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A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

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A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby Mike in Calgary on Sun Aug 10, 2008 7:38 pm

Well, I warned you that we were on our way, and now we are back home leaving the US pretty much how we found it, although they have a little less beer on hand now. We just spent 2 weeks and almost 2600 miles touring though 5 states (Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming) and we had an awesome trip. It went kinda like this:

Day 1 Calgary, AB to Great Falls, MT - We departed Calgary at about 3 PM and we wanted to make it to at least Shelby, MT, but we didn't know what the border crossing would be like. We had about 3 cars in front of us and when we were waved in we were greeted politely and almost cordially by the BPS officer who asked as about 12 questions in 2 minutes and wished us a pleasant trip and sent us on our way. We made Great Falls at 9:30 and didn't even unhook before crashing.

Day 2 Great Falls, MT to Pocatello, ID - We weren't quite the early risers that we wanted to be, but at least we were still hooked up so we hit the road. This turned into a long day of driving, especially south of Butte, MT when we ran into a ferocious headwind that impeded our progress almost all the way to Idaho Falls where we stopped for groceries and beer before heading down to the KOA in Pocatello. This was a nice area through here that we would really like to go back to and explore some more, but on this trip we were pressed for time.

Day 3 Pocatello, ID to Midway, UT - The scenery has now changed noticeably since leaving Alberta and it getting a lot hotter. After a bit of confusion in Ogden due to on ramp construction with a lengthy detour we arrive in Midway and make our way to Wasatch Mtn State Park. The sign said to turn right, but the Garmin said to turn left. We turned left and then promptly turned around. The kids started asking "Where's Uncle Dave and Auntie Anita?" I looked in my rear view mirror and they were actually following us into the park at their expected 2:00 PM arrival time. A joyful reunion ensued at a really nice spot with full hookups for $20 a night per site.

Day 4 Midway, UT to Vernal, UT - A light day's drive for a change to Steineker State Park located just outside Vernal. What a great place this tuned out to be. I guess that its just so different from home. We took and unserviced site despite the heat so we could be close to the lake. We had 2 units on a y-shaped double site for $27. Dave has a couple of Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks that we went and played with. There's also a nice beach area and the water was fairly warm. I got some great sunset shots and one day I'll read up on photo posting and put them up. I'd really love to back to this park.

Day 5 Vernal, UT to Steamboat Springs, CO - We have a minor electrical gremlin with the trailer. The fuse in the converter keeps blowing to the stereo. Maybe something with the 12 volt outlet that I installed on that line. Oh well, its minor and we stop on our way through Craig and get fuses. Man its hot and arid in this area. We arrive in Steamboat Springs and find Anita's daughter's place. We had never met before (Anita and my wife, Trudy, are actually half sisters) but she greeted us as old friends. We found the tourist info booth and looked for a campsite. Dave likes non-commercial, BLM type camping (Real boondocking) so we settled for Stagecoach State Park about 14 miles from town. The daughter and her boyfriend of several years joined us of burgers and beers later, we had a great time after the lady who accused us of taking her site left. We did nothing of the sort according to the park ranger.

Day 6 Steamboat Springs, CO to Winter Park, CO - We spent th morning and early afternoon playing and relaxing at the hot springs in Steamboat, so it was another fairly short day of diving apart from the long, steep climb up Rabbit Ear Pass (9426' elev). Dave pointed out to us that we were actually only 22 miles to their place. Unfortunately, that's on the rail line that goes through a long tunnel. On the highway it was more like 85 miles and we still had to go over Berthoud Pass. We pulled over at a BLM site in Arapahoe Nat'l Forest for the night. The electrical gremlin is persisting.

Day 7 Winter Park, CO to Gold Hill, CO - We finally made it to our intended destination of Gold Hill, which is where D & A actually live. Berthoud Pass is a little over 11500' but it wasn't as steep as Rabbit Ear. It appears to me that Gold Hill was founded in the 1850's and with the exception of electricity, not much has changed ever since. No paved roads, no street lighting and quite a few original log structures are still standing. With only 200 or so inhabitants, there is a very strong sense of community and everyone is very friendly and neighborly. We were definitely the strangers in town though, and this stupid little electrical issue won't go away on its own. (Wishful thinking)

Days 7 through 11- We spent the next 6 days in the Boulder and Denver area just sort of doing the tourist thing with shopping, sightseeing and even got to the ball game at Coors Field. (The Rockies lost to the Nats) Perhaps the best experience was dinner with family at the Gold Hill Inn (The one in Gold Hill, not in Lyons) This is an original 1850's log structure that serves up a 6 course gourmet meal for the princely sum of $31 a person plus drinks. This is one of those meals that one always remembers with excellent food in a very rustic setting and I would highly recommend it anyone who lives in the Boulder area. Even if you live near Denver (Yes, you too, Martyn) it would be worth the drive. I even got the electrical issue solved. it was a broken ceramic insulator at the bottom of the 12 volt socket. Fairly simple replacement.

Day 12 Gold Hill to Casper, WY - A rather uneventful drive on the first day of the drive home. While Trudy was in at the tourist info booth, I noticed on truck tire was quite low on air. No biggie. Dropped the tailer at what passed as the best campground in town (More like a large gravel parking lot, but the sites were a nice size) and went to air up the tire and gas up the truck. Got back an we noticed the the tire was still bleeding air. Tire's done, but the spare was actually in better condition so on it went. Will shop around for new tires when we get home.

Day 13 Casper, WY to Billings, MT - Man it was hot! 99 deg in Hardin, MT. We were actually trying to make it Bozeman, but its getting to be late afternoon, so its time to stop. The Garmin finds the KOA for us, but on the way in we find Yellowstone River Campground so we pull in there. At $50 a night, its by far the most costly CG we've stayed, but with the heat that day the swimming pool made up for it and it $8 cheaper than the KOA.

Day 14 Billings, MT to Bozeman, MT - Another short day of diving. Trudy wanted to do a bit more shopping in Billings since Montana has no state sales tax. We picked Bozeman since we had promised the kids that we would take them to Lewis and Clark Caverns. We camped a bit west of Bozeman at Camp Three Forks, which is actually a former KOA. (I think its no longer a KOA because its too nice) It was around $30 with PW , a swimming pull and fabulous service. Dropped the trailer and went to the caverns just in time for the 4:00 PM departure. We've visited 2 other caves previously and they were still in their natural state, so to find concrete walkways and stairs was somewhat unusual for us. Admission was $30 fof the 4 of us and we ended up really enjoying it. Its a must see if you're in the area.

Day 15 Bozeman, MT to Calgary, AB - After 2 weeks in the trailer we just asked the kids if they wanted to spend a long day in the truck and sleep in their own beds tonight, to which they both said "Yes!" so it was point towards home and go. There was a bit of a lineup at the border, but after about 20 minutes we were on our way. Ironically enough, our first stop when we got back to Canada was at a place called Boston Pizza (At least we thought it was ironic, but then again, we have a slightly warped sense of humor) Got home about 9, backed the trailer into the driveway, popped open my last cold beer and finally put my feet up. Trip odometer in the truck read 4740 kilometers (2962 miles) Glad to be home.

Just a few observations from a Canadian perspective. I guess I wasn't quite sure what to expect on what was essentially my first major trip through the United States. Maybe at the back of my mind I was certain that we would find the "Ugly American", if they exist. I'm sure "Ugly Canadians" exist too. Nowhere in our travels did we meet such a person. We were always treated with courtesy and respect. Indeed, most people, upon discovering that we were Canadian, were very happy that we would seemingly take the time to visit their particular area of the country. From Border Protection officers (Who must have a tough job) to the store clerks to the McDonald's staff and campground hosts, we were always made to feel welcome and appreciated. People we talked to in campgrounds from all over the U.S. were always curious about Canada (And a lot of them had been up here) just as I was curious about where they were from. I guess its just one of the many reasons to get out of the house and go camping. It was a great road trip. Sorry to be so long, but it was your choice to read this far. :D
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby Limey on Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:11 am

Mike - so glad you had a wonderful trip and enjoyed you stay in Colorado. I was a little tardy in posting places to see but I'm sure you saw enough!

I wish now that I had given you my phone number - I work in downtown Denver and would have helped you with the reduction of beer volume in my adopted state!

I have never heard of the Gold Hill Inn at Gold Hill - heck, I have never even heard of Gold Hill! However,that sounds really cool and I think I'll give it a try - I have a wedding anniversary coming up!

Interesting that you mention not finding the 'ugly' American. In my travels throughout the world I have found many ugly 'insert country of choice's' - including my home country, England. I have to say that I, too, since moving to the USA 20 years ago,have rarely met that type of person in my travels all over my adopted home country. I love this country as much as my home country and now feel I have a stong alleigance to both of them.

It is always fun to visit another country for the first time - I have done it countless times - but it is even more gratifying to have a great time with great people, who are not only gracious but interested in your origins. I have always found that to be the case as soon as I open my mouth, even after 20 years, and they hear my English accent!!

So glad you had a great trip to my adopted home and really wish I had had the opportunity to meet you!
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby catmom on Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:52 pm

I too am glad you had such a nice trip, Mike. Sounds delightful! I assume you skipped Yellowstone, having already been or saving it for another time - you would have found a respite from the heat up there. :)

On our long trip out west, we too stayed at the Pocatello KOA and enjoyed it. Not the best CG per se that we've been in, but the folks running it were nice (they had just bought the place in mid-June this year!) and I loved the view from the south side of the CG. (And the llamas grazing there. Sorry if your kids missed them.) We spent 4 nights there, as we were visiting family and doing some sightseeing in the area.

I was surprised to read that the Hardin KOA would have cost you $50. Do they charge extra for kids? We spent a couple nights there on our trip and paid $32.30 a night with the KOA card 10% discount. Nice place, very clean. Of course, it didn't have a pool, and that might have been a deciding factor for you, with the kids along. They do have a nice little ice cream social every evening, though, which benefits a local non-profit organization. When we were there, the benefit was to the local Masonic women's & kids' organizations.

Your recounting of Rabbit Ears Pass brought back some memories; the last time I was over that way (a very, very long time ago) I was in a little old Rambler sedan and I remember it being quite a climb! (Didn't find out until I got to the east coast that I'd been doing the entire trip in overdrive!! No wonder it was such a long hard pull for that little car!) :)
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Mon Aug 11, 2008 10:36 pm

Sounds like you had a blast, Mike - reading your story made me flash back to our own big trip quite a few times. We logged just over 10,000K total in 30 days, so you logged about the same average milage as us on your 15 days on the road.

We too met almost exclusively great people in the US on this trip, although we've spent plenty of time in the States and I've met some bad apples over the years.

As for campground prices, the costliest we found (on our entire trip) was the Mt. Rushmore KOA at just over $70/night. Makes the $35/Night provincial parks here seem like a deal in comparison, and even in (nearly) downtown Vancouver BC we paid only $50/night for a full hookup with cable.

How did you do for fuel milage?
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby Mike in Calgary on Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:33 pm

I'll respond to all three of these replies at the same time.

Limey - By all means, go to the Gold Hill Inn for your anniversary. Allow yourself lots of time to get up to Gold Hill though. From Boulder, Sunshine Canyon Rd is mostly paved but is very twisty or you can take Left Hand Canyon Rd and turn onto Lickskillet Rd that leads straight into Gold Hill. Be sure to make a reservation for the Inn. Look up Gold Hill on Wikipedia. BTW I tried Fat Tire, I thought Avalanche from Breckenridge was a lot better. :D I tried about 49 more as well. Any more and I'd be in detox.

Catmom - We didn't actually stay in Hardin, just a quick stopover. Sorry for the confusion. The $50 camping was at Yellowstone River CG in Billings. It was somewhat pricey, but its also a really nice spot that I would recommend. You have to drive right past it to get to the more expensive KOA.

PP - Fuel mileage? :o C'mon, I don't want the heart attack. When the truck needed fuel, the truck got fuel. That was fairly often.
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby Limey on Thu Aug 14, 2008 2:08 pm

I looked up Gold Hill on the web and discovered that I have in fact been there before! Went there to a birthday party a few years ago :oops:
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby fla-gypsy on Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:01 pm

Mike glad to hear how well you were treated here, I would have been very disappointed to hear otherwise. In spite of how the world views Americans we are a good natured people. Americans and Canadians have a very common heritage and both enjoy liberty and are forever linked by geography and security concerns.
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby JQSpree on Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:20 pm

Mike, nice trip review. Sounds like great time. I hope we can make it up to your area one day soon. Its on our return list.
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Re: A Canadian family's great American road trip. (long)

Unread postby The Wood Tinker on Sat Aug 23, 2008 1:37 am

Dang....these longggggggg trip stories are killin me!

Glad you enjoyed are lil neck of the world though, ya'll come back now. 8-)
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