Travel and exploring new places is one of the biggest forms of self care for me, but with the pandemic going on, my dreams for a trip to Spain + Portugal in 2020 have been completely dashed. To be honest, I don’t know if I am ready to travel too far away from home in the near term future, so all my big trips have been sidelined until probably at least late 2021. So instead, I decided to take a page out of my friend Linda’s book and explore off the beaten path within Alberta. One of the things I love are road trips with some of my best friends as we always have a fun time and the rides are always filled with good convos!
This past weekend, we decided to head down to Red Deer and wander beyond Gasoline Alley for an afternoon. It was pouring rain when we left home and I was very concerned that we wouldn’t be able to do more than have lunch, but just as we were pulling into Red Deer, the skies cleared and the sun started to shine!
We were aiming to be in Red Deer for lunch, but the rain and some construction meant added travel time, so we were definitely in the late lunch time frame by the time we arrived. Trying to narrow down a lunch option was not easy because I am a procrastinator and did not do research before getting in the car and google reviews were not helpful at a quick glance since most places had a 4 star+ rating. In the end, we decided to give Lokal Kitchen a try as the menu mix of Korean food and Canadian/Western food seemed interesting. Due to our late arrival, the restaurant was empty and we had our pick of tables – they also had hand sanitizer available and several tables were marked as closed to keep distance between diners. This was my second time dining in in a restaurant since March and it was a relatively comfortable experience since it was just us and the server. Between the four of us, we had a mix of items from the menu and everyone enjoyed their meals. I had the chicken fingers, which I was like… do I post that I ordered something so very much “kid’s menu” oriented, but what I received was not quite what I would expect. It didn’t look like a kid’s menu item and lol in my opinion, the salad makes it more adult right? The chicken was super crispy as the breading/batter had all these craggy bits that gave it the satisfying crunch I was looking for. Despite my love for the naked salad – I find most salads overdressed – this one had a great dressing that didn’t make me regret not asking for it on the side. My friends who ordered Korean dishes (Korean BBQ (short rib + bulgogi) and Bulgogi Rice) seemed to enjoy everything – downsides of the pandemic means no sharing food and getting a taste of their meals. 😦
Ever since being introduced to Sweet Capone’s cannolis, I have been talking about them as a stop we should make any time we get near Red Deer. The weekend hours (they close at 4pm) can be an issue if we are driving home from further south, but since Red Deer was the final destination, we were able to visit and grab sweet treats for dessert (and for home). I really like that Sweet Capone’s version of cannolis are not those with the deep fried dough + ricotta filling as I find those quite heavy. These have a light and flaky outside and a not too sweet filling. They have so many filling options that I always ask to order last in the group because I get very indecisive on which to choose. This time. I decided to go with some of my sister’s preferred flavours since I would be sharing with her at home, so my choices were key lime, cookies and cream, blueberry cheesecake and pistachio. I also appreciated the picnic tables outside since this meant we could still have dessert, but not worry about being too close to other customers inside (also a great time/place for a cannoli selfie).
Gasoline Alley – Peter’s Drive In + Donut Mill
No trip to Red Deer for me is complete without a stop in Gasoline Alley for a Peter’s Drive-In milkshake for the ride home and a box of donuts from the Donut Mill for my family (sweet tooth(s) abound at the House of Argenplath). I know that we now have a Peter’s in Edmonton, but it’s not something I want to have on the regular – it is a very distinctive/nostalgic experience that is reserved for road trips only. I remember my first milkshake from the Calgary location as a teen (my first trip without my parents!) and everything about the milkshake is tinged with nostalgia and reminders of youth, good times etc., so it’s almost become tradition to get a milkshake, but the location has changed from Calgary to Red Deer because lol adult me hates the Calgary location parking lot and lines (so still some changes). The Donut Mill is also a tradition, but mainly with this group of friends – I don’t remember how it started, but it is just one of those things we have to do regardless and I am always comforted by how little has changed. The donuts are still good although I am confused at how I am still ridiculously indecisive when it comes to picking out the flavours I want! 😀
Gaetz Lakes Bird Sanctuary
The highlight of our exploration of Red Deer, besides spending time with my best pals (always the highlight of any trip), was learning about the Gaetz Lakes Bird Sanctuary and taking a loop around on the Wishart Trail. One of the downsides of a summer filled with recovery from surgery (x2) has been the limitations of what I am allowed to do physically, so not super strenuous walking is about as good as it gets for the next little while. Luckily for me, the Wishart Trail was a gentle hike/walk with minimal steep spots as long as you follow their advice to go clockwise along the trail.
There is also something to be said about just being out in nature, especially when there are not very many people out on the same trails. It felt like we had the whole place to ourselves and it was very peaceful but also a wonderful way to continue catching up. The views are spectacular and the viewing points and information signs along the trail were great! I don’t think I realized how much I needed this, but it was a good reminder to head out and explore, whether it is in our own Edmonton River Valley or one of the many places throughout the province! We have beautiful parks and trail systems and we should definitely try to take advantage of that while we can!
Overall, I had a fantastic time with my best pals on this mini day trip down to explore Red Deer and it turned out to be what I needed to feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to tackle another week. Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, I feel like we were able to keep our distance from most other people and by choosing to do things during off hours and/or outdoors, it was not nearly as uncomfortable as one would think. I am looking forward to getting a few more exploratory jaunts in while the weather is nice and also just spending more time with friends – this extrovert is really needing some people time and energy! ❤