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.