September 21 Tuesday
An awesome museum experience
This is not how Linda looks when I have to wake her in the early morning, so it is not a Lindasaurus, even though her roar and potential bite may be similar to this Albertosaurus. We had the pleasure today of spending some five hours at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and only left because we were both really tired, not because we had seen everything. Fortunately we had bought two day tickets, so we return tomorrow.
This is a museum to truly be savored, not one to rush through. It's one where another fantastic display is found around every corner or bend. As Linda said when we discovered we had been there for five hours and still had about a fourth of the museum left to see, "Where did the time go?" Great museums cause that to happen.
I will not post a hundred Dino photos, and I won't go on and on about how great the Royal Tyrrell is and that it a must see, but if you ever pass anywhere even remotely close to here and don't drive here to see it, you are missing one of the world's great museums. While it is not the British Museum of Natural History, but then no other natural history museum could ever come close to that museum, it is vastly superior to the visitors center/museum at Dinosaur National Park and also the Smithsonian.
Enough crowing about this wondrous place. The photo shows Black Beauty, or rather a cast of Black Beauty, one of the most complete T. Rex skeletons, and best preserved skulls ever found. They also have Black Beauty's actual skull in a special display, along with the skull of the original Albertosaurus.
Their fossil preparation room is huge, and with one entire wall a glass window, it allows you watch the preparators at work. It reminded us just how much we enjoyed watching Matt work preparing fossils at Petrified Forest during our volunteer stints there.
My favorite display didn't even have a dinosaur in it, in fact it marked the end of the Triassic. There in front of me was a slice of the actual K-T boundary, the Iridium rich layer that is associated with the meteor that possibly caused the demise of the dinosaurs, along with much of the other life on the planet. Though lucky for us it didn't cause the demise of the small four legged shrew like mammals that over millions of years eventually evolved into we humans of today.
While I filled my mind with memories of what I was seeing, Linda was busy filling both her mind and her camera's memory. I must admit that as I looked at her photos while writing this, that she took photos of many things I don't even remember seeing.
Virtually every exhibit had a "do not touch" sign on it if it was out where people could reach it. I could see that Linda was not touching, but it was very hard on her. Give her one that she can touch and not only does she touch it, she takes a photo of herself touching it.
There was also a special exhibit on one of the greatest men who ever lived, the man who parted the mists of myth, and by thinking instead of blindly following, opened mankind's eyes to who we are and where we came from. It was also rather apropos that this exhibit would be here as one of the books I am currently reading is Back of History by William Howells.
We also had our little bit of excitement when the museum suddenly went dark. Not dark as in the lights dimmed down, dark as in the power failed and the lights all went out. After a short time, an announcement came over the public address system for everyone to just remain where they were while they turned on the backup lighting. The backup lighting turned out to be large overhead halogen lights, the kind that barely come on at first, then slowly get brighter and brighter until you practically need sunglasses.
Jonah had his whale, I've got a 200 million year old fish, give or take a whole bunch of years. What really made this photo is something that we can't show which was a little girl who was standing behind me imitating everything Linda and I did as Linda tried to get me in the right spot for the photo. It's a wonder Linda was even able to take the photo she was laughing so much at the little girl's antics.
It was like every time I turned around, Linda was taking a photo of something or other. This time it is the world's largest known ichthyosaur. It also had the largest eyes of any animal that ever lived, as its eye sockets were over a meter (a yard) across. When you see that TV show that shows the biggest fish ever swimming in those ancient seas, this is what it was based upon. The shear number and variety of fossils found in Alberta is mind boggling, yet we Americans are conditioned to think of Utah and Colorado as the fossil capital of the world. Travel, it is the best thing for the mind.
No visit to a tourist area is complete unless Linda gets to smash a penny for our grandson, Zachary, and today proved to be no exception. This smasher was in the Drumheller visitors center, right next to the world's largest dinosaur. We have already decided to extend our stay in Drumheller for at least three or four more days as there are so many things we want to see and do. Tomorrow it is back to the museum for more displays and several of their programs, so expect more old fossil stuff once again. Drumheller is one of those places that we didn't know existed, but we sure are glad we found out about. Thanks Grant and Kathy.
September 22 Wednesday
Another awesome museum experience
This is not how Linda dreams at night, this was what was on the Museum Facebook page this morning, so naturally when we drove down to the museum, the Family Facebook Fanatic had to have her own fantastic photo of the pink mammoths displayed this morning around the museum sign. These weren't the only mammoths to be found today out side of the regular ones on exhibit. since this week marked the 25th anniversary celebration of the museum and the theme was a celebration of "mammoth" proportions. Who says people who dig bones out of the ground don't have a sense of humor.
This long necked Camarasaurus was certainly leggy. That's the bones on the left I'm referring to, not the leggy, long necked animal on the right.
I think this was Linda's favorite display, and just like mine which was piece of the K-T boundary, it didn't even have a single dinosaur in it. It's a cone from a conifer type tree that grew during the time of the dinosaurs. It has wonderful detail to it, and was prepared by using a chemical process pioneered by the Royal Tyrrell staff.
The museum has a number of staff led hikes and other activities you can take advantage of, so 11 o'clock found us going on the Seven Wonders hike. It was great as the weather was quite cold and windy which discouraged anyone else from coming along, meaning we had our own private tour guide. Needless to say, we were like a couple of kids tagging along with the candy maker in a candy factory.
Maybe I'm different, but I enjoy seeing the bones displayed in a "this is how they were found" way as much as the ones that are mounted. We can often get into the, seen one, seen them all mode, when it is the same type of thing displayed over and over. The Royal Tyrrell seemed to have a way of avoiding this, giving each area its own excitement factor. As we learned from our guide on our hike, because of its remote location, everything about the museum is done here rather than having some of it done off site, which makes for far better public displays as well as interaction among the staff.
The museum was more than just interesting, and it wasn't just major displays which caught our attention to make it so. I don't even remember looking at the T-Rex, I was so interested in the small fossils in the display cases. Plus, from the number of photos we have of T-Rex taken by Linda, it obviously didn't feel ignored.
Another of Linda's favorites, Plesiobaena. It was a turtle whose body suggests it was an excellent swimmer, yet it couldn't retract its head and tail inside its shell. Maybe that's why it became extinct, it lost its head one time too many.
I'll just call this one, beauty and the beast, and let it go at that, because anything I might add would no doubt get me in trouble with you know who.
While we didn't stay as long at the museum today as we did yesterday, we enjoyed the visit just as much. Guess you could say they know they are a paleontology museum, that's what they do, and they do it well. It's definitely worth a stop if you're into bones and really old things at all.
After that it was back to the coach where we decided it was time to call a halt to all this driving and sightseeing for a few days. We decided to stay through Friday night and spend a good part of our time just enjoying the beautiful fall weather, especially since the highs were forecast to be in the upper 20's for the remainder of the week.
Life, a Life so wonderful it is sometimes so awesome words can't describe it. The fall harvest moon rising over colorful badlands, with fossils of Triassic period all around, Jupiter making its finest appearance in decades, the Red Deer River flowing mere feet from where we sit, hearing the honking of Canadian geese overhead, and the glory of fall raining down around us in the colorful leaves. Life, lived to its fullest. Life is not a dress rehearsal, Don't be afraid to laugh, love and retire early.
September 23 Thursday
Out and about, plus a clip job
So much for a couple of days of rest. The day was just too nice to do nothing, so off we went. First stop was a chapel we have been noticing as we drive back and forth to the RV park. It's one of those out in the middle of nowhere, why is it there things.
Tiny is right, but unfortunately for Linda it's not her we are talking about. Had to love the sign nearby: Drumheller's Little Church, Seating 10,000 people, 6 at a time.
Next stop was south of Drumheller at the Star Mine Suspension Bridge across the Red Deer River. At one time Drumheller was at the heart of an important coal mining district, but unfortunately the mines have all been closed for many decades. In fact it was the economic deprivation of the area caused by the cessation of mineral extraction, tech speak for coal mining, that led to the Royal Tyrrell Museumbeing situated in Drumheller rather than nearer Dinosaur Provincial Park in Brooks.
Anyone who has ever been around Linda on one of these suspended, i.e. swinging, bridges knows she is terrified of them. But just look at her casually strolling across this one, hands in pockets even. So what is wrong with this picture? Actually nothing, as there was a sign practically threatening death to anyone who tried to make the bridge swing. Hey, I graduated from sixth grade, so being able to reed and right, I payed attenshun for once, what else can I say.
Next stop was the Hoodoos. Unfortunately we have seen the hoodoos in Turkey, and believe me, their hoodoos are HOODOOS, as well as Hoodoos throughout the southwestern United States. So pardon us if we enjoyed seeing them, but still had to wonder what the big deal was for just a couple of them.
Our tour director was still not through with her itinerary, and we followed the road even further from Drumheller. The result was a brief visit to the Atlas Coal Mine. The reason for it being a brief visit can probably be deduced from the two school buses that were parked in the lot. And if not that, how about the mob of kids that were being divided up into groups for mine tours. We opted for the cowards way out, taking a quick look at things from the parking lot area, then heading back towards town, knowing that if we ever got this way again we'd give it another try, maybe with a call first to find out if it was a school field trip day.
As we were driving through Drumheller, we stopped at one of the grocery stores in town. Realizing the tale of the scales is heading for a bad ending if we don't do some major trimming of the two main characters, so we turned off the main road into the parking lot. I think there are many veggies in our future and this was an opportunity for Linda to show me that we really needed to start now.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the entrance to the store was inside a mall. Inside the mall was a hair salon. With me was a woman who felt she needed a haircut. This woman was also at the point of wanting to change her hair style. A half hour later my new look wife emerged, sporting a huge smile and the start of a new look. Several months or more of growth will be needed to fill it out, but she is on her way.
When we finally made it into the grocery store, Linda's high went even higher. They had her most favoritist veggie in the whole wide world, baby English cucumbers. It had turned out to be a far better day than either of could have imagined. What conflicting emotions, the excitement of soon being back in the States, and the wonderful time we are having in Canada. Then a smile appearing when we realize that by living this Life, we have wonderful times where ever we are.
September 24 Friday
Fun with fossils and a ferry
It seems like it was ages ago that I wrote about our taking a couple of days off to rest, though it's probably because we have been so busy the last few days I've lost track of time. Linda is bound and determined not to let our days in Drumheller pass without activity on our part, so today's itinerary called for us go in the opposite direction that we went yesterday.
Our first stop was not down in the valley where the RV park is located, but rather up on the rim of the badlands at Horse Thief Canyon overlook. We didn't realize it before we got there, but there were several trails leading down into the badlands area. They were the informal, social type of trails, and Linda surprised me by wanting to do some exploring. I think all those miles of hiking in the 4 corners area in the past may have given her confidence that she could do things she had previously though of as impossible. It was fun watching the old girl act like a little girl, and wonder of wonders, no face plants or butt bumps resulted from her clamoring scampering about.
While our initial efforts at going far down into the canyon were rebuffed by areas of wet clay, eventually we made it down a short distance down where we could do some exploring. Linda was in her own world, and it wasn't long until she had wandered off, going further down, while at the same time looking more at the ground immediately in front of her rather than where she was. Now I know how people wander off and get lost in this type of country.
As much as Linda talks about me being on the same wavelength as she is, in just this case she may have been on the right track. I was up about as high as it was possible to go, and short of jumping off a cliff, she was as low as she could go, though in the end I had to go down to where she was to show here how to get out of where she was. Then I climbed back up to the top just to make sure she succeeded, though really because I wanted to take a different way out. Sure enough she had succeeded, even to the point of beating me back.
During our climb back up out of the canyon, Linda made a remark about seeing something that was different from the normal rocks on the trail. We had earlier seen some fossil bone fragments when down in the Badlands, including one piece that was quite easy to recognize from a distance. That got her to doing even more searching than she had been up until this time, and we really appreciate Alberta's look but don't collect law, just like in the National Parks in the States, because it means that the place hasn't been swept clean so to speak.
Just to show you what we mean, here is some material that was in the path we were walking up, five pieces of shell and a small bone fragment. I had to laugh because Linda doesn't like these steeper climbs and so she takes frequent rest stops. Now it looked like she was taking rest stops with infrequent climbing. Put it right in front of her nose and she is going to look.
Back up on top, I went down over the edge in another place with Linda deciding it was just too steep, so she stayed up on top. Among the things I noticed was this unusual pointed piece of rock. It looked like the tip of something that had broken off from the main body, with the two edges suggesting to me that perhaps it was man made. It's far beyond our level of knowledge, and maybe someone else who sees it down there will know what it is or isn't.
For all her protestations about not wanting to come down to where I was, once I had described that point, then told her that I was also finding other fossil shells, she kept wanting to know if she should come down. Looking at the slope I could just imagine her losing her footing and sliding right down past the ledge area where I was searching. Now if she had worn her hiking boots I'd of said to come on down, but in her sandals, no way.
Further up the road is the Bleriot Ferry, a cable ferry that provides a way to cross the Red Deer River. It proved to be quite a contrast to the last ferry we had taken, the one that crosses the Yukon at Dawson City, but in a way it was far more interesting. It uses two large cables, one on each side to guide it as it crosses. Movement is provided using a diesel motor on board to pull the ferry back and forth using a smaller third cable.
I took the opportunity to talk with the operator while we crossed, and he gladly explained how the ferry worked, even giving me a look at the diesel engine and cable pulley. It is a very low key operation, though if you tried to do this at the heart of the tourist season when the ferry is full much of the time, it probably wouldn't be the same. It proved to be another of those special times that we find ourselves involved in, Linda checking out the scenery and enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the crossing, while I got my how does it work fix. Just another day in the paradise we refer to as Life.
September 25 Saturday
Much ado about nothing
It had finally arrived, the day of rest we had been talking about, and which was supposed to have happened several days ago. We had decided to extend our stay for one more day, partly because we were enjoying this RV park, and partly because it was almost full and we didn't want show up at our next stop late on a Saturday afternoon and find that it was full, especially since the books indicated it had limited big rig sites.
Linda has her own definition of a day of rest, and it starts with going into deep hibernation the night before, then sleeping to at least mid morning, which makes her the total opposite of 4:30 up and at them Bob. My rest consisted of deferring breakfast to the point that Linda fixed it for a change. Then, after she had soaked her feet in warm soapy water, she prepared a foot bath for me. Hey, I think I could quickly get used to this day of rest concept if this is what it's going to be like. Wishin' hopin' and dreamin' but it ain't a gonna ever happen.
Sometimes a thousands words are better than a picture, especially if it is a picture like this. With time on our hands and full hookups including 50 amp power, Linda washed the sheets with this as the result. It just goes to prove that all those cracks I make about her being a grizzly bear might have more truth to them than not. Fitting the bottom sheet back on the bed she made the observation that there were several places where the sheet was worn through.
Then she wondered what had caused that to happen. Big mistake because that got me to thinking, and I soon had the answer. We always place the botton sheet on the bed the same way with the little white tag at her bottom corner. This meant that any part of the sheet is always in the same spot. So just how did those tears and worn spots get there, in the area where her feet always are at night?
I proposed that when she sleeps she relaxes to the point that her claws come out, so that when she thrashes around at night, they dig in, damaging the sheet. She then proposed a theory about my toes causing it which was quickly dropped, so the only viable theory that remains is the claw caused one. After all, if it sounds like a bear, has the demeanor of a bear and leaves marks like a bear, isn't it a bear?
Last night there had been campfires all around us, and if it was good enough for the other campers, it was good enough for Linda. We have been carrying some pieces if scrap lumber around with us the entire summer, so tonight she set about making a good dent in it. As always, Linda played in fire and played in it some more, and though her pyro-mom skills were a tad rusty, soon she had a good smoke going, one that kept her frequently moving her chair to get away from it.
Besides the fire, we also took another step into the past, getting out Mastermind, and splitting the games we played so we both ended up winners. Of course it wasn't without a few problems that we concluded the last game, the cause of which fell upon my heavily burdened shoulders. Unfortunately the final game, the one Linda needed to win to tie me, coincided with my grilling dinner. That made for my having to tend the grill and play at the same time.
Seems my multi-tasking skills have fallen into tatters, which is a very, very bad thing in situations like this. Linda takes this game very seriously, so when my frequent trips caused me to provide an erroneous assessment of what she had played, all you know what broke loose. It took a while to discover my dastardly deed but once it was uncovered, it was immediately corrected, after which I was informed that it would never happen again. I'll leave out the way the never happen again was conveyed, but will confirm that certainly won't ever happen again. If making a tiny little error in a game brings out that much emotion, I can't even imagine what a real screw up on my part would result in. Something tells me it would make the Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like kids play time. There is always good in everything, and in this case the good is that is has taken our being together for almost 45 years before I committed such a dastardly deed. And it will be just as long before I do it again, by which time she probably won't even know I'm her husband, so she'll just tear into the poor man in the wheelchair next to her in the nursing home. Who knows, maybe it will be his thrill of a lifetime.
Just to show you that I really was distracted by the grilling, this was our dinner. Grilled onion slices, mushrooms, peppers, sweet corn and beef tenderloin. Listening to Linda's comments, punctuated by yum sounds, made me think that I may have partially redeemed myself from the game disaster. I know one thing, that beef tenderloin we bought in Tok was our best purchase in a long, long time, and we are both going to be sad when we eat the last of it. But then there is always the next bend in the road and the next chance of finding something even better, which is just how we look at it.
September 26 Sunday
Leaving, moving and nothing more, I wish
Today was leaving day, and in more ways than one. Linda has been laughing this week about the "rain" we have been occasionally hearing, rain as in raining leaves. She'd also got a chuckle out of watching the weekenders next to us repeatedly sweeping the leaves off their picnic table and the concrete patio at their site.
So today it may have been their opportunity to get a chuckle at our expense. With the amount of leaves we could see, it was apparent the roof of the coach was covered, though that didn't concern me as much as the leaves on the slide covers. That meant a trip up to the roof, broom in hand, to do a little house cleaning before Linda retracted the slides. From the amount of leaves that I swept off, I was glad we did it. It also made us realize how infrequently we ever find ourselves in places that this needs doing. There just aren't a lot of big trees in southern Utah, at least at the places where we have stayed in the fall.
We had one of our longer driving days planned for today, but we hoped the scenery would make the time go faster. There was certainly scenery, and quite spectacular, but unfortunately about 20 kilometer into the drive we topped out on the plains above the Red Deer River Valley, and from that point on, scenery like this was a thing of the past.
This became the view out our windows, fields of what we think were canola, though also heard they grow flax and wheat. The endless fields were broken up by the occasional farm with the many outbuildings, oversized farm equipment and towering grain storage bins.
Unfortunately it didn't take very long before we caught our first bad break of the day. A huge dually pickup came flying around both a car that was following us and us. Since we were in Alberta, that meant there was also a solid yellow no passing line, but as we've found out in our short time in the province, that may actually mean that it is a passing zone, since we have seen so many people passing vehicles when the solid yellow was in their lane, both going in our direction and coming from the other direction.
He was rapidly pulling further way when a very bad sound got us to quickly looking at the windshield. Sure enough, there it was, and it wasn't just a little ding. After all the gravel roads in Alaska and Canada, the slowing whenever we met someone or were passed, we'd almost made it back to the States with our windshield intact. We knew the odds of completing the trip without a ding weren't good, but to be this close when it happens. Oh well, it's a quarter sized star burst, but I guess that's what insurance is for.
Falling in the, now what in the heck is that category, was this giant cactus out in the middle of nowhere. Well not exactly nowhere, but almost nowhere as there is nothing else where 27 and 36 intersect east of Hanna, just this huge artificial cactus at the Shell station. It's there to get your attention and it sure did attract ours. Linda followed up by asking, "Do we need to stop for diesel?" and in a moment of overconfidence I replied, "No, we've got plenty to get us to Lethbridge."
It turned out that we had just thought we were in the middle of nowhere, because this soon became our view with few exceptions for the next two hours. Unfortunately there was one thing that was changing as the kilometers rolled by, which was the fuel gauge.
Confidence can be misplaced and looks can be deceiving, and that is the case here. Somehow I had misjudged not only the amount of fuel we needed for the drive, but I'd also badly misjudged the availability of diesel fuel. Well not its available, but its availability where we could get into and out of the fuel stop. It also didn't help that our route, when we once again reached the civilized world, took us alongside the main railway line, and placed it on our side of the road.
We weren't to the point of desperation yet, but when it reached two little marks from resting on the "E", I really started getting nervous. Then Linda saw it, a Fas Gas sign that listed diesel, and then the station, across the railroad tracks. It looked like we could get into and out of it, so we made the turn and commenced our approach. There was one vehicle at the island, but it soon pulled forward. We followed only to see the nozzle of the diesel pump covered with an out of service bag. Some days you just can't win, and it looked like today was one of them.
At last we reached Lethbridge, and as as luck would have it, there was not a single station along our route. It also didn't help that I managed to drive past the exit to the RV park, necessitating several more kilometers of driving. When we finally pulled into the park tempers had calmed, and there were still two marks to go on the gauge. For the first time in many miles we agreed on something, that we will search out the nearest diesel that we get into with the coach when we are out tomorrow in the Explorer.
Now to say that today was less than perfect would be putting it mildly. To say that it would give us some memories of how not to do things would be about right. Repeat after me 1000 times, "I will not pass by a fuel stop when Linda suggests we stop, ever again", "I will not pass by a fuel stop when Linda suggests we stop ever again", "I will not ...".
September 27 Monday
Back into the past with the buffalo
After that fun day of travel yesterday, ha ha, and I never did mention the high winds we had to fight most of the way, we were ready for something less challenging today. What we ended up with was something that was actually far more challenging but only in good ways. We haven't yet determined exactly what it is, but we both find that we seem to enjoy our experiences at both the Parks Canada, and the Provincial Parks far more than we do our experiences at the US Park Service parks and the various State Parks we have encountered during our travels. And today, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, the world's penultimate buffalo jump proved to be no exception.
I just love how the visitor center, interpretive center/museum, or whatever you choose to call it, has been blended into the hillside. It's quite a contrast from the garish, sticking out like a sore thumb, outdated architecture the National Park Service parks so often have. I find it interesting how some people we know are always bragging about how everything in America is the biggest and the best. Sorry Charlie, it ain't so, and a little travel outside ones comfort zone would quickly confirm it.
The view that greets you when you first enter the center is most impressive, helping you realize just what you are here for. Stepping back for a moment, Head Smashed In is about 45 minutes from Lethbridge, and is somewhat off the beaten track. When I first read about Head Smashed In I wasn't sure it was something worth seeing. Then when Linda started checking it out and I learned more, it became a must see. Now we were so glad we had taken the time to discover more about it.
Guess I got a little off track there, but when you wander, you never know where its going to lead. This is all about buffalo, eh, so here's that wonderful beast. Linda wasn't sure about this photo because of how she looked. But when I mentioned that she didn't have shaggy hair, nor a beard, and she sported a long beautiful neck instead of a scrunched up one, plus, while she has been known to sprout horns, at least in figurative sense, she's still is just a sweet little girl at heart, she relented and allowed me to use it. Well, at least it makes for a good story.
This, however, is not something that comes from the imagination, this is real, this is scary, this is what gives children nightmares. The wild beast that the signs warn about has been captured in this photo for the world to see.
For once we did things in the right order, or maybe I should say Linda kept me in check so we did things in the right order. After watching the movie, we ascended to the top of the center and walked out on the trail to the overlook at the main jump site. The jump had been used over a period of some 6000 years until the Europeans decimated the herds to the point of near extinction. While the First Peoples killed the buffalo to sustain themselves throughout the year, the Europeans slaughtered them for sport, their hides or in some cases, for just their tongues. Say what you will, the facts are there.
There is so much to see in the center that it is impossible to describe. All in all, we spent some three hours at the site, and if hadn't been for a large school group, we would have stayed even longer. They were all in the part of the center that dealt with the Blackfeet and other peoples, so we had to skip that part.
Linda really liked this winter count robe, which we would call a calendar, Starting in the middle and going in a counter clockwise fashion, a significant event of each year was recorded on this buffalo robe. From a great smallpox epidemic to the coming of the Europeans, those and many other events are recorded. The count started in 1764 and stopped in 1879 with the demise of the buffalo.
Later, after we had finished looking at the displays, we walked the path that lead to the kill site. You can't actually get right up to the base, but it gets you close enough to appreciate what took place here over those many millennia. It also doesn't look like much of a drop, but understand there are some 10 meters of bones piled up and buried at the base of the cliff.
Finished at the Buffalo jump, we headed back to Lethbridge, making a quick stop in the town of Fort Macleod, which was supposed to have a number of interesting sights. There are towns that grab us and pull us in and then there are towns that seem to look good, but once we are there, have a singular lack of pizazz. We drove around town, we stopped and walked around town, but for some reason the love just wasn't there. It may be a neat place and others might really enjoy it, but for us it was just a quick stop on our way to Lethbridge and the worlds highest and longest trestle.
At 314 feet high and over a mile in length it is an awe inspiring sight whose length can not be seen without turning your head. Built as a temporary structure over 100 years ago, it still performs its original purpose today.
One has to wonder what goes through the engineers head as his train heads out across this trestle. What must the view look like from up there. And what would the original builders think if they knew it was still being used after all this time.
When it came to getting a better view of the trestle, Linda and I agreed to disagree. While she sat on a bench near the base of the trestle, I climbed the over 225 steps to the top of the hill to get a better view. I got my exercise and some great photos, well I had to say that given the effort took to take them, meanwhile she had fun taking photos of the different types of grasses growing near her bench.
The end result was that we both got to do what we wanted to do, so what more could we ask. Once all photo shooting was done, we took on our most important task of the day; finding a diesel fuel station close to the RV park where we could could maneuver the coach in and out of. It took a couple of "this isn't the way's" before we found a Petro Canada station on the road we would be taking when we leave tomorrow, and it was only a couple of kilometers from the RV park to boot. Funny how one day can be so frustrating, and the next so rewarding. But then, if every day was a great day, life just wouldn't be Life.
September 28 Tuesday
Heat at last
This will be our last day where the day's drive is wholly within Canada. The next time we move, we will be crossing back into the US, though it will not be until at least Thursday. Now I am a more or less, figure it out as it happens person, while Linda is the know everything in advance type, which meant that she was digging out the Montana maps and trying to figure our next route, even if it will probably change.
After the difficulties of our last travel day, I was looking for a good omen wherever it might be, and I'd say this is just about as good as it gets. That and the fact the electric went out in the RV parked next to us was definitely a sign that maybe we had turned the corner as far as our luck was concerned.
Then it was off to the fuel station we had scouted out. Why is it that when you are low on fuel, every light turns red just as you are approaching it? At first Linda didn't believe it, but after the third time in a row she was convinced. The icing on the cake was when we finally got a green light, only to have an emergency vehicle approach the intersection so we still had to stop and wait.
I was beginning to think that the bright sunbeam this morning was only a ruse to prevent us from noticing that the stars still hadn't lined up. We did make it to the Petro Canada, but then we ran into the problem that the pump would only take the credit card once and you had to go inside with the card for more fuel. Of course we needed more, since I wasn't going into Shelby, Montana on fumes just because the prices might be lower, so with an I told you so look, Linda went inside to get the pump working again. One of these days I'm going to listen to that woman, though if I ever did she'd probably have a seizure or something. I guess her daily, "Are your hearing aids in, or are you just not paying attention", lecture would be preferable to the alternative.
The drive was uneventful, at least until we got to Milk River, where we had to leave the nice four lane road and head off some 43 kilometers into the unknown. I sometimes think I'm too smart for my own good, but lately I've begun to wonder if I'm just to dumb to do anything right. Milk River, two exits, the GPS says to take the second one, Bob takes the first one, Bob is very unhappy. Bob comes to a Tee intersection where the crossing road is gravel and dirt in both directions.
Bob suggests Linda led him astray, Bob recovering from flash burns following Linda's reply, blames it on the GPS. Bob realizes he has a problem. Bob deftly makes a U-turn at the Tee intersection. Linda is impressed with Bob's driving skills. Bob asks Linda if she took a photo of where he made the near impossible look easy. Linda replies to the negative. Bob makes comments. Bob, recovering from additional flash burns, follows Linda's directions for the rest of the drive to the park. Linda takes a photo of the road they should have been on in the first place. Bob uses it in the Daily Journal. Whomever reads this can no doubt imagine the unreported details regarding this glimpse into Bob and Linda's Life.
We thought Head Smashed In park was off the beaten path, but the location of Writing On Stone park was even more so. At first I was wondering whether Linda had us on the right road, but when we would see an occasional sign indicating that to be true, I realized that the family navigator really did know what she was doing, and thanked my lucky stars I kept my thoughts to myself. We did have one little problem when we finally arrived at the park, there were no signs indicating how to get to the park campgrounds.
Linda had checked their website yesterday, as she tersely told me, and while there was a map of the campground, there hadn't been an overall map of the park showing where in the park the campground was located. While there were signs galore showing where everything else in the park was, there wasn't a thing that we saw indicating which road we needed to take. Then it happened, we came up to an intersection, again no campground sign, only this time the road in front of us looks like it is going over the edge of a cliff and a very crooked arrow appears on a yellow sign down slope.
My flash burns having by this time healed, and knowing I'd already learned my lesson for the day, I turned to our navigator for advice. Bad move. Having just learned that was what I was always to do, just turn when she says to turn, I guess I missed out on the 'don't turn and ask me things when I don't know' part of the Linda lecture, though that's another mistake I won't make in the future. When she knows something then I do it without hesitating, if she doesn't know something, I should just do something and live with the consequences. Pretty simply once I finally figured it out.[Editor's comment: Finally afer almost 43 years, he is beginning to understand what marriage is all about!]
Fortunately there is an exception to every rule, and while I pondered my next move, Linda told me to just head down the hill. I did as I was told, and we soon were at the campground. Later I was to learn that a lady out hiking near where we were stopped had pointed down the hill and with gestures only know to women, they communicated with each other concerning what it was we wanted and the answer.
The campground was supposed to have a very limited number of sites for larger rigs, but since there was hardly anyone here, we found a nice site, and it was even one of the seven sites with electric, so we didn't have to boondock. The bad thing is that once again we have no MotoSat, so it will be a few more days until we can post.
Sometimes Linda can be so funny, think about the grizzly and Teddy bear, so when the flurry of activity in the kitchen began it was amusing to hear her muttering, "They're not going to get MY cucumbers." There were still quite a few cucs left from that big bag we had bought a few days ago, and she was afraid that might be someting we couldn't take into the states.
Her plan was to turn them into pickles, and even though she didn't have her refrigerator pickle recipe, she'd made them so many times over the years she knew she could come close. Soon the cucs and onions were sliced and packed in the half gallon jar she keeps for just such emergencies, then the task of duplicating the brine began. It took multiple tastings by both of us as she made small additions of various spices to come up with a very close facsimile of the real thing. Oh, and I promised her I wouldn't make a big deal out of the fact she added caraway seed instead of celery seed at on point which required some deft use of additional ingredients to counteract the taste, so I won't go into detail about that.
Seems to me I've left out one major thing that occurred today: summer finally arrived. Sun top and knee highs for Linda, shorts for me, it was enough to cause snow blindness in an Eskimo, but at least we were comfortable. It also meant Linda was able to get out the fan she so much enjoys blowing on her when the weather is hot. Hopefully that cool breeze will counteract the effects of my earlier shenanigans.
Like a gentle reminder that the cooler temperatures we experienced all summer might not of been that bad, the thermometer just kept climbing all day. What amazed me most was Linda's attitude that, sure it was hot, but it wasn't that bad. Wonder what a summer in Antarctica would do to her attitude?
Dinner turned into a feast, as we fixed our version of taco salad. Homemade beans, pork in green sauce, lettuce, cilantro, onions, peppers, avocado, sour cream and smokey salsa, all over a crumbled whole wheat tortilla. My mouth waters just writing about it.
At the end of the day, we enjoyed a fire, Pyro-mom having got her touch back, though she did have to move several times early on. Guess they never had campfires in 4-H the way we did in Boy Scouts. You know, start them young, make them think smoke is normal, and then it won't bother them as they get older. Today was one of those days that proves it is not the destination that counts, its the journey, and what a Journey through Life it was.
September 30 Thursday
At last, after 6413 miles, the USA once again
The day that marks the end of our Alaskan Adventure has finally arrived. We will be glad to get back across the border, but at the same time we will be sorry to be leaving Canada as we have so enjoyed our time in this wonderful country. During our walk around the campground this morning we stopped by the river, and marveled at the beauty of nature.
Why do I think we would never see a sign like this in a park in the US? More likely there would never be a gate there in the first place. Then if that was the case the fence would probably be broken down from people trying to climb over it. We hear politicans speak of "kinder and gentler", well there are lots of places in the world that have attained just that.
Since our destination was only some 75 miles away, we were in no hurry to leave, but by 10 o'clock we were pulling out. Guess we were a little more anxious to get back into the States than we thought. We had 43 kilometers of country roads before we reached the four lane highway that would eventually turn into I-15. For some reason we have a problem with Alberta Roads and rocks, and during the drive we took two really good hits on the coaches' windshield. Due to all the bugs we couldn't tell if they were chips, but they sure didn't sound good.
When the grain silos of Milk River finally appeared, the pressure started mounting. My last foray into this town had included another of those coach and toad on road U turns, and I was not going to repeat that little stunt today. Something tells me Linda didn't want to repeat it either, as she was calling out the streets as we drove through town, advising me which way I was going to have to turn. I normally would have been checking the GPS, but today I was eyes glued to road doing exactly as Linda said. I have learned my lesson, no more freelance driving.
Once on the four lane, the time just flew by and soon we observed something in the distance, something that was a sign that we were just about back in the lower 48. We'd had enough border crossings during the trip that by now it was becoming old hat. Five times at Canadian customs: the original Sumas crossing, back from Skagway twice early on, then leaving Alaska a month ago, and finally at Stewart when we visited Hyder. US customs were at Skagway twice and also between Dawson and Chicken on the Top of the World Highway for a total of eight.
This was by far the busiest crossing point we had used. There were at least a half dozen trucks in the semi-truck lane, and two of the three car and RV lanes were open. There were two vehicles in our lane when we pulled up, and when they opened the trunk of the one directly in front of us, we could only think, oh boy. But after a quick look, they closed it, and soon we were being waved forward.
The actual crossing turned out to be the easiest one of all. Where are you from? Just two of you? US citizens?, Fruits or vegetables? Guns or firearms? Ever been arrested? More than $6,000? Is your pepper whole or cut? Welcome back to your home country. We pulled ahead and headed down I-15. Guess we were due for a really easy one.
It wasn't long before we were in Shelby, Montana and turning into the Lewis and Clark RV park. Be advised if you stay here, your odds of having to do a little or a lot of leveling will be close to 100 percent. There was only one other RV here when we arrived so we ended up with a fairly level site and we soon had the MotoSat locked on the satellite. The FHU site also gave us an opportunity to catch up on our laundry after four straight nights of dry camping, but before we did, we first replaced the filter element in our water filter.
Yes, it was definitely time to replace it. We also decided to buy a filter that filters out more "things" the next time it needs replacing.
Linda took advantage of the need to open the bed to get out the filter and filter wrench. I wasn't sure whether it was to get rid of the dirt and grit of the past few days, or if it was another attempt to suck up the last of the flies from last night's warfare. We've also been adding more flies to the count today, and let me tell you the wild banging going on in the passengers seat from the map in the navigators hand smashing into the dash, was enough to cause me to wander off the edge of the road once. The good part was that even though she missed the fly, the wild woman, aka grizzly, turned into a Teddy bear so as not to distract me again.
We also made a trip into town, stocking up on some veggies, and having fun driving around this town whose Main Street is a throw back to an earlier time. Tomorrow we will see about getting a service appointment in Missoula to have the slide and steps repaired, and also check with the insurance company on getting the coach windshield replaced. That will determine how long we will be in Montana, but with the weather looking great through next week, we aren't in any hurry to move on now that we are "back home" so to speak.