Archive for the ‘Alaska 2017’ Category

Another Day at the Office

Here’s to being a campground host!

Morning Fog

Some have asked us, “What do you do?”  Others think we have a great ‘semi-retirement’.  A little background.  We aren’t completely retired.  We are here for a couple of reasons. First, my husband’s job at Cabela’s ended last June and it was time for a new career choice.  Second, our daughter and son-in-law live in Alaska and are expecting their first baby, our first grandchild so we thought it would be a fun way to be here for that event.   Third, my husband would like to work as a pilot so he is continuing that process with actual experience in the area where he would do sight-seeing tours, bringing  guests from Anchorage to Alaska River Adventures, our son-in-law’s business. We have been told repeatedly that it’s an unchartered resource here.  And finally, my husband used  to live in Anchorage and always wanted to come back.  Four-month summer stints seemed to be a good option for Alaska’s long daylight hours while we travel the rest of the year.

Why not campground host?  I have loved camping over the years beginning with my family when I was a child and then with my own children.  My husband was a backpacker and forEVER until this fifth-wheel, we tent camped everywhere imaginable from Glacier National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to Zion National Park, to state parks in South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado.  We have the blessing to be outdoors and breathe nothing but fresh mountain, sea level air, enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Kenai Peninsula, watch for moose, eagles, bear and whatever else saunters along, as well as spend time with family.

Our job is not lucrative though we found that we will earn more than we actually read on the website – a pleasant surprise.  One of our duties includes cleaning the vault toilets.  I start with this because it is essential to me that the toilets are clean.  As I said, we have camped for many years and stinky, dirty vault toilets, well… you get the idea.  There are too many people these days who do not have toilet etiquette and that is sad for the rest of man and womankind.  Consequently, someone, like me, has to scrub and clean the risers, replace toilet paper, and collect the trash bags.  I do wear gloves, YES, I do wear gloves.  And, my toilets will be clean and smell like lavender.

One of the perks of this little job is meeting people from all over the world.  Cooper Landing with the Kenai River  has the world’s best salmon fishing run.  June 11 is opening day and our little campground of 28 sites is going to be bustling with fishermen from probably every state in the U.S. as well as maybe every continent.  We already had visitors from Switzerland; many take scenic float trips down the river with ARA.    We are awaiting the ‘soft opening’ of Memorial Day weekend and the onslaught of people arriving for the three days.

As hosts we are to inform, not enforce rules.  For example, dogs need to be on leashes.  That is a forest service rule.  Also, there is a rogue bear in these parts and for the protection of the dog, it need to be on a leash.  A bear actually destroyed a tent the other morning at a nearby campground. Also, on Cooper Creek the Fish and Game folks put a Rotary Screw Trap.  Without going into all the reasons why (damns ruin wildlife in the creeks and rivers), this trap catches small fish so they can count them and see whether or not the species is growing and returning to their spawning areas.   Any animal, a beloved dog, for example, that gets caught in it will drown.  Of course, even knowing all of these reasons, people still refuse to leash their dogs and then there’s a dog fight!  Alcohol is allowed; drunkneness and disorderly conduct is not.  We have met law enforcement and the forest service enforcer of rules.  Along with them, we have the power to ruin anyone’s fun trip.

Our campground has two areas, one north of the Sterling Highway we call ‘riverside’ and one south ‘the mountain side’.  We are in the south campground and all of the sites are reservable.  They are filled for over the holiday weekend with some people leaving and others arriving the same day.  We will be busy cleaning sites from one guest and preparing it for the next.  The north side has seven sites which are all first-come first-served.  These sites are along the Kenai River and have beautiful views of the river.

We are responsible for collecting the money envelopes from the “Iron Ranger.”  That event has been quite humours because it is so difficult to get to the lock from underneath and behind, unlock it, and then re-lock it.  We’re getting faster and think we should time each other.  From those envelopes, we must make sure that everyone in the campground has paid.  If not, we are to remind them that there is a fee for camping in a forest service campground.   We have already learned that the $18 fee isn’t always in that envelope.  Some people put whatever they have in their pockets; others put whatever cash they have in their pockets.  In reality, we aren’t to open the envelopes, but a few have not been closed or marked with “$12.50, Sorry!”  From those envelopes, we have to fill out daily reports of what sites were full, license plates numbers, states, whether or not they have a national park/forest pass, and what type of camping equipment they used (RV, tent or trailer) – all for demographics.

We also sell firewood by the bundle.  We have a little birdhouse for depositing that cash.   It’s cute and I hope to paint it to make it a little more exciting.

After campers leave their sites, we re-rake around the fire pit, check it for trash and other objects, look in the bear boxes for anything left behind, and pick up garbage.  For the most part, everyone is pretty clean.  However, we do find treasures.  I won’t discuss the horrendous ones, but we have found a boomerang, a very nice bungee cord, an entire spool of halibut fishing line (gave to son-in-law), two tennis balls (gave to our ‘granddog’), a small parrot trinket we named Cooper, tent stakes, and a growler.  We learned that we can take the growler to Soldotna, about an hour away,  and get it filled with homemade root beer!

So far everything is going well.  No bear attacks.  No dead dogs.  No stolen wood.  Friendly co-workers from the Alaska Recreation Management team.   Neighborly campers.  And, of course, beautiful scenery and wildlife like moose and bald eagles make cleaning vault toilets worth every minute.

“Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the nations with equity” (Psalm 98:7-9).

©2017 Tentstake Ministries

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This Life called BOONDOCKING!

When we first decided that we wanted to campground host in Alaska, we were directed to the Kenai Wildlife Refuge.  All of the information said that we would have to ‘boondock’, a word we had never heard before.  A little research showed us that it meant ‘living in the boondocks with no amenities’ or no water, no power, no sewer.  In other words, ‘off the grid’ in a trailer.

Though we thought we could ‘pull it off’, we decided to apply for jobs that had at least two of those things: electric and water.  When we were offered a job through Alaska Recreation Management that didn’t have those things, we decided once again to ‘go for it.’

(For those who want to know – We got this job because we actually asked some campground hosts at Quartz Creek when we were here last year for our daughter’s wedding, ‘How do we get your job?’  We did not hear back from any places where we filled out applications through Chugach National Forest or the State of Alaska, only from the people to whom those hosts referred us.)


Our fifth-wheel trailer comes equipped with a 12-volt battery and two 30 lb. propane tanks.  The battery, believe it or not, will run our furnace along with propane.  Our stove/oven and refrigerator are also propane powered.  When traveling, the refrigerator runs on propane, but when we plugged into electric, it ran on electrical power.

Years ago we bought a solar generator in the event we would have to live without power.  It came in handy a couple of times when blizzards blew out our power for hours and even days.  We could plug in our freezer and refrigerator and not lose our food.  So, we at least had that for power, and Alaska in the summer has 20 hours of daylight.  But what if, like today, it is cloudy and rains.  My husband had the foresight to buy a small gas generator that could take over if necessary.  Once we arrived at Cooper Creek, we put our solar panels on the roof of our trailer and the sun did its thing and charged the generator.   Today, however, the gas generator is running while it’s raining.  We are still learning how much wattage we can use with one and the other, but for the solar generator, we do need sun.  We have learned that when the furnace runs on the battery, the generator will re-charge the battery first leaving us with a smaller amount of energy.


Our trailer has a 60 gallon water tank.  We traveled most of the way without filling it because of its weight.  However, through Canada, most of the campgrounds didn’t have water as it was still too cold.  Because we never knew what we would find, we kept it ⅓ full.  Now that we’re without a source of water via a hose, we will have to haul water.  We have a 42-gallon water bladder that can lay in the back of the truck so that we can haul it once it is full.  One of our options is the hand pump here in the campground.  Honestly, I can’t imagine pumping 42 gallons of water into the bladder twice a week though I would probably end up with very strong arms.  We can go to a place called Jim’s Landing and fill our water with a hose or we can visit a friend of my daughter’s.  These people live ‘off the grid’ and have a wonderful spring.  They pump it into 50 gallon containers for use in their mountain tiny house.  We have been told we can use that water which we will probably do (and they have chickens where I can buy fresh eggs!).

The next issue will be getting the water into the holding tank.  We have a little pump thingy that should do that for us, but since we’ve never used it, we don’t know how or if that will work.  We learn new things each day; some actually work, some we have to re-invent.  We also have two 6 gallon jugs that we can haul water from the hand pump or the spring.   As for drinking water, I’m weird about where my water comes from.  For example, I cannot and will not drink water from a bathroom sink.  I blame that on my brother who told me when I was little that the water from the toilet flushed into the sink.  Yeah, he does plumbing today.  We buy cases of spring water for actual drinking.

We have a hot water heater.  It runs on either propane or electric.  It holds six gallons of water.  So, showers tend to be short though I’ve never run out and I love to stand in hot water.  Since we will be hauling water, I will shorten my showers because I think hauling water will become tedious.  There is a hook-up for a washer/dryer combo in our trailer, but since we knew we would be hauling water, we didn’t buy one. We have the luxury of going to our daughter’s house and showering.  We will be doing laundry at her house, too. 


This is the biggie.  Gray water is that water that comes out of the shower, the bathroom sink and the galley/kitchen.  We have learned that gray water can be released into the ground.  If anyone has ever tent camped, you know that you can throw your wash water out on the ground.  Well, that’s what we’re going to be doing; it’s just going to come through a hose and we’ll move the hose around and around.  The only rule is that it cannot be released on forest service property so the hose goes out about 50 feet from our trailer.  The hose is brown and camouflaged because we have heard tales about people thinking it’s black water and turning hosts into law enforcement.  

Black water is the water that comes out of the toilet.  When we first asked about the campsite, we were told that we were within 100 feet of the pit toilet.  On the one side of the toilet there is a manhole cover into a septic holding tank that we can open and  dump our black water.  We bought a flo-jet pump or what we call a ‘poop grinder’.  This little mechanism grinds up what is in the black tank, mixes it with water until it flows through a garden hose into that manhole.  Unfortunately, we’re like a million miles from that pit toilet and so pumping to that manhole is not going to work.  The second option we have is called a ‘poop hauler’.  Sounds fun doesn’t it?  This is a huge tank on wheels in which my husband (not me) will dump our black sewage.  Then, he will haul it on the back of our truck that million miles and dump it into septic tank.  

Apart from these three things, it’s going to be a fun summer living in this fifth wheel.  I have hot water to wash dishes.  I have propane for my oven to bake cookies and challah bread for Sabbath.  I have a refrigerator that keeps leftovers fresh; a freezer stocked with ice cream.  I have a hot shower.  I have a flush toilet, but will probably try to use the pit toilet as much as possible.  It will be clean and smell good because that’s part of my job.  I know what I expect in a pit toilet so that is what I will do.  I have a warm bed and when it’s cold, a furnace and the most-necessary propane-powered Mr. Heater.   The lights in the trailer are LED and do not use much power so we added battery operated lights in places where we will need them if and when it ever gets dark in Alaska.

In the meantime, I have a wonderful sofa, my Broncos throw, the means to make hot cocoa, a couple of good books along with the Good Book, internet through Verizon most of the time, some herb plants and a few flowers to make this campsite at Cooper Creek in Cooper Landing, Alaska my home for the next four months. 

*Note: Much of what we have invested came from our wonderful Cabela’s discount that we had for nearly 20 years.

©2017 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

The Yukon Territory with its (Mis)Adventures into the Final Frontier

Needing a restful Sabbath, we decided to take two days and stay at Liard River Hot Springs.We crossed Summit Pass where it was snowing and then headed down into the Muncho Lake area – “Muncho” meaning ‘large lake’.  It truly is beautiful this time of year with all of the frozen rivers and lakes.   On our descent, we saw a Stone sheep crossing the road.  When I yelled out the window, “Hello, Mr. Sheepy”, he turned his head and gave us a photo op.  

Up to the point of arriving at Liard, we had always had a pull-through site for our 42-ft. monster rig.  Unfortunately, this campground had none of those.  So, for the first time, we had to back into a camping spot.  Without too many details, I will only say, it was stressful.  My husband, ever the perfectionist, was not satisfied with its inital location and in great need of the hot springs to relax.  So, we left the trailer as it was, changed into our swim suits, and headed for the springs. 

My husband has always wanted me to see this place, and it truly is a must-see-experience rest stop, as he had been here on his trek to Alaska 40 years earlier.  Yes, my husband moved to Anchorage after college and lived there for two years before returning to the Lower 48, Boulder and meeting me.  So, for him, this was a milestone in our marriage!

There is a boardwalk trail that crosses a wetland environment where several Canadian geese made their home.  There are two hot springs pools with water temperatures ranging from 108-126 degrees; however, the upper spring was closed due to a rogue bear.  After relaxing in the hot water, we returned to our trailer and discussed our different alternatives to moving it, turning it, and directions that I have to give.  Two tries later, it was situated correctly so we didn’t have to unhitch.  Our Sabbath began when we lighted candles and broke the oat wheat slices of bread.  I did NOT have time to bake challah!  

We met a lot of people at our two visits to the hot springs.  A couple from Texas who were heading to Kenai, Alaska, a couple from Brighton, Colorado who were heading to Anchorage, a couple from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory who were heading home and invited us to stop for lunch as we passed through, a couple from Arizona who were going to campground host in Tok, Alaska, a young woman from everywhere who was going to be a tour guide in Skagway, Alaska, and a couple from Steamboat, Colorado who were going to do sled dog tours on a glacier near Juneau.  Some of these people, since we were on the same route, we saw numerous times over the next few days.

From Liard, we headed north into the Yukon Territory.  Our first stop was at at Contact Creek to buy fuel.  The couple who owned the place moved 30 years ago from Florida.  We kept on keepin’ on until we took a little break at Watson Lake.  Another place my husband wanted me to see: The Sign Post Forest.  According to the “The Milepost, the Bible of the North Country,”  there are over 100,000 signs in this ‘forest’ from everywhere in the world.  It was started by Carl K. Lindley (1919-2002) of Danville, Illinois, a U.S. Army solder who worked on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942.  Everyone is encouraged to put a signpost there … we’ll have one to add on the way back. 

We arrived at Teslin, Yukon Territory and decided to stay for the night.  Or, should I say, it was the only place open for miles and miles so we had no choice?   The beautiful Nitsutlin Bridge crosses the Teslin River.  Teslin has the largest Native Tlingit population in the Yukon Territory and much of the community receives its livelihood from the woodworking crafts: canoes, showshoes, and sleds.  Since our little friend, Hope (who lives in Cooper Landing), is Tlingit, I wanted to buy her something special, but the Trading Post and the Heritage Center were both closed until June.  It was here at the laundry that I met a sweet young woman who is married to a Tlingit man and we discussed her four-year-old daughter who she will homeschool as well as her own deafness.  We had a fun dinner at the restaurant on site with people we met at Liard, and also met Tom and Kate who are from Casper, Wyoming and heading to Homer, Alaska to fix up a condo that Tom bought for ‘the fun of it’.  We spent the evening around a campfire throwing sticks to their dogs! 

We had decided to get up early and hit the road toward Alaska and the border.  I was asleep when I thought my husband was scratching a never-ending itch and I grabbed his hand to stop him from shaking the whole trailer.  Well, he was asleep too and the trailer didn’t stop shaking. With our horrific experience with the slashed tires, my next thought was someone was trying to tip over our trailer.  It was then my husband said, “This must be an earthquake!”  Within seconds after the 30-second or more shaking, our little earthquake apps when off on our phones to say that it had been a 6.2 quake with the epicenter about 70 miles from us.  About ½ hour later as my husband made breakfast, he asked what I was doing in the bedroom because the trailer shook again.  This time it was a 6.4 aftershock.  Thus began my earthquake experiences.  Since then, we have experienced a 5.2 in Cooper Landing and learned that being in a vehicle or in a bed are the best places to be.  We have both: a bed on wheels.

When I homeschooled my children, they played Yukon Trail on the computer.   As we came to the Yukon River, we just had to stop and take photos.  It was a beautiful little place except for the trash.  Though Canada, unlike the U.S., places trash bins everywhere, no one uses them and beautiful places are defiled with white plastic grocery bags and everything else you can imagine (yes, imagine it).  It’s very sad, really, that the world thinks the earth is its trash pit.  For such an ‘environmentally friendly’ mentality, this environment has become a large trash dump.   

We continued on our trek north through Whitehorse.  We were going to meet our new friends for lunch, but with the earthquake that delayed our trip and a little landslide on the main road, we only stopped a short time for fuel.  As always, in a city that little event is an adventure.  First, I have to check to see if we’ll fit under the overhangs, then I have to see if they even have diesel.  This time both were okay, but the diesel was on the opposite side from the fuel tank.  As my husband was trying to make a wide turn in the lot to go to the pumps on the other side of the building, a woman just had to push her little car to where she must always pump her gas.  What fools people are in the midst of huge rigs!  

Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory.  It is a very depressed city and many people actually live in their campers in the Walmart parking lot.  With our past experience in a Walmart parking lot, we chose not to make that a stopping place and weaved our way through town and back onto the Alcan Highway.  

One of the best parts of traveling with an RV or a trailer is that you can stop to have lunch (among other things that one needs to do while in nowhere land) whenever and wherever.   As we brought “The Milepost,” we were able to find some interesting pull-offs for stopping.  For those who don’t know as I didn’t, “The Milepost” is a large catalog-type magazine published yearly that follows the Mile Markers from Canada’s various routes through Alaska’s various highways.  As my husband drives, I watch the Mile Markers (Kilometer markers in Canada) to see if there’s a pullout somewhere or just to figure out where we are and what we’re looking at (after a while all mountain ranges are very similar).   It is very detailed and includes speed zones, highway ascents and descents and ‘watch out for moose or caribou’ warnings. 

The Canyon River Bridge was one of these unique stops.   This bridge was built in 1903 for one of the gold rush strikes on the Alsek River.  The bridge survived heavy traffic and floods until the 1920s when it was rebuilt.  In 1942, during the construction of the Alaska Highway, it was dismantled and a new bridge was built.  The existing pioneer bridge, however, was left in place. 

There were and are too many spectacular views to not only photograph but to share with everyone.  It would take as long as our trip!  This mountain range, the Wrangell – St. Elias Range was breathtaking.  The peaks grew larger and more beautiful as we headed toward Haines Junction for a much needed coffee break at The Village Bakery.  And, yes, their baked good were … delicious!  After a cup of brew, we were back on the road and headed toward Beaver Creek through the Kulane National Reserve via Destruction Bay and the beginning of FROST HEAVES.

Frost heaves range from rolling bumps in the road to serious damaged road with dips and bumps that destroy not just cars and trucks, but the trailers they haul.  Thinking that we could actually travel at least 50-60 mph on this trip, over the heaves we averaged only 30-40, and sometimes even that was too fast.  We arrived in Beaver Creek to find that the shelves in my pantry had broken, the supports had either fallen out or cracked and I had to remove all of my food from the cabinet.  Both handles on the back window of the trailer had broken off, one is an exit window, the other we just couldn’t shut so we had to duct tape both.  Our ‘new’ trailer is beginning to look like it’s being held together with black, gray or white tape.  Cabinets that had never opened up, opened up and threw my appliances around the trailer.   Nothing broke (except our Jerusalem mug), but now every cabinet door has a bungee cord.  One last issue was my little vacuum cleaner.  It bit the dust so all of the broken spice bottles and their insides ….  nothing more to say about that! It was still light hours after we were done fixing things and went to bed.  There is daylight until about 10 p.m.

Alaska, Finally!  

I know why gold miners used the word Eureka!  I have never been so happy to see a border.   The signs in mileage, the money in dollars and cents, and the speed limit is something that is recognizable.  It is nice that Canada and the U.S. have a friendly border as it only took seconds to pass through.  Suddenly we are in Alaska with the realization that we would soon see our daughter.  Going up one steep hill, my husband mentioned that something seemed weird with his gas pedal.  When he realized he had forgotten to put on the towing switch thingy, everything worked well.  We were really on our way and kinks were being ironed out.

As we traveled our last hours of the Alaska Highway, we honestly couldn’t believe we were nearing the end of a trip that we had not believed we would really do.  We stopped for lunch, made a few phone calls about the warranty on the trailer, and took pictures of Mt. Sanford and Mt. Drum from the Tok Cutoff.   Mt. Sanford is the second highest peak in Alaska after Denali (16,237 feet), and is a shield volcano.   We drove through Glenallen and considered stopping at Tolsona Wilderness Campground, the campground we stayed at two years ago.  Unfortunately, it was still closed, so onward we went down the Glen Highway.  When we were here before, it was autumn and leaves were changing and water was flowing.  Now the mountains were covered in snow and the rivers were iced over.  It will be an even different ‘beautiful’ when we return south in September.  

Because we needed to do a few things in Anchorage, we decided to stop for the night in Palmer about 42 miles from Anchorage.  We once again had some frost heave damage with cabinets that we needed to put band-aids on, but got to bed at a decent time even with the sun shining.   We did our normal morning routine – pulling in electric, sewer and water, moving in the slides, removing the stabilizers and locked the door.   We were ready to pull out and were overjoyed at only a three hour drive in front of us.    I went in front of the truck to guide my husband through and out of the site.  I moved my hands in a motion to come forward.  He didn’t.  I moved them again.  He shook his head.  I moved them again and he opened the window and said, “I can’t.  The truck won’t move.”  Though he could move backwards, he could not move forwards.  

Seriously?  We are only three hours from Cooper Landing!  Yes, seriously.  Within the hour our truck was being towed to a FORD dealer in Wasilla –  you know the place from where Sarah Palin hails.  According to Stan, our tow truck driver, before it came into public view, Wasilla was known for Miller Ice Cream and rednecks.  As we drove from Palmer to Wasilla, he pointed out the glacier that can be seen from the city and also told us that the large lake at the base of the mountains used to be hay fields before the 1960 earthquake when the land dropped and formed the lake.  

Wasilla is also the place from where our F350 hails too.  Yes, our lovely truck lived out its first several thousands of miles in Palmer, Alaska and decided it wanted to visit its home.  This time, however, unlike our experience in Auburn, California, the mechanics and customer service reps were amazing.  When they found it was a sensor, they said if they didn’t have it in stock, they would take it from another truck just to get us on the road.  They had us out of there by 4 p.m.  We were hitched, did some errands and on the road by 5:30 p.m. 

Forty-two miles later seeing the “Welcome to Anchorage” sign was invigorating.  Only two more hours left on this journey to Alaska by truck and trailer.   Then the wind picked up, REALLY picked up as we went around the Turnagain Arm.  It began to rain, pour, rain, pour, and the wind blew harder and harder.  Clouds socked in the mountains surrounding us.  Somewhere around a bend,  there was a rainbow and eventually the sign that told us we were finally on the Kenai Peninsula.

We are staying for the week at Quartz Creek Campground in Cooper Landing until our campground, Cooper Creek, opens up on May 15.  The (mis)adventures will continue as we will be boondocking.  This means we will be living four months in our trailer with no water hookup, electric or sewer.  We will haul water, pump it into the trailer, use a solar generator with a gas back up, and well, wagon a poop hauler to remove our waste to ….   But, hey, we’re HERE and we survived the Alcan Highway – until we have to return again to the Lower 48  in September!  Would you? 

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©2017 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

Ohhh, Canada!

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. 

Quesnel, British Columbia

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.

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