Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ass, meet Altitude. Altitude, meet my ass.

Sylvia and I went skiing again yesterday. The local club keeps groomed trails at the Pine Hills golf course just a few minutes out of town. Pine Hills is a good name for the place. Lots of pines. Lots of hills.

Towing the Chariot slows me down. I know this. Even with the great wax job my father treated my skis to before we left, the Chariot, with Sylvia aboard, weighs about 40 pounds. And, I’m no longer the athlete I was 10 years ago. I know this too. However, Pine Hills was kicking my ass. But why?

The answer came to me as I was admiring the Rocky Mountains in the rear-view mirror on our way home. Mountains! This isn’t just oil country, Baby. These are the foothills. We’re not at sea level anymore.

So I did a little research and according to the Internet altitude shouldn’t start affecting athletes until 1500 meters above sea level. We’re about 500 short of that here, but I’m sure it’s a gradual thing, right? Lesser athletes are affected at lesser altitudes, right? Makes sense to me.

Sylvia thinks so, too.

Pooped apres-ski


Oil is plenty, in more ways than one

Turns out my White Stallion has a dark side after all.

Need me to zoom in on that for you?

I should have known he was too good to be true.


Q: Do you know where Moscow is?

Well, do you?
A: She’s in the barn next to Pa’s cow!

A little Alberta humour for you. You’re welcome.

I was going to post a contest, then Travis ruined all the fun

The contest was GOING to be a prize for the best answer to the following question:

What the hell does this sign mean???

Then I showed Travis, and he said “Farmer’s Market. Saturday.”

So now I can see that’s a farmer, holding a hoe, standing next to a pumpkin. I get it.

Though you can understand how, from a distance, travelling in a vehicle at 50 kph it could totally be a cowgirl, holding a broom, getting ready to go curling. (It doesn’t help matters that the curling rink is in the same direction as the Saturday arrow.)

Work with me here:

She’s rocking those bell bottoms.

The Oil Factor

Our little temporary town is about the same size as Clarenville. About 2000 more people call Rocky Mountain House home, but it’s also the service centre for a host of rural communities. This is where the central arena and recreation facilities are (it’s where Kurt Browning learned to skate!); where people come to shop for groceries. There’s a Sears outlet, a volunteer fire department, a community newspaper (in which this week’s headline reads “Organized crime is here”, but whose pages are filled with Municipal Plan overviews and dog attacks), and all the same fast-food joints you’d find anywhere. Real estate prices are comparable, with a 3 to 4 bedroom detached home going for a little over $200,000. The mayor is even named Fred. Rocky is also from where David Thompson launched his mountain expeditions, so Cormack would find a kindred explorer spirit here.

However, for all it’s similarities, Rocky has a shine that Clarenville doesn’t. Let’s call it the Oil Factor. There’s about a dozen more traffic lights, for example. The public swimming pool is nicer than ones I’ve seen in cities of a million people. There’s a bakery that opens at 6 a.m. The library is beautiful. There’s a Main Street with cobbled sidewalks and historical notice boards. Playgrounds abound. There’s even an outdoor speed skating oval! We’re looking forward to the Festival of Culture this Saturday, immediately following the weekly Farmer’s Market. The sidewalks on every street (even the non-residential ones) are kept free of snow and ice (oh wait, it’s St. John’s where that’s unheard of). The light poles are decorated with coloured iron silhouettes of Western scenes (if Sylvia wasn’t sleeping I’d run out and get a picture right now).

But for all the wonderful public amenities, child care and family doctors are still notoriously hard to come by, according to chatter in the barber shop and at play group.

Clarenville does beat Rocky in a few areas though. The Clarenville Nordic ski club blows Rocky’s 6 km of groomed trails out of the water. (I can’t compare downhill slopes, what with Banff a mere 2-hour drive away). And…. actually, I can’t think of another. I was going to mention fine-dining, but Kildare recently shut it’s doors, and I had a delicious meal at the Greek restaurant down the street here last week, so there you go.

Rocky seems to have kept abreast of the times, upgrading facilities (the swimming pool underwent a major expansion in the past 5 years) as oil royalties flow in. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I’m thinking about the Hebron development and the business boom predicted for Clarenville this spring, and how at-ease and welcomed I feel here in Rocky. I guess what I’m trying to say is, municipalities truly can reap benefits from industry and still keep their small-town vibe.

Pop Quiz!

Q: How fast do camera batteries freeze up when it’s minus 24?

A: Too fast to take a picture of the thermometer, that’s how fast.

Some months ago, I read a column by Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail. It was a personal column about her home renovation project, and it spoke to me because we too were currently (and STILL) undergoing renovations.

This is the line that stood out for me:

“…the cruellest trick of the renovation is that it is precisely at the moment when you are expending vast amounts of money to improve and/or enlarge your house that you realize you could quite easily, and happily, live in a bachelor apartment with a hot plate.”

We’ve been reduced to a bachelor apartment and a hot plate. Not even a bachelor – we are confined to one room, plus bathroom. The Chariot is moonlighting as a baby gate and rocking chair. Our freezer is a box in the pan of the truck. It’s an exercise in minimalist living which, coincidentally, is exactly how small I feel walking down the street among giant parked 4x4s and tank trucks.

However, let me introduce you to the latest highlight of Rocky Mountain House (and I do feel the tourism board is doing visitors a disservice by not including this in it’s top 1001 places to see).

The classiest laundromat I’ve ever seen!

Laundromat: detail

Vintage decor

What’s that? Can’t read the writing on the wall? Let me spell it out for you: Sorting Out Life One Load At A Time.

Oh, Laundromat, if only it were that easy.

Meanwhile, lookit the mountains!!!


That’s the David Thompson Highway heading West, cracking mountain ramparts and maybe a glacier or two along the way.

Shown: glacier.

All’s well, all lights are burning bright.

Below Zero

Minus 31. MINUS 31. I mean, what the hell IS that?

Still, I met a woman yesterday who was reminiscing about “the good old days” when temperatures dropped to 60 below. Below! Yeesh.

I’ve tried, but photography still can’t adequately show the 1/2 inch of ice built up on the lower inside surface of the windows.

Frosty windows? No, ICY windows

It’s so cold, the Chariot frosted up when we came inside last night.

It feels no colder than our typical jaunt to the post office at home, but I suppose the cold North Atlantic wind has something to do with that. Here, there’s no wind to speak of. It’s so arid that my moisturizer is drying out in the jar.