August 10 – Taking the air mattress with us gave us the best solarium experience we’ve ever had. Our ferry was scheduled to arrive at 8:45 am which meant that we could have gotten around 7 hours of sleep. Unfortunately for us, the arrival time was stated in Pacific Time (1 hr ahead of Alaska) since we were arriving in that time zone. So, we only got 6 hours of sleep (actually less because some rude people started talking loudly at a really early hour). We didn’t get such a great spot on the car deck and we were almost the last car off the boat. We waited in line for customs and we were the last car through. The grilling wasn’t as bad as the first time and we were relieved to find out that the case of beer in the truck wasn’t over the import limit (Stacie hadn’t considered that when se bought it). We drove for a few hours and stopped for lunch at a small town. After lunch we saw signs advertising the “world’s largest fly fishing rod” in nearby Houston, B.C. Well, we had to stop and check out a claim like that and it was huge! We weren’t sure how far we were going to drive, but being fairly well rested we did a full eight hours and stopped for the night at a provincial park 40 miles east of Prince George. The park was lovely, with well spaced campsites in a heavily wooded area. The restrooms looked like outhouses but had flush toilets inside. We might have gone further except there is a sort of a no man’s land stretching for 100 miles east of the campground. There aren’t any gas stations, restaurants, hotels or campgrounds.
August 11 – We woke up on the early side for us (especially since our body clocks were still in Alaska) and broke down camp. We hit the road and crossed no man’s land arriving at Jasper National Park at around noon. Upon entering the park we lost another hour as we were now in the Mountain Time Zone. We took a slightly different route and stopped at Athabasca Falls (another spot where a really big river has to squeeze through a narrow spot). We also sighted an elk crossing a stream (it was just about in the same place as where we had seen the caribou on our trip north). When we had started the day we thought that we would be lucky to make Lake Louise in eight hours of driving and had tentatively planned on stopping there for the night. It was much closer than we thought and after visiting the lake and seeing the giant (and really expensive) hotels that are on the lake we jumped back in the truck and continued south (as it turns out the campground was full so we couldn’t have stayed if we wanted to). We drove about another hour and stopped in the town of Banff, which is at the south end of the park. There are three park run campgrounds side by side and they have a combined capacity of over 1,125 sites. When we arrived there were still sites available. You didn’t get to drive around and pick your site, they picked one for you. The campground was wooded, but the trees were small and there was grass and gravel between campsites. Our site had a gulch on two sides so there was only one site near us and it was empty. The bathroom building was on the other side of the empty site and it featured flush toilets, lights and free hot showers (we could get spoiled).
August 12 – We broke camp and continued our dash for the border. Routing on this part of the trip was as easy as 1-2-3-4. We started out on route 1 and then picked up route 2 to route 3, and finally took route 4 to the border. On the way we had to stop briefly and admire a large fiberglass dinosaur at another town’s visitor’s center. Before leaving Canada we stopped at a gas station and used up our remaining Canadian money on fuel (the clerk was amused when we got $22.07 worth of fuel and paid with a lot of coins). The border crossing into Montana was a slow process. We waited at least half an hour, driving through a torn up mess of construction the result of a new border station which hadn’t opened yet. When we finally got to a booth the agent seemed much more concerned with finding out if we had any ivory, antlers or the like. We told her the only animal products we had were Stacie’s leftover fish and some Italian sausage we had bought in Ketchikan. On hearing the word sausage she held onto our passports and told us to pull into the inspection area and “show her our sausage”. The links were confiscated as no uncooked meat is allowed into the US from Canada due to that one incident of mad cow disease a few months ago (don’t cry about the sausage, we got it on a buy one get one free deal and it really wasn’t that good). We got our passports and returned to the truck to find a Department of Agriculture inspector waiting. He looked at us and asked if that was our truck. We said “yes” and then he said that he used to be stationed in Newport News, Virginia and after that lived in Alaska. Having seen the license plate he was curious about our trip. We breathed a sigh of relief and talked with him for a while. As we pulled away from the customs station a border patrol truck pulled out from a hiding spot and zoomed up the road and pulled in behind us. We were nervous until he pulled off at the first exit and parked by a liquor store (our best guess is that he was picking up some beer to go with the sausage). After a few miles Stacie started making subtle hints about ice cream (“do you think this exit has a Dairy Queen?”). These were tiny little towns that were lucky to have one fast food place, but we got off at every exit on the way until we did find a drive in that offered all kinds of shakes and ice cream. With frosty treats in hand we continued south towards Great Falls and a longer visit with Dave’s Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Doug.
We arrived just in time for dinner, Doug was making pizza and Dave’s cousin Jeff and his family (who lived a few blocks away) were over for dinner. We had seen them in Idaho the previous summer, but we never got a chance to talk for any length of time so this was a great visit. We were going to be in Great Falls for a few days and we all agreed to get together again. Doug’s pizza was excellent (especially the taco pizza) and we finished up with strawberry shortcake. After desert we hooked up the computer and sent in a bunch of web pages. During the session the computer started acting up and the anti-virus program kicked in saying it had found something. Dave started a full system scan and we retired for the evening.