Jasper

These are the only moose we have seen. The kids and I have an ongoing bounty hunt. 10$ for the first one to see a live moose, payment upon verification by another set of eyes.

We’ve seen Elk…

There was visible wildlife along the park road. At one point traffic was stopped in both directions by a female sheep. I was the first car downhill. The Sheep just kept running in the uphill lane and didn’t seem to know how to get off the highway but to run along with the cars, but none of the drivers knew to stop and let her figure out they weren’t trying to “herd” her. I put on the emergency blinkers and opened my door and got out. I walked downhill toward her and waved her off across the road to the uphill side where it appeared she wanted to head. Traffic resumed. About 200 meters past that, her youngling was trying to follow, behind the traffic. I saw it too late to stop at the speed going downhill, but it looked like after the backed up traffic stopped, that it would be able to cross.

A few miles down the road, I saw the above Cow Elk running alongside traffic (going about 30 MPH!) with us. Looked like she wanted to cross but couldn’t figure how to go across the slowed traffic stream that had formed alongside her. Nobody wanted to stop and wait, or thought to. Again, I stopped in the lane of traffic. The people ahead of me had kept going, maybe they hadn’t seen her, or known what to do, or understood her predicament or stressed behavior. So I stopped in the lane and put on my blinkers. She slowed down and then stopped and started climbing the hill where you see her. After a minute she stared grazing away from the road side. To me it seemed that she was going to wait to cross. Suddenly I saw a bright red BMW convertible coming up the lane behind me to pass along the stopped traffic. He was honking and yelling at me as he passed. I had pointed my arm out the window at the Elk so the cars behind me might be able to figure out why I had stopped. But he passed, fast, and shouted that I was a F-ing moron, holding up traffic, stopping in the road, idiot, something like that. Well, I’d feel worse for the Elk than his Beemer if there was a collision. A LOT worse for her.

The park is more visual that verbal so I’ll just show you what we saw:

Turquoise waters
Zack, as always, with thumbs up.
Dragon Dress on the wall
Mel and MEENY
View ascending on Jasper Tramway
Canoeing at Fairmont Lodge in Jasper
Canoe
Sky Tram
Roadside stop in the Park
Jasper Tram
Train station in town of Jasper
Descent on the Tram
Atop the Tram
Steep
In the National Park
Roadside stop in the park
Grounds of the Fairmont Lodge in Jasper at twilight
Lake at Fairmont Lodge
Thumbs again up.
Roadside stop in the park
Moths from the tram grounds
Fairmont Lodge grounds

We ended up not having a place to camp. Zack has as of yet been unable to go to a planetarium and I saw this on a bulletin board at the lower tram station:

A planetarium!

…So of course I went online when I got to wifi to find out.

Surprised this photo turned out!!

We got to see a planetarium show about local astronomical phenomenon as well as the universe at large. Afterwards we got a lecture about the Aurora Borealis, and got to handle meteors in a separate lecture. Finally, we got to see some stars and ring nebulae through their digital telescope setup. It was definitely not just basic information and we learned several things we didn’t know: Northern lights are primarily green because oxygen is most easily excited by the sun’s magnetic interference. The lower you are in the atmosphere, the less vivid the colors of the aurora will be. The sun is on the upswing of an 11 year cycle of magnetic activity. This will make the Aurora more visually dynamic. Contrary to Hollywood depictions, the magnetic disturbances from the sun can damage and alter our technology, but biologically, they do not pose any harm to Earth life, like plants, animals, or humans. Meteorites can be differentiated from earth rocks by being significantly heavier than surrounding rocks, as they contain much higher concentrates of metals, and can be detected by metal detectors. They also often have a burnt shell which is formed by the heat upon entry to our atmosphere. Smaller meteors (below a 1 km diameter) pose a lot of risk because they can’t be tracked by science, but the larger meteors, planet killer, can be tracked. The issue is that smaller meteors can still destroy a city’s worth of terrain without basically any warning. Also, the earth’s magnetic poles reversed in the late 1700’s. This means what we refer to as the north pole is ACTUALLY magnetically south. wow. That was a big brain dump, but there you have it!

Canada going north along the Cassiar Highway and Trans-Can 16

Where did I leave off? Maybe dropping off hitch hikers in Kallispell?

These Vermillion colored flowers are all over the place.

In case you were wondering… no evil has befallen us (except maybe the horrible inflation of late stage capitalism) but we are once again finding ourselves far from reliable communications networks (and time, and dry weather).

THE PLAN

We camped as planned at the Obelisk, as you already know, dear friend, and at Wasa Lake campground. After picking up the campsite we pulled across the way and the kids snorkeled in the warm water for a couple hours before we started driving north.

Mellie’s odd pinecone
Wasa Lake diner. Food was good!
Wasa Lake campground site 26. The kids had fun walking around the campsite loop and playing the Wormhole.
Zack with Elvis and the Boba Fett (still in Montana at what turned out to be a racist pie stand)

We also stayed at Lake Louise campground, which was so crowded that we didn’t see the lake at all. Or take pictures. But I did get a shower (yay!)

Then on the 6th we headed toward Jasper for the tram.

Last night in Montana

We headed toward Glacier Park and the Roosville border crossing from Montana into British Colombia. Our planned stop was the Obelisk rest area heading into the park.

Marias Pass Obelisk

There was no toilet paper in the pit toilets, but we did have our own, so that wasn’t so bad. It rained lightly, and was a nice cool temperature to sleep in the van. Setup has been going SOOOO much easier since all the rearranging and new waterproof totes. I was a teeny bit concerned that there were many cars coming and going, as it was a point of interest and not very sheltered, but there were no issues leaving the totes next to the van all night while we slept. There was also a train across the road from the rest stop, but they didn’t use the horns so it was all in all a decent place to stop for the night, and best of all: FREE.

Free Parking and a toilet!

It was the first night back on the Roadloft after about 2 weeks sleeping in beds, and although the kids seemed to sleep pretty well after settling in, I didn’t. I offered some hikers coffee while they were trying to hitch a ride at the intersection while we packed up the van.

David and Mike from Michegan

David and Mike had flown out west to backpack the Continental Divide trail and Yellowstone, but their plans had changed and they were trying to get back home more quickly and were now headed for Kalispell.

Heading to Alaska

Sunday morning we headed to Breakfast with Carole, Gordon, Kaili, Gatlin, and Jonah. We waited FOREVER but the blueberry pancakes were worth it.

Gatlin, Wheezy, and Mel on the deck

It was pretty warm so there was a bunch of sprinkler running and pool going. We had a good visit with Gordon and Carole, and got lots of time to get to know Gatlin, and to play pinochle while Kaili was over visiting.

Sprinklers
At Bozeman Hot Springs

We got to see the New minions movie: Rise of Gru. All the teenagers were dressed in suits and dresses at the theater just for fun to see the movie! (Like prom, but with popcorn!) The movie was thumbs up all around.

Elk at Choteau

Saying goodbye to Red Lodge and heading to Bozeman

Keri and Kraig have been wonderfully hospitable , but we are rested up and ready to keep moving home.

The pond at their wedding venue

The weather overall has been nice and mild and the surroundings at their place was peaceful. We saw deer in the fields surrounding their house every night.

Possum

We got MUCH NEEDED lap cat. We are missing out kitties from home SO MUCH. Possum very kindly obliged us with cat snuggles.

Tuesday morning, we all went out for breakfast at the Red Lodge Cafe. Most of Downtown is open again after the flooding but a few businesses are closed still. All around town there are shade tents full of bottled water for the people affected by the flooding to get potable drinking water as they need it.

Red Lodge Cafe interior

Several murals from 1967 line one wall and the old mirror from the bar and some antique skis are on the other long wall.

Painted murals with carved totems
All the totems seem to be topped with frogs…

After Breakfast we headed back to their house to get the last few items packed into the van.

The cabin at Montana Wildflower

They were busy all weekend with weddings but I’m glad we stayed an extra day to spend some time together with family.

Feet, creatures, moth.

Plenty of wild and not-so-wild creatures for the kids to explore around the property. Frogs in the pond, grasshoppers and moths, deer, horses, and Mellie’s favorite…

…She even found a Garter snake!
I caught a bright green grasshopper!

Kraig spent time teaching the kids to dive a 4 wheel utility cart too. They had a TON of fun tooling around the grounds on Monday after all the weddings from the weekend were wrapped up.

Kraig teaching Mellie to drive the cart.
Zack and Mel
Up at the venue with Kortni during off hours

They had a blast going all over the many acres with the cart. I’m super glad I won’t be the first adult to teach the kids how to operate a moving vehicle. 🙂

Mellie on her own with the cart.
If you’re interested in having an event in Red Lodge, you can reach them at (406) 446-4933. It’s really a beautiful site and Red Lodge is a super cute town with lots of outdoorsy things to do nearby.

The drive between Red Lodge and Bozeman was windy. I wasn’t able to get photos while driving, but at one point we were diverted to the opposite side of a divided highway because a bridge was out. The Yellowstone river was VERY high in places and we could see plenty of spots where the river had overrun its banks and then subsided, leaving sandy shoals and piles of fresh rock which looked newly out of place.

It was hotter in Bozeman than Red Lodge, and the sky became dramatic and threatening while we played Croquet after dinner.

Carole and Gordon’s Croquet course

We had a tiny bit of rain about halfway through the game, and sat it out on the deck. Afterwards we were treated to a huge double rainbow across the way from their house.

After the rain

Zack had already gone to bed, and Mellie and I decided we were pooped, so we left the game to finish the next day.

Red Lodge, Montana

We have been in Red Lodge, MT, visiting the kids’ Aunt Keri and Uncle Kraig at their relatively new place. They have been wonderfully hospitable and it’s been great to unwind and relax with relatives at their place instead of looking for spaces to stay out and about day by day.

I’d been driving a whole lot more hours per day in the few days before we got here, going as quickly as we could thru Minnesota and the Dakotas to get here, so I haven’t been doing much photography.

First time I’ve seen an 80 MPH sign!!

Nevada had a speed limit of 75, generally, on open roads and along I-80. But I have never lived a place where the POSTED limit was higher than that. It was sort of an understood practice that in some segments between Nevada and Utah that the limit was 75 but in some flat, straight, segments of those salt flats (where the desert scenes in Independence Day were filmed) that people seem to regularly drive 90 to get thru those sections as quickly as possible.

I did have a hard time wanting to go 80 MPH on these roads though as parts were not divided, or perhaps it was the wind and rain that just made it seem less appealing to go as fast as was allowed.

Keri and Kraig run a destination wedding venue, Montana Wildflower Weddings. They have a really beautiful setup. They have a busy event schedule this weekend, so we will hang back at the residence and do some laundry and cleaning in the van the next few days.

Monday or Tuesday we’ll be heading to Bozeman to see the kids’ grandparents. I am hoping to get some photos around here before we go and will put an updated post.

This house was torn in half from the flood waters.

The floods that ran through town here closed a number of roads right in downtown. We are hearing thunder in the not-so-distant surrounding hills. Hopefully there won’t be more floods!

Matthews Rec Area

We crossed from South to North Dakota this afternoon. Had great Pie at the Great Plains Family restaurant.

Strawberry cream pie!! Sorry, we ate it before a photo could be taken.

Lots of torrential downpours today. After It being over 100 in Aberdeen it’s nice to settle down in a pretty site with very few bugs and a reasonable temperature.

We saw lots of pheasants, antelope, deer, horses, cattle, a rabbit, and sheep today driving thru plains and grasslands. The landscape definitely became more rugged and steeper and craggy as we started to get further into Montana. I’ve never been in the Dakotas or this side of Montana before but it definitely became more recognizable the more sagebrush we encountered.

Although the kids think the funniest part of the day was when a tumbleweed blew across the road in front of us in the midst of the heaviest rain we’ve seen yet. It was sort of the opposite of what you see in movies with the dusty road in the old cowboy town and the tumbleweeds and a cloud of dust going through the empty streets. I have to admit tumbleweeds are not something I generally associate with rainstorms.

Aberdeen, SD

The temperature guage in the van read between 97 and 102 degrees nearly all day. We had the air cranked and even then the fridge was running nearly all day so the Bluetti only got about 40% charged despite driving for about 7 hours.

There’s no way it was going to be cool enough to camp in the van tonight so to avoid heatstroke we are in yet another hotel. This one advertised a pool but when we checked in there was none. So disappointing.

It’s been about a week of nothing but farmlands and flat rural areas to look at. We have listened to all the podcasts we’ve downloaded. There aren’t any new photos so here’s SuperKitty wearing my Costco glasses.

They really suit him!

We are headed to Montana to visit family. Keri is in Red Lodge but it looks like the famous floods are not along our route. Then we’ll head to Bozeman to visit grandparents. It looks like the weather is far more reasonable there, and hopefully I can rearrange some things up top in the van to make a bit more space in the seating area.

We are headed to a rec area near Miles city, MT tomorrow. Since we went an hour less today than expected it is over 6 hours to get there tomorrow, but hopefully as we cross South Dakota the temperature will drop and we won’t be fighting wind the whole way again.

Canadian Museum of Human Rights

Thursday we were in Manitoba at the Canadian Museum of Human rights. It’s a HUGE building with impressive architecture and is also featured on the Canadian $10 bill

Plastic money and Crossaint crumbs

We started at the tower and worked our way down after going through the racism exhibit.

Tower of Hope
The view was somewhat dizzying
Can be seen from all levels of the museum
Ramps between levels
Further down
More ramps
Looking up
Backlit marble ramps go all the way down from the top of the tower

On the ground floor there was an exhibit on racism. Much of it was basic sociological information. The exhibit focused on Canada, and I could not help but think that Canada is far ahead of the United States in this regard.

Zack is a master of the photobomb
The kids with Ghandi

Overall we weren’t sure what to expect of the museum but the content was presented in a way that didn’t place blame on any parties but still gave an impression of progress and gave credit for all the work that has been done by parties everywhere to advance equality for peoples who had not been experiencing fairness toward their unique expression of humanity due to traditional or societal constraints.

Good Spirit Lake Provincial Park campground

Another beautiful Canadian campground.  Although The tent camping site fee is only $20, there’s a $10 fee for cars entering the park and a $14 fee for booking the site, so it ends up being more expensive in fees than it actually does for the campsite for one night.

That said, they also include free campfire wood, free water, and in this particular site there’s actually running water in the restrooms that are near the tent sites. This particular campground also has a brand new shower building with laundry facilities. I did all our laundry 2 days ago at Meadow Lake provincial Park.  Everyone there was so kind and helpful and made recommendations about other places we could stay in Saskatchewan.

Today went much better because we got an early start from the hotel and made it to the campsite area and plenty of time to get a meal out and set up our campsite before 9:00 p.m.!!

Part of that was that I was able to use the internet to book a site and actually look at one that was close to the restrooms so we didn’t have to do the extra step of setting up the green elephant tent in our site to avoid walking a quarter mile to the restroom at night.

I also bought another tote to just shove things into that we could move a little bit more easily out of the van and still not worry about it getting rained on because now it’s waterproof.

Gas has varied between a $1.85 and $2.90 a liter- so that’s between about $7 and $12 a gallon USD.  After we go to the Human Rights museum, we’re going to head down into the Dakotas toward Minnesota to go to snake Discovery, and stay at a hotel the night before we want to go to an indoor sightseeing thing like those, and camp in between. We’ve also decided that we would just as soon go to the Chicago Legoland as the Toronto Legoland, which will have the advantage of cheaper gas in the United States.

If we can think of a place in the West that has a Legoland, we may go there instead of going further east to Chicago.

https://www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/chicago/

Zack is trying to explain to me that Chicago is on the “left side” of the US, but it’s 8:30 here and I don’t really feel like explaining the geography to him in a blacked out minivan.

Oh! Now he’s saying that he realizes that it’s california, not Chicago! He’s listening along as I dictate this and now asking that I not put it on the blog!

We’re ready to go to bed and it’s before 9:00 p.m.. Hurray!!!

Everyone’s happy that we haven’t had a meltdown because we got to bed on time.

NIGHT! SWEET DREAMS!!

Change of plans

Packing up each morning and setting up each night has been very taxing on all of us. It literally takes hours and feels like I am trying to teach a herd of cats to build a log cabin.

In addition, some family circumstances have changed since we left Alaska, and we no longer plan to go to NY state.

Because of this we may be giving up on Maine.

Right now we are in Saskatoon and plan to go camp tonight at Good Spirit PP and the next day to Winnepeg to visit the Canadian Human Rights museum.

After that, we plan to head toward Minnesota to visit Snake Discovery.

We will reassess after that to continue East or home again West.

Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall

This is our second day at the West Edmonton Mall. I am seriously exhausted. Zack got a bed to himself Wednesday night, Mellie got a bed to herself last night, and I get a bed to myself tonight since I will be driving tomorrow.

Yesterday we went to the amusement park section which had carnival-type rides and games. The kids did bumper cars, a rollercoaster, some arcade games, and we even played blacklight mini-golf.

Thumbs up

I had gotten two lego sets for the kids at Canadian Tire when I bought Zack’s replacement mattress. They spent most of the drive here listening to podcasts with me and assembling them.

Designing our own minifigures

We entered the mall today right by the LEGO store. It was pretty amazing. We got to design our own unique minifigures which they printed from our designs, and pick accessories and hair, hats, clothes, etc for them. We also got to pick out individual legos from bulk bins on the wall as if they were penny candies, and a quart sized Jar of individual legos was under $20 CAD. I found one of the bins had little stars mixed in and I must have gotten close to a hundred of them! Mellie, of course, bought dragon parts.

They also had muppet minifigures in the opaque mystery grab bags and I bought several of those- I hope I got Kermit and Gonzo! I’ll open them when we get back to the hotel.

The dragon ate my golf ball.
The blacklight golf was fun!
Derpy Ferris Wheel

The kids wanted to go to the waterpark, and although it did look fun once we got inside, I’m really far too tired to want to be swimming all day. I dropped the kids off inside the waterpark area (it’s encapsulated in its own section), and went off on my own in the mall.

Carousel ride

The pedicure was SOO relaxing. I wanted to get a massage as well, but the only appointment was for 5 pm when the waterpark closes and I need to meet the kids.

I bought a pair of Chaco sandals right before we left, and I’ll keep wearing them in the water as needed, but they are difficult to wrangle on and off, and the straps do sort of bother my feet. I also had let Zack borrow my sneakers (without socks) and they now smell like dead dogs. I was able to find a shoe store and some more comfortable shoes.

Right now I’m sitting in a Boston Pizza drinking Raspberry Lemonade. My brain is seriously overstimulated from being at a mall for two days straight. I need to go meet the kids in a few minutes. Zack said he wanted to go bowling after the waterpark. How do kids do it???

Hopefully they will want to get some food and we can re-group to make an evening plan while we have some dinner.

Mellie reluctantly posing
Zack is all thumbs up!