Friday, August 22, 2008

Eastward Bound – Banff, AB to Minneapolis, MN

Monday, 18 August we terminated our summer idyll and commenced our journey back to New England, where we will reside in our North-Central Massachusetts condominium until after the holidays. In addition to a hectic round of medical appointments, some camping on Cape Cod, and visits with the grandkids in Maryland and Massachusetts, we are planning our wedding at the Publick House in Sturbridge on 22 November. We will head south for the winter after Christmas, as husband and wife.

Why are we squatting in Massachusetts until the snow flies? Because that’s where Kathy’s grandchildren live, that’s why. Any questions?

In prior years, when one or both of were still employed, we would have made the trip east in about 5 days, arriving totally exhausted for our first day back at work. No more! We expect to take about two weeks to get to Maryland, where we will pause a couple of weeks with the Annapolis granddaughters, then a couple more days to travel to Massachusetts.

Details of our first four days are provided below. The balance of the trip east will be incorporated in subsequent posts.

Eastward Bound Day 1 (August 18th) - Banff, AB to Moose Jaw, SK

We left Banff at 6 am the 18th and headed for Moose Jaw, SK, our first destination on the way back to New England.

As we drove east on the Trans-Canada Highway, the mountains gradually disappeared, to be replaced with rolling hills and farmlands. As we approached Calgary, the land to flattened out as we entered the Great Plains.

We Say Good-Bye to the Rocky Mountains

Dropping Down to the Great Plains as We Approach Calgary

Agriculture Appears as We Enter the Plains

After Calgary we passed a sign that announced we were entering the “Badlands of Alberta.” The terrain did indeed look like the Dakotas as we passed hundreds of herds of horses and cattle. The Alberta Black Angus Beef are very popular here.

Cheesebergs On the Hoof

Black Gold is Everywhere on the Alberta Plains

Our next stop was Medicine Hat where we bought gas, had a quick lunch, and photographed the tallest teepee in the world.

The Sign Said This is the Tallest Teepee in the World
Believe What You Wish

As we passed into Saskatchewan, the horizon became totally flat, the land transitioned gradually from mostly grassland to agricultural, with field after field of crops.

Saskatchewan Horizon

An Agricultural Province

Prairie Agriculture

We planned two to three hundred mile days, but we drove 506 miles our first day. The temperature was in the 90’s, and promised to stay that way for a few days

We arrived in Moose Jaw about 4:30 and pleasantly cooled off in our air-conditioned camper. Keith had planned to boondock our way across the continent, but the brutal heat forced us into campgrounds with electric service. We could have dry camped and run the generator, but Keith figured that with gas at $4.00 a gallon or higher, the cost to run the generator for 6 or more hours would about equal the camping fee.

Eastward Bound Day 2 (August 19th) - Moose Jaw, SK to Minot, ND

As we headed southeast from Moose Jaw, we continued to pass fields and fields of grain. This area is called the “Breadbasket of Canada” and the name is well deserved. We passed through the town of Weyburn, which is said to be the largest inland collection center for grain in Canada.

Sunrise Over The Saskatchewan Prairie

The Breadbasket of Canada

Agribusiness Near Weyburn

We crossed into the US at North Portal. Crossing the border is always an adventure. This time we had to leave the coach while 3 agents examined our motor home. It took almost half an hour to clear customs and then we were on our way. The big concern was fruits and vegetables this time. Kathy almost landed us in prison by misremembering that she had already consumed a lemon that she mistakenly declared.

U. S Border Crossing – Site of the Lemon Hunt

Northern North Dakota looks a lot like southern Saskatchewan, with many grain fields. We also started to see fields and fields of sunflowers, which are grown for their seeds.

Colorful North Dakota Sunflower Crop

Tractor on Stilts – Identified as a Herbicide Sprayer by Our Friends the Richardsons

Prairie Lake Near Minot

We arrived in Minot and headed for the Space Aliens Café, a favorite chain of ours in ND. The restaurant is decorated with spacecrafts, cartoon and memorabilia from Roswell and Area 51. Ribs are their specialty. They are prepared Memphis style and are delicious. (3.5 COWS).

North Dakota Home of Surprisingly Good Ribs

We crashed at the Minot KOA, where we spent the night, and Kathy spent 2 hours in their air-conditioned laundry room.

Eastward Bound Day 3 (August 20th) – Minot ND to Moorhead City, MN

The next morning (our third since leaving Banff), we drove to Fargo, bought gas at the J, picked up a new battery transfer solenoid at Pleasureland RV, then drove to another Space Aliens Café for lunch (we really like this chain). Kathy had an alien salad and lunch pizza, while Keith had tortilla soup and a Ruben. (3 COWS).

Jack-O-Lantern Sun seen near Minot

Harvesting North Dakota Wind Energy

After lunch we drove across the Red River to Moorhead, MN where we camped the night at another KOA. A nice campground, reasonably priced (for a KOA), but the half-mile access road is unpaved, and in worse condition than the Top of the World Highway.

Every time we pass through Moorhead we think about looking for the Prairie Home Cemetery, where kids from the local college go to park at night. Having an acute sense of humor, Garrison Keillor named his now famous Saturday night radio show after the companionable activity in this cemetery.

Eastward Bound Days 4&5 (August 21,22) – Moorhead City, MN to Prior Lake, MN

Our fourth eastbound travel day commenced with a drive southeast on I-94 to Rogers, MN, where we paused for an hour of retail therapy at Camping World. Along the way we passed by Charlie’s Café in Freeport, MN, home of the best monster Carmel roll this side of the fictional Chatterbox Café. Charlie’s was mentioned by Garrison Keillor in his National Geographic Article, which is proudly posted in the café. We choose not to stop this trip because we were anticipating a substantial lunch at our destination, and did not wish to over indulge.

Leaving CW with our treasures, we by-passed Minneapolis on the beltway, then motored south a few miles to camp two nights in Prior Lake, home of the Mystic Lake Casino. Because of the heat, we chose to avail ourselves of the casino campground, instead of boon docking. We dined at the casino buffet after arriving, and then Keith hunkered down in the air-conditioned comfort of the motor home, while Kathy fed the tribes.

The next morning, Keith spent a couple of hours installing our new solenoid, while Kathy continued to feed the tribes, in a vain attempt to recoup the prior day’s losses.

Replacement of the solenoid should have been simple, but it is in a somewhat awkward location near the bottom of the battery compartment. In addition, the idiots at Winnebago installed it with ¼-20 Phillips head machine screws, which of course had frozen over the course of seven years, so Keith had to drill them out. However, once the installation was completed, Keith was ecstatic that the new relay fixed our battery-charging problem. Now we can boon dock overnight, confident that the battery will recharge as we drive down the road the next day.

The next morning we departed for points east, as described in a subsequent post. In the meantime, Kathy’s money is feeling very lonely, left behind in the casino without her.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Canadian Rockies – Banff, AB

As we traveled south from Lake Louise on Friday, the heat began to rise. By the time we reached Banff it was 90 degrees and for the 3rd time this summer we turned n the air conditioning. We were grateful to have an electric site.

We are camped at Tunnel Mountain Campground. The campsites are spacious but there is very little shade. The flipside is excellent views of the surrounding mountains, and limited satellite TV reception, for the first time in two months. Kathy is in sports heaven, watching the Olympics every day on a (relatively) big screen TV.

Our Campsite in Banff Trailer Village

Banff is a compact village, where everything is just 10 minutes away. The glacial-green Bow River flows through the mountain-ringed valley that is the setting for Banff. The alpine grandeur and mineral hot springs pools enhance Banff’s attractiveness.

Bow River Valley

The town of Banff, granted autonomy from federal jurisdiction in 1990, is wholly within the boundaries of Banff National Park. Development within the town is strictly controlled; residents do not own their land but lease it from the park.

Downtown Banff

After lunch on Friday we took a ride around the town. It was too hot to do much walking but we did make a couple of stops.

Our first stop was the Banff Information Center. It was much smaller than the center in Lake Louise, with no interpretive displays. They do show a video, the same as we saw in Lake Louise.

Our second stop of the afternoon was Bow Falls. Bow Falls are located on the Bow River near the front of the Banff Springs Hotel. While not as impressive as Niagara, the falls are quite pretty and the area surrounding them was cooler. Unlike Niagara, people can wade and swim in the river below Bow Falls.

Bow Falls

On Saturday we got an early start and headed for Banff Avenue, where all the retail stores are located. Our first stop was the Rexall Drug Store located in the Cascade Mall where Keith purchased a cane. His back has been acting up and at times it is quite painful for him to walk. The cane has helped and is giving him some additional support.

Keith then ensconced himself on a bench on Banff Avenue and proceeded to people watch while Kathy explored the shops.

A Banner On Banff Avenue

Banff Avenue Traffic Light
Note Camera Above Light

We had a very pleasant lunch at the food court in the Cascade Mall. Kathy purchased two slices of pizza from Mrs. Valeri’s (2 COWS) while Keith had Sri Lankan chicken and rice noodles (2-3/4 COWS).

On Sunday morning we went on a photo safari and took pictures of Canada Place and the Banff Springs Hotel. On our way into town, we spotted a helicopter carrying something over the town; we don’t know what it was. We also spotted an unusual license plate, from the Northwest Territories. We think it’s kinda cute.

Could This be Some Sort of New Thrill Ride?

Polar Bear License Plate from the Northwest Territories

Flower Gardens at the Canada Center

Post Card View of the Banff Springs Hotel

Tomorrow, Monday, 8/18 we leave the Canadian Rockies and start the long drive east, through Calgary and across the great Canadian Prairie toward North Dakota. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Canadian Rockies – The Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is an excellent two lane road that travels about 150 miles between the towns of Jasper and Banff in western Alberta Province. The distinguishing feature of this road is the monumental mountain scenery. The road threads its way through glacially carved mountain valleys between majestic mountain peaks. While the mountains are not all that tall, especially when compared with what we have seen in Alaska, they are clustered close to the road and are particularly rugged in appearance. The tree line is low, so the rock formations stand starkly against the azure blue sky (if you are lucky, as we were).

As we have mentioned previously, we try very hard not to incorporate too many photos in our blog. However, Kathy took well over 300 pictures on our trip down the Parkway, and we are having an awful time culling them down to just that select few that we like to publish. That’s a sort of a fancy excuse for there being too many images in this post. You are welcome to fast forward.

Rolling South on the Icefields Parkway near Jasper

Rugged Mountain Peaks Look Like
Jagged Teeth Against the Skyline

Note the Variation in Rock Color, From Dark Gray
in the Last Photograph to Light Tan in This One

Cleavage Steps, Somewhat Rounded by Erosion

The Western (right) Face of This Steeply Tilted
Mountain is One Gigantic Cleavage Facet,
With Layered Strata Visible on the North Edge

Glacially Carved “U” Shaped Valley, With Another
Huge Cleavage Facet Visible in the Right Background

Columbia Icefield

Athabasca Glacier Descending From the Icefield

Columbia Icefield Center, With Ice Buggy on Left

Ice Buggy Crawls up the Glacier

Just Another Beautiful River Valley

Heavily Eroded Mountain Strata

More Cleavage Steps, Heavily Rounded by Erosion

Bridge Construction

Beautiful Clouds Contrast Sharply
With the Rugged Mountain Scenery


Bike Tour, With Turquoise Colored
Lake and Alluvial Slopes in Background

Bruin Warning

Bruin Lurks on the Roadside

Wildlife Crossing

Wildlife Crossing Under Construction

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