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Calgary; Stuck Out in High River; Heading Home

We arrived in Calgary on Monday afternoon. What a difference from Banff! It’s like driving from Estes Park, Colorado, in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park down to Denver, on the western edge of the Great Plains. And where were the cows and saloons? When I was a kid, I remember reading about the Calgary Stampede. But we couldn’t find a single cow, cowgirl/boy or real saloon. They don’t even wear Stetsons here. And the traffic was terrible (cars, not cows or even sheep)! But we were on a mission to find a computer repair shop, and as Suzanne looked at the choices on her computer screen, Lo! There was one just a mile away. We found a parking spot, and I carried my old, unresponsive Dell into the shop and a nice woman named Terri said they’d do their best, but why was I still carting around a relic that runs XP and not Windows 7, for Heaven’s sake. (I didn’t want to tell her that I am a Luddite who would prefer to use a notebook and No. 2 pencils; they don’t crash, after all…)

As we stepped out the door onto the pavement, My Lovely Bride turned left, away from The Coach. Where was she going? “There’s something down this way I need to check out…” Not two doors down was a small sign for “Self Connection”, a metaphysical shop. I knew then that we weren’t going anywhere very soon. (Maybe I could find a nice outdoor café and have a few cups of coffee, several pastries and read the Sunday New York Times cover to cover.)  She went inside while I walked the puppies, and then a half hour later she stepped outside and said to come on in. Self Connection’s owners, Mike and Marla Finch, have a lovely shop filled with everything that Suzanne could want. She already had a couple of books under her arm. Suzanne was very impressed with the energy of Marla and Mike’s center, which includes a classroom, and they agreed to get together during the next year for a “webinar” or an on-site workshop if we get back to Calgary next summer.  

Mike wanted to introduce me to his dog, so I left Rudy and Gretchen in the front with Suzanne. When I walked into the back room, I saw what I thought was a small grizzly bear. Briggs is a 120 lb. Leonberger, a mix between a Great Pyrenees, a St. Bernard, and a Newfoundland. As enormous as Briggs was, he was obviously a very well-mannered lover-dog. Mike was also interested in our sailing adventures, and I told him about Rudy the Sailing Wiener Dog having crossed the Atlantic with us on our sloop Liberty. (It took me about 5 seconds to visualize Mike rowing Briggs ashore in a 10 foot long dinghy for a walk and I almost burst out laughing, but restrained myself, for once…) 

There was a very important reason for stopping in the Calgary area; about 40 miles south was an Itasca RV dealer, High River RV, that had agreed to repair one of our three slide-outs, which had begun acting very badly, grinding and moving erratically on its four tracks. In fact, we had not even extended that slide for the past two weeks because had it gotten stuck in the out position while in the Rockies, we would be in “deep doo-doo”. We had heard that High River was particularly hard hit by flooding last month, and as we drove through town, it was evident that complete recovery was a long way off. Parts of town still don’t have electricity, water and sewer service, and blue porta-potties were scattered through the business and residential areas. Hardly any businesses were open downtown, but fortunately the RV complex was away from the flooded area.

Just down the street was a large ServiceMaster recovery staging area, with long lines of workers about to start or just having finished their shift cleaning out mud, ripping out soaked dry wall, and other critical tasks in saving the town’s homes and businesses. It reminded me of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when we went back to New Orleans to see my old family home, a two story house only a half mile from the major levee break on the 17thStreet Canal. Lake Pontchartrain’s waters had risen two feet above the upstairs floors, washing away a couple of smaller houses on our block, and even though our visit was a year after Katrina, it was still a disaster. We felt very sad for the people of High River, many of whom worked at the RV dealership where we had just arrived.

Tuesday was entirely devoted to trying to repair our damaged slide-out mechanism. Unfortunately, it appears to be what is called in the Navy “a cascading casualty”, first, a design fault, with insufficiently sized bearings having been installed to support the heavy slide carrying the kitchen and living area furniture, which then caused the second problem, one of the two motors having burnt out because of excessive loads. There was an additional issue in that replacement parts would have to be shipped from Indiana to Canada, with a likely week-long shipping and Customs process delay.

 After talking to a Winnebago factory sales rep who just happened to be visiting that day, we decided to get the slide retracted and drive south to Longmont, Colorado, where we had purchased The Coach. That way we should be arriving in the Denver area at the same time as our parts. Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, there is an old Army saying that “No plan ever survives initial contact with the enemy.” In this case, the “enemy” was the now-extended slide that decided it didn’t want to retract. These photos show the series of maneuvers the RV repair team had to use to get the slide in so we could drive away. Starting with a couple of guys pushing while I hit the buttons for the surviving motor, the slide would only move in a few inches, and was canted at a 10 degree angle, instead of sliding in level. NOT GOOD!
We then recruited some additional shop guys to push, but the slide still would not go in.
Finally, they got a padded wooden support and used a jack to lift the slide level. With one motor and lots of strong arms, the slide finally retracted 98% of the way in, and we were again ready to travel.

We also had limited success in getting my computer partially repaired, at least to be able to retrieve most of its data. The corrupted Windows operating system was reinstalled, but wireless capability and my contact list were lost, so I’m still relying on Suzanne’s laptop for connectivity until I get a replacement… let’s see, I’ll ask my Minnesnowta IT advisor, “Hey, Terri, is the Commodore 64 still available at Best Buy?”

In celebration of our last night in Canada, we decided to splurge on a dinner out. First try was Bistro Provence, in Okotoks, Alberta, but the $45 entrees put me off my feed… (How can you ask those prices in a town with a name you can hardly pronounce? I think the answer is that it’s one of the closest restaurants to where the hundreds of out of town recovery workers are staying…) Anyway, we both agreed that the $14.95 Indian buffet would be a lot more sensible. Here is Suzanne enjoying her naan, butter chicken, beef curry and daal.

As I complete today’s blog, My Lovely Bride is guiding us down Canada’s Highway 4, with 65 miles to go to the US border at Sweetgrass, Montana. We have truly enjoyed our time in British Columbia and Alberta. The scenery was spectacular, the wildlife visible but non-aggressive, and the people delightful. We are looking forward to returning next summer and spending more time in both provinces, with much more hiking on the schedule, as well as keeping Suzanne busy with presenting workshops and giving readings.

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