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Biggest covered mall in the world, aargh! (exit 24, of around 60!)

Weather-wise, today was a real contrast to yesterday’s cool air. We were out early to continue our journey westwards and were met with temperatures well above zero. By afternoon we had gone through spells where it climbed as high at 19C. Unfortunately it was not to hold and our plan of reaching Jasper in the Rockies was slightly hindered by snow!

We started our day at the West Edmonton Mall (WEM). Now neither of us enjoys shopping and I think it is fair to say that we both hate shopping malls but this one claims to be the largest in the world so we felt we had to have a look. For shoppers it must be paradise. Its brochure claims it that “with more than eight hundred stores and services under one roof you’re sure to find exactly what you are looking for”. We did but for us it was the way out, but not before we walked around a bit.

It is pretty big. Not only do they have the shops but there is an amusement parks, a water park, deep sea aquarium, sea lions show, open skating rink, cinema and fantasy land Hotel. You could probably come here for a weekend and go home very happy if this is your cup of tea. The water park looked pretty good and if it had been open we probably would have given it a go. They have a huge pool with a big wave machine and lots of waterslides all decked out in beach theme.

In one of the guide books we had for Edmonton you open the front cover to me faced with a full page advert for …… a shooting range. It is also in the West Edmonton Mall so we went to have a look. You walk into a shop unlike those we see in the UK. Behind the counter rifles and machines guns were ranged along the wall. In the counter top display cases there is a wide selection of pistols with “take home today” tags attached to them. I found it a bit unsettling that someone could come to this centre to do their normal shopping and walk away with a handgun.

The shop was tucked away at the back of the mall, round a corner, and down an unpainted alley so I suppose it was given a low profile compared to other shops. At the back of the shop they have a firing range so for $18 anyone can walk in off the street and get supervised access to the range. The only other cost is the cost of the bullets which was about $25 for a box of fifty bullets for a pistol.

Leaving Edmonton behind we set off again on the Yellowhead Trail towards the Rockies aiming to get to Jasper this evening. The landscape changed quickly outside of the city and again became full of trees. Stef was driving while I had a snooze safe in the knowledge that the landscape would not change that much that I would miss anything too interesting. A couple of hours later we stopped at Edson and I took over the driving.

For the first ten minutes the winds picked up and there were some pretty strong gusts blowing us across the road. A few minutes later it started to snow, initially just a light flurry but it gradually got heavier and heavier. Beyond the stage where it was closer to turn back to Edson I kept going, agreeing with Stef that we would leave Jasper until tomorrow and just hole up in Hinton, the next town we would reach. The Finnish man we had met in Thunder Bay had warned us about how quickly the weather could change and said that when the snow starts he just pulls off and waits for it to stop.

We reached Hinton after a cautious and conversation free hour or so’s driving. With about five motels easily visible on the main road we were confident that we would get a room with no trouble. Our confidence soon started to ebb though. This area is the new oil lands of Alberta and the first motels we tried were all full of oil men. Stef’s charm worked at one motel’s reception and although they had no availability they called round for us until they found us a place to stay.

The Pine’s Motel was towards the end of town, next to a golf course and RV park, both of which were closed. Rather than a new modern block it was a collection of smaller cottage style buildings. If I have to be honest it is the type of place I would normally drive past and not stop at but we got a very friendly welcome from an eccentric French sounding lady who was delighted she could now put up her “no vacancies” sign. The room was absolutely fine. Clean, large and well heated and with the usual two double beds.

From the warmth inside we watched the snow coming down and turning the car park from grey tarmac to white. It was really pretty to see and I was glad that we had decided to stop here. We do not really get snow in London so neither of us are used to driving in it, especially not at night.