Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Canada
Reload this Page >

Driving around Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and BC

Driving around Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and BC

Old Jun 20th, 2017, 10:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Driving around Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and BC

I'm probably not a "trip report" kinda guy but the fact that my first recent Fodor's research on the trip I just took elicited most prominently a post I wrote in 2004 when hoping to make a similar trip back then, suggests strongly that somebody should place such a trip report here.

As I have been to every state, and I'd been to every province along the bottom except Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it made sense that, beginning long ago I had aspirations of visiting those two prairie provinces.

Yet for some reason I just put it off. I always (then and now) felt that my most significant factors in choosing a path for this crazy adventure were (probably???) hometowns of hockey players who I once heard of (even though I'm NOT much of a hockey fan). I even dared mention that absurdity to a... noteworthy Saskatchewan native who I met a couple of months back, while telling of a significant curiosity over North Battleford and in particular why it is more relatively significant than mere Battleford. Her giggling reply was: "we don't even know..."

A: It was all decided by the railroad passing through.

So weeks in advance I plotted a likely course beginning in Seattle, and committed only to Memorial Day Weekend in Winnipeg (in case rooms were scarce there, on the U.S. holiday) with plans stretching north to Flin Flon and then to Saskatoon the next weekend.

Having left Seattle on Victoria Day, it made sense that I should follow the online mapping suggestions and head first toward Spokane and only then up and across from there, missing out on much of any Canadian holiday weekend traffic in the process.

I crossed into Canada at a remote border crossing in northeastern Washington where the nice guard had time to tell me a little bit about Saskatchewan, and even suggest the Al Capone Tour in Moose Jaw.

(* I got to the lobby of the tour, and did look around, generally wanting to will myself to take the tour he suggested... but I couldn't quite talk myself into going through with it. Though I would still advise others with any interest while in the area to go for it. (the short summary is that Capone, when wanting to get out of Chicago, would routinely take a train to Moose Jaw, perhaps unbeknownst to many who knew his otherwise legend)

I also took random advice from an acquaintance with whom I've talked most things "Canada" for a number of years. I excitedly told him of my plan and he suggested that I make certain to visit both Nelson, BC and Fernie, BC. Despite Nelson having been slightly out of my way, I took comfort in having an idea for a first target, where none had really existed/surfaced on its own.

Nelson, BC is a wonderful little town surrounded by hills, and thick forests in many directions. A small town full of friendly Canadians and plenty of neat little places to eat inspired me to be slow to depart that next day, but I had so much more to see and do.

Lots of mountainous scenery greeted me as I trekked eastward while staying fairly low on the map toward the U.S. border for my eastbound journey.

The town of Fernie, BC is another wonderful small town with an idyllic main street surrounded by snow-capped peaks. I had a look around town, roamed a grocery store, and had an evening meal before driving off into the night. The best photo I took in Fernie captured the awe-inspiring scenery which could be had from the checkout line at a local grocery store!

You could step outside in front of the store and get unobstructed views of the same mountains, but it was more emphatic when photographed from inside the store. It made me wonder if the tabloids might not sell as well there with such scenery to be had out the window.

Speaking of periodicals... titles like "Canadian Cowboy", "Cowgirl" and "Rocky Mountain Bride" could each be found at this small grocery store.

So then it was off across the Rockies and into Alberta, where for a while the impressive hills were beckoning to be photographed left and right. Soon, though, the contrast became painful as I even positioned my camera to show the extreme flatland of eastern Alberta in the front window while also capturing the impressive mountain range clearly distinguishable in the mirrors.

I found myself quickly trying to envision whether the entire next couple of weeks would find me affected significantly by the unending flat land up ahead. The second night I bedded down in Lethbridge, and I'd never before been farther east in Alberta than there. The next morning I roamed around Lethbridge for a while, and it is certainly distinct in its western/cowboy ways. After noon I set off toward points east, stopping in Taber for "timbits", gas, and a lottery ticket.

The weather became windy... and there was nothing to slow it down once the wind kicked-up. My evening tour of Medicine Hat was curtailed by windy and gloomy weather, but I did stop there for a meal and a look around.

The long days allowed me to fend-off nightfall for considerable time as I drove further east, and I finally stopped for the night in Swift Current. It was there that I first discovered that post cards are rather scarce in so many areas on the prairies. Where random drugstores in most cities tend to have the standard array of local postcards, I couldn't find a single one in small stores in or near Swift Current, and someone finally sent me to the local museum to acquire a minimal assortment of them. But this set the tone for the path to follow.

The next day I had the brilliant idea to bypass the beaten path and instead opt for back country roads rather than the Trans Canada Highway... at least I did as much between Swift Current and Moose Jaw. After struggling mightily to find the other path out of town, I finally figured out how to take highway #363 east from Swift Current. On it I passed through a small number of no-name towns with my favorite having been called "Old Wives". Though I think that if I'd known of it, I might have opted for a northern route which might have let me pass through Eyebrow, Saskatchewan.

Do not kid yourself, Saskatchewan has most of the best names, especially on a per capita basis.

I paused in Moose Jaw for a short while, stopping long enough to circle the downtown area a few times and survey the Al Capone Underground Tour they have there. Moose Jaw is a great name for a city, but the most prominent placement of the name was on a casino in the downtown core. I was hoping for something better.

Rush hour in Regina loomed if I didn't get a move on it, but I stopped there for what was far too brief a period. I thought about eating dinner in the area, but instead I drove well into the night, eating very late at a Tim Hortons that was open all night, and then trying unsuccessfully to find a suitable motel in small towns near to the SK/MB border.

Eventually I yawned my way into Brandon, where I found a Super 8 Motel that would allow me to rest for several hours.

Finally, after all of that time, I was reasonably positioned to reach Winnipeg early on a Friday afternoon. Lunch in Portage La Prairie was followed by gawking at The World's Largest Coke Can there. Upon stopping for gas in town I was startled to find anti freeze-sized bottles of mosquito repellent perched prominently right inside the gas station's front door! This inspired concern over my upcoming fate upon planning to go well to the north there in Manitoba.

As I contemplated the last several miles of my path east across the prairies, I concluded that the handful of cloudy and gloomy days since I passed into Canada had possibly made the flat prairie outlook a bit more *interesting* to the eye, given that there was always something different forming in the sky.

An early impression of Winnipeg itself was my not liking the way they slowed down the Trans Canada Highway to go smack dab through the middle of their city on surface streets.

Other than that, though, I stayed at a centrally-located terrific hotel called the Delta by Marriott Winnipeg. The views from my high floor were about what one might expect, with flat horizon as a backdrop in all directions. Underground parking was $18 Cdn per night, which isn't really bad compared to some larger U.S. cities. Eventually I walked to The Forks tourist/dining area and I was quite impressed by the variety of everything there. It was amusing to find some small part of what in Winnipeg must suffice as a beach... but the food varieties were great and there was plenty of tourist information, some of which I gathered in preparation for my planned trek toward the north.

(I'm going to stop this part now, and 'save' my effort, before adding a new post)

(*this doesn't have to be a masterpiece to be near to the only thing available to anyone contemplating and searching for anything about a drive across the Canadian prairies)
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2017, 11:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
(sigh: the preview feature on Fodors wasn't working on the night I posted this trip report)

So, anyway, Winnipeg... I was comforted by having 3 nights in one spot after all of that driving, and at times I took full advantage of not needing to get up and get on the road in the early morning.

Although I didn't partake in any nightlife, it did seem like plenty was going on in town on both Friday and Saturday evenings. The weather was a steady 70-ish degrees during my stay in Winnipeg, but the clouds were still largely having their way with me and with the locals.

I did look around the city a good amount, mostly while driving... and driving certainly was the name of this trip.

Rain was threatening come Monday morning as I finally set sail from Winnipeg and toward the north. I had it in my head that I wanted to drive through Riding Mountain National Park... mostly for my having a Canadian National Parks Pass, which is free in 2017 to commemorate Canada's 150th anniversary. (the aggravation isn't the cost, but rather it is the effort one might have to make to go and obtain the pass in some cases - but luckily I had one sent to me)

From Winnipeg I backtracked to the west toward Portage La Prairie, where I then took highway 16 and highway 10 toward the north where I did indeed drive through the National Park, in which I saw bears dining near the side of the road. I'd hoped to get to Swan River, MB that night, but as I couldn't figure out for certain that rooms would be available there, I opted instead for a sure thing that was Dauphin, Manitoba.

When just staring at a map of Manitoba it is easy to let yourself believe that there is nothing at all well up there..., so then you're basically happy to find thick forests which disguise the flat terrain.

There certainly wasn't much traffic on the last Tuesday in May has I drove north from dauphin... to Swan River, The Pas (say "The Paw" ) and beyond.

I knew years ago that I badly wanted to visit Flin Flon on any journey I made to and around Manitoba and I was very much intent upon getting there when afforded half a chance.

In Swan River I stopped for a root beer float, and a look around town... which included a trek through a local grocery store. I later stopped at Dairy Queen in The Pas and there were signs that the northern way of life was different from what I know.

The Dairy Queen was deeply embedded within another, larger building, perhaps to help insulate against the frigid winters known up there. Perhaps the wide windows of the typical fast food outlet would channel the cold outside air in toward the customers during harsh January weather. There are a lot of people way up there who appear to have pretty hard lives, and in many cases they are self-created.

Though I give the Canadian government kudos for somehow keeping prices reasonable for the rural poor. Gas prices way up there were quite competitive with anything I saw. In fact it was Vancouver, of all stops on the trip, which had markedly higher gas prices than anywhere else.

Gas in central Calgary was 94.4 cents per liter, while in Vancouver it seldom went below $1.31.9 per liter.

I think I will stop typing for the night, and begin again one day very soon.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2017, 02:33 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 4,412
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A very interesting report on an area which receives little attention on Fodors.

A couple of comments:

North Battleford is so named to distinguish it from Battleford, on the other side of the North Saskatchewan River. They are still two separate municipalities, although generally referred to as "the Battlefords".

Although the original Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) does go through the middle of Winnipeg, there is a TCH by-pass around the city (Hwy 100) which has been there from before I lived in Winnipeg over 40 years ago.

Part of the difference in gasoline prices in Calgary and Vancouver is that Alberta has no provincial sales tax, and that BC has a carbon tax in addition to PST. Vancouver also has a significant local excise tax to support public transit.

Looking forward to the rest of your report.
laverendrye is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2017, 03:26 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,004
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I do enjoy your commentary, NorthwestMale.

Our first foray into Nelson was after learning that the Steve Martin movie, Roxanne, was filmed there. There was a walking tour that covered all the various filming spots (the firehouse, the café, etc.) along with the history of how each was transformed and used. Loved it.

Looking forward to more of your report.
sludick is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2017, 12:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So, where was I?

(aside: since my return I located another spot on the web where, in 2011, I wrote things related to a wished-for trip to the prairies of Canada, and even then I referenced North Battleford and Flin Flon specifically as places I wanted to visit... and not for any compelling reason other than mere curiosity. For while I may recall some of those names as hometowns of past hockey players, I couldn't begin to name any of those players

Contrast that to Parry Sound, Ontario... and I could indeed name the player who made it famous )

So, while I only learned how to even say "The Pas" very recently, and while it was little more than a pass-through, once I, uh, passed through my anticipation then increased markedly on approach to Flin Flon.

It is about 86 miles between The Pas and Flin Flon, and there was very little there including some small communities and a number of remote-ish lakes. Traffic was... nothing, really... and I wasn't exactly possessed to stop at any of the various spots between The Pas and Flin Flon.

As I neared Flin Flon, the landscape turned to... well, rock, and a telltale sign of Flin Flon's approach were the many graffiti posts on those prominent, roadside rock formations by various graduates from Flin Flon schools over the past several years.

After some construction delay I came over a crest and there before me was Main Street in Flin Flon. The remnants of Flin Flon's mining ways are considerably obvious during a quick glance around the area. Flin Flon's skyline consists of a tall, decommissioned smoke stack and that's it!.

Buildings along Main Street are crowded close together and some seemingly vacant lots are partly filled/crowded by the solid rock upon/into which the town was built. After reading more about Flin Flon I wouldn't have minded noticing visual evidence that indeed many/most/all of the town's plumbing must be above ground (again owing to the solid rock below), but I never saw anything that the uncertain eye could identify that way.

While roaming the area on May 30 my mind was never far away from the distant idea of Flin Flon on January 12th or so. It was a comfortable 70 degrees-ish during the time I spent in Flin Flon, and I walked all around, quite comfortably.

It took a little while to figure out where I was, and where everything else was. I couldn't find the town's mascot, Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin (from a 1905 fiction novel called "The Sunless City", and after whom Flin Flon was named) and I was too gutless to ask. Finally, after driving around town a little bit, and then out toward the Wal Mart, I finally stumbled upon "Flinty" across the road from the Wal Mart near the entrance to Flin Flon.

Unfortunately Flinty is too far and too obscured from the highway that is the main entrance to Flin Flon. Perhaps the locals can spot him (because they know where to look from the road) but the average first-time visitor won't notice him as they should.

But anyway, there he was, and photos were in order.

After that I roamed around the Wal Mart (who doesn't?) mainly just to take-in what was available and to imagine life with the temperature 80 or more degrees lower.

Soon I went back to my room at "The Royal Hotel", which does a booming business selling alcohol (legally, I'm sure) to the town residents (likely 12 months a year). There were beer ads around the lobby, but just when I began to wonder about the place I went upstairs and found my room to be quite cozy and well-presented. I never had a worry or a concern about the place (beyond the point where I had more than first impressions to consider in my critique).

There is a restaurant adjacent to the hotel, and in it upon my arrival was a loud-seeming party of 10 or 12 women, none I sensed to be under 55 (and I wanna say "...60").

After a peaceful night of sleep (sunset was 10:13, and it finally gets dark after 11:00pm) I got up to greet the next day. I went to the town library which, like so many other things, was just down the street. A nice woman there fielded my eventual questions about where to eat by suggesting a utilitarian eatery at the Flin Flon Aboriginal Friendship Centre where I arrived to find various locals having their lunch in a cafeteria-like room which was really a restaurant where they take your order at your table.

Once again, this eatery was embedded inside a larger building and as such it had no windows of its own. I was happy to be taking in the surroundings there, and I opted for two egg salad sandwiches because, how often do you have that option?? They were fine, and I finished my lunch and moved on down Main Street.

After shopping for a while I asked a store clerk whether anybody in town sold post cards... to which she cheerfully replied: we do! ... and only then did she open up a drawer behind the counter to reveal perhaps 5 varieties of post cards depicting snippets of Flin Flon and/or the Northern Lights.

An ongoing theme of this whole trip was a glaring lack of post cards most anywhere I went. If you can go to Wyoming and find at least a post card of a human rolled-up in a hay bale with some to-be-expected slogan printed above the picture, you should be able to find a decent post card in most of two provinces which are nearly the size of Texas. I mean, the default of this whole dearth of post cards has to recognize that those wishing to send post cards have to have SOMEthing to write on and mail.

(and yes, there were plentiful postcards IN Winnipeg, mostly OF Winnipeg, or with a broad Canada theme, but just, nothing at all in the rural areas) (the museum in Swift Current had perhaps 5 or 6 options, many of which were emblazoned with the phrase: "City of Swift Current - where life makes sense"
LOL - POST CARDS would make sense to augment this life!!

But, it's Flin Flon, I'm there, and I'm content about being there... As for souvenir shopping... there was a glut of
"Canada 150" stuff available, but if you wanted things unique to Flin Flon you were going to be hard-pressed to find much.

Alas, a "Flin Flon Bombers" (hockey) shirt had to do... and the Bombers, so I read, have quite the long and productive history. I also visited the outside of their arena (can I call it?), even though it seats 2000 and is barely identifiable from beyond the dusty parking lot which surrounds it.

Although again, picture Flin Flon in the middle of winter, when everybody had to perhaps go through hell (or considerable inconvenience and discomfort) just to get to the games - maybe the last thing they need are large windows on the arena inclined to absorb outdoor temperatures which could be 30 degrees lower than that two inches beneath center ice.

In my travels around the city I noticed a local pizza place over in the Saskatchewan side of Flin Flon, so later on I timed a visit for 9pm or so, where I ordered a pizza to go, and then I sat in the car and ate much of it before targeting a spot to watch the Flin Flon sunset at 10:13pm.

Elsewhere in the town of Flin Flon I visited Flinty's Boardwalk, which is a pleasant-seeming outdoor area (that could be at its optimum for just a few weeks every year) (no mosquitos and certainly warm enough at the time I was there).

After another night at "The Royal Hotel", I was ready to set sail across Saskatchewan fairly early the next day.

(maybe I will stop this entry here and break it up a bit more)
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2017, 01:51 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,004
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I just had to pour a glass of nice white wine to read this, while I chuckled at your vivid descriptions.

Carry on..
sludick is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2017, 03:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
East Central Saskatchewan is filled with trees, lakes, parks, wilderness, and the occasional small community, while there aren't too many choices for which path to take when setting sail from Flin Flon for what is eventually North Battleford. There were a few lakes along the way, but a more likely sight was a road sign, pointing up a dirt road, and naming some more-northern destination which was dozens or hundreds of kilometers up that dirt road.

The day's first target was the lively city of Prince Albert, which seemed modern, and thriving, and big enough to matter. After some time there to gather myself, I later set out toward North Battleford, after not previously being sure that I might make it all the way there on that night. The late sunset helped my cause, and if it ever matters, the single most bug-infested path of my entire intro to the Canadian prairies was between Prince Albert and North Battleford. I don't know whether I was near lakes or swamps, or what, but bugs were caked on my grill, and their remains were considerably clouding my windshield.

So then, when I thought it a good move to make a stop midway between Prince Albert and North Battleford, just to clean my windshield, I pulled over at a gas station, and couldn't even open the door before bugs swarmed near my rear view mirror.

These weren't even mosquitoes!!

I couldn't even talk myself out of the car at that point... instead I used a handy bottle of Windex, first targeting the swarm, and then daring to reach my arm out in front of my windshield (much like the guy whose arm was featured in an ancient TV ad for "Off" bug repellent).

Windex and paper towels are always a grand companion to have when on a long driving trip.

I arrived in North Battleford in the middle of the night, and had a very amusing conversation with a hotel night clerk about my reasons for wanting to visit North Battleford. Eventually I went to bed, and awoke to have breakfast in a pancake house somewhere...

I had to make a side trip to mere Battleford, which is truly the smaller cousin to mighty North Battleford. I took photos of the Battleford Library, and of Canada's biggest baseball bat at a baseball museum in (mere) Battleford. (gotta be known for something)

The thick coating of bugs on the car was by this time intolerable, so I found a nice car wash, and luckily noticed that thick coatings of bugs required a pre-spraying of (heaven knows what) outside of the car wash building.

Soon enough I was in, and through, and shining like new (for the time being).

Another gripe about souvenir hunting... there was this dumb little shirt meant for small girls, that had a photo of a small girl wearing a top that says "I heart/(maple leaf) Canada" with a bunch of trees behind her, and "North Battleford, SK written down below her.

I texted to a friend back home: "Whyyyyyyy can't they have this in adult sizes ??"

It was a quirky shirt, but I'd reached "desperate" by then, and North Battleford would have mitigated any otherwise-lacking appeal to the shirt.

The supposedly scenic path from NB to Saskatoon was flat on all sides, with clouds mercifully added to the general nothingness that was out there.

I stayed in a very nice hotel in Saskatoon courtesy of Priceline.com, and my view from a high floor was steadily of nearby buildings and trees plotted against a flat horizon.

The weather was very pleasant, but it was outside in the Saskatoon area that I drew nearly all of the 5 mosquito bites I managed to tally on the whole trip. (and I know that isn't bad at all, mostly because it was only late May and early June)

I made attempts to go and try to get my bearings in Saskatoon, but it was SO flat that my natural/learned tendency to efficiently sort areas that I've driven through from areas that I haven't driven through simply wasn't working (because I could never have any idea where I was - unlike in some towns where I recognize that I've driven by that building, mountain, lake or bridge 26 times already).

Some streets I drove down were appealing enough to stop on, and walk around, but if I didn't immediately spot a parking place then there wasn't much hope of finding the area again.

In one area I spotted a fenced-off place filled with sand where the locals were playing (what would be) beach volleyball (if, well, you know...). It seemed like their often Saturday afternoon activity and there was an adjacent sports bar where they organized (their volleyball league?).

The sports bar there had a mural on the outside wall depicting renowned broadcaster Don Cherry beneath the symbol for "Hockey Night in Canada".

Soon I left Saskatoon, late on a Saturday night, bound eventually for Calgary, but finally welcoming a motel room in the tiny town of Hanna, Alberta. My last kiss-off from Saskatoon had been, after craving all day a simple root beer float (from A & W), my arrival to an A & W only to find they were out of ice cream for the float.

I had to have a strawberry milkshake (surely produced from a bag) instead. So envision me driving around Hanna, Alberta in the middle of the night, and noticing an A & W sign near to this hotel there... and then my finally waking up to target a root beer float with my egg sandwiches in the (late) morning.

Now where was I, in Alberta, which seemed so unique and interesting that I thought I should go back one day... oh, definitely Drumheller, Alberta - GO there someday if you've never been to the area. They actually have (topography)... making for a grand contrast to all points east (for hundreds of miles anyway).

If ever I get back to the area... Drumheller will be a destination.

Now Calgary, has grown immensely since I was last there, and especially so since I was first there nearly 30 years ago.

It still seems like a place where the last urban development ends and inches later you're out in a flat field... but these days the urban developments extend much farther out there.

Traffic was more comfortable than it could have been, considering the size of the place, but every road is some sort of a trail, and with it being so flat, it is challenging to gain a sense for where you are and where you've been, unless the downtown skyline is mercifully in your immediate view to help solidify your sense for where you are.

I had to go to the Saddledome and look back at the city skyline to have the best sense for anything being different from nearly 30 years ago, and I was relieved, in a way, to sense that much of what I viewed late at night from the Saddledome parking lot was similar to what I faintly recalled from so long ago.

Well my next move was to initiate myself to the Icefields Parkway and toward that end I spent a night in tiny Innisfail, AB, where I dined at Boston Pizza before a good night's rest, and a trip toward Rocky Mountain House and then the Saskatchewan River Crossing in the mountains.

The touristy area there was the rare spot flush with plenty of post cards and a great atmosphere all around. I didn't stop long, but I did obtain some post cards before heading on my way north.

The exceptional moutain views all around left me contemplating just which might be the optimum month to behold it all. Surely there are some brave souls who traverse the Icefields Parkway at times when the roads are barely passable and the mountains are filled with the heavy snows from winter.

But on this day, the temperature was in the 60's and plenty of the snow was gone while tourists were plentiful all around. Occasional traffic jams resulted from small herds of docile Bighorn Sheep gathered beside the roadway, with everybody slowing for a look or for a photo.

One woman seemingly past age 60 was sitting against a fence post, reading a book, not 25 feet from where perhaps 8 of these wild animals were scouring the ground.

Near the highest part of the Parkway, I finally encountered snow at or near the same altitude I was at, after thousands of miles of this trip. Not that I was expecting any significant snow, but, well, I thought it a good idea to have my large winter jacket along for the ride, just in case.

I passed-up the town of Jasper on my first swing, as I was heading toward Edmonton, and then back again. I stopped for dinner in the town of Edson, and then, as 10:00pm sunset approached, I was on a highway, looking to my left, when I saw the sun going down over a lake (Chip Lake, Alberta. I had to stop, and even back-up a bit (on the sparsely-traveled road - nobody even passed me as I backed up), in order to take a photo of sunset over the lake.

I arrived in Edmonton late at night, and the first move was, of course, to go to a gas station and clean my windshield and headlights.

I ended up staying at a motel right near the Northlands Coliseum, where Wayne Gretzky spent most of his NHL glory years.

Later I had cause to do a good deal of driving around Edmonton and surrounds with the flat nature of it all once again representing problems. GPS was handy, although there were a couple of trouble spots in the Edmonton suburbs where GPS wasn't giving me all of the details I would need to make the exact turn it wanted me to make.

The city was alive late on a Wednesday night, as there had been a concert or some major event downtown. I looked around the area, both driving and walking, and Edmonton remains a place where anybody could find plenty to do to occupy all or part of a vacation.

My last stop before heading out was, of course, the West Edmonton Mall. Still far and away the largest in North America, the WEM didn't disappoint.

I've always taken great care to document (on paper or in my mind) just where I parked, and I never even had much hesitation when finally returning to my car.

Most of the amenities are still there and going strong: the adjacent hotel, the trainee seal show, the full sized hockey rink, the giant putt-putt golf course, and the enormous water slides and wave machine in the humid, beach-like setting. (possibly best appreciated when its 4 below zero outside) There's even a radio station broadcasting live from the mall these days. And the mall has its own chapel now.

The adjacent hotel has theme rooms, one like a "Luxury Igloo".

The food courts go on forever, and there remains another food court-like area for restaurant dining.

Air hockey is a feature at the good-sized video arcade there at the mall, while they even have a table on which 4 people can play what is essentially air hockey under a different name.

I did stop in Jasper after driving back across the Yellowhead Highway on a rainy, dreary evening. Jasper is certainly a ski town, with lots of trendy, overpriced shopping found there. Why I even found a mailbox for my postcards, and I'm sure I'd have found a good selection of postcards had I been perusing Jasper at a reasonable hour (and for this trip, that is saying a lot).

side note: A post card mailed from Winnipeg on May 28 arrived in Seattle on June 13 (not even the Canadian post office cares about post cards?).

The gloom and doom of the Northern Rockies eventually gave way to the path toward Kamloops and the Coquihalla Highway (the "Coca Cola on Ice", in the winter) and I think this was my first drive over it when I didn't have to pay a toll.

Eventually I was back near to places I know, but I did spend a pleasant night in Chilliwack, which I had only passed through before. After that I just had to go and reacquaint myself with Vancouver... and it dawned on me plenty early that the often-aggravating Port Mann Bridge would now basically force me to take a different route to avoid the irritation that is the toll on the new bridge.

(side note: All over Canada you see somebody come along in any crowd selling "50/50 tickets" and trying to get your money... why can't this person sell toll coupons for the Port Mann Bridge, or even postcards ??)

I didn't mind the stinking TOLL itself, but the lack of traditional toll booths is really hard on those who are merely visiting the area, and don't have the convenient passes.

So rather than target the Patullo Bridge, I followed some random signs and drove all over the suburbs before finally being dumped off in Vancouver proper on the path one would take if following I-5 straight up from Seattle. Traffic was bogged-down there, but at least I was back in Vancouver for the first time in years.

Dinner with friends was followed by the obligatory trip to La Casa Gelato, and then I headed off for home after 3 weeks of Canada.

The bugs really ARE a thing east of the Rockies, and the vast numbers in which they die at the hands of your vehicle are difficult to fathom.

Spraying-on the bug gunk before a car wash is effective, but sort of unnerving.

The flatness of the prairies is better when you know to expect it (as "{approximately} everybody" does). Clouds probably enhance the flat prairie landscapes, although you need to see them on clear days to understand the contrast.

The far north is awesome during long spring-summer days. Flin Flon is adorable in its own special way.

Some of the appeal to this trip was greatly enhanced by my own sense for places I wanted to see, and then my efforts to match that sense with actual visits to those places. (another reason to help Fodors posters gain from their early visions of a trip, rather than erase all of their ideas and then effectively send others on your trip )

In a way I knew what was going to be there... in nearly all of those spots... and in other ways, I didn't.

Saskatchewan has most of the very best names for places:

Nut Mountain
Carrot River

I wonder what is at the bottom of Old Wives Lake

I know with confidence that late May/early June is a good time to visit the prairies, for it surely seems that mosquitoes could have been a lot worse.

Canadians are generally wonderful hosts

(now if only some of them would invest in post card distributorships

Hope somebody gains some small iota of noteworthy info from this post before, say, the year 2030.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Jun 22nd, 2017, 03:40 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 4,004
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great reading. At least now we don't have to go there...

I do love the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. As for the bugs...I'll just live with the seasonal swarms of lovebugs here in Central Florida. Although..I've been tempted to visit Klamath Falls during midge season, the pictures I've seen are impressive.

Thanks for the report.
sludick is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2017, 10:13 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,118
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
NW male you don't need a pass for the Port Mann, they will find you, track you by way of your license plate, and a bill will magically appear in your mail.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2017, 06:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
... right, and if you have a rental car, the bill will include TONS of 'extra' fees.

I'd happily fling 2 or 3 toonies out the window and over the railing if that were all it took to travel the bridge (AND I could **know** with certainty that it was ALL I'd be paying).

But why take a chance on the unknown?
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2017, 10:13 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,118
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yep you're right about the rental car fees, didn't realize you were renting.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Old Feb 7th, 2018, 11:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Canada pains me still : (lol - NOT really)

But of COURSE they took the toll off of the evil Port Mann Bridge effective September 1, 2017. (just not in time for me...)

This bumping of an old thread is only because I am going to add the 'trip report' to an ancient thread I wrote here on the same area in 2004!

(ONLY because this dumb new and improved Fodors website keeps making threads a decade or more old seem 'current' in my list )
NorthwestMale is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Apr 2nd, 2011 01:46 PM
Jun 1st, 2006 01:47 PM
Aug 10th, 2005 04:47 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:29 AM.