Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

A Slingshot Trip

Taking a break from my blog about Hawaii, the Big Island, Kona conclusion – onlyMichigan because I’ve run out of time for now, and because I’m going to be without wi-fi for … who-knows-how-long – I am diverting temporarily to our upcoming trip.

We are “sling-shotting” to Michigan to visit friends (Richard, Shannan, Evan & Jack), and, for the most part, travelling a road we’ve already gone AND I’ve already talked about in my blog at some point.

Which is good, because we don’t have time to stop anywhere, so I won’t be pouty that I can’t stop to see the Roadside Attractions.

AirstreamThe plan is – get to Michigan as quickly as possible, by the most direct route, according to Google Maps. (The most direct route is approximately 3,000 kms/close to 1900 miles.)

The “adventure” part of it is that I’ve decided that, rather than hotel-ing, we are going to bring the Airstream, so that we have our own “home away from home” while visiting Richard and Shannan. Since it’s off-season, most campgrounds are already closed, so we plan to stay at Rest Areas, parking lots of places like Wal-mart, and truck stops.

We’ve never done that before (rest-stops, truck-stops and parking lots.) Makes me nervous. And, a little excited. Normally, I have the route carefully planned, campgrounds or hotels booked well in advance. A book with confirmation numbers, addresses, and phone numbers.

This time, I have a “hope for the best” mentality and a website (www.allstays.com) which lists every truck stop (including which have showers, restaurants and lounges), rest stops (including whether they are East/West or North/South bound), and parking lot that allows overnight stays, for every interstate in the United States.

Here’s what we’ll be passing:

1) We will be going through Medicine Hat, Alberta, which is home of the World’s Largest TeePee. This I haven’t seen AND we will be stopping for pictures.

2) Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home of the World’s Largest Moose, and a townWorld's Largest Moose which actually has a few things I do want to do that I missed last time (the Al Capone tour and the Underground Tunnel tours), but we don’t have time. I will eventually be back there for those tours.

3) Dog River/Rouleau, Saskatchewan, filming location of “Corner Gas”.

3) Weyburn, Saskatchewan, home of what could be the World’s Tallest Wheat. (Same link as #3, Dog River)

The World's Largest Buffalo4) Minot, North Dakota, whose motto is “Why-not Minot”….

5) Jamestown, North Dakota, home of the World’s Largest Buffalo AND albino buffalos. (Same link as #3, Dog River) I might try to stop there for a better picture of the Albino Buffalo, actually.. Which reminds me. I should bring the big camera….

6) Fargo, North Dakota, home of the Infamous Wood Chipper, and the Fargo Walk of Fame.

7) A Continental Divide, not THE Continental Divide.Alexandria's Runestone

8) Alexandria’s Runestone. (I did say if we were ever there again, expecting we never would be, I’d stop and see the real one in the museum, instead of the replica… but that won’t be this trip…)

Skimming passed Minneapolis and St. Paul (tons more I need to see there, too, but I didn’t even get that all done last time I was there, and I was there for … 2 days, not 3 minutes…or probably an hour? that it’ll take us to “skim passed”?

Once we get to Wisconsin, though, we will be on a part of the highway we haven’t been before.

Here’s what I’ll be missing (maybe):

1) In or around Eau Claire: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, a Ship-shaped CarPaul Bunyan Wash, and a Transmission Man.

2) At Mauston, the Kwik Trip sign is apparently a hanging semi-truck… Might be able to see that from the road if I’m looking!

3) Wisconsin Dells – now the home of the Russian MIR Space Station… hmmmm… maybe we can stop on the way back… Looks like there’s also an Upside-down Whitehouse, Storybook Gardens (more research required to see if this still exists), a Muffler Man that looks alot like Burt Reynolds, Paul Bunyan restaurants (might need to stop there), and the World’s Possible Largest Flamingo….

4) DeForest – home of Sissy the Cow and Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. … Actually, now that I know there’s an all-things-cheese place, might need to stop there for sure. (I mean – at some point, we have to stop at a Cheese Tourist thing – it IS, after all, Wisconsin!)

5) A bunch of sites in Madison, including Otis Redding’s Plane Crash site…

6) An Apple Water Tower at Edgerton.

7) Janesville – Bessie the Cow (apparently in a Fruitopia commercial?) and a 2-story outhouse,

SPAM Museumm8) Beloit – A Giant Bulldog and a Giant Hormel Can…

Speaking of Hormel – last time we were here, we visited the SPAM Museum, (SPAM being a Hormel product). This time, I am in search of La Victoria Chunky Jalapeno Hot Sauce – apparently this is the best hot sauce on the planet – if anyone knows where to find it… Originally, we found it at a little store in Sandpoint, ID (future blog topic), but can’t find it again. I did email to MegaMex Foods (which is “a joint venture between…Hormel Foods and Herdez del Fuerte“) and they are searching. (It IS available on-line, if I can’t find it any other place.)

ENTER Illinois. Still on a “fresh road”.

Oh too bad. I’m out of time.  See you later!

Thank you to our wonderful friends for house-sitting for us, too! Mwah!

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Athabasca Falls and Columbia Icefields

The next road we took was Icefields Parkway, which parallels the Continental Divide.    It goes from Jasper to the turn-off Athabasca Falls 1towards Banff (Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway).

Just about 30 kms (10 miles) south of Jasper, is Athabasca Falls.

It is such a majestic waterfall, you’d think it was higher – but it’s “only” 23 meters (75 feet)… actually, that’s pretty high! I mean, maybe not if you are comparing it to Niagara Falls (which is 51 meters/167 feet), or Kerepakupai Merú  (Angel Falls) in Bolívar, Venezuela (which is 979 meters/3,212 feet, and considered the tallest in the world!)
Athabasca FallsAthabasca's carving

The Athabasca River runs through a riverbed of quartzite and limestone, which has finally eroded and carved out gorges and potholes, creating this beautiful scenery!

It is very accessible, has a parking lot, boardwalks, and restroom facilities – not really “roughing it”, which works out well for most people.  And for those who want more of a challenge ~ well, it’s still worth the stop on your way to wherever it is you are going!Athabasca boardwalk

And, Athabasca Falls’ headwater is the Columbia Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefields, about 70 kms further south.

Athabasca Falls 2

Conveniently located right on the side of the Icefields Parkway, is the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center and the Athabasca Glacier.

You can walk TO the Athabasca Glacier from the convenient parking lot, but you are not allowed to walk ON it, since it’sAthabasca Glacier steadily receding.   Apparently, it recedes at a rate of about 5 meters (16 feet) per year.  If you hurry, you can still visit this one, though – it’s still 6 kms long and 1 km wide…. when you walk towards it, however, there are signs and markers along the way of how far the Glacier extended at which year… it enforces how important it is to obey the “don’t walk on this” rule.

The ExplorersYou CAN take a guided bus ride on to it, by way of a “Massive Brewster Ice Explorer” (a great big bus specifically for driving up the glacier), for which you can sign up at the Visitor’s Center.  They operate from mid-April to mid-October.

The Icefield extends from Mount Columbia (3747 meters/12,294 feet tall) on the west side to Mount Athabasca (3491 meters/11,452 feet) on the east side. It covers approximately 215 square kms (although I’ve seen a couple of reports that say 325 square kms?), and can be up to 360 meters deep… Interestingly, up to 7 meters of snow falls during the winter each year, which is more than can melt during the summer, so it continues to add mass.SONY DSC
Glaciers

There are 8 major glaciers, including the Athabasca (of course), the Dome and the Stutfield (both also can be seen from the Icefields Parkway), and the Castleguard, Columbia, and Saskatchewan.

Columbia Icefield areaThe Icefield caps the Continental Divide and the water splits into three at Snow Dome (3,456 meters/3,456 m (11,339 ft) tall), and pours into the Arctic, the North Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.  In fact, the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River are here, as well as the Columbia Basin.

Next stop: Banff National Park.

http://www.icefieldsparkway.ca/journey.html
http://www.explorerockies.com/columbia-icefield/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Icefield

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Outlook, SK (or as Peter calls it “Look Out!”)

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to Saskatchewan  (again – Sas-KATCH-ewan, not Saska-CHEW-an), but Peter told me years ago that we  would never, ever go. Not even to cross it off “the list”.

This is  because his grandparents were from there, and they had had to drive that long, straight, road, back and forth, back and forth, year after year, to visit. And, while I’m  completely entertained by long straight stretches with nothing in them but grass and the occasional cloud, it’s probably much more boring to 3 little boys, trapped in the car.

But then! Friends moved there – and not to the thriving metropolis of Saskatoon, but to a little town an hour or so south, called Outlook (Google map). So, despite the “never, ever going”, we’ve been there now – let  me see – this time was our third time! (once to Saskatoon, and twice, so far, to  Outlook.)

Outlook is a comfortable, friendly little town, where  they keep a list beside the till at the local grocery store so you can sign up  to attend the latest wedding shower, of the latest someone that everyone knows!

Instead of car dealerships, mainstreet is packed with farm  equipment dealerships, and it’s not unusual to share the road with (or more  accurately – to be run off the road by) massive combiner or the machines that  haul the irrigation sprinklers…

It’s ok, though, to be run off the road in Saskatchewan.  Except for the rolling hills, here and there, it’s completely and totally flat.  (Apparently, the highest point in Saskatchewan is 1467 feet and the lowest is  699 feet…)

THIS is a picture of (or was it from?) one of the highest points in  Saskatchewan.

Really! I’m not kidding!

 

There’s lots to see and do in Outlook and we actually ran  out of time, but one of the things is walking the Skytrail Bridge. It’s an old  railway bridge, converted to a pedestrian bridge, that goes over the South Saskatchewan River, and is over ½ mile long.

The River is a beautiful, lazy (at least at this point)  river, and the weirdest thing about it is that it’s running North – my brain  really wanted it to be running South and had a hard time wrapping itself around the northern flow.

It turns out that “Saskatchewan” is  taken from a Cree word for “Swift Flowing River”… I don’t get it – I guess  there’s probably rapids somewhere…? (Probably someone who’s been there more  than 3 times, or someone who lives there, could answer that…?)

Below the bridge is a nice, full  hook-up campground with a public pool, at the Outlook & District Regional  Park (just in case you decide to visit and don’t know anyone).

And, if all of that doesn’t entice  you, THERE ARE FIREFLIES!!!

(See you Sunday – we’ll be enroute to North Dakota.)  

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