This week started with Deborah and me watching our grandsons in Seattle for three days before starting our trek to Canada and toward this summer’s highlight, the Calgary Stampede. With our grandsons’ moms off to the Gorge Amphitheater for a weekend of Eric Church, we bonded with our boys, not only as their authoritative figure, but best of all, as their grandparents. The reward at the end was Duncan innocently telling us he wanted to live with us forever.
Back to Canada
After my episode at the US-Canadian border last summer, we didn’t want to raise any red flags this year, so on Sunday night, Deborah decided to pull up the rules for a Canadian border crossing. I had already removed what I knew we couldn’t bring when Deborah informed me we were limited to one standard bottle of alcohol and two bottles of wine. I’m thinking…for 30 days? We chose a bottle of Tito’s Vodka, Deborah’s favorite. I normally drink Jack Daniels, but I like Canadian Whiskey, and I figured it would be cheap in Canada.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The wait at the Lynden border crossing was about 45 minutes and $50 of data usage before I realized I didn’t have my international settings right. Apparently Bell, Telus, and Rogers’ cellular towers in Canada thought I was already there. I handed our passports through my tiny driver-side window down to a stern-looking Canadian border officer. He didn’t ask anything about what we were bringing into Canada. Instead, he only wanted us to declare where we were headed and how long we would be staying. We could have brought all the liquor and wine we wanted, and then again, we could have gotten caught.
I had no idea that on July 1st, when we crossed the Canadian border, it was Canada Day. Also by total chance, Deborah was wearing red shoes, a white top, and carrying a red purse. After getting BAM parked, we went out searching for ways to solve our cellular data challenges. After stops at Telus and Rogers, it eventually led us to Walmart where Deborah began getting compliments about her “spirit.” At first, she thought it was her smile and positive attitude. Then an enthusiastic Walmart employee chased her down an aisle to declare that her patriotic Canadian fashion wear would probably be on sale tomorrow.
A few days later, on July 4th, after we had reached Revelstoke, British Columbia, there was nothing red, white, and blue. It was such a normal weekday in Canada. In fact, I tried to place a business call to Phoenix before realizing it was our national holiday. We stayed in Revelstoke for five days and were quickly in love with it despite almost four days of rainy weather.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
Revelstoke is located on a remote section of the Trans-Canada Highway that crosses Rogers Pass. It was the last section of the Canadian Highway 1 completed in 1962. It is now the last section of this great highway, spanning all of Canada, that hasn’t been converted to a divided, four-lane road.
The latest census population of Revelstoke is 7,000, but cellphone data indicates there are more than 14,000 in the area most days. It has an old downtown dominated by local shops and restaurants. They spotlight and offer many local products. It impressed me that there is a real feel of a local community here, with everyone pulling for and supporting one another.
The rain and clouds made it difficult to see the landscape the first three days. Still, you could sense something special with an occasional glimpse, through the clouds, of a glacier near the top of one of the rugged peaks surrounding this valley town on the banks of the mighty Columbia River.
At the Revelstoke Mountain Resort, we could only see a lower section the first gondola. It steeply ascended up into the clouds to a second gondola. If you then take a chair lift all the way to the top, you will have risen in elevation well over a mile. At 5,620 feet, it is the largest vertical drop of any ski resort in North America. There are basically just four lifts that serve this legendary steep and deep power mountain. For hardcore skiing experts, it is nirvana.
Canadian Pacific Railway
The rain slacked a little on the third day, which gave us occasional views as we drove 40 miles to the top of Rogers Pass. It crosses Canada’s Glacier National Park (100 miles north of the US Glacier Park). The road follows the Illecillewaet River and the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR). This section of the railroad, like the highway later, was the last part completed in 1885. At the time, CPR was nearly bankrupt when British investment banker Lord Revelstoke stepped in to purchase CPR’s unsold bonds. The city’s name subsequently changed from Farwell to Revelstoke.
Revelstoke Golf Club
Finally, on our fourth day, with Deborah’s urging, I decided to put on my rain suit and go play golf. The 350 square feet inside of BAM can get a bit cramped during extended periods of rain. This turned out be be the start a very lucky day! My expectation for the golf course was low, so my first luck was to discover a well-maintained, beautiful, old, natural course surrounded on three sides by the Columbia River. Then in my entire 18 holes, there were only a couple of light sprinkles and no groups in front of me to slow my pace. Shortly after my round when I returned to BAM, it started to pour rain.
Sky Meadows Parkway
With nothing else to do, I sat down and became “one with my phone” thanks to the great campground WiFi. Looking at the weather, I noticed a slight clearing with a little sunshine predicted for an hour or so around 4 pm. I ask Deborah if she wanted to take a chance and drive up Sky Meadows Parkway to the top of Revelstoke Mountain in nearby Revelstoke National Park. At this point, she had been in BAM for most of three straight days and nights. It was a quick YES! That provided two more lucky breaks on this Saturday.
Apparently, with the rain, everybody else passed on this drive. All day, the parkway had been smothered by thick clouds and heavy rain. For our drive, the timing was perfect. The 26-kilometer Sky Meadows Parkway was nearly deserted. Even better, the predicted short clearing in the clouds lasted six hours—all the way until sunset! We had panoramic viewpoint, near the top of the mountain, to ourselves for more than 15 minutes. Well, to ourselves along with about 15,000 or so flying bugs. Apparently, the sun brought out this seemingly endless hatch. You had to clench your teeth when talking to avoid swallowing one.
The parkway presented us with mystical surprises, magnificent wild flowers, and majestic views. The sun was shining on the dampened wildflowers, and small waterfalls from rain runoff would unexpectedly and regularly appear. Steam often rose from the wet roadway, giving the drive an ethereal and floating feel.
A surprise was the Nels Nelsen ski jump. A one-kilometer hike leads to this natural jump area that was found in 1916. The landing area is more like a cliff. Competitors would see how far they could catapult themselves over it and then see how far down it they could land. There is now a platform on which you can lean into a bronze replica of Nels’ jumping outfit and get his view at takeoff.
Nelsen worked for the CPR constructing the track over Rogers Pass when he lost a hand in an accident. Since he was unable to work construction any longer, he took up ski jumping. Here, in 1925, he set a world record with a jump of 73 meters (240 feet).
After word came that a jumper in Switzerland had beaten the record in 1930, a leap of 82 meters (269 feet) in 1932 recaptured the record on what the locals referred to as “the big hill.”
At the time, one of Nels’ toughest competitors was Hans Hanson.
For the local Norwegians, apparently the first four letters of your last name become your first name. For me, Bate Bateman doesn’t seen to work as well as those Norse names where the fourth letter is an s.
Nels attempted to go to the 1928 winter Olympics in St. Moritz, but the British Olympic delegation could not afford to send him. He decided to work as a laborer on a freighter to cross the Atlantic to get to the games. The British also put a stop to that. They declared it would be unbefitting of an Olympic athlete to arrive in that matter—never mind that it seems unbefitting that they, themselves, could not afford to send such a top-notch competitor. Where in the world was Lord Revelstoke this time money was needed?
A Happy Place
Some days, your luck seems endless and everything turns out perfectly. With the Saturday we had just experienced, we quickly decided to take Jackson Browne’s advise and “stay just a little bit longer.” Instead of heading to Lake Louise on Sunday, we took a victory lap around Revelstoke on a beautiful sunny day. Deborah got to golf surrounded by crystal views of the Columbia River with glacier-covered peaks jutting up in all directions. As we relaxed that evening, we talked about how much we had enjoyed the Lamplighter campground in Revelstoke. It’s not fancy, but it is peaceful. Best of all, it has the most powerful WiFi of anyplace we have ever parked BAM. With the cell data problems we were having in Canada, Revelstoke was truly a happy place.
When we pulled into the Lamplighter campground in Revelstoke, I had that feeling that this was a special place and we were going to love it! It wasn’t anything fancy, but the mowed green grass and trimmed, flowering bushes told me that we were home and soulmates with these campground owners. They had successfully created a “real” space that wasn’t contrived but exuded the spirit of their wonderful community, Revelstoke.
Have you ever felt like you connected with a space? You don’t know why, but you know that you are comfortable and feel free to be yourself.
Revelstoke was that kind of experience. We immediately felt like we were welcomed, loved, and belonged. Just being in Revelstoke gave us an amazing confidence and comfort level. A comfort level to explore and be ourselves. And yet, when it was time to leave, we felt that we left a part of ourselves behind.
“You can’t exist in this world without leaving a piece of yourself behind.”