Welcome to Canada. Sunday morning and we depart our temporary home in Great Falls and, after refueling, proceed north. Going through the city on the Sabbath is very pleasant and we stop at Flying J for US priced fuel, as does another rig which hitched up our toweds together at the Fam Camp. As usual we have problems with the Flying J computers in using our fueler advantage card for our discounts. An active duty Army serviceman strikes up a conversation, asking which service we retired from and noted that he's heading to Alaska in his final change of duty station move. From his comments he's one of our nation's fine personnel approaching his 20+ year retirement after 18 years of active duty and another 5 Guard years. While he's moving from North Carolina he noted he's just returned from a desert deployment. Then it's back on highway I-15 heading north toward the border.
Just south of Canada we stop at an environmentally friendly constructed rest stop to stretch our legs and empty Cappy's bladder. Our wait for the Canadian customs is not long and they ask the usual questions and wish us well. Driving along the highway we note the similarities with Montana and the highway reminders about kilometers vs miles. Our stop is at Ft MacLeod, a stop on our 2009 Alaska Caravan, before we travel on to Canmore for a two night stay and dinner theater show. Canmore is at the south end of Banff National Park and has wonderful scenery. The winds we encountered in Great Falls have followed us to Canada as we're buffeted periodically both on the highway and in the park.
Canmore, Alberta, Canada. Arriving in this picturesque town after filling up the tank in Calgary (diesel at $1.14/liter = $4.33/gal) we find our parking spot and hook up to the water, electric and sewer. Then it's off to town for lunch after getting advice from the locals who, being very talkatively informative, share more than just restaurant venues including how their last visit to central Florida was very enjoyable. Our Grill Pub lunch reminded us of our visit to Queenstown, New Zealand and our previous experiences in Vail, Colorado – a resort wonderland surrounded by mountainous scenery with beautiful sunny weather in the upper 70's and a price tag to match. The locals note the fact that this weather is unusually pleasant, which we can understand from our lower 48 discussions. Returning to the RV Mary completes a wash cycle while I find and enjoy the local city museum. I learn that Canmore began its commercial enterprise with a railroad stop then “sold” anthracite coal as a viable alternative to wood on the railroad so mining became a major industry. Today, tourism is the major economic draw but the enthusiasm of developers (building condos for partial year occupancy) could hurt transient facilities (like RV Parks) which bring in more tourism dollars. The high taxes/cost of living could also hurt visitation. At equal dollar exchange, prices here are 50 % higher than the lower 48, due to the GST (tax) and other factors. The mountain views surrounding our RV site are spectacular.
Tuesday night we attend the main reason we came here this trip, the musical dinner theater “Oh Canada,Eh!”. All the music sung or played has Canadian connections and the humor is corny and having fun with Canadian beliefs and customs. It's a great way to spend an evening and be reminded of the things we love of this northern land, from Mounties to mountains and language to loquaciousness.
Wednesday morning I visit the local Rotary Club for a makeup meeting and discover a friendly group of business people, leaders of the community. Today is a club assembly (business meeting) and as they go through their revised Constitution and Bylaws and annual budget the maturity of discussion laced with humor is a pleasure to behold. They have 80+ members and raise $185,000 annually in charitable donations which they distribute to a variety of venues through their 4 avenues of service. In discussing the local economic situation (after we saw several construction projects in financial distress) the President notes that they've built out 90% of available land in town and are overcoming the economic downturn through civic pride. The big issue being addressed by the town council is the overpopulation of rabbits (Mary counted 22 on her round robin walk with Cappy this morning). This topic was even heard on area radio and the subject came up at Rotary when a member, and member of the council, gave a quick report and invited citizens to join the Rabbit Review Committee. It reminded me of Key West's omnipresent chickens.
Departing Canmore's scenic beauty we arrived back in Calgary to park for the duration of the Stampede. We made a scouting run to the hotel hosting the Awesome Second Time Arounders Marching Band, which I'll join tomorrow for rehearsals and performances, and returned to our park for a relaxing evening. The traffic problems of the Stampede activities could be imagined already from our motoring experience. Decorations in the form of small Stampede flags decorating every light-pole and street light and other reminders are omnipresent. As we've gone further north the days are longer so that the sun rises around 0530 and setting at 2130. The lack of rain is also a major factor in the dryness in the air causing low humidity and clarity of the air (a good thing) but dryness of the skin and a lot of dust.
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