Dodgeville paddles, rides, and hikes through Banff

That's not Lake Ontario.

As I’m writing this entry, the Weather Network informs me that it’s -13 degrees in Lake Louise. When we were there after our drive down the Icefields Parkway in July, the temperature was closer to 13 on the positive side of the thermometer. Temperature swings like that make me appreciate Toronto’s (and thus Dodgeville’s) more temperate weather.

When we were planning our summer trip, a discount code supplied by one of Risa’s friends allowed us to book a night at the Chateau Lake Louise for about the same cost as a lesser hotel in town. We paid a slight premium for a room with a lake view, and I have to say, it was totally worth it. I mean, look at that view. Imagine arriving to that after a full day in the car, and then waking up to it again the next morning. It was our only night of luxury on the trip. It’s not that the other hotels were ratholes or anything—all of our accommodations were quite satisfactory—but the view and the service at the Chateau Lake Louise convinced me that any future vacations must also include at least one night in a really nice hotel.

The only problem with Lake Louise is that the entire area around the lake is controlled by the hotel, and the activites are priced to match. As Risa said, the hotel has its own little ecosystem there. There are lots of free things to do, but if you want to eat, rent a canoe, or go for a horseback ride, you’re going to pay Fairmont rates whether or not you’re staying at the Chateau. When you count our two meals and a canoe rental, the room itself totaled less than half of our one-night tab. Still, I’m really glad we stayed at the Chateau rather than in town, which is actually several kilometres away from the lake and nothing to write home about.


Reluctantly leaving Lake Louise behind, we drove down to Banff, where we had arranged much more modest lodgings; no Banff Springs Hotel on this trip. Even though Banff feels much more crowded and commercial than Jasper, there are still some nice spots that are surprisingly deserted.

My strongest memories of coming to Alberta as a kid are the view of Sulphur Mountain looking up Banff’s main street and going to McDonald’s in Edmonton. I know that we went to Lake Louise, Jasper, Drumheller, Frank, and about a million other places, but I have little or no memory of them. But as much as Banff (the town) stood out for me last time, I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed this time around. Certainly after coming from Jasper and Lake Louise, Banff was a bit of a letdown. Oh sure, it’s beautiful and all that, but the town is a little too busy for its own good. Streets were crowded, restaurants were impossible to get seats in, stores were packed to the gills, and I always felt like I was in someone’s way. Every restaurant we went to was too busy to serve us, and we spent way more time waiting than eating. I could have forgiven it all had the service been decent, but it wasn’t.  As I said at one meal, the service was shockingly rude even by Toronto standards. Fortunately, we spent most of our time outside of town where it felt a little less hectic.

Anyway, read on for the second-last (and quite belated) gallery from this year’s vacation.

Read More …

Ininflammable, llama-resistant gloves


It’s bad enough that in English, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing, but I didn’t realize that the same is also true in French. I always hear that English is such a flexible language, so I’d like to begin a campaign to borrow the French term for something that won’t burn, the wonderfully elegant ininflammable, as seen on the tag for these welding gloves. Furthermore, I think we should encourage more constructions like this: ininvaluable, ininhabitable, inintense, the possibilities are ininnumerable.


If I could only read the Spanish text for these welding gloves, I’d come away thinking that Kevlar makes them good for handling llamas. I suppose I’ll have to look elsewhere to satisfy my steer-wrangling welding glove requirements.

The death of logos #2

The Humphrey monument just outside the Mount Pleasant Mausoleum is instantly recognizable to anyone who travels past the Humphrey Funeral Home on Bayview just outside Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Humphrey family monument in Mount Pleasant Cemetery

The Humphrey Funeral Home

The Humphrey monument is just a few steps away from the Weston monument previously featured in this space, and only about 2 km away from the funeral home.

The death of logos is an occasional series that looks at logos or wordmarks of organizations that appear on cemetery monuments.

Do you wanna go faster?

Polar Express, CNE 2009

It’s really hard to take a picture while the Polar Express cranks up to top speed and whips you backwards around the track. Holding your arm out in the universal self-portrait position, you can only hope to capture atmosphere; to hell with niceties like focus, exposure, and composition.

A day at the Ex capped with a nighttime ride on the Polar Express marks the unofficial end to summer. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Do I want to go faster? Damn right. Crank it.

Best (& Worst) Business Name, 2009 Edition

Rigby Reardon could figure this one out

F’Coffee and Rear Ends won the honours for Dodgeville’s best (& worst) business name in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and it’s about time I bestowed the honour for 2009. The clear winner this time around is FOC!, with its even more  wonderful domain name,

What does ‘FOC’ mean?

“It’s a slang word. When a man and a woman are in love, the man puts his…”

“No, no. Here: ‘F. O. C.’

Of course, Rigby Reardon, with some timely assistance from Philip Marlowe, eventually discovered that it stood for Friends of Carlotta. If you don’t know the rest of the story, you owe it to yourself to rent Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid some day. I assume that these Leaside FOCkers are fans.

Dodgeville does the Icefields


After our couple of days in and around Jasper, we headed south down the Icefields Parkway toward Lake Louise. I’ve been on some really nice drives, including the Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco and Monterey, and the Icefields Parkway is by far the best I’ve done.  Rarely do I actually want to pull over at every single lookout, but they were hard to resist on this trip.

When you’re driving down the Icefields Parkway, you have to make a decision: are you driving to your destination on a rough schedule, or are you taking pictures of all of the interesting things along the way? You have to make this decision whenever and wherever you’re on vacation, but Jasper is so filled with photographic opportunity that the choice must be made over and over again. I sometimes need to remind myself that I’m on vacation and not on a photographic expedition hunting for the perfect exposure of the most awe-inspiring vista. I know that it can be boring (at best; supremely annoying at worst) to travel with someone who’s constantly setting up a tripod, micro-adjusting focus and frame, running around with a light meter, and waiting in one spot for ten minutes for the wind to die down or the light to be just so. This picture is a perfect example of the tension between enjoying a relaxing vacation and satisfying a photographic vision:


There was a very large raven sitting right on the top of that tree at the left. Several of them, in fact. One would fly away and another would take up the perch immediately afterward. So I got into position, tree in the foreground, mountain in the background, broad valley in between, a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds filling in the blanks. Took a couple of test shots and selected my preferred exposure. But now that I was in place with the viewfinder pressed to my eye, finger on the shutter button, and everything framed perfectly, the ravens were all hanging out elsewhere: in the parking lot, in another tree, on the rocks, in the sky, anywhere but sitting on that damned tree. If I’d been here alone, I would have stood there and waited half an hour for a raven to return to the top of the tree and give me the picture I had already composed in my head. But looking over at Risa getting restless at the car, I knew my time was up. Fifteen minutes at a single lookout was enough. So there’s the picture, and not a raven in sight.

But that’s okay, because in Jasper, there’s always something else around the next corner. And Risa didn’t know it yet, but we were on a mission to trek out onto the Athabasca Glacier. All the whining in the world didn’t get me into one of those icemobiles when I was nine years old, but now that I’m old enough to pay my own way, nothing’s going to stop me. That’s the best part about growing up.


So onto the glacier we went. It was the perfect cap to an amazing drive through the mountains. There’s more about the glacier in the inevitable gallery at the end of this post. Suffice to say that it was impressive in every way.

Don’t tell Risa, but when we were planning our Western trip, I’d seriously considered trying to include some kind of cycling component between Jasper and Banff. If the Icefields Parkway is supposed to be a really nice drive, it should be an even better ride, no? Well, possibly. But passing dozens of riders on supported tours slowly grinding up one hill after another made me glad that I’d silently shelved the thought. Oh, I’m sure that I could have finished the ride, but I doubt that our marriage would have survived the 300 km trek.

On to the gallery and more observations.

Read More …