I had two dogs along on this part of my travels. I made sure both had up to date rabies shots, because they’re required for the return to the United States.
Once I crossed the border into Alberta I didn’t think I would have cell signal or WiFi (using my AT&T box). No way to contact my friends to let them know I was beginning my eight hour drive to Westlock. I called AT&T and found out that my particular plan allowed me to make and receive calls anywhere in Canada for no fee and no roaming charges. NICE! They said my WiFi box shouldn’t be used while in Canada however.
The landscape of Alberta was much like Montana and Wyoming…long, long miles and miles of prairie and straight roads with few towns or stops for gas. It was beautiful though.
I passed through Lethbridge, Calgary, and Edmonton on my way to Westlock; a small town of about 5,000 people. I stopped at a gas station and asked to use their phone. I called one of my friends and he came and lead me to where I’d park my RV. I arrived after dark, wanting to make the entire eight hour drive from the border before stopping. I set up the RV in the field along an alley. My host family was across from me and let me hook up a long, long extension cord to the outlet outside the garage. I filled my freshwater tank and that water lasted almost two weeks. By then it was time to empty my tanks (grey and black) anyways. I drove to a campground owned and run by the local Mounties. Their dump station was free to use. After that I drove to the Husky gas station to fill my propane tank. I didn’t have the Jeep so wasn’t able to dash to town.
The first place we went was Edmonton. We met up with Cory to go to the Virual Reality place. That was so amazing. I didn’t take any photos there, but it was my favorite thing that we did. We were each in a separate 10×10 cubicle with a pair of VR goggles and a controller in each hand. In the first game we played, we were on a team, playing against another team of players. We had shields and swords and armor and we had to reach and accomplish goals. We ran and jumped and climbed. The second game we stood around a virtual table. On the table were different competitions. To choose a game, we took turns grabbing knobs and spinning the entire table. Where it stopped…that was the game/competition we would play. It was each of us against the others. My favorite one was where we each had to pick up treats and throw them into the mouth of our own giant cat. I liked it because Archie didn’t understand the logistics so he was throwing them into my cat’s mouth. I won that match. We had an hour of play. It was so much fun.
Another day we went to the West Edmonton Mall. It was so huge. There are like thirty-four entrances. Inside you’ll find a plethora of stores as well as an amusement park, a full size pirate ship, and an ice skating rink. I think there was more, but I can’t recall. There was a really nice theater complex in the mall, too.
George has two daughters and so we got together with them at their house. To my surprise and delight, we played games. We went there on two different occasions. Once we played Trivial Pursuit.
The second time we were together we played Jenga. It was really fun, too. It reminded me that simple things like board games can make a great evening. Adults don’t seem to do that anymore. Its pretty common in Canada though, because we went to Jeff’s house another time and we played board games there, too. There were a bunch of us that time and everyone brought something to share, food-wise. Jeff and his wife have five kids and some of the other people there also had kids.
While I was there, we celebrated a birthday and Canadian Thanksgiving. I made a very sloppy looking (but delicious) cake. For Thanksgiving I made two pumpkin pies, noodles, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. I cooked everything in the RV galley. I don’t have a lot of room, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I haven’t been able to fix so far. I don’t think I could make a turkey or anything that is taller than maybe four inches.
Westlock has a beautiful park at the end of the alley. There’s a pond in the center, with a walking path path that goes all the way around.
The path around the pond was long enough to give me a good bit of exercise by walking it twice. One day while doing the loop, I saw the back-side of a sign. I thought it was cool.
When I arrived in Westlock, I intended to stay for a long weekend. I found the place very relaxing, the people awesome, and enough to discover and do that I ended up staying for seven weeks. It started to snow in late August. As the weather got colder and colder, I kept thinking I needed to head south. There was always an activity or event coming up that kept me procrastinating my departure. It felt good to stay put for a while. It was my first time to stay somewhere for a while. I had a routine I liked. Life was simple. I didn’t have a car of my own, so I walked to town. If I had more things than I could comfortably carry, I called Archie or Sue to come fetch me. I learned to live simply and comfortably .
I had to figure out ways to live in the RV, yet keep it safe from cold temperatures. I’ve written a post about how I did that. You can read that by clicking here.
Some of the other things I did while in Alberta were going 5-pin bowling. I’d never done that before. It turned out that there was a small six lane bowling alley in the basement of the salon where I got my hair done. We went there one evening and they had an available lane. It was really fun. Another day while we were out and about we stopped to see if they were going to have a league that evening. They said they would probably be able to save a lane for us. We went back to the house for supper and afterwards the bowling alley called to say that the lane was open – come on over. I thought that was awesome. Getting a call from the bowling alley. While we were there, the young lady who had done my hair came running over to greet me. She and her friends were there for a birthday party.
Other activities were trips to Saint Albert and Edmonton to look at gaming stores, attend movies, ride the roller coasters in the mall, and visit with friends. I think we found like a dozen gaming stores. The Groot below came from one of the stores in the mall.
When I was driving to Alberta, I saw a lot of haze and smoke. In Westlock, I encountered a LOT of bees and flies. I was told they were on the front side of the smoke coming from the California fires. I found dozens of bees in the RV on days when the windows were open. Bees were able to get in through the edges of the screens. The fly situation wasn’t too bad. I got one long term guest…Clyde the fly. Early on Clyde and I made a pact. If he stayed out of my face, I would not smash him. He agreed. I saw him from time to time…watching from a distance. The only time he got a little panicky was the day we headed back to the US. I don’t know if he was excited or over-wrought. He flew back and forth in front of the windshield. Then he would land on the side window and methodically walk from one end of the glass to the other, moving down an inch and going back the other way. All day. Clyde was with us in the RV for about a month…always observing our lives.
When it was finally time to go back to the US, I started planning my route. It was now the last days of October. Winter was entrenched in Alberta and the Northwestern states. I watched my weather app for whether I ought to head South directly, East or West first…what should I do to outrun the cold. Most campgrounds had closed as of October 1st.
My process was to check the weather, check my AllStays app (a map with campground locations), check Google Maps for how far the first campground would be. I usually try to make a list in my travel journal of two or three campgrounds, complete with details, phone numbers, addresses, etc. I don’t like to drive more than about 330 miles a day and I like to arrive with enough daylight so I have time to get hooked up, get level, and extend the slide-outs. The day I head out, I call the campgrounds as soon as they open and check for availability.
I guess that’s it. It was my first time to visit Canada. I enjoyed meeting with friends and making new friends. It was nice a mix of days where I could relax and rest, explore the town, drive down to the city with all sorts of new activities to discover. It was a treasure. Its tucked away in my heart.