Continued from last post…
Wednesday, August 28. Banff.
9:00am MT: We will start our last day with a river float adventure. River floating is a lot like white water rafting in that there is a river involved. It’s not as exciting, though, and no helmets are necessary. I like that as I try to avoid activities in which you have to protect your head.
“If you can sit on the bus and not fall off your seat,” Greg the tour guide says, “you can do this.” Greg, however, does not know of our family’s visit to Sesame Place when I almost drowned our then four-year-old daughter by toppling out of the tube on the lazy river ride. As if hearing my thought, Greg adds a safety precaution: “If you fall out of the raft,” he says, “just stand up. It’s only about waist deep.” So why, I wonder, do we need life vests?
We’re about 14 to a boat. Weirdly, you don’t sit in the boat, you sit on the outside of it, so you’re that much closer to falling backwards into the water and embarrassing yourself. It’s like sitting on a tire and it’s tough on the tush. The Australian guide/paddler points out the sights while trying to keep the boat from bashing into the sides of the river and its occupants from being decapitated by low-hanging branches (helmet, please!). And by the way, is there anybody left in Australia? It seems like every “local expert” we’ve met is from down under. So are most of the restaurant and hotel employees. What’s up with that? Are there a bunch of Canadians showing people around the Great Barrier Reef?
Among the sights are something called hoodoos, which are natural rock formations that, if you look at them at just the right angle and while on hallucinogenic drugs, are supposed to look like human beings standing guard over the river valley, although in this photo, which they so graciously posed for, they look more like a group of Ku Klux Klansmen about to lynch someone. (But not to worry–the one coming out from the trees on the far left is an undercover FBI agent about to arrest the other three.) Of course, the discussion of hoodoos brings to my mind the classic Cole Porter song lyrics, “hoodoo that voodoo that you do so well.” Nobody is staring at me, so I gather I did not sing this out loud.
Don’t be concerned about me; I’m just on a Rocky Mountain High.
11:20am MT: After the boat ride, we continue our “What modes of transportation haven’t we used yet on this trip?” day by taking a gondola ride to the top of Mount Something-or-Other. There have been so many mountains on this trip, they’re all blending together into one big range. Oh, wait. They are all one big range. I guess that explains it.
The gondola is about the same size as our compartment on the train to Jasper, only less claustrophobic because of all the glass. On the way up, we share the car with a couple who are driving from Rochester, NY to Alaska. It is taking them something like two months. Barb and I can’t imagine being in a car together that long. If it was Barbara and I driving that far, we’d be more likely to stop for marriage counseling than a gondola ride. On the way down, we sit with a British couple who are carrying a folded-up stroller. No baby, just the stroller. I ask if they forgot something on the mountain. The guy says something in response, but I can’t understand British accents without subtitles, so for all I know, the reply was that they had started the child rolling down the mountain and were going to catch it at the bottom.
The scenery at the top is, as always, magnificent, although the sky is a bit too hazy for Barbara’s liking (she’s getting spoiled), so we don’t spend much time up there. I take a deep breath, inhaling the smell of fresh pine. I may have to take up sniffing Pine-Sol when we get home.
12:40pm MT: We have not yet taken any public transportation on this trip, so we hop a bus into town. The fare for adults is $2 (exact change, please), so when we purchased the gondola tickets, I asked for change of a five dollar bill. The girl (who was Australian, by the way) asked how I wanted it, and I was forced to utter the following ridiculous phrase: “Two toonies and a loonie, please.” It must sometimes be very embarrassing to be a Canadian.
The town of Banff features a breathtaking view of Whatever Mountain That Is, towering over three blocks of souvenir stores and coffee shops.
5:00pm MT: We meet for our Tauck gala farewell dinner. We are greeted at the door by our surprise guest– a guy dressed as a Mountie. But not just any guy: a real, actual retired Mountie in full, Dudley Do-Right dress uniform. He gives an entertaining talk, explaining that the RCMP is similar to our FBI. I mention that we rarely see moose dressed like FBI agents at highway rest stops in the U.S. He replies that the Mounties enjoy being both a highly sophisticated police force and a tourist attraction.
Incredibly, given that this is the last night of the tour, we speak to some people for the first time. We do the whole “where are you from” routine, and I notice that both Barb and I say New York. This answer has evolved over the course of the trip. At the beginning it was “Connecticut.” Then it morphed into something awkward like “Connecticut by way of New York.” And finally, “New York,” which is probably the most accurate answer. We’ve lived in Connecticut for two years, but we’re “from” New York, and we identify most naturally as New Yorkers. Except when it comes to paying real estate taxes.
Amazingly, a good number of people order the salmon.
7:30pm MT: Dinner ended early so we could all start packing to go home. That’s done, and now I’m writing this while Barb pretends to watch the season finale of a Canadian TV series she has never seen or even heard of. It doesn’t matter; what she’s really doing is texting with our daughter.
Tune in to the series finale, Sunday, September 22…