I almost didn't come to Edmonton. I liked Calgary so much from my visit a few years back that I thought I might go back and skip Edmonton. I'm glad I didn't. Great city. It's clean, vibrant and rich in natural resources and history. Edmonton has the working class feel of Pittsburgh, the greenspace of Portland and the history of boom and bust of Chicago.
Within Edmonton is North America's largest mall (West Edmonton Mall- 800 stores, 5.3 million square feet, an indoor amusement park, the world's largest indoor waterpark, skating rink, etc, etc), the largest connected urban green space in North America (22 parks situated along the North Saskatchewan River suitable for running, biking, skiing), lots of golf courses in town, the University of Alberta and nifty little neighborhoods. Guess what Edmonton loves? Hockey. My first turn off of Canada HWY 16 took me onto Wayne Gretzky Drive and pass the Rexall Place where the Oilers play and just off Jasper Ave downtown is 99 Street, also know as Hull Road.
I am staying at the Hostelling International Edmonton, located in the hip, old and trendy neighborhood of Old Strathcona. Strathcona's reminds me of the Virginia Highlands in Atlanta. On a Saturday night, that's where people come to see and be seen. Punk, hipster, trendy all come out to Wythe Avenue on a Friday or, in my case, a Saturday night. Guys on motorcycles make lots of noise, while others arrive and park their bicycles. Men pop their collars and show their tattoos while women wear their tallest heels and most fashionable accessories. It makes for interesting people watching.
1) Had lunch in Innisfree, Alberta yesterday. Grant, the owner of the cafe/bookstore/video center/convenience store proudly tells me there are 223 people in town. He convinces me to try pyrogy, Ukrainian style. I liked. Gabe, who is a "newcomer" in town (he moved to Innisfree 6 years ago and just celebrated his 82 birthday) comes in and the main topic is how insanely hot it is outside (about 83 degrees). They should come to the south.
2) I've never actually been in a tornado. At least I don't think. I have a theory that there was one near me as I camped near Kearney, Nebraska. But I can't prove it. The radio the next morning mentioned the local twisters the night before. It was windy and rainy outside my tent. Of course, I slept through it all.
Last night, I was walking back along Wythe Ave and the night sky became even darker and more ominous. And then the winds came. Not just gusts, I'm talking gale winds (reported 104km/hr winds = 65 mph). The clouds alone were the most awesome: thick horizontal billows moving very rapidly. Blew over potted plants , signs and threw enough dust up to temporarily blind me. Pea sized hail starts to fall. Get back to the hostel and the attendant says that there are tornado warnings and tells me I can go into the basement if I want. It was intense. Power goes out and we don't get it back until about 10:00 AM.
In the morning, the streets are littered with leaves and branches. Power was still out. Apparently, the storm made a mess of downtown. The CN Tower sustained lots of damage. The storm made Canadian national news, though I doubt many American outlets picked it up.
Edmonton Journal Article
- Nerd Alert: I like history. I toured the Provincial Legislative building. I love the tours they give. They are FREE and offer so much information on history, architecture and politics. I always learn a lot. A lot more than if I walked through by myself. Today was the third legislative building I have toured (Victoria and Winnipeg are the others). My tour guide asked how many tours I have been in the US and I shamefully admitted none. Next time I'm in Raleigh, I'll have to try to do that.
- Terrible night of sleep last night. Those who know me know I am a heavy sleeper. Even that talent could not help me last night. It wasn't the wind and rain. It wasn't the heat of the room. There was a guy in our 8 bed room who must have sleep apnea. All night, it sounded like he was choking. The Japanese guy in the room was pretty happy to see that the guy looked like he checked out today. One of the downsides to hostelling.
- Edmonton is hosting "Taste of Edmonton" this week. My first "Taste of" experience was in Calgary. If Asheville is not doing this, it really should. A festival with Sunny Point, Tupelo Honey, Doc Chey's, Mamacitas, Barleys, Asheville Pizza, Flying Frog and even Grove Park would really showcase culinary Asheville. And you could have a Bier Garden with Highland, Greenman, Wedge, Pisgah and French Broad.