Tag Archives: Canada

Random thoughts/month 5

27 Sep

This month we:

+ got a new GoPro! Yes, those suckers are indestructible in water, weather, and drops but apparently not to software updates. After an hour on the phone with a tech, a new one was shipped to us in Valdez, where we had to call the FedEx driver’s cell phone and arrange to meet up on the side of the highway to get the package. Ahhh, small town living!

+ watched a family of 4 adult bears catch and eat loads of salmon from a river while 3 baby bears climbed a nearby tree. It was amazing.


+ ran the generator practically every night, which is way too much. Hani designed the truck so that during the day, we flick a switch that turns on the solar panels to heat up the water. Problem is, in Alaska we didn’t get a lot of sun. So every night we had to run the generator to get hot water. Not very environmentally friendly but neither alternative of being stinky or taking cold showers was really an option.

+ also along those lines, had the heater going every night, just to get the chill and dampness out.

+ saw a whole lot of glaciers and even walked on one. Alaska is just packed with glacial activity and we couldn’t pass up a chance to see every one we came across. They are completely magnificent!


+ loved Haines. This small town is right on the water and has the most phenomenal views of mountains and glaciers and the ocean. In the few days we spent there, we saw bears and loads of bald eagles, caught the annual screening of White Fang (filmed in Haines), met the most amazing family living extremely remotely (post on that soon), saw the most intense collection of hammers, and finally bought a growler of a delicious brew at Haines Brewing Company.

+ wore our West Marine foul weather jackets fairly regularly and bought rain boots. They are clunky and manly but nothing beats having dry toes 🙂 Now, they are stowed away, hopefully never to be used again.

+ rode the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry). We debated whether or not to take the ferry because it’s so expensive but it was definitely worth it. It was a gorgeous ride, gave Hani a break from driving, and we got to visit cities we wouldn’t have had we drove. We hopped on the ferry in Haines and spent 10 days between Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, exiting in Prince Rupert, Canada. Each island was completely different geographically and culturally, with a huge influence from the First Nation people, spectacular totem poles, and peaceful views of the ocean.



+ replaced the starter. For a few days, it took a bit of work to get Skyhorse cranked up. We WD40-ed the crap out of that area, which helped for a while. And then, on the day we were catching the weekly ferry out of Sitka, we couldn’t start the truck at all. We were in a remote area where we barely had a phone signal and 3 hours before our ferry left. After working on the starter for almost 2 hours, Hani said to call AAA. Those must have been the magic words because Skyhorse cranked after that! By some miracle, we made it on and off the ferry to arrive in Ketchikan with enough sun (a 2 day long monsoon followed) for Hani to replace the starter. Too close of a call on that one.

+ finished up Alaska and re-entered BC Canada. Alaska was truly amazing and we visited pretty much every place we wanted to. Then we blew through Canada in less than a week. I would have liked to spend more time in Vancouver but Hani nixed that. Its a pain to maneuver Skyhorse in big cities. We did have some fab eats though (Thai, Maylasian, French pastries and Middle Eastern), always a #1 in our book!

+ are back in the US and excited for cheaper fuel, fantastic eats and brews and most importantly meeting up with friends and family! We spent a few days in Bellingham and now are in Seattle for the weekend, maybe longer. If you live in Washington, Oregon or California, let us know. We could be coming to your town next!


Random thoughts/month 4

26 Aug

We spent the good majority of this month in Alaska. It’s gorgeous here! People had been saying this was the warmest summer but I guess warm is all relative!


This month, we:

+ toured into the Yukon Territory. We stayed a few days in Whitehorse and Dawson City. And then left. Alaska was calling our name. Loudly.

+ took a shot with a toe in it. An actual human toe. In Dawson City, Yukon, this hotel bar is known for its “sourtoe” shot. You pick the alcohol (over 80 proof) and a creepy man in the back of the bar puts a frostbitten toe in your glass. It’s preserved in kosher salt and to count, the toe must touch your lips. Once you’ve completed this task, you are issued a certificate and your name goes into the master book. Hani and I were numbers 51,000something so we aren’t the only fools doing this!


+ brought Olivia to the vet. Unnecessarily. I thought she had ring worm. Turns out, she was bitten by a fly. $60 and 10 minutes later, we were told they heal on their own. Hani is still waiting for Olivia to pay him back.

+ arrived at mainland Alaska, thankfully away from high Canadian prices. We had been to Hyder and Skagway Alaska but to enter both of those cities, you take the one road in from Canada and have to go back out on the same road. We had the most pleasant border crossing just south of Eagle, Alaska, with the agent actually smiling and asking us questions about Skyhorse. We took the windy dirt road to Eagle, Alaska (town of 130) and then to Chicken (town of 8). Eagle was odd, as there was no city center. They had a massive glacial flood a few years earlier and then again last year that wiped out their restaurant/laundry/store. So now, there’s really no gathering place, aside from outside the library, the only place in town you can get free wifi. Chicken has 3 businesses, and RV park, and a bar. The bar is absolutely hilarious and the characters there made me miss Key West’s wackos. 🙂

downtown Chicken, Alaska

downtown Chicken, Alaska

+ seen veggies the size of my leg. No joke, the zucchini and squash here are so massive, they can be used as weapons.

+ hosted our first guest. On August 16, our south florida friend Peter joined us on our travels for 2 weeks around Alaska. It’s been really great showing him what we’ve been doing the past few months and exploring the state with him.

Peter and his ladies

Peter and his ladies

+ made some great new friends. In Skagway, we were flagged down by Jan and Gary in their old school car and invited to join them for dinner and drinks at the hostel they own. In Fairbanks, we meet our old coworker Bill and his wife Jan’s daughter Kelly. We spent a few days with her as she graciously cooked us dinner, let us do laundry and hosted a great time. Also in Fairbanks, we meet up with fellow travelers Erica and Sam in the visitor center parking lot. Hani was admiring their rig and Erica and I were messaging via Facebook, not realizing we were right next to each other. Typical. Hopefully well see more of them as they are traveling the same path as us.

+ toured the replica of the Into the Wild bus. The 49th State Brewery in Healy, right outside of Denali National Park, put the replica there (complete with Chris’ photojournal) after several people died trying to get to the real bus. The real bus is along the Stampede Trail and still really remote and in a very dangerous location. The replica bus was just as good for me, as was the beer inside the brewery 🙂


Chris McCandless' final note

Chris McCandless’ final note

+ had an awesome time at Denali National Park. We got to our campsite inside the park around 1am so we didn’t see anything, besides the gigantic moose right as we entered the park which Hani thought was fake. The next day was pretty miserable. We sat on a bus all day (that’s the only way to get around once inside the park). It was cold, rainy, and super cloudy outside so we couldn’t see any mountains or landscape. The second day totally made up for the first. We hopped on the first bus that approached us in much better weather to find Hani’s childhood friend Chris there. We knew he was going to be in the park around the time we were but didn’t know where he was staying or what his plans were. And with no cell service, there was no way to coordinate anything. It was absolutely hilarious and random that we happened on HIS bus and ended up having a fabulous time as a result! We went with his group on a hike that was probably the most intense hiking we’ve done so far. The best part (aside from making it to the top before Hani did) was running downhill in tall wet grass the last half mile to catch the bus back to our camp. We stopped the bus in the middle of the road and got the funniest looks as we boarded sweaty and out of breath.



with Peter and Chris at the top of the mountain we climbed

with Peter and Chris at the top of the mountain we climbed

+ went to the fair! I haven’t been to a fair since I was little and Hani humored me by seeing all my favorites: the farm animals and bunnies!!

Rat Race gambling game at the fair

Rat Race gambling game at the fair

mini goats!

mini goats!


+ passed through Anchorage for a delicious brunch with Hani’s high school friend Erin, who is vacationing here. It was great to hear about her Alaskan experiences camping around the state.

+ traveled from the southernmost point in the US (Key West) to the northernmost road in the US (Eagle, Alaska) to the westernmost road in the US (Homer, Alaska).

+ are currently traveling through the Kenai Peninsula. It was a gorgeous drive down from Anchorage. We hung out with our Key West friends Velia, Kevin and Eric in Soldotna, went to Homer, the end of the road, and are now in Seward. All had great breweries:). Peter leaves Thursday so we are trying to make the most of our time and see as much as possible before bringing him back to Anchorage. And from there, we’ll make our way out of Alaska. It’s beautiful here but getting colder and colder. We’ve had a few days of dreary rain and a few days of sunshine but from talking to the locals, the rainy days are going to outnumber the sunny ones soon.

Homer, Alaska

Laying low

31 Jul

After the incident with the motorcycle, we continued west to Prince George, BC, the last major city we would come across for a while. This was around the time when the royal baby was born. There was a frenzy of talk on the radio that since the royal baby was named George, tourism in Prince George would surely be up. I’m not exactly sure why anyone would purposely vacation in Prince George.

The town was one big American box store after another, incidentally just what we needed to refuel and stock up. We ended up shamelessly parking in a Walmart/Home Depot/Canadian Tire parking lot for 2 days, shopping, blogging and taking overall inventory of the truck.

The day we were going to drive off, Hani got the brilliant idea to clean the transfer case (used to shift into 4-wheel drive) and noticed it was leaking. We had to call around to figure out how to diagnosis and fix the problem. And then, since we didn’t understand the proper type of oil to refill it with, we ended up driving to Hani’s home away from home, Napa (I swear we visit one in every city). Turns out, the Canadian Tire we were parked in front of for 2 days carried the proper oil, we just didn’t know it. Duh.

An early-morning-all-day drive ended up being a pretty short one. We got a late start with all this transfer case business. Our next planned destination was Stewart, BC/ Hyder, Alaska. The towns of 1,000 and 100 respectively are cute lil towns that everyone said not to miss. So we took the more rural drive along highways 16 and 37. As we continued northwest about to start looking for a spot to park for the night, our high temperature alarm went off and under the hood was smoking. We were forced to pull to the side of the road to fix the problem. Our coolant hose busted completely in half. And of course, we didn’t realize that was the problem until AFTER Hani refilled the coolant with all that we had. Fluorescent green all over the street. Luckily, because he’s just as much of a pack rat as I am, we had the proper sized hose to replace the bad one. Which we did. On the side of the road. We ended up parking in some guy’s backyard that night not wanting to drive after all that had happened. Thank you sir!

I guess we have bad luck sometimes. Or maybe its just part of the adventure. Whatever the case, the next morning, Hani went to check the hose he had fixed the night before. He refilled our coolant with water because that’s all we had. And as fate would have it, a clamp broke off the power steering line. Red goo all over the place. Obviously, we had 100 other clamps and fixed it but we weren’t having any more incidents! Over the next 3 towns we went to, we hit up every auto parts store and stocked up on hoses and coolant and fluid and belts and god know what else and spent like $200+ on extra, potential emergency parts. We finally made it to Stewart, BC after blowing our $100-a-day budget by spending almost $500 on extra parts and fuel (got a discount because Hani was chatting with a local) and having a fitful night fighting mosquitos that came through some mysterious crack in the truck. We needed to sit and lay low. Stewart and Hyder were just the places.

We’ve spent the past few days bouncing back and forth across the border in these 2 towns. I use the term “border” very loosely here. When you cross here, there is no one on the US side. Not even a building set up. You just drive right in. But they stop you at the Canadian side, no clue why. There’s really nowhere to go.


Hyder is known as the “friendliest ghost town.” There are like 3 stores here. And a post office in a trailer. After you pass the town, there’s a national forest where you can see salmon swimming in Salmon River (and if you are patient enough, you’ll see bear feasting on them—we weren’t) and Salmon Glacier. And then the road ends and you have to turn back around and go through BC Canada to get to the rest of Alaska. The glaciers here are amazing and you are literally surrounded by mountains and glaciers once you drive about 20 miles outside of Hyder. It’s gorgeous!

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Stewart has a bit more going on with some grocery stores, restaurants and an awesome park and boardwalk preserve.


And yeah, that’s about it. If we aren’t looking at glaciers and acting as appetizers for mosquitos, we are cleaning and reorganizing and just sitting back but heading out tomorrow. There’s only so much “nothing” I can take before I lose it. We have a long rural 1,000 mile drive ahead through BC and the Yukon before we get to Dawson City, or wherever we cross into Alaska. And we will have whatever part we could possibly need, should another incident come our way.

a sign of better things to come?

double rainbow! a sign of better things to come?

Down But Not Out

29 Jul

I hear honking and see the car behind me quickly move next to me into the oncoming lane, driving all over the road trying to get my attention.  I look in my rear view mirrors to see if Skyhorse was safe.  A week ago, one of the exterior storage compartment doors opened while we were driving and an unopened two gallon jug of motor oil ($30) flew out, spilling all over the dirt road.  From that experience, I felt that something was wrong.  Looking back, I could see no problems but I knew something was wrong and the fact that I couldn’t see a problem made we even more worried.  The worry was a fear that sat low in my stomach.  When I was in grade school, my teachers would walk around the classroom handing back tests face down on our desks.  I would look up at their faces.  The times I saw distant eyes or movement in their mouths is when I would have the same fear I was now feeling.

I stop.

Sarah tells me to turn on the rear view camera.  I turn it on.  The screen flashes on and immediately we realize we can’t see the motorcycle that we carry on the rear.  We run to the back (my door is still open) and the bike is upside down still attached to the truck with the handlebars on the pavement.  The smell of gas spilling hits me.  The cover hides the bike and I don’t know the extent of the damage.  Part of me wants to keep the cover on and not know how screwed we are.  On the other hand, I want to get it off right away and know.  Isn’t always the case that we have interior movements that are opposed to one another at difficult times?

In my earlier days, I would always move forward without much regard to the future.  I have slowed down that forward motion and many a time chosen not to get involved with certain people.  The realization that some people will drain you, no matter what they are offering, is a life lesson.  It is important to heavily participate in the selection process.  In this situation, I didn’t have a choice.  The cover needed to come off in order to right the back and place it on the truck again.  The well-dressed gentlemen who alerted to the accident, stayed with us and helped us right the bike.  He stayed until I told him we were stable.  In fact, he was ready to help lift the 300-pound bike back on the truck by hand not realizing we had a winch to lift it.  It felt good to be surrounded by a person who truly cares and willingly to place himself in your situation.  I think when you see a disaster unfold before your eyes you are helplessly compelled to be part of it.  When he parted he wished us well and said with an accent “hopefully I will see you in better times.”

The cover came off.  The gauges, front master cylinder, and mirrors were ground down.  I put the key in the bike.  I needed to know how bad off we were.  It cranked up, shifted, lights and rear brake worked.  I was relieved.  The street we were on had minimal traffic and drivers had been stopping all along it to view wildlife.  We were lucky that we did not have to be rushed.  I didn’t want to rush and Sarah can’t work fast.  Sarah was there in full force helping.  She is very caring and I could tell she was really concerned about the situation even though she is not a big fan of the bike.  Sarah’s caring is a trait I cherish.  When I get worried about the future or we are arguing, I know in the end, she will always care about me, probably more than I do about myself.  She really knows how to love.  Of course when you’re in the middle of an unpleasant situation the fact that the love of your life is next to you helping is obscured.  I guess that’s why having perspective is valuable to access events.  I wanted to take the bike on a ride to test it.  Sarah objected and I didn’t want to push my luck.  We loaded it back on the truck.

The previous night, we camped next to Pyramid Lake on the outskirts of Jasper.


I thought we would have been asked to leave because it’s near a park.  I figured we would test the Canadians.  Night one was successful and we even had some French neighbors in a campervan.  I wasn’t going to try my luck again, but the neighbors were going to.  We had a late start to the day and the motorcycle debacle didn’t get me in the mood to drive.  An accident takes your sense of security away.  You don’t trust your skills and knowledge.  So we returned to stay another night at Pyramid Lake.

At 1am we had a visitor, the law.  Sarah asks if we she should answer the door, I say no.  After four separate knocks, Sarah caved.  She tried to talk him into letting us stay for the night.  He was not having it.  He said we needed to go to campground.  The nearest one was about seven miles and $30.  I thought, screw it I’m up lets make our way down the road to our next stop.  Sarah said what about animals.  We make our way to the city center where two massive elks were grazing in a public square.  I agreed with Sarah.  Jasper is a small town and we are notable.  It would be hard to find a spot at night where the law wouldn’t find us.  We could have gone to the campsite.  I didn’t want Johnny law to win and it was a challenge for me so we drove around for almost an hour.  I parked in an apartment complex parking lot.  An hour into it, we saw some kid leave a note on the windshield.  It said we needed to leave or we would be towed.  In the space that asked for Province, he put “florid.”  The vehicle description was “Magic Bus Mobile Home.”  The note alone made the experience worthwhile.  He let us sleep and didn’t knock.  Thanks for the note kid.


At 8am, a middle-aged man with a clipboard knocked on the door.  I opened the window and told him I needed a few minutes and we would be out.  He was satisfied and walked away.  Sarah was still in the plane.  I drove with her still in it.  In my heart, I want to believe that Sarah felt like the plane was flying.

I headed to the only station that sold diesel.  I look to my left while I fuel and I see the man who helped us yesterday.  He still expressed regret for our misfortune.  He is from Israel.  I tell him my wife is Jewish.  Sarah didn’t believe me that I told him that.  As an ethnic person, I can appreciate people feeling at ease at meeting a person from their same background.

Random thoughts/ month 3

26 Jul

I can’t believe this is the first real post since last months wrap up! We’ve been busy spending time with friends and just having really long days. The farther north we drive, the more hours of sunlight we seem to get. We spend our days either driving or checking out a town/landmark and don’t park for the night until 8/9pm (the sun doesn’t set until 10ish, its nuts). After we eat dinner, shower, and settle on a movie to watch, we are spent. Thus, few blog posts. Apologies! 20130724-173953.jpg This month I:

+ spent a lot of time with friends and friends of friends and loved every minute! In Denver, we spent time with our KW friend Susan’s friend Estrella, her husband and sister in law at a rainy outdoor jazz concert. In Boulder, we hung out with my high school friend Zane and met her husband and adorable twins. We also met our coworker Trish’s friend KayCee and her family and had a fabulous time at a dinner party at their house. In Fort Collins, we relaxed with Hani’s friend Phil and his wife while they were childless for a few days. From there, we went to Buford, Wyoming to see Hani’s friends Lori and Laurie who work the Spence TLC “summer camp”. Both live off the grid in the middle of literally nowhere and it was great to sit on an open porch and stare into space with nothing to do. We continued the TLC trek by heading next to Dubois to visit the Thunderhead Ranch and see the managers Kate and Gregg. It was really cool to see where Hani spend 3 weeks last summer and watch as he relived those moments. In Bozeman, Montana, we spent time with one of my oldest friends Jennie, her husband and new baby. After seeing so many new places and people, it was really comforting to reconnect with an old friend. All in all, the new people we meet are great but nothing beats an old friend.

+ learned creek, as in a body of water, is really pronounced crick in the west. And people will look at you funny if you say “creek.”

+ am surprised by the quality of food at Walmart. I feel like such a traitor to Target, the happiest place on earth, but Walmart products are great AND inexpensive. And they carry an impressive organic selection.

+ never thought I’d miss watching Seinfeld so much that I’d buy the DVDs. Who buys a show that’s on tv 24/7? We do.

+ don’t think country music is so bad anymore. Shut up Kevin.

+ spent quality time with fellow travelers. While in Denver, we got a tweet from Maria and Brian of The Roaming Pint, wanting to meet up. They are our age and have been RVing full time for 3 years. We grabbed lunch, some beers, walked the downtown and then took all of our dogs to the dog park. We had a great time and enjoyed picking their brains about where to go since they’ve done it all.

+ experienced 3 hail storms. 3! I don’t think I’ve seen 3 hail storms in my entire life let alone in a month!! The craziest was in Buford, WY where it literally looked like snow afterwards. See our Facebook page for the pictures!

+ visited 3 national parks in the US: Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier and 2 in Canada: Banff and Jasper. We saw elk, moose, bison, bears (grizzly and black), a bald eagle, mountain goats, and big horned sheep. We kayaked, hiked and saw some gorgeous sites. In Glacier, we road the motorcycle all through the park. It was an awesome way to experience the park. Our parks pass was definitely worth it!

+ discovered lakes are petty awesome! I used to think oceans were the only legitimate body of water but I’ve been proven wrong. We’ve seen some kick ass lakes in the Tetons and Montana that have been fabulous to kayak in. Even the pups enjoyed some time in the kayak on Canyon Ferry Lake in Montana. Though we didn’t go in, the lakes in Alberta, Canada are breathtaking. They are mostly from glaciers and are crystal clear and simply perfect.

+ realized timing really is everything. In Banff, Alberta Canada, while Hani was shopping in the hundredth bookstore of our trip, he got to talking to Andrew, the owner. Andrew sold Hani a Moon travel book on Western Canada since we don’t know the area or anyone here. That night, as we were reading through the book, Hani realized Andrew was the author. The next day, we went back to the bookstore to have him autograph the book and he invited us to his house that night for dinner. We had the best time meeting his family and friends. One of the couples at Andrew and Dianne’s that night was Shannon and Chad, who own a chalet that we were going to pass on our way to Lake Louise. The next day, we shopped at Baker Creek Chalet, met the staff and had coffee with Shannon and Chad. They gave us tips on lakes and landmarks to hit at Lake Louise. And after a long day of hikes and lakes, we went back to park at their place for the night. They were gracious hosts even as they were dealing with a packed business. Hopefully, we’ll see them on the road as they begin their own travels soon.

+ was in 3 states, crossed a border and in 2 territories. As we head farther north, things get greener and more lush and the days are longer. Crossing into Canada was not the best experience though. We rolled up to the border at 6pm not really thinking we needed much else besides our passports. I guess I just thought it would be like the US, very hands off. But they searched Skyhorse and it was so unsettling. I mean, if it was just a car, who cares. But this is my home. My underwear is here. It was eye opening and I won’t take the Mexican border this lightly.

Stuff no one tells you: Canada

25 Jul

We entered Canada a week ago and it’s been an interesting experience. Consider this your unofficial guide to Alberta and British Columbia Canada. If only people had given us the real heads up beforehand…

It is simply amazing here. A-may-zing. You drive right next to mountains. The Canadian Rockies are really something else. And they are far more dramatic than mountain ranges in the States. Like, they are right there next to you. I had no idea how beautiful it would be here. I can’t even choose a favorite picture because they are all unbelievable and look like paintings (none are edited or touched up, by the way).

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Distances are VERY deceiving. A millimeter  on the map is really 500 miles. Seriously. We crossed into Canada July 18 in BC which quickly turned into Alberta Provence, hit Banff, Jasper and are now in Prince George, BC and we are STILL so far away from Alaska. Like over 1000 miles away. And after this town, I don’t think there’s very much until we get to Alaska.

Wildlife is literally on the side of a random road. It’s awesome because the animals just don’t care. And neither do the tourists. We’ve seen people park their cars in the middle of the highway (they call the subsequent backup a “bear jam”) and get right in the animals’ faces.

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Things are insanely incomprehensibly expensive here.$5 a gallon for gas. $7 for a box of cereal. $13 for a SIX pack of crummy beer and $50 for a 24 pack of Budweiser. $50 for a handle of Captain Morgan (are you dying, D??). I’ve never seen so many people walk out of a liquor store with PBR, which incidentally was the cheapest beer at $20 for a 13 pack. I found my favorite Zin on sale (read: US regular price) and I’m kicking myself for not buying more. Actually, we contemplated going back across the border simply to stock up on beer! Not an option now but had we known earlier, we definitely would have been crossing with our own personal liquor store in tow.

See, I'm not lying!

See, I’m not lying!

And along the lines of extreme expenses, national parks here cost $20 A DAY versus in the US it’s $20 for 7 days in the park. There are checkpoints throughout the park system and you must have your receipt of payment taped to the windshield at all times. The major highway runs right through the parks so even if you are just driving through the park, you have to pay the $20 rate. Thankfully, its not enforced unless you cross a checkpoint. Also while in the parks, you MUST stay in designated campgrounds and that is not advertised openly. You just have to know it, otherwise you run the risk of being woken up at 1am and forced to move even though there’s not a “no parking” or “no overnight camping” sign. Thanks Alberta parks guy! And the campground cost $30 night for no services. While in Banff, we were fortunate enough to get to the campground late, were placed in an overflow lot, thus paying only $9 a night for the same view everyone else had. Pretty sweet!

Alberta is a mosquito haven! And its not just the backcountry, even the cities are rampant with those little beasts. You have to keep moving, cover every inch of skin and and douse yourself in deet to not get eaten alive. Southern BC was pretty bad too but since we’ve been in Prince George, haven’t seen any. Fingers crossed it gets better because my body can’t take much more!

We just re-entered BC and have a long way to go before leaving the country. Hopefully there won’t be any more surprises…