|NOTE: To follow along with this part of our trip, you'll want to move from the Oregon / Washington map to either the British Columbia map or the Southwest Canada map. You can do that by clicking the appropriate map name just below the map.
The Wenatchee Youth Circus was most entertaining, with kids from five to upper teens doing real circus acts. The youngest were clowns for the most part, although 7-year-old Billy did a splendid job walking up the 35-foot sloping cable aided only by his balance pole (and some concerned adults strategically posted below with a mattress). There were aerial flyers, high wire walkers, trapeze artists, jugglers... the whole circus scene. Several of the kids were in their first season with the circus, and for all of them, it was the premiere performance of the year.
We left Leavenworth with a full tank of fresh water, a full tank of propane, and a full tank of gasoline, knowing that the prices of the latter two would be significantly higher in Canada. We followed the beautiful Wenatchee River eastward to the town of Wenatchee, where the river lost itself in the mighty Columbia. Rivers seeming to be a natural path, we followed the Columbia northward. From then on, we have seldom been out of shouting distance from water: the Columbia, Okanogan (US to Canada), Salmon, Thompson, and Bonaparte Rivers have guided our journeys. These rivers often flowed from or formed lakes: Entiat and Pateros in Washington, Osoyoos, Skaha, Okanogan, Monte and Kamloops in British Columbia.
Our first stop was Omak, WA, where we stayed the night on a WalMart parking lot (the local Elks Club RV sites are available on weekends only, as they lease out their parking spaces during the week). We made a few purchases at WalMart, topped off the gas tank at Shell, and made the short drive to the Canadian border. We were super-prepared for the border crossing, having seriously depleted our supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as meats both fresh and frozen. We were ready with our passports, our vehicle titles and registrations, copies of insurance policies, and well-labeled prescription bottles. The border inspector questioned us only on guns and ammunition (we carry neither), liquor (we do carry some), large quantities of money (not us!) and why we told him we were Oregonians when our license plate was clearly Alaskan. He obviously did not believe our assurances that it was an Oregon plate: as he waved us on, he told an associate to "run that plate." Upon later inspection we did note that Oregon's special license plate for "House Cars" is egg yolk yellow with blue letters, the same as some Alaskan plates we have seen.
We quickly learned how to compute distances and highway speeds in Canada. For highway speed, multiply the posted kmh number by six and drop a zero (100 kmh equals 60 mph; 70 kmh is 42 mph). Distances are a little more challenging: divide the distance in kilometers by 16 and add a zero (320 kilometers is more or less 200 miles, 50 kilometers is about 30 miles). Not exact, but good enough to know whether we can drive that far in the time allotted, and not get a speeding ticket along the way.
We haven't figured out the exchange rate yet, but it does favor the American dollar by about 20%. The next challenge is the litre-to-gallon ratio, and then we can tackle the real (high) price of Canadian gasoline.
Northern Washington and southern BC's Okanogan Valley is awash in fruit orchards and hanging baskets of flowers. In this part of British Columbia it's still too early for much harvesting, and the majority of fruit stands have not opened for the season, but they promise local pears, apples, cherries, and fresh corn and asparagus.
The central feature of the Okanogan valley is immense 88,000-acre Okanogan Lake. It took all of 100 kilometers of highway to go from one end to the other. In the meantime we stayed two nights in a huge RV resort in Kelowna, population nearing 100,000.
North of Kelowna we coursed past lush horse and cattle grazing land, rimmed with mountain ranges, each one folding into the next. We paused briefly in Cache Creek for gasoline (sticker shock - it was $.979 Canadian per litre). Cache Creek is the beginning of Canada's Gold Rush Highway. Most people taking the western approach to Alaska get to Cache Creek on Trans-Canada Highway 1 from Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Once we joined that highway at Cache Creek we became part of the continuing stream of gold- and adventure-seeking travelers heading North to Alaska.
Our highways have been quite good, largely one lane each direction flanked by bicycle lanes. The only complaint we have is that the Canadians seem to be so comfortably familiar with their own stunning scenery that they don't think to provide many long wide shoulders where we can stop the motorhome and attached car and take pictures! We did pull off at a rest area high above Kamloops Lake for lunch and a great "Kodak Moment."
A short distance north of Cache Creek is the Village of Clinton, called the "Gateway to the Cariboo." The Cariboo Highway is Highway 97 from Cache Creek to Prince George, and is the former Cariboo Waggon Road during the late 19th-century Gold Rush. We stayed in Clinton for three nights, getting our first real taste of Canadian touring and hospitality. The Clinton Pines RV Campground offered us full hookups, free firewood, free internet access, and free hot showers in a sparkling clean shower house, all for $20 Canadian a night. Then they gave us a 30% discount because we are members of the Escapees Club!
Our daughters may be scandalized to read this, but we do not always get to church on the weekend. The six weeks of the actual caravan will be extremely difficult. None-the-less, we go when we can. We've been in some beautiful big churches and some tiny old churches. In Clinton, the priest from Cache Creek comes at 3:00pm on Sundays and celebrates mass in the little St. Peter the Apostle mission church. He sang nearly the entire mass, and the twelve of us in the congregation responded as best we could.
At historic Hat Creek Ranch, north of Clinton, we visited buildings standing as they did in 1901, although some were built as early as 1860. Between 1865 and 1905 they witnessed the busiest era of transportation along the Cariboo Waggon Road, serving the needs of stagecoaches and freight wagons of the B.C. Express (the "B.X."). On the ranch we toured a replica of a traditional Shuswap village, built by the local Stuctweseme people from the Bonaparte Reserve. No, I can't pronounce that name either, but the little pamphlet suggests "Stluck-TOW-uhsen." I still can't pronounce it, even after the costumed interpreter coached me through it. . Moving forward chronologically, we viewed the one remaining original stagecoach of the B.X. We turned down a ride on a replica of the stagecoach, but followed it on foot down the carefully preserved original Cariboo Waggon Road.
Come back next time for another visit, and we'll try to lure you to begin your own ... Life on Wheels.