Alberta: Downtime with Friends & Family (and Convenient Medical Service)

Friends, family, & convenient medical care in Alberta, Canada. www.marianamcdougall.com. Background photo shows a large family smiling at the camera.

After driving through Nevada, Idaho, and Montana, we finally arrived back in Canada, crossing the border into Alberta, where we enjoyed some downtime with friends and family and took a few welcome days off driving.

Friends, Family, & Convenient Medical Care in Alberta, Canada, www.marianamcdougall.com. Background photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash shows mountains and a lake in Alberta.

Our very first stop was to see some homeschooling friends from Kingston who had moved back to Alberta in the fall. So we stopped in the small town of Raymond, Alberta, which is pretty close to the border with Montana. 

The very first one to greet me when I got out of the RV was Rex, who after almost eight months of no contact, still came running towards me and did exactly what he always used to do back in Kingston: stepped on my foot so I’d stay and pet him. It was pretty clear he remembered me, which made me happy. We watched Rex a couple of times back in Kingston when the Haynes were out of town, and he’s a great dog.

Rex, a golden retriever, who looks like he's smiling, next to Mariana, who has long black curly hair and is wearing glasses. She is also smiling.

 

We had a great visit with the Haynes, chatted, ate great meals together, and even got to try out pickleball one evening. That evening got cut short when their oldest kid had a pretty bad wipeout on his bike and needed stitches on his leg, but he’s OK now.

Our kids and the Haynes kids are pretty good friends, as Andrea used to watch my kiddos once a week back in Kingston on my work days, and as they’re all homeschooled, they all hung out together every week. All the kids had a great time playing together, and they even came out to watch a movie in the RV one night.

5 children smiling at the camera.

 

To us it’s a bit funny that kids always love coming in to the RV, which is such a tiny space, but I guess it’s the novelty of it all. For our kids, the novelty was an accessible home with a chairlift. We all tried it once just to see what it was like, but for now I can still use my creaky, painful knees to go up and down stairs on my own, so I’ll keep on doing it.

 

6-year-old boy sitting on a stair chairlift.

 

We had a really good time hanging out with our friends and are so happy we had the opportunity to see them again after they moved away from Kingston. Leaving Raymond was a little hard for the kids, but move on we must. Dan would like to get home earlier than originally planned, so we hit the road again a few days after we arrived. Not before taking a photo with both families (plus one of the neighbour’s kids), though:

 

Two families and a dog pose for the camera in front of a white house.

 

After Raymond, we made our way to Calgary, with a stop in Lethbridge, because after over 5 months of being outside Canada, a stop at a Timmie’s is a must. So we all had a treat lunch at Tim Hortons in Lethbridge, and we all enjoyed a meal out, which we don’t do very often, even while on the road (just one way that we can afford long-term travel).

 

Timmies Lethbridge Alberta

 

And after a few more hours of driving, we arrived in Calgary, where we got to visit with some other wonderful people we hadn’t seen in a while, as well as check out some more libraries, including the amazing Calgary Central Library (more on this in the next post!).

Calgary, Alberta: Fun Times with Family

 

One of Dan’s cousins, Petra, has been living in Calgary for a long time now, and because that’s pretty far from where we normally live in Kingston, Ontario, it had been a very long time since we’d last seen her.

Last time we saw Petra, she didn’t yet have children; now she has twin boys who are 7, a girl who is 5, and a baby boy who’s 6 months old. We finally got to meet the kids on this trip, and by total coincidence, Uncle Rod and Aunt Lynne (Petra’s parents) were visiting as well. Uncle Rod is one of Gus’s brothers (Gus is my father-in-law).

When we first arrived in Calgary, we visited the Quarry Park Library for some rest after driving and to wait until Petra and her family were home. Then we headed over to Petra’s, and it was really nice to see everyone and finally meet her family.

While the adults chatted upstairs, the kiddos played in the basement. They built forts, kicked a ball around, and generally had a good time. Later, the younger girls came out the balcony to blow bubbles, and their giggles were too adorable for words. 

 

Two 4-year-old girls play with bubbles on a balcony in Calgary, Alberta

 

For dinner, we enjoyed some hot dogs and veggie dogs over the fire in the backyard, had some great conversation, and the kids got along splendidly. We all had a really nice visit, and were happy for a photo op. Though with this many people, it’s kind of hard to get everyone to look at the camera at the same time (or to even get in the same picture)…

 

McDougalls

 

We were able to park the RV by a playground across the road from Petra’s house for the night, and the next day we took care of some logistical and medical needs for both K-girl and me.

K-girl and the awesome Calgary dentist

The day before we got to Calgary, K-girl mentioned she felt like there was a hole in her tooth, and when I looked closely, it really did look like there was a hole there. Back in Kingston, it takes forever to see a doctor or dentist, because in a smaller city, there’s just not enough people to go around. So I was a bit worried about getting this looked at—we might have to just park the RV for a while to wait for an appointment.

We mentioned this to Petra and Jake, and they said we should be able to get into a practice on the same day we call in Calgary. That’s unheard of for us, so I was a little skeptical, but sure enough, we called a pediatric dentist first thing in the morning, and they were able to get us in that day at 9:30 a.m.—that would never happen in Kingston. It was really close to Petra’s house, too, so that was a bonus.

 

toothbrush with toothpaste on it

 

The Smile Team Pediatric Dentistry practice is lovely, and we’re so glad they were able to see us on such short notice. Barb, the office administrator, took my call in the morning and registered us when we arrived at the office. She was very polite and helpful.

The waiting room was really inviting for kids, with a couple of shelves full of children’s books, a TV section with 4 flat screen TVs showing children’s shows, and a small room full of fun kids’ toys. Waiting in this waiting room was actually fun, but we didn’t have to wait for long.

Kelsey, one of the dental assistants, took us to the X-Ray room to get K-girl’s teeth checked out. She was very friendly and explained all of the tools she would be using to K-girl, which is great, since she was a little nervous going into the dentist. We also spoke to another dental assistant, but unfortunately I didn’t catch her name. She was also very nice. All of the staff were absolutely wonderful with all the children in the clinic.

A toothbrush and some dentist tools on a white background. We were fortunate to be able to get a same-day appointment at The Smile Team Pediatric Dentist in Calgary, Alberta.

After getting the x-rays and chatting with Kelsey, it wasn’t long before Dr. Prabhdeep came into the room and explained what was happening with K-girl’s teeth and told us her recommendations. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they could actually do the procedure right after discussing it. Long story short, we needed to do an extraction and to put in a stainless steel crown to protect both a baby tooth that was decaying as well as the neighbouring adult tooth.

Dr. Prabhdeep explained to K-girl everything she was going to do before she started doing it, and encouraged her the whole time she was working on her teeth. It was also nice that they had a tool that helps to keep the child’s mouth open, which makes it easier for kids to get dental work done.

Dr. Prabhdeep was very patient when I asked her to explain the procedure again once she was done, so that I could repeat it to Dan once we got back to the RV. We enjoyed some conversation while she was working, but all the while she was very conscious and inclusive of K-girl, stopping to tell her how brave she was being and to continue checking on how she was doing. I was very impressed by the professionalism and obvious passion the staff have for working with kids, and if I lived in Calgary, I’d be signing all my kids up as new patients for this practice.

 

 

Illustration showing smiling teeth, a teeth with a dentist's light, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other dentist items. We were fortunate to get a same-day appointment at a pediatric dentist in Calgary, Alberta.

 

When the work was finished, K-girl was  given a tooth necklace with her extracted tooth in it, which was fun for her, because she loves the book Fancy Nancy and the Too-Loose Tooth. The necklace K-girl got looked exactly like the one in the book. She was also given three tokens for the “toy tower,” and was able to pick three little toys to take back to the RV.

We paid out of pocket (more on why this makes financial sense in a later post), and it wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be. Before we left, K-girl was also given a neat cup of water that changes colours according to  the temperature of the liquid in it. Finally, she was also given lip balm to take home, which is so awesome, because her lips always get really dry when she has dental work done, and the fact we’re in Alberta doesn’t help.

I’m really impressed with The Smile Team and highly recommend them to anyone who has children and lives in Calgary. It was a great experience, and K-girl, who’s usually really apprehensive when she goes to the dentist, was actually at ease for most of the appointment.

Once K-girl had her teeth taken care of, it was time for me to get some of my medical needs met.

Skipping the Walk-In Wait in Calgary

hourglass with red sand on top of a newspaper. I was able to avoid the waiting time at a walk-in clinic in Calgary by using the Maple app.

 

One of the hard parts of long-term travel when you have chronic illnesses is making sure you always have all your medications. Most doctors in Ontario will prescribe up to 6 months of medications for travellers, but there was a mix-up with my thyroid medication, and I only got 3 month’s worth prescribed. On a 1-year trip, that’s a bit of a problem.

I ran out of thyroid meds in the US, so while I was there, I had to go to walk-in clinics, explain my situation, and hope they’d refill my prescription. All the walk-in clinics in the states we visited only prescribe one month at a time, which meant each month, I had to pay for another consult to have my prescription filled again. A bit of a pain, especially considering I’ve been on these meds for 14 years now, but you do what you have to do.

 

white pills. I avoided the waiting time at a walk-in clinic in Calgary, Alberta, by using the Maple app. Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

 

Once we arrived back in Canada, I was on my last couple of days of my previous prescription bottle, so I figured I’d need to visit a walk-in clinic in Calgary to get the next month’s pills. So I searched Google for “walk-in clinic near me,” and I found out something super awesome.

You can actually “see” a Canadian doctor online now for a fee, and skip the walk-in clinics all together. This is perfect for my situation (travelling far away from my primary physician). So, for $49, I typed in my situation and what I needed, chatted briefly with a doctor who asked me to send photo ID and a photo of the prescription bottle, and in less than half an hour, my problem was solved.

The doctor gave the prescription, I chose the nearest pharmacy, and the app sent the prescription directly there. I then called the pharmacy a few minutes later to ask if they received the fax and when the prescription might be ready, and boom—avoided waiting for my prescription at the pharmacy, too.

 

cell phone showing apps, Photo by David Švihovec on Unsplash

Maple is the app that makes this possible, and while I wouldn’t recommend it for new medical issues, for those who take medication regularly and travel within Canada, it’s pretty perfect, if you’re willing to pay to see a doctor. For me, $49 is definitely worth paying to avoid a long drive and a long wait at a walk-in clinic in a place I don’t know well.

Some people will think this is a silly concept in a place where health care is supposed to be free and accessible to all. But let’s face it—it’s not always accessible to all, and in special circumstances, I’m more than happy to pay a fee, if it means I’ll get what I need. I paid a lot more than $49 each time I need a walk-in clinic in the US, so this was pretty perfect for me.

After getting our health care needs met, we visited Petra & her family one more time before leaving Calgary.

Feast for 15

Cooked food on a table, Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon on Unsplash
I didn’t take a photo of the dinner, so here’s a stock photo of some yummy food.

On our second last day in Calgary, we visited Petra and her family again, and this time, I offered to cook dinner. So we arrived at Petra’s around 4:00 p.m., and I got to work to get dinner ready before the kiddos got home from school and so we could eat it before they headed out to Beavers.

Cooking for a group this large, where several people have restrictions could be a bit of a challenge, but as long as you know ahead of time what people can/can’t eat, it’s not that bad, and I had a lot of fun cooking for everybody.

I made baked salmon (with white wine, garlic powder and a bit of lemon—yum!), spinach blueberry salad, a quinoa veggie dish, baked asparagus, stir-fried red cabbage with brocolli, and for dessert, we had some coconut strawberry vegan ice cream (and it was delicious!) While I cooked most of the food, there were definitely helping hands involved. Aunt Lynne got the asparagus ready, Dan helped out with the ice cream, and I’m sure there were other helpers as well.

A 4-year-old girl holds a 6-month old baby while they both smile for the camera. Calgary, Alberta

The meal turned out great and it made me happy to see that everyone enjoyed the food. In total, we head 15 people for dinner: Uncle Rod and Aunt Lynne, Petra, Jake, Aeo, Zephyr, Arya, Jake’s parents, Jake’s brother, and the 5 of us. The baby was there too, of course, but he had his own food 🙂

Initially it might have looked like I cooked too much, but it was just right for everyone to have as much as they wanted, and for both us and Petra and family to have some left overs for the next day. As my mom always says, the best compliment to the cook is an empty plate, and I received a lot of compliments for the meal 🙂

We really enjoyed visiting with friends and family in Alberta, and we’re glad we had this opportunity. We’re also pretty happy with the convenient and excellent medical and dental care we received there. 

Before leaving the Calgary area, we made sure to stop at the gorgeous Central Library (we visited other libraries in Calgary as well). More on this in the next post, so stay tuned!

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