April 5th '09 to June 2nd '09

(58 days -- we weren't in a rush!)



(Las Cruces NM to Fort Steele BC)

(go to Phase One)


(From Fort Steele BC to Ottawa ON)

(go to Phase Two)


(From Ottawa ON to North Sydney NS)

(go to Phase Three)




                    5080 miles


TOTAL DRIVING TIMES:     106 hours, 20 minutes

(if driven straight through)

TOTAL FUEL COSTS:                     $2019.63

(Calculated at 1.00 Cdn per litre and the Cdn to US Dollar at 88 cents Cdn avg.)



Well, I'm late with this as usual! It just seems somehow very hard to settle down to the keyboard and bang this out. Too many other things going on I guess. Anyway, here is a very shortened version of our passage from Las Cruces New Mexico to North Sydney Nova Scotia.

To begin, I guess I'd better start by explaining just why we headed north to Canada from Las Cruces (106.55 West Longitude) ---which is, as the crow flies, just south of Saskatoon (106.41 West Longitude) to Cranbrook (115.46 West Longitude). Going west before we head east ... with the fuel prices the way they are, it would have made so much more sense to just continue east to the coast and then head north. But, in this world of little common sense, if we wanted to renew our travel health insurance, we had to return to BC to do it. As well, we needed to renew the vehicle insurance on both Harvey and the Toad. This we could have done on the road, but the health insurance .... well ... you know us. Even though we will be spending most of our time in Canada, we really have a screwed up health system. Outside your Province, you are covered only at the rate in that Province and any extra costs incurred above that would be covered by you!!! Apparently, mercy flights, drug costs, etc. are different in each Province so we figured that for a couple of hundred dollars each we would be covered for anything, including return home flights, shipment of the RV etc etc. Chicken ... probably .... smart --- we like to think so!


But, anyway ... off we go to Cranbrook. Why there, you ask? Well, we like the Campground just outside of Fort Steele, and we figured that it would be a good place to clear up all things bureaucratic whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery. So off we go ... north ... sigh!!!!

Now this year is different ... everyone is asking "where the hell is Spring?" In Las Cruces the winds were blowing gale force most of the time. Driving ole "Slab sided" Harvey in a heavy wind storm redefines the term terror and is definitely a thing to avoid. The answer is The concept there is to research where you are, where you want to go, and try to find a "date window" that has no wind and no rain. When you find that "window" you make your plans and go like hell. One thing we have learned, off the top, is NEVER trust weather men... or is it people? Anyway, this is the attempt and sometimes it does work. However, as you head north, wind and rain is not the major concern ... it rapidly becomes snow, ice, frozen campgrounds and frozen water pipes. But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Our first stop is Albuquerque NM, home of the Balloon Festival (held in more salubrious weather of course). Usually we just hunker down and head north up the I 5 -- one of the most boring highways that has ever been created. Not this year, we are off to see new places and learn new stuff. Well, we sure learned a lot.

Albuquerque (March 27 - April 5th)

The drive north was beautiful. We managed to catch a day with no wind and bright sunshine. The High Desert here is a sight everyone should see on a nice day. The theme music from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" constantly echoes in your mind, and around every turn you expect -- want -- to see Clint: lighting a stogie and glaring out over the landscape. It was one of the nicer drives we have made. At this point, I should have heard the RV Gods chuckling!!!

About half a million people live here, and the city seems to stretch over the desert for miles. There are not many very high buildings, but the streets are wide and very clean. It is a city that seems more comfortable as a center of commerce than as a tourist destination. But, there are the Sandai Crest Mountains over looking everything. They have a gondola that takes you up to the top for the view but, as usual, with our luck, it wasn't running -- down for maintenance. Did that bother us ....???? No!!! Ole Elsie simply got out the Garmin and quickly found that there was a road up the back way for free!!! Chuckling at this slight victory over the Gods, off we go in the Honda. Have a look at the pictures ... it was quite the view.

If you remember the old show, Route 66, (made me crave a Corvette, as I recall) had two studs driving across the US. These days, the Interstates have carved up the countryside leaving Route 66 in only small snatches. But, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, it still exists. Here they also call it the "Turquoise Trail". Now this was fantastic!!!! The weather could not be better.

We headed off leaving Albuquerque at 5200 feet and headed along Route 66 (the hell with the "Turquoise Trail") to Santa Fe at 7200 feet. They give you lots of warning about altitude sickness possibilities, so we thought we were prepared. But, it sure hit me hard! On leaving Harvey and driving the Toad to Santa Fe, we cranked up the Garmin to take us to the famous Loretto Chapel, home of the spooky winding staircase. The Garmin can fool you!!! Being compulsive, we followed the directions faithfully! Instead of winding up at the chapel, we ended up in the middle of a very rural housing division after about 10 miles of gravel road. Hmmm, we thought ... no chapel here. Of course it was a case of GIGO, a concept that we are very familiar with, unfortunately. So, a quick correction, and we discovered a very enchanting city!

It is a tourist Mecca. The downtown area is festooned with Pueblo styled buildings. We found the tourist office to get current information ... read ... the location of a great place to have lunch. In the parking lot, we ran across a 22 foot Mercedes Benz RV from Germany parked illegally. Painted on the sides of the RV were outline maps of their travels commencing with a trip from Germany to Beijing and back. The next trip was from Buenos Aires to the tip of South America and back and this current trip was from Fort Lauderdale to LA and north to Alaska and then off to the east Coast. We thought that we did a lot of travelling. I guess they figured by the time a parking ticket got to them they would be long gone.

We were successful in finding a great place for lunch! I had a pannini like sandwich stuffed with crab, avocado and a light delicate cheese. WOW, I still drool when I think of it. Elsie had a Chicken Wrap that was so large that if she didn't have a reticulated jaw there would be no way she could have devoured it. One of the best lunches and not expensive!!! That cemented Santa Fe, in our mind, as a definite "return to"!!!

We did find the Chapel and saw the famous staircase. In a nutshell, the Nuns who had the Church built made it too small for a normal staircase to be built inside:

Needing a way to get up to the choir loft the nuns prayed for St. Joseph's intercession for nine straight days. On the day after their novena ended a shabby looking stranger appeared at their door. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase, but that he needed total privacy and locked himself in the chapel for three months. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase entirely of non-native wood. The identity of the carpenter is not known for as soon as the staircase was finally finished he was gone. Many witnesses, upon seeing the staircase, feel it was a miraculous occurrence.

For more information:

I did have quite the time trying to adjust to the high altitude ... walking was a real chore for me, but on our next visit --- and there will be another visit --- we will stay there for several days to acclimate.

We will definitely return here !!!!!!!!!!

Moab UT. (April 11 - 13th)

After consulting with our weather guru, we ascertained that there was a weather window for us to get to Moab on the 11th. Again we learn!!! Stupidly, we checked the weather conditions at Moab and found that it would be sunny with no wind to speak of. What we didn't do was check the highway altitudes we would be going through to get there. Sure enough, approaching 8,000 feet, we hit rain, sleet and snow. Then the winds started. That trip was work. I, white knuckling the steering wheel and Elsie, assumed a position of devout prayer with her eyes cemented shut for most of the really high passes. But, we persevered and pulled into the very small town of Moab: population 5500. When we phoned ahead for a reservation the day before, we were told that we got the last vacancy in the Park. Yeah sure ... we knew that Moab was the closest town to one of the famous Utah Parks (Zion, Arches, Bryce etc. etc.) but full? In April? Right!!

Well, full they were. It was the weekend of the annual Jeep Safari that attracts literally thousands of RV'ers who tow Jeep toads. Now, these are not your "citified" Jeeps you see every day. They were Rock Crawlers, mud bashers etc. All of these were jacked so far off the road that it would take two small men with ropes and pulleys to get me into one. They roar across the desert in packs trying to see just how much trouble they could get into. Actually, it did look like fun ....

The majority were just leaving the day we got there, so we only had to wait one extra day to get The Arches Park to ourselves. .Have a look at the pictures, it really is a spectacular place.


Salt Lake City (April 13 - 17th)

This was a place we always wanted to visit! This was our chance to hear, live, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ... right? Well, our luck is holding constant.

The drive there was pleasant, with blue skies and a light wind. We got a space in the KOA Park right in the city. We generally do not go anywhere near KOA's, but this one did turn out to be the best KOA we have hit in many years. The City Tour bus even picks up right at the office. What more do we need. We sign in, arrange to take the City tour and ask about the Choir. "Oh, um, this week the practice is not open to the public". But, the City tour does include an Organ Recital in the Tabernacle. Well ... another reason to return to the area, I guess.

The day of the Tour, the weather changed. Instead of sun, we had rain. Being brave, we still headed out for the Tour ... we had paid for it after all! The tour was fantastic. Salt Lake is a beautiful well designed City full of history. Just before lunch -- included in the Tour- the snow started -- not included in the tour. Several inches fell and then turning to sleet. Just what we needed. Well, still another reason to come back and see the places we missed.

Butte Montana (April 17 - 18th)

An over night spot on the bald prairie. The campsite was a little primitive but nice enough. We set up and settled down to watch the TV news. Just beside us was an empty site that was quickly filled by a Calgarian who just bought a Country Coach Intrigue and was on his first shake down cruise. Of course, we had to chat with him as his was the Coach Model we were trying to buy in Tucson. He loved his Coach!!! We were suitably jealous and retreated into Harvey ... dreaming!

A couple of minutes later, a knock on our door. He had the same hitch for his toad as did we, so he was looking at ours to see how we set it up. Our luck was about to change! He noticed one of the lug bolts that holds the hitch onto Harvey was almost falling off. It had shaken lose over the years of rattling across the country. Oops, this is a PROBLEM! The last thing I wanted to see was the Toad passing us as we drove along the highway!

Of course, the bolt was huge and a special size so I did not have a socket to fit. Neither did the guy beside us, but as usual, with the RVing community, the RVer three sites down from us saw that we were standing around, scratching our heads so over he came. Sure enough, he had a huge crescent wrench that would fit well enough, so we could get the bolt tight enough that we could get to Cranbrook. It was a difficult location for the bolt, and it had to be done up quite tightly. The wrench owner watched me struggle with it for several seconds, and he asked, politely of course, if he could have a try. Well, I thought ... he did ask politely, and my knuckles were skinned badly in places ... several minutes later he had it done. RVers are sure wonderful people!

We now carry the correct socket and very large driver just behind the front door. We check this often!!!


Cranbrook/Fort Steele (April 18 - 25th)

This was a bureaucratic stop. We had to get our travel health insurance renewed and the insurance for the Toad and Harvey. We do like this Park, and as we were very early in the season, most nights we were the only rig there. But, all Park facilities were working and the weather was nice ... until the snow hit the day before we were to leave. Not to worry, we thought ... Spring can't be far away! Right????? And it was just a little snow that melted quite quickly.

Insurance purchased, Harvey's larder filled, and basic laundry and clean up completed, off we go into Spring on the Prairies.




Lethbridge Alberta (April 25 - May 1st)

You notice how long we stayed here? Where is Spring??? Half of the Campground, Bridge View RV, had no water as the ground was still frozen. Frozen, what the hell is that? We are from BC! We don't have frozen water pipes at the end of April! It was only to get worse .... sigh!

Lethbridge is a strangely laid out city. We came in from the west and as usual were looking to fill up with fuel before we hit the Campground. We drove through the place and into the city looking for a diesel station. Nothing ... Nada... Zilch. Garmin was no help either! We finally did find a station on the far eastern part of the city that had diesel, but it was the first time in our RVing history that we had to unhitch the Toad to be able to approach the pumps. What a joke!

In the past, Alberta always had cheaper wine prices than we had in BC so we figured a chance to fill up our supply for the run to the east. But, now a days, Alberta's private stores can set any price they want, so now you have to be very careful -- some places had better prices on special wines and others had higher prices. You had to live there to figure it out. But, for the most part, the Booze shop attached to the Real Canadian Superstore generally had prices that were not too bad.

We were not enjoying Lethbridge very much. But, instead of leaving, we had to extend our stay. Why? It had to do with the foot of snow that fell the night before we were to leave.

Alberta snow is usually very dry but this stuff was as wet as the worst snow fall on the BC Coast. We had our slides out, of course, so the snow hit the slide toppers and put a huge weight on them. They had to be cleared as in the afternoons, the snow changed to sleet. I could just hear the toppers ripping ... there was no way we could bring the slides in without clearing the tops. So, out I go ....

Many years ago, I bought a pair of Duck boots to wear in case of inclement weather. This was the first time I had to get them out. But, they were just a little too short! especially on the right foot. A little suffering ... what the heck ... beats cold wet feet ... right? And ... the black toe nail on the right foot will get better? Running around with just the sandals and no socks would make me look just a little "goth"? But it will get better?

Our main slide is about 14 feet long and about three feet wide. The top can hold a lot of snow! No matter, I grab the extendable window cleaner, grab our ladder and up I go! It is always fun to pull slush down on top of yourself, but the job was getting done until I got to the largest slide. I carefully place the ladder at the end of the slide and start up ... suddenly the legs give way and sink about 12 inches into the ground. Oops .. I begin to topple and manage to jam my right foot into the bottom rung of the ladder. Damn thawing ground!!!!

Well, it was not too bad; I got the topper cleaned, and my toe with the completely black nail will cure itself in a month or two ... I guess.

Finally, our weather guru said that May 1st would be a nice day with no snow so off we went... not too unhappy getting out of town!


Regina Saskatchewan (May 1 - 2nd)

We were the only rig there, and the water and sewer were still frozen! We had filled our fresh water tank (100 gallons), and we had emptied both Grey and Black tanks in Lethbridge so we were good to go for at least a week. Not having sewer/water was not a problem. We just wanted to get over the Prairies as quickly as possible. We got a pull through site allowing us a quick departure the next morning. The campground (Buffalo Lookout) was a "Mom and Pop" affair that was well taken care of and very clean.

It is time to make the first of many, I'm sure, comments about the condition of the Trans Canada Highway -- the TCH.  BC and Alberta have good highways.  Saskatchewan has divided the highway and for the most part was not too bad.  Some areas could do with resurfacing, but on the whole OK.


Winnipeg/Isle des Chenes Manitoba (May 2 - 6th)

The campground was a surprise. The owners met you with a very friendly greeting and could not do enough for us. On our arrival, he was out trying to thaw the sewer pipes, and then was going to work thawing the fresh water system. As stated before, the sewer was not a concern, but we were getting a little low on fresh water. "Not to worry" he said. He had about 1000 feet of garden hose that he pulled around to each site. A little inconvenient, but it was effective.

We wanted to visit the Triple E RV factory just outside of Winnipeg. It is the only Canadian manufacturer of RV's and definitely worth a visit to see just how they stacked up to the American Coaches we were looking at. This has been a terrible spring for flooding and many of the roads are still flooded with detours galore. We chose the Ile des Chenes Park as it was the closest to Winkler where the Factory is located. But given the flooded road closures, it turned out to be a 2 hour drive one way. Oh well ... the tour was interesting. Triple E's are well made -- albeit too expensive for what you get. We can rule these coaches off our perspective RV purchase list.

We did take a drive into Winnipeg just to say that we had been on the corner of Portage and Main. Whenever they talk about the winter weather in Winnipeg, the reporter always stands at Portage and Main and shivers. That day, the weather was nice, and so we have put Winnipeg down as a place to return and spend longer.

The Manitoba TCH is a little better than Saskatchewan ... divided highway throughout and the road surfaces were generally good.

Ignace Ontario (May 6 - 7th)

Over night pull through stop. Nice Park. Pipes still frozen.

Now, my bitch!!! The TCH in Ontario is a National Disgrace!!!!

Ontario is the kind of Province that if you are not from down south, you are from no where. In fact, I'll go even further ... watching the Ontario news, no place in Canada exists except the the "Golden Triangle" around Toronto. When we had our softwood lumber problems with the US, the Federal government assigned a junior minister to negotiate. They even went as far as saying that BC could not negotiate directly with the Americans ... it had to be the Fed. Govt. only. The solution was reached only when the Yanks realized that they needed our lumber. The effect of this 3 year long dispute was devastating to BC. Ottawa's answer ... Oh Hum! Now, with the Ontario Auto industry in problems, the answer is to bankrupt the country to save the car industry. It sure makes me wonder about the viability of Cascadia ... (BC, AB, YU in one country ... a plague on Ontario).


Link to Republic of Cascadia


Anyway, the highways. You bounce from one old patch to another ... the shoulders off the road, when there are any, are narrow and often drop several inches from the road surface. In fact, several places Elsie and I were comparing it to the poorest Mexican National Roads. No game fences, and with the trees close to the road side, it was a recipe for animal collisions. We almost nailed a deer that suddenly appeared in front of us. Just how we missed him, I don't know, but I give the credit to the brake assist we have in the Toad. It managed to slow us down enough so that we only grazed the deer's side. I shook for a few miles after that.

Top that all off with poor road signage, no warning about steep grades ahead, the inability to construct transitions between bridges and road surfaces, no rest stops, few full sized fuel stops, and you get a piece of road that will definitely ensure that we return through the Northern US.

You know what really pisses me off is the Ontario attitude to this. Oh yeah they say. What do you expect --- it is terrible country to build roads in. Well, when I counter with "I'll match your 1,100 miles from Manitoba to Ottawa with the conditions in the Fraser Canyon, the Coquihalla, the Yellow Head to Dawson Creek, the Alaskan Highway to Whitehorse, and, not to mention the Crows Nest Pass, and the Rogers Pass. Their response is a dull look -- they have not a clue what I'm talking about as it is not in Central Canada.

Terrace Bay On (May 7 - May 8th)

Weather not too bad but the roads are still bad!!!

Very small campground, but they had pull throughs so it was a good place to stop. We were the only transients in the Park.


Sault Ste Marie (May 8 - 13th)

After the rush from Winnipeg, we needed a place to rest and see if our nerves would settle down after the beating we gave Harvey on the roads. Also, Elsie's interest in the Paynter Family Tree was one of the reasons we came this way. Just outside of "The Soo" is a tiny place called Bruce Mines. Apparently, my Great Great Great Grandfather died there. As a result in Elsie's mind, it was a must stop and to investigate. We drove down in the Honda and stopped at the local library. They put us on to the City Hall where there were a lot of records from the old days. The town had a project several years back to collect the history and collate it so people can access the records. As in most small Canadian towns, the welcome was fantastic. The Town Clerk phoned two ladies who were deeply involved with the project, and over they came to help us in our enquiries. We could not find where my relative had been buried, but it turned out that I might be distantly related to one of the ladies. More research to follow!

We enjoyed our 5 day stop here and will come back here on the return voyage ... only to head south from the Soo, across Michigan and north to Winnipeg.

Mattawa On (May 13 - 14th)

Overnight pull through stop.

Did have one thing happen. While we were fuelling up, a pickup truck pulled to the pump beside us, and I couldn't help but notice what was in his truck bed. He was a young guy who was off for the long weekend at the Lake. The truck bed was full of cases of beer. I immediately tried to weasel an invitation to the party, but he was too cagey for me. I did noticed several cases of beer that seemed HUGE. In fact the cases contained 55 cans of beer. Wow, I was impressed --- I almost fell over when he told me that the 55 cans cost $55.00. WOW ... compare that to our prices of almost $40.00 for 24. Then he mentioned that it was available only in Quebec Costco's. Perhaps we should keep them in Confederation after all .....


Ottawa (May 14 - 21)

This is a visit that we have been looking forward to. Not that it is the National Tax rip-off centre of Canada, the home for the grasping, rapacious politicians who infect our land -- No. It is the home of my cousin Lori and her husband Don.


Lori and Elsie share a passion ... Family Tree stuff!

The Campground we chose was not too far away from Lori and Don's home. It was a nice older park but they did have a real problem ... Mosquitoes. Anytime you went outside and came back, the next 10 minutes would be filled killing mosquitoes. Often a total of 20 plus would not be a surprise. This, I didn't need! Top that off with the Park having sewer issues ... more frozen ground and split pipes -- and dreams of BC kept returning to our minds.

Our first visit with Lori and Don, saw Don and I sitting looking at each other while Elsie and Lori chattered endlessly about long dead relatives. I don't know who was happier ... Lori or Elsie. They did stop for dinner ... Lori made a wicked chicken dish --- good old home cooking can't be beat.

Don volunteered to be our tour guide for Ottawa, and we happily played tourist. We wandered around the downtown area and hit all the interesting spots. We do like the By Ward Market. Another day we drove around and saw the Tulip Festival that was just ending. Elsie and Tulips ... well ... you know the Dutch.

Still another meal ... They had never had Dim Sum so we had to expose them to this delight. A great meal that we all enjoyed ...

We headed across the border (?) to Quebec. I'll bet you have not forgotten the 55 can beer case that Quebec Costco sells. Well, I hadn't either. We had to get one!!! Off we go to the land of NO signs in English. I won't get started on that. Suffice it to say that we shot through the border replete with or trophy ... 55 Molson Dry ...

Our penultimate night there Lori and Don took us to there favourite local restaurant. The food was great and the highlight was the Spumoni Ice ream for dessert.

We sure spent a lot of time with Lori and Don ... laughing and talking. It had been a long time since we had someone else to talk with -- other than ourselves --and it was sure a great change.

Now if we could only get Don and Lori to visit out west ....

Phase Two Pictures



Riviere-du-loup (May 21 -May 22nd)

Only over night stop in Quebec .... need I say any more?

The highways in Quebec mirrored Ontario conditions.

St Andrews by the Sea New Brunswick May 22 - 31st)

One of our favourite stops in Canada. This was our 3rd visit, and it had not changed a bit. We got a spot in the Kiwanis RV Park, just through town, that allowed us to pull Harvey front on to Passamaquoddy Bay which is part of the Bay of Fundy. The tide drops over 20 feet here and sitting in Harvey looking out the front windows at a scene that never is the same makes this a special place indeed. Again, the weather has been good, and with few people in the Park, it is a great place to decompress and unwind. We seemed to be very good at that so we kept extending our stay. We did start our "Search for the Best seafood Chowder" here, but the ones we tried were only mediocre. The best was yet to come!!!

Turo Nova Scotia (May 31 June 2nd)

It was time for Harvey to get an oil change so we chose Turo as it has a large Freightliner Shop there. This is where we were going to stop on our last time through these parts, in 2003, but hurricane Juan changed that in a hurry.


We stayed in the same park --- still as nice as the last time.

Cleverly thinking ahead, we thought that maybe we should hit a liquor store here before we cross to the Rock. Prices are about the same as home. I did a little "visiting" with one of the employees of the store and boy, was he full of doom and gloom about the future for Nova Scotia. I don't blame him ... evidence of unemployment and store closures were every where.

Well, with Harvey taken care of, off we go to the Ferry.

North Sydney /Little Bras d'Or Nova Scotia (June 2 - 6th)

This is a nice Park!!! We got a site that over looked Bras d'Or Lake, and the weather was consistently good. The owners were extremely friendly. Highly recommend this Park, "Arm of Gold RV Park".

We spent two days wandering around the back roads and crossed on the Little Narrow Ferry that spanned the spot that the Lake and open ocean meet. Really a picturesque place.

We wanted to visit Fort Louisburg again so that was a day well spent going back into history. (see our 2003 epistle for a more complete description)



June 6th we hit the Ferry to the ROCK.

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