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Published: September 1st 2018
I Didn’t Get It at First, But as I Drew Closer …
Iowa Rest Area Along I-380 En Route to Hastings MN
To paraphrase the 1960 Johnny Horton song North To Alaska: “Where the river is windin' adventure they're findin'; North to Alaska go north the drive is on.” After months of planning and weeks of anticipation, cousin Marilyn and I finally set off on the biggest adventure I have undertaken since The Great Adventure
began in 2010. I had general plans to make an Alaska trip in 2019, and Marilyn had wanted to drive the Alaska Highway for years but had no specific plan or dates in mind. When we learned of each other’s desire to visit the great northland, we decided to take the plunge. What really got us going was a magazine advertisement Marilyn received hawking a bus trip through the Canadian Rockies and a cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia to Anchorage. Marilyn had been on a bus tour while I had not, and I had been on a cruise while Marilyn had not. I had never been on an Alaskan cruise and had always wanted to see the glaciers calving and the whales breaching, so this was a totally acceptable variation on driving to Alaska for both of us. The bus through the Canadian Rockies would be great for
… Corn Appeared – Now, Is that Iowa or What?
Iowa Rest Area Along I-380 En Route to Hastings MN
me as I could abandon the driving responsibilities and just absorb the scenery!
We began by planning to fly independently to Calgary the day before the bus tour commenced, as the tour instruction set dictated, and to meet at the designated hotel but soon decided to arrive earlier to spend some time in Calgary. Then, to make it easier to connect in Calgary, we decided to meet in Iowa (where she could visit two of her brothers) and fly to Calgary together. After, literally, dozens of iterations, the overall trip will now take us from the Quad Cities via truck and fifth-wheel to Calgary (7/16-31), where the Ram and the Bighorn will be placed in a storage facility, then to Vancouver via a tour bus (8/1-4) to Anchorage via a cruise ship (8/5-12) around Alaska via a rental car (8/13-9/10) back to Calgary via an airplane (9/11) and then, finally, back to the Quad cities via the Ram and the Bighorn (9/12-20). From our last night in Iowa to our first night back in Iowa, we will have spent 67 days on the road. After a “Marilyn family reunion” in Iowa on Saturday, September 22, 2018 and a “Larry
family reunion” the following Saturday in Illinois, we’ll go our separate ways. She will head back to Mesa AZ for a hip replacement, and I’ll continue with Chapter 2018 of The Great Adventure
From Clark's Ferry Recreation Area in Montpelier IA, a few miles west of Davenport IA, we headed for Hastings MN. Local byways took us to I-80 westbound to Iowa City IA, I-380 west to Waterloo IA, US 63 north to Rochester MN and a variety of local roads to Hastings. The trip was uneventful except for an incident where the pilot failed to follow Informational Irene’s instructions (my GPS). We ended up on a few miles of well-maintained gravel roads, but that reduced our speed by 20 MPH and cost us about 5 minutes. We arrived at St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park in Hastings without further incident and on schedule. St. Croix Bluffs is exactly what the name states, a regional park, but it is one of the best community RV parks I have encountered and looks to be a tremendous asset to the locals with several playgrounds. My heavily treed site prevented television reception, and, after 17 days without TV, I must admit that I
do miss the TV news and sporting events. After setup, we chatted with our family in the area (two cousins and a “cousin-in-law”) and mapped out a plan for our two-day stay.
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 found our cousin, Loren, and his sister-in-law, Pat, arriving at the Bighorn at mid-morning. If my unrelated readers will humor me for a moment, Loren’s grandmother (and that of Pat’s husband, Steve) was a sister to my father. Neither Marilyn nor I had ever met either of them in person, so we sat and chatted for a while before heading to the Minnesota State Capitol
. It was an interesting ride in that Marilyn and I could sightsee as Pat drove on familiar roadways. When I was in the Twin Cities in August 2015, Lindy, Flour, Bluegrass and Wood Oven Pizza – Minneapolis-Saint Paul MN
, the capitol was being renovated inside and out and the building was closed to the public. We made our way to the visitor center and found that we were just in time for a guided tour. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and provided a nice tour but seemed rushed, which made photography difficult; however, we saw her on another tour shortly after our tour had ended, which made that a
scheduling issue. I had a difficult time hearing/understanding her presentation, but, since Marilyn understood her quite well, that was my problem. Overall, it was very worthwhile, and my hats off to the workmen for a restoration job well-done.
We made a stop at Cossetta
, an Italian cafeteria-style restaurant and then headed for Mall of America
. Neither Marilyn nor I had been to the shopping mecca, and I was interested in seeing an indoor amusement park. We rode the carousel and watched some of the other rides in action. After the mall stop, I retrieved the Ram, and we made our way to Pat’s home in River Falls WI. A four-way conversation occupied our day until cousin Steve arrived from work and made the conversation a five-way event. Pat drove us all to West Wind Supper Club for eight-dollar burger night and returned to their home for some more “getting to know you” conversation. Wednesday morning, Marilyn and I drove into the historic downtown area of Hastings, grabbed a late breakfast before heading to Steve and Pat’s for more conversation, a “four old farts sharing their smart phone knowledge” session and, after Steve's return from work, a very tasty turkey dinner. It
A Carousel – I’m In!!!
Mall of America - Bloomington MN
was great to make another familial connection now that I have the free time to visit kinfolk.
Thursday, we headed to Marshall MN to visit with a 93-year-old cousin, John and his family. John was a brother to Loren and Steve’s late mother and was my late father’s nephew. The trip took about twice as long as anticipated due to numerous road closures (generated by flooded highways) and heavy downpours that reduced our speed dramatically. We arrived at Camden State Park in nearby Lynd MN. The narrow park road in the campground was lined on both sides with H-E-A-V-Y brush and a couple of directional signposts. On my third attempt, I drove across the grassy portion of the campsite to get the Bighorn wheels far enough off the road to back into the RV space. We then found there was no cell service and drove into Marshall to call and then visit our cousin. His daughter and son-in-law, Gerri and Duane, came over for a spell. The following day, Nancy and Mary (John’s daughters) and Mary’s grandson, Austin, drove in from Saint Cloud MN for the day, and cousin Luann, a sister of Steve and Loren of River Falls
WI fame, stopped by for a couple of hours. This was a first meeting for Marilyn and me with any of the eight cousins and two cousin-in-laws we spent time with in Marshall or River Falls. We all got along splendidly, and already have plans for future meetings.
Saturday, July 21, 2018 found us beginning a two-day drive to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada to visit with a couple Marilyn knows from the dancing community, Lynn and Linda. Our general path took us from Marshall to Fargo ND and then to Minot ND where we stopped for the night at Roughrider Campground in Minot. The drive was slightly over 500 miles and much longer than Uncle Larry embraces. About 200 miles into the drive, I noticed the steering wheel was not oriented in its normal position. Instead of the spokes being oriented at three o’clock and nine o’clock, they were positioned at two o’clock and eight o’clock. I couldn’t see the fuel gauge nor the speedometer. In a couple of more hours, they were at twelve o’clock and six o’clock. By trip’s end, they were at eleven o’clock and five o’clock. The Ram tracked fine, and the steering seemed normal.
… Nor the Dioramas that Depict the Building’s History
Canadian Pacific Railway Station (now a Liquor Store) - Moose Jaw SK
Since it was late Saturday, I decided to deal with it in Moose Jaw on Monday. The RV space at Roughrider Campground was great – I was able to leave the Ram and the Bighorn connected for the night. Sunday morning, I received a phone call from Marilyn’s brother, Wayne, who had learned of the steering issue from Marilyn and had investigated it on the Internet. I followed the advice found in the hyperlink he had sent to prevent exacerbation of the problem, and we continued to Moose Jaw without further dismay or incident.
Monday morning, I called the local Ram dealer who reacted to my problem as though this was not the first time he had encountered the issue, but the earliest I could get an appointment was on Thursday. After speaking to Lynn, we decided to meet at the Ram dealer so I could leave the truck for repairs and ride with him to their house as planned. Two other friends from the dancing community, Martin and Paulette, also joined us for lunch, and we had a great discussion – most notably about global travel. Martin, an educator, and Paulette have travelled extensively in Europe and had
some great insights and stories for a “Eurotraveller-wanna-be-someday-soon.” After Martin and Paulette had departed for home, Linda suggested we take their second vehicle back to the RV park so we weren’t stranded. Pretty cool, and greatly appreciated.
Tuesday, Lynn came to the RV park to pick us up for the Moose Jaw grand tour. Our first stop was the Tunnels of Moose Jaw
attraction where we procured tickets for two tours with the first being 45 minutes hence. To fill the interlude, we walked to the former train depot which is now a state-run liquor store. The architecture is classic. The first Tunnels of Moose Jaw tour we took relates the history and plight of the Chinese immigrants who had been recruited to work on the construction of the railroads but, after the railroads were completed, were subjected to horrid working and living conditions in the infamous Chinese laundries. The second Tunnels of Moose Jaw tour relates the days of prohibition and the tenure of Al Capone in Moose Jaw. Both tours feature costumed, in character guides who do an excellent job of recreating characters and scenarios from Moose Jaw history. While the first is more educational and the second is more
entertaining, both are worthwhile and the discount offered for the combo package makes the decision to see both a no-brainer. Oh yes, photography is not allowed on the tours but is allowed in the ticketing area.
We made our way to Veroba's Family Restaurant
for a nice home-cooked lunch and then, since the Moose Jaw Trolley
was in the shop for repairs and maintenance, we embarked on a walking tour of the Murals of Moose Jaw
. About 50 murals dot the Moose Jaw landscape with the majority being found in the historic downtown area. It was nice to have a local as our tour guide, because he was able to provide insight into what had occupied various buildings during his youth, what had happened to various structures that have been destroyed by fire or wrecking ball and some of the politics that impacted downtown attractions such as Mosaic Place
, the hockey rink that is home to the Moose Jaw Warriors
, and Casino Moose Jaw, located in the Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa
. We wrapped up the downtown tour with a pint of brown ale at Bobby's Place Olde World Tavern, an Irish pub and restaurant, and completed the day with a motorized tour of the newest residential area of town. We had a
stellar day that was the epitome of an ideal day on The Great Adventure
Wednesday found our friends out of town and us doing some laundry, making a run for supplies and performing other domestic chores before heading to Rosie's on River Street
for supper. Thursday, July 26, 2018, our friend, Lynn, picked us up for an early risers’ breakfast special at a local ma and pa eatery before taking a drive to the potash mining area where a mined product is processed several times with components removed at each stage down to and including rock salt for water softeners and deicing and table salt. Very interesting, and it’s not a part of Moose Jaw most visitors get to see. We then headed downtown for a second walking tour of the Murals of Moose Jaw. Along the way, we made stops at Fifth Avenue Collection
, a high-end fashion jeweler housed in an old mansion, and at Grant Hall Hotel
, a classic, fully-restored and modernized hotel. Both buildings are historical gems.
In late afternoon, we retrieved the Ram from the dealership. While waiting for the truck to be washed (how’s that for service?), I struck up a conversation with a gentleman wearing a Canadian Navy ball
cap. He had seen the “Vietnam Vet” and "U.S.M.C." magnets on my truck and noted that he had had a Canadian friend who joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served a tour in Vietnam. Upon his return to Canada, he was treated so poorly that he went back to the United States and never returned to Canada. And all this time I thought only Americans had been hostile toward Vietnam Vets back in the day. After the truck wash, we went to Montana's BBQ & Bar
for a farewell dinner with our friends. Our time in Moose Jaw was a couple of days longer than planned, but that gave us more time with our friends and more time to explore and enjoy this interesting small city.
The drive from Peanut Hills Campground in Moose Jaw to Mountain View Farm Camping in Calgary was long but uneventful. Along the way, we made a breakfast stop in Swift Current SK at Humpty’s Family Restaurant
, a Canadian regional chain where, yes, the logo has an image of the infamous klutz Humpty Dumpty. I spotted the Scotch Eggs on the menu – “A hard-boiled egg wrapped in pork sausage meat, breaded and deep fried. Served on a grilled
English muffin with ham and rich creamy Hollandaise sauce.” Of course, Uncle Larry had to give it a try. Very tasty! We had had plans to move from Moose Jaw to Hanna where friends of Marilyn’s, Barry and Lorna, were attending a dancing festival over the weekend; however, with the extension of our stay in Moose Jaw, we decided to go directly to Calgary.
Since our friends wouldn’t be back from Hanna until late Sunday, we, essentially (with the exception of a short trip to the Calgary Tower), made Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, 2018 domestic “getting ready for the tour bus” days. Saturday evening, we made our way to another nearby Humpty’s Family Restaurant. Perusing the menu, I discovered the Cabbage Roll Dinner, “Homestyle beef and rice filled cabbage rolls in tomato sauce, served with original Humpty bangers, our signature perogies with grilled red onion and sour cream and a slice of garlic toast.” I’ve made cabbage rolls, but what the hell is a banger or a perogy? Two new taste treats in one menu item. Count me in! Bangers and mash is a traditional dish of Great Britain and Ireland comprised of sausages served with
mashed potatoes. Bangers get their name because sausages used to burst (or bang) while cooking because of the rusk (dried bread) that was added to the meat. Pierogi are filled dumplings of Eastern European origin made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking them in boiling water. Both were great. We headed to Calgary Tower
on Sunday afternoon. Fires in the area obstructed views of the mountains; but it was nice to get an overview of Calgary, and we enjoyed a view through the glass floor at the traffic below. Then we were off for some people-watching and a nice lunch on the pedestrian mall at Original Joe's
Monday, July 30, 2018, Barry and Lorna arrived at the RV park where we chatted for a few minutes and then headed to Heritage Park Historical Village
located on 127 acres on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. Exhibits span western Canadian history from the 1860s to the 1950s. The park is divided into four distinct areas reflecting different time periods in Western Canadian history: the Hudson's Bay Company Fur Trading Fort, c. 1864; the Pre-Railway Settlement Village, c. 1880; the Railway Prairie Town, c. 1910; and the newly
opened (2009) Heritage Town Square, depicting the 1920s to 1950s. Many of the buildings are historical and were transported to the park to be placed on display. Others are re-creations of actual buildings. Most of the structures are furnished and decorated, and most venues have reenactors dressed in period costume. Last, a very nice automotive museum is on the premises.
Several features set this park apart from others I have seen. Right off the bat, a streetcar from Calgary's former streetcar system is available (Barry dropped us off, and he walked) to shuttle passengers to and from the parking lot. Then, a passenger train, drawn by one of the park's two working steam locomotives, not only takes visitors around the park but makes stops at 3-4 depots which make it a functional transportation tool and not merely an attraction. We made our first train stop just outside the entry arch to a full-fledged, 1950s-era midway with about a dozen carnival rides – Ferris wheel, carousel, swings, tilt-i-whirl, caterpillar, etc. and several rides for the toddlers. Instead of the ATVs seen at most similar facilities, antique automobiles and horse-drawn vehicles service the site by transporting goods to the various venues,
Bring in the Supplies for the Storekeepers
Heritage Park Historical Village - Calgary AB
by collecting the trash from around the park and by performing other tasks required for smooth operation of the park. The Famous 5 Center of Canadian Women is housed in a replica of Nellie McClung's Calgary home and tells the story of influential women in Canadian history. Unfortunately, due to dam work and the accompanying low water levels, the paddle steamer, S.S. Moyie, was not available to provide us a ride on the Glenmore Reservoir. There’s a lot to do in Heritage Park. Some attractions were out of service while others didn’t fit into the short day we had. All in all, however, we had a very nice day.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018 – The much-awaited first day of structured tourism has finally arrived. Barry came to the RV park to guide us to the RV storage facility he had discovered to stow the Ram and the Bighorn and took us to pick up Lorna. We made a stop at Tim Horton’s for a lunch sandwich and then he and Lorna took us to the Sandman Hotel Calgary City Center where Marilyn and I checked in with the YMT representative, who would be our tour guide for the
This the 1936 B10 Cord of Amelia Earhart
Heritage Park Historical Village - Calgary AB
Canadian portion of the package tour. We took our luggage to our assigned room and returned to the corner where Barry and Lorna picked us up for an individualized tour of Calgary. After seeing some of the notable and/or historic sights, we drove to their house where Lorna had stew cooking in the slow cooker. After dinner, we chatted for a couple of hours, drove to the hotel and prepared for a 6:45 AM wake-up call. After prep and breakfast, it’s on to the bus at 8:45 AM, and the tour begins.
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