A September 2000 trip
to Banff by annekmadison
Quote: Highway One, runs for thousands of miles from one end of Canada to the other. It has been called Canada's main street. Canadians will no doubt want to skip this journal, which gives an American’s eye view of the Western stretches of this road.
Hotel | "Day's Inn"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 1, 2000
3875 Eastgate Drive
Hotel | "Big Horn Motel"
Although our room was very close to the highway, and a bit chilly, we found a warm welcome and a good cup of coffee the next morning. And the laundry facilities were much appreciated.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on December 1, 2000
Big Horn Motel Alpen
5022 Highway 93
Attraction | "RCMP "Centennial" Museum"
RCMP Centennial Museum
This type of driving requires some old-fashioned virtues of the driver. It’s necessary -- not optional -- to be alert, courteous, and above all intelligent. Imagine, for example, drivers getting on to Interstate 95 in rural North Carolina by means of a plain stop sign. Would it work here? I'm not entirely sure that it would. Those who remember and observe those old-fashioned driving virtues move right along at a uniform and almost-unvarying 100 kilometers per hour, or about 60 m.p.h. Did we want to pass? We hit the turn signal, waited for a clear spot in the oncoming traffic, and made our move. Rather than grimly speeding up, the other driver obliged. Was there a truck behind us? He wasn’t riding our tail, but rather maintaining a respectably safe following distance until he was ready to pass -- at which point he signaled in anticipation of equivalent courtesy from us. We drove a lot of miles on Highway One and never saw a single accident. The only speeders seemed to be people with Alberta license plates. The speed limit in Alberta is 10 kilometers per hour faster, or about 70 m.p.h.
I was concerned about running out of gas over the vast, empty stretches of prairie we would encounter. But my worry was needless. Towns along the route are indicated clearly, in advance, by informative road signs. We could see at a glance what services they offered (gas, food, lodging, police, camping, what-have-you). Many rural towns sport attractive signs with their names and some descriptive slogan. "Gas Capital of Canada" was my personal favorite. After a short exit lane and frontage road, our gasoline awaited. On Highway One, we got a full-service fill-up every time. Remember those? A real-live person arrived to fill the tank, check the oil, and clean the bugs off the windshield. Inside we invariably found a convenience store with a supply of hot coffee, and at many stops there was a restaurant attached.
There were also plenty of rest areas. Some were bright, beautiful, and interpretive. Others consisted of a privy or two and a quiet picnic area. But in all those vast stretches, we never went without a meal, a cup of coffee, a rest room, or a fill-up when we needed them.
Highway One carried us through many towns, large and small. Brandon, MB was our first city, and I'd like to thank the anonymous van driver who let me change my mind and make an unexpected right-hand turn as I looked for the right road. Outside of Brandon we got our first taste of the "real" highway, both two-lane and four-lane. The Western Manitoba welcome center offered free coffee before handing us off to the Saskatchewan welcome center a few kilometers distant. Manitoba's center also had a small garden patch with the plants that make the province rich -- graceful stems of wheat, oats, barley, and flax. Saskatchewan's center offered us examples of the same plants in their harvested and dried forms.
We stopped overnight in Regina, capital of Saskatchewan, and toured the RCMP Museum the next day before starting off again. I’ll cover that trip in a separate journal entry.
On the fourth and last day of our outbound journey, Highway One turned "freeway style" to take us through the city of Moose Jaw, where we stopped for a lunch of A&W Root Beer and hot dogs. Moose Jaw was apparently a hotbed of activity for the American mob during the days of Prohibition. But we were anxious to get on with our trip and did not stop to see the famous underground caves.
Back on the road, we drove through fields of ripe, golden wheat that stretched to the horizon. Each town had a grain elevator, and there were trains or sets of railroad cars waiting on sidings to carry the harvest away. When the "two lane" turned into a "four lane" the other side of the road was often a mile away, and the median area contained fields of hay or grain. The western edge of Saskatchewan presented us with two large, beautiful lakes and, a bit later, with an oddly hilly terrain that was the result of glacial activity.
We arrived at Alberta's beautiful welcome center in the afternoon in the middle of a pelting rainstorm and took refuge under the front portico to stretch our legs and smoke a cigarette in the company of some folks from Calgary. They informed us that the bears, both grizzly and black, were very active this year in Banff and told us where and how we might watch some from a safe distance. We thanked them, collected some maps and brochures, and got back into the car, re-energized by the fact that our long drive out West would soon be over.
When we got to Alberta, we felt we’d truly arrived in "The West." The speed limit went up, and although there was still plenty of grain, we also saw a lot of cattle. The roads intersecting Highway One were often dirt "Range Roads," and we saw small antelope grazing freely with the cattle. There were also a lot of small oil pumps set in the middle of the pastureland, reminding the passerby of Alberta's other source of wealth. Railroad tracks and many grain-laden trains accompanied us for much of our this part of the drive.
Shortly after our departure from the welcome center, the sun finally came out for good, and we were gladdened by skies of the most improbable blue, the perfect setting for the gold of the ripe grain. We passed through the town of Medicine Hat, and our eyes began to strain for a first glimpse of the Rockies to come.
By the time we got to the outskirts of Calgary, our enjoyment of the scenery and the town were seriously hampered by the blinding rays of the sun, low but still very bright in the western sky. Good sense and the evening traffic prevailed, and we stopped for supper on the eastern edge of the city.
As it turned out, our break was long enough to ease the impact on our eyes, but it was also long enough to deprive us of that long-awaited first glimpse of the Rockies. After dinner, we followed Highway One through town. The road soon became mountainous, and after another hour or so, we had arrived in Canmore at the Big Horn Motel where we spent our last night on the road. They were waiting up for us, having expected us at 6 p.m.
The next morning's light left no doubt at all that we were truly in the mountains. They surrounded us on every side. We decided to take advantage of the Big Horn's laundry facilities while we had breakfast at the Grizzly Bear Restaurant next door. So, provided with a good night's rest, clean clothes, and a good, solid breakfast we turned off of Highway One into Banff National Park. It was the end of our cross-continent journey on Highway One and the beginning of our adventures in the Rocky Mountains.