Monday, August 15, 2011

Day 17 (Aug 15) - Home :) And a shiny silver dragon?

It took us a bit longer than we expected, but we made it home.
The border crossing took about an 90 minutes, which was longer than we had expected.
But the end result is the same :)
The kids were on the lookout for the Flags to guide them into the U.S. and there was a shout of "we're home" when we crossed the border. Then we grabbed lunch and kept on driving.
The house was still standing and all seemed well, and we slipped back into our usual routine :)

Lake Harrison 
Walking back to the hotel after breakfast
Its pretty quiet this morning

Ok the all important stats of the trip.

We covered 2434 miles on our trip
Stopped for gas 7 times
Were in 2 time zones
Had 2 border crossings
Went through 3 states and 2 provinces
Slept in 8 hotels
Saw more trains than we could count
Took 770 pictures
And many amazing memories :)

Oh and we saw one shiny silver dragon..... on the highway on our way home this morning.... still in Canada.
Something odd on the flatbed.....
it's shiny and silver......
It's a ......
Told ya ;)
I looked up the web address on one of the trucks following the dragon and found out it was a Chinese Imperial Water Dragon. It was created by a BC metal artist.... it was quite the sight to see.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Day 16 (Aug 14) - Hot Springs and a Surrey without fringe on top

The sun really didn't come out this morning so our morning swim was a bit cooler than we had expected, but the water was warm and the crowds were light :)
After our morning swim, we got cleaned up and walked down the street to find lunch. Cookin' Kim's Country Cafe... say that 3 times fast. We got our fill along with a slice of peach pie, which was tasty but had a surprising number of berries in it - Hmm?
After lunch we took a turn on a Surrey or whatever you call those funny bike contraptions that look like fun, but are heavier than they look after about 10 mins. We choose the suggested 30 min path through town and all had a  good time. The kids loved it and Hubby and I got a little work out :)

We did a little shopping on our walk back to the hotel and then took a little rest in the room.
Since the weather was overcast and dreary we spent the afternoon relaxing in the room and decided on room service for dinner. We had a bit of excitement before dinner when a bird hit our sliding glass door and hung out on the balcony til it recovered. It flew away and rejoined its friends and our room service arrived. Great mac and cheese if you ever find yourself up here :)
After dinner (and an appropriate wait) we went down to the pools again. This time armed with our underwater camera :)
the family pool 
new goggles 
and we were told they make "everything look smaller", hmmm?
We were all pretty wiped out at the end of swimming..... the adults were the only ones who could admit that :)
So we retired to our room for the night.
Tomorrow we go home. I think we all have mixed feelings about that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day 15 (Aug 13) – Drive to Harrison Hot Springs

We spent the morning packing up and taking a last look around Kamloops. We saw The Spirit of Kamloops as it pulled out for its Saturday excursion and had some lunch, before hitting the road. 

The drive into Harrison was one of our shorter drives. We got to see quite a terrain change as we drove over. And we are officially out of the Rocky Mountains and into the Cascades, and it has a bit of a homey feeling to me :)

We got into town around 3 this afternoon and were happy a room was ready early for us. But the kids were a bit to wound up to relax in the room, so we explored the resort a bit. The resort has 5 pools that are filled by the hot spring. And its lake front on Lake Harrison so there are lots of people here enjoying the end of summer. We saw 4 different brides today, so its a popular wedding location as well. We had dinner at Harrison Pizza, which was good but funny since the main guy was pleasant but always looked upset, borderline irritated. I saw him crack a smile once, but I have to wonder if all these tourists drive him nuts ;) We walked around a bit before coming back to our room.
view from our room
After our meal had time to settle we headed for the pools. They have 3 pools outside – a lap pool and a family pool (which is 3' or less all over) and an adult pool. Then inside they have another pool just slightly warmer than the outside pools and a hot tub type, but larger.
The lap pool was pretty empty so we could have splashed about in it, but the kids were plenty happy in the family pool. We did go to the inside pool and the hot tub before calling it a day for the pools.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 14 (Aug 12) – Kamloops, BC

The Best Western we are staying at has breakfast, which makes that very easy.
Once we were dressed and ready our first stop of the day was to see some train history... or should I say more train history. But we weren't quite sure what would be open or what was even at the Heritage park train area. We found the place, which is a challenge in itself and as we approached I started to think all we would see was a ticket booth for a train excursion we weren't going to go on. But I was wrong.
One of the guys in the booth asked how he could help and I said we were hoping to see some trains. He said he could show us some, yeah! So after we paid a small fee for the tour (have to make it all official), we headed out with our guide (whose name I never got, sorry) across the parking lot and the train tracks to the shop. It was just the four of us with him and he was great with the kids. He told us the history of the depot here in Kamloops (please don't ask me, I have forgotten already) and that it's one of the two places in Canada that CN (Canadian National) and CP (Canadian Pacific) share tracks and can move cars back and forth (ok, I remember a little).
He was a little surprised by how much our train loving boy knew and that he was already a little familiar with the steam engine we were about to see.
So we crossed the track and were taken into the shop where they work on the huge engine. We were even allowed to climb up into the cab and look around.
All of this is amazing. This engine was going to be in use this evening and was going to start prep in a bit. But there we are up in the cab looking around. Of course it wasn't until we came down that I asked if I could take pictures :)
also known as The Spirit of Kamloops

open air passenger car
Another tidbit for you, it take this engine 6 hours to come up to full steam power...... so since it was going to be taking passengers on an excursion at 7:30 pm tonight, they would start her up about 1:30 pm and begin prep and checks even before that. We were there about 11:30 am, so much later and we might not have been able to see all this up close.
We also got to walk through the passenger cars they use.
The guide was awesome and we all had a great time. This was well worth the time/money.

The next stop of our day was the BC Wildlife Park. The closest thing to a zoo we had seen on this trip.
And we had heard they had two orphaned grizzly cubs. So the plan was animals and find lunch....not necessarily in that order.
duck and geese pond.... the landscape in Kamloops is quite different
Looked like a dandelion, but was the size of my fist
We peaked a bit around the park and spotted the mini train, so after a quick loop about the park on the train, we ate. 
Grizzly bear cub
Zoo train

After lunch we got a bit more serious about seeing the animals. But the heat was getting to us all. Luckily it isn't a very big place and after a few hours in the sun we had seen it all. Back to shade and A/C – yes we know, we are wimps ;)

Dinner tonight was at Eastside Mario's.
view of Kamloops
Then back to the hotel. We had thought about a swim but our little lady is taking her turn at not feeling 100% so we choose to rest up instead.
Tomorrow we head to Harrison Hot Springs.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Day 13 (Aug 11) - from Jasper to Kamloops

Leaving Jasper behind
We are getting close to the end of our trip. Today was a driving day, and we only have one more of those before we drive home!
We had breakfast in the room this morning, then packed up and headed out. Stopping in town (Jasper) first to return the GyPSy guide and pick up some lunch for the road. We found a deli on Patricia St for sandwiches that fit the bill, then back to the car.
I think we made it 5 minutes down the road before the kids started asking for the sandwiches :) But it was quarter to noon, so we went for it. Picnic on the road, with some REALLY good sandwiches. Our route took us out of Jasper National park and into Mt. Robson Provincial park, and we were already missing our GyPSy guide.
About an hour down the road we found traffic... or something along those lines. We were stopped, with a lot of others. At first we wondered if there was an animal up ahead that everyone was watching, but we quickly decided it was road construction. Hubby decided to walk towards the front of the line. My job was to keep a look out, just in case things started moving. This seemed like a perfect plan since there were people sitting in camp chairs along the road and a badmittion game had just started about 30 cars ahead of us. From our location we couldn't see the front of the line and after about 20 mins we couldn't see the back of it either.

view ahead of us
view behind us
To make a long story short (don't say it), cars started coming from the other direction. Which meant it would be our turn soon. Hubby hadn't made it to the front before we were moving but we saw the problem... a couple of semi's had made a mess all over the road. Not sure how, but one of the trucks had the side of its trailer missing and the contents of the truck were all over the road.... messy.
We moved past all that and got back into the groove of a driving day. With a stop for snacks and washrooms (as they say in Canada) we got into Kamloops just before 5 pm.
Our room at the Best Western is great with two queens and the nicest hide-a-bed we have seen... so everyone has a place :) We had dinner at Red Robin, something familiar felt good for the kids. Then back to the room and bed.
Tomorrow we explore Kamloops.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 12 (Aug 10) – a tearful goodbye and a few wild animals

We left the West Edmonton Mall behind us this morning and headed west. This marks the official start of the journey home. And it was a hard goodbye for the kids. Both had really gotten into a routine at the mall. Waterpark in the morning, rides after dinner, etc. A day in the car wasn't high on their list of thing to do. “Can we just stay one more day?”
On our way out of town we picked up another GyPSy guide for the drive and around Jasper National Park. Their wasn’t quite as much narrative from the guide on the drive up as we had experienced in Banff, it was all still fun information, relevant to our location or what was coming up. And it became all the more helpful once we actually got into Jasper.
a little rain on the way to Jasper
Park gates
GyPSy has a Jasper park logo on it once we entered the park.
Somewhere around here we picked up a stowaway. We are now calling it a grass hopper, although I previously declared it a cricket (this shows how little I know about insects). So a few miles down the road from a brief bathroom stop I glanced down at the map on our gps and saw this little guy, just perched on the frame of the map. I want to say I was all cool and collected but that took me a few seconds. Then I removed the mug bought earlier today from a box and caught the little guy. Lucky for us (and him) the box had a nice window so I knew I had him. We made another short stop to return him to his home. Put the mug back in its box for safe keeping and moved on. (Exhale.... well, that was exciting)
as close as I could get through the window on my mug box
his temporary home on our dashboard, until we released him again
We checked into the Tonquin Inn for the night and moved our stuff in. Our room has two twin beds and a queen which is super. The kids had bunks at the Mall but neither of them really likes the top bunk so two beds on solid ground is a plus :) Since it was almost dinner when we arrived we headed into town to find some eats. Our original plan, Coco's Cafe looked to have wonderful food, but not enough seating for us. We could have taken the food to go, but we ate lunch on the road and really wanted the whole restaurant package. So we moved on and ate at Smitty's, which seems to be a Canadian chain – coffee shop style restaurant. We all found good food and then wandered the town a bit.
But we didn't want to waste the little time we have in Jasper so after once around the block we loaded back into the car. GyPSy had some things to show us.

We headed out to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, with a short peak at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge.
As we expected the GyPSy had lots of great information along the way as well as suggestions for stops and viewpoints.
And much to our surprise we saw some wildlife. We think our luck had more to do with the time of day than anything else. But we saw a deer in an empty overlook parking lot.

Then down the road a bit we saw a black bear mama and her two cubs!

So, I am going to rant a little..... stay in your cars, people! Maybe it's because we have the GyPSy guide reminding us often what to do around bears or maybe it's because I read the paperwork the ranger gave us when we came into the park, but I don't get the dozen or so people standing in the road trying to get a closer look/picture. NUTS! The park asks that you don't stop when you see a bear. The more cars and people they get used to the more likely they are to be killed by a car. Anyway – we were forced to stop since there were about 5 cars parked in the road (from each direction) to see the bear. I popped the moonroof and took my pictures from there. And giggled a bit when the mama bear started moving quickly toward the people and had them running for their cars. Mama bear... need I say more. She wasn't going after anyone, but come on people. Ok, I am done now.
a safe distance :)
nutty people
We also saw some big horn sheep.....

....yes that is a woman sitting on the ground next to them. Sigh (insert eye roll, apparently she didn't hear my previous rant).
The canyon turned out to be a bit more of a hike than we wanted, since it was already evening, we wanted to get to the lake and back into town before dark. Plus the mosquitos were out in force.
So we pushed on. We stopped at Medicine Lake for a few pictures before going on to Maligne Lake.

Because of the hour all the other things in the area were closed, boat rides and rentals etc. Which made for a really quiet visit. Our stay was short but beautiful. The kids were struggling to hold on to good attitudes at this point so we headed to the room and then to bed.
almost there
we made it

Tomorrow is our longest drive of the trip, so a good night's sleep would be a good idea for all.