West Edmonton Mall
We said goodbye to Steve’s parents and skirted the city of Calgary and headed up to the Glowing Embers RV park outside of Edmonton, the second largest city in the province of Alberta. We were on the final stretch of our trip and had only a few weeks before starting work again. I was in desperate need of some work clothes because in the two or so years leading up to the trip, we made a conscious effort not to purchase anything that was not boat-related. Also, I was (ahem) a size or two larger from having happy hour nearly every day for the past 11.5 months. But, looking on the bright side, we found ourselves near the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. I figured I wouldn’t have too much trouble finding some suitable clothes (in my new size) in the 5.3 million square foot building!
I was on a mission to create a “Capsule Wardrobe,” a small collection of basic clothing items that don’t go out of style, which can be combined with seasonal pieces for countless combinations of outfits. Basically, I am not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, so I was interested in clothes that all went well together so I didn’t have to think about what to wear every day. I had done quite a bit of research on this capsule wardrobe phenomenon and had a list of clothing pieces I was looking for. We parked the RV at the designated parking area at the mall and I left Steve and the kids in my dust to get down to business! Steve took the kids to various toy stores and to check out the wave pool, amusement park and pirate ship. Meanwhile, I had to take two trips back to the RV to drop off my purchases so I could shop more effectively with free hands. I ended up with 2 pairs of shoes, 2 pairs of pants, 8 tops, 2 cardigans and 1 blazer for a total of $750 (all done within 3 hours of power shopping). I am hoping it will last me for a while, because I very much dislike clothes shopping (give me a craft store or book store, though, and my thoughts on shopping are wildly different!).
While I was shopping the kids were enjoying the arcade games at Galaxyland. They had decided not to go on the rides because, in Paige’s wise words, “they could never compare to Disneyland!” After a few hours they had accumulated around 700 game tickets and were thrilled to cash the tickets in for some junk (er, I mean prizes). After all the fun we were famished so we headed over to the food court and munched on some unique NY Fries poutine concoctions (pulled pork and bacon cheeseburger). We all decided that we prefer the regular poutine with just cheese curds and gravy…mmm, my mouth is watering while I am writing this! I love Canada!
The next day was a school day, but the kids weren’t having any part of it. Steve had hoped to take them to the wave pool at West Edmonton Mall, but we decided together that the kids weren’t well-behaved enough to earn that privilege (we can be hard-asses sometimes, but we’re hoping it makes the kids more aware of their actions in the future). I had some household tasks to attend to, like re-starting our hydro and natural gas accounts, as well as our internet (perish the thought that we don’t have internet the second we get back to our house!).
Next morning we headed over to Rainbow Valley RV park – we oogled the aerial park and hoped the kids might earn the privilege of trying it out! But after days of shopping and schooling, we were jonesing to get outside in the fresh air and get some exercise. We packed some snacks and hopped on our bikes and rode towards the North Saskatchewan River valley. We were a bit disappointed that we could barely see the river on the bike path, but it was nice weather and we were happy to be outside. Spencer was complaining that he was getting cottonwood fluff in his eyes from the blooming trees (it was early June at this point). I gave him my sunglasses but, although he looked cute, his frown didn’t turn upside-down and we eventually headed back to the RV. That evening, we drove up to the mall and met my Mom’s cousin, Barb, for dinner. It was a really enjoyable dinner at Tony Roma’s – and the kids (miraculously) were very well behaved.
We were so close to the end of the school year I could almost taste it! Steve and I were really looking forward to putting our teaching textbooks away FOREVER (have I mentioned that we are soooo NOT teachers?!). Based on the remaining curriculum we needed to cover, we estimated the kids could be finished their schoolwork by June 5 (nearly three weeks earlier than kids in regular brick-and-mortar schools)! This really motivated Paige and she got down to her work and did as much as she could over the next few days. Spencer needed a bit more to motivate him, so we promised a visit to the aerial park if he finished by the next day. That did the trick! They finished their work, and I completed all of the reporting I needed to get to their teacher for year-end, which meant “School’s…out…for…the…summer!” Wahoo!
While we were waiting for our afternoon aerial park time slot, I took the opportunity to re-organize the RV, gathering up all the library books to return to the distance learning school we had borrowed them from. Finally, 3pm rolled around and we got strapped into our harnesses at the Snow Valley Aerial Park! Spencer wasn’t quite tall enough to go to the higher levels but had a blast doing the obstacles on the lowest level. Steve and Paige went up to levels 1 and 2 and had fun doing the obstacles up there. The nice thing was that each obstacle was graded like a ski hill, green, blue or black depending on the difficulty. Steve really wanted to do some black diamonds on the 3rd (and highest) level so I took both kids while he dangled precariously from various obstacles. He did end up falling from one and had to get ratched back up to the obstacle by a staff member, but he was safely harnessed in so only his pride was bruised. Paige’s foot got stuck in one of the nets of another obstacle and she had to be saved as well. We all thoroughly enjoyed the park and added to the list of our many amazing experience we’ve had in our year away!
We drove the three hours from Edmonton and Drumheller and checked in to our RV park. It wasn’t much to speak of, so instead of settling in we headed through town to check out the Hoodoos, which are rock formations formed from sandstone that has been carved by wind and water over 70 to 75 million years. Click here for a google image search of the Hoodoos.
We headed back into town and checked out the World’s Tallest Dinosaur, standing over 80 feet into the air. The kids wanted to climb up the steps inside the dinosaur but it seemed like a cash grab to me. Instead, we redirected the kids to the water park across the street. Since we had the RV, we had their bathing suits and towels at the ready, so they spent a good deal of time getting out some energy after that day’s drive. We settled back in to the RV park and biked to the nearby Athens restaurant for some greek food, then explored the town on our bikes and tried to get as many pictures with dinosaurs as we could (which are now lost forever, sad face).
The next day we didn’t have any school to do (yay!), so we relaxed in the morning, then leisurely got ready to head to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology after lunch. It was amazing to see all the cool fossils from the Badlands. Paige’s favorite was the Triceratops and Spencer’s favorite was the T-rex. The kids had each brought a doll/stuffy to the museum and had fun showing their dolls all of the cool exhibits. I was surprised to learn that the Alberta Badlands were on the shores of an ancient, inland sea. After an hour or so, Spencer was a bit bored. He told us later that he was hoping to see real dinosaurs – perhaps we should have skipped the world famous paleontology museum and gone to nearby Fossil World to see the animatronic dinosaurs!
The next morning dawned hot and sunny. We were up and out of the RV park early to head to the Atlas Coal Mine, curious to see the industry that helped discover the dinosaur bones! We had two very kind tour guides and happened to be the only ones on our tour. It was shoulder season so they didn’t have many tourists yet. The guides showed us replicas of pay cheques from the 1930’s that the coal miners would have received. The pay cheques ranged from $24 to $56 for a two-week period. The miners got paid by the weight of the coal they mined, and it varied wildly by individual (from 6 to 16 coal carts per day). We walked up the tipple, which enclosed a conveyor belt and was used to separate the smaller coal between “egg” sized, used in those days for kitchen fuel, and smaller pieces used for various other purposes. The larger, “lump,” coal was set directly into the coal carts for industrial use. The guides told us very interesting stories about young boys who worked in the coal mines – running up and down the tipple to let the miners know when the coal carts were full. One enterprising young fellow designed a flag system so he wouldn’t have to run around all day. After the mine tour we hopped in some of the coal carts and went for a ride around the mine. It gave us all a pain in our backside – they didn’t have shocks or struts back in those days!