Mary-Ann Barr

Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. Her column appears Tuesdays. She can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 403-314-4332.

How I spent my summer

by JERRY GERLING/Advocate staff

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A few things were keeping me awake in the wee small hours of Monday morning.

None had anything to do with stock market crashes, the boring federal election in Alberta, processed meat, the price of gasoline or the new software program at work.

What woke me up was this strange short beeping sound.

Turns out it was the carbon monoxide detector telling me it was unplugged. When it’s unplugged, it beeps once in awhile, thanks to a backup battery.

It had accidentally been unplugged. It had to wait until 1 a.m. Monday to start complaining.

Then brightness of the night kept me awake. It was the full moon. It seemed like daybreak. I started reflecting on my summer holidays that had just ended.

This year, I did something different. I did not go to B.C. It had nothing to do with the price of gasoline. It was more a case of indecision, and as the days went by and I got doing other activities, B.C.’s Okanagan became more and more elusive.

The first few days of my big summer holiday involved a garage sale. It amazes me how people start cruising by or park and wait, in anticipation before the sale even starts. Garage sales are kind of fun and probably do more to get people talking to their neighbours than anything else. It’s kind of amazing, too, that some people come along and try to sell you their things. I had two different “vendors” come by, one offering fresh baked apple pie and the other had a van full of used golf clubs. It’s a brilliant idea when you think about it — a roving farmers market.

Holidays started in earnest with a week canoeing and fishing in God’s country, west of Nordegg. This area is becoming noticeably more developed and busier each passing year. Even in the third week of August, Hwy 11 west of Rocky Mountain House was busy with people hauling RVs.

Rocky itself has exploded with development. Does that town ever see a ton of passing through traffic now as people aim westerly.

Out at Fish Lake, there’s nothing like rising early with the mist still covering the water and paddling across to where the sun first hits the water.

But how big a disappointment it was that Fish Lake doesn’t have many fish in it. As recently as two years ago, you couldn’t begin to count the trout rising in the evening. This year, you were lucky to see even a few ripples. What happened?

I was not the only camper wondering. One campground worker said that suckers had got into the lake and that people were catching them instead of the usual rainbow trout. I did catch one trout on the fly rod but I was one of the lucky ones. Something is wrong in that lake.

One day, we zipped the canoe over to nearby Goldeye Lake and after paddling the entire shoreline, we were beginning to think that lake too had changed. But then as we moved across the deeper waters into the lake’s centre, we hit the motherlode. We caught and released until we got tired of it.

After returning to Red Deer for a few days, we headed to the Body Worlds exhibit in Edmonton. It’s a German exhibit of real human bodies that have been treated with a special process called Plastination. It was fascinating and at the end of the exhibit several people were filling out forms to donate their bodies.

It’s too bad that the Telus World of Science, where the exhibit is staged, has such a great gift store offering many educational items but they are all overpriced. And the public washrooms were dirty.

By comparison, I was pleasantly surprised that the class act, the Royal Tyrrell Museum near Drumheller, has a gift store where prices are reasonable. And the washrooms were really clean.

I hadn’t been down that way for about 15 years, but since the holiday was turning into a day-tripper, Drumheller seemed like to good idea. The Badlands are really amazing to look at and drive through. It’s better than any movie, and the museum is one of Alberta’s best treasures. Judging by the many different languages I heard while there, people from around the world are learning this, too. It’s nice, too, that the museum isn’t named after some politician.

The only thing I wondered a bit about was why some of the large exhibit rooms are so dark.

So we did some other things too, like shopping in Calgary and taking my almost 80-year-old mother out for supper. If I have as much mental clarity as she does when I’m that old, I’ll be forever grateful.

I learned two new things while on holidays. One was how to make short movies on my computer and post them to my social networking site. The other was something I never thought I would do in a million years — golf.

Who knew it could be so difficult to hit a golf ball, and who knew one could be so delighted when all things come together and that ball actually goes further than 20 feet?

I confess that during my last week of holidays, I golfed three times and also spent considerable time out at the driving range. I won’t bore you with the details but I do admit it’s something I never thought I would enjoy. Too bad for me I’m just getting into it and the frost is almost on the pumpkin.

Ah well, it’s back to the grindstone.

Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. Her column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays. She can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 403-314-4332.


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