Day 57 – August 1, 2001 – We started out early for our drive into Jasper National Park. What a beautiful place! If you ever have the chance to come to Canada, be sure to plan a visit to Banff and Jasper National Parks. The mountains, lakes, and streams are stunning and rise almost vertically from the roadway. The road, a good two-lane paved road through both parks, is in the valley between the peaks. The passes are well-designed, high and steep but no hairpin curves and a passing lane. There are only a few places where the road even goes high so it isn’t frightening and intimidating as mountain driving can often be. We discussed the differences between this park and Denali. This one has one primary road through the park, you can see all the beauty and go further by hiking or backpacking if you want to. Anyone, no matter than their physical or financial condition, can enjoy this park. Mt. McKinley, the primary focal point of Denali National Park, is isolated to only those who can hike back into it or can afford the $75/person to ride the bus. (Of course, if the weather is good, you can see McKinley from the Parks Highway but you are miles away.)
We stopped in the morning to see the Athabasca Falls, a thundering gorge with walkways that allow you to stand near the edge and feel the power. We ate lunch in the parking lot and drew a crowd. They were fascinated by the cookers, of course, and by the cars themselves. We were asked over and over if we really thought we’d make it to Alaska!
While we were stopped at the Falls, Ben mentioned to Ross and Bruce that he had heard a strange sound the last few miles. They fiddled with it and we went on but the sound became worse. Finally, we pulled off into a little picnic area and started checking it out. They checked this and that but couldn’t find the cause. We discussed going on but they decided to take one more look at the engine. With Ross revving the engine, there was a loud, ominous sound and Ross immediately turned it off. We had broken the crankshaft. Now, this isn’t a 75 year old Ford crankshaft (those were still running in the other cars). This was an $1100 newly designed crankshaft from New Zealand that Ben had installed to ensure that we wouldn’t have to worry about the crankshaft. What do you do when you break a crankshaft in the middle of Jasper National Park? You call AAA, of course. Amazingly, they sent a wrecker from Banff (the direction we were going) who came and found Ben in the middle of the park.
Ben and Jennifer stayed with the Fordor and the rest of us set off for Banff, a long drive with night coming. It was a beautiful drive, with a number of mountain passes, and we still had light until around 10:00 pm. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of traffic after dark (there is probably a reason for that) and we drove on into the night. We stopped for gas and a break at Lake Louise and were surprised when the wrecker with the T pulled up in the same station. Jennifer and Lucky rode on in the T with Bruce and Nancy rode with Ben in the wrecker. The owner of the motel came down and opened up so we could get our keys at 1:30 and the others arrived at 2:00 am. We talked them through town to the motel with the walkie-talkies. We all went to bed with the thought that we would decide what to do in the morning.