The Long Drive Home, Part 1

On June 6, the looooong drive home began. We plan on arriving home in London on June 30, so 24 days to cross the country in a fairly leisurely manner. Or so we thought. But even taking our time, the truth is that it is A LOT of ground to cover. Big spaces, amazing landscapes, a lot of wildlife (big and small), and a few museums.

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We started in Vancouver, visiting my family and meeting Emily, our new niece, who was born June 4.

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We spent a lot of time playing pirates with our nephew. Also, crane building, plane flying and general mayhem.

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Knocking down a tinker toy building with a tinker toy crane is worth 3 points!

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Looks like a picture of the back yard, but it’s actually of the elastic band float plane that we brought, and then flew approximately 2 million times off the back deck. It was pretty awesome actually, and only resulted in adults precariously climbing ladders and perching in trees twice (trying to retrieve it).

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Connor introducing us to the sleeping, tiny sweet Emily, at BC Women’s Hospital.

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We had to leave Vancouver on June 11. We left early in the morning in the clouds, and landed in Osoyoos in the evening in the blue sky and sunshine. Like Bend, it’s a high desert – totally gorgeous, and the road comes down from the mountains into the town.

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And then it climbs back up on the other side, right up Anarchist Mountain. That’s its real name – the mountain was named after the “unorthodox” politics of a white settler named Richard Sidley, who was actually the postman in a nearby town (named Sidley, also after him).

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The pictures look like we were in Osoyoos in the daytime, but there were actually quite late in the evening, and then we left the next morning. We stopped just outside Osoyoos at Spotted Lake, which was SO AMAZING. I had seen pictures of it, but I thought it was fake or sort of more like crater holes. It’s actually a real lake, extremely high in minerals. In the summer the water evaporates and leaves the minerals behind, and then the pools are different colours depending on which minerals are present. In any case, it’s long been a healing site for the Okanagan First Nation, and they were able to buy it from a private owner in 2001 when he was going to build a spa on the site. There’s a little path that goes down to the lake, and we explored a bit.

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On the way out of Osoyoos, we kept passing signs that said “No National Park,” usually in huge red letters. There were also a few Yes signs, mostly in vineyards. Turns out there has long been a push to preserve the area, but preserving it as a national park would mean no hunting. Hmmmm…. I’ve got to say, I hope it happens. I think we were both quite awed by the beauty, and it really isn’t like anything else in Canada and maybe elsewhere.

Also, at least near Osoyoos, the arid area isn’t very big. We were quickly back into trees, sending poor Larry the Yaris up and down mountains.

The landscape changes constantly in BC, and soon after Osoyoos we were back in the mountains, but this time in the Old West at Greenwood. I’d seen a picture of the museum online, and it looked sort of like a cabinet of curiosity, so we decided to stop.

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It was sort of like a cabinet.

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And there was a lot of interesting history – like Greenwood was the site of a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War. Also, it is the smallest (by population) city in Canada, and apparently has the best tasting water in the world, though we did not get to try any.

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But honestly, the best thing about this museum was the totally bizarre set of mannequins they had amassed. They were so weird and hilarious! I’m sure they’d just been donated from various stores, but what kind of store would have these?

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We landed that night in Nelson, which is completely surrounded by mountains. It’s sort of a little oasis – really all I knew about it before we arrived was that a lot of draft dodgers went there during the Vietnam War. Now it seems like that, but also like a cozy mystery come to life. You know, where everyone meets at the coffee shop and exchanges their news of the day. And someone dies and it looks like a bear did it, but it turns out that there’s a long-standing feud stretching back to favouritism in elementary school. And some plucky heroine saves the day and solves the mystery with the help of her pet badger. That kind of place.

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After a foggy and nightmarish drive over the Kootenay Mountain, we stopped overnight in Kimberley, and then headed north up the Crow’s Nest Pass. We climbed those hoodoos – it’s a little terrifying to be that high up on something that seems to only be sand!

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And then we made our way into Kootenay National Park, where the scenery changes from amazing to totally spectacular.

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But it wasn’t long before we started to see the pine beetle damage. It is devastating, and massive. You can see in the picture below the trees on the right which are infested, and on the left, still safe.

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Entire mountains are bald, and we drove through kilometer after kilometer that looked honestly like it had been napalmed.

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It was really shocking, and we were most of the way through Kootenay Park and into Banff National Park before the devastation lessened slightly (although Banff is obviously affected as well).

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Even with the pine beetle damage, the drive is totally amazing.

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Bears! We saw five (didn’t really get a good picture). And then we saw a couple of cyclists working their way up the hill towards them….

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Back in Banff – we pretty much went straight to the Banff Centre for the Arts to go to the juice bar. A little jungle juice….

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Then a quick visit to the Banff Park Museum. We left Lucy outside and she curled up behind a bench. I looked out the window at one point and she had her front paws up on the back of the bench, giving kisses to tourists.

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And back to our murdery cabin in the woods. It was really hard to find a place in Banff where we could have Lucy and not totally break the bank. So here we are … we made sure to watch Cabin in the Woods.

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Lucy liked it though. Or at least liked that it was so small that she basically had to stay on the bed. The whole bed. Obviously Lucy is big on comfort and not on running away.

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A walk through Canmore, and then back on the road.

Prairie storm gathering.

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But holding off for our visit to Torrington. Below is a picture of the town of Torrington, Alberta. That is pretty much the whole town.

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Except that there is also this: The World Famous Gopher Hole Museum

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Which looks like this:

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And each one of those boxes has a carefully staged taxidermied gopher (or gophers) arranged in a variety of scenes.

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Farmer.

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Fisher.

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Beautician (it says “I’m a beautician not a magician”)

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Swimming date.

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And this – the protest panel. GAGS: Gophers Against Getting Stuffed. It’s actually a scene dedicated to a controversy that put the museum on the map. PETA targeted them, because the gophers had been running free in Torrington before they were killed, stuffed and put in a variety of humorous scenes. The letters poured in, and you can read them all in the museum. They’re pretty evenly divided … but I liked this one “Please, let the rats [run] alive and free.” Anyway, the Gopher Hole Museum is super bizarre. It has also brought in 9000 tourists to a place where there is really no other reason to stop.

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Torrington was a stop en route to Drumheller. I went through a minor obsession with dinosaurs phase when I was oh… about 10. And I decided then that I was going to Drumheller. And now seemed like a good time to go. We stayed in a pretty amazing place – the converted top floor of one of the older buildings in town.

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And we quickly realized that we were deep in Alberta, where even the pasta is meat:

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And the grocery stores have dinosaurs on the front.

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Turns out Drumheller is pretty great though. It’s half kitschy dinosaurs, half real dinosaurs.

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Kitschy (the world’s biggest dinosaur!!)

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The view from the top

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Drumheller has some great graffiti

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And a diner with a model train going around the ceiling

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And these signs outside the museum:

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And it also has the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which we both agreed was pretty fun. And we both learned a lot.

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The landscape outside is all like this – layers of sediment (including coal in a number of places).

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Lucy *loved* it. Drumheller might have been her second favourite place (after Kentucky).

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A big part of the reason was because there was a major ground squirrel infestation. She thought they were cute, by which I mean they peeped at her and she madly chased them.

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Horsethief canyon, so spectacular.

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Little Church (it is an actual church).

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Hoodoos!

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Tim in the distance.

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And our last stop at the Last Chance Saloon (which also had an amazing kitschy collection). It was in the former boom town of Wayne – now a ghost town, current population 33.

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Next stop: Regina.

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