In a small place in Iowa on one trip, I learned something interesting. Often Canadians claim Americans don’t know much about Canada. I didn’t often see that. But once in Council Bluff, with a just over 60,000 population I did.
Being as it was summer and a busy time for tourists, my husband parked on the side of the highway and had me run into a motel to see if there was a room available with truck parking. There was, so I booked a room.
The woman looked at my registration and asked, very puzzled. “A Calgary, what’s a Calgary?” (Not where’s Calgary, but what’s a Calgary). Now I was puzzled – surely it said city or town – or had I misread it. But just laughed and said ‘A city in Canada (no sense saying Alberta I thought) only about 10 times as large as Council Bluff.’
It was funny to me. I caught a glimpse of not knowing something about a country beside you.
Most the country-side in the middle States are similar to their northern Canada provinces. The people are similar too, especially in the farming communities. North Dakota and South Dakota went on endlessly across flat/straight roads with a few differences from southern Saskatchewan. There was an ad for Wall Drug Store that indicated some fabulous landmark would eventually appear. It wasn’t quite what I expected but their sense of humor and guarantee that curiosity would make me stop is to be commended. I also had the privilege of seeing ‘Historical’ Jamestown – the town of my father’s birth. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed driving through northern Michigan.. When I stayed in Marquette overnight – I thought it would be a place I could live – it was peaceful and beautiful on Lake Superior. I reconsidered when I realized I’m not excited about humidity and it was there. Some of the town names were exotic with promise – possibly not met? Escanaba sounded like it should be in the Caribbean but instead it is on the northern tip of Lake Michigan. When we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge the scenery was awesome. It was late and George was tired so even though it was the middle of summer tourist season we tried to find a hotel. Once again the Best Western saved us. Since it was so late they gave us a luxurious room for $57.00 – complete with a Jacuzzi tub where we could watch TV. In the morning we had a free breakfast out on a patio before the heat of the day. It was beautiful. The bridge spans where Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan join. We drove through Iowa and Radar’s hometown Ottumwa. In Council Bluffs I had the experience of a desk-clerk asking me what ‘a’ Calgary was when I signed in to a motel. In Kansas we stopped in a tiny restaurant (unfortunately I forget the name) where they served ham that was identical to the hams my dad used to cure. It was fantastic. I loved Montana – it was so much like my beloved Alberta. In Oklahoma we were caught in the middle of a storm. We had to stay in a small town Boise City with very few conveniences. All the streets were lined with semi’s and a small convenience store stayed open. In the morning we could go again.
Last but not least, I am determined to go back and visit St. Louis. I discovered they have the largest museum and center for Western North American History. I should be able to stay for at least a few weeks of research. I still laugh at the expressions I get when I am asked where I would like to go on holidays and I say St. Louis.