Monday, May 22, 2006

Teresa's Windshield Chronicles, cont...

Ok - we're back online here! Dial-up for now, but possibly DSL by next week. Please keep your fingers crossed.

Anyway, here's more from our trip. I'm slowly getting caught up on the blogosphere - so much to read, so little time *g*. And I'll add some pics to my posts as I have time to upload them to photobucket (a slower process on dial-up).

Days 4-6 - Saskatoon
Our greeting last night was full of enthusiasm. We were met first by my brother-in-law and our little niece, who is 3½. She was thrilled to meet the cats. Beer was consumed and pizza ordered, so that by the time my sis got home with the boys (they'd been at a Scout meeting) we were rather relaxed. The boys rushed in to see us, gave us big hugs, then asked to see a) the cats and b) the camper! Chloe and Cleo were a tad overwhelmed, as they're really not used to children, but they recovered quickly enough to let themselve be petted, at least for a couple of minutes.

The camper was a huge hit, as we knew it would be. Unfortunately the weather really didn't allow for the children to sleep in it as they'd hoped. That will have to wait for another trip.

For the rest of our stay in Saskatoon we did family stuff - walking the boys to and from school, hanging out with our little niece, going to Liam's soccer game (though it was so cold, the other team didn't show so the kids played against their parents), bbquing dinner, shopping and going to the zoo. I'm pretty sure I mentioned before about the Saskatoon zoo. Friday turned out to be gorgeous, so we spent the afternoon there. My favourite part was seeing the tiger on loan from another zoo. It was just beautiful and seemed pretty much at home. Sean took a photo of me with it before it retired for a midday nap. We also saw elk, moose, bison (very cool), swans, a lynx, wolf and some very cute prairie dogs.

The cats, meanwhile, had fun in my sister's basement - they found a lot of the children's toys much to their taste *g*. Interestingly enough, the other feline inhabitants of the house showed little interest in the interlopers. Only Solomon seemed to clue at all and as Chloe and Cleo weren't attempting to eat his food, he didn't particularly care that they were around.

All in all, it was a great vist, though, as always, too short. But we know we'll definitely see them again next summer, if not before.

Day 7 - Saskatoon to Jasper
We set out bright and early - pulling out of my sister's driveway at 6am on the nose. After a brief stop at Tim Horton's, we hit the highway and were on the road again. The first major city we saw was North Battleford and from there we went to Lloydminster, a town that straddles the Saskatchewan and Alberta border. They make the most of this phenomenon, with prominent red markers in the middle of town. I managed to take a photo of them. That's the advantage of travelling in a truck camper with Ontario license plates - it's obvious we're tourists, so me sitting in the front seat snapping photos is probably deemed normal.

As with every other day, the cats fussed a bit for the first while, then settled down to sleep as we travelled through Alberta. At Vegerville, we turned off the highway so I could see the World's Largest Pysanka (Easter Egg). This part of Alberta was settled by many Eastern Europeans, including Ukranians, whose culture flourished even in a foreign land. I had to take a photo of the Pysanka, of course. It's yet another of those Trans Canada landmarks we Canadians always hear about.

Back out on the highway we ran into high wind and rain around Edmonton - not pleasant for the trip through the north end of the city. However, once past there, things did improve after a little more rain.

After a quick stop for lunch, we completed the last leg of our route for the day, arriving in Jasper at around 3pm. The town itself is very picturesque, with mountain goats grazing at its outskirts and a variety of shops and hotels "downtown". We stopped there for groceries and gas then went in search of our campsite at The Whistlers.

The park attendant warned us there had been bear sightings and I noticed a sign about aggressive elk in the area. Despite all this, we drove round to our designated spot and pulled in.

The view from our site was specatcular - up the side of a mountain, still covered with snow. Once the cats were settled, we took a little stroll, stopping at the bear warning sign. Sean insisted on getting a picture of me with it. I'm famously known for my ability to repel bears - it took 16 years of visiting the Coast for me to see one, when most people see them frequently.

The cats seemed thrilled to be in the camper again - Cleo ran from window to window, looking out, watching the wildlife and just curious about her surroundings. Chloe was a little more sedate. She seems to have been far more affected by all the changes than Cleo has, though overall she still seems pretty content.

After a yummy dinner we sat around talking, then finally turned in early. Not only were we exhausted from the drive, but my cold tht had been bothering me for a day or so, had taken full hold and I just needed some sleep.

Day 8 - Jasper to Revelstoke
After a bit of a lie-in, we broke camp and turned onto the Icefields Parkway by 7:30 am. Western Alberta's topography was formed by the great glaciers receeding during the last ice age. A couple of the glaciers remain in the area and we decided to stop at the first one, the Columbia Icefield. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate completely - it was cold and blustery with low cloud, so I only saw a bit of the glacier. Still, we ventured into the info centre and took photos from the balcony there. Had it been more pleasant, we might have parked on the opposite side of the highway and hiked up a bit, but because of the very cold wind we were reluctant to a) leave the cats in the truck and b) expose ourselves to the elements.

So it was back to the truck and on to Lake Louise. The Icefields Parkway itself has the most gorgeous scenery. I kept my little camera very busy. One of the things that fascinated me most was the colour of the water in the lakes - it's a beautiful greenish-blue, something to do with the arctic run-off. To our right the whole way was the Athabasca River. Much of the time we could see its bed - Sean said it would fill up more as the melt continued.

Despite many warnings from both the Jasper and Banff officials, we never did see much wildlife - no caribou, sheep or hoary marmots (Sean particularly wanted to see the latter). We did, however, see some elk or cariboo (we weren't quite sure which) just as we were leaving The Whistlers.

Around noon or so we crossed into British Columbia - very cool! At last, we were "home". The scenery remained pretty similar - twisty roads and gorgeous mountains/valleys/rivers. Soon after passing into the Pacific Time Zone we stopped at Roger's Pass for a bite to eat and a look round the museum there. It was fascinating - I can't believe the kind of work and conditions under which they did it performed by the early surveyors. From Roger's Pass, it's "all downhill" and by mid-afternoon we were in Revelstoke where we picked up some dinner items, then gas for the truck and went in search of our campground.

That search proved a little challenging, as the directions we were using were just a tad out of date. However, eventually we figured things out (after several wrong turns *g*) and soon found ourselves in a wonderful little place right beside a lovely lake - the Williamson Lake Campground. Again we had stupendous mountain views and a prime spot for camping. It's definitely somewhere we want to visit again, when we have more time and don't have the cats with us.

The only downside was that the sore throat I'd been experiencing in Saskatoon had morphed into a full-blown cold - and a nasty one at that. After watching Monty Python's "And Now for Something Completely Different" we fell into (or climbed onto, to be precise) bed and soon had drifted off into dreamworld.

Day 9 - Revelstoke to the Sunshine Coast
Before I succumbed to my cold, we'd discussed camping another night along the way - just to take an extra day of relaxation. However, with cold temps predicted over night and me feeling pretty ill, we decided to press on towards the Coast. So instead of taking the fast route through Kelowna, we travelled the scenic 97A, to Kelowna, then the Coquihalla Connector across to Merritt. The former I loved, the latter didn't thrill me so much.

You see, the Connector climbs out of Kelowna and up across the mountains. At several points on the way up, there doesn't appear to be much between the edge of the highway and a very steep drop-off. As someone not so fond of heights, I kept my eyes closed until we reached the plateau. Of course it then decided to snow on us (again) *g*. But after 20+ years in Ontario, Sean is well-accustomed to driving in blowing snow and by the time we reached Merritt, the weather was warmer and sunny.

The Coquihalla itself is a four lane divided highway leading from the Okanagan to the Fraser Valley - a fast route, so to speak (I've been on one of the slower routes - they're not kidding, the Coquihalla is much faster). Despite it's desingation as a sort of expressway, the scenery is still spectacular. Between gazing out the window and reading Sean clues from the BBC History Magazine Crossword puzzle, I spent an enjoyable two hours on our way to Hope.

There we stopped to call home to let my in-laws know we were aiming for the 7:30 ferry up to the Coast. As it was just past 4pm, and we faced Vancouver rush-hour on our way to the ferry terminal, we hoped we'd be able to make it. And we did, with about an hour to spare, despite some seemingly (to me anyway) hairy traffic on Hwy 1. Sean assured me it could have been much worse.

Throughout most of this time, the cats had been sleeping. They'd squawked only for a while after leaving Revelsoke, then briefly around Abbotsford before giving up and sleeping till we got to Horseshoe Bay where we offered them food and water. The ferry trip itself proved a new experience for them, but one they didn't mind so much as Sean and I stayed down on the car deck with them (well, Sean fetched us food, but came right back). The last leg of the trip proved remarkably quick and before 9pm we were home!

The girls were soon released into their new surroundings and it didn't take either of them long to figure out how to get into all the high windows. After a chat in the main house, including the showing of photos, Sean and I retired, while the cats, energized by a day spent asleep, continued to explore.


Currently Reading: Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
Also Currently Reading: A book for review

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