Our Honeymoon Journal
     Entry 16 - 5 September 2000
Drier and flatter country. The 5th was cloudy and still too cold for summer.  Click here to see what the weather is like today in Canada.
  Calgary to Bozeman (USA)

Chris This was a very long day! Ten hours of driving and 550 miles. A marathon.
  The alarm clock went off at 6:30am, since we wanted to make an early start. After our preparations and checking out, it was 7:30am and we were on the road. We decided to get breakfast somewhere along the way, instead of waiting for room or restaurant service.
Vanessa Great place to stay at. I must say that the "Port of Call Inn" was one the of the best places we had stayed at so far. Although it was close to the airport and it was a little noisy from the jets taking off and landing, it was extremely clean and very comfortable.
  A few more general impressions of Calgary:
  • the traffic light boxes are unusual in that they positioned horizontally with the red light on the left and green on the right. The box casing is also painted yellow, like those we saw in Vancouver. (I was told later that the horizontal positioning was a compromise the local council had made for the Olympics. Apparently, in French Canadian cities the traffic lights have the red light at the bottom and the green at the top. To stop visitors being confused and possible accidents occurring, the lights were positioned horizontally. Whether this is true or not, I don't know.)
  • many cars have only a single licence plate mounted on the back of the vehicle, with nothing on the front.
  • The houses in Calgary are quite different to our Queenslander style.we passed through some suburbs with lots of large, two storey houses painted in pale, dull colours - white, cream, beige, grey and pale pink. Most of them had grey roofs. There were very few trees in these areas. Perhaps they are new suburbs? If so, from the number of houses, Calgary must be a big growth area.
  One of the roads we took out of Calgary is called the Deerfoot Trail. We got caught in the morning traffic and, you guessed it, some roadworks, but there wasn't a big delay.
  Way off in the distance to the west we could see a line of mountains with their snowy tops gleaming brightly in the morning sun. At this time of day, there were very few clouds in the sky and the weather looked quite promising.
  Breakfast was at a restaurant attached to a petrol station in Okotoks. We both had hearty servings of scrambled eggs, bacon, potato and toast. The place seemed to be a popular truck stop, complete with burly truck-drivers and their huge rigs parked outside. Our modest-sized rental car was dwarfed by them and looked a little out of place.
  Bison!  At first I thought they were strange cows... The drive south was, well, a shocking contrast from yesterday's Icefield's drive. The highway stretched in an almost dead-straight line for miles on end across a flat, almost treeless plain. The distant line of mountains on our right still marched south with us. The whole area near Calgary was farms - I even saw some bison running with a herd of cattle in one field!
  We passed through many small towns. Chris was amazed at how cheap the petrol was at 64.9 cents per litre. The most expensive petrol he paid in Canada was 78.9 cents per litre and he said that was still much cheaper than what he had paid in the USA.
  We had bright sunshine until about 10am (9am USA time) when we slipped under the edge of a solid mass of clouds. It was supposed to rain today in Montana, where we were headed. For once we didn't mind the prospect of rain, as we'd heard that some areas had been having some dreadful bush fires.
  Now some hours into our day's travelling, we were still driving through a very rural countryside, with lots of wheat farms and cattle ranches. We discovered that the highway wasn't very well signed. Route 23 merged with Route 3, but there were no signs visible until you were actually a couple of kilometres or so along Route 3! There was some frantic looking up of maps before we realised that, luckily, it was the way we wanted to go.
  Grrrrrr! The Milk River Information Centre was our last stop in Canada before we crossed back into the USA. Our tourist information proclaimed the centre to be an excellent place to learn about the local dinosaur finds. It certainly seemed to be a well established building, with a large painted statue of a dinosaur near the car park. Unfortunately, the centre was closed for the long weekend! No dinosaurs for us...
Chris At our stop at the US Border, the officials asked us to park our car and bring into the customs building the souvenirs we had bought in Canada. When they had asked at the roadside inspection area what we were bringing into the country, I had declared these items. It seems I had said several things to trigger their interest. Essentially, the officials were ensuring we weren't bringing in any Canadian First Nation relics, eagle feathers, or extremely valuable gems, stones, jewellery, or any quarantined materials. We had none of these. In fact, I mentioned to the officials that the Australian custom and quarantine laws we were to face going home were much stricter than their own. Because of this, we were very careful about the types of items we purchased. We were soon on our way again.
Vanessa So... You're from Australia? The souvenirs we had bought were all mass produced items for the tourist trade. I'm sure the poor officers had seen thousands of them, but they still had to check. Even though it was a bit of a nuisance for us to have to unpack and repack our suitcases, it was good to see the officers taking their job so seriously.
  At 11.41am, we crossed the border into the USA and it was "Welcome to Montana"!
  The countryside here was very dry looking. It was also rather flat, with only gentle, rolling hills and the odd mountain sticking up suddenly out of the landscape. There were very few trees as well, making it look very barren. The land was also cris-crossed by gullies. These gullies were formed by creeks and small rivers and some are quite deep with fantastic shapes in their sides where water had eroded away the earth. I could only suppose this is how the Grand Canyon had begun its formation. Many of the gullies were so severe that they were like deep, narrow cuts in the flat landscape and many were only noticeable when you were virtually right on top of them.
  Even though I found the landscape interesting to look at, Chris was not impressed. He declared loudly at one point that the "I15 is the most BORING road I've ever been on!" I suppose he was right, the highway seemed to go straight across the countryside for miles on end with the only curves being long and gentle. There was really nothing to break the monotony for a driver.
  Lunch was a burger, fries and coke for me and a chicken sandwich and coffee for Chris at "Hardee's" restaurant, in the city of Great Falls. This is quite a large place in the middle of all that nowhere landscape. To our delight, there was a large variety of fast food outlets to choose from. I was also surprised to note an inordinately large number of pawn shops, until Chris pointed out a casino.
  Even though we were making good time, we didn't stop in Great Falls for long. It was back onto the highway again. It was rather warm now and sunny with only a few clouds. Fortunately for Chris, the countryside south became more interesting with some rocky mountains and some trees. One of the mountains near Cascade had a large white "C" on one of its slopes. Chris thought that the letters may help local light aircraft pilots to navigate. The countryside south of Cascade became very rugged, with sharp fins of stone jutting out of the hill and mountainsides. We stopped to take some photos and stretch our legs.
  Phewwww! It was along this strip of highway that we began our afternoon's "leapfrogging" with a number of semi-trailers carrying pigs. There must have been ten of them! If anyone has smelt a truckload of hot pigs, they can understand why we wanted to stay away from them. What made it worse was that we would sometimes pass a truck and move well ahead of it, then when we stopped for a rest break, it would pass us. Resuming our journey some minutes later after we'd stretched our legs, we would eventually catch up with it and have to pass it again - with windows and air vents firmly closed!
  2,800 miles into our trip and at 3pm, we arrived in Helena, the capitol of Montana. The city of Helena is very spread out, like a big country town. We stopped for afternoon tea at a KFC. (Fudge brownie parfait and an apple turnover. We needed the sugar hit as we were feeling tired.)
  At least Helena was a proper city. Jefferson City, a place we drove through south of Helena, was just a small village at best. The sign from the highway to it read: "No Services "! I can only guess that someone had great dreams for the place, but they never eventuated.
  A little south of Jefferson City was a large area that had been devastated by bush fire. Some of the hillsides were still smouldering. A roadside fire danger sign was actually pointing off its gauge - at a level above extreme! We could easily see why fires in this area would be such a terrible problem. The vegetation was tinderbox dry and all the steep, rocky hills and mountains would be truly inaccessible to firefighters.
  I think we crossed the Continental Divide on this stretch of the highway. There was a roadside sign declaring the altitude to be 6,368 feet above sea level.
  The mine made quite a visible scar on the landscape. We drove past Butte, not actually entering the town proper, but staying on the main highway. We could see a huge open-cut mine on the outskirts of the town. Chris thinks that it is a copper mine.

The road here was made of concrete and our car made a strange, whistling sound as we drove along it. We came across some very serious roadworks south of Butte, but there were no delays, only some interesting traffic tangles.

Chris We arrived in Bozeman at about 5:30pm to 6pm and checked in at the Gran Tree Hotel. It was still light at this stage and, although we were very tired, we forced ourselves to do the now necessary clothes washing. At dinner time we went out and got take-away from "Taco Johns" - chicken enchilada, tacos and steak and potato burrito. It wasn't too bad for take-away quality food.