Sunday, October 20, 2019

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.

Watch the Video!

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 18, 2019

Take Me To The River: A Surprise Calgary Riverwalk

Previously, we toured the Canadian Rockies...catch up at that link.

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 14, 2019

Coming Down from a Rocky Mountain High: Moving on to Calgary

Catch up below:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

After several nights of great, cozy sleep and enjoying the natural attractions of Jasper National Park, it's time to move on from the mountains and come down to the big city. While we took all day to make a stop-filled, scenic trek up to Jasper, today we're just moving as fast as we can.

We make a quick, unscheduled stop to take pictures of the magnificent Weeping Wall falls along the Icefields Parkway and to stop for some expensive gasoline at Saskatchewan Crossing.

The lonely highway gets decidedly less so as we come back into the crowds of Lake Louise where a four-lane expressway will take us the rest of the way to Calgary.

For some reason, our car's GPS unit doesn't have our hotel loaded into it's files (other Homewood Suites in the city are) but I know it's just east of City Hall so that is our destination where I can easily find it once we're there.

Watch the Video!

This causes no end of consternation from the unit which keeps admonishing me to make a u-turn and go back when I get to the hotel.

I pull up into the valet but no one is coming out to get the car. Letty and Tim disembark. I put the luggage in the lobby and park in the public pay lot across the street which saves me from $13-31 a day, depending on which day of the week it is. Valet costs $35 per day, the lot $22 on weekdays and $4 on weekends.

I take note of the website on the back of the parking lot ticket which let's me keep up on paying for the parking online, saving me a ton of time and money (future travel tip in the making?).

Once inside, the desk agent is a bit off the game not giving me the perks of my Hilton membership but right now, I'm tired and want to get to the room. I make a note to come back later to discuss that.

A gentleman now comes up as I have the luggage trolley loaded up and heading to the elevator wanting to know if I want to valet park the car. I tell him I did but it's a little late for that now.

The room is good. We have a view of the Saddledome Arena where we'll be taking in a hockey game later this week. We all have our own queen size bed to sleep in, Tim's is the sofabed in the living room while Letty and I are in the bedroom (as he's gotten older, Tim really likes to have his own room when traveling).

Looking out and down from the window, I see a little shipping container park has been set up next door. We'll have to check that out.

Once we get settled in, we decide to look over the nearby area of downtown Calgary. The desk clerk tells us that the light rail system is free in the downtown area so we hop a train at the nearby station.

We travel about three stations down. The C-Train, as Calgary's light rail is called, goes along 7th Avenue.

Letty's getting depressed. The buildings here seem to be all boarded up and stray pieces of litter blow coldly along the street. Far from looking interesting, this piece of downtown looks like it withered up and went away.

We walk over to another block and, while the scenery changes for the better, it still looks abandoned (this is late on a Thursday afternoon).

Things are not looking up at the moment so we retire back to the hotel where a light dinner is being served. A salad with no dressing, bread with no butter, and some uninspired pasta to go along with lemonade and tea. Ugh.

This is not how you want to start off a stay at a destination.

"How about a drink to take the edge off?" I ask my wife and Tim.

We go over to the container park next door where a local craft brewery (National Brewing) has set up a little pop-up beer garden.

A couple of cold ones, a relaxing atmosphere...well, as relaxing as you can get with a loud hip-hop group freestyling onstage...and a little laugh at it all help to put a smile on our faces.

We'll go back to the hotel, rest up, and see if we can find a brighter side of Calgary starting tomorrow.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 13, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Festival - San Pedro, California

Another Sunday, another beer festival. Actually THE awesome that it needs no other moniker.

Today, it's in an old warehouse in San Pedro at the mouth of the Los Angeles Harbor. The building has been repurposed as crafter's supermarket and The Festival will be occupying the space at the other end.  A new brewery, Brouwerij West, is turning the building next door into their new headquarters and is helping sponsor this event.

Watch the Video!

Over 90 breweries from around the world are here today pouring samples.  Each 2 ounce sample is a buck, or you can buy 25 for $20.  Beers, ciders, mead, and more are representing the U.K., Canada, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, New Zealand, Belgium, and all across the U.S.A, to mention just a few.

Getting our wristbands and digging into the crowd, Letty starts off with the French and English ciders while I start with a tarty lemoncello IPA from a UK brewer.

French ales in the Belgian style are next, as are actual Belgian ales.

An outstanding porter tickles our taste buds from 8 Wired Brewery in New Zealand as does the offerings from Hair of the Dog in Oregon, which turns out to be Letty's favorite of the day.

If you reading this on November 9th, you still have time if you're in L.A. to drive down to San Pedro and take in the festival for yourself. It's a lot of fun and you can walk across the street to 22nd Street Landing for a dinner to let your beer buzz fade away over the waterfront.

For more information, visit the promoters of The Festival, The Shelton Brothers, at this link:

A special thanks to Brian Garrido for his assistance with this report.



Photos by Letty Musick - Copyrght 2014

All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 11, 2019

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

Catch up below:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

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

Monday, October 7, 2019

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

Catch up below:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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