Just North of Normal Part 4 – Going to Canada, Eh?

Captains Blog 6/28/16-6/29/16

My previous entry’s date was incorrect. It seems my watch’s date function doesn’t work correctly. I will return it to WalMart, er, the fine local jewelry store upon my return.

The journey is going according to plan. Of course, that doesn’t mean much because there is no plan except to keep the wheels rollling in the direction of Alaska. Also, keeping the wheels attached to the RV would be a nice bonus but I don’t want to get carried away with crazy expectations.

We crossed into Canada yesterday, at least I think it was yesterday. The days get muddied when you sleep in an RV that is so bouncy you get a concussion every time you let yourself relax. The border patrol folks were really nice but insisted on searching the RV although we assured them that it wasn’t worth looking over. They claimed they were looking for guns and illegal substances but I suspect they were more interested in trying to figure out how we got some many people into that little RV without it exploding from the internal pressure. They even got a ladder out and looked on the roof. The search was quick thanks to the toxic fumes leaking from the bathroom which encouraged the officials to be prompt.

I lost data service right after crossing the border and went into withdrawal. I had to rely on the knowledge stored offline in my brain to function. No longer were questions like “Where is Canada?” or “Should I pet large, carnivorous wild animals?” easily or quickly answered by technology. Instead I had to actually search my brain for knowledge I learned in the past. My brain opens up its rusty filing cabinet and sorts through four different folders of operating info. There’s one labeled Inglsh Langage, one labeled Large Motor Skills (which is just a disheveled mess), an empty one named Social Skills, and one labeled Involuntary Reflexes. My brain frantically flips through all of them but finds nothing relevant. It then sees a sticky note stuck to a pile of empty folders that reads Just ask Siri. Useless. It’ll be three days until we’re in Alaska again where my iPhone can find friendly AT&T towers. Surely I can survive for three days relying on my instincts.

I can sum up the landscape we’ve been seeing for the last 24 hours: Train, grain bins, fields, trains, grain bins, fields. Then sometimes, in a shocking twist of events, we’d see trains, fields, grain bins. You’d notice they were in a different order! Interesting, huh? We drove through Alberta and Saskatchewan and noticed similar madness. You would think that with a name like Saskatchewan you would find Sasquatches, or something of similar interest but you’d be wrong. Add that to your brain files for when you’re tempted to drive through Canada. Note: Boring.

 I did find something interesting about Canada. Everyone insists on living in large, uncomfortable piles of humanity called “cities.” In America we prefer to build suburbs around our city. That way you can have some warning before you just arrive, surprised, confused, and vulnerable into a city. You can tell you’re getting closer to the city because you’ll notice more gas stations, neighborhoods, and shopping malls growing in density. Then, predictably, you’ll find yourself locking the car doors and trying to find your way out of the inner city while ducking behind your steering wheel to avoid gunfire. You have no one to blame but yourself. In Canada they just skip the suburb nonsense and go straight from desolate prairie to honking gridlock in about a quarter mile. We were driving through flat nothingness for hours on end when suddenly we happen upon a city called Edmondton which was full of traffic jams. We sat in a traffic jam for an hour, inching forward an inch at a time, bringing new meaning to the term inching forward. We ate lunch at a Mexican burrito place, used the Wifi and toilets while emitting immense sighs of relief, and headed north again. 

Somewhere in Saskatchewan I discovered the gas cap is missing. Matt simply reached his hand into a dark corner inside of the RV and pulled out an old plastic bag. He stuffed it into the gas tank hole to keep the dirt and crud out of the gas. It works pretty good! We patted ourselves on the back for being environmentally friendly and resourceful.

Next memorable stop was Dawson Creek, British Columbia. This is where the fun begins since Dawson Creek is Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. We stopped at the sign commemorating the start of the Alaska Highway to take pictures and to marvel at the fact that Lame Duck RV was still running. We knocked on wood and started down the Alaska Highway. The terrain quickly begins to buckle, pine tree forests begin to thicken, and wildlife – including mosquitoes – begin to get bigger and more dangerous. It’s the first in my life that I’ve seen the GPS show the next turn is in 950 miles.

By this time I’m a huge fan of Tim Hortons – so much so that I’m fairly twitching in my enthusiasm for their coffee. I’ve heard of Tim Hortons from my Canadian friends but assumed they were being a bit melodramatic since they had nothing else to get excited about in Canada. I was wrong; Tim Hortons is excellent!

UPDATE: Matt still didn’t buy a fuel pump for the Lame Duck. It seems the old one is hanging in there so as long as it doesn’t give out again, what’s the point of buying a new one? Ha! It’s good to avoid foolish excess in life.

British Columbia is amazing. The scenery is breathtaking, wild, & free. It feels like you have to sit in one place and just stare for days to absorb what’s in front of you. We saw a black bear, a moose, and two bison so far. I’ve seen more exciting wildlife driving down the Alaska Highway for six hours than I did in a lifetime of hunting in Pennsylvania (Maybe that’s just a reflection of my hunting skills). My only complaint with the jaw dropping scenery is that my mouth dries out from holding it open for so long. Not everyone is sold on the North’s majesty. “Infatuation with the wild cold north has some of the people in this camper delusional,” claims my wife, Janice. She’s just cranky because she can’t get on Facebook. Also, she has a rabid hatred for cold weather, something that the North has in spades.

We just got into the Yukon. The GPS now says 250 miles to the next turn so that’s progress! The plan to keep the wheels moving is working splendidly. Morale is mixed and seems to be based on the availability of coffee. The odor index is rapidly rising to intolerable levels thanks to the lack of bathing among the crew. I had washed my head with hand soap in a gas station’s bathroom. It helped a little. I no longer notice the smell of the toilet in the back of the RV. Maybe it’s fixed itself. Maybe the waste tank just fell off of the bottom of the RV while we were airborne through that construction site. Maybe we all just burned off the sensory organs in our noses. Look out Alaska, we are getting closer!


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