Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Canada/Alaska Day 4: The long drive day.

Today was a long driving day to get from Kelowna to Banff. It was my turn to sit by the window, so most of the photos you’re going to see of the scenery will have a moody, almost impressionistic feel about them.

Sharon, our tour guide, was telling us about how she survives the cold, particularly in the Canadian winter. “I feel the cold, but I know how to dress,” she said. “I have 4 levels of winter clothing and even when the temperature reaches -40C, I rarely have to wear Level 4.”

She has a Gortex parka which is too warm even in -40C. That must be some parka!

She has 3 levels of boots and she mentioned that even if mothers wrap their kids up with long scarves wrapped around their heads to keep them warm, the kids’ eyelashes will freeze.

She rides horses in the winter (indoors) to keep them exercised, and uses electric socks wired from a battery pack under the knees to keep herself warm.

“I have a friend who is totally wired up from head to toe in the winter,” she said. “I’ve told her not to fall in a puddle or she’ll die!”

I’m going to look at Sharon each morning to determine which coat/jumper/raincoat I should wear that day. I didn’t unpack my raincoat and I needed it in the afternoon. It poured!

As we were driving along, I saw several small signs for a roadside stall, stuck on a fence beside the road.




Fishing gear.  

Did I say cold beer?

One of the other people on the tour, a retired teacher, said that it takes 40 litres of maple sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup . Wow.

We stopped at a place where the last spike of the overland railway was struck. Here’s a little red caboose for your viewing pleasure.

Sharon was talking for miles about the railways and blah blah blah but I fell asleep. Apparently the railways were important for important reasons that blah blah..

What’s also important is money. I was starting to wonder why I bothered to buy some Canadian and American money, but the gift shop here had no internet, so it was cash only sales.

I bought some Maple Laef coasters (useful souvenir!) and a moose for my Christmas tree. I got my purchases to reach exactly $20, but I forgot that over here, they ass the tax on AFTER the price. How stupid. I had to fish out an extra fiver, but now I have a looney and tooney.

We were driving through the Selkirk mountain range.

Lord Selkirk from Scotland in the mid 1800’s was upset at the displacement of thousands of peasant farmers from the UK, which happened when the landowners discovered that they could make more money from their land by mining coal rather than renting it out to farmers, which they’d done for centuries. He brought a ton of people over to Canada and helped settle them on their own farms. In gratitude, Canada named a mountain range after him.

This blurry photograph was taken just as the bus went into an avalanche tunnel. These are built over the road and protect traffic from any unexpected falls. Sharon said they work well and that deaths have decreased dramatically since these went in.

Good to know, especially when you’re hearing about it from inside a bus driving along that road.

Our first “comfort break” after lunch was in a visitor information centre at the top of Roger’s Pass.

They offered a video about what to do if you come across a bear in the wild. Apparently, the key is to work out if it’s defensive or aggressive. You’d better get it right because the correct way to behave towards the bear is completely opposite for each situation.

Play dead or go bananas.

Sharon was telling a couple of us that there was a couple walking their dog out in the woods near here and they messaged a friend that they were getting concerned about a bear that was following them. A search party was sent out when they didn’t return and sure enough – all three bodies were found the next day.

On the other hand, a woman was being threatened by a bear so she turned the volume up on her phone and played Metallica at it at full volume. The bear fled, the story went viral and the lead singer called her to thank her for the publicity!

Sharon put on a DVD about beavers. I kept falling asleep, but I learned that beavers fell over 400 trees in a single year to build a new dam. I also woke in time to see beaver sex. Despite the romantic music playing over the footage, it looked more like rape to me…

The Rocky Mountains can be seen from space. The whole range is 700 miles long.

I learned this when I woke up for a bit.

I also surfaced to hear about the Kicking Horse river.

It was named during the Palliser expedition, which had a Dr Hector in it. They were out mapping the area and they decided to cross this river Unknown to them, the bottom of the river was deep clay and a packing horse got stuck. Dr Hector went to free it was the horse kicked out and got him square in the chest.

He was knocked out cold for hours. The other men in the expedition thought he was dead and dug him a grave. As they were preparing to throw him in it, he managed to blink a couple of times to let them know that he was still alive. Hence the name – Kicking Horse River. 45 years later, Dr Hector came back with his son Doudlas to show him the place where he almost died.

Doudlas then promptly dropped dead from appendicitis. Dr Hector never returned to the Rickies after that.

We also passed under several animal highways, which were built to allow the wild animals to cross safely from one side of the highway to the other. The sides are built up with trees so the animals can’t even see the road so they have no idea they’re crossing a bridge. They’ve done DNA testing on bears a few years after they’d installed them, and they found that sure enough – bears were looking for love on both sides of the highway, so they’ve been a great success.

Sharon also mentioned the wolves really like the underground wild animal crossings. They hang around at the end, knowing that sooner or later an elk will walk out and BAM!


Just outside of Banff, we got very excited when we saw our first wild animal sighting – a group of elk in the middle of the road.

I hope they all made it off the road ok when they were finished eating.

Later, right in the centre of Banff, we saw a group of elk in the middle of the river, but I couldn’t get a shot in time.

Imagine living with a mountain in your backyard!

I decided to take a close-up of the snow on the top of one of the mountains.

Looks pretty, doesn’t it?

What doesn’t look pretty is this abomination. It’s poutine. A Canadian delicacy, comprising of fries, cheese curds and gravy. I thought I’d do the right thing and give it a go at dinner.


We have a free day in Banff tomorrow. Let’s see what we find!

Dad joke of the day:


  1. Paula

    Explore the Banff Springs. Years ago my sister worked in Lake Louise and she and friends would come play hide and seek in the hotel.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Oops. Too late now- just reading this at 6PM!!

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Lake Louise tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it!

  2. Paula

    And a nice walking path around town. And the hot springs. I haven’t been, but my kids have enjoyed them.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Wa look ing???
      So far I’ve done 13,00 steps.
      I think we’ve seen every square inch of Banff.

  3. sandyg61

    Banff was 10 days in to our trip and the first place we could buy a good flat white coffee at a lovely bakery. It was savoured.

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Megan and I are sitting in a cafe and she’s having a coffee. She just finished saying that it’s the best coffee so far in the holiday!

  4. Courtney

    Don’t judge poutine based on what you get out West! Pouutine is Quebecois, and a good one is spectacular! Judging it based on what you get at a touristy restaurant in Banff would be like saying that there’s no good booze in all of Aus based on having one Foster’s!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Haha! That’s pretty much what Tom32’s girlfriend Sophie said! Apparently I was on the wrong Canadian coast.

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