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Wednesday, 17 December 2014 07:00

Making music in the mountains

columnist Eoin KennyCALGARY -- After a warm, sunny weekend in the Rocky Mountain resort town of Canmore and a too-short visit with my honey, I awoke to pouring rain and single-digit temperatures. I know which single digit I’d like to give Ma Nature! It’s June, for crying out loud! 



No matter, I knew what the weather was going to be after watching an amazing alpine sunset on Sunday night!

Making music in the mountainsOn Saturday, Mindy and I had dinner with her long-time friend Carol, who at various times has been an award-winning editor of the local paper, founder of its successful competitor, folk festival volunteer, as well as member and chairman of the local school board. 

Over delicious spicy Indian food at the aptly named Spice Hut restaurant attached to the Canmore Ramada, we laughed that I see much more of Carol and Robin, her locksmith husband, than Mindy due to various solo motorcycle trips into the mountains including several Rides for Sight to the nearby Stoney Nakoda Reserve casino resort.

I also used to make a regular May Run along the Icefields Parkway from Edmonton to Jasper on Saturday; south to Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore on Sunday; then on to Edmonton on the holiday Monday. It’s a great ride through some spectacular scenery even if the weather is sometimes a little on the cool side.

I asked Carol if she ever tired of seeing the mountains like Three Sisters and Ha Ling that closely ring the town. Sometimes, she said, mostly they are just the background. 

But then she thought a bit more and said every time she looks at them, they‘re different. Light, time of day, weather, season all play their part in refreshing the view. So they never get boring. 

And no better illustration of this was the interplay of the last rays of the setting sun, fighting valiantly but in vain to break through an advancing wall of dark and silvery ground-hugging rain clouds. 

Even if I’d had my camera, I doubt I could have taken a picture as the light shot through one final clearing in the now rain-squalling cloudbank and then faded to nothingness behind a high gap in EEOR - East End Of (Mount) Rundle.

Making music in the mountainsEarlier in the day, Mindy and I had coffee with Joan and Mike, friends from Cobourg who have lived in Canmore for, well, a good long while. Joanie and I went to high school together and we caught up on a bunch of folks we know, and sadly one we knew. 

I had known of Mike, but only just learned that we share the same taste in a lot of music, acts like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Blaze Foley, Slaid Cleaves and Alison Krauss and Union Station. 

But Mike‘s more than a fan; he plays and sings songs of his own creation. His repertoire includes a dog song that he played to serenade walkers in a charity event for guide dogs. He’s held house concerts, provided the soundtrack to a local heritage film on floods.

Mindy and I like to visit Austin, Texas for beer, barbecue and music you just can‘t hear anywhere else. And to my thinking, one of the best singer-songwriters I‘ve come to know a bit is Mark Allan Atwood. I recommended Mike listen to Ghost, particularly a solo acoustic version of his tribute to Townes. Getcha some! 

The day became blazing hot as Mindy and I headed out on our first bike ride of the season together. We took the Bow Valley Parkway, through woods more lovely, dark and deep than even Robert Frost could imagine. 

The parkway is the old highway through Banff National Park and there are some really good twisty bits. But the posted speed is just 60 kmh. Even if you feel like ignoring it, you’re very likely to come up on a rented motor home content to dawdle along -- and with the Rockies providing breath-taking views around every corner, you can hardly blame them.

Making music in the mountainsWe pulled over at the site of a cairncommemorating World War I internees imprisoned near Castle Mountain, mostly Germans, Austrians and others from the Austro-Hungarian empire, many of them Ukrainians. 

The stop allowed some slower traffic to get well ahead of us and we had some fun putting the nimble Beemer through its paces! Sorry Parks Canada, but it had to be done!




Making music in the mountainsWe sat on the patio overlooking the still-frozen lake that gives the uber-expensive Chateau Lake Louise its name. Other guests of the luxury lodging, I guess, had no problem forking over $24 for a burger and $11 for a bowl of onion soup. It was a very good burger and Mindy assured me it was very good soup, but at those prices I’d be broke before I got to Winnipeg!

We flew back to Canmore on AB Hwy. 1, the four-laned TransCanada Highway that still has enough broad sweeping curves to keep it interesting. 

Mindy left for home, 400 kilometers away in Edmonton, shortly after we got back to the hotel. I’m the Lone Rider once again and our next reunion in Boston in September can’t come soon enough. Muj!

Making music in the mountainsNext morning, in a cold rain that had fallen off and on all night, I shared coffee and old times with Mike -- who greeted me with a line from Atwood’s Ghost -- and Gord, a guy I’ve known since Cubs in Grade 3 at St. Michael’s School in Cobourg. Gordie is also a talented guitar player.
When he's not selling floor-coverings, he can often be fou nd jamming with a local outfit called Sully's Garage. He also played for the guide dog walkers. Don’t know if was on purpose or not, but he and his fellow musician Marcel were playing Steve Earle’s Galway Girl when we met up at the dog event.

These Cobourg colonists are tight and I must do a better job of staying in touch.

It poured all along Hwy. 1A, which runs through the Nakoda (Stoney) First Nationand all the way into Cochrane, a former cowboy town that’s now a satellite community of Calgary that hasn’t quite been swallowed by the ever-expanding suburban sprawl. Yet. 

I managed to hit Cowtown just as the rain quit. Sod’s law! 

I’m staying with my good friend Mark. He used to work in Kelowna with my photographist friend Gary. Funny how a lot of the folks I knew in one place during my career as a gypsy journalist know people I know now in other places. As Ray Wylie Hubbard sings, "some things under heaven are just cooler’n hell!" Right on, Ray! 

Hey, if you’re enjoying this -- or even if you're not -- , please donate to my Ride for Sight fundraiser. Secure online donations can be made here!
More Postcards from a Lone Rider here
Last modified on Thursday, 18 December 2014 19:02

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