Southern Alberta is about ten times more populated than northern Montana. I assume this has something to do with the fact that while Americans consider us the frozen tundra, we are still south of the southernmost part of western Canada. The people north of us live in the banana belt of Alberta.
Oddly enough, this really is true. There is a swathe of southern Alberta extending from the Fort McLeod in the foothills of the Rockies, east toward Lethbridge and clear out past Medicine Hat where they can grow corn and sugar beets and other crops that can't cut it on our side of the border. It has to do with elevation and weather patterns and small geographic feature called the Hudson's Bay Divide that lies just north of our ranch. Rain that falls on our side ends up in the Missouri River, then the Mississippi, then the Gulf of Mexico. A raindrop that wanders a mile north and trickles off the other side of the Hudson's Bay Divide will flow north and east and into--shockingly--Hudson's Bay, clear out in Manitoba or Ontario.
The point of this whole story is that due to the weather and the relatively tropical climate, there are half a dozen towns less than an hour into Canada where we can find things like auto parts. A salvage yard in Raymond offered us the best deal on a power steering box for a 1994 Ford F250 FWD. So away we went.
First, of course, there's that pesky international border to cross. Gone are the days when the people manning the customs offices had been there for twenty years and knew all the locals by sight. Now we have to show passports and birth certificates. They even ask us if we're carrying firearms. Our border crossing is only open from nine in the morning until six at night in the winter, so we can't venture too far unless we're planning to spend the night, or drive an extra hour or two to get home through a different port of entry.
Once across the border, it becomes immediately apparent that no, we are not in Kansas anymore. Or any other part of the U.S. (Those of my followers who are from Canada, Australia and Europe, you are not going to get why the rest of us are amused by these pictures. Feel free to skip ahead.)
First of all, you can drive really, really fast:
Which is good, because everything is a lot of these 'km' things away:
Twenty miles (excuse me, thirty two kilometers) north of the border, the highway passes through the McIntyre Ranch. No hunting of any kind is allowed on the thousands of acres they own. Believe me, these guys didn't get to be six and seven point bucks by being stupid (and no, I can't figure out what I did to make my camera take blue pictures):
No, they're not fenced in. They're invading the haystacks. Their friend across the road was even bigger:
As soon as we reached Raymond, we headed downtown. Southern Alberta has a large Asian population, which means nearly every little town has one of these. And yes, the food was awesome, despite the masking tape on the broken windows.
I was more concerned about the parking situation. First off, it was twenty degrees American and raining, which meant the streets were slicker than snot on a greasewood stick. Second, I'm pretty sure the engineer who designed middle of the street parking also owns the local body shop:
Although I saw no signs indicating such was the case, the locals also assume this center parking area may be used for U-turns at will. But perhaps it's best if I don't get started on how Albertans drive.
Fully stocked with Chinese food, MacIntosh toffee, Coffee Crisps and Aero bars, we headed south. Only one minor stop on the way home:
Now, dear readers, I have a question for you. Why is southern Alberta the only place I get this awesome brown sweet and sour sauce on my pork spareribs, instead of that glow in the dark orangey pink stuff they serve at all the U.S. restaurants?