wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Home Stretch

Once we left the blizzard belt behind and got into the lower mainland of BC, we could smell the salt water. More than ever, we had that “horse to the barn” feeling. It had been a long drive from Central Washington that day, and we were glad to be driving beside the industrial area along the Fraser River, if only because it meant we would soon be home.

The road was busy with tractor trailers and industrial vehicles, but it was the quickest route to the ferry terminal where we would connect to Vancouver Island. (At this point, we are near Surrey and New Westminster, suburbs of Vancouver, which is on the mainland of British Columbia. Our home town, though, is on Vancouver Island, a two-hour ferry ride from the mainland. The city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island.)

Here, with the Port Mann Bridge up ahead,  we were traveling at highway speed with trucks and vehicles on all sides. Ahead of us, a large piece of wood lay in our lane. It had fallen off a truck, and looked similar to a loading pallet, but bigger, more like a part of a wall for some pre-fab construction, about five feet by eight feet and about three inches thick. We had no room to go into another lane and no way to avoid it without causing an accident.

I imagined our freshly changed trailer tire exploding as we drove over the wood. The bumping and crunching noise was horrendous. We sucked in our breath through gritted teeth and waited for disaster to strike us.

But the angels were watching over us (maybe they thought we’d had enough trouble already), and we continued on, relatively unscathed.

I remembered earlier that day, pulling over at a stopping place by an auto wreckers’ near the U.S. border and seeing a nearly new trailer that had run out of luck. I also remember thinking that it still had pretty good tires and wondered if they wanted to sell them to us.

By some miracle, we arrived at the terminal with about half an hour to spare before the next ferry left. But the ferry was already full and we expected to have to wait for another sailing. Luck was in our favour for the second time that day. Yes, the car decks on the ferry were full, but there was room on the deck where only transport trucks and trailers were carried.

In the photo below, most of these cars did not get on that sailing, but we got on because of having the trailer. This was one of the first times it worked in our favour.

After a two-hour crossing and another two hours of driving, we arrived at our own “home, sweet home.”

It was not blowing a blizzard and actually was quite pleasant.


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Keremeos

My apologies for a whole series of posts with photos taken as we whizzed past in the truck and trailer, but in this post, I hope to convey a feeling more than to show any particular fantastic photo.

Going through the little town of Keremeos in the South Okanagan, in spite of the chilly fall air, we are always warmed by the festive attitude of the residents. It’s harvest time, and rather than have scarecrows, they have straw people all through the downtown area. I wish I could have done them justice with less blurry shots, but you’ll get the idea of the fun on the streets of this fruit growing town.

Can you find the straw people? Two in this photo.

 

One here.

Two here.

Two here.

One here.

All seem to be pointing to the fruit markets that line the road farther along.

Did you know that pumpkins are a tasty vegetable when prepared as you would any other squash?

This is pumpkin time, as well as onions, garlic, and winter apple time.

Squashes and cauliflowers, melons and tomatoes.

And if you don’t feel like shopping but just want to stop for a bit and let the kids play in the park, the local quail welcomes you. He’s like the quail version of “Big Bird.” Can you see him there to the left of the big tree with the yellow leaves?

Here is a close up of him – although very blurry – to help you find him.

The Okanagan is full of quail, quite tiny wild chicken-like birds that have so many cute habits it’s a shame to kill them for food (although I must admit, they are SO tasty).

I love quail, dead (on my plate) or alive (in my backyard), but mostly alive.

This “Big Bird” put a long-lasting smile on my face as we drove through Keremeos.

 


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Trouble Comes in Threes

A few days earlier in Great Falls, Montana in -17 C (1 F) temperatures that felt several degrees colder than that, the trailer’s holding tank (at least the outlet) was frozen and could not be emptied. What a thing to talk (write) about!

A couple of days of bumpy roads and warmer temperature fixed that problem for us, as we found out at the sani dump in Omak’s stampede grounds.

While the Captain dealt with this task, I was looking mindlessly at our muddy, tired-looking trailer.

“Do you think that tire looks a bit low?” I asked.

I got the usual (expected) answer. “Naw, it’s just the way it’s sitting.”

Silence…. Then, “Get me that pressure gauge out of the console, will ya?”

Moments later, “Holy sh–!” (Apparently, he still had the holding tank problem [trouble #1] on his mind.) “It’s only 15 pounds!”

(I knew it should be somewhere around 30.)

Several times over the next hour or so, the Captain said, “Whoah, sure lucky you noticed that tire.”  He said later, he  thought we must have picked up a tack on the rodeo grounds.

At the first available gas station we put air in the tire. Then we hurried to nearby Home Depot lot next to Wal-Mart and found a quiet corner to change the tire, which was already hissing out air.

When the Captain got the spare tire off the back of the trailer (first time it had been touched since we bought the trailer), the pressure gauge told us this was something that we had overlooked. It had only 12 pounds of air pressure.

How lucky was it that we had brought this mini compressor along? It plugs into the cigarette lighter and can pump up a tire.

 

In minutes the spare was up to full pressure,

and the tire was changed.

So that was trouble #2 taken care of.

We had noticed more than six trailers and motorhomes in the Wal-Mart parking lot next to the Home Depot lot where we were, so we felt safe enough and thought we would have a quiet night’s sleep.

At about 11 p.m. a small car (trouble #3) came into the lot and parked right up against the back of our trailer. I peeked out through the blinds and the car backed up and pulled out.

My relief that he was leaving did not last long, as he pulled in right in front of us. NOW we were worried. He had the whole huge empty Home Depot lot to park in, yet he cozied up to us. The driver got out and crouched down by his left front tire, hiding behind his open car door.

I suggested that we take off and go park by the motorhome in the lot next to us. The Captain sneaked into the truck and drove, while the dogs and I stayed in the trailer until we were safely parked by the other campers and watched to see what the strange car would do. After a while he left and we could relax.

There is a lot to be said for parking in an RV park, but this time our flat tire had left us searching for a quick place to park and we ended up boondocking in a parking lot. I wonder if the lost sleep is worth it.

Just a day’s drive from home, we had one more calamity to deal with. Next time.


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A New Route

Along this straight, and seemingly endless highway northwest of Spokane, Washington, we pulled into a rest stop where the Captain asked a trucker about Omak. It turns out we’ve been taking the long route for the last ten years.

 

Following the trucker’s advice, we traveled home via Grand Coulee Dam rather than via the smaller Coulee City at the south end of the reservoir created by the dam. The road winds down to where the Columbia River is dammed at Grand Coulee.

To the east of the dam is Roosevelt Lake (formed by the water that the Grand Coulee Dam has backed up).

Here we see the eastern side of the dam.

Here is the western side of it, with the water much lower.

Beyond the dam and the pretty town of Grand Coulee, the road continues on towards Omak, in the Okanogan fruit growing region of Washington State. The fall colours are a treat to see. BTW, did you know that in Canada we spell it Okanagan, while in the States it is spelled Okanogan?

We arrive in Omak in plenty of time to deal with a few trailer issues we would face.

It is very dry in this part of the state, except for the areas where water is provided by the Columbia River. We don’t mind that, as long as the temperatures are milder than in the places we’ve left behind.

 


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Lookout Pass

Still dodging ice clumps that may or may not have rock-like centers, we are nevertheless, making progress in leaving the snow behind.

We pass the small town of St. Regis, near our Exit 16 refuge, where we will stay the night again.

Then another climb awaits us up into the hills to the Montana/Idaho border at Exit 0, Lookout Pass. The good thing about this pass is that it is about 2000 feet lower than that last one we went through, and less likely to be snowed in.

By the way, notice that “Lookout” is spelled as one word, as in “viewpoint.” I had started to think of it as two words (look out) like “watch out,” but its elevation is not nearly as high as MacDonald Pass so I must get this two-word definition out of my head. It’s just a pass with a gorgeous view from the top. The photo below is from 2015 (no snow). We didn’t stop to photograph the view this year.

Sure enough, the roads are fairly clear, in spite of snow hanging onto the trees right down to the level of the road.

Once we were over that hump, the rest of the crossing of the Idaho panhandle brought us ever closer to fall weather as we knew it.

We felt as if we were truly getting closer to home. Our next stay would be in Omak, Washington. I want to call it “Oboy!” instead of Omak because of the mini dramas that happened to us there. I’ll tell you all about it soon.


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 4

The snow kept coming sideways and we talked about cutting our day’s drive short. We had planned to go as far as Fort Benton where a friendly RV park always awaited us, but Fort Benton was down a big hill along the banks of the Missouri, and we had seen pictures of how the town had fared in the September snowfall a week earlier. Did we want to be trapped in this valley town with snow covering the steep roads in and out of town? For that matter, could we even make it that far if we wanted to?

We had to get off the road or end up in a lonely prairie ditch. But where to go in Great Falls?

I remembered a Wal-Mart across from the town’s famous smelter and refinery, and that’s where we pulled in.

Wal-Mart Customer Service told us we were welcome to stay for three days. They had all the groceries we might need, a water supply, and a relatively safe place for us to stay. Three other rigs were already parked there and would remain there until after we left.

Wal-Mart even had Wi-Fi but it didn’t reach out to the parking lot.

Generally I prefer to be in an RV park or a place like Exit 16’s park, since public parking lots can be a bit risky if you’re camping overnight alone, but we had no choice by this time and were thankful for the relatively safe haven as the snow began to cover us up.

It would have been foolish to continue traveling, as the many accidents that day proved.

However, we were quite frozen in this place with -17degrees Celcius, feels like -23 (1 degree Fahrenheit, feels like -9F). In the morning, the windows had about a quarter of an inch of frost on them (on the INSIDE!), and the holding tank was frozen at the outlet, as we found out when we tried the next sani-dump we came to. We also tried to add water to our potable water tank – to no avail. The pipes leading to the tank were frozen.

We had a furnace, but running it all night might run our battery down and as luck would have it, the trailer battery was very low in the morning. The Captain ran the Honda generator and brought it back up. Everything was a struggle, and we were getting worn down.

The second night, some drug-crazed kids did a kick boxing display near our rig on the parking lot (yes, in that very cold temperature)! The driver even kicked the lid of his own car’s trunk. (The Captain said, IF it’s even their own car.) Then they tore out of the parking lot at 90 miles an hour.

After two nights there, if we continued north and then east as we had planned, we would be driving into more blizzard and heavy fog in extremely cold temperatures. We were only one long day’s drive from our destination, but there didn’t seem to be any point in going on, even if we could have done that safely. But could we safely go back?