Chris and I are getting ready for our big, one-month long roadtrip across Canada, from Vancouver all the way to Montreal, then coming back through the States. We've put in a lot of time and preparation for this trip, especially around setting up our microcamper and the many hours of sewing we did to create the awning (the many, many hours...).
Some of the highlights we're hoping to have along the trip are:
Karen got up early this morning to pack up the car for our trip. I slept in after a noisy night in downtown Vancouver with a lot of early morning sirens.
We hit the road at around 8:00AM and enjoyed the relatively light traffic on Highway 1 all the way to Hope. I joked about going to the Mandarin Buffet in Abbotsford(?) because I was hungry. We've driven past it so many times and joked about stopping for lunch but we've never done it!
We reached Hope pretty quickly and made our now traditional stop at the A&W/Tasty Mart/Esso for a gas fillup and a Beyond Meat Sausage&Egger. The Beyond Meat version is a little slower, a little more expensive, but I love the taste! And it's way less greasy...
We hit the road again and quickly traversed the Coquihalla to Kamloops, zipping past coppers along the way. After a quick pit stop we headed towards Salmon Arm and our first time driving east of the Okanagan Valley.
Karen used the iOverlander app to find us some places to look for camping and we headed for White Lake, nestled snugly among the Shushwap lakes. On our first pass we thought there was nothing available but we decided to loop back around because we were suspicious about the first site in the campground. Sure enough we discovered it was empty, but we'd been fooled by some parked cars and a tent set up off to the side.
We snagged the site and set ourselves up for our first night of camping on our trip and then enjoyed a hot summer afternoon in the sun. When dinner-time rolled around it started to rain, so we've been able to test out multiple things we built our awning-kitchen-tent for: bugs, rain, privacy and impressing people with our setup.
We're now relaxing under our shelter, staying warm and enjoying a view of the lake. What a perfect day.
We really got to test how our setup works in the rain last night. The rain really picked up at around 2:00AM. To find level ground we had parked the car under some trees and they started dripping on our car and awning-tent like drums.
By around 2:30 we started to get worried that the awning wasn't going to hold out and keep the stuff we had out dry (chairs plus towels and bathing suits from a late dip in the lake.) We got up and put everything away, but it honestly wasn't doing too badly. The Roadies which we use on our doors were fantastic. They allow air flow while keeping the rain out.
The rain kept us up for a good part of the night, so we got up a little late. Then we had to pack up our wet awning, which was kind of disappointing because one of the ideas behind sleeping in the car was about not packing up wet equipment, so this is something we'll have to figure out. (The Roadies dry out really quickly, which is another tick for them.)
We hit the road and started heading to Calgary, passing through Salmon Arm and taking a lunch break in Revelstoke. We were going to eat at Subway, but the lineup was out the door. So we pulled into pullout beside the Subway with a bunch of RVs and set up our back gate kitchen. We were able to wash our hands in our sink and we made sandwiches on our new folding kitchen table.
It was about this time that we started to add up the steady flow of traffic and the massive lines at restaurants in Revelstoke: we were travelling on one of the busiest days of the year! Of course, this didn't stop us from trying to go to Lake Louise. What a gong show. We ended up turning around since we were only intending to make a 15 minute stop, but when we got to the parking lot they were trying to send us to the park'n'ride... Forget it!
We decided to bypass Banff since we were heading to Calgary to see our cousins Scott and Amy and we'd forgotten about the timezone change between BC and Alberta until Karen remembered as we crossed the border. It was a good thing we pressed on, too, because a prairie thunderstorm was hitting Calgary when we got there and traffic was terrible.
We enjoyed an excellent evening with Scott and Amy, catching up since we haven't seen each other in years. [Karen's comment: and discussing our shared love of #VanLife] They also put us up for the evening, so we got to have showers and sleep in a big comfy bed. Speaking of which... goodnight!
We left Scott and Amy's early in the morning (though we're pretty sure we still made them late for work, sorry!) and got some provisions for the road. We weren't hungry, so we skipped breakfast amd headed straight for Dinosaur Provincial Park.
On the way there we passed a truck that spewed out a bunch of gravel as we went by and we got 4 good sized chips in our windshield in a matter of seconds... Truckers, cover your loads! We can't be the only vehicle that took damage today.
The park was amazing! Coming upon the crazy rock and clay canyons that are such a contrast from the rolling prairies around them is something to behold. I'm guesssing if you actually want to find fossils these days you have to go pretty far off the beaten track, or get really lucky with a recent washout. The hoodoos aren't as tall as I remember them as a kid, but are spectacular to see nonetheless. [Karen's comment: My favourite views were looking off at the canyons in the distance while listening to the wind in my ear.]
After the park we realized we were a little tight on gas to make it to Medicine Hat so we backtracked a little to Brooks, Alberta to fill up. We had forgotten to fill up in Calgary where gas is under $1 a litre! It's 50 cents cheaper than Vancouver! While we were filling up in Brooks Karen looked up DIY auto glass repair and was flooded with ads for repair shops nearby. "Nearby" as in "next door" it turns out, so we decided to check it out. 45 minutes and $75 later we were on our way again with some peace of mind that the chips wouldn't spread.
Our next destination was Cypress Hills Inter-provincial Park. This is a massive park that straddles the Saskatchewan and Alberta border. Scott had told us that it was a great place to go camping according to some of his friends. I plugged the destination into Google maps and handed Karen my phone. Tally-ho!
What Scott didn't tell us about was the 100s of kilometers of dirt road we would be driving to get to the park.
Well, it turns out that Cypress Hills has many parts. As we drove down a private road into the Historic Cooree Ranch, having arrived at our destination right on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border - with no sign of a campground in sight - we realized we hadn't quite checked the planned route. We missed our chance to answer when you asked, Google, but no, Google, we were not satisfied with the provided directions. I'm pretty sure the last part of it was to drive overland on private ranch property into some random location in the park!
[Karen's comment: We were a bit nervous about getting another chip in our windshield with all the dirt roads, but the views of the big sky made us forget our worries!]
We backtracked out of the ranch back to the dirt road and drove until we found a cell signal. This time Karen foud the correct destination and it was 60km or so away with about 45km of that on more dirt road. Sigh. Off we go again.
[Karen's comment: During our extended trip down the dirt roads of the Prairies, we crossed over from Alberta into Saskatchewan. However, because we weren't on the main road, we didn't get an official welcome from road signage saying, "Welcome to Saskatchewan". Prior to crossing into Saskatchewan, Chris was hopeful that the dirt road we were on would turn into a paved road when we changed provinces, when in actuality the road simply got narrower upon entry.]
We arrived at the campground a little before 7pm, driving on very nicely paved roads right into and thoughout the park. It's a huge campground. They have a pool, mini putt, tennis courts, ball diamonds, a small lake, free fire wood, and more campsites than you can shake a stick at, including ones with electricity. They have the park separated into different regions and we ended up in a nice, private, quiet site in Deer Hollow. We haven't seen many animals yet, so here's a picture of a deer in Cypress Hills.
We made some Indian food or dinner, relaxed a little and then retired to the confines of our vehicle, as it's quite chilly!
After our dirt road detour yesterday, we decided to sleep in today and take our time in the morning. I went for a run while Chris converted the backseat into a "living room" so he could look at photos and write about the trip.
We hit the road around 1pm, with our next destination being Pambrun, Saskatchewan. Being a Pambrun means I'm not used to seeing other people and things with my name, so this was an exciting destination for me! And it did not disappoint! I expected a small, one- or two-house town. Instead we found a town with several tree lined streets and cute homes. The town came complete with a post office and even an old train station.
The train station had a padlock on the entry door, stating the combination was the year the town was founded. Given our experience in escape-the-room games, we decided to give it a try. After many guesses and some support from other Pambruns via text, Chris put in 1912 and was able to open the door. In we went to check out the old station, view some photos of the town from years ago, and even sign the guest book (I was the only person to sign the guestbook with the last name of Pambrun).
We were going to finish the day by visiting Rouleau, Saskatchewan where Corner Gas was filmed, but we got tired of driving near Moose Jaw and decided to spend the night at a campground here. They have coin-free showers, so our good fortune with hot showers continues.
After a good night's sleep in Moose Jaw we got up early and headed for Rouleau. This town was the filming location for a popular Canadian sit-com called Corner Gas. It's been ten years since it was on the air but Karen and I still enjoy watching episodes and even brought some with us to watch while eating dinner in our car-living-room. We've found we like to use the car like that when we're not in a particularly nice camping spot, like when we're "stealth camping" in an unofficial campground.
When we got to Rouleau we were happy to see the iconic grain elevator from the show, still emblazoned with "Dog River". We turned into town and drove down Main St and it was obvious that they were still keeping the spirit of Corner Gas alive. The town bar still has the "Dog River Hotel" name up and across the street is "The Dog River Howler" (the town newspaper from the show.)
On the side of the Howler building is one of those cheesy put-your-face-in-the-hole thingies for tourists. There wasn't anyone around to take a picture of us both at the same time, but luckily, we have the technology.
On the rest of Main St you can see many of the other buildings that appeared in the show, but what was kind of neat was getting perspective on where all the shots in the show are taking place. We drove around the town a bit and saw some of the houses that were used in the show, like Oscar and Emma's. It felt a little weird taking a picture of some random person's house...
Finally we went back to the start of the town where the grain elevator is and where the main exterior set for the show used to be. Unfortunately, they took down that set after the show was done, so it is just a gravel parking lot now.
At this point we had seen pretty much everything we wanted to here and probably spent more time than we had intended, so we hit the road. Driving out of town on the dirt roads we were reminded of one of the main dirt roads they used in the show, but really, that could be pretty much anywhere in Saskatchewan.
Our goal for the day was to get near Winnipeg, so we beelined it for the highway. We had quite a bit of distance to cover!
As we've talked about several times, one of the big parts of our set up for our microcamper is the tent-awning at the back. While we were able to find a decent cover on Amazon, we couldn't find one that fit our desires for bug reduction and privacy. (We will have a full blog post on what we made at some point.) Anyways, when searching for a source for no-see-um mesh in Canada I came across a shop online based in Portage la Prairie. Over the course of making my order and some problems with Canada Post, I ended up talking to Gerrit, owner and operator of Hofman Outdoor Gear Supply several times.
During our trip, Karen and I found some deficiencies in our design, one of the main ones being that bugs can easily get into our protected area from under the car. We knew this would be an issue while making the awning, but we didn't know how we wanted to solve it and we had run out of materials anyway. So here we were driving across the country, approaching my Canadian source for the materials we needed. I emailed Gerrit, letting him know we'd be coming through P-la-P, and asked him if we could get some more mesh. He said sure, and by about 7pm we were pulling into his driveway. While we were there we decided to get some more nylon too, which would allow us to add some trim to this extra bit of our project, and potentially do any other things that come up.
We told him that we were looking for a place to camp for the night and he recommended a spot about 10 minutes away called Delta Beach. Apparently they just recently finished rebuilding the campground after the big floods in 2011 and it wasn't showing up on the maps yet.
It ended up being a very nice little campground on the south end of Lake Manitoba with hot showers for $1, clean bathrooms, and the ability to register and pay online. We got to enjoy a spectacular sunset and amazing cloud show, including this fiery phoenix and The Dark Mark.
Unfortunately, it ended up being a very windy night and we had a bit of trouble sleeping. In the morning we realized we could have moved two sites over and the wind would have been greatly reduced. Oh well!
Check out the continuation of our roadtrip HERE.