Well ... the RV Gods are still at it!!!
We were hoping that they would have forgotten about us by now ... but no CHANCE! Would you believe it ....?
On our return from the south in the end of January, we told you that we had made appointments for Harvey to be totally tuned up and repaired. Optimally, this was to be completed by early April, so we could head to Oregon as a shakedown cruise before we turn our attention to Alaska. This was not to be so simple, but the Gods were not laughing out loud; they were only chuckling to themselves. We made the appointment with Fraserway in Abbotsford where we purchased Harvey lo those many kilometers ago, and delivered him there in later February. Jimmy, our favourite Service Writer in Fraserway, said, "No Problem! We can fix all this and get you back on the road toute de suite!" We believed him (chuckle chuckle .... or was that a guffaw?).
To be quick about this, we got a call 3 days later, telling us to pick up Harvey as he was now ready to go except that we had to wait for some parts to come from down south. Not a real problem, he said, you don't really need the leveling jacks, and the dash lights are luxury any way! Right? Well, NO! But, the hydraulic pump has to be ordered from the factory, and the fix for the dashboard they did send was not the correct one needed. What can we do, Jimmy cried?
Well, we took Harvey back to DogPatch and waited. We had to co-ordinate the next trip to Harvey's hospital with a trip to the oil change people and the transmission check place. With the lack of definite dates for parts delivery, it was like trying to keep four balls in the air at the same time. Eventually, we did get the call that the parts were in and we made all the other appointments that Harvey required. By early April, Harvey was ready to head to Oregon complete with his now completely brand new dashboard. Could we be ready to head out in early April????
Well, as you all remember, the weather in early April was wet and more wet. The idea of spending hours upon hours in Harvey while looking at the ocean just did not compute with us, so we postponed our leaving until the weather seemed to be more pleasing. Sure enough, the weather gods did comply, eventually, in early May, and we headed to Cannon Beach on the northern Oregon coast. Just how well were the repairs done, and just how well would Harvey perform? The chuckles of the Gods soon changed to Guffaws!!!
The run down to the Coast was uneventful. The weather was cooperating and the sun began to shine. Things were looking up eh! On our arrival, we got our site and began to set up. The sun shinning, the dogs happy and the site excellent! We were settling in for a good time. The fellow at the desk told us that the annual Cannon Beach Kite festival was being held the next day just across the road from our site, and the annual Fort Astoria Crab and Shrimp festival was also this weekend. Wow, have we lucked in here. Lots to do and perfect weather!
Then we tried to put out the main slide! It went out only about 10 inches instead of the 3 feet it was supposed to do. We tried everything, phoned the factory and pushed pulled and double checked anything that might be involved with this problem. All to no avail! Still, that is one of the nice things about having 3 slides and the kitchen slide opposing the main slide. We still could live in Harvey, so we thought we would put up with it until we got home. Then we tried to make dinner. The gas stove top would not light! Guffaws all around I'm sure!!!!! But we persevered and lit the stove with matches. We were here to have fun!!! And fun we would have!!!
The kite festival was awesome!!! Saturday we spent most of the day sitting on the beach marveling at just how those huge kites could stay up. Finally, we were back to adding to the tans we had acquired in Arizona in December and January. You know, the tans the Vancouver rain attempted to wash off? Sunday, we spent in Astoria attempting to eat sufficient Crab and Shrimp to keep us fat and sassy all the way to Alaska. After a fantastic week, we headed straight back to "Fraserway RV hospital".
You know, I have got to admit that Fraserway does try to help. This is their really busy time, and yet they squeezed us in. We left Harvey there and headed home to prepare for the North. Two days later, we got a call telling us that Harvey was ready, and could we come quickly to get him as their lot was overflowing with rigs. A quick trip to Abbotsford the next day added to the Gods laughter quotient I'm sure. Everything was fixed but .... the problem with the slide was that the rivet that holds the stop wedge popped and the wedge ended up about 10 inches from the start of the slide arm. No big deal eh? Well they also decided to replace the slide motor at the same time. It was still OK, within manufacturers parameters, but it might give problems later on so while it was still under warranty, why not swap it out now? Good idea I thought until the other shoe was dropped. It would take about 3 weeks minimum to get the new motor. After telling them yet again that we were heading north and that a three to four week delay was not in the cards, they assured us that the slide should continue to work and the new part was ordered only as a preventative measure. Do we believe them??????
Well, we may be playing right into the hands of the RV Gods, but what the hell ... we are going NORTH! The fact that the satellite dish no longer can find a satellite doesn't matter. We don't watch a lot of TV anyway!!! Off we go ....
We spent the first 4 days in Osoyoos visiting with Lou and Carole and their two dogs Belle and Mr. Bains. You long time sufferers of these too long and rambling discourses will remember that we spent a great week with them in Parker, Arizona in December. It was good to touch bases with them once again! Unfortunately, they are as bad as we are in planning ahead so it was hard to figure out if we will be running into them on the road again this year. We sure hope so but who knows....
Our next stop was Vernon, where we stayed for the first night when we had the Folly. The campsite here is sure nice and Roy and Diane, Elsies's long time friends from the Workers Compensation Days, live here in Vernon. Again, you long time sufferers will remember that we were here last year in Harvey for Roy's 60th surprise B'Day party. We had a good time visiting with them and really enjoyed the fantastic steak dinner they put on for us and another long time Board friend Don and his wife,Margaret, Timuss. The weather has been spotty for the first few days, but as the weekend rolled around the sky cleared and the sun shone. All great .... right?????
Guffaw Guffaw .... the gods are at it again. This time it was a Barley problem. He is having problems with his left side and we noticed a sore beginning to develop between his toes on his left rear foot. It didn't seem like much so we thought we would check it the next day. Well the morning dawned to a very unhappy Barley. The sore had swollen overnight to the size of a large acorn. A trip to the vet was now called for. Of course, the vet would not do anything until she got his records from Vancouver, so she sent us home with instructions to soak the foot in Epson Salts and to come back the next day at 10:00. Watching Nurse Elsie trying to persuade Barley that it was really a good idea for him to sit still for 30 minutes on her lap with his foot in a bucket of water was a performance worthy of recording. But, she persevered, and the foot did stay in the bucket.
Sure enough, the sore erupted and after much pressing and squeezing, pus and blood flowed forth. At least Barley was behaving himself incredibly well at this point. Elsie was another question....
The next morning, Elsie drives into town with Barley who was to be dropped off for the day, so they could put him under to cut the foot open and remove whatever was causing the inflammation. Well, when she arrived, she was informed that the decision to put him under was changed to a local only. Could she hold him while this procedure was attempted? Nurse Elsie, of course, rose to the occasion! Over 30 minutes of poking and prodding and both Elsie and Barley were released. I'm not sure just who was the happiest in getting out of there. We did extend our stay here until Sunday May 16th in order for Barley to feel better. In four more days, we will have to find another vet probably in Clearwater to have the wound checked and the dressing replaced. Will this satisfy the Gods ..... or do they still have more in store for us????? Stay tuned???
The plan was to head north going through Kamloops where Elsie's nephew, Greg and Alicia, have just bought their first house. Elsie, being the ever inquisitive aunt, wanted a guided tour of the new palace. Alas, Greg was away in the bush chasing salmon or moose or grizzly bears, and I guess Alicia had headed back to the "big wet" as there was no answer on their phone. So, no problem, we may hit Kamloops on the flip side of this trip. There is no stopping an inquisitive aunt, you realize. We continued through to the Clearwater KOA for two nights. We hoped, by going into Wells Grey Park for the day, that we would see lots of animals.
Well, all we saw was one lonely black bear posing by the side of the road. So, off to Prince George.
We stayed for 3 days, May 18th to May 21st. in Prince George Blue Spruce Campgrounds. It was a really nice place with very friendly people. In Prince George is where the family tree begins to assert itself. For those of you who didn't know, Fort St John was where my Mom and Dad met and married in 1943. Dad was working for the Fort St John Lumber Company which today has been bought out by Canfor. We have always been curious about just what he did there and what his job entailed. The only information we have is that he was the Superintendent of the Mill. Unfortunately, all the research that Elsie has done to date has been really inconclusive. The only suggestion she received was to check the archives in the new University of the North in Prince George. This she was determined to do.
Off we go bright and early on a sunny blustering day to the campus. Wow, they sure have built an impressive campus with an incredible view of Prince George. Three hours later, with head spinning and eyes aching from focusing on miles and miles of microfilm, we are no further ahead with the family tree. Off we head to the PG Public Library to see if they had anything. No luck there either. The only answer is to head back to Harvey after stopping in a Safeway. As you might know, food is our answer to all problems so we brought with us from home a number of "very special steaks" supplied by our ex-butcher and good friend Alf Merton. These beauties can be cut with a fork and after a quick BBQ exposure, they are out of this world. We may not be able to find family information or see many animals on the road, but we sure can eat well!!!
But the Gods are still with us .... The next morning, Elsie managed to badly chip a tooth on a raisin of all things. What to do? A quick trip to the Campsite office for suggestions ended up with Elsie getting an immediate appointment with the same dentist the owner of the campground used. A little temporary filling and filing and she was good to go! In fact they didn't even have to freeze her! Maybe our luck is starting to change????
The dinner that night was great! The next morning we headed off to Fort St John. For the both of us, this really was the start of the northern part as neither of us had ever been north of Prince George before. One would think that the gas prices would be cheaper the closer you get to the oil patch. No Way!!! Regular is now over 1.00 per litre and diesel is pushing .90 a litre. Filling Harvey up used to be only a shock ... now you fear having the "Big One" right there in the gas station.
Our luck seemed to be changing as we saw a beautiful Golden Fox at the side of the road, a cow moose with her yearling calf, a female black bear with two cubs playing at the road side with an empty bottle and many deer. This was more like it! But, sadly, as usual, the Gods were not far off.
Harvey was cruising away faultlessly. I was getting a little cocky I guess, so a RV God intervention must have been called for. Before we left Vancouver, we had installed a supplementary brake system for the Toad. Now, when I put my foot on Harvey's brakes, the Toad brakes would also activate. In many American States these systems are mandatory, but not yet here in BC. The effect of this system is really noticeable especially in the mountains. Instead of having the Toad's 3,000 lb weight pushing us along, it actually helps stop Harvey. I was quite impressed from Vancouver to Prince George and considering all the mountains we would be hitting on this trip, we were quite happy that we installed this system. Until we started towards Fort St John that is.
Now, on Harvey's dash sits a little box that allows me to increase or decrease the percentage of braking applied to the Toad. Also, in this box resides the most annoying high pitched beep that will sound if there is any problems with the Toad brakes. Guess what ... about ten miles north of PG the Beep went off. It beeps for one second, off for a second and then repeats itself, over and over and over and over ... well you get the picture. We were slowly being driven crazy and poor Hops was leading the way. Her ears are sensitive to that wave frequency, and she responds by a violent shaking that can only be controlled by Elsie cuddling her in her lap. Barley, of course, figures that Elsie's lap is his property, so picture Elsie with both dogs in her lap, trying to stay sane. It was not working!
One of the reasons I had chosen this particular braking system was because after it was installed, we had nothing more to do. It fit inside the existing electrical cables from Harvey to the Toad, so I had nothing to do extra when we were hooking up. The drawback to this is that there is no easy way to turn off this system in case of problems. And this was certainly a problem!!!
The only thing we could do is stop and try to make sure the electrical connection to the Toad was secure. Well, it would work for several miles, and then as soon as I put on the brakes, the Beep returned and would continue as long as I had the brakes on. As you can imagine, given the amount of hills through the Coast Mountains and over the Peace River Plateau, this Beep returned far too often. We stopped 4 or 5 times to attempt to silence the damn thing all to no avail. Finally, I was able to insert the connection in such a way that the Beep was satisfied and stopped. Oh Joy, Oh Bliss!!! The sounds of silence were never more appreciated. Perhaps, I thought, it only requires plugging in on a certain angle. As Fort St John was only around the corner, I hoped that a solution had been found.
All during this ordeal, we tried to appreciate the fantastic scenery around us. The Peace River is unbelievably beautiful! I can sure see why the original settlers fell in love with this area. In spots along the side of the road, I could see evidence of the famous Peace River Mud where during the early spring, some poor guy had pulled off the road only to get stuck up to his axles. Though mud is probably not the correct term .... goop or sludge more colourfully describes its consistency. We were proceeding north on the Hart highway that intersects with the Alaska highway just 11 kms north of Fort St John, our immediate destination.
We had decided to stay in Sourdough Pete's Campsite that turned out to be OK. The sites were close together and grass was a bit sparse, but not too bad at all. The plan was to hit the Public Library and the local museum to continue our family tree search. We figured three nights here would be sufficient. Actually, as it turned out, three days was more than enough for family tree things. Neither the Library or the local museum had any details relating to the Fort St John Lumber Company, but we did leave our email so the local historian could get in touch with us if she found anything.
There is one word to describe Fort St John .... Booming!!! The oil patch is thriving, and there is to be a new mill constructed in town ... 600 men to build it and 200 new permanent jobs created. Everyone you see looks to be in their twenties or thirties. A very prosperous young looking town. Now if we were only a similar age I could see coming here and staying a very long time.
The next day, we dropped down to Dawson Creek for the obligatory picture at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. Somewhere, at home, I have a picture of Mom and Dad at the same sign outside the Dew Drop Inn Hotel taken in 1943. You will be happy to note that the same sign is still there, the only alteration is a few more coats of white paint have been applied. They have added a few more signs up the road from the original at the actual Mile 0 location which I have included in the picture sections. Have a look and tell me which signs look better .... the old or the new?
On leaving Fort St John, we planned to head to Fort Nelson and then continue two more hours north to Toad River. What would the Brake System do? Would it behave or not .... you guess ....
Well, I carefully hitched up the Toad. Careful inspection of the connection and an intense emery cloth rubbing would, I hoped, solve everything. About 15 miles down the road .... Beep, Beep, Beep. Over we pull, and reattach the connection. Off we go and then ... Beep, Beep, Beep. Several more times we pull over ... and still the damn thing was wailing, as it now seemed to us. What to do? Could we just ignore it and continue ... you know ... the "suck it up cupcake" approach. An hour later ... we had had sufficient agro!!! I pull over determined to do something to silence the beast! Sometimes, Elsie says that I tend to be just a tad cynical and suspicious. When we had the system installed, I did ask Brian Yeates of Langley RV who actually put the thing in, just what I could do in an emergency if I had to disconnect it. Was this cynical or just smart? Well, he muttered that there were two connections, one in the Toad and one under Harvey's dash, that if undone, the system would be rendered inoperable. Fearing Elsie's scorn at being too cynical, I did not check to see just where these connections were. Coming into Fort St John, I had tried to find the one in the Toad but had no luck. I disconnected some wires in the location he had suggested, but the thing kept wailing! By now, I am ready to set fire to the whole damn rig! I need silence!!!!
Picture this ... parked on the side of the Alaska Highway, two very frustrated and by now almost deaf people with two highly agitated dogs search for tranquility. Sounds like a plot for a very bad sit-com eh! Harvey's dash is large. The backup camera TV screen protrudes towards the Driver's chair. There is very little space between the dash, the chair, and the screen for me to insert my rather large, protruding midriff. There is a chance that, once lying down there on the floor, I just may never get up. Anything would be better that the Beep!!! Or was it the guffaws of the Gods that were getting on our nerves? Anyway, down I go, and slowly begin to worm my way under the dash.
By God there are a lot of wires under here!!!! Trying to follow the one wire from the control on the dash to a connection was like trying to find just one piece of spaghetti in a whole ton of the stuff. Fortunately, the highway is very quiet with not a lot of traffic. In fact, you can go hours with only seeing one or two other vehicles. We had time to slowly work out just which wire belonged to the brake system. After 15 minutes, I had located the plastic 4 wire connector and had actually managed to slip it apart. Now came the really fun part. Could I get out????? Would it be possible?
Worming my way backwards towards the door and the steps outside, I kept rubbing my large belly against the Backup Screen. I even had a momentary thought that maybe I should, in the future, forego my evening beer to get rid of some of the girth, but fortunately, common sense and continued squirming allowed me to get out, and put that silly thought out of my mind. But, would this be sufficient to silence the beast??? Just what would have transpired if Brian Yeates had, just at that second, walked into Harvey, I would not like to guess. It would have been messy and painful ... for him!!!
From this point on to Toad River, silence .... blessed silence. The Beep had been axed! But, so had the auxiliary braking system and there were mountains ahead ....
I should mention the countryside we had been going through. The Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson is much better than the Trans Canada through northern Ontario. All is paved and well maintained. The scenery, while not as spectacular as the Jasper to Banff highway, you can never get tired of it. From Fort Nelson through to Laird River Hot springs, the road conditions deteriorate somewhat. The road becomes very narrow and hilly with the center lines worn away by the sand used on the road during the winter. The approaching large trucks seem to take the whole road, and with no centering line, it was hard to position Harvey in a safe zone, especially on curves. As I mentioned before, it was a good thing that the traffic was not heavy at this time of year. I would have really liked the Toad Brake system here though as there were lots of hills and dales to get through. Toad River, our destination tonight, was in between Fort Nelson and Laird River. All along the way, we saw more bear, moose and caribou even buffalo. This was the way we thought the Alaska Highway would be.
The combination of the Beep and the trying road conditions ensured that we would be really tired when we did finally reach our campsite which proved to be a gravel pit with barely enough room between the sites to open your slides. Toad River is nestled in the mountains and is indeed, a very picturesque setting. We got in, parked, and leveled Harvey. The next step is to hook up the sewer, water and power. But, there was no sewer, and the water did not work. I went back to the office to inquire, politely of course, why the full hookup we had paid for was not available, and his answer was a little laconic. "The water lines are still frozen, not his fault, and we were parked across from the sani dump for the whole park. All we had to do was to pull forward and dump". "Besides", he continued, "we did have cable service and all RVs carry enough water to last for at least one night, so be happy". Exhaustion won, and we put out the slides and made a very quick spaghetti dinner.
This time of year there is very little night. The sun goes down after 11:00 and rises around 4:00. It is a little hard to get used to going to sleep in the light and getting up in the light. Here I was, patiently waiting until at least 9:00 so I could legitimately head to bed, when Elsie decides to take the dogs out for their evening "squeeze and Squirt". Being pretty numb at this point, you can imagine my concern when I hear Elsie screaming at the dogs to get into Harvey quickly. I really don't think either of their feet touched the stairs on the way in! Fearing the worst, I ran to the door in time to see Elsie fumbling for the camera. "Come with me", she said. "You won't believe this!!!"
By the time I got my shoes on, all I could see of Elsie was a white blur heading towards the back of the Campsite towards the river. By the time I had caught her up, she was standing on the bank, her little feet going up and down, and she was pointing ... she was not at her articulate best. I looked to where she was pointing, about 50 feet way in the middle of the river, was a full grown bull moose complete with velvet covered antlers. All the years we had traveled in Canada and the US looking, in vain, for the perfect picture of a moose were forgotten. Here it was!!! I have to say, that I was impressed too, and also very grateful that it was ignoring us. We stood there watching it for 20 minutes or so! WOW! This was the "NORTH", and all the problems of today simply vanished. For city slickers, this was sure something. I won't mention that when we returned to Harvey, our next door neighbours, from Alaska, were just returning to their rig. We excitedly told them about the moose and half expected them to share in the wonder of the sighting. Their reaction ... a shrug and a comment that you see this all the time in Anchorage. Still, for us it was a big deal .... ta hell with them!
The next day we headed to Laird River Hot springs, Teslin and Whitehorse. The hot springs were about a ten minute walk from the Provincial Campground parking lot along a well built wooden pathway across the moss and mud. It was a very pleasant, relaxing hour we spent there. And, No, the object in the springs was not a misplaced Beluga whale, it is me. Knock off the funny quips!
Strangely, from Toad River straight through to Whitehorse, we saw not one animal on the road. The road was good and the weather varied from really short showers to sunny periods. So far all the weather around here varies greatly. In Vancouver we have a day of rain ... here the same day could be rain, sun, hail, wind, and then sun again. Never a dull moment.
Must mention that we did spend one night in Watson Lake and saw the block long Signpost City, that Watson Lake is famous for. A little overwhelming to say the least.
Whitehorse is a neat town. The people seem to incredibly polite and helpful. Just walking down the street, complete strangers will nod to you and say hello. One day we must come here and spend more time. As it is we only have time for a 4 night stay. We have to replace the electric plug in the front of the Toad as the old one, I think and hope, is the cause of the Toad brake problems. Another problem that has reared its ugly head is the cover over the steps in front of the passenger chair is also screwed up. We have had problems with this before, and we fixed it by inserting a new fuse. This time (Guffaw Guffaw) it is not as simple. The toggle switch works well putting the cover out, it is just returning the cover is the problem. Now that the National Warranty is over, I feel more confident in trying to repair things. I took off the cover over the switch and used emery cloth to ensure a good connection. It would return sometimes but not after a lot of pushing and tapping of the switch. Obviously, there is a problem inside the damn thing, but just how that happens, I really don't know. Anyway, we went off to the local RV dealer to pick up a new connection for the Toad and this switch. The connection was no problem but the switch would have to be ordered from California. We placed the order at Fraserway RV of Whitehorse and it will be waiting for us when we return. Yes, that is correct! The place we bought Harvey actually has a location here. In fact, when we walked in whom did we see but the owner himself, James Epp. He apologized for not having parts for A Class vehicles here, but this was only a C Class rental centre. Apparently, they fly 180, mostly Germans, into Whitehorse weekly and supply them with the means to see Alaska. Combine this with the numbers that fly into Vancouver weekly to see the lower part of the Province and this is a very big part of their business. In total, between here, Vancouver, and Calgary they have 800 units rented from May through October. Not a small organization.
Thursday May 27th we headed into Alaska. Well, only a little part of it. Skagway is only 163 kms away and the road is really good. We had a choice of taking a bus to the Canadian Border and then taking the Whitepass Yukon Railway into Skagway and then bus back for $100.00 US each, or driving ourselves. When we did the Alaska Cruise 9 years ago, we did the rail trip so it was a no brainer. We drove. The drive into Skagway was beautiful. You know, the mountains and rivers and river gorges are incredible here. I don't think that I would ever get tired of seeing them. On every turn, there is a more spectacular vista. The two hour drive passed by very quickly.
Skagway itself has not changed a bit. In fact the ships in harbour were the Holland American, Staatendam, the Norwegian Line, Norwegian Sun, and the Princess Cruises, Sun Princess. As we were on the Sun Princess when we sailed up here, and the other two ships were the same so absolutely nothing had changed. The streets were jammed with older cruise passengers desperate to buy authentic Alaskan souvenirs from just as desperate to sell shopkeepers. If I closed my eyes, time went backwards. All in all, it was a great day but only because of the drive in and out .
Well this morning, is our cleaning day. Elsie and I spent an hour replacing the Toad electrical connection. Sitting on the gravel trying to make sure that the 7 wire connection is hooked up correctly was not much fun. What I would have done without Elsie, I don't like to think. We got the thing together, and believe it or not, it works. The lights on the Toad go off and on and the signal/brake lights functions as advertised. Feeling very brave now, I hooked up the Toad brake system again and all appears fine. Obviously we won't know until we head off again, but at least we tried. While I am churning out all this turgid prose, Elsie is cleaning and scrubbing. We have been away for three weeks and it is amazing how much dirt accumulates. It's the dog's fault of course....
One last note about the dirt. The last two campsites we have been to have spots where you can wash your RV and Toad. Why you ask? Well, we went through only two constructions zones for about 10 miles, and the sides of Harvey became totally brown covered by a mud that sticks like glue. The toad had disappeared under an inch of guck! Pressure washing is the only way to get this stuff off. As you pull into this campsite, Pioneer Campgrounds, the first thing you see is the wash area. Most people sign in, hit the wash and then go to their site to set up. But, the mud is not the only problem on these roads ... we met one fellow traveler who was going through the last construction zone just when a water truck was screaming past him going the other way. A rock, the size of a softball, was thrown up by this passing jerk and hit his driver's window. Luckily for him he had dual pane windows and only the outside pane was smashed. Imagine what would happen it it had gone straight through and hit him.......
Tomorrow is Saturday May 29th. After I upload this, we will spend the day wandering around the City of Whitehorse. On Sunday, May 30th we aim to get to Tok, Alaska.... with no problems with the brake system. Do you hear that RV Gods????
Anyway ... we are well and having a blast as usual. Barley's foot seems to have healed well, we are getting a piece of plywood to temporarily cover the stairs, and we know how to disconnect the Toad's brake system if our repairs today do not fix the problem. We can survive!!! But do remember ... you can send us email ... let us know how you are and what you are doing. "
Ahhh ....Sunday .... Alaska .... stay tuned ....