Since we were going to be in Alberta for three weeks, even a small rental car would have cost us C$900 (US$770), not to mention the fuel costs. As a result, Carolyn and Ryan picked us up in Calgary on our arrival and let us have the use of their 4WD Chevrolet Blazer ZR2 for the duration of our visit (with them being on Honeymoon for 9 days, they had no need of vehicles of any description!). The vehicle came in handy on some of the slippery streets in the subdivision and it was noticable how much difference it made if it was placed in the 'Auto4WD' pushbutton mode instead of '2WD'. The Blazer was a 2-door model and had a high ground clearance, so entry and exit could be a challenge for some. However, their pet dog Copper quite enjoyed coming along for rides in the back seat or in the rear luggage area if necessary.
Gasoline prices were not too bad during the course of our trip, seeming to be in one of the infrequent downward dips as the world price of oil bounces all over the map! Although the price (2nd photo) of regular-grade fuel is shown as 84.9 cents Canadian, we actually got it for about 82 cents/litre thanks to them being a member of this nearby supermarket/gasoline station arrangement (this is equivalent to 36 pence/litre in Britain or US$2.65/US gallon in the States) We put quite a few miles on the vehicle in the end - in addition to driving around Red Deer, we also had separate trips west as far as Rocky Mountain House, south to Cremona outside Calgary, south and west to Canmore in the Rockies, south to Calgary to take the newlyweds to the airport and again when they returned.
(No.1 in the Family Roadtrip Category)
Footloose and Shutter Happy
By Jennifer Henry
Red Deer, Alta.
This story takes place not too long ago in a time when I still possessed so many innocent, child-like qualities, especially the endearing trait of always being right.
You'll soon see what I mean.
There we were, driving through the rolling hills of Southern Alberta with my Mom, her best friend Rosie, and me. I was riding in the back doing what I did best - eavesdropping on front-seat grown-up conversations and staring out the window.
We were around the Strathmore area when a storm began to blow in. I have always had a thing for summertime storms. I will tell anyone who will listen that Alberta gets some of the most INCREDIBLE storms ever - right here, above our golden wheatfields. Maybe it is because of our endless skies that they seem so spectacular?
Sometimes it's almost like night swoops down upon you in one cool, moist breath - that moment when our thunderstorms roll in. One minute you can be basking in the glorious sun and then poof - you'll find yourself in a downpour! The Canadian outdoors does this to you year-round but it is the thunderstorms that I love to watch the most.
But you should know something about my mom. She was a fanatical lapel pin collector and had one from every single town (sometimes hamlet) in Alberta, and we can all testify that she drove to each town to get every one! That's exactly what we were doing on this particular day, collecting a pin from Strathmore.
The storm began moving in fast and violently as I watched from the backseat while my heart raced whenever the sky split apart. That's when I looked down beside me and saw my Mom's camera. Now this is not a slick little point and shoot, this is a very sophisticated, expensive camera that I was rarely aloud to touch ... well, until now!
I picked it up and looked up into the rearview mirror at my Mom and said: 'Do you want to make a bet?'
She looked back at me with a little grin: 'On what?'
'I bet that I can photograph the lightning ...' I waited patiently for a response . . . All I heard was a chuckle from her and her friend: 'Jennifer, that is 200 speed film, it is dark out and you will not be able to take a picture of the lightning from a moving car.'
'Let's see . . . please,' I begged with a smile.
I must have sat there and snapped 12 pictures until my Mom finally convinced me that I was wasting her film. Deep inside I knew that one of them would turn out.
We rode the rest of the way home to our farm talking about the great day that we'd had poking through some quirky, southern Alberta towns.
Two days later my Mom brought home the developed roll of film and said, a little quietly: 'I don't believe it . . . you got lucky.'
In her hand was exactly what I saw through the shutter that night . . . lightning, snapping and popping right across the inky sky. It doesn't really matter that the rest of those pictures were blank - for there in her hand was the one spectacular picture of a prairie sky splintered with shafts of lightning!
That picture now hangs in my parents' home, blown up into an 8X10 of course, and every person who comments on it hears the story behind my shot of fame.
It's really just a simple tale of one of the many great roadtrips I've had with my Mom. She truly loved the rolling beauty around her and never understood why I needed to travel to faraway places when I have such staggering beauty in my own backyard.
You learn a lot from family and roadtrips. When you put the two together, it's what fills a photo album. This summer remember the simple stuff - look up at the sky. And always keep your camera close by.
You'll want to take a car if you are heading into the Banff area. It's a few hour drive from Calgary, and the views along the way are very nice. Once you get into Banff, you can walk the streets and easily see the area on foot. When in downtown, take a stroll up towards the north end of town (direction away from the highway) and go past the shops on Main street, past the McDonalds on the left hand side of the street, until you find yourself going towards the Sulfur Mountain Gondola. This ride is great. It takes you up over Banff, the views are great!