This blog post chronicles my trip down to Calgary on July 09 2021 to visit the Calgary Stampede and Zoo. It’s my very first event in this blog that was written concurrently with/just after my trip, while everything was still fresh, and not a recounted story from some time after.
This blog post was written from July 07 2021 to July 11 2021. There is a bit of spillover between this page and My Diary #012 blog entry, which was written on the same weekend.
Since the province lifted most of the COVID-19 mandatory health restrictions on July 01 2021, I took a day trip down to Calgary on July 09 2021, in order to partake in the Calgary Stampede event that was going on there. Edmonton has a similar event called Klondike Days that I’ve visited in the past, most recently in July of 2019, however it’s been cancelled this year even though its usual event date is later than the Calgary Stampede. However, this event is somewhat political, and the reason our conservative premier wanted to rush to open the province back up is because he wanted this event to be held, not only because it looks good but also because it’s one of the highlights of the year for his conservative support base from the southern rural towns, who flock in to the event in droves. They even included tickets to the Stampede as a prize in the provincial COVID-19 lottery.
I do support the reopening in general though, and I was vaccinated on Jun 21, which was more than 14 days before the day I went down, so it should have taken effect according to current medical theory (data on the delta variant notwithstanding). Also, the infection rates in our province right now are really low, and although this event is bound to raise it by a bit, I figured going on the very first day of the event would be relatively safe. You bet I still wore a mask pretty much everywhere though, especially indoors.
Anyway, the Stampede this year runs from Jul 09-Jul 18, and is basically a big fair with various booths and exhibitions surrounding some central showcases, those being concerts (country music) and rodeos (various events), neither of which I have any interest in attending. It’s all very “by white people, for white people”, especially the rural redneck yahoos. I am interested in the fair booths and in the spectable and experience in general, though. In addition, I plan to be in Japan next year, and therefore I wanted to visit this event, which I have never been to, before I left the country.
And lastly, I hope to make many travel/photo posts on the blog while I’m in Japan. I don’t have the format for this sort of post down pat yet, and this is going to require some experimentation, so this can serve as a trial run for how I might do these travel-based pages, with photos and narration and everything. So that by the time I am in Japan, I can concentrate more on content and less on figuring out a format to express myself with.
I mentioned this in one of my weekly blog posts, but once I had decided to go on this day trip to Calgary, I started by looking for tickets for the main event. I found that they were giving away tickets on specific days for the first 10000-15000 people or so, and I quickly snagged one for Friday the 9th, the first day of the event. It allegedly came with a free pancake breakfast as well, although I was not holding my breath for that. I figured I’d arrive in the morning, between 9-10 am, and spend 2-3 hours walking around the place, although it was possible that I’d spend more time there if it had a lot of exhibits and stuff the way that Edmonton’s Klondike Days had the year that I went. (That year, there were something like 6 warehouses filled with everything from new 4×4 truck displays to cow milking to animal petting to shops).
But what else did I want to do in Calgary? I didn’t want to stay more than one night there if possible, but I did want to spend at least basically a full day there because if not the 3-4 hour bus ride there and back would be so much wasted time for very little payoff. I initially fingered three other sites that I wanted to visit — Calgary Tower, the Calgary Zoo, and the Devonian Gardens. I also needed a hotel for the evening of the 8th, in order to be at Stampede Park for the Calgary Stampede bright and early on the 9th. I didn’t take the 8th off of work though.
With that rough schedule settled, I began to look for transportation. After some deliberation and scouting, I ended up booking a bus trip down south via Red Arrow that ran from 4:50 pm to 7:55 pm on July 08th, and a return trip via Cold Shot from 6:50 pm to 9:50 pm on July 09th. That would give me nearly a full day in Calgary, while getting me back to Edmonton in time for bed, negating the need for a second night in a hotel. I then booked a hotel room in Calgary’s Best Western Plus Suites Downtown hotel, which was about a half hour’s walk away from the actual Stampede Park. That was fine by me, as I like walking, and the weather was scheduled to be great that day. And the hotel was cheap. I like cheap.
So my itinerary had me arriving in Calgary at 8pm, walking about 15-20 minutes to my hotel, and picking up dinner along the way. I’d either walk around the neighbourhood a bit or chill in my hotel room until bedtime, and aim to wake up early the next day. I thought that the Stampede actually opened its doors at 8:30 am, and I wanted to be there as early as possible, so this meant I would aim to be up at 7 am and check out of my hotel by 7:45 am. I would then spend time there, until about 11 am-12 pm, before taking a 20 minute walk over to the Devonian Gardens while sourcing lunch from the mall if I hadn’t already eaten at the Stampede. I figured I would spend an hour or two here, encompassing both the gardens and the mall below it, and then take this 10 minute train ride over to the zoo once I was ready. By then, it would be about 2:00 pm, and I would spend about 3 hours in there until it closes at 5pm. From there, I’ll talk a short walk over to the the bus depot to catch my bus home at 6:50 pm. Probably catch an early dinner along the way as well.
What about the Calgary Tower then? Well, after further consideration, there’s two main reasons I’d want to visit it, the observation deck and the rotating restaurant up top. However, the latter is apparently closed right now, and the former is better seen (in my opinion) during the evening, as I love night city skylines. I wasn’t going to be in Calgary on either evening though, as I arrive too late the first night (it closes at 9pm and I arrive in the city around 8pm) and leave too early the second night. Sunset in Calgary on July 08 2021 is 9:50 pm as well, well after the Tower’s closing time, so I wouldn’t really get to see what I want to see anyway, so it’s not worth the $18 to go up there right now. Maybe if it were closer to the fall or winter.
Bus to Calgary and the walk to the hotel
My work week ended at 4pm on Thursday, July 08th. The Red Arrow bus that I would catch was scheduled to arrive at 4:50 pm at the Southgate transit centre, which was under 10 minutes from my house, so I took my time double and triple checking everything before I left, though a fat lot of use that did in the end.
See, I had decided to travel light — really light — I would be doing a lot of walking, and would be there for just one night, so I wondered how little I could get away with bringing along. I ended up bringing just my tote bag, slung over shoulder, with a laptop (I left the power charger at home), my phone, a portable battery pack and a cable for my phone, Tigey, some money and ID etc, a spare bag (the scrunched up carrot bag from Blog Entry 010), a book (The Liar’s Club, also mentioned in Entry 010 and 012), a ladies’ electric razor, a small water bottle, a cloth mask and some disposable masks, one set of casual clothes for the hotel room, and that’s about it. My logic was that I’d brush my teeth before I go and when I return, mooch off of whatever toiletries the hotel room has, and not worry about things like power for my laptop because I’d only be there one night, and had the external battery to use for my phone.
In reality, the external battery drained really quickly, much faster than I was expecting, so even though it started off full, I noticed that by the time I was snuggled up in my hotel room at night, it was already empty, and all I did with it was to keep my phone plugged in to it on the 3-hour southbound bus journey! I also didn’t have a cord to refill the external battery — I did have a USB-A to USB-C cord for my phone to be charged using the hotel room’s complimentary USB outlets, but its charging port is an old Micro-B USB port and I didn’t bring a cord for that. So that became dead weight for the rest of the trip.
My laptop, a Surface Pro from work, also became dead within 3 hours or so because I basically spent time playing a game on it in the hotel room. This was faster than I expected too, but it served its purpose anyway as that time period was all I absolutely needed it to fill. I was hoping it’d act as an additional backup to my phone in case it died and I needed a backup electronic device, but it had far too little juice left in it by the time the second day rolled around. It did also feel like dead weight carrying it around the next day though, to the point where I wondered if I should have just left it at home and planned to watch hotel TV for the entire night or something. Anyway, this meant that all I was armed with on my second day, the day of the actual Stampede and Zoo trip itself, was my Pixel 5 phone with its 100% battery health. That meant a lot of battery rationing so that I could still capture as many pictures as possible.
All that wasn’t a concern my first night in Calgary though. I took a meandering path (original) to the hotel, looking for food along the way, and following along 8th Ave/Stephen’s Avenue, which is a pedestrian walkway rather than a vehicular one. The malls were closed that late, but there were still many restaurants and patios and such open.
Eventually, I stopped off at a Chinese restaurant called Singapore Sam’s around 8:45 pm and picked up some noodles from there to consume at the hotel. It was nothing like actual Singapore food, but I had to know. While waiting for my order to marinate, I stood outside the restaurant, and heard a passing women, who seemed to be giving some friends a guided tour of the neighbourhood, rave about how late Singapore Sam’s was open every evening to one of her males in tow.
I mused about how the angles of the residential buildings above and behind Singapore Sams looked really weird from where I was. It looked like building blocks or puzzle pieces that didn’t exactly fit together.
Once I had my food, I headed over to the hotel, snapping some additional pictures along the way. Here’s a small gallery of the leftover pictures I didn’t use in the post above.
Hotel and Night 1 (Jul 08)
My hotel room was Room 705 in the Best Western Plus Suites Downtown. It cost $136.25 or so after fees and taxes for one night. Cheapest room I could find the week before the Stampede. It was about a half an hour’s walk from Stampede Park, and I really wasn’t expecting much. The front of the hotel was humble and nondescript, I wasn’t even sure I had the right place when I was standing in front of the front door and pressing the buzzer to be allowed in, despite the small sign above the door. Nothing fancy at all. My room looked like this:
It was a bit larger than I expected, with basically three locations that you could place NPCs in a game, instead of the usual two. A couch, the bed, and the desk by the kitchenette. A kitchenette was rather rare too in a western hotel, but I appreciated it, since I needed a water refill and generally hotel coffee pots are disgusting and water heated from them taste awful. I put a pot of water on the electric heating pad and used that instead.
The first important check was the free wifi, which was weird — I was given a password but didn’t actually needed the password to log in to the wifi. The front desk sounded confused when I called them about this, and said that they could see me logged in to the wifi, which I took to mean that maybe each room basically had its own wifi network and it wasn’t as insecure as it seemed to be. I couldn’t actually find the wifi networks of any adjacent rooms though, so I don’t know that that was the case. The person on reception actually tried giving me the password to the secure (employee?) wifi as well but the password he gave me did not work. Oh well. I ended up making sure I wasn’t doing anything important with it on my laptop the short time that it was connected to the hotel wifi, and I made sure my phone stayed off of it entirely.
The next important step was to check the view outside the windows. The window behind the couch was small and stained with water stains, and opened out onto another building or something, it was unremarkable. The large windows, which faced east, were much better.
Very respectable. I noticed that there was a sign posted that said to please keep the curtains shut during the heat wave to help the air-con (which was set to 70F) keep the room cool. Even though it was 8:55 pm at that point, it was still light out (sunset was around 9:50 pm) so I closed it and went to have dinner, play some games, chat with friends, and browse through the 60ish TV channels on the Shaw TV box they had.
Anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows that one of my fetishes is bright city skylines and tall buildings at night though, and so I switched off the lights and crawled up against the curtains to take a look at the scenery outside every now and then, something which I only had the luxury of doing because I was alone. Here’s what the scenery looked like at 10:45 pm:
And then again at 11:55 pm just before I went to bed:
Very pretty. Note that the phone camera’s night vision does make the lights somewhat brighter than they actually were in real life. But I liked the view very much, and felt like I had made out like a bandit by being randomly given this room for the (relatively) cheap price I had acquried it for. Sure it wasn’t high in the sky with a majestic view over the city nightlife or anything, but I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the nearby silent carpark with its bright lights, and the buildings further away, gleaming in the night, each light representing a person doing whatever they were doing at midnight on a weekday. The contrast between those distant signs of life, and the desolation of the nearby carpark and road, with nary a person in sight and lonely street lamps casting pale light over the pavement, strongly reminded me of one of my main inspirations for my infatuation with night city lights, a 500-piece Mickey Mouse jigsaw puzzle in a yellow box from youth that showed him standing on a Hollywood stage above a city gleaming in an aesthetically similar sort of way. That puzzle’s long lost to time, though.
Anyway, I settled down in bed, when inspiration suddenly struck me. I realized that that warning sign didn’t actually matter at night, and that the window was actually set quite low in the wall and pretty much level with my bed and pillow. I have no issues sleeping in both the absence or presence of light at night, and I had no problems rising early either (which was important since sunrise came early and my windows faced east), so I threw open the curtains as far as they would go, propped my pillows on each other, and lay down on top to a spectacular, glittering view.
That’s Tigey, atop a pillow on the bed, staring out at the night city skyline. And me behind him, lying down on my pillows and gazing wondrously at the glittering world before my eyes. Again, the phone camera is exaggerating just how much light there was, but the view was fantastic, absolutely fantastic, for my budget, it was like fate itself was pandering to me and I felt like I had the best room in the building. There were about 20 floors in the building, but I appreciated not being too high up because I wouldn’t actually be able to see much from my bed, and not too low down because then I wouldn’t be able to see far enough over the nearby buildings.
Instead, this felt just right, and it felt like I was a pampered princess lying in bed while the entire city glittered like stars down upon me in welcome. I stared at the band of colour on the left building that kept changing (the camera didn’t catch the right colour either time) as I squeezed Tigey and thought about being a diplomat and visiting Shanghai, or Tokyo, or Seoul, or New York. I looked at lights flickering off or on and proving the existence of a lifeform in the distance, feeling strings between me and them and between them and other people in the city and world, far-flung family and friends, vibrating like spiderwebs stretched between people all around the globe. I could feel the notion that everyone was interconnected, and everyone has their own life, their own agency, and it was a very powerful, overwhelming feeling. In addition, I acutely felt energy and focus flooding into me, like I was on the verge of unlocking an important life choice, or witnessing a defining moment in my life. It’s the sort of feeling I got before my surgeries, where I still clearly remember odd scenes in the room before the surgery or on the table prior to anaesthesia, or before a successful interview for work, as though my entire body was creating a save point location to restore myself to in case things fell apart during the surgery or I didn’t get the job.
I gaped in awe, unable and unwilling to sleep, as I was only here one night and didn’t want the feeling to end, the feeling that the world was very large and beckoning me to travel and see and experience new things, and broaden my world view even further. It felt like hours, but couldn’t have been more than 30 minutes before I fell asleep bathed in the lights of my dreams. Best night ever.
The Next Morning (Jul 09)
I woke up the next morning at around 5:55 am and immediately snapped a few pictures of the outside world. It now looked very normal again. And with the sun shining in, I could feel the heat beginning to build, so I closed the curtains for good soon after.
Kinda boring, if I were to be honest, after the previous night. Anyway, I had thought that the Stampede would be opening at 8:30 am, as that was its normal opening time according to the website, but the website did not actually mention that the gates on opening day actually opened at 10am instead, which was very poor of the Stampede organizers. My ticket did though, but it listed the date next to the pancake breakfast, so how should I know if that was actually the park opening time as well or not? I eventually confirmed it simply by turning on the TV and watching the Stampede’s opening parade, done in the park but to no public audience, they said, and which ran from 8am to 9am. This obviously meant that there could be no 8:30 am opening time. The parade itself can still be watched on Global TV’s Youtube channel here.
Anyway, I skipped breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and slowly started to make my way down at 9:15 am. I snapped a number of pictures along the way, which I left in the mini-gallery at the end of this section. I reached the gates of Stampede Park at 9:40 am, with the crowds looking like this:
And got in line to wait for 20 minutes. The crowd tripled by the time the gates actually opened and we were allowed in! I passed the security and bag check at 10:10 am or so.
(I thought padlocks were an odd thing to have on the ban list compared to everything else there.)
Calgary Stampede 2021 (10:00 am-12:50 pm)
The Calgary Stampede was basically a big state fair sort of deal, with carnival booths and rides and overpriced food stalls and a few venues for various events like bands, concerts, and even a rodeo. The latter two required additional tickets to go in, and weren’t being held during the times that I was there anyway, so I skipped those from a lack of interest and time. Anyway, here’s a brochure that I was given, scanned into eight portions:
Judging by that brochure, they seem to have a different brochure for each day of the fair, which seemed like wasteful effort. Either way, one thing that quickly caught my eye was the dog show. There was apparently a special morning version this first day of the carnival, and I made my way over there, passing by a band on the way.
This was the Calgary Stampede Showband, and they were set up next to the little Dog Bowl arena that I went to (free admission, of course!), so they were serenading everyone with really loud renditions of some popular songs (and the Morrowind theme song in there for good measure). Their performance ended just as the Dog Bowl started though since no one would have been able to hear a thing otherwise.
The dog show itself was about a half an hour, showcasing the trained dogs doing various tricks with their trainers and even participating in a race at some point. The sun was burning down but I figured the bleachers were a better place to take pictures and video from than the cooler shade on the far side. I also let Tigey out of the bag to watch most of this show since there wasn’t really anyone around me.
Wait, video? Yes, video!
Anyway, the show was about half an hour long so I was out and free to explore the rest of the parade grounds by 11 am. Most of the stalls were the usual stuff, food included deep fried meat and candy I had no interest in trying, as well as lemonade and soft-serve ice cream stands, and games including things like water gun games, fishing games, toss the ring onto the bottle games, etc. The games especially tended to all have very similar prizes, as though a select few companies set up six copies of thier booths each through the entire Stampede grounds. i did see a wall-climbing contest to win some money if you could reach the top, which was at least interesting and novel. I wasn’t doing that in a skirt, though.
There were apparently less rides than usual this year in order to make more room for people to socially distance, although no one really was socially distancing in any meaningful way. Less than half the people on the grounds were wearing a mask too, but there definitely were some people still mindful of that, especially the various vendors and staff. There were also a few displays from external vendors, for example the army brought along a few tanks, armoured vehicles, and weapons for display. The biggest disappointment, I think, was that there was no petting zoo that I saw, nor any actual (indoor or outdoor) bazaar shopping area, both of which were a thing at Edmonton’s Klondike Days when I visited in 2019. There was a tiny indoor area which contained a few farm animals and horses, though, but it was far, far, faaaaar inferior to what Edmonton had in 2019, and I’m not sure this one could be blamed on the pandemic as there didn’t even seem to be building/warehouse space for it even if they wanted to have all that. I did take some animal pictures here, although all it really did was remind me that I also had tickets to the zoo that I could go to later in the day.
I felt really bad for that mother sow.
Anyway, the rest of the Stampede was nice to walk around but ultimately more of a homogenously interesting experience without anything “wow” that really stood out. I did partake in the free pancake breakfast, which was actually quite decent (although it was a beef patty sandwiched in between two slices of pancake in a way that brought to mind the Sandwich Alignment Chart).
I also had Pickle Lemonade, which at $10 was interesting and not bad at all, although the pickle taste outshone the lemonade taste by a significant margin,
As well as Seafood Ramen Poutine, which was not very nice and I’d argue barely qualified as poutine at all. The ramen was the hard and crunchy uncooked sort too which was annoying to eat with a fork. Extremely overpriced for $16.
I also won? bought? a plushie, Ralph, which you can read about in My Diary #012 as the Plushie of the Week there.
And finally, I didn’t take too many extraneous photos due to battery life considerations, but enjoy a few leftover pictures in this last gallery below. After snacking my fill and bagging my plushie, I headed out of the Stampede at about 12:50 pm.
Devonian Gardens (1:15 pm-1:40 pm)
The Devonian Gardens is a small urban greenery space located on the fourth (top) floor of the CORE shopping centre. While I wasn’t expecting much from it, I did want to stop by to take a look at it because I like the idea of an indoor garden area fused together with and squirreled away in an urban landscape. This also provided me my first opportunity to sit on a Calgary train, which by the way are far superior to the garbage that passes as Edmonton transit, both in scope as well as convenience. I like train tickets too and here’s the one I got:
Similar to Edmonton, a transit ticket was valid for 1.5 hours after purchase/use, and this allowed me to take the C-train 4 stops west to the Devonian Gardens, and then 4 stops east along another line to the Calgary Zoo once I was done with this place.
The Devonian Gardens itself was pretty cool, though. It wasn’t huge, but there was plenty of walking space while not being so large that it requires a map, many different types of flora, and even several chairs, tables, and other things that you could sit on to relax and read a book or do some homework or somesuch next to a koi pond or a little fountain. Further into the Gardens there seemed to be a light humming noise as well that added to the relaxation. Here’s a hodgepodge gallery of what the place looks like.
The last two in the gallery were from a walkway that stretched across part of the fourth floor, and the view of the mall below could be seen as well as the plants at the sides of the garden in the very last pic on the same level as the walkway, on both the left and right side of the shot.
Finally, an interesting event happened to me on the way out of the mall, as I was accosted by some lady from a beauty boutique shop who raved about my smooth skin (uhhuh, I was on my way to getting sunburnt at this time) and insisted I come in for a “free gift”, which turned out to be a glob of cream on the back of my hand and a demonstration on how much dead skin it could help exfoliate once rubbed in. She was insincere though, since she also complimented my accent and said I should always try to stay natural and never lose it, without actually asking or guessing where the accent was from. She then proclaimed that the exfoliating cream was 80% off due to commemmorate the Stampede, which was still 20% too much, so I made an excuse about needing to catch the bus and she let me go.
I was pleased to some degree because this still meant I wasn’t being misgendered in any way, and although I’ve never been misgendered face-to-face, there’s always that bit of lingering doubt that likes to be reassured from time to time again. Still, I look good precisely because I avoid putting makeup and weird creams on my face and skin, not the other way around!
Calgary Zoo (2:00 pm-4:20 pm)
I then took the train over to the zoo and was slightly miffed to find that although I had pre-purchased a ticket, I didn’t actually need a ticket to walk in. The train station led right into the zoo, with booths set off to the side along the way, and maybe an attendant or two that was chatting with another passerby, but no one actually checked my ticket or tried to prevent me from waltzing right in. Oh well. It was to support wildlife conservation efforts anyway, at least insofar as both the Edmonton and Calgary Zoo claim their fees go toward.
By this point, I was somewhat tired as I had already been walking around for most of the morning and afternoon, and this zoo was huge — I don’t know if the Edmonton Zoo (which I visited in 2020) or this Calgary Zoo was larger, but both were huge, with a lot of paths and areas and exhibits to walk around, and walk around I did. I must have visited pretty much everywhere that was open, so I won’t necessarily highlight everything I went to or took photographs of, but here are a few highlights:
The first thing I saw just inside the gates was a penguin exhibition. There was an outdoor pool and even a couple penguins in there enjoying the heated water under the blazing sun, but I didn’t get any pictures of them as the outdoor part of the exhibit was set up weirdly and most of them were indoors anyway. Access to the indoors area was set up like airlocks that you had to pass through:
And then the actual penguin enclosure was a slightly cooler room with water on both sides of the walkway and an artificial ceiling coloured to look like a pleasant evening sky. This was really quite neat.
Next up was a Prehistoric Park area, which was quite neat, except most of the arrows on the ground and flow of people were coming from the opposite direction that I entered for some reason, so I basically walked through this area in reverse order even though I had followed a sign near the exit from the penguin enclosure to even get there in the first place. Anyway it featured depictions of various dinosaurs and what they probably looked like stalking for their prey here millions of years ago. Each one was accompanied with a little informational plaque.
Giraffatitan? Regaliceratops? Who names some of these things? It did feel a bit like I was walking through a Photoshop edited photo in parts, but overall still a pleasant experience. Alberta has a bona fide (bone fide?) dinosaur museum called the Royal Tyrrell Museum, but it’s out in a town in the middle of nowhere, and I’ve thus only visited it once, during a school trip sometime in high school. This, I suppose, is the second best thing.
The last couple shots were of a suspension bridge stretching across a river, although it didn’t move at all despite being called a suspension bridge. It was just a normal bridge. The wind rushing along the river was really cooling though, and no one else was on the bridge when I was crossing it in the wrong direction, so I paused there a bit to enjoy the sights and breeze (since the triceratops earlier didn’t want me sitting on his bench) and appreciate the gorgeous river and bridge, before continuing back to the main zoo area.
The next point of interest was a conservatory area with a butterfly garden. Butterflies! It was a small area, but you got to walk around it with butterflies fluttering all around you, and there were dozens of them flitting across the path and going from flower to flower, some single, some in pairs, twirling around together like best of friends.
I went past a few outdoor animal enclosures:
And then toward a sheltered but open-air area where giraffes and hippopotami were taking shelter from the heat.
That hippo seemed to have pretty much given up the ghost and surrendered to the heat. The zoo was full of children, but this area in particular had a seating area in front of the pool of water, and there were a ton of children here, watching the other hippo swim around and occasionally clamber onto land. It really struck me, despite entirely valid ethical concerns about zoos, how great zoos are as a tool for opening people’s minds to the larger world around them, especially impressionable kids. I even passed at least one class of children being led on a tour by a guide at some point. But overall, the hundreds of children being carried along or accompanied by their parents made me appreciative of what a zoo does.
Then I wondered about flipping the perspectives about and having the animals be the ones that are watching various human pets roam in and out, as though they were leading pampered lives where they were constantly being fed and washed by their human slaves, with all of us passing by presenting ourselves for their enjoyment, and where we were actually the ones on the “inside” of the cages from the perspective of an animal on the other side.
I then zipped over to another indoor exhibit, a small “rainforest” area which was basically a small aquarium of fishes and then a few monkeys behind enclosures. I thought the fish tanks were far too cramped and I disliked it immensely:
I wondered about what slipping near a crocodile was a reference to (especially since there were no crocodiles in the zoo that I saw):
And then I basically skipped the various monkey exhibits because they were really busy with families who didn’t want to move and were sitting there in the way and chatting, and the enclosures had water-stained glass that made it hard to take photographs. Still, I liked the look of these Eastern Black and White Colobuses in particular because they looked like they had wings on their back.
There was also a small bird enclosure where, just like the butterflies, there was no cage between the visitors and the birds, and one of them stared down at me from its perch on a wire above, waiting for me to drop dead from exhaustion.
Lastly, I walked back across a different (non-suspension) bridge across the river, and took a long walk around a Canadian Wilds area, with owls, musk oxen, whooping cranes, various members of the deer family, and more.
I felt sorry for that dead mouse draped on the branch in the 5th picture. I also noticed a cleverly hidden public washroom behind a waterfall:
And not to be outdone, this bear a little ways on decided to create his own little waterfall to the amusement of a crowd of onlookers:
And I’m sorry you had to see a picture of that. No, actually I’m not.
Anyway, by this time, I had made my way back to the entrance of the zoo, and went into the gift shop to have a browse around (and to cool off), during which a young girl mistook me for a store attendant and asked me to help sort back a few plushies that were in a wrong basket, much to the horror of her mother. I helped her out with that task though and looked through what they had available, and there were a few nice plushies, but the store overall was really expensive, especially when I was already (unfairly) feeling like I had paid $34.95 to enter the zoo when others were obviously ignoring it. So even though most of the purchases were donations for wilflife conservation (allegedly) and panda items were 40% off because they had recently sent their pandas home to China due to food issues and were trying to get rid of their panda souvenir stock, I didn’t end up buying anything from them. This decision was doubly sealed when I bought a small packet of milk from the cafe next door and it was $2.95 or something absurd like that.
At this point, it was still about 45 minutes from zoo closing time, and I still had 2.5 hours to kill before my bus home arrived, but I had pretty much gone everywhere there was to go in the zoo, so I headed off and started a long and unnecessary stroll in the hot late afternoon/early evening sun toward the bus depot.
The journey home to Edmonton
I had two options when leaving the zoo. I could buy a ticket, take a train and either go right to the depot or find some other thing to do for two hours, or I could take a slow walk across residential neighbourhoods towards the bus depot. It is true that I could have done the first and maybe visited the Calgary Tower or some random museum along the way, but my phone at this point was down to about 15% battery, so I wanted to preserve that as much as possible, and I was probably still a bit sore (I know, I know, wrongfully!) from that zoo admission fee thing too, so I decided to skimp on the $3.50 fare and walk instead. Plus, I actually did really want to check out the residential neighbourhoods — in Singapore, for example, while there are many tourist trap locations, my best memories (and where I think the true beauty of the country can be found) is away from those attractions and instead among people’s day to day lives in the various residential towns. I ended up taking a route that looked something like this (original).
By this time, it was still warm, but less hot than before, as the sun was beginning to dip its way down the horizon. I had to be very sparing in what I decided to take pictures of at this point, but I definitely still wanted some shots of the neighbourhoods I walked past along the way.
Those first two pictures were a Power Spot! Or at least, they reminded me of the one I have near my apartment. That was located just outside of the zoo main entrance. The third and fourth were shots of the road and path I was taking while I was still near the zoo, the fifth was a little hidden courtyard behind a residential building that I found once I jaywalked across a road and cut down a grass field, and the last picture is the front gate of Riverside Park, was one of the parks that I crossed paths with on my way to the depot.
Now, at this point, even though the sun was no longer out, it was still hot and I was sweating and almost feeling a little woozy due to the heat (though I think this was just the sunburn rather than heat exhaustion). Still, I noticed a shop labelled Village Ice Cream a little bit off the direct path to the bus terminal, and so I detoured there to take a look.
Village Ice Cream turned out to be a little shop set at the corner of a residential block, next to a bar or pub or something. This quaint little shop looked really posh (the word cosmopolitan came unbidden to mind), and I went in and asked for two scoops of ice cream in a cup, as well as told them to surprise me as to which flavours I got, as I had no clue what any of them would taste like.
That cost $7, and I thanked them and settled down on a bench outside to relax my legs and savour the cold, mysteriously-flavoured scoops of ice cream in a cup. Apparently they gave me one scoop of the North 49 Honeyberry, as well as one of the Two Hills Earl Grey. The second in particular was really good! I hung out on a shaded bench in front of the store for around twenty minutes as I befriended the ice cream, listening to the chatter of people at the pub/bar next door and the occasional car going by, feeling the gentle breeze caress me and dry off all my sweat, and watching a steady stream of people arrive and depart the store.
Their clientele ranged from old men to young kids, and I got to thinking that this store might have been a neighbourhood staple and a childhood memory for the older folks around here, and definitely would be a treasured childhood memory for the kids that visited here once they grew up. The former part turned out to be false, I think, as I noticed when writing this blog post that according to Google Street View, this shop was still a house as recently as May 2019. At any rate, I didn’t have that insight at the time, and I instead dreamt of being a high school student coming to a store like this after school with friends to hang out and chat, the way that we did in Singapore with a conveniently-located McDonalds.
After that little adventure, I got up (and found out how much my legs were hurting just from that short sit-down — I knew I’d pay for all this walking the next day!) and finished my journey back to the bus pick-up point, which was actually just a gas station.
I knew this particular area well though, as I had taken this exact same bus on a reverse journey (Edmonton to Calgary) with Ran, my Summer Connect 2020 partner, back in the fall last year when we came to Calgary en route to Banff. Similarly, thanks to that trip, I knew what was awaiting me on the other end of the bus trip, so it didn’t really concern me at this point that my battery was low as long as I could get on the bus before it gave out (so that I could report to my Discord friends that I was on the bus and on the way home, and in case the driver needed to see the barcode of the ticket to scan, which he did not).
At this point, I still had around an hour and a half to kill before the bus arrived though, so I went into a neighbouring Starbucks, ordered a large kiwi starfruit chilled drink and a large cup of water there for $5 and change, and sat down to read some of the remaining chapters in the book I had brought along. In order to ease the pressure on the seams of my bag (which was bulging with the items I had brought or bought on the trip), I even brought Tigey and his new plushie friend out at this point and stacked them on the table too, much to the amusement of a friendly black man at a table next to me who kept on looking over and smiled at me whenever I happened to look up at him.
I believe he was also yelled at for spending half an hour in the Starbucks toilet at one point though, and while he didn’t seem to be doing much there at his table, he outlasted my hour-and-change stint there and was still happily chilling out at the table with his drink once I left.
Our bus was tiny and had a little attached storage wagon behind it, which was amusing to me as that wasn’t there during the other trip I had taken with Ran. Handy to have during the apocalypse though, I suddenly thought.
Putting that thought aside, I was first onto the bus and thus claimed the very front pair of seats. I was fully in don’t-care mode at this point, so I again unloaded my two plushies to ease the strain of my overfull duffle bag, and set them on the seat beside me so Tigey could stare out at the road ahead.
I definitely noticed people looking fondly or interestedly down at them when we paused for a 10 minute break and disembarked at Red Deer so the driver could unload some cargo from the storage wagon for whatever side hustle he had going. Definitely not disdainfully. Definitely not thinking their owner was weird.
Other than that, the trip back was uneventful and swift. My phone was at 6% battery by the time I boarded the bus, and had completely drained by the time we arrived in Edmonton, so my last couple pictures from the trip were this one, a building that Nak apparently owns (it actually stands for Red Deer College):
And this one, a shot of the boundless blue sky, bereft of clouds, taken during our break at Red Deer:
While I do not like the cowboy western aesthetic or theme, scenes like this, and the rolling fields of cows, canola, and crops on the way to and from Calgary, definitely set in me the kind of longing for a dream of distant and boundless freedom that I’m sure infects many people who do actually love this Western aesthetic and style, and those who choose to live out here in the rural prairies. I might not altogether fancy it, but I do understand it! And can you imagine what the stars would look like at night? I really need to get into astrophotography.
We arrived in Edmonton right on schedule, at just after sunset at 9:50 pm. I could have walked for 10 minutes to get to a bus stop and taken a bus directly home, but I decided to walk the whole way home instead, which took me an additional 45 minutes of walking on top of the 6-7 hours or so I had already walked in the day. My main reason for this, besides a bit of added masochism since I’d already be paying the price for it the next day anyway, was that I could drop off my now-finished book at the library 24-hour returns box on the way home, since it was due in 3 days and I didn’t want to step foot outside for several days until I could confirm that I didn’t seem to have the COVID-19 virus.
A temperature reading by the side of the road in the City of Leduc that the bus had passed on the way home had given a reading of 32 degrees Celsius, but by the time I alighted from the bus half an hour later and started walking, the temperature was definitely in the mid 20s at most and very pleasing to walk around in, especially since there was an evening wind bearing down on me as well. My walk also took me through the parking lots of a long outdoor strip mall area, usually packed with cars headed to the various Asian and Western supermarkets there or a variety of nearby restaurants and box stores.
But everything (save a gym and a handful of food places) was closed by that time of night, and so the parking lots were near deserted, and I walked with impunity across the brightly-lit, but abandoned carpark roads without a care in the world, with the sky streaked in a gradient from orange on the horizon to a deep blue in the sky above me. It perfectly captured the liminal spaces aesthetic that I love so much, and that alone made the entire walk home worth it! Or at least that’s what I told myself the next day when I was lying in bed and grumbling about my sore thighs and the one little sore bump on the back of my right sole that had no business being there.
My final thoughts are that I appreciated the experience of going down south, but because I didn’t care for the concerts and rodeo portion of the Stampede, Edmonton’s K-Days/Klondike Days was actually better. I can’t say for sure how the pandemic scaled things down and whether Calgary’s Stampede is usually better though. But the K-Days’ “sideshows” and events were a lot more varied and interesting when I went, I believe. The zoos, on the other hand, were about the same, but Calgary’s was a lot more accessible (there’s literally a train station to it) whereas Edmonton’s is in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Just like Edmonton’s stupid airport.
The night I spent in that hotel room was one of the best nights of my life. The view is usually not what one thinks about when one reads a line like that, though, huh. I still think back to it fondly a couple days later though, and I think that was actually the best experience of the trip for me. The actual day of events was more of a homogenous “new experience” feel without an actual “Wow!” moment, so the actual peak “Wow!” moment for me was watching that view from my pillow. But don’t let that take away from the rest of the days, I made some really cool memories that will stay with me (especially since, well, I now have this journal page as well to look back at in the future).
Oh, and Tigey got a bath the next day after we returned. He came out one too many times on the trip and was certified Dirty. Now he is Clean again.
What is next for me? I am a bit sunburnt as mentioned, with clear lines between red and pale skin, and I’d like that to subside before I do anything else. The next major event I have on my itinerary will probably be the Edmonton Heritage Festival at the end of the month! Sat July 31st to Mon August 2nd.