The Way North

I began my trip for Canada at 5:00 PM. An odd time to start a long drive, but I am a night person. Besides, I was already feeling the pressure to get going after an extra day spent in Great Falls, Montana. I was a little nervous about the car and its new parts, but I had faith in Mark and Bennett Motors, so I moved on. I went a little way on the county roads until I could catch up to Interstate 15, and headed for the border. The 15 seemed rather small and empty, and it was easy to pull over here and there for a picture, though it was raining and getting colder all the time. The weather was downright bleak and I was grateful that we were not expecting snow.

I stopped in Shelby, which is close to the border. I had to get the last of the cheap gasoline I was going to see for a while. They tax the daylights out of it in Canada, compared to the US, and I figured I’d better save whatever money I could. From there, I drove the remaining 35 miles to the border. At the immigration checkpoint, I got some quizzing, especially since I am a professional photographer with my own business. It is such a mobile profession that they worried I was going to advertise my services in Canada where I do not have permission to work. After some promising and further explanation of my purposes, I was allowed in as a tourist. The whole thing took maybe ten minutes. Not bad at all. I was welcomed by the signs to Alberta, the Wild Rose Country of Canada, and I was thrilled to be in a new country. There is nothing like a border crossing to invigorate me. I love that sort of thing. It kept me awake and happy for the rest of the night.

I decided to get at least as far as Lethbridge, and if possible past Calgary all the way to Banff. There was a good liquor store in Lethbridge that was advertised as an excellent place to buy local Canadian wines and beers. Given the country’s restrictions and conservative export laws even between their own territories, it is kind of hard to find Canadian wines outside Canada. If you do find what you want, it’s usually terribly marked up in price for all the trouble gone to for its export. I made it to Lethbridge at a steady pace (no tickets in Canada, oh please, oh please), bought some ice wine and got some Canadian cash from the automatic teller. I called a hotel in Banff to make a reservation once I realized I had enough steam to drive the rest of the way.

As I contemplated the miles, I pulled over a couple of times for pictures, but it was awfully chilly and of course, it was raining, so not my favorite conditions for photography. Funny thing was, because I was so far north, it didn’t really get dark until 9 PM. I was hoping that might be the case, and this late sunset came in very handy all throughout my time in Canada. I noticed that the drivers in Alberta, as they were in Ontario, are polite and make spending time on the roads pleasant and generally safe. Alberta is farm and ranch country for the most part, as is northern Montana, and the radio was largely devoted to rural advertising and talk, including fishing programs, in-depth herbicide and cow nutritional advertising (“your cow is giving all she has to her calf right now, and without the proper supplements will be dry by fall…”). There was all kinds of talk about seeding fields and crops, but it was over my head.

After a long few hours on the road, eventually in darkness, I got to Banff National Park and headed for Banff town. It was only a few kilometers to town, but even in the slight moonlight I could see the shadows and the snow on the massive Canadian Rocky Mountains that were suddenly looming up all around me. They were huge. I could almost not believe they were so big and so close to the road and I couldn’t quite make them out all the way to be sure. The anticipation for daylight was marvelous and I felt like a child on Christmas Eve.

I leave you with some of the interesting town and road names I have encountered in the last few states, and Canada, for your amusement.

Dead horse Creek
Crazy woman Canyon
Prairie Dog Creek
Whiskey Creek (many of these)
Ten Sleeps (town and creek)
Crowsnest Highway
Ten Mile Creek and Ten Mile (town)
Dead Man’s Flats
Stand Off
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

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