08 September 2010

Moose Jaw Minute #5: Calgary and Banff

After 24 hours in a U-Haul together  last weekend, crossing over into Canada, and listening to our fill of music from Dave's iPod, you would think we'd had enough of tight spaces, food out of a bag, and towns whizzing past our windows...think again.  Less than one week later, there we were, packed into the Chevy Cavalier with dreams of Calgary, Banff mountains, and a visit to IKEA dancing through our heads.

Driving to anywhere from Moose Jaw is an adventure all unto itself.  You play fun games along the way, like...."how flat is FLAT?" and "Guess when the next roadside stand is?" and "Who has the bigger bladder?"  The sky stretches out long and far and depending on the time of day, you can watch the sun rise for miles, feel the heat of the afternoon sun for hours, or watch the deep purples, pinks, and blues inhabit the sky as the sun sets.  You get excited when you see farm animals and traffic congestion is never an issue.  We traveled along the Trans-Canadian Highway, which is THE highway stretching from one end of Canada to the other.  Apparently, this road is so popular and famous, it even has its own Facebook group...go figure.  Maybe the Trans-Canadian and Route 66 can have a duel for the most number of fans...

Calgary is a city like none other...it stretches out for miles, and miles, and miles...a lot of space for a population of only about one million.  The city has grown exponentially in the last ten years and continues to do so.  The majority of the construction is new and they continue to build and build and build...out, and not up.  We started our visit with a stop over at Dave's friends Cathy and Bryan and their two little ones.  We had a great time chatting, catching up, drinking Bryan's delicious homemade wine, and playing with the kids.  They have a lovely home on the outskirts of Calgary in the Evanston neighborhood.  They are fantastic people and I can't wait to get to know them better.  We checked into our hotel for the night and then made our way on foot to one of the best meals of my life at Sultan's Tent. Delicious Moroccan food, sweet mint tea, and the best coffee.  It was incredible.  We ate salads, lamb, vegetables...all spiced and flavorful.  YUM!

The next day we woke up and (surprise!) hopped back into the car to make our way through Canmore and into Banff. Banff reminds me a lot of Garmisch in Germany...a quaint little outdoor paradise.  It's like Vail gone Canadian.  As we drove in from Calgary, the mountains were shrouded in cloud and the temperature was, well...damp.  We couldn't see the tops of any peaks, but we knew the mountains were there.  We drove into the town center and then made our way to the Sundance Canyon trail.  At the base, we feasted on meats, cheese, and bread.  Good hiking food!  We started up the trail and at the very start, we stumbled upon two elk.  HUGE elk!  This is the season where the woodland creatures continue to stock up for the winter ahead.  There were signs everywhere warning of bears and elk.  The elk were happy just to munch as we made our way past, but I was awed by their size...needless to say, I would NOT want to piss one off!  The hike was lovely and culminated for us at the top of a small waterfall that cascaded down rocks and fallen trees.  The sun had started to peek out during our hike and the warm sun felt good after such a chilly start to the hike.  We hiked, chatted, said hello to other hikers on the trail and enjoyed the fresh mountain air.  It was GOOD to be outside.  Oh, those elk?  Yeah, they were still there when we got back to the trail head, only this time, they were butting antlers. 

We made our way back to the center of town and wandered through the shops...Patagonia (for the winter jacket I have been lusting after), a fudge shop, a little chapel, more outdoor gear shops.  The mountains were all around and as the sun began to dip below the peaks, we headed back into Canmore for dinner.  We had asked some folks at the Patagonia shop if they knew of any place nearby that had good locally focused food.  They steered us in the right direction.  Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company is a gem of a restaurant focused on family-friendly, local, organic dining.  We sat down for a flatbread with goat cheese, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes -- paired with two pints of beer and a salad with an amazing blackberry dressing.  Perfect food after hiking.  The pizza oven flames were lit and kept the dining room warm as the sky outside turned a deep electric blue before descending into an inky black.  We made our way back to Calgary, wishing we could stay with the mountains a bit longer, but grateful for our time outside, our warm bellies, and our time together.

The next morning.  IKEA.  First, I love you Dave and I am sorry.

I WANT to love IKEA.  I really do.  I love their design concepts, I love the ease with which you can put their furniture together, I love that their stuff is relatively cheap.  I HATE their stores, their catalogue, and their website.  From Chicago to Calgary, it doesn't matter.  I am not a shopper to begin with.  IKEA forces you to browse...guiding you like cattle with arrows painted on the floor for your carts to follow.  They MAKE you wander through dozens of couches, a flurry of children's items, more lamps than you can shake a stick at.  When you walk through that maze, you suddenly realize that the fluggenpeffper you really needed with is actually near the checkout lane at the very end.  I am bombarded in their stores with music, families talking, too many options, and fluorescent lighting that makes my eyes water.  Even before Dave and I set foot in the store, I had made up my mind that this was not going to be a pleasant experience.  If I was ever captured and someone wanted to get information out of me, just stick me in an IKEA store on a weekend and I'll tell you whatever you need to know after about five minutes of being there.

All that being said, Dave is incredibly patient with me...we worked methodically through the list we developed to help us set up the home office.  Dave loves IKEA and finds a lot of inspiration there.  I felt horrible for making it a not-so-great experience, but he took it all in stride, picking up various items off the shelves, examining the stagglewaffer and the hooklum, weighing the pros and cons of one bookshelf versus another.  I admire his ability in this area and know that I can apply it in my own life -- whether it be IKEA or the grocery store.  He loves to experiment, figure things out, and eventually settle on the best solution for the challenge.  For that, I am a very grateful wife.

We headed back to Moose Jaw with a car full of goodies, sushi in our bellies, and the sun at our backs knowing we would be returning soon to Cathy and Bryan, to Banff and Canmore, to Calgary and the Sultan's Tent, and yes...even to IKEA.

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