MONDAY, MAY 24 1999
Great Falls MT - Whitecourt AB

          We slept soundly all night, but were awakened around 7 am by the roar of a jet from the nearby airport. We slept a little longer, then were awakened at 8:30 am by the maid knocking (just what *IS* it about the fact that maids can't seem to ever wait around until the customer checks out?) We packed, got ready, and left around 10 am to a bright, warm sunny morning.
          After a quick stop at Exxon for postcards and water we pressed northwest to skirt Glacier National Park... I drove. We could see beautiful snow-capped peaks looming ahead, and traffic was light as we drove onward to Choteau. We stopped in town for stamps and so I could call the Alaska ferry company to pay for the trip. With that done, we continued on towards the mountains, and our winding, scenic drive ground to a halt at a construction zone at Dupuyer -- another extensive one-lane-one-way setup. There wasn't much of a wait, but the construction zone led us 10 miles on horrible, completely unpaved roads at speeds exceeding 20 mph.
          Eventually we reached Browning, which was nestled at the Glacier Park foothills, remote from the Interstates and deep in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It was thriving and set in beautiful countryside, and considering all the neglected, run-down towns I've seen on Indian reservations in eastern Montana and Oklahoma, this town was simply amazing.
          The road then took us across the foothills of awesome snow-capped peaks, through lush forests and near snowbanks that still hadn't melted completely. We emerged at the Canadian border at Port of Pagan, which was nearly deserted except for a handful of people and several customs officials. We simply drove up, was asked about our residency, visit purpose, and what we were carrying, then were waved through in less than 30 seconds.
          Then we were in Alberta. Here the signs became metric, the towns became more tidy and scenic, and the roads became wider. Shannon took over the driving, and pressing north the mountains receded off to our left as we drove through long expanses of empty rangeland. The roads became more busy and more populated as we drove through Cardston and Fort Macleod, where I stopped at an ATM to get Canadian dollars.
          Over an hour later we reached Calgary at 4:45 pm. Calgary was a large city, comparable to Austin TX (slightly less traffic), and we found a restaurant on the north side called Vlasis. Shannon had teriyaki chicken and I had lasagna. The food was good but once again we had trouble getting the waitress to come and give us the check, partly no doubt because the restaurant was starting to get busy.
          We continued north at 6:30 pm on Highway 2, the main freeway between Alberta's large cities of Calgary and Edmonton, 175 miles apart, with bright sunshine and 75-degree temperatures. The freeway was very busy; in a 60-second interval between Edmonton and Red Deer I observed 51 cards pass us southbound. The freeway stretched south-north across highly developed farmland and prairie and numerous small towns, and often I was under the illusion that we were NOT in northwest Canada but on busy I-35 going through southern Oklahoma! Mounties (troopers) were in full force, with numerous speed traps and many customers, no doubt due to the arduous 110 km/h (68 mph) speed limit. With all the entertainment on the freeway such as beautiful rural scenery, well-kept refineries, aggressive young drivers on cell phones, and odd signs such as "Turn Here To Get Elk Velvet Capsules", we were refreshed enough to keep going past Edmonton and continue as planned to Whitecourt.
          At 8:30 pm we stopped briefly at McDonalds for a quick snack (home of the "All Canadian Meal", a cheeseburger, small fries, small drink).
          We turned west at Leduc to bypass greater Edmonton, which turned out to be a truly fantastic detour, so we totally avoided Edmonton itself. Even 30 miles away, the suburbs sprawled westward into Stony Plain, giving us our last glimpse at consumer/suburbia civilization before we disappeared westward into the setting sun.
          After awhile driving through a beautiful twilight, we arrived at Whitecourt with plenty of light to read by even at 10:45 pm and settled in at The Guest House, a great motel with a very friendly lady at the front desk (recommend!). The weather is simply awesome -- 70 degrees even at this late hour.

          Tomorrow we hope to make far northern British Columbia, maybe Yukon?

Miles driven today: 640
Gas: 7.8 gal @ 1.29 @ Great Falls ($10.25), 39.7 l @ CDN $0.61 @ Calgary (CDN $24.15)
Expenses: (not tallied yet)
Business ratings (0-4 stars):
Vlasis, Calgary AB * * *
Guest House, Whitecourt AB * * * 1/2

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Choteau, MT -- skirting the eastern edge of Glacier National Park, and we're treated to some great scenery.

Cardston, AB -- we're not in Kansas no more! We're now inundated with the metric system, making trip planning a touch more difficult.

Calgary, AB -- a photograph of Canadian money. The lowest denomination of bills is $5; the coins are $2, $1, 50c, 25c, 10c, 5c, and 1c. If only the U.S. would adopt the $1 coin idea!

Mayerthorpe, AB -- the late twilight gives us plenty of light to drive by in northwest Alberta.

Whitecourt, AB -- less than a mile from a bed and much-needed rest!