Edmonton to Vulcan

Woke up sicker than ever. Sucks! I dragged myself out of bed and packed up. We said bye to Josh (Liz had gone to class already). We drove around town for a bit to find this restaurant where we were meeting Will’s other friend, Joe. Joe also works at NINT but doing MEMS and NEMS. More specifically doing magnetic microstructures from permalloy and seeing how quickly they switch polarization after being biased with an outside field. Interesting stuff! He’s also almost finishing up his PhD. The place we originally wanted to have breakfast was packed, so we walked around the block to another place. The staff barely spoke English but were quite nice. I had a bison sausage + eggs breakfast. I found out that bison is not the best thing to have in the morning. Really dry. Makes you feel like you’re turning into a bison a little bit.

We said “Bye” to Joe and then made our way to the West Edmonton Mall, consumer Mecca. WEM is almost funny in terms of it’s size. I literally saw 4 of the exact same hat store, Lids. There were two Radioshacks, two Fido booths, two of most things. It almost seems like they were trying to get big with being big as the only goal in mind. There is no functional benefit to having several of the exact same store in the same building. Unless the bovine shoppers can’t roam to the other side of the mall. Anyways, all insults aside – the mall is fantastic! There are several rollercoasters, a theme park, a water park with a HUGE wave pool, a sea lion demonstration that was actually pretty top-class, a shooting range, oh and did I mention two of every store? There are also a lot of cool stores that you don’t normally see which are more dedicated to a specific brand. There is a Lacoste store, Tommy Hilfiger store, and many more brands. I had a good time there actually.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the road towards Calgary and Vulcan. I am not expecting much from the drive as it seems to be very barren according to Google Maps. We shall see.

The drive turned out to be quite nice, and seeing wide open fields as far as the eye can see is actually a beautiful complement to the staggering mountain ranges. It really is “big sky country” out here. The moon was red and massive because it was so close to the horizon. Usually you never see the moon rise from that close because it’s always obscured by buildings or hills. There weren’t too many stars out though. I guess it’s partly because it was pretty cloudy and partly because the moon was so bright (full moon). I’m reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawking, and I’ve made it quite a few chapters in. It’s very interesting and so far I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the formulation of our modern view of the universe. The book has a lot of historical information on scientists and theories which is one of my favourite things to learn in science. I like to learn about how scientists came to discover things about the universe; the poor judgements, the brilliant moments of clarity.

Pulling into Vulcan was hilarious because the town is very heavily Star Trek themed. Pulling into town they have a massive starship Enterprise with plaques written in various Trek languages such as Klingon. The visitor center is designed like a starship but looks creepily like a new-age cult’s headquarters. The pharmacy in town has a huge mural of all of the doctors from the Star Trek seasons. “Jim, man, this man’s dying of lurgee! Five lurgees!” –Eddie Izzard

We drove to Will’s apartment and watched some TV before bed. I’m still feeling sick, but fingers crossed this is the last day.


p.s. My cross-country beard is coming along nicely. Well, scraggly as all hell, but that’s nice enough for me.

Jasper to Edmonton

Up in Jasper at 8:30. Feeling more sick than before. Dropped another Neocitrine and then we hit the road. Again we stopped at a grocery store (Robson’s, for anyone curious). This time I had sausage rolls, yogurt, and a carrot cake. We did a bit of back tracking right away to go to Mount Edith Cavell. On the way we saw a Lambourgini and 5 Ferrari’s driving into Jasper. Taking some of those mountain roads in a sports car has some serious appeal. Some of them remind me of the roads down the coast of Croatia. I’ll have to take my Carrera 4S through the Trans Canada Highway one day. One day …

At the start of the road to the mountain we saw a male Elk on the side of the road. Took some photos and moved on up. We got to the parking lot of Mount Edith but we didn’t hike up to the glacier because it was really cold and I was feeling pretty sick. Will didn’t feel cold at all, so it was probably due to me feeling sick that I felt so cold. Another strong deterrent was the warning signs everywhere of a mother grizzly and cubs in the early as of early September. Even without the hike, it was a beautiful spot to stop and we could see the glaciers from where we stopped.

After that we drove down and headed out past Jasper again on the Yellow Head Highway towards Edmonton. We stopped once on the way to see a small waterfall (who’s name escapes me … I think it was Kettlepot or something). We also saw a herd of mountain goats and took a bunch of pictures. CORRECTION: Turns out the “mountain goats”, were actually female and young big-horned sheep! We checked on the interwebs to find that out. Animal identification skills: -1. At least we can tell a horse apart from a moth I guess. Our animal count goes up; but the grizzly remains elusive. Then we decided to go up to the Miette Hotsprings. These are much hotter than the Banff ones and have to be cooled down for human … consumption. I rented a towel and decided to go for a dip even though I wasn’t feeling the best. The pool was incredible! Very nice setting too. More rugged than Banff and seemed more wild, which makes sense because it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. Will was nuts and did the cold dip, where you sit in the hot, 39 celsius, water for a while and then jump out (already crazy because it’s single digits and windy out there) and then go jump in a 10 degree pool! I don’t think my fragile heart could handle that experience so I stayed warm and safe submerged to my chin.

We ate lunch at a little restaurant up on the mountain. I had a Western Denver which is a green pepper and ham omelette on a toasted sandwich. Cuppa coffee and a filled up Lake Louise water bottle, we were ready to go.

On our way down, we saw a motorcycle which had slid out and crashed on a bend. It was barely visible in the trees, but we noticed it because there were a few cars stopped already. I hope the driver was OK! He must have been going too fast round the bend because the bike was facing uphill, and was on the opposite side of the road. Very scary.

After that I slept. Slept and slept and slept. When I woke up, the mountains had been steam rolled into the earth to become flat Albertan fields. The reason for my wakeup was that a deer had darted towards the road from the trees. Luckily the deer ran back before we came too close. Still gave us a bit of a shock.

We drove into the West end of Edmonton which is the farthest thing from mountain beauty you can imagine. Square concrete industrial buildings, factories, and run down stores. Yeuch! Luckily the main part of Edmonton was quite a bit nicer. There’s a big river running through the middle of the city with nice yellowing trees throughout. It isn’t as attractive a city as Vancouver and seems to suffer from incurable urban sprawl, but it is a relatively nice city. Anne and Will were very impressed and could not stop talking about the fact that the streets are all numerical. The North-South ones are Avenues, and the East-West ones are Streets. The house numbers also correspond to the nearest Street/Avenue as well which makes it quite easy to find houses without an address. And in this grid-paper method we made our way to Josh and Liz’s house. They were friends of Will and went to his elementary school and high school. They have a great dog called Stuckey that’s a mix Lab/Retriever and it’s very fun and well behaved. Josh works at NINT (National Institute of Nanotechnology) doing his PhD with the University of Alberta. He’s been building a holographic electron microscope. It sounds really cool, I want to read up on it if there’s any information out there. Theoretically it should be able to obtain structural 3D information about a sample from a single electron point source. Making a hologram, similar to the ones that you see in some credit cards. Neato! Liz is training to be a nurse here at UofA as well. We all went out for dinner to a buffet Indian place which was very stylish and cool. Ate a lot and loosened our belts a few notches. Next we went and bought some beers and spent the night hanging out at Josh and Liz’s place. Hit the hay around 12, feeling pretty sick (from the flu!) and hoping to feel better in the morning.