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May 31st 2014
Published: May 31st 2014
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Wolf Creek cabinsWolf Creek cabinsWolf Creek cabins

These neat little cabins at Wolf Creek are only two of about 8 cabins at this one place. I thought it was neat that each had one of the railway company's logos to identify it. (Sorry - in the US they are called 'railroad companies'.)
This was a long day on the road, but we decided to drive for home rather than stay out another night.

Nothing really to write about today. We had another fantastic breakfast at Steve’s in Helena. Honestly, this place is the best for breakfast. I say that in light of everywhere I can ever remember going for breakfast including those few popular places in Calgary.

On the way through the canyons north of Helena we took the ‘Recreation Road’ instead of the freeway. This is the old highway and it winds through the bottom of the valley alongside the Missouri River, sometimes sharing the space beside the river with the railway. It is a favourite little drive of mine and I take it every time I come through there. It adds about 20 minutes if you just drive it, but it is hard not to stop and take in the views and the ambiance. This time the birds seemed to be all singing together in a chorus and the many swallows were out feeding in the morning air showing their aerobatic skills. On the river were several fishermen in their scow-like fishing boats. The boats looked like miniature versions
Missouri River CanyonMissouri River CanyonMissouri River Canyon

This is a sample of the canyon with the Missouri lazily flowing by. Very peaceful this was.
of those fishing boats you see in pictures of Newfoundland.

We stopped at Wolf Creek for a look around. This little place has a school, church, at least one heritage house and several lodges set up for fishermen. I couldn’t help but imagine what it was like when the passenger train, pulled by a steam engine, trundled through the village, stopping for folk on their way into Helena for some shopping.

We got home later than expected because it took us an hour to get through customs at the border. I think our line had a trainee servicing it because the other line put through 8-10 cars for every 1 that went through in our line. Just as we got to the window the customs inspector changed and we were through in about 90 seconds. I noted this time that there was no “Welcome home” offered, so I assume Americans coming into Canada were not offered the “Welcome to Canada” greeting. In the past these were always given by the customs person. I don’t remember the USA customs people offering this sort of greeting to their country very often. However, when I came across the border at Kingsgate this time, I was ushered into a holding area after going through the formal questions and interviewed by a very nice woman. I don’t know whether this was part of her training or it was an extra once over on me. Regardless, it turned out she was from California and we got into a conversation about the coastline that she thought I should visit. I shut off the engine and we sat and talked for about 15 minutes. I enjoyed that and certainly felt I was being welcomed into the US.


Thinking back over the trip, I have several things that I thought might be interesting to record. This is a random list - no particular order.

• On the whole, I found Californians very friendly and helpful - young and old alike.
• Bend, Oregon is a neat city. I could live there.
• Eight hours of driving is ten hours on the road and I find that too much for me. Not so when I was younger. Oh well…..
• Women in the south-west US seem to have a penchant for tattoos. I don’t mean a tattoo of a butterfly on one’s ankle. I’m talking about the full blown tattooed body. Sometimes full arms, sometimes full legs, sometimes both. Often complete shoulders and part of their backs. This was not just on young women. I saw many middle aged (40’s) with them as well. I don’t get it.
• Our new RAV4 is a great vehicle to travel in. Not the peppiest car on the road, but that didn’t bother me. It was nice to be able to wander off-road with confidence. It was fun driving it along the winding coastal highways in California. However, I can now say that, for me, driving a car with a standard transmission is more fun than driving with an automatic.
• Sirius-XM satellite radio is of limited interest to me. I thought it was going to be great while travelling, but it really didn’t provide the programming that I like, at least not in a consistent way.
• Generally, I found that drivers on the highways in the USA don’t tailgate. There are the exceptions, for example in the big cities such as San Francisco and Phoenix, but even there I didn’t feel the pressure I do in Alberta. Why is this, I wonder? On the way home this risky, close, tailgating started in Lethbridge and continued on the highway to Calgary. An example is where I am passing another car on a four lane, divided highway at a reasonable speed and a faster driver comes up behind me while I’m passing and hugs my tail by about one car length or closer until I can get past the car I’m passing and pull over. What that causes me to do is accelerate quite a bit over the speed limit to get by quickly before they can get on my tail, thus running the risk of a ticket for speeding. That almost happened near Nanton. I swore a bit at that moment.
• In the southwest US (California, Nevada, Arizona), there is much less use of the phrase ‘no problem’ from people who I thanked. Instead there was a nice ‘you’re welcome’. The ‘no problem’ phrase became common once we got into Idaho and Montana and continued north. Also, not much of the ‘uh huh’ phrase used in the US in response to me saying ‘thank you’. That also started again in Idaho and Montana. I wonder why this is?
• In Safeway in the US, the selection of jams is less that what we have here. I couldn’t find any English, Scottish, or French import jams there, yet they’re easy to find at Safeway here.
• People in small towns in Nevada generally seemed to be unhappy and not the easiest to communicate with. I don’t know why.
• Baking in the bakeries and coffee shops seem to use a lot of sugar on scones, muffins, strudel and other such edibles. I never did find a plain scone that didn’t have sugar drizzled over the top. I talked about this to a baker in Mariposa, CA. “Yah, I haven’t made plain scones for quite a while. I guess that is why we are so fat.” I said nothing.
• In northern California, especially on the coast, a lot of the young men are rough looking and dressed to look rather anti-establishment. They didn’t want to say much when I tried talking to them. On the other hand, the women that were with them were clean, nicely dressed, very pleasant and helpful. I have no idea why this is, at least with those that I met.
• I can’t do my best photographic art by just dropping into a place for a quick visit. If I do get something that meets my artistic criteria, it is only by luck. Staying in a location for a time and going back to the same scene time and time again seems to be what I need to do. It is easy to get the iconic shots, but artistic ones, not so easy without spending time at it. I knew this before, but it proved out in spades on this trip.
• Walking out the door of the house at 7 am to be greeted by +75F degree weather is nice.
• The sadness I felt when viewing the Oak Creek Canyon fire near Sedona was profound. It was a location that nature had gifted to us and was taken away by a thoughtless or careless person who started the fire. I just hope it was at least accidental.
• Living in the smoky air in Sedona took away a bit of the pleasure. I definitely missed being able to hike up the West Fork of Oak Creek because of the fire. Thank goodness I have memories of it from other visits to the canyon.
• Being given the opportunity to stay with our friends in a rather grande house for the better part of a week in Sedona was a unique treat.
• Early morning walks in the red rock hills and mountains of Sedona is a great way to start the day.
• It is easy to find very nice accommodation for $90 or less in the south. For some reason, the further north you get, the more expensive it is. For example a room for two at Comfort Suites in Ogden, UT was $89. For exactly the same room in the Comfort Suites in Helena, MT the cost was $117. Mind you, staying the in centre of the art district in Carmel, CA was not inexpensive. I guess there are always exceptions.
• It is always nice to come home.
• Being away from the house when the grass starts to grow in the spring is not a good idea unless you get someone to cut it while you are away. We didn’t!


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