Now that the trans leak was resolved, I figured it would be cool to venture out into the unknown parts of central Wyoming. I hadn’t been through here before, and I thought there would be some interesting things to see. I didn’t realize just how remote this state is. It’s about the same density is southern Alaska. There were no towns or cities for hundreds of miles. Now I know why people stick to the interstates.
We did finally find a “town” called Farson, but it’s basically just a couple buildings. There was a Mercantile Store with some ice cream and souvinirs, but that was about it. We filled up the grease and started to head out on the road to SLC.
Then something caught my eye. It was a placard denoting one of the stops of the Pony Express! Wow. What a find.
Turns out it was worth the hundreds of miles out of the way after all.
Still waiting for my van to get fixed at Northwest Auto, we decided to go for a walk to downtown Gillette. Being such a small town, it doesn’t take that much to walk over to the main CBD.
Eventually, we got to the two main museums in town. The second was the Frontier Relics and Auto Museum. Quite a nice little place, containing a bunch of old memorabilia and old cars. The decor is nice too.
They even had a kids place, for the little runts to climb up into a loft and let the dad’s venture out into uncharted territories.
They said we were supposed to supervise our kids, but here’s one of them waving us goodbye. I call it time to get some alone time.
Check out this sweet drying rack for old timey camping.
There was a bunch more stuff, but I don’t have any pictures. They even had movie showings in the afternoon on a small projector, but we were running short on time. We had to end here and get lunch at a Mexican restaurant in town. Of course, we got ice cream too.
Well, we got to our hotel in Rapids City, spent the night, and left in the morning for different locations. I was concerned about my transmission fluid, so I didn’t want to go to Mount Rushmore like the other family wanted to do. They also wanted to go up to Devil’s Tower, but since I’ve been to both of those places about 6 times now, I just wanted to keep my van on the main highways until I knew this trans issue was ok.
Turns out my plan was the right course of action, because while driving across Wyoming, my trans started slipping in Gillette. I pulled off in an abandoned lot, and it was shot. I limped the van over to a nearby hotel, dropped off the family, and limped it over to a nearby shop. Gotta give credit to Northwest Auto Repair shop, who not only got my van that day, but finished the repair in just one day (turned out to be a front main seal on the C6 that went out).
So we were stuck in the town of Gillette for a few days. Not the worst thing, because this town has a few things to do, and it’s small enough to get around town by walking. Not a problem, because our friends heard about our predicament, and they wrapped up their visit to Devil’s Tower to spend more time with us. Nice.
We reunited at this Indian restaurant. This was a real treat. I love Indian food, but it’s hard to find any ethnic food in the flyover country. This place was right next to our house, and we went over to get a good meal for once.
The naan was amazing.
Pretty much all the food was amazing. I don’t think the people in Gillette realize just how good that food is in their own town. And it should have lines out the door.
Now that we have both families here in Gillette for the two days, we decided to make the best of it. Eating good food and visiting the museums here in Gillette until the van is repaired. I’m sure Glenn could’ve dropped the trans on his belly and swapped out that main seal with his pinky finger, but since we had a bunch of family around, it was just easier to have the guys at Northwest do it. And they gave a very reasonable price.
The Corn Palace is a tourist trap in the middle of nowhere South Dakota. It’s one of those things that I’ve visited on several roadtrips (1993, 2003, 2000’s, 2016, etc) because it’s there. I recall being a 12 year old kid, on the tour of the facility, calling out the docent on how the structure isn’t made of corn. But the truth is, the facade is, and that’s just ok, I guess.
We stopped here to let the kids out and I drove my van to a nearby shop. One of my tires got out of balance on the drive, and it was really vibrating. They sold me a few new tires to make up for the blown tire from the other day and the new unbalanced tire that just occured. After a tour of the Palace museum and got some BBQ lunch, the tires were done and we’re ready to roll to Rapids City.
BACK TO THE CONVOY, ACROSS THE USA!!!
We met up with our travel companions this morning at the good ol’ Souix Falls. We visited here on a previous WVO roadtrip with them in the veggie van, but this time we have two vans and we are convoying it back to Southern California.
It was nice to see our friends after separating for a full month. They were visiting family out east, and this was our reunion site. We have better pictures of this place from the 2016 or 2017 roadtrip, but I don’t have them on my computer at the moment.
One bad thing happened though. As we let the van sit, some trans fluid dripped out of the flywheel cover. I wasn’t too concerned, since it was a small amount, but this hadn’t happened before. I’ll keep an eye on this for the time being.
I know Glenn and I are smartasses and make a mockery of everything we touch, but here’s one of the moments where I’m gunna get serious. My mom found this suggestion of a man who made a bunch of metal sculptures on his farm, and said we should check it out. Little did I know just how impressive this site is.
The artist’s name is Arnie Lillo and he’s got a very expansive sculpture garden containing such diverse topics as the Bible, Jesse James, and his wife’s memorial. My mom recalled some Hill family ancestors from this area of Minnesota back in the times of Jesse James, and when we read Arnie’s plackards, we found a few people with the Hill last name. Maybe we have ancestry mentioned in these exhibits.
We got there just before dark, which is good because I suspect it would’ve been hard to appreciate the grounds if it wasn’t light out. Not only that, this is a private residence, and I suspect Arnie doesn’t like families running around his sculptures at night. We meandered around, appreciating his artwork.
As with all roadtrips and kids, we needed a bathroom break. The artist himself came out to visit with us, and he even let my daughter use his facilities. Really nice guy.
He even had a fancy rotational wind turbine manufactured in front of his shop. I could probably spend a few hours here just checking out his craftsmanship, talking to the guy, and seeing his shop, but unfortunately, the sun was setting and we had to make it all the way to Souix Falls.
Thanks for the hospitality Arnie!
First stop on the way back to Los Angeles, turned out to be an impromptu stop at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store.
I don’t have any pictures of the Wonka wonderland, but it was a lot of candy. I forgot to mention, while on the first 60 miles of road, we got a huge explosive rear flat tire, that F’ed up my rear quarter and turned my metal mudflap into a crinkled piece of scrap.
Anyway, back to the Minnesota candy place. It was so crowded and in the middle Michelle Bachmann country, that it probably should’ve been called the Covid candy store, but oh well. We got our taffy and caramel apples and got the heck out of dodge.
Glenn and I have this knack for being in the right place at the right time on these trips, no matter how bad things are going. This roadtrip was odd, because as we were limping the van back to Mosinee, we happened to drive passed the Balloon Festival currently in progress. Great timing.
Not only did we have the good fortune to get close to the balloons, we did it from the west, which is the least common way to cruise through the remote festival. Probably a few thousand cars were in gridlock from the east, but we cruised passed with only moderate stoppage.
Then we traversed north and east as the balloons drifted over us.
We stopped off at my dad’s to take a break from the 4-hour drive from Carlton, MN. Another coincidence was his house was in the path of these balloons trajectories. We chatted with him for a bit about the oil issue, and then we borrowed his car to take my van to the shop. Then we pulled the oil filter to inspect the canister.
Glenn suggested we cut open the filter, just to see if maybe one of the bearings had spun (mechanic-speak for the bearing deteriorating) and maybe that would account for our low oil pressure and consumption. At this point, we’d try anything.
Good and bad news, the filter didn’t have any particles. We then decided to rent a diesel compression tester and check for bad compression. Good and bad news, we had perfect compression (all numbers over 400 psi) on a hot engine. Good and bad news is actually worse than just knowing the bad news.
Now we’re really in a pickle. Good compression, no significant smoke, no oil coming out of the turbo bearings, no particles in the oil filter….. What the hell could this be. We just assumed it has to be a bad engine block or head, and that’ll have to wait till I get back to my shop in Los Angeles. The new plan is to modify the engine in ways that simplify driving the van back to L.A. Glenn’s super spiffy idea was to rig up a clean cubie with diesel crankcase oil, and have a fuel pump push one or two quarts of oil into the crankcase every 100-150 miles. We set it up with using the filler cap and a hose bib with JB Weld. Looks good, and it worked really well.
Time to stop dinking around northern Minnesota, and get our asses back to Central Wisconsin.
Passed through Carlton on the border. Hit the gas.
Rivers. Rivers everywhere. Maybe this is the St Croix. IDK. At this point, if we don’t start hammerin’ down now, we won’t be home till super late.
Crossed into Wisconsin. I didn’t realize all these little roads up here really are a maze of wilderness.
Upon entering Cloquet, Glenn contacted a coworker who was actually from this town, and inquired on where was the best place to eat. This dude recommended Gordy’s Hi Hat, a local burger/hot dog place. We drove passed and there were something like 14,000 people in line, so we drove over to the nearby FLW gas station to kill some time.
Well, that killed like 7 minutes so we returned to see now there are maybe 17,050 people in line. Maybe it’s a good sign that the food will be decent since apparently all the people from Carlton County are eating here today.
The food arrived, and it was comparable to Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood. OK. But not really worth waiting in line for an hour.
Regardless, our fat-asses ate up all that junkfood faster than a pig in mammies titties.
Look at Glenn, drinking a freaking milkshake with his food. Sheesh.
One thing I know Glenn really really really likes is the architect Franklin Wright. He always gets quiet with what some misconstrue as rage every time I book a visit for his favorite architectural historical spots. He rarely even speaks to me about this other than to mutter what I assume to be comment of utter respect for the genius.
This trip was special because we got to find a FLW gas station. Not only that, but the only FLW gas station still in use today.
Our vehicles run on WVO, so we won’t be filling up the tank today. But we decided to stop off and see the building.
Much to our surprise, the owner let us up into the top, where there was a small lookout tower and couple of restrooms. Some woman got stranded in the bathroom because Glenn messed up the lock. Also, he destroyed it with his butthole.
Frank did have a cool idea with the gas station. He originally wanted the pumps to be dangled from the overhang, so there wouldn’t be any kiosks or stands in the path of the vehicles. Kind of a neat idea, except the dummies at the city planning dept put the kibash on that little ditty.
We made it! Well sorta. We made it to a swampy boggy area considered to be the start of the Mississippi River. First we had to drive around Bemindji, and get to the Bear Den Forest Road.
It was a dirt/gravel road in the middle of nowhere Minnesota.
I recall it going on for about 3 miles before we got to a cul de sac.
Off to the left was the path to the river.
We threw the van into park and headed over. Thankfully, it was designed for Americans, so we only had to walk about 30 feet. I’ve been to other state and national parks were they made us walk over 100 ft, and that’s just ridiculous.
Pretty small river. Maybe 10 feet across. If Glenn sat his obese ass into the water, it’d flood the nearby town of Bemindji.
The river winds and turns a bunch. I bet it’d be nice to canoe down, but we didn’t have the equipment.
We left the hood open on the van to let the engine cool a bit. We figured we check the oil after an hour to see if the oil problem resolved.
While hanging out in the wilderness, a guy on an UTV saw our hood open, and thought we were in distress. He headed over with his friend to check up on us. Nice guy, but we just said we were letting the engine cool before we start putting our hands and arms in to check the fluids.
Glenn found supper.
Well, trip done. Super easy. Time to head back home. (Just kidding, we’re going back to the hotel for the night, and getting a pizza).
More to come.
Well holy crap. I never would’ve guessed someone actually famous lived up here in the northwoods of Wisconsin or Minnesota. I kinda figured it was mostly just people in my family and slackjawed yokels up here. Turns out a little known girl named Frances Gumm used to do vaudeville or circus or cabaret or whatever it was called back when dinosaurs roamed the Earff. She changed her name to Judy Garland when she wanted to be famous. Crazy.
Well, we did some engine work in a nearby parking lot and decided to get a hotel for the night. Turns out our hotel was next door to Judy’s old house. Might as well check this out.
The museum is adjacent to the old building. I can’t recall if it actually was her house or some kind of reproduction. They had an air-conditioned corridor to connect the buildings, so thank god and the baby jesus. Walking over to the house, there were all sorts of exhibits about Judy and her past. They had a bunch of stuff from some movie called “The Wizard of Oz.” Here was a carriage.
The ruby slippers were supposed to be silver, IIRC, but who knows. It’s one of those things a PhD in media research would have to look into, because I don’t have the cognitive capacity to google it.
Have to remember, if you want to bring in the conservatives, you should show exhibits that have blackface. I wish I could have a gal that looks at me the way Judy looks at racial stereotypes. Sigh.
After the gauntlet of vaudeville, archaic ethnic humor, child labor violations, overlooked child rape, and blackface memorabilia, we finally got to the house. Pretty nice set up.
It had an upstairs and downstairs. Had that old house smell. Reminded me a place I used to live at on Grand Avenue in Wausau near the Channel 7.
Now that we killed some time, we figured we could drive over to the headwaters before it got dark. Onward!
After driving up the river roads all the way from south of Minneapolis, we cruised into the small town of Grand Rapids MN.
Upon entering the town, we crossed the dwindling Mississippi River again…
… and then got to downtown really fast.
We parked at a nearby gas station to get some deodorant and dinner, and checked the oil again. Sure enough, all the fixes we did to the engine in Mosinee and Brainard did not fix the problem. We still had an oil consumption issue. We pulled off the doghouse and made a call to Hypermax.
Hypermax seemed very fixated on the turbo drain tube. There is a flexible tube (shown under the turbo in the image above), that allows all the oil used to lubricate the rotation of the turbine to return to the crankcase. Hypermax insisted that our tube didn’t have enough flow, either by not having enough holes in the valley pan or by the tube butting up against the bottom plate. Both would allow the oil to back up to the bearing surfaces, and force a mist of oil into the intake, consuming the engine oil.
We spent the good part of the afternoon disassembling the turbo tube there and bending it up in a “Z” shape that would ensure the flow would not be butted up against the valley pan, especially since we had personally awled the holes in the pan ourselves when we did the engine rebuild back in 2018.
We had to make a decision. Try to push on to the Headwaters, or find a place to rest for the night. We elected to do both, but with the understanding that if our latest fix to the oil consumption problem didn’t work, then we’d just stay the night in Grand Rapids and make a more direct route back to Mosinee to abort the trip down to Louisiana.
So we’re cruising through the metropolis of “Palisade” Minnesota, and we stumble upon a protest currently underway.
We tend to have this kind of luck on all our roadtrips. We were there in Crawford, Texas, when the Cindy Sheehan protests were underway. Somehow, we don’t have a picture of that craziness. IT was wild. We ended up getting on a crude bus with a bunch of hippies and elderly civil rights activists, and got stranded at the remote protest site.
It was really easy getting out there to the protest, but really hard convincing someone to drive you back. It took hours.
So now that we drove up on the 2021 protest site for the Water Protectors, we weren’t too keen on getting out to investigate.
I didn’t want to get on another hippie-painted former-school bus, be driven out the mosquito-laiden hills along the Mississippi headwaters, only to be stranded at a protest with Whole Foods organic-brand bug spray and quinoa.
Maybe their protests had hamburgers. Maybe they had ribs. I wouldn’t know. We made an executive decision to power on.
If you have the fortitude to go down to the river to pray, more power to you. Resist the LINES! !
Go Water Protectors!
We weren’t even going to stop in Aitkin, except Glenn found an “Unclaimed Freight” store and thought he might have a source for a crate of double-headed dildos. He forced me to stop immediately, and turn into the lot. Sadly, the store didn’t have any bulk quantity items at a discounted rate for him.
He decided to drive for a while to make up some ground.
Next thing we see are a bunch of dirty hippies protesting at the city hall in Aitkin. They don’t want Lines.
They love their water protectors. And Wild Rice too.
Sweet deer costume. I’d put that away in November though, you don’t want to be around the blaze-orange drunk types.
Another crossing of the Mississippi River. It’s getting smaller.
Our first day drive ended in a rest area in central Minnesota. We’re getting old now, and it’s easier just to rest for a few hours than drive forever. We parked the van around 1 or 2 am, and got some rest.
The rest area has its usual ubiquitous Paul Bunyan paraphernalia.
When we returned to the van, there was a small spot of some clear oily liquid.
We figured out one of the diesel return lines sprung a slight leak.
Glenn proceeded to do his geriatric calisthenics.
His form and body odor was … unsettling.
Sadly, our fixes in Mosinee didn’t resolve the oil consumption issues. We had to add several quarts.
Since we had bought a new CDR, we figured this would be a decent place to change it out. If the crankcase pressure was working its way through a weakened CDR, then installing a new one might fix the oil consumption.
Shiny Motorcraft CDR. ooooooo.
After filling up the grease, Glenn found a rotted squirrel in the trash. A good omen.
On to Brainerd to pick up some more oil. If it keeps going the way it is, we’ll need a few gallons to wrap up the trip. Thankfully, they had a Fleet. I would be lost without good ol’ Fleet.
Stocked up and heading along the river.
We’ll end up crossing the river several times in the next hundred of miles.
We’ve been to Brainerd several times. I think in 2017 and other times as well.
It’s irresponsible to teach blue oxen to go scuba diving. They are too buoyant.
On to Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
After a few days of tinkering with the van and trying to diagnose the excessive oil consumption issue, we got on the road in the evening. Glenn warned me that we might get BLM’ed once we get to the Cities, but I blithely disregarded that nonsense.
Cruised to the junction of the St Croix and Mississippi river, so that we could follow Highway 12 all the way up through the Twin Cities along the river. Well, as close as we could.
Ended up driving passed stadium along the way.
The city was all lit up in the distance.
Then it happened. We got BLM’ed. There was some kind of murder or memorial at a gas station, and all the BLM’s were blocking the road to the river that we had planned to visit. It was wild. We tried to jump the curb, but it was no use. Then we took a right and a left and a right and a left, until we reached a long dark roadway down a hill.
To our surprise, it ended at a boat landing in the middle of the city. We got to go right up to the Mississippi river in the middle of downtown. Pretty cool coincidence.
Unfortunately, it was really really dark down there, so I didn’t have any light. Whenever we used a fleshlight to brighten things up, it attracted too many mosquitoes, and also, all the cars full of fornicating youths got really upset and stormed off. We kind of blew up their spot. Nothing to worry about, we gotta get on the road to Brainard.
We made it to Wisconsin! I was burning a bit too much oil at this point, and it was a bit concerning, but from here, I could get a free tow back to Wausau if I really needed it. We crossed the Mississippi river which is the point of the trip later in the month.
It’s already pretty large by Iowa, so it’ll be interesting to see just how small it gets at the headwaters.
On to Culvers asap! Gotta get some food and fill up the grease near Dodgeville.
I’ve been through Nebraska at least a thousand times, and I apparently never knew they built a tower in the prairie to oversee the dozens of train lines that come together in North Platte.
I told the kids, “Buckle your belts because we are going to the train tower!” and we were off. Then I got pulled over in Hershey (not the one in Pennsylvania, thankfully, because that one sucks) because I was going faster than an armadilla in sunlight. Got a warning for speeding, then we were off like a herd of turtles to the Golden Spike Tower.
The tower is 8 stories tall, and I told the kids, “elevators are for chumps. Let’s roll.” We sprinted up the steps and they all got winded by the 4th floor.
No one told me the top of the tower is X-rated. All they had were dioramas and signs with explicit shit like “Humping” and “Retarded” stuff.
It was grotesque and vulgar. I would never endorse this kind of behavior for children.
Also, I work with a mentally-challenged co-creator of this website, and it’s offensive to hear train operators and museum tour guides use such vulgarity so flippantly. Shame.
I was so offended, I didn’t even take a picture of the train tracks. I instead turned my camera back to my van, situated in the lot. We lost one of the kids in the complex and made mac-and-cheese in the parking lot. Overall, it was a good day.
Apparently back in the Protozoic Era or whatever, there was this president called Abe Lincoln. He apparently built this interstate highway during the Revolutionary War or something, so they erected a memorial for him.
The sign said this was the highest point, but I didn’t even feel a buzz. Must be some weak shit.
The sculptor really captured his face really well, and his box-shaped torso. Honest Abe must’ve been built like a linebacker.
We stopped off here to pee. Not literally here in this picture, but at a portion of the monument labeled “Restroom.”
After stopping in SLC for the evening, we drove our Ford Econoline convoy across the U-S-A, CONVOY!
Needed a place to fill up the ol’ grease tank, so we stopped in Green River, Wyoming. They have a free history museum to let the kids stretch their legs across this huge, desolate state.
Dad history stuff.
Turns out there was some kind of asian rebellion in this area a thousand years ago. Pretty interesting. It’s the same old story, some immigrants get the shaft, wealthy people make the rules, pit the poorer groups against each other. The national guard or army had to be brought in to keep the peace.
After a one-year hiatus due to the Covids, we returned to WVO roadtrippin’ in 2021! It was a short trip this time, only totalling 5268 miles, and we were confined to the borders of the United States. No trip to Canada for poutine this year.
After an early start at 2am, we got through Vegas before traffic got bad, and we stopped for a picnic breakfast. Then it was off to St George to visit the Rosenbruch World Wildlife Museum.
This museum has a great collection. All sorts of animals and critters mounted throughout the grounds.
Name this band?
These photos only cover maybe one-tenth of all the mounted and stuffed animals here.
There were so many that I didn’t recognize most of the exotic animals. A great place to learn more about mammals. On to SLC.
The sun was setting, not just on this day of roadtripping, but on the trip back to Los Angeles.
We passed through Sacramento around dusk and tried our best to use our Schwarzenegger accents to mispronounce “Sacreementoe” and “Grey Davis” and “the buuurocrats.”
On the route back to L.A.
As you all know well, Glenn is a huge Poth Heed. He constantly rambles on about BC Bud and Humboldt County. So when we drove through the California town of “Weed,” he went into convulsions.
I’ve never seen him film more B-Roll in my entire life.
There was a section of the prairie where there were no Weed signs.
And then, like the burning bush and Lot’s wife, a Weed sign stood tall and erect before us.
To further express the divine intervention bestowed upon us, God blessed us with the “Glenn” County.
If that ain’t divine intervention, I don’t know what is.
Crossing into California again.
Further down the interstate, you can see Mt Shasta in the distance.
Filled up the grease here in southern Oregon. It was getting hot. It’s practically a desert down here.
Glenn was too scared to fire up the AC because he noticed his harmonic balancer was hanging on by a thread. He figured the pump would put bust what remained of the v-belt setup off. So we had to schlub it back to LA.
Once we get back to Los Angeles, I’m going back to vegetarianism. Since we are just going to drive through the evening and night to L.A., this afternoon might be the last meal I get that is meat. And if I’m going to eat meat for the last time, I’m going to eat freaking BBQ.
We popped up the Google Maps and found the nearest BBQ south of Eugene, and some craphole place in Creswell appeared. We drove there around lunch time, and the bartender said they didn’t have any food ready for a few hours. She then suggested we wait, and I said, “Fuck that. I want BBQ now.”
That’s how we found Oregon Snack Shack Food Truck nearby. Now they know how to serve lunch. Unlike their competitors.
Honestly, how do people stay in business when they don’t serve lunch. Oregon is a weird state. We got a bunch of BBQ stuff and pigged out on ribs, pulled pork and whatnot.
The food truck was parked near an RV lot on the entry of Creswell.
After dinking around long enough and getting some supplies at the convenience store across from the RV park, we got back on the road to find people flipping their cars all fast-and-furious-like.
Normally, we don’t spend a lot of time at junkyards on our roadtrips. We’ve had bad luck. Like the time in 2009 when we were ASSURED that the used Passat fender would be ready to hang, but the junkyard in Grand Rapids totally lied. Also, we tend to not have any time to dink around pulling parts.
But this trip was different. We smoked a deer in Saskatchewan and it blew up our whole front end. We repaired it with duct tape and it looks pretty good, but if we could find a replacement bumper cover at a junkyard, that would be amazing. While at the hotel in Moose Jaw, Glenn found an amazing thing. He found a 1998 Chrysler T&C that is gold colored and full of usable parts. AND, it was on our path back to L.A. What a find!
He reserved not only the bumper cover, but also the broken fog light, inner fender, wiring harness, and other parts as well. They gave him a decent price, and they parked the junked van right in front for us. In fact, this van was 1000x better condition than Glenn’s own van. No rust or nothing. Too bad the yard already shredded the title, otherwise it would be totally worth towing back to Wisconsin.
We got to the junkyard, and there was a guard dog driving around the yard. These Oregon dogs are really advanced.
We got all the parts needed, and was able to situate them in the backseat of the van, so we didn’t have to move any grease or cubes. Since we were planning on driving the rest of the way all the way to Los Angeles that day, we didn’t need the rear bench seat anymore.
We had to abort the remaining few hundred miles of the 101 Highway because we hit a deer in Saskatchewan. When we assessed the damage, Glenn found a junkyard in Eugene Oregon that had a gold Chrysler minivan with all our missing or damaged parts. That means we had to divert from our plan to drive the whole coast down to the point where we left off in 2008.
We took Hwy 26 from the Oregon coast to Portland.
We don’t like coming back to Portlandia. It’s weird. And some douche in 2008 stiffed us on some grease, and we now hold it against all Portlanders.
Even worse, we ended up hitting construction. Typical Oregon.
How big is this town? We just want to get the heck out of dodge. ASAP.
Only a few more miles to Eugene.
Passing through Warrenton…
And Seaside. That would conclude our drive down Hwy 101. Due to the deer damage and our junkyard being in Eugene, we decided to forgo the rest of the trip down the coast because we drove most of the 101 down all of California in 2008.
Also, it was getting dark. Seemed kind of odd to drive the coast when we couldn’t see the coast.
So you want text on everything? Well, tough. This one is just pictures.
Raymond must have some out-of-work welder that has lots of leftover plate steel, cuz he made a gazillion cut outs of various animals and scattered the sculptures across town.
After a few miles, we visited the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge.
Not much to say. We were hammering down to get to Eugene Oregon, so that we could get to a junkyard that saved us a gold-colored bumper cover.
Holy crap. We got to visit Humptulips. I’m no marketing genius, but I’d seriously consider renaming your city, Humptulips. Maybe Bangroses, or Slamcarnations, or Poundflowers.
While passing through and giggling the whole time, we saw some super sketch-looking dude hitchhiking. He wanted a ride. He seriously looked like he was going to murder us with his gaze, so there was no way we’d entertain picking him up. Especially in Humptulips. The last thing we needed was to have our corpses get humptulipped.
This was all occurring in the wake of a massive Canadian manhunt looking for some hitchhiker murderers, so we had to play it safe.
After blowing most our day at Cape Alava and the preceding and subsequent hikes, we got a late start on the drive back down Highway 101. We stopped in Forks to get some supplies.
The town is surrounded by forests.
Also, as you progress south on 101, you get glimpses of the coastline. Hwy 101 is pretty cool.
More sightings of the shore.
On to Eugene.
On of the major places we needed to visit on the 2019 WVO Roadtrip was Cape Alava. We are really into driving to geographical oddities and extremum places, and Cape Alava is the westernmost point of the contiguous United States. We had already visited the northernmost points (accessible by vehicle) in the contiguous and entire U.S., so why not the west as well.
The trail to the cape started at the Ozette Ranger Station in Olympic National Park.
Even though the place seems pretty empty, there were lots of vehicles in the lot. A whole boy scout troop was packing up for a long hike. It seemed like everyone had huge backpacks and gear for days.
The trail is only three miles long. Glenn and I didn’t even pack a spare bottle of water. Fuck this crap about packing all sorts of hiking gear. If you can’t hike a mere six mile round trip without packing half your house, then you are totally out of shape.
At the start of the trail, there are placards. Thank goodness. Glenn has a diabetic need for placards, otherwise he gets grouchy.
More of the tall vermin on the trail. They are everywhere. I hope they smell the blood and guts that is stuck on the inside of the fender and it drives fear into the hearts of all deer.
Heading out on the “Coastal Trails.”
The moisture up here is crazy. Seems like any wood that isn’t treated instantly turns into mold or fungus.
The trail was pretty outstanding. We passed several people resting on the side of the trail. Must have been too tough for them.
I was expecting a sasquatch to rape us.
We brought our jackets just in case it rained. It was overcast, and probably could’ve rained at any moment. But thankfully, as we reached further towards the coast, the clouds thinned.
Avery mile or so, a clearing would emerge. The grasses were almost five feet tall. Glenn kept a rapid pace so the mountain lions couldn’t attack us.
The hike wasn’t too bad. The temp was great, but the moisture made it a bit humid. Overall, three miles only took us about 45 minutes.
At the shore. This is wild.
There are islands all over the coast. Turns out, campgrounds pepper the coastline and islands. That’s why everyone had so much gear. I suspect they trek out on the receded waterline when the tide is low, and stay there until the high tide disappears.
The shore is covered in alien plant and wildlife. It’s all red and maroon. Really odd.
We found a dead seal. The whole time, we heard seals barking in the distance. They must be nearer to the deeper water.
As with our tradition, we threw rocks out in the ocean. We made sure to interrupt a romantic couple who was trying to enjoy the scenery. We even ended up scaring some loon or crane that had majestically stood on the coast.
I threw my back out sleeping on that minivan chair in Port Hardy, so it was hard to throw rocks. Even after I ventured out into the dangerous rocks to get a 50 yard headstart, Glenn somehow cheated and outthrew my rocks from the beach.
Another thing checked off the bucket list.
Heading down to Ozette and down the Hwy 101, we visited part of the western end of Olympic National Park.
Almost smoked another deer on this trip. Such pests.
While on the ferry from Victoria to Washington, I got a call from my dad about the trip. He inquired on where we planned to stay, since we hadn’t slept well since Cache Creek. I told him I reserved one of the few hotels in the northwest part of Washington state, the Bay Motel.
We arrived around 11pm and it looked pretty closed. We pounded on the door until a woman emerged from the side room of the lobby. She said the owner was sleeping, but I suspect he was getting his freak on and didn’t want to put on a pair of pants. We got a room on the side of the complex.
It wasn’t the best hotel, but not the worst. It was definitely not a four-star like the reviews claimed. It was pretty average, and I would give them a better review if it wasn’t for the fact that the room wasn’t clean. I don’t think it had been vacuumed in a month, and with the ocean moisture constantly bathing the campus with dampness, it had a bit of a moldy odor. Also, the fridge looked like someone dumped yogurt all over the inside.
I don’t really care if some of the amenities were dated, but the cardinal sin of a motel/hotel is not keeping their rooms clean. Don’t change your sheets or vacuum the room, and it’s a one- or two-star max.
We were the last off the ferry from Victoria. We had a big drive to Seiku WA where our motel resided.
The ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles is an international crossing, so there is a bunch of security. They recommend you show up 90 minutes early to the dock, but I’d recommend getting there even earlier. There was a large line after us, so we lucked out by getting there early.
We parked our van in the array of lines, and left the waiting lot to wander around the shoreline and parks nearby. By the time we got back, they had border agents searching all the cars for illegal stuff.
Eventually we parked the van on the ferry and found a seat up on the top deck.
The tall ferry proved to be a great vantage point to view all the oddities of Victoria. So many marine options. Even these hilarious water-taxis.
Heading out on the open sea.
See ya next year Canada.
Sunset over the mountains of southern Vancouver Island.
Heading toward Washington state. We reserved a motel in the northwest part of the state, since we plan to drive the coast down to Los Angeles. What I didn’t expect was all the mountains on this side of the state. They are massive! It’s going to take us ages to drive the 60 miles to our motel.
Getting dark as we approached Port Angeles. Almost back to the USA.
Hung out on the deck until the end. It was cold AF. Good thing I brought my sweatshirt and windbreaker. Circa 1992.
We were parked on the last possible spot on this darn ferry, so were literally the last to get off again. Just our luck. We were hoping to get a head start on the drive through the winding roads along the coast and mountains to Seiku.
We still had an hour to kill prior to our departure for the ferry to the United States, so we went to the Wharf. Some of the people we met at the Mile 0 Monument recommended this place.
It’s a bunch of floating houses, timeshares, and restaurants on the “harbour.” And about a gazillion tourists.
Nearby are a bunch of ritzy houseboats and yachts.
I was kind of hoping for some kind of aboriginal fusion or exotic food, but this place kind of caters to the average tourist visiting Canada. We got some fish and chips at Barb’s, and then some ice cream because we couldn’t find any poutine. What a gyp!
Now that we stuffed our bellies with mountains of Canadian food and gained over 20 lbs, it was time to head to the ferry back home.
Since this was an international border crossing, we had to get to the dock 90 minutes early for inspection.
This is it. This is what it’s all about. This is the last segment of the THC that we need to drive! Then it’s all done. Every mile, from St Johns Newfoundland to Victoria British Columbia.
We passed through Victoria and cruised straight to the end of the THC. Figured we would get that out of the way first before we found some grub in the wharf. There were two memorials, one for Terry Fox, who tried to run the THC with one leg in the early ’80’s.
Next to his statue, there is a big sign and placard designating the end of the THC. Finally.
But here’s the weird thing. We’ve been to the “Mile 1” landmark in Newfoundland. But here in Victoria BC, it’s “Mile ‘0’.” WTF? Shouldn’t it be something like “Mile 3127” or something? Or “Last Mile?”
We ended up in Nanaimo twice on this 2019 WVO Roadtrip.
First, we landed here on the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to here. The captain was a surgeon. He somehow got this massive ferry in that tiny bay.
We rushed down to the auto bay and hung out near the Frankenvan till it was time to drive out.
Driving out of town on our way to Port Hardy. No time to dilly dally.
The second time we passed through here, we were on our way south from Campbell River to Victoria. Traffic was starting to get bad, so it was good that we got an early start.
The drive from Nanaimo to Victoria is the last tiny bit of the THC that we still hadn’t finished. In St John’s Newfoundland, we got to visit their “Mile 1” Landmark, marking the first mile of the THC. Well, now we can drive to the last mile of the THC. (Spoiler alert: Turns out the last mile is “Mile Zero.” WTF? Is this some kind of metric mileage?)
We got into Campbell River around lunch time. I had to piss like a banshee so I started screaming like a racehorse. We stopped off at the Campbell River Art Gallery Slash Visitors Center to destroy their bathroom and get some souvenirs.
The arachnids around here are cray cray.
Glenn was enamored over the prospect of visiting Plumper Bay. This is sunglasses weather.
Up here in the northwest, they have stores and shops catered to the marginalized sasquatch community. I’m so goddamned hirsute, that the clerk thought I was some kind of albino Big Foot. I yelled, “I’m not a freaking Yeti, you fool!” but after trying on a spiffy bison-leather jacket that fit perfectly, I found the place kind of welcoming.
We wanted to check out the Maritime Heritage Center, but we only had time for the pier and lunch.
The Visitors Center told us to visit the Discover Fishing Pier. Actually, they told us to visit some other pier, but we got all turned around on their city streets, and stumbled upon this place instead.
A restaurant on the end of the pier.
Thankfully, the place had more…. poutine. At this point I was getting a little sick of poutine. We ate it twice a day, every day, for the whole time we spent in Canada. But since we were heading to Victoria and getting on the ferry back to the U.S., we knew this would be the last time we’d get poutine in Canada for at least a year, when we launch the 2020 WVO Roadtrip.
While I was destroying the pier’s bathroom, some dock fisherman caught a sea creature and tossed it in the dock basin. It was writhing and slithering about until it succumbed to suffocation. I caught the end of the show.
Even though we had a few hours, we decided to make our way down to Victoria, just in case we run into excessive traffic. If we get there early, then we can meander around the town to kill time. If we get there late, then we miss our ferry. Can’t let that happen.
I’m straining to figure out why we went to see the World’s Largest Burl. Maybe someone suggested it or maybe we saw a billboard for it. IDK. Regardless, we turned off the main drag to visit the town of Port McNeill.
Off to the left of the main street of town, was a small park and creek, and underneath some crude canopy sat the World’s Largest Burl.
Uh. OK. A burl. Burl? hmmm.
Well, that was interesting. Turns out these things are kind of valuable. The owner of this burl apparently turned down a pretty penny for this thing so that he could showcase it in a canopy in the middle of nowhere.
While we were chilling and pissing behind the burl, a chopper landed right next to us. A dude hopped off and told us there was an even larger burl down the road. This is surreal. I never knew the locals here were such burl aficionados.
I guess if there is an even larger burl, we might as well check it out. We followed the guys directions and headed west on the back road. After a few miles, we passed some sort of union strike, because there were men standing around a bonfire and holding signs. It had this whole end of “The Day After” vibe, like in that scene where the farmer’s family headed back to the farmhouse after the town hall meeting, and the were met by a bunch of cannibals.
I figured seeing the world’s second largest burl was good enough, and we didn’t have to risk our kidneys driving any further.
After meandering around Point Hardy in the dark, we tried to find a hotel room that wasn’t a bajillion Canadian dollars. We stopped at the Kwa’lilas Hotel and it was something like $5,670,000 per night. Hard pass.
The more affordable hotel was the parking lot in front of the Sacred Wolf Friendship Center. We crashed out there because when we were wandering around Port Hardy the night before, there were a bunch of sketchy people casing out cars parked on the main drag. One truck sat by our van for a few minutes waiting for us to turn the corner. Weirdos. We thought it was better to just find a different spot that was better lit and nearer to people.
The next morning, we found a million blackberries growing just fifteen feet from our van. We picked a bunch and ate some fruits for the first time this year.
After choking down wild berries, we needed to stuff down some poutine and burgers down our gullets ASAP. Lucky for us, there was a Dubbies in the same building as that Wolf Breeding Center or whatever.
Even though we had already visited this place the night before, we decided to come back to the Cenotaph and beach in downtown. Daytime was a bit nicer.
You can see the cruise ships on the horizon. They apparently dock here on their way to the Alaska Marine Highway.
Hanging out on the beach.
The tide was out so we got to go out into the bay. It looked cool. Glenn had this homeless man vibe.
The ground was covered in kelp and weird lichen-like stuff.
Totem Poles, yo.
This was one of the major destinations for the 2019 WVO Roadtrip.
We hung out for a bit, but we had to leave to make the 500-km drive back to Victoria. We had to make the last ferry ride to the U.S. before the end of the day, otherwise we’d have to find a hotel in that tourist town.
Back on the road again.
It’s over 230 kilometers from CR to Port Hardy on their only road going north. We are pushing it. If Glenn doesn’t pull off a miracle, we’ll end up in the hamlet of Port Hardy in the dark like total losers.
The light was waning early, because of the clouds. Typical Vancouver Northwest weather.
Even though this area is pretty remote, every once in a while you’d see a prairie or farm.
And surprisingly, there were lots of mountains. I wasn’t expecting that on this island.
As we were going pretty darn fast, some locals passed us at 10-15 miles per hour faster than we were driving. Sweet! Now we have some runners and we won’t have to worry about smoking a deer or moose.
Wow. Just as the light was nearly gone, we pulled into Port Hardy. God smiled down upon us, and said we are his greatest creation.
We were last to roll off the ferry (typical), and got a late start on our speedy drive up to Port Hardy. It’s a 5-hour drive to the north point, and we need to get there in less than four hours to be there before dusk. Glenn elected to drive because I drive for shit, and he can piss like a racehorse. Before we knew it, we were out of Nanaimo and passing through Nanoose Bay.
Drove through Parksville so fast that we didn’t have time to “live,” “work,” or “play.”
Glenn was drinking up grease fast from all his speeding, so we had to stop at Comox Valley Shake & Shingle and fill up. If you don’t buy Comox shingles, you are a fart rapist.
The turn off for Campbell River is kind of the last stop for civilization until Port Hardy. We had to hammer down. On to Port Hardy bitches!
Vancouver Island is really long. A lot longer than people expect. It’s 500 kilometers from tip to tip.
After wolfing down some poutine from downtown Horseshoe Bay, we rushed back to see the line starting to move on the ferry. Glenn parked the minivan in the cargo bay and we headed upstairs. We are getting pretty used to ferry rides after all these WVO Roadtrips, so this is getting kind of routine.
Heading out on Howe Sound. I can’t recall if I’ve ever been on a Sound.
One life preserver for a thousand people. Ridiculous.
The mountains surrounding Howe Sound is pretty amazing. Eventually we got out into the Straight of Georgia which is the water body between the mainland and Vancouver Island.
Straight of Georgia.
Seeing Vancouver Island in the distance.
Pulling into the “Departure Bay” near Nanaimo.
We ended up chatting with a local dude about what to see on Vancouver Island, and he kept rambling on about some surfer haven called Tofino. Glenn and I had originally planned on going to Point Hardy, because it was at the end of the road and the northernmost point of the island, but we listened to this man’s passionate suggestions. He said since it was late in the afternoon, there would be no way we could make it up to Point Hardy before sunset, and he said Point Hardy was a shithole.
As we disembarked the ferry, we agreed to disregard all his recommendations, because surfers are losers and probably do dumb stuff in Tofino, and we are all about the miles.
On to Point Hardy.
Through a strange twist of fate, while we were in Cache Creek waiting in line to see if our motel had vacancy, we ran into a guy who was from Vancouver Island. Since we had zero experience taking the Vancouver ferries, we asked him about how bad it would be to just show up without a reservation. He said not to worry and it’ll be fine on a weekday.
So thanks Mr Stranger, we’ll just go with his advice.
As we cruised north of Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, the rain started to die off.
Our particular ferry is going to the Nanaimo port on Vancouver Island, and it’s considered “part” of the THC.
Horseshoe Bay is situated on the base of the mountains north of town.
Glenn and I had taken this road in 2008 on the WVO Roadtrip with the Jetta, but we came down from the north from Whistler. I kind of remember this stretch of road, because it follows the Howe Sound along Hwy 99.
Well, sheeeet. There were a lot of people heading to the island.
They directed us to Lane #5. All of the other lanes were for different ferries along the coast of BC and up to the Alaska Marine Highway.
After about an hour, we finally got our ticket. Ready to get on board!
Crap. Another line. Apparently, we missed the 1pm ferry, and there were so many in front of us, we’ll be in line when the 2pm ferry takes off.
Knowing that we had an hour to kill, we decided to walk the strenuous 5-minute distance from the ferry dock to the town of Horseshoe Bay. I know we are fat as hell, but apparently everyone else is even lazier than us, cuz we were the only dudes to take a shot at getting more poutine.
We found a place called “Olive and Anchor” that served poutine and fish & chips from a window. We ordered up a couple boxes and waited for them to cook them up. While we hung out, some woman on a bike ordered some food and flipped her shit over not getting a bag. I guess Vancouver has some plastic bag ordinance prohibiting disposable bags, so the server didn’t abide. She let’s out a “I’m on a bike for FUCKS SAKE.”
I personally thought it was a bit harsh language for the lack of a plastic bag, but I guess this is how the Vancouverites do. Maybe they like the extreme vulgarity over banal things. So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Glenn walked up to the server and said, “Give me those fucking poutines or I’ll fuck you up, for fucks sake.”
The server looked at us and just left the window. After a long time, he emerged with poutine covered in saliva and semen. It was enough evidence to make a compelling Law And Order SVU episode.
We walked back through town and took our protein poutine back to the minivan. We ate up the delicious poutine on the hood of the van while the line started to move toward the ferry.
Heading out on the open sea!
Pretty much a typical day in Vancouver. Rain.
Rain on the bridge.
Water above us, water below us.
Rain and traffic.
Time to get on a ferry to avoid the rain.
Zipping through Abbotsford. We have to get to the ferry in Horseshoe Bay before the end of the day otherwise we’ll be staying a night in north Vancouver. And that ain’t cheap.
Hammer down Nick! I was driving up until we got into a bunch of traffic near Burnaby. I pulled off because the way this transmission works, it makes it really hard to drive in stop-and-go traffic. Glenn had more experience than I, so I let him handle the rest of the drive to the ferry dock.
Passing by Fort Langley
Well it finally rained. At least now all the grime will be washed off from that mud road in the Northern Angle.
Ha, jokes on us. It just made the van muddier.
Now that we arrived in Hope, then that concluded the second-to-last portion of the THC that we hadn’t driven yet. The last segment is on Vancouver Island, which we’ll hit up later on this WVO Roadtrip.
Totem Pole in Hope BC:
Back on the main drag to Vancouver…
Mountains on the way to Vancouver.
As we get closer to Vancouver, we approach the coast. That means the mountains get bigger and better. That means the road starts to wind around a lot, and that inevitably means tunnels.
Glenn was thrilled cuz he thought the boy from Twilight lived around here.
Once again, this segment of the TCH really shines. There was nearly no one on the road and it was really picturesque.
Around every corner is a Bob Ross painting.
The Thompson River runs parallel to the roadway and cascades throughout the mountains.
It would be a really nice trip if both of us didn’t smell like homeless cadaver.
So we stayed at the Riverside Motel because we got in really late and vacancy across the town was drying up. There were only a moderate amount of cockroaches at this hotel, so we felt kind ok about it.
After catching some z’s, we shook off all the cockroaches and spiders and bedbugs, and headed to the nearest convenience store for supplies.
Canada has the weirdest potato chips. Gravy flavored, ketchup flavored, even some kind of pizza flavoring. Not sure what chemical tastes like pizza, but they nailed it. Yay, flavor engineers!
The segment of the THC that is west of Kamloops is AMAZING. I suspect that 99% of people traveling to Vancouver on their “only road” tend to skip this longer scenic route for Hwy 5 going southbound. Well, they are missing out. There are some desert mountains up here that are astonishing.
Kamloops Lake sprawls out north of the highway for miles and miles. It’s rather lengthy and gorgeous.
It’s an odd microclimate. It’s almost like a desert, like in California or Nevada, but there are lot of trees and evergreens everywhere like in the arctic. It’s similar to high elevation New Mexico, but this area of BC is not much of a high altitude.
Keep on to Cache Creek. We got into Cache Creek around 10 pm and tried to get a room at the Sunset Motel which had good reviews, but the place only had single-bed rooms. As much as I like Glenn, I’m never sharing a bed with him. He likes to spoon and he sweats like a warthog.
So we ended up at the Riverside Motel, which only had a moderate amount of cockroaches.
Stopped off at a random abandoned building and lot to fill up on grease. They boarded up all the windows, and it probably was an old gas station or convenience store.
Even though we were at some kind of dumpy building, there was a nice creek flowing at the base of the valley. This is pretty typical of British Columbia; almost every nook and cranny looks like a Bob Ross painting.
Glenn checked over the engine to make sure his exhaust fix was still holding.
We were hoping to hit some rain on the middle of this trip to wash off all that mud from our drive on the dirt road near the Northern Angle. This was the first roadtrip in Canada where it wasn’t constantly raining all the time.
Sun setting on the mountains near Savona BC.
Trying to get to Cache Creek before dark. We didn’t have a hotel reservation, but I looked up their amenities prior to losing cell reception this remote part of the THC. They have a bunch of old motels in that area, and being a weekday, we figured there would be some vacancy.
Time was slipping away from us. We left Lethbridge at sunrise to put on some major miles today (because we lost a day from hitting that deer near Moose Jaw) and it was taking a lot longer than expected to get to our hotel in Cache Creek. We could have saved ourselves some hours by taking the THC all the way through Calgary, but we wanted to take a different route across the Rockies than the previous years. That’s why we were on the Crowsnest Hwy for so long. But now that we approach Kamloops, we are returning to the THC.
We’ve been to Kamloops twice before, but don’t have any photos of this place. I’m not sure why. It must be somewhat unmemorable.
On all of our previous trips across the THC or Yellowhead, we somehow missed this stretch of the THC between Kamloops and Cache Creek and Hope. Part of the point of the 2019 WVO Roadtrip is to make up for this missed segment.
Off to Cache Creek.
We’ve taken the bigger highway to Vancouver in the past and never really realized that the TCH is actually the smaller highway on the right. Kind of odd. Why don’t they just make Hwy 5 the TCH?
Kamloops Lake at sunset!
Kind of surreal. The lakes up here are amazing, yet there are no lake houses or cabins up here. Canada is weird. If this was America, there would be 1000 starbucks and mcdonalds up here ruining the splendid view.
We are running out of grease and need to fill up before it gets dark. You don’t want to be stuck in the dark in deer country or bear country.
Continuing north on Hwy 33, we came up on the town of Kelowna and the area surrounding Okanagan Lake.
There weren’t many cars and trucks on this road, so it was an easy ride. We were kind of hoping for some rain to wash off all the caked on dirt from the mud road near the Northern Angle, but so far, no dice.
We get into town and start feeling something wrong from the engine bay. A shuddering of some kind. I immediately thought Glenn left his vibrator on in the back of the van, but then I realize he forgot all his batteries in Wisconsin.
We pulled off at a closed school parking lot and inspected the vehicle. Well, by “inspect,” I basically watched as Glenn slid under the van and reached his arms into a hot running engine bay.
Glenn found the problem. Turns out a exhaust hanger started wiggling as loose as Glenn’s bowels. He tightened her up harder than a hetero sphinter around Prince. Back on the road again. Gotta get to Kamloops.
Cruising through Lake Country. Ritzy
Woods Lake and …
You can tell this has some glacially-fed water, because the water color is turquoise.
Rock Creek resides on the Kettle River right next to the U.S. Canadian Border.
Normally I wouldn’t say much about this town because we mainly just drove passed, but it should be noted that we turned off of the Hwy 3 here to head north. This is Hwy 33, aka the Kelowna-Rock Creek Hwy.
We decided to diverge from the Crowsnest Hwy because if we continued to Osoyoos and Penticton, we’d be duplicating a path that we took in 2010 or 2012. Also, there is a stretch of the THC that we still haven’t driven yet, which spans from Kamloops to Cache Creek to Hope.
Highway 33 is pretty interesting. They must have had a massive fire because many of the forests were destroyed.
Kind of has this Fort McMurray vibe. Not many people were driving on this road, so the fires might not have threatened a lot of people like the FM fire did.
On to Kelowna.
We really didn’t hang around Christina Lake much.
We needed to get some supplies, but we thought Grand Forks would be a better spot.
On the way, we passed several bicyclists riding through the mountains.
Closer to Grand Forks. The terrain changed to more of a desert landscape, with pines.
Grand Forks has this Portlandia vibe.
Need to get some supplies.
Stopped off at the local grocery store.
Nothing special to report. Pretty much a couple southern BC towns.
Passing through Castlegar. We didn’t have much time to hang around, because of all the road construction delaying our arrival in western BC.
Passing over the Kootenay River again. It’s like a broken record.
Mountains near Salmo
While we were crossing the pass near Salmo, we saw a chopper airlift people out of the area. I know we smelled bad, but flying people out in front of us was insulting.
All we saw was logging trucks and RV’s. Usually side-by-side. Slow going.
After bypassing the Cranbrook museum, we headed down the highway to the neighboring town to see their museum instead.
This is the tiny mountain town of Creston BC.
They have their own little museum where they collected all the scattered junk and artifacts from this town’s 70-year history and called the heap a “museum.”
I’m not denigrating this. We live for these museums and practically been to all the museums in all of Canada. I’m just pissed cuz the staff wouldn’t respect the fact that we wanted to identify as one person, and therefore pay for just one ticket.
Old timey stuff. I guess back in the old days, dogs were really addicted to their electronics.
Lots of meds. Back in the day, Dodd’s Kidney Pills were the bees knees. Which was the style at the time.
A “Wisconsin” mini tractor.
After dinking around for a few hours, we destroyed their bathroom and headed back into the mountains. If we rush, we could possibly make it to the far end of British Columbia before dark.
Well, crud. More construction. This is getting ridiculous.
It took a lot of convincing by the staff at this gas station to persuade Glenn that no one was going to fellate him.
He was furious for days.
We cruised through this area during August, so there wasn’t a snowflake in sight. But the signs displaying the local ski areas are everywhere.
Also, we saw a bunch of billboards talking about the “largest truck of all time.” C’mon. We saw bigger trucks up by Fort McMurray at the tar sands a while back.
The mountains get bigger and bigger the further we drive. BC is amazing.
Lots of campers and hippies around here.
Can’t tell if this a real or fake derrick.
Ooh fun. Tunnels.
Passing over the Kootenay River (this will happen a lot)
After passing by Mt Tecumseh, we headed toward the BC border. Glenn was thrilled to get some BC BUD!
Once we hit the border sign, we knew we were only 2 miles away from a random pothead hitchhiker.
Once you hit the Crowsnest Pass, it’s all downhill from here.
On to Vancouver…
Heading up the Crowsnest Highway…
Saw Mt Tecumseh on the right of the road.
After a long morning drive, I was getting hungry and we needed to add some grease to the tank. We pulled off at the Blairmore Tim Hortons for some grub.
Glenn reluctantly woke up. I don’t think he slept very well either. We went into the Tim Hortons to find something to eat. I had been all across Canada this year (in Toronto twice, Winnipeg, and all across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) and wanted to eat this infamous Belgian Waffle sandwich that everyone was raving about. However, every time I went to the Tim Hortons, they were “out” of waffles. To paraphrase Glenn Wienke, “GAWD DAMNIT!”
But like the time he pushed a small fawn in front of our minivan for our benefit, God wielded his divine hand and decided to bestow us the honor of indulging in the consumption of a Waffle sandwich.
It was actually pretty good. Many Americans don’t know what a real Belgian Waffle tastes like. You think you do, but until you go to Brussels and eat some of their amazing authentic waffles, you probably think they taste like those tall, dry, bland, brown waffles they serve up to drunk people at Denny’s.
Thankfully, Tim Hortons tried their best to make them taste like real Belgian Waffles, and the sandwich wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t awesome either, but beggars can’t be choosers. If you have to drive 2500 miles for a waffle, you have to take what you can get.
I cleaned up the windshield while doing my best rendition of Bub Bubs Bounce.
One the road, we saw a buttload of more deer in town. The little bastards probably destroy everyone’s home gardens.
They are looking at us like that van smells like splattered fawn guts.
People don’t realize how expansive the plains provinces of Canada are. It seems like ages to drive across them. Americans think driving across Texas or Nebraska is a PITA, but until you drive from eastern Manitoba to western Alberta, you don’t know farmland.
The reward for the long drive is getting to see the Rockies on the horizon after Pincher Creek. It’s really cool.
We’ve driven into the Canadian Rockies through the THC, Yellowhead Hwy, and Alcan Hwy, and it’s always a treat. This time we’re driving Hwy 3, which is called the Crowsnest Hwy.
I couldn’t sleep much in Lethbridge, so I woke up at sunrise and got on the road. I let Glenn sleep in the back because he tends to do the toughest drives at night and in the city. I just wanted to put on some major miles before he gets up and yells at me for being too awesome.
We’ve been to Lethbridge a bunch of times. We passed through in 2013 on the way up to Prudhoe Bay and in 2018 on the way back from Tuktoyaktuk.
In 2019, we were heading west for Vancouver Island and it was getting late in the evening. Since we are a few hours early of sunrise, we decided to eat and find a place to park until sunrise, then attempt to cross the mountains.
It was a long day, after repairing the van and making a lot of ground on the road, so we needed a restaurant that was open late. Boston Pizza to the rescue.
Boston Pizza is kind of like BJ’s Restaurant in the U.S. It’s not that awful, but not that great either. Every Boston Pizza tastes exactly the same, and ever Boston Pizza has the same atmosphere. At least you know what you are getting into.
After wolfing down some pizza, we found a quiet spot of the College Centre Mall parking lot, and tried to rest for a few hours before driving into the Rockies.
The sun was setting on the THC, and thankfully we didn’t hit another deer.
We approached Medicine Hat looking for some food.
They have the world’s largest teepee here.
Didn’t find anything we liked at the moment, so we hammered down to Lethbridge.
We’ve driven passed this wayside on previous trips. IIRC, I think we hit this in 2012 but didn’t stop. I wanted to get out and defecate, but the bathroom was in such shabby condition, I figured it would be safer to risk peritonitis than sit on that bowl.
While I was contemplating the “ifs,” Glenn filled up the tank.
He decided to risk his health and safety by using the can. Now he has some kind of rash that doesn’t wash off.
Was kind of hoping to stop off and get some grub, but we didn’t want to drive across Alberta in the dark and smoke another deer. There were some restaurants in Maple Creek.
Couldn’t eat at Caroline’s because Glenn was sleeping.
Maple Creek is kind of nice. I drove through town and zigzagged passed downtown.
Glenn begged me to get some burgers cuz he was starving. I said no way. Gotta hammer down to Ass Hat and then Lethbridge to crash out in the van.
We made it up to the THC and kept on kepting on.
Left the T-Rex Discovery Center just as the shadows started getting long. We could have taken a gravel shortcut up to Maple Creek, but we calculated it wouldn’t be much of a shortcut. Instead, we stayed on Hwy 13 and turned north after Robsart on Hwy 21.
Along the way, we kept seeing billboards for the Cyprus Hill concert.
We must have arrived early cuz no one was here yet.
But it certainly smelled like dank though.
The road to the TRex Center is gravel and rough, but short.
The museum pops up in the middle of the plains. Kind of hard to believe a classy museum is just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere.
Lots of fossils and whatnot. We didn’t have a lot of time to peruse the artifacts. We got there 20 minutes before they closed.
Herbivores, not just the T-rex.
To lengthen our visit and anger the staff, Glenn started a 2-hour lecture on the new method of excavation that he pioneered from the years 1992 to 2001. Never forget.
The T-rex was such a formidable predator, that he was commemorated with a stamp in the Canada Post. Never has an animal killed so efficiently until the election of Rob Ford.
The staff grew tired of our loitering, so they kicked us out. There was a 3-K hiking trail around the grounds. And they have placards. Glenn can’t resist placards, and we had been driving all day, so walking around and burning off the fat we ate at Dubbies seemed prudent.
That concluded our sites for the day. Since we smoked a deer and lost a lot of time, we needed to get to Lethbridge and the foothills of the Rockies before sunrise if we wanted to get back on schedule.
Cruising through the tiny town of Eastend on Hwy 13.
Nice town, but we didn’t have much time to dilly dally.
Nor could we stop off at the Eastend Historical Museum. I bet they have some sweet old artifacts of toasters or ledgers.
Hammer down to the Dino museum! They close in 20 minutes!
The town of Assiniboia (pronounced Ass-in-a-boy) is a special place. Most of central Canada has rivers, regions, counties, and other parts named Ass-in-a-boy. Glenn loves it. So when I told him we were going to the actual town of Ass-in-a-boy, he was elated. I told him there was a Dubbies on our trip, and he insisted we get some food.
I wanted to find Ass-in-a-boy on the GPS, but it turns out our GPS is a huge loser. Can’t even find ASS.
Heading southbound on the highway. At least this road was paved.
We stopped off at the Dubbies to get some burgers. And since there is poutine on every A&W menu, we had to get two boxes STAT. And while we were getting fat, might as well swill down a rootbeer float, but the dude didn’t even put it in a mug! Rip off.
No time to waste. Gotta head out if we want to see dinosaur boners before they close. On to Hwy 13.
When we first planned the 2019 WVO Roadtrip, the plan was to take Old Hwy 13 all the way across Canada, from the Peg to the west side of the Rockies. However, due to our need to get to the Moose Jaw Expansion Museum, we skipped the roads in Manitoba. Also, we were willing to forgo Hwy 13 the night prior to crank out some miles to get to the foothills of the Rockies.
But through a weird cruel twist of fate, we smoked a deer just a few miles from Moose Jaw, forcing us to repair the Frankenvan in town and get back on track. Since it took us a few hours to fix things, it made no sense to try and cruise to the Rockies. We’d end up getting there around sunset and I’m not too keen on driving up and down crazy Canadian mountain passes in the dark.
So, we decided to head south and get back on the Hwy 13 Plan. We took Hwy 2 south towards Glenn’s favorite town, Ass-in-a-boy and hammered down.
Then, like God was smiling down upon us, he guided us with a divine hand to the coolest museum in all of Saskatchewan. It was divine intervention. Don’t fucking blow this shit off. This shit doesn’t just happen. What happened here was a miracle and I want you to fucking acknowledge it.
We whip a U-ey and head over. Turns out this was the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village and Museum and it has everything. Forget the Western Development Museum. This place is amazing. 6 stars and 7 nipples up.
They basically have all the old buildings from the area. Old pharmacies, barber shops, grain elevators, etc.
Here’s a showcase of small motors. Why not.
If you haven’t entered a restored grain elevator, you haven’t lived.
Unlike all the other museums, this place lets you up into the top of the caboose.
Old cars and wrecks.
Old cars and beauts.
Some crazy tiny car.
This place was wild. They had a bunch of retired Canadian men just restoring everything. They were building a replica International Harvester Parts Store, which is really crazy cuz they actually had real NOS I.H. boxes on the shelves. I was even looking for my VRV part that I make from my shop, but the man said they didn’t have parts “that new.” LOL.
They had a blacksmith and belt-driven shop.
Damn I look good.
I took 7 years of German, but don’t recognize this dialect.
Thousands and thousands of ancient kitchenware.
Old timey gas pump and various local churches moved to the site.
Buildings full of old camera and video gear.
The place was massive and expansive. And it was cheaper than the Western Development Museum. And the dudes running the place were more knowledgeable and more deaf. Very authentic.
Sadly, we had to leave after only a few hours of roaming around. We still needed to get to the Dinosaur Center in Eastend and get some food in Ass-in-a-boy. Time was slipping away.
As we limped the van back to Moose Jaw, we lost more electrical systems on the way. The dash and instrument lights died and so did the gauges. Also, we didn’t have blinkers or fog lights. We stayed at the Super 8 which was next door to a parts store that opened at 8am.
Glenn spent the evening researching junkyards and parts store across down looking for a new bumper cover and fog lights. I spent my evening dumping files to the hard drives. He found a junkyard in Oregon (on our path) that had a gold T&C with all our parts. Woo hoo. In the morning, he called to secure the parts and put them on hold for a week.
We got carbs-breaky at the hotel. Not their best breakfast.
After a short walk to the auto parts store, we got some gorilla tape, light bulbs, and other supplies.
Since we had a tub, Glenn used the shower to wash off all the brains, guts, blood, and hair slathered all over the bits of bumper cover. I advised him, “What I need you to do…is to take those cleaning products and clean the broken bumper of the car. I’m talking fast, fast, fast. You need to go in and scoop up all those little pieces of brain and skull–get it out of there…wipe down the bumper cover. Now, when it comes to the inner fender…it don’t need to be spic-and-span. You don’t need to eat off it. Just give it a good once-over. What you need to take care of… are the really messy parts. The pools of blood that have collected, you gotta soak that shit up. We’re going to line the inner fender and the bumper cover with duct tape or gorilla tape, so if a cop stops us, and starts sticking his big snout around the car, the subterfuge won’t last, but at a glance the car will appear to be normal. Glenny, lead the way. Boys, get to work.”
Glenn had the audacity to ask me for a “please.”
After the requisite “pretty please with sugar on top, clean the fucking car,” we took all the cleaned busted parts of the bumper cover and inner fender, and started taping. I worked on the exterior parts because I have an eye for detail and aesthetics, and Glenn worked on the inner fender pieces because he can make sure it won’t fall apart and rub on the tire.
With the parts reassembled, we reinstalled them back on the minivan.
We had a fun idea. Since our blink light was F’ed, we just rigged up the broken fog light hole with an orange light bulb, and wired it up to the old blinker wiring.
Sweet. Now we are street legal and ready to hit the road.
On the way to the Rockies.
After eating and checking out those Tunnels of Moose Jaw, we headed west down the THC. We have to drive through the night to get to the Rockies before sunrise. Canada is so full of bugs.
The sun was setting directly on the roadway horizon. It was like staring directly into a solar flare.
Then all of a sudden, a deer jumped out of the long grass in the median. We had no time to react. This is me yelling “Shit!” just as it sprung out in front of us.
This is Glenn trying to avoid the deer, but it took a weird bounce and crouched down at the passenger side lights. It was struck instantaneously and basically exploded. Parts of deer and parts of the front of the van flew everywhere.
You can see the carcass sliding down the gravel shoulder on the image below.
Well crap. The sun was setting, and most of our light system looked destroyed. We tested the vehicle and thankfully our headlights still worked.
It didn’t suffer. The deer died before it even stopped flying.
We gathered up all the pieces of the van as best as we could and put them in a bag.
I immediately got on the phone to see if we could book a hotel room near an auto parts store. We had to abruptly change our plans, in the hopes of finding a way to get this van back to street legal while finding a place to rest. Even though it would mean backtracking on our WVO roadtrip, going back to Moose Jaw to stay at their Super 8 was the safest course of action.
As we walked in to the lobby, there was a woman chatting with the staff. When they found out we hit a deer, the woman asked, “Was it near Caronport?” Apparently they have a deer problem nearby.
After getting a bite to eat at Rosie’s, we strolled around the downtown area. Moose Jaw is kind of in the middle of nowhere, so the bypass didn’t kill off the city.
Holy cow! An actual pay phone. And it worked! And it wasn’t cover in graffiti or urine! Woo hoo.
Just south of our restaurant was this place claiming to be the tunnels Al Capone used while he was in Moose Jaw.
We went in and asked if they were open. They said they were closing in a few minutes. We asked about their “tours.” They said there was one tour left for the day. At closing time…. Weird. Well, whatever. We’ll take their tour that is one hour long but starts when their place closes…
While we waited the last ten minutes before they closed, we walked around to check out their artifacts and evidence of Al Capone’s stay here. Not that believable.
We got to meet our tour guide who walked us down the street to an neighboring building. As we chatted with this kid, I detailed how the mere suggestion of Al Capone hanging out here was preposterous.
Glenn and I are from Wisconsin. We have actual ties to the history of Al Capone, who regularly visited northern Wisconsin to get away from Chicago. We was one of the Original FIB’s.
Also, Al was notoriously paranoid about everything. When we were at the Expansion Museum, we learned that there wasn’t a road to Moose Jaw until like the 1940’s because some dude bought a car in Minneapolis and had to drive it back to Moose Jaw himself. And there wasn’t enough roads so he had to drive across several prairies.
So, back to Al Capone, that means he had to take the train to Moose Jaw from Chicago. And there is no way Al Capone, Mr. Millionaire, is riding a slow ass train to central Canada. The moment someone recognizes him, they’ll just call the next stop’s police, and they’ll arrest or shoot him. No way out on a train.
And I’m not digging on Moose Jaw, but it’s kind of tiny and in the middle of nowhere. I find it hard for someone of Capone’s lifestyle finding his way up to this one-horse town.
As we explain our case, the tour guide directs us to the start of the tunnels.
Turns out this is some kind of reenactment tour, where they have actors put us in the times of Al Capone. It was pretty entertaining. If I had known it was all theatrical, I would have played along more.
At the end of the tour, they killed some woman. We were guided back to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw storefront and out the door.
After visiting the Western Development Museum, we got some recommendations to get food in town. We ended at Rosie’s, which has typical American Canadian food. I was hoping to get a bison burger or some kind of exotic First Nation thing, but instead, we settled for normal food.
The inside was full of hipsters that smelled like B.O. and urinal cakes, so we went outside. It was pleasant out. Maybe we should be doing more trips in August, because in July, we usually have a lot of heat and humidity.
I got the fish and chips and it was pretty decent. I can’t remember what Glenn got. Probably something huge. He can really put down a huge dark sausage.
We had a few minutes to walk around town before it got dark and we drive to the Rockies through the night.
So we’ve been to the Western Expansion Museums in North Battleford, Yorkton, and Saskatoon, but not the one in Moose Jaw. This is the last of the infamous Western Museums in Saskatchewan, and the most overlooked. We’ve been looking forward to this museum for over ten years and we would spend hours each day studying up on the best way to see all the artifacts in the most efficient way possible.
On the way into town, there is a huge moose statue.
So if you have never been to any of these Western Development Museums in Saskatchewan, basically, all the people put all their stuff from the last 100 years in a building or yard. Anything goes.
Old trucks, cars, trolleys, trains, cabooses, anything.
They even went far enough back to find a few horse carriages. That’s a real treat, because most of these Canadian towns didn’t go back even for a 100 or even 50 years. I remember at the Saskatoon museum, they showed the first television station was made in the 1970’s.
Old combustion engines.
Also, they have oddball stuff as well. This is some mechanical horse that a local dude made from scrap metal and he would actually ride it in parades and such.
We found this thing (not sure what it was) in a transported train depot building. (we later found out from one of the older staff that it was a cream separator. My guess was right)
They shipped in all sorts of buildings from the history of the town into this warehouse.
What a find! We even found a placard in front of a huge snow plow. Turns out there was a Wausau-based plow manufacturer. I tried to look them up, but they must have gone out of business a half century ago.
Aircraft as well.
After meandering around until they closed, we filled up the tank for the big drive across the province. If we can put on some major miles, then we could be by the Rockies by sunrise.
Time to get some food in town. The museum staff recommended some diners and bars on the south end. We wanted some crazy food, but unfortunately, they just have normal stuff in this neck of the woods.
Cruising passed Whitewood.
Running out of time. If we don’t hammer down, we’ll miss the Expansion Museum in Moose Jaw.
While Glenn filled up the veg tank, I sauntered into the local McDonald’s for some fries.
I took a leak and some random dude took a crap. Then as I washed up, he finished up and left the bathroom without washing. Ish. Then the dumbdumb went to the touchscreen kiosk to swipe his shitty hand on public order screen.
I went to the other screen and started ordering something fatty. We have a rule that if poutine is on the menu, Glenn and I MUST order it. What to our surprise, but Canadian McD’s have poutine now. So I ordered two boxes.
It was hard for Glenn to eat poutine with while driving, but he made due. If he can’t eat poutine while driving a dangerous vehicle, then why even bother living at all.
I drove most of the way from Braintree to the Peg. I couldn’t figure out how to put the van in reverse, so I had to make sure I didn’t end up stuck down some cul de sac.
So we’ve stayed at this Super 8 twice now. It’s perfectly situated on the west side of town (which is good because 99% of the time we are leaving the next morning in that direction) and they have the best service. They even had a slushie machine. Woot woot. Time to get fat.
We rest up after a long drive. We had been on the road for a long time and didn’t get much rest the night before either. I was still jetlagged from a trip to Italy only 2 days prior.
The next morning we got on the THC and put on some miles. Nearby was an overpass that had completely collapsed. Typical socialists.
Gotta make it to Moose Jaw before the Western Expansion Museum closes at 5pm. Not a lot of time.
Hwy 308 is basically a mud road with occasional gravel roads scattered by a blind man. The last thing you want to encounter is mud, especially in a low-riding 2wd minivan. But with Glenn along, we always get the worst luck.
Eventually we made it to East Braintree, a tiny town near the THC.
Time to head west! ON to the PEG!
The Northwest Angle has a really odd way of border protection. Basically, anyone can just drive in and out of the Angle without stopping. They just rely on the honor system for people to report when they arrive by car or boat.
At the corner of Hwy 330 and Hwy 331, there is a bunch of signs telling you how to get to the Angle Inlet or Youngs Bay areas. But also, they have the Canadian Border Station.
On the northeastern corner, there is the Canadian phone station.
They have a bulletin board with all sorts of fun stuff that we didn’t see. They even have a birdhouse for anyone wanting some complementary salmonella.
This is how it works. When you get ready to leave the Inlet, you just go to this kiosk and call the border station. They ask for your passport number and some standard questions. Then if you get the approval, you get a receipt number and they let you reenter into the Canada.
If you don’t get the approval, you have to stay here forever.
So while we were waiting for our burgers to cook at Jerry’s, we walked over to the big marker designating the furthest point north on the continental United States.
The waitress later told us that technically this ain’t the northernmost point. It’s further up the river near Harrison Creek. She said we could charter a boat to see the dilapidated post marking the actual spot, but so few people wanted to undertake that trip that the state decided to move the marker down here by the rest of society.
So actually, this is more the “Northernmost Point of the Contiguous United States Accessible By Road.”
There is a small marina for all the fishermen. Pretty neato. We ate our burgers and got the heck out of dodge. We hadn’t slept in 24 hours and we still had several hours of driving on gravel to make it to the THC and then more driving to the Peg.
So we headed back on the road, drove passed the border station (again), and got to the Youngs Bay area.
Jerry’s Bar is the only restaurant around here.
There were probably a few hundred trucks and boat trailers here.
A Juicy Lucy burger. Not bad, but they cooked it too long and all the cheese dripped out.
Probably not the best thing to eat after driving all through the night and still several hundred miles to the Peg. Kind of tired.
On to the Northernmost U.S. Point Marker…
As we drove into the Northwest Angle, there were lots of signs telling us to sign in. We didn’t give a crap because there were hundreds of signs, so we never really paid attention. But as we approached the resort, we figured it would be prudent to check in with US border patrol before we get arrested and our 6-day trip to Canada isn’t going to be a 70-day confinement by the NSA.
We pulled into Jake’s Resort, which coincidentally was one of the places where we could “sign in.”
They had a kiosk for punching in our passport information. Since Glenn can’t read, I had to recite the instructions to him.
There was some maps and old pictures. The woman behind the desk arrived and told us that the only place to eat around here was on the other side of the Angle.
Great. Our plan to wrap up this trip to the Angle quickly and get back on the road to Winnipeg is busted.
There were lots of campers and trailers and cabins all around Angle Inlet. No one was around, so they must’ve been fishing.
Back on the road again, to get to the Youngs Bay area.
Passing through the Northwest Angle State Forest on to the hamlet of Angle Inlet.
We made it! To the Post Office.
It was basically a PO Box with a desk, but it wasn’t open. I think their hours were something like 3-3:15pm every blue moon and 1pm-1:10pm on fifth Wednesday of the month.
Next door was a spiffy golf course. No one was on it. I guess they were fishing.
On to the “city.”
There were signs for local events everywhere. We were running out of time, so we didn’t have a chance to hang out for any of this stuff.
We didn’t film the border. After the infamous border incident of 2012, we never film the border. We didn’t want to get droned by some menopausal ornery middle manager who wanted to flaunt her minuscule power.
So we shut down all the equipment and made the crossing.
Red Lake Nation!
The Northwest Angle has two “settlements” if you can call them that. The Angle Inlet is on the west side of the county, and Youngs Bay is on the east end. We decided to head over to the west end, because we were lazy and just wanted to get to the closest place asap.
The drive from the border to the Inlet isn’t short. You have to drive several miles in the woods northeast on Hwy 308.
After a while, it changes to gravel. Kind of funny because we took the minivan on this trip because we knew we wouldn’t need to drive on miles and miles of gravel, like on all our previous WVO roadtrips to the arctic.
Lots of wildlife up here. We almost smoked a deer on the gravel road.
There is only one gravel road to the Angle and it’s slow going. Kind of amazing that the high school students get up early every day to take a bus from the angle to a high school in the continental US.
Our border crossing went nice and quick. Finally. The last few years have been a bear trying to cross, because we would get stopped and searched a lot. Maybe after 13 straight years of crossing into Canada without any drugs, guns, or other stuff, they finally gave us the benefit of the doubt.
Passing through the tiny town of Sprague on the way to the Northwest Angle.
Lots of Canadian flags. We usually see these when it’s closer to Canada Day, but this trip was atypical: this was our first WVO roadtrip in August instead of June or July.
Also this trip had some odd border crossings. Even though we are in Canada, we are trying to get to the Northwest Angle, which is the northernmost part of the continental U.S. and also only accessible from Canada or boat.
We gobbled down our food as we approached Warroad and the border crossing.
After a quick right turn through this small town, we were on the way to Canada, and ultimately the “Northwest Angle.”
We pulled into Baudette Minnesota before lunch and needed to get some supplies. Both of us took turns driving all the way from central Wisconsin up to this border town, and we both needed things that we forgot on the way. I wanted to by a door stop to help keep my foot at a better angle on the accelerator. The custom pedal in this minivan is very touchy, and you can’t put a lot of force on the pedal. Maybe a wedge would make things easier.
We stopped off at the ol’ Hardware Hank for jerky, chips, and parts.
What a coincidence. They had a farmer’s market in the parking lot. Just in time for some lunch snacks. We wanted to buy some fruit, but we knew the border agents would flip their shit if we showed up with an apple. So instead we got some homemade c’min’nins.
Back on the road. Even though we got an early start, we had to get a move on. Heading west of Baudette to Warroad, I called ahead to The Peg to get a reservation at our favorite hotel. In a few miles, we’d be out of cell range, and after over 24 hours on the road, I wanted to make sure we had a hotel before they all booked up on that Saturday night.
On to Warroad Border Checkpoint.
We left around midnight on August 16th to kick off the 2019 WVO Roadtrip. This was the first roadtrip where we used the infamous “Frankenvan” minivan, one of the very few Chrysler Town & Country vans to have a TDI engine in it. As far as we know, it’s the only biofuel powered T&C on the planet.
We drove through the night to get to northern Minnesota by the morning. As we cruised through Superior, Duluth, and the typical Minnesota northern towns on the way to Canada, instead of taking our favorite path up through Thunder Bay to get some Hoito pancakes, we decided to take a new way. This trip, we crossed at Warroad, on the way to the Northern Inlet.
We had never been through this part of Minnesota before, and we ended up passing through a town called Kelliher, which had this place called Big Dick. Nice. We didn’t have time to stop at this gay bar, but maybe next time. Ciao!
If you don’t know who Lawrence Welk is, you are a cottonheaded ninny muggins.
We ended up getting into the Homestead area about 3 in the morning. Not really the best time to visit the place, but we didn’t have the time to dick around until the sun came up.
So we meandered around the grounds, checking out any placards or information that we could read on our own. Kind of amazing this dude came from such humble beginnings.
Welk went from barnyard babes to champagne ladies. Oooh la la.
Glendive was the last stop on our 2018 trip during daylight hours.
On one of our previous WVO road trips, we visited this “Dinosaur” Museum. It’s a creationist museum where they try to merge the Jurassic and Bronze Age eras. The staff was rather rude, and because we didn’t spout off the usual creationist talking points, they proceeded to follow us around as if we were going to steal their Noah’s Ark Diorama. News flash: we didn’t.
Everything was shutting down, so the only food we could find was at the Gust Hoff bar. Not a bad place actually.
Off to Wisconsin!
Right around here, a bee flew into the driver’s side window and jammed into the crease between my glasses and my cheek. It stung me right away. It was a bit of a ‘crisis,’ because when I was a kid, I was allergic. And I didn’t have any medicine with me.
Thankfully, my good friend Glenn had some Benedril and I survived.
If we would have been on the show “Ice Road Truckers,” this ‘crisis’ would have been a season finale cliff hanger.
It was getting hotter and hotter, so we stopped at a tiny general store in Montana. We were hoping to find a ice-chest full of popsicles or ice cream to devour. As we turned off the van, we heard a tire hissing. This isn’t atypical; most of our trips are tens of thousands of miles long, and a popped tires is to be periodically expected. However, no matter how much we stroked the tire, we couldn’t find the leak. For an audible leak, we should be able to find it easily.
After a few minutes and several locals inquiring about us crouching near the van, we found the problem: the rear AC line had a hole rubbed in the line. SHIT! If it was loud enough to hear, then it’s a TERRIBLE leak.
We figured at this point, it was too much effort to access this metal line on a roadside repair, so we’ll just have to rough it until we get back to Wisconsin. Then we could take the tire off, front shock and mounting bushings out of the way, so we could access this framerail-mounted AC line better.
Glenn has a thing for Ghost Towns and Petrified Forests. So we drove into the abyss…
We stopped in at a bar and asked the locals for suggestions on things to see. Some women suggested we get ass-raped in a nearby ghost town, named Giltedge. Jumping to the opportunity, Glenn insisted we investigate this area. I still don’t know if he genuinely wanted to see the old buildings or if he wanted to felch his haunted cum out his butthole.
Anyway, we drove to where the maps suggested this Ghost Town existed, and we found some abandoned buildings. IDK. It was interesting, but not really worth the drive.
Lewistown is a pleasant place along highway 87.
The downtown looks like something out of an old west movie.
We visited the Central Montana Museum to get out of the heat. Our AC was busted and it was getting annoying driving around in a 100-degree van in July.
I’m 99% sure I had that exact same map on my wall in my room when I was a kid.
Now that we were stateside, we could get some fresh fruit and vegetables without worrying about the border patrol getting their panties in a bunch. I was long overdue for some fresh fruit. I was constipated since the massive meat meals we ate in Tuktoyaktuk.
The Judith Basin Country Sign.
“The Judith Basin occupies a central place in Montana’s history. For centuries, the lush grasses of the region attracted large numbers of buffalo, antelope, and deer. The abundant game, in turn, drew Indian hunting parties to this area. By the late 1870’s, the Indians had been confined to reservations outside the basin and most of the buffalo were gone. Montana cattlemen moved into the area in 1880. By 1885 cattle grazed in this valley. Outfits active in the area were the Judith Cattle Company, the renowned Davis – Houser – Stuart (DHS) Ranch, and Conrad Kohrs and Nick Bielenberg. Artist Charlie Russell, who gained much of his early experience as a cowboy here during the 1880’s, later captured the area’s rich and colorful history in some of his most famous paintings. After the cattlemen came the homesteaders, many of them drawn to this agricultural fertile area by the marketing of the Great Northern and Milwaukee Road Railroads.”
To summarize, the native people were displaced, wealthy people moved in, the indigenous wildlife was exterminated, and let’s stop worrying about what happened prior to 1900.
Heading south back to the States. Haven’t had a rest since our breakdown in Fort Nelson British Columbia.
On our southbound trip in 2018, we had a transmission problem that forced us to limp the van back to Fort Nelson for repairs.
We got into Fort Nelson in the middle of the night. Since it’s not very safe to drive at night on the Alaska Hwy, we found a section of road on the south side of town to park and rest until sunrise. When the sun risen, we fixed the windshield and took some drone shots of the city from the side of the town. Then we filled up the tank and headed south, hoping to make it to southern Alberta by the next day.
However, about 80 miles south of Fort Nelson, we started getting overdrive surging as we slowed the van down. Eventually, it started surging all the time. We turned off the GVOD and hoped to find a spot where we could fix it on the side of the road. Perhaps the fluid was low or a wire is loose. We didn’t know.
Gearvender overdrives are finicky items. We needed to find a wayside that would allow us to drive up and out without reverse. If the GVOD binds, it won’d allow reverse, so we had to wait for the perfect turnout. Eventually, we found a two-exit turnout on the side of the road. We parked the van and chocked the wheels, just in case the overdrive slips.
We checked the OD. Bad news. The tailshaft seal had been compressed (by the driveshaft pounding the anus of the tailshaft) on the 800-mile washboard trip on the Dempster. That constant tapping wore the seal and it allowed most of the GVOD oil to leak out.
We drained the OD to assess the existing oil. It was dirty and low. We collected every ounce we could and tried to crudely filter it.
I always pack extra gear oil and a spare tailshaft seal, but this is a job that will take a lot of finesse. That means working on it in a place that isn’t gravel and bear country. We replaced the filtered oil and used the rest of our synthetic Lucas oil just to get it back to Fort Nelson. We booked a hotel and got all the extra supplies would could get before the night arrived.
The next morning we replaced the tailshaft seal and glow plug fusable links. Also, we found the grounding out that occurred on the GP wires, and put new insulation on those wires as well.
Since we couldn’t find Lucas oil (Gearvender INSISTS on Lucas oil, even though if you read their instructions from the 80’s, it just calls for non-slip oil), we found some NAPA-brand oil that claimed to be non-slip. Or maybe it was limited slip… IDK. I gotta find that documentation.
We bought all the oil we could find, just in case we ended up having another GVOD problem later on the journey. In hindsight, we were extremely fortunate we broke down where we did. If we had broke down just 12 hours earlier, we would have been stuck right in that stretch of the Alaska highway where there were three dozen bears in 50 miles.
On our southbound journey from Tuktoyaktuk, we pulled into Dawson right around 7am. We were sick of eating microwaved food in our van, so we elected to get some grub from Dawson’s Triple J Hotel. Not bad food. I could have used some spicier salsa on my breakfast burrito, but it’s Canada. Their specialty is syrup, not salsa.
We’ve only driven to the NWT twice. There are only a handful of roads that allow this.
Along the Dempster, there is a monument denoting the border.
It’s basically on a pass in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t see another soul for hours.
On the way back south, this the sign you see. There as snow on the ground everywhere, and it was raining. I suspect there are places around here that the snow never fully melts all year.
The Dempster is so bumpy, that it literally rattled our bumper off our van. It rattled the Grade-8 mounting hardware off the top bumper mount, and that allowed the bumper to hang forward. It allowed more pressure to rest on the opposite frame rail, and that created a torque to rip the frame mount apart. Due to metal fatigue, that ripped completely through, and the bumper hung down just above the gravel roadway. We caught it before it got even worse, when we stopped for the ferry on the Dempster. As we waited for the ferry to arrive, we made a temporary fix to ratchet strap the bumper until we could get it more permanently secured.
This town is not really set up for tourists yet. There are only a few tour guides and places to stay, and there are no restaurants. However, there is one entrepreneurial family selling muskox burgers, muffins, and granola bars out of a tent. IIRC, it’s called “Tyson’s Burgers” and he’s grilling up around lunch time. A woman in the tent sells the best granola and muffins with local berries she’s collected on the landscape.
We ended up buying something like 20 granola bars from her and plenty of burgers and muffins. She was confounded on someone could request so much food. I think their culture has a different consumption standard than what we are used to.
Muskox burgers were tasty. They definitely tasted oilier and different, but still good with cheese and toppings. I put a bunch of veggies on my burger and after visiting the general store, I probably ended up eating $10 worth of lettuce. Prices for vegetables up there is EXPENSIVE.
We took the rest of the food from Tyson’s Burgers with us for the trip back to Inuvik and Dawson City. We fought over those granola bars.
After we made it up to Tuk, and completed our touring, we had to fix things for the return trip.
While we were in Inuvik, the glowplug harness shorted out. We didn’t know why (yet), but we tried to fix the fusable links with fuses. It didn’t work, but we tried anyway. We didn’t have much to lose.
Also, we had to figure out how to get the beast started in such cold temps without GP’s. We ended up warming it up with a heat gun and also used some starting fluid. Until we were able to get some fusable links (the closest town to have any in stock was Whitehorse, a thousand miles south), we used this starting fluid to get it going for the duration of our trip in the NWT and Yukon.
Also, we fixed other issues and fueled up the beast with WVO. Roger and Winnie wanted us to stay for lunch, but we had to hit the road ASAP. The ferries in Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic close late in the evening, and considering we have a several-hour drive ahead of us, we had to go.
We’d like to thank Roger and Winnie at Arctic Tour Company in Tuktoyaktuk for a great time, good food, wonderful company, and an exciting tour during our stay. Glenn and I said that if it had not been for their hospitality, we don’t think the rough drive of the Dempster was worth the trip. They are the main reason why we look back at this journey as a success.
When do you get the chance of a lifetime to swim in the Arctic Ocean?
They have a neato monument designated at the end of the road.
Unlike our trip to Prudhoe Bay Alaska, we didn’t need an escort to the Arctic Ocean. Here in Tuk, Canada, they let you drive your POS van right up to the shore line. Kinda cool.
We scoped out a spot to take a dip. Our tour guide, Roger, told us to make sure to swim on the left side of the peninsula. Other tourists were dipping their toes in the right side, which was the fresh water bay, not the ocean. We didn’t drive this far just to dip our toes in the wrong water. We are GOING SWIMMING.
So… it was 29 degree water. There was ice in the water that day. And oddly, it wasn’t as cold at I thought it would be. We got in for a few moments, and then my legs started stiffening up. I pulled my arms and legs out of the water to see them purply and discolored. Glenn remarked, “Dude, we are literally freezing.” We got out after a minute or two, and rushed to the van to change into dry clothes.
Our Arctic Ocean tour culminated with a stop on a distant sandbar. This would be the furthest north we would be on this journey, and the 2nd furthest north ever on these WVO trips.
Hard to believe, but we arrived on this island about 11pm at night. Since we are so far north in July, the sun never sets. It felt like it was 4pm on a regular day in Wisconsin.
Roger’s nephew worked on the boat motor while we ventured out on the sandbar.
The ground was littered with smooth rocks, sand, driftwood, and various whale and animal bones.
It was really surreal and special. And cold. That day, it was 38 deg F at its hottest point.
At a certain point that day, I pondered why we were wearing the life jackets. If we went into the drink, we’d die within a few minutes of hypothermia, so we might as well just toss the jackets. But then Glenn said that they were there so the coast guard could recover our bodies. LOL.
After visiting the Pingos, we continued our Arctic Tour Company adventure out on the open sea.
Roger’s nephew drove us out along the shoreline of Tuk. He pointed out a lot of sites along the way.
He spoke about how he goes whale hunting. We were kind of amazed. Glenn asked him where is he whaling boat. He said he does all the catching in that 15-foot aluminum boat we were in. Crazy! He was really comfortable being that far out to sea.
He took us pretty far out.
Eventually, the town of Tuk disappeared off the horizon.
Pingos are rare permafrost land formations that can get over hundreds of feet tall.
The only way to get to the Pingo Canadian Landmark is by boat. We connected with Roger and Winnie at Arctic Tour Company, and they hooked us up with a tour and place to stay. We got to stay with him and his wife personally. It was really nice.
His nephew took us on the tour of the pingos. Once you dock on the neighboring peninsula, you take some newly constructed walkways to get a great vantage point of the pingos.
Tuk is one of the few places in the world where there are many large scale pingos. They only grew a few centimeters per year, so these are exceptional.
Hooray! We made it up to Tuk!
As we drove in, more buildings appeared. Nearly all the roads and dwellings are bounded by bogs, ponds, lakes, and rivers. And ocean.
All the buildings are on stilts. If they are rested on a foundation in the soil, the heat of the dwelling will melt the permafrost underneath it, and it will sink like quicksand.
The red building (above) is the general store. It’s filled with some sparse groceries, and some EXPENSIVE fruits and vegetables. A bunch of grapes was $15 Canadian.
At the end of the peninsula is the access to the Arctic Ocean.
It was getting exciting as we approached the tiny town of Tuk. There were these bogs all along the path that made for an odd landscape.
Also, as we drove into town, there was a city dump to the left. From what I learned, every tourist to this town used to fly in prior to the completion of the Dempster highway extension. So now, this is the welcome sign. Poor city planning I guess. Something tells me they’ll fix this in the next few years if they are anticipating more driving tourists.
This section of road was finished just six month before, but due to the elements, it has been quite damaged.
It rattled our van to pieces. At a certain point, the bumper rattled loose and due to metal fatigue, the frame mounts even sheered off.
The tundra is an odd place. I read that the frozen ground is ice for meters and meters underground. So in the summer, it’s basically a bog with slush on top of icy dirt.
This makes driving very dangerous. For the most part, the ground it flat (thank Zeus) but in some places there is a slope. So in a lot of ways, it’s like driving on thick mud, water, slush, and ice.
On the day we drove in, it was 34 degree F in July. It even snowed and rained.
It was white-knuckle driving the whole way up and whole way back to Inuvik.
Even though it was a gamble to drive up to Tuk, it was worth it. However, unless the roadway is improved, I probably won’t voluntarily drive this again.
As we left Inuvik, we were excited to finish the last stretch to the town of Tuktoyaktuk. However, as we drove a few miles up the road, there was a sign claiming the highway was closed. We knew the road was closed for repairs up until a few days ago, so maybe the sign was old. We didn’t know, so we drove back to Inuvik to ask the authorities on if it was safe.
They called the NWT travel authorities and the RCMP, who both couldn’t confirm if the road was open, but they thought it might be ok. Another person with some knowledge of the area claimed “I think I saw a truck on it the other day.” They were calling the road construction contracting company to see if they approved, and didn’t get a solid answer.
In the end, we elected to give it a shot. We figured we drove over 4000 miles to get here, and it would a shame to give up now. If we brake down, then we’d have to walk back to Inuvik or Tuk (whichever is closer) and hope we don’t get eaten by polar or grizzly bears in the process.
Inuvik is a fairly large town considering how far north it is. It has a few thousand inhabitants. As you drive into town, there is this interesting domed church on the right, and also, they have a nice visitor center/museum nearby.
When were were preparing for the trip, we learned that the Dempster incurred severe wash-out damage. We were gambling that all the damage would be repaired by the time we got up there in the summer. Turned out we were cutting it very close. Here was a crew working south of Inuvik on a section of road that only allowed one-lane of cars to pass. As you can see, there isn’t a guard rail.
Just a few dozen miles up the road is the next Dempster Ferry near the town of Tsiigehtchic.
We didn’t get a chance to investigate the town while we waited for the ferry. There isn’t a road to the town. Instead, the ferry performs a triangular transfer path, stopping the southbound dock, northbound dock, and eventually the city. We didn’t want to drive to town, just to see their 6 buildings and then wait for the 1-hour roundtrip for the ferry to return.
As we drove further north, the topography starts to level out more, and the trees are more sparse. In the middle of nowhere, there is a functioning ferry that is open something like 12 hours per day. It’s odd to see fellow humans this far north.
After we crossed the river on the ferry, we stopped in at the tiny town of Fort McPherson. The town has a small population of First Nation people, and we saw lots of kids running around.
After a some time in town, we headed further north to Tsiigehtchic.
Surprisingly, there were a handful of people camped out at the wayside near the Arctic Circle sign. For the majority of the drive, we didn’t see a single automobile, except for a semi or two.
We are getting to the point now where no tree can survive at this latitude. It’s all basically just scrubby brush and grass. It’s like being on a green moon.
Eagle Plains is the closest thing to the “Old West” that I’ve ever seen. There are no services on the Dempster, except here. They have a lodge and some amenities, and for a hefty fee, you can stay here if you were passing through. It is not a town by any stretch of the imagination; only a few buildings atop a hill.
The Dempster is hardly a highway. It’s basically a 1- or 2-lane gravel road that goes on for hundreds of miles. The roadway is riddled with pits, potholes, and washboard bumps. The first hundred miles is some amazing scenery. Since this is right around the Arctic Circle, the tundra restricts the growth of the trees and it’s really an alien landscape.
Dawson is a fun town. They try to keep the style of the place like the ol’ Klondike gold rush days.
Ain’t nothing like waiting 5 minutes at a stoplight with no opposite traffic for 250 miles to make your day.
We have some great friends up in the Yukon that are biofuel advocates. They have helped us on all three of our trips through the Yukon Territory, in 2008, 2013, and 2018. We are very appreciative of their generosity.
While driving up to Whitehorse, we saw these Mastodon sculptures on the hill.
Now that I compare the photos, you can really tell 2013 was a hot year with lots of forest fires. There were some major fires in Alaska and the Yukon that year that made the air all smokey. Sunsets were remarkably red that trip.
We’ve been to Watson Lake a half dozen times now. The first time was in 2008 when we cruised through with the Jetta after a hail storm.
The next time was in 2013 with the Veggie Van. Here’s a pic from the good ol’ days:
I miss that shirt. Back on that day in 2013, we put a Greaser Nuts bumper sticker on one of the signs. Anyway, back on topic.
The latest time we visited this town was the 2018 trip up to Tuktoyaktuk. We snapped even more photos because this place is growing exponentially.
Watson Lake has this folk art “forest” of signs from all the people who drove the Alaska Highway.
On the way back down to the States in 2018, we found our bumper sticker we put there in 2013. Pretty cool.
Time to fill up again. One of the problems with these northern Canada trips the rain storm and no place to fill up under a canopy. So we have to fill up whenever it’s dry.
We needed to get to Whitehorse before the end of the day, so we elected to do the standard Laird Hot Springs visit on the way back down. Sadly, we ran into problems on the way down, and didn’t have time to visit the springs. Bummer. It’s a great place to relax on the Alaska Hwy.
We’ve seen a lot of wildlife on our adventures up to the Yukon. Everything usually works out if you drive slowly and carefully, and also, try not to smell too much like veggie oil.
Some animals from the 2008 WVO Roadtrip:
One the way up, we saw a good deal of wild-life on the side of the road. Several bison, many moose, possibly some caribou, a wolf, some sheep and three different instances of black bears. Also we saw what appeared to be a wild horse. Unlike other drivers we witnessed on the Alaskan Highway, we refused to feed the animals.
Our fourth bear sighting…
Some mountains and clouds outside Watson Lake…
Since it rained all day, when the sun set the deer came out in full force. It was a slow drive.
Some more horses in the middle of no-where…
And bison. Lots of Bison:
We even saw a moose swimming!!!
From the 2018 WVO Roadtrip:
Since we’ve taken the Alcan Highway something like five times now, we have lots of pictures of this bridge and river.
Almost exactly 5 years ago to the day, we took this road (the MacKenzie Hwy) to Fort Laird and Yellowknife. It was pretty sketchy. Many places were gravel and mud, and if it had rained harder, I’m sure our two-wheel-drive van wouldn’t have made it. And we didn’t see a car or truck for the duration of our drive.
We’ve been to Fort Nelson several times on our WVO roadtrips: 2008, 2013, and 2018. It’s on the Alcan Highway in a place where there are no alternatives, so you are kind of stuck visiting this town on the way up to Alaska. It’s a nice place, and they have the basics to keep the vehicle running on the way up north.
In 2008: This was our first trip through Fort Nelson.
Fort Nelson, British Columbia. 6pm-3:45am Wednesday and Thursday.
We decided to crash out in Fort Nelson even though we could have probably made it to Watson Lake that night. However, just shy of Fort Nelson we ran into a HAIL storm (what next? ). The storm was looming in the distance and we had to burn some cubie boxes to protect the windshields. Here is a pic of the hail in the ditch as we tried to get out of the storm.
We left Fort Nelson at 4:00 am and was surprised to see how bright it was at 3:30 am. I don’t think it got dark at all that night.
On the way back down to the US in 2008:
100km from Fort Nelson. 183230. 11pm Sunday.
Added 1.25 cubes. We encountered rain the whole day and it slowed our progress dramatically. When we pulled into Fort Nelson, we decided to crash for the night. The only restaurant open was Boston Pizza, and this is typical for the whole route—no late-night food. The great thing about Alaska and Canadian hotels is that they always have a refrigerator and microwave, so pack a few microwavable Campbell’s soup containers in the trunk.
Fort Nelson, British Columbia. 11pm Sunday – 11am Monday.
It appears that the only auto parts store is here, because I couldn’t find an oil filter anywhere between Whitehorse and Fort St. John. A change of oil cost us our morning, so we got off to another late start.
In 2013, we took the MacKenzie Highway from Yellowknife on the way up to Prudhoe Bay, and we could have avoided Fort Nelson if we really wanted to. But since it had been 2 full days without a hot meal, we elected to drive the few miles south of the Laird Highway cutoff to reenter Fort Nelson to eat at their only restaurant.
In 2018: We buzzed through Fort Nelson rather quickly on the way up to Tuktoyaktuk. We didn’t really need to stop for anything at the moment. However, on the way back down south, we had an overdrive issue, so we stayed in town to fix the tailshaft seal, refill the gear oil, and limp the van back to the U.S. at normal 55mph driving speeds. Man, when you lose the overdrive, you realize just how nice you had it before.
While I slept in the back, Glenn put down some major miles in the dark. As we keep getting further and further north this summer, the nights only last for a few hours at best. By the time I woke up, Glenn drove for hours and we needed another grease fill up.
For the fifth or sixth time, we’ve passed the infamous “Alaska Highway” roundabout.
We cruised through Dawson Creek in 2008 during the day:
And in 2018, we hit it at night:
Also, in downtown, you can see the original old-style signpost.
We’ve been there other times, but it’s getting so routine, that we rarely photograph it all anymore. Just another day in the life of the most prolific WVO roadtrippers on the planet.
Everyone knows the start of the Alaska Highway is Dawson Creek. So seeing this on the horizon is a welcome sign.
Just by sheer chance, we pulled into this town Vegreville on some Polish or Ukrainian heritage festival. There were lots of people celebrating in town and at this park that has a rotating decorated egg.
We got some poutine and ice cream to eat from some of the local stands in the park. Overall, pretty eventful for such a small town.
Nice little museum in the middle of nowhere. I was kind of surprised how much there was to do in this town of Vegreville. The day was hot as hell, so we opened the hood to let the engine and coolant cool off a bit while we spent an afternoon in the museum.
We’ve visited several of these wonderful Western Expansion Museums over the years, but this year, we had an urgent schedule to make. Until next time…
We’ve stayed here before. Not this time though… on the way to the Yukon!
On the 2018 WVO Roadtrip, after catching some Z’s at the Saskatoon Ramada, and Glenn finally washing his body, we decided to reenter our fart-riddled van for the next three days. But since we were still kinda out of it, we forgot to close the back door. After a mile of driving down Saskatoon’s main drag, some kid hung out the window of a neighboring car and told us our shit was falling out. Thank god. We had a few tools in the back and thankfully he told us before they all crashed on the pavement.
On the 2013 WVO Roadtrip, we once again reentered Saskatoon. We were driving through the night to make up time from the drive from Prince Rupert to Wisconsin.
Saskatoon is an interesting town. We cruised the strip just to change up the monotony of driving the plains of the Yellowhead Highway.
We got in really late. I was able to recharge the AC that night. After all those hours on the road, we felt ok with sleeping in a few hours. After all, we knew we’d be on the road basically until we got to the Yukon, so this would be our last chance to get some real sleep and a shower.
We’ve been to Regina several times, notably in 2012 and 2018.
In 2012, we cruised through the downtown and visited their Tourism Center. Since it was getting late, we didn’t have time to see any sites, but we did find a hotel in the area thanks to the help of the Visitor’s Center agents.
In 2018, it was getting dark, so we booked it through Regina to get to our hotel in Saskatoon. After driving for two days straight with some brief van camping in between and lots of days of loading, we were beat.
We’ve been doing these trips for years and years, and we’ve finally wised up to combat the incessant onslaught of bugs on the windshield. We got our own heavy duty sprayer and squeegee.
Still running behind schedule. Thankfully, the border patrol didn’t detain us for too long, and we were able to get a recommendation from the tourism center that George’s Burgers was a good local place to eat.
We pulled into Morris Manitoba around lunchtime.
George’s Burgers was ok. Not much of a selection. But it’s a small town, so beggars can’t be choosers.
We ran short on time, so we skipped our planned trip to the Missile Silos. Bummer.
Heading north, trying to make up some ground for sleeping so much.
Because we are getting old, we decided to catch a few Z’s in northern Minnesota before moving on to the border. What started as a simple hour catnap, ended up being hours long until the sun rose. Like I said, we are getting old.
Tried running thicker oil this trip, and only a few hours from home, we had to unclog and clean the pre-filter on the veg pump. Minor delay, and back on the road in an hour.
After driving throughout the night and staying up loading the van the night before, we needed to get some decent rest. The next few days of our trip would be heading up to Flin Flon and Fort McMurray, so it would be a while before we got a real bed and shower. So we stayed at the Super 8 on the west side of Winnipeg, because our plan was to get some sleep and get an early start the next day heading north west.
However, after we unloaded our gear, I noticed the van was sitting odd. The suspension was old, and it appeared our latest drive did take a toll on it. The coils seemed bottomed out and we needed a solution.
After brainstorming for a bit, Glenn thought of a brilliant solution. Instead of waiting a week for a set of new coil springs, he suggested we install a solid rubber hockey puck between the i-beam and coil. Since the next day was Canada Day, we knew all the stores would be closed. So we rushed off to the nearest general store and found hockey pucks. Good thing we were in Canada; they had a VAST selection of pucks.
Anyway, we burned the middle of Canada Day pulling off the i-beams and coils, and installing hockey puck spacers. But once it was done, it worked beautifully. We used them for the duration of the entire 2017 WVO roadtrip, and they didn’t even show any damage or wear when we replaced the coils back in Wisconsin.
We drove down to Iowa to pick up the Frankenvan (a Chrysler minivan with a TDI engine in it.)
The Wisconsin River, north of Taliesin.
Like every good Frank Lloyd Wright fan should always do, they should stop by the FLW Visitors Center to clog their toilet. Usually it takes us tagteaming a bowl to get ‘er done, but this time Glenn went in and singlehandedly destroyed that bathroom.
After that, we proceeded to the Taliesin grounds. By the time we got to the entrance, the guards wouldn’t let us in. They wanted Glenn to pay for the damage he caused. I pleaded with the guards that Glenn has no money, but they didn’t care. The janitor chimed in and said he had never seen such a smelly pile of feces and the toilet was permanently damaged.
We headed back to the van. I told him I could lend him the money, but once he got behind the wheel of the Passat, he just drove off. He stuck his head out the window and yelled, “Fuck you Franklyn Wright! See ya later, chumps!”
Glenn couldn’t resist.
We were driving across Minnesota when we stumbled upon this rootbeer stand. Glenn nearly creamed his jeans. He insisted we pull over and get some food. I skeptically asked, “Seriously, are we doing this,” because we had literally just eaten a huge $5 Chinese buffet (also Glenn’s idea) only an hour before that.
He was giddy. “Let’s get some food,” he bellowed.
Overall, the food was pretty decent and the root beer was spot on. However, from then on, I told Glenn that we need to compromise sometimes. He exclaimed, “FUCK that. I’m eating.” As we pulled out of the driveway, he squeezed out the van door and ran to order a second hamburger “for the road,” as he called it. It was sickening, seeing his gelatinous belly and sweaty fingers polish off that burger by the time we hit the St Croix. For the duration of the drive to central Wisconsin, he begged me to pull over at various A&W’s and other restaurants to satisfy his gluttonous desires.
Glenn, if you are reading this, please visit.
Check out this historical trading post and First Nation museum.
Decades ago, this building stood to enable trading between the native tribes and others passing through. It now is part of a bigger complex, including a massive First Nation museum. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the interior of the native museum. Maybe I was sick of taking photos after driving for 18 days straight… But maybe they had a rule about outside photography. I can’t recall.
However, the museum had some elaborate rooms depicting all the aspects of northern Minnesota native indian lifestyles. The harvesting of rice was really interesting. They also had experts come in and explain the details. Like they would submerge their canoes underwater when they migrated to different parts of the country.
Also, Lac Mills had this spiffy fish statue. I caught a fish this big once, but I let it go.
We stopped at the Paul Bunyan “Land” to see what all the fuss was about. It was kind of like Knotts Berry Farm minus all the fun. If you have young kids, they’d be pretty excited, but for two 29-ish-year-old guys… it was a hard pass.
We drove through the night, only to encounter massive fog all through Minnesota.
This is deer country, so fog + deer usually means terribly slow driving. The last thing we needed on the last day of our 2017 WVO Road Trip was a deer accident.
We pulled into Bemindji in the morning while it was drizzling out. Of course we had to visit the infamous Paul Bunyon and Blue Ox statues.
This place had a museum showcasing the local oddities and specialties. Basically, if you like logjams and axes, this place would totally lumberjack you off.
Before sunset, we passed through Rugby, North Dakota. This little town holds the title of the literal geographic center of the entire continent.
Sort of weird, but there is only three flags, for Canada, Mexico and the USA. But I always thought Greenland, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean were technically all nations residing under the aegis of “North America.” Maybe if they include the geography of those nations, it puts the “center” somewhere in southern Canada, and this little town will lose their title. LOL. Something to chew on.
There is a lot to see in Minot, North Dakota.
We cruised into town right around dinner time. Things were shutting down (this is North Dakota, so places don’t really stay open passed 6pm), so rushed to downtown and the visitor’s center for suggestions.
Minot has a really expansive Scandinavian museum. The inside and gift shop were closing, so we got a chance to chat with the staff before they headed home for the night.
Naturally, Glenn never misses an opportunity to have his genitals groped by a trollish looking geriatric.
They shut the place down, so we meandered the Scandinavian Heritage Museum grounds.
They have a legit old wood temple from the old country. Pretty astonishing.
Before the staff left, we asked them for something to eat that is different than anywhere else in the world. They said to go to Ebeneezer’s and eat some sort of Frog Burger. Intrigued, we tracked down the bar and grill, and ordered a few things. Turns out the frog burger wasn’t made out of actual frogs. Bummer.
This National Parks run fort is a great glimpse of the past.
Along our path, we noticed a fort on the horizon. We pulled off and it was a great place to stretch our legs and fill up the tank. Little did we know, it was much more expansive and comprehensive than expected.
The staff was really friendly. They had some people in character, so we got to ask a lot of questions and see them working on their stuff. They let you walk along the perimeter canopy to oversee the landscape. On the horizon, there was a train passing through.
The fort was situated on the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers. So I assume Louis and Clark passed through this area before the inception of the fort. A lot of history at these two rivers.
“Montana’s native people revere this boulder that once perched high atop a wind-swept ridge overlooking the Cree Crossing on the Milk River. The ancient, weather-worn effigy resembled the leader of a herd of reclining buffalo in an outcrop of gray granite. Ancient markings define its horn, eyes, backbone and ribs. Since late prehistoric times, native peoples of the Northern Plains have honored the Sleeping Buffalo’s spiritual power. Oral traditions passed down among the Cree, Chippewa, Sioux, Assiniboine and Gros Ventre as well as the more distant Blackfeet, Crow and Norther Cheyenne tell how the ‘herd’ fooled buffalo-hunting parties. While each tribe has its own culture and beliefs, all Montana tribes share worldviews. A Chippewa-Cree elder explained, ‘These rocks are sacred, just like our old people.’ Locals claim the Sleeping Buffalo, relocated to Malta’s City Park in 1932, was restless, changing positions and bellowing in the night. The Sleeping Buffalo found this final resting place in 1967 where the smaller ‘Medicine Rock,’ also collected near Cree Crossing, rejoined it in 1987. These timeless objects continue to figure prominently in traditional ceremonies, linking the present with the past when the power of the prairie was the buffalo.”
We finally made it back to the States!
Thankfully, the border agent didn’t make us endure a long investigation on when we crossed the border. He recognized we were having trouble (blown tires, vac pump issues, weak brakes, oil pressure) and gave us some advice. He suggested we go to Malta Montana and get some spare tires there.
This shop was able to get us a spare used tire same day. That was crucial because we weren’t about to hang out in remote Montana waiting for a low-quality spare tire.
Also, another shop was able to charge our AC after we found that the low-side nozzle was leaking. Glenn and I replaced the valve, and then went to the shop. The guy was really friendly and helped us out right away, since we were traveling through.
At the end of the day, we stopped at the nearby Great Plains Dinosaur Museum which was small, but good.
Just our luck, we got a second flat tire.
Driving south, we were hoping to make the border in the U.S. middle of the night. Everything was going according to plan.
On a completely standard road, the spare tire exploded. It even damaged my rear fender, bending the metal up into the wheel well. Great. Just my luck.
We put the two shredded tires on the top of the van and hoped we don’t have another flat. We don’t have any more spares, and we have over 1500 miles to go.
As the sun set on the Saskatchewan horizon, we approached the international border crossing. The people at the North Battleford Western Expansion Museum assured us that our rural crossing would be open after 8pm. As we drove up, we could tell that was totally wrong. Since we had no where else to go, we parked the van at the empty station and slept in the vehicle until the agent arrived.
At 8am, the American crossing opened, and the guy was thankfully really decent about things. We’ve crossed back into the U.S. in the passed and gotten hassled by pissy agents. But the guy kind of took pity on us, noticing our shredded tires on the top of the van, listening to our stories about the oil pressure failing and the vacuum pump going to hell, and having gotten shitty advice on when the border was open, forcing us to sleep on the side of the road. He told us to head to Malta for some decent American Ford service.
We had a swift visit to Swift Current Saskatchewan.
After we drove around the city (it was too late in the day to find a museum or site to see), we stopped off at the Boston Pizza to get some grub. The veg pump was running a bit light, so we elected to change out the veg filter while waiting for our food to be prepared.
Overall, the new filter didn’t really help much. The veg pump was weakening. It wasn’t the worst, it just proved to not supply enough grease to the IP on steep inclines or heavy loads. We had to slow down if we wanted to get over the passes, so it wasn’t until I got to Los Angeles before I could install a good 11.5psi Duralift E-pump to replace the 4-7psi one.
Hotel prices in Canada have dramatically increased over the last decade. Now you can’t find a decent hotel under a hundred bucks. Usually they exceed $150. Our hotel in North Battleford was really …. special. They had some interesting amenities, like hot soup for dinner and a burned out double-decker bus on the grounds. Spiffy.
What a terrible time to get a flat.
Heading back to North Battleford after visiting the Crooked Bush, we were enjoying the sunset when the rear driver’s side tire blew.
The funny thing was, this trip was by far our least dangerous journey. On all of our other WVO road trips, we ended up driving on crazy remote gravel and slate roadways into the bush, and the authorities always recommend bringing two extra full-size spares. To play it safe, we usually bring three spares. But since we knew this trip to Fort McMurray would result in some of the safest and paved roads in the history of our WVO trips, I thought two spares would be enough.
Well, not that this tire blew up, we only had one spare left on the upcoming 2000 miles of driving. We thought that should be good, for now…
A mutant grove of trees makes for a unique WVO roadtrip site.
A few dozen miles east of North Battleford in the heart of the Saskatchewan farmlands, there is a small local treasure. It’s called the Crooked Bush and we learned about it from an online conversation with a random person on the internet.
In my conversation, I was hoping the “Crooked Bush” was some sort of euphemism for something overtly sexual. Or maybe the long-lost mutant relative of George W Bush. But the more I researched it, the more I learned that it would be a good diversion on the trek.
It truly is an odd place. Since it’s such a remote place, I suspect not a lot of people make it up here. If you do happen to be in the area, can’t hurt to stop in.
In the middle of Saskatchewan, which is landlocked by the way, there is a lighthouse. Don’t even ask my why.
We visited a museum and ice cream stand while passing through.
We drove through the night from Fort McMurray and needed a place to stretch our legs. Glaslyn’s museum was open early and we got a chance to roam their grounds.
They have an old-timey water tower that you can enter on a tour.
Also, like most towns across Canada, they have a clusterfuck of stuff from the last hundred years of the town.
We met some old guys that were back in town for their 50th high school reunion. They remarked on a lot of the ancient equipment and helped us figure out what a lot of the stuff was designed to do.
The only thing open at this time of the day was Tara’s Pizza, and it wasn’t anything special. But since we didn’t have any restaurants for the next 300 miles, we figured beggars can’t be choosers.
The “Giants of Mining” is a park with the biggest mining shit I’ve every seen.
At the end of the road north of Fort McMurray, there is a turn-around loop. Only people working for the mining operations can go further. The rest of us have to head back to town.
Inside that massive loop, they have a special lot reserved for these massive mining machines. It’s extremely impressive.
On the northern horizon, you can see the mining and refining operations. The stacks were quite tall.
On one of the Oil Sands Discovery Center tours, we learned that most of the oil sands mining operations have discontinued the use of these huge diggers in favor of a more agile and mobile dump-truck method. I guess it takes too much money and time to set up these massive diggers.
Fort McMurray was the northernmost city of the 2017 WVO Road Trip
We had been driving for days, and we needed to find a hotel asap. We cruised the town for a bit to find a good hotel and get some more road trip supplies.
About half the town burned down in last year’s fires. So the GPS was hit or miss. Regardless, we found a place to stay, and the place was suffuse with contractors and laborers. Most were fascinated with the Veggie Van. Since a lot of them had been cooped up in Fort McMurray for too long, they were really chatty.
The next day, we visited the Oil Sands Discovery Center Museum. Pretty cool stuff.
It had an interior museum and also a huge lot with all sorts of mining machines scattered all over the place.
Overall, the Discovery Center was worth the visit.
In 2016, Fort McMurray was the setting of massive wild fires.
As we got closer and closer to the town, we saw acres and acres of burn areas. It was really disconcerting. Originally, we had planned on going to Fort McMurray in 2016, but due to the cracked block issue on the IDI engine, we had to cut the WVO trip short at Churchill Manitoba.
After seeing the aftermath of the devastation, we were really lucky things turned out the way they did.
We got into Cold Lake Alberta really late and parked at the Walmart to catch some Z’s.
The next morning, we checked out the Cold Lake Museum(s).
That place was expansive. It was an endless labyrinth.
The bugs up here are horrendous. We cleaned that windshield every 100 miles.
We passed through Meadow Lake Saskatchewan. Nice little town.
As we kept going northwest, we could see the northern lights on the horizon. Pretty cool. I’ve been living in Los Angeles too long… Never get to see that anymore.
We pushed on to Cold Lake. We wanted to get there to crash out for a few hours before the next big drive.
The NCMF is a hippy folk music festival in northern Saskatchewan.
We found a flyer for the festival in Big River. In order to get to Ness Creek, we had to drive more mud and gravel roads in the middle of nowhere.
The area was really pretty. Lots of trees and fresh air.
Eventually, we arrived. I expected the “festival” to be flooded with people. Instead, it had maybe about a hundred or so in the main music hall, while all their kids had to fend for themselves against the Canadian monster mosquitoes.
Overall, the music truly was good. And driving a veggie van to the hippy festival gave us instant street cred, however, I didn’t really feel like a part of the vibe.
We hung out for an hour or so, and then meandered the grounds.
There were several stands throughout the campus, and they had a lot of art stuff going on. It was getting dark, so we decided to keep on moving toward Cold Lake.
The day was slipping away from us, so we pulled into the tiny town of Big River.
Our GPS suggested we check out the “Big River Memorial Museum,” but it was clearly abandoned.
Near the “downtown,” there is a nice boat landing and beach to hang out. Since it’s now a few days from the Canada Day holiday, most people have left town to go back to work.
While we were here shitting, we saw a sign talking about a folk music festival in the restroom. That particular festival was literally starting in an hour. We talked to one of the locals about the festival and asked for directions. They said the “Ness Creek Music Festival” is pretty good, and if we had nothing to do, we should check it out.
Since it’s extremely rare to find things to do on these trips after 5pm, we jumped at the opportunity. Well, I jumped. Glenn sounded skeptical that it would be some hippy or hipster bullshit. Once we got there, he was proven right. Regardless, the music was really good.
After enduring some mechanical issues, we limped the van to Prince Albert.
We got into town really late, but just in time to get a bite to eat at Boston Pizza.
We ate our food and got back in the van to go our hotel room. Glenn drove from La Ronge to Prince Albert, and this was the first time I drove the van since the arduous trek across Highway 165. I immediately noticed the brakes were really soggy. I asked Glenn if he knew the brakes were busted. He said they started going limp a few hundred kilometers ago. WOW! We limped it to the hotel and knew right away the problem: Vacuum pump.
The next day, we had many fixes necessary. We added a mechanical oil pressure gauge, we replaced the IDI vacuum pump, and we checked everything over.
We had to spend an extra day in Prince Albert because our Vacuum Pump needed to be ordered from Edmonton. While we were there, we strolled around town and visited the local museum.
It doesn’t take long to walk around this town. Everything is relatively close together.
Once we finished all the repairs, we took off westward to make up some time. We heard some rattling on the roof rack, where we keep our spare scooters in case we break down too far from civilization to walk.
Turns out on one of the nights we stayed in Prince Albert, some dumbshit cut all our ratchet straps in order to try and steal our scoots. But the numbskull didn’t realize we had a thick bicycle lock on the scooters, so cutting our straps is just a waste of time. Wherever you are dumb-dumb, I hope you are not doing well.
We got to La Ronge hoping to find an autoparts store, however, none were open for business. That left us with a hard decision. We were planning on driving further north to see some of the various mining and First Nation towns, but with the rain and our oil pressure issues, we decided to hang out for a while and head south to Prince Albert. Prince Albert is a major town, and would have a lot more opportunities for us to repair the van.
In order to go from Flin Flon to La Ronge in a reasonable amount of time, we decided to gamble and take SK Highway 165. What we didn’t know, was this road was mostly mud, not gravel. Also, it had just rained. So, we spent the majority of our drive hoping we don’t get stuck or slide into the ditch. There was only one other truck on the road coming from the other direction when we drove it.
We were driving up to La Ronge, when our oil pressure gauge started acting funny.
We pulled over to check the fluid. There was some oil in the beast, so we figured it was the gauge. However, we never really could tell, so we limped it up to La Ronge in the hopes to make it to the NAPA before they closed.
The town of Creighton and the Saskatchewan border is just a mile west of Flin Flon.
Having been enamored with the splendor of Flin Flon, we pulled over to gyrate in Creighton.
Back to a more serious note, we continued on the highway, to find some more very interesting landscapes on the central Canadian tundra.
Flin Flon is one of the northernmost towns in Manitoba.
As you drive in, there is a museum about the history of Flin Flon.
Overall, it was a nice place to stretch our legs. All these Canadian towns have museums where they collect all the stuff from their 54-year history and call it historical.
Apparently Flin Flon’s biggest tourist attraction is a staircase. It’s called the “Hundred Stairs” or something. When you get there, you are completely underwhelmed, and you give it the ol’ “Hundred Yard Stare,” hence the name “Hundred Stairs.”
We spent the rest of the day getting lunch at some underwhelming sandwich restaurant and looking for a pair of pants. Everything was expensive.
As we drove further north, the trees started getting small, and the rock outcroppings became more prevalent.
It was a pristine wilderness, but lots of douchebags took the liberty to spray paint their lame names and graduation years on the rocks. If people want to leave their presence on the landscape, they should make an inukshuk.
After driving through the night, we found a park in The Pas for some gravel camping.