Make the McKenzie Connection!

Oh, Canada…damn You're just like us, without the routine mass murder and the widespread ignorance

And look, you’ve got a Lake Agnes. In Alberta there, eh? Agnes was my mom’s name, so of course we had to go see. She’s a beauty, set apart and overlooked, maybe. And an uphill 3.5-kilometer hike to reach, a little over 2 miles. But with a sweet tea house at the end of the trail, welcoming you when you get there.

We were in Alberta for about 10 days, including for Canada Day on July 1, and it was one of those trips that make you sigh if you know what I mean. We stayed in Calgary and Canmore and went up into sections of Banff and Yoho national parks. We’ve been to Vancouver, Victoria, and other parts of British Columbia before, but it was our first time in Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.

But I have to say, it kind of hurt my heart to be up there. Because that part of Canada, at least, feels like how we used to think of ourselves in America: Youthful, energetic, smart, tolerant, and welcoming. We were good-natured, but tough if we had to be.

We lost that sense of ourselves, thanks to the vile Florida buffoon, his cynical enablers, and his absolutely stupid followers. We hope we can get it back. Canada still has it, thank goodness.

Oh, Canada’s not perfect, of course. I’m not trying to say that. For one thing, the print on their street signs is tiny and really hard to read until you’re damn near in the intersection. Which is an outrage.

Then again, maybe Canadians just have better vision than us, so to speak. I can barely see the puck zizzing around when I watch a hockey game, which is the only thing they show on TV. Which isn’t true. They also show the Toronto Blue Jays, the baseball club.

But they do other screwy things, too. For one thing, they don’t refer to their streets as Sixth Street or 25th Avenue. No, they call them Six Street and 25 Avenue. No “th” on the end, which makes no sense and will probably lead to an international incident if they don’t knock it off.

Get out on the highway and the Canadians mess with you again. You’re revving along in the rental car thinking, whoa, this is nice, cruising at 100 and haven’t even topped the 110 maximum speed. Then you remember you’re only going 62, on account of the metrics they use up there in the Great White North.

Which is another thing — it’s not so white anymore. I saw more Sikh turbans and Muslim headscarves in a week than I see in a year in Portland. The Indian, Southeast Asian, and African diasporas are clearly present. The province is filled with apparent immigrants — the parents speaking their native languages and the kids easily jumping back and forth between that and English. Sound familiar?

But the people are effin nice up there, that part really is true. Well, except you’re more likely to get tailgated on the highways in Alberta than in Oregon, I think. Some of the Canadians come up closer behind you, faster than I was accustomed to. But it didn’t seem they were driving with the rage or intent to dominate that you see from drivers here. Canadians intend to pass when you move over to the right. Which you will.

It’s more of a European style of highway driving. Make your passes in the outer left fast lane and then get out of the way of the even faster driver who’s behind you. I didn’t feel ill at ease driving. Calgary was pretty easy to navigate, too, and it has more than a million people.

It was a really nice trip. My wife planned it and posted about it on Facebook, with some stunning photos. Those of you who follow her there and subscribe here most likely saw them. It’s a beautiful place, the Canadian Rockies, and we just saw a slice of it. The congenial, cultured cities and towns of Calgary, Canmore, and Banff, are contained by jagged peak after jagged peak and pocketed by the series of dramatic mountain lakes colored blue-green by glacier water breaking down rock. Louise and Agnes, Emerald, Bow, Peyto, and Moraine, all of them. And we didn’t even get up to Jasper or swing in to Edmonton.

Eric Mortenson is a Pacific Northwest writer who spent 37 wondrous years at Oregon newspapers. Per Eric: “I’m a husband to one wife, dad to four kids and a useful human to two dogs and two cats.” Subscribe for free at: [email protected].


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