One spring a few years ago, there was my purchase of a beauty red corvette. I fondly referred to my baby as my “mid-life crisis, second childhood, small penis compensator. That was a joke. I wasn’t having a mid-life crisis nor my second childhood…. And as for…Oh! Never mind…
My significantly better half Brenda, says “Call it what he may, he loved Little Red”. And she was right. I bought the car in Calgary from a gentleman about my age who had owned her since new and the ensuing smile never left my face… not once. And in case you’re wondering, ‘Big Red’ is the name Brenda previously gave to my Ford Diesel, so ‘Little Red’ for the Corvette was a given.
Brenda? Well, she didn’t really ‘get’ the sports car thing but then, she didn’t have
At first, it blew us south, to Nanton, Alberta. Over the last decade or so, Nanton has successfully reinvented itself and is now a cool little town with myriad opportunities to fill your boots with historic buildings and antiques. Not to be missed, there is also a wonderful little candy and ice cream shop. People from the Calgary area come down regularly to enjoy the community.
The wind then blew us west, to Pincher Creek, famous for its scenic beauty. Golden fields and white capped mountains on a backdrop of wide blue skies; what’s not to like? The horizon is spotted with white turbines from the numerous wind farms which, frankly, confuse us. While perhaps a source of clean energy, as we were mesmerized by the revolution of countless blades, we can’t but think, just a little bit, that they are also somewhat of a blight on an otherwise perfect landscape.
We’re not fans of the NIMBY syndrome but we’re also pretty darn sure we wouldn’t want to live very close to one, interesting though they may be.
Every morning of our little journey began the same way. We would wake before daylight and enjoy a few cups of coffee and a light breakfast . . . after which I would carry out my daily inspection of Little Red, wiping the dew and washing the bugs off to get her sparkling ready for another day’s travel.
Brenda often said, and still does say that she finds this fascination a wee bit strange but she loves the road trips nonetheless.
We continued west, on Highway 3, toward the British Columbia border and, as we did so, we came upon an old colliery. Clearly visible from the highway is the remains of the Hamilton Residence, once the manager of Leitch Collieries. One can’t help but admire the craftsmanship and imagine what a glorious and ostentatious home it must once have been. The second, much larger Power House has had a bit of reconstructive surgery, to ensure the safety of the public as they wonder through this unique Provincial Historic site. It’s small but worth the stop. It’s also a good spot for a bathroom break and did I mention it’s free?
After a brief shop. . . errrrrr… stop . . . in Fernie, we turned our attention south, towards Whitefish, Montana. A scenic tourist destination in its own right, we were seeking ‘quaint’, and we found it a few miles east in Hungry Horse. Not so small that it would be missed in the blink of an eye, it is definitely a community that beats to its own drummer. The people are friendly, the food is cheap and Brenda says I got my fill of chicken fried steak, a delicacy I was introduced to on a fishing trip in the Southern US a long time ago, and guaranteed to spike my cholesterol levels for a long time after.
But we were on vacation, right? And it seems all forms of currency is accepted in Hungry Horse. I knew we should have brought some goats from home.
Clearly this little community has a sense of humour. Not to be outdone, so does Brenda as she threatened to leave me here with or without the ol’ ball and chain.
By this time, we were on route to Glacier National Park and Going to the Sun Road. If you haven’t been, definitely add it to your bucket list. A 50 mile span of narrow, winding, mountainous roads, if one doesn’t have the courage to make the drive themselves, there are roadsters prepared to do the driving for you. High enough that you may encounter snow at any time of year (and we did), the window of opportunity is short, June 20th through September 22nd, after which the road is closed.
Did we mention winding? Vehicles are restricted to a meer 18′ in length; talk about hairpin curves. And the scenery is truly spectacular. If there is a regret, it is that we didn’t think to go earlier, when the leaves were in full color. I’m guessing that would be around mid-August. Next time.
Following the eastern edge of the park, we found ourselves in Great Falls. Brenda knew it as a shopping mecca for cross border shoppers but apparently it was not to be. We weren’t out of the car for more than 20 minutes, enough time to gas up, and make a run through a pharmacy to buy OTC pharmaceuticals at half the price we pay at home. Not really worth going 100 miles out of our way, but what’s a road trip for if not to make a few wrong turns.
Heading North, we then found ourselves in Shelby. A railway town, with a population of about 3,600, once again, we found a ‘quaint’ community filled to the brim with its own brand of ambiance. We asked two locals where the best place to eat was and they both told us the same diner. They were both right. A restaurant which has really stood the test of (hard) time, it was now a shabby chic throwback to the 1960’s . . . and we loved it.
When we stopped for Brenda to take a few shots of a local tavern, one of the locals left his seat to hold the door for her. Just seemed to be the kind of people we ran in to throughout the trip.
As we mentioned, Shelby is a railway town and the station, across the tracks is just as charming as the rest of the community
And, if one likes art, some of the railway cars were pretty darn fabulous too!
Incidentally, did you know Shelby is just a wee bit north of a United States land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) field? Specifically chosen because of its flat, underpopulated topography, the current US force consists of 450 missile silos around Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. The plan was to slowly reduce the number to 400 armed missiles, while retaining 50 unarmed missiles in reserve by 2030. This didn’t give us warm fuzzy feelings then, but now that the US is playing with things that go Trump in the night, we expect those missiles are still armed and aimed towards….
As we continued north, we decided we would snoop around Sweetgrass, before crossing the border. A tiny little speck of a community, directly south of Coutts, Alberta, it’s odd to see how the two communities are literally side by side, even sharing the same cemetery, yet not a single street carries through. All that exist are fenced off. And the fences are BIG. Think prison fence. How we missed the Duty Free is beyond me but we did. For all the stories we have heard of about unpleasant experiences with the border officials, we were once again charmed by our officer. When asked if we had liquor to declare, he was shocked when we told him we didn’t have any and immediately asked us why not. When we said we had missed the duty free, he gave us directions and suggested we swing around the customs building and retrace our steps. Some of his colleagues were less than impressed with his ‘assistance’ as we left the US, entered Canada, turned around and went back to the US, returning shortly thereafter with our quota of liquor, but we thank our officer for his thoughtfulness.
We made two more stops before heading home. One was to visit Fort McLeod where, Brenda’s great uncle’s candy store still remains . . . not the candy, just the building.
Alas, Brenda didn’t know which building, but we did look for it. I’m still reeling from the knowledge that someone made a knitted cover for a lamp standard. But the engineer in me prevailed and I resolved the mystery of why; at least to my satisfaction. Because the light standards were set into the sidewalks, people must surely run into them on a regular basis. The knitwear must be meant to soften the blow. I think I was right but Brenda wasn’t so sure.
The day was waning and we still had a few hours ahead of us to make it home. We decided to head west once more just to take a quick look at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, located in the Rocky Mountain Foothills about 8 km northwest of Fort Macleod. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of a museum of Blackfoot culture.
The buffalo jump was used for 5,500 years to kill buffalo by driving them off an 11 metre high cliff. According to legend, a young Blackfoot wanted to watch the buffalo plunge off the cliff from below, but was buried underneath the falling buffalo. He was later found dead under the pile of carcasses, where he had his head smashed in.
Here’s the good news, folks, for a man who came from a family that drove 40 miles and got a motel for the night, Brenda thinks I did pretty darn good. Not only did I do all the driving, but without a single complaint . . . okay . . . one complaint. . . . It was that 3 hour diversion to Great Falls . . . but I actually enjoyed myself. Whether Little Red was the sole reason for my enthusiasm, I’ll never tell. I don’t care. What I do know is that, upon arriving home, Brenda suggested that we add a few more days to it and do something similar next year. . . Yellowstone, Lewis & Clarke Caverns, Buffalo Bill Cody… And we did. Stay tuned……
Brenda Hoskin and Eric Sanford
For more travel and other adventures and writings, please visit Brenda’s blog at https://hpdsinc.blogspot.com/