Canadian Adventure, Day 1: Albertans and Maps

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Um, how do I know this is Canada? Looks the same. Aren’t you all supposed to be wearing those hats with the ear flaps?

I linked up with the CrazyFather at the hotel. We didn’t have any tickets for events until Thursday, but we figured it might be a good idea to scout the route to the Stampede, especially since a famous cowboy restaurant Buzzard’s Restaurant and Bar was only a few blocks away. Our desk clerk helpfully suggested that we drive as far as the C-Train, Calgary’s light rail, and take that into the city since it stops right at the Stampede location. Parking at the C-Train station was free, and parking at the Stampede was wicked expensive (as pretty much everything in Canada is for us poor Americans).

It was at this point, I discovered what the CrazyFather had discovered when he was riding through Alberta: these people lack the ability to give directions. Street names and distances are simply not ingredients used in an Albertan direction recipe. Instead, they do their locational cooking with previously existing structures and street lights.

Moreover, I’m convinced that the kilometer has destroyed their concept of time and space. For example, “Turn right out of the parking lot, turn right at the first light, turn right again, then you’ll take a left onto Highway 1″ would seem like a fairly quick trip, would it not? Too bad it takes about 40km to cover those directions, much to our surprise.

This has become a source of tension due to the difference in the CrazyFather’s and the CrazyEngineer’s styles of troubleshooting poor directions.

I approach directions logically and love following a map. If I’m expecting to hit a cross-street on a map, I don’t panic until I reach a cross-street that is past my desired destination. At that point, I know I must have missed it and should either turn around or attempt to re-adjust my route. This has become handy since Canadian maps are not exactly drawn to scale, with 2km stretches of road taking up just as much map distance as 20km stretches.

However, the CrazyFather’s approach is to, at the first inkling of going the wrong way, ask the first person you can for directions. Perhaps in some cases this is a good strategy, but when you combine it with an Albertan’s inability to give good directions, it becomes a frustrating exercise in triangulation as we must constantly re-ask for directions as we get closer to our destination.

Having navigated Calgary’s mass transit system and glimpsing the Stampede Park, we decided instead to go driving off into the Canadian Rockies.

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