Phase - 2 : From Calgary to East

Day-6 : Lethbridge - Billings

This was Day-6, the Trouble Day whole day.


The trouble started from my planning for the day. According to the plan I prepared with Rand McNally's "Trip Maker" program, which I have been using to plan all my trips giving miles and driving time, if I input two locations. The distance between Lethbridge and Billings was 442 miles to take 9 hours of driving time according to the "Trip Maker". Therefore, adding 1 hour for lunch, gas station, and some breaks, I planned 10 hours to leave Lethbridge at 8:00 AM to arrive Billings by 6:00 PM, which means it will be one of the hard long days to drive many hours. Fortunately, Holiday Inn Express started breakfast service very early 6:00 AM and we could leave Lethbridge earlier at 7:22 AM. However, when I started a car in the morning, the navigator showed to arrive Billings at 1:45 PM, 6 hours 15 min. of driving time only, almost 3 hours shorter than my plan.
 Which one should I believe?

I had almost half tank of gas and I thought there must be a gas station on the way to fill up. Well, there was no gas station in Canada and none in Montana too when I got into U.S.A.. Just flat straight road but no village with gas station while gas tank gauge dropped to lower than 1/8 of the tank. I was scared and was thinking I might have to call AAA emergency road service. When I saw the sign of "Exxon 12 miles - Shelby" sign, I was so glad to see it. When we arrived Exxon gas station in Shelby, gas tank was almost empty, but not zero yet fortunately !!!

Well, The original plan was to have a lunch at Great Falls as it seemed to be the middle point of the day. However, not only on the Highway-4 in Canada but also all roads in Montana including Interstate Highway 15, there were not many cars on the road. No car could be observed in front or back most of the times. Therefore, I could drive 90-95 miles an hour naturally for whole day. No car on the road, therefore, no police car too.
  We arrived Great Falls at little after 10:00 AM, too early for lunch. We passed Great Falls and continued driving expecting any place to eat on the way. Sorry !!! For next 174 miles, no restaurant at all !No big enough village to have a restaurant !! Where is one of so many McDonald in the world? At around 12:30 PM, we arrived Lavina, the junction of 87 and 191, and there was just one house doing all kind of business - gas station, shop, coffee service,  rest rooms with several tables offering hamburgers and sandwiches. Oh thanks !!

Well, problem was not over yet!! After the wonderful(?) lunch, we drove 191 to the point only a few miles to junction 191 and 12 and all cars were stopped there for more than 30 minutes due to road works. For next about 2 miles, all cars were allowed to drive one way only alternatively. Therefore, we had to wait more than 30 min. until cars from opposite direction to pass this 2 miles and the 2 miles becomes clear for us.

Well, the problem was still not over yet!! We have finally arrived almost to the Billings, only a few more miles. At the start of the city, the road was down grade and car was running at 50-60 mph without accelerating. I was looking for the hotel and had no time to look at speed meter. Then, a black car followed me flashing. Finally, Police Patrol !! He said I drove 65 mph at 50 mph zone. I excused "It was down grade. I didn't accelerate. I was busy to look for hotel sign and had no time to see the speed meter. Sorry if I have over-speeded." He asked where are we from and I answered "from California". He said " I will give you warning only this time but drive slower." Thanks. This is 2nd. time I got warning only in Montana. I got another warning many years ago visiting Glacier National Park.

Well, this was the day and we finally arrived hotel at almost 4:00 PM, still 2 hours earlier than plan !! Great !! I can have a good rest for 2 extra hours!!


Day-7 : Billings - Bismarck

Day-7 of 6/12 was the similar situation but little better as we were driving transcontinental interstate highway 94 whole day.

 There were little more cars. We could see 5 - 10 cars within our sight most of the day and there were more gas stations. I don't think the cars will face gas problem in Highway-94. However, food problem was very similar. After we left Billings at 7:32 AM, for more than 2 hours driving of 139 miles, until we hit Miles City at 9:42 AM and found McDonald there, there was no place to buy a cup of coffee. Thereafter, another McDonald could be found at the end of the trip of the day, Bismarck. Meantime, we could see several food signs with knife and folk but we didn't check to find out what kind of places they are.

As you can see at the following picture, there is not many cars on Highway-94 all the way during the day and we could not see any patrol car. No car, no police again. The speed limit is 75mph all the way and I drove at 90-95 mph for most of the day but NO TICKET!!! Interstate Highway-94 had some up and down with many curves compared to other transcontinental freeways in south, though they are not serious and there are very many straight roads too as shown in the picture.


The time zone is changed from Mountain Daylight Saving Time to Central Standard Time and we lost 1 hour at some place within North Dakota. North Dakota use Mountain Standard Time in west 1/4 of the state but Central Standard Time in east 3/4 of the state. I don't understand why one state uses two different standard time. ?? It looks like we drove 8.5 hours but we drove 7.5 hours actually. We left Billings at 7:32 AM, 28 min. earlier than plan, and arrived Bismarck in North Dakota at 4:04 PM, 26 min. earlier than plan, which means we drove only 2 min. less than the plan today. How accurate the plan was? Quite different from yesterday. I drove faster but road works here and there slowed down.

When we see the McDonald sign, we were so happy to see it.


Day-8 : Bismarck - Minneapolis

On Day-8 (6/13 ), We continued to drive Interstate Highway-94 whole day,

But two different worlds divided by Fargo which is located at the border of South Dakota and Minnesota. The first half in South Dakota was just the extension of Day-7, speed limit 75 mph and almost no car. The second half in Minnesota was more like any interstate highways in the United States, speed limit 70 mph and a lot more cars on the road. But still no police car whole day.

Today, I remembered the cruise control of the car and found this must be the best place for the cruise control. In South Dakota, I set the cruise control at 85 mph (10 miles higher than limit) after we left Bismarck at 7:47 AM and didn't touch it for whole morning until I hit Fargo city. There was not many cars and I didn't need to touch it. What a wonderful driving!! My leg was so comfortable whole morning. Why didn't I think about it earlier in Canada and Montana?

However, the situation was changed after Fargo. There were more and more cars as we drove to Minneapolis. I still could use cruise control set at 80mph most of the time but had to give it up as we approached closer and closer to Minneapolis. Would I be able to use this extremely convenient cruise control in the future days during this trip somewhere? I don't know. Anyway, it was really comfortable way to drive !!

Well, we had same problem in North Dakota. No place to get coffee for more than 2 hours until we hit Fargo. There were lot more gas stations but no restaurant. AND no Rest Room !! After we pass the Fargo, we returned to civilization with many restaurants here and there, as there were more and more cars on the road. One thing bad was ---- when we arrive Minneapolis at 3:27 PM, we have found our hotel was under remodeling with construction work here and there. The clerk said it started Aug. last year and will be finished Aug. this year --- one year work. Though, there was not much inconvenience to stay one night.

Well, the CRUISE CONTROL was today's topic !!!

Day-9 : Minneapolis - Green Bay

Day-9, 6/14, was another problem day - How can I drive slower as much as possible, while my objective had been to drive as fast as possible usually?

 The problem started from the planning stage when my planning program "Trip Maker" showed it would take little more than 6 hours from Minneapolis to Green Bay, which means if we leave Minneapolis 9:00 AM, we would arrive Green Bay, Wisconsin, at 4:00 PM. However, when I turned on the navigator at 7:44 AM to leave Minneapolis hotel, it told me we would arrive Green Bay at 11:45 AM - only 4 hours later !! When "Trip Maker" said 6 hours driving, I thought we have to drive local country-side road of Highway-29 much slower than freeway, taking much longer time. However, when we get in to Wisconsin State Highway-29, we found it is not a freeway but the country road with speed limit of 65 mph - same as most freeways with not too many cars. I could drive 85-90 mph if I wanted.

Well, the problem was we shouldn't arrive hotel any earlier than 3:00 PM check-in time, as the room might not be cleaned yet if we arrive too early. Therefore, I have targeted 2:00 PM arrival hoping the room might be cleaned by that time. To drive slower, I set the cruise control at 70 mph (5 miles faster than legal speed limit) and drove right lane all the way. Usually, I passed all cars driving at left lane and no car passed me. However, today, every car passed me and I didn't pass any car. It was not easy driving for me. As I was using cruise control which was the only way to drive slowly, all I had to do was to hold steering wheel at straight road mostly, which made me sleepy.

During the driving, I was thinking to cancel the hotel and drive longer today. I stopped at a restaurant and checked hotel beyond Green Bay with notebook computer and smart phone. However, it was mostly forest area and there was no city with Holiday Inn Express or Holiday Inn, unless I wanted to drive all the way to Sault Ste Marie, where we were going to stay tomorrow, driving more than 10-11 hours. I gave it up and decided to stay at Green Bay as planned.

In addition to the slower driving, we stopped more places for the coffee breaks and had longer lunch hour. Finally, we arrived the hotel in Green Bay at 2:02 PM (very accurate arrival. right?) and found our room was ready for immediate check-in fortunately. It was one of the hardest day for this fast driving driver but I did it accurately as targeted somehow.


Day-10 : Green Bay - Sault Ste Marie

On this Day-10, 6/15, the plan was to have 7.5 hours of easy drive from Green Bay to Sault Ste Marie, back to Canada. This would be the last day just to drive without meeting anyone for 5 days crossing continent from Calgary to Ottawa.

 However, it was another terrible day due to single lane roads and lake side fogs. We drove lake side road of Lake Michigan for most of the day and had quite a fog whole morning, though the visibility was not too bad. This fog caused some difficulty but did not cause much driving problem. The real problem of the day was - There is no freeway between Minneapolis and Sault Ste Marie and we had to drive single lane road for most of the time !!

Not having a freeway was OK. The real problem was most of the roads in Wisconsin and Michigan have single lane only and we had to pass the car at the broken center line passing section while there are quite a cars coming from opposite direction continuously. There were passing lanes here and there but not too many. To make the situation worse, people in this area do not drive as fast as Californians. They were mostly driving at the speed limit or just few miles (but no more than 5 miles) faster than the max. speed limit. They do not pass others but mostly following other cars though they are also driving slow. If I follow them without passing at all at 55 mph speed limit, it might take at least 1-2 hours longer today. But..... If I want to pass, I had to pass about 99% of them, 5-6 cars at a time  !! Which way to go?

Well, I am a fast Californian driver!! I started to pass the cars and passed 99% of the cars in front of me. If I see any coming car from opposite direction, I didn't start to pass. However, I had to pass 5-6 cars in one passing many times, as they were driving too close to the car in front, not passing the car but just following the car too close. Therefore there were several times, I could not pass a few cars at the same time and the car from opposite direction had to yield to shoulders little bit. I was just a few seconds too late? It was a kind of circus but I had no choice. What a great states Wisconsin and Michigan are !! It seems they don't think they need double lanes roads and people there are used to this kind of driving. Perhaps, that is why they are not driving fast but slow always.

I think my mistake was to drive this most northern transcontinental Highway-94, rather than Canadian Transcontinental Highway-1. There were too many problems I have never experienced at other places. You will understand what kind of problems I had in last 5 days in Montana, North drive, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, if you have read my stories. Unless you like this kind of driving as a fun, please do not attempt to drive this route to cross U.S.A.!! I will never again. Never. Never again !!!!

One thing I have noticed there. Most cars in Canada and above 5 northern states I mentioned drive cars with headlights on during the day. I have asked to a few people whether it is a legal requirement or not. No one really knows but they are just doing it as a habit. (Tony in Calgary confirmed it is legal requirement in Canada.)


Day-11 : Sault Ste Marie - Ottawa

On the Day-11, 6/16, We left Sault Ste Marie little early at 6:48 AM as we have to drive long distance to Ottawa, 493 miles for about 10 hours estimated including lunch, gas and a few breaks.

Here, we found again most of this day's road were single lane with mostly slow cars driving within legal speed limit. However, there were much less cars coming from opposite direction and much more frequent passing lanes, which made my driving much easier. Rather than single lane problem, here again no gas station nor the place to get a cup of coffee were greater problem. We had to drive almost 2 hours to get the first place we could get a cup of coffee.

Anyway, I could make to arrive Mr. Hyung-Bo Kim's house in Ottawa by 5:00 PM as I have committed to him (4 minutes earlier. Isn't it accurate enough?). He is my old ham radio friend since he operated ham radio station in Korea HM1AX. (VE3HLM now.) We have visited him in 2008 during Trans-Canada Trip (The 3rd. Trans Continent Trip). Mrs. Kim prepared a wonderful dinner for us and we stayed one night in their home. Mr. Sang-Maun Lee who was a great tour guide of Ottawa city in 2008 and ham radio operator of HM9C, Hanyang University Club Station in Korea when he was the student, was invited with his wife and we have enjoyed whole evening talking old stories until 11:00 PM.

He had arranged a Round Table QSO (ham word : contact or talking) with many Korean hams in northeastern Canada and
 U. S. A. and we could talk with :
AD1AD       in Boston. Korean call sign - HM1AHK.
NB2O         in New Jersey. Korean Call Sign HM1KT. We will meet in New York a few days later.
K3PGA      in Delaware and a great golfer
KF0BJ       in New Jersey
WV3U,      all in U. S. A. and
VA3PMM in Toronto Canada. We had a great and interesting talk for about an hour over the ham radio.

We, HM1AJ and HM1AM (Jane), have really enjoyed this Round Table QSO on the air for about an hour and appreciate those Korean hams who joined to this QSO (contact and talking). Korean hams in Los Angeles also tried to join but failed as the propagation of radio wave was poor to L.A. direction. MNI MNI THX (Many Many Thanks).

Since we were going to Boston next day and to stay one night there, we made an appointment with AD1AD to meet in Boston at the next day evening to have an eye-ball-QSO (To talk looking at eye ball each other, not the radio contact. To meet face to face)