Alaska 2014

NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER coming back to San Jose are in [square brackets].


Report 17. Day 17. Wed, May 21. Great Falls, Montana to Calgary, Alberta. Into Canada

I wake up, and get ready for the mobile RV repair guy, Bret, to come. I notice meself in the mirror, and show Sharon. Her expression is good enough that I take a selfie, and here THAT is:

What good is life if you can't make a little fun of yourself. Wish I could somehow get this onto my California drivers license.

Promptly at 7:30am, Bret comes, I review the shredded fresh water fill delivery tube problem with him, and he sets about picking parts out of his truck cabinets. He goes back and forth several times as he removes the old one, and preps for the new one. It turns out that the shredded tube is a mid size between the two sizes he has. Hmmmm. But after more checking, he explains that only the small one will fit on the exterior hole component, and only the large one will fit the top of the fresh water tank. He proposes to slide the small one into the large one, and fasten them together. He proceeds to do that (I forgot to ask him how they are fastened together, but trust him totally to do a proper job. He is what is technically known in the RV repair business as a "good guy."

Here are some photos we took of the event.

You can see the clever license plate he has. At right, he listens as I lecture him about he should always do his best for us travelers. And that's him saying, "If you say one more word...". Or maybe I'm remembering that wrong.

Anyway, below you can see the inlet fixture and the very beginning of the problem tube. At right, I hold the bad tube (middle), the smaller one (on your left) he will use part of in the solution, and the bigger one (on your right).

He finishes, and we figure he is in a hurry to get to his next job. But to our surprise, he asks if there are any other problems we'd like him to look at. We tell him about the now-not-working red light on the water pump switch needs to be replaced. I show it to him, and he explains that its a switch/light combination, and takes it apart. The problem isn't with the light itself, but rather the switch. He has a replacement and installs it. "Anything else?" he happily asks. Fantastic. I point out a missing screw in the four-screw attachment arrangement on the trailer entry door. He looks at it, and says, "That's a special machined screw. I think I have one." And he gets it, screws it in, and that's that. Wow. {He says anytime he replaces the door mechanism he saves these special screws so he will have one for this exact situation, Smart guy.} What a great find - this guy. $105 for all of that work. What a bargain.

We rig for driving and go back into town, where I fill up at a Loaf 'N Jug station.. Sharon bypasses the loaves but brings back some veggies and other items. 33 gallons into our 36 gallon tanks, roughly speaking. We had about 2.5 gallons left, or about 25 miles to empty tank. Pretty close. {I get nervous when the yellow warning light comes on, but Bob looks at the miles left to empty tank and feels comfortable. But then the warning bell comes on and I get really nervous.} Note to self: fill up every morning if below half a tank. I go in and get a couple of ice cream things. We hit the road, and Sharon reads as she does every morning.{I read from 2 meditation books every morning as we start our trip, A good way to center ourselves for the day.}

There's a great red-tailed hawk hovering, looking down on the ground, but we're past it and don't find out the results. I reach for my voice recorder -- uh, not here. Where is it? I pull over and check everywhere I can think of, but get the thought that it's in a pocket of my blue jacket. And it is. Hmmm.

Sharon: we’re gonna start adding up times spent looking for it. Fine with me. I'll use calculus because of the complexity of the problem.

And so now we’re off again 47 miles into the morning.

Here are some photos from the morning.

Sharon loves redbud trees, since we have four small ones, at home - one in the front yard and three in the back. {I got 10 redbud trees free for joining the Arbor Day Foundation about 6-7 years ago. Ours are now just starting to bloom each spring. I had almost given up on their blooming but they responded when I took them out of pots and got them in the ground. I also like their heart shaped leaves. It's fun to see these so big blooming in these Northern towns.} I like the long view of the road we're about to experience, through the windshield, which gives it a greenish tint.

Sharon gets a Northern Harrier with its distinctive white rump patch.

About 11 am, I pull over for a trailer restroom stop for Sharon. We take off, and soon we're only about a half-hour from the Canada border. Lethbridge will be our first big city in Canada.

We approach the border and Sharon asks if I want to eat in the U.S. before we cross over or in Canada. I say let's have our last lunch in the U.S. and we pull off to a rest area.

We finish lunch, and we prepare to cross into the big CA. Here is a dessert I picked up at a KFC. I discovered this some time ago. It's the best lemony cake I've ever hard, and the hard-to-get-into container reseals it, keeping it fresh for days and days.

We make it through the border check quickly, answering lots of questions from the attractive young lady Canadian Mountie(?). No, no weapons, except kitchen knives. No. No. No. Ten days. Alaska for vacation. Etc Etc Etc.

Here are a couple of birder photos:

She releases us, and Sharon clicks some photos as we move out of the crossing. In the past, we didn't need passports to get into Canada, but now you do.

Woohoo! We're Canadian.

Earlier today we got a wonderful Northern Wheatear, that bird being the only wheatear species in the U.S. normal species list..

About 2 pm we make it through Lethbridge, fighting out way through, staying on Canada 3 (Highway).

As we move back into the countryside freeway, we see a couple of gigantic train trestles.

The signs are all in kilometers now. It's 40 kilos to Fort McLeod. Multiply by about .6, so that's about 24 miles.

Sharon calls out Yellow-headed Blackbird, down in some reeds with Red-wing Blackbirds.

About 2 pm, we pass the Oldman River, which just keeps rolling along, near as I can tell.

We can see snow-covered peaks from 90 degrees to our left (straight out the driver's door) to about 45 degrees to the right. A giant range. {I believe the Canadian Rockies.}

This is the front range, facing east -- facing the plains.

We drive by a blue sign with white printing. It says Windy Rafters Barn Dance, and has an arrow pointing to our left. A man and woman dressed in western gear are dancing on the sign. Another sign a couple of miles later say we are on the Red Coat Trail.

The British are Here. The British are Here. Ay?

I take a nap while Sharon drives in the early afternoon. When I wake up, I see a figure on my right sitting next to a pole. "Kangaroo," I yell, using the "Fire" analogy, designed to make Sharon look immediately without asking any questions. She keeps looking at the road, as she should, and says, "What?" So I say "Coyote", and she looks to the right and just in time to get it. {A live coyote this time, having not seen the dead pelt on the fence, of course.}

My plan for the next few nights is to head up to Edmunton, staying in the plains, not being slowed down by mountain roads, then heading NW to Dawson Creek, again minimizing mountain miles..

Sharon asks me if we're going through the Icefields Parkway to see animals, and my brain goes totally blank about my plan, and refills with how much fun it would be to see bears and moose and bears. "Yes!" I exclaim.

So instead of stopping at Okotoks, 45 minutes or so from Calgary, we will skirt around Calgary to a park north and west of Calgary, with easy access tomorrow to get to Banff and then the parkway. Tonight's park is in a town called Cochrane.

Sharon sees a dark hawk, and pegs it as a dark Redtail called a Harlan's Hawk.

Here are some photos taken during the day's drive. That's Alfred Hitchcock on the left. I love the treatment this farmer did on his barn.


We begin to come into the city, and here are some shots from that time.

Kind of hard to make out, that that says "Calgary Children Hospital" in the colorful photo at right.

Later, we are pointed right towards the city center. The GPS says we will turn left in 0.6 mile. I see a sign among lots of fast food restaurants that says "MC ACUPUNCTURE", but I can only think of McDonalds, and I think McAcupuncture. "Get your acupuncture right here, 50% off with a Big Mac."

Canadian drivers are so nice. I get invitations again and again as drivers slow down and signal for me to go ahead.

As we finally make it onto the Canada 1 West, we immediately see a familiar sight - the Calgary ski jump area.

By and by, we follow the GPS toward our RV park for the night, which Sharon has located for us in the Good Sam RV Travel Guide. We cross the Bow River and turn right, bringing into view a gigantic lumberyard with logs drying all around it, like a border around a picture frame.


We continue on, check in and are in place about 6:45 pm. We set up, then walk the path down to the Bow River and some distance up the river. A kite is flying above us but we can't find the flyer. Lots of dog walkers, bikers, and a father with two or three children, all on little scooters. One little tyke lets his scooter fall over, walks back past us to his dad, and says, "I don't wanna ride by scooter any more." Dad says, "You can't just throw your scooter down and walk away because you don't want to..." and we check out of the familiar conversation.

The river is really fast. There are birds all around, in the springtime weather. Mostly tree swallows (below left), but we see one barn swallow and a few other birds. At right, below is the grassy area in the back yard of one row of campers. We see several people enjoying the sun, the river and the walkers.

As we walk back I look at the kite and remember the night, in high school, I put up the Lone Ranger kite over at buddy Corky Hall's field near their back yard. I tied it to a piece of fence, with the wind strongly blowing about 8 pm. That was on a Friday. Saturday morning, I went back, hoping and expecting to see it waving back and forth in the sky, but no, said Lone. I'll rest here in the field.

We walk past a fellow barbecuing an excellent steak, by the smell of it, and have thoughts of food.

Sharon fixes us some dinner and we spend a relaxing evening on our iPhones on Facebook, exchanging barbs with friends and relatives, and receiving and sending emails. And of course, I upload photos from our four cameras, then set them all on battery recharge, one way or other. {We can only communicate with the States when we are on WiFi of the RV camp each evening. We use the time to send messages and pictures through Facebook, Gmail, and Words With Friends.}

Earlier, when I was checking in, the check-in girl reviewed the WiFi sign-in procedure, blabbety blabbety blabb. Yes, yes, yes. Got it. Thanks. But when I tried to log on, I was face to face with a screen, inside of which was a circle, with a red arrow pointing to the center of the circle. Hotspot WiFi, it said. I kept clicking and clicking, getting no results. Looked all over the page, clicking on every other item. No luck. I packed up the computer, walked the five minutes to the office, told the girl my problem, and she said (as she demonstrated), "You just scroll off of this screen to the area below... ." Dohp! "Thank you," I said, but what I thought was, "They MIGHT HAVE added a little hint on the first screen that a person should scroll down... ." But I hold no grudges. I'm in business.

That's it for the day, Thanks and have a peaceful sleep, yall.

Bob and Sharon

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