We wake up 141 miles from the Canadian border this morning – the day has arrived that we will be traveling into another country together. In the light we are able to see a closer bathroom than the one we got asked to stay out of last night, but a walk over there with clothes, towel, and shampoo proves disappointing because of the lack of showers inside. We spot the next one amongst the RV side of the park and can appreciate the extra-large stalls with room for two and the early morning walk to get here.
The cold water is free; it’s the hot water that requires tokens. I only use one, but it takes me as long to shower and get dressed as it does Caleb who opted for the six minutes. He tells me it’s a good thing we didn’t try to shower together in the busy men’s room, but why would I want to do that when the women’s was empty and hopefully cleaner. Back at the site we let our towels (small or medium camp quick-dry) get some air-drying done while we put the tent away and then lay them out to dry in the back.
On the way into town I realize that the campsite is closer than all the turns last night had us believe. We stop at a gas station so that I may carve a mango like an apple and wear it on my face and hands. I don’t know why I didn’t do this at the campsite that had a sink or go inside and ask to use theirs, but Caleb got me a wet wipe after taking pictures of me and after I considered myself non-sticky enough got us on the 20 north to Canada.
I’m getting excited as we pass beautiful mountains and lakes and begin to wonder if they will continue north or how abruptly they will end once we cross the border – silly imaginary lines. It seems the grass can’t be greener and the sky any bluer. I’m so excited to be traveling internationally with my husband and glad that the dogs’ paperwork is simple and that there should be no issues at the customs booth.
We pass an osprey in its synthetic nest on what looks like an old telephone pole amongst the power lines. They like to hover before they land, and make large nests so poles, bridges, and trees with no tops are some of their favorite choices as long as they’re near water to access fish that they subsist on. And though not endangered they’re considered an indicator of environmental contaminates (ex. DDT) and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Fifteen minutes from the border is a wait time sign with less than five minutes lit up on its LED screen. There are piles of what seem to be empty bee boxes, like shipping containers waiting on their boat or truck to deliver them to their next destination. We get to slow down and allow a large family or school group or gangster squad of quail to cross the road. There were over 16 of them and they were in a hurry unlike geese who are larger, more likely to be seen, and take their time waddling across the street.
The last time I was in Canada I was more excited about being on a ferry in a popular whale migration area on the way over. And I was the passenger while my dad did most of the talking. I’d seen the busy border we had to wait in line for to get back into the States, but this time I’m the driver, it’s a border on a road with little traffic, and there is no body of water to transport over, but we do drive by Osoyoos Lake before arriving at the gate.
We hand over our passports and the dogs’ rabies records. We’re asked what we do (and according to the agent I’m “living The Life of Riley”), where we’re going, and if the car is ours. Caleb would have you believe that I gabbed to my heart’s content, but the agent welcomed us to Osoyoos, British Columbia and we remembered to ask for the dogs’ paperwork back, but not for a stamp until we stood in front of the welcome sign to The Best Place on Earth.
I thought about walking back over there to get Caleb his first stamp, but we didn’t know what security protocols they had and considered it better to move forward and enjoy what the rest of the day had to bring instead of concentrating on what we missed – but what a story it could’ve been. The first things we see are wineries and orchards, crops and hills, clouds and trees, and signs in kilometers and others with lots of pictures on them – great for foreigners who can’t read the local language.
For every farm there are two farm stands. We can pick them and eat them. We want to save room for poutine – we know we will find some, but we don’t know when so we pull over to the stand that advertises samosas. They have fresh plums, apples, and peppers for sale along with shelves of jams, honey, oils, and pickled veggies. When traveling to another country it’s a good thing to check with your cell provider about roaming and your credit card company about transaction fees (and so they don’t think your card is stolen).
My phone stopped working the second we crossed the border (it’s prepaid), but Caleb’s had its moments along with data services. He paid for our snack in cash and since he has dealt with ‘monopoly’ money lately I let him handle it as it seems easier for me to spend since it’s not the cash I’m used to dealing with, hence the nickname. It’s in our change that we receive that I learn Canada handles their currency more efficiently.
If you Google the life of a dollar bill you will find that it lasts less than two years because it’s handled so much, but a coin can last up to 30 years and more of it is recycled at the end of its lifespan. It’s also easier to keep up with inflation in machines (laundry, public bus, soda machine) by using one coin instead of four. Canada took this into consideration and strictly uses the loonie ($1 coin introduced in 1987) and the toonie ($2 coin made in 1996). They made the switch not knowing if the people would accept it, but it’s saved the government millions and is now another point of Canadian pride.
More fruit trees, more tall mountains, more reflective lakes as we make our way north towards Vernon. We stop at Vaseux Wildlife Centre and look as naïve as two bubblegum thieves trying to rob a bank as we stare at this northern nature that our minds have tricked us into believing is so much more different from its southern counterpart, but there is one big distinction that we’ve been warned about – mosquitoes… and plenty of them flying like a murder of crows over a bowl of squirming bloody bugs towards our veins.
We hightail it back to the car where the DEET is located, rolling around under one of our seats. Caleb is ready to bathe in its glory, but I plead with him to wait as we don’t yet smell like campfire smoke and I’m hoping we will be in the safety of the city soon and afterwards can begin to add the smells of the outdoors to our hair, skin, and clothes. And though 24 degrees may sound like a good day in Alaska to us, here that means it’s 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the water is fine.
Thirty minutes later we will find ourselves at a secluded beach on the lake parked on the roadside. We can hear another dog further down the beach, but Sparky is too distracted with all the shiny rocks to care. Caleb tries to deter him from scratching at them by throwing sticks into the water. Finally he throws a rock and we have to carry Sparky back to the car to keep him from going into the middle of the lake to find the treasure. I touched the water, Piggy ignored it, Caleb got up to his knees, and Sparky was fully immersed.
We find ourselves in the community of Westbank at 1:00 pm and we are ready for poutine. We usually don’t eat at chain restaurants, but that’s because in the States we can eat at them in a majority of places anytime. So we agree that here, in another country, we can eat wherever we want because it’s all new and different to us. We pull into the parking lot of White Spot – a restaurant with no success in Washington, but twice the revenue at its three Hong Kong franchises versus any location in British Columbia.
As we are getting out of the car a man is putting his daughter into one. I figured it would save us time and possible embarrassment to ask him if this place serves poutine instead of going inside – and we might get a good recommendation. That guy was either a dipshit or an asshole. He said eh, and a ‘boot, and don’t ya know, so we know he was Canadian but he had no idea about the irresistible poutine bar that awaited us inside. Sadly I can’t say the same for the watery local brew they had on tap.
I’m glad we ignored that guy and decided to find out for ourselves. We smiled large as we saw the poutine on the menu and said yes to a spot at the bar. The waitress almost got me to say yes to a spot size (20 oz.) glass of Nat Bailey lager, but I was able to catch her and ask for a sleeve (14.5 oz.) and an order of original poutine. Now I realize that this fries dish is made with beef gravy, but I can’t let my vegetarian diet get in the way of experiencing another culture, though that may mean trying camel gravy next, I’m not ready for steak.
The cool thing about being in another country is that you can research the local time, language, dress code, and currency, but there is so much more to learn in the moment. Instead of Brianna, our waitress, making us come to her with the check she brings the portable card reader (retail price $800) to us. If that wasn’t enough, the customer then has the option to type in a tip amount or select a percentage to add to the total. And we also take the chance of running into a problem with the use of different ‘credit’ cards.
In the States, we still believe in the ol’ magnetic strip, but countries world wide are switching to chip & pin cards in an attempt to lower fraud. In Canada, the person accepting payment is more likely to ask for ID. It can be difficult to explain to a young waitress how another country would want to be so different from the majority making travel harder on those that can afford it by issuing them a card and telling them good luck as they are accepted everywhere – not anymore.
As we pass Butt Road the ten-year-old in me hastens me to take a picture while I giggle about the use of butt on a public road. Perhaps it’s a Canadian translation of the French word, cible. We pass more mountains and lakes – this province is an outdoor enthusiasts dream – and we are living it. We have a hard time finding Skamous on the map because it’s actually Sicamous – my I and C looked like a K to me.
Sicamous is the Houseboat Capital of Canada, but just a district municipality we are passing through today. Further on their Hwy 1 – a two lane road like the one found on the west coast in the States with crazy turns too, but with more drivers willing to pass in no-passing zones to keep traffic moving efficiently, we find Crazy Creek Waterfall. They want to charge some unbudgeted amount to walk on the suspension bridge, but a view of the falls from the road is free.
Had we known then what would soon await us, I’m sure we would’ve paid the $12 each or whatever amount to have us out of the car for hopefully an hour of the two we would be waiting in a traffic jam only nine miles, or 14.5 kilometers, from Revelstoke and another eleven miles to Martha Creek Provincial Park where we are hoping to sleep tonight. As the wait time went on we saw people walking past the car thinking they could get to the scene of what was holding us up. It rained for a bit, but was cleared up like the road at 7:00 pm.
We passed some of those walkers and figured their cars would be by to pick them up shortly. I kind of wished that Caleb and I had opted for some exercise too, but if there were any cars without drivers just parked in the street they posed a safety hazard for the rush of oncoming traffic. We had looked at the map to figure out a different route, but the detour would have taken us over five hours and included a ferry ride (with unknown schedule).
After 7:30 pm and we are driving through the campsite looking for a spot. We are on our way out when the camp host stops us in his truck and hands us a cancelled reservation slip. We really only need the form on our post with his sharpie’d number on it for verification. We sealed our envelope up nice with our mix of American and Canadian money and he tore it open to add it to his money belt. There is a small conversion rate in our favor between the two and only the ATM shows the difference of $2 for $100 taken out. Otherwise cash exchanges are seen at face value.
The sun may be behind the mountains, but the colors are in the clouds. We are set up between RVs and across from us is the rest of the birthday party from Banff that came out to celebrate someone’s 2,556 day on Earth, also known as their 7th trip around the sun. We take a lovely walk to the lake and enjoy a squirrel scurrying on the stones as we watch the clouds move. They really seem to be in a hurry in Canada and I think what a great time-lapse that would make, and even better if I could see the Northern Lights too.
Now that other campers are settling down with their pooches for the night we can walk our little demons (too bad we don’t have kids or that would be a great joke) before it gets too dark. We stop by the bathroom and there I notice a book exchange. It seems Oregon is not the only place jumping on the literate band wagon. I would love to partake, but have yet to finish a book we brought with us. And then I see the moon.
I was trying to take pictures of trees and trucks in the dark with a blind dog on a leash in my hand, but the moon and clouds are magical. I can better relate to the werewolf symbolism now – being in beautiful nature makes people want to shed the fakeness of society and be their real selves… or maybe it’s just me that prefers to run through the trees naked and howl at the moon. Actually that sounds dangerous, partially illegal, and a pastime reserved for people on drugs. And again, I can relate.
Back to camp to trade a leash for a tripod and Caleb goes to my bottomless bag, my purse, to find the connector piece for camera to legs so that I may stand in the road to take my picture. At this moment, other campers feel the need to pee, and walk, and drive, and use torches of artificial light to flash and blind those caught in its beam. It’s cool. I can wait. It’s not like it’s my first time being patient while others dawdle in front of me. We’re on vacation and in no rush. I get the shot and tell the moon to enjoy the rest of its evening as I return my attention to my husband and our warm beverages.