Friday, November 07, 2008

As Grande As It's Going to Be

Grande Cache is a very ordinary small Alberta town in a spectacular setting. Like almost every other small town in northern Alberta, the roads are named according to an ambitious scheme that imagines the highway and the main street that crosses it as the centre of a huge future metropolis. The highway through Grande Cache, the one I described as strewn with ravens and elk carcasses, becomes 100th Street as it goes through town. There might have been a speed limit change associated with the town, but I'm not certain. The highway is busy day and night with transport trucks. We have to be careful crossing the road for dinner. Perpendicular to the streets are numbered avenues. There's a 99th Avenue and a 101st Avenue, but they've at least given the main street a name, Hoppe Avenue. My hotel, at the side of the highway on the way into town is also at the town centre: 9900 99th Street. The crossing street has a strip mall, containing a post office, a pharmacy a pizza place and a few other stores. There are a few more hotels and associated bars and restaurants and that's about it. The town isn't going to grow any bigger, as it's surrounded by giant rocks.

It's the last town before the Rocky Mountains, and by daylight you can see the peaks thrusting up to the west. To the south is the Willmore Wilderness Park, off limits to all motorized vehicles. I'm allowed to overfly it, though. I also have to be careful to get a clearance before entering nearby class B airspace. There are no large airports around, and Canada doesn't have surface class B anyway. Like Wyoming the peaks are so high that working VFR clear of terrain puts us above 12,500', into the altitude where we need to be under ATC control. As the AIM says:

All low level controlled airspace above 12 500 feet ASL or at and above the MEA, whichever is higher, up to but not including 18 000 feet ASL will be Class B airspace.

The MEA (minimum enroute altitude for VFR traffic) above the mountains is higher than we might usually flying, but if we turn around out over the flat land to the east, we're below the lower prairie MEAs. That's a little weird to be so close to terrain and then suddenly be in class B airspace without climbing.

My first night in town on my own I walk around exploring. The mall is still open but most of the uninspiring stores are closed. The grocery store has just closed. The pizza place has been recommended to me, but I don't need to stoop to pizza so soon, and the amateur sign design turns me off. There's a Chinese restaurant here, probably operated by the descendant of someone who survived the building of the national railway. It has a sign that I can't call amateur, but the sheer abundance of gold and neon dragons is a little frightening. Near that is an ice cream store. Angled peel and stick letters proclaim Thursday to be Ukrainian Night there. At an ice cream store? I go in and enquire. Yep, Ukrainian. Another major pioneering group in this area. I have a plate of perogies, cabbage rolls and sausage, with ice cream for dessert. Yum.


Roundman said...

Your usual flawless grammar was a little off in this post. I think the two sentences, both ending in "though", were meant to be one; and the first 'full-stop' is a mistake, making the last "though" unnecessary. Picky, Picky!

Anonymous said...

roundman - go read a grammar post and leave those of us looking for aviation/adventure postings alone! (I'm struggling to stay polite here...)

Aviatrix said...

Roundman was right. My cut and paste editing (I write these things offline in Notepad) sometimes juxtaposes sentence fragments or repetition. I'm only a couple of posts ahead right now so I'm hurrying to stay ahead of the date and flubbed that one.

Thanks for sticking up for me, though, fuming.

Anonymous said...

Wanna try something neat? AFAIK it works in Alberta everywhere but might work in your city as well. Most of the cities use a similar grid/quadrant system. They take a major crossroads as the "center" then number their streets upwards/downwards from there. Streets usually go North and South while Avenues run East and West. Here is the cool part. Say I told you that I live at 707 13th Street North, and you were shopping at the Centerville mall. You would head West 12 blocks to 13th street then walk North for 7 blocks to 7th Avenue, my house will be the second or third one up and likely on your left!

It makes it simple to find things. 10004 56 Street S would be somewhere near 56th Street and 100th Avenue. It's not a GPS by any means but a lot easier to find than most places in say Toronto or Montreal.

Aviatrix said...

Viennatech, you must, as your username suggests, be from Europe. The "neat system" you espouse is stunningly normal to me. While many cities don't actually NAME the streets after the numbers, North American cities usually have the "hundred blocks" written on the street signs. So, with allowance for rivers and mountains in the city, you an count up and over to where you want to go.

If you think that's neat, imagine the confusion on the part of someone to whom that is normal, trying to find an address in Europe. The concept that the street number doesn't tell me the cross street, or that the houses may not even be in order by street number, is mind boggling.

And I won't get into how they do it in Japan!

Anonymous said...

We have the best system in Stockholm, Sweden. All houses are numbered, roughly in order although of course you have to skip a number now and then, in case you have to build a house in between two houses even though those houses are very much next to each other, starting from the end of the street that is closest to the Royal Castle. Extremely easy, although some houses are of course numbered from the crossing street even though the house is clearly on this street.

Anonymous said...

How do they do it in Japan?

Anonymous said...

I found out.

Aviatrix said...

How do they do it in Japan?

In order of the date of house construction. Citywide. You must have either a GPS or turn by turn directions to find an address.

At least, that's what a client told me. I've never been there.

dpierce said...

Getting around in Japan is pretty easy with or without street names once you get the hang of the system. You would think street names would be key, but honestly, if somebody dropped you in a western city with just a street name as a clue, it's not very helpful. It doesn't even give you an idea as to where on the map you should be looking (unless it's a numbered street).

Japan's hierarchial system lets you drill down into increasingly smaller organizational units until you're in a neighborhood. And once you're in the neighborhood, you'll often find a map (sometimes nicely framed and lit) on a sidewalk to guide you to the right corner.

In practical application, the thing to do, once you're in the right neighborhood, is to simply ask someone, or show them the address on a piece of paper if you don't know the language. Ubiquitous postmen are often useful for this.

When addressing envelopes, it's common and helpful to include hints. "Tanaka Residence, the one over the video shop"

My experience in Japan, even as a young kid, was that it was practically impossible to get lost; but I enjoyed asking people for directions.

Anonymous said...

My western cowtown has the typical system of numbers, which in our case also serve as decent approximation of distance at 1000=1 mile. So if someone tells me a cross street and a number I know not only where to go but how long of a walk to expect.

Our streets are for the most part named, with an appended number on the sign. The names have themes for different neighborhoods. So my streets are named after trees, while my avenues are named after valuable minerals. Near our cowtown university, the streets are named after famous American colleges and universities.

Even if you aren't good with numbers, if your destination street is named after a state (another theme) you have a good idea where to look.

Lord Hutton said...

Whaddya mean, stoop to Pizza?
House nos in the UK are odd on one side, and even on the other, except my street which is numbered consecutively up one side, then back the other way on the other side.
As for knowing where a street is, well the Japanese system sounds as good as any