And the kindness of strangers
I just got back (literally 10 minutes since the Uber driver dropped me off), and she was laughing hysterically at my account of the last 24 hours of my trip to Lake Louise, Banff National Park.
It has been a strange time – well, starting last night.
I flew up there on the 12th to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to attend the wedding of my nephew at Lake Louise, in the Banff National Park. A write up on that will be forthcoming, but suffice it to say, for those of you who have been to Jackson Hole Wyoming, and seen the Grand Tetons, and been suitably awed, the drive from about 50 miles west on the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) from Calgary to the entrance of the Banff National Park is about 10x as massive and large.
Literally from about 50 miles west, you will see these majestic Rocky Mountains rise thousands of feet from the plains. I was taking pictures with my iPhone as I was driving until a Canadian told me under their “Distracted Driving Law”, it was a $1200 fine if they catch you.
Anyway more will be forthcoming on this trip, but I wish to tell you about the previous 24 hours.
Because Hertz at the Calgary Airport wasn’t open at the early hour I had to be at the airport on return to leave, I had to drop the car off the night before and head to a nearby motel (in this case a Holiday Inn).
I was surprised at how big Calgary is – and because I learned that with the shale oil boom (primarily to the North at Ft McMurray), there has been a recession, I don’t know what is fueling this growth. Even the Canadians I talked to don’t know why Calgary is growing so fast. The airport has to be the size of LAX although truth be told I hadn’t compared number of runways, length, etc.
All I know is that it is big.
And when you are re-entering the city in the darkness and the iPhone directions you were counting on simply tell you “Siri not available”, and you have no road map, you might be in some trouble.
It started when I pulled off Hwy 1 on the outskirts to ask someone at a Shell Station and I couldn’t find my way back on to 1.
I took this industrial road with a few roundabouts and no visible route to the highway.
Must have wandered around a good 20 minutes – thinking of the line in the Eagle’s Hotel California, where you can check in, but you can never leave, came to mind.
I finally found a motel where I asked the lady at the desk for help to the airport and she spent a good 10 minutes looking up Google Maps and giving me a print out.
Only I could not still find the highway on-ramp.
Asked a couple of Calgary police who kindly just pointed the way.
Get back on and all is well for the next 20 miles or so (I told you Calgary is big!).
Apparently missed the turnoff , stopped at another station where the cashier said “I don’t know; I’m new to this area“.
A couple in a Tesla in the lot (what were they doing at a service station?) said “we are going that way, follow us – I will signal your turn off“.
Finally get to the airport and drop the car off. I call the Holiday Inn and they promise to send a shuttle. Just be at “Dock 17” and they will be by to pick you up.
I drop off the car, schlepped through what seemed a long time at that airport (did I tell you it was big?), and wait at Dock 17.
A Holiday Inn van eventually comes, I get in and we go to, of course, the Holiday Inn.
Only the woman at the desk says that they have no reservation for me at their hotel.
Apparently it was a different Holiday Inn, different van.
The original van driver kindly takes me to the correct Holiday Inn.
Finally get to bed at midnight with alarm set at 0400.
Get to the airport 3 hours early as they wanted and then start the gauntlet through customs and security checkpoints.
I am not complaining about all that, mind you, given the dangers we face. But it is just one reason (besides the adventure) that I would have preferred driving up there – stop at a small border checkpoint, talk with the nice customs officer, show your passport, maybe he wants to open you luggage, maybe not, then thank you, welcome to Canada, and you are on your way.
So I start to empty my pockets, wondering if some other passenger at the other end might decide my things look more interesting than his – go through all the metal detection – and then.. get a tap on the shoulder with the explanation that I have been selected for a more thorough inspection. Is this a contest? Did I “win” or “lose”?
I remark to the nice female Canadian security officer that my pants almost fell down without my belt and she replied, “Lucky for you – lucky for us!“.
Anyway finally get through the security gauntlet, the flights were uneventful, and when I get back home to summon Uber the driver who decided to take me a few minutes later decides he wants to have lunch and cancels me.
Rejected by Uber.
The driver who does pick me up said that most likely he wanted a longer drive because after all, you tell them where you want to go before the app summons them.
And that, my friends, summarizes my last 24 hours.
More on the trip later including an interesting fact on author Ian Fleming and James Bond learned on this trip.