Upgrades to the Bus prior to our Winter Trip to the Desert and Summer 2020 trip

I had quite a long list of changes needed when we got home from Alaska last Fall and I started earnestly on them in November.

The list:
Replace the absorption fridge with a residential electric model.
Replace the lead acid batteries with Lithium Ion batteries.
Double up on the amount of solar panels & Controllers.
Replace the Smart Battery Sense (SBS) with newer Long range SBS.
Swap out the uncomfortable Living room chairs with Theater Seating.
Add a battery monitor with Bluetooth capability. 
Hook it all up with a Raspberry Pi to upload all the Solar and Battery information to an internet web page.
Replace the bedroom TV with a slightly smaller one to fit the space better.
Move that larger TV to over the windshield, make a heavy duty frame to hold it.
Install a second cargo bay rolling tray
Install a shelf over that tray in cargo bay for more storage space.
Install a weather station
New Windshield
Replace windshield camera that died during Alaska trip.
Replace all window shades with new MCD day/night roller shades.

Replace the drivers console tray with new cherry one.


Geez, we will be much poorer when done. 

Heading south towards Portland and then on to Red Bluff CA.

We headed south on the 5 freeway toward Portland and our campground in Wilsonville a few miles south of there.   The Pheasant Ridge RV Resort was our place for a couple of days.   I wondered about it as soon as we drove in.  The first set of speed bumps were at a 45-degree angle to the driveway,  so we got to do the wally wobble.   You just need to drive a large and tall RV to understand that’s not a good thing to experience.   Careful opening cabinets and the fridge as stuff will be falling out!

The second thing that made me wonder what was going on here was the clerk said I should detach our toad in front of the office.   I said, I thought we had a pull-thru?  She said, of course, but the roads are too narrow to navigate with the toad attached.  Wow,  sort of defeats the purpose of paying for a pull-thru if you cannot pull thru with your car attached.   Oh, well.

And when we pulled into the site, I noticed a steel fence post at the end of the site on the right side with a piece of PVC pipe over it,  strategically placed exactly where it would drag along the side of the RV if you weren’t super careful getting out onto that narrow roadway.   I bet those folks with the half million dollar coaches will just love causing a few thousand dollars of damage to their rigs so you don’t put a wheel on their grass.

This town had a Camping World and I needed to pick up a few things now that we are back in civilization, so I drove over there.   To my surprise they had some new couches that I believe will work for us to replace the euro recliners we bought back in the spring of 2017 that are just the most uncomfortable chairs.   I checked them out and I think they will fit in the spot the recliners are in now.    I picked up the couple things that I drove there for and headed back to the bus.

We read about a good Mexican takeout place a few miles away that had a San Diego burrito, so I drove over to pick up dinner one night.   I ordered the San Diego burrito, and a few minutes later the owner asked if I like the fries, and I said yes, just not in a burrito and that my son loves California burritos with french fries.   That’s when he mentioned the San Diego burrito is really a California burrito,  and that his friend from San Diego told him about it, so he added it to the menu but called it a San Diego burrito because that’s where his friend was from.

The next day we then drove further south to the 7 Feathers Resort I’d heard of from a few friends over the years.  It lived up to its praises.  Just a very nice place in the middle of nowhere on Interstate 5 about 200 miles south of Portland.   We were walking around the campground and met another couple from San Diego and they mentioned a Mexican restaurant in town and said it was very good.  Later that evening we took the campground shuttle over there and had a couple of great Shrimp Fajitas and  more Cadillac Margaritas!   Very good meal.   I called for the shuttle to pick us up and we took it over to the casino.  I wanted to pick up a players card as it would give us another 10% off our campsite cost, over and above the Good Sam discount.   When we got there, they also explained they gave you $10 on the card to play any of their slots.

It only took a few minutes and we were off to find a machine that Kathy wanted to play.  We eventually found one and sat down to figure out how to play it.   We must have picked the most complicated one to work as it killed our new card in minutes.  It started reporting it as an invalid card.  I had to go back to the cashier and get a new one.  Unfortunately for us, we went back to that same machine and it killed that one too, again telling us it was an invalid card.   I pushed the help button and a woman apparently in a big hurry came over and said the card was fine, but we needed to insert it a few times to get it to read correctly.  What?   Anyway, she was right.  But we still couldn’t seem to get a bet in.

Now, I am old school.  The last time I played slots, you put coins in and pulled a handle.   This machine seems to have required multiple button presses, and all we could figure out was how to bet 88 cents each time.  That took a while to use up the ten bucks.   The whole experience was not fun and we left to find another shuttle back to the campground.   I had them drop me off back at the office and they took another $22 off the bill after giving them the card, which was very nice.  🙂

While in town earlier that day, we looked around for diesel fuel locally but found it was B20 (20% Biodiesel) at the local Mobile station.   So I opened Gas Guru and looked further south and found a reasonable priced place near Medford, OR, just a few miles before the California border, that was reasonably priced and easy to get in and out in our 62+ foot rig.   In California the diesel fuel is $1 more per gallon now that they jacked up the taxes on it,  so  before we reach California,  I wanted to fill up and this place had B2 fuel.  2% biodiesel instead of 20%.  B20 Biodiesel has 10% less energy than real diesel, so the mileage is at least 10% less, but it’s not usually 10% less cost, so I try to never buy biodiesel.

After filling up in Medford, we headed south for Red Bluff, CA.   Along the route Mt Shasta was in all its glory.   No smoke from the top so it didn’t appear ready to pop anytime soon.

We spent a couple of nights at the Durango Resort where it was really warm and windy, Santa Ana’s blowing pretty good both days we were there.    We left there to head to Doran Beach Campground on Bodega Bay for a couple of nights of drycamping and visiting with my Sis.







Ferrying over to Friday Harbor

Late Friday morning we headed over to Friday Harbor.   It seemed appropriate to do that on a Friday!  It was to be one of the few days that it was supposed to be sunny most of the day.    We walked onto the ferry for the 90-minute ride over thru the San Juan Islands.  Along the way we went past Orcas Island and many others.  Most of them have houses we could see from the ferry.   Lopez Island had lots of houses that could be seen from the ferry.

It was a quick 90 minutes and we seemed to get there really fast, probably because it was a “non- stop” ferry.   When we arrived, it was overcast and just  after lunchtime so we headed out looking for a place to get something on a patio where Dusty could stay with us.

Fairly quickly we found a small Mexican restaurant just about 100 feet up the hill from the landing.  They had a small patio sans a cover, so we lucked out and it didn’t rain on us even though it looked like it was going to do that any minute.   It was pretty good food, a lot better than expected being so far from the border.

It’s a nice little town and didn’t really seem like the tourist trap I expected.  There were a few gift shops, where I expected everything to be one of those. but it was very low key.  We were only staying for a few hours and wandered the streets for a bit while Kathy perused the shops there were there.  She did find a nice metal sign that may end up in the living room of the RV.

Dusty and I spent a lot of time on park benches while she shopped and he had a lot of folks coming over to pet him and hear how cute he is.   It wasn’t long ’till we saw our ferry approaching the island and we headed over to get in line to board for the ride back to Fidalgo Island.

Along the way we did see a pod of Dall’s Porpoise swimming beside us.  They look like baby orcas with their black and white colors.

Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands

The first morning on Fidalgo Island we drove over to Whidbey Island to check out Deception Pass close to a tide change.   The water was moving swiftly under the old bridge.   In order to get to the northern walkway we had to go below the bridge and climb up the other side.  There is a lot of traffic right there and its a fairly narrow bridge by today’s standards.  Built back in the 1930’s and it looked a lot older than that underneath it.


After wandering around there for a while we drove all the way to the south end of Whidbey island to a very small town called Clinton, the road actually ended at the ferry landing with no place to turn around.  I had to make a quick u turn hoping there were no popo watching..

Kathy spotted a place called Island nosh which had a patio to get lunch where Dusty wouldn’t need to stay in the car.   And this place had excellent food.   I had Pad Thai that was as good as any other Thai restaurant I’d ever had it.

We drove back north afterward and took some back roads with gorgeous homes on the Whidbey Island waterfront.   We headed over to Anacortes first to find out where the Ferry Landing was located and the parking situation for our trip to Friday Harbor the next day.

On the way back to the RV we drove into a dry campground next to the large marina in downtown Anacortes.   To my surprise it was a really nice place and within easy walking over to the old downtown and all the restaurant’s and shopping.

We also found a very interestingly landscaped park in Anacortes.  I will let the pictures do the talking.



While driving around Anacortes we also found another ferry, is was a small one similar to what we used to get from Dawson City over to the Top of the World highway back in June.  The ferry made the short trip from Anacortes to Guemes Island.   We probably should have traveled over to that island but by the time we found it we were in a rain storm and didn’t want to venture out of the car.

The following Sunday we went to breakfast at the Calico Cupboard restaurant which was recommended by one of Kathy’s friends that vacations in the Northwest often.   The place made the best Hash Breakfast I have ever tasted.  Its been added to my special restaurant list!    If you ever find yourself near Anacortes, they make incredible food.

And we found these unusual gutter downspouts when leaving the place that morning.   They were very functional, water was coming out from the watering can spigot as it was lightly raining that morning.




Driving from Meziadin Lake to Smithers and Prince George and to the US border.

We left Meziadin around 10:30 for the drive to Smithers, BC.    Around lunchtime we stopped at a roadside historical site.   It was Battle Hill, and we read the signs and checked out the view.  There was a large staircase built onto the side of the hill we were standing on and it went all the way over the Battle Hill, which looked like it was a man-made hill in the middle of a small field below us.  It appeared to be a great place for a battle if you occupied the top of that hill.  Battle Hill Wiki

After lunch we started down the road toward Highway 16 but made a left turn to check out the historic Totem Poles.   We read that they were over 100 years old, so Kathy got out and snapped a few pictures as Sue and Larry got their wires crossed and didn’t follow us.   All around that area were ramshackle houses.  Lots of them looked lived in, and the odd part was just about all of them had a large window in the front broken, a big gaping hole in the windows.  Hopefully they get fixed prior to winter setting in.

We wound our way out of that area and back onto the main road.   Then we drove the few hundred meters to the turn onto the main highway.   As soon as we made the left, we entered a dusty gravel section of highway that was being worked on.   There was a huge line of cars and trucks kicking up an incredible amount of dust for us to drive thru.   We backed off as far as we could so most of the dust had blown off the highway before we had to drive thru it.  This situation lasted for over a half hour, slowly crawling for miles and miles.

Later that afternoon we made it to our campground, registered and then set up for a couple of days a few miles west of Smithers, BC.   Our plan was to go to get pizza at Boston Pizza.   We arrived there later in the evening.  We ordered cocktails and the only person to get them was Kathy as she ordered wine.  Turns out the CO2 system was broken and there was no draft beer available.  Pizza without a beer, ugh.   But after about 15 minutes the waitress came back and said they had gotten one tap to work so she could bring us a particular beer.  I cannot remember what it was, but it must have been good as the glasses were empty when we left.

While we were there, an RCMP officer sat down next to us with folks that were probably her family.   They left prior to us finishing, but as we walked out to Larry’s car, she was sitting in her RCMP SUV and we had to walk right in front of her.   As we got in the car, we were all mumbling about her knowing our driver had just drank a large beer.   But before we drove off, she pulled out of the parking lot and drove up the road till we couldn’t see her anymore.

While we were in Smithers, we had to go to Canadian Tire for RV “stuff”.   It appears Canadian Tire is a department store that also has a small section of tires for sale.  Who would have known..

Our second night in Smithers we ate at the Trackside Mexican Cantina and had many Cadillac Margaritas.   Those were good as was the food.  I especially liked the prawn tacos!   The Trackside is literally track side residing in about 1/2 of the Smithers Train Depot.   While we were there a fairly fast moving freight train went by very close.   It was pretty long and seemed to go by forever.   Then we heard an engine getting closer, so we assumed it was the end of the train, but it wasn’t.  This was the first time any of us had seen a freight train with another engine in the middle!  All other times while on the roads the trains would have engines pushing from the rear also, but never an engine in the middle of the cars.  And this train didn’t have an engine in the rear.   If you are ever in Smithers, BC, I highly recommend Trackside Mexican Cantina for dinner!!

The next morning we started on the 250 mile drive to Prince George, BC.   From there Larry & Sue would head east toward Jasper then down to Banff and we would head south toward the US border, north of Seattle.

Somewhere  along our journey, Sue mentioned she really liked a movie about King Arthur.   So when Kathy was reading thru the Milepost to find a rest stop along our route, she found one in Tintagle, BC.   That rest stop had a monument that had a stone donated to the city from Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, England, the supposed birthplace of King Arthur.

A few hours down the road we arrived at Sintich RV just south of Prince George, BC.   That night we dined at the Canadian Brewery.  It was a fairly nice sports bar where the CO2 system was working!


We wanted to watch the Chargers season opener, but our satellite dome couldn’t lock on to a satellite, being so far north and having a line of trees in the direction the dish needed to be pointed.   At the last minute I signed up for a Hulu live streaming trial account and we were able to watch the last three quarters using Kathy’s Cricket phone as a hotspot for the internet data stream.

On our last evening in Prince George, we headed over to Cimo Mediterranean Grill   and had a wonderful dinner.  I think we all were completely surprised by how good the food was.  I know I was amazed!

The next morning we were sad as we were parting with our traveling companions.  We had met up with them again in Valdez, AK, and traveled together all the way to Prince George, BC, taking close to 6 weeks to get there. We hope to meet up with them again in our future travels!

We headed south, Larry and Sue headed east to Jasper and then on to Banff.

We took highway 97 south to the town of Clinton, BC, where we stayed overnight at a small campground.   The next morning we took 97 further south  till it joined up with the Trans Canada highway, which we then headed west (south) toward the US border.   Along the way we entered the Fraser Valley and gorge.   What a wonderful drive thru Boston Bar and Hell’s Gate.   What a beautiful area.  I would like to come back and explore it sometime as we were in a hurry to keep up with some reservations we made so we would be able to be in San Francisco on a particular weekend.

We got to the border around 2pm and breezed thru it in a couple minutes.   Unfortunately the border crossing we used dropped us into a rural area with very small roads.  I was happy once we found a larger roadway about 45 minutes later.   We proceeded to drive Interstate 5 to the off ramp leading over to Fidalgo Island.








Meziadin Lakefront for 7 days over the US & Canadian Labor Day Weekend.

Turns out that Canada’s Labor day is the same as in the US.  Most of their holidays are different than the US’s so we were not expecting this weekend to be a holiday.   I only found out it was while visiting the hardware store in Stewart, BC.  The shopkeeper mentioned they were closing early on Friday to start celebrating for the long weekend.  I asked what the long weekend was and he replied labor day.  I immediately thought I was back in the US and asked him if we were.  We had been crossing back and forth between the US and Canada a few times each day while staying in Stewart.  I was thinking I was confused for a moment.  But I was not.   They celebrate the holiday at the same time.

So we left Stewart around 10 am for the short trek to Meziadin Lake Provincial Park.   Sue and Larry had reservations; but when I checked a few weeks prior to arrival, all the reservable sites were full.  So we were looking for a first-come, first-served (FCFS) campsite on the waterfront the Thursday morning before a holiday weekend.   I had done a bit of online research while in Stewart and saved a  screenshot of the campground layout to be able to find the lakefront sites when we get there.

Their reservation system was a confusing mess, showing some reserved sites as FCFS for Thursday and Friday and reserved for the next few days.   I wrote the camp operator to understand what the deal-eo was.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  (After meeting him I understood why he had no idea what I was talking about)

We got to the lake and we drove right past the 4 waterfront sites that were actually FCFS.  Unfortunately, I had not transferred the campground screenshot to my phone, so I had to stop, whip out my laptop to view it.  Then I unhooked the car and drove back to the 4 sites and found one open, although there was a truck and trailer parked just across from the site.  I walked over to ask what was happening, and they were actually there for another site around the corner. So I got into the car and pulled it in to claim the last available lakefront site.  2 minutes later another RV came by looking for a site.  Phew, just in the nick of time!!

I walked back to the bus and whipped a U-turn and Kathy moved the car out of the spot and I pulled in so the front of the bus was facing the water.  Glorious!

We fully deployed the house and I set up the solar suitcase and then the awnings, outdoor rugs, and all our chairs, the two lounges, and two regular chairs.

I even hooked up the Bill-Turi so the diesel fumes go up and over our RV and the folks next door.

I then drove out of the park about a mile and checked out the local gas station store and a cafe behind it.  The cafe wasn’t like anything I’d seen before.  I walked into what looked like someones mud room, full of dirty boots.  Thru a doorway I could see maybe 8 big picnic looking tables with really thick, maybe 4″ polished wooden tops.   I walked back into the place a bit further and there was another long room with a similar arrangement and probably 5 guys eating steak and creole prawns.

The dinner looked really good to me.  So I asked one of the guys where you ordered food.  He said it was back in the kitchen and pointed the way.  Sure enough, there was a large kitchen and on the wall were a few white boards with food you could order right from the kitchen counter.  I took a few snapshots in case we wanted to eat out while here in river city.

That evening Kathy and I carried our chairs over to Larry and Sue’s coach to have cocktails and a fire.   A fellow camper who  introduced himself as Chris came over to chat and then went and got another chair to sit by the fire.  But it turned out wherever Chris sat or stood, the smoke followed him.   That went on all evening, a few hours.  Now he is known to us as Chris the smoke whisperer.  Unfortunately for us he had to leave the next morning.  We will miss him keeping the smoke out of our eyes.

Friday, second day there, we met Dave and Brenda at Larry’s coach.  They had met L&S in Muncho Lake but later had gone a different route,  similar to our parting with them in Whitehorse to head up to Dawson City,  and we eventually met them in Valdez a month later.   We all talked Friday afternoon and after dinner met back over at L&S’s coach for a fire and more cocktails that evening.

7 am Saturday morning bear encounter in our campsite.  Holy Cow.  Kathy’s trying to take Dusty for a walk and she starts yelling there’s a bear in our campsite, bring the camera.   I take a few snapshots out the windshield and Dusty gets up on the drivers seat to see what all the commotion is about and inadvertently puts his front paws on the horn when he spots the black bear a couple feet away, which startles the bear and it runs around the bushes a few feet in front of the bus.   We did want to see bear,  just not sure them being that close was our intention!

Right after that the trailer in the space next to us left.  It was another FCFS site and the site was a bit longer than ours and had a bit better view, but most of all it would receive more sun than our very shaded site (after 1 pm each day)   So we packed up and moved one space east to Site 31.   Right now, as I am writing this at 2pm, the sun is still shining on our solar panels and generating 20 amps to the batteries.

This afternoon while I was snoozing on the recliner next to the lake, I awoke hearing a new noise.  It didn’t sound like a jet-ski or boat motor at all.  Then I turned my head and a plane dropped out of the sky and landed on the water just in front of us.   It then taxied over to the beach about a hundred feet to our left and parked there.   It was a different type of float plane than the normal ones I had been seeing all over Alaska and Canada.  This one had the floats hanging off the bottom of the wings and the fuselage sat directly in the water like a boat hull.   The prop was up and behind the cockpit, so it pushed the plane instead of pulling it along like most planes we see.  It was there a couple of hours and then took off.   I was astonished how quickly it got up and out of the water, looked like less than 100 feet and it was flying away.

On Monday morning there was a mass exodus from the campground.   We took that opportunity to move to a site that provided electricity.  We had been struggling to get a full charge into the batteries due to the limited sunshine caused by all the shade trees.    After this experience I am considering  replacing our batteries with lithium ion type.  They are supposed to be able to take the full output of our panels, where the lead acid type can only take the full output up to 80% charge, then it tapers off quickly, and all that time the sun is still shining but not going into the batteries anymore.

Moving to a site with power was a good move.  No more issues getting our second cup of Joe early in the morning prior to generator hours.

Tuesday we headed out to find the fish ladder on the outlet of Meziadin Lake.   We found it way down a potholed gravel road that kept getting narrower as we drove further into the forest.   We did find it finally and it was at a large waterfall, and the ladder was just a small opening off to the side of the falls.  There were some fish trying to get up the falls, but we never saw one get past it.   I was talking to the guy that uses a big net to get fish for his village.   He was telling me that the fish from there provides 80% of their food.

We had a lot of downtime here, watching Larry and Sue fly fish, Kathy even joined them in skipping stones in the lake, and we all played Yahtse one afternoon!

Stewart and Hyder tourista’s

We registered and pulled into our campsites in the Bear River campground around 3pm.   It was still raining a bit and the roadway was pretty muddy.  Luckily the sites were well- drained gravel and there was nice grass on each side.  They did have a funny arrangement for the utilities I had not seen prior.   Each site was paired with another site.   We were in 16A & 16B.  The B site you nosed in to the site and the A site you backed in.  The utilities were shared in the middle between you.  There was a note that you shouldn’t both dump at the same time.  There were two access ports, but it was just a Y pipe to a single sewer pipe below.   I guess it would be bad if two large tanks were dumped at the same time.   Not something I wanted to test!

Later that afternoon we drove over to Hyder, and the most surprising thing happened:  There wasn’t a border checkpoint on the US side.  We passed a Canadian border checkpoint but nothing, nada, no wall or even a fence was to be seen.    We then kept driving thru Hyder and then on to Fish Creek, which is probably 8-10 miles north of the small hamlet.  I got a chuckle reading this sign on a “store” along the road in Hyder.

They are now charging $5 to enter the boardwalk at Fish Creek, and for $10 you got a three-day pass.   There were so many salmon in the creek, I couldn’t believe there wouldn’t be a zillion bears having dinner,  but we didn’t see one.

We left and headed back toward Stewart.   I had read about a great place to eat, so I drove by it on the way back.   We checked out The Bus.  It didn’t look like much and I wasn’t expecting our compatriots were impressed.   We kept driving and arrived at the Canadian Border crossing.   The gal took our passports and ran them thru her handheld machine and appeared to be make notes as she asked the usual questions:  weapons, alcohol and cannibis products.   After she was finished, I asked her where the good food is in the area and she immediately said it was at The Bus.   She also mentioned the Prince Edward Hotel, but qualified that with, it just turned into a Chinese restaurant.

As we drove off, we started discussing our dinner plans for The Bus.

Each day we made at least two trips to Fish Creek to see the bears.  The fish were starting to die and a couple days in it started getting a bit smelly with all the rotting fish on the banks of the creek.   I think it was the second evening when we finally saw a bear, although it was very briefly as he was eating berries and didn’t get into the water.  He was on the other side of the blue lagoon.

I had been noticing logging trucks driving past the campground for a couple days and decided to take a drive down that road to see where they were going.   It wasn’t far, but there was a port area that had lots of trees piled up, ready for shipment to China and Japan.   One of the workers told me a cargo ship came in about once a month to load them and take them on their way.

I wanted to go to see Salmon Glacier, which was about 25 miles past Fish Creek on a gravel road.   No one else wanted to go, assuming there would be a really rough road.  Luckily for me that wasn’t the case and it was one of the most spectacular drives I had ever been on.  The scenery was like what I’d expect to see in the Alps once we get there.   And at the summit the view was indescribable.   The road did get really narrow at one point, and there were a few areas of potholes, but most were easily driven around.  Most of the road appeared to have been recently graded, except for the narrow area that appeared to have recently had a slide of dirt come down the hillside.  I wouldn’t take my motor home up there, but any car can get there easily.  It’s worth the drive.

The last evening we were going to be in town we drove to The Bus for dinner again (3rd time)  for our last halibut fish and chips.  It’s right up there with the best Halibut I have had.   The first night Kathy and Sue had the halibut cheeks,  what we heard are the best part of a halibut.  The taste was out of this world.

After dinner Larry drove us out to Fish Creek for the last time, and as we came around a small bend in the road, a black bear moseyed out in front of us.  We were going slow (the speed limit there is 20 MPH) and we just watched him cross about 10 feet in front of us.

When we got to the creek, there was the smell again and noticeably fewer fish in the creek.   There were no bears and I figured the one we saw, which was heading away from the creek, was the one we had seen the prior evening.

We headed back to the border crossing for what I think will be the last crossing back into Canada for this trip.

In the morning we headed out in the bright sunshine for the drive up the mountain to Meziadin Jct.










Heading out from Boya Lake to Stewart British Columbia & Hyder Alaska

We left Boya Lake a bit early as we didn’t have reservations at Kinascan Lake and Larry’s coach’s propane tank was close to empty, meaning no hot water and very limited heat would be available.   That morning our plan was to drive to Dease Lake, BC, for propane and possibly stay one night at a site with power, water and sewer prior to Kinaskan.   But it was Saturday and the only two propane stops were closed till Monday after our two-hour drive.   We dropped by a local campground and the owner called one of them and his wife answered saying he was out hunting till Monday and she didn’t have a key.   That campground didn’t look very nice and we decided to move on down the road toward the town of Bell II which had propane and it was open.  Kinascan was now not going to happen as we would not want to backtrack a few hours.

We only went as far as Iskut that day and stayed at a really nice campground that was probably a mile down a steep driveway.  The whole place was on a mountainside, so the sites were terraced down the slope.   We stayed there the night with power and water.  There was a dump station, but we chose to wait as our tanks weren’t close to full yet.    I believe they used the heat pumps to warm their coach that night.  I was able to use the WiFi at the campground for a call from my cell phone allowing us to make reservations in Stewart, BC, for the next few nights.

The next morning we drove the two hours and arrived at Bell II Lodge just before noon and we topped off our propane tank, and I squeezed the coach with the car attached around the building in the widest turn the ditches and overhangs allowed me.   That building was in a strategically bad place and had all the bent roofing and siding to prove it.

Larry’s propane is on the other side of his coach, so he had to detach the car and back into it.  His coach’s turning radius prevented him from going in the way I drove out.   While I was getting propane, Larry topped off his fuel and I did the same while he was at the propane pump.  We decided to each lunch at the lodge, so we both parked the coaches in a spot out near the highway and had some great burgers in their small cafe.  They had a large dining room there but it was closed that afternoon.

After lunch we drove down the Cassiar another couple of hours toward Stewart and then took 37A down the mountain to the town.   That road was an incredible scenic route, passing right by Bear Glacier and then down thru a narrow, steep, walled canyon; and both before and after the canyon there were tall snow-capped mountains on both sides of the highway.

We arrived at Bear River Lodge around 3pm and set up camp for the 3 days we were able to arrange.  We needed to get another night before heading to Meziadin, so we were going to need to figure something out.

Off to see the bears in Hyder that afternoon!




Internet Data Experience in Alaska & Canada

I switched us to Cricket Wireless phone service prior to leaving for Alaska last May. They provide unlimited cell/text/data in Canada. We also have Google Fi for phone/data that will work in Canada. I keep the Fi service paused when not in Canada so there is no monthly cost when I don’t need it.  (pretty cool feature)

Cricket has a $90 per month deal, provides service for two phones with unlimited data in US/Canada/Mexico and that includes 15 GB hotspot data for each phone. (30GB total per month) I believe its called the “More” plan.  I already used the 15 GB hotspot data for the month and I was just able to add another 15 GB hotspot data to my phone for the month for $10   Cricket has really exceeded my expectations.  Not something I get to say,  ever!

Cricket is a prepaid service and it’s owned by and runs from AT&T towers, so it’s had service pretty much everywhere in Canada and Alaska. (except where there isn’t any service from any carrier.  There are quite a few miles of road where no one has service both in Canada and Alaska)

Our Mobley and FMCA Vzb hotspots don’t include any service in Canada, so they could only be used in Alaska and the lower 48. The Mobley and Cricket had excellent service for most of Alaska, just not in Tok.  Our Verizon hotspot barely worked at any place we stayed in Alaska, except it worked well in Anchorage.

And something else that unexpectedly worked was the WiFi calling.  We were on the Cassiar at a campground that had WiFi but no cell within hundreds of miles.  I was able to make a call to get reservations for the next night for us and our traveling companions.  We thought we were going to need to go out to a payphone in the campground in the rain to get them.

I was writing this post offline as no one has service 20 miles west of Watson Lake at the Cassiar highway junction. We were putting up our sign in the Sign Post Forest yesterday during a torrential rain  storm.  Today it’s Snowing, so I’m glad we did it during the rain.     i did some updates to this post while in Stewart BC prior to posting it.

Once we are back to the lower 48, I will probably switch our Cricket plan back to the $30 each per month plan as our other hotspot plans will cover what we need while traveling the US.

From my usage while traveling to and from Alaska, Cricketwireless was practically amazing.

Heading South on the Cassiar Highway

It was still snowing when we awoke for our third day outside Watson Lake.  It was the Monday we were to start heading due south off the ALCAN on the Cassiar Highway. We dumped the tanks and filled up with fresh water as we would be dry camping for the next 17 days at British Columbia Provincial Parks along the Cassiar. We also topped off the fuel to make sure we would still be above the 1/4 mark on the tank when we get back to civilization. Below 1/4 tank the generator will not have fuel to run as the designers don’t want someone to run the fuel tank dry running the generator, hence, no fuel left to run the engine to leave.
We made the right turn onto the highway and immediately noticed the pavement was pretty rough chip seal. Quite a bit rougher than the ALCAN’s chip-sealed roadway. And as we climbed into BC mountains, the road narrowed considerably and all the trees became covered in snow similar to the road shoulders.
Then it started snowing a bit harder, and I wondered if there was a steep mountain pass to go thru soon. I realized I hadn’t really researched this road much as I figured I still had a lot of time to do it, but now I was on it and totally in the dark about what was to come…  There isn’t any cell signal for the next three weeks. Yikes.. I will be testing out “The Spot” I purchased for this part of the trip.

Boya Lake was only about 50 miles south of the ALCAN, so even at 35-45 mph,  we were there pretty quickly.
Susan and Larry had made reservations there, but when I attempted, they were all taken. Luckily for us about 1/2 the sites are not reservable, but are first come-first served sites. (FCFS) We had gotten to the park fairly early in the afternoon and it was almost deserted. We had our choice of beautiful site 15  right on the light blue/green lake front.  I was amazed the campground was almost empty. But that soon changed, by 6pm it was full. And by 1pm the next day it was empty again. .

The day after arriving, we were thinking about taking one of the trails up the river, but it was less than 40 degrees and raining; so instead we opted to drive to Jade City about 25 miles south of the park. Turns out Jade City was mostly just a store that sells lots of things made of jade. But the place did have fast WiFi they allowed folks to use. So we got caught up on email and iMessages, but no SMS texts or phone calls.

Kathy and Sue bought rocks so they would have more things to dust when they get home. 🙂

It will be interesting to find places to dump along this highway. From what I can tell, none of the provincial parks have dumps. Hopefully there are other places or this will be a much shorter stay on this part of the journey.

But it turned out propane was the real issue.  That’s a story for another post…