Two hundred and fifty miles for the day. Normally I’d say that is a short day but it felt long. Little of interest on the roads today, many stretches of moderately rough pavement and the last 30 or so miles wall to wall trucks from the Alberta oil and gas fields.
We started the day from Jasper at about 0730, a good early start for us. The temperature was a cool 35 degrees to start the day but the sun was shining and it was a beautiful start to the day. There is a gondola to the top of the mountain behind the national park. It closed at 8PM or we would have been tempted. The following two pictures give you a sense of why it would have been a fun ride with great views http://www.jasperskytram.com/360-view.
I think this last section of industrial mining operations was part of what tired me out. It was disappointing to come into such an industrial area after the beauty of the run up the Icefield Parkway.
We are also beginning to appreciate what a long trip this really is. We have traveled over 4,000 miles and still have 1,500 miles just to get to Fairbanks, AK. We are averaging 285 miles a day which doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up when you do it day after day for weeks. We have taken a couple of days off from travel to do laundry and rest but it is a pretty demanding schedule because our goal is to get to Alaska and then spend some days exploring at a slower pace. Tomorrow we are looking at a 400 mile run to Fort Nelson, mostly because there is almost nothing between Dawson Creek (mile 0 on the Alaska Highway) and Fort Nelson. We are also finding that sleep comes a bit harder when it is daylight until 2230-2300. I can’t imagine what we’ll do when we are in constant daylight in Alaska.
At six AM we were in the service department of Okotoks Ford to try to get in line for a service appointment. Julie Niles, the service advisor, made us feel right at home and as if we were her only customer and concern.
By 0900 Charli, the mechanic assigned to us, had found the problem (a loose hose), fixed it, replaced the coolant and we were on our way. No charge for labor and a discount on the coolant. A wonderful dealership staffed with caring and competent people. If you are in the area and need help they’ll be there for you.
We wanted to take the Ice Road Parkway so we skirted around Calgary on 22 and then took Route 1 to 93, according to most sources the most beautiful road in North America. I have to admit I was stunned by the beauty of this road and the really good condition it was in. As usual, words fail so just enjoy the scenery.
That’s all for tonight. It has been a spectacular day. Tomorrow’s target is Grande Prairie.
So we started out for Banff this morning and got no more than a few miles out of town when the temperature gauge on the truck suddenly jumped and a warning light came on saying we were overheating. We shut down and checked the radiator, which appears full and not hot at all but noted that it appears radiator fluid is leaking from somewhere in the engine bay. With the size of the Ford diesel motor it is almost impossible to see anything in the engine bay so we limped back to Okotoks are are now camped out in the Ford parking lot. They open at 0600 tomorrow morning and we hope to know more by the end of the day. This trip was to be an adventure and so it is. More to come tomorrow. Let’s hope for a simple fix.
The day started cool and early as we left Glacier Campground at 0730. We were advised by the Alberta travel folks to not take 93 north, my original plan. They suggested taking 2 to 93, 93 north to 3, 3 east to 22 and then 22 north to Okotoks. After taking the trip today I can vouch for their good wisdom.
Montana has a macabre but fairly effective way to remind drivers to be careful and pay attention to their driving. Because the speed limits in Montana are 70MPH on state roads and 80 MPH on the interstates I suspect most crashes are pretty serious. The state posts little white crosses along the highways at the site of fatal accidents.
We crossed into BC on 93 and continued north, not really knowing what we might expect as we traveled north and then east. What a pleasant surprise to discover that this road was every bit as scenic as the roads through Glacier Park.
This is coal mining country and there are signs of mining on the heights of the land all along route 3.
Apparently Alberta has wildlife issues and they are experimenting with some warning signals to alert drivers to animals in the road ahead. Vermont might want to check with Alberta to see how well this system is working.
Route 3 east is also the site of the worst landslide disaster in Alberta history. I’ll let the markers tell the tale.
Route 22 north is called the Cowboy Trail and it was soon clear why we were directed this way. As you drive north, to your left the horizon is punctuated with a massive, snow covered ridgeline of the Canadian Rockies.
The contrast between east and west as you drive north is spectacular and I highly recommend this route over 93 if you are traveling this way.
Our stopping point for today is 274 miles from where we started, in a Walmart parking lot where we hope things will quiet down so we can have a peaceful night’s sleep. Next stop may be Banff, a short trip, but a base from which to launch a long day’s drive to Jasper.
Once the decision was made to spend another day here near Glacier National Park it was clear that we wanted to hike somewhere in the park. The hike needed to be “reasonable” given the fact that we couldn’t take Ginger with us into the park trails. So she got to stay in the camper and sleep on our bed while we did the Cedars Trail and then the 2 mile climb up to Avalanche Lake. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but understand that there is no way they can capture the majesty of this park.
Perhaps the videos will give you some sense of the power of the water.
After our trip up and back we headed back to our camp site for the evening. But the day wasn’t quite over. As we were driving out of the park a car suddenly swerved into our lane. We were headed for a head-on collision until we swerved into the oncoming traffic lane. In my mirror I watched the Kia slowly drive off the edge of the road and come to a stop.
We stopped, expecting to find someone having a medical emergency but to our surprise we discovered an individual well under the influence of something. They wanted to get back in the car and drive off but it was clear they were in no condition to drive so we confiscated the keys and waited for law enforcement to arrive. In the meantime, we directed traffic around the scene.
It was an exciting end to the day. And a reminder of why we are on this trip – because you never know how much time you have to enjoy the beauty of our creation.
We have stopped for the evening at Glacier Campground, near the entrance to Glacier National Park. It was a short 200 mile day from Great Falls, MT to Glacier. We haven’t been in the park yet but the approach to the mountains was spectacular. Our little Green Mountains are beautiful – these mountains are majestic.
US Route 2 runs through from East Glacier to West Glacier Park. We haven’t decided on tomorrow yet. We might try to get up into the park but we know the Going to the Sun Road is still blocked by snow drifts so we won’t be doing that tour. If we don’t stay here tomorrow I expect we will be across the border and into Canada tomorrow. Stay tuned.
I know, we’ve missed a few days since the 28th, but we have an excuse – no internet. We left the air base in Grand Forks and made a long winding run to Medora, ND and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park where we spent two nights. The park is beautiful but I’ll let the pictures tell that tale.
This is just a small sample but the beauty of the Badlands and the wildlife is hard to describe or capture in a few pictures. And the beauty there is uninterrupted by electronics (no cell service – period). So we unplugged for two days and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Today we left the park and 400 miles later find ourselves in Great Falls, Montana where we are spending the night in the driveway of a friend we met through a Ford Truck forum. They have been most gracious hosts, feeding us dinner and providing us a place to crash after a long day.
As we traveled from ND to MT the terrain began to change. At first, the landscape was just huge open fields. But little by little we got into rolling hills and more vegetation. Things began to green up.
We are tired from a long day at the wheel in warm weather. The temperature coming into town hit 91 degrees – not what we expected this close to the mountains. But the weather has cooperated unlike at home, where rain has been the norm. Tomorrow we begin to assault the mountains – Glacier National Park, Kalispell and 93 north to Canada.
Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and so we only traveled about 120 miles from Fergus Falls to Grand Forks. We again took local roads to make the trip which is more time consuming than the interstate but takes us through the heart of small towns along the way. Unfortunately from a photogenic perspective we are still in farm country – wide open spaces with lots of corn just starting to show. Some small towns along the way do make you smile
Many of the small towns along the way have a population numbering in the tens not hundreds. Not the case with Grand Forks, a beautiful city. East Grand Forks lies in Minnesota while Grand Forks is in N. Dakota. With a population of almost 60,000 it is the third largest city in ND.
Grand Forks is large enough to have a significant downtown with a large Cabela’s right on Main Street. The moose statue caught our eye as we passed by. The University of N. Dakota is based here and Amazon has a call center here. The North Dakota Mill and elevator is the largest flour mill in the US. There are lovely parks along the river and an abundance of small, local shops.
Just to the west of Grand Forks is the Air Force base, our home for tonight. As retired military we are allowed on base and permitted to use a campground on post.
The government has decided to base the aircraft that used to fly out of here elsewhere. It is sad for this old soldier to see an airbase with no aircraft. The base is a lovely spot but it doesn’t feel right without a flying mission and it seems almost deserted. During our short stay we saw few people and much of the base feels “empty”.
On this Memorial Day weekend, as we rest in the security of an Air Force base, we remember those who don’t have the security we enjoy and who have taken an oath to protect and defend this great nation. We especially remember those who sacrificed all for our freedom, past and present. Let us not focus on what divides us on this Memorial Day but rather unite in support of those who defend us every day, both at home and abroad.
I think we are finally figuring how to slow down and work together on this journey of discovery and renewal. Thirty five years of marriage and we still need to occasionally remember how to work as a team and not as competitors.
We left the Walmart in Albert Lea at about 0800 this morning. But we weren’t alone last night.
The countryside is getting more interesting as we continue to head north toward US Route 2. U.S. Route 2 or U.S. Highway 2 is an east–west U.S. Highway spanning 2,571 miles across the northern continental United States. Our plan is to intersect with Route 2 on our westerly journey to 89 into Alberta. But the land is still far flatter than our beloved Vermont.
One thing we have been frustrated with is there is no way to tell how much gas in left in our propane tanks. We have been on the hunt for a new and very nifty gauge that works with a cell phone app to tell you how much propane is left in your tanks.
When I was growing up in Northfield, there was an A&W just beyond Norwich on Route 12A. I have fond memories of real root beer in ice cold mugs – but A&W’s in Vermont are much like the DoDo bird – extinct. To our delight, Minnesota has managed to preserve a small but important part of history.
Minnesota has an abundance of wildlife and lakes. We stopped at an overlook between Mankato and New Ulm and were surprised to find this nesting area full of birds. Helen grabbed the long lense for the camera and was able to get a decent shot of the island just full of nesting birds.
Did I mention that the roads are straight and narrow?
We have ended the day in Fergus Falls at another Walmart. This spot seems much quieter than the frog infested site of yesterday. We were serenaded last night by a full chorus of amorous amphibians. Tonight we hope for a more peaceful end to the day. A small thunderburst just passed through followed by a rainbow. We will take that as a good omen. 212 miles for the day. -Shawn
Memorial Day weekend starts now – and there isn’t a campground to be found that has space so we are in a Walmart Supercenter parking lot for the night. We regretfully left Sugar Bottom in IA this morning. One of the nicest campgrounds we have stayed in. One last look at our site to remind us of how nice it was. But we have to move on because the campground is full for the weekend. But if you are ever out this way put this on your highly recommended list.
The highlight of our day today was a visit we made to Northstar Campers, the manufacturer of our truck camper. Rex Willett, the CEO, graciously took and hour out of his day to talk about our camper. He looked everything over and pronounced our rig fit to travel. He then took us on a tour of the plant so we could see how our camper was made. The facility is human scale, nothing like the plants we passed in Elkhart. And it was clear that Rex and his staff truly care about quality and are proud of what they build.
We left Northstar and headed north, ending up here in Albert Lea, MN. A short day on the road but a great day learning more about our camper.