Friday, August 12, 2011

Back in the USA!

We crossed the Canada-U.S. border at Coutts, Alberta/Sweetgrass, Montana this morning about 10:00 a.m. Of all the times we’ve crossed borders during the last 3 months, this one could have been the tough one, so we made sure to have no more than the allowed amounts of liquor and cash, no fruit (especially citrus), no guns (we don’t own any), etc. All the meat in our freezer was from Alaska, none purchased in Canada. We had our Passports ready, and Shadow’s vaccination records handy. The insurance papers on the motorhome and car were within reach, too. We had to wait in line about 15 minutes before moving up to the agent.


His first question: where had we been? We had actually just discussed this a few minutes earlier, to remember the 3 Canadian Provinces (Alberta, Yukon Territory and British Columbia), as well as Alaska. Tobacco, alcohol and citrus were his other questions. None, a little (more than 2 bottles? No), and none. He asked if we had a good time on the trip – Oh, yes! Then, Welcome Home! Nobody came inside to inspect our refrigerator and cupboards, and there were no other questions. He didn’t even ask if we had any pets, so Shadow was smuggled across the border. We were over-prepared; but we were happy! We were on our way within 20 minutes, including the wait in line!

We stopped for fuel in Shelby, Montana. It was great to pay US $3.859/gallon instead of CAN $1.459/litre (the highest we paid in Pink Mountain, B.C.) or CAN $1.699/litre (the price we avoided paying at Saskatchewan River Crossing, Alberta). Depending on when you purchased, and the value of the U.S. dollar in Canada at the time (or the organization’s own conversion rate), CAN $1.459/litre could be US $5.50 to $5.79 per gallon! And that’s not counting the international fee your credit card provider might charge if you didn’t use cash.

It’s also nice to return to miles on our speedometer (the bigger numbers) instead of trying to figure out where 90 kilometers/hour appears (the small numbers, especially hard to see with sunglasses). And we don’t have so many heavy coins to carry around. Canada doesn’t have one-dollar bills, only coins (called Loonies) and $2 coins (called Twonies or Toonies). When you get change for anything over $5, you get a lot of coins!

I don’t intend to criticize Canada, as we really enjoyed touring through its beautiful scenery and meeting so many wonderful people, but it’s great to return to our own country and the things that are familiar to us.

We reconnected with Dennis and Carol, and Larry and Marilyn this afternoon. Due to a temporary lock-down on Malmstrom AFB, we weren’t able to sponsor the Forbes into the FamCamp, but we’ll get them in tomorrow. We’ll get together tomorrow for a special picnic on base, and several other times during the next week. It will be nice to stay in one place for a week, after traveling for the past 6 days.

And here are a few things we haven’t seen for a while. A sunset. (Followed by darkness!)


A full moon. As a matter of fact, any moon, as it never got dark enough to see it with the sun still shining late at night.


BOTH of our satellite dishes are up and connected to the satellites. We turned on our DirecTV service today (we put it on hold in May), and after a few phone calls to resolve a few glitches, we’re watching programs in High Definition, using our DVR (Digital Video Recorder) with two inputs so we can watch one program and record another at the same time, plus enjoying features such as Pause, Fast Forward, Quick Tune, etc.


Flowers! They were so expensive up north, I insisted that Don save his money and spend it on other things instead, because they were all more expensive, too. So today he surprised me by bringing home a bouquet.


It’s good to be home.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lethbridge, AB

We’ve been without Internet access for the past few days, and we had a long drive today, so this blog entry will be brief.

We and the Forbes traveled from Houston, BC to Prince George on Monday, then to Mount Robson Provincial Park (just outside Jasper National Park) on Tuesday.

We thought we had become immune to beautiful mountains, since we’ve seen so many. Then we rounded a curve and this giant jumped out at us! Mt. Robson is absolutely gorgeous!


Wednesday morning we drove about 20 miles into Jasper NP, paid the daily fee of $17.40 (Sr. rate) that was good until 4:00 pm the following day, parked in Whistlers Campground at $27.80 with no hookups (and the worst roads we’ve seen in the past 3 months!), and spent the rest of the day playing tourist. We could have spent a lot more time in Jasper, but we have a date to keep and just couldn’t stay. Plus, we found it crowded and very touristy.

We had a superb Greek dinner at Something Else in Jasper. We were early enough to avoid the crowds.


Today, Thursday, Don and I drove almost 400 miles (through Jasper NP, the Icefields Parkway and Banff NP) to Lethbridge, Alberta. We’re staying in the same park where we stayed in May. It’s a beautiful park, but a lot more crowded now. We were lucky to get the last 50 amp full-hookup pull-through site by calling ahead.

We found a Chinese restaurant nearby where the food was okay, but service was extremely slow. And when we finally left, it was raining. The storm we skirted ahead of today on the road caught up with us. As I write this, it’s raining even harder, and Shadow is wisely postponing his evening stroll!

Here are a few of the beautiful sights we saw on the road today in the National Parks.








I think we’ll have to plan more time for this area the next time we come this way.

Tomorrow we’ll be returning to the Lower 48. It’s been a wonderful trip, and we’ve enjoyed the three Canadian Provinces we traveled through, as well as Alaska. But we’re eager to get our jacks fixed, or at least get the process started. And it will be great to re-join Dennis and Carol Hill tomorrow, and the Forbes in a few days.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Houston, B.C.

We drove about 245 miles today from Stewart to Houston, B.C. (This Houston is nothing like the Houston we know to avoid in Texas!) It was a beautiful day, with sunshine, smooth roads, light traffic and pretty scenery. We’ve become somewhat blasé to pretty mountains, having seen The Great One and several other fairly magnificent ones. But we still appreciate nice countryside. We saw a small black bear this morning – it looked like a cub, but we didn’t see a sow anywhere nearby. And we saw cows and horses, and fields of newly-baled hay, for a change of scene.

The first stop of the day was to get pictures of Bear Glacier, about 25 miles east of Stewart.


It’s hard to appreciate the scale of this glacier. It’s across the Bear River from where we were standing. It’s not anywhere near as large as Salmon Glacier, but it’s still big. And it’s close to the highway. Here’s a close-up of the bottom.


That’s a lot of ice! The river looks pretty calm here, but downstream where we drove beside it there was a lot of white water.


Back on the road, before long we had come to the end of the Cassiar Highway 37 and turned east onto the Yellowhead Highway 16. We stopped at Hazelton where we ate our lunch in the Visitor Center parking lot. There were 3 statues honoring minors, packers and loggers.


Don wondered, Why does he have his foot on a pitch fork? Maybe he used it to sift large gold nuggets out of the rocks. Click on the pictures of the plaques for a better view.






There was a small farmers’ market in the parking lot.


I bought some delicious tomatoes at this stand for $2 a pound (they were $6 in Fairbanks, where we did NOT buy any).


We found a small RV park on the highway, Siverthorne RV Park, a little mom & pop place just west of Houston, with fairly level parking on grass. $24 for full hookups, including $2 HST – lots of Canadians are unhappy about this new tax. Compared to what we’ve paid recently, it seemed reasonable and a lot better than an unlevel turnout on a busy highway.


We enjoyed happy hour in the shade since the sun was warming us up!


As usual, Shadow loved the grass, and he got spoiled with some peanuts coming his way. He even got a belly rub or two under Larry and Marilyn’s feet.


All in all, it was a very pleasant day. We’ll head for Prince George tomorrow.