Funny, but all I can remember is the melody to
the Beatles' parody, "Back in the USSR!"
Although we didn't have a bad time in Canada on
our way back from Alaska to Montana we are very happy to be on USA soil
again for several reasons:
We are used to being online for several hours
every day. We were too frugal to use our cell phones to make calls or
our MiFi card to get online during the last seven days through Canada
and we weren't able to get free WiFi whenever we wanted it (more a
problem for me than Jim because I have a PC, not a portable laptop). Now we
feel more "connected" and we can freely check our e-mail, finances,
news reports, weather, etc. again on the internet.
We are very tired of driving/riding after
seven straight days and 2,403 miles since we left Fairbanks.
We joke that we're "tripped out " -- but it's not really a
joke. We're happy to just stay put in one place for a week:
Our new home for a week
The weather hasn't been the greatest all
summer. It was one of the coldest, wettest summers in Alaska's recent
history. Much of the time we were in Canada in June and this past week
was also cold, wet, or overcast. Here in Great Falls it's warmer,
sunny, and the lowest humidity we've had since we left here in early
June. Maybe we can finally get the camper dried out!
Finally, after so many new things we
experienced during our
whole Alaska-Canada adventure the past 3Ĺ
months it's nice to be on more familiar turf again. Jim lived
in Montana for 18 years and I lived there with him for five years
before we bought our property in Virginia. Montana, South Dakota, and
other states out West feel more like "home" to us than Virginia does.
This was another relatively long day on the
road but not as long as yesterday. We covered 392 miles from Olds, Alberta to
Gateway FamCamp on Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. It took
us a little over seven hours (6:50 AM to
2 PM, all on Mountain Time) with two fuel stops, a border crossing,
lunch, and potty stops.
Sunrise was beautiful as we drove east toward AB 2 from Olds in the
The sun came up about 7 AM. I got some pictures of the silhouette of our
truck/camper against golden wheat fields after the sun came up:
The RV silhouettes remind me of similar photos I took in New Mexico last
Before we pulled out from Walmart this morning Jim noted that the guy
parked near us in an old Class C motorhome was hooked up to the
electrical outlet in a post in the parking lot! We didnít see that
before we went to bed. Pretty good if you can work that out!
You better bet weíll be looking for an outlet at the next WM . . .
or maybe itís a Canadian/Alaska thing. Some parking lots have
electrical outlets to keep vehicle engines warm during the winter. Weíve
seen them at some schools and businesses in the Far North.
WEATHER: low 30s F. throughout southern Alberta in the
morning, low 60s F. in Great Falls in the afternoon. Sunshine all day
with a few clouds. Minimal wind. Great weather all day and it's supposed
to get warmer this week in Great Falls.
ROUTE: east on AB 27 to AB 2, south through Calgary to
McLeod, AB 3 to Lethbridge, AB 4 south of Lethbridge to the U.S. border,
then south on I-15 to Great Falls. The Air Force Base is on the SE part
Here are the relevant map sections for the East
Access Route (to Alaska) from The Milepost
We missed the first turn for AB 4 in Lethbridge and went through town.
We didnít go any extra distance but it took longer.
There are numerous RV dealers and storage places near both Edmonton and
Calgary. I still saw numerous RVs in peoplesí yards, too.
Appears to me that RVing is more popular in Alberta and British Columbia
than most of the U.S. (or maybe folks in the U.S. aren't allowed to keep
their RVs on their own property as often?).
ROAD CONDITIONS: pretty good all day. The roughest section
was for a few miles south of Lethbridge but compared to most of our
route through Canada, it was good. We saw road work in only one place
(in Montana, at a river crossing) but it didnít slow us down much.
TRAFFIC CONDITIONS: heavy in both directions from Olds to
and through Calgary; moderately light down to Lethbridge, then scant all
the way to Great Falls.
It took 30+ minutes to get through metro Calgary from 7:45-8:15 AM,
right at rush hour. We had stop and go traffic for several miles to the
center of town. We knew we'd hit the morning rush there but we wanted to
reach Great Falls as early as possible in the afternoon.
Wheat field north of Calgary, AB
Hay bales south of Calgary
FUEL: We filled the tank with diesel at FasGas in Olds
after we left Walmart this morning ($1.139/liter = $4.28/gallon
That went better than the six gallons we got at the Exxon in Shelby, MT.
We didnít think we could make it all the way to Great Falls. We had to
go through the truck lanes and Jim had to go inside to pay. It was
$4.13/gallon U.S., which was higher than we expected. The range we saw
coming through Great Falls was $4.09-4.13. Bruce, the campground host at
Malmstrom AFB, said diesel went up 10 cents/gallon about a week ago.
There is no diesel on base, unfortunately.
could see the Rockies soon after getting on the freeway at Olds and all
the rest of the way down to Great Falls. There were fewer clouds over
the mountains today. I could see snow at higher elevations.
The terrain through which we drove was fairly flat
in Alberta and a little hillier in Montana.
Above and below: hay bales in an Alberta field, with the Rockies
in the background
I didnít see any flowers this morning along the roadway in Alberta.
South of Shelby, MT there were sunflowers, yellow daisies, and other
flowers. Ditto at the campground in Great Falls Ė purple aster-like
clumps, low clumps of yellow daisies, even shorter clumps of white
daisy-like flowers Ė and dandelions, of course.
We heard on the news that 4,800 hectares (= 11,856 acres) of grassland
burned on the Blood Indian Reserve west of Lethbridge, Alberta, fanned by 80 km
winds (= ~ 50 MPH). Some of the damage was outside the reserve near Lethbridge.
We could see and smell burned grass right up to the freeway
as we approached the town of Coalhurst just north of Lethbridge:
Above and below: burned land right up to the
we didnít want to go through there when the fire was burning. With a
west wind and fire to the pavement on that side, the four-lane
road surely would have been closed.
We heard the last two days that some folks in Milk River were also
evacuated but we didnít see any burned areas there.
SWEET GRASS, MT. BORDER CROSSING
The Sweet Grass-Coutts border crossing was quick again. We're
four-for-four for not having to go through an RV or truck inspection.
Two lines were open for U.S.-bound
passenger vehicles and RVs and a third one for semis.
We waited briefly in line for two cars ahead of us. When it was our turn
a personable young man greeted us warmly, quite in contrast to the sour fella at the
Alaska-Canada border a week ago:
After looking briefly at our passports he asked us about our residence
and where weíre going, how long we were in Canada, whether we had any
firearms (bear spray OK), whether we had any fruits or vegetables from
Canada (two bananas = OK, everything else was from Alaska), and if we
had any seafood. When we said frozen salmon, he asked if we caught it.
We said we bought it at Safeway in Alaska and that was OK.
Not sure if it would have been a problem if weíd caught it or if that
was a conversational question!
He knew we had a dog but didnít ask about Codyís papers or health,
alcohol, vehicle registration or insurance, prescription drugs, other
food questions, etc.
I donít regret the research we both did re: crossing the borders on this
trip but I regret all the worrying I did before the first
crossing in early June. All four border crossings were uneventful this
summer. Iím not saying either country is lax. We had our ducks in a row,
answered the questions honestly, and had nothing to hide. We highly
recommend other travelers simply follow the rules and be courteous to
the border agents.
Weíre very glad we didnít have to endure the hassle of having the camper
and truck searched. In all the years we've both been traveling by RV
that has happened to us only one time Ė at the White
Sands Missile Base in New Mexico when we camped there several years ago.
We are camped for the next week at Gateway FamCamp at Malmstrom AFB
where we camped at the end of May. I'll describe the facilities and show
photos in the next entry.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil