Torches and waterslides

Well, Monkey, it’d been over a month since the last time you swam in a pool, and I thought it high time we went for a swim. In fact, it was so overdue that I felt it was also a good time to go for a Surprise Weekend. And that’s a big deal, because it’s been almost a year and a half since our last one.

Why so long? It’s been a number of things. First, I worked a lot, and too hard. It wore me down and I was almost always too tired to do things that we should have done. It’s a poor excuse, Monkey, and I’m sorry that it’s all I have to offer. Second, doing things in Costa Rica was always just that much harder than it really needed to be, at least when planning for us. You can only go to Arenal so many times, and getting to the coast never seemed to be as easy for us as it was for others. After a while, we planned all of our weekends, rather than letting one of us surprise the rest.

Needless to say, I wanted to change things up a bit.

We went to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, and the home of the West Edmonton Mall. Once upon a time, long before you were born, West Edmonton Mall was the largest mall in the world. Now it’s only a measly #6 … though it’s still the largest in North America. We didn’t go to shop, though. You’re not a shopper. Not yet, anyway. We went there for the World Waterpark, which (depending on whom you ask) is the largest indoor waterpark in the world.

For that, we piled in the car Friday afternoon, and set our course … northwest. This is because one of the requirements of a Surprise Weekend is to keep the others guessing. Or at least, that’s how I do it. Mommy goes insane trying to get me to tell her where we’re going. It used to be cute, but I think the next time we go somewhere, I’ve got about 60 minutes of leeway before she punches me.

We took Stoney Trail, which is part of the new ring road that circles about 3/5 of Calgary, from Highway #1 in the west to Highway #2 in the north. (It was then that Mommy correctly guessed “Edmonton”, but I feigned ignorance — not a stretch for your father, I might add — for nearly three more hours.) From there, we drove to Airdrie, only for a quick stop at Tim Horton’s for a couple of steeped teas, a muffin, and a donut.

We didn’t stop again until we got to Red Deer, which was where we had dinner. It was one of those unplanned things in life that gets you an historic moment you’ll soon forget about, only to remember years later. In 1988, Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics (something, it seems, Calgarians never stop talking about). That winter, the Olympic flame journeyed all the way across the country, running through my hometown of Oakville — I still remember the flame being run down Lakeshore Road. Mommy saw the flame when it got to Calgary.

This year, Vancouver is hosting the Winter Olympics (sadly, we won’t be going), and the flame is making a long journey all around the country. On Friday, it ran through Red Deer, right in front of the Montana’s at the south end, which happened to be the place Mommy picked for us to eat. You and Mommy stayed inside, while I went out to watch the runner pass the torch to the next person. A short historic moment you won’t remember, and Mommy and I will likely forget until the next time we see it.

Once we hit the road again, I told Mommy where we were going. That allowed her to relax a bit. We drove through the darkness, the stars overhead, heading towards the distant glow of Edmonton. (Seriously, Edmonton, we could see you from Red Deer. You have a light pollution problem.) We drove along the new #216 highway through southwest Edmonton until turning off on Stoney Plain Drive, and found our Holiday Inn Express.

The room was nice, and we were all pooped from the long drive. Mommy, now nearly seven months pregnant, took one bed. You got stuck with me, Monkey. And while we’re on the subject, you are the most restless sleeper I’ve ever had the misfortune of sharing a bed with. You never stop moving around, and I can’t count the number of times you tried to sleep sideways, kicking me in the ribs. I’m amazed either of us got any sleep over the last two nights!

The next morning, we tramped downstairs to the breakfast buffet, before packing up and heading over to the mall. Shortly after arriving, Mommy got a call from her friend Sandra, and decided to go and visit while you and I went to the waterpark. But first, we wandered our way down to the entrance, passing the sea lion entertaining what appeared to be special guests, and watched the lemurs play in the their enclosure.

We managed to get our ticket from a nice couple who had gotten the tickets through work. At $10 off the cover price ($30), we couldn’t believe our luck! You and I got changed, and Mommy waited to see us at the viewing area. She commented that I should have left our backpack in the locker, so it wouldn’t get stolen. I didn’t think it was a problem, given all the other parents with their backpacks, bags, and strollers.

Our first stop was the Dolphin Pool, a kiddie pool that barely came to your waist, but had three small waterslides. You didn’t take much encouraging to go up the stairs and go down your first ever waterslide. You’d been on big slides before, and I think you thought these would be the same. But suddenly, your bum slipped out from under you, and you were whizzed down the slide into the water below. You were a little stunned, but you still got up giggling.

After a little bit, we went into the big pool — the one that looked like a beach, and had the waves. The last time you felt waves was last October when we’d gone to Playa Chiquita. Mommy and I still feel bad that we didn’t get to any more beaches after that, because that was the first time you really liked going to the beach. There’s no sand at World Waterpark, but you loved the waves.

As we headed back to the Dolphin Pool, I realised that Mommy was right — the bag should have stayed in the locker. It was gone, as was the towel we’d rented. I didn’t panic, but I was pretty annoyed. It wasn’t so much that my phone and credit card were in there, it was more that it had all of your diapers. That, and it really made me feel nothing but disgust for people who would take something in such a family environment.

We talked to the staff, and they said they would call security. They gave us an extra towel (you were shivering something fierce), and suggested that we also look around one more time. Thankfully, far away from where we’d originally placed our things, was the bag — towelless — sitting on the last chair of the back row of the deck chairs. Whether some “clever” thief had put it there in hopes we’d not look for it, or if some kid had moved it as a joke, I don’t know. But nothing was missing (insert a big PHEWF here). I called off the hounds, and immediately put the bag in the locker.

Back to the pool, we went over to an area known as Caribbean Cove, which is a large structure (I don’t know what else to call it) where you can climb, turn wheels, pull on ropes, lift handles, and generally just get utterly soaked. You didn’t like it quite as much the first time (more the second time), and we went back to the Dolphin Pool again.

After a while, I convinced you to go on a waterslide, the only one I could take you down with me. Sadly, my choice of bathing suit appeared to be really bad, because we got stuck a few times on the way down. You giggled and cheered “whee!” anyway. The waterslide seemed to pique your interest, though, and back at the Dolphin Pool, you happily ran up the waterslide stairs, slid down, and repeated until it was time to go.

It was almost 13:30 before we found a restaurant to eat at, and it was over an hour before we’d finished. (The service at Moxie’s, though apologetic, was borderline intolerably slow.) We headed out to the car, and back to the hotel so you could nap.

For dinner, we went to one of the most Canadian of restaurants: Swiss Chalet. Given you run-in with chicken at lunch, we opted to order you a kid’s pizza. Mommy had a salad, which I was tempted to copy, but I got suckered into one of my old favourites, the quarter chicken. The Chalet Sauce hasn’t changed since I was a kid … nor had the decor of that particular location, from what I could tell. Our server was beyond amazing, however, and was an utter joy.

You and I both reeked of chlorine, something you’re not familiar with, but thankfully a bath managed to get most of the stench off of you. I would have to wait until this morning’s shower to get the smell off of me. (That, and wrestle another night with you kicking me in the ribs.)

After breakfast this morning, we went back to the Mall (‘cuz, really, what else is there to do in Edmonton?), with the idea of going to Galaxyland. It’s an amusement park in the Mall (you’re going to find this hard to believe, but most malls don’t have rollercoasters), and has a play area exactly for kids your age. It’s only $6, and Mommy and I get to go in with you. And unlike everywhere else we’ve been, we get to climb with you, too (mostly because somethings are a bit too much for you at this age).

You went in the bouncy room, trudged through the ball pit, climbed up and down the padded levels. I took you way up high to go down one of the slides. At first, I thought I might just send you down on your own, but thankfully I had enough sense to go with you — the slide was very dark inside. You seemed unimpressed with it. Your second slide you did on your own, which was far less of a success — I heard the distinct down of squeaking skin, and you came down feet-first on your belly. You weren’t happy at all.

After a bit more playing, I took you on a small train that runs around Galaxyland. Despite being excited to go on, I think you were disappointed that you didn’t get to run the train. We went for lunch — you split a Mr. Sub sandwich with Mommy — and then hit the road for Calgary.

As we drove home — you slept all the way to Red Deer — I couldn’t help but stare wistfully at the flatness that surrounded us. Driving in Costa Rica, it was exceedingly rare to see a flat area, as the country is so mountainous. Even rarer are long stretches of straight road. But up here, you can look around for 360 degrees and see nothing but a straight horizon, the road you’re travelling on disappearing way off in the horizon in a dead-straight line. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it.

It’s been a long weekend of fun, Monkey. I hope you enjoyed it. We’ll be going back again, and I hope with each successive time, you enjoy it more and more. And hopefully, your sister will like going there, too.