Friday, October 22, 2021

Flaming the Jets...It's Hockey Night in Canada

The one big activity we have planned while we're here in Canada's third largest city is to go see a hockey game. It'll be the most Canadian thing we do while we're here.

It's Saturday night, which is hockey night in Canada, and the Calgary Flames are hosting the Winnipeg Jets in their final pre-season match before the season starts next week.

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We had learned from our adventures yesterday that it would be just as easy to walk the half mile from our hotel as to take the train. The weather report is a bit threatening but when it's time to leave, it's still dry. Walking it is, although we'll leave the return by train option open if the weather has turned nasty after the game.

Straight as an arrow, we walk the street from our hotel to the Saddledome. As we're approaching, a police officer points us to the accessible ramp to enter the arena. It's pretty well hidden and it's no wonder we didn't see it on our walk yesterday.

"It's the only way you'll get in," he tells us.

Collecting our tickets from Will Call, we proceed inside. Of course, this only accessible entrance is almost exactly on the opposite side of the arena from the wheelchair seating so we have to walk halfway around to get to our seats.

At least, this gives us a chance to see what kind of food offerings are available to us for this night of hockey.

We get to our seats which are located on a row across three or four sections at the top of the first level. Basically, in this old arena, they just cleared out a spot on the concourse for wheelchairs. There is no 'built in' seating.

Another thing is that Canada today is like the U.S. was 15 years ago in companion seating requirements. We are only allowed buy one companion seat to go with Tim's wheelchair. I give that to my wife, my assigned seat is about 10 rows away.

I decide to sit in the empty seat next to Tim until and unless the ticket holders for that seat show up...with the usher's blessing, of course.

(As a side note, the ADA was amended a few years ago for the United States where is is now law that you must sell up to at least three companion seats for every wheelchair seat but, of course, this is not the United States)

The pregame activities begin with a warning that there will be fireworks. This turns out to be nothing more than flames shooting out of the scoreboard but it's still a nice effect.

The game starts and about halfway through the first period, I feel a tap on my shoulder. A lady and her husband in a wheelchair are here to claim their seats. I immediately get up as nicely as I can but still get the wish-of-my-immediate-death stare from the caregiver. this an example of the famous Canadian hospitality I've heard so much about?

I move to the other side of Letty and Tim. Pretty soon, a mother and her disabled son show up to claim the seats I'm sitting at.

"No worries," she says, "we'll just scoot down one spot and you can continue to sit with your family."

That's more like it.

A little while later, an able-bodied man and his four able bodied kids encamp in the seats on the other side of the mom (the usher said it was OK but he'd have to move to his assigned seats if someone else showed up).

When the mom and the kid take off to the bathroom, that family immediately scoots over to take the seats they just vacated.

OK, this is getting a bit ridiculous. The lady was so nice to me that I feel obligated to defend those seats. This is a big, burly, mean looking guy but someone has to say something and it looks like it's going to fall to me. I steel myself up for a confrontation...

"Excuse me, but those seats are already taken," I tell the gent getting ready for the inevitable shouting match.

"Oh, I'm sorry...come on kids, let's scoot back over here," came his gentle and courteous reply.

I guess that the first caregiver that gave me the death stare was an anomaly. There really is a overwhelming courteousness to these people.

The game continues on. I get some hot dogs and popcorn for Tim and me...which were really very good...while Letty has some pirogi poutine. She says it's the best poutine she's had the entire trip.

It's a hard fought game with the lead changing a few time.  At the end of regulation, the game is tied 2-2. At the end of a five minute overtime, the game is still tied 2-2.

If you know hockey, you know what comes next.  Each team takes a turn sending a lone player onto the ice to shoot a puck at a lone goalie from the other's the shootout!

It's a very exciting and quick way to decide the match.  A Jets player shoots and missed. Same with the first Flames player.  Another Jets player misses. A Flames player scores. The games over and the audience goes nuts!

Horns blow and more flames shoot out of the scoreboard.

We make our way out and it's just starting to rain with a steady drizzle.  We decide it's not too bad and walk back to our hotel.

Hockey Night was a very fun night for us here in Calgary.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 18, 2021

Experiencing History at Calgary's Heritage Park and the Elephant in the Room

Darn. I have to finally get the rental car out of the parking lot for today's excursion. I was hoping I wouldn't have to drive again until we went to the airport but it is quicker, by far, to get to today's destination of Heritage Park by car rather than transit.

The reason I'm not so happy about that is that it requires me to transfer Tim into and out of the car, not to mention folding up his chair and fitting it into the hatch of our rental car. I can do it...I have been doing it mostly up in the mountains...but it does get tiring and takes its toll after awhile.

Watch the Video!

It's a bit cloudy and threatening but for the moment it's not raining. We take the drive to Heritage Park, find a spot to park, and head in.

I downloaded a two-for-one coupon at the hotel before leaving.  At the ticket window, I ask if they have any discounts for the disabled. I'm told no but a caregiver can go in for free so Tim and I get in for the price of one while Letty gets in for free.  We get to pay for one ticket for the three of us.

(As an aside, I've noticed that no one will volunteer that a discount is available at attractions while were here in Canada. Only when I've asked did I receive them. One lady at another attraction told me "you'd be surprised that no one asks for discounts." My response is "maybe you could volunteer that information?")

A plaza is next to the ticket booth with a restaurant, cafe, and a couple of shops. An automotive museum called Gasoline Alley is just inside the gate. It's about a quarter mile walk from here to the heart of the park. up a slight hill.

We walk up. There is also an accessible bus that will take you from here if your unable to.

At the top of the hill, there's a windmill, a train crossing, and a lake off to the left. Crossing the tracks, you are now in the village. It's kind of like a combination of Knott's Berry Farm and a museum.

It's possible to make a big loop and take it all in so we break to the left which takes us by some rentable party tents before getting to the antique midway.

Old rides, such as this caterpillar ride with wooden wheels, are available to ride on.

There's also a swing ride, a carousel, ferris wheel, and a few others.  None are accessible.

We watch for a few minutes before I see a station for the old steam engined train that makes a circuit around the park.

"Let's go see if that train is accessible," I tell Tim.

We see nothing to suggest it is, there's even a sign that strollers must left at the station.  I ask a gentleman working there if it is.

"No, it's an antique train and it's impossible to adapt it to wheelchairs," is his answer.

Now, we've been on plenty of antique trains south of the border that have very easily been adapted for wheeler with the addition of a portable lift at the station. This line of reasoning is not dealing with reality and points the way to assume that park management just isn't that creative when it comes to its disabled customer base.

We move on to the train shops and locomotive turntable, which are accessible, and check out some of the antique coaches and equipment stored within.

Back in the village, we find accessible points on the boardwalk and are able to go into a few of the shops but the majority are still inaccessible to wheelchairs.

It's not long before we're heading back down the hill.

We make a stop at Gasoline Alley which is completely wheelchair accessible and take in some marvelous pieces of automotive history.

The complex is named for a large row of restored antique gas pumps that you can wander down in addition to seeing the old autos and trucks.

This Cadillac is left unrestored so patrons can get a look at what the vehicles looked like before restoration.

A couple of Auburns take their place at the head of the large room.

A family wagon and travel trailer are on display in a special 'family vacation' exhibit.

We make our way out, and eventually back to Calgary when done. To address the elephant in the room, however, we do note that while Canada seems more progressive and inclusive for the most part than we are in the U.S., we continue to note that they seem to be a few years behind us in inclusion for those with handicaps.

This visit to Heritage Park brings it home for us, much of this park can easily be made accessible and adapted for those with special needs without destroying the historical nature of the buildings and equipment but the attitude is 'it's history and your kind wasn't accomodated back then so we won't do it either.'

Along with a real trial to find a good, accessible room in Jasper and the afterthought of the wheelchair seating at the hockey game, it's getting a bit hard to ignore (as was the inaccessible subway in Toronto a few years back).

We hope that Canada, which is a wonderful country populated with wonderful people, can address some of these shortfalls soon. We can say that the transit in Calgary, the sidewalks, hotels, and many other attractions are greatly accessible but there are still a few glaring examples out there that need improvement.

Well, we don't want to knock it when so much else is perfectly fine so we'll end today's report here and get back with some more accessible adventures on the next one. At least they only charged us for one ticket.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 17, 2021

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Calgary Pub Crawl

It took us a little while to find where the pubs and bars of Calgary were but Stephen Avenue in downtown was filled to overflowing with all the watering holes having extensive happy hours there.

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While we didn't have time to partake in the beginning, we finally got around to doing a crawl before we left but then we found out why the pubs were so crowded on the preceding days...the weather was gorgeous, fall, "perfect temperature", outside weather and Calgarians were spending what would be the last of that great weather on their patios.

Patios to Calgary are what biergartens are to Munich...great, outdoor drinking spots where local go to mingle and imbibe.

Our day was decidedly chillier and most of those Calgarians seemed to be home in front of a cozy fireplace.  No worries, we're still out and about, let's go see what we can find...

Starting off nextdoor to the hotel, we're at a popup beer garden put up by the National restaurant chain at evJunction, a container park with little shops in each shipping container and entertainment via a local hip hop group.

The selection is a little limited, a blonde and a berry based brew are the canned choices here, and Tim and I lean toward the blonde while Letty likes the berry beer.

The C-Train gets us over to Stephen Avenue where we hit three more pubs, all within a block of each other.

Our first stop is Bank and Baron, a huge pub in a former bank. The bartender invites us to go to the basement to see the old vault and take pictures.

Tim and Letty go with the mimosas which are on special this day while I get my Molson Canadian fix. 

Yeah, it's a cheap beer but it's better than most of our cheap beers back home.

Across the street, we visit the James Joyce Irish pub

Here, we find a little privacy at a wheelchair-accessible nook near the entrance (while their 'secret' wheelchair accessible bathroom also comes in handy mid drinkathon).

Tim goes fruity with a strawberry colada, Letty goes with their special Moscow Mule, while I have a reserve Canadian Crown Royal whiskey shot with a Shock Top beer chaser (picture at the top of this post).

We end up around the corner at the Palomino Smokehouse where we have the best, juiciest brisket we've ever had. Seriously delicious food here.

As for drinks, Letty has a Rock Creek cider and I go for a local craft brew, a Big Rock Traditional Ale.

From here, it's not a long walk back to the hotel. Wobbly, maybe, but not far.


Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 15, 2021

Take Me To The River: A Surprise Calgary Riverwalk

We don't really have a lot planned out for our time in the city of Calgary. Last night's train ride through some of the dingier blocks of downtown kind of put a damper on things. Our biggest plans are to see a hockey game at the Saddledome, an arena that is visible from our hotel window.

Watch the Video!

Deciding that we should get out and about, plus it'd be nice to know where we need to go, we hop on the C-Train (Calgary's light rail) for one stop to the Stampede stop.

This deposits us at the edge of the fairgrounds that host the world's largest outdoor rodeo each summer. Today, it's a ghost town of closed buildings and empty parking lots. We notice it's quite a walk from the train station to the Saddledome at the other side of the grounds, about as far as if we'd walked all the way from our hotel.

Walking around the arena, we notice that the building is a bit dated and access ramps are not to be seen. We're guessing there must be elevators inside. That is something we'll have to find out tomorrow when we return for the game.

Blowing tumbleweeds would not have been out of place here, so empty, and a bit windswept on this cool Canadian morning. I pull out my phone to see a map of the area to see if there's see while we're here. It's way to early to return to the hotel for the day.

I notice that there's a river on the map behind the Saddledome. I tell Letty and Tim that we should go over there and, if nothing else, we can get some river pictures.

At the far end of the parking lot behind the arena is a pedestrian bridge. We go out, take some pictures (great fall colors on the day we're there, by the way), and notice a park on the other side.

Another map on the other end of the bridge let's us know that there's a walking path that continues down this river, the Elbow River, all the way to it's confluence with the Bow River and beyond to downtown Calgary.  We might as well follow it and see where it leads.

First thing we notice is the fine view we have of the Saddledome that we just left.

Next, moving just a little downstream on the river, it's a spectacular skyline view of Calgary.

ENMAX Park, the riverside area we're walking through, is much nicer than the down-in-the-dumps stretch of downtown we were in last night. This is much more of the Calgary we thought we'd see.

The bridge into the Inglewood neighborhood shows us a block of pubs and shops we'll need to explore later. 

Walking under a moving train crossing the bridge overhead, we get to the end of the Elbow River.

A pedestrian bridge provides a great viewing platform to see the merge of the two rivers.

To the left, a windmill and a garden mark the spot of Fort Calgary, the Mounties post where the city was founded.

We've got some time, so we go in and check out the museum here. It's twelve dollars (Canadian) to enter, although your AAA card will get you an additional discount. After paying, the counter lady gives us a brochure and I start to walk away.

"Wait, we're not done," she admonishes.


"No, I have to explain some things to you first."

With that, she tells us which direction we need to explore the museum and, as a special exhibit today, not to miss the original Treaty 7 which is on display here for a very short time.

Treaty 7 is the treaty between the British and several First Nation governments...mainly the Blackfoot tribe...delineating what would belong to each group and the price the British would pay to the natives for encroaching on their land.

Although it's been violated several times since it's adoption in 1877, it's still the basic governing document of this area of Canada.  It's kind of like a constitution of the area.

She also tells me we're allowed to photograph and film anywhere we want in the museum except that pictures and video of Treaty 7 are off limits.

We wander through, seeing exhibits on how the bison used to sustain the population. How they were decimated when the Europeans arrived. How the First Nations people suffered when diseases and whiskey were introduced.

The fort was an outpost for the Canadian government and the Mounted Police (the Mounties) and the soldiers, families, and support personnel eventually spread out into the surrounding area, becoming what we now know as the city of Calgary.

Inside, we see recreations of a telegraph office and a house of the era. 

I throw Tim inside a recreation of the post's jail. Calgary's Palace theatre is recreated here and shows videos on the history of Calgary.

Tim and I board a replica street car before we have to leave.

With that, we're only a few blocks from the hotel where we go to meet up with a friend and have a beer at the little pop-up beer garden nextdoor.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 11, 2021

On Top of the World! Jasper Skytram - Alberta, Canada

This journey to the top of the world didn't exactly start at the bottom. We're around 3,500 feet in elevation at our cabin by the Athabasca River. It's not exactly chilly this morning as I cook breakfast but we imagine on top of the nearby Whistlers Peak it will be cold so we put on our thermal underwear, take our down jackets, and the beanies that Letty had knitted for us before the trip.

Watch the Video!

After three days of sketchy accessibility and parking on our daily adventures, it's nice to great handicapped parking right at the entrance of the Jasper Skytram. Tim goes up the big ramp to the ticket office and gift shop while I buy the tickets.

We have about twenty minutes until our allotted time (they call it a 'flight' and you're given a flight number). Tim picks out a shirt in the gift shop, which will be held for us until we return, and we spend a minute looking at the machinery that runs the tram.

The operator lets Tim on first when it's time to leave. It's pretty easy for him to roll on board. After the rest of the passengers step on board, we're off while the operator tells us about the tram and the scenery we're seeing as we go up.

Seven minutes later, we're exiting the tram at the upper station. A combination of paved trail and boardwalk let's Tim wander around this section of mountaintop near the upper lodge. 

We take in the sights, take some pictures, and look down on our cabin, several thousand feet below next to the ribbon of the river.

I point out Mt. Robson, the tallest of the Canadian Rockies, to Tim. It's over in the distance in British Columbia.

Most of this upper chalet is accessible but the restaurant is upstairs and we can't reach it so we browse the gift shop, take some more video and pictures, then queue up to take the tram back down.

Back in town, we do a little shopping before retiring to the Whistle Stop Pub, a friendly little joint across from the train station that Tim bugged us to try. I'm glad he did because it's a neat place to hang out with the locals before heading back to the cabin.

Our cabin resort has it's own gourmet restaurant that we've neglected to try. Since this is our last night here, we decide to give it a go. 

A table by the front window gives us a view of the Athabasca River and a herd of elk decide to wander across the far bank.

The chef has a special of locally caught wild boar, which we take advantage of. Tomahawk style chops come out, filling us up very nicely before we retire back in the cabin for the night.

Tomorrow, we check out and head back down the Icefields Parkway to finish up our trip in Calgary.

Darryl Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick

Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Cocktail Hour: Canadian Beer Taste Off

This was so much harder to put together than our recent Canadian Whiskey taste off. Canadian beer is pretty darn hard to find here. Originally, I had wanted to pit Molson Canadian against Moosehead but I really could not find anyone selling the Canadian here.

Watch the Video!

A trip to the beach last week meant we could stop at Total Wine and More, our local 'everything' liquor store...much more selection than, say, I was able to put together three bottles from our neighbors to the north.

The contenders...Labatt Blue, a pilsner from Toronto; Moosehead, a lager from St. John's; and Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue in Quebec.

Moosehead was the smooth, skunky smelling beer I remember from my younger days. It's good, it's smooth, but the importing time in those green bottles definitely skunks the beer.

The less said about Labatt the better. Just nothing to taste there at all.

Unibroue's Blanche de Chambly, a Belgian style white ale, was delicate, flowery, and delicious. A great beer for a hot day you can see in our video was 84 degrees when we tasted.

Watch the video above for more in depth reactions, we'll catch you next time.



Friday, October 8, 2021

Falling Into the Abyss: Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Canada

Our next big adventure in Jasper National Park does not require clear skies but it would be really helpful. There are some clouds hanging around today, obscuring some views, so we decide to switch it up a bit and do a short hike that doesn't require great weather.

Watch the Video!

It's maybe a 20 mile drive from our cabin to the parking lot of Athabasca Falls. The Parks Canada website says the trail to the falls is wheelchair accessible. There is no handicapped parking that we can see, however. We end up parking in the RV section, which is the only place where I can park and still have room to get Tim and his chair out.

The weather is fall crisp, not too cold and maybe even on the edge of warm. Tim rolls to the edge of the Athabasca River with no problem.

Getting to the actual falls is a bit trickier.  Yes, there is a paved trail to a platform overlooking the main cataract but boulders and tree roots stick through at random points. The trail leans to the left when it isn't leaning to the right. To get to the main walkway overlooking the falls requires going down about a dozen steps. This tight and crowded platform is as far as wheelchairs can go.

Tim makes it through but I definitely need to guide him around the obstacles and keep my hands on the chair to keep it from veering off to the side. Let's just say that the Canadian Parks service has a bit of a different definition of 'wheelchair accessible' than I do.

Once the work of getting Tim to the viewing platform is done, we get a magnificent view of the top of the falls.

There seems to be three tiers of falls, this upper fall...

...a mid point fall as it enters a narrow slot canyon...

...and the end where the falls exit the canyon into a stunningly turquoise colored lake.

Of course, Tim can only see the upper portion.  Afterward, I take him back out of the parking lot and to the highway bridge that goes over the falls so he can see some more of it.  There's no sidewalk here and you're exposed to traffic but, being careful and watchful, I help him out to where the view is better.

When Tim's seen enough (happens pretty quick with this city guy), we head back to the car to hang out and listen to music while Letty goes over the inaccessible parts of the trail to get some more pictures.

As with every adventure we take in Jasper, we head back into town to have a pint at the Whistle Stop Pub and to browse some of the shops in downtown Jasper.

Tim and I take some time to visit the historic Jasper train depot. A big adventure for a lot of people is to take the train across stops here for a couple of hours so passengers can get a taste of the town. Others just take the train up from Edmonton for a Jasper vacation.

There's the pretty waiting room and an old locomotive out front.

Back in the cabin, Letty and I head to the resort's laundry room to take care of our dirty clothes.  It's one of the few places here you can get a wifi signal.  I notice someone is trying to message me on Facebook but I don't have Messenger installed on this phone.

With the very spotty wifi service up here, it takes me two hours to download and install. The message is from our friend, Bart, in Calgary telling us there will be a good Aurora Borealis tonight.

We've never seen it so, before we go to bed, we spend some time in the chilly a dark area behind the resort's maintenance shed...with a few other Asian tourists looking up into the now-clear night sky.

It's not the brightest thing we've ever seen but there they are, materializing every few minutes like a far off used car dealership spotlight...white bands appearing for a minute or so before fading away. Sometimes, even a curtain of misty-like white light.

With another check off the bucket list, being able to see the Northern Lights for the first time in our lives, we bed back down in our cozy cabin to rest up for the next day's adventure.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved