My favourite tv show is called “Secrets of the Zoo” and it takes place in the Colombus Zoo and the Wilds (two different zoos). The show is about zookeepers and vets who take care of the animals. I said to mom and dad “because we are going to the USA, can we go to the Columbus Zoo?”. They said “No” and I actually believed them. Secretly, mom, dad and Julie were planning a secret birthday present for me. After we left Indianapolis, I thought that we were driving to Cleveland but really dad was driving to my zoos. Mom and dad thought both of the zoos were in Columbus when they booked a hotel there for two nights but when they looked at google maps, they realized the Wilds was 1 1/2 hours further (and out of the way). That meant we had to drive through Columbus to get there and mom thought I would notice from the backseat that we were not driving through Cleveland! Dad thought I would not. Guess who was right? Dad…. I missed all the signs and was doing my homework in the backseat instead.
When we approached the Wilds, mom started to film me.
We got two more pictures of state capitol buildings by stopping in Madison and Indianapolis. One might ask, why go to Madison at all? The answer for us was logistics. We simply wanted to break a ten-hour drive into two five-hour legs. And on the map, Madison is about the midway point between Minneapolis and Indianapolis. Our real goal was getting to Indianapolis because Paigey had read about a children’s museum there and thought it could be a good place for homeschooling. If you have kids and they aren’t in school, this is the spot for you and is completely worthy of a road trip. We went during a weekday in September and essentially had the museum to ourselves (it was too early in the school year for field trips). I’m not exaggerating, at some of the live demonstrations, our kids were the only 2 people to show up so they got to learn from the scientists one on one. This day, we didn’t even have to pretend to be good teachers.
It was an early departure from Grasslands National Park as we anticipated an eight-hour day of driving. We had not really planned on it but we were changing our route and heading back to Toronto through the northern states. Fortunately, we had picked up Julie’s passport the day before which allowed us to take this “southerly” route and avoid a repeat of the drive between Winnipeg and Nipigon. Julie was pumped as she was getting a new country and Isabella was excited as she figured out Olive Gardens are more plentiful in the US than in Canada.
So there we were at 8:30 in the morning somewhere on the Saskatchewan / US border (Morgan to be exact) waiting for US border control to open up the border. Talk about ignorance on my part! I just assumed the border was open all hours of the day (as I did not listen to Paige who said it might be closed). But we had to wait an hour for the gate to be opened up and for us to be allowed through.
We woke up and left the dinosaur campground as we continued to make our way back east. We were on the road by 8 am as we knew that we had a really long ride ahead of us (6 or more hours today).
We drove to Medicine Hat for breakfast and ate at a little cafe that I had found online. Then we went to the Medalta clay factory as a little diversion since we had such a long drive ahead of us. The clay factory is over 100 years old and they have staff working onsite using historic techniques, moulds and glazes making reproduction pieces like Stoneware bowls, urns and crocks. I so much wanted to buy a #5 crock but Michael rightfully asked me what I would use it for and where I would put it. The kids learned about pottery making and ran around the giant rooms expending some of their built-up energy. I bought some art deco salt and pepper shakers which I will keep for myself (one of the very few souvenirs we have from the trip).
It was early in the morning when we said goodbye to cousin Lorron and continued our journey east. We remarked that it felt like we were really heading “home” since we no longer had any friends or family to visit. We didn’t want to keep Lorron from work so we opted for a McDonald’s breakfast. The drive was through the prairies but they were no longer yellow and green but brown and dying – even the harvesting seemed complete. The landscape changed to badlands as we approached Drumheller. At Drumheller, you kind of descend into the town (felt like a valley) and then the dinosaur marketing hits you. There is a colossal T-rex at the tourist information centre which the kids noticed first from the backseat of the jeep. After that, there are dinosaur statues everywhere leading to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Even though the family was sad to say adieu to the mountains, we were still looking forward to Calgary as the kids would get to hang out with their cousin Lorron. Calgary would also serve as the location where we hopefully put our passport woes in our past. Julie and Mike both submitted passport applications in early spring (and by early I mean March). Mike’s passport arrived in July but kids’ passports are not considered renewals and take longer (the website said 6 weeks when I submitted it). After 20 weeks and many phone calls of nothing, I drove to Calgary to have our application transferred to a local office with my proof of travel. With two visits to the Harry Hays building, two new passport photos and only 3 hours for me in a chair, we had a passport!
It is always easier to leave a place when it is raining and Jasper saw us off with a slight drizzle and low temperatures. Our destination was the other tourist mecca of the Rockies, Banff National Park. Having already secured our camping spot for the next three days, we were in no rush and could enjoy the scenery along the Icefields Parkway. If only the clouds would lift!
Back on Jan 31st, I sat at my computer waiting for the reservations at Jasper National Park to open up. I had been quite fortuitous with other national park bookings and we were once again trying to get lucky. We were aiming high and trying to land a spot in one of the Otentiks at the newly refurbished Whistlers Campground (as Paigey really did not want us camping in our tent with the bears and the cold). Unfortunately on that day, the park hadn’t yet made a decision as to if they were opening the Otentiks to the public so I was somewhat disheartened. I reached out to Parks Canada directly to try and get some insight if they were close to a decision and was told to check back later. So each day thereafter I would log onto the site and see if those Otentiks were available to the public. I was multi-tasking on a work-related “zoom” call when I lucked out on a morning in April. With our spot secured, Jasper was firmly on the itinerary! After 40 years, I was finally going to get to visit Jasper!
I was the most excited as we left Vernon and started our long drive up Highway 5 in British Columbia. There was a decent amount of construction along the way as I believe work crews were working on the Trans Mountain Pipeline (sooo many construction sites). As we approached Mt. Robson (at the highway terminus), the temperature dropped and it got overcast. Due to the change in weather, we were unable to see one of the most photographed mountains in Canada. It wasn’t all that bad as we rounded the corner of the mountain and then we all started cheering as we passed the Welcome to Jasper National Park Sign.
When we left Fort Langley and headed to the Okanagan, we were ready for some creature comforts. It seemed like it had been ages since we had a proper space with a kitchen and separate bedrooms. We had booked a sort of ski chalet on Airbnb and could not wait to arrive.
This is a very special post because Isabella wanted to share her thoughts about our next destination herself. She felt so strongly that Fort Langley was a key destination that she is sharing this journal entry.
Fort Langley once was a trading fort. The settlers who lived there would exchange things with the First Nations people. The First Nations people would have furs, fish and cranberries which they traded for metal tools, blankets and rope.