Stalled

First it was an electrical issue. Following the heart attack Laddie needed a pacemaker. Then a leaky valve cancelled our trip to retrieve Tulák in Saskatchewan. Further tests revealed a triple bypass was in order. Needless to say Laddie’s open-heart surgery has stalled our travels.

Laddie is on the mend. Tulák is in storage. And we’re hoping to be back on the road in 2020.

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, 

but in having new eyes.”

                                                                                                            Marcel Proust

 

When life throws you a curve ball ……..

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Our journey through the Badlands, Sandhills and Grasslands to Esterhazy, Saskatchewan had been relaxing and gratifying. Settled in to care for his mom Laddie passed the time with Tulák. The small water leak below the sink was easily repaired. Quick connect fittings for the air lines were installed. He was making progress until he came down with what he thought was a stomach flu.

Three days later Laddie had his brother-in-law take him to the hospital. What Laddie assumed to be stomach flu had been a heart attack. Laddie is in good hands at the Regina General Hospital. Tulák has been moved to our niece’s farm for safe-keeping.

A redirection, but …………….…

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

words by Lao Tzo

Journey to the Grasslands

Although there’s no traffic on these back roads you’re not alone. And you’re being watched.

It is the red-winged blackbird that guards the Red Coat Trail these days.

Eastend, Saskatchewan began as the most eastern North West Mounted Police (NWMP) detachment from Fort Walsh and was the east end of their patrol. Today it is home to the fossil remains of the Tyrannosaurus Rex nicknamed “Scotty” which was found nearby.

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As we approach the West Block of Grasslands National Park 70 Mile Butte looms in the distance. A four kilometre hike takes you to a 100-metre-tall hilltop and a lookout over the French River Valley.

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The views at the summit are not the only reward along this front-country hike.

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Prairie dogs would be visible until you motioned to take a photo of their colony. Gophers weren’t as shy.

To view bison graze at dusk was a spiritual experience but was captured only in our memory.

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The solitude of the grasslands shall haunt us.

Journey to the Great Sandhills

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East of Dinosaur Provincial Park, the land transitions. Dressed for the occasion, coyote are well camouflaged.

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Tumbleweed congregates in the ditch along the fence line. Rolling prairie leads us to a peaceful campsite alongside the Red Deer River.

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A bump in the road signals you’ve crossed the border from Alberta into Saskatchewan. Gravel replaces pavement. Now, there’s one more river to cross.

The seasonal Estuary ferry transports us across the South Saskatchewan River.

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Pronghorn, known informally in North America as antelope and mule deer roam the fields.

Signage to the Great Sandhills was lacking so we turned into a farm yard. The owner is accustomed to providing directions and sent us on our way after showing us his wolves. He has a breeding pair with ten pups in a licensed, inspected pen littered with cattle carcasses in various states of decomposition.

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Active sand dunes cover a relatively small portion of the Sandhills which have a long history in ranching. Cattle continue to graze on the stabilized sand. The vastness of this landscape astonishes and its fragile beauty delights.

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Journey to the Badlands

Travelling east, dandelions carpeted the slopes along the all too familiar Crowsnest Highway #3.  Anxious to leave the familiar, just past Fort MacLeod, Alberta we headed north. The smell of cow manure permeated the air. We had entered feedlot country.

In Brooks, Alberta we were in for a surprise. Today, it is jobs at one of Canada’s largest meatpacking plants that bring migrants from all corners of the globe. One hundred years ago it was the promise of water that lured immigrants to the land.

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The Brooks Aqueduct was built between 1912 and 1914 as part of an irrigation system to provide water to the arid farmlands of southeastern Alberta. It is an enormous engineered concrete structure, 20 meters high.

What did the pioneers think when they arrived given the spareness of this land?

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To the northeast Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site protects the largest section of badlands in Canada.

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It was here we came to understand the word ‘coulee’ – a derivative from the French verb ‘couler’ which means ‘to flow.’ Often dry, coulees are the products of intense erosion by water. These Badlands continue to be sculpted by wind and water revealing color, texture, form and fossils.

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We had crossed the Oldman and Bow rivers over the course of this day. It would be to the banks of the Red Deer River that we would now travel.

 

Spring travel has its rewards

Fresh, verdant hues colored our Kootenay highway route initially. As we moved into the dry south Okanagan we were delighted to see bouquets of Arrowleaf Balsamroot everywhere the eye wandered.

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot

This member of the sunflower tribe was new to us and we marveled at its abundance.

Onward to Langley, the floral parade now marched in pinks and purples as Azaleas and Rhododendrons strut their stuff. Vast fields of high bush blueberries spread across the Fraser Valley.

Free evening accommodation was available at BC Recreation Sites. West of Rock Creek, Jolly Creek, a grassy site in a tight valley was quiet and dark.

 

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At the Dewdney (Princeton) site on the Similkameen River evidence of the hand laid retaining wall of the historic Dewdney Trail could be seen.

The N’kwala (Merritt) site located beside the Nicola River had us back in Ponderosa Pine territory.

The whining and whistling of semis and trains through the Fraser Canyon didn’t impede Anne’s sleep at the Yale Rest Area alongside the Trans Canada highway.

Vestiges of the past gave us time to reflect on those who came before.

The proprietor at the Vulture Garage had quite the collection but his pride and joy was a bucket dragster.

But it is the hillsides of Arrowleaf Balsamroot and Ponderosa Pine that will be etched into our memory.

Fixes at Mross Imports

Suspecting a leak in the left front axle/hub reduction we attended Hans’ shop. After a thorough wash of the area and a road test there was no sign of an oil leak. The left front wheel was removed and the hub reduction and axle area was thoroughly cleaned of oil and excess grease from the king pins. The boot at the transfer case to the front torque tube was inspected and found to have some oil inside. The front diff was also found to be over full. The decision was made to change all the fluids in the hubs, axles and transmission.

Headlights were adjusted and two air-line fitting adapters to allow the installation of quick couplers for air tools or air lines were made. A full brake fluid flush and tire rotation including the spare tire was also undertaken.

40 kilometers later when stopped to refuel, the leak had re-appeared on the left front hub. We returned to the shop. The leak could now be pinpointed to the outer seal on the hub reduction at the front axle.

All seals in the axle and hub reduction were replaced.

Seven hours later we’re back on the road.