Calgary, 2015

I had wanted to visit my sister and her husband in their "new" city for a while. This was originally going to be a winter trip so we could go skiing, but my knee injury kept me off the slopes in the winter. A good recovery and being in the last two weeks before running my next Tough Mudder made me willing to commit to lots of outdoor activities with Sue, but it was still a challenge to keep up. She was in training for a 10k and another sprint triathalon, and Jake was wrapping up his training for the Calgary marathon and an Iron Man later in the summer.

Thursday May 21, 2015

I took the T to work with just a carry on suitcase and my tote bag. I had a meeting scheduled half an hour before I was to leave for the airport at 4, but luckily it was with a co-worker who's direct and succinct. I was at the bus stop on the corner by my office in lots of time for the 4pm route. The bus was okay, but the green and red lines were busy with the start of rush hour and the silver line bus got stuck in crawling traffic. I dug out my book and read so that I wasn't worrying about missing my flight. I got there with about an hour and ten minutes before my flight, but as I'd expected/hoped I was leaving from the tiny gate lounge. It only has a metal detector but a scanner has been installed. :-( I had a snappy dresser seated next to me (plaid suit, blue socks, tan shoes), and quite tall though he didn't impinge on my space. I did the plane side valet with my roll aboard but got my tote stuffed under my seat. I ended up reading for most of the flight, occasionally checking our progress. We took off from Boston and went over a track just near my house, and I saw the New Hampshire mountains as we made our way up to Ottawa.

We had a bouncy landing in Ottawa, but there were zero crowds once I got off the plane, it was almost eerie. I had to spiral back to my gate via customs and security - I chugged the water left over in my metal bottle so I could carry it through. I realised after the fact that I'd forgotten to take my mini Leatherman out of my purse, but security in both Boston and Ottawa let me through with it. I had a salad and a yoghurt parfait for dinner, trying to stay healthy. There was a small waterfall feature near my departure gate, it gave the air a nice dose of humidity. Once boarded on the plane to Calgary, there was an older guy with no English who was just 2 weeks past open heart surgery and having chest pain. A ground crew guy came on the plane to translate for the flight attendants, they grabbed his medication from the overhead bin, but they ended up escorting him off of the plane to talk to EMTs. The mood of the other passengers was very patient, edging on worried, no one wanted him to have a heart attack or post surgery complications during the flight across to Alberta! There was a couple wanting to shift to sit next to each other (they were across the aisle from each other), but I kept my window. Once the guy with chest pain was off the flight, the couple moved to be together so I ended up with a free double row. The two women behind me talked about relationships all the way across. I watched the last Hobbit movie, napped a bit, and took one bathroom stretch break. The plane air felt very dry, I had one tea (no free snacks), but mostly lots of water. Smooth flight and we landed on time. It took a few minutes to find Sue as she'd run out to repark closer to my arrival area, but we were soon on the road back to the house. I think Jake had already gone to bed since he had to be up early the next morning, so I tried to be quiet getting settled into the downstairs guest bedroom (last guest before they renovate!) and taking a clean the airports/planes off of me shower.

Friday May 22, 2015

Sue had an ambitious set of activities planned, happy that she finally had a visitor who would be up for things like biking and hiking. First off was an "easy" ride around the reservoir. We were out for just under 2 hours, and did almost 20km (18.6km in 1h50m for logging purposes). She lent me her mountain bike and I adjusted Jake's helmet easily enough (er, after I replaced the strap retainer that broke with a pink elastic, sorry about that!). I made suer that the tires were pumped up to try and overcome the resistance of the knobby tires on concrete, but it was still a heavy beast and I had to power up some of the hills even in the granny gear. Some street/sidewalk trail riding to get to the reservoir path entry and then it was a nice trip around the water. We passed some deer browsing next to the path at one point, and lots of people out walking dogs and pushing strollers and strolling themselves, as well as a few other cyclists. There was a fun section where we bombed across a causeway and then cranked up the hill on the other side. We stopped once on an overlook to catch our breath and enjoy the view of the Rockies and boats sailing on the water.

We cleaned up and changed into city clothes for the more urban part of the day. We walked over to The Dove's Nest to start off with tea and lunch. I went for a pot of the creme earl grey with a scone (omg yes), with a chicken and egg salad, and mushroom soup since I was feeling hungry. It was a minor struggle to get through all of it, but I persevered. :-)

From there, we took a short walk over to another street to catch the bus downtown. I'd seen Anejo on a list of bars to try and the mezcalrita did not disappoint. We were still pretty full from tea/lunch, but Sue highly recommended the table side guacamole and chips, so we ordered it. The server who was making it managed to slice the lime and spray me right in the eye, that was laughably painful. The light in there was gorgeous, a sunny day streaming in on lots of wood and fabric. I'd put on my bike bits sugar skull t-shirt and got an appreciative nod from the staff. Happy hour was a fairly big draw, it was lively. Sue had an appointment nearby, we agreed to meet up at Boxwood Cafe afterward, on the edge of Memorial Park. Luckily just on the other side of it was the library and I happily dove in to check it out. I ended up finding a slew of new books by one of my favourite Canadian authors (Kelley Armstrong) and noted down the titles to grab from my local library or book store once I got home (I was disappointed not to find them in the airport bookstore on my trip back). I ended up paging through a gorgeous book about lofts and easily passed the time until I had to head out to meet Sue. I might have jumped a bit of the line, I went inside since I came at the restaurant from that direction and someone there seated me at a table for two on the patio, though there were some larger groups waiting at the other end. They let me stay though. :-) I had the new deal popeye (gin and kale-ade), then ordered some veggies and yoghurt to munch on while waiting. Sue wasn't long and she helped me polish off the veggies while she had her own drink.

We went across the street to catch the #3 bus homeward, then transfered to the 56 to get closer, and walked a bit. Sue made BBQ chicken breasts for supper, with mashed yam and a good salad (they're doing a fair bit of Paelo eating). Jake came home with wine, I think Sue and I had a whole bottle of white (Jake was pouring; though there was a bit left over for the next night). I got a mini tour of the changes they'd made since I'd last visited, Jake had made a built in book case. We also shared pictures of Spain and Africa (they said to try to eat at Barceloneta). Turns out that we share a fascination with grafitti, I shared my Iceland pictures and he shared Spain. After dinner, Sue and I walked to Shoppers, I grabbed some granola bars for hiking and biking snacks, and my traditional stock up bottle of Nizoral - I may decant it into 3oz bottles so I don't have to check a bag (I was close to using up my mouthwash and it was leaking from the travel bottle anyway, and I had some room in my shampoo container as well). I went downstairs to bed at 10, setting an alarm for 7am so that we could get on the road for Banff at a good hour. I planned to do my run later in the day or on Sunday morning.

Saturday May 23, 2015

We managed to get out of the house at just past 8am and on the road out of Calgary and toward the mountains. Jake was busy that day, and Sue was getting updates from her friend Miranda who was doing the reservoir ride that morning (she dropped her chain at one point trying to hop a curb I think). Sue and Jake have a national parks pass for their car, we got to bypass a small line to go through the gate to Banff. It was a nice drive with the sun shining down on the mountains, and then when we pulled off the highway to head up to Johnston Canyon, a winding road between trees and steep banks. Sue pulled the car into the second parking area to avoid a bit of the crowd, it's one of the most popular hikes in the park, but we were there relatively early and had a fairly easy hike up without getting into too many bottle necks other than at observation points. We passed a sign that said it was 5.8kms one way to the Inkpots, the round trip ended up taking us 3h and 40mins with a stop for lunch at the turn around point. We started off in a built up visitor area but soon were on a catwalk driven into the steeps sides of the canyon above the river. The first fall viewing point came fairly quickly, an older woman powered past us to dive into the wet dark tunnel through the rock to come out at the small ledge allowing a full force view of the falls, mist covering us. We had to backtrack a little to get onto the trail to the upper falls, at which point the crowds fell off a bit as it was less improved along that stretch. The upper falls view point was a catwalk built up over the river, with huge logs and moss. There were also pockets of snow that hadn't melted from the winter, and a slew of rainbows in the mist. At that point, the pavement ended but it was a wide smooth dirt trail up to the inkpots meadow. There were a lot fewer people on that trail, turns out that they were all up there. The sun was sparkling on the river as it burbled through the mountain encased meadow, we were able to get out on some gravel bars to take pictures of the piled rocks people had left. We claimed a log to have our packed lunch (I'd brought my running pack with a camelbak full of water), I had a bagel with almond butter, an apple, and some almonds from Sue when I didn't turn them down. :-) The ink pots were neat, water bubbling up from springs and the minerals tinting the water in a range of blues and greens. We took our pictures, with me at least trying to not get too many people in them, though there was group of young guys hiking without shirts that I wouldn't have minded to have snapped. ;-) We went back down the trail quickly, skipping past groups when the trail widened enough for it, but it was much more crowded at this point as the later risers took to the trail. At the base, the ice cream shack was open so I treated myself to a mint chocolate ice cream while stretching out my legs before getting back into the car for the drive back to the city. We stopped at one pullout to take pictures of a dramatic ancient seabed upthrust, Mt Rundle. We made it back to the house at just before 4pm, with just enough time to clean up and change for their anniversary dinner. In the car at one point during the day I'd heard a segment on the Calgary folk festival and they played a song by Ruben and the Dark and it turns out that Jake loves them and had their first CD.

We drove over to Noteable and grabbed parking just down the street. Sue had on heels and didn't want to walk very far, but I'd pared down my packing to just my Fluevog boots (in addition to my running shoes and hiking boots) so I was nice and stable. :-) I had on my grey and black striped skirt and a black cotton blouse, nothing too fancy, but enough to pass muster at the restaurant and the bar we went to later. I made a note of the drinks I had, but just remember the food as being quite good, no details. The Eden's Secret cocktail was lovely, but the Night in Dublin was an apple juice failure (and served hot which I didn't expect for some reason). The place was busy, it was definitely good that we had a reservation!

From there, we headed over to Milk Tiger Lounge, another place that I'd scouted out as a potential fun cocktail stop. Sue had warned me that it was a bit of a hipster place, but after become accustomed to the Boston breed, I didn't even notice any here. :-) We had to walk a few blocks after grabbing the first spotted parking spot downtown, and I'd noticed and appreciated the style of a lady outside another bar in striped shorts and with a red hair flower. She complimented my skirt, stripes recognise stripes. :-) We finally spotted the subtle sign for Milk Tiger and grabbed seats near the open front. We were meeting up with Miranda after her ride and Alix who had just bought a Birdie bike in bright yellow (it may be christened Elsie for lc for limoncello). I started off with a Boston cocktail because it seemed required (gin, apricot brandy, lemon, grenadine), then went with an old favourite Last Word as my second drink. The third drink was probably too much, but I got sucked in by the Monk's Revenge - whiskey, benedictine, fernet, campari - sine the recipe came from Anvil in Houston, a bar that I'd not managed to visit on my recent trip. As we were winding down, Jake slipped out and moved the car closer to save Sue's feet. We dropped Miranda at home first as Alix rode her new bike.

Sunday May 24, 2015

I think we started off the morning by going for a run this day, with her joining me for a slow 5km (with some sprinting intervals) and then going on to do another 3km to get her distance training in. It was interesting running with someone who had a GPS enabled watch on, she was giving me our splits and tracking our distance - we ended up going past the house to get the last 400m in. There was a nice hill in the middle too, so I got my incline training in.

Sue had a personal project to visit quirky small Alberta towns with interesting museums. She'd already done the gopher museum, and had found that the town of Vulcan Alberta had embraced it's connection to Star Trek. I immediately agreed to a road trip to Vulcan when she brought it up. Jake was going to do a long bike ride this day, and we joked that he should start before us and meet up with us in Vulcan to get a ride back, it was just about 100km one way. He declined in favour of a route with more climbing (he'd been snowed out on it last time he tried). So it was just Sue and me making our way south east of Calgary, with a short stop at a grocery store for road snacks and a booklet of stamps so that I could mail post cards from Vulcan. Soon were were out onto the flat prairie heading away from the Rockies. The countryside is just slightly rolling, but the overwhelming impression is of a wide horizon and flat land. When we finally made it to Vulcan, we immediately spotted the visitor center with a starship model up on a rocky base. I loved the Klingon plaque at the welcome center that asked "What do you want in Vulcan?". We took turns posing in the welcome sign that had the various Star Trek characters with faces that you could replace with your own, at Sue's insistence. :-) The welcome center was shaped like a dome, hosting mostly a gift shop and the currently still slightly disorganised personal memorabilia collection that had been donated to them. We got directions from there and decided to leave the car and just walk to the Trekcetera Museum. We saw some random alien street signs, stars in the sidewalk, murals, and found the bust of Spock with Leonard Nimoy's hand print impression, so we stopped to take some pictures with his memorial. There was only one man working at the museum, we came in right after a family of three. The dapper proprietor locked the street door and brought us into the etcetera part of the museum to introduce the local movie paraphernalia (lots of Brokeback Mountain stuff, as well as a Sherlock Holmes pipe and I Dream of Jeanie's bottle, as well as a Harry Potter letter), then he let us in to the Star Trek portion to browse at our leisure. He came back to let us touch and hold a screen used phaser to get a sense of the weight of it. There were lots of costumes and scripts, with more on the way via donations. The tiny gift shop only had one type of postcard though, which he let me take one for free when I asked about more.

We were able to find the post office with not too much trouble, and I sat in front of it to write the postcards and get them in the mail right then. Walking back through the small town (you could look down the streets and see prairie in a couple of directions), we stopped for ice cream at the Sugar Shack, gamely ignoring the walls lined with candy bins.

The trip back to Calgary felt a bit faster, we weren't meandering quite as much. Jake did dinner duties that evening, making salmon steaks, mashed yam, and kale (sticking with the paleo plan). The plan for the evening was to see "Mad Max Fury Road", Jake and I collaborated on the theatre web site and settled on a time with the 3D movie (the non 3D options were at bad times). It was a short drive to the theatre, and Sue stood in line to save us seats while Jake and I went out to procure caffeine. Everything was on the other side of the ticket taker, so the guy gave us a password to get back in (thunderstrike). Jake picked up coffee and chai for him and Sue, and I did a quick search and then asked about finding a copy of "Wild Justice", but it wasn't in stock. We headed back in, giving the password and settled in with Sue, right behind the seats that moved for the next level up experience. I felt the vibrations during a pre movie car commercial but didn't notice them during the movie (which I loved). The 3D wasn't too distracting, they only pushed it once during a huge explosion. Coming out of the theatre to head back to the car, we ran into a guy asking people for gas (or money for gas?) but Jake said it was a well known scam in the area.

Monday May 25, 2015

I had to get in my interval running this morning, so while Sue was at the gym swimming, I headed out to the sports field at the end of the block to do my sprints. The soccer fields were just long enough with the extra spectator areas at the ends to do my 1 minute sprints, and then I'd jog around a bit (er, or walk) to recover until the next minute mark. Only problem was that there was a huge mower cutting the grass in the perpendicular field while I was running. I kept an eye on it and swapped fields with it for my last few sets, but the main problem was that the mower was kicking up grass bits and that was bothering my allergies. :-/ So it was a bit of a challenge, but I got all 10 sets in and jogged slowly back to the house to catch my breath.

Sue was back already, so I rushed through a quick get the sweat off shower and got into my biking gear to head out for our long ride (yay, cross training). She lent me her mountain bike again and warned me that the route along the canal to Chestermere could be heavy on the wind once we got out of the city (the golf course marked the urban limits and she definitely wanted to make it there). We zig zagged a bit to ride to the head of the canal path, squeezing through a fence where I had to definitely get off and walk the bike through since the handlebars were too wide for the gap. The last little bit was a little hairy as we crossed a busy road to the path, where Sue pointed out the parking lot where they'd usually leave the car after driving the bikes there. Hrmph. :-) I wasn't feeling that nimble on the borrowed bike, the turning radius was larger than I'm used to, so I'd hop off at each road crossing since they had the car exclusion gates set fairly narrow (lots of other cyclists would just ride through and across the road). The canal path was flat, but the wind was a bit gusty and changed directions - nothing like the worst spring days in Boston though, so I was fine with it, just struggling with my more upright drag inducing position to not slow Sue down quite so much. We passed under some high bridges that were plastered with swallow nests, they looked almost diseased with the closely packed spherical nests with round entry holes. Lots of birds were swooping around as well, it was another gorgeous sunny day. The path was nice and quiet, we rarely saw any traffic when we had to cross roads, and only a few other cyclists and runners/walkers were on the path near us. We made it to the lake end of the path at Chestermere, then rode another 3km or so along residential streets to a shopping area to get lunch. Timmies! Sue and I took turns watching the bikes (didn't bring locks) and getting (the same) food. I talked a bit with a pair of older ladies who'd also ridden from the Calgary end of the path, one with a sweet electric assist bike, and I shifted my bike out of the rack where I'd leaned it so that they could lock up. Sue and I ate our messy chicken salad croissants on a bench outside, and at one point I helped a lady with a baby carriage who got stuck between the parking divider and the curb.

Heading back to Calgary, we were hop scotching a guy for a little while, but he turned around after a few street crossings. We had a headwind on the way back, and I took the road crossings as a chance to stretch my legs out a bit - I've gotten used to a less cramped riding position on my cross bike. Sue guided us along faster streets to get back home, we ended up doing around 70km I think for the day. I used their computer to check in for my flight and get my boarding pass, and cleaned up a bit.

I had another Tough Mudder workout I needed to do and Sue said that I should just push myself to exhaustion and then take a nice hot bath. Deal. She walked over to the JCC with me to swipe me in with her guest pass and give me a short tour, then she headed out to run some errands while I did my workout. I stuck in the open gym like room with the kettlebells and free weights, but I wasn't able to find the assisted pull up machine. Not sure if I got all my distance in with my waiter and farmer's walks, but I went up in weight so got a good workout in. And did lots of stretching! After a quick walk home I dropped my gym stuff (water bottle, notebook, pen) and went back out to hit the Scotiabank to sort out some money stuff. Unfortunately there was police tape all over it and I couldn't get in. O.o It was threatening rain, so I hustled back to the house before I could get soaked.

Jake was home at 7, and Sue made some simple curried chicken thighs, with dinner on the table by 7:30. Sue was up for an errand run after dinner, I'd helped her thread her new old sewing machine and had given her a list of supplies she could use, and I wanted to try and find another Scotiabank. We hit up a department store and I grabbed a honeycrisp apple as a treat. We made a quick stop at a bank branch that wasn't closed by the police, then dropped off a package for a friend of theirs. We were both still a bit hungry, so I twisted her arm to stop for ice cream at what was supposed to be one of the best parlours in the area. Village ice cream was a bit busy, but the line moved quickly and we were soon exclaiming over our earl gey and salted caramel servings. She brought the last of hers back for Jake to try and soon lost it to his training appetite. :-) I piggybacked on some laundry and hoped that hanging it all up would result in dry clothes by the time I had to pack and head to the airport.

Tuesday May 26, 2015

In the morning, I was up well before 7 to be ready when Jake came back from the gym and could give me a lift to the airport. My tops and pants hadn't quite dried over night, I threw them in the drier, air only then low to try and get them ready to pack while I had breakfast. Jake was back at 7:15, I threw the last of my stuff into my suitcase and was ready to go when he was. We hit a bit of traffic, but mostly near the house, otherwise it was slow but steady. I was super early for my flight, but it was that or an expensive taxi or a long annoying public transit commute, and I'd take the extra time to get through security etc and settle in at my gate.

Security closed the Nexus line at 8 apparently, funneling everyone into one line, but it wasn't too busy (and they just had the metal detector). They did a random hand check on me (hair in mohawk, wearing boots and my airship pirate Abney Park t-shirt and cargo pants). They found my mini leatherman and said that it couldn't go on board with me, I said I'd flown through Toronto with it, but no dice. The guy walked me back between security stations to the mail it to yourself kiosk. Mailing it would be minimum $25, so I decided to put it in my suitcase and check it (rats, should have bought wine after all). I took my books and rain jacket out to transfer it into my carry on tote, working near the bag check counter and beside a freaking out woman getting under the over charge weight. She kept forcing her carry on into the size checker, half sobbing and protesting to the Air Canada agent, tampons out in a pile. :-( I used a kiosk to self print and attach a baggage tag, getting charged $30 after the screen said it was excessive, even though it was only one bag. I dropped it on the belt and hoped I'd see it in Boston. The guy next to me was told his carry on was too heavy. Gah, it's getting stupid, and all the airlines have reduced the max size for carry on (now the suitcase manufacturers need to catch up).

I had a quick second trip through security, hit the bathroom, then settled in at Chili's for second breakfast (California Benedict) and more tea (and breathing calmly with some nostalgic tunes (ballroom blitz, living la vida loca)). There were so many final calls for 9:10 flight to Toronto, I totally could have made it if they weren't going to charge me to fly standby on it (which I couldn't do with my checked bag anyway). I managed to snag a corner armchair and read for a while. Then I hit up Jugo Juice for a southwest wrap and smoothie for lunch at 10:30. We boarded on time, but had a bit of a wait to pushback. There were 2 separate sections of economy seating, I was in row 34 a bit behind the wing. Engine noise was an issue, but worse was the family behind me with the penetrating voice mom, too hearty dad, and spoiled whiney kid. There was a toddler up further also adding to the symphony occasionally. I had some juice, finished reading "Running from the Mirror", and napped for a bit. The kid behind me had 3 meltdowns while taxiing from the runway to the gate in Toronto. *sigh*

Despite a screw up on my part, they let me past immigration control in Toronto: I forgot to give Nexus my new passport number when I renewed it. I was supposed to update my profile with the new number, so the card was scanning as expired (not until 2016!) since the linked passport had expired. This wasn't in any way clear from the error message, I was told I had to fill out a customs form by hand since I didn't get a receipt, and then could only find Spanish ones and wandered around trying to find the English version. I was walked into the back to wait while they figured things out. The officer there updated my profile for me, but I was so nervous I was sweating and teary eyed, not my finest moment. The terminal was a bit confusing, with bits blocked off by glass walls - I saw the diner Cris and I had eaten at on our trip to Argentina, but I couldn't get to it. At least I didn't have to pick up my suitcase this time. To add some bemusement, I got "sir"ed twice, once on the plane and once at security - guess the motorcycle style jean jacket hides more than it shows off. The wifi wasn't working well, I couldn't keep a connection. The whole gate area was a restaurant, with iPads and credit card readers at each seat so you could order w/o talking to a person. Only problem was that they didn't have any gluten free entrees, so I headed back to another place to grab food that wouldn't upset my stomach at that point.

The flight down to Boston was quick, and my suitcase made it through intact. I missed the Silver line by seconds so grabbed a taxi home. I had a nice quiet driver and he didn't throw a fit when dropping me off, success. I got home at around 11:30pm or so.


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