Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Banff To Jasper

It was a second amazing day in a row enjoying the run from Banff to Jasper. Another day of superlatives. The "sno-coach" shown below takes area visitors onto the Columbia Glacier in the distance behind it. There is a second such coach in the picture, already on the glacier, but to give you a sense of the scale here- you can't even see the other coach when the picture is blown to full size- unless of course you can make out that little speck way way off in the distance. You DO have to see it to appreciate the grandeur of it all.It was a productive day for wildlife sightings as well. Lots more elk and even more Big Horn Sheep, one moose off in a distance at a place where there was no way to stop and get a picture. And speaking of NO PICTURE, there was one point along the run when I looked up at the mountain before us and said to Marilyn, I hope to you-know-what that is not a road up that hill that we need to travel..." It looked like a zigging zagging series of cuts to keep rocks from falling on the highway below- only it had what, at that distance, looked vaguely like a guard rail. Most of this stretch had been deceptively easy to drive with little sense of change in elevation and little sense that you could exit the roadway and plummet over the edge into the abyss at any given moment, but THIS...this gave me cause for concern. And with good cause- because it was exactly what it had appeared to be- the single most challenging grade and elevation change of the last two days. I needed to drop to 2nd gear to keep old Buster moving his butt up the mountain. It was an "I think I can, I think I can" type of situation. I didn't stop at the scenic overlooks for fear of never getting going again, and maybe I should just say I didn't stop "for fear." Period.
Much of the day was spent driving past areas posted as "Avalanche Zone" and to be sure, there were several places where there were "fresh" signs that the snow cap had given out and come down clearing everything in its path including rocks, trees and even the roadway. There were fresh repairs in a number of places and we took the posted warnings seriously and kept an eye out for what was happening above us most of the day. It may be May in the rest of the world, but it sure doesn't seem like it here, even though daytime temperatures have been more than comfortable. Winter wonderland is alive and well here for now.
Athabasca Falls is a beautiful spot along the route. It is in the part of the Province of Alberta where the Canadian Oil Sands Reserves are to be found. I spoke with a camp ground owner who is also on the Alberta Travel Council and he told me of the great difficulty in finding workers not only for campgrounds which are seasonal, but for nearly every job available here- the reason is that the oil field jobs pay wages that make it nearly impossible not to go to work for them if you have a skill they can possibly use. But the oil shale was nowhere to be found today and the falls was, so here's the picture...

And here's a great couple we met along the way today. While we were pulled over at a scenic overlook (they call them "parking lots" in Alberta) another coach towing a car pulled up along side.
"OK. Who's from Florida?" asked the driver.
Long story short: Tom and Mary Lou had a house on Cape Coral before going full time in their coach. They lived near the library which put them not too many blocks away from our place on the Cape. Where are they headed? Alaska. Where are they staying tonight? Same place we are? Where? Two sites over to be exact, so we got together for happy hour and got to know each other a bit. When we first met, I was wearing my "Bite Me" mosquito shirt from Roatan. Can you believe they are divers too and had been on one of the Roatan live aboard dive boats? We have a lot of small world stories (guess this one is a small third world story). Tom's theory is that the world may not actually be that small, but the number of adventurous people probably is quite small, so we always meet sooner or later. I like that! Rings true. If you can, note the front plate of their coach: 2CHILL. It's a parrot head plate and for those who may be saying, " A what?" A parrot head is a Jimmy Buffet music fan. And I am a fan of any fan of Jimmy's. No doubt we'll see you again down the road.
Closing notes about Verizon cell phone service and the pc card for the wireless laptop: Yea, yea, I know, this is more technical than this blog usually gets, that's why we have the link to Geeks On Tour, but a number of readers have been discussing phone connectivity lately so now that we have some slightly out of the ordinary experience I thought I would weigh in. Much to our shock, amazement, and joy, our cell service with Verizon on the North American plan has been totally without interruption so far in Canada, with the exception of certain parts of the Banff to Jasper run- where no one gets service of any kind and probably never will. The mountains there are so high and surround the road so completely that on occasion even the GPS dropped the satellite for bits here and there. Verizon told us not to expect coverage in many of the areas we have been. Now maybe that will become the case as get further north and in more remote areas but so far so good. And the PC card has worked absolutely everywhere the cell did, despite the fact that Verizon told us that probably none of the Canadian towers would support data transmission. This is NOT a paid advertisement (Although, Verizon, if you're reading this I do love you and I do have a sponsorship open for you). But it is to confirm that where others have failed, Verizon, knock on wood, is hanging in there with the wifi and the satellite phones.

One final note for tonight, when we arrived at the campground (well, actually right before we arrived) we drove past it a couple miles into the village of Hinton, which will not be on our route tomorrow, so that we could fuel up at the only truck stop for many miles. The pumps were fitted much differently than in the states, the main difference being the nozzle is small and looks like a gasoline nozzle. So I asked a number of questions to assure myself that in fact I would be pumping the correct fuel into the tank- #2 diesel. First one employee, then two, then three came out to the pump to "help." Much to our surprise, they all claimed never to have seen a motor coach this big at their service station and they all wanted a good look and a quick chat. Their "diesel guy" as they called him was curios to know if he could buy our kayaks, so I guess he hadn't seen those before either. I don't know! The town didn't seem THAT small to me. It was a curious but friendly enough encounter and I guess we all learned something- and isn't that just the point!?

1 comment:

Mark and Chris said...

Hi Greg.

Just skimming your blog for tips as we are also planning a trip to Alaska soon. Regarding your Verizon PC card in Canada. We have one as well. I am wondering what extra data charges you incurred when using it in Canada? Still the $60/month plan or is there roaming charges tacked on as well? Hope to see you both in Orlando.