Calgary – a short history

Calgary is situated in the foothills of the Blue Canadian Rockies, where the snow-capped mountains often look as though they are painted on the sky for an awesome picture to view when you have your morning coffee.  The weather is moderate.  Although there is a saying in Calgary ‘If you don’t like the weather – wait 10 minutes and it will change.’

Calgary Skyline

Calgary Skyline

Calgary is Canada’s newest city and in my opinion, by far the cleanest city.  With the head-offices for oil companies galore, it has the largest population of Americans outside the USA in the world. Most people share optimism and a desire to work and thrive.

Calgary is situated on the clear, clean waters of the Bow River – which runs out of the glacier fed waters of Lake Louise.  It was originally a popular gathering point for the Blackfoot natives.  The Bow River was a  place where the tree branches were material for bow and arrows.  With a chinook that can blow through often, the temperatures could warm and the snow go away at any time, including the winters.

A fort was established in 1875 by the North-West Mounted Police and the original founder – Sam Livingstone – was already settled in the area;  The fort was called Calgary which is Gaelic for ‘swift waters’.

The Bow River flooding

The settlers of the area were mainly ranchers and often those ‘second-sons’ of aristocrats.  The Canadian Pacific Railroad ran through Calgary and created a settlement of what is known as ‘China Town’ now as well as a landmark hotel made of sandstone – The Palliser, which is still in downtown Calgary.

Calgary was a small settlement until oil was discovered in the Turner Valley, Black Diamond area and in the early 1900’s the city started thriving.  There has been no looking back.  Calgary is a bustling, thriving city where it always seemed to me – about every 10 years, old dirty buildings/areas are torn down and new, clean buildings replace them. Some people don’t appreciate that – but to me Calgarians definitely understand the difference between old junk and real heritage landmarks.  There are old buildings that are maintained of course.

It is a transient city and may be a reason people are so friendly.  My two sons were born in Calgary but that seems to be a rarity. Most people seem to come to Calgary to work.  My romance story One Dance with a Stranger takes place in Calgary.  My romance story Alberta Wild Rose takes place in Calgary’s fascinating surrounding area (the Lost Lemon Mine) and the story I am working on now Seraphim will mainly take place in Calgary.

The book – Calgary, Spirit of the West by Hugh A. Dempsey is a great book on the history of Calgary.

Here are a few websites with information on visiting Calgary.

Visit Calgary

Calgary’s Five Most Romantic Spots

Calgary Attractions

The Setting of One Dance with a Stranger

There is a city – nestled in the foothills of the Blue Canadian Rockies, where the lights at night wind for miles and miles.  These lights can create an awesome sight for travelers in darkness who suddenly topping a hill, see this breath-taking picture.  I never tire of the beckoning lights of Calgary.

The city is vibrant, thriving and so clean you can eat off the streets.  Calgary has always had the ability to tear down garbage areas and when they decide something is a ‘heritage building’ – it is exactly that – stately, maintained and impressive. Calgary is ‘cow-town’ regardless of how people try to change it.  The Calgary Stampede was picked as the fourth best place to party – in the world.  Country bars and country hospitality reigns supreme.  There are other options for anyone who doesn’t like ‘cow-town’ – but no one is able to destroy the country atmosphere either.

I left home once when I was sixteen with my best friend.  Coming from a small farming community in the middle of nowhere the idea of living in Calgary was too irresistible.  So with $10.00 in our pockets and an enthusiasm I would love to have now we left.  A job literally fell into our laps.  A man approached us in the bus-stop cafe and told us of a hotel that was looking for workers.  We had no idea whether it was a good job or a bad job.  We started working immediately and one of the girls who was also a waitress offered us a cheap place to live.  We shared a house – four girls who had adventures and fun together. But reality was knocking.  I went back home to finish my schooling – but was always determined Calgary was the place I wanted to live.

Although I have traveled all over North America many times, Calgary is still my choice,  I love visiting, seeing everything but I want to go home to Calgary.  I raised my children in Calgary.

When I was wrote my fourth book – I no longer lived in Calgary.  I was homesick.  So I wrote a romance of Emily who, for reasons that happened in her childhood, hates the country atmosphere and the ‘dirt’ it creates. She meets  Wade, a true cowboy – a rancher and a superstar country singer.  The sparks fly.  Conflicts fall into place easily.  I fell in love with my hero immediately – but being a different person I could see why Emily didn’t want to.

I design my own covers.  The back cover of my book One Dance with a Stranger is a picture my son took at dusk and I created using Adobe Photoshop.  It is mysterious and beckons me to go back to a place I love.

Riding Shotgun – The Ozarks

The Ozarks conjures up many vision, including shows like Deliverance or TV series like the Waltons. I pictured in my mind a ‘backwoods’, poor rural area like the Waltons portray or the horrible, secretive people like Deliverance or even modern shows I have seen with religious fanatics and incest running rampant.   It was neither.

George had to deliver some huge machines to a hydro plant in Arkansas close to the  Missouri border. We drove through gorgeous countryside in a setting of rolling hills, small mountains unlike the mountains – the blue Canadian Rockies that I was used too.  It was fall and the foliage was in full bloom with orange and red leaves, wild flowers in full bloom and the sunshine buttery yellow and not too hot.   The secondary highway was peaceful with very little traffic.

We arrived in the town of Mtn. Home in the evening and I couldn’t see much.  Our two sons, both teens, were with us.  They were as curious as I was.  The restaurant seemed normal, the motel we stayed in was the same – but there was anticipation in the air.   On HBO – they were showing Deliverance.  The show was a little before my boy’s time so they had never seen it.  I left it on and I laughed.  The people here obviously have a good sense of humor.  I taught my boys from a very young age to realize the difference between fiction and reality.  They were well-traveled and very grounded.

The next day when George went to deliver the machines, the boys and I went to explore the town.  It was a nice place with some of the friendliest people I had ever met.  Then we drove back to Little Rock we stopped to see spots along the way – just too interesting to pass by.  From craft shops to cozy cafe’s everyone was so wonderful and nice. We discussed topics such as lifestyles to weather and no one was too busy to talk.

After visiting the Ozarks I would consider moving there provided I could move all my family and friends there as well.  It was a beautiful experience.  In reflections – my comments that the only different place was the bayous in the USA, I would say the Ozarks were similar to Newfoundland in Canada.

Riding Shotgun

RIDING SHOTGUN

A series of stories and experiences when driving across our beautiful lands in North America looking out the window of a semi-truck

My story starts in Calgary, Alberta, set in the foothills of the beautiful blue Canadian Rockies.  Calgary is a huge sprawling city of diverse culture and a thriving, bustling optimism which doesn’t die even in trying times.  Although there is something for everyone Calgary stubbornly clings to its’ origins – Cow Town.  This is a city where the night-clubs and dress code of blue jeans and cowboy boots refuses to apologize for the roots of Calgary – a unique western ‘cowboy’ town.  No one has to be a cowboy – but it’s maybe better to not try and change those who want to be.

Calgary’s mystical illumination and skyline is also a unique sight, with lights winding around hills ever flowing and covering the land for endless miles.  Inside the city of over a million people it is hard to find a real ‘cowboy’ – so I found the next-best thing – an asphalt cowboy – a truck driver.

When George decided to drive long-haul we already had two young boys and certainly meant I would have to stay home even though I longed to see the wondrous sites he would be seeing.  But with a little ingenuity and with that optimism we pride ourselves for in Calgary, I figured out a way.  Surely our parenthood status counts for more than a school or teachers.  With assurances the boys would do their ‘homework’ the teachers really couldn’t stop me.  To this day I have no regret for taking my children out of school to ‘travel’ the countryside.

Las Vegas, Nevada

 

It was supposed to be a short trip.  George got the coveted job of driving a huge flat-bed trailer in honor of the MGM Grand opening.  The trailer opened into a huge TV screen that would show outsiders the party inside before for the Grand Opening the following day.  The surprises in store were unknown to me or the boys.

It was near Christmas and I thought a Christmas without snow would be a good thing to experience.  But travelling through the mountains of Montana – with visions of those westerns I had read as child and the movies I had seen I began to wonder if that wasn’t just ‘fiction’.  Montana is huge but even as we drove further south with each mile – there was snow.  Then travelling through Idaho’s boot and into Utah, it was the same.  There was snow, just like there was in Calgary.  After passing Salt Lake City a huge sprawling city beside a salt lake, the weather started changing.  The snow disappeared.  When night came – the road was empty and every hill we top revealed yet another.  The moon was huge and lit up the skies almost like daylight.  I started getting tired thinking Las Vegas was set in a dessert – so where was it and these hills – some call mountains – seemed endless.

I sat up straight and my eyes rounded.  On the I-15 there is a short stretch of road that winds through the cliffs and narrow a canyon I had read about– those red jagged rocks were fascinating.  After we moved into a more open area – we were now in Nevada.  It was night and all I could see were the black forms of mountains.

It was late when we got into Vegas.  The boys were sleeping.  We stopped on the outskirts of town and stayed at a motel across from the Flying J truck stop.  I wanted to explore the flashing lights and rolling neon signs I saw in the distance, but it was too late.

Flying J’s, Petro’s and all those other truck stops became my friend – the oasis of relief and a place George could pull his truck in and park. The food was good, the store always had a variety of items, some surprising, local crafts, jewelry and clothing.  To this day I enjoy truck-stops.  I can only imagine what they mean to those drivers on the road all the time.

First – let me say Christmas lights and decorations are wasted in Las Vegas.  The road signs and casino lights everywhere overpower them too much.  I barely noticed that Vegas decorated for Christmas unless I bumped into a tree.  But further surprises came when we discovered we were part of the set-up team for the MGM Grand and that gave us such benefits we couldn’t have imagined.  Our room – brand new and unused was free.  We stayed in a Marilyn Monroe suite.  We had passes for the party the night before the Grand Opening and there were rows upon rows of delicacies and exotic foods. While others watched on the big TV Screen – we were inside enjoying all that was offered.  The boys were active and excited as they had spent the afternoon in the MGM’s entertainment park – enjoying the free rides and the free food.

The Vegas strip was all I had envisioned and so much more.  Together with the boys we saw – Merlin defeat the dragon outside the Excalibur.   We saw the pirates sink a British ship outside Treasure Island and we watched a volcano erupt outside the Mirage.  For the first few days none of us could get enough of Vegas.  Then, surprisingly, we started getting tired.  The noise of clanging machines, laughter and voices made my ears ring.  I wanted to go to eat in quiet places and George and I stayed in our rooms to watch movies.  But our boys at ages 14 and 12 weren’t ready to be quiet.  Shaun, my older son, started calling to make reservations for evening shows and they both attended the buffets faithfully.  Life was good.

Now, I was getting impatient to go home as it was nearing Christmas.  But George got a call – he had to wait in Vegas.  They were going to send the TV to New Orleans.  I was upset until I realized we were together and it didn’t matter where we spent Christmas.  My thoughts were not challenged when they discovered the TV had to be returned to Canada, before it could be brought back to New Orleans.  Otherwise he would be ‘inter-stating’ which was illegal.  Rules and Regulations are sometimes very strange in the trucking industry.

But two days before Christmas we left for home.  We made it back in time – and I want to thank the USA for their cheap turkey as I picked one up in Montana.  The price was so much better than Canada’s prices.

My first trip Riding Shotgun was amazing and thrilling.  It definitely called for more experiences.