Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The entire family went to Calgary this past weekend. Used the Air-miles™, packed the bags with twice the amount of anything we'll need, and three times what we've ever thought of wanting, and took that one hour plane ride the the Texas of Canada.

Now, I mean this in a slightly derogatory way, but only if you're one to take affront to being called brash, loud, and in possession of far more ego than is healthy. I mean, people wear cowboy hats, in public, and not just during Halloween.

There is a very respectable showing of that slightly irksome sticker "Support our Troops" on seemingly every car. Now here I am, getting political, which I try to avoid as I know little about either side and am generally disappointed whenever I get behind one or the other. But "Support our Troops" has that... that strange air of meaning something very important and then meaning nothing at all. Like 'All Natural', 'Neutral Viewpoint' or 'Mainly Bug-free'.

Who doesn't support the men and women who put themselves in harm's way? But how? By voting for officials who will keep putting them in harms way? By sending them gift baskets? By thinking good thoughts? I guess on one side it's a bit... it sounds like the whole bumper sticker thing is made by cynical neo-cons to create a wedge issue, on the other, it certainly makes one remember that there are troops somewhere, representing our interests (hopefully), and trying as best as they can to avoid injury or death. It's good that there are reminders about that.

Wow, I really typed myself onto the fence on that one.

Back to Calgary. Land of the oil barons and conservative politics. Rodeos! Steak! Things vaguely western! To me it's miles and miles of undulating (I think our friends who lived there said it was.. rolling foothills? They just looked like slightly less flat prairies, to me) hills filled with McMansions and hyper efficient highways.

American highways. Those beasts of concrete that take up twelve more lanes than they should and are spaced so far apart that you need a rest area half way through an on-ramp. Maybe you are American, Imaginary Blog Reader, so you know well of what I speak.

In Vancouver, our highway system is cramped, utterly tiny, and painfully congested. It's like the worst of Europe and the worst of LA in a small, rain soaked area of the Pacific Northwest. Whereas most roadway systems in North America have a super fast highway that circles the city and allows for ingress and egress. Vancouver has one tiny highway, which stops short of the city proper, so one has to go through normal roads to get into the city. It's just as hectic and as brain embolism inducing as it sounds. (A happy by product is that the entire Lower Mainland has really excellent population density).

Onto this constellation of asphalt and yellow lines we drove our rental car. We were happy with a subcompact, that's what we drive at home, a little Mazda, just as much as we need, we figure. The Calgarian at the rental company looked at us, our two brood, and upgraded us to a 'full-sized' car, free.

Full-sized certainly is, especially when you are talking domestic cars. We got a Dodge Charger. Which is part muscle car and part 'good lord why is there so much leg room in here do they think we are transporting giraffe-spider hybrids?'.

I grew up with Dukes of Hazzard so the idea of driving a muscle car was kinda thrilling. Massive eighty ton monsters of road. Chunky road slicks! WELDED DOORS! Mrs. Owl didn't take too kindly to the idea of "Daisy Dukes", however.

Those big cars aren't terribly responsive though. I'm used to small city streets and a top speed of, oh, say, 90 km/h (no, I'm not converting it, go look it up, ya dang Yankee). You hit 100, our Protege5 lets us know that things are 'not cool', we hit around 120, and there had better be a swarm of locusts and a monsoon of frogs on our tail because we are going a Certifiably Dangerous Speed. Things shudder. RPMs on the motor are certainly audible. Air keens through the less resilient windows. This is how I'm used to driving.

In the Charger, you move the steering wheel, and just about after you toasted your bagel and got through the trickier bits of the NY Times crossword, there might be in indication that the car has acknowledged your request and is on its way to possibly altering course. One gets the sense that you need a sergent-at-arms or a quartermaster or some other titled position in order to steer it. The use of sextant would not be surprising.

And then I got onto the highway. At some point, while gliding easily along, I glanced at the speedometer, that told me in no uncertain terms that we were going 110, and that, if it wasn't too much trouble, could we get to driving at some point? I punched it up to 120 just to see if I might hear the engine at some point. I think it may have purred. Of course, since I was on an American Style highway, it appeared I was going about 20km/h, in a school zone, through a bit of pudding, in low gravity, while running my car on good-thoughts and tightly wound rubber bands..

So, there are definitely some good things about a Charger. Suicidally fast speeds. Smooth ride. I think at some point I thought I might look pretty rad in a cowboy hat, and saying 'yahooo'.


eric said...

Dood, do they use turn signals in Calgary? I was just in Florida and the use of turn signals appears to be merely a sign of weakness.

Niteowl said...

When the landscape is doing that 'blurry star' thing from Star Wars, and your speedometer has hairline fractures from the stress, you don't have TIME to signal.