I take an airline flight to Edmonton. The guys unloading the airplane are wearing toques. Sigh. Summer is officially over. They were probably wearing shorts last week. Fortunately it's not really that cold out, because I have to rent a car, and for some reason the terminal is designed so you have to go outside and then back in to get to the rental cars. Perhaps there is a tunnel that I can use when it's thirty below and blowing.
The reason I have to rent a car is that we're not working in Edmonton, but at an airport four hours away on the Saskatchewan border, with no airline service. I now know to rent from Avis, because they have a hassle-free policy allowing any fellow employee to drive the car without further payments or paperwork. They offer me a GPS unit at the rental counter, but I have Google maps directions printed off, and it's pretty hard to get lost leaving Edmonton, so I decline.
It was a Ford compact of some sort. It looked boxy with a high side profile but I should have written down what sort, because if you're any taller than me, don't rent this car. At the lowest possible seat setting my head was so close enough to the roof that my hair kept static clinging to the ceiling. Is this some kind of dodge by American car companies to get people to buy larger cars? I've been in plenty of smaller Japanese and European cars and never had head versus roof issues before.
The exit from Edmonton International Airport leads right onto highway 2 north, which ends at an opportunity to get onto 216 and then the Yellowhead Highway eastbound. I do all that, and then settle in for the drive. I don't like driving as much as flying. It's not as comfortable and you keep having to turn for arbitrary reasons. After a very short while I realize I forgot to refill my waterbottle at YEG, and I don't want to drive all that way without water, so I exit at a signed rest stop.
It's the worst designated highway rest stop ever. It has parking. No shade, warmth, vending machines, tourist information, toilets or potable water. That's right, a highway rest stop with no toilets. It doesn't even have any sizable bushes. I assume the truckers are just going in the bushes behind their big rigs. The only facility at the place is a couple of large garbage cans. I move on.
The next town on the highway big enough to be on the Google Maps printout is called Vegreville and the highway signs promise all services, plus the world's largest pysanka. I have no idea what a pysanka is, so I imagine it belongs to the family of edible dough things called names like perogie and pyroshky, depending on who is making and pronouncing it. I exit at the town and shortly see that I am on 50th Avenue at 52nd Street (or possibly on 50th Street at 52nd Avenue, I forget). Because this is Alberta, I know I'm two blocks from the downtown, and if you're going to have a World's Largest Something in your town, isn't that where it would be. There's a plaza there, and a parking space, but no large thing. A nearby store offers "pysanki" for sale, and I know enough of Slavic languages to recognize that as plural of pysanka. I am disappointed to see that it's a pottery store, so a pysanka is unlikely to be food, and she is disappointed I don't want to buy pottery. She does fill my water bottle for me and direct me to the world's largest, and explains that it's a Ukrainian Easter egg. She has some pottery replicas.
The World's Largest Pysanka was constructed for the centennial of the RCMP. It looks to me like a pretty savvy move on the part of the town to use federal horse force money to build themselves a giant tourist attraction, but their little blurb about it symbolizing the safety of their town thanks to the brave Mounties was so convincing that they were awarded extra money for their project. It is an interesting meld of an old fashioned handicraft with the high tech (in 1973 anything using a computer was high tech) construction. I love the line "required the development of new computer programs," as though writing code was an earthshattering breakthrough. Apparently no one had ever modelled an egg before. Hmm, 1973: does that predate Fortran? What would they have written it in?
It was worth exiting the highway for. Giant decorated egg on stick, rotates with the wind, and it's always windy there, so it kept moving as I was photographing it. I decided not to eat in Vegreville, but save my hunger and dine with my colleagues when I arrived. Apparently there is a World's Largest Pyrogy somewhere along that drive, and I missed it.