This is the other half (larger post = more days of travel) of our month road trip. It begins on August 12th and takes us through the end! You people must love us in order to read this whole enormous novel of our lives. It took me two full evenings of grinding work to complete these. Phew.
August 12, 2009:
1. We drove up the Icefields Parkway-- a beautiful drive through Jasper, Alberta Canada to the Columbia Icefield. There, we were able to take an insane bus made specifically for driving on glacial ice on top of the Athabasca glacier. The ice is said to be thicker than the Eiffel Tower is high. It's quite safe and they have cones that block off areas you aren't to step on. People have died in the past stepping into cracks and falling into ice, freezin. Needless to say, we followed the rules. It was a tourist trap, but fun nonetheless.
2. We had full intentions of camping that night because it was so far from our timeshare in Banff, but the weather conditions were so poor that we decided to get dinner and make it a long drive back; sans camping. Speaking of dinner... we ate at Jasper Pizza and it wasn't too great. The pizza was the size of a medium in America and not cheap. Eh.
Here I am jumping on the glacier. It was pretty cold and I didn't bring a real jacket on this trip. I guess my California brain told me that since it's technically "summer", there wouldn't be a need. Boy, was I wrong!
The Columbia Icefields bus we took. They cost over $1 million each, go down a 36% grade of ice (that's steep, people!), and none of them are created the exact same.
Hanging out on the glacier just before heading back to concrete land, gladly.
Ray jumped on the glacier too. I bet people thought we were nuts!
Look how small I am compared to these massive tires! I am 5'3" and totally bitty compared!
Aside the incredible bus that drove us on frozen water.
August 13, 2009
1. There are no photos from this day, sorry!
2. We drove outside of our timeshare and immediately saw an elk grazing on the side of the road. It's amazing how many tourits one elk can produce by just eating.
3. We headed downtown to check out the gondola that takes you to the top of a mountain in Banff. It overlooks the lodge and we figured we'd check it out. It was a 3.5 mile hike to the top... making it a total of 7 miles because we had to come down too! Kilometers are so much cooler. The hike was 5.6 kilometers... sounds so much more difficult put in those terms! We love gondola hikes because they are somewhat short, yet intense. There is a gradual climb all the way to the top and you can track progress easier than a traditional hike. We arrived at the top to tons of fog. Good thing we left pretty rapidly to get down because it began to rain shortly after!
4. Just a note: we worked out in the gym and hiking 6/7 days we were at the timeshare and we've been keeping up with that at every hotel we stay at that is equipped with a gym!
August 14, 2009
1. No photos here either!
2. We drove to Calgary which is located south of Banff. We checked out an Olympic training center they have there and it was intense! They had bobsleds, ski jump hills, etc. Those olympians have a tough job. We didn't test anything out ourselves other than spectating.
3. We drove to a local lake to our hotel after, Lake Minnewanka. This lake allows boats and was quite large.
4. Rainy and lazy day for the two of us!
August 15, 2009
1. Our last official day in Banff, Alberta, Canada. We made the most of it by getting prepared for the next leg of our trip-- laundry, working out, packing... then a little downtown action at night.
2. For dinner we went to The Old Spaghetti Factory, my mom's favorite! The food's never amazing, but it's a chain I was familiar with and have nostalgia attached to. Plus, I was so good with working out that I really wanted the spumoni ice cream. The food was decent, as always, but I learned to never ask for your pasta spicy in Canada. Their idea of spicy is pouring about 1/4 bottle of Tabasco and stirring. The taste was mediocre, the spice near unbearable... but the spumoni, just right!
3. We later headed out to find a local pub to taste a local drink (pictures below).
Here's Ray holding up a mini sign to show our location. We had a primo spot near the window and we had views of downtown and the mountains behind.
As we try and do when traveling... we tasted a local beer (Molson Canadian). Although I was quite convinced it tasted much like a Coors or Miller.
1. We left our timeshare and said goodbye to stability for awhile longer. One week in one place was fantastic and we have Ray's grandparents to thank for such an incredible week. We would not have had the opportunity to stay in Canada for as long as we had without their help. Thanks Gramie and Papa!
Waterton National Park. The lake is actually split. We're taking the photo from Canada with the views of the American side.
Many Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park. This area of the park is known for having lots of wildlife, especially grizzlies. We intend to return. We loved the lodge for its comfortable feel.
Here's Wild Goose Island and me ruining the beauty of it.
Here's the gorgeous Castle Geyser. That rainbow is totally natural. It rained for about 2 minutes before the photo was taken.
We took 5.5 mile hike up to one of Yellowstone's peaks, Mt. Washburn. We were hoping to see some bighorn sheep, and we did! We saw at least 17 and there could have been more over the hill. They're gorgeous creatures.
August 22, 2009:
1. We drove by the ever-so-famous, Wall Drug in South Dakota as we headed to the Badlands National Park. It was cool... except that the plains can look a bit like deserts... not as exciting of animals. They looked like mini grand canyons at times, Utah sculptures in some areas, and plain grasslands in others. We saw two animals: 1 deer and 1 bird of some kind. We're told others existed but chose to take the drive through of about 25 miles without exiting the car.
2. We couldn't find a single place to eat lunch (we were desperate) on I-90 in South Dakota and were forced to drive 30 miles outside of our way (60 miles round trip) for lunch. Ugh. That detour led us to the state capitol of South Dakota, Pierre. What a bust. I wouldn't exactly consider the town booming. The lady that WORKED at Taco Bell asked ME what a tostada was. Enough said. (needless to say, I didn't get a tostada)
3. We arrived into the largest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls for the evening. Another workout. Yes!
August 26, 2009:
1. We drove another painful 300 miles through the entire state of Minnesota to the very western tip of Wisconsin for the evening's stay.
2. Our friend Dana tells us that the northern part of the state is way more hopping. I believe her. ;)
3. The highlight of the day: being pulled over by a Minnesota state trooper. We were possibly speeding no more than 2-3 miles over the 70 mph speed limit but assume we were pulled over based on a couple things: foreign car in the midwest = rare, California plates on a highway most people traveling from California wouldn't normally drive on to reach Minnesota (but since we had so many northern detours on this trip, we took another road we wouldn't take as a straight shot from CA). We think he was nervous about us "running from the law" or being some kind of criminal. He never aluded to us speeding, breaking any law, doing anything wrong at all. He just asked us a ton of questions like: What is your job? Can you explain that? Where is all your stuff; like couches? Where are you headed? How long have you been traveling? Why are you on I-90 rather than the other highway? -- he was totally from Minnesota and really polite. Just a weird experience overall.
4. We got into La Crosse, Wisconsin just east of the Mississippi River (Ray got excited because he felt like Huck Finn) and got haircuts, worked out, ate at a sketchy burrito joint, took a dip in the pool/jacuzzi, and off to complete this novel of a blog post.
Tomorrow (August 27th) we arrive in Naperville, Illinois (another marathon driving day... I'm so over it!) to plant some roots and be normal for a bit before escaping to Germany on September 15th. I cannot tell you all how much I miss teaching already. Being away from those kids is definitely taking a piece of my soul away. Maybe next year; hopefully next year.
To see ALL of our photos (and not just choice ones for the blog), click HERE.