Day 1: Saturday, September 14

Time for an Alberta road trip!

The Plan

I make the trip west every year to see my family. Vince had never been to Alberta so this year we thought: why not combine the two experiences and have an extended visit in Alberta? Earlier this year we resolved that this year we would stay in Canada rather than go to Europe for our travels; we have so many beautiful and interesting locations here in Canada which beg to be seen.

In total, we only really had about two and a half weeks for this trip, so my plan was to get maximum scenery over a minimum of time. We think of this trip as a “primer”; anything we find especially appealing we’ll return to in a future trip.

As a bonus we will finish off the trip by flying from Calgary to Vancouver and spending a few days there. Ideally, I would have loved to drive through the mountains from Calgary to Vancouver but our time constraints simply wouldn’t allow this, so flying it is to be.

Our travel plan looks something like this:

  • fly into Calgary and stay the first night there
  • visit Drumheller for 5 days
  • moving into central Alberta, visit the ghost town of Rowley and the small town of Trochu
  • visit the family in Red Deer for 4 days with side trips to Torrington, Olds and Sundre
  • drive to Banff and stay 1 night
  • drive up to Jasper and spend 1 night
  • drive back down the Icefields Parkway and spend 1 night in Canmore
  • visit southern Alberta, stopping in the prairie town of Vulcan to catch the Star Trek vibe, then paying a visit to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
  • visit Calgary for 3 nights
  • fly from Calgary to Vancouver and stay for 3 nights
  • fly home to Toronto from Vancouver

The Journey Begins

The car from Toronto Airport Limo arrived at 1:30, and we were off to Pearson International to begin our odyssey. The driver was pleasant and attentive and got us through a jammed Gardiner Expressway and on to Pearson’s Terminal 3 at about 2:20PM.

We got through Security without a hitch and found our gate (# 29). We could see our plane waiting:

Unfortunately we couldn’t locate a comfortable seat near the boarding gate as the entire area had been converted to those stupid and annoying iPad terminals and workstations that are so popular (but uncomfortable) in airports these days:

We sat at one of these high and uncomfortable stations but luckily it wasn’t a very long wait as we started to board at 3:00PM. Our flight was Westjet #651 scheduled for a 4:00PM departure from Toronto to Calgary.

We were sitting up front this time in the new Business Class pods, as I had taken advantage of a great deal from Westjet much earlier this year. We boarded on time and got into our lovely pods:

Excellent! So comfortable. Our pods were in the centre of the plane, facing each other. Unfortunately, no view from the windows was possible in this configuration. The flight was good, but a little bumpy over Saskatchewan. For a meal we both chose the Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with wine. Food was fine but nothing to rave about, to be honest. Service from the flight attendants seemed cool, bordering on curt – we were a little surprised and puzzled at this, as Westjet is usually known for its friendly customer service.

The flight seemed to really speed by (I also fell asleep for a short time), and before long we landed at Calgary International Airport on time, at 6:00PM. We said goodbye to our pods, deplaned and collected our baggage at the carousel.

We went across the street to Avis where we collected the vehicle I was to pilot for the next 2 weeks – a Hyundai Santa Fe, and a FLAMING red one at that!:

It was fairly new and in good shape, so I was happy.

Off we went. After some detours and getting mildly lost, we found our hotel for the night and checked in to the Homewood Suites by Hilton Calgary-Airport. It was about 7:00PM by this time and we getting hungry so we got back into the car and made our way to CrossIron Mills mall for some sustenance in the form of Boston Pizza, where we had our dinner for the night. While in CrossIron Mills we just had to get some shots of the crazy stuff in the enormous Bass Pro Shop. For those not in the know, the Bass Pro Shop is a retail chain carrying some serious outdoor lifestyle-type gear:

We finished our meal and got back to the hotel at about 9:00PM. We were exhausted so we turned in around 10:30 – big travelling day tomorrow!

End of Day One on Alberta soil.

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