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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Badlands and Geek-towns

As I have mentioned, I am currently in my hometown of Creston, British Columbia, visiting my family. The last couple days, however, were spent traveling into Alberta to pick up my girlfriend, who is coming out for a week to visit my family as well, from Calgary. Despite the fact that it is a fairly extensive six hour drive from Creston to Calgary, many of my childhood memories center around some of the attractions in the area, and going there to pick up my girlfriend therefore provided a nice opportunity to show them off to her. It also gave me an opportunity to visit my good friend Cornucrapia (obviously not his real name, but since he maintains loose anonymity on the internet, I shall respect his wishes), who lives in Calgary.

First off, my mom and I drove to Calgary Saturday night (I don't drive in Toronto, so having someone else along to share in the driving was a big help). I spent the night on Cornucrapia's couch, and then we headed out to the airport the next morning to collect my girlfriend. Despite her jet-lag, we set off for Drumheller, Alberta, straight from the airport. If you have not heard of Drumheller (which, if you are not a western Canadian or die-hard dinosaur fan, is most likely), it is situated in the Alberta badlands and is home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. If you have never been to a region of badlands terrain, they are quite fascinating and I recommend going. I have included a picture (which I recommend clicking on to see at full size), but even that fails to fully capture the entire vista which surrounds you.
For those who do not remember, I have mentioned before that I spent most of my early childhood obsessed with dinosaurs. Thus, the Tyrrell Museum was one of my favourite places to go, and, despite it being an additional two hours north of Calgary (and thus just shy of an eight hour drive from my hometown), between grandparents, parents, and family friends I had managed to finagle five visits to the place before the age of ten. Shortly thereafter, however, my family moved to Pennsylvania, and I have not had an opportunity to return prior to this past weekend. I was thus a little giddy about the trip. I think my expectations were therefore a little out of proportion (it wasn't quite the magical land of endless dinosaur displays that I had remembered), but it is still a fantastic museum devoted to paleontology, and the surrounding backdrop of the badlands makes it well worth a trip if you are ever in the Calgary area. In addition to the Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller also includes attractions like Reptile World, where you can see a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians on display, as well as get an opportunity to hold a friendly boa constrictor.

While Drumheller can perhaps be considered a geeky place to have been a childhood dream destination, it cannot hold a candle to the geekiness which was our detour on the drive back to Creston after spending Sunday night in Calgary. Unfortunately, Cornucrapia was unable to come on this exciting detour, as we dropped him off Sunday evening. However, my mom, girlfriend, and I all got to experience the extraordinary geekiness which is Vulcan, Alberta.
Rather than simply smile at the fact that their town shares a name with Spock's father's race, residents of Vulcan have gone above and beyond in capitalizing upon the name to create a wholly bizarre tourist experience. Driving across endless fields of Albertan prairie, what at first appears to be a typical prairie town pops into existence. Once the buildings emerge from behind the heat waves and coalesce into a focused image, however, one is able to spot the giant Enterprise statue standing in front of the likewise named Enterprise Family Restaurant, which itself sits in front of a space-bubble style building that serves as both the Vulcan and District Chamber of Commerce as well as the Vulcan Association for Science and Trek.
Inside the Vulcan Association for Science and Trek building, you are greeted by a friendly staff, an astonishing array of Star Trek themed merchandise, and a $10 per use virtual reality game (we opted not to try the game, though if any of my readers do try it, you will have to let me know if we were missing out or not). Perhaps more impressive than the virtual reality game and the merchandise, however, was the room full of Star Trek memorabilia gifted to the town by a Calgarian collector. With a wall of Star Trek action figures (all in their original packaging!), a large number of full-sized cardboard cutouts, a fairly extensive uniform wardrobe (which were free to try on and take pictures - you better believe we did that!), and so many other items it is hard to remember them all, it was overwhelming, impressive, and a little bit creepy all at the same time. If you are a huge Star Trek fan, a trip to Vulcan might be a fascinating vacation destination. While I don't think I am a big enough Star Trek fan to have made the trip if it had not been merely a small detour on our way back to Creston, I still find it charming that such a place exists.


Robert said...

So, just an FYI, I am packing up all my things right now to move to Vulcan!! I know I originally mentioned that perhaps I would not want to live in a town like that...but, a statue of the Enterprise? COOL!!!!!!!!!!

Also, that Dinosaur places sounds awesome.

BeamStalk said...

So where are the pics from Drumheller museum? That would interest me more and I would love to go there myself.