Here are some whimsical and irregularly posted stories about our travel and camping experiences.
May 2-4, 2013 - First trip of the year
This year we added to our small family and now have a Siberian cat named Bella (or Fur Cloud, as I like to call her). I feel that camping as much as we do, any pet we own needs to be a good traveller. Seeing as how Bella is from a wonderful breeder north of Montreal, over two hours away from our house, she got her first test with the drive home back in October. She slept all the way home and didn't utter a single protest. Test number one - complete!
Over the course of the winter we worked on getting her used to wearing a harness and leash. In my opinion, this is essential equipment for any cat owner, camping or not. It took a little getting used to, but after her initial attempts to bite off the harness she finally resigned herself to the fact that this was a battle she could not win. Test number two - passed!
With initial tests complete, we were set to take her on her first camping adventure. Setting up was not a problem: Emily watched over Bella while John and I set up as we usually do.Now, we camp with a group of friends once or twice a year and a few of them got new puppies. They are super cute and, like all puppies, very playful and rambunctious. We would sometimes carry Bella around the campground with us. She was fine to watch the dogs play from her perch on our shoulders, but when she had had enough of their silliness she would hop off our shoulders and, with the dignity only a cat who is tied to a bright purple leash could muster, pulled John or I back to our site where she would go into her crate to perch and nap for the umpteenth time in her busy day.
The weekend went very well and Westcott Beach State Park was the perfect place to introduce a cat to camping. Bella passed test number three - camping - with flying colours. As we we said our goodbyes to our friends, Bella submitted her last hiss to the dogs who in turn submitted and bowed their heads in deference to her place as queen among the camping pets.
May 06, 2013
Time flies. I think that as we get older we realize how true this statement is, but in looking at my previous posts, I realize how much I feel it. Our epic cross Canada tour was three years ago and I haven't written about our camping expeditions since then. John was reading them and reminiscing over our trip and suggested that I start these up again. What would I possibly have to write about? But then, I looked back over the last year of camping and yes, there were some interesting stories. I will recap one of them in a moment. First, though I am going to declare that I will have some interesting topics to write about this summer as we embark on our camping trips with our Siberian cat, Bella! Also, we hope to celebrate our 100th trip this summer. So stay tuned for more Restcure camping adventures.
Now, to pique your interest, here is a story that I should have written last summer but was too preoccupied to even think about our website and adding this story to it.
Mice! I personally find them to be despicable, disease infested creatures. Yet our neighbourhood is teeming with them. I hear them scurrying through the fallen leaves, they eat any bits of birdseed not only from the ground, but daringly from the top of the bird feeder, and I see their tiny little footsteps in the snow. Luckily they never have gotten into our house (knock on wood!). I have had run ins with them in my garden shed and in our garage.
In the fall of 2011, we winterized our trailer in a bit of a rush and stored it on our friend's property. Now for those of you who don't know, mice dislike bounce sheets and cloves and putting one or the other in your trailer is just about guaranteed to repel them. By now I think I have made clear how I feel about these furry little creatures. So as added security against them we have always doubled our defense by putting in both cloves and bounce sheets along with a perimeter of mouse poison. Last year, we felt that perhaps this was overkill and forewent the cloves. Bounce sheets with a mouse poison chaser was to be the cocktail "du jour." With the trailer comfortably tucked in for its long winter's nap, we set our sites on our winter activities with opportunities for hibernation thrown in.
The spring of 2012 brought with it warm weather and the promise of many camping trips. We piled into our Sequoia and made our way to the winter storage to pick up the trailer. As we arrived I got that little skipped heartbeat and ping of excitement as I realized that our camping adventures would once again begin. We peaked into the windows and were relieved that everything looked good. John opened the door and what did I see but a torn bag of poison. A sure sign that the mice have paid us a visit over the winter. My heart sank. John looked at the other bags. They had all been opened. Rationally we were relieved to see that there was only the bags of poison that were touched. None of our beds or couch cushions were torn apart. The propane lines were intact. Irrationally my first thought was: "That is it we have to sell the trailer. I mean it would make perfect sense; our cottage on wheels was defiled by tiny little grey creatures. It was all I could think about. I didn't even want to step foot in there for fear of coming across another one of them.
We brought the trailer home and it took us about a week to get up the nerve to go in and inspect things more closely. Other than poison and mouse droppings no other damage was evident. I convinced myself that I was a grown up, swallowed my pride and donned the thickest nitrile gloves Lee Valley had to offer. Then we proceeded to disinfect the trailer. All the beds were removed and placed in the yard to bake in the sun for half a day and steam cleaned. All surfaces and floors were triple disinfected and then steam cleaned for good measure. Then I proceeded to the cupboards. I opened one and found a Smarties box. Oops! Forgot to look in there last fall! I then opened the drawer with the cutlery. Double oops! A bunch of crumbs were never cleaned out. Then I realized that in past years John and I have been extremely diligent of not leaving a morsel of food in the trailer. Here we left them with what must have seemed like a Christmas feast.
With the trailer all clean and my repulsion over our invasion laid to rest, we set off for our first week long trip to Higley Flow State Park. This is a quaint park settled among white pine trees and on the Raquette River and is one of our favourite places to camp with some excellent kayaking/canoeing to boot. My parents were coming out to visit so I was pretty keen to show them a good time. The day before they arrived, I woke up to find some little presents on the counter. This was interesting because I thought we had given our eviction notice to our army of squatters. "Maybe I just missed that section," I cautiously said to myself and proceeded to clean up the offending leavings. The next day was the day my parents were set to arrive. Again woke up to make my first cup of coffee and planned my day. What! Another present? Now I thought I had gone a little bonkers, because I was sure that all evidence of mice had been cleaned up. I disinfected and re-washed some pots just as my parents arrived. I was beside myself and expressed my concern to my mom. She consoled me as only a mother can console a germaphobic daughter and helped me clean the pots that I was to use for our dinner (I had washed them earlier, but thought that a third time would just guarantee their cleanliness). By now, I had concluded that we had one mouse that felt so much at home in our trailer that he had refused to leave. That night I slept rather uneasily knowing that the critter was in our trailer somewhere looking for his next meal.
After a fitful night, we packed up our trailer to set off and join friends at one of the Parks of the St. Lawrence. Once we were settled in and not a moment more, John and I set off for the local Home Hardware store. "We will take all the mouse traps you have, please," John and I said to the store clerk. He walked over to the pest section and showed us the selection. Two mouse traps was all they had on the shelf. Boy, Iroquois Ontario must have it's share of mice! We bought their stock of two traps and set them up in the trailer. For two mornings I check the cupboard with trepidation and fascination. Nothing both days. I was pretty discouraged, because I was sure we had the pest living in the inner workings of our trailer and I wanted it out before we left for home. Alas, this was not to be and we packed up for home. I was pretty sure the trailer was going to be listed for sale the next day. The mouse had won. I could never love camping in our trailer again so what was the point in keeping it? All these thoughts were going through my head on our journey home.
We pulled up to our house and, with heavy heart, I proceeded to guide John in. We disconnected the trailer and Em went to find her friends. John was emptying out all items from the truck as was our routine and I decided to have one last look - just in case.
"John, we got the little f*!@#er!" was what was heard from the inside of our restcure habitat.
Well, normally our season opener involves going to the nearest KOA where we park our trailer, look around in amazement at how tight they pack them in and begin the art of the gab with our camping friends, most of whom we haven't seen in 6 months.
This year should have been no different. However, our dear daughter, who has an exemplary code of conduct in her senior kindergarten class, came home with a recognition certificate today. She worked hard to get it because earlier in the week we had decided we would do a "camp driveway" night as her reward.
So, here we are - in our trailer - in our driveway. What more can I say? We brought our pillows and other night time accessories. Em has her Tigger, favourite blanket, Hello Kitty stuffy and her Dora pillow. She is all set and excited. It took her quite some time to fall asleep, but she finally did.
To get through the evening, Junior and I almost brought our TV out but decided against it. We can do without for one night. I realize how nice it is not to be bound by the black box. Surprisingly, it is very quiet in here...and cozy. I almost feel like I could be parked at that KOA.
Trip 1 - KOA Mallorytown
Day 1 of 2 - The real season opener
Here we are at the KOA in Mallorytown. The drive here was uneventful except for a little slowdown just before our exit off the 401. All in all, Em was in good spirits despite her asking: "Are we there yet?" after we'd been on the road for all of ten minutes. Oh boy, this is going to be a long trip. Is this what we can expect across Canada? We are going to have to seriously bank up some distraction games or it will be a long two months! This trip, we distracted her with singing along with songs on the radio. When that wore off, the questions started again: "Are we there yet?"
"Are we getting close?"
"It's taking long!"
I gave her my watch and told her that when the big hand gets to the 12 we will be there. Surprisingly that worked for the remainder of the drive - 30 minutes.
The set up went off without a hitch (not literally, of course!). A nice campfire with our camping friends then off to bed.
Day 2 of 2 - The real season opener
We slept SO well last night... until I woke up with a little five year old face staring down at me. "Hi Mommy," she says. Boy, she is cuddly and in a good mood in the mornings of our camping excursions.
Today we went on the Rockport Boat Cruise of the Thousand Islands. This was Em's first tour of the Thousand Islands and I can't say she was super impressed, that is until we saw "Rapunzel's tower". Boldt castle didn't even stand a chance compared to the tower. Unfortunately Rapunzel was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Em would have been effectively in awe if we were able to go and visit the castle but it still wasn't open for the season.
The highlight of our day was a hike through the KOA. Yes! this place has a hiking trail. Our amazement started when we saw an inukshuk in the woods. We were about to turn back when we saw through the trees a skeleton of an old 1960s convertible. Several pictures later, we walked on towards our goal of an ice cream treat and there in the clearing was a chair carved out of an old tree stump. Two more pictures and then ice cream!
This afternoon provided a wondrous thunderstorm which lasted 30 minutes. Then dinner.
We had pasta and sauce which was a little messy to clean up in the trailer, so while Jr and Em had some fun in the park with our camping friends, I went off to use the "Kamp" Kitchen to clean our dishes. After trying the knobs it was apparent that the water was obviously not on. The owner tried to get it started, to no avail. Apparently some tap handles went missing. Wanting to go above and beyond, he offered me the use of their diner kitchen. Certainly not expected. Then his "better half" came by to clean the other sink feeling badly that it was covered in plaster dust. We had such a pleasant conversation that before I knew it I was done my chore.
This KOA is certainly exceeding our expectations!
Trip 2 - Cedar Point State Park
This entry comes a week after the event. The reason...no state of mind to write anything about last weekend until now. Strep throat, high fever and a lot of fatigue rendered me incapable of writing anything until this weekend.
The start of the weekend was uneventful until late Saturday morning when, upon returning from shopping, I felt very off. Within minutes I was shivering and could hardly talk. A beautiful sunny hot day and there I was bundled into blankets and freezing cold.
We talked about going home but that didn't make any sense given that we were more than two hours away. So, we decided to try out the American medical system. Junior bundled me into the truck and we sped off to Alexandria Bay and the River Hospital while our camping friends took care of Em.
Fully expecting to give them my PS health insurance card, we got asked for my Ontario medical insurance card. This was a pleasant and welcoming surprise. With no waiting time, I was taken into triage where I discovered I was fighting a fever of 102. Almost immediately, I was directed to a cubicle and within five minutes a very nice doctor looked in my throat and told me "Whoa, you are not supposed to have things growing back there!"
After receiving an antibiotic booster in the keister and a prescription for more, we set off back towards the campsite with a stop at the nearest Kinney Drugs.
The rest of the weekend saw me between my zero gravity chair and my bed. Thank you Ing for lending me the Arrested Development second season. It truly maintained my sanity.
As for Em, she probably had the best weekend ever because she was allowed to play and play and play with her camping friends without me nagging her about putting on sunscreen, or coming in to eat. She also got to stay up much later than I would ever have allowed had I been well enough to keep track of time. She's none the worse for wear and I have to say again to our camping friends: "Thanks for all your help and support!"
June 25 - ...and we are off!
Here it is our first night on our cross-Canada journey. We thought it would never come and it looked like we might not have made it this far.
We had planned to leave at 10:00 am. This was a loose time frame as we really didn't want to rush out the door. John's dad was going to cycle over and see us off. We still had a bit of packing to do and some house cleaning.
Things were going according to schedule when we got a call at 9:00am. John's dad collided with another bike at an intersection. What are the odds? I'm not talking about a motorcycle. It was another bicycle who had turned left through the intersection just as he was coming down the hill at 30km/h. He was thrown from his bike. Thankfully he was okay. Unfortunately his bike wasn't. John unpacked the truck and left to get his dad and bring him home.
So, I continued to get us ready to go. Still on time. At 9:30 John called. As he was about to open the hatch to take his dad's bike out of the truck, the latch broke. Can't open the hatch. Fortunately we have a sliding window and he was able to take the bicycle out that way. Unfortunately, an unusable hatch would make it quite difficult loading and unloading the truck for eight weeks. Off John went to the Toyota dealer to have a new latch installed. Four hours and $500 later John came back and we finished the last few packing things. Finally at 2:30pm we were off on our wild adventure.
We pulled into our first stop at Samuel de Champlain and stopped at the filling station. I started to fill the fresh water tank. What on earth? There was water pouring from the wheel well. I thought to myself, it must be rain water that was trapped from the last few days of wet weather. I called John over to have a look. Emily followed behind and we continued to fill the water tank. Emily started complaining about the mosquitoes so I suggested that John continue with the filling and we went in to cover ourselves with repellent.
Emily went in first and I heard, "Mommy! There is water everywhere!"
Aw, nuts! Sure enough I watched as if in slow motion as a torrent of water poured from under the dinette seat and down towards our couch, under the wall to the bedroom to end in an inch-deep pool down by the bed.
"John! stop the water!" I yelled.
I pulled off the seat from the dinette and peered inside. The hose that connects the fill valve to the fresh water tank had come loose and water was pouring directly into the trailer. This is thanks to a new, longer fill spout the Ontario Parks are now using because of bacteria issues with the old type.
We grabbed every towel we had and sopped up all the water. Thankfully, things dried up pretty quickly. And our first load of laundry went off without a hitch.
It is surprising how well a nicely chilled glass of pinot grigio and hotdogs roasted over the open fire go together after a day like today.
June 26 - Only one misadventure
Here we are at Chutes. It is a beautiful park and I am surprised that with this nice weather the parks up here in the near northern part of Ontario are barely used. It is Saturday night and it appears that the bulk of campers are just passing through such as we are.
We left Samuel de Champlain just fine. Everything got packed up and we didn't leave anything behind. John had to use the facilities only to find that a certain small person didn't flush the toilet and we had a splash back onto the bathroom floor. Oh well, in the grand scheme of things this wasn't such a bad mishap.
The scenery in this part of Ontario is amazing. Driving past Sudbury we left the coniferous forests and transferred into stunted white birch forests. Giant stacks break the horizon as they reach skyward.
We pulled into Chutes at 2:00 and went and cooled our feet at the beach at the base of the waterfall. We sat there for about 30 minutes just drinking in the scenery. The water shooting down the narrow channel; the dense forest surrounding us; and the seagulls lazily floating in the air above us.
All in all, this was a pretty good day.
June 27 - What amazing scenery!
As I sit in our trailer this evening listening to the drops of water fall from the leaves onto the roof, I am reflecting on today's drive.
We have been outside of our comfort zone for the last couple of days and it has thrown us for a bit of a loop. John and I have never taken on such a huge trip as a couple let alone with a five year old. That said, each day is getting easier and as long as we don't reflect on the distance ahead, we are soaking in each kilometer with awe. Today was the best day yet.
Of the many people I've talked to about this trip, those who have travelled it say that it takes forever to get out of Ontario and to be prepared to see trees, trees and more trees. They were right! However, I was not prepared for what we would be seeing during the drive between Sault Saint Marie and Lake Superior Provincial Park. What amazing scenery!
Every twist and every turn offered us amazing views, the next one better than the last. Who knew our province had such amazing hills (do they qualify as mountains)? I kept looking up to see if I would see mountain goat gingerly climbing the rocky hillside. I felt that this was a prelude to the types of roads and sceneries will be privy to once we are out in the Rockies.
Emily was terrific today and looked at this drive as the adventure it was meant to be. Also, she gave us the amazing gift of taking a two and half hour nap right after lunch.
We are now staying in a tiny part of the Lake Superior P.P. called Rabbit Blanket Lake and are bunking down for a well deserved rest.
I have but one piece of advice for anyone taking on this journey...gas up in Sault Saint Marie because it will be your last opportunity before getting to Wawa!
June 28 - What amazing scenery! (Part II)
Trees, trees and more trees, or so we thought. Driving through North of Superior I was awestruck by how vast and unpopulated our province is. We are always in such a rush to get from point A to point B that we often take the quickest way to get there - plane, train or, if we have to, the quickest highway. Forget about scenery. We have become a "now" society and often that means that we sacrifice taking the time to breathe.
Today, despite the stretch of kilometers we had to cover, we took the time to absorb our surroundings. The drive this morning started off like the last three until we drove over a hilltop and looked into the distance at bare tree trunks standing tall over shrubbery. I commented to John that it looked like there had been a forest fire. It was a barren landscape of skeletal trees one kilometer after another. I noticed a place to pull off to take a picture and sure enough there was a sign that stated that a person-caused fire had destroyed 36,000+ Ha in 1999. Despite the dead trees, a new forest was growing in its place.
Many cross-country cyclists were also out on the roads today, but two women in particular struck me. They had signs on their backs to tell those who passed them by that they were from Charlottetown and headed to Victoria. Here is the sobering fact...John and I are sometimes daunted by the distance that we are traveling and how far from home we will be...and we are DRIVING! If these girls can do this trip on bikes, we can certainly do this in a truck!
Most of the trip around Superior has been well above water level. There was an opportunity today to get close to the water at Rossport and we took it. A little beach with smooth, rolling granite formations... we could have stayed there most of the afternoon. We waded in up to the knees so that we could say we did it, but it was COLD!
Every great lake we have seen has had its own personality and Superior certainly does. I thought Huron shores were raw and untouched but Superior takes this to a whole new level. Coniferous trees reach down towards the water with the odd cliff face rising up from the water. There are also many islands with similar landscapes to the ones we have been driving through.
Keeping Emily busy has not been too difficult. We realize that a two hour drive with half hour stops are ideal. John or I sit in back with her some of the time. Thank you, Elsie, for lending us Mamma Mia. It has been a lifesaver. But I wonder if back to back episodes of this movie will maintain or destroy my sanity? On that note, I am reminded of car trips with my parents when I was a young girl and my sister and I would be playing barbies and my mom would say, "Look outside! You're missing all the scenery!" Now, 30 years later I find myself saying the same thing to my daughter. The only difference is she is watching the same movie for the umpteenth time and she tells me, "Mommy, you are making me look away from the movie!" John just says, "Whatever keeps her happy and occupied is good."
We are bunking down for a day in Thunder Bay for a much deserved driving break. In two days we will be in Manitoba!
July 1 - Happy Canada Day from Yorkton
When we set off today, I thought I would have nothing to write about. We left Falcon Beach in Eastern Manitoba and hit only one heavy downpour which lasted about 15 minutes. The skies cleared and it was smooth sailing down the TransCanada and into the prairies. What a sight! Canola fields and wheat as far as the eye could see ... not to mention a straight and flat highway. Quite a switch from the windy, up-and-down roads of northern Ontario.
Falcon Beach was very nice and it was so refreshing to see so many people in one place that we tried to stay an extra night. Unfortunately due to Canada Day weekend there was no availability.
We drove all day with little stops. Saskatchewan does not cater to the weary traveller and there were very few picnic spots...or small towns for that matter. But the weather held. We stopped at a quaint Inn in Russell, MB and had dinner. There we started to see weather warnings for Southern Saskatchewan: severe thunderstorms, large hail, damaging winds. And then the warning: Risk of tornadoes. Did I see that right? Were we far enough north?
As we crossed the Saskatchewan border we could see very dark clouds off in the distance. We stopped at the information centre and asked about the weather. Sure enough, we were on the "flightpath." "Is this an area that would see a tornado?" I asked. The negative reply was the right answer and off to our next stop: Churchbridge Municipal Park. As we pulled in, we could tell right away that this was not going to be our favourite place. It was rather disorganized and full of mosquitoes. Emily had fallen asleep so off we went towards Yorkton to find what we could, even if it was a Walmart parking lot.
The closer we got, the harder the rain fell. As we pulled into Yorkton, we were greeted with flash flooding and partial blackouts. The bright lights of the local HoJo beckoned to us. We checked into what we thought was a non-smoking room. Not so. We moved to another room and decided that perhaps we should hedge our bets at the Walmart. John went into the office to give back the key when he looked at the weather network where it stated a tornado warning for the area. He came back to the truck and declared that we were going to be spending the night here.By this time, Emily had woken up. We showered and the three of us watched Mythbusters together. Ah, nothing like a little civilization no matter the star rating. And because the internet connection didn't work and the air conditioner quit in the middle of the night, John got us a free breakfast.
July 2 - The Yorkton aftermath
We have decided to live the high life for the next few days in a Saskatoon hotel. We needed to take a break from driving and to seek shelter from the elements here in the Prairies...not that the weather is all that bad in Saskatoon - right now.
We left Yorkton this morning in the aftermath of the storm. The flood waters had receded...or so we thought. We purchased some supplies at the Real Canadian Superstore (RCSS) only to find out from our cashier Bernadette that some residents had six feet of water in their houses. As we left this town of 17,000 behind, we found out on CBC that 150 mm of rain fell over a 30 minute period and the 130+ people were evacuated from their homes.
Emily got a Toupi and Binoo video and watched it from Yorkton to Saskatoon (about five times). She kept saying: "This is a funny video!"
With all the rain, the mosquitoes are terrible. The idea to stay at a hotel was good one. At the hotel, she danced and bounced on the bed and led us down to the pool with a bounce to her steps. The pool here is one of the neatest I've seen.
...and now for a much needed good night's sleep. Hopefully without a three o'clock thunderstorm wake up call.
July 3 - In Saskatoon...still
We have one more full day in Saskatoon and I have to say that the people here are very friendly and easy to talk to. It's a great city, with many kid-friendly activities. At kinsmen park we took a miniature train ride and three carousel rides (each ride was $1.00). Tomorrow, depending on the weather, we will either go to the Children's Discovery Museum or the splash pad.
Emily insists that we go swimming in the hotel pool at lease twice a day. So far I have only been able to manage once, but we do spend over an hour in the pool splashing around.
In some ways, Saskatoon reminds me much of Ottawa before it amalgamated, when it still felt like a small metropolis. This memory was quite strong for me when we stopped to listen to some music at the free stage of the jazz festival.
If you happen to travel to Saskatoon with your five year old and are looking for a place to take the family for dinner, don't make it Earls. Don't get me wrong - it's a beautiful restaurant (in an old converted bakery) with delicious food and excellent service. But it isn't a family restaurant, or a casual one. While others were dressed in similar fashion to us, most were decked out as if they were going to an evening at the opera. Emily was the only child under the age of 16 in the establishment and as we left we got looks from the other diners. We should have guessed when they didn't provide us with a kid's menu or crayons and an activity sheet. Fortunately, we were able to convince our little princess to use a fork for eating this one time because "after all, this is a fancier restaurant than the hotel one!" Not drinking simultaneously through her water and milk glasses took a little more convincing. She eventually decided that that was an activity better done at home anyway.
July 4 - Happy Independence day to our American Friends
I re-iterate that Saskatoon is a wonderful place if you have small children. There is a splash pad that is modeled after the Saskatchewan River watershed. It has everything from Rocky "mountains", prairie fields and badlands.
It was a rather quiet day and I think Emily's highlight was ordering pizza in our room...oh yes and going swimming, not once but twice.
One thing John and I did notice is the amount of tattoos people have here exceeds Ottawa's love for body ink.
All in all, a very good stay in this lovely prairie city. Thanks Saskatoon for showing us a good time.
Tomorrow, we make our way to Drumheller with an overnight stop (I hope) in Oyen, Alberta.
July 5 and 6 - It took 17 years but we are here!
The last time John and I were out west we had a choice to make before heading home: go and see the grain elevators in Innisfail or go to Drumheller. We chose to go and see the grain elevators with the agreement that we would go to Drumheller the next time. That decision was made in 1993. And here we are at last.
Yesterday's drive from Saskatoon was the best one we had yet. We were originally going to stay in Oyen, Ab which is about 30 kilometers into Alberta. As we arrived at 2:00pm we discovered to our surprise that we still had stamina and were willing to push on to Drumheller.
The tourism office staff were very knowledgeable and suggested that rather than the main highway we take a more scenic route: highway 570, which would take us right into the badlands.
As we drove through what seemed to be massive ranches and by the odd horsehead pump, I thought that around each bend or past each pasture we would be there. As I started wondering if we were even on the right road I could see off in the distance a break in the landscape. Could it be? Were we finally there?
The road twisted and turned and finally descended steeply into a massive valley. On either side of us were hillsides of layered soil. My description cannot do it justice... suffice it to say, it took my breath away. We drove through this wonder of nature in silence. We were too busy looking at everything. It was a cloudy day with a strong headwind, and despite the weather it was magnificent.
We arrived at the Hoodoo RV Resort and Campground, and I must say that this was a top notch place to stay. It was very clean and organized and it was located right in the badlands.
Today, we explored a little of the badlands and the hoodoos. John and I were awestruck by the raw nature. It is such a peaceful and serene place. We both felt very relaxed and at one with nature. We drove up one road and at the top took multiple pictures of the view. The sound of the wind through the grass was like music to fall asleep to.
Dorothy is a little ghost town nearby. It looks like there are about 10 residents still there but for the most part there are two churches and a dilapidated grain elevator. Some nice photo opportunities were had.
We left the Hoodoo RV Resort and Campground, kind of a bittersweet moment, to proceed to our next campground right in Drumheller. At first glance it didn't seem as nice, but then it wasn't as organized as the other campground. After a little thinking we decided that this was a good place in its own way and very close to all the attractions.
Drumheller is a cool place, but have your wallet ready because everything costs. I kind of felt like I was in Niagara Falls but lower key. Obviously not for the falls but for all the hype. They claim to have the biggest T-rex in the world here and you can climb to the top for a fantastic 180 degree view for the low price of $3.00 per person. We decided to take Emily to the Fossil World museum and shelled out $31.50 for a tour of a "museum" and the chance for Emily to dig for fossils ($12.00). Emily spent the most time, about 20 minutes, digging around in the sand and found herself a very nice ammonite that she was allowed to take home. The fun she had doing that was priceless. Otherwise it would have been a complete waste of money.
Tomorrow, we are off to visit John's uncle and aunt in Innisfail. I wonder if those grain elevators are still standing 17 years later. John doesn't think so... but at least we've still got the pictures.
July 11 - A day at the zoo!
Seventeen years ago was the first time I saw a prairie dog and it was at the Calgary Zoo. I remember exclaiming to John that one of animals had gotten loose. He calmly explained that these are prairie dogs and that they are everywhere. Today was my second time at the zoo and it over the years they have made some improvements including a pen for prairie dogs.
Emily had a fantastic time and besides the carousel being her favourite thing at the zoo (she also rode on one at the Chinook mall last night) the hippopotami and giraffes were her favourite animals. We hope to go back some day when the penguin enclosure will be completed.
We had walked for almost six hours straight so the dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory was well deserved. Emily wanted to go to the beach after dinner and I mentioned that I thought she would fall asleep before we got back to the campsite. She assured me that she could stay awake. In fact, she ended up trying to keep her dad awake. Everyone arrived at the campsite awake, so we went down to the river.
We had a great time throwing rocks into the fast-flowing current. John said that it recalled some great Alberta memories for him.
July 12 and 13 - Where did the summer go?
Our last day in the Calgary area was a quiet one. We took the time to go to the Okotoks Erratic, a glacial deposit in the middle of a field. As we walked toward this wonder of nature, prairie dogs poked their heads out of the ground to greet us. We spent the rest of the afternoon around the campsite and frolicking in the water. Oh yes, and looking for fossils. Emily found "a T-Rex skull bone" in the beach sand. Off in the distance I could see dark clouds and hear thunder. The storm passed us by and we continued to play.
We met family friends for dinner and we discovered that Calgary was hit with a crazy hailstorm with golf-ball sized hail. Dinner was pleasant and as we left the restaurant we were greeted with strong winds and cold temperatures. We were very underdressed for this sudden change in the weather. The temperature on our thermometer read 9 degrees Celsius.
We left Calgary this morning for Lake Louise amid rain and again cold temperatures. The day did not see anything above 11 degrees Celsius. John was driving, the GPS was on mute and we were listening to Jian Gomeshi on CBC Radio 1 talk about Lady Gaga among other things. So entranced were we with the discussion on the radio and the beauty of our surroundings as we entered Kananaskis Country we thought we were still headed towards the TransCanada. I looked at the GPS and noticed that we were soon running out of road. "How could that be?", I asked myself. We pulled over and noticed that we had driven right by our turn towards the TransCanada. That was soon rectified.
We are now nestled into Lake Louise Trailer Park. We've toured to two nearby lakes - Louise and Moraine - and both were breathtaking. Tomorrow we will make our way partway up the ice fields parkway and then to Banff. Hopefully the weather will be warmer.
July 14 to 20 - From Lake Louise to the Coast
I have been so taken by my surroundings that I have not had the time to complete my entries... so I will do my best to recount the experiences that we have had over the last several days.
Here I am sitting in Vancouver and yet part of me is still in Lake Louise. I feel that I haven't completed my visit there and will, at some point, have to go back. The glacial lakes of the area is something not to be missed... Emily still talks about it days later. Nearby Moraine Lake is spectacular. The turquoise colour of the water is like nothing I've ever seen. From every angle it seems there is a better photo opportunity.
I kept looking up to see the snow capped peaks of the mountains, trying to determine if I was looking at a glacier or snow. During a short trip down the Icefields Parkway we definitely did see some glaciers, including the one at Bow Lake. We went as far as Peyto Lake which is the highest lake along the parkway. The colour of this lake is a whitish turquoise, and the view of the fast retreating glacier was amazing. It certainly left me wanting more, especially as I looked down the parkway towards where we had yet to go.
One thing I had to get used to was the thinness of the air at higher elevations. I got a firsthand experience after I jogged the 100 metres up from the Peyto Lake lookout to the parking lot. It took me about 30 minutes to fully regain my breath.
During our stay at the Lake Louise Trailer Park, I must admit that I was on high alert for bear sightings within the park. We kept a clean campsite as did everyone else around us. No bears made an appearance. We did see a couple of elk along the side of the road, and on our drive from Lake Louise we saw a beautiful white mountain goat and a young black bear... right by the side of the road!
It was so nice to see my brother. The most important part of this stop was spending some real quality time with him. Kelowna is hot and reminds me of California. In fact, I found a Canadian Tire bag in the truck and thought to myself that we must have bought something when we were "back in Canada". It is a very busy town with some nice beaches and we spent a fair bit of time relaxing at the nearest one. One day Emily was happily playing in the sand. She pulled out her little plastic ferry boat and cars and like a bunch of little ducks flocking towards a crumb of bread, several nearby children came over for a closer look. Within minutes Emily was having a blast with about four children her age.
On Steve's birthday we went to Penticton to visit a few wineries and have dinner. We spent some time at yet another beach. I didn't find this town overly friendly and so we did our own thing. The people here were interesting as I compare it to what I thought Woodstock or Yorkville would have been in the sixties. People just hanging out, playing guitars and chatting.
On our last morning in Kelowna, we ate breakfast with Steve and then said our goodbyes as we departed for Vancouver.
Our trip to Vancouver took us through some beautiful alpine regions. The truck worked hard on the 97C as we climbed nearly 1500 metres in 25 kilometres. The views on this climb were breathtaking. We stopped at the summit of Mount Pennask to check the oil and let the truck cool off a little. Another fellow had stopped his truck as well, and in the bed was an enclosure with a large white animal inside. I thought, "Is that a mountain goat?" Upon closer examination I discovered that it was a fluffy white dog.
There are not many opportunities to stop and picnic or rest along the Coquihalla Highway. There is a rest stop at the beginning of Coquihalla Summit Provincial Recreation Area and it is just about the only one. We didn't stop there and ended up having to to pull off to have lunch at an exit along the highway. At one point we wanted to switch drivers and took the off ramp towards Princeton thinking it was just off the highway as many towns are. Not so, and we ended up doing a crazy u-turn. We looked at the map and discovered that Princeton was 100 km away... back in the direction we'd just come.
Soon we found ourselves back on the Coquihalla Highway and were driving along with all the other cars making a beeline towards Vancouver after a weekend in the mountains. All of a sudden a Toyota Camry passed me and cut over to my lane leaving me very little room. Naturally, I honked the horn as a warning. The car drove on, the driver seemingly oblivious. Next thing I know, the driver waved to me with what I assume was an "I'm sorry" gesture. Okay, so that appeased me a bit. Then he slowed down. "What the?!?" The passenger then put her arm out of the car window and waved. Okay...Okay I get it, they're sorry. "You are forgiven". Finally he signalled and took the next off ramp. Phew...we are now one car safer. As I passed them I looked over and was shocked...That is my father-in-law driving the car! We knew they were heading to Vancouver Island around that time but to meet them enroute was a total coincidence. We had dinner with them that night.
On our first full day in Vancouver, we headed to Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium. We picnicked in the park and marvelled at the massive trees and beautiful flowers. Vancouverites are very fortunate to have this wonderful resource for their use.
We then went to the aquarium. Emily and I were very excited to see the many sea creatures housed there. As we were standing watching a dissection of a squid and a Perch, I heard my name being called behind me. I turned and saw a dear friend with whom we have lost touch after she and her husband moved from Ottawa. We knew they were planning to move to the area but had no idea they were here! We caught up with them the following night over dinner and renewed our friendship, meeting their sweet little girl Renee for the first time.
Incidentally, back to the dissection. Emily stood at the front with her face right up to the table and watched with great interest as the aquarium staff dissected and explained the inner workings of the squid and fish. Hmmm....Dr. Emily Rest. Kind of has a nice ring to it. :)
And while we were in Vancouver we had our oil changed at Mr. Lube on Westminster Highway... a big mistake. The tech who serviced the vehicle was indignant when we refused offered services ("Your oil is black - we recommend a flush... Your transmission fluid level is low - we recommend a flush... your driveline fluids are dark - you need to have them replaced now"). And he became belligerent when we questioned the procedures (like using a filter wrench to tighten the new filter instead of doing it be hand). John worked at a Mr. Lube about 20 years ago and things seem to have gone downhill since then.
Incidentally, we are
Tomorrow we are on the ferry for the Island!
July 21 - On the Island at last!
We left Vancouver after two days of seeing the sights. Two days was not enough, but it does give us a reason to go back. What I was most impressed with this city is the respect for nature and the environment and how laid back everyone is. What a change from Ottawa or Toronto where everyone is in a rush.
The ferry ride was nice and relaxing and as we disembarked on Vancouver Island, I felt overwhelmed. Finally, we are here. The smell of fish and the sight of barnacles on the pillars of the docks made me realize that we were actually here.
Now, since Drumheller, Emily has wanted to run a "restaurant". I promised her then that we could do one when we got to Aunt Brenda's and Uncle Jim's with Omie and Ampa in attendance. This was not a promise to be made lightly. Emily reminded me on a daily basis that we were going to have a restaurant. If I let her, she would have invited the whole neighbourhood. As it was, it took some convincing that it should be a more intimate bistro with only a few specially chosen clients.
We all had our jobs. John was bus boy and dishwasher, I was the chef and Emily was the server. We had set the menu and the prices while we were waiting for the ferry... nothing exceeded fifty cents, and without a liquor license all of the alcohol had to be free.
We arrived at Jim and Brenda's and Emily suggested that we run the restaurant that night. Fortunately, Brenda offered up Bison patties and salad fixings. Emily and I went off to the grocery store to buy the other items on our menu.
Dinner went off without hitch, and the clients helped out with some of the dinner preparation and cleanup. With all this help, they even paid for their meals!
Emily wants to do this again...I suggested that perhaps we could do it when we got back home to Ottawa. That satisfied her...will she forget? Probably not!
July 22-25 - Courtenay and the Road to Tofino
Courtenay was a really nice time connecting with family. John, who hasn't been flying with his Uncle Jim since the early 80s in Germany, was fortunate enough to take an aerial tour... his Dad too. They got a good look at Comox Glacier and Mount Washington, plus the towns of Comox, Courtenay and Port Alberni.
Courtenay is all the better with a trip to Mount Washington, no matter the season. The express chairlift took us up to the top in five minutes. My first time up had me gripping the chairlift bar pretty tight, though Emily and John thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The views on the way up were spectacular, and I couldn't imagine what could be waiting for us at the top. A deer, as it turns out! The chairlift operator had never seen one so high up on the mountain. After we played in the snow (!) we took the lift back down.
On our last day in the area we took a drive up to Campbell River. The main reason was to service the truck as the "expert" at the Mr. Lube in Richmond suggested that our transmission fluid might be low. Campbell River is a nice seaside town, and one of its hidden treasure is their museum. Without giving any of it away, it focuses on settlement and industry in the area and the exhibits are incredibly well put together. The cost of admission is well worth the visit. And if you're in Campbell River over lunch, a stop at Dick's Fish and Chips is well worth the time... it's a floating dock right at the wharf. The meals comes wrapped in a paper cone and the tables are purpose built to hold the cones upright as you eat your meal. The fish is good... but the fries are amazing. On our way back to John's Aunt and Uncle's place we stopped at a bakery on the 19A (still in Campbell River) but I can't remember the name. The chicken pies are out of this world! Loaded with goodness and not too salty. I wish we had bought double and froze them.
Now, there is only one road to Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park - highway 4, also known as the Pacific Rim Highway. It is not for the faint of heart but well worth the drive. The highway in many parts is narrow and winding and I wondered in many sections how a semi could get through it. That said, the views that you get are like nowhere else on earth...or at least in Canada. I trusted John's driving completely but that did not stop me from white knuckling the handle bar on the truck door. Emily was oblivious as she watched Angelina Ballerina the whole way.
Crystal Cove RV Resort is in itself worth the drive through the mountains. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained and there are two beaches...one is in a cove (no surprise there). At low tide, one can walk a ways out on the ocean floor to view tide pools and underwater marine life up close. There were many starfish, crabs, barnacles and kelp. Unfortunately we didn't see any sea otters. The second beach is about a kilometer long and is white and sandy. Campfires on the beach are popular.
Our first day in Tofino was a great one.
July 26-27 - Tofino, Ucluelet, and points between
As I mentioned yesterday, this place is amazing. Though remote, it's a bustle of energy. Our first full day in Tofino included a whale watching tour. While Emily was excited about the concept the day before, that morning she was less then enthusiastic... probably because she wanted to stay at the campsite and play with her toys. We convinced her that we would see some really neat whales and the she would enjoy it.
She didn't. Well, she started out to, but the sea was very wavy that day and Emily felt it in her tummy and her throat. We were only 30 minutes into our two and a half hour tour. Hoo boy! Emily and I sat towards the back of the boat and I had her concentrate on the horizon and rocky islands. We played a guessing game as to what could live on that island. This seemed to help and she settled down enough to fall asleep. I relied on John to take pictures of the grey whales we saw. As we arrived back in the harbour, Emily woke up feeling great. In fact, she asked why we didn't go to the top of the boat (the upper deck or, in other words, the end of the pendulum). When I told her it was because she fell asleep she suggested that I could have carried her up there. Then she observed that asleep she probably wouldn't have noticed anyway. Smart kid!
That afternoon we spent some time at Long Beach and watched the surfers try to catch the perfect wave as we built our sandcastles. We did go into the Pacific up to our waists and John actually swam, just so he could say that he did. This part of the ocean does not get warmer than 14 degrees Celsius. We started to feel pretty numb and quickly got out after a few minutes.
After a nice dinner at the trailer we went to the Wickaninnish Restaurant for dessert. Dessert was high on price but low on quality and qunatity. The view was nice, though, and we took a walk along the beach to see what was in the sand and to check out the tidal pools. On the way back to the resort I saw my second bear of the trip. Apparently bears on this part of the island do not hibernate as it never really gets cold.
Where Tofino is more touristy Ucluelet (you-CLUE-lit) is quiet. We did find an amazing breakfast place called the Blue Room, and I found my Haida ring in town. Emily discovered a dreamcatcher and was happy to understand how it was supposed to work. When we got back to the trailer she devised a way of hanging it above her bed and did it without telling us or asking for help. Smart kid!
Tofino is a really neat place. There is a neat kind of energy there and there are probably more coffee shops and Volkswagen buses per capita then anywhere else in Canada. There are only 1700 residents year round but about 1 million people visit there in the summer months. It's hard to believe... I'm used to going to Sandbanks in Ontario where the beach is so packed with sunbathers I can hardly walk through the throng. The beaches in Pacific Rim seem barely used in comparison. It is kind of neat, though to see every second car with surfboards strapped to the roof.
In Tofino there is a gem of a knitting store called Knits by the Sea which stocks only natural fibre yarns. Emily wanted me to make her some stuffed dinosaurs and we found the perfect yarn in this little shop. Anyone knitters who visit this area need to include this store on their list of stops.
John and I decided that we can't wait another 40 years to visit this area and will have to make the trip again, crazy highway and all, long before then.
July 29-30 - Victoria
Victoria is a picturesque city with a very old downtown core. We stayed at Westbay Marine Village and RV Resort. Our camping neighbour stated it so eloquently: "This is the nicest sardine can I've ever stayed in." While this may be true, I think the Hiawatha RV Resort in Kelowna would have fit that description better. True, the sites were pretty close together here, but the view of the marine village, the inner harbour and the cruise ships who docked daily more than made up for it. From our vantage point we also got close views of harbour seals, a sea otter, and many marine birds including a heron. We hardly used our vehicle to get around as the harbour ferry stop was right at the resort and it took us to the downtown core - we bought a 48-hour pass and it paid for itself.
We met up with the Sanders family: John's childhood friend Lorraine, her husband, and their two wonderful girls. Emily and the girls became fast friends as Natalie became the head engineer in an intense dam building project at the beach at low tide. It is amazing how much water a determined girl can manage using some rocks, sea weed and a little bit of sand and pebbles. We ate together at a place called "Naughty Nellie's (Not Just Seafood)". Interestingly, this fish and chips place which includes on its menu mushy peas (a very English menu item) was run by a Chinese couple. The place was decorated with soccer team scarfs and Chinese porcelain cats - an interesting merger of two different cultures.
As I mentioned earlier, Victoria is beautiful and many people love and are proud of their fair city. We saw lots of that and some other stuff too... like the woman yelling profanity at her ex-boss (who was not even there). And there was the guy in Chinatown using the phone booth screaming words that I wish Emily didn't have to hear. Douglas Street seems to Victoria is what Rideau Street is to Ottawa: lots of shops, a major bus route, and displaced teenagers hanging out.
The island as a whole is a beautiful place with very varied climates and there is something for everyone. I hope to go back to Tofino one day in the winter and witness the 20 foot swells I've heard about and to Victoria to take another whale watching tour to see the orcas, and to Comox to visit John's Aunt and Uncle. The island will be missed by all three of us, but it gives us many reasons to return.
Tomorrow we board the ferry and begin making our way back home.
July 31-August 1 - Victoria to Hope
Today we left the island, and we're sorry to be going. We had a wonderful time there and are looking forward to going back one day.
One major thing Emily is learning on this journey is how delicate our ecosystems are, and how we have a responsibility to protect them. Once again the message was received through a naturalist's presentation on the ferry. I didn't realize that so many migrant birds stop over for a short period of time in this region to eat, only to continue further north to lay their eggs. These days, even if Emily sees a bug, she gives it a wide berth so that it can continue to do its part in nature.
Our campground in Hope was quite nice although it would have been nicer if it wasn't so close to the Trans-Canada. Actually it was sandwiched between that and a very busy railroad.
We were all awake early the next day and raring to leave for Castlegar when John noticed that we had a flat tire on the truck. Sigh. Luckily after an early morning call to CAA, friendly Wilfred arrived well within the promised half hour timeline. By eight o'clock we were on the road and heading towards Castelgar. Thanks, Wilfred!
August 2 - August 3 - Castlegar
Our stay in Castlegar was a restful one. Castlegar is a small town and, from what I can tell, the main industry is lumber. For those interested in history, this region was largely settled by Russian immigrants.
The Kootenay River Campground is a nice one. It is an old converted drive-in theatre, and one screen and the original buildings still stand. What would be really cool is if the campground owners refurbished the screen and began featuring open air movies. At first glance, the site seems quite rustic. There is an old fountain/pond which is overgrown and not currently in use but would be nice if it were brought back into service. A community firepit is located right on the shores of the Kootenay River.
We took a day trip into Nelson. This is a very historic town with a picturesque downtown core and several eclectic coffee shops. I'm not sure what Nelson's primary industry used to be (gold or lumber, or both perhaps?), but now marijuana seems to be what is keeping this town booming. There are more dreadlocks per capita here than anywhere else I've been on this trip and that includes Penticton and Tofino.
We walked up and down the main street and stopped in some art galleries and little shops. The Nelson experience is enhanced by a stop at the Twisted Tomato restaurant, a small little bistro that specializes in gourmet pizza. John had a slice of their specialty, loaded down with meat which he stated was very good. I chose the classic eggs benedict (there are about five types on the menu) which were by far the best I have ever eaten - very saucy and the poached eggs were cooked to perfection. This dish was served with a side of gently roasted spinach and tomatoes.
I found Emily a really cute fairy dress in one of the shops. Emily has worn it twice already and has performed several ballet dances. I guess the dress inspired her... or could it be the many hours of watching Angelina Ballerina in the truck?
August 3 - Sparwood
After the flat tire at Hope, driving with no spare was causing us a bit of concern. Finding a place that could fix it without affecting our itinerary was also a concern. We were originally heading to Fort MacLeod with the hopes of seeing Head-Smashed-In buffalo jump. I had learned about the site in high school and was hoping to see it in person.
Safety and security comes first and we found out from a fellow traveller that there's a Kal Tire location in a place called Sparwood, right on our route. Right next to it is a community campground - camping neighbours in Castlegar told us it was really nice. We decided to drop the tire off and stay at the Mountain Shadows Campground, and to leave the buffalo jump for a future trip.
Sparwood is a coal mining town, and proud of it... from the Terex Titan (world's largest dump truck) parked at the info centre to the sign you see leaving town: "Modern Mining Benefits All Of Us". Visitors to Sparwood can even sign up for tours of the local mine; we didn't due to timing constraints. I did think of John's Uncle Inky and how he must have worked for a similar mine during his days of hauling coal with his dump truck.
The campground here was very wooded although quite close to the highway. The firewood is included in the very low nightly rate of $22.00. That said, I don't know if I would stay there again. There wasn't much to do in Sparwood and, while the campsite was nice, it wasn't incredible.
Incidentally, the folks at Kal Tire were very accommodating. Initially, the service advisor gave John an ETA of about an hour. After going into Sparwood to get the groceries (at a grocery store named "Overwaitea", no less) we went back to pick up the tire. It wasn't ready, so he fixed the tire for free. You don't find service like that everywhere!
August 3 to 5 - Cypress Hills and Medicine Hat
We left Sparwood (and, minutes later, BC) just after 7 AM amid scenic beauty. The last leg of the Crowsnest pass offers, in my opinion, some of the best scenery in BC. John and I both enjoyed this highway as much as the Rogers Pass. We drove through the Frank Slide and there is not much difference from 17 years ago, except that the rock pile on either side of the highway seemed smaller somehow. Perhaps it was due to the fact that there are now some hearty pines now growing amid the rocks, or perhaps the last time we went through we were in a car and the walls of rocks may have seemed higher. In any case, it is still a humbling sight.
We arrived in Medicine Hat right around lunchtime and we met with our friends Bill and Sheila. We walked the block and a half to the Zucchini Blossom, a cafe/market owned and operated by their daughter Kris. Close to a residential section, it's a gem of a place that's always hopping. Much of the menu is Mediterranean inspired and freshly made. I think one of the most popular items is the Rodeo Panini which is only served around Stampede time. John and I both had that and we each downed a bowl of awesome soup. Mine was a curry chickpea that had a little bite to it. John's was butternut squash, which he ate with gusto.
After settling into our campsite at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, we drove back to "The Hat" and had dinner with our friends. Thanks, Sheila, for making that marvelous pizza. Now we know where your daughters got their wonderful cooking talents!
Next morning, we were all invited to the pottery studio where Sheila makes her creations. After Sheila threw a bowl and the start of a mug, I was asked if I wanted to give it a try. I threw a rudimentary candlestick. It was a great experience and makes me want to try more. I think some pottery classes may be in my future for the fall.
We toured the Medalta Pottery museum and were invited to step inside a beehive kiln at Plainsman Clay. This kiln, which is no longer in service, is the last of 17 kilns still standing at this site. It is closed for public viewing while it is being refurbished. Due to Sheila's patronage, we were invited in to take a look. This kiln was used to cook clay sewer pipes at the turn of the century. As some older sewers in town were being replaced, workers were able to salvage the originals, many of which are now on display in the kiln.
Cypress Hills is a nice park and has a fairly substantial lake. There are many campgrounds and we were in one of the newer ones, walking distance from the beach. I would consider this park a large oasis among vast prairie fields. For residents of the area, this would be an ideal place to travel to get away from it all.
August 6 - Billings KOA
Our drive to Billings was very isolated... just the road and ranches as far as the eye could see. We did see two pronghorn antelope standing by the side of the road. Very prairie.
The border crossing was uneventful and as we continued down the highway I kept looking at the gas gauge, watching it drain quicker than I cared to see given the absence of town... and gas stations. John checked for stations along our route and the closest was 155 km away... our distance-to-empty gauge was reading 140km and despite John's assurance that there was a reserve, I asked him to check for the closest station to us, route notwithstanding. We found there was one 90 km away. Along the way we pulled into a station at a dusty crossroad and there was a sign on the pumps - no gas. I went into the store to ask for the next closest one - 7 miles away... definitely doable. The owner explained that given their remote location many of the gas stations in the area often ran out of gas and waited days for delivery. Be sure to fill up before you go... and bring along a full spare can for insurance if you get 10 mpg like we do!
Despite this minor worry the scenery along the route was very impressive.
The Billings KOA - the world's first - was very nice. The spaces are a little tight, but that's expected at a KOA... and we have been in tighter. The place is nice and clean with a well kept park and pool. Also, the weary traveller can get a meal at dinner or breakfast at the BBQ counter. The office and gift shop has a surprisingly nice selection of wine (and beer). I had to buy the Happy Camper Chardonnay which turned out to be quite tasty.
We could tell that we were getting close to Sturgis as there were many motorcycles and their owners camped out. I was surprised to see that many of the motorcycles were being transported on the backs of pickup trucks or in fifth wheel toy haulers, or in trailers on the back of motor homes. In any case there were some pretty impressive setups.