I sat on a back porch with a few people working in the Fort McMurray media and we talked about life in that town and what brought them there. It seemed just like most other small towns, except that it sits in the middle of one of the largest oil deposits in the world. Behind me, a deer crossed the fairway of a golf course.
It was 10:45 pm, and the sun had yet to set. In the peak of the summer here, it stays light through the night. On a clear, cold day in the frigid winter, the Northern Lights bathe the sky.
I flew down to Edmonton after a few days in Fort Mac surveying the oil sands, and found my car baking at the airport. It was a welcome dose of familiarity, and I headed into town for a night. The next morning, I walked around Whyte Ave on the south end of town, catching a music street festival getting set up. The World Cup Final was just about to start, and I caught a seat at a bar across from a guy who couldn’t wait to move to California.
Alberta reminded me of the Great Plains states in the US, just a few degrees further north and a few degrees colder. The sky was a broad, unending blue here much of my time there, except for the miserable weather I got when I got back to Calgary.
I sat inside the mall, picking my way through a food court meal, when a pitter patter on the glass skylight above turned heavy and loud. I didn’t know it was a skylight initially, and thought some major renovating was going on upstairs. But then I looked through the glass doors down the hall and saw a glimpse of hailstones pounding the sidewalk and looked up and saw chunks of ice littered across the skylight. Not long after, the sun was out. A few small pebbles of ice still lay in the parking lot, some around my car that had left a few just barely noticeable dents on the hood.
The next day, the rain was unrelenting. I picked up my brother at the Calgary Airport (he was joining me on the road for two weeks) and we drove over to the Olympic Park in town, the site of many of the events of the 1988 Winter Olympics including the legendary Jamaican bobsled team. We drove around a bit in the rain, catching glimpses of the famous track, and then turned back on the highway through the prairie, the Rockies lost in the distance under the gray clouds.
The US border was only a few miles away, and after three weeks in Canada, I couldn’t wait.