Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Week in Missoula


Actually we’re staying in Lolo, MT just south of Missoula at the Square Dance Center and Campground where we spent a week in 2014. Our mail and Amazon packages arrived on time and we were set to leave today but we woke up to rain and 41 degrees and decided to hang around one more night. Tomorrow looks better for our route through Salmon to Challis, ID, which is supposed to be a scenic drive. We’ll see.

It’s been a mix of weather this past week but we did have a few nice days which we took advantage of by doing a couple hikes and a bike ride.

The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, just north of Missoula, is a great area for hiking and mountain biking.


Not being familiar with the area we just took the main trail and detoured off along Rattlesnake Creek on the advice of a friendly jogger, who gave us directions for a couple of loop hikes. We ended up doing a pleasant 6 mile loop with few other people.



She warned us about bears and we did see some fresh scat full of berries, but as usual we saw none.




We did another hike close to town in the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area up the Crazy Canyon trail. It’s an old dirt road that climbs to a viewpoint and from there you can continue on to Sentinel Peak, which we did not do.


Not much to see but trees on the way up, and it’s over three miles to get to this view of Missoula.


There are trails going off in every direction, but with Jim’s Avenza maps we were able to piece together several different trails to go back down, which of course turned out to be longer and steeper. Missoula reminds us a lot of Prescott, AZ, since they are both surrounded by national forests with miles of trails.


Another day we rode our bikes on the Bitterroot Trail, which runs from Missoula to Hamilton, MT. It’s less than 3 miles to the trail from the RV park, and we rode south towards Hamilton. The downside is the trail runs very close to Hwy 93 so there is a lot of traffic noise.

The scenery is good, though. We actually got off the trail and rode several miles on a parallel road that had low traffic just to get away from the highway.



Along the way we met an interesting fellow named Tony Adams who has been cycling around the country on his recumbent trike and trailer for 18 years now. He has quite a set up, with solar panels on the trailer, a bed, a TV, and a one burner propane stove inside.

On the inside panel of the door he keeps track of how many states he’s been to and how many times he’s been to them, how many years he’s traveled, and how many radio, TV and newspaper stories have been written about him. Here is a link to one of them if you’re interested.



He told us he has a cup of coffee every night right before bed time because it helps him sleep. Interesting guy living a very non-traditional lifestyle.


For some reason we only managed to visit two breweries, Lolo Peak, which is not far from the RV park, and Conflux, a new downtown Missoula brewery that just opened in August, and they were both good.

We visited Conflux after a cold, windy walk yesterday along the Clark Fork Riverfront trail. Being just 50 degrees and with near gale force winds it was even worse than our walk along the river in Coeur d’Alene the previous week.

We parked near the Old Milwaukee Train Depot, now home to the Boone and Crockett Club.


That is L Mountain, which we climbed in 2014.


As we got closer to downtown we heard music and could see a big tent so we went to see what was going on.


Turned out to be a beer festival, and had it not been $30 a ticket we may have gone in. We felt sorry for the bundled up band who was playing on an outdoor stage with only a handful of people sitting out to listen.



Conflux was very busy and we got the last two seats at the bar. Could be because they only charge $4 for a pint, and that was not happy hour prices.


On the days we didn’t hike or bike we worked out at Snap Fitness in Lolo. The manager was very nice and suggested that Jim sign up for a membership, which was free with his Silver Sneakers, and gave him the access card so he can now use any Snap just like he can with Anytime Fitness. And she didn’t charge me to come in as his guest. We were impressed with the equipment, too.

We also did a little RV shopping just for fun. We really like the floor plans of many 5th wheels, but that means getting a big truck to haul it around. Never having driven one, we took a test drive of a 2015 Silverado 3500 4WD. It was much more comfortable than we expected, but felt almost as big to me as driving the Lazy Daze, and that was without a 5th wheel behind it. The search continues.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for warmer weather as we move south but it doesn’t look like we will find it until southern Utah. As long as it doesn’t snow we’ll be fine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Back to the Real World

We left Banff a week ago, and although we had originally planned to stay in Canada longer and check out some other areas on the way back to the US, the weather was not looking promising, and Jim was concerned about our electrical problem and wanted to get that looked at. The day before we left he was able to make a call using Google Voice from Tim Horton’s WiFi, and got an appointment at Truline RV in Spokane Valley, WA for Thursday afternoon. They had repaired a problem with our SMI breaking system back in 2014 and we were happy with their work, so we decided to give them a try again.

We knew there was a Cabela’s less than 10 miles from the shop in Post Falls, ID, which is where we stayed before, so we decided to make the 355 mile drive in one day, barring any issues getting through customs at Kingsport/Eastgate on the way back. All went fine and it was an easy drive with little traffic until we hit Coeur d’Alene at rush hour.

A couple parting shots from the Canadian Rockies. We were happy to have a nice weather day for the long, scenic drive south on 93 and 95.




There were only 5 or 6 other rigs overnighting at Cabela’s but I forgot to take a picture until the next morning after everyone left. Since we were here last time a Walmart opened up just a quarter mile from Cabela’s so there were more RVs parked over there. This is a fairly quiet parking lot and we were able to get in a few miles of walking from here.


We left Cabela’s around noon and stopped by Walmart for a few things, ate lunch, and then headed over to Truline around 2:30. The owner of the shop came out and checked our circuit board, converter, etc. and thought we just needed a new 15 amp breaker. Jim had bought one in Banff but Chuck and Jim were unable to remove the old one and didn’t want to pull too hard and break something when we needed power. While inspecting everything he pulled out the 20 amp breaker that AM Solar installed for us in July, but had trouble getting back in. It turned out it was the wrong breaker and the opening for the clip was too short. It was one that Jim bought at Home Depot in Oregon but didn’t realize was the wrong one. Luckily there was a Home Depot a few miles away so we hopped in the car and picked up the correct one. It snapped on easily, so now we are good to go. The shop owner said everything else looked good and there was no evidence of damage so we’re hoping for the best.

We went back to Cabela’s for another night after we left the shop to figure out where we would go on Friday. Jim wanted to stay in the area and be plugged in to make sure everything was working okay, just in case we needed to return to Truline on Monday. It wasn’t easy finding a vacancy for the weekend, but there was a site available at Coeur d’Alene RV Resort a few miles from Cabela’s in Post Falls. The reviews were not great but we got an end site with a colorful maple tree, and it served our needs.


After we got settled in on Friday we drove 20 miles to Trader Joe’s in Spokane, then came back and worked out at Anytime Fitness, just a mile from the RV park. It was over a month since we visited a gym, and we hope to try and get back on track.

After a few loads of laundry on Saturday we drove to Riverstone Park in Coeur d’Alene and took a walk on the Centennial trail, which follows the Spokane River. In 2014 we rode bikes on the other end of this same trail, but biking didn’t sound like fun this time since it was in the 50s, cloudy, and very windy.


We passed by the sewage treatment plant and got a kick out of this sign they have posted. Believe me, with the smell emanating from the plant no one would ever know!


They are also growing pumpkins using fertilizer made from the sewage sludge. It must be good stuff because the pumpkins are huge.


Bronze statue of Chief Morris Antelope, of the Coeur d’Alene tribe.


These plastic bags contain knit gloves, scarves, and hats, free for the taking.



We saw a tent and could hear music so we continued on to check it out.


The lake didn’t look very inviting.


Found out there was a 120 mile bike ride, and some of the riders were still coming through the finish line. It would have been a tough ride in the wind.


At 3,300 feet long and 12 ft wide, the Coeur d'Alene Resort Floating Boardwalk is the longest floating boardwalk in the world and encircles the marina.


There’s an interesting 60’ long arched bridge along the way.


You have to climb the the stairs to cross the bridge and get to the rest of the boardwalk.



Not many boats for a Saturday, but it wasn’t the best day for being out on the water.



Coeur d’Alene Resort.


We passed some lovely homes along the waterfront.


Power boxes are artistically disguised.


Coming back we took a detour along another public boardwalk in front of more waterfront homes. It was a good 6 mile walk, but would have been better if it hadn’t been so windy.


On the way home we stopped at Selkirk Abbey Brewing Co, which specializes in making Belgian beers. Chatted with a nice couple at the bar from Spokane Valley and had an imperial stout and a barrel aged barleywine, both of which were excellent, but too high in alcohol at 11.5% ABV. Good thing it was less than three miles from the RV park.


Since we had no tripped breakers and no overheating, we left Coeur d’Alene on Sunday and drove 185 miles to Missoula, MT, where we’re spending a week so we can get mail and a couple of things from Amazon. Also watching the weather and trying to figure out where to go next, although there is no doubt it will be south.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Final Days in Banff


Chuck and Carla pulled out Monday morning to make their way back to Iowa. It was great fun having someone to commiserate with about the weather and we really enjoyed hanging out with them for a couple weeks. And before they left Chuck was nice enough to try and help Jim diagnose another electrical issue we’ve been having with the Lazy Daze. They were not successful so we’ll have to find someone to check it out when we’re back in the states.

We still had two days left in the park, which turned out to be the best weather of our entire week in Banff. After they left we noticed the clouds were parting so we took another walk to the Bow River overlook.


Tunnel Mountain, which has no tunnel through it.


Although hazy, this zoomed shot of the Fairmont Banff Springs gives you an idea of how big it is.


Since the trails were wet and muddy we decided to go downtown and use the library’s WiFi, then take a walk along the river to Bow Falls. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 40s, so somewhat of an improvement.

Busy Banff, which looks much better when you can see the mountains.



The first floor of the gray building contains Nester’s, a very nice little grocery store. There is also an IGA in town.


The scenery here is exceptional when it’s clear.


I think I know that guy.


There’s a trail along the Bow River going in either direction from town.


Going south, the trail crosses a pedestrian bridge over the river.



We followed the trail to Bow Falls, just below the towering Fairmont Banff Springs hotel.



Rates begin at $649/night.


The river below the falls.



The Fairmont’s golf course.


We then took a drive up to the Mount Norquay ski area. The steep switchbacks climb to an overlook of town.

On the way up.


We hadn’t driven very far when we saw this big horn sheep meandering up the road.


Then a little farther along we came across this guy munching on some greenery.


And just past the elk was a deer standing on the side of the road. Had it been a bear it would have been the perfect trifecta.

More red chairs at the overlook with great views of Banff and the surrounding mountains.




Our last day in the park was mostly cloudy, but at least it was in the upper 40s. Who would have thought upper 40s would sound good to us! After a stop at the library and perusing the shops for a t-shirt, we decided to walk north from town along the other side of the Bow River trail.


We had to wait on a train.


The trail intersects the Fenland trail, which took us to Vermillion Lakes.


This is an iconic shot of Mount Rundle, which would look much better on a sunny day.


With some blue sky peeking out of the clouds after we got back to the campground, I just had to take one last walk over to the Bow River overlook.

View from the campground.


By the time I got to the overlook it was raining, but at least there was a rainbow on the way back.


Despite the weather I’m still glad we decided to visit the Canadian Rockies. The drive along Icefields Parkway is truly spectacular with the proximity of the glaciers and the surreal blue-green waters of the lakes and rivers. For me, just that drive alone was worth coming for, but Jim may feel differently.

Here are some final thoughts about our trip to Canada: Crossing the border turned out to be a non-issue, although we had heard stories of people whose RVs were searched. Other than being asked several times if we had any guns in the RV, it was quick and easy to enter Canada. And coming back into the US was even easier.

We would recommend both Whistler’s Campground in Jasper, and Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court in Banff. The elk in Whistler’s definitely made up for all of the potholes in the roads. Whistler’s will be closed during 2019 for a big remodel, with new roads, 17 new bath houses with showers, and possibly WiFi, though that is a rumor I heard from one of the staff. Although we didn’t see wildlife in Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, we liked the pull-through sites and the layout of the campground better. Chuck and Carla stayed in Tunnel Mountain Village 2, where the sites are just lined up along the roads, which we didn’t care for. I would recommend getting sites with electric hook-ups since the tree cover and clouds would have made it really tough to keep our batteries charged without a lot of generator time. And the hours you are allowed to run them are pretty limited. At the Lake Louise overflow parking we were in an open lot, so our solar panels kept us charged even though it was cloudy.

We were impressed by the highways in Canada, with most being in excellent condition except for a few places where construction was taking place. Not being sure what to expect, and thinking of some of the roads we’ve traveled in the Colorado Rockies, we were pleasantly surprised by the roads through the Canadian Rockies. There are no high mountain passes or steep, narrow, winding roads, so any size vehicle can easily drive them.

Gas is expensive in Canada, and we paid anywhere from $1.30 to $2.00 CAD per liter, the most expensive being along Icefields Parkway, where there was no other competition. That translated to about $3.50 to $5.00 per gallon with the favorable exchange rate, not much different from prices we’ve seen before in California.

We also liked the Canadian money. On our first night in Canada we stopped by an ATM and took out $100 CAD (which only cost us $79 USD). Other than change for the laundromat and lunch at the Lake Agnes Tea House which took cash only, every other place we did business with took credit cards. With our Capitol One Visa that has no international transaction fee, we ended up getting the best exchange rate by charging everything.

Canada no longer has pennies, just nickels, dimes, quarters, one dollar coins called Loonies (because there is a loon on one side), and two dollar coins called Toonies, which are easy to identify. Their coins are lighter in weight than ours.


The bills are made of plastic and start at $5 and go up to $100. With the various colors it’s easy to tell the denominations apart. And they have some really interesting holograms and translucent windows on them, which make it almost impossible to counterfeit.


It seems that crowds are to be expected no matter when you visit Banff and Jasper, but at least in September there were very few children. Lots of tour buses and foreigners in rental RVs, though. If we were early risers we could have avoided the crowds by getting out on the trails early in the morning, and had it been warmer we might have just done that. Although we had unseasonably cold and wet weather, September is probably still the best time to go, with kids back in school and no bugs. During the time we were there the average highs should have been in the low 60s, which would have been just about perfect, but it was not to be. Maybe next time…