2012  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   DAY SIX ON THE JOURNEY SOUTH:
HYTHE TO OLDS, ALBERTA

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

 
"The East Access Route is one of three major access routes to the Alaska Highway  
logged in The Milepost (the others are the West Access Route and Central Access Route).  
This was the first and only access route to Dawson Creek, BC -- and the start of the
Alaska Highway -- when the Alaska Highway opened to civilian traffic in 1948."
 
~ from The Milepost book, 2011 edition
 
 

Today we drove 468 miles on this eastern access route, one of our highest mileage days since we left Great Falls, MT in early June. It took us about nine hours (7:30 AM to 4:30 PM Mountain Time) with the usual rest breaks and getting off-course twice for a little bit. 

We started at sunrise, which is getting later rapidly as the Far North loses several minutes of daylight each day. The days are noticeably shorter.

We miss the long, long hours of daylight we enjoyed so much in June and July in Alaska.

ROUTE:  AB 43 to AB 16 (Yellowhead Hwy.), around SW part of Edmonton on new Anthony Henday Bypass/AB 216, and south on AB 2 toward Calgary.

These map sections are from The Milepost website:

 

Most of AB 43 is four-lane from Grande Prairie to Edmonton. The freeways through Edmonton are six to eight lanes wide. AB 2 between Edmonton and Calgary is four-lane and mostly a limited-access freeway.

ROAD CONDITIONS:   no road work slowdowns but lots of wavy road sections off and on and bumps at bridges and places where ďrepairsĒ have been made. It was rougher than we expected in this more urban/suburban area. The smoothest part was south of Edmonton to Olds, a town that is about halfway to Calgary and our stopping point for the night.

TRAFFIC:  fairly light until several miles west of Grande Prairie, then heavy through that city of 50,000+ people since it was the morning rush hour(s). Moderate traffic to Whitecourt (9,200 people), then increasingly heavy to Edmonton, population 283,000.

Traffic was heavy in the Edmonton metro area even though we went through after lunchtime. Traffic was also heavy all the way south of Edmonton on AB 2 toward Calgary. Most of that freeway is four-lane. It isnít totally limited access; there are some intersections without ramps so we had to be more cautious for vehicles entering/getting off.

Despite the conveniences of more populated areas we're also missing the solitude of the wilderness already.

GETTING OFF-COURSE 

Although itís nice to have sunshine when weíre traveling it was a problem going eastbound this morning after the sun got above the clouds.

When we got to Grande Prairie we couldnít see the sign where AB 43 first turned to the north and had to find our way to it on other city streets with more traffic lights and stop signs. That didnít add distance but it added time and stress.

Missing a turn isn't such a big deal if you get off-course in a passenger vehicle. When you're pulling a 36-foot 5th-wheel coach it IS a big deal. 

We added distance and stress in Edmonton when we got goofed up at the bypass around the southwest side of the city -- again. We messed up here in early June going northbound, too, and I neglected to consult my notes thoroughly enough before reaching the same intersection today.

The bypass and a major interchange have been built since our AAA map and our 2011Milepost book were printed, and we donít have current Canadian information on the GPS, either. Before we left Virginia in May Jim updated the USA information but not both it and Canada Ė the unit wonít hold all the information for both countries. We decided in June that we'd rely on our maps and The Milepost for Canada. Except for Edmonton, that's worked fine.

We got off AB 16 at 148th St., went south, and got diesel at Petro Pass at 118th St.  I went inside for information about how to get back to the bypass. A nice retired male customer, who lives in the area, explained how to get there.

Then he went outside to talk with Jim about pulling the Cameo with our Ram 2500 diesel truck. The man has an older Ram and older trailer and wants to upgrade both. He liked us enough to suggest that we just follow him because he was going back to AB 16. He told us which exit to take south to get to the Henday Bypass and AB 2.

That worked. It's nice to have the equivalent of a "trail angel" when you're off-track in a big city!

WEATHER:  As you can see from the photos it was mostly sunny today with lots of billowy white clouds. That was nice!

The sun helped keep us and the camper warmer on this chilly day. It was 41 F. this morning in Hythe and only in the mid-50s F. this afternoon, which is cooler than normal. The wind didnít help. West winds helped push us along east to Edmonton but we had a strong side wind when going south from there toward Calgary.

 
Frazz cartoon by Jef Mallett (10-16-11)

Although the weather hasnít been ideal in each place weíve traveled going back to the Lower 48 -- and the main reason we didnít go down the Cassiar Hwy. and through Banff and Jasper National Parks-- itís a good thing we werenít a day ahead of where we are. Our timing was just right for today and tomorrow through the southern half of Alberta.

Yesterday Calgary had winds of over 100 km (62 MPH) and there were large grass fires west of Lethbridge and Milk Grass that were fanned by the wind. Several thousand homeowners were evacuated. That might have caused us trouble on our route through those cities.

The wind was less strong today and the evening news indicates the fires are under control now. As far as we know there are no road closures that will affect us tomorrow.

FUEL:  we paid $1.119/liter = $4.24 CA per gallon at Petro Pass in Edmonton. Thatís the same as the Flying J nearby. Most of the time stations in Canada show only the gasoline prices. Sometimes diesel is more, sometimes less.

We plan to fill up in the morning here in Olds. Jim had trouble disconnecting the truck from the camper to fill the tank tonight. Rather than risk problems getting the Cameo hooked back up, he left it connected and will deal with the hitch tomorrow in Great Falls. He rode his bike to several stations nearby and found one where weíll get diesel in the morning. The cost is $1.139/liter.

TERRAIN & CRITTERS

Although we could see the Rocky Mountains in the Jasper area from Hythe when we left the campground this morning we lost sight of them in a few miles and never did see them again. It was supposed to rain and/or snow there today.

It was supposed to be very cold tonight in that area, too, so I didnít try to talk Jim into a detour from Grande Prairie down the Bighorn Hwy. to Jasper. I'd love to drive the Icefields Parkway someday. On a clear day that scenic drive would be more pleasant than all the traffic through Edmonton. Most of southern Alberta has frost warnings tonight, including Olds, Calgary, Lethbridge, and down to the Montana border. We hope our water pipes don't freeze.

 

The terrain today wasnít completely flat but it was certainly flatter than most of our trip through Canada and Alaska. There was little to no fall leaf color. Almost everything except the remaining wheat or chaff is green.

Oh, and there are still yellow dandelions and puffs at Olds!

The only critters we saw today were two pairs of deer in fields near the road and a dead moose in the median a few miles west of Edmonton. We saw lots of warning signs today for moose but there were no signs anywhere near the location where the one was struck.

OVERNIGHT PARKING 

We're at a Walmart for the first time since June. Can't exactly call that "camping," can we?

Last evening Jim spent time determining where various Walmarts were located on todayís route. Our sole source of information was the Rand McNally atlas that has Walmart and Sam's Club stores listed in the U.S. and Canada. Included are addresses and the nearest freeway exits, but not directions or store phone numbers.

As a side note, there are no Samís Clubs listed in the Walmart atlas for any of the Canadian provinces. We saw a couple Costcos today from the road; one is south of Red Deer on the west side of AB 2.   

Jim originally wanted to stop at the store in Leduc south of Edmonton but we got there about 2:30 PM. That was not only earlier than we wanted to stop today, it would also mean too many remaining miles to reach Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, MT tomorrow. We don't have to be there tomorrow. Since we've been able to get this far in six days we'd like to avoid having to spend a seventh night on the road.

There are two Walmart stores in the Red Deer area between Edmonton and Calgary. Neither is a super Walmart and we didnít have directions to either store (since we don't have the GPS programmed for Canada). As it was, we didnít see either one from the freeway, nor intersections for the roads theyíre on.


Sunset from the shopping area where we're parked tonight

In the atlas I found a super Walmart at Olds and assumed it was near the freeway. Turned out, itís four or five miles west of the freeway in town. Itís a small store but it has a large parking area and it wasnít at all crowded when we arrived about 4:25 PM.

There was just one small Class C motorhome parked out from the garden area when we arrived. We parked along a grassy, treed strip. There are lots of other stores around and plenty of traffic Ė but no freeway noise. The store closed during the night so there was also less traffic in the parking lot than at  Walmarts that are open 24/7.

Before supper I took Cody for a walk behind the store in a large vacant field with a hill we could climb. Jim got exercise on his bike when he drove around town looking for diesel.

We were able to get TV stations from Calgary to hear local, regional, and US news. This is the 11th anniversary of 9-11. We didn't need a newscaster to remind us. Every year we wake up on September 11 and remember that dark day in American history.

There was a nice sunset about 8 PM, then it got dark pretty fast. < sigh >

Next entryDay 7 on the journey south -- back in the USA!!

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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