That long drive to Cochrane (after getting lost but that’s another story) was so worth it. I was exhausted after driving 673km to get there from Jasper, via Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. It’s a good thing that the roads are long and straight when you are on the highway because the km’s drop by quickly. The traffic even in the slow lanes moves at a speed that would be frightening to the normal Kiwi. The slow lane, furthermost to the right still sits between 110 – 120 km an hour and so if you happen to move lane closer to the centre line you are faced with the prospect of becoming Stirling Moss! I generally tried to stick in the slow lane but there was a lane couple of times I had to get up around 140 km/ph to pass someone in the slow lane. There isn’t much room for error if you miss the off ramp and I only saw a couple of Sheriffs with people pulled up along the way so maybe the state department turns a blind eye to all that speeding?
Cochrane is a little town about 18km west of Calgary, full of Western heritage. Pulling up on the main street surrounded by all those heritage buildings, I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia you could never expect to feel in the concrete jungle of a busy city. The street was full of hanging flower baskets trailing healthy specimens of petunias and lobelias, there were neatly tended flower beds and green leafy trees blowing softly in the breeze. The streets were littered with big arse pickup trucks and there was a line of people spilling onto the pavement waiting to be served ice-creams from a nearby parlour. Yep that’s what they call them here folks – an ice cream parlour. Everybody on the main street seemed to be eating ice cream, either from a cone or a tub, so I expect the shop that was dispensing them must have a bit of a reputation for the goods in these parts. I never went near. I became lactose intolerant a couple of years ago and my self-control is pathetic at best and I didn’t want to spend today with buyer’s remorse trying to find a WC on what is sure to be a hideously nervewracking drive to the Calgary airport to fly out to Portland in a couple of hours.
Surrounded by working ranches, the town here was granted a site back in 1805 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and it was named in honour of Senator Matthew Henry Cochrane, a rancher who was from the area. Silhouettes of his face adorn the lamp posts on the main street . Years later as it grew from a hamlet into a small town, it was home to a stone quarry, 4 brick plants and a sawmill that offered employment to its growing population. The evidence of all that industry is clear on the beautiful buildings that line the main street illustrating the western heritage it is noted for.
There were a few cowboys roaming about in hats lowered well down on their foreheads, and the bar at the Rockyview Hotel had a couple of regulars sporting moustaches that I expect you could only find in ranching country. The Hotel isn’t the only one in the town but it is well supported by the locals and the staff do their best to look after you. The pub is dark, big and full of the typical things you would expect in such an establishment. There are three big pool tables, a corner full of slot machines and an entertainment area set up for the regular open mike nights , DJ’s , or visiting bands that are offered as part of the entertainment programme.
I don’t normally play the pokie machines, but I expect the fact that I had enjoyed a couple of stiff gins and a Bloody Mary as I digested the day’s events might have loosened my purse a bit. I put a $5 bill into a machine that was sporting some type of Gothic looking goddess on the screen and willed it to pay out. It did actually after a few minutes to the tune of $116 CAD. I thought best I quit while ahead, so printed my receipt from the machine, collected my loot and gave the barmaid $5 for her trouble . She was thrilled. Rumour has it that the wages for hospo workers isn’t that great here and so they are really appreciative of any tips you do give them. It’s a concept that is foreign to us as Kiwis as a rule, and something that you really need to factor in when you are planning to visit here or the USA. They politely call it a gratuity and you are expected to tip between 10-15% on top of the cost of the bill. The prices advertised never include taxes either so you can expect the real cost to be much more once you add it all up.
I didn’t mind paying $4.50 for the Bloody Mary though just before the happy hour closed. They are real big on host responsibility in these parts it appears, and the drink came topped with a cube of steak, rasher of bacon and slice of lime. It was heavily spiced but one of the fun things about traveling is getting the opportunity to eat and drink things you haven’t before. I enjoyed it but won’t be replacing my G&T tipple of choice anytime soon.
I will be returning to this little piece of paradise though the next time I am in this fabulous country.