After visiting one great Canadian Rockies National Park - the much less touristy one, Jasper - we made the spectacular drive south to Banff National Park.
The road made its way across valley floors, and our human existence was laughable in comparison to the grandeur of the surrounding heights. We passed beneath colossal, brown, rugged mountain after dull, snow-capped peak. A silvery-sky-blue river ran beside the road, and a giant snow saddle straddled the sky above. Around one bend, a large, white mountain coating spilled its glacial arm down fatly towards the road.
The Columbia Icefields were at the top of that mountain and trailed dozens of miles beyond. Julie and I abandoned our ride from young Christine, a school-teacher, and stepped out into the cold air beneath the icefields. Once Johnny and Adam arrived, we went on the Columbia Icefields tour. It was a $30 value, but we were gifted it courtesy of tour-manager Matt, roommate of Nathalie, who we'd stayed with in Jasper.
We rode onto the nearby glacier, along with many Japanese, in lumbering, bus-like vehicles called SnoCoaches. Our driver and guide, Ron, told us of the danger of snow-bridges and holes and crevasses hidden beneath the snow.
We were able to get out at one point, on the glacier. Water flowed in ice rivets. The water contained ice bits in it and was totally refreshing to cup and drink. The snow around us looked slightly blue in parts. Adam's state-of-the-art glacial sun-glasses were in high demand now.
On the ride back, Ron told us crevasses at the icefields' head-cliffs were the deepest. He told you could put two of the SnoCoaches together side-by-side at the bottom of the crevass, then stack seven or eight on top of one another and still not even reach the crevass's top. Ron gave some more information, then asked if we had any questions.
I had one.
"Yeah, Ron. You were talking about the crevasses earlier and how they were really deep. They were so deep, you said, that you could put two of the SnoCoaches side-by-side in the hole, then stack seven or eight of them on top of each other, and you'd only then reach the top."
Ron responded something. And I:
"Have you ever done that?"
Some of the other passengers and Ron laughed. Other than that, we Canada-trekkers agreed it was a pretty dinky, over-priced tour.
We hitched on, south. Julie and I stood beside the road, beside the beautiful, sprawling, white, thick Columbia Icefields and other tall mountains and some green brush. Not a bad place to wait at all. We took out our baseball mitts and played catch. It was a great wait.
We got picked up then by a young Mennonite couple - get this! - on their honeymoon! I was so excited, for religious B.J. and orange-haired Lynn. I asked if they'd had dancing at their wedding. They regretted they hadn't. As Mennonites, they never drank, and they used to have to sneak out even to dance! Imagine that ...
We spent that night at the Mosquito Creek campground in Banff National Park. High in the mountains, cold penetrated our tents. We hoisted our food and toothpaste in the bear-lift.
Our Banff hike the next day was threatened by smoke from the ongoing forest fires; the sky was white, and mountains appeared as mere silhouettes through the haze. We hiked nonetheless. We hiked through pines whose arms hung way downward, alongside a clean river gushing over ovate rocks, amongst purple and pink lupin flowers, and beneath a wide, steep-ridged mountain. Johnny thought it would be funny if he threw two rocks in the woods - the second one right next to Adam - which got Adam yelling, "Whoa!" and thinking it was a cougar. Never-serious Adam ordered, "It's not funny!" which got Johnny laughing even harder.
In a move uncharacteristic of our group, we hitchhiked east that afternoon. At one point, Julie and I were hitchhiking, and a hat-wearing guy blurted at me out of a backseat window, "Get a job ... and a haircut!" A second later, I recognized the shouter as Adam. He got driven away.
We got to the town of Canmore, home to the most highly anticipated bar of the trip: "The 'Ho." Johnny and I were told about this hot spot by dread-locked Mike, the twenty-year-old who drove us two for sixteen hours through northern Ontario. We were told the place filled up with young people who danced like crazy all night to jam bands. Jam bands are the new, Grateful Dead-esque, musically-jamming-like-wild bands that Adam was in love with. Adam had taught us that you dance to such music by putting your hand to your forehead and making sock-puppet motions.
We located "The 'Ho," a.k.a. "The Hotel." It was not like Johnny or I expected it to be. It wasn't huge, it wasn't wild with fenced-in drunk people, and it wasn't old-looking nor shoddy. It was small and resembled an old train station on the outside, and everything was green and newly-renovated inside.
Oh, and by the way: there was Mike. Mike sat in the corner. He evidently hadn't made it to the Yukon, where he claimed to have been heading. He had his same crusty black beard and same stoner accent. Mike and Johnny and I whooped and hollared to see each other. Mike gave us the bad news we'd arrived one night too late to enjoy a great jam band there.
So, we had a few drinks before moving on. Our waitress, though, was a beauty. She had a silky, shiny blond ponytail, a cute, soft face and big lips, and a full, round body. The beauty's name was Lindsey, and her presence validated our hitchhiking detour to Canmore - for me, at least; Julie probably wasn't too impressed. Lindsey was interested by our trip and told us to come back and hang out the next night. And when she told you to come to "The 'Ho," you listened.
So, we four Canada-trekkers returned the following night - a Saturday - with our thumbs re-programmed from hitchhiking mode to beer-lifting mode. We ordered ourselves some pitchers, and began playing a made-up game where we held playing cards blindly on our foreheads and tried guessing where amongst the others our cards ranked.
This game attracted the attention of waitress Lindsey - off work now and tipping down Sunset Cocktails. An outgoing person, Lindsey invited us over to the green table where she and some Canmorian friends drank, so they could join in our game. We listened. Because I suspected Lindsey and I had a strong rapport mounting, I bullied Johnny and Adam into letting me sit by her. Sorry, guys. Some times it's okay to be a bully.
Now sitting with six new guys and two new girls, we switched to a drawing game known once as "Justin's Game." We took turns penning small drawings, then passing the paper so that the whole table could drunkenly critique it and so the next person could make a follow-up drawing.
Johnny began the game with a controversial drawing of the American flag, which was booed by the Canmorians. The next person drew someone "mooning."
Julie then drew three bare human butts. (This was in tribute to the great "Ass-Off" she'd been judge of earlier in the trip. Between Johnny, Adam, and me, she'd crowned Johnny the winner/loser with the hairiest butt. Julie and I had both been reluctant to do our parts in the contest, but we consented because it was what Adam had most wanted for his birthday.)
I followed this with a drawing of an ash-tray and cigarette butts. Lindsey drew a squiggly-mouthed idiot guy flicking a cigarette butt in the forest, a profound statement about the recent goings-on in smoky Canmore.
As the game went on, the drawings became drunkener, and the critiquing arguments became louder. Adam and Lindsey generously kept pitchers of beer in front of us Canada-trekkers who had no beer money. I tried to smoothly engage Lindsey - whose nice, round "cigarette butt" was now tucked in a tight, soft-material brown dress - in touching. But, I was countered by determined competition coming from Lindsey's other side, in the form of a darned New Zealander. For his turn, this guy drew a kiwi - but it looked more like a rat. (Okay, that was a mean thing for me to say. Sorry. ... again.)
The games took a backseat as a folk/country band went on stage. They utilized a mandolin and sang original songs about the rain. It was good, crisp music with a pace to it, and the dancer in me and Johnny quickly came alert.
I danced with Lindsey's friend, while Lindsey danced with the New Zealander. She pushed him away when he came on too strong, and I rejoiced. Woohoo! She orchestrated a partner switch, so I ended up dancing close with her. Woohoo!
She took me through the dark bar to join her in a game of pool. Elsewhere in "The 'Ho," Johnny and Adam were full of alcohol and in a public place, so they naturally moved around talking to girls. Go guys!
After a time, I wanted to get Lindsey out on the dance floor again, and Lindsey listened.
We slow-danced to the folk beats, our arms resting across each other's backs. She'd told me she wasn't good at making eye contact, but I kept trying to look into her pretty, blue eyes.
Near to the dance floor, Julie watched me with a drunken rose-faced smile, and she gave me a wink that said, "Go, Johnny!" I knew what I had to do. I had to try the agressive romantic manouevre Adam had taught us during his frat-boy love lectures earlier in the trip.
I had put much effort in to this move. It was the quintessential "Charge." "The Charge" at "The 'Ho." I moved my mouth to try to kiss Lindsey's.
But, oh!!! she buried her face into me. A perfect "Charge"-deflection. Rats. I was denied! What a shoot-down.
Meanwhile, our group's only remaining hopes were with Johnny. He talked to and sometimes danced with a timid-looking brunette.
I noticed then that Mike, our driver from Ontario, was present in "The 'Ho." He had his dread-locks up in rubber-bands, he'd been drinking, and he was looking at babes. He kind of turned out to be an asshole on this night. He kept eyeing Johnny's brunette and saying, "Should I ruin it for him? I wanna ruin it. ... I wanna take her to my van."
I don't know about Mike. But, in the end, none of us four Canada-trekkers mustered a second Alberta hook-up. I said good-bye to my friend, fair Lindsey: veterinarian by day; "The 'Ho" waitress by night.
A hell of a guy at the table with us, Cory, invited us Americans to crash at his house that night. He'd also played a crucial role in getting some of us drunk. He was an electrician and a big whiskey-and-coke drinker.
As Cory led us through the quiet Canmore night, we teased each other. We teased Julie, accusing her of blatant predation on a quiet French-Canadian boy at the bar. Julie whined that she had only begun talking to him because the rest of us girl-chasing knuckle-heads had left her with no one to talk to, which was probably true. We had no double-standard that said Julie couldn't hit on guys just like we hit on girls. No. We just teased Julie about this because it irked her so bad. Teasing Julie was fun.
Julie defended herself by saying it was the other way around: the guys at the bar had come up to her. Johnny commented that the guy she spoke of was a desperate, forty-year-old Indian man. Later on in the hijinks, Johnny also called a New Zealander a "Kiwi."
Oh, boy. Look out! Adam erupted just then like Mt. St. Helens. He (pretending to be offended) couldn't believe Johnny had used such a slur - "kiwi" - to refer to a fellow human being. "I thought I knew this guy," said Adam. Adam rode him because he'd implied most native-Canadian guys were "desperate," a border-line racist comment.
I joined in. We mentioned that Johnny had drawn the American flag earlier, and I said, "Yeah. To him, all non-Americans are just 'kiwi's."
Johnny contested that New Zealanders even call themselves "Kiwi's." Adam said, "African-Americans refer to themselves as 'niggers,' in their lyrics and street-slang, but it doesn't make it right." Johnny - one of the most politically-correct guys on earth - became actually ticked off, as Adam pretended to be disgusted by his friend's comment the rest of the night.
"I thought I knew this guy."
We spent one final night in the cattle-raising province of Alberta. We returned to Banff National Park, where we checked out Lake Louise, a Canadian icon.
It had a beauty that literally stunned you. The milky-blue Lake Louise opened up before us like an amphitheater. Rocky mountains rose up to the left and right. The lake snaked mistily between the far ends of these mountains, to the base of a huge grand-daddy snow-wafer moun-glaci-tain. Everything was misty and a beautiful periwinkle blue.
It was a sight to behold.
Thanks for having us, Alberta. - Modern Oddyseus
with Johnny, Adam, and Julie
Thanks to Christine & Cathryn; B.J. & Lynn; Mitch; D.J. & Patrick; and Kevin for the rides!
Much thanks to Cory for the place to crash!