The long-awaited trip to Canada has unfortunately come to an end. Here I sit in North Dakota back in the heat, drinking a beer that did not cost as much as a pair of jeans, and already planning our return trip. How was Alberta, Eh?
Tuesday, August 15th we crossed over the US/Canadian border with not one problem. We, or maybe just me, were a little nervous about this. We had heard all sorts of crazy stories about being searched and questioned like you were smuggling in 100 cases of Coors. It was all very polite, and after assuring them that the Texans left their guns at home, we were on our way! We crossed the border into British Colombia and drove north and into the Kootenay National Park. It was a beautiful drive full of rising mountains and gorgeous deciduous trees. We had encountered quite a bit of smoke ever since we left Bozeman about a week before, and it continued into Idaho and Canada. Much of that smoke was from the Missoula fires, which almost seemed to be dying down a bit maybe when we last drove through the area. Which we know now, unfortunately, was not true and more of the forest is burning. We did see mass amounts of burned forest in Kootenay, freshly burned and even caught sight of the firemen and women coming out of the smoldering woods. Maybe we were too close to that action?
Our phones were not working at all for a while and by the time we made it into Banff, Alberta – our supposed destination for the night- we quickly realized there were not going to be open camping spots here. I made the same mistake in Arizona, assuming we would be able to find a spot last minute. Could not have been more mistaken. We ended up spending our first Canadian night outside of Calgary in a campground that resembled more of a RV storage facility than a campground. Well, actually, half of it really was a storage facility. Think RV sardines.
The next morning we headed out toward Edmonton with the goal in mind to find an RV supply shop to grab a few items we needed to help Bluebonnet out. As you know she sustained damage in a storm and we are slowly getting her fixed up, BUT we also figured out that she was missing the plug to the fresh water tank, which is very important since we were on our way to dry camp for the first time. So this proved to take quite a while and a few tries to find the right plug. The woman at the shop was super nice and very helpful, despite the fact that when both Rodney and I picked up the correct plug she told us that those were in fact the incorrect plugs. After an hour of looking and the third try it ended up being the plug we both thought it was 30 minutes and two tries earlier. She apologized, and then refunded the money spent on incorrect plugs, even though it was against policy. Finally, on the road once again we were.
One night, four giant loads of laundry and one three-year old with hurt feelings later (for that story see the last post), we arrived in Bezanson to meet Keith. We met at a gas station and headed toward the Kleskun Hills where we would all be camping for the next few nights. It was easy as Saskatoon pie getting to know Linda and Keith! Imediately it felt like we were hanging out with family and Wyatt was super happy to make new friends.
This trip is also the first time we have dry camped in the travel trailer. We were really not sure how that was going to work, but we realized a few things. 1. We can do it. It works! 2. Our battery on the trailer is an awful peice of moose turd. 3. Electronics are over-rated. And finally, 4. We are about to save a moose-ton of money on campsites. We got so excited we wanted to buy our own generator to start off with right away and researched deals on generators. We found a great one at Home Depot so we jumped in the truck and took off to Grande Prairie only to realize we forgot we were looking at the American stores and not Canadian and therefore, that deal was non-exisitant. Insert sad, crying moose face here.
So, what about all those moose? We ended up not seeing any. No bears, no moose. Just one very loney Bison in a high fenced ranch in Saskatchewan. While it was mildly disapointing, I think next time we go we will plan some type of wildlife viewing situation somewhere and check those off the list. I also hope to see Puffins in real life as well and I think I remember reading they were in Canada…maybe…. One day! Sigh. (Shenna places chin in hand and looks longly out the window of her camper, thinking of Canada and moose…mooses…moosen…?!) Wyatt was the one who did end up with a moose, courtesy of our new Canadian friends! You know what we did see though?! The Northern Lights! Ya’ll, we were way north… it was chilly…but the few minutes I got to see the Northern Lights were exciting! I couldn’t get a decent picture, but Linda got a few on her camera. It’s pretty hard to get a picture of. If you look up Famous Amos Photography, they recently posted a video of the Northern Lights from the EXACT spot I saw them in Kleskun Hills.
We stayed four nights with Linda and Keith and they were so very hospitable and kind with their time and made us feel like part of the family. There was not a single person we met that we didn’t feel were kindred spirits. Rodney may have played music for them for the entire four days straight if people didn’t make him go to bed! He had a great time, and always does when it’s with good friends. Here are pictures of us with Linda and Keith, Russ, and then Keith’s sister, Melissa and her family (or Wyatt’s new Canadian family ;).
This was all going too smoothly, don’t you think?
We stayed Monday night in Lloydminster, which is a border town between Alberta and Saskatchewan. When we woke up that morning, which was a bit late, we were planning on staying in Regina, then heading across the border Wednesday morning. By the time we made it to Regina, we really felt like we wanted to keep on driving. We also noticed that it was a pretty straight shot to Plentywood, MT, the area where Sitting Bull had surrendered to the US Army. We thought, since we have been talking about Sitting Bull so much this trip it would be cool to see this town. We were, after all, also planing to see his grave site in South Dakota. It was 7p.m. and the border was an hour away.
About 15 minutes outside of town, we realized we needed gas. We were not super close to empty but close enough. We had just passed a gas station and said, hmm I wonder if we should turn around, but both agreed there would be another soon. I even found one on Google maps. Except it wasn’t. It was one of those truck driver stations where you can’t get gas unless you are a trucker with a special card. The next closest one was in the next tiny farming town, Pangman. It was a little off the path, but we needed gas. We passed it up by about 2 miles because we were talking, so we turned around and found the road. As we drove down this picturesque road full of closed stores and startling empty streets the feeling of dread began to set in. That feeling would be right. It was closed. Even if the pumps, were the pay at the pump kind, it would not have worked since our American cards would not work in the gas machines anyway. Then a family came walking down the street. The man stopped to ask if we needed gas and that the closest was in Radville, which was 43 kilometers away. They closed at 9p.m. We thanked him and took off. It was about 8:00 and we had 20 miles to empty. Oh, also we are pulling over 8,000 lbs behind us, down a bumpy and hilly road. We were two miles from the town when we hit complete empty. As we pulled up to the pump, some how, it was closed. Rodney called the number on the side of the station to see if there would be a way to get some gas. While the man on the other end of the line was extremely nice and sympathetic he lived no where near Radville and had no other way of helping us. We had to wait until morning. Luckily, we travel with that 8,000 lb home behind us, so it was not too much of an inconvienance. Especially since we were now dry campers, thanks to Linda and Keith!
Now, to add to the hilarity, or maybe saddness…. a man did pull up to the pump a little bit later and Rodney went out to talk to him, since we assumed it would look bizarre to have a truck and travel trailer just sitting in front of the gas pumps. Keep in mind this is a town of 890 people. In the middle of absolute nowhere. There are only two gas pumps here. So, out Rodney walks and scares the daylights out of this poor guy, who ends up telling us that there is an open gas station around the corner. Walking distance. Rodney takes off to see if it is still is open. The light was on, and the man was still in there, counting the money from the register. Rodney scared the daylights out of him too, by knocking on the window. Understandably so, he would not open the door for the bearded guy in a cowboy hat on foot claiming to be out of gas. Needless to say, we spent the night in a gass station parking lot. The next morning we crossed the border and our trailer was searched. Of course we are very glad to be law abiding citizens and were waved on our way, however it was funny that it was harder to get back into our own home country than it was to get into Canada.
Final thoughts! We really loved Canada, specifically Alberta and British Columbia. Not too surprised that it was so beautiful. It was a surprise how expensive beer and tabacco was and we were not prepared for that sticker shock. Over all Alberta reminded us of Texas, a very cold northern cousin of Texas. Great people, vast ranch and farm land, tons of big trucks… it was almost home.
This trip was entirely too short. But maybe it’s best this way we have even more to look forward to next time. Here are some more photos from the week.
Post Script…. One of my favortie things we saw in BC and even in Idaho, I think or maybe Montana are these animal bridges! They are wooded and go over the highways to encourage animals to take a safer route across the highway.
Another thing I noticed was that all the food, while mostly the same, had totally different names……