30th June 2008
We arrived in Smithers, British Columbia today. We followed the signs to the municipal camp site which turned out to be close to the town centre in a clearing in the trees next to the river. There was a convenient cycle path that lead through the woods into town. Mike inspected the car and it seems that the Alaska highway has left its mark. There was quite a lot of stone chip damage to the front of the Yaris, a missing hub cap and damage to the wheel rim. We must have hit a large deep pothole at speed. We tuned the TV and were delighted to discover a couple of channels with no advertising. There were some very interesting documentaries and some BBC reruns which we enjoyed.
We stayed in Smithers for 3 nights and as we were packing to leave a representative came from the tourist office to warn us that our journey would be slow as there had been a landslide further up the road. A cynic may have thought it was a ploy to get us to stay longer in Smithers but we were very impressed with this level of customer service. There was a slight delay as in order to avoid the landslide we were lead by a pilot car along a lane that had been cleared through the trees. Because it had been raining we had a bit of an 'off road' experience as the RV slid around in the mud.
We continued driving until we reached a place called Quesnel. From there it was a one days' drive to Vernon. The landscape changed completely over the course of the drive. Quesnel was lush and green with 'homestead' style homes and smallholdings. We then reached the desert near Kamloops and headed south along the Okanagan Valley. We stayed a couple of nights in Vernon which had a pleasant walkable down town area. One of the bars was showing a type of boxing with no rules except not to gouge out the opponents eyes or kick them in the groin. Too gruesome for me.
7th July 2008
From Vernon our next stop was Kelowna. Another nice walkable town with lots of cafés, bars and restaurants. The main high street opened out onto a park next to the lake with a beach and marina. Tourist information was very well organised for travellers and even had pre-packaged toothbrushes pre loaded with toothpaste. We continued our drive south to the border at Osoyoos. This is Canada's only desert region and is primarily used to grow fruit and so there were plenty of fruit stands along the way.
Unfortunately things didn't shape up as we had hoped at the border. We have B2 tourist Visas which give us up to 6 months to stay each time we visit the States. On previous visits we have asked the nice man at the border if he will stamp our passports to give us another 6 months but this one refused! His reasoning was that we had 2 whole months to run before they expired on the 6th September. He also said that he would only consider renewing them if we had had 2 weeks left. Mike's persuasive tactics just fell on deaf ears and so we left rather than run the risk of having them taken away all together.
The first place we found to park was just over the border at a place called Oroville. There was a supermarket on the right hand side of the road that had hook ups for electricity. We were definitely not being ripped off at $7.97 (₤4 a night) The supermarket turned out to be a treat as well it sold everything from genuine Stetson's, designer clothing and DVD hire at 99c a night. There was also a cashier to cash the Mexicans' pay checks that worked on the fields. We were horrified at how rude she was to such hard working people prepared to work on such low wages. We had a beautiful view of the lake opposite and started to plan our future. We had intended to keep the RV as a second 'holiday home' in the USA and had found an ideal storage location in Florida. It now looked as though popping back and forth across the border as we have done previously was no longer a reliable option in view of the potential problems with visas.
We now had to plan to leave the country by the 6th September. We could do this by crossing into Mexico from Texas or California a route we have already taken. We also wanted to explore other parts of the States such as New Mexico which would not be possible without an extension to the visa. With the RV proving less than reliable we didn't want to take it to Mexico in case we got stuck and nor did we want to leave it somewhere and cross the border any other way in case we were refused entry back in to the USA to collect it. An additional problem was our diary commitments. Initially we thought we would hire a car and stay in hotels for Mark Ledet's birthday bash in California at the end of August. He had planned a wine tour and Kate Hetzel had also booked to stay with us so she was going to be dumped out of a holiday. The other to meet up with Marshall and Linda in Texas and then there was Nige and Sally in November in Florida. Eventually we made the difficult decision to cut our losses and sell the RV. We had made the trip up to Alaska and had a fabulous time so far.
We had a drive out to a historic town called Molson on the Canadian border and enjoyed the remoteness of north central Washington state. The days slipped by very pleasantly as we just spent time chilling out and enjoyed not having to drive anywhere. The temperatures were in the 90s everyday and the lake had a beach so we could go down there for a beach day any time we felt like it. The town was tiny but had a pizzeria, Mexican restaurant, coffee shop with WIFI and a couple of diners. The scenery was beautiful with the lake and orchards growing apples and cherries. These really were the biggest, juiciest most delicious cherries I have ever had. One afternoon I was in the supermarket with Mike when I saw loads of dust and rubbish blowing past. I offered to walk back to the motor home and make sure nothing was blowing away. I could hardly walk against the wind, the strongest I have ever experienced. The canopy above the room slide was being picked up and blown skywards and the sliders wobbling so much it seemed safer to bring them in. We later found out that this was a completely freak piece of weather and because the gusts had exceeded 79 miles per hour it was classified as a hurricane. We were saddened to hear that the marina in Kelowna we had visited so recently in Canada was devastated.
We finally left Oroville on 29th July. Rested and ready to face our next batch of challenges.