A Hard Day’s Drive to Canada
June 9, 2015
Lethbridge, AB, First day in Bridgeview RV Resort, #109
Eight years in our bus.
We encountered major road construction north of Browning on US-89 N.

We encountered major road construction north of Browning on US-89 N.

TUESDAY, JUNE 9. WE DRIVE TO LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA.

This was the drive from a hell — a hard day. I was staggering by the time we checked into our RV park.

It started out well. As navigator, I was prepared. Since Internet in Glacier is dicey, I ldid not depend on navigation help from Co-Pilot or from Google maps on the iPad or my iPhone. In advance on my computer, I looked up the directions to Bridgeview RV Resort in Lethbridge, AB and wrote them down. I also had that good old fashioned tool: paper maps. Thus armed, we waved a fond farewell to KOA West Glacier at 10:07 AM and set out eastward on Hwy 2 towards East Glacier.

We did encounter some road work near mile marker 194 that involved a flagman and pilot car. It looked like they were repairing seams in the road and after a ten minute delay we were on our way again. It was a sunny day with beautiful blue sky scenery and we were excited about crossing the border and bringing our Bus into a Canada. This was a “first” for us. I had our passports ready — for us and the dogs!

A month ago I read up on requirements for the dogs. It appeared that Canada is quite strict about admitting dogs. We could be turned away without proper paperwork. Just in case, I actually bought paper passport folders for each dog so we would look organized. I downloaded the required Canada form, filled in my part and took the forms and the dogs to our vet. We had a well-dog visit and he gave me certificates for their rabies shots (given a year ago) and a well dog certificate and he filled out the forms I brought. While I was at it, I updated our information online for their chips so that if something should happen, the correct phone number would be available. Of course they also wear tags with rabies lot # and ID information.

Rudi has been suffering from allergies and his eye has been half closed with lots of junk oozing out. I’ve treated him with allergy pills and ointment for his eye. By now it’s looking much better and this morning, in anticipation of our entry into Canada I washed the faces of both dogs so they would look as cute and healthy as possible for ten and twelve years old.

Since we did not have a detailed map we ran into problems as we approached Browning. We came to a simple T-intersection where we faced a sign with US-89 and arrows pointing both left and right but with no directions for south or north and no cities to guide our decision. Since we were going east and the mountains were on our left I figured we should turn left to go north but Dennis disagreed. I had complicated directions for going through Browning to get on US-89 N and making a left seemed too easy. I didn’t feel 100% sure and so we turned right. Big mistake.

My directions said, “Follow US-Rte 2 E to SE Boundary St in Browning. Follow Duck Lake Rd to US-89 N. We moved through town and never saw any signs for US-89 N. Nor did we see street signs for Boundary St or Duck Lake Rd. On the south end of town we came to a highway junction with a sign for US-89 ahead bearing right but without a north or south direction. We had a choice to turn left where in the distance I could see signs for Shelby and Cut Bank. I knew we didn’t want to go to Shelby so I figured we’d better get on US-89 although I knew it was headed south. Dennis wanted to go left because he saw there was a junction and a choice to go left. But I didn’t see that and he didn’t say so. If we’d gone left we would have been able to get on US-89 N.

We went forward to the right and then we were stuck on US-89 S speeding on a two-lane highway with no shoulder and no civilization in sight: no inersections, no towns, and no opportunities to make a U-turn. It looked like a 20-mile mistake to a T-intersection at MT-44 or to the first town of Dupuyer. By now we were both yelling at each other and both trying to justify our decisions. Damn!

It turned out to be an eight minute mistake when Dennis found a large dirt turnout that allowed us to make a safe U-turn. We drove eight minutes back to the junction. The signs that I glimpsed for Shelby were for US-2 continuing east. We made our left turn and continued on US-89 N back through town on the exact same streets, which brought us to our original T-intersection at US Rte 2 from West Glacier. If we’d made that left turn we would have immediately seen a sign for US-89 N. In the battle of who’s right and who’s wrong, we were 1:1. Browning has lousy signage.

Our troubles were not over. US-89 N from the T-intersection northward was under construction — major construction! For twenty minutes we drove on dirt or rough paving with construction equipment on both sides and with absolutely no shoulder. One bobble off of our narrow lane and we would have toppled over. I’ve never seen so many machines working in one area. Giant earthmovers worked on both sides of us. This wasn’t the usual save-one-side-of-the-road-and-work-on-the-other-side operation. We drove in the middle of the construction on one of two destroyed lanes. Once we passed a large earthmover in the opposite lane sitting on the divider line. Dennis blew by him with inches to spare and then he laughed saying, “Scared you, didn’t I?”  He turned to me, “The bastard was sitting on the middle line,” he said. Later I asked him if he would have turned aside to miss an obstruction sitting over the line. He said no. He said he’d rather wreck parts of our motor home then have the entire coach tumble over the side causing injury or death. Oh god.

US-89 N approaching Many Glacier and Waterton Lakes.

US-89 N approaching Many Glacier and Waterton Lakes.

About 12:20 PM, we at last left the construction and continued north towards St. Mary and Babb and the Carway port of entry. Unfortunately US-89 remained a narrow two-lane highway with NO SHOULDER. Thank god Dennis is a good driver. Our bus is 8’2″ wide and our wheel base is 8′. Lanes are often 12′ wide but Dennis estimates that this one was 10′ wide and there was never any shoulder. The road curved up and down hills and it took a lot of concentration on the part of the driver. There was no room for error. In such cases I am quiet and I try not to distract. On a few occasions our right rearview mirror swept OVER snow poles and that elicited an “oh my god” out of me. Despite the beauty of the scenery I felt very nervous and I did not enjoy our drive.

We passed St. Mary at 1:00 PM and after that the mountain highway broadened into four-lanes as we swept past Babb and approached the US Port of Piegan and the Canadian port of Carway. Our entrance into Canada was anti-climatic. We waited briefly for three cars ahead of us and approached a window under a high roof. I expected border patrol with dogs standing outside as we always see in Arizona near the Mexican border. But no, there was one guy sitting in a booth and no one outside at all. Speaking to Dennis through his driver window he asked for passports. Dennis handed him four, including my dog passports. He didn’t even open them up! He handed them right back. He never saw nor heard my beautiful dogs who were quiet because they only bark if the door is opened but not if the window is open.

The guard handed back our passports and asked if we had any guns. We said no. He looked doubtful and said, “Well how do you protect yourself?” We both said that we didn’t believe in owning guns or relying on them for protection.

“Well, I believe in guns,” he said.

I piped up and said, “That’s a Montana thing. We’re from the Bay Area in California. Most of my friends do not own guns. It’s not a big deal there.” This sounds obnoxious but it is also true.

After he sent us on our way I looked at our passports. HE DIDN’T STAMP THEM! It’s as if we never came into Canada. No dates! I felt very cheated.

We continued on AB-2 N passing through Cardston. Then we turned right to go NE on AB-509 N to Lethbridge. I had no idea where Bridgeview RV Resort was located. I had a small detail on my map of Lethbridge but it did not show their street address. They told me on the phone that people had trouble finding them. They said not to use the street address of 1501 2nd Ave West because it would take us to a location that was “far away”. However, the hostesses at Bridgeview were unable to give me alternative directions. I asked if I should approach Lethbridge on AB-509 (more direct) or on AB-5 (less direct but a major highway.  She didn’t know the difference between the two highways.

Earlier I noted directions from Google Maps and they said to take the Crowsnest Trail (AB-3 E) to Westside Dr W and then turn on 2 Ave. W. I knew this was suspicious but I had nothing better to go on. From AB-509 we got on Crowsnest Trail. If only I’d known to stay on it! However, we exited on Westside Dr as instructed. Then I saw a gravel road and we turned on 2 Ave W. I was hoping that this remote gravel road would lead to hidden but large acreage of an RV park. No such luck. We ground to a halt at a gravel crossroad, 30 St W. I called Bridgeview RV Park.

The operator absolutely did no know where we were. Apparently no one had ever thought to drive to the wrong address so they would understand where it was and how to explain the way out of there! Worse, she couldn’t tell us where the RV park is located! She said to try to get to University Dr and Bridge Dr. The rest of her remarks were about landmarks that made no sense and left no memory impression on me. I was sitting in the middle of nowhere on a gravel road. I could see University and Bridge on my little map and I assumed from her comments that Bridgeview was located at that crossroad. By this time Dennis and I were too tired bor arguments and blame. We just tried to figure out how to get from here to there. We turned right on the gravel road, 30 St W, with the hope that it would bring us back to Crowsnest Trail. After several miles it did offer an entry onto a highway that brought us back onto AB-3 E. My hope was to exit on Bridge and drive south to University.

We vote the design of this freeway interchange from AB-3 to Bridge Dr and the Bridgeview RV Park as the worst we've ever seen.

We vote the design of this freeway interchange from AB-3 to Bridge Dr and the Bridgeview RV Park as the worst we’ve ever seen.

AB-3 or the Crowsnest Trail freeway in Lethbridge is the strangest and most terrible freeway we’ve ever seen. The signage is too small and appears too late for a driver to make a decision. We passed one exit but couldn’t see what it was. We never saw a sign for Bridge Dr but I thought I glimpsed a small blue sign for Bridgeview RV Park so we took the second exit. We were headed into a canyon that climbed south, hopefully toward University.  As we came down off the exit, I saw another Bridgeview sign saying to make a U-turn to the left.

Say what? Off a freeway exit? For a 63′ bus and toad? Dennis started to argue and I screamed, “It’s an RV park. They know you’re big. They say U-turn.” I saw an entrance into a mini golf course with room for a big dirt path turn-around. I pointed left. “There. There!” I screamed. At the last possible moment, Dennis turned.

 

In the dirt loop, I saw another camp sign saying, “Go left at the Y”. We pulled forward and saw a Y split on the freeway entrance. To the right an entrance led to the freeway going east. To the left an entrance bridge over the freeway led to the freeway going west. We took the left Y up and over the freeway.  As we began to dip back down towards the freeway we saw another sign saying to make a hard right. The Bridgeview RV entrance is literally off the west entrance to the freeway. It is in a river valley below the freeway on the north side of Crowsnest Trail, AB-3 W. This information would have been extremely helpful if the hostesses could have told me that to begin with.

This train trestle crosses Old Man River near the Bridge Rd canyon.  It is a major landmark unremarked  by Bridgeview hostesses giving directions over the phone.

This train trestle crosses Old Man River near the Bridge Rd canyon. It is a major landmark unremarked by Bridgeview hostesses giving directions over the phone.

Dennis negotiated the hard right off the freeway entrance and we descended down into a river valley with a large RV park. It was 3:10 PM and by then I was nearly ready to pass out. We registered and I had to pull out my notepad to remember my address and phone number. I was really wigged out. The Bridgeview gals were sympathetic but clearly they have no sense of direction and no ability to read maps. They literally don’t know where they are. It’s not unusual. I’ve noticed that many times with RV reservation staff. They are completely unfamiliar with their own town and it’s surroundings.

 

The park is large and casual with old paved roads and gravel sites liberally dotted with trees. There is a cliff to the east that is bare dirt and the trees are mostly cottonwoods. It looks as if we drove so far north that we came into southwest Arizona. Where are our snow capped mountains?

We pulled into our site and I put our the slides while Dennis hooked us up. But when I put out the kitchen counter slide I heard terrible noises. I put it back in, tried again and heard more horrid noises. I put it in and waited for Dennis. Then I noticed something missing. Where was the toaster?

On the kitchen wall by the slide is a counter with an outlet where we keep a toaster, loaves of bread and a butter dish. When we bring in the slide half of this bread counter sits behind the wall of the slide. Long ago we discovered that there is a hole below the slide and the gap between the counter and the slide is just wide enough so that the butter dish can slide off. After we smashed a few butter dishes, we learned to store it elsewhere while driving. However, a hole big enough to swallow a toaster? Never before. But after our rock and roll trip — no toaster. Where’s the toaster? Not down in that hole! How could there be room?

There was. Dennis pulled out the drawers in the kitchen slide reached through the drawer gap and pulled out my very serviceable KitchenAid toaster — completely staved in one one side. What next?

After getting settled in we got directions to West Lethbridge Mall. Dennis needed to buy steel tape at a hardware store to hold up a pipe that came loose in the wet bay. We drove up the RV entrance to the freeway west entrance, where believe it or not, we made a left turn onto the freeway exit going over the bridge and down to the exit where we saw the campground U-turn sign. We passed the golf course and took Bridge Dr to University Dr, turned left and found a shopping center a few miles east. Here Dennis found his tape and I bought a new toaster. I couldn’t find Kitchen Aid so I chose a Sunbeam. It soon proved to be a cheap plastic piece of shit. I will have to wait until I can find a better selection and buy another toaster.

It was 5:30 PM and we had skipped lunch. In the same shopping mall we were told to try Mojo’s Bar & Grill. We entered a large, dark sports-bar cave with a circular bar in the center and booths surrounding the perimeter. Everywhere, TV screens showed the latest activity for all sports. We were glad to crawl into a tall booth that put us eye-level with our waitress. She was a dark haired waif wearing a unique top and tights, very young and pretty, anxious to please and covered with tattoos.  She was creative and humorous and it was fun to talk to her.

I would have loved to have a beer but settled as usual on a diet coke. Dennis ordered a margarita. The menu was unusual, featuring odd selections such as “Angry German Sandwich” (a kind of reuben) and there were lots of tempting choices. In the end, we went crazy and ordered four appetizers instead of entrees. We had a delicious if totally fattening and unhealthy dinner by sharing plates of brioche, calamari, spinach and artichoke dip, and “Queen Anne Avocado”, a half avocado topped with chicken salad. Oh my! All very good and very filling. We left feeling happier then when we arrived.

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