DAY ONE: March 30, 2008

The best laid plans of mice (Lynn) and men (‘DB’- Greg) oft go astray.

A 6:00 am departure from Yuma turned into a 1:00 pm departure due to an unplanned brake wiring ‘troll’. When DB (Dearly Beloved) tells me at 7:00 am “We’ll be a couple of hours”, my brain does the automatic translation: “We’ll be at least until noon”. We may have had a late take off, but DB’s talent as a mechanic likely saved us at least a day and mucho dinero (sp? don’t have a Spanish spellchecker!)

Once on the road, our old nemesis the wind, that had me cowering under the bed covers on the way south 5 months previously, again became our unwelcome companion. After 4 hours of fighting the steering wheel of this much heavier coach than the southward bound ‘house’, DB packed it in and we spent the night at a truck stop in Cabazon, Calif. Don’t bother looking it up, I’m sure the truck stop was the entire population.

On the way to our first stopover, we travelled through the Palm Springs area and were treated to a sight of mammoth proportions. Thousands, no exaggeration, of wind turbines (the modern day Dutch windmill) everywhere we looked. Climbing the hillsides, rimming the mountain tops like salt on a Margarita glass, row upon row in the valley floors on either side of the highway for miles on end.

“Landscape of our Future” is the thought that came to mind. I wanted to take a picture, but the only shot that would have done it justice through the windshield, had a mushy, yellow carcass of some rather large California bug planted right in the middle of the scene.

Other than being in the hospital recovering from surgery, this had to be one of the worst night’s sleeps I ever endured. First, I had to sleep in the red light district. Now before your very talented imaginations kick up to mock speed, allow me to explain.

It may sound weird, but I can’t sleep with any electronic, or otherwise, light in the bedroom. I have to cover the digital clock, the smoke alarm light (I’ve been known to climb up on the bed in a hotel room and put a bandaid over one! Wonder how long it took for someone to discover it?), and place pillows over any lights coming in under drapes. I travel with clothes pegs to hold drapes and curtains closed!

Yes, I do have an eye mask, but it leaves marks on my face for hours the next day.

Back to the red light. We had to leave the generator of the coach running during the night and guess where the indicator light was in the bedroom? Directly above my face! I was so tired I just gave in and thought I would give it a try. Wrong! Only light (no pun intended) sleep for me for about 4 hours.

Next…both Sid and Sol somehow got into the room and decided the bed was a great place for a play date. Added to that, Sid has recently decided that I need grooming while I’m asleep and proceeds to lick my hair which becomes tangled in his sandpaper tongue and the removal process sounds like a cross between gagging and regurgitating.

After none too gently removing them and closing the door again, I made another attempt to sleep. Within 5 minutes, they were back! We have pocket doors in the RV. Seems because we were on a slight slant, which allowed gravity to lend assistance, and Solomon being Mr. Muscle cat, he was able to get his paw into a space and push the doors open. Never underestimate a determined cat.

Then I was too hot, too cold, constantly serenaded by trains on tracks just across the highway. Why in the heck do they shrill their horns in the middle of the night, no population or intersection in sight?

I finally rummaged through a drawer and came up with my eye mask and a pair of earplugs and managed an hour of snooze before having to rise and take on my duty as map and road navigator for Day Two, grateful for the fact that I was comfy in my RV and not in a pup tent.

DAY TWO: March 31, 2008

B-o-r-r-r-i-n-g, but pleasant.

Except for climbing over Tijon Pass (4,100 ft.), Central California on I-5 is flat, straight and uneventful. A sunny day, calm winds.

Uneventful, that is, until a California Highway Patrol officer pulled us over. She said it was due to ‘speed’. We were going 70mph in a 70mph zone. Hmmmm. Seems we had “misinterpreted” signs. Any vehicle towing a trailer is restricted to 55mph. (b-o-r-r-r-i-n-g!).

After a chat about how we liked our RV, RV life and how her Dad wants to do it, but can’t convince her Mum, writing down DB’s driver’s license number and realizing we were from out of state/country, she said it was understandable that we were not really clear on the ‘rule’.

She said she would like to visit Canada one day but was afraid of the “Meese”. Yes, you read correctly and she was serious. Thinking ‘geese’ was the plural for ‘goose’, she assumed ‘meese’ was the plural for ‘moose’. After some hysterical snorting and choking back erupting laughter, we kindly informed her that there were no ‘meese’ in Canada and as for Moose (same singular as plural), we had never seen one in the wild our entire lives.

So off we went, no fine, pulled into a Flying J just south of Stockton for the night and finally got several grateful, continuous hours of sleep.

DAY THREE: April 1 2008

It seems to take forever to pass through California which is a very large, (north to south) state to begin with. And we covered it from south border to north border. At 55 mph, no less!

At one point in the mountains of northern California, I wondered why, at a temperature of only 20C degrees, I was very warm and sweating. Surrounded as we were with mountains and greenery, it suddenly dawned on me……H-U-M-I-D-I-T-Y! Something totally lacking in our desert environment of the past 5 ½ months. Oh yummy, my skin and eyes are loving it.

Speaking of ‘eyes’, Mt. Shasta is a feast for them as its snowy crown is visible for several hours to the north and east of us as we travel along.

Crossing into Oregon, DB can now boost our speed to 65mph, but the winding roads and continuous up and down grades of the mountains don’t allow him to experience the ‘thrill of the ride’ often.

We are bringing sunshine with us! The weather is perfect for travel.

Night time, as we close Day Three, finds us WalMart-ing it for the night in Roseburg OR, where I am able to bring up a very grainy TV picture to find out who was booted off Dancing With the Stars this week.

DAY FOUR: April 2 2008

Another gorgeous, sunny morn.

Continuing on I-5 north to the Oregon/Washington border, we then switch east on I-84 and follow the Columbia River gorge on the Oregon side to The Dalles (pronounced ‘dolls’) where we cross the river into Washington.

Was able to get some mid afternoon photo ops as you can see.

“The Dalles” Dam, Oregon
Columbia River Gorge, Oregon side

Now north on Hwy 97 to I-82 and into Yakima WA, where we check into Wally World Park ‘n Sleep for the night. Here is something I have never seen before….as we drove into the parking lot, the driver in a private security car with its flashing yellow light, motions us over to an out-of-the-way parking area for our 62 ft. of RV and trailer. The driver gets out of the car and guides us with the gesticulations of a well-practiced airport hanger line servicing crew member slotting a 747 (sometimes this ‘bus’ feels about that big!).

The security guard then walks over to our door, I open it from my navigator seat and say, “Thank you, Sir!” Sir turns out to be Ma’am. I think. My clue? S/he says something about being a ‘big woman’ and rarely gets run over. In my embarrassment, I’m doing the 3-second cursory evaluation and see a male haircut, a pot belly, nothing to put in a bra, a security uniform and cap, masculine hands, and hear a voice that could go either way.

Now s/he spots Sid in my lap goes pure mush. Turns out s/he looooves cats, gives Sid a pat and a scritch along with kitty-talk, wishes us a good night and walks away. Before I can close the door s/he is back and asks if Sid would allow her/him to hold him. More cooing, a snuggle and s/he reluctantly returns Sid to my lap.

Man? Woman wannabe? Man wannabe? Shrug. Loves cats though!

DAY FIVE: April 3 2008

As day dawns on an early Yakima morn, our constant sunshine companion is still with us. After robbing a bank and draining another diesel pump, we set out on what we plan to be our final stretch to home.

Through the edges of the Wenatchee Forest where winter remnants of snow patches dot the roadsides, we wind our way through the pine and fir sentinels standing guard along the narrow, curly ribbon of highway.

One does not ‘make time’ on secondary, 2-lane roadways. But, Canada Here We Come!

Just south of the Canadian border at Oroville WA, someone pulled the blind. We lost our sunshine!

Seems it was an omen of darker things to come….

O……M……G!!!

We ran smack up against the Canada Customs wall (figuratively).

We are now members of the elite “Do I HHHHHHHHHHHHHH ave a Custom’s Story For You” group. You always hear of them and pray that it will never happy to you. No such luck for us.

Every piece of paper needed to import our ‘newer’ coach with all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed were in order and ready to be presented.

We made our first stop at the US Customs office in order to first ‘export’ the coach. The agent looked at the papers, clicked on the computer for a few seconds, stamped the pages and said, “On your way”. Two minutes.

Now on to Canada Customs to ‘import’ the coach.

Thus began 4 ½ hours of intimidation, harassment, separating DB and I in interviews (interrogations), threats of seizure and criminal investigation, accusations, two lengthy, thorough searches of our RV, etc.

Why?

Because Canada Customs did not believe the price on the bill of sale or title papers for the Coach was truthful. A soft market in the Yuma area for RV sales allowed us to purchase at a lower than ‘book’ price and herein lay the problem.

At Customs it is the reverse of our legal system. You are guilty until proven innocent. We were not drug smugglers or terrorists, just importers of a USA purchased vehicle and this branch of the Canadian Federal Government was determined to get every dime of tax from us that they determined we owed. Isn’t it always about money???

I had visions of being tasered at any moment if we even tried to speak in our defense. Especially when a huge bear of an agent, who had 200 pounds and 2 ft. in height more than me, (I’m 5’ and 115 lbs), wearing a bullet-proof vest kept yelling at me to ‘let him finish’ every time I tried. That’s when he told us our RV was seized and threatened a criminal investigation of all our financial transactions. They were certain we had paid more for the RV than was stated on the official bill of sale and showed on the brokerage house transaction from our bank to the bank of the dealership. The inference was that we had colluded with the dealership to fudge paperwork.

Hours later, after a phone conversation between Canada Customs and the RV dealership who sold us the coach plus who knows what other kinds of invasions into our privacy and our lives, we were simply presented with a bill for the tax on the coach based on the purchase price. We paid it and left. And I drank a half bottle of wine while DB had a celebratory cup of “Timmy’s” coffee (unavailable in the USA)!

Since coming home and talking to others we find out that this is just a matter of course at Canada Customs for anyone importing a vehicle of any value. The exact same scenario for the exact same reason is constantly repeated. It must be ‘entertainment’ for the agents! We were told of one couple who took their complaint to their local Member of Parliament and actually got a phone call of apology from Canada Customs. Doesn’t seem to stop it though because it seems they don’t have to be held accountable.

Days later I can still feel the effects of the trauma and am using every tool I have at my disposal to heal. Just being able to write about this is good medicine. I am so grateful that I never had to work at a job that tears human beings down, traumatizes them or would put me in a position where I’d have to be suspicious and expect the worst of every person I met.

I am also grateful that we have people who protect us from those who would enter our country intent on doing harm. I do not envy them their position. And if it means that innocent citizens have to go through an unjust experience occasionally in order to protect Canada then so be it.

I guess it was just our turn.

So if you ever find yourself in this position, be forewarned. Stand your ground, don’t believe their intimidating threats, cooperate with respect and above all, remember you are a Canadian citizen and the onus of proof is on them.

Amen.

And so this chapter closes. We are home and happy for it.