We had been warned! This drive could be mind numbingly boring and the roads could be less than friendly to drive on...in fact neither was the case.
Yes, at times due to frost heaves some of the roads were for short stretches like riding out on extended rumble strips but in general it was not uncomfortable…and yes, this is not the awe inspiring, jaw dropping scenery we had left behind in the Rocky Mountains but there was still plenty to see and do.
But firstly, Edmonton. Again not on our original plan. Following our great weekend in Jasper with our ER buddies Brenda and Garth, they had very kindly contacted Brenda’s sister in Edmonton who had equally kindly offered us a place to park Big Henry with them at their home whilst we explored Edmonton….capital of Alberta.
The Blonde in particular, was keen to visit the Art Gallery of Alberta….what we had not planned on was the weekend we pulled in was also the start of a major food fair in the city and also the Klondike Parade. It provided for some great entertainment as we biked downtown, although we found it a little hard to negotiate the streets closed off for the parade and on a couple of occasions we almost became part of the parade itself!
The “K-Parade” as it is affectionately referred to by the locals, takes place at the start of a 10-day event, usually the last week in July and features a sea of floats, giant balloons, performers, marching bands and Scottish Pipers. Very colourful.
We asked a number of people the origins of the "K-Days" celebration and got varied answers...but eventually we determined it was a celebration of the amazing feats of strength and endurance by many people who came through Edmonton on their way to the goldfields in the Klondike to seek their fortune. Now, it has become more of a celebration of the people who settled in this area both old and new from countries all over the world. Having negotiated the crowds and taken a short ride around the food fair in the center we moved on to the Art Gallery of Alberta…..
The Blonde outside the Art Gallery of Alberta
“With the opening of this maverick art gallery in 2010, Edmonton at last gained a modern signature building to counter the ubiquitous boxy skyscrapers. Looking like a giant glass and metal space helmet, the futuristic structure in Churchill Square is an exhibit in its own right. Its collection comprises 6000 pieces of historical and contemporary art, many of which have a strong Canadian bias.”…. we enjoyed photographing the structure more than appreciating the art contained inside it.
A quirky view from inside the gallery
We also wanted to visit the Muttart Conservatory…mainly because we wanted to photograph the four glass pyramids but also to see the four different climate regions and corresponding foliage that they house…again I think it fair to say we were more impressed with the outside rather than the inside.
Our hosts, Janet and John and their son James, were excellent company and very accommodating. We had a great time with them and can’t thank them enough for their kindness and hospitality.
Time to move on. Saskatchewan awaited us! We would drive across the breadth of this province in less than a day….although we did choose to camp in an excellent roadside park near the border with Manitoba, provided for and maintained by a local rotary club. Our first stop inside the province was to photograph a traditional style Ukranian Greek Orthodox Church. Some 250,000 Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many settled in central Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the landscape reminded them of the snowy steppes of home.
Big Henry posing by the side of the Ukranian Greek Orthodox Church
Saskatchewan grows a large portion of Canada's grain. Wheat is the most familiar crop and the one most often associated with the province (there are sheafs of wheat depicted on the coat of arms of Saskatchewan), but other grains like canola, flax, rye, oats, peas, lentils, canary seed, and barley are also produced. As we drove across the prairie there were fields of bright yellow on either side….but because there is no elevation gain to get some height to take photos it is hard to show without aerial photography the true outstanding scenery this provides.
We had started to take an interest in the history of the grain elevators and the small towns that sprung up on the railway lines that were put in to support the movement of grain when we were in North Dakota and Montana. Sadly many of these townships now have become veritable ghost towns and many of the communities associated with them have dispersed as mechanization and modernization of agricultural practices had advanced….but in certain areas there has been a real effort made by local groups to maintain some of the elevators…..see part two, coming to a computer near you...very soon!