Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona – Continuing the Journey


We left Stanton, Missouri on Sunday morning and headed toward Springfield, hoping to have lunch at Lambert’s Café again. Unfortunately it was just too busy. We didn’t feel we wanted to wait the hour and a half to get a seat, so we found a little Mexican Café in the mall across the street, and were soon on our way again. We pushed on to Edmond, Oklahoma before stopping for dinner and the night at the local Cracker Barrel Restaurant. That was not a good place to spend the night. It was located at the intersection of two highways and there were two truck stops on the corners. The noise continued until well into the night, so we didn’t get much sleep.

We were on the road by 9:15 the next morning and crossed into Texas before noon. Since we were not far away, we made a detour into McLean again. This time the restaurant and the museum were open. We spent a couple of hours eating and looking around, before journeying on through to Amarillo arriving in late afternoon.

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Just a few of the many, many interesting historical items in the Museum

As we turned south onto I-27  Jim saw the sign for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Remembering that our friend Alice had suggested we should go see it, we followed the directions. We were glad of it. It’s beautiful! We drove around the canyon before the sun was gone, and took lots of pictures. We camped there for the night. All was dark and quiet, a big difference from our last night stop.

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The next morning we continued on to New Mexico. Our plan was to go to the Carlsbad Caverns. When we stopped for gas at Tulia, Texas, we watched this crop duster at work.

We arrived in Carlsbad at 2:30 in the afternoon and stopped into the Chamber of Commerce to get information about the Caverns and camping. We were too late to catch the last tour of that day, but we learned that there was a big bat exodus from the caves in the early evening. Donna was very helpful in finding us a place to park for the night as there was nothing at the Caverns. After stopping for some groceries on the way out of town, we drove south toward the Caverns.

That is when our plans took an unwanted turn! The highway wasn’t very busy. We were cruising along in the right hand lane and coming up to a flatbed tow truck that was riding in the left hand land. It had two pickup trucks on it and Jim hesitated to hurry past it because the load looked possibly precarious. I was just going to comment on it when suddenly the cap came up off the first pickup. We thought it would just go over the other truck and land in its bed, but instead the wind turned it into a flying missile heading directly for us! Jim braked as hard as he safely could and swerved slightly to the right. Visions of the thing crashing through the windshield and knocking Jim out flashed through my mind. With a very loud thump it hit the windshield right in front of his face, but fortunately it didn’t break through! The tow truck seemed to keep on going until Jim blasted the horn several times. Our windshield was badly cracked, but the worst of it was below eye level, so Jim could still see. Eventually the truck pulled over to the right shoulder ahead of us and a white company pick up pulled in behind it. We were both in shock! The tow truck driver/owner walked back to see if there was any damage. He was looking at the body of the RV. Jim pointed out the windshield. He introduced himself, apologized many times, got a clipboard from his truck, and began writing down the details of the damage. The windshield wiper was broken off and there were a few dings on the fiberglass. At first I thought he said that the cap hadn’t been strapped down, but later he said that it had but the strap had broken. He said that he saw it go flying. He immediately took responsibility, calling a mobile auto glass repair company and asking them if they could get a new windshield for us. He told them that he wanted to pay for it right away, but they said they would let him know if they had one first. He told us we should drive to the nearest big city, El Paso Texas where we should be able to get the wiper replaced, and to let him know where we were when we arrived so that the glass company could find us. He gave us his business card. I asked about compensation for an extended stay and, although he didn’t think that would be necessary, he agreed to pay for one night. We had no cell service on that desolate highway, but we felt confident that he was going to make sure we were taken care of.

cracked windshield

Our cracked windshield

IMG_3578

The cap being put into truck

We watched the cap being loaded into his pickup truck and strapped down (the tow truck had already been taken away by the other driver), before we pulled back onto the road and made our way to Carlsbad Caverns. There was nothing more we could do.

The bat flight was to begin at 5:45. We arrived in the parking lot, after a seven mile up-hill climb, at 5:00 and had a quick snack before finding our way to the amphitheater situated at the entrance to the bat cave. A Park Ranger talked to us about the thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats that would fly en-mass from the cave for a night of feasting on insects. He told us that there would be no more than two chances to witness this flight before the bats would leave to migrant south.  In fact, there was no absolute certainty that they would even appear that night, but shortly after six the exodus began. Everyone, even the small children, sat in perfect silence, watching with mouths agape, as the bats flew in funnel –like formation before moving off in clusters in search of their prey. By seven o’clock they were still emerging, but the sun had gone down and we were cold and tired and still had to find our campsite further down the highway so we left. Our hearts were in our mouths when we noticed that we’d left the motor home lights on! Jim was amazed and relieved when the motor turned over with the first turn of the key.

Bat Flight

We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the actual flight. This is a picture of a picture.

Us in front of bat cave

The accommodations that Donna had booked for us were not at an RV Park, but one of three sites at the Camp Washington Conference Centre. The two nearby RV Parks were both completely full. We knew from the map the general area of the Camp and we put the address into the GPS. Finding the exit off the highway was easy, but we were taken on a long winding dirt road back into the woods, toward a mountain, and then a sharp turn. We were told that it was a beautiful spot, but it was so dark, we had no way of knowing. Finally we came upon a large building with a lighted parking lot – the office. We were told that it would be closed, but someone would collect our money in the morning. The trouble is, we could see no sign of any other RVs. There was supposed to be one other. We looked around with a flashlight, and started down another road that seemed to lead to other buildings, but it was narrow and the willow trees hung too low for us to get under them, so we backed up and turned around. Jim found a notice on the building that said the RV sites were on the north side of the property, which would be somewhere behind the building, but we saw that there was a lake there! We drove back the way we’d come until we found another dirt road to the right. It looked doubtful to me, but Jim pushed on. The road got more and more narrow. We came to an old Fire Station. Then we saw an arch with the sign Camp Washington. We eased our way through and as we turned around a clump of trees we saw the other motorhome and a few other buildings. After we pulled in, our neighbour came out to greet us and assured us that it was a really beautiful spot in the day light. At least it was quiet, if cold. We were so happy to crawl under the covers for a good rest.

I was up at the break of dawn hoping to catch some good photos in the sunrise. Here are some of the things we saw before and after breakfast.

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I was wishing we could stay another night, but we wanted to see the Caverns and then had to be on our way to El Paso. On the way out we discovered that at the fork in the road coming in, we should have taken the one to the right, not the left.

Year Five of Our Trips to Arizona


Many of you know from following me on Face Book that we are now in El Paso, Texas, stranded until we can get a windshield replaced. I won’t go into further details now, because I’d rather share some of the lovely trip we’ve had along the way before this problem suddenly hit us. Before now I’ve not had adequate internet connections to post anything.

 

After his carpal tunnel surgery, Jim was forced to wait until October 17th before he had his second appointment with his surgeon and was given the green light for us to leave for Arizona. By then we had most of what we needed already loaded into the motorhome, and we’d planned to finish up some things in Peterborough while we were there, in preparation for leaving the next morning. Well, as usual, the best laid plans don’t always work out. The US money that I ordered wouldn’t be into my bank until the next day, and our barber wasn’t working that day. We got the rest done and figured we’d just stop back in on our way through Peterborough in the morning.

We were up very early to load the remaining items, mostly the food and the electronics. It didn’t seem like much, but it was 10:30 by the time we got away. When we were finished making our stops in Peterborough it was lunch time. We picked up wraps at Tim Horton’s and then finally got on the road. We’d planned to go only as far as Jim’s cousin’s place which we thought was near the Windsor/Detroit border. They were expecting us for dinner. It was just a tad further than we thought, but we arrived by 6:00 pm, exhausted. After a delicious meal of organic beef and fresh vegetables from their own farm, a couple of their friends joined us for some old fashioned hymn singing. One son played his guitar and Jim played his ukulele. It was a lovely evening.

The problem with getting together with long-lost relatives is that there is so much catching up to do and it’s hard to stop talking! Once again, we didn’t get on the road until after one in the afternoon. Therefore, we didn’t get too far that day either. We did have one new little adventure though. Dave had suggested we take a the ferry across the river from Sombra, Ontario to Marine City, Michigan, instead of our usual trip over the bridge into Detroit. It was small, and we had our doubts that there would be room for us, but they squeezed us on! It was a short and easy crossing into the US.

Wondering if they will take us

Wondering if they will take us

We squeezed on!

We squeezed on!

Entering the US

Entering the US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Customs, Marine City

US Customs, Marine City

From Marine City we just pushed onward. Traffic going through Detroit was very slow, taking us over an hour to get through the city. Shortly after 6:00 we crossed the state border into Ohio and forty-five minutes later we called it a night in the Walmart parking lot in Napoleon, about two hours from the border into Indiana. The sunset was beautiful.

Sunset in Ohio

On day three we were up early and barreled right through Indiana and Illinois, stopping only for gas and meals. As usual, we got a little lost going through St.

Louis Missouri. We stopped at the KOA RV park in Stanton Missouri for a couple of nights so we could see the Meramec Caverns that we’d missed due to timing the first couple of times we were there. It had been raining off and on all day and was still drizzling when we arrived.

The next morning we left for the Caverns. This year we don’t have our trailer and motorcycle with us, so we have no transportation other than the RV. Jim thought we would unhook it and drive down to the Caverns, but it was only three miles. I thought we could walk as it was a nice day. After the first mile of winding, hilly road with little to no shoulders, we stopped at a yard sale to buy a backpack for $1.00 because the temperature had climbed and we found our hands were too full with cameras and water bottles, and the sweaters and jackets that we no longer needed. When we saw the sign for a very steep grade, we knew we might be in trouble when it was time to climb back up. The going down was difficult enough. We think that the three miles was as the crow flies, not as the road turns!

When we finally made it to the Meramec Caverns Centre, we had to nourish ourselves with pumpkin pie and coffee at the cafeteria before embarking on the eighty minute Cavern Tour.

At the entrance to the Caverns is a large room that was set up with a stage and chairs, ready for the 150th Annual Gospel Sing that would happen later in the day.

Meramec CavernsOutside Meramec Caverns

Outside Meramec Caverns

 

It wasn’t until we were about half way through the tour that we began to see the beautiful “decorations” inside the caverns, but it was a worthwhile, if pricey excursion.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Rippling Texture

Rippling Texture

Water Reflections

Water Reflections

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

Light Show Finale

When we returned to the surface we considered buying tickets for the Gospel Sing, but I was just too hungry. We hit the cafeteria once again for lunch. Once back outside we watched people taking the Zip-line over the parking lot and river. If we hadn’t been so tired, and hadn’t seen most of the participants struggle to make it back to the stand on their return trip, we might have tried it ourselves. Of course the cost of $50 each was a little prohibitive too.

Taking off

Taking off

And away!

And away!

Struggling against the wind

Struggling against the wind

We could postpone our trek back up the hill no longer, and we were right. We were in trouble. Half way up we started putting out our thumbs. The Gospel Sing had just ended and there was plenty of traffic, but the first half dozen cars passed us by. Finally, a nice senior couple stopped and cautiously allowed us into their back seat. I’m sorry that I didn’t get their names, but we had a nice chat and we were ever so grateful. We had walked over seven miles at that point, once again reminded that we are not as young as we sometimes think we are. We were in bed very early that night.

Shasta Caverns, Shasta Lake, California


We are already much further south, at Ventura, California as I write this post, but I promised I’d give you the scoop on Shasta Caverns, so I will do that first and hope to catch up again soon.

I have to say that these caverns are very interesting, and the area around them beautiful, although not as colourful as others we have toured. However, the tour comes with a warning – they aren’t for those with heart conditions or walking difficulties, especially stair climbing. And if you are in a large motor home, pulling a trailer, your driving skills and brakes need to be optimized. Here’s why:

The road into the Shasta Cavern Tours office is 1½ miles of narrow, uphill roads with hair-pin turns that had me holding my breath at times. It was a relief to finally reach the parking lot and see that there was actually room there for us to turn around and park!

We bought our tickets. When the announcement that the tour would start was made, we were given fifteen minutes to get to the boat that would ferry us across the lake. That was a another warning. We had to walk downhill almost as far as we’d driven up it seemed. One Hundred and Fifty stairs (or ramps if you preferred) switched back and forth, and then several more switch-backs on sand and gravel took us to the shore, where a large open pontoon boat with metal seats along the outsides and down the centre and powered by two 150 H.P. Yamaha motors, picked us up. The trip across the lake was beautiful. On the other side a ramp was let down so we could disembark, and then climb up a small hill to an awaiting mini-bus. The captain of the boat was also the driver of the bus, and the tour guide. If you think the sound of the drive up in the motor home sounded nerve-racking, you wouldn’t want to be on that bus; more hair-pin and S-turns sometimes at a 17% slope and hanging on the edge of the cliff. Good thing I was in the outside seat! We soon arrived at the little log cabin where the actual tour into the caverns began. Again there was a lot of climbing and although the stairs didn’t bother me, the high elevations did cause some heart palpitations that forced me to stop now and again for a rest. After any long climb there were always benches to sit upon. Our guide gave us lots of the history of the caverns and helped keep our minds off the physical challenge with some light-hearted chatter. The walking paths and stairs were all solid and railed. We saw some amazing examples of nature inside the several rooms that had been discovered. I’ll let you decide if it would be worth it to you.

The drive up

The drive up

The narrow road

The Narrow Road

Driving UpThe Walk Down to the Lake

The stairs to and from the lake

The stairs to and from the lake

Walking down

Crossing the Lake

Crossing the Lake

IMG_1430Crossing Lake

View from Above

View From Above

Inside the Caverns

Inside Caverns

inside caverns inside caverns inside caverns IMG_1461 IMG_1458Inside CavernsWhen the tour was over, we had to climb back down many more stairs to the bus, make the return trip to the lake, cross the lake, and climb back up the hill. Someone asked how many stairs there were in total and we were told 150 up and down the hill to and from the boat, and 691 through and out of the caverns! Is it any wonder that we were exhausted when we crawled into bed that night, and that I suffered with major hip pain for the next five days? It did make me feel better to hear some of the much younger people on the tour huffing and puffing just as much as we. It was another Adventure, for sure!

Next time I’ll tell you about San Francisco and a little contest, perhaps.

Three States in Three Days with Lots to See and Do


It’s hard to believe that it’s been only five days since we left Canada and we’ve already been through Washington and Oregon and are now deep into California.

Our first stop was Seattle, Washington where we arrived at rush hour so spent some time crawling along Hwy. 5 before turning off in search of somewhere to park for the night. Jim wanted to stay in the downtown so we could tour on foot the next day. However, there was only one RV Park that we could find listed near downtown and we were told that it wasn’t really a “camping” type of park, but only for long term, i.e. minimum of 30 days. At 6:30, hungry and tired, we asked if we could park overnight in the gated Home Depot Store/Rental Centre. We could, but had to be out before things got busy in the morning. With no restaurants within sight, we ate my left over Quesadilla from lunch. Close by there was…you guessed it… a train track crossing, and a shipyard! Things got quieter after 11:00 pm, but at 5:00 am street cleaners were at work just outside our door. We were up and out of there by 6:30 in search of breakfast (we hadn’t yet restocked our cupboards and fridge since crossing the border), and a place to park for the day. After a couple of hours I suggested we drive further south to a KOA Campground that was close to public transit. We got settled in there just in time to catch the 10:15 bus that would take us to the rapid transit station. Well, it would have if we hadn’t missed the stop. We waited at the end of the line for another bus to take us back.

Finally, at noon we were sitting down to lunch in a cafeteria, and from there took the monorail to The Space Needle, a remnant the Seattle Worlds Fair, where our tour began. The view from the Needle was worth the hour wait.

Space Needle

Space Needle

IMG_1293 IMG_1303 IMG_1305We caught the monorail back, and then the rapid transit to Pioneer Square, where we took the hour long tour of the Underground City. I found the history of the first city of Seattle interesting, but the actual remains not as impressive as I had expected. The tour guide was excellent though.

Underground City

The sidewalk grates provided the only light to the Underground City

Underground City

One store in the Underground City, perhaps updated?

We’d planned to meet other Mesa friends, Nita and Fred, for dinner, but that didn’t work out for them in the end.

After sandwiches at the nearby Subway, we boarded the train and bus back to the campsite. It was a wonderful day, but by the time we got back, at 7:15 pm it felt like midnight! I opened the fridge to get a drink of water and discovered that, from all the banging and bumping we’d done while crossing cobblestone intersections and jamming on brakes when it looked like someone was going to pull out in front of us that morning, a jar of Kalamati Olives had managed to flip completely upside down and all the juice had drained into the vegetable bins and the door shelves. Sigh. Not quite what I wanted to do that evening.

The next morning we enjoyed a hot breakfast available at the campground, before we got on the road again. We drove through intermittent cloud and rain, but the temperatures started to rise. When we were ready to stop for the night, there seemed to be few campsites around, but I thought I’d found a good one on public land near the reservoir at Cottage Grove, Oregon It took a bit to find it, only to discover that it was closed for the season. I’d missed that little detail at the bottom of the description. However we found a day Park with a paved parking lot right next to the reservoir. We parked there for the night. Fortunately we had stopped at a grocery store to buy a few groceries so we had food for dinner and breakfast.

Cottage Grove Reservoir

Room with a View of Reservoir

IMG_1343The next day, a visit to the Information Centre in California resulted in a decision to camp somewhere near the Shasta Caverns so we could do the 10:00 am tour the next day. It was only 3:00 pm when we pulled into Shasta RV Resort and Campground, but it was nice to have a shorter day. We enjoyed a walk through the forest and along the Shasta Reservoir while the sun was warm, and that evening we had great WiFi connections that enabled us to catch up on email, and I could add the pictures to my last blog post. If you want to see them, check it out.

Shasta RV Resort and Campground, California

Shasta RV Resort and Campground, California

IMG_1372Today, we did the Shasta Cavern Tour. It was quite the adventure, one that I will share in detail in my next post. I will say that we enjoyed it, but we were reminded that we aren’t as fit as we should be.

Tonight we’re at the Vineyard Campground, seventy miles away from San Francisco, where we will go tomorrow for a few days.

From Kaslo to Vancouver in the Motorhome, With a Few Detours


Our Canadian Tour has nearly come to an end. It’s been a busy time and I’ve fallen behind with blog posts, so before we start a new chapter with the US continuation of the trip, here is a summary of where we’ve been and what we’ve done since leaving Kaslo. Two posts about interesting things in Kaslo will follow. Since media uploads seem to be limited where we are, I will have to add more pictures, or do more detailed posts about some of these places later.

After a week of mostly sunny weather in Kaslo, and a trip with Sarah to Nelson, the weather turned dark and rainy when we left on the Saturday. We arrived in Vernon mid-afternoon and spent two nights with our friends, Judy and Keith. The sun was shining there. One morning Jim helped Keith pick the grapes from his vineyard, ready to be picked up by a commercial wine-maker. And I didn’t take any pictures! On the way home from dinner that night, we saw the eclipse of the harvest moon. I did take some pictures of that, but without a tripod handy, they didn’t turn out very well.

Monday morning we were on our way to Kamloops to meet up with some friends from our ukulele group in Mesa. Debby offered to put together a jam session with others from her Kamloops Ukulele Orchestra, and we had a great time playing for an hour or more. I was reminded again that I need to do more practicing if I want to keep up with that bunch, but it was fun. Thanks for organizing and hosting it, Debby.

Ukulele Jam

Ukulele Jam

Our campsite was along the South Thompson River, where we could watch some dragon boats glide by on their practice night.

South Thompson River

South Thompson River

Fortunately we were within walking distance of downtown Kamloops, since our trailer was parked up against a cliff, making it too difficult to get the bike out. We’d booked for two nights so we spent Tuesday walking across the Red Bridge and around the downtown. It’s a very interesting city to explore, but we were exhausted by the time we’d walked back to the motor home.

Crossing on the Red Bridge

Crossing on the Red Bridge

Before leaving the next day, we met with another friend, Patti, and her husband Wayne for lunch. Patti is another ukulele player from Mesa, but she couldn’t make it to the jam the day before. Thanks for a great lunch! It was fun to catch up.

From Kamloops we turned back south towards Hope. On the way, we stopped at Coquihalla Provincial Park to view the old Othello (railway) Tunnels, a stop recommended by Patti. They are amazing and well worth the stop. Also amazing was the fact that we met a woman, along the trail, who’s sister lives in the little Ontario town of Hastings, where we live!

Othello Tunnels

Othello Tunnels

IMG_1083 IMG_1090We spent the night in Hope, and were in Vancouver at Capilano River RV Park by noon the next day. It’s conveniently located just under the Lions Gate Bridge in West Vancouver, close to Park Royal Shopping Plaza, but the lots are very close together, with barely enough room to use the slides. The day was sunny and warm, but because we had domestic chores to catch up with, we got out only long enough to walk across the little bridge to the plaza for lunch.

On Friday we wanted to go to White Rock to another ukulele jam, also recommended by Patti, so off we went on the bike, ukuleles strapped into the back pack. Since we hadn’t yet put the GPS onto the bike we were going by Jim’s memory of a map. Three hours later, after getting lost while trying to visit Granville Island first, and then ending up on Hwy. 99A rather than 99, we finally arrived with ten minutes to spare! This group was much larger and zipped through tunes from their own song books. I had trouble keeping up, and even Jim got lost at times. But again, we had fun and learned a few things. We each purchased one of the two books which we will be able to use in Mesa.

None of the family we planned to visit was in Vancouver that week, so we spent Saturday just doing some shopping and staying in out of the rain. Early Sunday morning we loaded up the bike and caught the Tawassan Ferry to Victoria. After a cool start, the sun came out and warmed things up. Victoria is a marvelous place to visit. We took the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour and had lunch at the award-winning Barb’s Fish and Chips outdoor eatery on Fisherman’s Warf. If we couldn’t go to Arizona, this would be a nice place to spend the winters – not as warm, but seldom snow or freezing temperatures. It’s very expensive though.

IMG_1120On the ferry to Victoria

On the ferry to Victoria

Tiny Floating Homes at the Warf

Tiny Floating Homes at the Wharf

IMG_1168Fishermen"s Warf, Victoria

Fishermen”s Wharf, Victoria

The sun was beginning to sink behind the hills when we finally got back onto the bike and rode to Nanaimo, where would stay for the night and catch the morning ferry to Denman Island, and then Hornby Island. By the time we got to Nanaimo I was shivering so much I couldn’t stop. We warmed up with bowls of hot chili and mugs of tea/coffee at Tim Horton’s, across the street from the Howard Johnson Hotel, where we stayed. We were impressed with the cleanliness and quality of the hotel, and especially liked the front desk clerk, Billy, a bubbly blond woman who was interested in the fact that we were on a motorcycle because she’d just recently bought herself a bike.

We just missed the 10:00 am ferry from Buckley Bay to Denman Island. We enjoyed lunch in the sunshine on the deck of the Subway Restaurant at the terminal, and waited for the next one.

Waiting for Ferries

While Waiting for Ferries

While we waited for the ferry on Denman Island that would take us to Hornby Island, we watched a seal dive for fish.

Seal fishing off wharf on Denman Island

Seal fishing off wharf on Denman Island

Watching the Ferry ramp descend

Watching the Ferry ramp descend

The next five days we spent just relaxing with my sister Pauline, her husband Jim, and the “woofer” (young travelers who work for room and board), Stephan, and three Retrievers. My niece and her family were away on a trip, so it was quieter than usual. Heavy rain on most days after we arrived deterred us from taking our usual walks on the beach, but we did enjoy coffee on the deck of the general store at The Cove one morning, and walked among the boats moored in the harbor. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a home cooked chicken dinner on Saturday night, and then Sunday morning we were dashing for ferries again, this time back to our motor home in Vancouver.

Toll Bridge, Surrey BC

The new Toll Bridge on Hwy 1 at Surrey, heading into Vancouver.

This is where we are as I write this blog post. We’ve shared as much time as possible the last few days with my daughter Ann and great-grandson, Lucas, and cheered for the Blue Jays. But during the day Ann has to work while the sun shines (she’s a landscaper) and Lucas goes to school.

On our own one day, we found our way downtown to Canada Place, and Gas Town, both busy and interesting places during the summer, but much quieter this time of year.

Canada Place

Canada Place

Where Cruise Ships dock. Sadly, none there that day.

Where Cruise Ships dock. Sadly, none there that day.

Canada Place Vancouver

Gas Town, Vancouver

One of the many interesting old buildings in Gastown, Vancouver

Stream Clock in Gastown

Stream Clock in Gastown, a popular attraction

IMG_1264

The time spent with family has been precious, but today it’s time for us to start making our way to Arizona.

Exploring and Camping in Canada’s National Parks Part II


Banff National Park

We were awake at dawn the next morning so thought we’d postpone breakfast and get back onto the Parkway before other traffic, hoping, again, to see some of the wildlife that a multitude of signs along the road warned us about. We saw none. Fifty-two kilometers later we finally came to the only service area on the Parkway so we stopped for breakfast. It was nearly 9:00, but neither the restaurant nor cafeteria were quite ready to open. We looked at the restaurant menu and decided that we’d just grab some coffee at the store and eat cereal in the motor home. The Continental Breakfast would cost us $14.95 each, and the full breakfast buffet of bacon, eggs, sausages and pancakes, would be $25.00 each! As it was, two coffee cost $7.50.

The higher we climbed over the mountain pass, the more snow we saw on the evergreen trees and in the ditches. Fortunately it wasn’t on the roads. That’s the kind of snow I like to see! It was beautiful. By 10:30 we had crossed into Banff National Park.

Glacier Parkway

Glacier Parkway between the Glacier Centre and Banff

Glacier Pkwy (176)

It was just before noon when we reached our next planned destination, Lake Louise, but because it was still early we agreed to continue on to Banff and stop at Lake Louise on the way back the next day. An hour later we were at the Information Centre in downtown Banff getting campground information and lunch locations suggestions. We walked to JK Bakery and Cafe to fill up on salad and homemade lasagna for much less than the breakfast offered along the way. I also picked up a big loaf of their fresh multi-grain bread for less than the price of it in a grocery store. Look for it if you are ever in Banff.

We found a lovely, full hook-up campsite at Tunnel Mountain Trailer Park, that included a bus stop to catch the bus back into town, which we did as soon as we were hooked up. After looking around the shops, we found a grocery store where we bought a few supplies, and then had dinner at Tony Roma’s. To our surprise, the same cheery young Australian woman who’d waited on us at JK Bakery was our hostess here. In fact, most of the servers in the restaurant spoke with Australian accents. They love Banff, and I can’t blame them.

Banff

Banff

Banff

Our Campground

Banff (7) Banff (11)While we waited for our return bus I chatted with Wendy from London, England, who was in Banff on a bus tour.

The next afternoon we were out of the National Parks and into British Columbia. We decided to bypass Lake Louise this trip.

Exploring and Camping in Canada’s National Parks, Part I


Jasper National Park

We said goodbye to Edmonton just before noon on September 13, and entered the Whistlers campsite in Jasper National Park at 5:45 pm. Once we got out of the city suburbs the landscape began to change to hills and forests and then mountain vistas. I managed to capture some of the splendor with the camera, finding some clear spots between the splattered bugs and drops of rain on the windshield.

Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park

Jasper (16) Jasper (21)At the entrance to the National Parks we had to purchase a Park Permit at $8.25 per person, per day. Not bad for all that we saw! We purchased for two days to start.

We roamed around downtown Jasper, checked email and had a late lunch at Denny’s before we went to the campsite.

Jasper, Alberta

Some of downtown Jasper, Alberta

Jasper (29) Jasper (31) Jasper (32)It rained off and on most of the day, but had stopped when arrived at Whistlers, and we got a walk in before it started again. We’d hoped to get a glimpse of some more elk. We’d seen a family at one of the campsite areas on our way in. Jim tried to get a picture through the window, but we had to keep moving as we were blocking the road. Again the only wildlife that we saw was birds and squirrels.

Glimpse of Elk

Our only Glimpse of Elk

The next morning we moved on, returning to Jasper for a little more touring before checking into Wapiti Campground a little further down the road, where we left the trailer and drove the motor home to Maligne Canyon to spend a few hours walking the trails and snapping pictures. It was a good workout, not recommended for people with walking difficulties.

Maligne Gorge

Maligne Gorge, a beautiful hike

Jasper.Maligne Gorge (14) Jasper.Maligne Gorge (47) Jasper.Maligne Gorge (48) Jasper.Maligne Gorge (60)Next Stop, Columbia Ice Fields

We took the Glacier Parkway toward Banff the next day. The temperature had dropped and the off-and-on rain sometimes became wet snow.

By the time we reached the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre, Jasper National Park early in the afternoon, the wind was blowing large snowflakes around. I dug out our toques and gloves, the only winter wear I’d packed, and we climbed the hill from the parking lot to the Centre. We booked a tour of the Glacier and had just enough time to grab something to eat in the motor home before we had to line up. We’d climbed more stairs to the cafeteria/dining room, but didn’t think we could get through that line in time. We had to climb back up the hill to the Centre to catch the tour. We sure got our exercise that day! While I waited in the tour line, Jim bought an extension for our National Park Pass and found out that we could camp in the parking lot for the night.

The tour took us by bus up a mountain road to the edge of the glacier, where we transferred to an Ice Explorer, a massive vehicle especially designed for glacial travel. We bumped over the packed snow and held our breath as we did steep climbs up and down until we reached the parking spot where we were able to disembark for photo shoots in front of the base of the glacier. There were many tour groups there, and some were so fascinated with the snow that they had to sit in it and make snow balls. The sun came out just in time for us to see the mountain peaks. Another awe inspiring experience to add to our memories.

Glacier Icefields

Glacier Icefields as seen from our campsite

Jim standing on the glacier

Jim standing on the glacier

Glacier Pkwy (110)

Our transportation

Icefields

The dark line in the middle is where the tour stops

Glacier Pkwy (87) When we got back to the Centre the crowds had dispersed. We had some dinner at the cafeteria before walking back down to the motor home and snuggling under mounds of blankets to get warmed up. After a good night’s sleep we were on our way again.