Minneapolis and the Golden Gophers- Days 78-81

Two kids standing in front of inflatable mascot at a football game

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.

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Pleasant Surprise – Grasslands National Park – Day 77

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). 

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Alone in Dinosaur Provincial Park – Day 76

Two children on a cliff in the badlands at sunset

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

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Bring on the zoo – Calgary 73-75

Fun playground at the Calgary Zoo

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!

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The Icefields Parkway & Banff National Park – Days 70-72

Two girls playing in mountain landscape

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!

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Elk, Hot Springs and Forest Fires – Jasper National Park – Days 67-69

Children playing in the sand by a lake with forest fire in the background

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.

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Fort Langley – Days 61 & 62

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.

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Capturing Olympic Glory? Vancouver & Whistler – Days 58-60

Children inside the Olympic Rings at Whistler

A decade ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Winter Olympics that were held in Canada (not the Calgary ones, I’m not that old). I believe that at that time, my brother and I got to see Vancouver and Whistler at their absolute best. We rode the newly built Sky Train, meandered aimlessly through the streets of Vancouver and bused our way up to Whistler on the expanded Sea-to-Sky highway. As for the events, we were very fortunate as we saw Canada win their first medal of the games and also got to watch the men’s hockey team score eight goals in their opener. The sporting memories are some of the most vivid of my life and we still laugh about how lucky we were to secure tickets. Over time these memories have overshadowed some of the hiccups (like the bus lineups, the rain, and the protestors). I was looking forward to reliving some Olympic glory. But alas, where Paige got fortunate with Saltspring living up to her memories, the same could not be said about Vancouver and Whistler.

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Salt Spring Island – A Return Home of Sorts- Days 52-57

My family had a summer cottage on Saltspring Island for 24 years.  My dad used to spend a few months on the island every summer (when his television program was on hiatus) and the rest of us used to come for two weeks every July.  I lost my dad when I was 17 but there’s nowhere that I have fonder memories of him than on Saltspring Island.  I think of him teaching me to drive a boat, catch crabs and drive a Yamaha scooter (well before I turned 16). I have such happy memories of the place that I was terrified to go back as a tourist without a “home” to stay. Yet my desire to show the place to the girls outweighed this fear.  To make it even more special, my brother flew to BC for a long weekend to be able to return with us.  We rented side-by-side Airbnbs (on a different part of the island from our old cottage) and we crossed our fingers hoping that the trip would bring happy new memories and not just make us sad.

The magic of Saltspring was still there.  Leif and I were reminded of all the things we loved about the place and we weren’t sad -only grateful for getting to spend so much of our childhood here.  We were shocked at how much was the same after 8 years but also managed to find some new island gems.

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