I hang out in the Regina airport for a bit, before I go through security. I buy postcards. And then some bizarre female hormonal fluctuation requires me to buy cute things. It must be some chemical mechanism designed to protect babies or something, but it is seriously miswired. I bought a fuzzy little Canada Goose stuffed toy and a girlie purse, neither of which I have any use for, especially in Grande Cache. But they are cute. And they were even on sale. At least they both fit in my carry on.
Did I mention I'm having a bad technology day? The lifting handle broke off my main suitcase, and the extendable handle snapped on one side. That's checked now, so I don't have to worry about it until lately, but it turns out that I still have my car key in my pants pocket and my coin purse too. I have a routine of where I put everything, and I never carry these things in my pockets, which is why I forget to take them out of my pocket before going through security. So I get beeped by the scanning machine. I apologize, go back, empty my pockets into a tray, go through again without beeping, and then try to recapture my interrupted routine. I do. Right down to not picking up the key and coins that I never have in my pockets and therefore aren't part of my reclaiming from the bins at airport security routine. Fortunately I remember them before the flight is called (because I'm playing with my cute new purse) and when I go back, security has kept them safe for me. Yay for CATSA.
My carry-on fits in the overhead bin, of both the Rj and the connecting Dash-8, although I have to convnce the flight attendant that it will. Flights are both quick and uneventful. The landing on the second flight is good enough that the flight attendant actually looks up in surprise and mentions it to me. I'm sitting in 1C, right in front of her jumpseat. Someone else is starting a good landing streak. I was going to tease the pilots that they should land harder so people can tell we're down, but I didn't see them. I had to go and rent a car. You cross the street to do that at Edmonton.
The Hertz counter is right in the middle. I give my name and say I have a reservation. As I start the paperwork, I mention that my coworker will be driving the car back. The agent doesn't like that idea. "He has to be here to sign the agreement."
I explain that the car exchange will take place in Grande Cache, where there is not a Hertz office. She is not sympathetic. I ask to take a copy of the form and have the other driver sign it and fax it in before driving the car. This won't do because Hertz has to verify the driving licence. I suggest that a copy of that be faxed, too. She counters that the copy could have been made just before the licence was suspended. Okay, what if I had an RCMP officer notarize the copy? She's not budging. I can tell by now that the Hertz agent wouldn't rent a car to her own deity if He wasn't able to produce the documentation she wanted. I tell her that's not acceptible to me, and I go and try the other counters.
"If I rent a car here, can my coworker drive it also without additional paperwork?"
The answer ranges from "Yes, but we only have a Mustang convertible," to "Yes, but we don't have any cars." Avis is incredulous that Hertz won't rent me the car. So this is policy is not based in any kind of law or Alberta insurance requirement. I call the Hertz nationwide line in hopes of finding someone who is permitted to think. But I get exactly the same answer.
"Why is a driver's licence verification from the RCMP not sufficient?"
"The RCMP doesn't have anything to do with Hertz." Neither will I, if I can help it. I ask to escalate the call to the next level. While I'm on hold for that I wander over to the Avis counter with a business card and ask to be put on a standby list for an available car.
The next level up on the customer service hierarchy is no more help. We do locate the nearest Hertz offices to Grande Cache, a couple of hours drive in each case. I suppose I can drive my coworker there, then both drive back. I imagine most people just ignore whose name is on the contract and Hertz' silly rules. But it's rough country. I don't want to have a car I rented hit an animal or something and not be insured.
I go back to the Avis counter. "You could have a car back any time now, right?"
"We have one right now."
"Thank you!" I beam. "Just a moment while I go and let Hertz know I won't need their car." Pause. "EVER!" I do that, and I'm on my way.
It's about five hours drive to Grande Cache. I skirt Edmonton itself and get onto the northwest-bound Yellowhead Highway. It's an excellent road: divided highway, two lanes each way, good pavement. Alberta has money to spend on infrastructure. Just past Hinton, where I had dinner at a Greek restaurant, I take a left turn onto highway 40. It still has reasonably good pavement, but is a narrower two lane road with almost no shoulder. I can tell before I see the yellow road signs that I need to be very, very careful of wildlife on this road. I'm in a small rental car in a wilderness park, and there are likely moose, elk, deer and bear around here, all itching to cross the road, or just to wander along it.
Now, a wild animal encountering a road doesn't have the same thought processes as a human who has to cross a road, or even as a cat. I think a cat gets the concept of the road being a strip of danger that it has to traverse quickly without being caught by the cars. But a deer? A deer does not get the concept of traffic. A deer will bounce onto the road in front of you, then bounce towards you, then stand stock still, then bounce away, and then bounce right back in front of you again. Deer would not score well in Frogger.
It's not dark yet, but it will be twilight soon and I have an hour and a half to drive on this road. Watching the road and the shoulders for wildlife is a bit like doing an instrument scan while flying. Left ditch, road, right ditch, road, left ditch, road, right ditch, road. I turn a corner and spot my first wildlife. It's a raven, much smarter than a deer, and it hops off the road as I approach. My line of vision passes beyond it and lights on a group of several more ravens, all standing on the corpse of what looks like an elk. I wonder whether the animal was struck on the road and scrambled off but didn't quite make it to the trees before dying, or whether it was struck and killed, and either the driver or the highways people just hauled it to the side of the road.
I'll bet this car wasn't tested with the moose crash test dummy that Volvos are. (If you don't read that whole report, you should at least know the best line: "In Australia, tests with kangaroo dummies are hard to generalize due to a very dynamic centre-of-gravity." Boing, boing, boing!
The same scene is repeated about 30 kilometres later, on the other side of the road. Another dead deer or elk, hard to tell, lies in the long grass, with ravens feasting on it. The third dead hulk I encounter by the side of the road is that of a demolished car. I wonder if I'm far enough north now that all carcasses, animal mineral or vegetable, are not hauled away, merely pushed off to the side and left there. You get far enough north and at an airstrip you will find the remains of any airplanes that have ever crashed there, either on the apron or in the bush just past the area that is cleared at the sides of the runway.
I arrive at Grande Cache without having hit any elk, ravens or other vehicles just before dark. Phew.
Aww rats! As I write this up I'm watching a movie, and what was either a flubbed line or a script error just spolied a good laugh. The movie investigators are looking for someone who birthplace they have discovered was in the former Yugoslavia. One agent is telling the others that he has already reached contacts in the relevant agencies in "Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina." A funny jab at the continued balkanization of the Balkans, and would have made the agent look smart, being able to keep up with all that too except that we know Bosnia and Herzegovina to be the name of one country. To emphasize the length of the list, the line should have been "... and Bosnia and Herzogovina." It's a Canadian movie, too, I'm pretty sure, because part of it is set in Iqaluit. A Canadian version of Outbreak with a weird mafia twist. I'm going to assume the writer got it right, the actor didn't know that B&H was one country, and the editor, or whatever you call that job in a movie, missed it.
Appropriately enough, the movie featured an ancient disease being spread by northern birds feasting on a corpse.