Moving Nana from Prince Albert to Calgary

Well, it’s Easter time again, and that means a lot of family events out here in the great Canadian plains. The major difference this year is what sort of family events we do. In previous years, it’s been a massive dinner (or series of dinners). This year, we did something a little different.

We moved Nana from Prince Albert to Calgary.

This was a move in the works for a long time. Nana has been unhappy staying in PA. It’s a long way from most of her family, and her circle of friends gets smaller with each passing year. While she’s not showing any signs of slowing down, even at the age of 90, there is always a need to change gears every now and then.

So on Friday morning, I ventured out to my aunt and uncle’s house where I met up with my Uncle Mike (Aunt Brenda and my cousin Jen had gone out on the Sunday to help Nana finish packing). Mike, Maggie (their pet dalmatian), and I were following out with a moving truck. I was in for a long weekend…

I’ve done the trip east in Alberta as far as Hanna (about two or so hours from Calgary). In fact, this is where I ended up chasing a train last year back to Drumheller. This time, however, I would continue east into Saskatchewan, through Kindersley, turning at Saskatoon, and then north to PA.

It’s about an eight-hour drive. The last time I’d done an eight-hour drive anywhere was on my last road trip with Gerry (see 26 August 1997). I hadn’t driven for any major length of time through the prairies in a long while, and I was about to get a major refresher course.

Out to Hanna, you spend a fair bit of time in the Badlands — not the deep Badlands, but the erosion does bring out the shapes and colours quite readily. After Hanna, it’s all prairie. Not as dead-flat as southern Saskatchewan or Alberta (or Kansas, for that matter), but it doesn’t take long to get lulled into a sense of … well, you fall asleep.

I had a good excuse, though — I’d been out with friends seeing “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, at a midnight showing. The movie was great, but I didn’t get to bed until almost 02:00 in the morning. A half-hour nap in the truck, though, and I was able to continue the trip.

Our first major stop was at Kindersley, which also marked our halfway point. Lunch, water and a walk for Maggie, and we were on our way again.

I kept myself occupied (when we weren’t babbling about whatever came to mind) by watching for trains. The highway we were on roughly paralleled one of CN’s lines — the one between Saskatoon and Calgary, to be specific. Even with the long drive, I didn’t see a single train. I didn’t happen to notice a couple of abandoned railbeds, though.

We popped in at the southeastern corner of Saskatoon, very close to the Saskatoon train station that the CBC 50th Anniversary train had stopped. We didn’t pass by the station, and came in at 22nd Street and Circle Drive. Ironically enough, I had seen the new interchange before my uncle (we’d almost become lost driving back and forth from the train), and managed to direct him through it.

I’ve driven from the Saskatoon Airport to PA many times. But I didn’t recognize any of the sights. None of the towns, none of the locations — nada. The unfamiliarity was actually a great distraction, mostly because Maggie recognized it, and new she’d be getting out of the truck soon.

We arrived at Nana’s apartment around 16:00, which is pretty good time, I gather. Piling out of the truck, we went in and prepared to start packing. It was all done. The only outstanding parts were to disassemble the bed, load the truck, and leave. That wouldn’t be until the following morning. Instead, we rested from our long trip.

That night, we enjoyed the last meal Nana would cook in her kitchen. Turkey, a personal favourite. We celebrated Maggie’s 10th birthday (complete with ice cream cake), and entertained a small army of visitors who came by to see the family.

The next morning began early. Following a short breakfast from McDonald’s, I disassembled the bed and we moved it into the van. Nana had sold it to a friend, but it had to go into storage until they could pick it up. Storage in PA means the basement of a legal firm.

When we returned, we immediately proceeded with the remainder of the packing. First item up: all the big stuff, starting with the china cabinet.

This is how I got the second injury of the day (Mike got the first one when a nail in the wall opened a rather nasty gash on his hand). We were loading the cabinet into the truck (on its side — the cabinet wouldn’t fit in vertically), Mike on the high end any myself on the low end. Only Mike had his end a little too high, and it hit the top of the van. The cabinet stopped, but I kept going…


My face collided with the bottom of the cabinet. Luckily, my nose cushioned the impact. But not before creating a rather nice semi-circular cut on my nose. It took a while for it to stop bleeding, and the end result is, well, let’s just say that when people ask what happened, I tell them I got into a bar fight in PA.

It sounds better than getting whacked in the schnozz with a china cabinet.

In under two hours, we packed up everything Nana was taking into the van. A quick vacuum, and we were ready to leave. I expected a slow departure. This had been Nana’s home for 27 years. But there was no hesitation for her — it was time to move on with living. It was time to move to Calgary.

Our three-car caravan hit the road at about 11:00 — Aunt Brenda in lead with the minivan, myself following in Nana’s car, and Mike bringing up the rear in the moving van. (The order would change not too far out of Kindersley — Mike wanted to get back a little more quickly than we were moving.)

The trip back was fuelled by a steady supply of Coke. There was no way I was going to cross the prairies solo without being fully awake. I’ve nearly fallen asleep at the wheel enough to know that if you have to, you drink caffeine constantly.

Aside from stopping in Saskatoon (for a quick bathroom break), our only other stops were in Kindersley for lunch, and somewhere around Alsask so we could refill our drink supply.

We arrived in Calgary around 20:00. My back was killing me. Nana’s car had been comfortable for about four hours, but the seats were never designed for long trips. I needed to get out and walk a bit. We had the opportunity, since we also had to empty the car and part of the van.

Bidding farewell for the evening, I walked back to the C-Train station, went home, and about near passed out from exhaustion.

We emptied both vans the following day, with assistance from Pam and Sean. Our larger Easter dinner also featured the newly-returned Darren from Thailand. But the pain of the previous days’ work was hard to overcome. Suffice to say, it’s a trip we won’t have to make again any time soon.

Which is good, ‘cuz I still have a buzz from all the Coke.