When we stayed in Rugby (August 2013), all the British we met looked at us peculiarly and asked why. We had much the same result in Jasper when we said we planned to drive back across Canada. We chose Rugby because of its central location in England. Our drive across Canada is for a much more simple reason: we haven’t been there before.
Once out of the Rocky Mountain foothills, the terrain becomes increasingly level. But it is not flat, and it is not all the same. In some areas, there are rolling hills like Kansas. In other areas it is dead flat like some parts of Nebraska and Montana. But it is much greener than those states, the grass is green and there are lots of low trees like aspens. The ranches and farms didn’t seem to be using irrigation.
One area east of Edmonton is filled with mounds close together much like “moguls” facing modern skiers, but of course much larger. I imagine they are small moraines left behind by retreating glaciers.
Edmonton’s geography is interesting too. Coming at it from the west, it appears very flat. But when you drive downtown, you find it is built around the edge of a wide, steep, deep valley. Unlike Calgary, the streets are usually quite wide, and we found that the combination of wide streets and a grid pattern provided for easy traffic flow, so there was not the congestion expected in a city of over 850,000 people. And like all of Western Canada, the Canadian drivers seemed exceptionally polite and laid-back. I’m not sure if they would survive driving Washington, D.C., New York or Miami.
Of course, we had to stop by Edmonton Mall. After all the hype, we expected it to be even larger than it is. It is, nonetheless, huge even if we expected more. It is the largest indoor mall in North America. It was once the largest in the world (until 2004) and is now 10th. I think the largest is in China now.
Alie’s RA was flaring in her hip, so we unpacked the wheelchair and spent several hours just doing a circuit of the first floor before having dinner.
We saw the famous wave pool and beach. We walked all around the amusement park and were astounded by the length of one of the lower roller coasters, as well as the height of the big one. We were fortunate to be at the ice rink while a half dozen or more young skaters practiced under the watchful eyes (and in some cases, video cameras and computers) of their coaches. None was world class, but several were good enough that we found seats just to watch them for a while.
We proceeded towards Saskatoon via Alberta 14 because it was mostly two-lane and we thought it would be quiet. However, the early miles outside Edmonton were frequently backed up a little by trucks carrying oversized loads, huge loads for the oil and agriculture industries. But they were no real bother and fun to see.
Several of those loads were trucks carrying military tanks. We assume they were coming from the military base at Wainwright, where we stopped at a Tim Horton’s for lunch. Tim’s was for a short period part of Wendy’s before being spun off again. As a result, there are about 100 in Ohio, Wendy’s headquarters, but few others in the U.S. We discovered them in the Maritime Provinces. They always have good soup with a fresh roll, fresh-made sandwiches, donuts and coffee – just the thing on a cool or cold day.
Eastward from Wainwright, the traffic diminished considerably. Near the border with Saskatchewan, we went straight on route 40. We decided to pull over at Cut Knife just for a break. That turned out to be another stroke of luck. Cut Knife is a little town named after a Sarcee Indian chief killed nearby by the Cree in the 1840s. They have just over 500 people, but some of them in the past must have had exceptional pride and imitative. It is wonderfully landscaped and maintained. The road back in from 40 is lined with tall trees (and there some new replacements showing Cut Knife citizens still care). There is a small museum next to old restored buildings from the area.
1971, they installed the world’s largest (confirmed by Guinness) tomahawk. It is 54 feet long, 39.4 feet high and weighs over seven tons.
There are a lot of “First Nation” people living in the area, and the tomahawk was suggested by Wilford Tootoosis of the Poundmaker Cree Nation. It symbolizes peace between the two peoples, and they also thought it might make a good tourist draw.
I like the term, “First Nation.” Indian is obviously wrong, and I was born in Pittsburgh, so I consider myself a native American. It would be best if all of us were “Americans”, no matter what race or ethnic background, and no matter where on the continent we lived. But I understand people’s pride in their heritage, so First Nation Peoples is good.
Leaving Saskatoon, we found ourselves in the flattest location ever. Montana is Big Sky Country; Saskatchewan is Bigger Sky Country. But again, as we moved north and east towards Manitoba, the country changed. It wasn’t dramatic, but there was change between huge flat farms, to rolling country to forest land near Hudson Bay, the self-proclaimed “Moose Capital of The World.” We didn’t see any.