Sunday, April 30, 2017

Blog for April 30, 2017

We have certainly had a very busy week but, with the exception of seeing a movie that was recommended to us and taking a short trip yesterday, things have been pretty much business as usual. The picture included above is a preview of our trip, so, get through the work related stuff and then enjoy more of the pictures taken during our outing. 

Kathy’s role has certainly been expanded since the departure of the Peppingers. She is now the welcoming voice on the phone and routes the incoming calls and incoming email to the others in the office. Her duties pretty much include all that she did previously plus most of what Sister Peppinger did including missionary travel issues.  At the same time she has been training Sister Sefcik, who was planning to cover these duties when we return home; however, the Sefciks learned on Monday that a very capable local couple has come forward and will be starting soon, the Stephensons. Sister Stephenson will take over all of Sister Sefcik’s duties and, likewise, Elder Stephenson will cover Elder Sefcik’s duties. The Sefciks, who are likewise a local couple, have extended their mission a couple of times to accommodate the needs of the mission office such that their original 6 months has stretched to become more like 20 months or so. The Sefciks will certainly be missed. We have grown very close to them as we were with the Peppingers during their time in the office.

So on to our extracurricular activities; on Wednesday Kathy and I saw a wonderful movie that had been recommended to us, Hidden Figures. The movie is a true story primarily about three African American women who worked at NASA during the early space flight era; a time when the U.S. was in a space race with the Soviet Union. It was a time when women at NASA struggled for the recognition they so richly deserved, and to be a black woman working in a male dominated career was particularly difficult. These three women each played a key role in early space flight and yet their contributions were largely discounted.

After getting our weekly preparation day activities completed, we headed to Bragg Creek and the Elbow River Falls area. These are located west of Calgary in the foothills before one gets to the Canadian Rockies. Bragg Creek is a small community along the Elbow River and is within commuting distance of Calgary. Further west from there is the Elbow River Falls. W

While not a particularly impressive river or falls, it is the area above and below the Falls that is of particular interest. In mid to late June of 2013, a particularly heavy rainfall occurred over several days at a time when there was already considerable runoff from melting mountain snowfields. The combined runoff was extreme and many Southern Alberta communities were suddenly under water, including much of downtown Calgary. The destructive force of the water can be appreciated when you see the various river channels leading out of the mountains; the water literally swept the areas clean as the boulders and trees were carried along in the path of the water. There was once a very lovely picnic and camping area along the Elbow River which was totally wiped out by the broad flood.

Upstream floodplain

Downstream floodplain

Kathy and I were dating when this disaster happened in 2013. We had planned a trip to Canmore and to the Calgary Stampede with the intent of getting to know each other better and decide if we had a future. We were dismayed to hear at that time about the flooding and were concerned that our plans might also be washed away (pun intended). We called and asked about conditions and, to our relief, were assured by the timeshare and the Stampede planners that all was a go. We have since learned how great an effort was made by the good people of Calgary to prepare the Stampede grounds and other areas to get the debris and the muddy areas cleaned up in time for the events. The only impact for Stampede visitors at that time were detours around washed out areas and more limited parking. So now, some four years later, evidences of the flooding remain. Alberta has also spent millions of dollars to improve river channels and to provide means of diverting water away from populated areas should a similar disaster occur.

Needless to say, our 2013 Alberta trip was a huge success (we were engaged!), and, in case you missed our announcement in last week’s blog, we have agreed to extend our mission time here in Calgary until June 30th

Have a wonderful week.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Blog for April 23, 2017

"Firm as the mountains around us….." 

We love the Canadian Rockies and more particularly, the mountains around Banff. The highlight of our week’s activities was to return to our timeshare at Canmore over the weekend and enjoy once again the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Yes, we will attempt to bore you once again with the pictures we took.

For my recent birthday, Kathy surprised me with tickets to the Banff Gondola and we wanted to go enjoy that experience before school ends and the tourists descend. We were a little concerned about the forecast but, as it turns out, the weather cooperated nicely. We packed and were all set to leave directly from work on Friday and make the 75 minute drive to Canmore. The weather was quite overcast on our way but as we approached Canmore the weather began to clear a bit and, though cool, the evening was picture perfect. After checking in we relaxed for a hour or two and then headed to Boston Pizza for dinner. These are pictures taken from the restaurant parking lot.

This mountain area is known as the Three Sisters peaks. It sits just above the timeshare 
 As mentioned, the weather was cool so we decided against going to the pool so we relaxed with a movie (Blindside) and I started reading a book from the timeshare library by an author I like so we had a nice relaxing evening.

Saturday morning we hit the exercise room, had breakfast, grabbed our jackets and gloves (we were warned that we should go prepared to be cold), and headed to Banff, which is about 30 minutes from Canmore. Since we had a scheduled gondola departure time and weren’t sure how to get there, we gave ourselves plenty of time to get lost and still find it in time. As a result we arrived 45 minutes early and so had time to walk around and take some pictures.

Our approaching gondola

Looking downward to where we boarded the gondola

The view as we ascended Sulphur Mountain

The requisite "selfie"
The gondola moves pretty fast and in six minutes we were at the top of Sulphur Mountain (so named because some of the water that comes from the mountain side has a sulphur odor, but none was detected by us at any point). Sulphur Mountain is not an extremely high mountain but from the top you have a 360-degree view at the surrounding granite peaks in every direction and the view is stunning. Unfortunately, the pictures do not adequately show the grandeur. With the exception of the Alps, and possibly the Grand Tetons, in my view there are no other mountains that are quite as incredible.

View to the south from atop Sulphur Mountain. The receiving end of the gondola is on the right.
See our Facebook page for a video clip of the gondolas. 
The famous Banff Hotel and the Bow Valley

At the summit is a newly expanded (and very nice) four level viewing complex complete with three restaurants and the inevitable gift shop. As you might expect, the exit from the gondola dumps one directly into the gift shop, and then when you look for the entrance for the return back down the mountain, the only way to the gondola is again through the gift shop. Yes, we did look, but $32.00 for a ball cap and $60-80 for a sweatshirt does not entice us much.  Kathy looked for a souvenir granite egg to add to her collection but none was to be had.

If one can’t get enough of the vistas, there is a boardwalk that is something like the Great Wall of China (i.e., goes up and down but mostly up!) to another mountaintop complex. We considered it but quickly changed our minds. 

The boardwalk. You can see the destination off in the distance.

We took a lot of pictures and tried to stay out of the way of a large group of Japanese tourists who were being shepherded by a rather loud and obnoxious tour director. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants (pricey but nice). By the time we had finished eating, at least some of the Japanese tour group had gone back down the mountain so we were able to enjoy the views a bit more before heading down ourselves. Fortunately the weather was quite pleasant (remember this is April and in Canada!). The wind was light at best and the temperature around 42 degrees so, as it turned out, we were overdressed and had to remove a layer or two.

One more picture; this one is the the west on the opposite side of Sulphur Mt from the gondola ride.
If you come to the Banff National Park, we highly recommend the gondola experience. It was wonderful!

Banff has a wonderful Christmas store with the name, The Spirit of Christmas. We had been in once before and found out that the store carries carvings done by a well-known Canadian woodcarver, David Francis. Kathy loves his work. Most of the carvings are unique although he will do some replicas by special order.  Anyway, I knew of Kathy’s special interest in them so I told her I would get her an early birthday present if she could find one she truly likes. She did find one and so we are bringing it home, to be wrapped and put away until her September birthday, at least that is the plan. We will see. If you would like to see his art, you can view some pieces online at: He has a worldwide following.

This is the piece that we bought:

While in the Christmas store, we visited with the clerk who helped us and knew from her accent that she is from Australia. She asked where we are from and what we were doing in Canada. We told her how much we loved Canmore and Banff and she told us of a beautiful spot just above Canmore where she had just visited called Grassi Lakes. She told us it was a bit of a hike but well worth it and showed us some pictures she had taken, so we decided that was what we wanted to do that afternoon. With some difficulty we finally found the trailhead and made our way up the trail. Initially the trail was dry but as we got higher we began to encounter some snow and trickling water on the trail from the melting snow. Still it was very passable.

The hike was well worth it. The small lakes were almost luminescent, somewhat like one sees in Yellowstone.

During our hike a breeze had sprung up and the sky was becoming overcast so our pictures didn’t turn out quite as spectacularly as the store clerk’s but still it was beautiful. In her pictures the water was calm and flat and the day more sunlit so the reflection on the water of the mountainside and surrounding trees was amazing such that you could hardly tell where the waterline was. While there we were entertained by a small squirrel; I’m sure he was hoping that we had some food for him which we didn’t.

We were pretty tired by the time we returned so that pretty much finished the day for us; a truly fine day to say the least. And to cap the day off in the mountains, it snowed….

Today we drove back to Banff and went to church services there. By the way, the snow melted very quickly and was gone before we left Banff. We had looked forward to seeing and visiting with the missionary couple serving there in the branch, the Gardiners. Unfortunately they were not there, which we knew beforehand, as they had had to make a quick trip back home to Vancouver due to some family illness. We missed seeing them as they have become very dear to us; nevertheless, we enjoyed visiting the branch and, as always, had such a nice welcome.

So we are back home now and are enjoying thunder and lightning and a rain shower as I write this. 

We want to announce that we will be remaining in Canada a bit longer than anticipated. No, we are not immigrating (although doing so would not be difficult in the least as we love it here so much). Our mission end date was to be May 30th; however, we have been asked by President Miles to stay an additional month to help cover the shortage of personnel we currently have in the mission office. Extending for a month will also give us a few days of overlap with the couple coming in June to replace us. Incidentally, they, too, are from Sandy although we haven’t previously met them. We have, however, had a nice visit with them on the telephone and were able to answer some of their questions about what to expect and what to bring. We will look forward to meeting them. From our conversation, we know they are bringing some good Church background and some office related experience that will serve the mission well.

Wow, I am coming to the end of the blog and nothing was said about cars!

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blog for April 16, 2017

Our Calgary bucket list…….

Our time here in Calgary is getting shorter and shorter, and we have a bucket list of things we yet want to do. Yesterday we planned for three separate activities on the list; the first for me to run through an area I had not yet seen, and for us the Glenbow Museum and the Calgary Tower. 

For those of us who work in the office, Saturdays are our preparation days, our P-days as the missionaries refer to them. I began my day fairly early so I could run through an area around the Glenmore Reservoir that I had not yet seen, except off in the distance. This route took me around the business end of the reservoir, if you will, over the dam and past the water processing plants, then on to the north side of the reservoir and the golf course.


The ice on the reservoir is beginning to melt in spots and is nearly ice free near the dam.

There is a construction project underway to improve the dam and the water treatment facilities. Unfortunately, the project completely blocks the view toward the downtown area and the river that flows out of the downstream side of the dam, which is what I had hoped to see.


In one of the blogs written last summer I described our visits to Heritage Park and taking a paddle-wheeler ride out around the reservoir. From a vantage point along the reservoir’s trail one can see where the paddle-wheeler is kept high and dry in the off season. 

At the completion of my run, I took the car to a car wash, then returned home to help Kathy finish cleaning our apartment. Shortly after noon we headed to the Glenbow Museum, which we have heard so much about. 

The museums here in Alberta are excellent and the displays are wonderfully done. The Glenbow Museum was no exception. Unfortunately, we were only able to see about half of the museum before the 5:00 p.m. closing time. The more permanent part of the museum features early Canadian history, especially Alberta, and displays of the trans-Canadian railroad and the changes it brought about, Prohibition and the expansion of the Royal Canadian Police Force to help enforce it, Canadian men and women who helped shape western Canadian history, and so on. The museum has special displays which change from time to time. We enjoyed the mineral exhibit, a very large display of African artifacts, and I especially enjoyed a special display of warriors through the years including weapons used, protective clothing worn, and changes of fighting techniques and weapons as warfare evolved from close combat to delivery of bullets and bombs from a distance. These displays included Japanese Samurais, Maori fighters, medieval knights, etc. and ended with a comparison of how wars are fought in more modern times and the technological advances necessitated by these changes.

Will it fit?
Be sure to read the sign
Curtiss Jenny Aircraft

As mentioned, the 5:00 p.m. closing time came much too soon and we had to leave the museum, but another of the things on our bucket list was very near by, viz., the Calgary Tower. We walked the one block distance to the tower and took the elevator to the top where the 360-degree view is ordinarily unlimited. Unfortunately, soon after we arrived the weather settled in and it began to snow, so our appreciation for the view from the tower was rather limited. Hopefully be able to return soon. We understand that the view at night is spectacular, especially during the week when the cleaning crews are working in the high-rise buildings and the lights are on. Anyway, I will include a few pictures of our visit to the tower. We had hoped to have dinner in the restaurant at the top of the tower but would have had to wait from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for the next available dinner reservation. We drove home in the snowstorm instead.

Canadian Mountie Bears at the base of the Calgary Tower

Today was bright and sunny and the snow quickly melted away so it has turned out to be a nice but cool Easter Sunday. We had a wonderful Easter service. We had previously invited the two missionaries in our ward for Easter dinner and the time is drawing near so I will leave very soon to go pick them up.

We hope you have had a wonderful Easter, which, if one truly understands what happened on Easter, is the most significant event to happen in the history of mankind. May I say how grateful I am for the wonderful gift of our Savior, for His love and teachings, for the atonement He made for the sins of the world, and most importantly, for His ability as the only begotten of the Father to willingly give up His life. Thus the bands of death were broken and we are given the opportunity to return to the Father and live eternally. The challenge, of course, is to live so that we may realize that great gift in our own lives and in the lives of our families. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. I bear testimony of the truth of that statement.    

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Rabbits everywhere………

Our blog for April 9, 2017

I will start this week’s blog with a discussion of the rabbits in Calgary. Bear with me, it will get interesting.

Snowshoe Hares changing from white to brown in springtime

 When we first came to Calgary in December of 2015, we noticed there were quite a few white and rather large rabbits hopping around. They have huge back feet and are taller in the hindquarters than jackrabbits. In wintertime they are pretty much invisible in the snow except for their black tipped ears. Last spring, almost overnight, we noticed a sudden increase in numbers but they looked quite different; mostly white but with large patches of brown or grey. I asked and learned that these are indeed the same rabbits. They are Snowshoe Hares, which makes sense if you remember my comment above about their broad back feet which act like snowshoes to keep their feet from sinking into the snow as they run about. They do indeed gradually turn from white to mostly brown or reddish brown or grey as the weather gets warmer. We also saw smaller rabbits with shorter ears and much shorter legs. These I learned are feral rabbits that have escaped or were released (illegally) by their owners into the wild. On quite rare occasions one may spot a cottontail rabbit as well. So why am I telling you about rabbits; they are a huge nuisance to cities. Rabbits, well, breed like rabbits and they nibble on everything edible in the summer and the winter so trees, bushes, and gardens are at risk. They have almost no regard for humans and barely get out of the way as you approach. The rabbits in the picture are representative of the changes in appearance. We saw them on Friday while we were at the Calgary Temple. They were eating grass and whatever else they could find to munch on there on the temple grounds.

I continue to be very much involved in the process of placing new cars into service and recovering the older vehicles to prepare them for sale. The picture below is one of the Chevy Colorado trucks coming out of service. (It is so nice I am considering trying to buy it for myself despite it having a Canadian speedometer.) We met the two missionaries, Elder Owens and Elder Lowham, to deliver a new RAV4 and exchange it for their truck. Afterward we treated them to dinner at Cost Vida, which they said is their “favorite place in the whole world to eat”.

Elders Lowham and Owens and their truck to be sold

Speaking of preparing and selling cars, in as much as our time in the mission field is drawing to a close next month, this part of my job will gradually be taken over by Elder Sefcik, whom I have mentioned before as one of the senior missionaries in the office. He is also the housing coordinator but offered to learn this aspect of the vehicle coordinator job so that he will be able to teach the senior couple coming in June. They arrive too late for us to do the training. Elder Sefcik taking over this aspect of my job will lift a huge load from my shoulders, especially with still more new cars coming to the mission. This will allow me more time to focus on the repairs associated with car accidents, car assignments, car inspections, minor car repairs, oil changes, tires, car records, and car reports, and all other car related things except car sales. Yes, there is still plenty to do.

The vehicle coordinator job will be even larger for the next person. In much of North America missionary cars are equipped with devices called TIWI. These devices monitor car speed and car location, and our mission cars will be equipped with these devices in July. We will, of course, be long gone by then so it will fall to someone else to monitor the TIWI equipped cars. I am told this aspect of the job will add significantly to the vehicle coordinator’s workload so I’m definitely okay with not having to learn and oversee this.

Speaking of our replacements, they are Elder and Sister McNary who are also from Sandy, Utah, but not from our stake so we don’t know them. We had a very pleasant visit with them by phone during the week and were able to answer many of their questions about what they will be doing, what they should bring, where they will be living, etc.

On Thursday evening we attended the baptism of the son of some dear friends, the Larez family. They immigrated to Calgary from Caracas, Venezuela, about a year ago. They both served missions for the Church and are college graduates but found life too difficult in Venezuela to remain so came here to further their studies and make Canada their home. We have become very close to them and were delighted to be invited to attend the baptism of their son, Miguel. The following pictures are of them and little Miguel. 

Liliana, Bismark, Miguel, and Isabella Larez

Last night we had a very lovely time at dinner with Elder and Sister Wong and Elder and Sister Sefcik. And tonight we were invited to the home of our bishop, Bishop Keyes, and his wife. We were also able to meet some of their family who live in the area. Their son recently returned from one of the Mexico City missions. The Keyes have a lovely home which they bought a few years ago and have been extensively renovating. It was only a half a block from their old home so, while the move itself wasn’t a big deal, the renovations have been and the results are beautiful. The Keyes are pictured below.

Bishop Keyes and family

That’s about it for this week. We send you all our love and best wishes. To our good friends, the Downs, who are returning home from their mission in Mexico this week, may we say, “Well done!” Hope to see you soon and swap stories.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

General Conference and Transfer Week, and, oh yes, a birthday came and went…….

I am preparing this between sessions of LDS General Conference so it is very much on my mind. Unfortunately, the local community service TV channel decided not to carry the Conference as in previous years. Fortunately, the Internet provides a way to watch so we haven’t missed a thing.

This morning, and all of this past week, I have been able to run outside and am so pleased to be able to resume running out of doors. With all the snow that melted during the week, I decided to try the Glenmore Reservoir trail (asphalt) and was delighted to find it clear of snow and ice for the most part. As you will see in the pictures below, nothing turning green yet, but it will come. The trail along the shore of the reservoir is still muddy with some patches of snow.

Dry Glenmore Reservoir Trail - ready for use

The Weaselhead in early Spring

The trail immediately along the reservoir - muddy and not yet ready for running

It is so nice to have more daylight to enjoy. With the resumption of daylight savings time, the sun is now well up before we go to work and it stays light until well after we get home. By the time we go home in late May, it will again be light from around 4:00 a.m. until well after 11:30 p.m. I was recalling recently that the Calgary Stampede fireworks display this past summer didn’t begin until nearly midnight because it was not dark enough to enjoy it fully until then. And speaking of fully enjoying the fireworks, it didn’t quite happen that way for us; we were poised to watch it from our apartment building but decided we were more interested in turning in so we gave up and went to bed. I guess we are getting old.

Transfer Week

And speaking of old, my birthday was on Wednesday. Before the day was over I was tired and feeling pretty old. It was a long day. We had a group of new missionaries arrive on Wednesday morning and it is a part of my duties to go to the airport and haul at least some of them (and all their luggage) to the mission home. The remainder are driven by the mission president and the Assistants in their vehicles. After their arrival at the mission home, those of us who work in the office (housing, cars, supplies, finance, etc.) provide them the necessary training for how things are done in the mission and how we are there to help them with their work. Afterward it was back to the office to prepare things for transfers the next day. Kathy and I stopped on our way home and had a nice dinner at a restaurant we like and finally got home about 8:30 p.m.

On their travel day, the missionary day begins around 2:30 a.m. when they get up to finish packing, have breakfast, and leave the MTC in Provo to get to the Salt Lake Airport for their flight. This time their flights took them to Seattle where they had to change planes, and then continued on to Calgary. It makes for a long day for them, so having to sit through local training is just short of torture. It helps to have them take frequent breaks to stand and stretch and then resume, and have some snacks. This group did well. They are a smaller group so the Sisters were able to all stay overnight at the Mission Home and the Elders were taken to a nearby motel. On Thursday we gathered them up and took them to the Willow Park chapel to connect with their new companions and continue on to their assigned areas.

Arrival of new missionaries usually happens every six weeks. Though it not perfectly equal during each transfer week, for each arriving group of missionaries there is a corresponding number of missionaries who are headed home at the end of their missionary service (18 months for the Sisters, and 24 months for the Elders). Arrivals and departures trigger a general shift in missionary service locations for many of the others remaining in the mission and so they and their luggage are hauled (that would be me) to one of two exchange locations, Lethbridge and Calgary. At each location, they meet their new companions and have a chance to reconnect with those with whom they have served in previous locations. Once we arrive at the exchange points those being driven bail out of the vehicles and head directly for those they haven’t seen in awhile. All of their baggage and personal things are forgotten for the moment. To get them reorganized and on their way is a lot like herding cats, but it all works out in the end and usually there are only one or two bags remaining after everyone has left   :^) 

Transfer day is a time to also move cars. With all the potential drivers going south or coming north, it is a good time to transport the new cars to where they need to be and to drive the old ones back. Opening and closing of areas also requires some movement of cars. All of this car movement requires a great deal of advance planning and coordination. At the exchange points I end up having to look at some cars that need repairs or have issues that have not previously been brought to my attention. These present as, “Oh, Elder Thorley; we forgot to tell you about it before but there is something wrong with our car. Could you look at it?” I also usually end up doing a couple of curbside medical consultations as well, so it is a busy time.

Sometimes during transfers, as was the case this time, I also meet up with a person in the south mission who wants to buy one of the older cars and, for convenience, wants it brought to them to avoid the long trip to Calgary. Selling a car under these circumstances usually requires answering a number of questions since they have not previously seen the car, only the pictures. I end up having to show them that everything that is supposed to be there is there and completing the necessary bill of sale.

Fortunately, the Assistants to the President oversee assigning drivers and passengers to each of the cars and herding them to their respective rides. Also the Assistants and office staff (in Calgary) collect gas receipts and gas cards, apartment keys, and cell phones, etc. and make sure these get into the right hands. So, the bottom line – the hour between arriving and leaving at the exchange points is an extremely busy time for all concerned.

Easter Interdenominational Easter Choral Festival

In anticipation of Easter, the Calgary Stake hosts a number of choral groups from various denominations around Calgary. This has been a tradition in central Calgary for 10 years. Kathy and I attended the event last year and enjoyed it very much. This year we have the opportunity of singing with our stake choir. Each choir performs two numbers. I will try to get a couple of pictures of the event and include them at the bottom of this blog.

The choral groups sat in the middle with the audience on the sides and in the cultural hall overflow

Once of the choral groups performing their number

The choristers and their accompanists

At the Interdenominational Choral Easter Festival:
L to R: Kathy and I, Sis Peterson, Sis Bonus, Elder Ibanez, Elder Hatch. Middle row: Elder Tung, Elder Proctor, Elder Fox, Elder Cartrwright, Sis Caldwell, Sis Hatch. Back row: Elder Fish, Elder Smith, Elder Del Molino, Elder Schiel

I hope, wherever you are, that you have been able to listen to General Conference. The messages are so timely and the words truly inspired. It was wonderful to see President Monson take part, and announce five new temples to be built. As announced, membership in the Church will soon reach 16 million members. This is, of course, a result of missionary work. While Kathy and my roles are supportive in nature and not proselyting, we do get opportunities to share the message of the Restoration. Often the vendors with whom I work ask about what our missionaries do as they meet them dropping cars off or picking them up after the repairs, oil changes, etc. I am only too happy to oblige and tell them a bit about the work and the message our missionaries share, and then I challenge them to invite them into their homes.

Have a great week!