Days 50 & 51 – This is the end…

Wednesday, September 18 marked 7 weeks exactly since we pulled out of our driveway in Stevie to embark on this adventure, and boy did we put her to the test on Day 50!  We decided we would drive form Osoyoos to Kimberley, BC.

Our day started well with a beautiful winding climb up the mountain overlooking Osoyoos.  The views are simply stunning, and we had plenty of time to enjoy them as Stevie climbs very very slowly.  Note that it’s not a graceful climb in Stevie.  It’s much more like sitting in a 10,000 pound jolly jumper.  As we bounced around one corner, our fridge decided to explode it’s contents all over the floor.  Jenn jumped out of her seat to check the damage to find that our container of pureed pumpkin (we feed it to the dogs) had splatted all over the kitchen.  Luckily there was a handy viewpoint so I pulled over and parked.  (OBHE got to take great photos while Jenn cleaned up the messJer:  Thanks for liking my photos!)

 

While we were planning our drive, Google maps told me that it would take 5 hours to get to Kimberley.  Over the seven weeks we learned to add at least two hours per trip to allow for “Stevie Speed.”  What we didn’t factor in was the fact that we would be climbing and descending three massive mountains to get from Point A to Point B.  (JB: you also forgot about the hour time change, dumbass).  We thought we would arrive at the Kimberley Riverside RV Park at about 6 o’clock in the evening, which would give us time to visit with our friends Debs and Pieter.  Instead, it was getting close to 9pm by the time we arrived, so we had to postpone our visit with them.  Let’s just say there were a few tense moments in Stevie as Jenn processed her disappointment!  I admit I was bitten by the bug to get home while Jenn would have happily camped one more night between the two end points.  It was a fairly tense day of driving up and down the mountains.

JB: Jeeezus, this is really a climb. Who picked THIS route?

Jer: We’ve done it before.  I don’t remember it being so steep.

JB: Because you were driving a BMW, Dumbass. Not a 1978 motorhome.

Jer: fair point.

JBHoly crap this hill is straight down!

Jer:  It’s not that bad….   *fingers tighten on the steering wheel as the brakes start to overheat, time to downshift*

Jenn: what’s that noise? Is Stevie backfiring?

Jer: I think so.

JB: There is no guardrail on the edge of the road!

Jenn: *picks up crocheting*

JB: Why the hell are you crocheting at a time like this?

Jenn: because if I don’t crochet, I’ll…..

OB: AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! WE’RE GOING TO GO OVER THE EDGE!  WE’RE GOING TO DIE!!!!!

Jenn: …scream like that.

JB: That yarn sure is pretty.  Carry on.

At one point, Stevie did feel like she was completely DONE with the trip as she sputtered up a huge hill.

Jenn: Is she dying?

Jer: I hope not.

OBI told you we should have camped in Creston!

Jer:  Yah but it’s dry today.  Can you imagine this in the rain?

Jenn: should we pull over?

Jer: I can’t. There isn’t room.

OB: Better to pull over while you have some control than sputter to a stop in the middle of a lane.

Jenn: Keep that inside your head, OB.

Jer: *exhales loudly as Stevie recovers*

JB: I thought we were goners there.

Jer: Yep.

 

Even though it was the most stressful drive of our trip, we still managed to have a good time.  Jenn got excellent shots on one of our frequent rest stops along the way.  It’s amazing that we left in 40c heat at the height of summer, and we are returning in autumn.

 

We had one final stop on our trip.  While we weren’t able to connect with Debs and Pieter the evening we arrived in Kimberley, we managed to grab a coffee with them the next morning.  Jenn met Debs walking Saela in our first Calgary neighbourhood, and we all became fast friends.  Debs and Pieter are an inspiration to Jenn and I.  They are kind, graceful, and loving people, and they are examples of living your dreams fully.  They have traveled the world, pursued their passions, and even once owned a restaurant / bar in Barbados so they could live the Caribbean life for a while.  Our visit was brief, but full of love and laughter.

img_8943-1

 

And with that, we began the final drive of our Freedom Adventure.  Our route home overlapped with our first day’s drive down to Montana, and it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come, what we’ve seen, and how much we enjoyed it.  We clocked over 9000KMs on Stevie, and even though there were times when I thought she might kill us, she was a champ and a way better investment than renting ever could have been.

We are now home and settling back into our routines.  It’s a blessing to have a king size bed, a dishwasher, and a full sized bathroom for sure, but we learned a lot about how little we actually need to celebrate life.  I encourage all of you reading this blog to ignore your internal JB/OB (JBHey wait a minute!) and do something that scares the shit out of you. Don’t let your brain be the barrier to achieving your own dreams.

Thank you for coming on this adventure with us.  Jenn and I have truly enjoyed sharing our experiences with you.  Now, it’s time for me to turn my attention to creating employment (OB Please someone hire him, he needs to get out of the house!) and figuring out what’s next in the adventure we call life.

 

Days 28 – 31 Over the river and through the woods, to grandmothers house we go 😊

img_8428

 

Leaving Hadia Gwaii was rather bittersweet because we had such a lovely time.  Jenn and I were sad to leave, and we were SO excited to be heading to Vancouver Island for our next stretch!  Having driven from Hope to Prince Rupert once already, we planned our return trip to be as quick as possible.  The weather had turned a little so it was much cooler than the 40c Stevie had endured previously, and we even had some rain along the way.  That made driving in Stevie much more pleasant, and she made the journey to Vancouver in 3 days.  Of course, they were long days and the dogs weren’t too happy with us!

img_8430

 

We don’t have many pictures from this part of the trip, so we have included some random bits of fun from our first month on the road.  Damn, I can’t believe it’s been a month already!  So please enjoy such quips as:

Jenn:  Are we driving too fast?  This feels fast.

Jer:  Nope we are fine.

Jenn:  But look, there is a cop.

Jer:  it’s OK, Stevie doesn’t speed.

 

We left Skidegate on Haida Gwaii on the 10 AM ferry, arriving in Prince Rupert about 5:30 PM.  We considered staying in Rupert for supper, but both felt like putting some miles behind us would be a better choice.  So, we put pedal to the medal Stevie-style and after 5 or so hours we landed back at the Riverside campground in Smithers.  Luckily, they had spaces available and we happened to bump into the site manager right away.

Getting ready for bed one night:

Jenn:  Aaaaaaaah!

Jer:  OMG What?

Jenn:  I got toothpaste in my eye!

Jer:  How the hell….

 

The next day we packed up quickly and motored all the way to Lac La Hache for a return visit at the Big Country campground.  When we checked in this time, Jenn chatted with the owner John and discovered that he just happened to be from Haida Gwaii, and amazingly – he knew Jenn’s dad from back in the day!  He told Jenn that Tom was such a nice man, and that he actually had an 8mm film of Tom (stashed somewhere in his house) outside his bakery.   John said that when Tom saw the camera, he giggled and dashed back into the bakery.  It was such a nice moment watching Jenn as she heard something new about her dad.  She threw out a bunch more names of people from there, including her stepdad Sam, and John knew every single one of them.  Sometimes we live in a very small world.

While driving…

A good song comes up on the stereo so I turn up the volume.

The next song comes up and Jenn turns down the volume.

The next song comes on, it’s Pearl Jam, Jenn hits skip.

The next song comes on, I turn up the volume.

Jenn turns down the volume again.

(OB: Jenn finally hears a song she likes and turns volume up a little bit.  Jer immediately turns the volume ALL THE WAY down because he’s up to some big, important driving task that requires him to concentrate.  He typically finishes this task in time for the next “life sucks, let’s write thrash music about it” song to come on and he turns the volume back up.)

Nothing is said…

A Christmas song comes on (I have an excellent mix of Christmas tunes) and both reach for the skip button.

A U2 song comes on, Jenn hits the skip button (OB: because it’s about the 50th U2 song on the playlist).  I whine, Jenn rolls her eyes and hits the replay button.

A Sarah McLachlan Christmas song comes on.  We look at each other and say oh what the hell, and turn up the volume 😊

This cycle repeats for 30 days….

 

After a nice pleasant evening, we had a choice to either head to Whistler for a night, or make a run straight to the ferry.  With such a pull for “home,” we chose the latter, and packed up the dogs for another long day.  The only really interesting stop of the three days was a quick leg stretch at bridal falls.  Having lived on the west coast almost all our lives, neither of us had ever been there before.  Well I recommend that you do stop if you’ve ever driving by, it’s a quick 7 minute hike and the falls are beautiful!

 

One morning over breakfast…

Jer:  These bug bites are super itchy, I’m going to take some Benedryl.  <pops 3 pills>

Jenn:  Hey do you want Bailey’s in your coffee?

Jer: Of course!

After 2 cups

Jer:  Maybe Benedryl and Bailey’s isn’t a good combo….  I think I might go have a nap.

We made the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen by about 6 PM, and found out the Nanaimo ferry was “really late.”  We weren’t sure how late was late, but asked if we should head to Victoria instead and were advised that would be a really good idea.  So, we hopped on the 7PM and after landing, took the Malahat (a notorious island highway mountain pass…) up to Nanaimo.  We passed the Nanaimo ferry terminal about 10:30 and didn’t see any cars, so I’m not so sure we saved any time 😊.  I should note that for the entire trip Stevie has pretty much been the slowest vehicle on the road, but the island is a special place.  I feel like all the drivers should have been embarrassed that Stevie was motoring past them in the fast lane up the mountain, but none of them seemed concerned.  Regardless, we made it to my mother in law’s house safely.  Donna was ready to greet us with open arms.  Of course she was most happy to see her grandpuppies, and they were simply thrilled to see her again.  It’s so good to be back in Nanaimo – Saela and Pepper agree!

 

While driving on highway 19 between Hope and Lac La Hache…

Jenn:  Is Stevie OK?

Jer:  Stevie is fine.

OBOMG she isn’t , she’s overheating and we are going to die in the desert.

Jenn:  Are you sure? I feel like I smell something burning.

Jer:  Stevie is fine.

OBHe doesn’t know anything, we might catch fire and then what will happen to the dogs? 

Stevie struggles up a hill and starts to skip

Jer:  OK, maybe we should pull over

JBDamn it, we are losing time here! 

Jenn.  Good, I think the dogs need to pee anyways.

OBWe could have gone to Italy…

We were so ready to laundry and clean out Stevie, only to find out that Donna’s dryer had conked out ☹.  I think it was probably just a simple fuse, but you have to take the entire dryer apart to fix it, and an in-home repair was going to be at least $200.  Donna suggested we go check out Restore (the Habitat for Humanity donation sales center) for a replacement.  Now if you’ve ever been to Restore in Calgary, you know it’s kind of lame.  I’m not sure if it’s too many people and everything gets picked over quickly, but we’ve never had luck there.  Well Restore in Nanaimo is just awesome!  The selection is excellent, and we found Donna a new dryer that was better than her broken one, and the thing only cost us $80 including tax!  After a quick and mostly painless installation (aluminum dryer hoses are SHARP!) Jenn and I were able to put 7 loads through the machine and it works perfectly!

While driving between Lac La Hache and Hope in the rain…

Jenn:  Is Stevie OK?

Jer:  She’s fine.

OBIt’s raining and we are going to hydroplane off the mountain and into a ravine and DIE!

Jenn:  Maybe we should slow down…

Jer:  We are already way under the speed limit

JBDamn it, we are losing time here!

 

It’s great to be here and we’re enjoying having home cooked meals and sleeping in a real bed again,  though we’ve gotten used to having some sleeping space.  It is taking some getting used to having Jenn, the dogs and I all crammed into a queen bed.  In Stevie, there isn’t room for both humans and two dogs in either bed, so I’ve gotten used to stretching out on the bunk above the cab while Jenn and the dogs fight for space in the smaller pull-out bed on the floor.  Probably the top two things we will be happy to return to in our Calgary home will be the king sized bed and our own bathroom!

Jenn:  I don’t really like beer

Jer:  But you keep taking us to brew pubs

Jenn:  They have stickers for Stevie 😊

 

And finally,

We think our GPS unit has a bit of a speech issue, which is kind of funny considering Jenn does speech therapy.  We giggle every time we need to stop at a gas station as I punch in the closest Chevron.  Now you and I would say we are going to SHEVron, but the GPS pronounces the CH as you would in Cheese.  Maybe this is why we buy so much Chocolate and Chips every time we stop at Chevron.  Don’t get me started about going to the “EEEEsso” gas station. 😊

Days 18 – 21 The Haida Gwaii MEGA POST, Part 1

Man have we ever done a lot in the last 8 days.  I will cover the highlights in this blog, but know that even with how long it is we had to cut some things and split it into 2 posts (JB: like it matters, no one will read your drivel anyway!)  Let me start off by saying that Haida Gwaii is an amazing place.  I believe it is truly unique in the world and Jenn and I have wondered aloud several times if moving up here would be a good idea.  Of course, it’s been sunny and 18 – 20 degrees almost the whole time which is simply unheard of.  The rain has finally come back today and reminded us that it rains 300 + days (or so it seems) a year here 😊 .

I encourage everyone reading this to get up here at some point in your life.  This should be on everyone’s bucket list.  So without further adieu, here is the Haida Gwaii MEGA POST part 1!

IMG_8351

 

When Jenn and I landed off the ferry we immediately drove to Port Clements to see our great friends Terreena, Stan, Lyle and Leigh-Anne.  Three of the four grew up on Haida Gwaii so this was something of a reunion trip for them and Jenn.  Stan was the only first timer in the group and it was fun watching him take in the beauty of this place with his camera.  We had a quick bite, lots of laughs, then set up our campsite and prepared for our adventures.

We had some jam-packed schedules to see all the highlights of the islands.  Our first adventure was a 10KM (round trip) hike to the beach to see a shipwreck.  The Pesuta was a timber carrier that went down along the coast in 1928, and has slowly been disappearing back into the environment.  The scenery out here goes from wild west coast forest to insanely long stretches of sandy beaches.  The pictures really don’t do it justice, and there was no way we could capture things like the Eagles, ravens, and dragon flies that are everywhere.  And the sound of this place, OMG!  The ocean breaking on the rocks, the eagles chatting with one another, the ravens cackling at you, and the wind through the trees.  It’s just simply awesome.  At one point we looked up and saw 5 bald eagles flying overhead.  The only image I managed to capture was on my phone at max zoom so you’ll just have to trust me.  (JBI TOLD you to bring your Nikon, you dumbass.)

 

One of the advantages of living here is that you can drive on the beaches.  And, everyone seems to know each other.  So we were not at all surprised when 2 trucks met us on the beach and they happened to be old friends of Leigh-Anne and Lyle.  We had a good laugh that of all the locals, almost no one had ever walked out to see the Pesuta. (JB: you mean we could have driven?  That would have been way more fun cause you didn’t have a backpack, supplies, food, or enough water.  Some hiker you are.)

After the hike, our friends went to their B&B to shower.  Since Jenn and I have no shower, we drove to the beach for some relaxation and a quick sponge bath. I mentioned that everyone knows everyone here right?  Cause as we were about to get clean, a car pulled in and out popped our friend Alan.  Stevie is a bit of star out here on the Island so everyone knows where to look for us 😊 .

 

After a quick visit and de-odorizing (JByou guys really do stink you know!)  we joined our friends for a scrumptious dinner at the Haida House in Tlell.  The Haida House is a top notch restaurant that is 100% Haida owned, and the food is excellent.  We were very excited to have local salmon, and the food was so good (and reasonably priced) that Jenn and I booked a return visit for later in the trip.

 

The next day, Jenn and I moved our campsite up to Masset, the town where Jenn grew up.  In fact, we met our gang at The Ground coffee shop, which just happens to be in the house Jenn and her parents lived in.  It’s always a treat to have a coffee and a nibble in Jenn’s old living room, or buy a shirt from her mom’s old bedroom!

Our next stop was North Beach & Tow Hill.  Tow Hill is a small mountain located on the north end of the island, and is the anchor for North Beach which is a ribbon of sandy decadence that stretches for more than 10 KM.  Side bar, if you’ve ever been to Long Beach on Vancouver island, you will know why we chuckle when they call it long.  In comparison to here it’s like the kids beach 😊 .  The hike up Tow Hill is a bit steep and somewhat sketchy for dogs, so I took Saela and Pepper to the beach while the rest of the gang hiked to the top.  (OBDon’t believe him, he’s just lazy!)  Jenn got some excellent shots from the top.

 

After the hike up, we all walked out along the beach, or at least we started to.  We were cut off by more friends in their trucks 😊 .  Man I love this place.  We all hopped in to the vehicles and drove 6 km further up the beach.  I know for sure it was 6 km because our friend Neena was doing a 6K run.  Of course we aren’t sure if Mike – her husband – stretched her a little further than that!  Jenn and I hopped in with Derek and Christina, and Saela immediately made a new best friend!

 

We all went our separate ways for dinner and Jenn and I had the best Chinese food in Masset (JB: dumbass, it’s the only Chinese food in Masset!)  By bed time, I believe we had broken our dogs:

IMG_7886

 

The next morning, Jenn was in the washroom and heard the following exchange:

Child:  Look mom, I’m washing the shower

Mother:  What are you doing?  Stop that…….  Give me my Loufa!

OBJenn was certainly amused.  She was so amused she left her damned cell phone in the washroom! That’s twice now with the phone…

Jenn:  Hey, I remembered and got it before we left for the day.

JBI think we need to get you a fanny pack!

We took the dogs to the beach for the morning to do some agate hunting.  Agates are volcanic based crystalline rocks that when polished are bright and shiny, and they are ALL OVER the beaches here.  A popular past time is to go “agate hunting” on the beaches.  You will see people slowly wandering the tranquil stretches of sand and rock with their heads pointed down to their feet.  Jenn was saying that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been gone from here for 5 minutes, 5 years, or 5 decades, if you’re back home on the beaches, your head is down and you’re agate hunting.  Needless to say we have collected more than our fair share!  More importantly, we discovered something on the beaches of Haida Gwaii we never expected.  Our prairie raised rescue dog Pepper is completely at home and in love with the ocean.  We have never seen her so mellow before, she absolutely loves it here.

 

Our next set of stops were for the local food truck, and then a visit with Miche, a great old family friend of Jenn’s mom and one of the most lovely ladies I’ve met.  She is originally from Quebec just like my dad, so we always enjoy sharing stories of what it was like way back when.  Of course she has been a fixture on Haida Gwaii for over 40 years now.  We lucked into a fun visit and a few warm cookies, fresh from the oven.  Miche is a great cook!

 

By this time our gang was up in Masset, so we all decided to hit the local Masset Museum.  This isn’t just any museum, it’s a small house with artifacts from the history of the town, including the time when Jenn, Leigh-Anne, and Terreena lived here.  We had a riot looking at old school photos, family history, and pictures of Sam’s (Jenn’s stepdad) tow truck and Chicken Shack.  Yes, Jenn’s family once owned a Chicken Shack.  They have also over the years owned a bakery, a pizza place, and an automotive shop!  The caretaker of the museum said she had never heard so much laughing in the museum 😊 .  There were many memories and photos of Terreena’s family as her grandfather was the first doctor here, so her family has quite a history, and her brother lives here still.  His name is Shaun, but most people around here know him as Bonehead.  Thankfully, he is well known in the community, as Jenn’s driver’s license had fallen out of her pocket (OB: maybe that fanny pack IS a good idea….) and the people who run the museum were able to track Shaun down.  He picked it up for Jenn and got it back to us safely.  Thanks, Bonehead!

Terreena and Stan had plans for the evening, so the rest of us went for supper on the beach.  On our way to the grocery store, Jenn and Leigh-Anne saw a friend of theirs drive by with 2 huge dogs in the back.  One of the dogs is called Handsome Gus (he’s Instagram famous!), so the ladies started calling out to him as the vehicle drove by…. But the truck didn’t stop.  We found out later that the driver was thinking “damned tourists!”  Turns out other folks have randomly learned his dogs name and say hi all the time, so he didn’t stop and missed a chance to see some old friends 😊 .  We finished the evening with hamburgers on the beach and visiting with another good friend, Melanie.

 

Tag in Jenn cause this post is looooong…

The following day was the last day that Terreena, Stan, Leigh-Anne, and Lyle were on the Islands.  In the morning, 4 of us zipped down to Skidegate to visit the Longhouse Gift Shop to find matching hoodies for the three ladies.  Terreena and Leigh-Anne had been scoping out the other gift shops along the way, but hadn’t found any that we loved.  So, Leigh-Anne and I were on a serious mission to find them!  And – success!  We found Haida Watchmen hoodies in the right style and they are super comfy.  Insert requisite matching shirt group photo on the beach:

8E282684-A61A-4673-A3EE-2493BFED76DD

 

We also stopped at the Balance Rock on our way back north from Skidegate.  It was BUSY!  Normally there may be one or two cars, but, this time there were several vans full of people.  I had to take a picture of all the people there to prove it 😊  We took our own photos and quickly got back on the road.  Back in Port, the 6 of us parted ways so that each couple could get a few things done prior to meeting back up for coffee at The Ground (yep, my old house) in Masset.  After grabbing a drink, we went back out to Cemetery Beach.  There is a beautiful cemetery there, and some of the group spent time wandering through to look at the headstones.  The beach is also gorgeous, and is close to town, so easy to get to when you have places to be but need a quick beach injection.

 

That evening, we were invited to Candace & Christian White’s Tluu Xaadaa Naay Longhouse in Old Massett.  They were hosting a group of visitors to learn a little bit about Haida culture, Christian’s carving (he is a Master Carver), and to see and learn about Haida songs and dances.  It is always moving to hear the drums and see the dancing, and I am always brought to tears.  Although not my culture, growing up here demands that the drumming and music become a part of your heartbeat.  It was such an honour to have received Candace’s invitation, to get to see her “in action,” to learn some of the stories behind Christian’s totem poles, and to visit with them afterwards.  She even convinced their cousin, Lisa White to open her gift shop after hours for us.  The Gin Kuyaas – Haida Art Studio & Gifts is a beautiful gift shop housed in a long house near the start of Old Massett.  The smell of the cedar longhouse alone should bring hordes of people in!  Once you’ve inhaled that gorgeous smell, bring your eyes down from the ceiling and look at the many beautiful art, clothing, and jewelry pieces available.  Jeremy and I were thrilled to find a gorgeous Jordan Seward print to bring home for our walls.  If I’d had my way, I also would have left with a paddle and some pieces of jewelry.  (OB: yah, but remember how your husband is unemployed now?  Simmer down on the spending, lady!).  This gift shop is a “must see” when you’re on Haida Gwaii.  My advice?  Don’t spend all your money on BC Ferries or in the first store you find as you get off the ferry!  Take your time to see all that is available as you visit throughout Haida Gwaii.  There are some great hidden treasures to be found.  The six of us spread our shopping between the Longhouse Gift Shop (Skidegate), Crystal Cabin (Tlell), and Gin Kuyaas (Old Massett), and Jeremy and I are still here for another day or so.  (OB: nice try, you’re still not getting a paddle, ring or bracelet.  Jenn: dammit.)

My other advice?  Definitely take part in the dinner, dance & culture evenings hosted by Candace & Christian White.  Keep your eyes and ears open for dates, times, locations, and pricing – ask around and someone will likely connect you!  Word of mouth is often the best way to find out about what’s happening here.  Be respectful, be willing to learn, and be prepared to be moved and inspired.

Another friend I grew up with, Leslie, participates in a cultural teaching and dancing group called The Davidson Descendants.  Again, if you’re visiting Haida Gwaii, ask people you meet about local events.  You’ll no doubt stumble across an amazing experience.

 

We will have part 2, days 22 – 26 up soon, we promise 🙂

Day 11-14 – EI-PA-eh?

Day 11 began our first morning back in Canada, and we had a few things to accomplish.  First, Jenn had discovered that our friends, Kristine, Craig & their kids just happened to be in Chilliwack on vacation at the same time as us, and we made arrangements to see them for coffee – and they even offered us use of their hotel shower!  The other mission of the morning was a visit to Service Canada.  I applied for EI (as I’m now unemployed, you know) but found out that my social insurance data had an incorrect birth date.  So for 30 odd years, the government hasn’t actually known how old I am.

JBwait wait wait, you mean you’ve held down jobs, paid your taxes, and served in the military, but the government doesn’t need to fix your birthdate until you try and get service from them?  WTF? 

Jer:  I’m sure it’s just a simple mistake JB, no big deal

JBRiiiiight, because the government really does want to give you benefits after you’ve paid into them for so long.

I dropped Jenn off with our friends and then Stevie, the dogs and I made our way into bustling downtown Chilliwack.  When I say bustling, I actually mean entirely dead.  There was literally no one around at 9 AM on a Friday.  Good thing, I was actually able to park Stevie on the street within site of the Service Canada office!  After an initial grilling with the office staff (what do you mean you are on vacation, you should be looking for work…) I explained my severance and we all agreed that I would not be entitled to any cash.  They asked why I was bothering, and I explained I wanted access to the EI training programs, like starting your own business.  At that point the demeaner softened and we had a great chat about camping across western Canada. 😊  (JBsee, it’s all good once they know you can’t get any money out of them!)

I finished in 20 minutes or so, then went and joined Jenn and the Letourneau family, who as mentioned let us use their hotel room shower.  I can’t tell you what a treat it was after 10 days to shower without flip flops on!  Once completed, we all had a tour of Stevie and the kids gave Saela and Pepper lots of well-received cuddles.

 

It was then time to hit the road.  Our first stop was Hope BC to fill up on supplies, fuel, and alcohol. (OB: damn, I think you guys are getting a bit boozy on this trip.  People are going to think you have a problem… )  After a quick stop, we turned on Stevie and had no stereo or GPS system.  Turns out one of Jenn’s hair clips had fallen into the cigarette lighter and shorted the system. (JBSabotage!  She did that on purpose!!!  She hates your Pearl Jam obsession.  OBI’m not saying that we did it on purpose, but I am saying that next time I bet you will stop at Joann’s for yarn))  Thank god it was Friday, and we were only a block from Napa Autoparts.  After a quick fuse change and a few swear words, the systems were online and we were back on the road!

IMG_2303

 

Over the course of the next 3 days, the smoke in various locations of BC was so thick we could barely see 500 feet.  It’s really terrible how bad the fires are in BC this year and our hats go off to all the firefighters and volunteers keeping folks safe.  In any event, we put on 1000 KM travelling between Hope and Smithers BC, where we are now.  In that time, we’ve had some excellent stops including a night at Big Country Campground and RV Park outside Lac Lahache (they had a wicked pool!) a sleep over at Jenn’s friend’s Dana’s house, and the Riverside RV park in Smithers.  The best stay was obviously at Dana’s where we spent our first night in an actual bed in 11 days.  Jenn and Dana have known each other since about the time Stevie was manufactured, circa 1977.  (OB: you better not be calling us old!)  Saela and Pepper also became good friends with Dana’s dogs Dixon and Lucy.  Or more accurately, Dixon became enamored with our two lady dogs, and Lucy became jealous of her man 😊 .  Dana made us a delicious home-made meal of BBQ steak, roasted potatoes and fresh veggies.  It was another flip flop free shower experience, and Dana has THE BEST towels.

JB: That’s weird for one guy to say about another guy.

Jer: yah, but did you feel those towels?

JB: they were THE BEST towels…. Dammit, now I’m being weird, too!

 

These have been good days with lots of smooth driving and great friends.  And we’ve had some truly excellent beer!  We’ve hit 3 micro brews on this stretch of the trip.  Today alone Jenn had 12 beers in a row!  To be fair, they are 4 ounce tasters, but that’s still a lot!

OB: lush.

Jenn: hey!!  One of them was a Kombucha sample!!

OB: fine.  Lightweight.

Our first stop was Barkerville Brewing in Quesnel , where we sampled some lovely brews along with a pizza for me and a Rueben sandwich for Jenn.  We also picked up a new sticker for Stevie!  I will say that the best feature though was in the men’s washroom. I really appreciate that they let me recycle their beer directly back into the kegs 😊 .  We left Saela in the camper at this establishment and as you can see, she was giving us the stink eye the whole time.

 

The only beer we had in Prince George was at Dana’s house (thanks, Dana!) but we did stop on our way out for some take out lunch at a European deli.  The place looks a bit nondescript from the outside, but they made some damned tasty sandwiches and we would go back there in a heartbeat!

 

Our next 2 breweries were both in Smithers.  It turns out this town has 2 of everything.  There are 2 sausage houses, 2 sushi restaurants, and of course, 2 micro breweries.  Both were completely welcoming of Saela and Pepper, and we enjoyed multiple tiny tasty delights.  We also picked up some new hats and another sticker for Stevie.  My favourite beer of the day had to be at Bulkley Valley Brewery.  They had a delicious brew designed specifically for the seasonal workers up here.  When the tree planting season dries up, the workers need to apply for government assistance, so this brewer has crafted an EI-PA.   Well let me tell you as an unemployed man who was just in service Canada working on receiving EI, I thoroughly enjoyed their refreshing IPA brew 😊.  Jenn’s favourite sample of the day was at Smithers Brewery where she really enjoyed their Broken Ladder Cider, a very clear and very crisp apple cider.

 

Our final sticker came from Jenn’s favourite stop of the trip.  After she couldn’t go to Joann’s in the states, she was able to hit a yarn store here.  And would you believe they also had a sticker for Stevie?  Amazing!  Even more amazing, she did NOT buy any yarn at this store.  She likes to seek out locally or regionally dyed yarns when we travel (JB: it’s super masculine of you to know this) but this store didn’t carry any.  (OB: not to worry, she didn’t leave empty-handed, she fed her button obsession instead).

IMG_7108

 

After a good sleep tonight, we are off to Terrace BC, and then on to Prince Rupert!  For all of our friends and family in BC and Alberta, I hope you are able to get away from the smoke for a bit and find some fresh air.

Days 6 and 7 – Taking the H out of Wine

After days of stressful Stevie driving, sketchy neighbourhoods, and unscheduled mechanical adventures, we finally got to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labours.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, we have landed in wine country (JBYay!  We love wine.)

As Jenn has noted previously, we considered briefly going to Tuscany for our celebration of my unemployment, but we ultimately wanted to be with our puppies so we chose the FreedomAdventure with Stevie instead.  A key factor in deciding our route was one particular winery.  We had the pleasure of tasting wines from Hedges Family Estates in our wine club in the middle of winter at home Calgary, (OB: that wine tasting event was probably in April, it’s Calgary after all, and the winters never seem to end) and knew we had to go visit their location on Red Mountain.  We were not disappointed, let me tell you!

The tasting room at Hedges is lovely, with the shaded garden patio and fountain overlooking the rolling hills of the vineyards providing a stunning backdrop.  I imagine they have replicated Tuscany in a small way.  They also keep chickens on site, as they use them to eat insects that are harmful to the grapes.  They practice biodynamic farming and wine-making on much of their property – very cool.  Their wines are an absolute treat, but we helped ourselves to only 2 bottles as Stevie just doesn’t have the capacity for much more ☹ .

 

The folks at Hedges recommended several other wineries to visit, and we hit up Tapteil Vinyards for our next stop.  They also had some excellent wines, and yes, we may have come away with a couple more bottles 😊 .  Even better, they recommended a place in Richland where we could eat on the patio with Saela and Pepper.  We were hot and hungry by this point, so we took their advice and drove over to Lu Lu Craft Bar and Kitchen.  What an outstanding pub!  The location was excellent, the food was superb, and best yet, they loved our dogs!  Heck they served Saela and Pepper water before Jenn or I could order anything 😉 . (OB: Side note – apparently there is a campground in Richland that offers limo wine tours…. But, WE stayed at a local RV site that was easily 70% permanent residential.  Great choice, J&J.)

 

After a late lunch and the heat of the day, it was nap time – because who doesn’t want to take a nap after food and wine, right?  We had a relaxing final evening in Washington, then packed up and started the next leg of our adventure into our 4th state of the trip.  We chose to take Highway 14 West (instead of the interstate) from Benton all the way to Portland.  Man, what an amazing road!  The change in landscape from farmland to mesas to forested mountains all along the Columbia river is simply breathtaking.

And best of all, there are wineries there too 😊  We stopped at Maryhill winery planning to have just a quick taste – it was super hot out and we didn’t want to leave the dogs in Stevie for more than a few minutes.  (We pull the blinds and crank the fan for them if we have to leave them in Stevie).  Turns out they don’t just encourage dogs, they demand you bring them inside 😊 .  So Saela and Pepper were once again the stars of the show.  The folks at Maryhill dressed them, fed them, and made them feel very welcome.  Great for us, as we were able to sample 13 different wines!  The selection is excellent, and they do great Mediterranean styles including Spanish, French and Italian grapes like tempranillo and sangiovese – 2 of my all time favs!  They also had a stunning patio so we decided to stay for pizza.  To our surprise and delight, one of our favourites wines here was a sangiovese rose – we had half a bottle with lunch and took 2 more for the road.

 

Finally, we continued our journey through Portland and on to the hills just before the coast.  It was a great couple of days, and we look forward to seeing the ocean tomorrow.

 

JBHang on, they story isn’t over yet.  Jer failed to mention that his intrepid exploration skills landed the crew on a remote gravel road in the middle of nowhere!  My god, he is trying to get us all killed!  There was dust and skidding and swearing like you wouldn’t believe!

Jer: Yah, but we made it.

JB: Barely.

 

Days 4 & 5 That sure looks like a funny dog…

We’ve had a couple lovely, relaxing days, and are now in Benton City WA – the heart of Washington wine country.  At least, that’s what the brochure says.  I’ve come to believe that the US has two types of small towns.  One is quaint and pretty and right at home on a show like “Leave it to Beaver.”  The other is gritty and rough around the edges, and feels like it would be a better fit for “Sons of Anarchy.”  Benton falls squarely in the latter category, and JB tells me this place is sketchy.  He doesn’t even want to come out and speak for himself because, well, you never know who is reading the blog (JBshhhhhhhh.)

Now to be fair, the sketchiest experiences we’ve actually had here are the noisy rooster that got us up at 6AM, and the “dog” that TWICE scared the crap out of Jenn…

IMG_6465

 

To be fair to JB and his nervousness, we went to the gas station last night and it was an eclectic mix of Harleys,  lowered mustangs, and trucks with light bars and gun racks.  Actually, it kind of feels like around our house in Delacour 🙂 .  Frankly the most difficult part of staying here is the lack of sidewalks combined with a very busy road.

We are settling into life in Stevie.  She has many modes that we go through each day.  There is sleeping mode, driving mode, supper mode, parking mode, and each of them requires us to navigate the dogs and each other to set up.  Pretty much any activity requires us to spend 20 – 40 minutes transforming.  Stevie is an 80’s cartoon character!

 

Overall it’s been a good two days from playing Crib by the fire to wandering a street market in Coeur d’Alene, and tomorrow we are off to sample wines 🙂 .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 1. aka WTF were we thinking?

Our first day is now complete, and we are all still alive 🙂 .

We officially kicked off our FreedomAdventure in Calgary yesterday by gathering the last minute items from our Big Listinsky ™ and packing everything we needed for a great time.  We loaded up the dogs and hit the road to great fanfare (our neighbour Dave messaged to see if we needed jam, he is a great neighbour!)

We chose to take the South West route via the Crowsnest pass, and it was a beautiful drive through Alberta’s rolling hills – traffic was light and Stevie was just motoring along like a champ.  Our first stop was right in Crowsnest for gas.  That’s where the “adventure” part of our trip began…

Jenn:  Oh shit!  We forgot the dogs leashes!

OB: Let me get this straight –  “cheese grater” made the list FOUR fucking times and yet you didn’t bother to write down dog leashes?  Ha ha ha ha ha! 

It’s a good thing we packed our 25 foot training leashes…   (a tad overkill for the quick pooch piddle pit stops!)

E64DAD8C-BBA6-4CB3-AD5D-FC889605BE8F

 

 

While Jenn walked the dogs, I was attempting to fill up Stevie.  The fuel tank had almost emptied out so she needed a big drink.  First up was pay at the pump.  Insert card, select, amount, choose account, enter pin, and fail.  OK, attempt 2, with the credit card this time – insert card, select, amount, enter pin, and fail.  Figuring it must just be a failed pump, I went inside and tried 6 more times across 2 machines.  It was only when the line of people formed out the door that the attendants realized their Internet connection was down.  Oh well, $50 cash later and Stevie had enough gas to get us to Fernie.

Back on the road and everything was fine… until we got close to Fernie.  As we slowed down to enter town, Stevie started stuttering and chugging and acting like we were out of gas.  More on that in a moment.  First, we needed leashes, so we stopped at Barkside Pets.  What a great store with amazing staff!  They took care of our leash needs, and gave us some food samples – spoiled pups making friends along the way!

 

Back into Stevie we went, but she was struggling to move us about so we decided to stop and have some lunch.  Jenn had packed ingredients for a couple of excellent sandwiches and we found a park to enjoy them in.  Side bar – we live in a beautiful country!

 

We finished up and began our next leg of the trip to the border crossing.  Stevie chugged again in town, but once we hit the highway she was fine.  We figured we just got some lousy gas along the way.  We made it to the border, and had everything ready to cross.  Our border guard was amazing!  Mostly because he loved our dogs 🙂 .  Things got a little interesting when he found out I’m currently unemployed…   it probably didn’t help that we were in a 1978 motorhome and I was wearing my finest camping attire!  However, we were well organized, had our vaccination records in a binder (Thanks Jenn and McKnight Vet Hospital) and had purged any offending items – see sandwiches above chock-a-block full of sliced deli meat and bacon.  He asked to read the ingredients on our dog food so we pulled over to the side.  He hopped on and seemed suitably impressed with Stevie, read the ingredients, and sent us on our way!

Having successfully crossed the most significant potential issue of our trip, we relaxed into the rest of the drive down to Whitefish Montana.  The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and the drive is really quite delightful.  That is, until you enter town and slow down, and your motor home declares that she is tired and wants a break.  This is when Stevie really decided to stutter and choke.  We managed to get to a hardware store and I purchased a new socket set (JBanother thing not on your so-called Big Listinsky, eh?)  I thought it might be a short in the distributor cables as Dave (aforementioned neighbour) and I had observed that when inspecting Stevie last month.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, so there was no easy fix.  There are also no photos available as the level of swearing probably isn’t appropriate for children or animals.  Don’t worry, Jenn had the dogs safely away from the vehicle taking advantage of their new leashes 🙂 .

OB:  OMG we are going to be stranded on DAY ONE!!!!! 

JBI know!  Didn’t we tell these morons to get Stevie inspected?

OBYup!  They are stubborn and stupid!

JBOh look, Jer thinks he’s a mechanic!  Ha ha ha!

OBIt’s a good thing they packed a cheese grater…   

OB: Hey Jenn, you should start to panic!  I bet there isn’t even cell phone service to call for help!  Panic Mode is sure to help the situation.

JBHey good call OB.  Jer LOVES it when Jenn panics 😉   Pssst, Jer, I bet this is going to cost a fortune to fix!

OBProbably the same cost as going to Italy.

JBWTF were they thinking?

 

After putting the engine cover back on – didjaknow that with old vans you don’t just open the hood you actually need to remove some of the dash and un-bolt the engine housing? –  we limped our way to a grocery store.  We couldn’t cross the border with most food so we still had to get ingredients to make the rest of the dogs supper.  As it was getting late by now, we also chose to pick up pizza.

Our next and last stop was the campsite,  We pulled in and found our spot.  As we began setting up,  we discovered the site had no power.  Did we mention it was 33 degrees and we were drenched in sweat?  It took about an hour, but the campground folks got it all sorted out and we were able to finally turn on our A/C unit.  By this time it was pushing 8 PM and the dogs were starving, so we made them supper out of the free samples we got – which they loved.  It was like pizza for dogs 🙂 .

Finally, we were able to sit down and enjoy our now 2 hour old pizza.  It was tasty, but they cut the slices in a very bizarre way…

6896461F-F15E-40FD-9729-D9C30F086CB8

JB:  Go ahead, have another piece!

Jer:  But I’m full and don’t need another one.

JBOh come on, look how small they are!  It’s pizza, you can’t stop now.

Jer:  OK fine, one more little piece.  Munch munch munch

JBWay to go fatty,  this is why we can’t have nice clothes.

Finally, after all that, we were able to sit down, relax, and have a beer or 2 (or 3!)  I was also able to google Stevie’s issue and it looks like old engines can experience “vapor lock” when it’s hot and at high altitude.  We will find out on day 2 if that’s the issue.  It certainly makes sense as it was super hot and we are at quite an elevation.  If it’s not vapor lock, it could be the spark plugs, the distributor, the coil, the fuel pump…  sigh.  Maybe just one more beer…