Sept 2

Before I start our update, I just want to let all of our friends and family affected by the insane LaTuna Wildfires as well as Hurricane Harvey know that you are in our hearts.  We’re trying to keep up with the news and check in with you all. I hope you’re all safe and I’m so sorry to hear about the damage.

We made it to Canada.  Finally and successfully, avoiding traffic and without being held up by boarder patrol. We were both sure they would search the camper, and worried they’d need to quarantine Fred for some reason.  Boarder patrol checked our passports, asked us a few routine questions, and then BAM! “WELCOME TO CANADA!”  I was so giddy, I got a stomach ache.  At that point we had two weeks before my birthday.  I’ll be 25 and feeling fine.  Just kidding, 31 and feeling dumb.  No, no, no, that’s not right either. I’ll let you know once I make it to 31.

The plan was to head to Banff over the next week.   I definitely want to be hiking to the top a mountain in Banff National Park on my birthday.  Last year, my goal was to hit 30 miles in the Eastern Sierras. I crushed it (so modest, I know) and hiked 32.5 miles.  This year, I was thinking I should probably try for 31 miles, but then I’d have to do it alone, and not with my husband. Matt signed on to do another big project, and honestly, the fact that he keeps our dreams going is enough to alter my goals. Besides, we’ve had so much celebrating this year, doing something big for my birthday seems a little silly.

We didn’t want to go too far our first day in, and Matt had a bit of work to do, so we spent our first night at the Walmart Parking lot. It was interesting, free, and I’d do it again, but hopefully not often.  Next stop on our agenda was Revelstoke, a small town about three hours from Banff.

walmart parking lot

As I said, the plan WAS to head to Banff over the next week. On Tuesday, we were about 2 hours into our drive after leaving Walmart when our transmission started slipping.  We were driving up and down some pretty steep hills, some as high as 8% grades, and our transmission was super hot at around 230°F or 110°C (Canada is on the metric system, aye).  We pulled over immediately to a pretty sketchy spot off the TransCanadian Highway and sat there for about 30 minutes while the tranny cooled off.  We were between two cities, Salmon Arm and Sicamous – pronounced Sick-A-Moose. As we sat there, Matt called around to mechanics and I Googled like crazy.  Once the tranny hit a safe temperature, we made our way down the hill to Sicamous as we were much closer to the small town. 

Matt found basically the only transmission guy in a 50 mile radius.  Unfortunately, he was fully booked up, and couldn’t see us that day, but he did tell us we were a couple of dopes for riding the truck that hard over these hills.  Okay, so he didn’t use those words exactly, and he’s actually a very very nice person, but we caught the gist.  I found a campground called Joe Scmucks Roadhouse around the corner.  When I called, the very sweet lady told me they had one spot with hook ups available and to come on by. At $38 Canadian, or about $30/night USD, it’s at our max goal nightly average, but doable.  The camp host did warn me that they were having their Staff Party just behind us, but Matt and I were both so relieved, we’d take anything. Their gathering ended up being a “drunk girl karaoke” party, which was very entertaining.  The campground butts up to a small outlet of the Shuswap lake, has a restaurant onsite, only five other hook up sites, and is within walking distance of the rest of the town. We are the luckiest of ducks to have found this wonderful place, not to mention the hospitality and kind nature of the people who run it.

Getting towed to the mechanic

That afternoon, Matt called our transmission guy again and made an appointment for a diagnosis Friday morning.  Thank goodness we just got Netflix. I don’t need to tell you how much time you can fill binge watching shows.  The next day, we did a little exploring of the town and took a walk down the town’s one mile long Main Street.  We went to a grocery store called Askews, I had my phone out the whole time figuring out what things cost in USD and then walked back to our site to binge watch more Netflix.  Grace and Frankie is a damn good show, for anyone who needs a break from all of the Dramas out there.

I honestly don’t remember what we did Thursday, so I’m sure I watched more TV.  I’m not certain I even left the camper that day.   Friday morning, I did a little exploring with Fred while Matt took the truck to the mechanic.  We had the truck towed just in case for safety.  I found a sweet little path that led to a small offshoot of Mara Lake.  Fred and I walked back, finding another park with exercise equipment and a running path.  Matt called while I was still in the park to let me know our transmission was a goner and we need to either rebuild or get a new one.   

We decided to get a new transmission.  The tranny comes from GM with a 3 year warranty and some other technical things that I don’t think I can properly explain.  The new one costs a little more than having it rebuilt, but we get the warranty and it can be taken to any Chevy/GM dealership.  The mechanic recommended we get the new one as well, so he ordered the thing, and gave Matt a loner car for the week.  The truck is schedule to be ready on Thursday, September 7th.  That’s my niece’s birthday, so it has to be a good day!  We’re also having a bigger transmission cooler put in to lessen the strain of our heavy load.

The rest of Friday was spent budgeting and figuring out our finances.  We didn’t leave LA without a strong safety net in place, not only for emergencies, but piece of mind.  I will say that Canada is expensive! 500 grams, or one pound, of deli meat is $8 to $10 Canadian dollars. Gas is averaging $1.24 Canadian a liter, which is around $4 – $4.50 USD a gallon.  Our dollar is pretty good here, at around 80 cents to the Canadian dollar, but prices here are high, especially in this smaller town. 

You can find a Tim Hortons on just about every Canadian block.  Coffee is much tastier than Starbucks. They also have a variety of doughnuts, sandwiches, and other snacks.

On Saturday, Matt and I went for a run around the town. It felt good to sweat.   We have more exploring to do and we’re ready to bust out the paddle boards.  The town is a bit busy because of the holiday, but we’re told is usually pretty sleepy.  We also had some time to look through our wedding photos. It’s nice to see us all cleaned up after a month and a half of looking like bums. See, look! We’re actually good looking.

We are making the best of things. For a shitty situation, we’re in a beautiful spot.  Our site has full hook ups, we’re steps away from a beach, we’re surrounded by very nice people, we have service, and this won’t in any way end our trip.  Not sure exactly where we’ll be once we get the truck back, but Banff isn’t out of the question for my birthday.  We’re thinking it’s smarter to go down into Montana, back in the states where it’s a less expensive to travel to make up for some of this tranny money after Banff. Don’t feel bad for us, we’re still in paradise.   I did have to cancel my plans of coming into town for my good friend’s wedding, though. You can feel a little bad for me in that case.

Love and miss you all!

Ariel + Matt

Exploring with Fred


Finally made it to Canada. Spent our first night in a Walmart parking lot (yay, a free night).  Our transmission took a poop on our way to Revelstoke. Had to stop in Sicamous.  The truck is at the mechanics, awaiting a new transmission.  We found a wonderful campground within walking distance to a huge lake, several parks, and trails.  Once we get the truck back, we’ll head to Banff.

Road Lessons:

  • Grocery stores in Canada are not allowed to sell alcohol. You have to purchase from a liquor store.
  • The metric system.  It just makes so much more sense than the imperial system.  Yet, I’m conditioned to think in imperial measurements, which means I’m constantly with my phone out converting everything.
  • Visa Debit cards from the states DO NOT work in Canada like debit cards back home.  For some reason, it runs as Visa here. Debit or cash only places won’t be able to run your card.