Archive for July, 2000

28-30 July Wetaskiwin – quadding

28 July

This morning on the drive up to Wetaskiwin, I learnt that while the road was undeniably straight, the countryside was not flat, with those negative connotations of not having any hills. but open. Brenda was home.

I found an ATM & tried to get some money out, but as well even though it insisted on communicating entirely in french, it managed to convey the message that it was not going to give me any money with anything short of explosives, or failing that, somebody else’s card. I was beginning to detect a pattern here.

So we caught up with some of her teaching friends over lunch and drove out to Sharon & Daves place. When Sharon was in Waterton with us she had obviously not realised that if she invited us to come and visit on the way north that we would not do the polite “oh no, we couldn’t” thing, but instead ask if we could go quadding as well. So we did.

Now this quadding thing probably requires a little explanation. A quad is a four wheeled motorbike. And quadding involves taking said bike and riding across every river, through every track in the bush and up and down every hill (they put some on for me specially, though it is amazing how you can hide a reasonable sized river valley in a prairie) you can find Generally as fast as possible, which took a little effort on my part at times as I had only ridden one once before. But I managed to keep up. During this you discover that quads float. A little. Enough so you have next best thing to no traction on the river bed. & get swept downstream. but not enough to stop them drowning themselves. It was also discovered (but not by me) that if you get it a little bit wrong driving up a steep enough bank, they will fall onto their backs. Driving down the hill was easier, all you had to do was drop it into second, lean as far back as you could, and forget about trying to stop on the way down.

Of course this is one of those activities that you cannot explain how much fun it was, or why. The details of what you actually did, just don’t sound as good when you weren’t there. So I will leave it at that.

In our little crowd of quadding & post quadding revelry was one of Sharon & Daves neighbours, Sheryl, who obviously hadn’t met that many New Zealanders before, because she decided that Kiwi (that was me) was ok, because he drunk beer. What can I say, it comes naturally.

29 July

Quadding again. See above.

By this point I was beginning to get a bit concerned about the effect that spending this long in North America was having upon me. This was prompted by being given a beer and deciding that even though it was a Budweiser it didn’t taste too bad. Either the one I had in Argentina I had was crook, and the entire US beer brewing industry was the butt of jokes it didn’t deserve, or I had caught some insidious North American disease which made it taste like beer. I had to get out before I was completely assimilated and started spelling badly and needing warning labels. But

before I did I had to go for another quad ride. Which was like the others, except with less rivers and flatter hills because it was dark, and Darwin had a theory about people who do that sort of stuff.

30 July

Today we had to leave to drive north to Edmonton to see Brenda’s dad. But not before slipping a quick quad ride in (they were fun you see) & doing the museum. While Brenda visited one of her old neighbours I got to drive myself, without the aide of my portable road codes, to the local museum. While Wetaskiwin is a rural backwater, a lot like Ash Vegas, but wjthout the sense of terminal boredom (but that may just be because I was quadding for most of the time I was there), it has a great museum. It seems that one of the locals was a born collector of cars and machinery and planes and stuff, and often went flying around over the prairies looking for derelict stuff to collect and restore. And then he donated it all to make a museum. So I wandered around looking at cars and planes and learning how a grain elevator (the big towers they store grain in) works.

25-27 July Banff to Calgary – animals?

25 July

Due to the limited number of ways to spend money, we decided that the best activity was to have a bit of a wander up one of the hills. The one which looked most promising, the locals called Sulphur Mountain. We could go up on a gondola, or we could save the $20 (Canadian), and walk up you could catch the gondola down for free (1 guess it uses less electricity that way). The cheap way seemed to be the perfect option. Especially as I had been told that you could hurt yourself on that ground if those cables snapped, and preferred my ground close to my feet and not accelerating towards me at 9m per second per second. Odd I know.

It was quite a nice little walk & the way up killed 1 1/2 hours quite nicely. Brenda did not feel that is was such a fun way to spend an hour or so, but found enough energy to tell me how much she hated me & to refuse to turn around and go back down. I blame my being out of breath on the altitude (Banff is high), and that the climbing more hills to become acclimatised to the altitude approach was working a little slower than expected.

On the way up we met a mountain goat, which was obviously fitter than Brenda, as it wasn’t asking to be carried. But it was coming down. Maybe it caught the gondola up & walked down. It was a friendly goat though, walking right up and sniffing my hand looking for food. I suspect that it had been fed by tourists before. That or it was an above average bear .

But we made it to the top, which was full of tourists who had obviously taken the $20 poorer route, because they didn’t collapse into a small heap at the top. But the view was nice (partially because I wasn’t having to drive through it). Although I can’t imagine why a Coke should cost $3 at the top of the hill & $1 in town just down there. Still the same stuff isn’t it? 1 decided to buy two in town shortly.

So then Brenda convinced me that the gondola was the best route down. So we sat in the gondola looking down at the ground and the path we walked up (ok there is some artistic licence there, but staggered just seems a little alcoholic ), more tourists walking ( in the same manner as us) up. At this point the other guy in the gondola said “I can’t believe that people actually walk up there”. When Brenda said that we did he looked kindof funny, like he was locked in a small fibreglass box suspended 50m above the ground with two head cases, and all of a sudden started acting like he didn’t mean to offend.

But the thing that touched me most today was the email I got from two close friends Matt & Sarah commenting about the silence on the email front, and hoping that 1 had been eaten by a bear. Thanks guys.

So, having run out of ways we couldn’t spend out money, we drove on to Calgary.

26 July

A day where not a lot happened, other than me slaving in front of a computer writing this stuff for you. In between going in to Calgary & having a wander around that is.

27 July

Another day bumming around Calgary .The money machine was being uncooperative, but I figured it was just having a bad day or something. We then wandered off to another museum to look at some coins. I offered to just drive myself there, but Brenda weighed up the options of me driving her car through Calgary to a destination I had a vague idea of the location of, or being dragged through another museum. She didn’t have to think too hard. But this time, while I looked at a nice display of coins, Brenda decided that she could absorb this sort of thing by osmosis (she probably learnt this from her students), found a chair & went to sleep.

On Thursday nights in summer the Calgary Zoo has something they call Jazzoo. You pay your money and they have a band at the zoo as well as the animals. There was some Irish band there when we went, so I am not sure where they get the Jazz part of Jazzoo, but then again, why would you let details like accuracy get in the way of a catchy marketing line.

It was good that the band was there, because most of the animals were hiding. It is possible that they had gone to sleep, but implausible given the amount of noise & number of people wandering around, more likely is that they had wandered off to listen to the music as well.

However I feel that the most likely explanation is that zoo management had discovered that people don’t expect to be able to see all of the animals all of the time. This means that rather than admitting that a cage is empty because one of it’s former occupants went crazy, killed all of it’s cellmates & therefore had to be destroyed, it is more profitable to leave the signs for the Mountain gorrillas, Dragus regis & dodo in the cages. Not only does your zoo look more impressive, but people will actually spend longer at a cage where they cannot see the animal, waiting for it to appear, than one which they can clearly see the animal sleeping in a corner. “Oh look, a lion sleeping in the corner, that’s nice, whats next”. And the more time people spend at the zoo, the greater the overpriced icecream and drinks revenue. The savings on food did obviously not need to be explained to zoo management, but the increased revenue from people returning again to “see the gorilla which must have been asleep the last time we visited” came as quite a surprise even to the most imaginative marketing people.

24 July

Still disappointed by my bear experience, we drove on to Banff, through more lovely scenic mountains, which looked disappointingly similar to all of the other lovely scenic mountains & tended to

[Ed. -At this point either Pat found a bear, and it was not of the local vegetarian type -or he wandered off and forgot to finish the sentence. ..we shall await with baited breath, the next exciting installment!]

Do you really think that I am the sort of person who would just wander off and forget that they were in the middle of something? No. A bear came for me. A big one. And I had no carrots. Why would I be carrying carrots? Luckily, after some effort I managed to convince the bear that a drink (which I was carrying), would be even better than carrots, and we departed friends.

This does however lead to an interesting observation. The Canadian parks service people have all of these signs around telling people not to leave food lying about outside, because that not only attracts the bears, but trains them that there is food in campgrounds and therefore a good place to hang out. Logical. Likewise the signs saying ‘don’t feed the bears’, which has led to the development of very clever disguises by some bears ( although not your average bear of course).

However the same signs also say that if you are actually chased by a bear, the best thing to do is to drop something (like your backpack, not the person you are travelling with). It seems that the idea of this is not that you can run faster without it, although I suspect that that would be a likely result. No, the bear will investigate the pack. And upon investigating it, it will discover that there is food inside, so it was a worthwhile exercise. Now what does that train the bears to do? Any bear on reading the signs, can see that if it wants to be fed, the best bet upon stumbling across a tourist is not to sit there and look cute (unless wearing a clever disguise), but to run at the tourist, so they drop their backpack. And if they aren’t carrying one, well the signs also point out that bears can run faster than tourists, so as long as they are willing to flag the vegetarianism for a day, they will be fed either way. Good work forests service. At least things are slightly safer than the US, where they tell me it is a constitutional right to arm bears.

So, having got rid of the bear, we drove on to Banff, through more lovely scenic mountains, which looked disappointingly similar to all of the other lovely scenic mountains & tended to drag on some. This wasn’t helped by Brenda telling me to slow down whenever I managed to get them nice and blurry .Which considering the effort I needed to go to to do this in the Blazer is pretty inconsiderate.

But eventually we arrived in Banff. Banff is, as I knew, a resort town, a cosy spot nestled among the mountains with lots of ski fields around. This means lots of tourists. From this I imagined Queenstown, where upon discovering that they already have two of every imaginable way to separate tourists from their money, have gone out and invented new ones. These include, but are certainly not limited to building bridges for the sole purpose of having people throw themselves off.

But Banff is not like this. We called in to the visitor information service to determine where we could obtain the maximum amount. of adrenaline for the minimum amount. of cash. There was skiing of course. but being the middle of summer. that was kindof out. There was rafting. But unfortunately somebody once told Brenda that you could drown in water when it was in that rare liquid state. so she prefers it in its solid form. and even more strangely to ski on rather than cool her drink. These Canadians can be odd, but that knocked the rafting out.

Other than that you could go mountain biking. hiking. fishing or shopping in anyone of the many fine stores supplying a wide range of quality Canadian souvenirs. which were often priced in Yen for your convenience. So it seems that in Banff in summer there was little to separate the non-souvenir buying tourist from their dollar. Which was in many ways a godsend. as I was spending NZ dollars which had continued its plummet. It was still odd though. despite the lack of things to do, tourists still flocked here. Maybe it. was the scenery.

19-23 July Vancouver Island & back – not so tropical islands and vegetarian bears

19 July

While the caravan park we were at was cheap, uncrowded, on the beach, a unanimous decision was made by all of those with voting rights in such matters, and decided that Portaloos were just not the required standard. My comment that they were the cleanest Portaloos I had ever seen did not appear to sway the decision any. So we drove off to Victoria looking for another one. We drove right past the dive store I had been recommended in Waterton, so we stopped and I arranged a dive for the next evening. We eventually found another camp site which had been decided, was more suitable. Unfortunately it looked a lot like a carpark, but it had nice toilets.

Bored with the chore of switching campgrounds I suggested we should take a bit of a drive up the coast, Ucletot looks good. By the time we had stopped at several places on the way there to look at stuff, it was 6pm when we arrived. So we had tea, had a bit of a look at the Pacific Ocean, which was looking disappointingly peaceful. Flat calm, a great sea for diving under, fishing on, water-skiing on, that sort of thing, but not ideal looking at ocean conditions. But you get that. Naturally enough we then drove back. I thought that driving for a few hours through the hills was a pretty good way to spend a day on holiday, but Brenda & Shari seemed less enthused. Then again maybe it was just driving for a few hours with me that was the problem.

20 July

Today we drove into Victoria, the main city on Vancouver Island. We got there by the failsafe Pat method of navigation, which takes you past lots of interesting places, and always gets you where you are going as long as that is not anywhere specific. So we wandered around there for a while had a look at the shops and bummed around some more. In the afternoon I went to the air museum while Brenda & Shari sat in the sun & read their books. Very little taste these girls.

In the evening I went for my dive, which was just off the shore along the breakwater at a place called Ogden Point. It was a nice little dive, nothing hugely spectacular, but the really good dives in the area need to a boat, booking several days in advance, large sums of money, all that sort of stuff, so I had to do without.

21 July.

Waking up a 7:45 was not a good start to the day. Even worse was the fact that I couldn’t just go back to sleep as some bright spark had booked the sea kayaks for 9am. But we got the sea kayaks and paddled off to some little islands & rocks and stuff and had a look at some seals which must have been Americans not Canadians as they weren’t very friendly & buggered off as soon as they saw us coming. After a tough morning on the water we decided we needed to round it off with sitting on the beach for the afternoon.

22 July

I had another dive this morning, similar to the last one, but in a different spot. All in all not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning. Alas our time on the island had come to an end, and we had to catch the ferry back to Vancouver .

23 July

We dropped Shari at the airport, as she was flying back to Edmonton as her sister was having a baby shortly, and she wanted to be there for that. Or that was her excuse anyway. So after 3500 kilometres on the road we accosted a stranger for a photo of us and the caravan at the airport and bid our tearful farewells. At least until next week when we see her in Edmonton. This time we manage to navigate our way out of Vancouver without driving through the centre of it. Stunning huh?

Then we drove on to Shuswap Lake, which despite having a funny name, was a nice looking lake. Very scenic, like most of the rest of the country , but you tend to suffer from a little scenery overload after a while. Canada needs a few really hideously ugly things scattered about to provide contrast to the pretty stuff.

On the way to Shuswap Lake we stopped at a wildlife park, which provided the most disappointing revelation of the entire trip. It was bear feeding time at the zoo. They fed the bears carrots. After being led to believe for the past 3 weeks that bears are dangerous wild animals which eat a diet consisting of rubbish scraps, pets, and tourists. The scariness factor of an animal, which eats carrots, is very low. Brenda tried to convince me that they also ate people, but now they just look like large rabbits to me.

16-18 July Osoyoos to Vancouver Island – what a gas

16 July.

Today we drove on to Osoyoos. which is Canada’s only desert area. Quite a nice looking spot with a lovely lake in the middle which provided irrigation to the orchards around it. .Osoyoos lake cuts across the US border. and because the US gets a bit annoyed with boaties who go over the border without filling in the requisite forms, there is a row of buoys across the lake marking where Canada stops and the us begins.

The road over the hill into Osoyoos gave great views. But I could not help feeling that they, like so many of the other nice views that the mountain roads had were spoiled by the metre high concrete barriers that they had all along the side of the road. I am sure that they are an admirable safety device, but really did spoil the view.

We all went for a parasail on the lake, which was pretty cool, you get a nice view from up there & a good buzz which left us all in happy moods for the rest of the afternoon. After mucking about on the beach for a while we decide we should push on to Hope.

On the way there I found the answers to some of those questions which had been preying on everybody’s minds.

How long does the last 1/4 of a tank of gas last in a Chevy Blazer. -About 10 km.

How long can you drive said Blazer with the fuel light on -About 40km.

How big is the tank in a Chevy Blazer -At least 65.5 litres, although Brenda reckons it could be as much as a 68-litre tank.

How much shit do the passengers give the driver when he answers the question of “how long has the fuel light been on?” with “Oh. a while” and the next question of “how far is the next town?” with “quite a way”. -Surprisingly little.

I guess that they figured that they would be able to sit in the car & listen to the stereo. cook tea in the caravan. do that sot of thing while I walked to the next town. We trusted the fuel gauge a little less after then, but did make it to a gas station before we ran out.

Hope was not particularly exciting, more a good place to stop after a long day on the road.

17 July

The road from Hope to Vancouver is pretty much motorway all the way. so we cruised along there without much to provide excitement. with the only possible exception being the Corvette police car which was going the other way. We found a campground. ditched the caravan & headed into the city.

We decided it may be best for our stress levels if we wandered around separately. Brenda & Shari went clothes shopping & I wandered around some other side of town, where among other things, I found a great car rental place. They rented anything from a fairly ordinary BMW up to Ferarris, with the middle including Dodge Viper, 911. that sort of stuff.

Unfortunately prices matched, and when I returned & told Brenda & Shari of this great place they didn’t seem too keen to go thirds even without knowing the prices. Typical chicks huh? They did say that if wanted one they would pick me up from the police station at the end of the day, which was quite nice of them.

18 July

We drove up to some famous suspension bridge, which I have forgotten the name of & can’t be bothered looking up, and walked across that, and then drove to the ferry to Vancouver Island. This involved driving through the centre of downtown Vancouver, or at least the route we took did, and as I was just driving, not navigating, I cannot take any of the blame there. The Vancouver locals did not seem too concerned by the sight of an old caravan driving through the centre of town, and even decided to put on a whole lot of roadwork’s for us to make the lanes narrower & more interesting. Generally they appeared to figure it would be less hassle if they just steered clear. I think Brenda had her eyes shut most of the time, her definition of ‘plenty of room’ appears to differ from mine a little bit. The fact that it is her car might have something to do with it. But we eventually made it to the ferry to Vancouver Island & a couple of hours later we were there.

We ended up staying at Sidney. Canadians are both very unoriginal in naming their towns and cannot spell (though that is probably just American influence). Sidney is the sister city to Cairns & you can see the family resemblance, except for the fact that Cairns is tropical.

13-15 July Nelson to Christina Lake – glaciers, tornadoes and extra costs

13 July

In another attempt to kill me, Brenda suggested that we go for a bit of a walk in Kokanee Glacier Park. So we walked up to the lake. As we discovered on our return, this was a 445m-elevation gain, and the distance on the map was one way, not round trip. The lake at the top was still covered in a thick slushy layer of snow, and we had to walk through quite a bit of snow to get there. Brenda commented that other people would have learned from the last visit to a”… Glacier Park”, that there was likely to be snow about, and that I should therefore wear shoes, but she only said this 1/2 way up the hill. But my feet thawed back out again.

While we have Keas in alpine areas, which enjoy chewing on bits of cars, Canadians have porcupines. The car park had warning signs that if you were leaving your car overnight to put chicken wire around it. It seems that while Keas enjoy door rubbers and the like, because porcupines can’t fly, they have to make do with stuff that is lower. Like tyres, brake lines, that sort of thing.

It was remarkable though the difference in cars that simply going to an area, which had hills, brought about. All of a sudden there are European cars about, MGs, Triumph TR7s, a couple of Porches, that sort of stuff. It is amazing what corners do to the desired characteristics of cars.

14 July

Brenda was tired again today & didn’t feel like walking much, so we wandered around Nelson town, sat on a beach and that sort of stuff. You know, like a nice summer holiday.

15 July

We decided that we should torment Shari some more, so picked her up on the way to Christina Lake, which is pretty much another scenic hill surrounded lake. But there was an internet café there. As you mayor may not have noticed ( or cared), the emails have been few & far between of late. This is because there are sod all internet cafes in this country. That or they are all just hiding from me. Actually there are not that many cafes. It appears that cowboys don’t drink espresso, because the closer you get to the ocean, the better the coffee gets.

Brenda & Shari had just heard that a tornado had cut through a caravan park in Alberta between Calgary & Wetaskiwin. They made some pretty fast phone calls to make sure that there was no-one they knew there at the time, and luckily all of their friends were fine, although one of Brenda’s relatives was staying there & had gone out for the day, arriving back 10 minutes after it had hit.

Back at our campground we were lowering the tone of the neighbourhood again. Surrounding us were campervans which when they grow up want to be cruise liners. The standard campervan (or caravan) appears to be approximately the size of a small house, but with only a few of the really essentials. Like air-conditioning, TV aerials, satellite TV dishes, that sort of thing. Often rather than drive these busses around all day they will tow a small car behind them to use on day trips and the like. Generally nothing too fancy, just a Jeep Grand Cherokee or something. Or a ute. With the ute having a Goldwing motorbike in the tray. But my personal favourite was the one towing a trailer with a helicopter on the back. Only a small one mind you, we wouldn’t want to go to excess here, we do go on holiday to get away from it all. Somehow our caravan, just didn’t quite foot it. Oh well.

As well as being the land of excessively large campervans, Canada is the land of extra costs. I went to the bottle store to grab a few beers. Had a look in the fridge (they don’t have walk in chillers -odd huh?), see some for $8.45. Go to the checkout, hand over a $20 & get back a whole pile less change than I was expecting. Look at the till tape. There is a 60 cent bottle deposit, 60 cent charge for the chillier and tax. Why this could not have been included on the price label in the fridge I do not know. But still they have a jar on the checkout for tips. I’ll give you a tip. As much as I would like to say that this was an extreme example, it wasn’t. You just get used to seeing a price and adding 10-15% for all the other stuff they were going to nail you for but not tell you about until afterwards.

11 July Fernie to Nelson

11 July

We wandered around Fernie for a bit. It is a small winter ski town that is developing into an all year tourist town, & it kind of shows, but isn’t a bad place. The mountain biking is apparently pretty good, but we went for a walk instead. We headed up the chairlift at the ski field (after taking care to park the caravan in a spot with space to turn around) & then walked down the hill.

After successfully making it back down the hill we drove on to Nelson, BC. To get there we had to take a free ferry across the lake. It was basically a barge with ramps at each end & was a bit of a novelty .We are now a day earlier than Brenda had arranged with her friend Leeanne. We also had and address which some would consider vague. But neither Shari nor I complained. We were too busy looking for the stucco house with lime green trim just off the main road. Which we found.

Then Brenda is tired of having to back caravans into slots, and tells me to park it. This involves a 90-degree backwards turn to park on the side of the road. Because Brenda & Shari are busy talking to Leeanne I get to do this based on estimating where the edge of the caravan & road are. But I back it straight in, nice and close to the curb first time. Brenda suggests that it would be better a metre or so further back, but I suggest that it would be fine where it was & unhook it.

Little did I know at that point that I had won the job of backing the caravan into all of the spots from then on. Little did Brenda know until she read this that I count that as one of my biggest flukes & the reason why I wouldn’t shift it any further back is it would have been a complete mess. Hey, there is skill in knowing when to stop: And I do have that skill occasionally (although those of you still reading will no doubt be questioning this.)

Nelson BC is eerily similar to Nelson NZ. It is near a lake & mountains. The biggest industry is tourism. The second is being an unemployed bum, the third is growing dope. Leeanne, who is a vet, said that the biggest single cause of after hours vet callouts on the weekends is when the cat or dog eats the hash cookies. Leeanne said that there was more to looking after a high cat than making sure that there was food around in case it got the munchees though.

Nelson BC is also roof rack country. All cars here have them, even more than the rest of the country. I don’t think these people have heard of travelling light. I would have thought that if all of that stuff was really essential, rather than tying a bundle to the roof of the car that is as high as the car itself, it would be better to get a car that isn’t a Honda Civic. Though why you would put two mountain bikes on the roof rack of a ute I still have no idea.

After we finished comparing Nelsons we drove off around the lake to Cody cave & took the tour in. The cave was pretty good, but a fairly easy path in, no crawling through tight gaps or much climbing. On the way back we stopped at the hot springs at Ainsworth, which are similar to the ones at Hamner. The temperature of the hot pool was 44 degrees, and there was a cold pool to provide contrast, which was 4 degrees.

After this Shari decided that she had to escape and used the pretext of visiting her nana in Trail to do so. In the evening Brenda decided that she needed a horse fix, and we went to see Leeanne’s horse Murray. Leeanne & Brenda decided that they were up to the challenge of teaching me to ride, so I did. I could see that this caused a great dilemmas for Brenda. Should she hope for me to fall off, at the risk that I would break some limb, and then she would have to travel with a damaged Pat for the rest of the trip? I am not sure what she decided was the best option, but she did seem to be very enthusiastic about me trotting Murray rather than just walking him. But I didn’t fall off.

9-10 July Logans Pass to Fernie – cars and caravans

9 July.

Today we drove down to the land of the free, and drove through Logan’s Pass in Glacier National Park. This park joins Waterton Park, but cause it is in the US they have to have their own name, own administration etc. Brenda & Shari neglected to mention that even though it is the middle of summer, there is likely to be a lot of snow at the top of the road. I guess they assumed that I would put the words glacier & snow together. Some people huh? Anyway, I didn’t, so I got to play in the snow in my sandals, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Brenda & Shari decide that they will refuse to be embarrassed by the sandaled one running about playing in the snow, which was pretty good of them. Logan’s Pass is very scenic, with lots of impressive mountains & a big valley and all of that sort of stuff. So with stopping every 15 minutes or so too look at the view, it was a pretty easy drive for the Blazer.

But it broke down anyway. This time I wasn’t driving. It decided that dash lights were cool, and 1/2 of them should come one. Ones like “check engine”, “abs”, and lots of others. But to even things out, 1/2 of the gauges stopped working. Ones like the fuel gauge & oil pressure. So we drive on, because we are 1/2 way up a mountain & nothing seems to be actually wrong with any of these things. Brenda was even good enough to let me drive around the bottom of the park through the hills & back home. Probably just to give herself & Shari something to complain about.

Then we get back to the border, where the guy takes the little card that I had got in LA that said “this card must be returned to US immigration on your departure, or bad things will happen when you next try to come in (or something like that)”. In Chicago no one seemed too interested in doing this immigration thing, so I got stuck with the card & a vaguely uneasy feeling that it was going to come back & haunt me. But I got rid of it, without any apparent ill effects.

It was interesting to see the difference between the US & Canadian immigration. The motto of US immigration seems to be “everybody out there wants to immigrate to the US, probably on this trip, and we don’t like immigrants, if you are really aggressive and don’t smile, they will collapse in fear and confess their sins”. The Canadian immigration seems to have the approach that 99.999% of the people who come in are doing no wrong, and you are the first impression they have of Canada, smile & be nice some”. Or maybe it is just that Americans are naturally like that.

Anyway, we make it back, pick up the caravan & drive on to Pincher Creek. We set up in the campground there. It was one of those nights that no-one could get to sleep, so I decide I will go and lie in the hammock outside for a while. Shortly later Brenda comes out and wakes me up, telling me that I can’t sleep outside, because the bears might get me.

10 July

We hooked the caravan up to the car & dropped them both in at the GM dealer (that list of all of the GM dealers in BC & Alberta Brenda got in Lethbridge was pretty useful) and asked if he could please fix it. Then we wandered in to town & did some grocery shopping. When we came back they had managed to find the problem and even fix it. It seems that in a past attempt at fixing something, some dopey idiot had put a screw through one of the wires into the dash.

We then asked them if they would take a photo of us under the GM dealer sign, because we decided we would start to collect them.

Then we drove on to Frank. This is the scene of the Frank Slide. Not a waterslide, a bit of a rock slide. In at about 4am in 1903 or so a bit of the mountain fell off & covered 3 square kilometres at the bottom of the mountain in some rock. The corner bit of the town of Frank was under this rock, as were about 70 people. The aerial photos of the mountain are amazing even 90 years later.

We also went into a coalmine, which was quite interesting & a bit on the dark side when they turned off the lights, and went and saw the worlds largest dump truck at Sparwood. It had a capacity of 350 tons & was quite big.

We then drove on to Fernie and looked for a place to stay. The first place, despite being cheap & having a spa pool was not satisfactory as it was too close to the main road. The next place looked nice, with a whole lot of trees and such, but was full, the third place was the parking lot for Fernie ski field, which also had a lot of construction going on at the time. It also didn’t have a lot of space to turn the caravan around as Brenda “show me how to back a trailer in one easy step”, and “no, I will do it” found out. Eventually we made it back down & ended up at the first place.

6-8 July Head Smashed In & Waterton – buffalo & lakes

6 July

Today we all piled into Sharon’s truck & went to Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. What the story here is that in the days before the European settlers arrived & slaughtered all of the buffalo with guns, the Indians used to hunt them by herding them over a cliff. There was a pretty good ‘interpretive centre’ here, which explained how the Indians did this, all of the different uses they had for all of the different bits of buffalo, how they could only do this when the buffalo migrated in spring or summer & how they then cured all of the meat so it lasted all winter, and how there are 6m of buffalo bones at the bottom of the cliff. Then having seen all of this, we drove back to back to the GM dealer, who says, “we couldn’t find anything wrong with it, it seems to be working fine now”. And it is. So off we drive to Waterton National Park.

7 July

We wander into Waterton, look at the Elk wandering through town, and then go for a bit of a walk to some waterfalls. When we get there Brenda & Shari decide that it would be cool to push on to the lake. Lake Bertha is up a bit of a hill, but is a very nice looking lake. On the way up, I decide that I would like to see a bear, and tell Brenda and Shari of this. They are less keen, and try to dissuade me with tales of how dangerous bears are, but in the end give up and give me lots of useful advice, like “if you see a mother with her cub, go and pick up the cub, they like that”.

They really are pretty cool chicks like that, always wanting to help. Alas, we arrived at the top without seeing but a single bear. As Brenda and Shari collapsed at the lake edge, I spotted some snow around the lake some and wander off to play in that. The Canadians didn’t seem to find playing in snow such an amusing past time, but I am not sure why. In the evening we drove through a paddock where they had a small herd of bison. Unfortunately these were distressingly similar to cows, and much less impressive than I had imagined. On the way back we saw a bear on the side of the road (well spotted Pat),

8 July

Today, Brenda & Shari decide that they want a quiet rest day. Somehow I got the blame for them walking up the side of a mountain. I got the blame for a lot, including waking Brenda up at night, because she claims (falsely), that I snore.

Brenda decided that the best cure for this was not to rest her imagination, but to throw stuff at me & on more than one occasion woke both Shari & I up by dropping what she was bout to throw at me on Shari. I got the blame for that too.

So we bum around, drive to some lovely scenery, sit on a beach at the lake some, do not a hell of a lot.

Then I go diving in the evening. I arrange to meet Brenda & Shari at a given pub in about 1 1/2 hours or so. I then go for a dive in Lake Cameron. While Waterton itself is quite high (about 5000ft), Lake Cameron is up a mountain some more. It is a lovely picture postcard sort of a lake, surrounded by snow clad mountains, snow down to the lake edge, you get the picture. And as I forgot my camera that is the best picture you are going to get.

Anyway, we were off looking for a sunken forest. Details were pretty sketchy of how it got there, but it was supposed to be pretty impressive, and the visibility really good. Unfortunately we didn’t find it, and the visibility was pretty poor, and the water was a touch on the cold side (my hands & feet were ready to fall off when I got back), but you get that. A great view on the swim back to shore though.

So then we went back & I turned up at the pub to find that Brenda and Shari had got bored of waiting & wandered off. It seems that they thought “1 1/2 hours or so” meant about 90 minutes. Oh well.

2-5 July Calgary, Drumheller & Coaldale – dinosaurs and lemons

2 July

Today we spent wandering around Calgary, we went to an air museum, where I had a good look at lots of different airplanes, including a Lancaster bomber, and Brenda & Shari looked at the same things much more than they wanted to. We also went to Spruce Meadows, and Brenda & Shari enjoyed looking at some horse jumping competition & I also saw some horses jumping over stuff. Brenda’s sister Wanda was kind enough to oblige us by having her baby (Blaire Joan Hutton) today, so we could leave on time tomorrow & Brenda could do the proud auntie thing.

Thanks Wanda.

3 July

After a little bit of a wander around getting essential stuff for the trip we left for the dive to Drumheller. Here I began to understand why American cars have the handling characteristics they do. If you put the non-straight bits of road in a vice and squeezed them really hard you would have a slight curve. This also explains cruise control. And we were not in the flat area. After a while we arrived in Drumheller & Met several more of Brenda’s friends.

4 July

Today we went to the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum. This was pretty cool, as somewhat predictably, it had lots of dinosaur fossils. Then we wandered off, saw the hoodoos, which are sandstone pillars that stand up because whoever designed geology thought it would look kind of cool. After that, because it is summer here (hope you are all well back at home), & this touristing is thirsty business, we went to Wayne & stopped at the pub. We couldn’t stop at anything else there, because there wasn’t much. But the pub was pretty cool, similar to Cardrona.

5 July

Today we drove to Coaldale. Where the drive to Drumheller was flat and straight, this was flatter and straighter. Scenery consisted of oil wells. And still I was assured that this wasn’t flat. “You see there, kilometres in the distance, there is a slight rise and kink in the road? See, it is not flat and straight here.”

Brenda, deciding that on a straight flat road, even I should be able to drive without causing any more stress than I do by simply being in the same town, and gave me the keys. I quickly discovered that that cruise control thing is useful. Shari asked me about the international drivers licence thing. “Do you need to sit a test or anything?”

“No”.

“But how do you know what our road rules are?”

“I don’t, but considering that this driving on the wrong side of the road has thrown my left & right off, (not that it was that good to begin with. although I passed an exam to prove I know right from wrong), this is no great loss”. She wasn’t too fazed. After all, whenever I got to an intersection I just asked them “who has right of way here”, to which the answer was only occasionally “they did”. But I found that a more lazzaire faire approach to road rules works fine. Pull up to an intersection slowly. Stop. If there is no one there, drive on, if there is, decide whether it looks like they are about to go, and if not, drive through. There is also the similar technique of being the biggest, fastest & least concerned looking, but Brenda didn’t like that one. She herself did however practice the “sorry I am just a dumb lost tourist” approach to road rules, with as much success as I did.

At Coaldale, we stopped at the birds of prey centre, where I saw a couple of golden eagles, bald eagles (which is mostly a scavenger), owls, some other birds and coolest of all a vulture, aka the skinhead of the skies. They don’t have feathers on their heads to stop bacteria & stuff growing there. So having looked at all of the birds we get back in & drive on.

I am driving on, and decide that there is something funny here, the car doesn’t want to shift up. So there we are driving down the highway with a top speed of about 70km. Brenda is good enough to not go spastic and blame me for breaking the car, but decides that she would prefer to drive it for a while. We limp into Lethbridge, and find the GM dealer there. Brenda explains to them that it is the second time it has broken down in a week, and that we were on holiday. They can’t do anything with it now, “but leave it here & we will look at it in the morning”. So we ditch the caravan & drop it back for them to look at in the morning.

“Do you think they will see it here Pat?”

“Well, considering that you have parked it in front of the workshop doors, under the sign which says ‘no parking’, they probably will spot it”.

The tourist office confirmed that Lethbridge is not the most exciting town in Canada. Major attractions were the really high and long railway bridge “oh, they one on the left heading to our campground?”

“yes”

“seen it”, and the brewery gardens. “Does the brewery do tours?”

“no, the brewery closed, all there is there is the gardens”.