Probably not a very good title for this entry - it's all pretty much a road trip! Let's say this a side trip instead. We needed a break (especially Larry) from the resort and we were getting antsy being in one place for so long. It was an amazing trip, good and bad mixed together. We had every conceivable weather except thunder, lightning and hail. Larry actually had to wear long pants a couple of times and Maureen tried out her winter jacket and gloves. We were challenged by having only 30 amp service, dry-camped, and slept with all the slides in (in case it snowed and we couldn't get them in). The printer died. We sprung a leak. The water dispenser quit. The rear toilet wouldn't flush. All in the life of an RVer!
We left at 9:30 am September 6, stopping in Kamloops for fuel. We followed the North Thompson River and the Clearwater River most of the way. We stayed in Blue River Campground for the night. The young man in the office was great. Because the services are in a weird place (passenger side instead of driver's side) they provide an extension to the sewer hose (which we didn't need to use), an extension to the water hose and the electrical cord. This was 30 amp service. Because we don't have any propane available to us for either heat or hot water, we need to watch what we turn on all at once. The electric burner for the hot water needs to be off when we're not using it so we can use the coffee maker. The coffee maker gets turned off when we're done with it so we can run the roof heat. When making dinner you have to think how many burners you are using on the stove and/or the oven. If you're only in a place for one night chances are you don't have the BBQ as an option. You get the idea...!
We drove around the bustling town of Blue River (not) and discovered the Legion which doesn't open until 6 pm so we had to wait. We had a great chat with the bartender/waitress/busser. She has three jobs, as most do in Blue River. She tends bar at the Legion, is a waitress at the local Husky Gas Station, and cares for the local paralyzed guy (her words). There was an amazing full moon that night over the top of the mountain.
On the 7th, we left at 8:30 am. Not far down the road we heard, twice, what seemed to be people honking at us. We quickly pulled over, hearts pounding. Maureen went outside and walked around and couldn't see anything. She did, however, hear yet another train - it seems it had been blowing its whistle as we went past it! On we went through some beautiful scenery. The weather was a bit cloudy. We arrived in Jasper quite early. We found our way to Whistler's Campground. We normally avoid both National and Provincial park campgrounds because we usually are too big and there is no satellite coverage because of the trees. Whistler's fit us to a tee - we were lucky enough to get a pull-through site and satellite signal through the trees! We did some exploring, seeing Maligne Canyon and the Jasper Park Lodge. We hadn't been here for probably 20 years. The main thing that changed is that Jasper the Bear is no longer where he was. We never did find him. It's mating season for the elk and there were a few around.
On September 8, we woke up to snow. It wasn't on the roads which enabled us to do some exploring - Athabasca Falls and Pyramid Lake. Unfortunately the beautiful mountains around Jasper were hidden all day by clouds. It wasn't even worth trying to go up the tram. We slept with the slides in in case there was more snow. We would not be able to pull them in in the morning if there was.
No more snow overnight. On the 9th we chose to detour a little bit. Larry had never seen the Columbia Icefield. We encountered a few snow flurries along the way. We did the touristy thing, arriving just in time for the 11:30 Ice Explorer. The young lady who sold us our tickets told us her parents have a cottage in Sechelt. The weather forecast was for -10 deg that night so we opted not to stay in the parking lot but to push on to Rocky Mountain House. When we arrived we found a truck wash - the coach and car were filthy. We then found the info station and they said they wouldn't mind if we stayed the night in their parking lot. This was a very quiet spot and we managed just fine. When we first arrived there were two vehicles full of young people and it looked like they were possibly doing a drug deal. We slept with the slides in just in case there was more snow overnight. Good thing we did - there was about 2 inches of snow when we woke up. Again, not on the roads. Our next stop was Devon, southwest of Edmonton.
Larry had been in touch through Facebook with a friend he went to school with in Estevan, SK. It turned out Don and Vera live in Drayton Valley which was kind of on our way. We arrived in time for a late breakfast. It turned out they were heading to BC in a week. Then on to Devon. We stayed at the Devon Lions Campground on the banks of the Saskatchewan River. We washed the lower half of the whole coach again. Alberta dirt is very sticky. It was easy to see we missed a few spots. We had to wash the car again too because we couldn't see out the windows.
On the 11th we went to Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre which was very interesting. Explained the whole oil discovery process and showed technologies right up to present day. They also featured a video made in 1956 about the discovery of the first oil in Alberta in 1947. It is home to the world's largest drill bit. We then went into Edmonton for a look around. We found a Costco on the way where we had to replace our dead printer. We found the Legislature building but couldn't find where the tours were. The next day we spent 5 hours at the West Edmonton Mall. Neither of us had been there before. Larry was on his scooter and Maureen walked. We think we covered most of it, including the sea lion show. It's a huge place (over 800 stores and 100 restaurants) but we're not sure who's going to buy all those clothes. It also features a huge waterpark with slides and a giant wave pool.
Also through Facebook Maureen linked up with a woman who she had first met in Grade 4 (48 years ago) and had not seen since Grade 12, and who was now living in Edmonton. It was arranged that Heather come down to the campground for coffee. We found some amazing cinnamon buns at Grounded Coffee House in Devon. Heather's dad was visiting her so she brought him and his wife with her. He used to provide rides to junior high! It was a great visit, just like no time had passed. Yay Facebook! In the afternoon we watched a big smoker with huge stainless steel truck pipes out the side go into operation. There was a big party at the gazebo in the park that afternoon/evening. We saw them take out a whole pig and several loins from the smoker.
On the 14th we went to Fort Edmonton Park. It was disappointing for a couple of reasons - it was the end of the season so the 95 year old train was not running and a local trade school (NAIT) was having it's family picnic. We also found that most of the buildings are reproductions and that there is hardly any food there (possibly also because it was the end of the season). The park is divided into sections representing different eras - 1846 fort; 1885 Street - when Edmonton was founded; 1905 Street - boom times; 1920 Street and Midway - coming of age of Edmonton. The park is quite large and because the train wasn't running we had to walk (Larry scooted) in both directions. There were also supposed to be a lot of people dressed in period costume. We thought $18 per person was a bit steep. Later in the afternoon Neil & Millie (who we knew from Pacific Border) arrived. They were in town for a wedding the upcoming weekend. We had a great happy hour/dinner with them.
On the 15th we headed to Drumheller. We hadn't been here for about 20 years either and it really hasn't changed. We stayed at Dinosaur Trail RV Park, which is a Holiday Trails Resort. We stopped at the Longbranch Saloon for a drink. This bartender wasn't talkative at all. The next day we went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Admission is only $13 each and it is worth every penny. It keeps changing and growing as they find more bones and artifacts. Here we discovered a leak under our sink so for 24 hours we couldn't use the kitchen sink.
On the 17th we went to Cochrane, only 2 hours away. It did, however, take us 5 hours to get there. This was a day when Drag Racing was on TV and we always record it. We stopped at a roadside pullout for three hours while it recorded. Maureen did cross-stitch, Larry worked on the computer and we had lunch there. We stayed at Bow Riversedge RV Park. It was a lovely park, the first time where all 4 of our jacks came down at once, meaning it was already level. There was a beautiful paved walking path all along the river. Apparently during the flooding last year around Calgary, part of the park was evacuated. Hard to imagine, the river seems so far away now. We drove around a bit and finally located Cochrane Plumbing who had a piece of rubber pipe with clamps that we were able to fix the leak with. We went to Schooners on First for dinner - not the best. On the 18th we met Lloyd and Karen, who live there and have an RV lot right behind us at Swan Lake, for lunch at Prairie Smoke. Another couple, Don and Jean, who rent their lot from them were staying at Bow Riversedge too so they came for lunch as well. Then we went back to Lloyd and Karen's for dessert. At some point in Cochrane the stream of water coming out of the fridge water dispenser started decreasing. Through Mr. Google, we figure we have the problem narrowed down but won't get that fixed until we get back to Vernon. Since it's a residential fridge, we don't have to get an RV person to fix it.
On the 19th we made the little trip to Canmore - just over an hour. There was a little rain and then the sun came out with a nice rainbow. When we arrived we discovered the red sensor light was on the rear toilet (this indicates the black tank is too full to flush the toilet). Larry said, no way, the tank wasn't even half full. Say hello to Mr. Google again - turns out we had to find the yellow wire for the sensor and cut it. It took a while and some other info from another website to locate it under the floor, through the vent in the bedroom. That disconnected, everything worked fine. We went exploring and for some groceries. It was surprising how busy this town is. They have a big Safeway and a Save-On, many restaurants (sushi for lunch) and some beautiful scenery. This was our base to visit Banff. The next day was totally clear and the mountains were spectacular. We drove into Banff with our picnic lunch. It was so busy! We went to Cave and Basin National Historic Site. It was very interesting and is the birthplace of Canada's National Parks. There is a cave with a natural hot spring coming out with a very sulphury smell and then another pool outside where the Banff snail lives. He is about the size of an apple seed and this is the only place in the world where he lives. This is a very well done exhibit. We ate our lunch by the Bow River.
In May, Maureen had made a trip to the Coast by bus. On the way back she met up with three young people from New Zealand and sat and chatted with them most of the way to Kelowna. They were Facebook friends before leaving the bus. For the past few months Maureen has been following their exploits, including their move to Banff where there was more work. It turned out they were staying until the end of September so it was arranged to meet them for coffee. It was so nice hearing of their adventures and we also received an invitation to visit them in Christchurch - at least at their parents' house! After that, we checked out Tunnel Mountain Campground and Lake Minnewanka and surrounding area.
On the 21st we went to Blind Bay - our longest drive yet - but because it was Sunday none of the road construction was operating and there was very little traffic. We were on the road by 8:05 Alberta time and gained an hour near Rogers Pass. Larry had continued to be in touch with Don and Vera and they saved us a nice site at Sunset Bay Campground, backing right onto the water. They were next to us in their little camper. They have a pontoon boat which they tow and we went for a little cruise in that. The view of the lake was spectacular. The next day we went out on the boat just before lunch and cruised up to the Adams River to watch for salmon. We saw a few. Don BBQd hot dogs for lunch and we had a relaxing time. There was weather around us but we only really had a few rain drops. The wind didn't get up until we were just about back. Don's speciality is smoked meat so he had pre-smoked some back ribs. They were amazing with his special potatoes and our Caesar salad. Stuffed!!
It was only a two hour drive back to Vernon, where we had to - you guessed it - wash the coach! And the floor...