June 19, 2013

I Do.

Something special is happening in this neck of the woods in exactly 10 days.  
Here's a sneak peak:

So, until next time, when I've got some new bling on my finger, a new last name and one amazing husband by my side.


June 15, 2013

Day 12: We Made It!

Day 12: Chicago, Illinois to HOME

Wildlife Spotting: Nothing alive.

Distance Traveled: 588 km/368 miles

Total Distance Traveled: 6644 km/4154 miles

I know this post is about a week and a half delayed.  For those of you that started getting a little concerned that we got lost in Chicago, we didn't.  We're safe, in one piece. And still very much together.  The wedding it still ON! We just got caught up in family and wedding duties the second we pulled in the driveway.

We left Chicago just before noon, drove out of the city and hit the highway we have both driven numerous times before.  Finally, some familiarity.  

We both had ants in our pants as we started seeing signs that read "Canada" and then as we drove over the bridge and waved goodbye to the states, for the time being.

We were finally home.

I can now officially say...

4154 miles, 12 days, 7 states, 4 provinces and 1 territory later, we made it HOME.


June 7, 2013

Day 11: The Windy City

Day 11: Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois

Wildlife Spotting: Nada.

Distance Traveled: 510 km/319 miles

Total Distance Traveled: 6056 km/3786 miles

We left Eau Claire, Wisconsin bright and early in the morning so that we could make it to Chicago with plenty of time to be tourists. 

When we got to Chicago, we were welcomed with sunshine and HEAT, which told us it was going to be a good day. We definitely felt out of place walking downtown in shorts and tshirts, past everyone in full suits and jackets.  I think it's going to take us a while to get used to this heat and humidity again.

We walked along Lake Michigan, past all of the boats in the harbor, and got excited to be able to spend some quality time with Lake Huron, at the beach and the cottage.  It's been a while since we've had the kind of beach day I became used to before moving to Alaska.

As an early birthday present, Steve took me to the Shedd Aquarium. It was jam packed with excited grade school children, and I fit right in, feeling their excitement. It was amazing!  Steve was inundated with my blurting of random facts and reminiscing of my university courses and previous jobs as we saw dolphins, belugas, rays, sea lions, penguins, otters and thousands of fish. 

Get ready for the aquarium pictures...

Sting ray touch tank.
Leafy sea dragon.
Busy penguin.
More jellies.
Cichlids (I'm all too familiar with these guys from my college Evolution class).
Stadium show: "One World".
After the aquarium, we hit up some of the touristy spots.  Had to get the token tourist picture at Cloud Gate, or "the bean".

We stopped to for beers along the river.  And hit up Gino's for some authentic deep dish pizza.

My first visit to downtown Chicago was an eventful one and we could have easily spent another day exploring the city. But, at this point, we're antsy to get home.

So, until next time, when we cross the oh so familiar border and arrive over 6600 kilometres/4500 miles from Alaska.


June 6, 2013

Day 10: The End Is Near

Day 10: Estevan, Saskatchewan to Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Wildlife Spotting: deer

Distance Traveled: 1140 km/713 miles

Total Distance Traveled: 5546 km/3467 miles

Today was a long one. We wanted to push as far as we could so that when we made it to Chicago we could enjoy being tourists for the day.

We traveled through three states:

North Dakota...

Minnesota (which is beautiful by the way)...

and ended the day's journey in Wisconsin (which is also pretty beautiful)...

The sun was setting around 7:30pm, which is something we're definitely going to have to get used to again.  No more midnight sun for a while.

Before passing out for the night, we indulged in some Wisconsin cheese and beer, and some smoked salmon from our Alaskan friends.

By the way, I am not a fan of North Dakota.  Living in Alaska, having a cracked windshield is nothing out of the ordinary. Driving in AK for three years, including the car we have now for over a year, we were fortunate to go without a single crack in the windshield.  It wasn't until we reached Fargo, North Dakota that we got hit with the big one... cracked right down the middle.  Unfortunately, it's mandatory to fix in Ontario. Thanks for nothing Fargo.

So until next time, when we are one stop away from HOME.


June 4, 2013

Day 7-9: Stampede City & Are We There Yet?!

Day 7 - 8: Banff, AB to Calgary, AB

Wildlife Spotting: Nada.

Distance Traveled: 127km/79 miles

Total Distance Traveled: 3487 km/2180 miles

The drive from Banff to Calgary was fairly uneventful, quick and filled with rain.

We spent a couple of days in Calgary visiting with family we haven't seen in a few years.  Steve had never been to Calgary, so we toured the city and vowed to come back in the near future for Stampede. It was good to just relax for a few days and catch up with family, to relive somewhat embarrassing memories, and our "accident-proneness" (yes, it's a word, but the story is for another time), from when we were younger.

So, until next time, when ours days get long and dull as we make a push for home.  Lake Huron is calling our names.

Day 9: Calgary, AB to Estevan, SK

Wildlife Spotted: Deer, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs (and lots of cattle)

Distance Traveled: 919 km/574 miles

Total Distance Traveled: 4406 km/2754 miles

Happy June! It's my favorite month... and this year, it'll be extra special!! :) 

Our visit in Calgary was way too short.  Luckily, we will see most again at the wedding in a few weeks.

We hit the Trans Canada Highway and started heading East.  Soon after leaving the Calgary city limits, the rain started coming down.  Welcome to the Prairies!

The journey from here on out will definitely not beat the excitement we had in the first half of our trip, but we're definitely trying to make the best of it.

Some things that got us excited today...

We ate some Alberta beef jerky.  The best we've every had.  The bag didn't last half a day.

Did you know Medicine Hat, AB has the world's largest teepee?  It says so on the sign, so it must be true.

We entered Saskatchewan, and the terrain became as flat as a board.  I don't know how people do it.

The largest excitement of the day came when I saw this... and after it took my brain a second to register what is was, I yelled "STOP!' and made Steve turn off the highway.  Look familiar my fellow Canadians?

That's right, it's the set of one of the best Canadian shows, "Corner Gas".  We just happened to stumble upon it while driving through the little town of Rouleau, SK.  Unfortunately, it isn't real.  But definitely was exciting to see.

Half a continent away from AK, driving a vehicle with AK plates, we have definitely had some stares along the highway.  Either we're aliens or people don't think roads exist in Alaska and that we all ride around on dog sleds.  It's a pretty big conversation starter when we stop for food or gas.

So, until next time, when we dip back down into the States...


June 2, 2013

Day 6: Half Way Home

Day 6: Jasper, AB to Banff, AB

Wildlife Spotting: Elk, black bear

Distance Traveled: 288 km/180 miles

Total Distance Traveled: 3360 km/2101 miles

We are officially over half way home!

We enjoyed the Fairmont right up until we had to check out in the morning.  We woke up refreshed and ready to continue the second half of our journey home.

We saw a bunch of female elk on the side of the road, including this collared one that had a little friend hitching a ride. We also saw a black bear in a tree before leaving Jasper NP.  I would love to say I have pictures of that, but when we pulled over because we saw a bunch of cars stopped on the side of the road and asked a Park Ranger what everyone was looking at, he said, "You're not looking at anything, keep moving."  I'm sure you can imagine the words that came out of my mouth shortly after Steve rolled up the window. Well, we quickly saw what everyone was looking at when we drove off.  It's not like people come to Jasper to see wildlife or anything.

The Icefields Parkways from Jasper to Lake Louise has been called one of the most scenic drives in the world, and is studded with more than 100 glaciers and numerous small lakes, rivers and waterfalls. We stopped at the Columbia Icefield Interpretive Center, to awe over the Athabasca Glacier.  The Columbia Icefield is a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once mantled most of Western Canada's mountains and is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies. At one time the Athabasca Glacier reached the road, however, because of a warming climate, it has retreated almost 1.5 kms, over the past 125 years!

We made a stop at Lake Louise.  Of course it was raining. (Is it bad that the first thing we thought of when we reached the lake was that one episode of the most recent Bachelor where the crazy girl almost got hypothermia?!)

The Trans-Canada Highway is completely fenced from Lake Louise to Banff to prevent wildlife from crossing.  There are also two wildlife overpasses and underpasses to allow for wildlife to safely cross the over and under highway. Apparently the fencing, overpasses and underpasses have reduced road kill and collisions by more than 80%. Pretty genius. 

On recommendation from a friend, we took the Bow Valley Parkway from Lake Louise to Banff because we wanted to see more wildlife.  We saw two huge male elk with their enormous antlers on the side of the road.  Couldn't really slow down to take a picture or we'd have an elk in the car with us. 

We finally made it Banff and were welcomed with more rain.  We met up with our friend, checked into the amazing Fox Hotel and Suites and enjoyed some drinks and Irish fare at a local pub.  

So until next time, when we make our way to Calgary for a few nights to catch up with family.

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