Our goal today is simple…get out of Calgary by noon and find a place to crash that is in close proximity to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump (tomorrow's quest).
The first part of this plan appears easy enough. Get up, shower, say goodbye to Harp, do the laundry, pack, pack the car, drive the keys over to Harp's work, get another Starbucks and find a way out of the city. We manage to do it by twelve thirty.
We jump onto Hwy. 2 South and race along at 110km. It's not that fast but then again, the Civic has nothing to prove…after all, it made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs (if you don't get that reference, then you do not have your own Fortress of Nerditude).
The drive is enchanting. Rolling prairies with a backdrop of what appears to be mountains…it's hard to tell because at this distance, they are still mere shadows.
The highway passes through several small farming communities and in each, the speed limit drops rapidly. from 110km/h to 50km/h. All along the route the highway is bisected by country crossroads. Several times, vehicles using these roads accelerate across our path.
Soon, we are driving into Fort MacLeod, in which Wendy (in transit) has booked us into a campsite at the 'Daisy May Campground'. Our new plan is to find a grocery store, buy some food for dinner and then head over to set up the camp.
Upon arrival we ask some locals where to purchase food. We get the name of several grocery outlets and we are told that, today only, there is a Farmer's Market at the curling rink. Right on!
Well, it's not much of a Farmer's Market. The few kiosks that are set up look pretty forlorn withIn such a spacious rink. Well, we're here now, let's see what they have to offer.
I move quickly around the rink (Hurry Hard!) and when I look for Wendle I can see that she has still not made it past the first booth…something has her full attention and she's moving in for the kill (hmm..I don't remember anything of interest at that stall). One display does get my attention, a Dutch farmer (immigrated here eighteen years ago) and his daughter (she was eleven when they arrived) are selling homemade, gluten and dairy free sausages (3 for $5). Ooh, that sounds like dinner to me.
I mention to the farmer that it smells so fresh in this town. The farmer asks me where I'm from and when I say Toronto (it's just easier than describing where Oakville is) he says “I have never had any interest in visiting there. What does it smell like in Toronto?” I tell him “It smells like concrete”
I head over to see what is taking Der Vendela and arrive just in time to see her forking over cash for a cool dish towel and knitted wash cloth. Deal done. Hallelujah. Now, let's cut back to the sausage table.
We buy three each of the Dutch sausage (pork and beef) and the chicken-apple. All we need now is some veggies, a potato, water and ice…which we purchase (within five minutes) at the local market down the street.
Coming out of the market, we notice an old wooden military style fort across from where we've parked. Callaghen advises that we check it out (you remember Callaghen…my western mentor). The building turns out to be the Fort MacLeod museum and its very cool.
We spend some time browsing and speaking with the staff. Apparently this building, the museum and the daily RCMP Musical Ride re-enactments are to honour the arrival of the Northwest Mounted Police onto the prairies. It's a fine heritage and worth celebrating.
A quick drive and we arrive at the Daisy May Campgrounds. It looks great and we are mostly happy…except for this one little sign
We are allowed to drive around the tent sites and choose our own. We find a good one and begin to set up camp. A staffer, in a golf cart, drives our firewood out to our site. We ask him whether they will be fogging tonight. He says “probably not, they'll probably do it tomorrow for the weekend, but I'll check”
The camp is set up, the fire started and we are ready to cook up dinner but Wendy is worried that they'll start fogging as soon as the food is out in the open. So, we're on hold.
Our guy returns and confirms that there are no plans to fog tonight…we are free to cook (and breathe)
Dinner was great. Man, those Dutch really know how to make a sausage (our unanimous favourite is the Dutch sausage). We clean up the dishes and the campsite and put a pot of water on to boil for tea. It's about 10.40pm. Suddenly we hear the sound of a small motor…WTF…and then the golf art comes roaring around the bend spewing a fog of gawdknowswhat onto the campsites just across the road.
Scrambling to collect our cups and belongings…we throw them into the car…and dive in after them. No sooner are we in the Civic then some crazy dude rounds the corner, chemicals belching from his death machine. Wendy holds up a skinny little arm and yells “NOOOO!”…to no avail…partly because we're in the car, mostly because the fogging machine is so loud. And then, as quickly as it begins, it's over.
We watch in horror as the death cloud rolls lazily towards the car. I say “Now I know what the guys at Ypres must have felt like”. Wendy is scrambling for the camera so she can take a picture of the gas attack…I'm shouting “Forget the camera, try and stuff the vents with something.” The merciless fog rolls slowly over the hood and then we are lost in it's mist. Unfreakinbelievable!
The haze moves beyond us and into the trees, where the birds are still singing (The larks, still bravely singing, fly…Scarce heard amid the 'gas' below). Sheesh, what is it with Albertans trying to kill off their birds. Apparently, the ones they can't run over, they gas.
We are still trapped in our car, entombed within the gas, when we notice children riding their bikes through the still thick fog. They look at us as they pass…and stare in wonder…at the weird people from Ontario who go camping, and then sit in their car.
When we finally step out of the car, the air has the same stench as an apartment building after they've sprayed for roaches (only we are the roaches). We go back into the car and wait another twenty minutes. What a freak show.
Finally, when the dust has literally settled, we emerge…and are immediately attacked by a hoard of mosquitoes.
Tomorrow is Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump and we will be excited to visit (and to have survived the night)
Moose and Wendle