Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lake Louise

Years ago I looked into the cost of staying at the Chateau Lake Louise - just out of curiosity.

As we always do, we settled for a space in the big parking lot and walked to the lake to watch everyone taking pictures of their friends.  It was hazy - in part due to the big controlled burn to the west that we passed an hour or so later - and the sun was in our faces, but it was still spectacular.  We settled for coffee and ice cream back down in the village at the bottom of the hill, before turning the car towards Seattle.

Icefields Parkway

I've rarely met a road I didn't enjoy driving - except maybe I-5 through Lynnwood - but I've rarely found a drive I enjoy more than this spectacular highway between Jasper and Banff.  It only takes a few hours, if you're in a hurry, but what a shame if you can't stop for the glaciers, the waterfalls, the views, or the occasional elk or bear.  There's something about this highway's intimate relationship with the landscape that I love. Even this day, when the glare of the sun made both driving and photography challenging, was incredible. I got to ride it on my bike back in high school (with my family carrying all my gear in the car) - this trip I found myself wanting to do that again sometime.

Monday, September 12, 2011


As a child, the answer for me to the question, "what is your favorite place?", was always Jasper.  I think maybe it's still the answer to that question!

Thanks to M's remarkable bargain hunting instincts, we are staying at the Jasper Park Lodge!  Which provides a nice deck with great views where I can drink my beer and get horribly sentimental.

Maybe it's all the family camping trips growing up.  Maybe it was Granny staying here at the lodge while the rest of us camped at Snaring River (which we visited this morning).  Maybe it was coming to Jasper with J&R to celebrate Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary.  Maybe it was driving up here the summer of 1982 when I lived in Minot.  Or driving up with Michele a few years later on a whim on a three day weekend from Seattle.

20 years ago this summer, Michele and I came to the Canadian Rockies on our honeymoon.  Now we're traveling here on our own again.  An awful lot has happened in between.  And today was D's first day of classes!


We made it to Edmonton late Saturday afternoon.  We checked into the Matrix Hotel on the southwest side of downtown. I'm sure it would normally have been way out of our reach, but I had found a really good deal on Expedia before we left.

We drove across the river (the North Saskatchewan) to Old Strathcona and Whyte Avenue, which was bustling on Saturday evening.  We ate at Da-De-O.  Cajun Food.  In Edmonton.  Alberta?  It was really good.  The sweet potato fries were great.  The deep-fried pickles with the sweet chili dipping sauce were even better!

Whyte Avenue was clearly a big deal in Edmonton.  But after dinner we checked out another big deal - the West Edmonton Mall.  After all, we've already been to the Mall of America on this trip.  And WEM is even bigger.  A full blown amusement park.  A water park.  Something like 800 stores.  We didn't spend much.  I bought a pair of reading glasses at the dollar store.  I'd left mine in the car and I couldn't read the tiny print on the mall map without help.  And we played black-light mini golf.  Which set us back $12 or so.  Then we went home.


How can you not like a place called Saskatoon?  We spent much of the day driving across the wheat fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan - this is the middle of harvest season and the combines were busy - and arrived late in the afternoon in this small (not that small - 200,000 people) city on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.  We had found a place downtown, which made exploring the riverfront easy.

Saskatoon is called the City of Bridges.  I'm sure there are many other cities equally, or more, deserving of that title, but it certainly makes sense.  I drove to the east (south) side of the river to watch the sunrise on downtown - and found good coffee at a roasters on the south end of the Broadway Bridge.

I think many of our ideas for this Canadian trip came from some notes I'd made from Lonely Planet back in Seattle.  We had dinner at Souleio, which was great.  And then stopped for breakfast at the Park Cafe on the way out of town the next morning.


The basic plan was to head west (and north) on the Yellowhead Trail (CA 16) from Winnipeg to Jasper, with stops in Saskatoon and Edmonton.  Riding Mountain Park was a little off the path, but offered a diversion from the prairie and the wheat fields.  The Park is a large forested upland that rises above the flatness of southern Manitoba.  The transition is abrupt - you could be climbing into the foothills of the Rockies, except that the Rockies are still 700 miles west.

Wasagaming (accent on second syllable) is the resort town on the southern edge of the park, on the shores of Clear Lake.  By resort, I mean the cabin resort communities of the 1930s and the 1950s.  This is not Sun Valley or Cancun.  The fact that it is within the historic park helps maintain its feel.  The summer crowds were gone and you got the sense the town was buttoning up for the winter.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


On our way out of town, we stopped at the Neighborhood Bookstore and Cafe in the Wolseley area on the west side of town.  The streets are lined with elms, something long gone in most north American cities thanks to Dutch Elm Disease.

The Forks

Winnipeg was the first stop on our trip west on the Yellowhead Highway -- we'll check out Saskatoon and Edmonton before getting to the Rockies.

The Forks refers to the convergence of the Assiniboine and the Red Rivers, where the historic rail yards are being redeveloped with markets and museums and restaurants.

Crews were still  cleaning up the mud from this past year's floods.  I suspect it was Mrs. Holbrook in 5th Grade who suggested the Monongahela was the only river in the U.S. that flowed north - but she must not have known about the flood-prone Red River that regularly overflows it's banks in Fargo and Grand Forks before heading north to threaten Winnipeg and to dump all that American top soil into Lake Winnipeg.  Eventually it reaches Hudson Bay, via the Nelson River.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

St. Paul

We wound our way into St. Paul, via the house my great grandfather had lived in on Goodrich, the mansions (including Jim Hill's) along Summit Ave, and the big cathedral that looms above the city.  We had lunch at the food carts on Kellogg Boulevard in front of City Hall and ate our sandwiches overlooking the Mississippi River.

In all, we probably didn't spend more than an hour before getting back on I-94 and heading west.


We left Northfield this morning and headed northwest - the initial trajectory of our northerly arc through Canada and back to Seattle.  For reasons that had more to do with cultural curiosity than shopping, we stopped at the Mall of America.  We even rode the roller coaster.  We sat in the front car of a train that had no one else on it.  I suppose we would have gone on the flume ride if it had been open.  The ride cost us $11 with tax.  We didn't buy anything else.  We thought about playing mini golf, but it was really hard to think of doing that without D.

Carleton College

Today was a big day!  We pulled up in front of the dorm and were immediately swarmed by students asking which room D was in.  The car was unloaded within five minutes and by the time I made it up the room, all there was left to carry was my camera.  I hope loading up in June, 2015, is as easy.

We met D's roommate (a Minnesota native from Red Wing) and his family, we watched the other students arrive and unpack, and we listened as the gang of students at the main entrance to campus yelled welcomes to all the cars pulling in.  Later in the afternoon, D got introduced to his New Student Week team while we got introduced to the college by the academic advisors and the financial aid staff.

Then everyone converged on a overstuffed and overheated chapel for an hour of welcome speeches from the president and others.  I thought they were the right mix and the right themes for sending everyone off (students and parents, both) in their appropriate directions.

And then everyone reconvened on the Bald Spot with the students in a large circle (well, as large as 521 freshman can make). All students were given a frisbee. And after some brief notes about the physics of flying disks from the president, all were tossed (flung, flicked, thrown, hucked) into the circle in a perfectly Carleton (and D, too) tradition.  And then everyone started hugging and crying and we said our good byes.