thank-you to the bus driver. I haven't seen that in many big cities. A downside would be the local young people have a most annoying accent. And speaking of accents, I don't know if mine was a problem but several people seemed to have trouble understanding me and others seemed amused by my (to me) mundane answers to their questions.

From the university, I walked down to the beach (meeting one of my old Acadia students along the way, small world that it is) and had my first contact with the water of the west.

The next day, I hit up Stanley Park and wandered amongst the big trees.

I visited the aquarium in the afternoon; here's the beluga whale who recently gave birth, thus she has stretch marks/love handles on her (she's swimming upside-down as she's wont to do on occasion, so the rolls are on the top of the picture).

Lion's Gate Bridge and North Vancouver under the clouds that were hanging around.

My foot was really killing me, so I actually went to a doctor to get it checked out and found

out it was just a really bad soft tissue bruise. So the good news was that I wasn't damaging myself by walking around, but I still had to take a day of rest of sorts. So I sacrificed my plan to go to North Vancouver and check out the canyons there.

My last day I wandered around Chinatown, Gastown, and the East Hastings district (they were all within 30 minutes walk of the bus station). Around East Hastings was especially interesting, as that's where a lot of the street people are, and I saw folks lining up for the soup kitchens, people sleeping on the sidewalk in the middle of the day, and just a lot of people who looked worn and down on their luck. So the other side of the glossy city, I suppose. Strangely, that was one part of town where no one was begging for spare change.

Oh, and the final good thing about Vancouver - you can get 20-plus pieces of freshly made sushi for 5 bucks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Drive through Rockies to Okanagon

Just some photos from the bus trip through the Rockies to the Okanagon Valley.

Plains giving way to foothills outside of Calgary heading to Banff.

Stopping at Banff.

Either Okanagon or lake north of it near Salmon Arm (sorry, memory failing me. Just look at the pretty colours!)

Okanagon Lake with window reflections extra at no cost.
Houses spreading up the hills in Kelowna; a dry place that produces lots of fruit nonetheless (irrigation, I presume).
More dry hills outside of Kelowna.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saskatchewan is not all flat (Regina)

I just spent a day in Regina, arriving on an overnight bus and leaving on another overnight bus. If I had thought that Thunder Bay reminded me of Edmonton in appearance, Regina jolted me into remembering what Edmonton looks like. The residential lay-out is the same: close together houses of concrete-like stuff with high stoops, no driveway in front but off the back alleys - single lane streets that run behind the houses, so that the back yards are large and long.

I got to the bus station and looked around for the tourist info that one can usually find, and there was absolutely nothing. My guidebook indicated to me that there wasn't any tourist office in the downtown (it's an old guidebook), and I couldn't find one. It's like Regina doesn't want tourists.

I headed to Wascana part, quite pretty, and then to the Royal Saskatechewan Musuem when it opened where I was greeted by a lady so enthusiastic about teh museum I couldn't help feeling it as well. It was a really cool museum though, with exhibits that had just the right amount of reading to supplement the otherwise visual exhibits. There were diorama of all Saskatchewan's ecosystems (I learned that the prairie part is just in the very south) that were so well done I could imagine I was in amongst the landscape viewing the plants and animals myself.

Afterward I tried to walk out to the Mountie museum, and was thwarted by fenced off highways and then a fence off, unsigned compound when I got near. My foot was so sore by then (I hurt it somehow in Winnipeg) and I was so hot that I just caught a bus back to the downtown and spent the rest of my time there reading in Victoria Park (that lady got around).

Again, unedited photos in My Photos 2

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Into Manitoba (Winnipeg)

I ended up on a sort of tour of Thunder Bay when trying to reach the Old Fort William by bus. Thunder Bay looks like a prarie town to me in terms of its street lay-out and the house designs. The bungalows are of the squarish, made of concrete and bricks design that was common throughout Edmonton, as opposed to the clap-board houses, bungalow or two-story, of the Maritimes.

After Thunder Bay, the drive out of Ontario took another 7 hours, with only some very small towns scattered along the way. I know Canada's big, but nothing hammers home that fact like the seemingly never ending highway stretching across forest. We got into some gentle, rocky hills that the highway was blasted through (they were removing more rock around Upsula to widen the road), then Kenora, nearly at the Manitoba border and looking part eastern, part western in building style. Then I was finally in the "west" of the country, after more than 45 hours of road travel from Charlottetown (I subtracted rest time from that while doing mental math on the drive from the border to Winnipeg).

What with arriving in "Friendly!" Manitoba, that only leaves two provinces I've not yet been to (BC and Newfoundland), and those two will be knocked off by September 1 anyway.

Winnipeg looked to be the dodgiest Canadian city I've been in. By that, I mean there was more scruffy, looking down-on-their-luck folks wandering around the downtown then I've seen elsewhere. I did notice on the bus out of Thunder Bay that the percentage of dirty, smelly passengers increased dramatically.

I can see how the intersection of Portage and Main could be so windy and cold in the winter - even in the sweltering heat when I was there, it was still quite windy on Main Street. I wandered around the city for the day, down to The Forks where the muddy Red River (as I know it, the one that always floods) meets the Assiniboine River (also muddy). Checked out the Exchange District which has old skyscrapers, and Chinatown that seemed almost deserted.

People in western Ontario and Manitba keep telling me about how great they think PEI is and Islanders in general. Makes a nice change from the reaction I've come to expect from Westerners towards East Coasters. My experience was mostly based with Albertans, though.

Oh, and the ride into Winnipeg wasn't actually all flat plains until just before the city - there were trees and hills for a fair while.

Un-edited photos can be found in My Photos 2

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Northern Ontario

My bus from Ottawa went through North Bay and then to Subury, where I had a layover of 2 hours. All I know about Sudbury I learned from Stompin' Tom Connor's song "Sudbury Saturday Night" and from hearing about the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in physics classes. That, and I knew there was a big nickel because I'd seen it in a book I read about Ontario from my elementary school library. So I was pleased that we drove by the nickel on the way out of town, as that's mostly what I wanted to see (and I pondered why it is that people find miniature and larger versions of things to be neat, and would we do so if we didn't know the original size of the object?). The rock there is sometimes black, as is the soil, and from the mining that's gone on outside of town the earth is scraped bare for miles seemingly, although there was grass being planted as well.

Otherwise, northern Ontario roadsides looked a lot like New Brunswick with lakes - vegetation pretty much the same as PEI, and rockfaces sticking out like NB. In the first stretch after Ottawa I got to see the Laurentian Hills that graced all my pencil crayon packages as a kid.

Got into Thunder Bay in the morning after a not-as-comfortable night on the bus (Greyhound buses not as nice as Acadian's), dropped stuff off at hostel and went to see Old Fort William, a historical recreation of the original Northwest Company fur-trading post with people in costume acting out the roles of the people of that period (1815). I really enjoyed the visit; I like history afterall and that's not a period or a region that I know a whole lot about.

Going to go check out the shore of Lake Superior after this, with the tune of Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in my head.

I've posted photos in an album called Ontario (there's a few Maritimes at the start) in my photos 2 link (on the side of this page), but haven't had a chance to sort them yet or anything so might not be too clear where they're from.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


That's Ottawa the way Americans are made fun of for saying it.

Anyway, I spent the night of the 9th on the bus up from the Maritimes, zooming through Quebec in the night. In the morning I arrived in Ottawa and my cousins Sarah and Robyn, who live there now, picked me up. We went for brunch, then went off to the museums which were actually in Hull (Quebec side of the river) and went through the Museum of War. The surprise artifact there was Hitler's parade car, with bullet riddled windows, that had been brought to Canada by American soldiers.

After that we went down to the Market section of town, near where Robyn lives, and had coffee and cake. Then it was off to Orleans in the east, where Sarah and her husband live, and we had supper outside in the first sunny weather in a while.

I stayed the night at Robyn's lovely apartment, and she took me to the station in the morning to catch my bus westward.

Didn't dig my camera out of my bag the whole day (silly me), so no photos!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Go west, young lady

This afternoon I`m leaving on a nearly-cross-Canada bus trip by bus. I`ve got a 15-day pass with the now internationally-imfamous Greyhound buses so that will get me all the way to the west coast, and then I`m flying back east from Edmonton (the catalyst for my trip was to visit my old buddies in Edmonton).

I`ll stick photos up if I can as I go along, but if I`m not near internet then you won`t be hearing from me for a bit. Here`s an approximate itinerary, it gets a bit hazy as it goes on but I`ll fill the time I`m sure.

9th - bus to Ottawa
10th - visit cousins in Ottawa
11th - bus through Ontario
12th - arrive in Thunder Bay, spend day and night there, check out Lake Superior, find a gale
13th - bus through rest of Ontario and into Manitoba
14th - arrive in Winnipeg, spend day and night there
15th - bus to somewhere in southern Saskatchewan and find some grasslands prairie
16-17th? - bus to Kelowna, BC to visit with my uncle?
17th-20th - time in BC, get out to Pacific coast, Vancouver and environs probably
21st - bus back to Alberta in afternoon/night
22nd - arrive in Drumheller to meet friends for weekend of camping
24-25th - back up to Edmonton
26th - fly to PEI

Friday, August 08, 2008

Round PEI: Village Green

Our mailbox (the grey one), beaten and still recoiled in horror at the memory of the snowplow.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Round PEI: Miscellania

This plant wouldn't bloom, then the family started using it as an ashtray and lo and behold, it flowered. Coming to end of it's flowering now. And cigarettes are supposed to be bad for you!
What happens when the submersible sump-pump gets water in it? It quits, and the basement floods. This is what it still looked like after pump was removed (another pump on the other side still on the go) and my brother and I had shop-vac-ed about 200 gallons out of the place; it was still raining and the water was still seeping in. Brought back memories from my childhood of frequent basement floods.

Looking into Charlottetown over the bridge crossing the Hillsborough River (if it weren`t for that bridge, people wouldn`t be able to live where I do and commute to Charlottetown - it`d be about a 2 hour trip to go up round the river head and back down the other side).
Rush-hour coming off the Hillsborough Bridge heading east.

Little did I know that there's a Department of National Defense firing range on the shore not too far from where I live. Went down a clay road I've never been down and there it was.

Like the way the power lines are shining in the sunlight here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Round PEI: Charlottetown

Taken on a sunny day before all the rains started.

Down at the waterfront, the Prince Edward hotel on the left (it's probably a safe bet to say it's the tallest building on PEI). The blue awning is where you'd find Peake's Quay restaurant/bar, one of Charlottetown's big nightspots.

City Hall and Queen Street, one of the main drags downtown.
Victoria Row, pedestrianized for all the tourists to flock to it.

This photo shows mostly that I'm a lazy photographer. Also, the intersection of Grafton Street with Queen Street.
Some houses on Great George Street. As you can see, (and can't see houses), Charlottetown has many trees.
And as this photo overlooking downtown residential areas shows, you can't see the city for the trees - looks like a forest in the distance.
It's not all pretty buildings and trees of course; there's always the dirty alleys behind the buildings.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Another sign that amuses me

This sign (and other identical ones) grace the parking lot of the Charlottetown Canadian Tire, a department store of sorts that sells automotive goods, assorted electrical, plumbing, sports and household goods amongst other things.

What amuses me about these signs is not the signs themselves but that they are necessary to keep people from carrying out work on their cars in the parking lot. Because people would otherwise (and I'm sure some fellas still try to get away with it). Maybe such incidents are encouraged by Canadian Tire's offers of rebates on certain automotive parts if you bring your old one in (to be refurbished and sold again), as it would save you a second trip to the store and town if you could change the part right there and then.

Still, I think it says something about our culture that a fellow will go into the store, buy some motor oil and a filter and then want to do his oil change in the parking lot. I'm not sure what it says about our culture, but it's a statement of some sort for sure.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Round PEI: Old Farm

Every time I come back to the Island, there's always something different - a new building, some trees missing, that sort of thing. I've never been away longer than a year and a half, but there's always change.

I drove down the road that my father grew up on the other day. Dad grew up on a farm outside of Charlottetown at the time, but town's since expanded out. Here's a map.

I never saw the farm when it was my grandfather's, he sold it when he retired and that was well before I was born. But I've driven down memory lane, the Upton Road and the Hurry Road, with my dad many a time.

Nowadays the old Hurry Road isn't getting much use, as you can see it's overgrown and needing a good grading (this is a not too flooded and bumpy stretch of it).

My grandfather sold the farm to the government because he didn't want to risk seeing it covered in sub-divisions (housing estates) some day. He was prophetic, as much of the surrounding area is now sub-divided with more going up; here's the back of some next door.

The old farm is now used for forestry works of some sort, with buildings on the Upton Road, viewed from the back...
...and trees on the back lane.

I tripped over this fallen barbed wire fence when taking some pictures.

This creek (crick, if you will) has scummed over something terrible.
These fields are between the Hurry Road and the North River. I'm not sure how much of them was once the family farm, if any, I would need my father or uncle to point it out to me. These views probably haven't changed terribly except for the addition of the tower.
My Dad has since pointed out to me that this one below was called the Black Pasture because it was burnt at one time and stayed black for a long time, and so it was part of their farm.
And someone's got a field of potatoes, so this one's probably not the government's (unless the government's experimental farm is borrowing forestry land.
Makes me wonder if 30 years from now, I'll be looking at a sub-division or two in what is now fields surrounding my childhood home on the Village Green Road.