Wandering through Edmonton’s Ice District

Sitting down on the passenger seat of the wife’s Hyundai just after 6:00pm, as a light snow is being dispensed from the sky outside. Up and out of the parkade we go drifting into the white fluffy atmosphere. Pulling onto 53rd Avenue she comments about the slippery surface below us as we embark on our journey heading towards Don Wheaton YMCA at 102nd Avenue at 102nd Street in Edmonton. Forty-two minutes later we turn into the YMCA parkade and descend down, down, down into the belly of the garage. As we descend each level, our windows quickly fog up and visibility is nil. Stopping on level 3, she guides the front end into a parking space.

Both of us climb out of the car, shut our doors and then she depresses the lock button setting the alarm at the same time. Walking towards the stairwell we idly chat about nothing, I open up door number 1 and she opens door number 2. Turning to head upstairs, I spot a homeless guy curling up beneath the bottom flight of stairs trying to escape the cold windy night outside (warning # 1). “Don’t worry about me, I’m just going to grab a little nap,” he says.

At the top of the stairs I kiss the wife good-bye, letting her know to call once she’s finished with her two-hour staff meeting as I’ll probably be in a cafe somewhere’s drinking a hot beverage by then. Stepping out of the warm brick and mortar building, through a glass door onto the streets of downtown. I’ve come up with a rudimentary list of objectives for tonight’s 2-hour stroll. I know there are thousands of photo opportunities out there tonight as the extremely cold temperature will push the people indoors making the streets less crowded, and the lights will continue to glimmer in the shimmering snowflakes falling out of the sky.

The Route 

  1. Starting at Don Wheaton YMCA, 10211 102 Ave NW
  2. Turn left onto 102 Street NW
  3. Wander down to 104 Street NW, turn left (South)
  4. Walk down to Kelly’s Pub
  5. Turn around and walk (North)
  6. Arrive at The Japanese Village parkade
  7. Hike 24 ramps to reach the top level 13
  8. Stand on roof top taking night photos and videos of the surrounding scenery
  9. Fingers tingling from blowing, windy, snowy, negative temperatures, hurry over to 13th floor door
  10. Turn knob to stairwell, barely feeling the finger tips (warning # 2)
  11. Step through doorway and begin gently rubbing hands together, numbness to the 3rd knuckle
  12. Hiking down the stairwell rubbing hands in pockets and blowing into cupped hands
  13. Reaching the bottom floor, hands warmer, stand in doorway, put gloves on hands
  14. Step through doorway, turning left and heading (North) towards the Neon Museum
  15. Stopping before the bright lights, to grab a couple shots, as the crosswalk signals “GO”
  16. Cross over 104 Avenue NW between Roger’s Place and Grant Mac Student Housing
  17. Shuffle through the snow to MacEwan LRT Station
  18. Observe the half-dozen people outside trying to escape the fiercely windy snow
  19. Watch a grounds keeper push a snow sweeper around the shiny silver hockey arena
  20. Step around back towards the LRT entrance and find an entrance unlocked into Roger’s Place
  21. Head inside to warm-up, find myself near the Staff Check-in entrance with Security present
  22. Wander up stairs heading into the belly of this beast
  23. Down a long twisting hallway and stumbled upon the indoor Community Ice Rink
  24. Reviewed a gigantic hockey mural and statue above the rink doors
  25. Spotted a Starbucks next to Grand Villa Casino
  26. Saw on an indoor television, the live hockey game: Edmonton Oil Kings vs Medicine Hat Tigers
  27. Located Ford Hall, an immense entrance and humongous waste in an open space concept
  28. Down through the belly of the beast, out the main entrance, along a pathway to 103 Avenue NW
  29. Kiddy-corner to Denizen Hotel quickly determine its time for a hot beverage
  30. Move across the street without the crosswalk, as the roadway is trafficless
  31. Stroll past Gong Cha Tea, Old Spaghetti Factory, The Frat, Sabor and Hudson’s Bay
  32. Step out across 102nd Avenue NW (taken mental note of YMCA building of glass)
  33. Cruising up 103 Avenue amongst the darkest section of the street, lofts on my right “Beaver House”
  34. Reaching Jasper Avenue beverage destination beneath a yellow awning “Remedy Cafe”
  35. Lights change, hands deep in pockets, look left, look right, cars are all stopped, no one’s sliding
  36. Approach each step with caution and grace through the crosswalk
  37. Pull open door number 1, then door number 2, warm air brushes past the face
  38. Smiling enter into the belly of the cafe
  39. Search for a snack
  40. Order a Chai Tea with almond milk and a slice of GF banana bread to stay
  41. Locate a table, pull out PMBOK, open to last page read, wait for warm beve’
  42. Beve’ on table, snack in front of me, book open
  43. Begin to Instagram and sit out the next 45-minutes in the warmth of this cafe

Bring-bring-bring the personalized ringtone of my wife buzzes on the cellphone at 12-minutes to nine. Answering in Spanish, “Hola mi esposo, como este?”.  “Hola mi esposo, bien. Et tue? y… (in English) where are you?“. Tried explaining my location in broken Spanish and reverted to English, “at Remedy Cafe, you?”  “I’m done, in the parkade, getting car, meet you out front of the cafe in 5-minutes.” “Okay, see you then.” Swallowed the last couple sips, packed up my non-read PMBOK shoved everything quickly into my Timbuk2 classic messenger bag, pulled on coat, gloves, toque, draped bag over shoulder, departed through door 1, then door 2 back into the brisk nip of the night. Crossed over Jasper Avenue turned right heading East, briskly walked down the block turning left onto 102 Street NW and waited for the wife’s silver Hyundai to emerge in the snow. Thumb out as I spotted her car. Blinker on, car pulls over and stops grabbed the door handle chucked bag onto floor, “how do we get there?” she asks. “Oh that’s easy, turn left on Jasper Avenue and I’ll guide you to the Royal Legion Hall 178.”