Crossing Over

My ferry options from Horseshoe Bay were 8:30, 10:30, and 12:30 if I wanted to arrive in Campbell River in daylight. I decided to aim for the 8:30 and be in line for the 10:30 if I arrived too late.

One of my many RVing rules is that I don’t drive in unfamiliar territory at night and/or in inclement weather. In order to get to Horseshoe Bay for 8:30 I would have to drive in the dark. I also woke up in Squamish to a downpour.

Having done the drive to Horseshoe Bay in the toad, I felt okay with taking Miranda out in those conditions. It was slow, slippery going, but I was reasonably relaxed and I refused to look at a clock.

I’m disappointed that I finished the Sea to Sky highway twice in such downpours as to negate the possibility of taking pictures worth sharing.

At any rate, I made it to Horseshoe Bay just as daylight was starting to break through the rain. It’s downhill from the first exit all the way to the toll booth and I was a nervous wreck by the time I stopped there because even with gearing down and pumping to compensate for the slick pavement, I could smell my brakes. Oh, I know it was a normal, new brake smell, not a something’s wrong smell, but I just wanted to get on that boat, disappointed that my relaxed mood had been spoiled. I was very grateful that I had come ahead with the toad and knew ahead of time which lane to be in with an RV.

My rig was measured and deemed to be 50′ long, not the 45′ feet I had guesstimated!!! I had used the BC Ferries website to figure out how much it was going to cross to get over and had calculated that a 45′ long over-size vehicle with one person would cost 275$, but wasn’t confident about that number because the math seemed very convoluted. So, I had a mild heart attack while waiting to know how much my passage would be.

Well, I got some good news! My vehicle combination was longer than expected, but I’d done the math wrong and it only cost me 193$ total for my fare. Imagine how pleased I was!

From the toll booth I was indicated to park in the Nanaimo lane and close my propane tanks. That done, it was about 8:20 and boarding for the 8:30 began.

A BC Ferries employee guided me to the correct boarding lane and it wasn’t a long wait before I was able to get onto the boat. Doing so was easy as the longer vehicles board at ground level in a straight line. I applied the parking brake, said goodbye to the catkids, grabbed my previously-packed bag of snacks and magazines, applied the parking brake to the toad, and headed up to the passenger deck. We were under way in minutes, pulling out at 8:35. I was impressed.

The ferry was huge and beautifully appointed, with lots of seating and a few restaurants and shops. I spent the two hours alternating between walking around, listening to a guy strum his guitar, and occasionally braving the wind, rain, and fog to stand outside on the deck.

I love being on the water and immensely enjoyed the trip from the BC mainland to Vancouver Island.

At about 10, an hour and a half after departing from Vancouver, drivers were instructed to return to their vehicles. I didn’t know how much time I had before having to leave, so I just unapplied the parking brakes and positioned myself to be ready to drive at a moment’s notice. Neelix came over to let me know he was fine, but Tabitha ignored me. I discovered an hour later that she was down with a bout of sea sickness. 🙂

It took only a few minutes before my lane started to debark. I followed the vehicles ahead of me out of the ferry terminal and then the signs announcing Campbell River. There was no convenient place to stop within Nanaimo, unless I wanted to drive around the parking lots of big box stores, so I just drove out of town, through rain, until I got to a pullout on the highway where I could take a bit of a breather.

Taking the ferry wound up being super easy and a much less stress-inducing experience than I would have expected. I think that in the spring I would like to take the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert and from there the Yellowhead to the Cassiar.

From that pullout, it was an easy 100km stretch to Croft’s place. He and his wife helped me get squared away and then we had the requisite ‘getting to know you in person’ chat that stretched long into the evening. 🙂

Taking the whole trip into consideration, it was a good one, but that last little bit has made me glad that I can stay put for a while.

I’m looking forward to the next stage of my adventure.

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Back on the Horse

As promised, Miranda was ready to go by 10 on Thursday. She’d undergone an oil change, thorough mechanical inspection, and been washed. I hooked up without fanfare and slowly drove out of there.

In my exploration of Pemberton, I had concluded that the AC Petroleum gas station was the most RV friendly, so I went there to fill up and then across the road to the information centre next to which there is a sani-dump and a potable water tap.

It had rained all morning, but the sky had really cleared up, and I had ideal conditions for getting back on the proverbial horse as I drove out of Pemberton. There was one hill with a steep grade and a couple of hairpin turns that was going to make or break me. I approached it bravely, heart in my throat, geared down, and got down safely, having to tap my brakes only once. They held up fine. 😀

I was caught in a bit of conundrum, time-wise. It was too late to get to Horseshoe Bay, grab a ferry, and arrive at Croft’s place in daylight, but it was much too early to stop for the day. I decided to stop at the Starbucks near the Canadian Tire in Squamish to do some online stuff then go park at Shannon Falls to hike and kill a few hours before pulling into the Walmart for the night.

There was no really convenient place to park at the Canadian Tire, so I took up a bunch of spots and tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, but I ended up not feeling comfortable enough there to stay as long as I could have on the Starbucks connection. So, after a catch up session with Will and a quick check of my email I proceeded to Shannon Falls Park.

There, I paid the 3$ day parking fee, squared Miranda away, and went off to explore the falls and trail network. It was a nice way to wile away a few hours, but I was exhausted and ready to stop for the day.

Three o’clock is too early in my book to park at Walmart for the night, but I decided to make an exception to my rule provided the Walmart folks were okay with overnight RVers. The Walmart in Squamish is really not set up for big vehicles, so I wound up having to park almost in the middle of the lot, taking up a full row of spots. When I came out of the rig and saw a Walmart employee coming up towards me, I figured that he was going to tell me to get lost. But no, he just came over to save me the trouble of going in to ask for permission to park and to let me know that I was parked fine!

The long evening passed quickly as I watched movies and set off on a three hour marathon blog post writing session in eager anticipation of being able to post with pictures. I went into the Walmart a few times to get various sundries and the fourth time the greeter told me “I know you’re parked in that motorhome. Don’t feel obliged to spend the night in here!” LOL!

It wound up being a pretty good night in Squamish, quiet and reasonably dark by Walmart standards. It started to rain in the wee hours of the morning.

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

A family picture. That Fiver-er is a Glendale Titanium, a line Glendale still produces even after dropping the Royal Classics

A family picture. That Fiver-er is a Glendale Titanium, a line Glendale still produces even after dropping the Royal Classics

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout

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Making Lemonade

Miranda was slated for brake surgery Wednesday and it would be an all day procedure. How lucky was I that the work could be completed right away? I met a lot of people over the summer who were stranded in small towns for weeks while waiting for parts. Mine, however, were readily available and en route just a few short hours after my arrival at Olemotors. As it turns out, some incorrect parts were received, but the correct ones were available in Whistler, 30km away, so the mechanic dashed there and back to get them, as well as a new tire, barely delaying the work. So, so, so lucky…

Having a day to kill and being a nervous wreck about the 130km still left before I got to Horseshoe Bay, I took off in the toad at first light and drove all the way to West Vancouver! The drive was sinuous, but nothing like the section from Cache Creek to Pemberton and I felt much better about pulling out with Miranda the next day.

It rained the whole way down but slowly started to clear up around noon so I decided to stop in Whistler, a ski resort town that will be hosting several Olympic events this winter. I wouldn’t have done so had I whipped by with Miranda, but I decided that I might as well play the tourist since I had all that time to kill.

This being the off season, Whistler was an eerie ghost town. The village, where all the shops and restaurants are, was very beautiful, but I had a hard time finding an substance, or sustenance.  I came away glad that I checked it down, but even gladder that I wouldn’t have missed anything had I just whipped by with Miranda. One thing that did impress me was the significant amount of free parking on the outskirts of the village. Whistler is definitely a town that encourages walking and there are a lot of places that are only accessible on foot.

It was mid-afternoon when I got back to Olemotors where work was just resuming after the dash for parts and would continue for a few more hours. I dashed out to the coffee shop for some time and also hung out in the break room at the garage. The brake job was completed by about 6PM, to my surprise, and Miranda was parked for me back in her spot outside. There were just a couple of hours worth of work left to be done; I would be able to roll out by 10AM the next morning.

Whistler had a lot of construction going on

Whistler had a lot of construction going on

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler (the red foliage was a nice treat, something we don't see much out west)

Whistler (the red foliage was a nice treat, something we don’t see much out west)

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

Whistler

In other words: "Please come up here even though the traffic and security are going to be horrendous."

In other words: “Please come up here even though the traffic and security are going to be horrendous.”

Back at the garage, the sky was starting to clear. This is the same shot from last post, only the mountains are completely hidden by the fog!

Back at the garage, the sky was starting to clear. This is the same shot from last post, only the mountains are completely hidden by the fog!

Descent Into Hell

The next time I have a choice between the longer, flatter, and better known road and the shorter, steeper, and lesser known road, I should pick the former.

I left the Chasm mid-morning, drove into Cache Creek where I gassed up without incident, and then double-backed to the junction to the 99 Sea to Sky highway.

For days I had been debating whether or not to take this road. Everything I’d heard about it told me that I was a difficult but rewarding road that could be done by RV. It was also the most direct route to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.

I made a lot of bad decisions that morning, the most unforgivable of which was not trusting my gut feeling. I have an uncanny sense of intuition and it’s always when I ignore it that I get into the worst trouble. As it was, I drove down to the town of Lillooet, before which the 99 turns into the town and continues on while there is also the option of continuing straight and doubling back to Cache Creek.

The drive from Cache Creek to Lillooet was hard. I averaged 20km an hour down short hills and around hairpin turns in low gear. Mistake number one was assuming that I was in a situation similar to the Cassiar and that things would improve.

Mistake number two was not taking a longer lunch at the viewpoint before the start of a steep section known locally as the Duffy. Had I done so, I would have hit that 13km stretch with cold brakes. As it was, they were already warm from over one hundred kilometres of pumping.

Otherwise, I did what I needed to do, gearing down with the occasional bit of pumping, but I was picking up speed. Someone was pushing me to go faster (idiots!) so I tried to pull over to let him pass and this is when I discovered that my brakes felt mushy; there is no other way to describe it. It was too late to use the emergency brake to stop at that tiny turn off, but there was a sign promising a runaway lane a short distance later, so I decided to just pump the brakes to there.

Someone was parked in the runaway lane. I just hope that this person was in the throes of his or her own emergency. Otherwise, they owe me four thousand dollars.

My brakes were barely responding by this point and the next runaway lane was more than one kilometre ahead, with two more sharp turns. I was geared down and pumping was no longer working. Material damage no longer mattered. I did the only thing that worked, keeping my foot on the brake, and that slowed me down enough to get around the turns safely. I knew I was staring at death right in the face, but there was no time to panic or have a breakdown. I kept my composure and did what I needed to do to get off that road alive.

I just about flew into the runway lane where I landed with a loud bang I’m sure was a brake-related component failing. There was a lot of smoke and I quickly got the toad out of the way. A couple pulled in behind me and I thought that they were there to check up on me, but I quickly realised that they were completely oblivious to the fact that I was not there by choice.

The echoing boom of an exploding tire finally made them conscious of the fact that all was not well with me. We could see licks of flames under Miranda, so I ran for the fire extinguisher while the man ran for a jug of water he had in his car. We got the fire out with those and I emptied the grey tank into a bucket to further cool down the burning tire.

They stayed with me for a good half hour, until I felt sure that the crisis had passed and that there would be no more fires. They then followed me into the nearby town of Pemberton to make sure my toad was okay.

Nothing other than the Petro-Canada seemed to be open in town since it was Thanksgiving. I resigned myself to spending a very long night on the mountain.

Returning to Miranda, I came to my senses and realised that I was blocking a runaway lane! This was absolutely unacceptable to me, even if I was in the midst of a genuine emergency. There was a short spur off the lane, long enough to tuck Miranda into, so I got back behind the wheel and used the emergency brake to jockey her into position.

It was early, only about four o’clock by that point, and I had rarely felt so alone and vulnerable in my life. On a whim, I picked up my cell phone and found that there was service! Without even thinking about it, I called my mother.

It was about seven when I finally went into shock. Even though it wasn’t the least bit cold, I could not warm myself up, so I finally conceded defeat and crawled under as many covers as I could.

Followed the second longest night of my life.

I got up at 7:30 the next morning without having slept a wink and tried to decide how best to proceed in getting myself safely off that mountain. I decided that since I had cell service I would try to call for help rather than driving back into town. Roadside assistance wanted to send me a tow truck from Whistler for a 150$ premium so I decided to go my own route and try to find someone local. Thing was, my GPS had only one local auto place in memory.

Mr. Napa guy who picked up thank you. When I asked if they offered towing, he said no, but that he could give me a few numbers. What sort of vehicle did I have? Oh, a motorhome? Then that brought the choices to only one, Off Road Hooker. Have him bring you to Olemotors. Both will take good care of you.

I called Off Road Hooker (love the name, btw!) and was promised help within twenty minutes! It wound up being closer to an hour, but still! I hadn’t made breakfast yet figuring that I would do so after everything was settled as I would surely have hours to kill.

The driver hooked up Miranda very easily, to my surprise. I thought that she was badly positioned for towing, but he had no problem getting her out of there. I was complimented on the fact that I’d tucked her out of the laneway. The driver told me to follow him and I said that I wanted to go to Olemotors. He smiled and said “Ole’s waiting for you, spoke to him on my way here.”

Olemotors is located in the industrial park about 6km shy of Pemberton proper. There, I was told that it would be a few hours before Miranda could be looked at an an estimate given. I was advised to back her up against the fence where there are 15A electrical hookups and was also given instructions for getting to a nearby coffee shop offering wi-fi.

At first, I was annoyed that I had to move Miranda myself and I didn’t have much fun manoeuvring the rig into place with just the emergency brake, but being behind the wheel did give me back a much needed feeling of control.

A few hours were killed at the coffee shop and then I came home. The following is soooo embarrassing, but too funny not to share. I had no sooner sat down on the toilet than my house started moving!!!!!!!!!!!! The mechanic was driving Miranda into a service bay without realising I was home! I think he had a heart attack when I came out the front door as soon as we were parked.

I was invited to sit in a warm break room while the damage was evaluated. I think that took all of twenty minutes. The diagnosis was that I needed a complete brake job, but the good news was that I had managed to spare my bearings. I was chastised for not gearing down and I indignantly stood up for myself. The Duffy is a menace, plain and simple!

The evaluation done, Ole called to get quotes for parts and I parked myself for the night, then went out to the coffee shop for a bit more internet checking and some dinner.

The evening was quiet and at about six Ole knocked on the door to let me know he was leaving and to give me his home number in case I needed anything. The last worker on site left at 8 and also came by to let me know he was leaving and locking the gate behind him.

Feeling very safe, I went to bed and slept well.

beginning (or end) of the Sea to Sky highway near Cache Creek

beginning (or end) of the Sea to Sky highway near Cache Creek

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Entering Lillooet. My fate is sealed.

Entering Lillooet. My fate is sealed.

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lunch break

lunch break

lunch break

lunch break

lunch break...

lunch break…

That tiny yellow sign is the only warning about this menace of a road. Shame on the BC ministry of transport!

That tiny yellow sign is the only warning about this menace of a road. Shame on the BC ministry of transport!

This view from the garage made me gasp every time I stepped out the front door.

This view from the garage made me gasp every time I stepped out the front door.

This is where I spent my two nights in Pemberton. Might not look like much, but it was level, quiet, and dark; had power; and was safe. I'd call that a haven.

This is where I spent my two nights in Pemberton. Might not look like much, but it was level, quiet, and dark; had power; and was safe. I’d call that a haven.