Sunday, August 20, 2017
Today was another early wake-up call to hike the famous Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park. We left Suz behind to rest her ankle and Marissa to sleep. For the record, I got Mar up before 6 am two days in a row, a claim to fame that I’m fairly certain I share with no one. So she get’s a break today. Stina, Linds and I opened up the Chili’s waffle bar and then drove down the Bow Valley Parkway to the trail head. For the record, I now can say that I’ve been both the first and last patron of the day in a Chili’s. I probably shouldn’t advertise that too much. Going early paid off, as there was hardly any foot traffic on the trail. We hiked to the lower falls, the upper falls, and then decided to add on the hike to the “ink pots”. What are ink pots you ask? We had no fucking clue. So why not hike a few more miles and find out? Along the way we saw what we were pretty sure was fresh looking bear shit, but no actual bears. Given the lack of other hikers at the early hour, we took the giant turds as a warning and yelled “loud noises” every few minutes, just in case. Long story short, the ink pots are seven jade-green springs located in a beautiful, expansive meadow above the Johnston Canyon flanked by mountains on every side and a river running through the center. They differ in color based on the speeds at which they fill from the underground springs. The awesome scenery alone was well worth the extra five kilometers. On our way back down the trail we noticed more and more tourists who had finally dragged their asses out of bed. By the time we reached the lower falls, which is the easiest part of the hike where most people turn around, the path coming in was looking like the Canadian Trail of Tears. Apparently if you arrive anytime after 10 am the “hike” resembles more of a line for a ride at Disneyland. Thank you once again, Mom, for teaching me to wake my ass up early and get shit done. We ran out of there as fast as we could. Stina even stepped on a child on her way out. She later said that “it” got in her way. This is why we are friends.
Our original plan was to pick up Mar and Suz and head out to see some lakes, but the sky was looking grim and the views would have been shit. So we pushed that to tomorrow and instead opted for a leisurely afternoon of shopping, lunching and chilling in the grotto. We hit up Bear Street Tavern for lunch, which we fully expected to be mediocre but actually ended up surprising us all. If you are ever in Banff, go to Bear Street Tavern for the pizza, and stay for the chili oil. That chili oil might even beat jack-in-the-box buttermilk house sauce for condiment of choice. But this is just race for second place, as everyone knows Taco Bell hot sauce truly has my heart. After lunch we walked around the shops on Banff Ave., which are tourists traps but have some funny shit. I’ll give you one guess where we went to get our chocolate fix – that’s right, Troop 638 made a beeline for the Hot Chocolate Twins of Banff. Linds tried to ask one of them where they were going out for “locals night” tonight, but the inquiry was unsuccessful. Never send in the married chick who’s been out of the game for a decade to do a single girl’s job. Bless her heart for trying.
By this point it was about 3 pm and we had yet to have a drink. Being the problem solvers that we are, we headed back to the hotel and drank large plastic solo cups of wine in the grotto. After a soak in the worlds most aggressive hotel hot tub we took a few hours to relax (I blogged) and got ready for dinner. Apparently Sunday night is “locals night” in Banff . I’m thinking that locals night could go one of two ways – really awesome, or really fucking weird. But if you are drunk enough, is there even a difference? We caught the bus back to the main drag and had about 10 minutes to kill before our dinner reservation. What to do…what to do shot…did someone say shots!? We hit up the bar at Elk and Oarsman for a quick round of fireball in true whooo-girl fashion. The bartender asked us if we were on a bar crawl, at which point I immediately regretted not planning a Banff Ave. bar crawl.
We headed across the street to the Balkan, the Greek restaurant in town, for dinner. Word must have gotten around that the wicked witches of Banff were coming, because we were led to a table in the very back of the restaurant. Fine by me, I don’t enjoy the dirty looks other restaurant patrons give me for saying “fuck” in front of their children any more than they enjoy hearing their children repeat it the next day. I’ll gladly chill in the back on my broomstick and enjoy the freedom of adult conversion, thank you very much. After getting the ball rolling earlier at stop #1, we ordered rounds of doubles and settled in for a leisurely dinner of drinking, eating, and talking about anything that falls within the category of inappropriate dinner conversion. No one smashed any plates and yelled “Opa!”, so that was disappointing. But the food and service were overall satisfactory and we left happy and appropriately sauced to crash locals night.
Our big night out started at 10 pm. We were completely aware of the fact it was about two hours too early by Banff standards, but when you are in your thirties you get drunk on your own time frame. And my schedule usually includes being in bed by midnight. You all know day drinking is my sport of choice, so give me some credit for actually making it past sunset! We headed to Wild Bill’s again because I still wanted to ride that damn bull, but it was completely dead and the bull wasn’t even running. We chatted with the bouncer a bit who informed us that Mel’s was the place to start “early” on Sunday night in Banff. We decided to take shots before heading out, because why the hell not? The bartender informed us that our new bouncer friend was headed down our way to burning man in a few weeks, where we would be sober all week because he doesn’t drink. My gut told me that a bar recommendation from someone who is willing to camp for a week in the desert completely sober might not be appropro for this particular group of girls’ tastes, but we decided to give Mel’s a try anyway. Always trust your gut…
Mel’s is short for Melissa’s Misteak. I had heard of it as a popular breakfast place, but had no idea it turned into a bar at night. I think the Sunday night scene at Mel’s can be more accurately described as “part-time seasonal workers who currently live locally night”. One girl was wearing a scrunchie. On purpose. After 1992. That made me want to stay for a round just see other forms of wildlife in their natural habitat. I wonder if tourists at home think the same thing about me when they see me out in sweat pants? Luckily I don’t give a shit. In the end, I think we were a solid seven years too old for this particular bar on this particular night. Every girl there looked like a young Rory circa 2005. Zero chill, zero fashion sense and zero fucks. Trust me when I tell you, it’s a dangerous combination. If you are an early twenty-something looking for a summer job and some easy play in beautiful surroundings – Banff and Mel’s might be the spot for you. For us, it was a bit of a Misteak. See what I did there? I’m so punny.
We decided to make one final attempt and stopped at the Rose and Crown on our way home. The bouncer informed us that tonight is live country music night. JACKPOT. As fun as it is watching the pre-mating rituals of horny Canadian co-eds, some live country music in an old school, wood-paneled bar was more what I had in mind for my mountain vacation. I immediately hit the dance floor and made friends with the one man band. The name of the one man, I cannot remember, despite doing multiple fireball shots with him. He called us the “LA girls” and played anything we yelled at him. In the spirit of full disclosure, we did ask for Sweet Home Alabama and sang “Sweet Home Delta Gamma” while doing the DG wave. Troop 638 regressed into full-on sorority mode for a solid two minutes. I’m sure the locals were amused. One older gal was there with her husband, who wouldn’t dance with her, so we adopted her into our dance crew for the night. I also may have thrown ice cubes at a table of Canadian boys with bad teeth. They deserved it, I just can’t remember why. Drunk Rory is fickle and easily annoyed. Do not cross her. When the one man band of unknown name took an intermission shortly after midnight, the old bitches decided to throw in the towel and head home to Chateau Chili’s. I drunkenly ate a potato salad sandwich – which is exactly what it sounds like, potato salad on bread. And it was fucking delicious. Suz tried to pass of the loaf ends on me. I may be drunk, but I’m not blind. Ends are for peasants.
Monday, August 21, 2017
Today we fly home. But first, we blind ourselves by staring at an eclipse and check out some lakes. After our usual Chili’s waffle breakfast and check-out, we loaded up Bertha (our trusty Yukon) headed up to Tunnel Mountain to check out the view. We met some nice ladies from one of the Carolina’s (does it matter?) who let us borrow their super cool solar eclipse shades so we could view the phenomenon in all its glory. I can’t say I was terribly impressed. At one point Mar pointed out a cloud that was the exact same shape as South America and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly more impressed with that. The Mayans would have definitely sacrificed me for my lack of astronomical prowess.
We then made our way to Lake Minnewanka, which is a huge lake near Banff. It’s pretty, but definitely a poor man’s Lake Louise. We spotted some wildlife along the way – a family of what I think were Elk frolicking in a parking lot, until the parks ranger shooed them away. Every party has a pooper. We had about an hour to kill on our drive back to Calgary, so we stopped in Canmore for a stroll around the quaint down. Canmore is located between Banff and Calgary and is basically like the Jan Brady of Banff National Park – less attractive and outgoing than it’s big sister, Banff, but also far less intimidating and slightly more authentic.
Stina and I dropped of the girls at the airport and then took one last joyride in Bertha to fill up her tank. We dropped her off at Avis, said our goodbye’s and then settled in to the airport lounge, thanks again to Stina’s credit card benefits. Wouldn’t you know it, the free food in the lounge included a giant vat of gravy. Talk about a Canadian send-off! I went a little gravy wild, but hey, vacation calories don’t count.
The flight was uneventful. I was just thrilled I my bag wasn’t gate checked. But you didn’t think you were getting all the way through a Rory air travel story without a little drama did you? When I boarded the plane in Calgary I noticed there was no overhead space in the middle of the plane where I was sitting, so I stowed my bag towards the front of the plane. Upon de-boarding in LA, as I was waiting for my turn to file off when I noticed that someone had taken my fucking bag by mistake. When I finally got a chance to side-step a few people and get to the front of the plane to alert the flight attendant, she looked at me like I was a confused little girl and said “well, are you sure about that, honey?” As if three hours at 35,000 feet gave me amnesia. Just as the flight attendant gave me a look that said “you’re fucked, sweetheart” a jolly Canadian man marched back onto the plane and declared he had taken the wrong bag. But there was a solid thirty second of pure, unadulterated panic. And I am slightly traumatized. So some words of wisdom my friends: keep an eye on your bag at all times. I thought that was only necessary on chicken buses in Central America, but apparently it applies to air travel now too.
That wraps up the trip. It was an epic, action-packed five days that flew by way too fast. If you know the girls of Troop 638, please help me to harass them endlessly until they join me on another adventure. Now it’s time to get back to work and make some money to pay for the next one – Dubai and the Maldives here I come! Just one month away!