Wednesday, June 30, 2010

DAY ONE: Out of the US and Into Canada!

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Well, it is time for the great adventure to begin! We have tried to analyze, reanalyzed, rethink, etc. for two days what we will need, what to take, how to take it all and still fly home, etc. Hard on the mind! We finally gave up trying to plan too much and take the more relaxed “go with the flow” method of travel – camping! Purchased cheap sleeping bags, tents, and pool air mattresses, Styrofoam cooler – all of which will be less than half of the cost of a night’s stay at a motel on Al-Can prices! Annika will get a “play house” and we’ll just take the rest to Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc.
Rick finds our old cargo net in the carport, and we use it to secure the big suitcase in the bed – helps make things more comfortable in the cab space wise! And since we don’t have a truck anymore to use with it, we can just donate it to Swansons as well!
On the road at 7:13 am, odometer reading 103765 official start! Shortly out of Baker Rick tries out the cruise control. It wants to work, it’s trying, but no luck. Later, just before Tri-Cities, it finally engages. Might be a hit or miss thing, but at least an occasional hit will be helpful! Our first few fill-ups today will give us an idea of the gas mileage we can expect.
Beautiful summer morning. Cool last night in Baker, so temps at departure around 48 degrees. Sunny and crisp! The wildflowers along the freeway are spectacular – yellows, pinks, and purples. We can see Mt. Adams from Cabbage Hill and even catch a glimpse of Hood later. Temperatures in Tri-Cities are a pleasant mild for the summertime. A relief since the truck has no air conditioning.
We leave divided freeway near Connell, WA – mostly two-lane highway from here to Fairbanks! And rural highway it is – we just passed 5 chickens foraging along the road!
At Moses Lake around 11:15 to gas up and grab some crackers and hard boiled eggs. I brought two apples also, that we will eat enroute to the border, as they can’t cross over! I take over driving at Moses Lake.
The drive up Highway 17 north is a VERY pleasant surprise! At first dry and arid with sagebrush hills, but at Soap Lake we veer up a basalt rift with an arm of Coulee Lake. Easy road and I have virtually NO traffic going in my direction! Great rock formations with the river and lake.
Past Coulee City we climbed up and up until we reach a broad mesa grassland, with some wheat fields, amidst the basalt plain. Pieces of rock poke up here and there in the middle of the fields. The grass is green, and the views west to the Northern Cascades are pretty impressive.
Remainder of the drive up to the border is along either the Columbia River or the Okanogan River. We stop in Tonasket to fill up one more time with US gas prices and say hi to Kady, who is only 40 miles to the east of us in Republic. On to the border!
Oroville, at the border, has beautiful hanging baskets along the highway. We are a little dismayed to find the “border wait time” posted as 35 minutes. Good heavens – what kind of questions are they asking people!
We end up with a 28 minute wait time at the border. I call Luke for one last conversation before we enter Canada and prohibitive rates on the cell phone! The border guard checks our passports, and then comments that we don’t have very much gear for a trip up the Al-Can! We explain that we are flying home, hence a light load. Then we have to explain what is happening to the truck! He accepted our story and waved us on! Into Canada at 3:20 pm.
The orchards just south of the border seemed to have plenty of cherries on the trees, but after entering BC we don’t find any fruit stands right away. Some say bulk sales only or u-pick, and that isn’t exactly what I had in mind. Maybe later, maybe tomorrow….
There is considerably more traffic from the border north through Osoyoos and on up into Penticton. The road follows the Okanagan River and various lakes formed from the dams. And the rocks! I believe this is part of the Rocky Mountains! Hugh monoliths forming the canyon. Orchard upon orchard, vineyard upon vineyard. So much fruit nearly ripe.
We arrive in Penticton around 4:15 and with a little effort find a Wendy’s for dinner. Salads hit the spot! I try an ATM at the Safeway, but my debit card doesn’t work. Will try again later. North of Penticton, the road borders the west side of the lake which reminds us of Chelan – long and narrow. At Peachland, we leave 97 and head west on 97C to Merritt.
Wow! What a highway – we climb and climb and climb – glad we aren’t pulling a trailer. The summits tops around 5600’ – we used the new GPS to determine our elevation because BC doesn’t put out signs for that. An absolutely beautiful highway – 4 lanes that rims the edge of a vast forested valley. At the top we finally found where they were actively logging. Fields of lupine and other wildflowers. Finally we reach the summit and drop down into Merritt.
Merritt was our intended stop for the night, but since we have decided to take the Stewart-Cassiar Highway instead of the Al-Can up to Watson Lake, we want to get a little further tonight so we can spend part of a day exploring Stewart-Hyder on the Portland Canal (part of Misty Fjords National Monument). Merritt is a charming little mill town, set in a beautiful valley. The houses are so neat and well kept. We stop at a gas station and fill up – hopefully enough to get us to Prince George tomorrow morning. I find another ATM and this time….my card works. We now have some Canadian money! We can have coffee in the morning!
It is about 7pm as we leave Merritt to follow a “gray highway” #8 to Spence’s Bridge – a shorter route mileage wise, but we quickly realize might not be faster. But the river v alley it follows is gorgeous in the lowering sunlight. Farms and ranches with rows of hay drying. Irrigation sprinklers and green everywhere. The road is definitely not straight, but fun! Up and over a little pass, and we spot a cow moose alongside the road. She had gotten on the wrong side of the deer fence. Speaking of which, BC has wonderful deer fences to keep the animals off the highways.
By the end of Hwy 8, we are ready for the windy to stop, but it was a beautiful little road. We finally drop down to Spence’s Bridge, a railroad stop on the Thompson River Highway. We see a waterfall, a quaint old church, and more hoodoos in the soft rock formations. All gorgeous, even more so with the setting sunlight. Only 30 miles into Cache Creek. We should arrive before dark!
My apologies to any and all who have read this far and think…”.my gosh, Ginger writes too much”. Read what you wish, but remember this is my official journal of the trip, so I may include things that are uninteresting to most, but we want to recall later! I also apologize for any typographical or spelling errors that didn’t get caught in a very fast editing review. I am often typing while viewing the scenery and my fingers may occasionally stray!
It’s 9pm and I am in my new Garfield PJ bottoms, a glass of wine at my side, our tent all set up! Life is good. Day One ends and Truck did awesome!

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