Alaska 2008

Billings, MT to Lethbridge, AB

407 Miles/ 651 Km

24 June 2008

Route Map

Destination Map

Route Information


Points of interest

Distance From





Billings, MT Billings KOA Home
45.760 N
108.484 W
I 90
MT 3
Great Falls, MT   Home
47.494 N
111.299 W
US 12
US 191
US 87
US 89
I 15
US/Canada Border   Home
49.000 N
111.960 W
MT/AB I 15
AB 4
Lethbridge, AB Bridgeview RV Resort Home
49.706 N
112.873 W
AB 5
AB 3

Photographs and Commentary
Click on pictures to enlarge

This has been an interesting day! We left Billings early this morning in order to get to Lethbridge at a reasonable hour... it was not to be.

When planning the trip, I use software on my computer that is designed for truckers and RVs. I used it as my GPS with the old truck and an older laptop computer and it was very good. The software takes into account the height of the vehicle and looks for propane restrictions when selecting a route. In my planning, this software plotted a course that would take us northwest over state and US highways until we got to Great Falls where we would pick up I-15 north to the Canadian Border. The distance calculated was 407 miles and 8 1/2 hours of driving. I now use a TomTom GPS in the truck and when I asked it to plot a course from Billings to Lethbridge it gave me route that used I-90 to connect to I-15. The total distance was over 550 miles and the driving time was about 9:00 hours. When I forced the TomTom to follow the route set by my planning software, it warned me of the dangers of using back roads and that I would not be as efficient as using the original route. Most GPS devices are set to calculate the fastest route and most of the time that is the right way to go. But when the fastest time is only calculated to 30 minutes faster then the shortest route and you have an extra 150 miles to drive, than the shortest route is actually much more efficient. On our truck, that extra 150 miles represent about 15 gallons of diesel at $4.65 a gallon. The GPS is a great device, but the lesson from this episode of our trip is that you should have some idea of the best way to get there. If you don't, try having the GPS take the shortest route and compare the results before you set off. To say the least, we took the short route.

We like taking the roads less traveled, although in Montana that could be the Interstate. The route took us through downtown Billings and out of the Yellowstone River valley. Once past the airport, the speed limit went up to 70 miles an hour, but in the interest of conserving fuel we kept our speed down to 65 MPH. The route alternates through rolling countryside with some fairly large hills with long grades and flat prairie. At times we would follow a river valley for some miles and the road would climb a hill and take us up to the prairie or to another valley. This is a lot more interesting than the Interstate. At one point on the road, we saw a pickup truck stopped on the road with a red flag and traffic stopped on either side. This turned out to be a herd of sheep that had just been sheared being taken to a pasture. The shepherds didn't use sheep dogs or shepherd crooks... they used an off road motorcycle and an all terrain vehicle to keep the sheep in line. As we continued on our run, the GPS kept recalculating the travel time from the original 9.5 hours to about 8.5. Neither the GPS nor we could have anticipated the Canadian border crossing.

I have been traveling into Canada for the past 45 years and made over 100 crossings and never encountered what we did today. Usually, we have to wait in some line to get to the booth . Then some basic questions and you were free to enter Canada. Today, the border crossing had only one booth open for cars and RVs. It seemed as though everyone was questioned for a few minutes and some people were singled out for more questions by immigration officers inside the border station. We came to the booth and had the a series of questions asked of us that went beyond what we normally encountered. After answering all the questions, we were directed to park the truck and go into the station for further questions. Inside, it seemed like we were asked the same questions again and a few more. The agent photocopied out passports and noted some information on the copies. We were then told to sit and wait for further instructions. After a few minutes of sitting we were told to go to another agent who would instruct us as to what to do next. When we got to the third agent, she looked at the passports and papers filled out by the the two agents who questions us and told us we could enter Canada. When I asked why all the questions, I was told, "today is your lucky day." The whole ordeal took us more that an hour. At any rate we are now in Canada. I just hope we don't have the same kind of problems when we cross back into Canada from Alaska on our return trip. Stay tuned.

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