through the mountains to prairie

Hit the road for real, on Tuesday (June 30). I say for real, because the trip from Vancouver to Kelowna is very familiar, as I’ve made many trips into the Okanagan Valley, so it hadn’t felt like I was started yet. But now I was on the road heading east, and happily, I had company. My brother Gordon’s ears had perked up when I said I was going to drive across the country to Ottawa, and so he was joining me, for awhile. Would have come the whole way, but had to be back in Vancouver, alas. The two of us share a love of road trips, though usually we’re off on different tangents, being adults and all. As children, we used to travel together on camping trips with our father (and our other brother and sister, and sometimes with our step-mother). (I’d put in a photo here, of all us little campers, but those photos are all back in Vancouver.) I credit Dad with giving me both the desire to hit the road, and the ability ( he moonlighted as a driving school instructor, a summer job that paid for our rambles, and made him able to teach family members without undue grief).

Gord and I both agreed on trying to go down roads we hadn’t been on before. We’d been on a trip to Winnipeg once, in our teens, with our Dad, but that route, I think, pretty much followed the Trans Canada, which these days, at least through BC, feels like quite a conveyor belt of traffic, making you forget how far from city you are. It wasn’t possible to avoid roads we’d been on, but we did manage at least to go down some roads that were newish to one or the other of us. My memory of where we went as kids is a bit foggier than Gord’s, and he’s been all over the province a lot as an adult, but still, we managed pretty well, no conflicts about routes, and lots of talk about, well, stuff.

Creston, BC. Pretty country, sleepy town.

Creston, BC. Pretty country, sleepy town.

We had Drumheller Alberta in our sights, visions of dinosaurs dancing around, and somewhere neither of us had yet been. To get there we took the long way through the mountains (as opposed to a more direct route through the mountains). So, a circuitous route, leaving Kelowna by what I think of as the back way, Hwy 33, through Beaverdell, a road I’ve wanted to detour down before. Why? To see what was there. That road joins up with Hwy 3, the Crowsnest Highway, and then we went on, with detours on the way, through Rossland, Trail and Salmo, to spend the night in Creston, set in a beautiful wide valley in the Kootenays.

Sight-seeing in Creston.

Sight-seeing in Creston, BC.

I think we were retracing one or another route we’d made 50ish years ago with our father, as well as ones each of us has made individually, on other occasions (I know I’ve been to Trail before) but as I said, my memory is not precise. There are some things we inherit, I think, but I didn’t pick up my father’s ability to store detail in his brain. He didn’t need spreadsheets to keep track of when and where, but I do. (Even a couple weeks later, I’m checking the map as I re-cap this trip.) Gord’s better at this kind of remembering. But then I think it’s possible spreadsheets flummox him, so there you go. I must have inherited spreadsheets from our mother, not that they existed much before she died. But she would have been a natch.

Canada Day in Kimberley. Music always good outside.

Canada Day in Kimberley.
Music always good outside.

On Canada Day we carried on, making another slight detour off Hwy 3, to see what Kimberley looks like (hints of Bavaria). We took a break there to walk up and down a pedestrian only ‘downtown’, and to listen for awhile to a band playing in the square. Then on up north now through Kootenay National Park, to join up with the Trans Canada briefly, heading past Lake Louise (where we didn’t stop, been there, you know?) through a bit of Banff National Park. (The jaunt through the national parks is supposed to come with a fee, but seems it’s waived on July 1st. Bonus.)

Bow Lake, near the beginning of the Icefields Parkway. Not much ice. Worrisome.

Bow Lake, AB,  near the beginning of the Icefields Parkway. Not much ice. Worrisome. But not flat.

We turned east at Saskatchewan River Crossing, and then followed, yes, the North Saskatchewan River through Rocky Mountain House (speeding ticket, not mine; you want to be careful on Sundays and holidays approaching towns, I understand) and then left the river which was on its way to Edmonton. We were going to Red Deer, because neither of us had driven that way before, but Red Deer was, for this trip, just a place to sleep. Lots of pickup trucks. And flat. You do notice the flat, after all those mountains.


Our favourite dinosaur, the Chasmosaurus. Our father Charlie (aka Chas) used to claim to be a dinosaur…

Next day we went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, well worth the detour (or the destination, if you don’t happen to be focused on driving to Ottawa). Terrain is all bumpy again, Red River Badlands and all. We spent a few hours there, in the museum, and going for a short walk outside, carefully contained on a pathway that gives a sense of the Badlands but doesn’t let you get lost in them.

Didn't expect to find Ghandi in Saskatoon. That sort of place, I guess.

Didn’t expect to find Ghandi in Saskatoon.

Our final destination that day was Saskatoon, where our mother was born (a hint about purpose) and so soon we were racing down the road again (with my brother singing Guess Who’s song, “Running Back to Saskatoon”).

We rolled in latish, stayed in a hotel full of refugees from the wildfires, kids enjoying the pool, leaving lots of wet footprints in the elevator. Went for a walk around downtown, had a beer on a rooftop, and then settled in for the night, to rest up for next day’s exploration.

An almost full moon in Saskatoon, shining through the smoke from Saskatchewan wildfires.

An almost full moon in Saskatoon, shining through the smoke from Saskatchewan wildfires.

to be continued…


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