Despite the wonderful things we have been seeing these are long days, and on the fifth day we both got a little testy. The weather has thankfully been beautiful, and the construction crews are taking advantage of it. Also, I had to increase the mileage to get us to the beet harvest in time. It also doesn’t help that we have lost an hour each day the last two days to time zone changes. You start early and then get in later local time and then trying to go to bed early is tough because of the time difference. We had no animal sightings on the fifth day (other than a juvenile coyote I couldn’t get a picture of ) to distract us and it took us all day to go just under 300 miles. Plus we are spending money like crazy. You know that mentally it is going to happen but spending an average of $100 a day in gas and $32 a night in campground fees (adjusted for a 1.2 exchange rate in our favor) is not fun. Certainly we could have reduced or even eliminated campground fees by boondocking, but our “reward” at the end of the long day is a campground with services and some level of wifi. The campgrounds are all Good Sam and have been decent, but there is little that can be done to mitigate the fuel costs, and I am getting a little tired of seeing “No Sniveling” signs on gas pumps. Seriously, I have seen that more than once. Paying the money when you’re heading towards something amazing didn’t sting nearly as much as paying it just to get out.
Still, we are doing much better coming out than we did going in. We have only gotten in one argument in 5 days, and I really think my driving more has helped. And the good news is I drove my first 8% downgrade with curves. The first one we came to I pulled over and let Lee drive, but the second I decided to try. Before I explain how, please understand I am not a professional driver and in no way qualified to explain to anyone how to do this. Every hill is different, they can be extremely dangerous, and I had the benefit of someone super experienced sitting next to me. All that being said, I have been learning, so on this hill I let the cars directly behind me pass, started out at 45 mph, put my flashers on, locked the manual gear setting into 3rd (so it couldn’t climb higher) and coasted down. The truck kicked into 2nd pretty quickly and the RPM’s stayed at 2000 the entire time. It worked perfectly and I went down the 1 mile “s curve” grade without ever touching the brakes once!! I felt great about it. The temptation to speed up was certainly there because I was going about 35 mph, but I resisted. As my driving instructor said, “Don’t let people drive you from behind”. Everyone is more maneuverable than you are in this situation, and since they aren’t going to pay the bill if you blow up your engine or brakes, go at your own pace. Plus you never know what might happen. Our friend Kyle was just traveling through the Tetons and was going down a hill and his rotor flew off and the brakes almost caught on fire. When he stopped the vehicle all his brakes were smoking and he was incredibly lucky. You never know when you might have a mechanical failure, animal in the road, or any other circumstance so on the steep downgrades my advice is slow down. Ever see an oil tanker going down one of those really steep hills? That’s the same speed I drive, because I don’t want to lose my home anymore than that driver wants to become a fireball.
Then I had to go up a 10% grade and the road was really torn up by construction. This went ok though, and again I was happy to see they were widening it because this was the nastiest part of the road in my opinion coming the other way. It was the second of the 10% grades going north to Alaska and hopefully they will be able to make both of those grades safer. Soon after we hit Dawson Creek and our first Flying J. It was the first fuel we had seen under $1 Canadian and we got an additional 2 cents per litre discount. Plus, hooray truck stops! Afterwards our GPS took us off the main route and onto HWY 59 which runs parallel to HWY 43. We went with the GPS and got to see lots of farm country including the really cute small town of Valhalla. This tiny town is a Norwegian community and we saw Fjord Horses for sale (sort of smaller draft horses), a Norwegian Gift Shop, and the school swing set shaped like a viking warship. There was also a big sign saying it was the home of an Olympian, which I thought was great. No place for our big rig to stop unfortunately, but I did stop traffic long enough to snap a couple of pics.
The road from that point was farms and more farms. Lots of hay fields and wheat fields with the occasional herd of cattle or even bison thrown in. We both appreciated the simpler drive and felt pretty good when we got to Country Roads RV Park. I really liked this RV Park. They had a cornfield maze, trampoline for kids, and a nice store with ice cream and pie. The sites were long but a tad narrow, but I really liked that they had either free wifi or pay wifi where you could get high-speed internet for $5. I wish everyone did this, because those of us who wanted to could pay, which we did. I think at this point we mainly needed a break from each other. 5 long days in the car with not much of a break is tough. So with fast internet Lee could do his thing and I could do mine and we could both kind of chill a bit.
Speaking of pie, Lee said the best apple pie he has ever had in his life (not hyperbole according to him) is the apple pie he got at the Canadian Best store. They put oatmeal and cinnamon in the topping and he said it was fantastic! The roads continued to be pretty flat with periodic construction the next day and we made pretty good time. We pulled into Glowing Embers Campground for the night and I really didn’t like it at all. First off it was $47.25 a night Canadian and then the wifi did not work at all at the sights. They do have an RV bay on site and rent RV’s so I understand why people may stay here, but don’t charge me premium prices unless you have premium services. It was also right next to an industrial park and extremely difficult to get in and out of. The good news was we were only 10 minutes away from the West Edmonton Mall so we unhitched and off we went. Keep in mind we hadn’t been in any kind of mall for over 4 months and this mall was for my money bigger and better than the Mall of America. It had loads of stores, a water park, IMAX theater, mini golf, and ice rink, and tons of restaurants inside.
I was crazy impressed. There was more than one food court and an area with dine in restaurants including a Sherlock Homes tavern and a dueling piano bar.
I enjoyed soaking up civilization and seeing all the cool stuff, but when we were done, we were done. So we went to this nice Vietnamese restaurant and a wonderful thing happened. I love Vietnamese egg rolls and fish sauce, but as many times as I have tried to make it at home it never tastes right. Fish Sauce for the Vietnamese is as common a condiment as ketchup is to us, and everyone makes it in their homes a little different. I have asked at restaurants (English is a huge barrier here), I have looked at recipes online and even watched videos and they were all very, very different. I even experimented and couldn’t get it right. The manager of this restaurant spoke very good English and was super nice. First she gave me a big cupful to take home for free, then she told me it would last 2 weeks in the fridge, but most importantly she walked me through how she makes it. It’s tough because they don’t really measure but she gave me comparative quantities that I can scale up or down. Amazing!! This is the closest I have come to what I used to love in Massachusetts and I can’t wait to give it a try.
If you are curious how she told me to make it is
- 1 cup boiling water (taken off burner)
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ fish sauce (she said the brand didn’t really matter)
- A few drops of white vinegar. The vinegar is what you really play with because some people like ti sweeter and others more sour.
You also put in some shredded carrots and I have even seen shredded radish. I will let you know how it turns out when we get settled at the beet harvest. Seriously this made my day. I have been trying for 2 years to make this sauce with no success, so wish me luck !
Oh and after searching the mall for reasonably priced long johns we stopped at one more Walmart (we have looked in at least 5 Walmarts in Alaska and Canada) and we found $9.99 long johns in our sizes. Thank heavens, I was getting a little worried about that. So even though the campground wasn’t the best it was a good stop and the mall was really cool if you are ever passing this way.
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