Calgary (rhymes with strawberry) is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, with a current population of 1.3 million. It’s a diverse city with 60% of the population of European descent and 36% ‘visible minority’ (non-white, non-aboriginal), the remainder being indigenous/aboriginal/First Nation. A former Olympic city, one of the largest in western Canada and a hub for the region’s agriculture, mining and oil activities, this should be an interesting place to explore.
We knew we wanted to visit Studio Bell, site of the National Music Centre and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. We also checked our festival list and assumed we’d be able to find some interesting event. Well, dontcha know, we would be in Calgary for their biggest event of the year – The Calgary Stampede – billed as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.’ The Stampede attracts 1.3 million visitors from outside the city each year.
With our recently boosted confidence in urban camping, we set a course to arrive just a couple of days before the start of the Stampede.
We have a connection in Saskatchewan with my friend Terry, whom we met almost two years ago in Memphis. Terry lives near the city of Prince Albert, SK and he has a boat on Waskesiu Lake in Prince Albert National Park, so our week-long stay in the park gave us opportunities for a few convenient musical meet-ups.
Riding Mountain National Park opened in 1932 and is the oldest national park in Canada. It rises 457 meters (1,499 feet) above the pretty flat prairie in all directions. At its center is Clear Lake and the town of Wasagaming. Its most recognizable feature is a line of cliffs along the eastern border formed by the Manitoba escarpment.
We planned to visit. Our new friends from the music festival confirmed it was a must see in Manitoba. We set a course.
Within a mile of the Ohio River, West Virginia made a definite transition from valley to Appalachia. Rolling hills gave way to steep mountains and narrow, twisty, up-and-down roads – as well as gorgeous foliage. And it stayed that way until the Hudson River, with the exception of the rolling hills along the Susquehanna River Valley in south central Pennsylvania.
Just because we’re heading back to VT doesn’t mean we can’t explore new places. However, with ski season (read: snow) on the horizon, we’re aware our schedule is no longer timeless. We opted to explore the Ohio River Valley. We’ve been to the source in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and to Paducah, Illinois near where it joins the Mississippi. From prior travels, we’ve learned that river valleys tend to have unique stories and a sense of inter-connectivity. And we’d get to see a slice of the other 4 states along the river: Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Did we mention snow? We planned a quick truck maintenance and re-provisioning stop in Utah. While tucked into a Walmart with an award-winning view of the Utah mountains, we checked the weather forecast for routes east through the Rockies. Hmmm… The forecast was for snow and unusually cold temps for mid-October – nights in the teens – for the next 3 days.
I recently read an article that referred to social media as a way to live ‘a perfectly curated life.’ Hmmm, is that what we’re doing with this blog? Featuring the perfect? Sweeping everything else under the proverbial analog rug?
Not really. We’re genuinely having great fun. Some days are outrageous – we climb mountains, see unbelievable views, swim in crystal clear lakes. We do tend to emphasize these in our posts, though some days are ordinary and we do laundry and go grocery shopping, while other days have hiccups like flat tires and roads suggested by GPS that turn into singletrack. It’s all part of the great adventure.
We’ve known Nancy and David since… May. Yes – this May, this year, on this trip. We were introduced to them by our friends Mark and Linda at our Lake Powell rendezvous and it seems like we’ve been friends for years. Or, as Nancy suggested, perhaps we knew each other in another life…