At first we didn’t know whether we would be able to go. It had been snowing for a couple of days, the roads were in poor shape, and flights in and out of Edmonton were being delayed and sometimes cancelled. However, the trip had been planned for months and many people were expecting us to be there. The five-day trip to Fort McMurray is the Wordpower Tour sponsored by Suncor Energy and the Young Alberta Book Society. It involves six book authors (Robert Feagan, Rita Feutl, Joan Galat, Faye Holt, Lorna Nicholson and myself), one storyteller (Kathy Jessup) and one illustrator (Lorna Bennett) flying to Fort McMurray and making presentations to grade 4 and 7 classes in schools in ‘Fort Mac’ and surrounding communities. But the weather had other ideas
Those of us from the Edmonton area arrived at the airport Sunday evening, after making treacherous trips on highways that had been plowed down to ‘black ice’. We saw many vehicles in the ditch, including some large tractor-trailer units. We all arrived safely to see that our slated flight was indeed on time, as had been promised when we each had checked its status on the Internet. The only delay we experienced was the requisite de-icing of the aircraft’s wings before take-off; all the while blowing snow continued to fall.
The 45-minute flight to Fort McMurray was uneventful. However, when we arrived in the same snow storm, we found the airport terminal to be packed with people. The area had received much more snow than had the Edmonton region and an accident had occurred on the outbound highway between the airport and the town. Taxis weren’t running and no one from Suncor could get out to us to help. So, we rented a couple of vehicles and drove to our hotel. The highway (63) was in poor shape, the deep snow threatening to disable the low-riding sedan. However, we eventually arrived at our destination and finally got to bed around 1 a.m., Monday
Six-hours later we each were off to our various destinations to deliver our presentations. Thankfully, the good people from Suncor’s Stakeholder and Community Relations Department drove us. Joan Galat and I went to Father Beauregard School in Fort Mac and each delivered four presentations. Amazingly, despite the conditions, most students showed up for school. In my sessions in the library, the students were attentive and asked interesting questions about my two novels and Alberta wildlife. The teachers and other staff were also great, making sure we wanted for nothing. It was a very pleasurable experience.
Later that evening, we once again had to lean on Suncor to deliver us to the library for the official launch of Wordpower. We had tried to use taxis as originally planned but they were way overbooked, even though we had made reservations hours earlier (as Jerry Seinfeld said, “I don’t think you understand the meaning of ‘reservation’). The launch was sparsely attended; again the street and road conditions were terrible, but we each had a chance to thank Suncor Energy and the library for their sponsorship of this program.
Today, Wednesday (April 22), conditions if anything are worse. It snowed hard all day long. School buses, and for the first time in many residents’ memories, municipal bus services were cancelled. All our program for the day was likewise cancelled. So, I sit here in my hotel suite writing this blog entry, and hoping the up and down high-speed Internet connection comes back on again.
So, what’s wrong with that?