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From Wild Animals to a Huge Shopping Mall in Canada

July 25, 2006

Hello again everyone. As you know from my last update, we left Alaska in the rain. And it wasn't long before we entered Canada that the skies started clearing up. The farther we drove away from the coast, the better the weather became. Oh well. The next time we'll plan for a different month there.

We took the Alaskan Highway through the Yukon Territory and British Columbia, and arriving three days later in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It was a rewarding, eventful and tiring three days worth of driving!

The first day through the Yukon, we saw a lot of wild animals right along the side of the road. This only reaffirmed that we won't be paying for any more bus tours for a CHANCE to see wild animals! (See our Denali update as to why.) We saw a few black bears, a pair of grizzly bears, a bison, a group of sheep or goats, numerous moose and deer, and a mother fox with her pup trailing close behind her. All these by the roadside and within 30 yards of the motorhome.

We must have stopped to watch the grizzly bears for about a half hour as they ate and crossed the highway. Cricket took a bunch of photos of them. She got a real good one when it decided to stand up! They acted as if they didn't really care we were right there watching them.

The bison just stood there as we approached and stopped. He only moved his head once while we were there. It was almost as if he were a statue. After about five minutes, we figured he wasn't going anywhere and so we decided to drive on.

The goats or sheep (I'm not sure which) had just crossed the road by the time we reached them. As I got the camera out they began heading up the mountain. Most of the photos were just their backsides and due to the position I was parked in the road, we couldn't sit there too long.

The one photo I wish I could have gotten was the fox and her pup. It was priceless. However, going downhill at 60 mph in the motorhome with Blazer in tow does not allow me to stop very quickly! So I just had to point them out to Adam, who was in the passenger seat at the time, and continue on.

At the end of about five hundred miles, I found a rest stop and pulled over for the night.

The second day had fewer animals, but was eventful to put it mildly. Lucas and I hunted for a few Geocaches along the way. But the real fun came about mid-afternoon. We pulled over to take a break near this river along the side of the highway. The ground was kind of rough due to all the rocks on the ground. Most of them were small pebbles or golf ball sized. But there were a few that were the size of baseballs and softballs. But not so bad for a roadside pull off area. While Cricket, the boys and Jake went down to the river to play. I grabbed a bucket, took it to the river to fill it, and began washing all the bugs off the front of the RV. After I was done we started to drive off.

As soon as I entered onto the pavement though, we heard a thump, thump, thump. At first we thought we had a flat tire. But then I realized it was more of a single thump per rotation of the wheel. Maybe a rock stuck within the tread of the tires. But this was too big of a thump for that. At this point I couldn't pull off the road and backing up to the pullout area while towing the Blazer was out of the question. S I pulled over to the side as much as I could but was still blocking most of the lane. Fortunately though it was enough of a straight section that oncoming cars had plenty of time to see me and go around.

I got out of the motorhome and walked around looking for a flat tire or something in the treads. What I found was a grapefruit sized rock that had wedged itself between the dual left rear tires. I tried pulling it out by hand, but it wasn't budging. Then I got a sledge hammer out and started beating on it. Nothing. About the only other thing I could think of was to let the air out of one of the tires to relieve some of the pressure holding it in place. I had a small air compressor that could re-inflate the tire, but would take almost an hour to do so.

Fortunately at that time a truck driver stopped and asked if I needed assistance. He was familiar with this problem and brought over a small steel bar that he uses to prop between the tires, drive forward, and the bar wedges between the axle and pops the rock out. However after several unsuccessful attempts, the rod was too short and kept sliding through, I got our shovel with a longer handle. It was a good thought. The shovel was long enough to wedge between the axle and frame but the rock was in so tight that it just snapped the wooden shovel handle.

By this time another nice man stopped by in his pickup truck to help out. He was also familiar with this problem on the narrow front wheels of his farm tractor. He also suggested using a chain to wrap around the rock and pull it out. The truck driver had a car carrier and plenty of chain that he used to strap the cars in place. So we tried that. We first tried hooking the chain to the motorhome frame and then driving backwards slowly to let the angle and rotation of the tire pull the rock out. This worked a little, but there wasn't enough length to pull it all the way out before it reached the pavement. Then we hooked the chain to the farmers truck and he pulled it out. SUCCESS!

I gratefully thanked them both for stopping to assist us and gave them a generous tip as well. Which I'm sure was still much cheaper than a tow truck would have cost. As I drove away, I thought as to how I could prepare for this situation if it were to happen again. I remembered I had more tie down straps which I use on the Blazer's bike rack to help hold it in place. I could use those instead of a chain and possibly pull the rock out. But lets just hope that unusual event doesn't happen again.

Our third days drive returning through Canada brought us into the province of Alberta. It was flat farm land. We drove all the way into Edmonton. In Edmonton was the world's largest shopping mall which we wanted to see. It was Sunday afternoon by the time we arrived and come to find out there were a lot of events in town. The Champ Car Grand Prix was that day. Was I ever sad to hear that. I'm always a day late! There were also several other events taking place throughout the city. For us, this meant that all the campgrounds were booked up. The only thing we found was a water and 15 amp electric hookup for more than $20. No thanks! The only thing we really needed was fresh water and they still wanted to charge us $7 just to fill our tank. No thanks again!

We decided to drive over to the mall which wasn't too far away and see about parking there for the night. There was a parking area for motorhomes and saw some were already there dry camping for the night. By this time it was close to 10 pm. We were out of water so we couldn't shower and less than a quarter tank of gas so the generator wouldn't run. That meant no a/c on this warm evening. The mall has a hotel inside as well so Cricket called to get the price and availability. They had one standard room available for $159 a night. This was a little more than we wanted to pay but decided due to the heat and no water, we'd splurge for one night.

By the time we packed some clothes in a backpack and walked over from the parking lot to check in, the room had been checked out. The girl at the counter walked back and spoke with the supervisor. She came back with good news. They instead gave us the upgraded Arabian themed suite (normally $259 per night) for the same price. It was a larger corner room decorated with an Arabian theme and even had a four person Jacuzzi in it. They even threw in four passes to either the mall's amusement park or the water park. This saved us an additional $120 since we were going to those anyway.

After checking in we walked up to the room. WOW! It was so cool. After just five minutes, Cricket suggested I go back down to the lobby and reserve a second night which they gave to us at the same price! Afterwards I went back up to the room and we all put our bathing suits on and jumped into the Jacuzzi. That was just what we needed.

On Monday after breakfast I took the RV down to the gas station and filled up so we could run the generator giving Jake some a/c for the day. Then we walked around the mall. It was huge. We never did see the whole thing. Inside the West Edmonton Mall was a amusement park with roller coasters and more, a water park, an ice skating rink, a sea lion show and aquarium, and more. Plus all the stores of course too. We walked around for a bit to take it all in before going to the amusement park. We decided the split up the four passes from the hotel and use two for the amusement park and two for the water park. Cricket and Adam used the passes and we only purchased a child ticket for Lucas. I decided not to go on the rides so it didn't cost me anything. It was still a lot of fun.

Afterwards we walked over to the water park and it was packed! So we decided to come back there first thing in the morning when it opened while it was less crowded. We continued to walk around the mall looking at as much as possible. By then are feet were starting to hurt and we decided to go to the movies. We chose to see the movie Superman Returns on the IMAX screen. It didn't start for another two hours which gave us plenty of time to eat dinner first.

This morning Cricket and the boys went to the indoor water park for a couple of hours. Then when they return we'll be heading south down into Montana.

Come back soon,