The Trans-Canadian Highway: The Far West to Calgary, Alberta
We left Vancouver early the morning in the pouring rain and gridlocked traffic. Although I really liked Vancouver, it felt good to get beyond the city and start east on the Trans-Canadian Highway. We drove on to the Stó: lõ Research and Resource Management Centre in Chilliwack, British Colombia. This community center contained a small but important library and archive. It was also a positive expression of Native culture that is in the process of reinventing itself. This Library and Centre was part of the effort for the local Indigenous people to connect with their past and to build a better future. Our friend Dionne from Vancouver works with this group on fisheries issues.
The sky was low and dark as we drove east into the Kamloops Mountains. Ellen and I had never driven all the way through the Canadian Rockies and we found them to be stunning. We stopped briefly to photograph the small South Schuwap Branch Library. While sitting in the car a wild-eyed man came running out of a store, noticed our California license plate and demanded to know if we supported President Trump. I explained to him that we hated Trump and he pretended to shout back to the store that it was safe to come out because we weren’t Trumpers. We found the same reaction to our president in Europe and it is safe to say that he is the most unpopular man in the world. Four hours after leaving Chilliwack we arrived in the year-round resort town of Revelstoke.
The next day we began our drive through the High Rockies and we finally entered Baniff National Park. All the rivers had been flowing west but as we crossed the Continental Divide everything shifted and the waters of the Canadian West headed east. As we were crossing the Divide we were listening to the sublime CD “Bad Lego Man” by our friend and contractor George Crampton. The hours and kilometers slipped by as Ellen and I both exclaimed a lot of “Wows” and Look at thats”. We finally came out of the mountains and into the great Canadian prairie. We will remain in this vast landform until we reach the boreal forests of Ontario.
Calgary, Alberta is like the Houston of Canada. Cowboys and oil money mix here in a vibrant and exciting city. The Central Library is world-class and has recently been listed as one of the best libraries in the world by Time Magazine and the New York Times. I photographed the outside at dusk as the lights came on and a gathering storm grew darker and darker. The rain finally came crashing down in a flood just as I jumped back into the car. But I think the photos that I made were worth it.
We went back to the Calgary Central Library and were given a first-class tour of this exceptional place. This is one of the most intelligently put together libraries I have ever seen. They certainly have learned from what works and doesn’t work in libraries from all over. It is an exceptional community center that responds to the needs of this city. And it was, of course, filled with people – young parents with excited kids, scholars, students, homeless, tourists and people walking through studying the library itself.
After spending most of the day here I felt happy like a kid in a candy store. We headed over to the Memorial Park Library as the sky was darkening again with another storm. This was the oldest library in Alberta and was one of the libraries built by Andrew Carnegie. This beautiful building contained a Pride display, several Indigenous language books and an interesting musical instrument lending library. The deluge came as I hurriedly photographed the exterior of the library. We grabbed a dinner at a wonderful Calgary Mexican restaurant and sat at the window and watched the rain fall. I really enjoyed my Canadian tacos! Back at our hotel as I was later downloading my images from this productive day, I fell asleep. We have been running pretty non-stop since we left San Francisco and I guess it finally caught up with me.