Sunday, October 11, 2009

OCTOBER 8 - SASKATOON, SK - Skull Juice and Tumbleweeds

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I know what you're thinking: "How in the heck did you guys end up in Saskatoon?" It's a fascinating, endearing tale really, and I feel oh-so compelled to share it with you, my loyal readers.

We had just finished playing a wonderful show in Winnipeg on Tuesday (thanks to the many Peggers for attending!), and began to plan our grueling 825-mile journey to Calgary. We were told that the only town for miles betwixt those two fair cities was Saskatoon, so since we feared we'd end up famished and frozen on the side of the road (or hacked up by a crazed hermit), we took the advice and headed slightly north - even though Calgary is (essentially) directly west...

The drive was so bleak - for miles under smokey skies we could see nothing but an expanse of pale, dried-up grass and deciduous trees of violet and viridian hues. There was the occasional farm, surrounded by bails of hay or tumbleweed - yes, that's right - tumbleweed - but it was so desolate that it actually made us feel good about our wacky decision to head north.

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After 9 hours of sheer boredom and starvation, we finally made it to Saskatoon, and I was amazed we hadn't started to determine who the weakest member of the crew was, to be sacrificed to cater the rest of the us. We checked into our hotel as quickly as humanly possible, and boy were we lucky, as we snagged the last two rooms. When we asked the clerk what was going on in town, he smiled:

"Oh ya, there's a big hockey game tonight, eh."
Adrian squinted with confusion, à la Larry David, "Is there anything else happenin'? Live music, perhaps?"

Words could not have conveyed any more information than his utterly empty stare.

Against better judgment, we took his recommendation for dinner. The 2nd Ave Grill ended up being fine, but we're admittedly spoiled when it comes to food - we just have really high standards. This was possibly the best restaurant in town, though... but my "pan-seared scallops" were more like "boiled frozen mystery mollusks."

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The service was definitely excellent, however, and they suggested we go to the Tapas bar across the street for drinks. The bartenders were skilled and sassy over there - especially Joe Jackson (not to be confused with the singer), who made excellent beverages decanted from a crystal skull. Eventually we discovered that he was a musician as well (again, he's not to be confused with the singer), so we traded gig stories and talked about where we'd play if we ever got booked in Sasquatch City. It was great fun, but after a round or so, we were ready for bed.

The next morning, we found a Denny's (I couldn't get online to find anything else) and paid way too much for cold eggs (it was attached to a hotel) - but no matter, we just wanted to get the heck out of Saskatoon and on to Calgary. When we got on the highway, we soon realized our trip was going to be even worse than the day's prior. It wasn't just bleak - it was treacherous. There were only two lanes - one going in each direction, with nothing like a median to divide the road. So imagine us, barreling down the road to get to civilization, passing trucks in the wrong lane, potentially ramming into cars head-on. Our stomachs turned every time we succeeded an opponent. When we finally made it to the Drumheller/Three Hills intersection (which would eventually lead to a four lane highway), we realized we were out of gas. We couldn't see (and hadn't seen) a station for miles, so we looked up the nearest one in Genie. Luckily, there were two in Three Hills - but none for miles after that, so we knew we had to drive a bit out of the way, but at least we wouldn't be stranded, preserved perhaps forever in ice in Nowhere, Alberta. Immediately Genie prompted us to turn left - down a muddy, gravel road which seemingly led to nothing but more bails of hay. Eventually, we inched our way through the muck to the quaint town of Three Hills, where we were delighted to find a service station and - yep, you guessed it - a Subway. The sole kid working there was blasting Dashboard Confessional like it was the latest craze. Ugh. Everyone grabbed a sandwich - except for me - come on, I wasn't gonna settle for toppings on a roll after having starved all day. Everyone gulped down their meal (yes, I'm implying that very little chewing was involved) and we piled back into the van, eager to complete the final 90 miles of our journey.

At long last, we arrived in Calgary, where it was 23°F and snowing:

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Eric immediately began to set up his drums, and I witlessly ran back out into the tundra to find a quick meal. Of course I dragged my mom with me - misery loves company. Besides, she was still hungry after having a meager cheese and tomato sandwich. After scrambling around in the frigid, bitter rawness, we found our recommended spot - Veggie House. I ate my "meat" and veggie stir fry so quickly, I had to take a picture of Eric's in order to remember what even looked like... I vaguely recall that it was exemplary...

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Meanwhile, we only had fifteen minutes for sound check, and it was then that we discovered that going to Saskatoon was entirely unnecessary - in fact, it was detrimental. We could have stayed in Medicine Hat, and saved two hours from our trip (and ridden on a nice, clean, four lane highway).

Oh the joy of touring - at least we got a humorous story out of it... hahaha... wannhhhh!

2 comments:

Steve Kostelecky said...

A most enjoyable post. Love the road stories.

matrok said...

Great road story. I worked exclusively in Canada from '89 to '94, know all those two lane highways very well. Saskatoon was NOT one of our strongholds, but have a couple good stories from there.