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Saturday, 1 January 2011

Burringham to Boston-My 2003 World Trip-Part 6-Canada (Calgary)



            If I ever get there. There now follows an account of actually getting to Calgary.
It's just after 5pm Saturday 2nd July, I’m on a Boeing 747 or Jumbo jet if you want. Plenty of space on the plane so I get myself comfortable. I think I said before I can't sleep on aeroplanes so I'll try to relax anyway. As I said we took off 3 hours late, the pilot promised he'd make up as much time as possible and flight duration is scheduled to be approx 12 hours.
     I'm heading for Los Angeles to change for Calgary, the time difference between New Zealand and LA is 19 hours. Midnight comes and it's Sunday. We cross the international dateline and I'm back into Saturday.
       The pilot does make up time and we land at LA only one and quarter hours late just after 8am Saturday 2nd July. Still time to make that connection? Not a hope. Luggage had to be collected and checked in again. After 40 minutes being processed in Immigration, we learned we were in the wrong outlet, all 260 of us. A long walk to the correct Immigration and after being processed its 9.15am, maybe still time to catch my flight at 9.38am? Then began the morning of the queues.’ You can't make that flight sir, rebook over there’, I was told as I came out. At 10.15am I was rebooked on an Air Canada flight leaving at 12.35 from terminal 2.Great plenty of time then! Got to terminal two and saw the Air Canada check ins were busy. They had about a dozen desks but only 3 were manned. I thought I'd joined the queue, but was politely told that this gap at the door wasn't the end of the queue, it was about 100 yards long outside. Got checked in at 11.30am,the little guy with all the grandkids in front of me wasn't so lucky, they sent him to join the x-ray machine queue. Making my way to the departure lounge still thinking I'll have time to relax I'm into the biggest queue of all, hand luggage and passport check. Finally I'm inside the departure lounge and just manage to ring Calgary before boarding.
          If I'd caught my earlier flight I'd have been on Alaskan Airways. Air Canada turned out to be the pits of airlines. Ten minutes into the 3 hour flight they put in front of us a tray, most of which was inedible. Thirty minutes before landing they took it away. I occupied myself the rest of the flight watching the business class passengers getting noisily drunk.
          At Calgary airport, customs and immigration was like a dream after LA, and I'm soon in the arrivals lounge looking for Sheena Biener.
          Sheena was Sheena Cargill, the eldest of my Uncle Roy and Auntie Jean's four kids back in Springfield. I used to baby-sit Sheena, Donna, Derek and Shirley. They all emigrated to Canada when Sheena was nine years old. Its been forty three years since I’ve seen her but we've been exchanging Xmas cards since1994, and we've spoken on the phone a couple of times. I walk past the waiting people in the arrivals lounge, but I recognise her from the Cargill characteristics and the photos I'd been sent.
           The family immigrated to the new world and a new life, Sheena had another brother Paul who was born in Canada. But life has its ups and downs and Uncle Roy, Auntie Jean, Donna and Paul are all gone. Life can be a bitch.
           Sheena is separated from her second husband and now lives with her son David. Their house is in the south eastern suburb of Douglasdale,and we set of in Sheena's car along the Deerfoot trail.(A lot of the main trunk roads in Alberta are known as trails).Half an hours run and we're there.
              David’s house backs on to a golf driving range, and in fact when they built the estate, they built into it it's own golf course. David’s a hard working classy kind of guy, which shows in the fact he drives a Porsche’s meet the lovely Cheryl his girlfriend
and his young son Taylor who's over for the weekend. Beautiful house, beautifully furnished. Sheena’s dog Nicky and David’s dog Luke complete the household.

David and Cheryl, inset Nicky

      I get the use of Taylors room and once I'm changed into shorts and T shirt(it's 31 degrees C),I find Sheena's got the barbecued steaks and the beer organised. A long natter and a dip and splash in the hot tub with Taylor and it's 10'oclock Saturday night. I got up at 8 o'clock this morning, only fourteen hours ago, that is until you add the eighteen hour time difference between NZ and Calgary. After thirty two hours I'm ready for bed.
            Sunday 3rd August. I'm up at 9.30 am and a coffee helps clear the cobwebs. I think it takes about three days to clear the jetlag. Me and Sheena spend the morning looking at photos, and she produces a load of photos from the 1950 and 60.She doesn't know who they are ,but most are of us cousins growing up, so where I can I put names to faces. Leaving Scotland at nine years old means her memories are more sketchy.
         Afternoon and we've driven to Pat's house. Pat is a workmate of Sheena's and I'm introduced to her, her husband Don and their two daughters the beautiful Stephanie and the gorgeous Dawnlynn. We're off to Strathmore to the Rodeo and the Chuckwagon races. What a Hootin'Rootin'Tootin' afternoon it turned out to be.
The show was fantastic. There was a bull run like in Spain but less dangerous to the participants. Chuckwagon races which brought to mind John Wayne being chased by the Indians.An amazing act called the 'The One Armed Bandit and Company’, who was a guy who'd lost his right arm in an electrical explosion, pronounced DOA but was now here as a rodeo act. With the help of his horse and his dog he gets three 'mean 'n 'ornery critters(bulls) on to the top of his big and shiny aluminium trailer. We had beer served by girls in cowboy hats, mighty rolls filled with Alberta beef and all the time the whoopin' and cheering was infectious, encouraged by a fast talking MC.
Chuckwagons at Strathmore

Stephanie,Pat,Sheena,Dawnlynn and Don

A big illuminated sign above the TV screen thats showing all the action is sponsored
by 'Top Notch Construction Calgary’, the significance of which I learn soon.
         The show's over and apparently we've been invited to go say hello to Alex and Joan at their Motorhome which they've fetched to the Rodeo. It turns out Alex is the owner of 'Top Notch Construction’, and the motorhome is a beauty which apparently cost $600,000 thousand dollars. This was only a fleeting visit with Joan and Alex and we would all meet up again at Alex's ranch another day. Wow!.
     We go back to Don and Pats house, with me again travelling in Don's pick up truck. Alberta must be the pick up capital of the world, everybody’s got them. After a couple of excellent bourbons Sheena and I head back home.
         Monday 4th August. A nice relaxing morning, in and out of the hot tub. What a great way to cure jetlag.
          It's a lovely sunny afternoon as we head out to Indus, we’re visiting Sheena's friends Glenda and George at their smallholding.

George and Glenda

         It's another lovely day and theirs is a beautiful place. I get introduced to Glenda and her sister Rochelle who's visiting with the baby. I get shown round the spacious and possibly spatial house complete with the Mickey Mouse room. Glenda is a Mickey Mouse nut and even has a Mickey Mouse Email address. I’m told to go out and introduce myself to George who's working on the Gazebo.
        They’ve got quite a big spread, with sheep, chickens, hens, cats and dogs, a vegetable garden and a lovely big pond with a fountain. I find George at the Gazebo and we get talking. He’s a Jamaican who lived and worked in Bristol as a BT Telecom Engineer. We talk about Jamaica, where I'd spent some time in the army. Nowadays he runs a Sounds system business. We natter for a bit, then back at the house we try to fool the ladies that it's nice to meet up again after all these years.
      After being well fed and watered, we left with an invite to Glenda's annual garden party at the end of the month.
       Back home I watched 'Dune' and 'Shrek' on David's cinema sized home entertainment system. I’m just about over the jetlag.
           Tuesday 5th August.Today I get my first taste of driving in Canada. I hire a Pontiac Grand Prix from Avis, and me Sheena and her grandson Taylor head for the Rockies. I’m getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road again, but Sheena's having kittens, thinks I drive too far to the right. I think she worries too much, I've got the white lines in my mirror. It’s a beautiful sunny day again and driving becomes a pleasure on these mighty big highways. The further west we get the more awesome the mountains become, passing by Kananaskis and Canmore where many Hollywood film companies have used as locations. We get to the National Park lodge and pay our entrance fee. We get to Banff.
       I'm not going to say too much about Banff, it’s all been said. The official guide has a line which says’ Enjoy our Rockies-the finest blend of heaven and earth you'll find anywhere' and I can't argue with that. This is the ultimate outdoor pursuit country, the ultimate in mountains, rivers and lakes, and amongst the most breathtaking scenery on earth.
     Our first stop is the Surprise Corner viewpoint on the Bow river where I see my first Mountie. I know this view, I can still picture Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe on the raft in 'River of no Return’. I’m awestruck that I'm here.

Me, Sheena and Taylor-The Rockies

             A short walk up the river and the crescendo of the Bow Falls, I'm humbled. 
Sheena and Taylor are lagging behind so I sit and look and I think of Peggy. I say thank you.

'River of no return'

            Next we take a ride up to the Banff Springs Hotel, the Castle in the Rockies. Here the rooms are $220-660 dollars a night in the low season. We make use of their luxurious toilet facilities, look round their shops, battlements and terraces and enjoy the magnificent views.

View from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

             Hunger takes us to the Rose and Crown for a lovely meal then we're heading back to Calgary.
The only downer on a brilliant day was a problem we had in the car with petrol fumes. Back in Calgary we drove straight to Avis where they changed the car-it hardly mattered I was handing it back in in the morning.
                Wednesday 6th August. I took the car back to Avis. The manager Abdulla gave me a $25 dollar voucher for our discomfort with the fumes. Taylor’s mum Kelly picked him up and Sheena and I went into the city for the day, which included a trip up the Calgary tower with fantastic all round views of the city. Later went round the Nursing home where Sheena works and met her colleagues Mary and Christine. Went to the Marlborough Mall and had Chinese food. Late afternoon back at the house and we lazed in the sunshine on the deck, I enjoyed the hot tub and we finished the day off with barbecued ribs.
                   Thursday 7th August. The highlight of today is our visit to Alex Lockton's ranch. We go with Pat, Stephanie and Dawnlynn in their cars.
                  Alex bought his own tractor back in 1966, now he heads 'Top Notch Construction' a company with more than 150 employees, and an annual turnover of $16-18,000,000 dollars.
                 Alex lost his wife to cancer a few years ago, and there is a bit of a fairy story about how Joan came to be his partner. Joan worked with Sheena and Pat in the nursing home and she was always struggling to make ends meet. Buying coffee and Bagels one day she got mad with this pushy guy, even telling him she'd buy him his coffee and bagels. He invited her to back to his shack, and after a visit she told him to 'Get me home before your boss comes back'.
          We get to the entrance to the ranch and I'm reminded of South Fork from the Dallas series. After being welcomed to the house Alex whisks me Stephanie and Dawnlynn of to the stables in one of his many Chevrolets to show us his collection of traps and buggies, some of which are a hundred year old. The horses are out at the moment. Two of his horses, I think they're called Raven and Crow are used regularly in blockbuster movies. There is also a collection of beautiful hand made leather saddles.

Alex's Buggys at Nanton

             Alex appears to be a very charitable and even philanthropic sort of guy and sponsors many worthwhile causes such as the seniors day out.
       Back up at the house, Alex begins cooking the steaks, Joan and the ladies prepare the rest of the food, and Dawnlynn gives me a tour of the house.
           This house with it's eight bathrooms is a palace. Palatial bedrooms and reception rooms, beautiful furniture and architecture, a games room with framed shirts of favourite hockey and football players are just some of it's features.
         We settle down in the lovely dining room with it's imported Austrian chandeliers, where we're joined for dinner by Robin who is Alex's top manager.

Stephanie, Joan, Dawnlynn, Alex, Sheena and Robin, Pat kneeling

         An evening of good food, great wines and spirits and great dialogue followed. The evening finished off with Alex inviting me to accompany him for a couple of days on my return from Swan Hills, and receiving a signed copy of a brilliant photo book of Calgary sponsored by 'Top Notch Construction'.

Sheena with Alex and Joan
                Friday 8th August. I took Luke for a walk along the river this morning. The Bow River is only little bit less majestic than at Banff .A handful of fishermen in boats and waders were out trying their luck.
       This evening we're at a bar called 'What about Bob' .Karaoke is very popular in Canada, and David, no mean singer himself runs a very successful one 'Dave’s Waves Karaoke’, this is one of his regular spots. Me ,Sheena, Cheryl and Mary are joined by Steve and Andy from Yorkshire who are doing a Cancer Charity bike ride over the Rockies.(I get a mention on their website later).We have a great night.
I wonder if these guys are still together.

Steve does a great version of Robbie Williams 'Angel’, Cheryl sings like an angel and when I pluck up the courage I murder 'You're Sixteen'.

Cheryl, Sheena, Mary, Steve and Andy

           Saturday 9th August.A game of golf with David at Shaw-nee slopes this morning. Beautiful course, reasonable golf. David’s got a great swing.
    Rest of the day relaxing and a talk on the telephone to cousin Bert (one of Jean's brothers) and his wife Margaret in Nelson, British Columbia.
            Sunday 10th August. Said cheerio to Sheena, I’m heading north today. David and Cheryl take me down to the Greyhound depot, I’m going for a bus ride.

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