A couple of weeks ago, during our sojourn in spectacular Banff, we took a leisurely morning stroll from our very comfortable suite at Buffalo Mountain Lodge, into downtown – which, by the way, provided some of the best lessons in social behaviour our two goldens have ever experienced. Rarely before have they been so overwhelmed with people wanting to pet them, say how beautiful they are, so much so that we were often relegated to invisible owners trying to restrain their exuberance (dogs and people)!
It was relief to be able to abandon the SUV and walk as we seem to have spent so much time in our vehicle recently; one week driving across Canada, then a week in Calgary which also involved hours touring dealerships and test driving (all Peter) new SUV’s to replace our 17-year-old, 230,000 kms, Durango. A successful mission that I’ll recount later.
Still in Banff, we decided one afternoon to drive to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway. For anyone who’s never visited the Rockies, this Parkway is a rural route that runs parallel to the Trans-Canada highway for some 50 kilometres between these two iconic National Park towns. For newbies to the area, it’s a hugely popular road, and can be akin to a drive through a safari park as it offers some of the best opportunities for safe wildlife viewing directly from a car window. The road is lined with wildflower meadows, aspen groves, and coniferous forest glades, all against the backdrop of stunning mountain peaks and crags.
However, Parks Canada, in their wisdom, have deemed the Parkway as unsafe in terms of the coronavirus pandemic – so have temporarily closed it to motor vehicles – which seems rather nonsensical when it’s still accessible to hikers and cyclists who are exempt from wearing masks in outdoor public areas.
Okay – there are the occasional traffic jams (often appropriately named ‘bear jams’) when wildlife presents itself for photo ops, but we’ve always noted them as being sporadic and certainly not guaranteed. In fact, I seem to recall that we’d made the same trip several times before we even saw our first elk – and the bears are far more elusive.
So, still bemoaning the closure of the Bow Valley Parkway, we headed towards Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada, when just ahead of the mid-way point I suddenly noticed that the road to Castle Mountain didn’t have a ‘closed’ notice. Sure enough, when we arrived at Castle Junction, the ‘road closed’ barriers restricted access towards Banff, but not to Lake Louise, so we continued on the Parkway, devoid of vehicles with the exception of a few Parks Canada trucks, numerous cyclists, and a few mountain goats.
Ironically, when we arrived in Lake Louise, every parking area was full, including the overflow lots, also for Moraine Lake, so we simply turned around and headed back to Banff, once again enjoying a very casual tootle along the all but empty Parkway until we had to rejoin the Trans-Canada. It seems that no one has yet discovered that only the Banff half of the Parkway is closed, lucky for us!
Coincidentally, the previous afternoon, we’d driven to Bow Falls in Banff and found its parking area jam-packed – likely with everyone who couldn’t drive the Parkway or park in Lake Louise – and with camera-toting tourists lining the viewpoint completely ignoring the social distancing recommendations, and no one wearing a mask. Likewise, just outside Banff, the Vermillion Lakes overlook was also bumper to bumper, with everyone closely congregating to enjoy the stunning view of Mount Rundle and add to their album of vacation snaps.
I think we’ve all appreciated the fact that there is no one-rule-fits-all scenario during these unprecedented and challenging times. But it does seem that there are places where more stringent social distancing should be applied, while others are being closed off for no valid reason. And, perhaps it should be incumbent upon Parks Canada to notify visitors as they arrive at the National Park gate and are required to purchase the mandatory NP pass/passes, that many of the iconic natural attractions in the park have been temporarily closed to motor vehicles – especially as this seriously impacts opportunities for people with limited mobility to enjoy their visit.
Similarly, since we left NS, there have been times when we struggled to find an open washroom without a notice announcing closures due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Thank goodness the public washrooms in Banff are proudly remaining open to ‘offer the opportunity for regular hand washing’. To close, or not to close, that seems to be the question. Certainly, the latter offers the healthier and more user-friendly option – especially for older folks! Okay – I know I now fall into this latter category, and bending down to pee behind a bush is not as easy as it once was!
One final word about the Covid-19 situation; the pedestrian-only corridors of Banff Avenue require masks, with around 90% compliance, and all the stores have bottles of hand-sanitizer as you enter, mandating its use for admission, which I can well understand. However, I did need a trip to Body Shop and Rocky Mountain Soap Company to stock up on moisturizing soap and hand cream to counter the drying effects of squirting your hands with alcohol and hand-washing with public-washroom foam numerous times a day.
So, for a change of pace, and staying in Banff, I’ll introduce ‘Rodney’ – who appeared to be our cabin’s resident raven. Most days when we walked the dogs on the nearby trails, he would be hopping among the rocks bordering the adjacent meadow, scavaging for scraps of human garbage or carrion from other critters. I’m saying ‘he’, but have no idea whether it’s a female raven as they are indistinguishable apart from size.
I recall that my first sight of a raven occurred during a long-ago school trip to the Tower of London, which boasts its own resident covidae. (No irony intended). They, of course, have become quite tame as they are quite used to being on display for the general public in an otherwise safe environment with no predators. In the wild, ravens, with their formidable size, robust beaks and sharp claws are considered to be ‘feathery balls of murder’ when they or their young are threatened, so few predators will risk injury from a fully grown bird. However, around humans, they appear curious and quite sociable – but perhaps that’s a simple ploy to entice someone to toss them easy scraps.
Following three weeks of hotel rooms, we finally moved into our new home on August 19 – two days ahead of schedule. Also, thankfully, our moving truck was already in Edmonton with another moving load, so the driver was able to deliver our furniture on the Friday, so only two days and nights of ‘glamping’ and Chinese take-away!
Given the tight timescale of the previous residents moving out, and us moving in, the tasks of window washing, blind cleaning and carpet shampooing were scheduled for this past week, so we had to curb our unpacking enthusiasm for a few extra days, other than the necessities. However, it allowed time to pick up the new car, plus a trip to Costco and IKEA! Oh, joy! (Joking!!!)
The latter is certainly not an experience we want to revisit while the coronavirus restrictions prevail. A line-up at the entrance snaked around eight bends of railings maintaining the required two-metre distancing. Once you entered the store, all bets were off! However, the reduced shopper volume did result in no line-ups at the check-outs. Thank goodness for small mercies.
We then needed three small shelf supports that had somehow been misplaced during the move in order to finish reassembling an IKEA bookcase. For me, one of the benefits that makes me a dyed-in-the-wool fan of IKEA, is that they have a parts department with open boxes of all those tiny items that can so easily go astray: bolts, nuts, screws, shelf supports, all free of charge, and you’re in and out in one or two minutes flat. However! And it’s a huge HOWEVER! With the current pandemic situation, the parts department has been combined with ‘returns and exchanges’. OMG! Another snaking line-up behind shoppers with trolleys full of unwanted items, for the sake of three shelf supports that would virtually fit inside a thimble. So small, in fact, that I’d popped them inside a Ziplok bag for fear of losing them in the bottom of my outsize purse. Nearly half an hour lining up, then it took the IKEA person all of 10 seconds to fish the parts out of a box behind the counter and hand them over! Grrrrrrrrr!
Okay – you now have to suspend belief and accept that everything I’m about to relate is 100% honest and accurate. Seriously! The master bathroom in our new home has a toilet called ‘Toto’. Yep! A Japanese phenomenon of sanitation that panders to bodily cleanliness: ‘Front’ and ‘Back’ according to the remote control attached to the wall.
So, here’s how it goes. The toilet seat detects movement and politely raises its lid as soon as someone enters the room. You then enthrone yourself on a comfortably pre-warmed, cushiony and linearly designed seat, as the toilet bowl is gently misted with water to maintain absolute hygiene while you make your deposit(s). Task complete, a button on the controls then offers to bathe your ‘front’ or ‘back’ end in warm water, with the choice of either an ‘oscillating’ or ‘pulsating’ spray, with varying degrees of intensity. Finally, a dryer takes the role of a bidet to a whole other level, as warm air blasts your nether regions to a perfect finish! Hang on a minute – don’t my cheeks get buffed to a shine, too? The bonus, an innovative glaze and a ‘double cyclone’ flushing system means that Toto is completely self cleaning and deodorizing. Oh, and when you need to use the loo at night, there’s a welcoming blue night light that illuminates the toilet bowl.
I have to confess that neither of us has used this ‘butt spa’… so far. As our days have been filled with unpacking, organizing and reorganizing, taking the time for a below-the-waist facial seems to be out of the question. But (LOL), watch this space because sometime between now and the next blog, one or other, or both of us will no longer resist the temptation in order to give a detailed description of the experience (minus the photos, of course)!
Oh, and by the way, if you’re tempted by the desire for a similarly accessorized butt spa, be prepared to see a hole in your bank balance to the tune of $6,000+. Hah! Now that’s something it doesn’t do – serenade your butt with a tune, maybe ‘Booty’ by Jennifer Lopez, ‘Bootylicious’ (Destiny’s Child), or ‘Fat-bottomed girls’ (Queen).
As I’ve droned on long enough already, I’ll wait until next time for the stories about our fridge/freezer with its own entertainment system, and other artificial intelligence systems that seem to adorn our new home and SUV.
Until next time…