Fort Calgary: Our sacred ground

While everyone’s attention in the East Village mega makeover is focused on the new library ($245M), the National Music Centre ($135M) and the St Patrick’s Island revitalization and bridge ($70M), Fort Calgary’s makeover has been “flying under the radar.”  

Perhaps you’ve noticed the red cubes along the River Walk or the red glass sentinels recently installed at the corner of 9th Ave and 6th St SE wondering what these are.  Maybe you noticed Buffy the buffalo on a little manmade hill on 9th Ave just west of the Elbow River and wondered how it got there.  It is all part of a devious $36.3 million master plan that started with the Spring Creek wetlands at the northwest edge of the site back in 2009.

With the help of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, the City, Province, Federal Government and the community, Fort Calgary has been quietly raising funds to enhance the site of Calgary’s birthplace, respecting the past but preparing it for the future when 40,000 people will be living in the communities surrounding it (currently about 15,000).

What we have been seeing lately is the Edges, project, which marks the edges of the original Fort Calgary site, west of the Elbow River. Note: The land east of the Elbow River (Deane House and Hunt House) wasn’t added until 1976.  The red cubes along the Bow River mark the north edge, of the original site, the long red benches along 6th Street mark the western edge and along with the sentinels at the corner of 9th Avenue, they demarcate the entrance to the site from its southwest. They all have a very distinctive bright red colour – “RCMP red” in fact. The red markers are all equipped with LED lighting, creating an eerie site at night which I am told can be seen from airplanes preparing to land at the Calgary International Airport. I love the horizontal ones along 6th Street - at night they have a surreal glow like a campfire. 

Story board columns

The Fort Calgary site is also sacred to the First Nations people as it was a summer gathering place.

Fly fisherman at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers near the northeast edge of Fort Calgary.

Fort Calgary site with log buildings and replica Barracks in the distance.

New entrance to Fort Calgary from the southwest with LED sentinels and benches.

The Barracks building.

Fort Calgary 101

Did you know that Fort Calgary is a National Historic District? I didn’t! In fact it was one of the first National Historic Districts created by the Federal Government in 1925. It received this designation for two reasons - the important role the site played in the evolution of the RCMP and the fact it is the birthplace of a city. Not many Canadian cities can lay claim to knowing exactly where its birthplace is.

Fort Calgary is unique in that it was never a defence fort; the walls were not created for protection (there was never a battle here), but to define the settlement acting as a landmark so new settlers and First Nation people could see it from a distance.  

In 1914 the site was decommissioned as a Fort and sold to Grand Trunk Pacific Railway who had plans to build a railway line to Prince Rupert that followed the route of the proposed Enbridge Gateway pipeline.  After, Grand Trunk went bankrupt, the site became Calgary’s first industrial warehouse district, home to businesses like MacCosham’s huge warehouse, Calgary Scrap Metal, a battery factory and a slaughterhouse.

After 10 years of lobbying by Calgarian John Ayre, and on the Centennial of the arrival of the RCMP in 1875, the site was purchased by the City for $1.8 million in 1975. All the buildings were removed and the contaminated site was cleaned up.

Then started the slow process of deciding what to do with the site.  It wasn’t until 2000 when Sara-Jane Gruetzner was hired as the President & CEO of Fort Calgary that a Master Plan was finalized.  She has stayed on to make sure that it gets implemented. Though the master plan didn’t call of an exact historical recreation of the buildings on the site, it does call for a mix of new buildings and monuments that will tell the story of Calgary’s birthplace.

Monument to Colonel Macleod.

Monument to Colonel Macleod.

Colonel Macleod historical plaque.

Current Work

Work is currently being completed on the land on the east side of the Elbow River with the restoration of the Deane House, built in1914 for Captain Deane, whose wife wouldn’t live in the Fort and demanded he build her a house next to the Fort.   Also under restoration is the Hunt House (built sometime between 1876 and 1881), the only original Hudson Bay post in its original location. A replica of the original Deane House garden is also to be created as Deane was good friends with William Reader (Calgary’s first Parks Superintendent) who believed you could garden on the prairie. It is believe that the Dean/Reader garden is where the Calgary Horticultural Society was established.

Recently completed is the Elbow River Traverse ($3M), which crosses the Elbow River just before it empties into the Bow River.  It creates an important link in the City’s Elbow and Bow River pathways, which are only going to get busier with more people living in the surrounding area and the new ENMAX Park just south of 9th Avenue along the Elbow River.

Future work includes a major glass gallery addition to the second floor of the current Fort Calgary Interpretive center. The gallery will be designed by Calgary architect Lorne Simpson (who specializes in historical restorations) and DIALOG (Calgary architectural firm working on new Central Library) will offer a spectacular 360 degree view of downtown, CPR rail yards, Stampede Park and the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

There are also plans for a carved wood interpretive feature on the site of the old fort by Vancouver artist Jill Anholt. The piece will allude to the structure of the old fort, while also referencing the layers of cultural memories of people and place in a clever and creative manner.

Elbow River Traverse aka bridge for cyclists and pedestrians.

Bow River promenade at Fort Calgary with the new St. Patrick's Island bridge in the background.  This will become a very busy area with the densification of the surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

The area around the Traverse is already becoming a popular meeting place.

Major Event Venue

While for most of the year, Fort Calgary perceived by many as a rather sleepy place it has evolved into a major concert venue. Annual events included the two Rotarian concerts during Stampede, while Chasing Summer and X Fest; each of these events attract over 15,000+ attendees. 

There are also a number of free events like WinterFest, Family Day, Heritage Day, Mountie Day (May long weekend to celebrate the anniversary of the formation of the RCMP in May 23, 1873) and of course Canada Day when 20,000 Calgarians invade the site for family fun activities.

Fort Calgary is also where the Calgary Stampede marshals the horses for the Stampede Parade.  I am told it is an amazing spectacle with 300 horses and floats calling Fort Calgary home for a night.  The public is invited to come down on the Thursday night and join in the fun with a free BBQ. Who knew there was a second “Sneak A Peak” event!

As far as hosting major events in our city, Fort Calgary is on par with Prince’s Island, Olympic Plaza and Shaw Millennium Park.

Last Word

In the words, of CEO President Sara-Jane Gruetzner “Fort Calgary is an old story with a new beginning; this is Calgary’s hallowed ground.”


By Richard White, October 25, 2014

An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald, titled "Fort Calgary makeover, respects the past, prepares for East Village's future," October, 24, 2014. 

Artist Jill Anholt's modern interpretation of Fort Calgary's original walls.  

Window licking along Florence's Via Tornabuoni

One of the things I love to do when flanuering any downtown is take pictures of the reflections of buildings and people in the windows of the fashion boutique.  This works particularly well in cities where there is a strong fashion culture as the fashion boutique window are often like mini art exhibitions. In Florence, the Via de' Tornabuoni is the high street for fashions with the likes of Gucci, Salvatore Ferrogamo, Tiffany's, Enrico Coveri, Damiani, Bulgari and Buccalllati calling it home.

When Brenda said she wanted to go to the Salvatore Ferrogamo Museum, I secretly said "Yahoo" as it meant I would have some time to do some window licking on Via de' Tornabuoni.

Back story

The literal English translation of the french term for window shopping is "window licking," which I have adopted for my practice of window photography as I am often so close to the window that it looks like I could be licking it.

Window licking on Tornabuoni 

I have chosen these images as I feel they convey the diversity of visual imagery along Tornabuoni.  I have also chosen not to provide captions as I would prefer the reader to study each image without my influence.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did taking them and studying them afterwards. 


I have tried window licking in my hometown Calgary many times, but I never seem to get the same quality of images. I don't know if it is the light, the lack of quality fashion windows or just my poor luck. 

Almost everyday, I like to take some time to look at and reflect on my travel photos. The ones I seem to gravitate to the most art the "window licking" ones. I'd love to hear from you which one was your favourite and why?

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Stop and smell the flowers in Silver Springs!

By Richard White, August 19, 2014

In 2002, one of nine BirthPlace Forests was initiated along the Silver Springs Boulevard off Crowchild Trail, as the gateway into the community.  This joint initiative of BP Energy, Calgary Parks, Calgary Health Region and Golden Acres saw 7,000 trees planted to create a unique urban forest. The BP BirthPlace Forests program was launched to celebrate every newborn baby in Calgary by planting a tree in its honour - the program ended in 2010.

 However, for Silver Springs’ residents, the forest was the catalyst to create the Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs.  In 2006, a small 400 square foot space (size of double car garage) within the forest was the humble beginnings of what is now a 15,000 square foot (the equivalent of 10+ Silver Springs bungalows) garden full of annuals and perennials. 

In 2009, the community also established its Community Edible Garden, in addition to the regular vegetables boxes as part of a fun “Kids Grow” program. Today the Silver Springs Botanical Garden includes the Oval Garden, Rose Garden, Old Post Garden Shakespeare Garden, a the Wall Garden and an labyrinth. 

Map of the various gardens the combine to create the Silver Springs Botanical Garden 

Trail through the Birth Place Forest that gets you to the gardens. 

Enjoying the labyrinth.

One of the many colourful flower gardens. 

A section of the Rose Garden. 

The Shakespeare Garden mixes quotation, flowers and plants to create a unique experience. 


Community Spirit

The 1,300-foot Wall Garden is the showpiece of the gardens with its spectacular mix of colours and textures.  William Morf, a Silver Springs resident, initiated the garden by starting a 100-foot garden along the ugly noise barrier at the back of his property. Soon others joined in. Today, a merry and dedicated band of 30 or so green-thumbed volunteers contribute over 6,000 hours of sweat labour annually to maintain and enhance the various gardens. 

Who knows how much money and plant material they have also contributed? The Silver Springs Botanical Gardens is just another example of Calgary’s amazing community spirit and “can do” attitude.

The botanical gardens area has become a popular place for locals to “stop and smell the flowers.” This hidden gem should be on every Calgarian’s calendar as a must- walk; Tourism Calgary and Travel Alberta should add it to their websites as a fun and free tourist attraction.  

Given the gardens are just minutes off Crowchild Trail, there should be a tourist attraction sign informing visitors of the Silver Springs Botanical Garden.  For dog owners, the bonus is that the gardens are also an off leash area. And for those with a budding interest in gardening; this would be a great place to find out what grows in Calgary, and you might even be lucky enough to get some free gardening advice. 


The 1300 foot Wall Garden. 

The Sunflower garden. 

Smell The Flowers 

flower pistal
purple flowers

Yes, the Silver Springs Botanical Garden is literally just off Crowchild Trail. 


Calgary’s Silver Springs community extends from the north bluff of the Bow River north to Crowchild Trail and from Silver Springs Gate west to Nose Hill Drive. Construction of the community started in 1972 and was completed in 1980, and since then this community of 9,000 people has aged gracefully.

 And, yes there really are “silver springs” in the community.  A series of springs cascades from the northern bank of the Bow River, which forms the southern boundary of the community. While the area was closed due to the flood in 2013, plans are in place to make upgrades to all of the large natural areas of Bowmont Park – including access to the silver springs. Hopefully it will open again in 2015.

Calgary's Downtown Power Hour

Richard White, July 2, 2014

Everyone everywhere has heard about rush hour, lunch hour and happy hour, but the term power hour I think is unique to Calgary.  I first heard the term in the mid ’90s when the manager of the downtown Hudson Bay department store and I were chatting and he talked about his power hour. When I asked what was a “power hour” he informed me that for his store “noon hour is when downtown employees do their power shopping.”

Since then I have expanded the term to beyond just shopping, especially in the summer when downtown employees’ noon hour thoughts are not only about shopping or lunch, but about getting out for a power walk or a run. 

Recently, I decide to get out on my bike and check out what happens in Downtown Calgary at noon hour when 150,000+ employees are let out to play for an hour.  

Stephen Avenue Power Hour

Power Hour on Stephen Avenue looking west from the +15 bridge connecting TD Square with Bankers Hall.  The 300W block of Stephen Avenue is one of the most densely populated blocks in Canada with 200 floors of office buildings. So when the bell rings for lunch, they pour out onto the street like elementary students into the school yard. (photo credit: Jeff Trost).

This is what the power hour looks like at street level on The Bay block.

A "power hour" lunch on Stephen Avenue looks more like the board room than the lunch room.

A "power hour" lunch on Stephen Avenue looks more like the board room than the lunch room.

Even the kids like to get our for a "power hour" ride. 

Even the kids like to get our for a "power hour" ride. 

You never know what you will see on Stephen Avenue during the power hour.  It is a popular place for marketing promotions and give-aways. 

Bow River Power Hour 

In addition to Stephen Avenue Walk, Calgary's downtown "power hour" is also celebrated along the south and north sides of the Bow River on the north side of downtown.  Here you will find joggers, power walkers, cyclists, strollers, bladers and skateboarder all mixing and mingling. 

The Bow River promenade in downtown's Eau Claire district on the north side of downtown is a very popular spot for joggers, walkers and cyclists.  

The new Calatrava Peace Bridge over the Bow River can become grid-locked during the power hour.

The Eau Claire Plaza pool is a popular place for families to meet up during the power hour and have some quality family time. 

Not everybody love to work up a sweat during power hours, some are happy to just gets some fresh air or meet up with a friend along the Bow River. One of the big advantages of working downtown is that you can easily meet up with family and friends who also work downtown. I just happened to run into an old acquaintance who I hadn't seen in 10 or more years on this everyday trip.

Downtown's Outdoor Power Spots

While Stephen Avenue and the Bow Promenade are the busy "power hour" spots, downtown Calgary has many outdoor places where office workers can catch some sun, relax and chat.  

Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is downtown's newest public space created as part of the new Calgary Courthouse complex. It is about as "centre ice, mid-field or center court" as you can get. 

Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is downtown's newest public space created as part of the new Calgary Courthouse complex. It is about as "centre ice, mid-field or center court" as you can get. 

As a winter city, Calgarians love to sit in the sun whenever they can. 

A bocci ball game during the power hour at Hotchkiss Gardens.

Many of the Stephen Avenue power walkers are heading to Olympic Plaza where they can sit, have their lunch and people watch.

Century Gardens on the west side of downtown has a sunny grassy knoll that looks out to a pond, cascading stream and tall coniferous trees to create park-like setting in the middle of the high-rise office towers. 

Two young children exploring the Century Gardens river while Mom and Dad have lunch nearby.

Promenade to McDougall Centre a century old sandstone school that has been converted into the Alberta Premier's office when he is in town. The school sits in the middle of the block with public spaces all around it.

The McDougall Centre backyard. 

Prince's Island is an old gravel bar in the Bow River that has be transformed into a downtown park that offers workers some alone time at lunch. It is also home to the Calgary International Folk Festival and Shakespeare In the Park.  

There is a steady stream of people heading back to work at the end of the power hour from Prince's Island.

This could be the most minimalist downtown park in Canada - no name, no trees, no decorations, just green grass and four picnic tables randomly spaced.  

This downtown office worker climbs Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" sculpture on the plaza of the Norman Foster designed Bow office tower during his power hour.


While many see downtown Calgary a concrete jungle, you can see from these pictures that it is full of interesting public spaces some intimate and some animated, many with lots of vegetation. All of these spaces are within one square kilometre of each other.  Everyone who works in downtown Calgary has access to an attractive outdoor public space no more than a five minute walk away.    

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Historic Calgary Postcards: St. George's Island

While Central/Memorial Park and Bowness Park were the showpieces of Calgary’s early parks, the Bow River Islands - St. George, St. Patrick and St. Andrew have an interesting history as parks.  The Islands were first leased by town council for development of parks in 1887.  The three islands were named for the patron saints of the United Kingdom - St. George of England, St. Patrick of Ireland and St. Andrew of Scotland.

In the late 19th century, there was no Prince’s Island. It was merely a shifting gravel bar and more of an isthmus. That’s until Peter Prince created a channel in the river (now the lagoon) to allow logs to float to Eau Claire Lumber Mill at the site of the current Eau Claire Market.  The St. Andrew Island was created by a lagoon between it and St. Patrick Island which has since been filled in to create one island. 

Back in1892 through to 1900, a ferry service connected St. George's Island to town, increasing its popularity as a weekend playground. In 1900, a foot bridge was constructed.  Construction of the existing St. George’s Island Bridge for cars and pedestrians ridge in 1908 cost of $25,000. At the same time an old Elbow River Bridge was moved to the island’s north side providing a link to the then new Calgary General Hospital and the new communities of Bridgeland and Riverside. In 1910, the federal government gave the islands to the town, on the condition they remain parks.

It was the natural beauty St. George's Island that captured the attention of Calgarians and Park Superintendents.  The Island was enhanced with the planting of more trees, cinder pathways, fireplaces for picnickers and the Biergarten dance hall band shell.  By 1911, the island was home to over 200 weekend picnic parties and the Sunday afternoon band concerts drew an average of 1,500 to 2,000 people (note the population of Calgary was only 43,704).

The two-story German Biergarten, built on the site of today’s Calgary Zoo’s Conservatory at a cost of $4,560 in 1912 became a well-known Calgary architectural landmark.   Much to the embarrassment of Parks Superintendent Richard Iverson and the City, it was illegal to sell beer on City property so the building was converted to a teahouse.  However, this didn’t work well either as the noise from the bands on the top floor drove the tea drinkers from the main floor.  It became known as the “old bandstand.”

Several attempts were made to create a zoo in Calgary early in the 20th century.  The zoo at St. George’s Island began in 1917 when two wayward deer found in the park and were corralled in cages by the dogcatcher near the Biergarten. The deer were so popular, the zoo began to grow under the direction of parks superintendent William Reader. By 1929, the Calgary Zoological Society was formed which was the beginning of St. George's Island as the home of the Calgary Zoo Botanical Garden & Prehistoric Park. 

This postcard reminds me of George Seurat's 1984 painting a Paris Park titled "A Sunday at La Grande Jatte (see below).  Calgary's sense of place was more closely linked to European at the turn of the 20th century than it is today.  

Calgary was once called "Paris on the prairies." 

A Sunday at La Grande Jatte, George Seurat, 1884

The explosive growth of Calgary, in the early 20th century prompted a need to put some serious thought into long-term city planning. In 1912, British Landscape Architect Thomas Mawson was commissioned by the city to prepare a master plan to address the rapid growth of the city. Mawson's proposal was an ambitious plan on par with Haussmann's rebuilding of Paris during the reign of Napoleon III.  The focus of Mawson's plan was on the Bow River, not the CPR railway line.     

The explosive growth of Calgary, in the early 20th century prompted a need to put some serious thought into long-term city planning. In 1912, British Landscape Architect Thomas Mawson was commissioned by the city to prepare a master plan to address the rapid growth of the city. Mawson's proposal was an ambitious plan on par with Haussmann's rebuilding of Paris during the reign of Napoleon III.  The focus of Mawson's plan was on the Bow River, not the CPR railway line.


The biergarten, dance hall and eventually tea house on St. George's Island. 

St. George Island summer amusement park. 

St. George Island summer amusement park. 

Prince's Island early 20th century. 

Eau Claire Lumber Mill at Prince's Island

Eau Claire Lumber Mill at Prince's Island

A landscape designer by profession, Reader emigrated to Canada from England in 1908 when he was 33. He became parks superintendent in 1913.  He was responsible for the planning and implementation of establishing Calgary's first parks - Central/Memorial Park, Riley Park, Mewata Park, St. George Island and the Memorial Drive trees to commemorate soldiers killed in World War I. During his 29 year rein as parks superintendent he transformed Calgary from a dusty prairie town to "the garden city of Western Canada." 

Turner Valley Gas Plant A Hidden Gem!

Richard White, July 27, 2014

While the others played follow-the-leader with David Finch, our tour guide, I was busy flaneuring the Turner Valley Gas Plant (TVGP) – southern Alberta’s secret national and provincial historical site.  While the history of the birthplace of Canada’s oil & gas industry is interesting what fascinated me immediately was the untouched industrial design of the buildings and the equipment. 

Careful not to wander out of earshot of Finch (yes, I did get some dirty looks – mostly from Brenda - for wandering off), a human equivalent of “Google” with his wealth of knowledge not only of the TVGP but of Alberta history.  Who knew the Turner Valley Field continues to produce oil and gas using enhanced recovery methods? 

I learned the town of Royalties (that should be Calgary’s nickname, or maybe Stock Option City), at its peak in the late 1940s, was home to nearly 1,700 people. Today the only indication the town even existed is a monument 5.6 km from Hartell (3.2 km south of Naphtha, which has only four home remaining).  Royalties’ nickname was “Little Chicago” as the wheeling and dealing paralleled that the Chicago mafia and Al Capone.  And in the mind of locals, if Royalties is “Little Chicago,” then Longview must be “Little New York” especially given the high prices charged by the stores.  Other nearby town names included Snob Hill, Dogtown and Mortgage Heights – we need more fun names.

Another interesting factoid was that the “liquid” that gushed out of the Dingman #1 well in 1914 was so pure you could (and they did) put it directly into your car - a good thing as Calgary had no refinery back then.  Listening to Finch is like listening to a gusher; the stories and information just flow out of him. 

I would recommend the TVGP weekend tours to everyone – locals and tourists.  I am thinking it should be a mandatory school trip for children across southern Alberta. Tours happen Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays until the end of September from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is by donation.

For more information on the history of TVGP, check out the 100th anniversary You Tube video hosted by David Finch. 

David Finch reciting a poem

David Finch reciting a poem

Gas plant as art gallery...

I have chosen just a few of the many images that allude to different schools of modern painting, ceramics, photography and sculpture that I found at TVGP.  The visual stimulation was equal to anything I have experienced in major contemporary art galleries and museums around the world.  I have given each piece a title, just for fun! 

Industrial Patina 

Fire Blanket 


Eye Balls

Yellow Red Orbs

Yellow Red Orbs


Architecture & Industrial Design 

I think these images speak for themselves. 


The Doors...

I was fascinated by the rusted, battered industrial doors.  I learned the red dot means their is a fire extinguisher nearby.  I did not learn what the green dot meant, perhaps I should have listened better. 

door red green
door half circle

Last Word

While David was a bit annoyed by my flaneuring at the beginning, I was able to partly redeem myself when I found some sulphur chunks on the ground. And just when he thought I wasn’t listening, (I was hidden from view taking pictures of some hidden gem I had found) I was able to repeat his Hitler story back to him.  By the end of the tour, he trusted me to lock the doors behind us.

Thanks David – you are the best tour guide ever.

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Historic Downtown Calgary Postcards

The theme for this year's Historic Calgary week is "reflect and remember."  An interesting theme as for most of us Calgary is our adopted home so we have limited ability to reflect and remember on what Calgary was like even 50 years ago.  

I thought it would be interesting to share with reader some history postcards and photos that I have been collecting over the years.  I also found and amazing collection of old postcards and photos in the Calgary Public Library's digital library - I was like a kid in a candy shop. 

I hope these images will help you understand that Calgary does indeed have a rich history and that we have preserved much of it.  As I like to say, "city building is about balancing preservation and prosperity - you need both!" 

Hope you enjoy.....


Calgary pre-highrises - 45 years ago.

Calgary pre-highrises - 45 years ago.

Love the use of awnings and blade signs to add colour and charm to the streetscape.

Love the use of awnings and blade signs to add colour and charm to the streetscape.

Love the diversity of transportation modes in this photo - rail, car, horses and pedestrians.  Love the congestion and chaos. Vitality comes from diversity more than density.  

Love the diversity of transportation modes in this photo - rail, car, horses and pedestrians.  Love the congestion and chaos. Vitality comes from diversity more than density. 

Here old city hall dominates its corner of downtown, there is  sense of authority and power.  That is not the case anymore as it is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings.  Size matters! 

Here old city hall dominates its corner of downtown, there is  sense of authority and power.  That is not the case anymore as it is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings.  Size matters! 

Two of Calgary's early architectural gems - the Bay and Bank of Montreal.

I expect that in the future the downtown rail station will return.

How Eau Claire has changed? 

How Eau Claire has changed? 

7th Avenue looking east. Hard to believe downtown was once just a charming little prairie town.   

Note the Fairmont Palliser Hotel is under construction in this photo so this would be 1913. In some ways this underpass hasn't really changed very much. 

Downtown Calgary was home to many mansions and churches just 100 years ago. 

The Beltline before the trees and highrises, looks a lot like the new suburbs of the late 20th century.

The Beltline before the trees and highrises, looks a lot like the new suburbs of the late 20th century.

Central / Memorial Park

Central or Memorial Park is the beginning of Calgary's quest to create a unique urban sense of place.  City building is an ongoing process that takes centuries not decades. Calgary is just a teenager when it comes to being a city.  

Central Park
Central park 2
Central Park 2
Calgary Public Library

Reflect & Remember....

Very early Calgary...we have come a long way in a very short time...

Very early Calgary...we have come a long way in a very short time...

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Stampede Park: Art Gallery / Museum

Richard White, July 7, 2014

Today I had a few hours between meetings so I decided to flaneur Stampede Park looking for some fun, funky and quirky things.  I was not disappointed.  I quickly found lots of people climbing and milling about the massive bronze sculpture "By the banks of the Bow."  I loved the fact that people were using the artwork like a playground. 

I also found the children's midway rides bordered on public art and playgrounds with their bright colours, shapes and forms.  It seemed their were historical murals everywhere I looked. Even in the animal barns I found the metal and wooden calf  in the demo roping area to be sculptural. 

Of course, the RoundUp Centre had been converted into a large gallery space, with strong traditional Western Art bent, but I also found some contemporary pieces, as well as some fascinating historical photos, a quilt show and some Stampede Queen fashions from the past 60 years.

The biggest surprise was wandering around the lobby of the Stampede Corral and finding old photos of hockey players, curling and figure skating.  It was like a mini sports hall of fame. 

Before I knew it my 2 hours were up and I had to rush off...but I will be back...I know there are more artworks and artifacts to be uncovered. 

Stampede Park as an art gallery

"By the banks of the Bow" is a massive bronze sculpture that serves as a great meeting place.  It is a popular photo spot and also a wonderful work of art that enhances the sense of place at Stampede Park.

The "Lollipop" ride reminds me of the two public artworks by Jeff de Boer at the Calgary International Airport. 

This looks like something the surrealists would have done.

A close up of horse sculpture which didn't do much for me from a distance, but I loved the shapes, surfaces, patterns and colours up close.

This photo of a First Nation Dancer caught my eye for its colour and movement.

Alberta Blue by Wanda Ellerbeck was completed as part of the Stampede Ranch program where each year artists get to spend time on the range for inspiration. I am always amazed at how contemporary artists interpret their ranching experience.  This would be a good addition to our collection.

Stampede as a museum

It is hard to believe this was Stephen Avenue. Today it is home to billion dollar skyscrapers, convention centres and museum. Today $5 would get you larger latte at Cafe Rosso.

Who knew Calgary had such a long history of playing cricket.  Today Calgary has no passenger train service?

Urban agriculture is not new.

Loved this map from both an art and artifact perspective.

There is an wonderful exhibition of about 20 Stampede Queen outfits from the '50s to present day, each in their own display case.  It reminded me of the Elvis costumes i saw in Memphis at the STAX Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio Museum. Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum and Graceland.

Stampede Park as a sports hall of fame

The photos in the lobby of the Stampede Corral is literally a who's who of hockey in Canada.

There is also some curling history

An everyday tourist reader responded with: 

Cool piece, the “Frenchy” D’Amour photo would be from the 1948 Brier that was held in Calgary – probably at the Corral. The advertising was interesting to see on the scoreboard - “Smoke British Consols” which were a brand of MacDonald’s tobacco products.

The Brier playdowns into the 80’s were know as the Consols playdowns. The dude with the raccoon coat was David Stewart son of the owner of MacDonald Tobacco. David Stewart later became a Senator.


This figure skating photo intrigued me.

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Calgary Postcards: Things to see & do

By Richard White, June 30, 2014

Summer is Calgary’s busiest tourist season. It is when family and friends love to come to Calgary, not only for the 10 days of Stampede, but for all of July and August. However for most Calgarians’ the top-of-mind place to take visitors is to Banff and the mountains. I would like to change that!

I thought it would be fun to put together a blog of postcards reflecting the many things to see and do in Calgary with tourist this summer and anytime. 

I have tried to find “everyday” things to see and do, not just the obvious attractions – Glenbow, Calgary Tower, Heritage Park, Zoo, Science Centre, Calaway Park, Chinook Centre or IKEA (now that Winnipeg has its own IKEA, you are going to have to find someplace else to take visiting Winnipeggers).

I have tried to identify “off the grid” uniquely Calgary spots versus obvious touristy things.  I have also tried to identify a diversity of things to see and do that will appeal to a variety of interests. And, most of the things are FREE!

I hope these “everyday tourists” postcards from Calgary will be a catalyst for Calgarians to spend more time exploring Calgary with their visiting family and friends this summer, or anytime of the year for that matter.

Calgary's downtown is home to the world's most extensive elevated indoor walkway system - the +15. The name comes from the fact the bridges are 15 feet off the ground.  Over 60 bridges, connect over 100 buildings to create a 20 km walkway.  Unfortunately it is a bit like a maze and it is not contiguous, but it is a unique and fun way to explore the downtown especially for kids. Along the way amongst other things you can find a bush plane hanging from the ceiling in the lobby of one office building and the skeleton of a bison in another. Download +15 Map

Calgary has several great pedestrian districts - Kensington, Inglewood, 4th Street and 17th Avenue. This is the little "no name" plaza on 10th street where buskers are entertaining people passing by - it is always animated and didn't cost a half million dollars to create.   These streets are great places to do some local shopping, sample some of Calgary's great cuisine scene or one of our craft beers.  All of these streets have great patios for relaxing and people watching. 

This is  Canada's Sports Hall of Fame  at Canada Olympic Park.  For anyone who is interested in sports this is a must see - lots of hands-on activities.  While you are there, you should wander around perhaps bring your bikes and do some mountain biking or one of the other activities available.  Did you know Calgary is also home to Canada's second largest  military museum ?  It is also worth a visit, I have never heard of anyone who was disappointed.  

This is Canada's Sports Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park.  For anyone who is interested in sports this is a must see - lots of hands-on activities.  While you are there, you should wander around perhaps bring your bikes and do some mountain biking or one of the other activities available.  Did you know Calgary is also home to Canada's second largest military museum?  It is also worth a visit, I have never heard of anyone who was disappointed.  

Calgary's Power Hour happens Monday to Friday on nice sunny days when over ten thousand downtown workers head out for a power walk along Stephen Avenue at lunch hour.  This phenomena is something visitors will enjoy seeing and participating in, it is a people watching extravaganza. (photo courtesy of Jeff Trost)

Calgary has one of the world's largest urban pathway system - over 750 km.  While you are walking, running or biking along the north side of the Bow River at the Louise (10th St) bridge you should consider stopping and checking out the new Poppy Plaza - Calgary's newest monument to Canada's war and peace keeping efforts. 

Who needs to go to the mountains when Calgary has over 5,000 parks including two of the largest urban parks in the world - Fish Creek Park and Nose Hill.  This is Edworthy Park home to the Douglas Fir Trail - perhaps Calgary's quintessential trail.

Floating down one of Calgary's two rivers is a great way to spend a summer day with visiting family and friends. You could even try your hand a fly fishing as the Bow River is one of the best fly fishing rivers in the world. 

This is just one of hundreds of public artworks in and around Calgary's downtown.  You could easily spend a day wandering the streets, parks, plazas and gardens to see how many you can find. Hint: There are still several of the fun cow sculptures on the +15 level of the Centennial Parkade.  You can also download the City of Calgary's public art tour. FYI...this piece is titled "Ascension" and was made by INCIPIO MONDO and is located in a mini-park at the southwest corner of 4th Ave and 9th St. SW. Download Public Art Tour  

Calgary has many historical buildings and districts in the inner-city, from the majestic early 20th century sandstone schools to old city hall. Stephen Avenue (8th Street SW) from Centre St to 4th St. SW is a National Historic District and Inglewood has a heritage Main Street.  If you have a history buff visiting you will want to be sure to take them to our two historical districts, along with maybe Fort Calgary, Glenbow and Heritage Park.  A great resource to have  is "Historical Walks of Calgary" by Harry M. Sanders, it offers 10 different self-guided tours of Calgary historical communities in and around the downtown. Or print off the City of Calgary's self-guided tour of Stephen Avenue and you are all set for a half-day of exploring. (Photo credit: George Webber, one of Canada's most respected photographers). 

Central High School (photo credit: George Webber)

When in Calgary, eat like locals do?  Chicken on the Way and Peter's Drive-In are two of Calgary's iconic eateries. Click here for:  Top Ten Places to eat like a local?

Explore your own neighbourhood, on foot or on bike - you might be surprised what you will find. We love to take visitors to our favourite local spots like this musical fence. 

Calgary has a great cafe culture. Caffe Rosso located in interesting places like the Old Dominion Steel site in Ramsay is just one of the many independent cafes. Learn more: Calgary's cafe scene.

Riding the train can be a fun and an inexpensive way to spend a day, especially with young children. You can buy a day pass and hope off and on as much as you like.  You can combine a train trip with exploring downtown, or perhaps a trip to the Zoo or the Science Centre - both are easily accessible by the train. 

This is the Sunalta LRT station just outside of downtown, from this station you could walk to Mikey's Juke Joint for their famous Saturday Afternoon Jam or to Heritage Posters & Music to browse their  wonderful collection of posters, records and music memorabilia. 

Calgary has a festival pretty much every weekend through out the summer, including Global Fest fireworks completion in lovely Elliston Park, August 14 to 15, 2014. 

If your visitors are into music you might want to suggest one of Calgary's live music venues.  You can catch Tim Williams, winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition (solo/duo) and best guitarist for free on most Tuesday evenings at Mikey's Juke Joint or on Saturday when he hosts an afternoon jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood. There are live music venues throughout the city.  Best place to find out what is happening and where is to get the  Swerve Magazine  in the Calgary Herald every Friday. 

If your visitors are into music you might want to suggest one of Calgary's live music venues.  You can catch Tim Williams, winner of the 2014 International Blues Competition (solo/duo) and best guitarist for free on most Tuesday evenings at Mikey's Juke Joint or on Saturday when he hosts an afternoon jam at the Blues Can in Inglewood. There are live music venues throughout the city.  Best place to find out what is happening and where is to get the Swerve Magazine in the Calgary Herald every Friday. 

If your visitors are into history or reading, bookstore browsing is a fun activity.  Calgary is home to one of the Canada's most unique bookstore - Aquila.  Located at 826 - 16h Avenue, right on the TransCanada Highway it specializes in polar expeditions, Western Canadiana and Canadian Pacific Railway. Yes those are two authentic Inuit kayaks hanging from the ceiling. 

Pages in Kensington is also a great bookstore with lots of readings and FairsFair is a great used bookstore and has several locations. 

If you really want to show your visitors you are "hip" and "tin he know" you might want to take them to Salvage in Ramsay, just down the road from Cafe Rosso and not very far from the Crown Surplus and Ribtor in Inglewood. You could easily spend a day pretending  you are on the set of Canadian or American Pickers TV show. Anyone into retro or vintage artifacts or antiquing or thrifting would love these places. 


If you are interested in walking tours the City of Calgary’s website has several, including cemetery tours.  You can also pic up David Peyto’s Walking tour books or the iconic "Historical Walks of Calgary" by Harry M. Sanders.  You can even book your own private tour with Calgary Walks

I am always interested in new ideas and places to explore, so please send me your suggestions for Calgary Postcards and I will add them to this blog or perhaps create another one.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Calgary's Secret Heritage Walk 

Calgary: History Capital of Canada

Calgary: North America's Newest Design City 

Calgary: City of Parks & Pathways 

Flaneuring fun in downtown Tucson

Richard White, June 22, 2014 

Some days we just like to head out and explore without any particular agenda or destination. This is particularly fun in urban places where there are usually lots of surprises that aren't in the tourist brochures.  It is a must that you have to walk the street to find the surprises - you won't find them driving or cycling by.   

Recently, I was browsing our photos from our 8,907 km Spring Break 2014 Road Trip and found a collection of images from a fun day of flaneuring in downtown Tucson that I thought would make a nice "everyday tourist" photo essay. 

The great thing about flaneuring is its FREE, you can do it anywhere and you can do it everyday! 

One of our favourite things to do when exploring an urban place is "window licking."  I find images like this as interesting or more interesting than anything in an art gallery.

Who knew a beautiful orange tree could grow (kinda) in downtown Tucson. 

Gotta love a drive in liquor store deli.

Perhaps the world's most colourful colonnade can be found attached to the Goodwill building. 

More window licking fun. 

The Chicago Music Store was a real find.  Family owned since 1919 it is fun place to explore - part music store part museum. 

The Chicago Music Store was a real find.  Family owned since 1919 it is fun place to explore - part music store part museum. 

Retro neon signage adds as much or more visual interest to a streetscape as most public art. 

Ran into a wedding and these young men were more than willing to pose for a photograph - everyone was having fun (see girls in background). 

Sure Portland and Vancouver have their food trucks, but what about an art truck? 

Public art as transit shelter?  Tacky? Fun? Clever? 

Butterflies & Skeletons? Tucson has a rich high and low brow culture. 

More fun signage as public art!

More fun signage as public art!

We did not explore the roof-top patio at the Playground Lounge but it definitely adds an element of fun to Congress St. 

You won't find this postcard image in any of Tucson's tourist information brochures. 

Nor this one!

Nor this one!

Heading home we discovered Tucson's Rattlesnake pedestrian bridge that links the southside residents to downtown who are cut off from downtown by a 6-lane highway.  

Inside the rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake tail plaza. And, yes there is rattle sound as you pass by!

Paintball: Game or Cult?

By Richard White, June 8, 2014

Reader response: "I read your blog re paint ball and it made me sick.  I cannot understand how intellegent people could even think about using guns for pleasure (nevermind hunting) No wonder there are so many shootings in the US especially some people just don't know the difference between shooting paint at one another and using real bullets hense the shootings. I know none of you will agree with me and that is alright I just had to let you know how I feel."

EDT: I too had a similar thought, but tried to focus on the fun people seemed to be having, however, the whole experience was too real for me. 

Paintball: Game or Cult?

When we asked my nephew what he wanted to do for his 17th birthday, he quickly said “Paintball!”  Yikes…this could be interesting for his two 60-year old uncles (another uncle was going to be in town and he wanted to do a joint gift). We were thinking (even hoping) golf, maybe even zip lining.

But being good sports, we decided to “man up” and go paintballing.  It couldn’t have been easier. Bragg Creek Paintball is just down the road from Redwood Meadows Golf course where the two uncles would be playing golf in the morning.

We arrived at 3 pm and the parking lot was packed; who knew paintball was so popular.  I was a bit intimidated by all the people, male and female, some in full fatigue gear all carrying guns. But in some ways, it is not much different than golfers with their custom-fitted clubs and their matching designer shirts, shorts and shoes.   

A large group of players head out to one of the many different themed fields at Bragg Creek Paintball. 

This guy was covered in welts and was showing them off to everyone.  I think he played without any coveralls or protective clothing.  

Game On

We rented the standard gun, overalls, helmet and 200 balls. I had been told to wear lots of clothing to cushion the blow of the paint balls and to expect to get some welts before it was over. Really, people like paying to do this? Indeed they do!

Since there were only three of us, we were paired up with others to play a game.  It was all very well organized; everyone was friendly and there was even a guy who explained the rules and signalled, “game on.” 

The first game entailed a group of about a dozen people trying to flush out six people in a tower (I was not one of the tower people).  We had to hit the tower people in the head to eliminate them from the game (this meant they could absorb as many body hits as they could stand). They had to hit us in the head or vital organ area twice to remove us from the game.

This photo is taken from outside the screened-in playing area. Here, two people are strategizing how to flush out someone behind an old school bus.

The paintball field was full of repurposed items like school buses and cars.

The Town

I couldn’t believe how serious these people were. It was intense gunfire continuously for about 20 minutes – no wonder everything in The Town (that is the name for the area we played in) was covered in an inch of paint (all colours) that looked like something Jackson Pollock might have painted back in the ‘60s.

People were running around shooting what seemed like randomly.  I pretty much stayed in the same place and said, “I will cover you!” Not really knowing if I could, but it sounded good and I think they believed me. I later found out the other uncle had pretty much the same strategy; maybe we do get smarter with age. 

I think our team won the first game, but it took forever to flush the guys out of the tower. The last guy standing seemed very proud that he would have several welts to show off to his friends the next day.

We played a second game where there were two teams of 8 each defending a tower at opposite ends of the field. It was pretty much the same as the first game – CHAOS!  Again, I just stayed behind a wall and fired long distance, while my nephew crawled along the grass and up into the trees like some Navy Seal.  Who knew speed skating training (his real passion) is transferable to military maneuvers!

A map illustrating the many different themed playing fields.  

I managed to get inside the playing field between games to get this photo of The Town.

Game Over

After ninety minutes, the two uncles had had enough so we gave our nephew our extra balls (we were snipers) as he had run out.  Off he went to play a couple more games with strangers who seemed delighted to have another player to shoot at.

I couldn’t believe how keen he was to keep playing. There used to be an old saying “you won’t be happy, until someone has poked out an eye.” At paintball, it seems “nobody is happy, until they have a few welts to show for it.” One guy came in with a swollen hand that wouldn’t stop shaking as it had been hit several times.  He was in obvious pain, but seemed proud that he would have a swollen hand in the morning.  These people’s brains are definitely wired differently from mine.

Thirty minutes later, my nephew ran out of paint balls signalling it was time to go home.  Later that night, he too proudly showing us his welts (legs, groin, chin and belly) not once, but several times. It was like they were medals of honour.

It will be a birthday I (hopefully he too) will not soon forget. I am pleased to report that both uncles managed to escape welt-free - old guys rule! 

Nephew walking off after being hit in the head - there was a big smile under his helmet. 

Last Word

Paintball seemed very cult-like to me.  Yet, I remember when I attended my first major bingo (fundraiser for a public art gallery) and was surprised by the bingo culture - people wearing lucky hats and sweaters and surrounded by multiple bingo cards and an assortment of daubers (when one would do). It seemed cult-like! I had the same feeling when I worked my first casino.

Since then, I have realized many have a religious-like zeal for hobbies and/or activities that seems irrational to others - quilters, golfers, cyclists, runners and gardeners to name a few. I know my passion and that of my small group of summer binge golfers could easily be perceived by some sort of cult by some.

Merriam Webster Dictionary has several definitions of a cult:

  • a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous
  • a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much
  • a small group of very devoted supporters or fans 

Perhaps it is human nature to belong to a cult!


Reader response: "I read your blog re paint ball and it made me sick.  I cannot understand how intellegent people could even think about using guns for pleasure (nevermind hunting) No wonder there are so many shootings in the US especially some people just don't know the difference between shooting paint at one another and using real bullets hense the shootings. I know none of you will agree with me and that is alright I just had to let you know how I feel."

EDT: I too had a similar thought, but tried to focus on the fun people seemed to be having, however, the whole experience was too real for me. 

If you like this blog, you might like: 

FFQing in Calgary's Udderly Art Pasture

A flaneuring quickie!

Fun, Funky, Quirky Colorado Springs

Richard White, April 27, 2014

When visiting a new city we always look for things that aren't in the tourist brochures or on the first page of Google.  We call it FFQing (fun, funky and quirky)!

Most often they are not planned; they just happen as we explore the streets and alleys of urban neighbourhoods on foot with our eyes and ears wide open. Sometimes the FFQ experiences do happen at the tourist hot spots, but even if they do happen there, we try to find an offbeat twist.

Here are a few of our favourite FFQ moments from a recent walkabout in 'Colorado Springs, Colorado.  

This is the boys' washroom of the Ivywild School which was an elementary school until a few years ago. The art adds a whole new dimension to learning your ABCs.  

Ivywild is a huge yellow brick 1912 school that was sold to two local young cultural pioneers who have converted it into a multi-use community hub. It now is home to a Bristol Brewery, a bike shop, bakery, charcuterie, cocktail/coffee lounge and an art school. It also hosts many events, including a farmers' market. We will be writing more about this exciting urban revitalization project in the future.

We were impressed by how they retained the fun elementary school character of the space by retaining the wall murals throughout the building. 

We loved walking around downtown Colorado Springs as there were lots of interesting shops, restaurants and cafes.  This storefront dance studio had three painted blue pads on the sidewalk, each showing the foot work of a different type of dance. We loved the "freestyle" dance the most. The black lines are the shadow of a patio fence, which add a quirky sense of perspective.

We love "window licking" (the literal English translation of the French phrase for window shopping is "window licking"). The crazy quilt collage-like imagery is a wonderful reflection of the city's street culture. The Colorado Running Room had one of the best FFQ windows in Colorado Springs.

Downtown Colorado Springs is very pedestrian-oriented with its wide sidewalks, clean streets/alleys and mix of historic and new architecture. It is definitely worth a couple of hours of flaneuring.  

Brenda loved the Blueberry Lemon Streusel pancakes at the Over Easy diner - the best she has ever tasted. The combination of favours was fun and the presentation was funky.  

A short walk out of the downtown through the mansion district lies the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Centre - definitely a FFQ place to visit. Not only is the 1936 art deco building with its 2008 modern addition a fun space to explore, but many of the exhibitions and artworks had FFQ elements.

This is world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly's "Orange Hornet Chandelier" - or as most people call it the red pepper sculpture. It consists of 300+ glass vessels linked together to create it. It will be the centerpiece for the blockbuster exhibition of his work running from May 3 to September 28, 2014. 

This was one of many fun folk art pieces in the gallery. Some were very large like this one while others were more small scale. There was even art made from chicken bones.  

One the edge of the city is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods.  It is truly a sacred place with it surreal, orange rock formations.  I was intrigued when a young boy asked me "have I had seen the Indian Head?"  When I answered "No" he quickly took me to see it.  I couldn't believe I missed it given how obvious and huge it was.   

The "Balancing Rock" is the signature rock formation in the Garden of the Gods. It is a fun place to walk around and under (if you dare). It is amazing how accessible the formations are to the public and just a 15-minute drive from downtown. You could have spent all day there walking the trails, having a picnic and watching the movie at the Visitor Center. 

Perhaps the quirkiest experience I've had in a long time was feeding the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Barely get in the gate, visitors are welcomed by several hungry giraffes with their long tongues sticking out waiting to be fed. Two dollars gets you a handful of lettuce. 

One of our most fun experiences wandering around downtown was to happen upon a house that had been converted into a funky, landscape architecture office.  Brenda needed a stamp so we went in to ask about the design of the house, as well as where we might purchase a stamp.  We left not only with information on the home-to-office conversion but also with a free stamp (the woman insisted on giving Brenda the postage for her postcard).  Yes, we still send postcards!  

However, the stamp didn't stick very well so then we needed some scotch tape. As we were passing another intriguing street office space with the words "ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD" on the window, Brenda decided to head in and see if they might have some tape.  Inside were four young people with their laptops, two on couch and two at desks.  After the shock of unexpected visitors, they quickly asked how they could help us.  After first bringing some "duct" tape (she should have been more specific), they quickly found the scotch tape she needed.

In the meantime, I was busy taking photos of their street front window, being as intrigued by the words and their juxtaposition with the cathedral across the road.  Once I had finished taking my photos, we started chatting about things to see and do in Colorado Springs and what they did.  Ironically, they develop apps and one is for enhanced photography - VSCOcam.  We quickly downloaded it and they gave me a quick tutorial (more info at VSCO.CO)

Now that was a fun, flaneuring experience! 

Just in case you weren't yet convinced that downtown Colorado Springs is an FFQ mecca, I'll end this blog with an ice cream cone window cartoon character inviting you to a sidewalk peanut butter tasting (Pad Thai, Pumpkin Spice, S'mores etc.) - that was a first for us! 

Unbelievable: 20,000 Petroglyphs in Albuquerque

By Richard White, April 15, 2014

The petroglyphs at Petroglyphs National Monument (PNM) on the western edge of Albuquerque (ABQ) are unbelievable - in quantity, quality and accessibility.  Though we had read that there are 20,000+ petroglyphs, but being the skeptics we are, we didn’t expect to see hundreds of them in a matter of minutes.  In fact, Brenda spotted one just a few steps onto the first trail that most people were just walking by. While there are 20,000+ petroglyphs in the park, only about 500+ are available to the public via the designated walking trails.

Not only were the petroglyphs everywhere, but you can walk right up to them (look but don’t touch) and take as many photos as you wish from any angle you like. No security here!

PNM is billed as an outdoor gallery and it definitely lives up to that billing with lots of interpretive panels re: history, geology and vegetation.  You can spend 30 minutes, one hour, or more than 3 hours depending on your interest. 

The quality of the images is also amazing. Some look as if they were just done yesterday, only a few have faded or become worn over time. Its hard to believe Archeologists estimate that most of these images were done 400 to 700 years ago, some may even be as old as 2,000 to 3,000 years. Petroglyphs are rock carvings (rock paintings are called pictographs) made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel. When the "desert varnish" on the surface of the rock was pecked off, the lighter rock underneath was exposed, creating the petroglyph. It is estimated 90% of the petroglyphs in PNM were created by the ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians. Puebloans have lived in the Rio Grande Valley since before 500 A.D.

Beginning in the 1600s Hispanic heirs of the Atrisco Land Grant carved crosses and livestock brands into the rocks. Other explorers in the 1800s chiseled their names and dates into the boulders. Walking the trails and studying these petroglyphs gives you a chance to contemplate the cultural continuity of human history.

There are three petroglyph sites in PNM – Boca Negra Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon and Rinconda Canyon (the latter is currently under renovation after trails were destroyed by a fall 2013 storm).  Strangely, the Visitor Centre is located at a separate site all be it near the Boca Negra Canyon site. It is recommended you stop there and pick up the brochures with maps however. 

Most people start their tour at Boca Negra Canyon (BNC) which has two trails, one that is more difficult as you climb to the top of the mesa on a trail full of rocks imbedded in the asphalt. It is not stroller or wheelchair accessible. The second trail is a short, 15-minute loop walk with not much elevation change. 

BNC is both a good climb for families and a history lesson about petroglyphs, geology and native vegetation. Kids relate to the child-like images and love to draw them so bring a sketchpad.  Also, wear running or hiking shoes (flip-flops and sandals not advised) as you will want to climb some of the rocks.  The volcanic rocks are easy to climb - not too large, flat-sided and don’t shift when you step on them. 

Also there is a fun 5-minute trail where you get to walk in the arroyos dry wash (sandy river bed) to a picnic area, then a boardwalk before reaching the next trail.

After about an hour at BNC, we headed to Piederas Marcadas Canyon (PMC) which is an 10-minute, well marked drive.  Don’t be surprised when you have to park behind a gas station and cupcake bakery!  PMC is very different from BNC as you are in a city park with lots of trails and you are free to go anywhere you want. There is a marked trail however with six stops where you will find a concentration of visible petroglyphs. Again, don't touch. The brochure challenges you to find one specific petroglyph as per the photo at each of the six stops - a fun activity for all ages. Or, you could play “I spy with my little eye, a petroglyph with….”

You could spend an hour or more exploring PMC. There are lots of rocks to climb and petroglyphs to find.

Here is our photo essay of Petroglyphs National Monument. 

Note the bullet holes that have damaged these petroglyphs. Given the area is open to the public it is surprising how clean it is, no graffiti, no litter or bottles.  

This is our path back to the 21st century.


On one level, there is an eerie surrealism about this sacred place of sand and black rocks.  On another level, it is bit like walking into a kindergarten classroom or maybe along a city sidewalk where children have been let loose with a box of sidewalk chalk. There is something primordial and familiar about the images and symbols; they are part of the human psyche.

For more information, click here for Petroglyphs National Monument's website.

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Desert Botanical Garden: Right Place, Right Time

Brenda White, April 3, 2014

It all started when I hopped off the Red Lion (Tempe's) shuttle bus at Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) entrance at 9:15 am.  

Dollar off coupon in hand, I was expecting to get in for $19 and had my money ready.  Except, I was intercepted by a ticket scalper of sorts, who turned out to be a mid-50s, university women's group member who had an extra ticket as one member couldn't make it. She was willing to sell me the extra ticket for $12. I was a bit hesitant so I asked if I could go in with the group and pay her once inside - she agreed.  All went smoothly, so I paid her $12 and pocketed the other $7. Right place; right time. I was invited to join the group for their tour, but chose to say "goodbye" to my new university friends and went off on my merry way. 

It was quiet even though the garden opened at 8 am and I was quickly (and nicely) intercepted by a DBG volunteer who graciously offered to advise me on how to best make use of my two hours (I had arranged for a shuttle to pick-up at 11:30). She told me what loops to take and to make sure I went to all of the sculpture icons on the map as they indicated the location of the Chihuly glass sculptures. Again, right place; right time.

Dale Chihuly is one of the world's best known glass artists. He has one permanent artwork in the garden from his previous exhibition at DBG but I was fortunate to arrive while his second exhibition of 20 new works was on (it closes May 18, 2014).  Chihuly's large scale, neon-like abstract sculptures are definitely inspired by the colour and shape of the many different cacti and wild flowers in the gardens.  The synergy between art and nature was amazing. Once again, I was in the right place, at the right time. 

For one who has suffered from a lifelong case of being navigationally challenged, I impressed myself with not getting lost amongst the many loops and trails in the 140-acre garden site, luckily only 55-acres are in use for the trails. The reason - great signage and an insider tip from a stranger to always look for the paved path.  She said, "the paved path is the main one, so always default to if you lose your way."  The gravel paths are not long and are circular so just keep going and you "hit" pavement again. For a fourth time, right place; right time. 

I was also told by another local that early April is probably the best time to come as many of the wild flowers and cacti are in bloom.  Early morning is also the best time to visit, as it is cooler, less windy and fewer people. I also lucked out that the weather the day I chose was warm and sunny with almost no wind (that is not always the case I was told). Right place; right time.

I felt a little silly taking 150+ photos but it just seemed everywhere I turned, I was in the right place at the right time to capture the interplay of the intense colour, the early morning light, and shadows that make the garden so special.  I have never taken 150 pictures in one month let alone one day in my life.  

Here are a few of my favourite photos.  Now I will focus my attention on finding a funky $7 Spring Break 2014 road trip souvenir - hopefully I can be in the right place, at the right time again.    

desert red flower.jpg

Chihuly: Abstracting from nature

desert yellow flower close up.jpg

An Atheist's Look At Salt Lake Temple Square

Richard White, March 26, 2014

As a young child, I was raised a Catholic and was even an altar boy. But I have been a confirmed atheist since I was about 14.  However, I have a Mother who is a devote Catholic and many friends who have strong religious beliefs. Over the years, I have developed an “each to their own” philosophy when it comes to religion.  

You can’t say you have visit Salt Lake City unless you spend some time exploring the headquarters of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) commonly known as the Temple Square. Not only is Salt Lake City's sense of place closely tied to the Mormon Church, but so is its economy. In 2012 Reuters reported the Church had annual revenues of $7 billion from tithing and donations alone, with another $1.5 billion from its business enterprises.  In total, it has assets estimated at $35 billion.

However, the Square is really just a small walled area in downtown. It has five buildings - Assembly Hall, the Tabernacle, the Salt Lake Temple and two Visitor’s Centres (one focused on family and the other Jesus Christ). Outside the walls are the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Lion House, Beehive House, Administrative Building, Office Building, History Library, a massive Conference Centre, History Museum and Family History Library.  Thought, I haven’t been to any Silicon Valley high-tech company campuses, I imagine the Latter-Day Saints campus is much the same.

Throughout the five and half block campus, there are wonderful gardens and fountains that make for a very pleasant place to stroll or sit and contemplate the meaning of life.  It is a very cordial atmosphere with everyone smiling and saying “Hi.”

The only building tourists can’t enter is the Salt Lake Temple; all the other buildings offer free tours or some form of public access.  While the imposing blank stucco walled is not very pedestrian-friendly, I was told it was designed to muffle the sounds and distractions of the cars and people, thereby creating a more peaceful and contemplative place.  It is true the square is very calm and relaxing; for the most part there is no running and no shouting.  Surprisingly, there is also no graffiti on the exterior side of the blank walls. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Office Building at 26 floors, towers over the Temple campus.  Its strong, vertical lines give it an uplifting skyscraper quality that is usually associated with much taller office buildings. 

The Salt Lake Temple makes a dramatic almost heavenly - some might say Disney-esque - statement at night.  

An ugly stucco wall guards Temple Square with just a single entrance on each of the three sides that face the outside world.  The Square, more open on the east side, connects to the other church buildings on the same block.  The remainder of the campus buildings face out onto the street.

The Tour

We entered at the South Visitor Centre and were quickly greeted - no surprise, as all of the Mormons always say “Hi” to you even in the street - and asked if we’d like a tour.  While we are usually the self-guided tour types, we decided this time it might be good to get the “inside scoop” on the place and the people.

After waiting about ten minutes, we were introduced to two young missionaries Sister Asay from Dallas and Sister Lopez from Mexico, our two tour guides.  After a bit of chit chat, we were off to check out the model of the Salt Lake Temple (which we couldn’t go into) to learn about the different spaces inside and what kinds of things happened there. It is not your typical church with a big congregation area, but rather a series of rooms where you study and discuss your religious beliefs with more senior church members. You have to be a “member in good standing” to get in. We did question what that meant, but the answer was ambiguous. 

Then we went outside to the Assembly Hall, which in fact was the first Salt Lake church and built in 1889.  This was followed by a tour of the Tabernacle (built 1875) next door,  where the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir practises and performs.  The building's exterior looks like a mid-century hockey arena with its oval-shape and curved roof. Inside are pews like any church and a balcony like a concert hall, with a huge stage that accommodates a full orchestra and a 300-person choir.  The organ is one of the largest in the world with 11,623 pipes. There is minimal ornamentation in this building - the ceiling is just white plaster and the wall behind the organ is the same.  We attended the free Thursday night rehearsal and the acoustics were great. 

Next it was the North Visitor Center, which houses a series of large paintings about the life of Christ. It reminded me of the Catholic Church’s stations of the cross.  The paintings are competent, but I wouldn’t say they are outstanding; yet when I took pictures, a glow appeared around the head of Christ that was not there with the naked eye – a little eerie. 

You then walk upstairs and into the celestial room or at least that is what I call it. The walls and ceiling are painted like the universe with a 11-foot white sculpture of Christ in the middle of the room.  We were there at noon and the sunlight was streaming in. It was visually stunning; there was a definite heavenly feeling to the space.

This is the end of the tour for the standard 30 to 45 minute tour. But not for our 90+ minute tour! 

This is a  model of the inside of Salt Lake Temple.  You can see the six different spaces on ascending levels. We were told that as you move up the leadership ladder in the church, you get access to higher levels. This adds a whole new dimension to the term "working your way to the top."

The Assembly Building is where church services take place. It has many of the original furnishings, including the pews. 

The Tabernacle building is where the Mormon Tabernacle choir rehearses and performs.  You have to live within 100 miles of Salt Lake City to be in the choir. 

The blank white stucco walls and ceiling become a canvas for the projected light that is the background for the music and singing in the Tabernacle. 

A few of the Stations of the Cross-like paintings in the North Visitor Centre.

Detail of one of the paintings in the North Visitor Centre. Note the aura around Christ's head. 

Statue of Christ in the celestial room on the second floor of the North Visitor Center makes a very powerful statement. This 11-foot statue titled "The Christus" is an exact replica of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's original in Copenhagen, Denmark. We were told a senior church member was so moved when he saw the original that he negotiated with the Church and the artist to commission the replica for Temple Square. 

The Lunch

Throughout the tour we were chatting with the delightful Sisters Asay and Lopez about the Mormon culture, their families and lifestyle, as well as sharing information on our families and religious beliefs.  There was no pressure, no missionary zeal it was more like a first date as we keep asking each other to reveal some tidbit of information so we could get to know and understand each other better.

I asked if they would like to join us for lunch. They said they would, but would have to ask for permission. I was shocked when they said yes they could join us.  So, it was off to the Lion House's Pantry Restaurant for a quick, cafeteria-style lunch and more discussion. 

The conversation continued with the two Sisters being very forthright in answering more questions.  For early 20 somethings, they were both very mature and articulate, moreso than most other young people we know.

Lion House has a wonderful pantry restaurant that is popular with both tourists and workers on the Mormon Temple campus. Best buns in town! In fact, they truly are famous for their buns - soft dinner rolls with just a touch of sweetness. 

Outside The Square

I spent another two hours checking out the other Mormon buildings outside the square.  I had been told the conference centre had a capacity for 21,000 people.  The doubting Tom I am, I had to check this out for myself.  I wandered in and was immediately greeted with the proverbial “do you want a tour?” I said, “ No thanks, I just want to see the seating capacity.” 

I was quickly introduced to a tour guide who said he’d show me inside which he did, and yes indeed there are three tiers each with 7,000 seats. At ten times the size of your average concert hall, it is an impressive sight.

He then asked if I’d like to see the rooftop native species garden and off we went - so much for not wanting a tour! The views of the city and the valley from the rooftop are impressive. He informed me the church owned all of the buildings to the south of the campus which includes several major office buildings and a large residential tower. 

I then wandered the campus taking pictures of the other buildings, not daring to go inside, as I was toured-out. You could easily spend all day taking pictures and people-watching.

The Conference Centre is impressive in its starkness and simplicity of design. 

The Conference Centre's rich red carpet, stage, seats and drapes creates an immediate sense of life, awe and passion, which  I expect is perfect for the events that take place here. 

Stupid Me

It was only when I got back to the hotel and collected my notes and photos that I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of our new best friends.  Lucky me, the same evening we decided to check out the rehearsal at the Tabernacle. While standing in line, who should walk by but Sisters Lopez and Asay, a quick shout and there were big smiles all around.  And, yes I got my picture of them with Brenda. 

Sister Lopez, Brenda and Sister Asay

Last Word

I don’t know what the Catholic Church does at the Vatican in the way of museums and tours, but I can’t imagine it could be any better than what the Mormons do at their Salt Lake Temple campus.  With over 170 young women from around the world studying there, they offer FREE tours in 30 languages year-round.  Everything is free, including the Family Search centre where you can spend as much time as you want. You even get your own personal tutor to assist you with looking up your family history. Did I say it was all FREE?

Throughout the tour, I was surprised at how similar all of the stories and beliefs of the Latter-Day Saints were to Catholicism.  I was shocked there was no attempts to push their religion or beliefs on us.  It was a very non-judgemental conversation about sharing one’s personal values, faith and beliefs. 

My take home message was that the Mormons have very strong commitment to family.   Both Sisters, although only in their early 20s, were definite they would be getting married and having multiple children.  I’ve not heard many early 20 somethings be so sure about getting married and having children.  We even talked about marriage counselling, divorce and premarital relations. 

I couldn’t help but think the importance of family is not a bad thing.  Too often we hear complaits about cities (suburban and urban) being unfriendly, unhappy and alienating places where nobody knows their neighbours.  I can’t help but think part of the reason is that we have lost the sense of community which starts with a sense of family, as that is our first community. Too often the loss of sense of community in modern society is blamed on city design when it probably has more to do with a decline of the importance of family. Based on my limited sample size of family and friends, I have noticed that the stronger the nuclear family bond, the stronger sense of community they have.  


There was never an attempt to ask for a donation and in fact, there are no donation boxes anywhere on campus.  Neither, is there is no requirement to give  your contact information so they can hit you up later. How refreshing! 

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Postcards: Emerald Pools & Wilderness Area Trails, Zion National Park

By Richard White, March 23, 2014

After yesterday's hiking the Canyon Lookout Trail in Zion National Park, Utah we decided to check out some other trails in the park today.  In the morning, we did the Emerald Pools Trail (lower, middle and upper) and then headed to the Zion National Park wilderness area where there are less people and we were told some easy to moderate hikes for beginners. 

We were also told to get there before 10 am as there is limited parking.  So we were up early for breakfast and to check-out.  It was cool and windy and we were wondering if hiking so early was a good idea - we are fair weather hikers at best.  However, at the Park Gate we were told that as the air warms, the winds would die down within the hour.  He didn't lie - it was a beautiful morning for a hike.  Not sure how people do it in the summer when the temperature is over 30 degrees Celsius almost daily.   

Postcards: Emerald Pools Trail

While yesterday's postcards spoke for themselves, I think these postcards do need some context. For example, there are not emerald-coloured pools on the Emerald Pools Trail. 

I was intrigued by this rock wall that looked like it had a huge head etched into it. Can you see it just to the right of the big black, tree-like shadow?

This is one of the many rock steps that you have to negotiate on the trail up and down.  It is challenging to balance the need to look where you are walking while looking at the rock formations above.

I loved the light through this gap. The rock on the right looks like it has the lips of a tuna. 

Again. the bright light created intense shadows and colours that are very surreal.

This is a close up of the water that trickles out of the rocks at the upper pool.

This is a close up of the water that trickles out of the rocks at the upper pool.

One of several small waterfalls we experienced on our hike. Again, the bright light and the water combine to create a surreal image.

Postcards: People On The Trail

The Emerald Pools hike is popular for people of all ages and fitness levels. This postcard is under the largest waterfall where you can feel the mist and some water falling.  It was refreshing on a hot day in March; I can only imagine how welcomed it would be in the summer.

Other people found a quiet place to relax and meditate. 

We also found this 19-month old who was busy colouring while Dad carried her up the trail.  However, we were told she had hiked on her own another trail the day before. 

We also found this 19-month old who was busy colouring while Dad carried her up the trail.  However, we were told she had hiked on her own another trail the day before. 

Some people aren't satisfied just looking at the rock formations, they have to climb them.  Look for the climber in orange helmet about two thirds of the way up in the crack of the rock in the middle of the photo.

Postcards: Zion Wilderness Area

From the parking lot, you see an eerie vista of a meadow of dead-looking, stunted trees surrounded by a luminous red rock wall.  

As you get to the trail head, you get closer to the wall of rocks and the savanna of small, twisted and stunted trees. 

An example of the shedding bark of the one of the larger trees.

Just a few minutes on the trail, you encounter this sign. Indeed, it does feel like you are entering a wilderness; you feel like you are leaving the world behind. At this time of year, the landscape of dead-looking trees creates an eerie setting.  

As you proceed along the trail, you encounter beehive-shaped rock formations that are deeply etched horizontally by the elements.

The constant struggle to survive was never more evident than in this tree growing near the top of this beehive formation.

These mushroom-like growths, no more than a foot-long protruded off the side of the beehive. You could spend an hour exploring just one beehive.  

This six-foot abstract sculpture was hidden in a crevice in the rock formation.   

As you get closer to the rocks, they become more and more abstract and intense in colour, shape and line.

As you get closer to the rocks, they become more and more abstract and intense in colour, shape and line.

Last Word

I think we lucked out in visiting Zion National Park in late March as the weather was cool in the morning, but quickly heated up by 11 am.  By April, you are already getting temperatures of +30 Celsius in the afternoon.  

We also lucked out in that we could take our own car to wherever we wanted to hike and then move on.  Beginning in April, you have to take the Park's shuttle bus rather than your car as there are so many people visiting and limited parking.  It would not be the same experience with so many people and buses. 

If you are traveling in the area of Zion National Park, consider booking a night or two in Springdale and plan a couple of fun hikes or maybe a bike, horse or tube ride.  

I also think the light was wonderful in the spring. The southerly sun was low enough to get into of the caves and gaps, which wouldn't be the case in the summer when the sun is more overhead. The combination of the coloured rock and the intense sun had a magical synergy.  I can see why the indigenous people would see this as a sacred place.

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Postcards: Canyon Lookout Trail, Zion National Park

Richard White, March 22, 2014

I am not a professional photographer, but I love taking pictures and love looking at them.  I know I should be editing my collection of over 20,000 images, but I love to surf through them as they immediately bring back great memories. 

I also not an experienced hiker. In fact, most of my hiking is done on golf courses looking for my ball that has gone into the woods (this happens far more often than I would like).  However, when you are in Utah, you have to get our and enjoy the great outdoors.  People were shocked when I was in Salt Lake City and I said I wasn't going skiing.  I didn't know the only reason to go to Salt Lake City was to ski. 

Yes, I live in Calgary, next to one of the world's greatest parks - Banff National Park, but I seldom go.  I also have access to thousands of world class hiking trails and every year I threaten to go hiking, but I never do.  Just like I say I am going to bike more but don't.   

What is it about travelling that makes you do things you would never do a home?  People who never go to an art gallery or museum at home don't hesitate to visit them when they are in New York, London or Paris.  As soon as we hit the colourful sculpture-like peaks of Zion National Park, I was keen to jump out of the car and explore.

The first trail we came to was the Canyon Overlook Trail, so I quickly pulled over and off we went.  The trail an easy one - we saw everyone from a young children in flip-flops negotiating the rock steps and the narrow cliff trails to a young mom carrying a young child.

The trail is about a mile and leads you up to a lookout spot where as you might expect you can see the Virgin River canyon.  Along the way, you enter caves see hoodoos as well as colourful rock formations.  

Here are my postcards from my first hike in 2014 and perhaps a new take on flaneuring for the "Everyday Tourist."  These photographs don't need any explanation they speak for themselves. 


Last Word

Sorry I lied. Brenda reminded me I went to two hikes last year, both in Canmore, Alberta. One was a summer hike to Grassi Lake and the other was a winter walk around the pond at the Olympic Nordic Centre. I liked today's hike in Zion National Park so much we have planned two hikes for tomorrow.

However, that will probably be the end of the hiking, as we head to St. George, UT and the golf courses there are open and in mid-season shape.  Bring on the Red Rock Golf Trail!

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Downtown Salt Lake City: More Than A Temple

The dirt on the Museum of Clean

By Richard White, March 20, 2014

The concept of clean dominates our everyday lives like never before in the history of mankind.  We wash our hands several times a day and brush our teeth and floss at least twice a day.  We shower and bath daily.  We have numerous TV shows and books about how de-cluttering our homes will make us happier and healthier.  Children today learn about the importance of a clean planet and clean environment in elementary school.

Well, one man has taken the concept of clean to a higher level and created his own museum to house his personal collection of over 5,000 clean related objects and to share his encyclopedia of knowledge of the subject of clean both globally and historically.

Mr. Clean cardboard cut-out. 

Who is this guy?

Don Aslett, chairman of Varsity Contractors Ltd. (a janitorial services company he founded with his brother in 1957), is so committed to the importance of the concept clean in our society that he bought and renovated an 75,000 square foot, six-floor old warehouse building in Pocatello Idaho’s Old Town to create his Museum of Clean.  His commitment to clean includes renovating the building to LEED Platinum standards; this means the building’s renovations and operations are of the highest standards for both energy efficient and environmentally friendly use and recycling of materials.  

 In addition to collecting over 5,000 clean related objects going back 2,000 years, he has written over 35 books, including Clutter's Last Stand and Do I Dust or Vacuum First? Aslett is an octogenarian who would put most GenYers to shame, working a 14-hour day, seven days a week.

More often than not, when you visit the Museum of Clean, Aslett will be there and don’t be surprised if he gives you a private tour of all or part of his collection.

Don pushing Brenda in his wheel-chair garbage can. The museum is full of fun and kitsch. 

About the Museum

The Museum of Clean is pure clean fun for all ages with over 5,000 fun and quirky artifacts.  Young kids and even teens love to get “vacuumed off” before they enter the 30 foot high, green “Kids Planet” cage, where they will learn all about saving the planet. Then there is Noah’s Ark where everyone gets to learn everything they wanted to know but were afraid to ask about “importance of water.”

There are over 50 hands-on activities; this in not a “stuffy museum” with grouchy security guards telling you to be quiet and not to touch.   Test your skills using different floor polishers - it is not as easy as it looks, perhaps grandma can show you how!  Seniors get to reminisce about the good old days of hand-ringer washers, hanging clothes outside to dry and bathing once a week (sometimes in the same water as your other siblings).  There is also a great film on the history of clean that will bring back memories – good and bad!

Dads might be interested to know that Cadillac used to make a vacuum or he might like showing off his muscles trying to lift the 60-pound vacuum cleaner with one hand.  Kids love the “cleaning windows” activity area. This can come in handy when you do you next get around to cleaning your windows at home or in the car.

In addition, there are over 30 photo stops, so make sure your phone is fully charged as photography is encouraged.

Top ten reasons you should visit the Museum of Clean:

  1. It might well be the most fun you've ever had in a museum?  
  2. The whole family gets in for 15 bucks.    
  3. Where else can you see a prison toilet and a model used by Queen Elizabeth the First to do a #2?    
  4. The kids can literally get their nosed dirty, learning about what life was like for chimney sweeps in the 19th century. Bet they don’t complain about cleaning their room after that.  
  5. You think your life sucks. Try owning over 300 vacuums, most are pre-electric and one weighs over 60 pounds.
  6. Husbands will love and wives will hate the rocking chair vacuum.
  7. Kids are responsible for making sure their parents don’t run in the museum.  
  8. Don’t worry you don’t have to take your shoes off at the front door.
  9. You get to see a garage that is more cluttered than yours!
  10. Don Aslett is a really nice guy.

As part of the extensive collection of mops, there is a mop bra.

One of the over 50 hands-on activities.  

Yes, this was the cadillac of vacuums in its day.

The Kid's Planet at the entrance to the museum allows children to run off their excess energy.

Prison toilet

Last Word

Don’t just believe us - Trip Advisor, American Automobile Association and American Association of Retired Persons have all made the Museum of Clean their #1 pick of places to visit in Pocatello, Idaho.

Our #2 pick is to visit Main Street, Old Town, Pocatello (just a few blocks away) to check out the early 20th late and 19th century architecture, neon signs and ghost signs (those old painted billboards that have faded over the years).  It is a photographer's dream with some great old neon signs.  You can print out self-guided walking tour maps on the Old Town website. Best time to visit is on Saturdays from May to October when the farmer's market is in full swing. 

The Paris building is one of numerous restored buildings in Pocatello's Old Town. 

One of the many faded advertising murals that were painted on the sides of buildings in the early 20th century.

One of the many historic neon signs that are being restored as part of the revitalization of Pocatello's charming Old Town.

Ramsay: Calgary's FFQ Industrial District

By Richard White, February 16, 2014

Just when you thought Ramsay couldn’t get more funky, it did!  Just this past week “Passage,” a quirky new contemporary art gallery opened. 

While still lamenting the loss of Dennis Oppenheim’s upside down church “Device to Root out Evil,” I am excited by the creation of a new FFQ (fun, funky and quirky) art gallery space in the Dominion Bridge building on 24th Avenue S.E. 

The space is a narrow (20 feet at most?) “passage way,” part outdoor and part indoors, making for a very dramatic and inviting entrance to the offices that call the Dominion Bridge site home. 

The current exhibition, “IN DUST: REAL” which opened February 13, 2014 and is curated (this is not just a lets hang some art and call it a gallery project) by Colleen Sharpe a former Glenbow art curator features works by Aran McCormick and Joanne MacDonald.  I love the way the exhibition reflects the space with numerous references to industrial artifacts. 

Unfortunately "Device to Root out Evil" has been removed from the Dominion Bridge site.  It was my favourite piece of public art in the city. 

This was the entrance to "Passage" on the opening night.  How cool is this? Reminded me of the orbs that floated down the Bow River at night a few years back. 

Joanne MacDonald's welded steel sculpture "Community" sets the tone for the exhibition with its fun dancing snowman-like stature. I love the interplay of the object and the shadow, which is another repeated element in the exhibition. 

Aran McCormick's collage/still life with  bucket, rope and wire has a lovely whimsy that appealed to both Brenda and I.  

This is close up of Joanne MacDonald's "Suspended Element 26" also has a sense of playfulness that you wouldn't expect from industrial elements. There is a "nesting" element to the piece that I found intriguing. 

Aran McCormick's "Suspension III" is indeed an old wooden ladder suspended from the wall with a bucket on the end and paint on the floor.  The pop of colour on the floor foreshadows the next piece in the exhibition. 

At the back of the gallery were McCormick's colourful "Fly Wheel Series" digital art on vinyl. 

This is the back door, which provides a context for linking the site's industrial sense of place with the art in the exhibition. 


But Passage is not the only radical thing to happen to Ramsay recently.  Have you heard of or been to Salvage? It is located at the east end of 24th Avenue just down the road from Passage. You go past the Burns Visual Arts Society (named after the Burns building in downtown Calgary where the society was first formed) veer left into the junkyard and there you will discover a huge warehouse full of FFQ things to look at, or purchase.  It is like a scene out of Canadian Pickers.

Calgary interior designer Alykhan Velji along with Kelly Kask owner of Reclaimed Trading Company have a passion for salvaging and reclaiming materials from “off the beaten path” sources - cedar doors from Calgary’s old courthouse, old growth fir from a cannery in BC to name a few. 

They, along with their colleagues, then either rework them into home décor items or make them available to artists and scavengers to work their magic. Never before has the old adage “one person’s junk is another’s treasure” rang so true. 

Last spring, while in Portland, we fell in love with the “The Good Mod” and its amazing collection of reclaimed industrial products.  Our immediate reaction was “Why can’t Calgary have a place like this?”  Now we do! 

The entrance to Salvage is just a hint of what it is to come.

The wall of chairs was impressive. 

The Good Mod in Portland had a wonderful whimsy about it especially in how they displayed their chairs. 

Just one of the FFQ objects that had been created out of various salvaged objects. 

This bench would look good on our deck! 

How cool are these?

This is Salvage as you walk in or look back. 

Calgary’s Industrial District

While Beltline, Bridgeland, East Village, Inglewood and Kensington seem to get all the media’s attention as Calgary’s hipster communities, Ramsay is just quietly evolving into Calgary’s funky and quirky industrial district.

Caffé Rosso has, for a long time, been the funky foodie hangout in Ramsay. However, it now has competition with the opening of Red’s in Ramsay at 1101 8th Street SE.  

If New Urban Developments (Dan Van Leeuwen, President and CEO founded New Urban in 2008 as real estate development firm focused on inner city urban revitalization projects) can pull off the transformation of the 11-acre Dominion Bridge site into an industrial village (needs to retain a unique sense of place and design that “shouts out “industrial, not just another bunch of generic condos that look like they could be anywhere) for artists and artist wannabees, Ramsay could be the “sleeper” in Calgary’s quest to become a hipster haven.

In the 20th century the creative types converted warehouse streets into hip new communities. It looks like in the 21st century the "creative class" which includes developers is discovering old industrial sites and bringing them back to life. 

I encourage you to grab a coffee at Caffé Rosso and take a walk around Ramsay; it is a very interesting place to explore for anyone interesting in Calgary's history and our sense of place, or in treasure hunting and flaneuring. 

I encourage everyone to be an everyday tourist in your city or town. Get out and walk a different neighbourhood with the curiosity of a tourist. 

Caffe Rosso has the "industrial" sense of place that needs to be retained in any new development of the site.  I am thinking the steel tower could be converted into a signature artwork for the site.  Perhaps we also need to preserve the above ground telephone and utility poles as part of the authenticity factor.  

Old metal drums lids have been transformed into FFQ artwork at Red's in Ramsay. 

Sam Hester has been adopted by Red's as their local artist, commissioning artworks for both locations.  Hester's fun and colourful visual stories makes for a fun and quirky entrance at Red's in Ramsay. 

The Ramsay community celebrates its industrial sense of place which includes the railway the runs through it. This image in on Red's window is an example of how the community continues to showcase its history in fun ways. 

ON the beaten path with Yaktrax

By Richard White, January 4, 2014

What started off as a snowshoeing adventure turned into a Yaktrax walk.  Plans for a four-hour mountain snowshoeing expedition for three virgin snowshoers began to fall apart when everyone warned us that “maybe it isn’t a good idea to go for a four- hour walk your first time out.” Then one of our group had a bit of a health issue and we quickly decided maybe a regular walk in the mountains would be a better idea.

However, not wanting to be “expedition escapees” we opted to take a hike in the mountains without snowshoes.   Our fourth member, who is the hiker and beginner snowshoe guide for our group, suggested we all get Yaktrax and then find a “beaten path” somewhat “off the beaten” path so we could at least experience some of that “Rocky Mountain” high we had been hoping for.

A quick trip into lovely downtown Canmore and we were all equipped with our Yaktraxs.

Canmore is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies and a mountain playground for international tourists, Albertans and especially Calgarians. 

Illustration of Yaktrax and how they work.