Trip #19: Hussar, Alberta, to Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

November 3rd, 2009

The poll is closed, the votes are in, and it’s … complicated! We had only four votes: two for East, one for North, and then one for Anywhere but East. The thing that complicates it is that I was the vote for Anywhere but East, and I kind of feel guilty for getting myself involved when the votes would otherwise trend East. So I’m going to do something I haven’t done yet and call executive power: we’re heading East! (It’s also the week of my girlfriend, Heather’s, birthday, and she wanted to go East after hearing where we were going) We’re off to Dinosaur Provincial Park!

If we’d gone South, we would have gone to Enchant, Alberta. If we’d been voted West, the way we came, we would have stopped back in Strathmore, Alberta. If we had gone North, we would have ended up at Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. I did consider sending us Northeast, which would have taken us to Hannah, Alberta.

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As I mentioned, it’s Heather’s birthday this week; with all of the activities we have planned this week, we probably won’t make it to the Park until Saturday. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts on dinosaurs, or this part of Alberta? Good road trip songs? Leave it in the comments below, or share it on Facebook or Twitter with the #NSEW hashtag!

Heading out of Hussar: North? South? East? West?

October 30th, 2009

Wow, I’ve been derelict in my duties! I’ve been so busy that I didn’t have a chance to contact someone from Hussar, Alberta, and – unfortunately – there’s just not a lot more to find out about it on the Internet! So that means we’re going to get back on the series of tubes called the Internet and head in a different direction. Will we continue towards Nova Scotia? Head up towards the Northwest Territories and the North Pole? Continue hanging out in Canada’s Prairies? Your vote will help decide our next direction!

We’ll close this poll sometime during the weekend. As always, bonus points for leaving a comment letting us know why you’ve chosen the direction you did!

Stop #18: Hussar, Alberta

October 22nd, 2009

Hey, Hussar, Alberta! It’s taken us a while, but we’ve finally made it. I blame Regretsy, The Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time, and Mental Floss. And my day job.

Hussar, Alberta, like our previous stops of Milo, Alberta, and Marlin, Washington, is infinitesimal in comparison to the wide open grasslands surrounding them. Hussar has a population of about 160 people, and – judging from what I can find via my Internet searches – they’ve only posted about seven photos of Hussar online.

Hussars Park

Hussar's Park

For such a small village, they seem to have some pretty nice amenities – a high school, an ice rink/curling center, and a town park. If you read our post on Milo, Alberta, the idea that such a tiny community would have all this stuff should sound familiar. I’m not sure if it’s the case with Milo or not, but I found an answer to this that I wasn’t expecting: the community finances itself by volunteering at a casino. Or at least it did: members of Hussar’s community would volunteer at a casino in Calgary in order to take a cut of the profits, but that casino has since shut down. If you read the article I linked to, you’ll see that they generated a surprising amount of revenue for themselves doing this. I should point out that volunteering at casinos is not the town’s economic base; like a lot of smaller communities, it’s agriculture.

In learning about Hussar, I was curious about its name, specifically what it had to do with Prussian light calvary. The area was initially settled by loose bands of cattle ranchers in the late 1800s, but at some point around 1910, a company of German immigrants – most of them former army officers – bought a lot of the land, took up farming, and named it after the Hussars of the German army. When World War I broke out, many of these immigrants left Hussar in an effort to return to – and fight for – Germany, but they were all detained. Ownership of the Germans’ eventually went to other local families, but the Hussar name stuck.

That’s about all I have for you for Hussar. I’ve found a “Hussar” group on Facebook, so maybe I can find a citizen to tell us a little more about the town, but we’ll have to wait and see.

One thing that I can tell you about Hussar, though, is that they’ve got a pretty good history of themselves available on-line (case in point: this page), which is something that a lot of other communities lack. When I first started #N?S?E?W? out, I was intrigued by the challenge of seeing how much I could find out about a place, just by poking around online – remote-seeing, if you will. Really, that’s the heart of this project: using our current technologies to tour a place as faithfully as we can. A few of the posts I’ve written have fooled people into thinking that I was actually in their town, hanging out and finding out what I could. No, I’m still here in Portland, Oregon, at my dining room table. I’m using teleportation. I’m using virtual reality. I’m using Google Streetview. Anyway, it’s been really interesting to me to find what is – or isn’t – available about different cities online, and one of the things that I am surprised by is that sometimes there’s a lot more information about a smaller community more readily available than in larger communities. Anyway.

Thoughts on Hussar? More knowledge than I’m dropping? Suggestions for road trip music as we travel through the Prairies of Alberta? As always, leave it in the comments!

Trip #18: Calgary, Alberta, to Hussar, Alberta

October 17th, 2009

We’ve closed this round of polling, and our resulting direction is East! East is going to take us to the town of Hussar, Alberta. We only had six votes this time: three for East, two for West (one of those was mine), and one for South. No one voted for North, but if that was the direction that we were voted in, we would have gone to Innisfail, Alberta. Leading votes for South would have taken us to Claresholm, Alberta, while a winning West choice would have landed us in Banff, Alberta.

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Does anyone know anything about Hussar, Alberta? Ever heard of it before? Have any suggestions for virtual road trip music? Let us know in the comments!

Heading out of Calgary – What’s Our Next Direction?

October 15th, 2009

It’s that time again, that time when we pack up our interest in one town and head on to the next. I’m a little sad that we have to leave Calgary so soon – I feel like we hardly got a chance to scratch its surface – but we’ve got a whole world to get around, so we can’t stay anywhere for too long. You probably know how this goes by now, so vote for the next direction you’d like to see us head-in:

Got a reason why you voted the way you did? Why not share it with the rest of us in the comments! I’ll be closing the poll around Noon PST on Saturday, October 17th.

Stop #17: Calgary, Alberta – Downtown

October 12th, 2009

How are you enjoying Calgary so far? Today we’re going check out Calgary’s downtown core.

Downtown Calgary in the early 50s

Downtown Calgary in 1968 or 1969.

Just look at that Tower! It must have been so strange back when the Calgary Tower was first built, when it was three or four times as tall as anything around it. As a matter of fact, for a really brief time period, it was the tallest structure in Canada. It must have been weird to be a Calgarian at that time and look up at that thing and think, Holy cow – I’m living in the future! You know what else people thought were really futuristic back then? Skyways.

I’m really fascinated by skyways: to me they’re a symbol of a mid-20th century Utopian ideal that looks bleak and depressing half a century later. They are a relic from a time period that envisioned future cities as completely enclosed, self-contained environments, where humans would be safe from nature’s elements and technology’s pollutants; a more realizable practice than building domes over cities. They make me think of indoor food courts, depressing office towers, and motorists that hate the sight of pedestrians. I mention all of this because downtown Calgary has the world’s largest system of skyways.

Calgary’s system is call Plus 15, because the bridges start about 15 feet above the roadway. This naming strikes me as a little strange, because I thought Canada was on the metric system, but since the City of Calgary cites that as the origin of the name, I’m sticking to it. The system has a length of 16 m (10 miles) and contains 59 bridges, although the system’s not fully interconnected. I’m going to avoid using the +15s myself, but since it is only 21º F (-6º C) out, I’ll totally understand if you use them (here’s a map if you need one). Either way, it’s worth finding an entrance so we can check out the funny logo they have for these things.

The first +15 showed up in 1970, just two years after the opening of the Calgary Tower. Calgary must have seemed so space-age back then! The +15s have continued to grow in number ever since. They’ve also grown in size: there are  double-decker and triple-decker sky bridges (referred to as +30s and +45s, respectively). The city has an active plan for increasing the number of them whenever new buildings are being constructed in the downtown core.

Looking over Stephen Avenue from a +15

Whether we take the street level or the sky bridges, we’ll head on over to Stephen Avenue. Stephen Avenue is downtown Calgary’s National Historic Site and contains many examples of Calgary’s late 19th century and early 20th century architecture. It’s also now a pedestrian mall, and features these – ahem – iconic sculptures:

It’s also been the site for another type of public sculpture:

I thought that I had written something about this sort of tacky public fund-raising project when we were visiting Spokane, but I guess I ended up dropping it from the final draft. Apparently, these cow sculpture decorating competitions are part of a specific Swiss company, CowParade, so we have them to thank for this type of thing. Calgary’s project is not actually part of the official CowParade business, but the intent is the same and they bought the fiberglass models from the same company. They provided theirs with a name that really makes me cringe: “Udderly Art“. Ouch.

Also, since its a pedestrian mall it does end up with its fair share of buskers, weirdos, and  this junk, but it’s also got the cool old buildings:

One of my favorite finds along Stephen Avenue are the gargoyles in the Alberta Hotel. These are unusual gargoyles in that they came from a newspaper building (the Calgary Herald) and so instead of depicting stone monsters, they depicted caricatures of  the employees that would work for a newspaper. The building was torn down in the early 1970s, but casts were made of some of the original gargoyles, and at some point afterward they were installed in the Alberta Hotel.

I’m completely amazed by these things, especially considering that they were sculpted back in 1912! I’ve got a special fondness for the guy in the picture below, as type-setters used to be referred to as “printer’s devils“, which helps to explain his features I think. A more full accounting of these whimsical (a word I rarely use without cynicism, but here is genuine) characters can be found at this blog.

Well, that’s what I’ve got for you for downtown Calgary. There’s tons more, but we just don’t have the time to get to all of it. If there’s something that I’ve left out that you think people should really know about, or if there’s something I got terribly wrong, why not leave it in the comments?

We’ll check some more of Calgary out before we leave for our next destination, but to do it we’ll probably need to get out of downtown. Between this post and next, we’ll be riding on the second oldest Light Rail Train system in North America, the C-Train.

Stop #17: Calgary, Alberta

October 11th, 2009

Hey: Calgary! It took us a while (I blame the day job), but we’ve finally made it! Calgary, with a population of one million people, is the largest city we’ve traveled to so far. It’s actually a little intimidating to write about because I’m not sure where to start… I think we’re going to start out easy here and take a look at all the touristy stuff before trying to dig a little deeper in finding out the personality of Calgary. With that in mind, we’ll kick off with the most eye-catching tourist attraction in Calgary, the Calgary Tower!

When looking at the Calgary Tower, my first impulse is to make comparisons to Seattle’s Space Needle. The Space Needle is the earlier of the two, opening in 1962 for Seattle’s Worlds Fair, while the Calgary Tower opened in 1968 in honor of Canada’s centennial. The Calgary Tower is the taller of the two, but not by too much: 191 meters (627 feet) over 184 meters (605 feet). They both have revolving restaurants, and observation decks, but the Calgary Tower has one thing that the Space Needle does not: glass floors.

So, I’m just going to stay down here on the ground while you guys check out that glass floor, okay? I don’t care that those glass panes can hold the weight of two hippos, I think I’ll just feel a bit better if I stay on the ground… Actually, maybe while you guys are all off being aerial daredevils, I’ll drive out and check out the Calgary Corn Maze. I like this maze because A) it looks a lot more complex than Portland’s corn maze, B) I really like petting goats, and C) “Our corn maze equation for 2009 is ‘more attractions, more animals, more corn, and more tasty treats = even more fun.'” That’s a pretty convincing equation.

Speaking of more animals, would you like to accompany me to the Calgary Zoo? They’ve got a whole bunch of things that the Oregon Zoo doesn’t, like:



red pandas,

giant anteaters and – are you ready for it? – a baby gorilla!

I guess there’s also something else in Calgary that involves animals… some kind of annual event… oh, that’s right: the Calgary Stampede. The first Calgary Stampede rodeo competition was held in 1912, and it is now the largest rodeo in the world. It’s actually also more than the rodeo; it’s Calgary’s annual exhibition, hosting such things as agricultural competitions, stage shows and a midway. We won’t be attending on this trip, however: the Stampede occurs during July.

We could drop by the TELUS World of Science, Calgary’s equivalent of OMSI:

Or if athletics is more your kind of thing, we could head on over to the Canada Olympic Park, built for the 1988 Winter Olympics (the logo for that year was pretty awesome, btw):

Or, if visiting the Calgary Tower wasn’t exciting enough for you, we can go to western Canada’s largest amusement park, Calaway Park.

Whoa, each of those rides look like less fun than the first. You guys ride ’em, I’ll just be playing a game of Roll-A-Ball or chilling at Fry Town.

I think that’s a pretty good summary of the tourist-y things that we can do here in Calgary. For our next post, I think we’ll take a look at Calgary’s downtown, maybe ride around on the public transportation, and check out a few of the different neighborhoods.

Did I leave something out? Something else you want to do while we’re here? Share it in the comments!

Trip #17: Milo, Alberta, to Calgary, Alberta

October 3rd, 2009

We’re off to Calgary! In our last poll, we had nine votes: two for North, three for East, and four for Calgary. If the votes had gone for West, we would have gone to Longview, Alberta; if North was the main vote, we would have traveled to Drumheller, Alberta; and if East had won out, we would have gone to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.

Some of you have been to Calgary before, right? Maybe you even know someone that lives there? Or maybe you know someone in Banff who knows someone in Calgary? I’d really like to find a citizen of Calgary to act as a tour guide and maybe write a post about their town. If you’ve got any leads for me, toss me an email at, will you?

I’m pretty excited about going to Calgary – it will be the largest city we’ve been to yet!

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Moving on from Milo: North? South? East? West? Calgary?

October 1st, 2009

It’s time for us to head out of Milo, Alberta, but this time I thought I’d throw in a twist. If you follow this project at all, then you probably know that we only travel 100km (about 60 miles) at a time in roughly cardinal directions. Milo, however, is almost exactly 100km southeast of  Calgary, Alberta. It seems like a shame to omit a chance to visit a big city just because it’s not exactly North or West, so we’re going to throw Calgary in as an option on this poll:

As always, you gain Good Traveler Points (redeemable for.. uh…) when you use the comments to tell us why you voted the way you did!

Stop #16: Milo, Alberta

September 30th, 2009

Welcome to the village of Milo, Alberta! Maybe the above photo or the word “village” tipped you off, but Milo is extremely small: population 110. For such a sparsely populated area, though, Milo’s got the amenities: a community hall, a hotel, tennis courts, a school (which is featured in one of the below videos), a skating arena, and a curling rink! (To any Canadian readers: many Americans – myself included – look at curling with some combination of fascination, curiosity and amusement.) All of these features apparently pale in comparison to the grain elevator, which is the most photographed building of Milo that you can find on the Internet:

The Great Grain Elevator of Milo, Alberta

Milo also has their own website, but unfortunately, it appears to be abandoned. I wrote to the email address on the site asking for information, optimistic in my belief that some town booster would get back to me, but that was five days ago and I haven’t heard anything since. This is a little problematic, because I’ve found such limited amount of information about the town that I don’t have much more to say.


When I think of small towns like Milo, I always wonder what people do to entertain themselves. Thankfully for me, there’s folks like the guys at MiloMovieMakers that provide me with answers:

So… there you go. It’s a short stop this time around. Can you find anything interesting about Milo, Alberta? Post it in the comments, or tag it on Twitter with #NSEW and let us know!