Sunday, April 23, when we crossed the border into Canada, seems so long ago as of today, Wednesday, April 26. We were told by several people that crossing the border can be a long and tedious process. We arrived at Abbotsford border crossing and were through in less than 5 minutes. I guess we looked ‘old and harmless’ and we were. We had learned that though we have the right to own firearms in the U.S., taking them into Canada so we could have them in Alaska, was nearly impossible. So, though we might need them as campground hosts for bears and who knows what else or to use them at the shooting range by our daughter’s home, we had to leave them in the states. So, no firearms, no ammo, and they didn’t ask about fruits and veggies that were already bagged for easy confiscation.
Because I mis-read the map, we missed our turn off onto the Trans-Canada Hwy 1 and ended up on Hwy 7, a much smaller road and much more difficult to maneuver our truck and trailer. To review our options, we pulled into a Safeway parking lot which was not really meant for vehicles our size and though we made it out, it was an adventure. Meandering along Hwy 7 was a beautiful drive along the river, but made our journey longer and more stressful than we wanted. We were so grateful to arrive in Hope, British Columbia and find the Wild Rose Campground where we still had a few hours of daylight to just ‘chill’.
Because our trip has had real trials, I am also going to add some of the ‘fun’ issues we have encountered with our trailer every time we stop somewhere for the night. We do love our Primetime Forest River 5th-wheel Crusader, but they really could construct the interior with a little more attention to detail. For example, while in Colorado, we had issues with the refrigerator, my clothes racks falling down, a leaking shower, a kitchen drawer falling apart, and missing parts for our water and sewer. Those were manufacturer/seller errors, but there are also things that just happen while twisting, turning and bumping down freeways and over mountain passes.
While at Wild Rose, we decided to re-pack the storage areas under the trailer known as the basement and garage. We removed everything and started over putting those items we use every day in a more accessible area and those we don’t in a less one. Our neighbor thought we were having issues with our slide-outs and came over and visited. He was heading in the same direction ‘home’ to Prince George from being a snowbird in Arizona. We really loved his ‘accent’ and the ‘eh’ with everything! 😉
From Hope, we traveled north to Williams Lake where we decided to stop for gas. We have learned several things about fueling in Canada. One. The stations with diesel that have HIGH, and I mean HIGH roofs over their pumps are called Card Locks. This means that only commercial vehicles with the right cards can pump diesel at these stations. We don’t have that card; we aren’t commercial. Two. The stations with diesel that we can use have roofs over the pumps that we either don’t fit under or we make it by a short foot or two. It’s a harrowing experience and with everything written in meters, we are having to calculate in feet. Yeah. In Williams Lake, we stopped at one station that had a roof that was too short and we had to back up, make a wide turn in a small lot in order to get out. Fun. Then, we found one we thought we could fit under and I got out to watch my husband slowly pull under it. A man sitting nearby on a bicycle said, “You can make it” and helped me guide my husband under and through. Then, this ‘nice’ man wanted MONEY for his effort. Really? Warned by the woman working in the station that exiting the side we were heading, we would have a difficult time finding a turn around so we could return to the highway. We had a lot of room in the station area and with a lot of guidance from me, my husband actually was able to back up, make a 90 degree turn with the truck and get us out of there. My daughter says we are becoming professional – with the truck we are 63 feet long (you figure it out in meters!).
We traveled only 10-20 miles further north before stopping at Whispering Willows. There were only two trailers there and the place was peaceful and quiet. It was at this campground that my husband noticed the spare tire holder had bent and the tire was falling off. Had we not had bicycles on the back end, we would have lost our spare tire. With the help of a neighbor’s sledge hammer, the piece was sort of fixed and, along with several bungi cords, the tire is somewhat secure again.
I highlight this place because it really will forever be a place of memory. As we entered the town, we decided to park in a Walmart Parking lot, do a little shopping and then walk two blocks to a Tim Hortons coffee shop. We had never had Tim Horton’s coffee and thought this would be a good time since parking our rig is always a challenge and the parking lot had places for big rigs. We walked to the shop, ordered our coffee and two donuts (a real treat for us) and sat in the cafe and ate them.
When we were almost back to our trailer, we saw a man with a pick-ax/pulouski type of object running from his car toward our trailer. We weren’t sure what was happening until we heard a loud bang and then realized he was slashing our tires. We began running toward the trailer and truck, but by the time we got there, he had slashed two tires on our trailer and was hitting one of the dualies on our truck. We started yelling at him, and as he ran to his car, he yelled, “Get the F- out of here. I hate the F-in United States. You don’t belong here. Get the F-out. We are a cow town and don’t want you in our town. Get the F-out!”
Shock. My husband, in the midst of the shock, had the where-withal to take a photo of the back end of the man’s car as he drove away. I read aloud the license plate so I could remember it, but when I looked at the tires, I forgot it. A woman parked next to us with a horse trailer started yelling out the license plate number and I told her to mark it down as that was it. Another man came running over and said that it was a silver Honda Civic. As these two people came to help us, they told us to dial 9-11 and call the police.
My husband was on the phone immediately. About 10 minutes later another truck pulls up and says they saw the whole event and thought the man was going to attack us! They decided to follow him and did for a while until they lost him in traffic. By the time the Constable arrived, more people came by to tell us they saw the whole thing and would be witnesses.
After we gave our statements, we called Fountain Tire. They were so ‘on top of it’ that they were in the parking lot within a few minutes replacing our tires. More people stopped by as word got around Walmart. A little boy, with his mom, wanted to give us a hug and tell us to have a better day. Someone stopped by and gave us a $25 gift card to Tim Horton’s coffee. The customer service manager from Walmart came out to talk to us about the incident. Another man told us to call the British Columbia insurance company to see if we could have a claim filed against the man. (We can’t because the car didn’t do the damage, a human did.) Two other women stopped by to tell us to keep receipts and claim the tax as we are from out of the country. Everyone told us that this man did not represent Canadians and that Canadians love the United States. Most suggested he was probably on some sort of drugs.
We have talked a lot about the incident between ourselves. We have prayed for the perpetrator, a man in his 30s, 5’10”, dark hair and olive skin.* He obviously had issues with the U.S. government that he felt he needed to take out on us. We are grateful that he didn’t attack us, but our tires. We are also thankful for all of the support from everyone. We know that God is in control, has a plan, and for whatever reason, slowed us down that day. As we continue traveling, having to get the tires re-torqued in one town, balanced in the next, re-torqued in the next, we are meeting a lot of people – people who are shocked by the behavior of one crazy man. One woman who stopped said she was glad we weren’t angry and seeking revenge. In reality, this man sought revenge for something and chose a way that didn’t resolve his problem. God will deal with everyone involved. We just hope he is caught and pays some price for the violence against our property.
Driving after the incident was difficult. As the shock wore off, we were very tired and worn out. We managed to get a little way beyond Prince George and spend our third night at Northland RV Park where Ernie was kind and generous. We relaxed, had a wonderful dinner after not being able to eat any food for the entire day, and went to bed early. We didn’t find anything wrong with our trailer that night. The tire slashing was enough. We now wait to hear from the police whether or not they apprehended the man.
After that traumatic incident, we continued our journey toward Dawson City. It was a beautiful drive over the eastern Rocky Mountains where they can get as much as 40 feet of snow per season. We stopped at a little gas station, Windy Point, mile 97 on Hwy 97, and met a wonderful Dutch man who reminded me of Hans from “Frozen”. He and his family immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands 15 years ago on 9-11. Meeting people like him helps to restore our faith in Canadians, though if I’m honest, we do not trust leaving our truck or trailer alone anywhere.
One of the best moments of today was coming around a mountain bend and seeing a grizzly bear sunning himself on a hillside. We stopped to take a photo and watched him lumber along the tree line looking for food. Apart from diamond-shaped signs with a drawing of a moose, I’m still looking for a moose! We passed through Chetwynd, the International Chainsaw Carving Capital of the World. I could only take a couple of photos of the carvings, but they were amazing.
This is our fourth night in Canada. We are staying at Tubbies RV park. We unhitched so we could get our tire balanced, grocery shop, and get more fuel. I am glad to be here, Mile Zero, on the Alcan Highway and look forward to arriving in Alaska in another five or six days. We’re the only ones in this campground that is muddy because they had three feet of snow just last week and now it’s melting. I decided to do laundry here and it’s $4.00 per load in the washing machine and $4.00 per load for the dryer. Yes, I can’t wait to be back in the U.S. again – even if I’m not in the lower 48.
As we drove here today, we began to come across the frost heaves or lumps in the road caused by frost. We hit one really hard – generally they mark them, but this one they didn’t – and when we opened the trailer, a clothing rack had fallen down in my husband’s closet and my spice rack had fallen spilling cayenne pepper EVERYWHERE. So, with a lot of sneezing and coughing, the clean up began while the electric screwdriver found the studs where the screws should have been.
Yes, we’re still having fun, exhausted at the end of the day, but still having fun.
*The man’s name is Stephen Gattenby and we had a trial by judge one year after the incident. Even with photographs of the pick axe, the judge said that our testimony didn’t agree with Stephen’s so he acquitted him. The judge did NOT see any of the photographs we had taken with time and date on them which caused the inconsistency.