CATCHING UP ON OLD TIMES: Traveled up to Canmore with a friend where we stayed at the Stoney Nakoda Resort. There I was able to catch up with Dave Husdal, my very first editor here at the Taber Times. We were able catch up over a couple of drinks. Whether you loved him or hated him here loyal readers of the Taber Times, it was quite evident the man was passionate about his job. It does not take an economist with a Masters Degree to figure out, unless you are at the highest rung of the journalism industry, it’s not exactly like you’re padding your account for your getaway home in the Swiss Alps with the paycheque you are making in the newspaper industry. You have to really enjoy your job to have any sort of longevity in the business. We both recounted old journalism war stories and while Husdal has been in and out of the journalism world since his days at the Taber Times, you can tell a spark enters his eye whenever you speak of his time as a writer and editor. It was nice to catch up.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL: If there was ever a Seinfeld-esque observation on my recent road trips it was this. I felt quite large and small at the same time when I was at the Stoney Nakoda Resort. They had these neat oversized chairs in the lobby of the hotel where you felt like you were visiting Paul Bunyan in his living room. Another place you can feel small is the casino, compared to some of the high rollers out there. I’ve never been afraid to gamble at casinos, but given my modest income, I always keep my goals of winnings modest. If I can enjoy a night out or weekend with friends on the casino’s tab with my winnings, it’s mission accomplished. But I do question how big the big rollers are out there. If you leave a blackjack table extremely angry after your loss, it tells me you lost money you couldn’t afford to lose. Gambling should be seen as entertainment first, supplemental income second if you want to keep it at a healthy level.
Inversely, there are those complimentary shampoos and conditioners in your hotel bathroom where you are Goliath in the scenario in keeping up with personal hygiene.
On a philosophical note, road trips with good friends can make you feel big or small on various different situations.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON: I went dog sledding near Canmore for the very first time by taking the couple-hour package at Snowy Owl Dog Tours and I must say if there is anyone out there intrigued by it, I encourage them to go.
I would not describe myself as your big outdoorsy person. I’ll venture into the wilderness in a camper or cabin, or enjoy a good bonfire with friends. But I’m not about to be MacGyver’s twin in rubbing two sticks together to produce fire, kill supper with my own two hands, or create a makeshift bed out of pebbles, branches and leaves.
Nevertheless, the dog sled tour was one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever had. After getting a half-hour tutorial from the dog sled guides on how to operate the sleds solo, both my traveling companion and I had our reservations about who would take the first half of the voyage while the other sat snugly in one of the sled compartments. I drew the short straw to start and after getting the hang of it in the first couple of minutes, I was loving every minute after that. There was of course the realization I’m horribly out of shape having to help the dogs push the sled up the steep inclines, but if you want a mode of transportation that is part of nature, dog sledding is it.
The crunch of snow as you make your way, the sound of moving water among the various streams is your soundtrack as the crisp mountain air fills your lungs. I sat in the sled during the second half of the ride and traveling on a frozen lake you are looking at the mountains and you’d swear if the greatest writers of our generation were to describe God’s view off His front porch, this would be it.
GREAT WHITE NORTH: Following Canmore, I made a last-minute decision to go up to Edmonton to travel with a friend and her daughter to go to West Edmonton Mall and see about visiting my sister, brother-in-law and niece and nephew. Unfortunately, an Outbreak-like virus swept through the Peacock clan where I was unable to get a visit in. I was saddened given how my sister and I have become closer in recent years. We haven’t always been in the past where neither of us are bad people, just simply different perspectives on life where that gap has narrowed in recent years. It has shown to me no matter what your differences are, you love your family through thick or thin. I was genuinely disappointed not to be able to see my family up there and will plan to take a couple of days off during the week soon to make it a four-day weekend visit up there.
MALLRATS: It had been forever since I had been to the West Edmonton Mall until my sister’s family moved to Edmonton and having hit the mall twice now in recent visits these past months, those childhood memories all came flooding back with the ice rink there, sea lion show and water park.
Triple-tubing on one of the more family-friendly slides and the waves crashing into me in the wave pool were familiar good memories from my youth. I rode on one of each of the designated difficulty levels of slides at the park in the Sun Runner (beginner), Blue Bullet and corkscrew (intermediate), Twister (advanced), and Tropical Typhoon (extreme). I will (not so) bravely say I had my reservations about the last one in the Tropical Typhoon. Seeing a guy look like he was shot out of a cannon on the one turn with a large drop at the end, it gave me pause. But given my friend’s daughter and similar girls right behind her who belonged in the Saturday-morning cartoon/screaming-One-Direction-fan demographic were willing to give it a try standing in line, I had to man up and rediscover that I indeed had a ‘Y’ chromosome myself unlike those people behind me.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE: Yes, I’m giving a shameless plug to River Cree Resort and Casino, the place where my brother-in-law manages their twin ice rinks. Given we were unable to stay at my family’s place with their rampant illness, he graciously was able to put us up at the resort. From the complimentary shuttle driver to West Edmonton Mall, to the front desk people, to restaurant staff and beyond, everyone was extremely friendly. What stood out for me was the restaurant manager who, noticing we had a pouty little girl on our hands after a rough morning after she was told she couldn’t bring her doll to the mall, soothed her disposition with a mini heart-to-heart with her while offering her a specially-made hot chocolate. Sadness soon turned into joy as the three of us enjoyed a nice breakfast buffet to fuel our West Edmonton Mall excursion. That is what customer service is all about when you make customers almost feel like family. I’ve laid my head down on many a bed at various hotels in my 40 years on this earth and that experience had to have been one of the top ones, at least in recent memory.
OIL COUNTRY: Got to take in the Edmonton Oilers last home game of the season as they tussled with the Vancouver Canucks. With both teams firmly out of the playoffs there was little to play for except for one thing —pride. And given the Edmonton Oilers sorry state of affairs in recent years, the one shining moment to end the 2013-2014 regular home season for the Oilers was to send off beloved Ryan Smyth on a high note to end his NHL career. Truly a man who bled Oiler blue, even I was getting a little misty eyed. I’m not an Oilers fan in any way, shape or form. But seeing the constant tributes during commercial breaks from former colleagues, taking a skate around the ice with his son one last time, the loud cheers every time he stepped on the ice for a shift, Smyth’s eyes swelling in tears simply from sitting in the penalty box as people saluted him, it reminded one’s self that while these are now multi-million dollar athletes playing the game, that child-like joy for the game never leaves some. Smitty was obviously one of the those guys and you have to root for him in whatever pursuit he chooses post-NHL career.