Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Distance To The Horizon

An east bound Amtrak train blew its whistle at us on the open prairie as we glided west across Montana. There was no crossing, no cattle on the track, and noone else in sight, so yes, it was for our attention. What the heck, it's a good way to check the air horn, so I gave her a blast in answer. Either the engineer was lonely or he was a closet RV guy in pin stripes. Either way, a blast and a wave, and the salute was passed.

Not too long after that, we began talking about the distance to the horizon. If the topography is perfectly flat, like say a ship crossing the ocean on a calm day, then the circular dimensionality of the earth (no, it ain't flat) mandates that you can see 16 miles to the horizon. Obviously that changes depending on the situation. Headed up a slight incline, you might only see a hundred yards. But what about when you are at a higher elevation and there is a valley out before you...with a tall mountain range out way ahead. On a clear day, can you see forever?

Well, unfortunately not. But you can see a long, long way. So we began our calculations as the reason for the conversation began to come in to view. The white robed winter royalty of the Rocky Mountains started to become visible on the Montana horizon. Somewhere between when they appear and where they are, is the town of Shelby. Answer to today's question: about 110 miles. They came into view about 50 miles before reaching Shelby and they are about 60 miles on the other side of Shelby. Shelby. The last stop before crossing into Canada. The last stop for fuel at a sane price. Last chance to get your border crossing papers in order. The point of no return. Tomorrow, Alaska, not yet in view, will be clearly on the horizon.

The hundreds and hundreds of pronghorns (antelope) we spotted today will be in the rear view mirrors in the morning. Tonight we nestle into the open park that is the holding pattern for rigs ready to bolt out of the gate and make the dash north. Two years ago we stayed here at Lewis and Clark RV Camp and connected with Gary and Judy Skaggs. This year we are in the exact same spot as we were then. But the spot directly behind us where they had been parked is empty despite the fact that the park is nearly full this year. (So much for economy caused travel slowdown) It is a fitting tribute to our now special friends, who just happen to be about a week behind us on their journey back to go mining for the summer. It's not the same without them. The park is now for sale by owner. The only other difference we see is about 100 new giant windmills on the ridge nearby.

Travel Tip Time: Specifically for those of you behind us: If you need the Pilot truck stop in Shelby to fuel up, please make a note that it says "Exxon" on the street sign and is the gasoline stop. The Pilot truck diesel is behind the Exxon and could easily be missed if you're not looking for it. Diesel was 2.31.9. When we start reporting Candian prices, they will be in litres, not gallons and we can discuss conversions then. If it's your first venture in Canada, remember speed limits and distances are in Metric. Most GPS units can do the conversions for you and it's a big help at least until you get used to it.

North bound in the morning. Passports at the ready!


Denice & Dennis said...

Alaska on the Horizon !!! Canada is bigger than that. A very very long day from Coutts to the Alaska Border. Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon. My "Streets and Trips" says 2012 miles from Sweetgrass to the Alaska border. How about 4 days?

Denice & Dennis said...

Hey Greg, just about the time that I anticipated that you should be passing our town of High River, south of Calgary -- (after you had experienced the border crossing into Canada - I sure hope they were friendly to our southern neighbors - they sometimes are not - very officious!!)
Anyway we were down town having lunch at one of the local eateries, when we looked out and the snowflakes were as big as Goose feathers. Must have been an Alaskan front going through! Hope you do not get into that, and the weather continues to improve

Greg said...

it was, unfortunately, our worst crossing ever. I'll write a bit about that in the next post....

Greg said...

Den- how about 12 days! And we love Canada, and meant no offense in any way by setting sites on Alaska. If you go back and read, especially the posts from 07 on Banff to Jasper, you'll see that. But last time through we were exploring. This time we are "on the move" with a destination in mind, hence "the horizon" bit.
I WILL say I am SLIGHTLY less enthusiastic about coming into the country after doing the full meal deal search at customs. WHY? If you had to profile someone to tackle, it sure as shoot wouldn't be me. I've been in the north land many, many times before without a hint of a problem! Plus I can prove where I've been and what I've done every minute of the last three years. Nothing funny going on here!