In northern North Dakota, 97.1 was the only FM station we could find. Can you guess what genre it played?
A week ago today, my friend Tim and I concluded a long, boring drive to a fun, exciting place. No, not Vegas. Or Palm Beach. Or New Orleans.
Give up? Or maybe by process of elimination you figured out that Edmonton, Alberta was our destination. Or not?
While road-tripping is nothing new, the trip did include a lot of new things for me.
First of all, it was my inaugural trip to Canada. And let me tell you, the kind folks at Canadian Customs and Border Patrol were thrilled to welcome me. Whoever said getting into Canada is the easy part apparently has not gone through at 11 p.m. after potential visitors got busted for drugs and trying to sneak into the country to work (separate incidences).
Plus, Tim had "a sly smile," according to the gal who interviewed us. She also thought she knew someone else who was attending the same wedding we were heading to, but that inkling later proved incorrect.
Anyhow, our vehicle and billfolds got searched. They knew I was a journalist, so I am sure they were not looking for large amounts of cash. Nonetheless, we were on our way ... almost an hour later.
I almost forgot, before we entered Canada, we drove through North Dakota -- another first for me. If you have driven through North Dakota, you know why I almost forgot. On one occasion, we had to switch the radio to AM to find a station.
However, the Des Lacs region was beautiful -- especially on the return trip.
We also got a picture of the sign for Velva -- previously home to "1,300 happy people" -- which shares its name with Tim's mom.
Fast-forward-rewinding back to our arrival in Canada. It did not take long for me to indulge in another first: paintball.
I figured with my lack of athleticism, coordination and "Call of Duty" experience, I would be a sitting duck for the skilled marksmen and would go down early and often.
Much to my amazement, that did not happen.
In fact, I was one of three survivors for the winning team and I got my first "kill" during a standoff against the bride's brother who, by the way, had competed on that course before.
At the end of our time, the groom Justin "ran the gauntlet," receiving at least 20 gaudy welts on his back and chest.
Following that excitement, five of us guys went into Edmonton to explore the West Edmonton Mall, also known as the largest mall in the world.
As if 800-plus stores are not enough, the mall also features Galaxyland amusement park, World Waterpark, the Ice Palace skating rink, five lemurs and two mini golf courses. You guessed it, out of all of that, we were most mesmerized by the lemurs.
Later, we sat around a bonfire -- not a first -- talked about potato farming -- definitely a first -- and drank Kokanee -- another enjoyably refreshing first.
I should clarify that about 20 Dordt alumni were staying in campers, basements and on couches at the family farm of the bride. Experiencing that much hospitality from people planning a wedding was refreshing.
So, Saturday rolled around and the wedding happened. It really was a great ceremony, though I did notice a few differences from the American weddings I'm used to. Most notably, they got to kiss before the sermon and formal announcement of "man and wife" at the very end. On second thought, I might have to steal that technique on my wedding day.
In between the wedding and reception -- a three hour gap -- a group of us visited the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, commonly referred to simply as "The Ledge," which is simply an amazing building surrounded by a beautiful garden complete with fountains.
There I experienced the best "first" of all.
Brace yourself because it is pretty great.
I saw real Canadian Mounties.
Call me a nerd, but exclamation points cannot explain how stoked i was to see these Canadian horsemen in full, ceremonial dress. After all, such a sight had been on my list of things to see in Canada -- and considering I saw no moose or llama fleece, it was the only item I was able to strike from my list.
In my shock and awe, I failed to get a picture, even though some of my friends did.
We also counted seven wedding parties, one lawn bowler and a jackrabbit. Yes, all firsts for me.
It is hard to believe that one place would draw so much diversity, the lawn bowler was crazily accurate and also let a bride and groom try the sport for candid wedding photos and that jackrabbit was seriously at least three times as big as any rabbit I have ever seen, including it's big, perky ears.
Tim Hortons also played a role in our exploring and I enjoyed my first ever Iced Capp to go with a chocolate chip muffin and a honey cruller.
At the wedding, I shared my first matrimony-themed rap -- a six-stanza ditty -- and formally announced to my college friends that my rapping alias is now G Quinc as I discovered more than one White Out when searching for my Angela Shelton rap on youtube. If you're interested in that rap, by the way, click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RJfzB3g7bA
Of course that was my first Canadian wedding reception and they are as crazy as some people say. Enough said about that.
That just about wraps up the firsts for my expedition to Edmonton.
As you may have noticed, I missed out on quite a few things and cannot wait to go back. For now, I will have to settle for Mount Vernon, Wash., and potentially Vancouver, British Columbia,where I will be heading in less than two months for yet another (half) Canadian wedding.