14.07.2010 - 20.07.2010 28 °C
As my facebook update read....Cowboys + cowgirls + rodeos + chuck-wagon races + Bon Jovi + two hours spent cueing for a beer tent that stinks like vomit (twice) + beer + flip cups + empty wallet = Calgary Stampede!!
I got in to Calgary a few days after the Stampede started, and for me it all began with a Bon Jovi concert at the Saddledome (pretty sure I don't need to explain how it got it's name). I have wanted to see Bon Jovi all my life, or at least since primary school. To me he is one of those performers you grow up with but never imagine you will get the chance to see. Given that I had changed my flights from Vancouver to Toronto just so I could stay around for the Stampede, this show had a lot to live up to to make me feel like missing out on the east coast was worth it. And did I enjoy the show you ask? Well let me answer that in a slightly long winded way.... By now I have been travelling long enough that I don't really care what anyone thinks. I know I will never see most of the people I cross paths with ever again, and it really does not matter if they look at me and think 'what a freak', which I am very sure they do. What this means is I let myself be the complete and absolute idiot I know I can be, aka, me. And for this reason, as soon as Bon Jovi came out on stage I was screaming. I sang at the top of my lungs and completely out of tune to all of the songs I knew (all the old ones, none of the new ones) and by the encore I was jumping up and down barefoot, clapping, and still of course screaming. This is probably the most I have ever enjoyed a concert. No beer required. I was however a little disappointed, and a little in disbelief, that he did not sing Always and Bed of Roses (???????) (see, there is that disbelief again); but when a guy of that age looks that good in a red tank top who cares, right??
The second day of the Stampede was my first time to the Chuck Wagon Races. Having never seen this sport before as I am pretty sure it is illegal in Australia, it did take me a while to work out the rules of the competition. Luckily while I figured this out I was able to enjoy the spectacular view of four horses running along pulling a wagon at top speed. Like something out of an old Western movie really. My guess is this is a sport that is illegal in Australia due to the health risk it poses to the horses involved. Health risk being a nice way of saying the horses often die. In fact on the night we were there a special little horse ambulance (it was white and had a big red cross on it) had to be driven out onto the track and a horse who had fallen (I did not see what happened exactly) was then dragged onto the back while men held up tarps so the audience could not see. If the horse had still been alive when it was put on the back, it would have been the last thing it got to do. While I understand the arguments of people who say sports like this should not exist and completely disagree with cruelty to animals, I do wonder at what point do you have to draw the line? The horses used for most sports like this tend to be a persons companion; they are much more than just a pet. These animals are in no way neglected, and from my own experience I know they are often receive a higher level of care from their owner than the owner gives themselves. So can you consider it cruel to use an animal in a sport given that it was bred firstly and most importantly for the use in some form of sport, but also given that the animal is well cared for and loved by it's rider? I choose not to answer this question, but rather sit here on my lovely little fence knowing I have seen both sides of the argument. Good choice eh?*
I made it to two rodeos at Calgary, one normal rodeo and the finals; the finals were much more exciting. These two afternoons were the first time I have been to a rodeo without my little brother, it is also the first time I have been to a rodeo with more than a few hundred people. I thought this would make it much more exciting, but unfortunately it did not (I am not sure why I though watching a guy ride a bull in Calgary would be more impressive than watching a guy in Australia do the same thing). The fact that Vince Vaughn was in the audience put the Stampede in front in this comparison however. My guess is it is unlikely he is ever going to make it to a rodeo in Western Australia. I do like how intimate the Perth rodeos are, but the grounds used for Calgary were pretty impressive to look at. It started with fire works and a burning C and S on the ground followed by the Canadian national anthem, of which I could only make out 'Oh Canada'. There were barrel races, cowboys chasing calves and tackling them to the ground, cowboys roping calves and of course people riding bucking horses and bulls and trying to hold on for the incredibly long time of 8 seconds. There was one Aussie who had made it through to the very finals of the bull riding (OI OI OI!!), but 8 seconds proved to be too long for him and he lasted only 2.2 seconds. Lets hope the performance issues are restricted to the riding arena only. I did have a great time and I would go again for sure, but next time I think I will stick with just the finals, right?
During my time at Calgary I developed a new habit......Drinking Beer!! After all those times I have tried to make myself like Australian beer and not being able to get more than half way through a stubbie I am finally someone who walks up to the bar and orders a beer! I am choosing not to say what beer it is I have been drinking because people I know will laugh at me (this was confirmed when I answered my brother's question of 'what were you drinking?'), but if you google Calgary Stampede and look for the sponsor you should be able to work it out. I think I made the right decision by swapping to Kokanee as soon as I had the chance, eh?*
My new habit came in handy for the two trips we made to the Nashville North beer tent inside the park. Both times we cued for about two hours to get in, once in the incredibly hot sun (one girl passed out from heat stroke - though I don't think this stopped her from going in). Never in my life have I waited for so long to get a drink. Once inside the tent the second time we jumped straight back in a cue to get food and then another one to get drinks! I have nightmares about cueing now. The tent was cowboy heaven. If you didn't have cowboy hat, then you probably weren't in the tent. The tent was really pretty big. There was live country music, which was actually good, a dance floor, a few places to sit, and the faint smell of vomit lingering in the background. We met some random annoying people, and then just some random people. I have a photo of one weirdo drinking beer out of his boot. Bet that tasted nice after two hours cueing in the hot sun. My favourite people in the tent were the ones who called me over to join in at tip cups. This is my new favourite game. I love it! While most people in North America seem to know what this game is, I was a tip cup virgin. So for all those Aussie tip cup virgins out there, let me explain.... You have two teams of four, each with about the same amount of beer in their cup. The first two people on each team cheers each other, touch their beer on the table and skull it. You then place your cup on the edge of the table and use one finger to flip it. The aim is to get it to flip upside down. Once you have achieved this the next person in your team drinks and tries to flip their cup as well. The winners being the first team to finish. (If I have anything here wrong, I am sorry, but this is the way I was taught to play). I had so much fun playing this game. Though I did not pay for all that long. Somehow it seems to get you drunk pretty quickly, right?
I had a great time in Calgary, though my bank balance did take a bit of a hit (I may still have to live off two minute noodles after all). By the end of the week I was more than ready for the one house keeping day I had allowed myself before I flew to San Francisco. I have never been so happy to spend a whole day in a hostel doing washing and uploading photos. That was an exciting last day in Canada! In the time I have been travelling Greece had been the only country I have not been ready to leave, I can now ad Canada to that list as well. But given the chance I would not have stayed. I still have so much to see and I am looking forward to all of it! The best thing about flying out from Calgary was that I got to see the Rockies one last time, and this time from above. That really is a spectacular view eh, right?
- For those of you with Australian accents 'eh' is pronounced 'ay' and is used at the end of sentence in much the same way as 'hey?'.