Sometimes, I think, Steve is just going along for the ride. He is my partner-in-silliness and will travel to the ends of the earth with me if that’s what I want to do. I felt that it was time to have a Steve-filled day and planned out the next stretch of our route with that in mind and kept our itinerary a secret.
Our first stop? The town of Vulcan, Alberta.
Let’s back up a moment so that I can make you see how perfect this was for my beloved. Two years ago, this is what my husband wore for Halloween:
Steve loves Star Trek. If you look at his bookshelf in his office, it is filled with nerdy things like Science and Math textbooks, coding language books, and – a whole row of Star Trek novels. For real.
So the town of Vulcan is just the kind of thing that would make my man get all giddy (except in a manly way…is their a manly term for “giddy”? If so, please share).
Vulcan, Alberta was so named because the man who discovered it back in the day named it after the Roman god Vulcan, god of fire. I suspect this is also where the Star Trek creators got the name as well. In Star Trek land, Vulcan is an alien species. Mr. Spock is Vulcan. The town of Vulcan decided to capitalize on this pop-culture connection.
Their Visitor Information Centre is called the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station. Unfortunately it had closed 20 minutes before we arrived. I told Steve that our secret destination was time-sensitive and that we needed to high-tail it out of Banff to get there in time, but we just missed it! It was ok though, most of the cool stuff was outside anyway. For instance, across the street is a large Starship Enterprise model. I think this was Steve’s favourite part (Steve says yes, it was).
The sign is in Klingon and reads “What do you want in Vulcan?”
Around the other side, there’s a sign in Vulcan that reads “Welcome to Vulcan.”
On yet the other side, a sign reads:
Welcome to Vulcan
Third planet from the sun,
North American Continent,
Province of Alberta,
County of Vulcan
Live Long and Prosper
Vulcan Assoc. for Science Trek (V.A.S.T.)
And on the last side, there was a sign with the specifications of the starship, which Steve found particularly amusing:
Constitution class starship
Overall length 31′ (9.4488 m)
Overall depth 9′ (2.7432 m)
Primary hull (saucer) 15′ (4.752 m)
Total weight 5 tons (5080 Kg)
It was around 6pm by now and the town of Vulcan was dead. We drove through the silent streets and giggled at the Star Trek references throughout. There was the local restaurant, Enterprise Family Restaurant:
They had signs featuring cute aliens directing you to various community attractions, such as the campground and rodeo grounds:
A local bookstore, called Quark’s Consignment & Books, had this mural and nook beside it:
But our favourite mural was the one for the pharmacy, featuring the various Star Trek series’ doctors:
100 points if you can guess them all!
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, but Steve had actually heard of the town of Vulcan and when I said I had a surprise destination for him that day, that was one of the guesses he had in the back of his mind. So as soon as he saw the signs for Vulcan he got all smiley and said he knew where we were going. But our next destination was no secret at all – we were going to Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Raise your hands if you’re Canadian and you’ve never heard of this park.
I sure hadn’t and what a shock and a travesty that is! When I asked Steve to tell me what Dinosaur Provincial Park is all about, he first said that it is like Canada’s answer to the Grand Canyon.
This changed my perspective right away since what I had been picturing was a theme park full of life-size cartoonish dinosaurs propped up in menacing stances.
Actually the park is all about real dinosaurs, the ones that walked the earth millions of years ago and left behind their fossils for us to ponder. Dinosaur Provincial Park “is home to the largest concentration of Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils in the world.” Wow! More fossil species have been discovered there than any other single location in the world! It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Now you’re beginning to see why it’s a travesty that I’d never heard of it. Not to mention, it’s also a super cool landscape. Here we were driving through the prairies for the first time, in awe of the vast flatness and the bright yellow fields of canola:
And then BAM, badlands:
No joke. One minute we were surrounded by flat field upon flat field and the next we’re driving down a hill into a canyon of erosion.
It was evening by the time we arrived at the park and we’d decided to stay at the campground in the park itself, down in the badlands. Upon deciding on a campground, my only (urgent) stipulation was that it had to have a shower. Steve felt the same. Showers have become somewhat of a luxury for us. Some campgrounds don’t have them (surprisingly! I sure was surprised anyway), and other campgrounds have showers, but they’re just so gross that you’d rather forego than feel dirtier coming out than going in. Still other campgrounds will make you pay for the privilege of showering – I really thought cleanliness was one of life’s necessities like food and shelter, but I guess that’s just me. This particular campground charged $2.00 for an 8-minute shower, to be paid only in loonies. Well do you think that we had a single loonie between the two of us? I really could have cried if I was the crying type.
The next day we parked Amelia in the Visitor Centre parking lot and then took our bikes into the badlands and did a self-guided bike tour of the park. This seemed to be the best option. Walking the whole thing would take a long time and it’s hot like the desert out there – also, there’s snakes and scorpions, but the latter supposedly hide underground during the day. Driving you miss out on snapping photos whenever you want because you’re not allowed to stop except at the designated viewing areas. So if you go to Dinosaur Provincial Park, I recommend bringing your bike!
There’s a couple stops along the way where you can view actual dinosaur bones in the ground. Steve always teases me that I hate museums. I don’t, in theory. I just find all those amazing artifacts lose their interest for me when they’re taken out of their context. So seeing the bones where they were found, and imagining how the scientists who discovered them must have felt, was exciting. Not to mention that they found whole new species of dinosaurs here. Steve told me about the Albertosaurus and I laughed at him because I thought he was joking. But there really is a dinosaur called that, and it was discovered here at Dinosaur Provincial Park, along with 34 other new dinosaur species and over 300 species of plants and animals.
After biking around the badlands for about an hour, I convinced Steve that we had to bike up the big hill we drove down into the park on, to get a view of the entire badlands from up high. When we drove down the night before, we’d noticed signs saying not to stop on the road, so driving didn’t appear to be an option. Begrudgingly, Steve agreed and up the hill I kept throwing back Calvin and Hobbes dad sayings like “exercise is good for us!” and “it builds character!” Meanwhile he’s the one carrying all of our stuff. Don’t you wish you were married to me? 😉 But the view really did make it worth it:
Of course, driving back out of the park, we realized that we’d missed the big lookout parking lot at the top because it was so dark when we arrived the night before. Oops…
We made good use of that parking lot, since we discovered we could catch internet waves, travelling across the flat prairies, from that height. We had our lunch there and spent about an hour doing internet-y things.
I got a kick out of that sign because it looked to me like it was specifically for Amelia. So that’s where we parked 😀 After eating and playing on the internet I was all full of vim and vinegar and decided to jump up on a rock sporting a plaque for the park to get a better view.
The look on my face is slightly crazed in that picture because I was mid-jump and realized at that moment that I wasn’t going to make it to the top.
Eventually I made it up by climbing up the side and was rewarded with a lovely view.
A nice lady saw us taking photos of each other and offered to take one of the both of us. We don’t have too many of those! Stick two introverts in a crowd of willing people and they still won’t ask someone to take their photo.
I look pretty awkward in that photo, but it’s the only one we have so I guess I’ll just have to live with that. I wasn’t about to ask her to take a second one 😉 I will draw your attention to the pretty shirt I bought at Value Village on Victoria Island back in B.C. for a whopping $5. I love it to pieces and it didn’t give me bed bugs (I thought of that the whole time I was in the store and touched as little as possible!).
Well, that’s all I have to say about the Day of Steve. We continued on our journey after that and hopped back onto the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). More on that in the next post!