Having spent most of the previous evening driving through Saskatchewan—whose primary purpose seems to be to occupy the space between Manitoba and Alberta—we were excited to be more than halfway to Calgary. Again, there’s really nothing wrong with a place whose only topographical features are hayfields and power lines; it just wasn’t what we had come to see.
And that’s not to say there was nothing to break up the monotony of the drive. For example, there were lots of Humpty’s Restaurants along the way. Essentially the Canadian equivalent of Denny’s, Humpty’s offers the weary traveler an array of hot and cold beverages, and a variety of foods—including some I have yet to see available on any US roadway, like pierogi, turkey schnitzel, and bangers and mash.
Also helping to make the trip more interesting on this leg of the journey were the other travelers we met along the way. I must admit to using the first person plural a bit generously here since the Jarhead can barely bring himself to exchange greetings with strangers, much less make small talk. I, on the other hand, will strike up or join a conversation with just about anyone who isn’t holding a weapon or a hostage. That probably isn’t a fair statement, given I’ve never had occasion to avoid or ignore someone bearing a firearm or keeping people against their will; but I like to think that when the situation presents itself, I’ll be smart enough to recognize what’s happening, and have the sense to zip my lips.
Meanwhile, I was more than happy to chat with the nice Aussie woman who approached me during one of our pit stops to ask if I was a ‘local lady.’ Resisting the urge to say, ‘No, I’m the local slut,’ I told her and her travel companions I was a Yank from Wisconsin, and then made polite inquiries into their origins, their itinerary, and their impressions of North America, while the Jarhead waited outside cursing the bus in the parking lot as if the volume of people in the washroom alone were to blame for the delay in my returning to the truck.
Later that day, as we approached the mountains east of Banff, we spotted a dude on a bicycle a ways up the road. Upon noticing him, the Jarhead surprised me by suggesting that we pull over and offer to throw his bike in the back and give him a ride. I should have known he meant it sarcastically, since he’s even less of a humanitarian than a conversationalist when it comes to strangers, but all of that was lost on me at the moment.
“No way,” I said in response. “I know bicyclists are almost never serial killers, but with our luck we’d find the one who is, and we have no means to defend ourselves.”
“We could run him over,” he offered. “Unfortunately, those guys are pretty fit, so we’d have to back up and do it again two or three times.”
“So you agree it’s a bad idea.”
“Of course I think it’s a bad idea.”
“Then why did you suggest it?”
“Because then I could tell him how stupid it is to ride a bike through the mountains when there are so many motorized forms of transportation available.”
So that was Thursday…
That afternoon we entered Banff National Park and were on course for Lake Louise. By nightfall we had reached Baker Creek lodge and secured a nice room with a fireplace, kitchenette, and whirlpool tub—none of which we used. Instead, we gathered up the rum, a couple cans of coke, and the remains of our crackers and deer sausage, and had dinner on a swing under the stars.
It was probably the rum, but I didn’t give a single thought to bears, bandits, or any other potential threats to my existence while we were out there. Nor did I worry about earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, or wonder if the creek would suddenly shift course and wash us away. Instead, I just enjoyed the peace and tranquility, and crossed my fingers that the Jarhead wouldn’t fall asleep before I was sober enough to walk back to our cabin.
It had been a long drive, and we were looking forward to sleeping in on Friday, and to seeing everything that awaited us in Kootenay and British Columbia.