Holiday in Canada (1976)

About four months after Marsha had settled in Brandon, Manitoba, after emigrating from Guyana, Emma and I decided to visit them and see how they were getting on.

With this in view, I had the car, our trusty Chevelle, checked over to do the 4,500 miles round trip from Sacramento, California to Brandon, Canada.

On the morning of June 14th 1976, we therefore set out for the longest car ride we had ever undertaken. As a member of the Automobile Association, I received assistance from them in the form of a Trip-Tik, - a personalized and detailed tour plan all the way from home to Canada.

Unfortunately, just days before we left, there was a giant break in the Teton Dam, Idaho, which prevented us from using the Trip-Tik as planned, since a part of the route lay across the flooded area, making it necessary for us to use an alternative course.Teton Dam Failure
I had decided to drive a maximum of eight hours a day, covering approximately 500 miles, and because of the Teton Dam disaster, our course now lay through Utah, across the wide expanse of the Great Salt Lake Desert, where, on the Bonneville Flats, some of the world's greatest auto racing takes place. As far as the eye could see, on both sides of incomparable black-top, four-lane freeway, there was nothing but white compacted salt, and this continued for about forty to fifty miles.Saltph26

We then came in sight of the Great Salt Lake, and skirted this on the southern side, passing through Salt Lake City where we stopped for directions, as driving through this busy area was indeed hectic.

The filling station at which we stopped told us how to proceed and get out of the maze that is the city of Salt Lake. Unfortunately, however, the gas station attendant tried to convince me that our shock absorbers needed replacing, but being aware of this kind of high-pressure suggestion from filling station mechanics, I just thanked him for his kind observation and left. It did upset Emma a great deal, however, as we continued our long journey across the face of the huge American continent.

Somewhere in the vicinity of Rock Springs, Wyoming, the car developed a bumpy ride, and I pulled into a Chevron Service Station to see what was causing it. Upon examination, my left front tyre had lost fifteen pounds of air pressure, so the mechanic suggested that he should take it off and look at the inside. There was a definite break in the wall, and following an examination of the other three tyres which also showed cracks between the threads, I decided to purchase a new set of four tyres, rather than run the risk of a blow-out on the freeway at high speed, and the resulting consequences. My decision was further encouraged by the fact that the tyres had been on the car for at least two and a half years, and with the high temperatures during summer in California, must have deteriorated considerably.

We crossed the Continental Divide in Wyoming at somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 feet, but much of the ride was through desolate and very uninteresting country. At one time we seemed to encounter nothing but a series of dull mud-coloured little hillocks all the way over what seemed more than one hundred miles.

On the third day of our travel to Canada, we left freeway No. 80 at North Platte, Nebraska, headingnorth for the Dakotas on highway No. 83, which runs all the way into Manitoba province, Canada.

A great discovery was made by us on this long ride, in that we found truck stops the most advantageous places to eat. The meals served there were good, practical, reasonably priced, without any of the fancy trimmings for which one usually has to pay.

Four nights were spent in motels before we reached Marsha's home in Brandon. The first night we slept at Elko, Nevada, the second at Rock Springs, Wyoming, the third at Chappel, Nebraska, and our fourth night on the road was in a delightful little motel at Selby in South Dakota. We called Marsha by telephone from this point and told her to expect us by the following afternoon.

Early the next morning we crossed into North Dakota and passed through the busy air-force base at Minot, coming to the border of Canada in Manitoba province during the early afternoon.800px B 52 homeward bound
Here we had to stop and report to the Canadian Immigration, declaring the purpose of our visit to Canada, and producing our credentials as American citizens. I was asked to open the trunk of our car, but the immigration officer did no searching at all. He was very helpful, giving us directions how to get to Brandon, and welcoming us to Canada.

Passing through Virden, we joined Trans-Canada Highway No. 1, and had no difficulty in locating the Valley View apartments in which Marsha and family lived. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, arriving after an uneventful journey of four and a half days from our home in Sacramento.

Marsha's apartment was on the second floor, and we were pleasantly surprised to find Canada so comfortably warm in July, after hearing how cold it was just a couple of months ago.

Aubrey was still at work, and Ritchie at school, but two small children whom Marsha babysitting were there to greet us. McDiarmid Drive, on which the apartment was located was a nice shady street with a good outlook, and the children's school was conveniently close, being just about 200 yards across an open field from their house.

Brandon is a small city, and the population, I was told, about 30,000. Aubrey was employed at Binkley's Motors in the spare parts department, and while the job was not the ideal one for a former manager of a similar outfit in Guyana, it was at least a good start for a new life in a strange but promising country.Once again, as we did when we met Aubrey, Marsha and their kids in Miami during February this year, we took them a large suitcase filled with clothing and other household things we considered would be of use to them, and Emma and I spent a very happy and enjoyable 2-3 weeks with this Canadian branch of the family.
We met Albert and Dede Johnson who were very helpful in getting them there, and establishing Aubrey with Binkleys Motors. Albert Johnson, Aubrey's uncle, conducted a business known as Johnson's Sound System, and was apparently very firmly entrenched in the business community of Brandon.
I was quick to notice a distinct improvement in their child who showed quite a change for the better, especially in the matter of speech. Apart from the baby-sitting which earned her useful spending money, Marsha was developing an interest in the Tupperware business, holding parties and giving demonstrations. Properly done, I understand this could produce quite a bit of income, and we encouraged her to pursue this field.

We took a ride into Winnipeg and met Leslie Johnson and his family, spending the greater part of the day with them in their very modern home in a shady rural area on the bank of the Assiniboine river. We were taken through the city itself in the business section, and visited the museum.

Later in our stay in Canada, we took a ride down to Pelican Lake, and picnicked on the water's edge, watching skiers and speedboats perform on the lake. Leaving Pelican Lake, we headed south and visited Peace Gardens, on the international border of North Dakota and Manitoba.

Although we arrived in Canada prepared for at least some degree of cold, we never once had to use any of our warm wear, but spent most of the time in shorts and open-neck shirts. This was particularly amazing, since just two months before our arrival there, the thermometer had registered minus ten degrees on the Celsius scale.

Before we left Brandon, we invited Albert and Dede Johnson over to Marsha's apartment, and I was able to bring Albert up to date by showing my collection of colour slides of Guyana and other places of interest. Albert was born in Guyana, and like us, had emigrated even before we did, and had settled in Canada. It was planned to leave Brandon on July 6th, and we decided to use a different route to the one we did on the way up.

I had the Chevelle checked over once again for the two thousand odd miles back to our home in North Highlands, California, and made certain that this eight year old car would safely take us back. It was hoped that on our return we would be able to make a tour of Yellowstone Park, so I mapped out an itinerary to include it. Therefore, on our way through North Dakota on July 6th, I stopped at the Automobile Association in Minot and made sure that all the roads in the area leading from Yellowstone Park back to freeway No. 80 were not still closed where they passed through the Teton Dam flooded country-side. While some of the main roads were still cut off, I was assured that an excellent detour was now open to tourists and was given directions to find it.

I was very happy to hear this, and that first day of our return trip I covered a good 500 miles, and spent the night at Glendive on freeway No. 94. The following day took us as far as Red Lodge, Montana. This was high country, ten to twelve thousand feet, and on the third day we set out to do the climb on tricky "Beartooth Highway" into Yellowstone Park.

The car performed beautifully up the awe-inspiring Beartooth', so named since in shape and in its curving path around this portion of the Rockies, it resembled the teeth of a bear. Some of the 'switchbacks' had to be negotiated at 15-20 miles an hour, and it took us two to three hours to do the 50 odd miles of elevated mountain road. At one peak the height was posted around twelve thousand feet, and when I stopped the car at certain scenic viewpoints, the outlook was simply breath-taking.

We passed busloads of young skiers being given lessons, and the upper reaches were still covered with snow.

We entered Yellowstone Park by the north-eastern gate - the Silver gate, and proceeded along the northern rim to Mammoth Hot Springs. Here we checked into the hotel, and settled down to spending a full 24 hours in the Park. The nervous energy expended on that memorable mountain highway left me a bit exhausted, so I relaxed in bed for a few hours after which we set out on foot to explore the area.

We toured the Visitors centre, the Museum, shops, restaurant, and the Mammoth Terraces. These world famous terraces can literally be described as a mountain turning itself inside out, as the hot, hot springs carry dissolved minerals to the surface. These gradually build the dramatic terraces and pools upward like giant steps. The older steps are pure white, while living algae create delicate tints of pinks, greys, blues and browns on the newer ones. We took several pictures of these hot springs and terraces, and even felt the very warm water. There is continual evaporation and this produces a constant veil of mist over the surface. A distinct odour of hydrogen sulphide pervades the area.YellowstonefallJUN05
In contrast to Disneyland, Yellowstone Park is nature at her best. Part of its beauty is in the drama of its changing seasons, each unique, and each offering opportunities for varied Yellowstone Park experiences.
After a meal in the restaurant, and a good night's sleep in the invigorating atmosphere of this high country, we set out next morning to see the celebrated "Old Faithful" and the Fountain Paint Pot. We approached the site of the "Paint Pot" before reaching "Old Faithful" and took the half hour tour around the boardwalk to view and photograph this phenomenon. It consists of clusters of hot and bubbling volcanic mud in several colours, covering 3 fairly wide area. The colours are due to the presence of algae as seen in the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs. In the distance could also be seen many geysers, squirting their hot streams into the air.
On the way along this 50 mile drive to "Old Faithful", we encountered "Roaring Mountain" issuing vents of steam, and this too was caused by volcanic action. In the distance we caught glimpses of wild life.
There was certainly a hyena that darted across the road, and we perceived what looked like an elk in a far field.
The approach to "Old Faithful" was very much like a busy city intersection, and I had to exercise care to select the proper lanes and avoid being tied up in the heavy traffic that crowds this portion of the Park.
There were several hundred cars, trailers, campers, and recreation vehicles parked in the vicinity, and this was surely the most popular spot in the whole of Yellowstone.
As we stepped out of our car, we could see. over the heads of people and adjacent cars, a tall spray of steam, which was really one of the regular eruptions of this geyser. The next one was clocked for approximately sixty-two minutes later, so I strolled around the extensive boardwalk built all around it at a safe distance. Since there was enough time until the next eruption, Emma and I had lunch in the restaurant which was conveniently located on the edge of the site, and which had large picture windows that looked out on the geyser and surrounding area.
Old Faithful Geyser Yellowstone National Park
Promptly, at the predicted time, "Old Faithful" erupted, and just two minutes before, I dashed outside and took up a position to shoot a good picture or two. The eruption lasted about five minutes, and I certainly got about four pictures. This was indeed a very thrilling moment, one to which I had looked forward for quite a long time. It was now well past midday, so we collected ourselves and set off on our way home, leaving the Park by the west entrance on highway No. 20. As we approached Idaho Falls, I picked up the detour which led us away from the flooded area caused by the burst in the Teton Dam over a month ago.

After checking over distances and taking into account the time factor, (I hate driving at night especially in strange places) I figured out that we should make the city of Twin Falls before nightfall. On the way we passed many important and scenic points along the Snake River, such as Blackfoot, Pocatello, American Falls, Burley etc. We selected one of the better motels at Twin Falls (Best Western) and had a delightful fish dinner in their superb dining room.

Early next morning, I refuelled the car, had breakfast, and set off along highway No. 93 which runs south to connect with Freeway No. 80, the one on Which Sacramento is truly located. By speeding up somewhat, I hoped to reach Reno, about 600 miles away, before dark. As the road was reasonably free of traffic, I let out the car at 70 miles an hour, keeping a wary eye for possible highway patrolmen, since the speed limit in the U.S. A. is 55 miles an hour. We arrived in Reno in good time, and after the second try, located a nice motel, the 'Sierra Inn'.

Our room was on the fifth floor, and the car was conveniently parked on the third floor, reached by driving up an on-ramp via a side street. It was very pleasant to have this arrangement, since there was elevator connection between the floors, and a very simple matter to get to the car or to our rooms. That hectic ride from Twin Falls to Reno really affected my back condition, and I had to admit that I really overdid it. Fortunately, I travelled with my Thermophore Heat Pad, and after a hot bath, was able to apply it for about half an hour.

The following morning I set out to complete the remaining 126 miles to our home, and by dint of careful driving, arrived safely, stopping once at the scenic viewpoint near Donner Lake to take pictures. It was a delightful month's vacation, spent mostly with our family in Canada, and enjoying the delights of nature, and the wonders of America The Beautiful.

As the parents of a widely separated group of families scattered through England, Canada, the U.S.A. and the West Indies, Emma and I feel very proud of our achievement in helping each chart his course through life, and considering that neither my good wife nor I had the least assistance from our parents - since they all died when we were all quite small children - this feeling of satisfaction is all the more pronounced. It calls for so much more peace of mind in our advancing years.

In June 8th, 1976, I attained my 70th birthday, and what better way and time to end these memoirs, than in the knowledge that as I approach and pass the allotted span of three score years and ten, I feel secure that my progeny has every prospect of enjoying a full life with as much help as we could provide them, and with the grace of God.

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