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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day 41: Cardston

The 501 west towards Cardston is not exactly a well-traveled road...A grain elevator and a couple of gas pumps at Milk River...A quaint little collection of buildings at Del Bonita, just a whisper away from the US border, where the friendly post mistress has been keeping locals supplied with stamps and basic groceries for the past 30 years...A lot of field and dead straight road between. Beautiful, yes. But empty, oh so empty.

We pulled into Cardston, a town created for and by the Mormons back in the late 18 hundreds, in the early afternoon. We had never seen anything like it. Almost every windshield in town was smashed, and the bodies of trucks and cars and trailers alike had obviously been pummeled. The campground looked like a scrap metal yard. We felt a surge of mother bear protectionism for Ruby and Carmella. It could have been them...Just two days earlier, and our roadshow would have looked like every other hailstone-battered vehicle in town.

The buildings were a mess too. The Dairy Queen solarium was just a battleground of holes. People's roofs had been through the wars. We wandered around town in shock, taking it all in...Spoke to considerably more stunned locals about what had happened. For half an hour, hailstones the size of golfballs, then baseballs, just battered Cardston to a pulp. The baker watched her car become a write-off from her shop window. Nobody we talked to had ever witnessed anything like it.

Our neighbours in the campground were busy repairing their smashed vehicles. Trucks pulled out of town loaded up with broken windshields, pulled into town with new ones. Apparently, there had been a block-long queue outside the local insurance office that morning. The one car repair garage was doing a roaring trade.

A point of interest beyond the famous hailstorm of July 2012...King Kong actress Fay Wray came from Cardston...And the town is completely dry: not a drop of alcohol to be found, at least not by legal means. Beyond that, the hailstorm will probably go down in history as Cardston's most memorable moment. We just felt lucky to pass through with windshield intact, and roll on towards Waterton Lakes National Park.