Anchor Chains, Plane Motors, and Train Whistles – A Note on Travel

Anchor Chains, Plane Motors, and Train Whistles – A Note on Travel

George Bailey: You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?
Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…
George Bailey: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

-It’s a Wonderful Life

I lie in bed in the loft of my grandmother’s condo, a condo which overlooks a river that trails through a city. A city in the middle of nowhere, I could say. A city in the center of everything, you might argue.

As I lie here, surrounded by overflowing suitcases and half-packed boxes, I gaze up through the skylight. The starry sky shines with all the brilliance of a hot summer night. In the past week, the clouds have gathered, the rain has poured, and the province has flooded.

But none of this matters to me — tomorrow, I’m leaving. Read more

“Deadmontitis” – The Plague of The Second-Coldest Place on Earth

“Deadmontitis” – The Plague of The Second-Coldest Place on Earth

In Edmonton, there are only two seasons: winter and construction.  That’s what we like to say, as we clutch double-doubles in hands clad with Walmart stretchy gloves.  We grumble about the early-October snowfall, but later brag about it when we’re abroad — “Did you know that one day in 2009, Edmonton was the second-coldest place on the planet? Only somewhere in Siberia was colder.”

We say it like it’s an accomplishment, but it’s really just to boost our morale.  We like to think that we’ve chosen to live there, and that we’re tough because of it.

But that’s a lie.  Surviving a tongue-stuck-to-a-pole and a lack of snow days may have hardened us as children, but we’re still not immune to “Deadmontitis.”



Deadmontitis is a contagious endemic that targets Edmontonians and long-term visitors to the city.  In the eyes of the victim, the city loses its charm and begins to conform to its unfortunate moniker, “Deadmonton.”  Primarily winter-related, Deadmontitis is most prominent when temperatures dip below -15°C.  It brings an onset of mild depression, an unwillingness to get up in the morning, and a strong urge to be anywhere but Edmonton.


Edmonton Snow
Typical scene from the Edmonton area. This was taken in MAY!


 Deadmontitis has a variety of causes.  Top risk factors include:

  • Too many hours spent hunched over a laptop in Rutherford library or the corner Starbucks
  • A Reading Week filled with lab write-ups or endless overtime leading up to the long weekend.
  • Multiple hours stuck in traffic on the Yellowhead or Henday
  • Returning to Edmonton after a period of extended travel abroad
  • A morning commute along the desolate industrial roads of North Edmonton
  • Aimlessly searching for a parking spot at the mall before Christmas



 After initial infection, you may notice:

  • Increased complaining: about the weather, snow-clearance, bad drivers, lack of exciting Jasper Avenue nightspots – you name it.
  • Decreased support for the Edmonton Oilers.  That Hemsky jersey may spend more time on the hanger than it does on your back.
  • An increased tendency to hit “sleep” on the alarm clock.  Who wants to get up when it’s -20 and still dark?
  • More mornings spent in the Timmy’s line.  Maybe a Boston Cream donut will warm the spirit.
  • Work hours wasted on Expedia hunting for last-minute Puerto Vallarta deals.

These symptoms will worsen without immediate treatment.



Because Deadmontitis plagues Edmontonians between October and April, the illness can be prevented by taken full advantage of the summer months.  With over 2,300 annual hours of sunshine and the most extensive urban park space on the continent (reputedly 22 times larger than Central Park), there is no excuse to complain at this time of year.  Go play outside!

Proven prevention methods include:


Heritage Festival Edmonton
Food + Dancing + Beautiful Weather = Edmonton Heritage Festival

Most importantly, spend the last night of August watching the sun set over the river valley.  Remind yourself: while winters may be tough to get through, there is always another spectacular Edmonton summer around the bend.


If you succumb to Deadmontitis, don’t panic – there is a cure.  Just as prevention requires an intensive winter exposure, the best remedy is a full-on winter immersion:

1. Indulge in winter sports: Kick off a Saturday with a heavenly cinnamon bun from the Sugarbowl, which should give you the energy for an active day.  Edmonton area offers plenty of winter activity options: spend the day cross-country skiing through the river valley’s extensive trail system, or hit the slopes and terrain park at either Snow Valley, Rabbit Hill, Tawatinaw, or Sunridge ski hill.  For a classic Canadian experience, lace up your skates, grab a stick, and head down to one of the local school skating rinks.  If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, snowshoe, snowmobile, sled, or curl – Edmonton has it all.

2. Celebrate a classic Christmas:  Nothing says Christmas like snow, and Edmonton usually has no shortage of it.  Enhance your white Christmas with a wander down Candy Cane Lane (a ten-block stretch of houses with over-the-top lights displays), or a visit to the Festival of Trees (a display of 100+ Christmas trees at the Shaw Conference Centre).  Round out a festive day by taking in the annual rendition of A Christmas Carol at the Citadel Theatre, or the Nutcracker Ballet at the Jubilee Auditorium.  Top it all off with a Second Cup candy cane hot chocolate and a stroll past the lights of the Legislature grounds.

Candycane Lane — one of Edmonton’s best Christmas activities

3. Embrace Edmonton’s concert culture:  Edmonton was dubbed “Canada’s Culture Capital” for the year 2007, a reference to the city’s dedication to arts, theatre, and music.  Rexall place attracts big-name artists like Rihanna, Paul McCartney, and Bon Jovi, while smaller venues such as the Jubilee, Shaw Conference Centre, and Winspear have hosted everything from electronic DJs to folk artists to symphonies.  Whatever your taste, you’re sure to find a setting to distract you from the harsh winter weather.

4. Travel Beyond the Resorts: If you feel you must — leave.  While the glamour of an exotic setting may relieve some symptoms, the real cure comes when you linger in a foreign city.  After a couple weeks, Lima traffic jams make the Yellowhead commute seem pleasant; the clouds of smoke in Parisian cafes will leave you grateful for fresh, Alberta air; and sky-high New York prices will crumple your savings.  Soon, you will realize: the grass in Edmonton may be dead all winter, but it doesn’t mean that things are always greener on the other side.  At any time of year, Edmonton is alive and flourishing.