Adventures in Edmonchuk

From Vegas we flew north – way north – to the city of Edmonton, Alberta, where Doug and I will be moving sometime in the next few months. Doug had a one-day orientation scheduled at his soon-to-be workplace the day after we were scheduled to drive back to Green River from Vegas, so I decided it might make sense for both of us to fly up on a fact-finding mission (I’d never been to Edmonton before). Plus I didn’t want to drive the 9 hours back to GR by myself if I could help it!

It also turned out that a round-trip fare from LAS to YEG was $279 versus the $800+ from our closest regional airport, RKS. And of course it didn’t hurt that his company was paying Doug’s flight and our hotel for four days either.

Here’s a little map to help people get their bearings.
For those Americans among you, Alberta is the province
directly north of Montana!

So off to Edmonton we went, after leaving the car in the NY NY Casino & Hotel parking lot and taking a taxi to the LAS airport at 4am (tip: it costs $10 in cab fare, the parking at the hotels is free, and the parking at the airport is upwards of $10/day. Don’t worry, we checked: they wouldn’t tow us!).

After a short stopover at the Salt Lake City airport, we landed at YEG around 1pm. There we were met by a shiny black luxury sedan sent by the company to ferry us to our hotel. I tell you, there are a lot of frustrating things about the company Doug works for, but sitting on those leather seats with more legroom than I’d had on the plane, I loved ’em… And I loved the company even more when I saw where they had booked us: a boutique hotel on Whyte Ave in the heart of Old Strathcona.

The Metterra on Whyte is nothing short of amazing. The whole place is decorated in an earthy-zen way, there are soaker tubs in the bathrooms, a wine and cheese every evening at 5:30pm, and a deluxe continental breakfast each morning. There was also a great fitness room that was like my personal gym, and a business centre with two computers and a printer that was basically like my personal office except when I ‘had’ to share it with the co-host of the Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet show, Jay Ingram. I am a huge nerd, loved the show when I lived in Canada, and was quite ‘chuffed’ when I got to meet him in person!

Maybe one of the best parts of the hotel was the ‘hospitality suite’ where breakfast and the wine and cheese was served. 24 hours a day you could find coffee and tea as well as one of the coolest coffee barrista robots ever: it was a machine with a touch screen that would make you anything you wanted from hot chocolate to caffe mocha. I made it my mission for our stay to try out as many combinations as I could… flavour shot? decaf or caf? So many decisions!

We didn’t take the time to enjoy all these fine amenities right away, though. First we went next door to Julio’s Barrio Mexican Restaurant to grab a quick plate of nachos (our driver recommended them) and at 2pm met our realtor, Janet Bossert, who picked us up in her silver Subaru Outback and took us on a tour of the city.

After seeing a few semi-dilapidated properties at the top of our price range in the more desirable parts of town (i.e. closer to the University, Old Strathcona, etc) we were more than happy to refocus our search nearer to the research park in the southeast corner of Edmonton: Mill Woods. But that would have to wait until Friday, after Doug’s nail-biting day of presentations, interviews, and informal chats the next day.

Thursday I caught up on some work, worked out, and tested the public transit system by busing it downtown to the Edmonton City Centre. Apparently, Edmonton has the highest level of shopping per capita in North America. I don’t doubt it! I spent a few hours at just one of three downtown shopping centres and didn’t even make it to the shopping mecca – the West Edmonton Mall, with its 800 stores, skating rink, wave pool – or to the big box store development in the south end (Ikea! Home Outfitters! Pier One!).

Edmonton is also one of the greenest North American cities with its parklands, off-leash dog areas, bike paths, and massive recycling program. Sounds like a great combo to me!

Over the next few days Janet-the-realtor drove Doug and I around looking at several more places and grabbing lunches at great spots like the Maurya Palace Dining Lounge (weekday lunch buffet for about $10) and Earl’s, where the three of us split an amazing slice of gingerbread cake for dessert.

Doug and I also explored the gastronomical offerings of Old Strathcona by trying a different cuisine each evening for dinner. Night #1: The Keg, where we feasted on sirloin and king crab legs. Night #2: Chianti Cafe (known as Chianti’s by the locals) where the hand-made pasta melts in your mouth and the 1/2 portion with a salad is plenty. Night #3: Yianni’s, a Greek restaurant that doesn’t look like much from the outside but is warm, vibrant and bustling inside. Plus, we got to sit in a cozy booth downstairs in the lounge where we chilled on cushions while devouring the Mezethes (appetizer) platter – more than enough food for two people! I only wish I’d saved room for some baclava…

On the crisp Saturday morning we also ventured around the block to the Old Strathcona Farmers Market, where you could easily ingest a meal’s worth of samples from the fruit/veggie stands, Ukrainian meat tables, cheesemakers, and bakeries.

Sunday we packed our bags, saw a few last properties – including the one we’re hoping to make an offer on this week – and said a sad farewell to the Metterra, Old Strathcona, and Edmonchuk, that wondrous most northerly metropolis in North America. Ah, Edmonchuk, we will meet again soon and I will get to call you my home…

Crossing Over

The impending move to Wyoming is finally at hand.

We first found out about the posting for Doug’s new job back in early July, but it’s taken two months to get all the paperwork squared away and to convince them that we’d actually prefer to move sooner rather than later. Bouncing from family home to family home is not a long-term solution as far as we’re concerned…

Doug’s Work Visa application arrived last Friday after we’d gone away on a sanity-seeking mission in Merrickville, ON. We stopped watching the pot for one day and it finally boiled! Now we’ve launched into overdrive: the U-haul truck is booked (we’ll be towing our Mini Cooper behind it on a flat-bed trailer); the hotels en-route and at our destination are reserved; and we’ve set up new US dollar bank accounts. We knew that it would be a game of wait…..wait… now HURRY!

Now, I am a little worried that we’ll get down to the border at Sarnia, ON next Thursday and be turned away. Apparently how it works is we bring Doug’s Visa application and all our supporting paperwork there and then we’re interviewed by an immigration officer. Technically, he or she can reject us, but Doug assures me this is not likely.

Actually, Doug has had to reassure me a lot the past couple of days. Yesterday when I was trying to book us a hotel in Rock Springs, WY (where we’ll be living for the next 19 months or so) for a week, I discovered that many of the hotels were booked up for long-term stay. One of the reservation agents I spoke with who lives in RS says he’s had one fellow living in the hotel for SIX MONTHS! The agent told me that he was looking to rent an apartment and the cheapest he could find was $1000 for a “crappy loft” amd that housing prices were basically double what properties were worth. Sounds like another Fort McMoney (otherwise known as Fort McMurray in northern Alberta)!

As Doug reminds me, though, we are getting a a housing stipend (unknown amount at this point) from the company, and that should put us in a competitive position to rent a decent place for our time there. In fact, the company is going to reimburse us for our moving expenses, a 7-day stay in Rock Springs while we house-hunt, and will give us money for meals and household goods while we’re there. Mothers: tell your children to become mechanical engineers!!!

Ongoing Mysteries

Doug and I are still living day-to-day and week-to-week regarding the move to Wyoming. Everyone I’ve spoken with thinks it’s very strange we don’t know when we’re actually moving or where we’ll be living when we get down there. Me too!

I knew there would be a lot of hoops to jump through and headaches to contend with, but I think even I’m surprised by the piecemeal nature of the information, the amount of paperwork, and the number of different people handling Doug’s case. Just to name a few of our ‘handlers’: there’s Camille in Calgary; Holly in Texas; Trina in Wyoming; and half a dozen other people scattered across North America.

We do have some information: we know that Doug’s training begins in early October. He’ll spend one week in Houston and then go to Kellyville, Oklahoma for five days of driving training. I guess that’s where they’ll teach him how to drive the big truck 🙂 Then he’ll be in Rock Springs, WY for a few months of on-site training. Then back to Houston most likely for more in-class stuff. At least through all his back and forthing, I’ll be in one place!

We are really hoping to move down to Rock Springs in early September so we can get settled in before Doug goes off to his training (and so I can focus properly on the book again!). While we wait for more information, though, we’re doing everything possible to prepare. We’ve gathered most of our possessions at Doug’s parents’ place in Ottawa and we’re sorting through things ruthlessly.

To try and stay as sane as possible through all this, I am indulging in more than my fair share of escapism. On the literary front, I’m reading Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series from start to finish. Hard to think about moving when you’re engrossed in a murder-mystery or grossed out by descriptions of forensics.

I’m also watching a British television series on DVD based on Elizabeth George’s novels. It’s called The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and the acting is superb, as are the shots of the British countryside. Makes me want to go back for a visit!

Of course, in-between books and episodes I am trying to get a bit of work done. My brain feels like cotton these days, though – far too much uncertainty and niggling details to concentrate. I have, however, sent off a story idea to The Beaver, Canada’s history magazine. Hopefully they’ll like the idea and I’ll have something to keep me busy once the manuscript of the book is done!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.