Burning Gas-Lake Louise

We left Calgary on a sunny warm morning for Banff National Park. I expected Banff to be similar to the National Parks in the USA. It isn’t, yet it is. The place is huge, and it is beautiful, but Banff is a city within a national park called Banff. The QEW-1(Queen Elizabeth Way), the transnational Canada highway runs right through the park on the way to Vancouver. The city of Banff population is eight thousand souls. The economy is dependent on  tourism in the summer and skiing in winter. The main drag through town has a distinct European look with Swiss style buildings side by side. Shops of all kinds abound and cater to the tourist. Every street has great eating places. We stayed in a small hotel near the central district. It was ninety degrees when we arrived.

Grandma Peggy and I settled into the room, and looked around for the air conditioner switch. We were wilting and needed some cool. I called the desk for help. A nice woman knocked on the door and proceeded to pull a large fan from the closet, and plugged it in. “Banff has about three days like this every year. We don’t have air-conditioning,” she explained as she opened the slider.

Early the next morning I sat on the balcony drinking coffee while watching people going about their business. It was a joy to see kids walking to school with book bags on their backs. I don’t think anyone lives more than a mile from the school, or for that matter from anyplace within the town. A strange quiet envelops Banff. Other than the birds singing, there are few motor noises to pollute the atmosphere of the town.

We left town to see the park, there were no overlooks like there are in the states. We tooled along on the QEW-1 at one hundred km per hour. A curious cyclone fence borders the road along each side of the divided highway. The fences occasionally dipped toward a culvert, or up to an overpass. We learned that animals migrate  from the mountains across the highway to the lakes at lower levels. Every year there is a huge road kill. The government built the fence to direct the animals toward underpasses or overpasses to keep them off the roads, Conservationists like to think that the Canadian government is on the same page as they are, but the simple fact is that when a car or truck hits an eight hundred pound animal on the road, death occurs; both human and animals with an enormous dollar cost to freight and transportation. Between Banff and Lake Louise, our destination there were at least six of these crossings with several more in construction.

Lake Louise is what we came to see. Banff is a cutesy town, but Lake Louise is nature in all its splendor. This glacial lake is at the foot of mountain top glacier feeding it. The water is crystal clear, but has a gray cast to it. It is not as clear as I thought. The color is the result of glacial till. The till is a very fine powder of granite rock ground off the mountain by moving glacial ice. The particles of powder are so fine they become suspended in the water. The result is the beautiful blue-gray color.

Several months before we left on this trip, the Chicago Tribune travel section featured a story on Lake Louise. The leading photograph showed a couple sitting in the Fairmont hotel having lunch while looking out on the view. What a great view, I thought. I never imagined seeing that same view for myself. In fact, we sat one table away from the couple in the Trib photo.

Banff National Park is beautiful, and compares to our own Glacier National Park in Montana. They are adjacent too each other. Banff the town is a fun tourist town worth the visit, but Lake Louise is a “do not miss” scene of splendorific nature.

Shops and Hotels along the main street in Banff, Alberta

Bridge for animals along QEW-1 enroute to Lake Louise

Stream flowing from Lake Louise

Pollination in process

Pink Poppy

 

Glacier feeding Lake Louise

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Trail to the foot of the Glacier

Trail along the lake to the foot of the glacier

The Fairmont Chateau from across the lake

Flower bed in front of the Chateau

Poppies with bees

Pollination in process

Pink Poppy

Reflections of the Fairmont

The Fairmont Chateau, Lake Louise

The Window View From the Chateau

Fairmont Lobby

Serenity Abounds

Through the Magnificent Trees

GPS Gypsy

Ever since my first real job, I began to travel. As a kid, mom and dad took me from Chicago to Covert, Michigan to visit my grandfather. In college, I travelled to Rensselaer, Indiana, and then to Urbana, Illinois. The college travel was not hard to plan, buy a train ticket, get to the station in time, then board. My venture into planning trips began just before I married Barb. We went to Florida.  I bought a road atlas and layed out the route. We decided on each overnight stay near the end of the driving day. Usually, we found nice and clean places to stay. That trip taught me to make an itinerary, with driving mileages and destination towns. My driving routes were always major highways like U.S. 41, U.S. 66, or U.S. 30. Motels were always on the side of the road as we enetered a town.
Soon our kids came, and we began a new form of travel. Most of the planning involved keeping the kids happy. I planned the routes, and accommodations.  Barb did the rest.
In the last forty seven years, alot of miles have rolled by, and I still plan the trips. Except for the times that we visited Europe and the far east, we drove. After Barb died, I traveled alone.
A couple of years ago, my son showed me his latest toy. It was on the night before my new wife Peggy and I were to leave for Arizona. He demonstrated a Garmin Street Pilot G.P.S. Oh the wonders of this new tool! The technology is great.  How in the world the little lady inside the box knows all the routes and street names is beside me. I don’t really care, she does a great job, and I have come to trust her a great deal. I went out and bought a Street Pilot the very next day before we left.
Global Positioning Satalites are placed into orbit above the earth at a distance that maintains their relative position stationary. Unknown to most of us, the government has been spotting these satellites around the world for many years. A typical GPS unit will receive signals from as many as six satellites at one time. I don’t need to tell you anymore about the science of how they work. I do want to tell you that they do work well.
At this very moment I am on a trip, and I left the route planning to the GPS. I did decide ahead of time what my destination cities would be, but that’s where my planning ended. I pre-programmed the unit with the towns I would stop in. The machine did the rest. I just followed Lisa’s instructions after that. Lisa is the name of the girl inside the box. If I use her advice she is quiet. If I make an error and miss a turn, she gives me attitude and tells me that she is “recalculating.”
So far we have driven from our home in Frankfort, to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Van Couver, Victoria, Olympia, and now Portland. She has not missed a single city, or hotel.
In fact, while driving to our hotel in Van Couver, she took a route through the middle of town because I had programmed her for the “shortest distance.” Well we were on side streets through some really interesting neighborhoods. Eventually, we left town and were into the outskirts judging by the amount of farms we saw. I kept thinking that she finally lost her way. We were driving farther away from the city through corn fields. Suddenly, a large building appeared ahead of us. It was our hotel. She announced “arriving at Holiday Inn Express on the left,” in her finest computerese dialect.
Today, I spent about five minutes looking at an Inter-State highway map of the U.S. Just to get familiar with the states and the general route we will follow next. Tomorrow, I will program her with all the hotels we have reserved.
There have been other times, when Peggy and I have taken trips without hotel reservations. When we reach a point about thirty miles from a town we want to stop in, I ask Lisa for hotel info. She provides a list of hotels within the radius. I select a place, and hit go. She takes me to the front door. She even has the address and phone number for the hotel. I use my cell phone to call, and make a reservation from thrity miles out.
Need fuel, ask Lisa. Hit the button marked “fuel.” She will display every gas station within close range, display the name, miles to get there, and points an arrow in the direction.
I never worry about getting lost because all I have to do is hit “home,” and she will lead me to my front door.
In the three short years Peggy and I have travelled we have used Lisa to takes us to Arizona, California, Quebeck, and all the cities of this current trip. We also use her to take us into the city for plays and concerts. She is great for finding parking garages in downtown Chicago.
Between Map Quest and the GPS, my trip planning time has been reduced tremendously. I use the time to research what I will see and do when I get to my destination. If I’m not sure what there is to see at a destination, I ask Lisa for “attractions.”

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