Welcome from the once a year, instantaneous metropolis of Ponoka, Alberta.
Every year, Ponoka has a Stampede (rodeo, Chuckwagon races, fair, etc, etc) the week before the Calgary Stampede. And it's a fantastic venue, with a terrific grandstand, and great facilities for thousands and thousands of folks to dry camp/boondock together. No power, no water. And it amazing. The athletes perform to tune up for the Calgary Stampede next week, and we are absent the rampant commercialism of the larger venues.
I am here with the Roadtrek/Barry Hodgson racing team. And it's bigger than any RV show, rally or event anywhere. When you stand on the fairground hill, all you can see for miles are RVs parked and organized into an incredible temporary city. All safe, all friendly, all open to new ideas. Nobody here wants nor expects concrete pads, or hookups. Some folks here have been coming for decades and have the same spot every year, moving in early to get them. Want to get them riled? Change their spot.
What's the attraction? For adults and kids it's Chuckwagon races. And if you have never seen one, once you do, you will never be the same. Ponoka is rural Alberta. And cowboy country, big time. If you go for a drive, you are simply surrounded by big and small ranches and homesteads, with livestock for consumption or for transportation.
But in a larger sense the reason to be here is that it is the place to be. This is where all the human action is. I would be remiss to suggest that there are not a couple of barley sandwiches consumed here each night. Not by me though.
If you want to know what a Chuckwagon race is, go to halfmileofhell.com. You know bullriding and rodeo. But here in Alberta, Chuckwagon racing is the main event. Rodeo is the opening act.
Chuckwagon racing is a rough and ready sport, the last bastion of no political correctness. These men race beautiful thoroughbred teams in old fashioned wagons, get splashed with mud from the track till they can't see, and they love it, and so do the fans. No softies here. Hard men race wagons. It's a way of life.
On Monday, after the races, we also stayed right in our seats and watched a rodeo infield transform into a modern concert in five minutes as a huge stage was dragged into the infield by tractors and transport trailers with speaker systems flanking it, and we saw country music superstars Big and Rich, and the kids loved it. Loud for my old ears :):)
In many ways it reminds me of my home on the edge of rural Ontario, but we have more trees, less livestock, more corn. Lots of horses. But the people here are incredible. They are genuine, they are hard as nails, and they are honest. There is a huge population of First Nations peoples everywhere here , which I mention because we just don't see it anywhere else, or not often. Native culture is alive here, and magnificently represented in everyday life. It's not a tourist attraction, it's life. And it's real. Here it's the Cree.
In the winter, this is a difficult place, where minus thirty is a normal day, yet the people are cheerful, and tough. And in the summer, it is cool at night, hot by day, and the best growing and living climate that exists. No humidity.
People dress in western wear everyday, it's the norm. It's not cultivated or posed. There are no other clothing stores here. Everybody has a truck. Everybody has an RV. Everybody has a generator. Go into a clothing store and Wrangler is half the store. The other half is boots.
And as a result of that, our tandem of a Roadtrek CS Adventurous and a lightweight travel trailer is as rare as hens teeth. The concept of solar charging is simply unheard of. Here you charge your batteries as a norm from your genny, and at supper time all you can here is the drone of gennys. And of course, that means there is a swarm of folks around us, looking at our setup like we have three heads. What the heck is that van thing? They all look in and are stunned.
Our trailer is typical. It has no inverter, just propane and a battery bank of two batteries. And how do we make that work? We run an extension cord to the outside inverted outlet of the CS, and we use it as the power source for all our 110 volt needs. And it gives us all the power we could ever need, as well as handling it's own needs. I ran the engine for forty minutes this morning ( two days in) when the charging alarm told me we hit 10.5 volts, and we had 13.5 volts again. And the solar is pounding away, and the world is all good.
An older gentlemen in boots and a black felt cowboy hat sidles on over constantly to ask me about my “rig” and how it works. He looks at me funny, and later in the day, his lovely wife comes back with him to get a spiel from our resident Roadtrek experts, who also have three other units here to show :):)
And I have deployed another test system for solar and there is crowd of boots and plaid around it looking at the newfangled items. Where did you get that? How much? Will it run my AC? No? Charge my batteries? How do you hook it up? Can I buy one? Can I buy that one?
And the world is all good. Because once again we are living the simple life, with no walls and fences, no rules, and we are happy to be self sufficient in the middle of a temporary city of two hundred thousand people who simply like the simple things in life. Rodeo, racing wagons, country music, horses, dogs.
It's funny but all week they have been selling tickets to win forty prize winning heifers. I bought a ticket, but I don't think those suckers will fit in my luggage.
And these folks are moving into Roadtreking for all the reasons we do. It's flexible. It's easier. It's healthy, and it's environmentally sound. It's cheaper, and that raises some eyebrows. Cheaper, you ask? Well, if you are keeping an eighty thousand dollar truck to tow your fifth wheel, which is seventy grand, your fuel and your storage and your insurance and your cost to camp are much higher. And ranchers and rural based folks are savvy mathematicians. They have it figured out very quickly.