Arrived in Calgary on August 7th. Liza met me at the airport as she had just flown in from Victoria. Syd was suitably happy to see me. We spent a few days in Calgary, visiting with Steve and Melissah (who came down for the weekend in their newly-purchased RV) and Liza's mom  and Celso's wife and son (who came in for a few weeks to visit).


In the meantime, we had a good few days. Got to hike near Lake Minnewanka on a beautiful day in the mountains. Liza bought a set of drums which has proved a tremendous stress reliever for her.


Then it was off to Virden for Syd and I. Had a great time there with Granny and Grandpa. Ben was a big hit with Syd. At one point, Syd wanted to say Ben and Jennifer and it came out "Bennifer". She thought it was funny. So did I but for different reasons.


Jennifer and her friend Niki laid claim to the homestead for a few days, too. They have both taken to teenage-dom very well. Staying up until the wee hours, sleeping until the afternoon, complaining that we make too much noise at 11:00 am.


One day, I went golfing with the boys at Shilo. As luck would have it, we went on Potty-Mouth Friday (which apparently replaced Racial Slur Wednesday and Repentence Thursday) so we got more strange looks than usual from the other golfers. In any case, I think I ruined some guys putt when I yelled, "F*&$, I'm a good golfer". Deke's a better teacher than he is a golfer/gopher. Ian and I made the mistake of playing the same brand ball then shooting within ten feet of each other. No problem, rock-paper-scissors took care of that little mishap. A few references to various Little Rascals (don't ask, Spanky) and we were done. But not before vowing never to play 18 holes consecutively again.


Got to visit both branches of the Great Plains Alpaca Ranch. Syd loved the Forrest outlet because of the goats and the brand new baby piglets. The latter prompted a heated and emotional discussion on whether or not we could bring two of the piglets with us back to the Bahamas. I pointed the logistical difficulties and legal ramifications inherent in transporting live animals across the U.S. (while recognizing the irony of bringing non-capitalist pigs into the country). Syd calmly and rationally countered my arguments with the economical benefits of raising pigs in a tropical climate, often using the phrase "I hate you" to emphasize her point.


We also were lucky enough to witness two alpacas mating. Ciro, the male, is kept away from the females for the sole purpose, I'm guessing, of making him horny enough to mount anything that comes into his pen, including the occasional unlucky woodpecker. Todd put one of the females in with him and Ciro began the courtship by leaping on top of her. She said the alpaca equivalent of "not now, dear, I have a headache" and tried to go about her own business. Ciro, like any good man, took this to mean, "come and get it" and the chase was on.


Ciro was undeterred but Todd took pity on him and brought in a different female (keep in mind, I'm talking about alpacas so this isn't pornographic according to the little known National Geographic clause of the constitution). She was much more receptive and before you could say "alpaca porn", they were getting busy. For forty-five minutes. And Ciro is, shall we say, a talker. He was honking away the whole time apparently shouting in alpaca-ese to anyone who would listen about how he was gettin' some.


Well, Syd thought this whole thing was the coolest thing she'd ever seen. For days afterward, she would tell anyone and everyone what she saw: Granny, Grandpa, Jennifer, the nice lady from Child and Family Services. "I saw one alpaca ride the other one", she'd say, "and he kept going WONK! WONK! WONK! and his nostrils got big, then small, then big, then small. He was funny."


In order to reduce her psychiatry bills in later years, I distracted her from the action by showing her the goats and llamas. This worked for a while but soon I heard her yell, "Look, daddy, he's finished" so it was time to bring her back to the sheltered life in the big city (aka Virden).


Another highlight was the visit to Deke's branch of the ranch. We got to visit his five-month-old son, Cooper, to whom Syd affectionately refers as "Cooper, the disgusting baby" due to the amount of drool that he produces. I got to help Deke put some medication on an alpaca wound which involved holding on to him and whispering soothing "there, there"s into his ear. We made a valiant attempt at spraying some donkeys with something that seemed important until we realized they were stronger than we were. (I've since learned that Todd was able to get the jackasses to sit still long enough to apply it. His technique, he claims, was to think like an ass, or "get your head in the ass and she'll do whatever you want." He's currently writing a book on his methods.) Logan and Syd, meanwhile, had a very successful water fight because Logan loves to shoot people with water pistols and Syd loves to get wet.


Alas, we had to leave Virden behind and spend a brief time in Winnipeg. Stayed in Liza's mom's house and got to visit with most of the aunt's, uncle's, and cousins while we were there. Managed to go out with Shannon, Leyla, Nick, Wayne, and Roxanne one evening. Roxanne has, at last count, five hairstyles currently on her head. Not sure if she'll take the suggestion of a perm to make it six. That might just look silly.


So that's the whirlwind view of our Tour de Canada. Am currently still in Maryland for a couple more days. Liza was up here for three days after her trip to Fort Lauderdale with Syd was cut short.