Stettler to Kelowna

Tar Sands and Fort Mac
Redwood Strands and Kitimatt
(This is our home) and down in the Shuswaps too
I’ve seen many nights feel like high noon from the Dome to Saskatoon
There’s confederation bridge and butterfly ridge and Sudbury and the Sault
I’ve been snowed in for days on the Trans Canada Highway
And that was in the month of June and this is our home

(Mike Plume Band, This is Our Home)

Bitch as I do about the Canadian government and the cost of living here, the variety of landscapes and climates of this vast country will never cease to amaze me. There hasn’t been a moment since I left my property that I didn’t look up and marvel at the beauty of the scenery, from the Prairies through the Badlands, into the foothills, and across the Rockie Mountains. That I have done this trip for the second and a half time, doesn’t make it stale at all.

I left Stettler at about 9:30 on Wednesday morning and drove straight through to Olds, where I conceded I wasn’t going to reach cheaper gas on the outskirts of Calgary. From Olds, I continued southwestward, passing Spring Hill RV Park north of Cochrane, where I stayed in late September of 2008.

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(Spring Hill RV Park)

I didn’t go through the pretty town of Cochrane, instead veering west on highway 1A just before town, until I reached the junction for the Transcanada Highway.

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(very low sky entering the Rockies)

From there, it was a short drive to Canmore where I got some groceries, using my Safeway card for the first time in a year. I bought $30 worth of food, all on sale, and paid only $20 with my Safeway discount!

The entrance to Banff National Park is right after Canmore. I elected to pay the $9.80 for a day pass so that I could stop if I wanted to without risking a fine. Having been to Banff and Lake Louise, I had no intention of detouring, but I still wanted to be able to pull over for a leg stretch, a view, or to use the bathroom.

That said, this was my third time driving across the Rockies and I didn’t have much better luck than the previous two trips since the weather was crappy; very cold and rainy. 🙁

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(Not quite cold enough for snow, but it almost felt like it!)

Still, the drive was effortless. I don’t know what it is about this stretch, but it always makes for really good gas mileage. I’ve never done better than 500KM on a tank with my truck, but I ended up getting about 600KM on the tank I got in Olds. A good part of it is that you just drive straight through, so you don’t waste gas stopping at street lights and such, plus the stretch is mostly downhill. Several times, I put Moya in second gear and took my feet off the pedals, saving both fuel and wear and tear on the brakes.

I stopped at the Spiral tunnels and the entrance to Glacier Provincial Park, where the air smelled like evergreens and snow. I wish I could convey that smell through pixels; it will be a highlight of this summer.

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 (Lots of snow on the mountains, even though it’s late June.)

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(This cut in the rock shows how much work it was to carve a road into these mountains.)

This trip, I was finally about to stop at the Rogers Pass discovery centre! It’s a small museum that makes a good leg stretch break.

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(This is the first time I’ve noticed that the GPS screen more or less matches the terrain.)

I forgot that I was going into the Pacific time zone, so I hit Revelstoke much earlier than I would have planned. It felt too early to stop for the night, but I decided to find the 2008 turnout and see if I had internet there. If so, I would check if the Vernon Walmart was RV friendly, otherwise  I would spend the night.

From Revelstoke I quickly found my first landmark, but drove further past it than I remembered doing in 2008, so I began to think that the turnout was gone. But nope! When I came to it, I recognized it instantly and pulled around to the far side. I had internet and the Vernon Walmart is NOT RV friendly, so I decided to stay put.

A Gregory Peck movie on Netflix occupied most of the evening (my favourite actor of all time), at the end of which I discovered that I had apparently left my iPad charging cord in Stettler! Oh NO. I left myself just enough juice to check emails in the morning and went to bed around 9:00 (10:00 my time).

Even though it was pouring rain, the truck bed felt cozy and warm. I would have slept soundly if trains hadn’t passed by about once every hour.

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This morning, around 5:30, it was very damp out, but not raining, so that made it easier to repack for the day’s drive since I could leave the doors open. I had gained two neighbours, an RV and a semi.

I did the math and even with the gas prices averaging $1.35 per litre ($5.31 per gallon), taking my truck and sleeping in it is cheaper than it would have been to go with a subcompact and take a hotel. I’m going to spend about two weeks camping in the truck this summer (at least) and that will help me figure out what I need to make camping in it more comfortable and easier. A taller and non-leaky canopy is definitely in order! But it’s reassuring to know that I was dry even during last night’s downpour.

I pulled out and drove to Sicamous where I got gas and coffee. It began to pour again as I pulled onto highway 97 and it was a wet, miserable, couldn’t see anything drive into Kelowna. Sunny Okanagan my ass. This is my least favourite part of Canada. 🙁

My first stop was Walmart to see if I could find a cheap iPad charging cord, but nope. I tagged in with my friend Amber, changing our plans from dinner to lunch, and then I headed to a CIBC because I had left my ATM card in the reader at the Canmore Safeway. I HATE those friggin’ chip readers!!!

Getting the new card was painless and it’s one I can now use in the U.S. as it’s part of the Visa as well as Interac networks. I was warned that there are big fees, so I’m better off using my Visa or cash, but it’s nice to have a third option just in case.

Then, I went to Best Buy, which only opened at 10:00. Instead of waiting 15 minutes for them to open, I decided to go to a dollar store and see if I could find a super cheap iPad cord. It’s been my experience that using non-Apple cords is hit or miss and has absolutely nothing to do with price or brand, so it seemed like a worthwhile experiment.

My GPS directed me to a dollar store that had a cord for $12, cheaper than anything else I knew I’d find, but it wasn’t refundable if it didn’t work. Hmm. I knew that I had to get something marked iPad, not just iPhone or iPod Touch as the the iPad chargers offer more juice. I have a little Belkin cradle for my iPod Touch that I had hoped would tide me over until Donna can get my cord back to me, but I got the dreaded ‘charging is not supported with this accessory message.’ Anyway, I decided to take a gamble on the $12 cord, accepting that I’d be stuck using the iPod all weekend if the cord didn’t work. Yes, I am spoiled. 🙂

Well, the cord WORKS. YAY!!! It is charging veeeeeeeery slowly, but I don’t care. I’m just grateful I didn’t break the bank and have my iPad again.

I then headed out to Westbank to meet Amber at a Thai restaurant when I saw a sign that made me do a double take:

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OMG Dollar Tree has come to Canada!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

I found Thai Fusion Restaurant without any trouble and Amber was right on time. We both had the chicken pad thai. It was fine, but not that flavourful beyond a little heat. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed since I know food tends to be bland out west. It was a nice portion and the prices were very reasonable.

Amber and I gabbed for almost two hours. It was so good to catch up!

I’m now at a library, catching up on some things and finishing up my slideshow. This branch closes at 6:00pm, so I’ll go find a parking lot to hang out in for a few hours before moving to my overnight spot, which I am not going to divulge for matters of safety, obviously.

The first event doesn’t start till 5:30 tomorrow, so I’ll likely spend a good chunk of time tomorrow at a different library.

Banff

Today was the kind of day that makes you realise that you’ve been given enough gifts to last a lifetime and that asking for anything more is just greed talking.

I had a lot of misgivings and preconceptions about Banff. I expected it to be kitschy, expensive, and over rated. By the time I got to the town limits, I was in an absolutely foul mood and wondered if there was any point my being there at all. To enter Banff National Park (in which Banff is located), you need to pay an access fee of 10$ for a day or 65$ for a year for an individual or 130$ for a family. I decided that the annual pass would make more sense since it’s good at all national parks across Canada. I asked the attendant if I was going to need a second pass for my motorhome, even if I was towing my car behind it and only one vehicle would be on park roads at a time. She said yes. That was sort of the proverbial straw for me as to dealing with Parks Canada. In order to stay at their grossly overpriced campgrounds I had to pay an additional 130$ per year? I decided right then and there that I was taking the Crowsnest Pass on Thursday and not going through Banff again.

But I talked to someone else at the Banff Information Centre and what she had to say was much more logical, that I didn’t need a second pass. I realised then that Parks Canada employees are like a lot civil servants I work with and unable to see their jobs as anything but black and white. So if I get questioned for having just one pass, I’ll just tell them that the people at the Banff info centre said I didn’t need a second one.

My mood greatly improved then and one of the most amazing days of my life began.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I stopped for a bit of a break on my almost 1.5 hour drive to Banff at Lacs des arcs:

I’ve always wanted to say: “I’m Rae. From Canmore.” Non Royal Canadian Air Farce fans can just scratch their heads at that one. *ggl*



Entrance to Banff National Park

Welcome to Banff!

Banff Avenue

A lovely, eye-catching, sculpture on Banff Avenue

So, Banff. A compact, aesthetically pleasing but not kitshy, friendly town. The first thing that I noticed were gas prices; they were the same as in Calgary! Then I noticed all the signs announcing RV parking for two hours on the street and 12 hours (but no overnight) in special lots reserved for RVs. Then I noticed that all parking in Banff is free! I wouldn’t want to take Miranda in there at the height of the tourist season, but today I would have had no problem finding a place for her and she would have been secure all day, without my having to beg for a place to park her while I explored. I therefore award Banff the distinction of being the first truly RV friendly place I’ve been to so far. I’ve never felt so welcome!

First order of business in Banff was pretty funny and goes to show that I’m living my real life and not on vacation. Yesterday, I managed to lose my ATM card. I’d had my previous card for 15 years and I wasn’t able to hang on to my current card for more than a few months! So, off to the CIBC I went to get a new card. This illustrates one of the many reasons I love being with the CIBC; if a town has more than one banking institution there is usually a CIBC (unless you’re in Quebec where the same can be said about Caisse Pops). I was therefore not surprised to find a CIBC right across the street from the lot where I parked.

That done, I went to the visitor’s centre to raise hell about the park passes and to see if I could add anything to my day’s itinerary, which contained just two items.

I wandered down Banff Avenue for a bit and then went to Gopher Avenue to visit the Whyte Museum for the sole purpose of viewing the Group of Seven et. al. exhibition. Yes, we finally get a bit of culture! LOL

Of all the members of the Group of Seven, A.Y. Jackson is my favourite.


There were also some lovely pieces by Japanese-Canadian artist Takao Tanabe, another favourite of mine. I couldn’t believe I got to see this piece in person; it’s my favourite of his!

There was more to the museum, but it was way too nice a day out to stay inside for long!

Next order of business was something I learned about at the info centre: the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. Even though riding a gondola was in violation of everyone of my instincts, I’d never done it and figured that I could survive the 14 minute round trip.

I didn’t enjoy the trip at all, I’m afraid, even though the views were spectacular!




At the top, I continued up to the Cosmic Ray Station.

I have no problem being that high up when I’m on solid ground!

Coming back down on the gondola, I really impressed myself when I actually turned around and took this picture. EEP!

The ride down was a lot harder than the ride up as the first time around there had been people in the gondola with me and they were able to distract me.

Back on solid ground (and having lost fifteen years off my life), it was time to do the second item on my to-do list, something I found I’m not sure how. I got back onto the Transcanada Highway, then exited at the Bow Valley Parkway where I cruised along until I got to Johnston’s Canyon. It features an amazing hike through a canyon, mostly on cantilevered walkways (non-scary; they’re made of concrete and steel). There is a short hike to the lower falls, a longer one to the higher falls, and very long hike to pools of water known as the ‘Inkpots.’

Making an attempt to reach the Inkpots was no small decision on my part. I’d already hiked 3km uphill to get to the higher falls and it was another 3km uphill to get to the Inkpots. Add to that the climb at Sulphur Mountain and the late hour of the day. This was a case where a good decision could only be made with firm knowledge of one’s abilities. On flat terrain, I can hike 3km in about 30 minutes. Uphill, make that 45 minutes. Uphill and exhausted? Calculate an hour. So, that put me at the Ink Pots around 4. Add a bit of sight seeing, picture taking, and talking to people on the trail and I wouldn’t be back at my car before 5:30. I was dressed for the weather, had enough supplies on me to face a ‘worst case scenario’, and knew that I was smart enough to turn around if I reached my limit. I set off and decided to reevaluate around 3:30. I’d just about had enough by this point, but, thankfully, some hikers came up from the Inkpots right around then and told me it was a downhill shot from where I was standing. I knew I’d have to climb back up again, but that after that I was looking at mainly downhill to get back to the car. I pushed on.

I’m so glad I did. 🙂

The Inkpots





Doing the uphill hike up out of there, I had to keep reminding myself that I could not spend the night on the mountain. Someone was bound to question the car at the trail head and come in search of me! That would have been so humiliating! So, I pressed on and made it back to the trail head for bang on 5:30! There was an ice cream stand open now and I decided to treat myself to a double scoop cone! I’ve only just started to eat ice cream again and I have to say this cone was just fantastic! 🙂

Driving back towards Banff, traffic came to a standstill on the parkway because of these three little guys:

Since I had an hour and a half to go before home and I felt that I’d earned a nice dinner out, I treated myself to salmon and chicken in Banff, then ambled back to my car. I had to stop to take this picture:

I call it ‘Deer on Banff Avenue.’

Oh, wait. That name is taken!


I got home at 8:30; my longest day out as of yet and the first time I’ve been out after dark other than to go to the cinema!

One thing I didn’t get to do today since I went to the Inkpots was to catch a glimpse of Lake Louise. I’ll swing by there on Thursday on my way through the park.

I have two days left here. I had thought to go to Drumheller, but didn’t realise that it’s almost a five hour round trip drive. So, I’ll save Drumheller for the spring. Tomorrow, I’ll go into Calgary for supplies for Operation: Batteries and Wednesday I’ll putter around at home, do laundry, pack, and plan my trip across the Rockies.

I can consider Banff to be the perfect cap to this first portion of my incredible journey. Now, it’s a straight shot to the Osoyoos area (site of the only desert in Canada, not counting the Arctic) where I need to find a place to park my butt as I will be on call for a grape picking job as of Monday!

It seems that even good lives have no shortage of good days.