Apart from grassy fields, there was nothing for miles on Route 2. We were on our way back up to Calgary. No cars. No houses. Nothing. It was strangely beautiful, but the kind of road where we were really grateful we had decided to gas up beforehand. Check out this Google Street View to understand the true scope of nothingness if you don't believe me.
We finally got to South Calgary and checked into our hotel. It was dinnertime and we'd heard that there was a Famoso in Calgary. If you recall, we originally stumbled upon Famoso in Jasper and it was some of the best pizza either of us had ever eaten. We just had to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy it a second time around.
I'm the first to admit that it probably wasn't the greatest idea to KEEP DRIVING after such an unending, monotonous morning behind the wheel. But I did. I kept driving. And I'd bet some serious cash that Andy offered to drive and I said "no, I'll drive". What can I say, I just prefer to be the one behind the wheel. That's no slight to Andy - he's a fine driver. I just have control issues I guess.
The series of events that follow are a bit of a blur. We found a small parking garage around the corner from the restaurant. I thought I could easily cut the corner and fit into a tight parking spot.
No. Bad idea, Amberly. I somehow ended up wedging myself into a totally precarious situation where I had to make a choice:
A) Scrape our poor little Kia Soul against the concrete pillar next to the parking spot B) Scrape our poor little Kia Soul against another car next to the parking spot I chose A.
Pro Travel Tip: call your credit card company before you rent a car. Ask them about their auto rental insurance benefits. Chances are good you should be waiving that extra collision insurance fee. If you can believe it, the above damage came to just over $9,000. We didn't pay a penny and our credit card's insurance department took care of pretty much the whole claim on our behalf. Those people are rock stars! I seriously felt ill after doing this to the car. The saddest part of the story is that I really wasn't able to enjoy my pizza.
But we kept on and made our way to the Calgary Tower.
Standing 626 feet high, this tower has one of those glass-bottomed floors to freak you right out. Yea, like I needed to be any more anxiety-ridden than I already was after messing up our rental car!
It was kind of cool approaching that glass floor. The first thing we saw was a bunch of kids having the time of their lives on it. Kids are just fearless. They were running around like madmen and jumping hard on the glass without a care in the world. But every adult seemed to approach the glass floor the same way I did:
Hold onto a beam near the center of the glass floor.
Slowly transfer body weight onto one toe...then two toes...then all toes...one whole foot...the other foot.
Glance down and ohmygodimgonnadie. Laugh maniacally and try not to pee pants. Andy just couldn't bring himself to stand on the glass. So he laid on his stomach and got some killer shots that way.
It was a fun vantage point for watching traffic.
We awoke to Day 9. Our final day of this Canadian Rockies adventure. Our flight wasn't until late at night, and we had nearly an entire day to keep exploring. So we started our day right by chowing down at one of the best breakfast spots in Calgary, OEB Breakfast Co. OEB is a farm-to-table breakfast joint. The food we ate there was so amazing, we didn't even stop to take photos. I may have even said a word of gratitude to the gods when our plates arrived. We enjoyed every single bite, and we don't even remember what we ordered exactly (though I'm betting we split some rendition of eggs benedict and a sweet french toast/crepe/waffle type dish because that's how we roll).
A quick 90 minute drive east and we found ourselves in the Dinosaur Capital of the World. We sought out this place, a town called Drumheller, because it's at the heart of the Canadian Badlands. When Andy and I hear the word "badlands", our ears go up. We are both aching to get to the badlands in South Dakota someday. But they exist elsewhere too, so why not see allllllllll the badlands! Drumheller isn't joking about the dinosaur thing. There are depictions of dinosaurs on storefronts and dinosaur statues on most street corners. They really own it. And when you find yourself in the Dinosaur Capital of the World, you obviously have to visit the World's Largest Dinosaur.
This gal (she's a she) is 86 feet tall, cost over a million bucks to build, and requires visitors to climb 106 stairs. At the tippy top, you open a door and walk into the dinosaur's mouth where you are free to reenact the scene from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure where Pee-Wee tells Simone "everyone I know has a big butt".
From there, we visited the Star Mine Suspension Bridge. The bridge was constructed to help the local miners get coal across the river more easily. A lot of people were nonchalantly walking on this bridge. It was swaying at a good clip and neither Andy or I were interested in joining in on that fun.
We soon came upon the Hoodoos of Drumheller Valley. This area of Alberta was so unlike the endless grassy fields of 24 hours before.
Geology totally rocks!
Some people carve their initials into rocks. Others build cairns.
What a cool place to just wander around. You really can imagine dinosaurs hanging out in these parts.
Our final stop was the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. There's a ton of old mining equipment to see, and more information on coal mining than you could ever want.
The wooden truss bridge here is what we came to see.
Andy stepped back in time upon entering the 7 story high coal tipple.
Bidding farewell to the coal mine, we headed back to Calgary to catch our red-eye flight home. The messy task of returning a damaged rental car was our last order of business. It turns out, the damage was significant enough to require a police report...but we didn't know that until we tried to return it, so we had to find a police officer at the airport to help us out before we were allowed to officially return the car. Thankfully, we had a bunch of time to kill before our flight. The officer we met with was a gem! Here's a peak at the official police report he wrote up for us.
Alberta, Canada is full of extremes. We climbed mountains on roadways with hairpin turns, walked on an actual glacier, saw lakes in colors we didn't even know existed, and spied on native wildlife big and small. We sweat through our clothes one day and wished we'd had our winter coats the next. We soaked up every minute of it and will never forget what a fantastic place it was to explore. Thanks for reading! Our next adventure is coming up soon!