Wednesday, April 30, 2014

An Amazing Day On The Icefield Parkway

This day was blessed with a deep blue sky, not a cloud anywhere. I got my group going at 9am and we were heading straight over to Lake Louise. This place of all in Canada is sure holding a special place in my heart, and I will tell you why. When I was 15yrs old I was totally in love with Canada. And I had seen pictures of a beautiful lake in the Canadian Rockies – Lake Louise – !!
I read so much about it that I knew just about everything about the area. And when my  Dad build me a fiberglass kayak, I named it LAKE LOUISE. It was a head turner. For why would a boy call a boat in Germany after a Canadian Lake?

Well, my first visit to my dream place was in 1984, and here I am for a whole summer driving bus. A dream became true.

Now, I also screwed up today when I forgot to take my SR-card reader for the CANON with me. So here I am with some nice pics and can’t even upload them. I have a few taken with the phone but they don’t show what we saw today. But, like they say, there’s always another day…
            Right at the Athabasca Glacier: another Ice Explorer

We concluded this terrific day with a family-style meal downtown.

20140429_194101As a driver, I even got a free extra ice cream. How’s that for good treatment?
                                  At the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

DSC_0159_2And when I opened my email I saw a selfie of  Bea accompanied by a birthday cake, which she enjoyed at our neighbour’s place. Yes, she had her party and was invited for supper and coffee. I love those folks. When I phoned Bea early in the morning she told me that Molly had recognized my voice on the phone and had answered with a sad…little whine. “Come home Dad, please”.  I would be lying if I said, I wasn’t touched.

And WHAT on Earth is this: NORWEGIAN Elg Hound ON THE TABLE???

Now, thanks for coming by again. Hopefully I’ll have the pics out tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Changing Weather

When I opened my door this morning, I stepped right into some wet snow. In fact, it was all white again here on Tunnel Mountain. My appreciation of that was indeed very limited. I walked over to the shower house and had myself a good soak.  Refreshed. I had myself a toast & jam breakfast with a fast cup of coffee, the kind which will dissolve in hot water. But it’s a good one, in fact the best you can buy. I’m kind of fuzzy with my coffee. It’s too thin or too strong I pour it away. Gotta be right.
20140428_100431_5In order to get a coffee “on the go”, Canadians prefer Tim Hortons. They prefer it so much that they are willing to stand in line for 30 minutes, just to get that desired coffee.

Just like me this morning at the airport…

When I arrived at the bus garage it was sleeting. I had another trip to Calgary on my plate, the third on in 3 days. I’m starting to get to know that piece of the road.

Which is good.

Taking pictures? Forget it. There was NOTHING to see out there. Just plain greyness. However, while I was parked in a waiting bay at the Airport, the weather lightened up. It wouldn’t be Calgary without it. If you don’t like the weather. just wait 5 minutes. After lunch downtown, (guess what, I even found an empty spot for the bus), the trail went westward to Banff. where our destination was “The Gondola”.
It lets people get up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. It’s quite the ride and in spite the early season the place was teeming with people. 
Have you ever seen this monster before? It is made to run on a glacier. Yes, you can take the ride on the biggest glacier in North America, the Columbia Icefield. This one was just on display for the public to see. It’s “Made in Calgary”.

Afterwards I suggested scenic Bow Falls and that’s where my people from Thailand spent considerable time. They walked on snow, sat in the snow and took lots of pictures!
I was watching from the distance and had me a chuckle or two.

There was even a wedding party at work getting their pictures taken.
By now, the weather had turned into the nicest spring weather, the sun was out and I could see people walking all over the place. Supposedly we’ll have some more nice weather tomorrow.
Let’s hope that for we’ll go up the famous ICEFIELD PARKWAY.

Thanks for dropping in again!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Home Is My Castle

Of course, you all know this saying. And it is so true. Where ever your home is, whether it’s a mansion, a small cabin in the woods or…yes your RV, it is home to you. And you love to come back to it after having been away. It was exactly this feeling of coming “home” which hit me after I had dropped off my group in the city and was driving towards Banff. However, I delayed my homecoming with just enough time to get into the local food marked to reward myself with 2 DOUGHNUTS. Yes, that’s right TWO doughnuts. And what fun it was to finally sit down with a good cup of coffee and those pastries. I have always found that I had most pleasure of the small rewards in life, often times the one which sprang out of a sudden urge or feeling or came quite unexpected.


It had been snowing since the early morning and most places looked like winter had settled in again. Yet, the drive up from Lethbridge was uneventful as the roads were only wet, but clear of snow.  Temperatures were hovering between 30-34F, so it wasn’t too cold. I quickly got the trailer warmed up, and settled on the comfy couch.
I am going to have a half day off tomorrow and then it’s back to the Calgary Intern’l Airport for a pickup. And oh yes…even the 3 days after that are gonna be busy. Well, didn’t I ask for it?
Yes, I did.

And today I woke up to the most gorgeous views. What a scenery!


My digs in the mountains.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bio Gas, Wind Power And Energy Concepts

I had the bus at the ready, when my group was marching up this morning. Our first destination was the Lethbridge Biogas Plant. Have you ever wondered what happens with road kill or dead farm animals or even their manure? Here, in Alberta, they have deloped a project facility which can take care of all of this.

When the trucks coming in on a daily basis they unload their smelly freight into a grinder, from where the mass will be pushed into a digester. And even though this sounds pretty easy, it is not. The necessary technology has been hauled across the Atlantic from Germany. But Alberta firms have contributed with their part, so it is an outstanding example of an International cooperation. This facility is actively helping surrounding dairy and hog operations to get rid of their manure, which, if spread in its entirety would lead to a run-off pollution. But that’s not all, What the Biogas Plant is interested in is extraction of the gases. After doing that they are actually delivering a fertilizer back to the farms. Only at now the stuff contains a lot less phosphorus, which is not good for the environment if spread in too big amounts. Furthermore it has reduced the bad odours. Future plans contain a pellet plant, which will turn the product in a sellable commodity.

But what happens with all that bio gas?  Well, it is being fed into a giant 1800hp engine which in turn produces electric power. That power is currently supplied into the grid. The initiative came from surrounding farms and involved (naturally) a lot of Red Tape.  Truly an interesting project which today produces about 4.3Megawatt of power.
From the company’s website: Lethbridge Biogas will be a full scale biogas cogeneration project fueled by organics comprised of agricultural manures and food processing wastes. Situated in the County of Lethbridge Rave Industrial Park, Lethbridge Biogas has more than the required amounts of organic “fuel” available within 15 km. Generating electrical and thermal energy through the anaerobic digestion of organics reduces greenhouse gases significantly. Odors are reduced by up to 75 per cent using an innovative biological air treatment system. This facility will be the first to incorporate patented thermal hydrolysis technology approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for the destruction of prions that cause BSE in cattle. - See more at:
20140425_100155    20140425_100320
Besides of having tons of German-made components in their plant they have also hired German engineers, one of which I met and had a little chat with.
20140425_101113(0) 20140425_101854_1 
The afternoon was spent in a different place, namely the Taber Wind Farm. This 39 wind-turbine facility is literally way out in the middle of nowhere. The turbines are 90m high and theand20140425_102837                                  The big generator

their blades are 40m. We, or course, had a little orientation inside one of the turbine tower. Even I would have loved the view from the top, we stayed confined to the bottom floor. Again the technology was brought over from Europe, namely Denmark and Germany. It was quite impressive to feel all that technology and the huge turbine blades over top of us. Just by pressing a little button on the control panel, the engineer stopped the blades from turning. While there was an ear splitting noise inside the tower when the turbine was still running it became very quiet after it stopped. Also, the blades have been fitted with a little end wing, kind of like you see at the end of airplane wings. That little gimmick has actually reduced the outside swishing noise level.

I wouldn’t want to live too close to those monsters at the turning blades are throwing shadows on the ground which be very disturbing to humans.

While alternative energy is being researched, some people also work with SAVING energy by f.ex. building energy efficient homes. And that was the last show of the day, when we drove into the little village of Coalhurst where we sure made the neighbours stick their heads together, wondering what this big bus was doing in their quiet little street. Interestingly there was another German at work with this company.

Overall, this was a very interesting day for everybody and again I’m feeling lucky being able to see all this and even being paid.

Tomorrow we will be heading back to Calgary from where the delegates, all Alberta teachers, start going home again.

More bus rides are already stapled up for me. Seems like I will be very busy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

They Sent Me Into The Thick Of Calgary

I was up at 5:30 and it was pretty cold outside. (29F) It was cool inside as well. My furnace wasn’t working today either. hasn’t been working for 4 days now. Typical cheap RV-stuff they mount into the trailers. It just gives a click when I turn it on and that’s it. So I have been using electrical heaters, which has kept me warm, but something needs to be done. And quickly!

So the reason why I was up that darn early was that I was looking towards my first day at work. They had handed me a program involving pickup at a Calgary Hotel and with a few other destinations within Calgary before heading it off to the City of Lethbridge.  I had actually worked all evening yesterday plotting out the necessary route, where to turn and where not. Calgary is a big city and prides itself with lots of one-way roads. So it’s not like you just can go anywhere you want. Good maps and first of all a working GPS is a must.
Speaking of our trusty old Garmin lady. Of course she had her day off today. At least so it seemed as the darn thing wouldn’t even connect to any of those satellites. I kept trying and trying and only AFTER I had arrived at the hotel it all-of-a-sudden sprang back to life.
My group was delayed out of the hotel as well so I had plenty of time to play aroudn with my Smart phone. That is until the battery got dangerously low – so I quit. I need a car charger!

When we finally got going it was like the destination had no address. Really they ain’t any! They live and work in a vacuum.
But one of the girls knew a little and we got where we should.

Where do you park a 38ft.bus in the city? My big concern. But even that found a solution as there actually was a gravel parking lot right beside the building. I pulled in and now they are all gone and watch the bunnies hopping around here. Did you know that bunnies actually lived in the thick of downtown Calgary. Amazing!  Also some other entertainment, although repetitive, is the Canadian Pacific Railroad which runs right along here. The view I have is not bad as I’m looking straight at Calgary skyscrapers. Up there, I’m sure, are some offices of some big shots, leading the oil business, making millions every day. But hey, they don’t get to see the country, like I do.

And today I even saw the monkeys and great apes.

In the Calgary Zoo, that is. Unfortunately my phone was dead and my Canon was at home. But if YOU ever come to Calgary, go and see the Zoo. It is a must-see indeed.
After wandering around between the wild animals of the planet, (there is even a pre-historic part with Dinos) we went on to Lethbridge, a rather lengthy drive, but luckily Alberta Highways are “best in class” in Canada, so little problems there either
Dinner was at the Mocha Cabana, a Mexican-style restaurant right downtown Lethbridge. Excellent food and nice atmosphere.

So, at 8:30 I have been at it for 14hrs. and that’s enough.

Nighty, nighty…!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Hike To The Hoodoos

What the Heck are Hoodoos? That was the question I found on one of the explanatory signs set up along the trail. Well, hoodoos are tower-like remains after erosion has removed all surrounding soil.
They “survived” erosion because they have a stone on the top which protects the soil from rain. It’s like wearing a cap. Hoodoos can be found anywhere in mountainous terrain. I have seen Hoodoos in Norway and I have seen them in the States and around Jasper, AB. They look like ghosts standing on a slope, gazing across the valley. People are attracted to them because they are so different than anything else in nature.
Driving up Tunnel Mountain Rd at Banff, one can stop and take a quick hike to a view platform from where they can be seen down below. I drove the short distance from the Campground to the parking lot and took the hike this afternoon.
IMG_8837  IMG_8842
Besides of seeing the hoodoos, I enjoyed the magnificent view across the Bow Valley. A soft warm breeze was brushing across the ridge and through the Douglas firs. It was like spring had arrived in an instant. Far below, the river was free of most of its ice load flowing freely towards Calgary and the prairie.
Far away in the haze I could make out the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. A few squirrels were playing high up in the firs surly wondering what this fellow had for business down there.
Three black crows were tumbling and screaming around the high tops of the trees.
I was all alone out here and the paved path had given way for a much more narrow trampled path between tree stands. Snow had been on this path not long ago and when it turned too muddy I backtracked. I thought of the bears. It sure was warm enough for them to come out of hibernation. They would be looking for food now. I couldn’t think of any probable food around where I was. But they would be thirsty too, so maybe they would be going down to the river, maybe even find some fish to feed on.
After the hike I was enjoying to come home and inside to a warm place and a good cup of coffee. Now, the picture below was taken this morning with my breakfast still waiting for me.
Hope you enjoyed the hike.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Please, Let Me Know When I SCREW UP

I mean it. You are too polite to tell me. Like yesterday’s screw-up when an entire paragraph of text was doubled up in my posting. I only learned about it from Bea’s comment, and  I’m almost ashamed that stuff like that passed through the check. When posting this I was sitting at Mc.Donalds, this time with a small cup of coffee, and I had hit the “Publish” button 3 times and every time it returned an error. Yet there was only one other guy with a little note book in the place, so it wasn’t that the internet could have been slow by overuse. Could have been on Blogger’s end that things didn’t go through. Anyhow, this text got doubled up. But I have taken care of it and removed it.

While I was sitting there waiting for the posting going through, my friend from Norway called on SKYPE. Have you ever tried to talk to somebody on SKYPE while being in a place like Mc,Donalds? There is not the tiniest chance that neither you nor your partner on the other end can understand a word. The noise level around you is just way over the top. So we did the “chat” which does not involve talking but is utter texting only.

I have never been so often in a Mc.Donalds location than over the last few days. I like their coffee and the price of it.
Their Banff location is quite different than anything you have seen of Mc.Donalds before. If you’re looking for that double golden arch you’d be looking for ever, cause it ain’t there. No Sir, Banff bylaws don’t allow for such signage. So when I first was looking for ANY Mc.Donalds in town, I drove by twice without noticing it, cause I was looking….right… for the golden arch.

Didn’t stay any longer in town and forgot to fill gas too. Had myself home into my trailer to get some lunch going. Cooked up some beans, added the last meat balls, and while the whole thing was bubbling on the range, I took the opportunity to throw in an Italian sausage, but which I didn’t eat yet. Cooking dry goods like beans isn’t what I have done a whole lot and because of that I called the Missus at home to receive a few instructions on how to go about that. Well, it all turned out quite good. There are more beans in the bin and I will have them some other time.

While I enjoy a 30amp power hook-up here, I have to pay the sum of $32.50/day, which, needless to say, is too much if you have to stay 6 months. So I have been looking for an alternative which is a real tricky part as I am in a National Park where certain rules apply. So the other day I was cruising around in some places and came across an “Overflow Camping” not far out of town. It’s basically a graveled area, not unlike any rough truck stop, but without the trucks.
2 pit toilets, a garbage container, and a self-registration hut is all there is of services. The toilets were still locked up and the last snow was about to melt away. Checking out the self-registration, it mentions a fee of $10/day, which multiplied with 30 days, is a lot more friendlier to my budget, than the almost $1000/month where I am right now. Yet, it is 10 times over what the winter on BLM-land in California is costing. 

But I still have some time until my 2 weeks here are up.

Yesterday’s weather has been a typical April-type of weather. Sometimes the sun was out, then again we had a mighty snow shower. Finally, during the late afternoon it all calmed down and the sun came for good. Since I have been cooped up most of the day I decided to get myself out walking. I sure wish Molly would be here as she is always pestering us for going out with her. I went and explored the still closed-off area of the campground. And while I was quietly walking down the paved camp road – not another human being around – I suddenly saw a few elk cows walking through the forest. I stopped and stood behind a spruce tree – observing as the cows stepped out on the road. They had noticed me already and were standing there about 150yrds away, just testing on whether or not I was a risk to them. Finally, 2 of them walked entirely over and stepped in between the trees on the other side of the road. Another couple of them came out and then more and more. I counted a total of 9 cows, a little herd indeed. They were huge, maybe carrying calves some of them. When all of them had gone into the forest I walked on. I glanced over to my left and could see their brown bodies between the trees. They were feeding on the yellow grass. What a great experience here in the park.

Getting back from my little walk-about I met the friendly lady from Saskatchewan whose husband had moved my trailer the other day.
She promptly invited me over for a BBQ-supper. So all-of-a-sudden I was sitting in their little trailer and having supper with them. What a nice couple of RVers to meet. They have been coming here every spring for 19 years!!

So, I’m keeping up, out here, but I’m looking forward to Easter finally being over as both the library and the post office is still closed.

Thanks for dropping by again!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Being Smart With A Smart Phone?

The necessity of having a phone at my disposal became apparent when I realized that there wouldn’t be fine working internet connections in the middle of nowhere. And when I walked into an electronic-gadget-store the other day, inquiring about whether they carried “mobile hotspots” they told me that no such thing could be purchased, that is unless one would go on a 2-year “plan”. Well, I happen to know that those “plans” have only one purpose and that is to haul as much money out of the customer’s pocket as possible. No “pre-paid” solution is available around these parts, quite contrary to what is the case in the U.S. I just recently got a Smart phone with a contract. But they don’t call it a contract. But whatever it is, it will be a monthly pay-out for 5 years.
Last fall, the Canadian government prohibited contract terms exceeding 2 years. That’s why KOODO, a subsidiary of TELUS, doesn’t call it a contract when they bind customers for 5 years. They sell expensive smart phones like my SAMSUNG GALAXY for $300.00 a piece, but give it to you for free. They even give you a $50.00 Wally World Gift Card. When you have chosen your “plan” they ad $5.00 to the chosen monthly amount which over 5yrs. pays off the phone. The math would be 5x60=300.
The legal gimmick they are running on, is that you may pay off the phone at any time and you would find yourself in a no-contract situation and could cut off your payments entirely. That has actually been an option as long as phone companies have exploited their customers. But of course, 90% of their customers will never do that and the morale of the story is that Koodo has outsmarted the Canadian Government.
Famous Banff Ave
Now, am I a happy man with my Galaxy?

No and yes. Or yes and no.

My basic use of ANY phone would be….to make phone calls. I mean that’s why those things once were invented. From my very first mobile phone experience to today’s super smart phones it has been a long journey. After making simple phone calls from brick-big monsters to the mini phones of the late nineties, where you could hardly see anything on the screen, cell phones have again grown in size. It seems like size matters again these days. Big fancy black shining screens in space-age look are en vogue. There are no more protruding buttons to press. Instead, you move you fatty fingers across a slick screen. But hey - they shouldn’t be big fingers, cause if they are, you touch 3 letters at the same time and the phone in your hands isn’t capable of working that out.
20140419_103218_1 20140419_103358
Over the last coupla days I have fine-tuned my touch to the screen. Lowering my finger kind of with the side and softly touching whatever I have to touch. Doesn’t work out all the time either. Nope, like when I tried to set up my email on this thing I had to do it umpteen times, cause there was always the dreaded message that the server hadn’t responded in a positive way.
20140419_102623 20140419_103147
The Rockies – tall and majestic
Checking back. I found that a foreign letter had snaked into my email address or was added to my ID. Well, I finally made it happen, so I am connected like never before. But there is more- oh so much more. Texting, sending pictures, yes TAKING pictures, all that has to be learned again. And I better be fast, cause if I take too much time, fumbling around on the screen, the darn thing is simply shutting down, and I have the pleasure of starting it all over again.

Take just yesterday. I wanted to take a picture of Banff Avenue and brought the cell phone into position in front of my face, so I could actually see what I was doing. Fumbled around long enough and when I finally touched the camera symbol I had produced a picture of my self. Turned out that I invertently had touched some upper ….well let’s still call it “button”, which makes the camera eye turn the other way round. It’s like you want to shoot the enemy and instead the shot backfires into your face. Hmm…..ugly. But now I understand why there are so many “selfies” on facebook these days. Another drawback is that the picture on the screen is hardly visible in broad daylight. That is a problem the smart phone shares with cheaper digital cameras, where there is no view finder.

When former computers contained programs and program files, now the updated version would be an “APP”. This funny abbreviation originates from the word APPlication. Exploring my Galaxy, which in fact is a computer, I found tons of Apps. Most of it I will never touch, cause they are useless to me. I wouldn’t know what to do with it, and if I haven’t missed it so far, I never will. My new Toshiba computer has it too. I uninstalled so many, that I lost count of it. It really cleaned up between all the “tiles” on my screen.
Banff Falls

So what about being happy with my Galaxy? Well for one thing, whatever pops up on the screen is easy to read. (except in full sunshine) That goes for pictures as well, which by the way seem to be of good quality. I can email them from there to whoever I want, without first transferring them to my computer. Of course, one has to be cautious with that. Remember the “plan”. It speaks of a limited amount of data pr. month.  And if I go over that limit, my bill will explode. So I won’t use that feature too often.

Overall, I still prefer a solid digital camera. Phones are phones and will never replace real cameras.

Concluding this posting I wish everybody a

Friday, April 18, 2014

No Chicken For Me Please


After all that excitement with elks standing around in all the wrong places, I went to town. For those of you who have never been in Banff, here is what Banff has to deal with.
First there is the fact that the city is surrounded by Parks Canada. That severely limits future developments making Banff a place which has to deal with everything within existing boundaries. As much as Parks Canada limits physical growth it has also created a city which can easily be compared with the tourism metropolis of St.Moritz in Switzerland. Whoever comes to Banff thinks he or she is the center of the world. Watching the curbside can be quite entertaining…. But that kind of clientele is bringing millions of easy earned Dollars into town. Consequently the entire city centre is dedicated to get more Dollars out of every visitor. Fancy shops and eateries are what you gonna see along the famous Banff Avenue. It’s like being on Kurfuerstendamm in Berlin, 5th Avenue in NYC or the Champs Elysee, Paris France. “Normal” people rather stick to the back roads – like me. Traffic is simply huge. Finding a spot where to park your wheels is a challenge. I was in search for the Public Library which I found right down at the Bow River on a corner at Bear Street. They have nice and lightning fast internet.
Right across is the Post office, where I dropped a letter.
Then I had to go shopping. I didn’t need much, but being there I wandered around to check pricing on things. I was in for a surprise when looking at chicken meat. The package with chicken strips (left-overs at the butcher shop) had a kilo price of over $17.00. That makes for over $7.70/lb. We always bought chicken breasts for under $2.00 a pound in the U.S. So needless to say chicken is off the menu this summer. All other meat is almost the same as we have seen in the U.S.

Done with my shopping, I proceeded to find a coin laundry.  I didn’t take my stuff in there as there was no parking around. By-the-way it’s located in the basement of a shopping mall – downtown Banff. Go figure.
But I did go down there to check it out. You remember the little slots where you put in 6 X 25cts in U.S. Laundromats? Here you’ll want tp put in Dollars instead. Six of them. Dryers are the same and big machines are $20.00.  I fail to see that Canadians are making so much more money to make up for all these inflated prices. And I haven’t even mentioned gas prices which right here are currently peeking at $4.73/gal. Just so you know, in case you come to the big white north and you need to make adjustments to your travel budget. But then again the U.S. Dollar is currently 10-12% above the Canadian. A good portion of that, however, is eaten up by the bank’s exchange rate.

So will I be living of porridge with water only? I don’t think so. My latest kitchen job ended in meat balls and I still have plenty of it.

Thanks for keeping me company here!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Continuing Story

t was morning and I had called for a different towing company. They made me an offer, a little higher than the previous guy, but hey, if they would show up…..?
So I waited…and waited…and waited some more. Then I called again. “I’m on my way”.  So I waited…and waited…and 2 hrs. had gone by after the initial call and I was just grabbing my new phone (that’s another story) to make another call when I saw the tow truck coming up the truck stop, lights flashing like he was some big monster. They sent a 3/4t Dodge, lifted body, which could prove difficult at the hitch end of things.

A young middle easterner popped out, nice guy, and after 15 minutes it was a go. The truck had no sway bars so I was just hoping for the best.
On the way down to Canmore (it’s a lot of down grades) I had him in front me, and I watched my speedometer going to 120km/hr. THERE…..the trailer began dancing like a ball behind his truck. He braked and the thing calmed down. I almost had a heart attack. Arriving at Canmore, we pulled up in front of the RV-Park office. They had not advised which site I was in so I tried the door. Nobody there!  It started to snow. There was some cold wind as well. And I had a paid tow truck waiting. Time went by. A service guy was coming down the road and I stopped him. What nobody there?  He got out went somewhere behind the building, came back and told us somebody would show up “very soon”. It didn’t happen. Nobody came and it snowed a lot now. And the tow truck clock was ticking. I had told the people I would be there at noon and they just closed the office for an extended lunch hour!  SNOTTY!
So finally I advised the truck driver to drop the trailer in an empty spot. I paid him –more than they had quoted me- and was alone in the snow. The office lady finally came around and I had a “chat” with her. She didn’t like that one a bit.
But I was settled in – for now.
However, the entire RV park has a big problem. The problem has a name: Spring Creek. It flows just 5ft. below the level of the park. So when all that white stuff in the mountain is coming down in June, the entire area is threatened by spring floods which will land your rig in deep water, which will mean deep trouble. So, I didn’t like the park. And since the people there were arrogant and…yes, snotty…I asked an RV neighbour from Manitoba whether he could be so kind to move my trailer next morning to a park in Banff. He readily agreed so in the morning I pulled up stakes, and migrated right into the Banff National Park. It’s high up from ground zero and no creek in the neighbourhood – just the CN/CP railways as a faint rumble through the forest. The trains don’t even blow the whistle as wildlife is not to be disturbed.

Yes, I love my new location, It is extremely peaceful, no cars speeding by, and it is only 4km to my work place. But there is no internet here. For now, I have to pre-fab my postings and post them from downtown somewhere. Good thing I have my new laptop which has enough battery power to last a while.

IMG_8815                                                           Park road in snow
Oh, did I mention that we got at least 3” of nice wet snow? Yup, before we moved the trailer I clambered up on the roof. armed with a broom to remove all that wet white stuff. Of course, I had to hammer off some ice along the edges of the slides as well.

When I checked my email this morning I found one from the Buenos Aires NWR in Southern Arizona, inquiring whether we would still be available as volunteers in May.  I would love to be back in Arizona, Bonnie, especially when looking through my window. It just started snowing again like it would on any day in February.

What fun!

So I had to write back telling her about all the nice winter we are having here in the cold white north.

Went down to the bus garage this afternoon. The people at the bus garage are very nice and I am looking forward to work with them.

I Had To Reheat My Coffee
And it goes on: UPDATE THURSDAY
It’s 6:45am Thursday morning.
Stepping outside to make my way to the public washrooms I see animal tracks right in front of my door. The new-fallen snow has obscured the tracks but it looks like a big dog. When I turn the corner of my trailer I look straight at this:
IMG_8817  IMG_8818-001
A humongous elk bull is blocking the door to the men’s room!
Of course, I have to back-track and get the camera. I wish so much i had taken the Nikon tele-lens from home. So what shall I do? Just walk ahead and pretend he isn’t there?

Nope!  They can be very aggressive if approached early in the morning. And early it is. So I kind of give him a little whistle and he moves a few paces off the door. Still too close. What if I try to sneak around the building past the women’s side?

Oh my… there is his wife. Or one of them anyway. But those can be more understanding if a man needs to go to the washroom. Right? So I go on. She retreats. I look to my left. Whoa! 3 more bulls are on the way over to the wash house. Sh……

When I reach the men’s door the bull is still only 20ft away.
Quickly and as quiet as I can be I get inside.

Leaving the place, I cautiously open the door to the wild, peek around, no more elks standing around. I slip outside.
My coffee is still on the table, but by now, it has cooled off, so I have to reheat it in the microwave!
Oh…and I have to do it all over again tomorrowf! Probably!

Naturally, I want to relay this early experience to Bea back home. And even though there is no Internet connection here, the cell phone ought to work. So I switch it on. NOTHING. The darn thing has suffered a slow death over night. In my excitement over this newest addition to Peter’s electronic world, I have forgotten to put the charger on.
Oh well….

So while the cell is recharging, I eat breakfast, a crispy roll and a boiled egg. When I cut the top of my egg, I look around. There is no Molly waiting for the delicious egg white top. And I realize again the solitude I am part of. By now I can hear the odd clap of a vehicle door outside, but other than that, it is extremely quiet. I try the TV. Maybe, just maybe there is a reception. My hopes are shattered when I finally get a grainy picture accompanied by a lot of static. This is what Canadians watch when they only have an aerial antennae. Smile Yep, one has to be prepared for Canada.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mr.Murphy And Me (monday’s post)

Alright, it was the big screw-up day. While I was as early as possible at the storage place to pick up our trailer and get the U-Haul truck nothing ever worked out today. They gave me this brand-new FORD pickup truck. It had a hitch receiver and I put my hitch in there, got the trailer on the ball and pulled out. I was barely out on the road when I noticed that the truck didn’t have brake controller. Ouch. As a result the trailer has no braking capabilities and shoved the truck a good part down the road towards the intersection. I just heard the gravel under the braked-up wheels and thought I better be cautious with this. I managed to get the rig onto TC1 towards Banff but 50mph was the max. without landing in the ditch. Turned out the truck, an F150 was too lightweight.  I finally pulled out at the next gas station and left the trailer parked in the rear. I brought the truck back to the storage and told the small girls what was wrong. Next thing I knew was that I got a 17ft. box truck. It hd a different hitch setup but the truck was heavy and had lots of power.

When I was back at the gas station with the new rig I backed it up to the trailer and had the hitch almost on, but then something was in the way. The truck had a steel bar underneath the ball and that bar was sticking out too far, so it collided with the tongue of the trailer and blocked the ball from sliding into the hitch. I tried it in a different angle, but no way that anything worked out.

So again, I had to leave the trailer alone. I brought the truck back a 2. time and luckily they did not charge me for this adventure.

A TOW SERVICE could be my salvation. The girls had a business card and we called the guy. He made me an acceptable offer and we agreed to meet at the Petro Station at the TC1.  I took my JEEP and drove out there to meet the guy.

He never showed up!

So what now?  I decided to spend the night in the trailer and call for another tow service tomorrow. Maybe I get lucky.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Canada…At Last

It was bitter cold when I left my hotel this morning to pack the car for departure. In fact, I had to get back to my room to change into Long-Johns. I just hate to freeze. Smile
As I had traveled along the border I had noticed that gas prices got lower and lower. While I still paid $3.59 in ND the price was only $3.25 in Havre,MT. Since it is only a short 43-mile drive up to the Canada border I filled up my Jerry-can as well. Gas prices north of the border would be on a quite different level, I knew. Besides HWY 41 from the border to the Trans Canada Hwy is one of the loneliest stretches of road I’ve ever seen. Whoever starts on that road with a half-empty gas tank might run into a problem,
Leaving Havre, the road starts with a climb up to the prairie and snakes its way through the undulating terrain. I love to experience roads like this, but I would never want to live out here. Just the thought of a raging winter blizzard wiping out vision and most of the communications, plus making roads impassable, frightens me.
After about 45 minutes I reached the border station, located in the middle of nowhere. I rolled to a stop in front of the ancient Canadian station and shut off the engine. Both officers, young men, were inside. A 5th-wheel rig was parked ahead of me, and the owners were just approaching the station on foot. So I waited.
Finally one of the officers appeared. The usual “I question-you answer” game developed”. When I told him where I came from and where I was headed and that we had been along this station barely 3 weeks earlier he was quite impressed about all that driving. They checked my passport, took it inside for scanning and gave it back with good wishes for a safe trip.
Before I left I asked him how old this building really was and he told me that it was from the 1920s.  I wonder what kind of border crossing procedure had been in use back then.

My road ahead brought me up to the highest point in the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. It is inter-provincial as part of the park is stretching into Saskatchewan. After many miles of driving through the treeless prairie It is very strange to suddenly see quite steep hills with deep valleys in a shroud of spruce trees. Up here, on the summit everything was white of frost. There was also lots of snow left and I think that last nights temps must have been way, way below freezing, maybe as low as –20C. Anyway, the sudden winter landscape was very beautiful and I stopped to take pictures.IMG_8794
Most of the beauty was over where Hwy 41 meets with the TC 1.
The TC is like most interstates in the U.S. It’s wide, 4-lane and you drive there just to eat up the miles between you and your destination.
IMG_8807  IMG_8809
My destination was the little Alberta town of Bassano where we had visited Sharon and Louis back in April 2005. Would I remember their address?  Not really, but it’s a small town so just maybe…..I could find it. After taking a round through town I realized that they lived on the north side of the TC 1. So with help of the GPS map I located the only road leading north and off the TC 1.  That way I found that little rural subdivision where they have their property.

I came unannounced, as I did not have any phone # or email of them. It turned out to be the greatest surprise for them. They had actually been expecting family for lunch, so Sharon was busy in the kitchen department when I cam through the door.

Soon we were all seated around their cozy kitchen table and enjoying Sharon’s excellent Chinese dish.
The talk went back and forth and a few hours quickly went by.

Finally it was time to take my farewell with them and I checked out the local hotels in town. However, I decided to leave Bassano and headed on to the city of Strathmore, where I would have a better choice of lodging.
I am strongly opposed to spend a lot of money for normal accommodations in a boom town and when I actually saw the sign of “Leroys Motel” (which did not seem worth to check out) I stopped anyway. The building had definitely seen better days and the Spanish style made me think MEXICO! So, when entering the office upstairs, I jokingly asked whether one would have to speak Spanish here. The lady assured me that the outside impression wasn’t what this place really was. I trusted her with it and was not disappointed. For only $62.00 Canadian I found a huge clean room, w. TV, fridge, Microwave and a clean bathroom. And that is about all I am asking for. Most other known hotels have long since screwed their prices to +100 Bucks, many between $130 to $150.  
It’s the type of price level which mirrors Alberta’s economy.

I concluded this day with a long SKYPE talk with Bea. She told me that Molly behaved strangely and apparently was disturbed by the quiet in the house. When Bea put the phone on speaker, Molly heard my voice and cocked her head, sniffing at the phone. That’s my kind of girl!

The last leg of my trip will be a short drive to Calgary, picking up the trailer before heading towards the mighty Rockies and the city of Canmore.

Thanks for stopping by again.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Through The Grasslands Of Montana

If you haven’t seen the endless grasslands of Northern Montana you might just have no understanding what it feels like to be out on the prairies. And it is the hardest thing to describe. Supposedly one must be a gifted poet to find the right words. And it will be a different description if one has been there on a warm sunny summer day versus a day like it was today when wind-driven dark clouds were hovering above, and the sun would break through only occasionally lightening up a slight rise in the terrain, throwing shadows in between, just to make the pastures come alive with eerie colours. Black angus were grazing peacefully on the open range. They are able to eat and digest this old winter-yellow grass, which just a short while ago was buried under snow. Whenever I had to stop at one of the gas stations along this lonely route #2 which runs parallel and south of the Canadian border, I had to throw on my jacket, and yet the wind did not show any mercy. Good thing the Jeep’s tank is so small and fills up fast.
On this long and lonely highway it is a wise idea not to let the tank get too empty as it could be too far to the next station.

So I when I saw this very small Quick Shop with two ancient looking gas pumps in the middle of FT. Peck Indian Reservation on my right, I was fast to throw the wheel around. As I got out of the car an Indian fellow was just filling up his car. When he saw me opening my tank lit he told me “It’s Prepay only”. I hadn’t seen any information on the pump saying so, but I took his word and walked inside, where I was met by a young Indian lady, highly pregnant, and a white fellow with cigarette in his mouth. I always thought that smoking should be prohibited at a gas station but hey….this is Montana and who cares anyway?

I left my Credit Card on the counter and went back out into the icy blast. The white guy followed and once outside he asked where I was from. I told him New Brunswick, Canada and that I was going to Alberta.Turned out he didn’t know where Alberta was and it is just my guess that he sure never heard about the other province either. Why would it be necessary for a guy 40 miles from the Canada border to know ANYTHING about that part of the world?
Seems to me that if one lives in Northern Montana it is enough to know where to find the next gas station and the bar.

Northern Montana is the anticlimax to Williston,ND. Whereas Williston is pretending to be a major big city, the Montana prairie is wide-spread loneliness.  I happened to stop at Williston to get supplies at Wally World.
I had never seen a parking lot with 90% pickup trucks. And inside Wally World 90% of customers were single men. Most of them looked like out of some Klondike movie. They were bundled up against the cold, wore hoodies and thick parkas. It must have been the crew’s day off.  Yet I had seen long convoys of oil tankers coming up the road. So probably it was just the other shift having some time off.

Even though I had left Underwood, ND at around 12 noon, I made it to Havre,MT before dark. Took in at the Super8 and dropped a visit at a restaurant. Instead, I took my food supplies to my room and with the help of my little electric grill made myself 2 delicious ham/cheese rolls, toasted to crispy delight. Still had coffee in my Thermos and enjoyed a yogurt for dessert. Tomorrow I am going to make the border. I have booked a U-Haul truck for Monday and hope the RV-Park at Canmore will let me in one day early without charging hundreds of extra Dollars. If you wonder about the lack of pictures it is due to an empty camera battery. I ‘ll make sure it will be working again tomorrow.

Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Burnt Bacon In Minnesota And Back To The Open Plains

I guess I did mention earlier that Motel 6 is not offering any breakfast, but they do have coffee in the morning and they make you think it’s a mercy provided by them for FREE. Yahooo--- free coffee.

I had mine before I left their parking lot, thinking that I could always stop later for a full breakfast. Yeah right…
And so I did. I was into Minnesota and there was this little town advertising all their great services along the big highway, so I turned off looking for a place to eat. I saw that Perkins Restaurant right away and their parking lot was busy – which is always a good sign.

I chose a “Travelers egg & toast” from their list. Weighing in at $5.99 it wasn’t what I call reasonably priced, but then who cares. Really!

A tall guy delivered a can of coffee and clunked it down on the table with a thud. Hmmm….
IMG_8753 IMG_8761
It took 30minutes to deliver my order and when it came I looked down at 2 slices of toast – not buttered, one egg over easy, and 2 tiny strips of burnt bacon.

It’s a rare thing that I complain over food in a restaurant. Yes, normally I just suffer through it quietly, but today they had gone beyond my own standards. So when the waitress came around again I pointed out the burnt bacon. She asked whether I didn’t like it “well done”. That almost did it for me right there. So she offered to get me 2 new strips of bacon. When they finally came I had eaten my egg and one slice of toast. The new bacon strips were now even smaller than the first ones, but I tried them. Now, I don’t know about you, but I do like bacon crispy. This one on my plate was gooey and tough.
Minneapolis in early morning sun

Not only was product quality very bad but it was also grossly overpriced. At Eleni’s I had a very sustainable breakfast with 2 eggs, hash browns, cheese and toast for $2.99.

When I was done, I went to the front to pay. The guy there was asking whether I had a good breakfast, and when I told him, he didn’t want me to pay. So all right, I had spent an hour for something that even a Mc.Donalds could have delivered better. It will be a long time until any next meal at PERKINS.
I passed through the twin cities and even dared to stay right on I-94 instead of going the long ring way on I-694. I had one stop-and-go in the city center of Minneapolis but once I was through there it went very smooth. It was way better than Chicago.
And as I was approaching the wide mid-west  a very open landscape with very little traffic was opening up.
Soon I was crossing into North Dakota at Fargo. Traffic was even less out here and the speed limit was 75miles! So I let that JEEP run, give it almost free reins.

My destination for the day was the little rural town of Underwood where friends and fellow RVers Diania and Glenn are living. I was about to spend the night at their place. They had just returned from the south and we sure would have lots to talk about.
Yup, still some snow left

I rolled into town at 4:15pm and was actually 20 minutes ahead of my own GPS. How that happened I have no idea. They waited on me with coffee and chocolate cake and a rich supper which was a really welcome change to all that recent restaurant food.

Time was flying by and it was time to retire for the day.
I have done 4 days now and there are 2 more to do. And maybe I get to see another RV couple in Alberta.

Thanks for stopping by again!