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[AAA] Wildlife.

14 Aug
Lots of cattle and horses.  Those are a given.  [And a bit boring for what I’d like in the Canadian outback.]  Oh, and giant black ravens.  Those are gross and make me think of the Edgar Allen Poe short story in a much different [gross] way.
Unfortunately, the only moose I’ve seen so far have been the pictures on the yellow signs warning me that they may cross the road in the next five kilometers.  [Or, my favorite, in the next 88 km.]  No moose.  No elk.  No caribou.  [I’m not sure I even know the difference.]
There was a coyote [I’m guessing here] on the side of the road – like sandwiched between the lane and the guardrail.  A few deer to the side early in the drive today.  I swear I saw a bear in the woods to the side of the road but there is no way of verifying that as fact.
I can, however, verify that I saw mountain goats.  [I think that’s what we’ll call them.]  I saw brake lights ahead of me and slowed down to find the goats thinking they owned the road.  I stopped as these three started walking right at the hood of Betty. I swear I made eye contact with the front goat, and we had a tiny stare-down about whether or not he was going to come to the window to visit or not.  [He decided on not.  Next time.]

[AAA] With a Friends reference.

14 Aug
There is a later episode of Friends in which Phoebe dates a man played by Alec Baldwin.  This character oozes compliments, optimism, and adjectives for “beautiful.”  He calls a traffic jam on the highway magnificent and can’t get over how wonderful the lights in the hallways are.  That’s how I felt today as I drove through the Canadian Rockies via Banff and Jasper National Parks.  [Phoebe dumps the Alec character and all the other friends hate him.  The comparison ends there.]
I can’t anything but use those cliche words like wonderful and beautiful and magnificent.  If photos are worth a thousand words, it’s still not enough.  I tried to capture the mountains, the water, and the forests on camera but it isn’t the full effect.  Words can’t describe.
I checked out of my snazzy hotel by 7am and stopped at the Starbucks across the street before getting on the Trans-Canadian Highway towards Banff.  The mountains loomed in the distance, growing closer as I listened to Harry Potter on cd.  [Or, as the narrator in Hermoine’s voice would say, “‘arr-eeeee.”  It annoying; when I start to go stir-crazy – about eight hours into the drive of the day – I just start saying it aloud over and over.  ‘arr-eeeee.  ‘arr-eeeee.]  I pulled off in Banff – a small town I initially looked at staying in – only to drive the main street and quickly get back on the highway to avoid the tourists.  The same was for Jasper later in the drive.  Touristy places.  Terribly.  But beautifully all the same. 
I did utilize a national park pass at Lake Louise, a stop I had been looking forward to making since I began the trip.  Lake Louise is one of the most photographed lakes and rightfully so.  The water is a crazy opaque teal/turquoise [Water in Canada is all sorts of different colors.] and the mountains and snow in the background complete the picture.  There is a hotel right on the lake [behind where the photo was taken] and it’s uber swanky and expensive.  [And kinda ruins the whole lake effect, says the girl who could never afford to actually stay there.]

 I also pulled off the highway to visit Bow Summit in order to view Peyto Lake and the glacier that borders it.  Seriously gorgeous.  No further words.  [No Aperature used to edit the photo and add color.  This is it, folks.]
From there, I had to put the stops to a minimum if I was going to make it to Prince George for the night.  The highway continued to ascend and descend, up down and around mountains, surrounded on both sides by immense forests.  [I feel no way around it so here I make a Twilight reference.  The landscape reminded me a lot of the Forks used in the movies.  It also rained today on and off so vampires could very well survive in the climate.]  My hands only got clammy at one point [the point where I looked up the mountain, was astonished to see cars there and then realized that’s where the road I was on was going], there was only one bridge I felt fairly uncomfortable driving over, and I didn’t feel queasy throughout the day.  [Victory.]
In conclusion, go to Canada.  It was another 12 hour day in the car for me [I started making up songs about sunshine and mountain goats around hour ten.] and I enjoyed all of it.  It was too much to see and explore in just a day’s drive.  Must go back.  Maybe you’ll come with me?

[AAA] What’s next.

13 Aug
I’m staying in a swanky hotel in Calgary tonight [applause welcome as I conquered the Calgary highways to find the place where I had made a reservation – it’s right across the road from IKEA] and this is the last planned place I have to sleep.
This is pretty much the only photo I have of Canada so far.  It’s at a rest stop just past the border.  Impressions of the neighbors to the north so far?  It looks a lot like Montana.  That will change with tomorrow’s drive.
I have no more reservations because I just don’t know how long roads will take me to drive or how long I’ll be able to drive.  This is exhilarating and a bit overwhelming.  If I feel 10.5 hours of driving is in me tomorrow, I can make it to Prince George, a decent size town northwest of here.  But we’ll see.
Because tomorrow begins the mountain travel.  The gawking and the [likely] constant stopping to soak it in and take photos.  How long it will take to travel in this style I just don’t know.  We’re playing it by ear and hoping I don’t get car sick in the mountains.  [I’ve always been subject to queasiness while riding on buses or as the passenger in a car.  This is often while I prefer to drive on long trips.  After yesterday, however, through the ups and downs of Montana, I wonder if I can still get queasy while driving.  I felt a bit car sick yesterday and cross my fingers that tomorrow won’t be any worse.]  I also hope I don’t get super sweaty hands while in the mountains – I don’t do so well with driving on scary roads.  [Thank you for your prayers!]
That being said – not knowing where I will land tomorrow night – no worries or surprises if I don’t appear on the blog tomorrow.  [It actually might be the case for the next three nights.  But I would hope I could at least find a McDonalds for a quick update at some point.] There may be no blogging tomorrow because the hotel I find doesn’t have wi-fi or it might be because I’m sleeping in my car at a campsite next to tents and campers.  We’ll see – it’s all part of the adventure!
[I’ll end the night of blogging with this, post number four.  But remind me to tell you later about my new distaste for Nicholas Sparks, the raccoon I almost killed, “I want my scrambled eggs!,” and my love of grain elevators.]

[AAA] Big Sandy.

13 Aug
It was awesome that my trip could conviently take me through [just adding an hour] Big Sandy, Montana, where friends Joel and Melissa have been living for the past three weeks.  Joel serves two congregations – one in Big Sandy and one in Havre.  They’ve settled in and have begun to make the house their home, all while welcoming many visitors.  When I arrived last night around 7pm, I was joining Joel’s sister, brother-in-law, and their three kids.  The house was full and filled with laughter.  It was the perfect stop after a long day in the car.  We ate pizza and hung out until well after midnight.  This morning, Joel, Melissa, and I walked to the coffee shop [The Bear Paw – named after the Bear Paw mountains in the distance] to pick up the caramel rolls they had pre-ordered.  We drank coffee, ate the rolls, and went antiquing after a tour of the town.  Then, I sadly had to say goodbye as the border to Canada was beckoning.  It was so great to stop and have this work into the August Alaskan Adventure!  We’re setting up skype coffee dates to stay in touch in the future – love them!

We stopped by the church in Big Sandy on the way to the coffee shop this morning.  This sculpture was on the wall of the church – “I am the vine, you are the branches.”

The main drag of Big Sandy – just a short walk from J&M’s house.

The coffee shop/deli was oh-for-cute and awesome for such a small town.  It’s where the farmers gather.

J&M

And then I had to leave.  boo.

[AAA] Yesterday.

13 Aug
I gave you the short end of the story yesterday.  I was at Joel and Melissa’s in Big Sandy, MT and I was anxious to catch up and spend time with them while I had the chance.  Here’s what you missed –

I drove through North Dakota on I-94 and was so impressed with what I saw!  I feel like North Dakota – much like it’s southern counterpart – gets such a bad reputation.  The fields of sunflowers were in bloom and it was not at all flat like I expected.  As I neared the Montana border, I found myself in the midst of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a park that I’ll admit I’d never even heard of before.  I pulled over briefly to see the badlands and then had to not gawk as much as I would have liked while I drove onward.

Once in Montana, I was incredibly impressed again.  The beauty of the open sky and winding hills in the eastern part of the state was breathtaking.  That sound hokey, I know, but it was gorgeous.  Give me a rancher husband and I think I might move there in an instant.  [More on that to come.]  I stopped oh-so-briefly in Lindsay, Montana.  Lindsay!  Spelled correctly!  I pulled over onto a gravel road just to stretch my legs and maybe attempt a photo of myself by myself in front of the city sign.  That photo never happened because instead I got visitors.  

I had parked in front of this building and it turns out, it’s the place to be in Lindsay, Montana.  Great lunch.  A red truck came rolling down the gravel road and towards where I had parked, just across the street from this questionable building.  The driver of the truck rolled down his window and this is what happened:

Driver: They open yet?
Me: What’s that?
Driver: (points) They open yet?  We just came down to see if they were serving lunch.  Best lunch around.  (something about a combine and this played into the timing)
Me: Oh, I’m not sure.  I just stopped to stretch my legs.
Driver:  Where you headed?
Me: Alaska.
Driver: Oh wow.
[We continue to chat about the route I’m taking and the passenger – a cute boy in farming clothes, probably around 25 – pipes in about his friends who drove to Alaska.  They wish me luck and on they go.]
It was oh for cute.  It kinda made my afternoon.
In conclusion, both North Dakota and Montana are bee-u-tiful [in the summer].  

[AAA] I’m alive.

12 Aug
Hi friends.  After 12 hours in the car and 650 miles through two states, I’m still living and breathing.
Today I learned that North Dakota really doesn’t deserve its bad reputation [in my humble opinion – though I also realize it’s August and not January].  I made a pit stop in Lindsay, Montana briefly to stretch my legs and snap a photo.  This is also the place that spurred the tweet, “Meeting men in trucks in Lindsay, Montana. #serious.”  [Neither of them were my age but we did have a fun conversation.]  I gave my heart to the landscape of Montana and arrived safely to Joel and Melissa’s home in Big Sandy, MT.  
Here I rest for the night in the company of seminary friends and their visiting family.  I plan on not leaving for Canada until late morning/noon tomorrow; there is a carmel roll with my name on it at the Bear Paw Cafe down the street.  Tomorrow will be an easy day of only six and a half hours of driving with a hotel reservation made in south Calgary.  I figure when in the company of good friends and as a gift to myself after twelve hours of driving today an easy day is acceptable.  I’ll blog more tomorrow night when I have no one else with whom to visit; for now, I return to the land of living people and retire to the living room where two young boys battle it out for a ball in their diaper/underwear.  [J&M’s nephews.  They’re young so underwear is acceptable attire.]
But first, a few photos of my day –
Theodore Roosevelt National Park – the ND Badlands

This is how Montana stole my heart.  Now I need a farmer and a truck.

Joel teaches me the beauty of the Hostess Zinger.

[AAA] ND.

11 Aug
I’ve never been to North Dakota before and now I get the chance to drive all the way through it.  [First impressions?  Lots of trucks.  I like.  And I now understand what amber waves of grain look like.]  I’m resting for the night in Valley City after a nine hour day of driving.  Harry Potter on audio book and a country song playlist kept me awake and alert.  It actually wasn’t too bad until my butt started to hurt from sitting for so long.
I arrived in Valley City, checked into the hotel for the night and then friend, Kara, from seminary came to visit!  She lives about an hour and a half from VC but willingly made the trip.  We hopped in her car and explored the town briefly.  VC is known for its bridges so we went on a bridge tour about town.  [It’s amazing how towns cash in on weird things for tourism.  And how they make such a big deal out of these bridges when, really, they’re just bridges … a couple are kinda cool.  But still.  Bridges, people.]  We drove about town and then sat for a nice dinner at the restaurant next to the hotel.  It was great to see her and have someone to visit with before settling in for the night.

loooong railroad bridge over the valley.
[Which I’m totally ready to settle in now.  I’m exhausted and have a ten and a half hour drive – at least – ahead of me tomorrow.  Not only is it ten and a half hours but it’s ten and a half hours of … nothing?  North Dakota and eastern Montana.  More Harry Potter and Lady Antebellum sing alongs!  I think I’ll be showering and heading to bed.  Early to bed and early to rise! On the road by 7am?  I’m going to try!]

[ps I added a photo of the werewolf to the previous wedding post just so you could see this crazy dog that crashed the ceremony.  check it out here.]

[AAA] What happens when –

11 Aug
You drive in the lower forty-eight states with a license plate from the state of Alaska:
An older man walking with a cane in the parking lot at the Target in Alexandria literally flags you down.  I’m driving past him [after stopping for bread and pb&j for the trip] and he starts waving.  First I think that maybe he’s confusing me for someone he actually knows or maybe he’s just overly friendly.  I casually wave back and keep driving and he keeps waving.  Nearly frantically.  I stop, roll down the window and turn down Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows audio book that has occupied my attention since St.Paul.   [Turns out audio books are the bee’s knees!]  Where about in Alaska do I live, he asks.  He’s been there three times, the first in 1949.  He has family in Dawson City.  Don’t try and get a hotel there.  All the oil people have the rooms and they get helicoptered out everyday.  Have a good trip.  Okay.  Thanks.
A man in a small green Honda passes me on the interstate, somewhere before I hit North Dakota.  He passes me in the left lane and then I move over behind him to go around whoever was in front of me.  All of a sudden, his hands start going crazy.  Like he takes both hands off the wheel to hold up eight fingers for me to see.  [I’m assuming for me to see.]  He keep doing it over and over, once in a while taking the hand that hand three fingers down to put it back on the wheel.  But what the heck?  Eight?  I thought maybe it was how cute he thought I was on a scale of one to ten but in my sweat pants and scrubby hair?  Probably not.  Is it some sort of Alaska code?  He seemed pretty excited and took a fair amount of effort to hold up his hands … but I certainly did not understand.  Eight?
An older suburban is riding my bumper – two younger-than-I boys.  I move back to the right lane when I can so they can go around me.  Frankly, they scare me a bit, driving so fast.  They drive past me and while doing so, the guy in the passenger seat quite literally hangs out the window and stares at me as they drive past.  As in, puts his head out the window and stares back at me and the car as they continue down the road.  
My friend, Jenni, commented on a previous blog post about the Alaska plates how excited some kids must be to see me drive past.  Think of the games of license plate bingo I can help complete.  I only hope so.  In addition to the creepy/weird mentioned earlier, I hope I’m helping some kids out.  I’ll take that over the creepy/weird.

[AAA] The plan.

10 Aug
After a great morning conversation with jD and lunch out at the new mexican restaurant in town with my prom date from years past, Timmy, the day has become hectic, nerve-wracking, and crazy.  There have been cute stories in and amongst the day – if life is a literary creation, I’m trying to keep my eyes open.  I watched an older sister get her younger brother out of the car seat while the mom went to get a cart in the parking lot of a store. She seemed like a great helper.  I loved stopping at Starbucks inside Target for an iced coffee and grinning as the [too young for me] barista asked, “How you doin’ today?” all Joey-from-Friends-like.  I giggled in response.  I had great conversations with the lady at the bank and the women at the insurance office, all of whom seemed to know who I was while I had little clue who they were.  I received mail that included a cut-out of my surprise debut in the Blooming Prairie Times.  [More on that to come.]
But right now – the plan.  Therein lies the hectic, nerve-wracking, and crazy.
What I know now is that I will hope to be on the road tomorrow by 8am.  I just scored a hotel reservation in Valley City, ND, which is right about nine/nine and a half hours northwest of here.  I figure I will try and front load my trip with long driving days; I’m not much intrigued by MN and ND at this point.  Get me to Canada and then I’ll take my time.  [Though I will mention that I’ve never before been to ND – this will be the first time!]  From Valley City, I have another long day of driving to Havre, MT where I will happily visit and stay with J&M.  [So excited.  We had talked before school was out about how I would have to take the train to come visit next year – how about this summer instead and I’ll drive?  Deal!]  I hope to spend a bit of the morning with J&M on Saturday and maybe make it to Calgary for Saturday night.  It’s from that day on that the scenery will become my reason to drive.  [Melissa’s mom – who makes the drive to summer in AK every year – said she felt like she was in sensory overload on her drive through the Canadian Rockies.  I can’t wait!]
Beyond that, I have no plan.  [Therein lies the hectic, nerve-wracking, and crazy.]
I’m torn between making reservations a few days out and just playing it by ear.  I fear once I begin driving, I might not make it as far as I hope or need to cancel for one reason or another.  I’ll be packing blankets and a pillow just in case a night or two needs to be spent in the car at a campground.  [While I will be physically prepared for this with proper materials, I don’t think I will be mentally prepared if this needs to happen.  Will Lindsay go crazy?  Let’s wait and see.]  I hope this lack of plan lands me in Valdez on Thursday the 18th if not – even better – Wednesday the 17th.  Once in Valdez, I’ll have free lodging, a dog to pet, and be better able to relax and enjoy this place where my brother lives.  [And watch the salmon.]
I have seven books on tape [more than I could ever actually listen to on this trip but a variety to suit any mood], an ipod of music and new podcasts, and a bunch of food.  [I don’t plan on stopping for food but on occasion.  I’d rather stop for photographs and make myself a sandwich while doing so.]  Extra oil, a gas can that will give me an extra fifty miles if needed, and a cell phone that will allow me to text for free while in Canada but not make phone calls.  [Please note.]  With my Milepost in the passenger seat and Borg, the travel gnome, on the dash – here we go, folks.  

[AAA] Fears.

8 Aug
It’s getting real, folks.  There are moments when I think, “I can’t wait to get on the road and drive to the last frontier!” but then there are moments when I think, “Holy sh**.  I’m going to drive to Alaska?!”  I tried to find a companion but it looks like I’m doing it solo.  Most of the time, I’m okay with that.  [Honestly, the thought of sixty hours in a small confined space with one person – the same person – gives me hives.  Curse you, introvert.  How I’d ever be married and survive it I don’t know.]  But sometimes, my mom sneaks into my ear and I worry that doing it alone is risky. 
I put official AK plates on Betty this morning.  She’ll love the last frontier; I just know it.
It doesn’t much matter one way or the other.  I have a plane ticket and thus need to be in Anchorage by August 19th.  Drive to Alaska I will.  But not without a few fears [irrational, silly, and other] –
Car trouble.  Dear God, please let nothing go wrong with the car.  Amen.  [Feel free to repeat this prayer for me over and over and over.  And over.  I’m at the car dealership right now and Betty is getting checked out.  I’m confident, barring any unforeseen circumstances, she’ll be healthy for the trip.]
I hit a moose or mountain goat.  [My friend, Allen, challenged me to take a picture of every moose I see. Challenge accepted.  That’s probably how I’ll end up hitting one.]
I get halfway into North Dakota and go crazy, asking myself why in the heck I ever signed up to do this.  [I don’t think this will happen.  Well, at least not until I reach Alberta.]
Border crossing complications.
The radio fails to work.  [Sprocket’s radio blew a fuse again.  I have no music there and deal.  But 60 hours without music or podcasts or audiobooks?  Oh man … I’m getting hives again.]
I start to get tired of driving and want to stop for the night but the next hint of civilization is 100 miles down the road.  [I guess that’s when I would pump Party Rock and jam out.]
Fears aside, I’m excited too.  I’m excited for an adventure, to see Canada, to have a bit of a find-myself accomplishment, to see Jetta [my brother’s dog], and to see this place my brother loves living.  I’m also excited for cooler temperatures.  I’m packing cardigans and scarves and so excited to wear them.  [It doesn’t take much, folks.]
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