It felt very strange to drive west from Canmore to Banff. Not only was I backtracking, but I felt like I was going the wrong direction. Most people think of going west for new direction, new start. I, however am going east. Not "back East," but more like "forward East." But once I got to Banff, I felt a strange sense of calm. It's a cute village, more extensive than I thought it would be. What is it about ski-town villages that bring so much charm. Doesn't matter which country.
I didn't spend much time there. Just had breakfast at this cute cafe, outside in the cold crisp air and warmed by the newly cleared sun. Got to plan my day thanks to free wifi and decided to go to the hot springs up the hill and go up Sulphur Mountain. I wish I had done it the other way around. I was rather underwhelmed by the hot springs. I mean, it was nice to be in warm water, but I didn't quite feel the healing powers they say hot springs are supposed to bring.
They say hot springs help cure various ailments and I wondered if it would help heal my broken heart. I stepped in with that intention, hung out and even swam in the pool a bit I didn't like the heat of the water in my face, however. Overall, underwhelming. Physically, my neck still hurt, so not sure what the point was of the springs.
Afterwards, I decided to ride the gondola up the Banff Mountain and then hike up Sulphur Mountain. It felt strange going in my own gondola, without all the groups and families and couples going together. Just me and luckily my iPod, so I had such a wonderful soundtrack for my ride and my hike. I was disappointed to find out I could have saved the $30 and hiked up, but I didn't want to spend that much time anyway.
What was I thinking just wearing my fliip flops? I guess I was just so focused on the hot springs and I didn't realize how much mroe there was to do up top. I simply thought it was a simple ride, oooh and ahhhh and then come down. It ended up being a bit like Grouse Mountain which offered so much more than just nice views. I hesitated about the walk to the other summit. It seemed so much further and higher. There was a sign about wearing proper footwear and a picture of a hiking boot and then of a person falling. Not exactly encouraging for a gal still dripping from the hot springs. I kept hearing, "I have everything I need," and I really could do it. That happened with this path in Uxmal which was supposed to be a metaphor for life, wearing what I thought were the wrong shoes, but I still did it. And, with going up the summit, I still did it. And I was neither cold nor uncomfortable.
Leaving Banff, I decided it was time to head back to the US and my goal was to get as far south down Montana as possible. It was about 2pm and if I were to resume my easternly direction, I would have hit Calgary around rush hour and then headed south for the border. If my experience the night before of the standstill Calgary traffic were any indication of what I would have to deal with, then I thought it'd be better to keep going west and then take the alternative highway through Radium Hot Springs.
I debated strongly about making a stop there. It seemed like such a large town to celebrate the natural resource. What would happen if I were to go twice in one day? But I was so underwhelmed with the first time, would the second be any different? I decided to move on.
The border was a step up from a gas station at an abandoned ghost town. There were 3 car lanes available, but barely any sign of life. When the red light turned green and I pulled in next to the stand, the lady questioned my citizenship. I suppose I didn't exactly fit the typical Montanan profile. But I handed her my US passport. Every answer I gave her led to more questions. I suppose I do have a puzzling story that could only arouse suspicion.
Where do you live? - Washington, DC
(? why does the car have Washington state license plates)
Do you have any tobacco or alcohol? - No! (my one fib)
Where is the car from? - Seattle, I just moved to DC and I'm driving it over
If you're going east, why on earth are you coming from Canada? - I love Vancouver and I decided to check out Banff
(This led to a thorough inspection of the vehicle.)
How long were you in Canada? - 3 days (I had to think about it for a bit, since I really didn't have much concept of time. Hence, arousing even more suspicion.)
What were you doing in Vancouver? - Pride weekend (She didn't seem to like my answer, not sure whether it was because she didn't know what "Pride" meant -- this is rural Montana after all -- or because she thought she'd have to let some queer into the states.)
Why are you going this way? - I've already been to Eastern Washington and I'm not going wine tasting, so why not. It's my summer vacation. Oh, and I didn't want to go through Calgary during rush hour.
What kind of work do you do? - I work at a non-profit.
What kind of non-profit? - Philanthropy
What does that do? - We help fund charitable organizations
(At this point, she does catch me in my one fib. I did have a bottle of wine that I was bringing for my friends whom I would be staying with at Yellowstone. Thankfully, she ignored it)
What non-profit? - I tell her, she never heard of it, so I explain the history of the founders and tell her that I transferred from the Seattle office to the DC one.
How much cash do you have?
Why are you driving?
For how long?
. . . and the questions persisted, which luckily the physical evidence corroborated. And, it's not like anyone could make my story up. I have to admit, it was nice not having to worry about anything (except the wine). Had this been 10 years ago, my attitude would have been far different, especially with British Columbia's very liberal medicinal marijuana laws.