The morning broke bright and clear in Canmore. I spent the morning doing a little work and writing about the Hockey game the night before. You might have heard about it. Finally I checked out and loaded up the car. It was chilly, but not top-up chilly. I tied everything down and as I was getting ready to leave when a motorcyclist who was parked next to me noticed the license plate.
“Californ-eye-eh” he said. “You’ve come a long way.”
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, but he didn’t want to know about that. He and some friends had ridden in from Edmonton for the weekend. “It rained on us the whole way,” he said. “We got soaked.”
“I must have been lucky,” I said.
“Top down the whole way, eh?”
“Pretty much.” I had the top up the first day, from San Diego to Grover Beach. That was more than two months ago. There were other times the top was up, but not when I was traveling.
We chatted a little more. I asked if Edmonton was rooting for the Flames now, or if even the idea of Lord Stanley’s Cup coming to Canada was not enough to overcome the rivalry between the cities. “Oh, during the season, ya kno, no way. But when things get this advanced, we’re all Canadians. Although,” he added, “Half the team is Americans and the other half is Europeans. But you know how it is.” He laughed, I laughed. He recommended I take the old highway 1A down into Calgary, rather than the new highway 1. “More relaxed, ya kno?” I wished him a safe and dry ride home, and pulled out.
I filled up the tank and pointed the car east and down, through foothills covered with lush grass, following a shimmering river. Overhead the sun was becoming more the exception than the rule, and ahead was a solid wall of black. The end of the world. I was heading right toward it. The air abruptly became decidedly colder and somehow fresher. Livelier. I started looking for a place to pull over to put the top up. I was driving along a stretch of road with ditches immediately on either side. In my head I was tallying the value of the electronics lying exposed to the weather when I finally found a spot. I pulled off the long straight road as far as I could, unloaded, put the top up, and reloaded. I had gone less than a mile when it started to rain hard.
This will sound strange to anyone not from Southern California, but I had no idea how my tires were going to handle the rain. They have a lot of miles on them and will need replacing soon. It had been many months and thousands of miles since they – or I – had driven in significant rain. People joke about how many accidents there are when there is the slightest sprinkle in San Diego. I expect part of it is that after all those months, people have no idea their tires are bald and their wiper blades are shot. But I digress.
I got to Calgary and found a hotel for the night. I figured this would be a good place to see my work to completion, but there were simply no rooms at all in the city for the following days. None. There is a big petroleum conference in town this week. One hotel guy suggested I try Canmore.
No matter. I had a place for sunday night and an excellent Internet connection. I got a lot of work done. I had been invited to a chinese restaurant/lounge in Calgary by the woman next to me while I watched the hockey game, but I didn’t make it down to that part of town. This is what has become of me. I passed up a chance at a free beer. She had been pretty enthusiastic about my road trip as well, asking questions that in other circumstances I might have found leading, but she was just friendly. Her husband was friendly too.
In Calgary, then, ensconced in a nice but pricey room, I had a little time on my hands, so I went to find a bar nearby. I landed a block away at a place called earl’s. earl’s could have the slogan, “We’re pricey, but we’re trendy.” I nearly turned around and left when I saw the fancy decor, but the hostess caught me while I was trapped in indecision and therefore easily led. The hostess was also very attractive.
The entire staff was clearly chosen for their looks as well as their outgoing personalities. earl’s report card – price: D; ambience: D (unless you like that sort of thing); service: A. I had no urge whatsoever to become a regular there, nor I suspect, would the management be that excited about having me as a regular. I had some good food and pounded my head against The Monster Within for a while.
After that it was work and figuring out where I would sleep the following night. I knew it had to be a Hockey town.