September 11 Saturday
When we looked out the front of the coach this morning the two RV's that were parked in the waterfront sites across from us had left, leaving us a great view of the lake. We had actually picked this site yesterday because of this view, since the water front sites were back-ins, meaning we wouldn't have had any view of the lake if we had taken them.
It turned out we really had no idea just how lucky we actually were until we stopped for diesel later in the day. This bridge was supposed to be closed today from 8 am to 5 pm for maintenance, which meant the road would be blocked for that length of time, and we would have just had to wait it out. As you can see, that didn't take place and we both heaved a sigh of relief when we learned what had happened, or maybe I should say, what didn't happen.
We did stop at the Battle Hill Historic Site near Kitwanga, which as the name implies, involved climbing a hill. First you go down the hill where the pulloff is, then climb the actual Battle Hill. They have stairs to make it easier, and a large number of very descriptive interpretive signs to help you better understand what took place here. The hill was heavily fortified by 'Nekt, a fierce warrior chief, who used Battle Hill as a base to make raids against Nass River and coastal peoples, but after his death in the early 1800's it was abandoned. Today there is only the weed covered top of the hill and haunting memories of what one was.
While I was dreaming about following in the footsteps of those First Peoples from so long ago, Linda was into another type of footstep. In her case it was the kind you get when you step into a pile of doggy poo. Some people have the knack for stumbling onto interesting things, like the bear I drove up on, yesterday. Linda seems to have perfected another knack, a description of which I won't go into, as it will only get me into deep what that is on the bottom of her shoe.
Not far from Battle Hill we turned onto the Yellowhead Highway, which we will follow for the next several days as we head toward Jasper National Park. It's funny how something ordinary can seem exciting, but since this really was our first time driving in farming country in a long, long time, we were excited at seeing fields along the road. Then, we laughed at how once we hit Nebraska we will probably soon be wishing there was a heavily forested mountain or two to break up the fields.
The RV park we stopped at for the night had a free high pressure RV wash area, and I made the mistake of asking Linda if she thought the coach needed washing. Dumb me, it's usually her who washes the coach, and I'm not sure what was in my mind when I uttered those words. Anyway, I soon found myself on one end of a very high pressure water wand that was trying its best to push my arms deep into their sockets. It didn't take long to realize using one of these things every day would give a person Popeye like arms in no time.
When the dirty deed was at last done, we dove to our site, which turned out to have a great view, as it was a pull-in overlooking the river which flowed in front of the RV park. Then, when we got on the MotoSat we knew we were in the right place. With that we decided to extend our stay another day, which would allow us to go into the nearby town of Smithers and do some shopping and sightseeing tomorrow. Life in the slow lane, no hurry, no worry.
September 12 Sunday
Found out that wrasslin' I did with that high pressure wand yesterday hadn't provided the results that I thought it did. Linda is notorious for missing a small spot or two when she washes the Explorer or coach, but never does she leave anywhere near this amount of dirt. I can't even say my efforts left her in the dust, since I was the one who left the dust behind. When she asked what I was going to do about it, I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Hope that it rains."
It turned out that the dirt wasn't the only problem with what we seeing, take a look at that tire, the one that looks a little low. Indeed it was, being the used tire we had bought in Palmer to replace the one ruined on our trip to McCarthy. After airing it up, we drove into Smithers, only to find that both tire shops were closed on Sunday. My famous comment was, "It's probably a very slow leak and we won't even notice that it's gone down any in the morning."
We enjoyed our time in Smithers, first driving around town, then stopping to look at some of the more interesting sights. I was intrigued with the old museum, which had originally been a church, and even though it was closed, I had fun reading all information on the signs outside. Linda had her own pursuits, the results of which are shown above. Show her a pretty flower and she's going to be soon taking a photo of it.
In the middle of the main street through the old part of Smithers is a statue of a man playing the Alpenhorn. We took photos of each other beside it, recalling that the last time we had actually heard an Alpenhorn being played was during the 2008 Swiss Day celebration in the the town of Frutigen, Switzerland. The place where Bob's ancestors had lived for centuries before coming to the US in the late 1800's.
Smithers also had the first real grocery store we have seen since leaving Whithorse, and since it was a Safeway, Linda's Safeway card saved us even more. But does it really? We go in with a list, then see things, not on the list, that we can save money on if we buy them using the card. Guess what, they somehow or other end up in the cart making both Safeway and us better off. I think.
Once we were out of the store and the many bags of needed groceries loaded in the Explorer, Linda set off to do battle with the shopping cart return. For some reason she couldn't get the little key to go into the slot on the cart handle and return our quarter. Yes, in Smithers the cart only takes a quarter, but try as she might, she couldn't get object A to insert properly in slot B. I finally came to her rescue, immediately popping out the quarter to her puzzled, "How did you do that?" Now if it had involved washing the cart I'd probably have been the one standing there trying to figure out what to do.
September 13 Monday
Movin' ever eastward
What day is today? It's Monday. No, not the day of the week, the day of the month. Ah, that explains it. After a brief discussion this morning Linda took the Explorer into town to have the tire checked out while I did all the dumping, etc., to get ready to pull out. It turned out the only possible problem with the tire was the rim was dirty and there may have been some dirt lodged under the bead, allowing the air to escape, but she was happy which was all that mattered. Besides, she got to do some shopping while waiting on the slow process of checking for a slow leak to take place, which made her even happier. Hey, who wants to carry around all that heavy money anyway.
The amazing thing was that by the time she returned from her errand, I had everything done and an omelet ready for her. I was also getting my wish of two days ago as rain was forecast, meaning the dirt would likely get washed off the Explorer.
We didn't drive far before the dark clouds appeared and the rain started coming down. We generally don't like to drive on rainy days, preferring to take them as rest days, but in this case we are trying to fit in a week at Jasper, a week at Banff, and a week at Drumheller, then drive across northern Montana before any cold weather with snow arrives.
Each town has a way of telling us something about itself, and as we proceeded towards Prince George the importance of the timber industry to the economic well being of the area became more and more noticeable. A thriving town would have piles and piles of logs awaiting processing at the sawmill, while others might have the gravel remnants of what were once log decks, along with weed infested areas of concrete marking a former mill site. And from the looks of some of those former mill sites, this was not something that had happened just recently.
It is interesting what you see as you drive along, take this sign for instance. That's not just an advertisement for someone who owns a towing company, that's the sign of a real life entrepreneur, out to be better known than the next guy, and successful at what he does.
Arriving in Prince George, we decided to stay at the same casino we had on the way north, Treasure Cove. This time, rather than park in the back as we had done before, we parked out in the gravel area near the front that is signed for RV parking. Linda has a new policy that we remove a few fractions of an ounce from our bodies each day through exercise, so we took off on a walk, and it was only a few hundred feet before she was tired, so she stopped to take some flower photos. Okay, so she wasn't tired, but she did stop to take some flower photos.
This was what the flowers were on, an old Toyota (I think) pickup truck. We had seen similar displays in several towns along the way, but the rain and/or lack of parking had prevented us from stopping. I guess Mother Nature was smiling on her for which Linda returned her own big, beautiful smile. We ended up walking around a residential area across the road from the Casino before fixing dinner. Afterwards Linda went in to pay for our spot for the night, leaving $10 in their slot machines, and this was after she was ahead by almost $15, so to her she had lost $25. I have more fun watching her and her facial expressions as she plays, than money can possibly buy. Besides, she was playing a 1¢ machine when she got so far ahead, then ended up losing the last of her money on a 2¢ machine. Lots of fun for the time and money, and besides, she is still ahead in the win column for the trip. Just another day of livin' the fulltime Life.
September 14 Tuesday
An ancient forest beckons and we end the day in McBride
As we frequently do, we made a change in plans for the day, and instead of driving all the way to Jasper, we will be stopping for the night in McBride, which is about half way to Jasper. I think part of this is that we are beginning to get a little burned out from being up north, and also there is a sense of anticipation for what we will be doing once we exit Canada and return to the States.
After leaving the Casino, then winding our way through the downtown area, we entered into the fog and began the long, long climb up and out of the Fraser River Valley. By now we were wondering if we were going to be driving in the fog all the way to McBride, though it was showing a bit of thinning. When you can't watch the scenery you can still talk, and so we began to discuss what we wanted to do while in Jasper and Banff, which was when we discovered neither of us had done any reading about the two parks.
Then the fog began to thin, and before long we were seeing mountains, or at least high hills in the distance. Then came one of those serendipitous moments. Wait a second, it might be that Sara N. Dippity had some help today.
It was just a few days ago that we bought our jade Inukshuk which now stands in the front of the coach, and which is "something which acts for or performs the function of a person." It was just after we passed this Inukshuk on a hill alongside and above the highway that Linda read about the Inland BC Rain Forest in the Milepost. From the description, visiting an ancient rain forest hundreds of kilometers inland from where these forests are usually located, which is near coastal areas, sounded interesting.
Sure, that's not a rain forest, but no sooner does she step out of the coach than she's off chasing a butterfly trying to get a photo. Meanwhile I'm glad we didn't blindly follow the instructions in the Milepost which would have had us pulling off way back down the road where the old parking area was closed off. Neither did I try to turn into this one where we couldn't have turned around, but rather I parked beside the road.
Meanwhile the butterfly photographer was still trying to get a closer shot when it flew away from her, landing inches from my feet. With a practiced and steady hand, I immediately focused my trusty Canon camera of the creature and took this photo. Linda couldn't get over how it had flown right over to me.
That night when we downloaded the photos she had to admit that she was glad the buttefly had chosen to fly to me to have its portrait taken. This was how her photo turned out; a minute of slow creeping up on the butterfly only to take a blurry photo. I must say she very seldom does something like this, but it is good to know that on occasion she is as mortal as we mere commoners.
The rain forest turned out to be everything we expected and a whole lot more. It's one of those things that almost everyone driving to or from Jasper passes by without even knowing it is there, though with guides like we have, Sara and Inuk, it is easy to find. The problem with places like this is that there is no way for photos to do justice to what the eye sees, due in large to that fact you can not get back far enough to actually show the magnificence of the trees.
There came a point in our walk where Linda turned back to return to the coach while I continued on to find a waterfall. As I was about to head off down the trail, she asked me to stop so she could take my picture. When I asked why, she replied it would give her a last photo to look at in case I was eaten by a bear. Isn't it wonderful to have such a caring and loving spouse.
Not sure what about this being an ancient forest, with no mention of a waterfall, in the Milepost description I didn't understand, but just to prove there actually is a waterfall, here's a photo.
I have to wonder why I was worried about those places on the Explorer I missed the other day when I pressure washed it because this was what it looked like when we pulled into the RV park in McBride for the night. We couldn't even drive it until we washed off the windows. The park has a very strict no washing of vehicles policy so we will just have to hope for another rain.
McBride turned out to be a neat little town, and we spent time at the train station, then drove out to the cemetery. It was while we were there that Linda posed the question, "Why do such pretty mushrooms grow in cemeteries?" I wanted to quip that "Maybe they have a really good source of rotting things to grow on", but I didn't.
I have to admit that she really does take outstanding fungi photos. Now if she could just improve her buttefly skills she would be perfect. Some days start out a little hazy, but end up being nearly perfect. This was one of those days.
September 15 Wednesday
Sitting out a rainy day, doing a whole lot of nothing
It's days like this that makes us glad we travel the way we do. It also makes us feel for the people who get caught up in traveling on a schedule or who only feel comfortable if they have reservations made for the future. Today it was supposed to rain, and rain it did. So we decided to stay in McBride for another night rather than drive over to Jasper and miss out on the scenery because of the clouds. Besides, if it was raining in Jasper as predicted, we wouldn't be able to do much when we arrived anyway.
It always amazes me just how much Linda can get done in the time that I can seemingly get nothing done. I sat at my computer, clicking the mouse and doing a little mindless surfing, while she sat there typing away. I guess one could say it as if I were spending a lot of time examining a weapon, then having an occasional misfire, while she was firing a series of machine guns in rapid succession.
It finally got to the point where I couldn't take it any more, so I commenced working on my backlog of unwritten daily journals. Once I got going, it was amazing how easy it was, once again proving we are usually our own worst enemy's. Looking out the window, we could see that most people in the park had left, but there were several others who had come in yesterday after we arrived who stayed for another day, maybe thinking along the same lines as us.
Dinner was a co-operative effort, Linda wanting to try something different, and both of us working together towards that end. She had cooked up a pot of homemade baked beans during the day, to which we added barbecued chicken and cole slaw. It looked wonderful and tasted fabulous.
We also discussed our plans for the next few weeks and ended up altering them somewhat. We decided that spending a week in Jasper, then heading down to Banff for another week, before going over to Drumheller for yet another week, was a little to ambitious, and that we really wanted to be heading south earlier than that. Besides, we need to make that side trip to Missoula to get the slide fixed, so the sooner we are back in the States, the better.
Now we plan on two nights in Jasper, a drive down the Icefield Parkway, two nights in Banff, then a week in Drumheller. Our thinking is that we have spent much of the summer seeing the type of scenery found in Jasper and Banff, but we haven't spent any time doing the dino thing, so let's find out what the two parks have to offer, then do what we really want to do. We've already decided to spend a summer some year just in BC, with a swing through Yukon and up to Yellowknife, so we will certainly have another opportunity to spend more time in the parks if we desire.
Of course these plans are good only until we get to Jasper, because just as they changed today, so can they change again tomorrow. But isn't that what fulltiming is all about, having the freedom to do what you what, when you want, with the opportunity to constantly change your mind. Just another of the things we didn't think about before we entered this Life, but which have made it so rewarding.
September 16 Thursday
Awesome mountain scenery and a wrong turn
Oh were we ever novices this morning, which is what this photo documents. As we left the RV park, beginning the drive to Jasper, Linda saw this snow capped peak peeking out in the distance. We thought at the time that it was very pretty, even if it was at a great distance and mostly hidden, but before the day was over we would have a better appreciation of snow capped mountains.
They sure do like to fix the roads up here, which is good, but where they do it is bad. Seems like they are always fixing the bridges that are at the bottom of a hill. Don't they know how hard it is to slow down when you're barreling down a curving hill and suddenly come up on that dreaded sign that indicates flagger ahead, prepare to stop. And I guarantee you will have to stop.
Why can't they even the road repairs out? I'd think they would have just as great an impact on safe roadways if they made sure that one half of all bridge repairs were done on bridges that crossed streams and rivers at the top of the hill instead of the bottom. Maybe I should see if there is a hill hugger political group out there that is promoting this concept, afterall with what's going on in the political arena these days, maybe it's an idea whose time has come.
Speaking of hills, it wasn't long before any previous ideas we might of had regarding snow capped mountains were rendered obsolete, because this is a snow capped mountain. Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, rose up before us and we weren't even to Jasper yet. We started to get a hint of why people spend time in Jasper and Banff, and it gave me second thoughts about thinking that they were just a replay of Alaska.
The entrance fee schedule is different than at the US National Parks, with the fee being per person, per day instead of a per vehicle fee good for so many days. I told the girl that I was an old guy, but the wife was too young to get the old girl's discount. She laughed and said she'd just give the discount to both us. I think she also said something about the gal next to me looking old enough to qualify for the discount, but my ears may have been playing tricks on me. Either that or there was a big whoosh of air next to me that drowned out what the girl was saying, take your pick.
The campground that we planned to stay in was on the Icefields Parkway south of the town of Jasper, but with the fuel gauge hovering around the quarter full mark, we needed to get diesel first. We'd put off buying diesel on the advice of our host at the McBride RV park who said that all the taxes BC adds to fuel makes it way more expensive that what you pay in Alberta.
Of course plans like this are only as good as the people carrying them out, and while Linda has both brains and beauty, I must not have paid the brain tax when we crossed the line between the two provinces. To make a long story short, there wasn't any diesel on our side of the road through Jasper and the best entrances to the two stations that had diesel on the other side of the road where from the opposite direction that we were traveling.
The problem was finding a place to turn our rig around in a town that was set up for cars and small class C RVs. We ended up back out on the main highway where things went from bad to worse in a hurry. They had a paving project which meant traffic control. Somehow or other we ended up on a narrow twisting road that went up into the mountains with no place to pull off, let alone turn around.
As we drove along I started saying, "This is bad", which soon became, "This is very bad", only to further morph into "This is very, very bad." At last the mountains gods smiled on us, a widening of the road appeared, and by unhitching the Explorer, we were able to turn around. Once done, Linda observed that it wasn't so bad, though I did note that it was I who had turned the coach around.
Rather than stop in the road and hitch the Explorer back up, I had Linda follow me back into town, also making it easier to pull into the gas station I had been trying to get to when this fiasco first started. Of course she had to document the trip, which resulted in several cool views of the coach that we would normally not have.
Lower prices was right, more than 10¢ per liter, or nearly 40 cents a gallon, plus we had such a wonderful adventure in getting to the station. I never did quite figure out why there were two Esso and two Petro Canada stations, one in each direction, yet only in one direction did they sell diesel. Plus they are a bear to get a big rig into and out off with all the other traffic around them. Like they say, if things don't go exactly right, it still makes for a good story.
We drove to Whistler campground, only to learn they were full, but we could have an electric only site at a nearby campground. That worked just fine for us, and we took it for two nights, rather than move into a full hookup site in the main campground tomorrow. Later we drove back into town, picking up some literature on the park at the visitors center, buying a pair of earrings for Linda, and discovering that the old grizzly had companions in town.
I'll end with this view that does not begin to do justice to the views from Jasper, which is surrounded by snow capped mountains. It was one of those days that has you shaking your head wondering if all this is real. But then, isn't that what Life is all about.
September 17 Friday
Awesome adventures in an awesome park
Just like so many times over the years that we have been living this Life, the view from the front this morning was different, though hardly spectacular. I should point out that Linda did her very best bear hibernation imitation of the year this morning, and only the fact that she would occasionally stir slightly, I guess even bears have dreams, kept me from going back to check on her. Or maybe she just remembered this view from last night and wasn't at all excited about getting up.
The clouds of last evening were gone, replaced by a backdrop of this enchanting blue curtain. The first photo was taken from where I normally sit, this one from the front of the coach. It was looking like it was going to be a great day, and soon the queen of the coach came flouncing out, all smiles and full of energy. Given that she had slept long enough to recharge her batteries several times over, it was no wonder she was so energetic.
Soon we were off to our first stop of the day, Athabasca Falls. The sign near the parking indicates the trail is short, but to fully appreciate the falls you should allow a half hour. We stayed for almost an hour, and there was still one section, a walk down a steep grade to the river below the falls, that we still hadn't explored.
It is a special place, the sound of the water mixing with the changing colors of the water to produce an almost mystical effect. The interpretive signs were much better than what the US National Park Service usually has in their parks. These were brief, explained what you were seeing, or what was taking place, and left you thinking that you should read more when you had time. In the US Parks it is referred to as "provoking" the visitor to want to discover more on their own. Up here they actually accomplish that goal. It's the old, less is more.
Here's an example of what I mean. Notice how this attractive young visitor to the park is studying the sign placed near the falls. Now someone older, or perhaps a woman with brown hair, for example, those you would expect to read the signs. But this lady is a blond and she is still reading the sign, and that says more than my words ever could.
Unfortunately we don't have the photos to convey the feelings these falls invoked, so I'll just have to let the big smile on Linda's face speak in their place. The chasm the water plunges through after plummeting over the edge of the falls simply defies both Linda and my photographic abilities, but if you stand on the pedestrian bridge that spans that chasm, feeling the very rocks trembling from the power of the rushing water, you don't need a photograph to remember it. The experience again made me realize that my preconceived ideas of Jasper were simply wrong, but then, it is a National Park.
Our next stop took us back to the scene of yesterday's excursion up the wrong road. Less than 500 hundred feet from where I turned around in the road was this huge parking area with all the room I or anyone else need to turn around the biggest RV. Yesterday I had claimed to Linda that I wasn't flustered by the situation, I was just trying to ensure a good outcome. After looking at this today, completely flummoxed might be a better description of the state I was in yesterday. At least if it happens again, I'll know what to do, as if there will ever be a next time.
Maligne Canyon proved to be a real chasm, making the one we had just seen look more like sidewalk crack in comparison. Crossing the aptly named, 2nd Bridge, the water was over 150 feet straight down, with the walls only a few yards apart.
As before, it was the combination of the sound, the views and the feel that made this such a glorious experience. At one point, where we could barely see the water below us we were reminded of the most unique and awe inspiring falls we have ever experienced, Trummelbach Falls in Switzerland. Which are actually inside a mountain, where you not only see and hear the water echoing inside the mountain, but you also feel the mountain itself quivering and shaking around you from the force of the water.
I made a mistake when it came time to return, suggesting we take a different trail, one that I assured Linda would not be as steep as the one we had taken going down. So much for my instincts, and her hands on hips pose as she was trying to rest, okay, gasping for breath, let me know just how much trouble I was in.
Unfortunately for Linda I also have 12X zoom capability on my camera. Here for the world to see is exactly what she thought of me at that moment. Though I'll take that any day over claws and fangs.
After that, the only way I could go was up, both literally and figuratively, so that is exactly what we did, taking the Jasper Tramway to the top of Mt. Whistler. It was below freezing, it was windy, it was awesome, and it was worth every penny it cost us. Of course the fact the weather was as clear as a bell also helped.
While I had fun near the edge, Linda had her own good times, checking out wildlife tracks in the snow, and imitating a cairn she had made a beeline for once she realized the edge wasn't as close as it appeared, nor was it an actual drop off.
We really appreciated the contrast between the snow at the top, the green below and the patterns of the streets of Jasper in the distance. Makes for lots of Wow! moments.
Before the day was over, we had watched elk out the front window of the coach and heard the bulls bugling, as it was mating season. It was one of those days that almost has too many wonderful things taking place. It's also one of the days when we are reminded just how true that saying at the bottom each webpage really is. "Life is not a dress rehearsal, Don't be afraid to laugh, love and retire early."
September 18 Saturday
Too many WOWS!! to count
Just one look outside this morning was all it took, then a glance at the thermometer confirmed it. Our time in the northern part of the hemisphere is not going to be for long. Our neighbor had a min/max thermometer and he said the low was 22, so it had warmed up a good deal by 7 AM. The alarm had gone off at 6:15 but we decided that we liked the warmth of the covers better than the smell of fresh brewed coffee, which one of us would have had to of gotten up to fix.
We had several visitors out in front of the coach this morning, though my favorite was this lone coyote who seemed to be tracking something as he zigged and zagged his way across the field in front of the coach. Linda also saw a handsome bull elk, but no young ladies made an appearance like they did last night. We debated staying for another night, but only until we again looked at the temperature, and then recalled the weather report is calling for rain starting tonight and continuing for the next several days.
We were on the road by 8:30, looking at a 200 kilometer drive down the Icefields Parkway, known as the "Most spectacular journey in the world." After having driven it today, I can't say whether that is a true statement or not, but until we drive a road that is more spectacular, I have to agree that it is true. And no, this is not going to be a post of a million photos of mountains topped with snow, though it wouldn't be hard to do.
Besides the views of the mountains, we also had views on the road. Rounding one turn, we saw something on the road. Pulling off, it turned out to be two sheep walking down the road. We watched as they left the road and walked right beside the coach on Linda's side. I think that might have been enough to actually make up for my cold feet touching her last night.
Our reason for the early start this morning was so that we could have time to take the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier tour. As we drove along, snow fields and glaciers began to appear in the mountains, whetting our appetite for what was to come. In general the road is in very good condition, making the drive quite easy, plus there is the never ending views that keep unrolling in front of you. It is one of those, just when you don't think it can get better it does, places.
When we got to the Icefields Visitor Center, it wasn't the Ice Explorer Tour that grabbed Linda's attention, it was the penny smasher where she could get another smashed penny for our grandson, Zachary. The darned machine ate two loonies and didn't give her a single smashed penny, so off to complain she went. They gave her the two loonies back, but what she really wanted was the smashed pennies. Later she got one from a different machine, but not with the imprint she wanted for Zach. I couldn't even claim that it was operator error on her part as we both tried to smash a penny in the first machine and we both failed.
Once we bought our tickets for the Icefields Explorer Tour, we had just a short wait for the bus which would take us out to the edge of the glacier. There we would change our mode of transport, finishing the trip in a custom built Ice Explorer vehicle. As you can see, people did different things as they waited in line, that is besides dressing in different ways.
You do not have to take these tours to visit the glacier, as you can drive your own vehicle down to the toe and explore that area on your own. But the tours let you experience several things that you wouldn't otherwise, one of which is the steepest slope you will ever have the pleasure of going down in wheeled vehicle that costs a million dollars. I believe they said the slope was 35 degrees, but whether it was or not, it is almost like going over a cliff it is so steep. Unfortunately none of our photos does it justice, but here is the vehicle, and a pretty girl as well.
It was cold out on the glacier, it was sunny, and it was crowded, though we did learn that there were about four times as many people in the middle of the summer as there were now. They require that you stay on the groomed area, but that was enough to make for a good experience. They also allow you 20 minutes to stand outside, at for us it was enough as ice that is 1000 feet thick is mighty cold under foot.
This gives an indication of the size of the Ice Explorer vehicle. They said there were only 30 of them in the world, and other than the one that is used in Antarctica, the other 29 are here at the Athabasca Glacier. I couldn't get over just how wide the tires were, and Linda commented they were a lot like the numerous oil and gas exploration vehicles we had seen up at Prudhoe Bay.
In case you were wondering just how wide those tires are, this should give you a good idea.
Back from the tour, Linda found a close kin, though I'm positive each one's bark is much worse than its bite.
Don't think the entire day was nothing but views like this, because it wasn't. Of course the reason for that was because I did not pay attention to Linda when she told me to turn into the RV park, believing the signs were directing RV's to take a different route. Was I ever wrong about that.
Here is downtown Banff seen through the coach window. We are behind a horse drawn carriage that had a top speed of half a mile an hour. Needless to say we were the only large RV on the streets, but I saw enough tour buses to know that at least the streets were wide enough for us. Unfortunately we couldn't make any turns, so we just kept going and going.
Anybody who has ever driven up to the famous Banff Hotel should recognize this circle. It's the one right in front of it. I can assure you that a large motorhome and toad can easily drive around it, and the expressions on all the people around it make the drive even more interesting. Eventually I made the turn Linda wanted me to make in the first place, but we sure did have a great tour of Banff before that.
This is not one of the streets in town, its the RV park we are staying in. No back-ins or pull thru's here, it's parallel parking. I don't know how many rental RVs there are in North America, but a decent number of them have to be staying in this park. Needless to say, we do stick out a bit, though there are certainly other RVs our size here. The great thing was that our MotoSat connected to the satellite, and it is fun watching people walk by and longingly look up at it.
What an awesome day it has proven to be, not perfect, but a day to enjoy Life. And isn't that what it is all about?
September 19 Sunday
Sitting in the rain and fog
Just one look outside this morning was all it took, then the sounds coming from the skylights confirmed it. The weatherman was right, today was going to be a rainy day. After all we did yesterday, it was appropriate to have a day of rest on the weekly day of rest, and that is exactly what we did. Hey some days you just do a whole lot of nothing, after all we aren't on an endless vacation, we just happen to frequently move our home to a different location.
For most of the day we had no view of the mountains that surround the town, though late in the day several holes briefly appeared. It also got us thinking about what we would do tomorrow. Originally we had planned to extend our visit another day, as it was supposed to stop raining tomorrow, meaning we could get in a little sightseeing. Now tomorrow's weather report for Banff was calling for rain, changing to freezing rain, followed by snow overnight.
Meanwhile the forecast for Drumheller was only calling for showers on Tuesday and then nice weather the remainder of the week. It was one of those, she looked at me, I looked at her, and we both knew, moments. It looks like it will take us about three hours to drive over to Drumheller, and if we leave in the morning before 10 we should be ahead of the really bad weather, though it does look like the drive may be in the rain. We usually stay put on rainy days unless staying will lead to even worse weather, as it appears it would be in this case.
Once that decision was made, Linda started doing some serious research on dinosaurs and Drumheller. She's already got us scheduled for two days just at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, let alone all the other divine dino delights in the Drumheller area. Looks like everything is going to go just the way she wants.
For dinner we got rid of an old friend and fellow traveler. Early on during this trip we bought a butternut squash, knowing that some cold night a hot bowl of squash soup would be the perfect comfort food. Well tonight it was finally time for it to make its contribution, and none too soon as evidenced by the condition of its seed cavity.
The soup turned out to be even better than we remembered, and we had to limit ourselves to ensure there was enough for another meal. But that is exactly how this entire trip to Alaska and back has been, far better than we imagined it would be.
September 20 Monday
Driving in the rain
Just one look outside this morning was all it took, then we knew we were doing the right thing in leaving. The rain had stopped, but other than a view of what was at ground level, everything else was shrouded in the fog that blocked out the surrounding mountains. Fog, rain, sleet, snow, let it happens today, we were heading East.
Linda, bless her heart, had asked me to get her up before 8 this morning. After some debate as the clock approached that un-bear-able hour, I went back and very gently shook her foot, telling her as gently as possible that it was time. When she came out a few minutes later I learned my fears had been unnecessary, and she was as happy as a grizzly in an acre field of ripe blueberries.
This meant we actually got on the road when we planned, 10 AM, which would put us through Calgary before noon. That would allow us to miss the lunchtime traffic, which was especially nice since we were planning on taking Hwy 1 directly through town. Unfortunately we didn't miss the rain, and it fell in varying degrees until we neared the outskirts of Calgary, when it miraculously disappeared.
Shortly afterward we past one of the reminders of the past, the ski jumps from the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games. It also reminded us that Canada has hosted the Winter Olympics twice in the last 22 years. It looks like Calgary is going to have to be on our future visit list, because the more we learn about the city, the more we realize there is far more to it than simply the Calgary stampede and the fact it is a big city.
Not liking to drive through big cities, I had been a little apprehensive as to what the traffic would be like as we drove cross town, but it was actually quite easy. The freeway does end up being a surface street at times, but the low speed limits, wide lanes and general lack of traffic made the drive easy. In the end I was glad we took this route instead of going around town on the loop road.
Once out of the urban area, the scenery changed to rolling prairie, and the road we were on was pock marked with a great deal of road construction. One thing was obvious, they were widening the road, because the existing Hwy 9 was definitely narrow. Fortunately the construction work was taking place alongside the road and we still able to drive on the existing surface, though it meant the speed limit was as low as 50 kilometers per hour in places. Given the condition of the road I'm not sure we would have wanted to drive any faster than that though.
Then we reached the spot where the signs and the road condition indicated we just might have to drive on gravel for the next 26 kilometers. There were also signs pointing to a suggested alternate route, and with it being on paved roads, I took it. One thing immediately became apparent, we were going to be dependent on the alternate route signs and not our GPS, which was apparently having its on digital equivalent of a nervous breakdown.
We had read about Drumheller, learning it was in the Alberta Badlands country, but we had yet to see anything that resembled the badlands we were familiar with. Finally, rounding a curve, we began the descent down into a valley and the exposed material on the sides of the valley started reminding us of badlands. Strange isn't it how in your mind you have a picture of how something should look, sight unseen, and that is what you are looking for.
When we passed by the Drumheller sign the past took over, the same "passed" that afflicted us in Jasper and Banff. We followed the signs through Drumheller, easy to do, then Linda called a halt, asking me to stop along the road. After a brief consultation with the GPS and her books she directed me to go on down the road, or up the road in this case since it climbed up and out of the valley we were in. It wasn't long before she was pushing buttons on the GPS and mumbling to herself. Then it came out, "We are on the wrong road." Once again we'd passed by where we wanted to turn
Well at least the worm had turned and it was she who had lead us astray instead of me. I couldn't gloat about it though since it was incumbent on me to find a place to turn around. Calling on the vast experience I had gained in the course of our last two moves and subsequent navigational errors on my part, I spied a slightly wider spot in the road ahead, and using a little of the grass berm on both sides managed to execute a U-turn of coach and Explorer. I guess it must have been rather awesome as Linda was certainly impressed by it. Good Bob.
The RV park turned out to be quite nice with lots of colorful leaves all around. Of course that also made it less than ideal since we can't use the MotoSat for our Internet, but the parks wifi works great. Of course that works great comes with the Tengo label, the Internet we absolutely detest because of the limits it places on you, if and when it happens to work. I oftentimes give parks that use Tengo a low rating when I review them as there are always things other than just the wifi one can honestly cite as contributing reasons for a poor review. So if you get the impression we've had some very bad experiences with Tengo over the years, you're probably right.
In the evening we practiced relaxing. Putting "Drowning Mona" on, we watched it sort of, read sort of, and worked on our respective blogs, sort of. All in all it was a very satisfying day, so much so that we went to bed early eagerly anticipating spending tomorrow at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.