Time away from work: August 20-28, 2016

I really prefer to choose my own time off, and with no paid vacation, I usually don’t take much time away from work.  However, my workplace decided that there would be 4 weeks/year with no classes, so I guess that I have time off, ready or not!  Most people consider late August to be summer, but in this part of the world, the summer weather ends about 6 weeks after the solstice, just after the August long weekend.  There is usually a lot of nice weather ahead, but the nights and mornings are often quite cool.  This week has been no exception.  The mornings are in the low teens or single digits, Celsius!

My original plan was to visit Prince Albert National Park, in Saskatchewan, to paddle to Grey Owl’s cabin.  However, as the week approached, I had no paddling partner, so I altered my plans to travel around Alberta, to some of the many micro-breweries that have started up over the last few years.  As Friday approached, I had a sinus infection, so I took another couple of days to recuperate.  I visited a couple of local “Irish” pubs at the end of the week: O’Byrne’s on Whyte Avenue and The Druid, on Jasper Avenue.  The Druid was closing on the weekend, and all of their staff had been laid off with only a week’s notice, which is very sad!Sunday, I started off from Edmonton to Red Deer, only 90 minutes south.  I camped at the Lions’ campground on Riverside Drive.  It’s a very nice urban campground, although traffic in the area seems to have a speed problem.

Sunday, I started off from Edmonton to Red Deer, only 90 minutes south.  I camped at the Lions’ campground on Riverside Drive.  It’s a very nice urban campground, although traffic in the area seems to have a speed problem so it was noisy in the evening. I met a running friend at Troubled Monk Brewery, in an industrial area of the city.  What delicious beer they have!  Their seasonal beer was very interesting because it was made with syrup made from a European ground cover plant.  They also had a raspberry syrup.  Their Homesteader Saison is always one of my favourites, and they filled a 1-litre growler with that for me to bring home.  Apparently, I really like Belgian yeast! The weather was pleasant, and I visited a cocktail bar in Red Deer, To The Lost for supper, and to try one of their very interesting cocktails.  They had some really interesting appetizers: devilled eggs and curried chickpeas.  It was hard to choose one cocktail, but I wasn’t disappointed with the Inner Light that I tried.  The bar is right in the historic downtown, so I spent time exploring the city gardens down the street, where all of the Pokemon players were out to play.  What beautiful flowers they have in the garden.

Sunday evening was very pleasant, but sometime during the night, the wind began to howl, and the rain began to pour!  When I woke up, it was too wet and windy to make breakfast at my campsite, and the temperature was only 8 degrees. I picked up some groceries and saw patches of clear sky, so I paid for a second night of camping, and drove to Olds, 1 hour south, for my second brewery visit.  Olds College has been an agricultural college for more than 100 years. 3 years ago, they began to teach the fine art of brewing, which is part of the reason that there are so many fine new breweries opening around Alberta! They had 6 lovely beers on tap, including a couple of wheat beers.  The brewery is counter service only, but again, I chose a 1-litre growler and had them fill it to take along, as well as buying a couple of their beers from the cooler.  There was a lounge in the adjoining hotel where they sold their beer, and I sat and watched the rain pour down, while the wind tossed the tree branches around.  I visited a local Indian restaurant, where $10 bought me a lovely vegetarian feast and I explored the local Pokestops. After a couple of hours, I realized that I would be spending all of my time searching for dry places to spend time indoors and that just wouldn’t be a fun camping vacation.  The forecast showed that the bad weather (80K/hour winds!) would continue for at least 2 more days. Finally, I decided to return to Red Deer to pick up my soggy camping gear and continue back towards home.

It was still fairly early at that point, so I continued north towards Lacombe, with a really beautiful historic downtown.  I spent a couple of hours at an amazing restaurant and watering hole, Cilantro and Chive.  There were very few empty seats on a Monday night! I sat at the penny-decorated bar, watching the bartender make Caesar drinks that were topped with sandwiches and other crazy things.  Their beer selection was fantastic.  I found the Ribstone Creek/Norsemen Brewing collaboration of Rhubarb Saison that was so popular, but sadly, it wasn’t really my style. The burger (bison and blue cheese) was fantastic, though!

Now, it was Monday night, and I was already back at home for the week! However, it was nice having time off in the city to do things that I don’t usually have time for, even some housework! Tuesday night, my biking friends decided that they needed an early-week beer, so it was wonderful to socialize together!  My daughter and I had an amazing meal at The Local Omnivore on Thursday night.  Friday, I returned to Lacombe and met a new running friend to tour the town in style. We started out at Sweet Capone’s, a new Italian bakery that’s only open from 10-2, Tuesday-Thursday. It sounds like they sell out of their cannoli that early every day!  We tried a delicious variety, and she waited in the long lineup for me while I drove down.  After fuelling up, it was time to explore the town’s fantastic trail system.  Most of it was handmade by Bill Nielson, a local running legend (ran 100 marathons) who passed away 2 years ago.  One thing that I never realized was that Lacombe is full of many small lakes, and it was a great pleasure to ride around them on these lovely trails. After exploring the trails in town, we rode south towards Blackfalds, 10 kilometres south of us, on one of the only stretches of Trans Canada Trail that I’ve seen, connecting communities.  This trail was also amazing, and it went past the agricultural research station, farms, lakes, and acreages. A local cycling club was out enjoying the trail.  After 30 kilometres of riding, it was time to visit Blindman Brewing in Lacombe.  They have a lovely patio, and we enjoyed a plate of local cheese, sausage, and mustard while we sampled some really interesting flights of beer.  Our server helped me to remember the difference between a “Saison” (Belgian farmhouse ale, with yeast from the French region of Belgium), and “Session”, a lighter beer that would allow a group of friends to consume several rounds of beer at one session without any serious damage.  They do both extremely well, and I especially enjoy their sour beers.  I was able to try #5, which was only sold for growler fills and consumption at the brewery.  I also brought home their barrel-aged saison, which was magnificent.  I stopped by Cilantro & Chives to try their duck wings.  Although I’m crazy about duck, I thought these wings were a little salty for my liking.  Still, a dish that’s not available elsewhere

On Friday evening, many of the Edmonton cyclists met for a memorial ride to commemorate Isaak Kornelsen, a young Edmonton track star, who was killed by a cement truck driver, while riding to work. I returned to the city too late to ride but met at the small, memorial “parklet” where friends and family met to remember Isaak.  Afterwards, a group of us went for supper and beer at Situation Brewing, around the corner in Old Strathcona.  I tried a delicious pork steak accompanied by succotash, a fantastic bean dish.  It was a pleasant evening to socialize.  the weather was pleasant, and the windows were open in the bar.

On Saturday evening, friends from one of my canoe clubs organized a BBQ at their home in Beaumont, south of Edmonton.  That evening, we were back to the cold and rainy weather, so our group moved indoors to eat and visit.  Sunday was also a cool day, with rain at times.  I had a lot of time to organize my camping gear as well as reading and relaxing.  During free time, I visited the legislature a few times to play Pokemon, and it was really interesting to see how many people were roaming the lower grounds to play.  Some people dress in costumes, many people bring their babies, older kids or dogs and one man was walking his ferret.  When somebody finds an uncommon Pokemon, they yell out what it is, and there could be a hundred people or more who start to run in that direction to “Catch ’em all”.

The week wasn’t really what I had planned, but I think that I really needed some time to just relax and enjoy some different things than usual!

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