Across the prairies in search of family

Across the prairies in search of family

It took me a little longer before I could publish a new article. The last few weeks has been full of beautiful experiences, which I would like to share with you. Today I’m publishing the first part of Canada’s Alberta journey from the glaciers around Banff, to the prairies in search for relatives and back to the glaciers in Montana in the United States.

James was absolutely thrilled. He was sitting at the bar at the Mossleigh Bar ‘n Grill, in Mossleigh, a little place in Alberta’s southern prairies.
“Are you on a bike? For real? All the way from Alaska? People like you totally make my day. I’m glad I came here, wouldn’t want to have missed ya for the world!’
He came and sat down at a table with me. James works construction in Calgary, but drove all the way for what he called that worldly pizza in the Mossleigh Bar ‘n Grill.
“They have the best pizzas here, taste it because I won’t eat it all.”
He pushed his box with a pizza in my direction and kept asking questions about my cycling journey.

Even if it wasn’t my first choice, I had a good reason to head out of Banff through Calgary and out of the Rocky Mountains. I was on my way to a place east of the mountains, that place is called Taber. In Taber there would be people that I could call family and I had never met them before in my life. Now that I was coming close, I couldn’t help but go over for a coffee. I had to detour a kilometer of 300 for it but that is worth the effort for a discovery in my family tree.

In Banff I had time to plan the next leg of my journey. I was with Lina and Dana, who both work at a ski resort in the area around Banff. Lina invited me through social media and I got a place to sleep on the couch in their living room. There was a very relaxed atmosphere and I had plenty of time to relax. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays there was a food rescue in the Sunset Mall in the evenings where I could buy discarded fruit and vegetables from supermarkets for five Canadian dollars to cook meals with. After a week of rest I continued cycling and saw on an early morning these beautiful Elks grazing on the Tunnel Mountain Road while leaving Banff.

Cyling Banff to Taber

I arrived in Calgary after two days of cycling and in Calgary I had ordered a book, called Infinite Jest by one of my favorite writers David Foster Wallace. David is known for his speech This is Water which he gave at Lenyon College in 2005. Infinite Jest is a critical novel towards the possibility, both as an individual and as a society, to be too entertained. Now that I could hold a book without my fingers freezing off, I thought this book was a worthwhile purchase. With more than 1000 pages it was a bit of a heavy purchase, but, as light as I cycled to Singapore, my bike was now already loaded with all winter gear. That book wouldn’t make too much difference and would keep me on-the-read for the next three months.

I also made a quick stop a little further down south in Calgary to visit the mother of my host Kat from Whitehorse. She goes by the name Auntie B. I was invited to Auntie B’s house but wasn’t quite sure when I would be there exactly. Unfortunately she wasn’t home and I slipped a postcard with a small written message on it through Auntie B’s mailbox and quickly cycled out of the overwhelming crowded streets of Calgary.

Cyling Banff to Taber

At the Mossleigh Bar ‘n Grill I wanted to pay for my dinner but found out that James had already paid for me. When leaving the table he also threw another 30 Canadian dollars in front of me.
I was speechless.
Later on I also wasn’t allowed to pay for the chocolate milk with whipped cream that I took as dessert. I got it, from the house, is what they told me. It was one of those special restaurant visits where hospitality got out of hand.

With that nice subtle feeling of being-cared-for I moved on in the evening to look for a camping spot on the prairies. It was a beautiful evening. I cycled through a large herd of deers with the setting sun in the background and later put my tent somewhere in the fields with that shiny pink prairie sky in the distance.

Infinite Jest on the prairies

I came closer to Taber now. I had previously heard from my family in the Netherlands that I would have relatives in Canada. I would have a brief contact with Vena just before arriving. Vena was already over seventy years old but still very active on social media.
I felt that exciting feelings from not knowing what was about to come because who are these people? How did they end up in Taber? What does their life look like? Are they social? Religious?
Oh boy, I had so many questions.

Cyling Banff to Taber

In Taber I visited the IGA supermarket after a long day of cycling 110 kilometers. I bought flowers and chocolate because you can’t go empty-handed if you are going to visit family, right? So I rang the doorbell at Vena’s house and she wildly enthusiastic opened the door and gave me a hug.
“Oh, you’re Henk! How nice! Do you have flowers with you? How did you know it was my birthday today?”
It was indeed her birthday and that evening I had a Dutch vanilla slice and something called Dutch bitter balls at what turned out to be a nice old-fashioned Dutch birthday party. Only the language wasn’t Dutch!

I was on the verge of a very special few days in which I would learn a lot about my family and their lives here in Taber.