Tagged with " oops"
Oct 16, 2009 -

Descent Into Hell

The next time I have a choice between the longer, flatter, and better known road and the shorter, steeper, and lesser known road, I should pick the former.

I left the Chasm mid-morning, drove into Cache Creek where I gassed up without incident, and then double-backed to the junction to the 99 Sea to Sky highway.

For days I had been debating whether or not to take this road. Everything I’d heard about it told me that I was a difficult but rewarding road that could be done by RV. It was also the most direct route to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.

I made a lot of bad decisions that morning, the most unforgivable of which was not trusting my gut feeling. I have an uncanny sense of intuition and it’s always when I ignore it that I get into the worst trouble. As it was, I drove down to the town of Lillooet, before which the 99 turns into the town and continues on while there is also the option of continuing straight and doubling back to Cache Creek.

The drive from Cache Creek to Lillooet was hard. I averaged 20km an hour down short hills and around hairpin turns in low gear. Mistake number one was assuming that I was in a situation similar to the Cassiar and that things would improve.

Mistake number two was not taking a longer lunch at the viewpoint before the start of a steep section known locally as the Duffy. Had I done so, I would have hit that 13km stretch with cold brakes. As it was, they were already warm from over one hundred kilometres of pumping.

Otherwise, I did what I needed to do, gearing down with the occasional bit of pumping, but I was picking up speed. Someone was pushing me to go faster (idiots!) so I tried to pull over to let him pass and this is when I discovered that my brakes felt mushy; there is no other way to describe it. It was too late to use the emergency brake to stop at that tiny turn off, but there was a sign promising a runaway lane a short distance later, so I decided to just pump the brakes to there.

Someone was parked in the runaway lane. I just hope that this person was in the throes of his or her own emergency. Otherwise, they owe me four thousand dollars.

My brakes were barely responding by this point and the next runaway lane was more than one kilometre ahead, with two more sharp turns. I was geared down and pumping was no longer working. Material damage no longer mattered. I did the only thing that worked, keeping my foot on the brake, and that slowed me down enough to get around the turns safely. I knew I was staring at death right in the face, but there was no time to panic or have a breakdown. I kept my composure and did what I needed to do to get off that road alive.

I just about flew into the runway lane where I landed with a loud bang I’m sure was a brake-related component failing. There was a lot of smoke and I quickly got the toad out of the way. A couple pulled in behind me and I thought that they were there to check up on me, but I quickly realised that they were completely oblivious to the fact that I was not there by choice.

The echoing boom of an exploding tire finally made them conscious of the fact that all was not well with me. We could see licks of flames under Miranda, so I ran for the fire extinguisher while the man ran for a jug of water he had in his car. We got the fire out with those and I emptied the grey tank into a bucket to further cool down the burning tire.

They stayed with me for a good half hour, until I felt sure that the crisis had passed and that there would be no more fires. They then followed me into the nearby town of Pemberton to make sure my toad was okay.

Nothing other than the Petro-Canada seemed to be open in town since it was Thanksgiving. I resigned myself to spending a very long night on the mountain.

Returning to Miranda, I came to my senses and realised that I was blocking a runaway lane! This was absolutely unacceptable to me, even if I was in the midst of a genuine emergency. There was a short spur off the lane, long enough to tuck Miranda into, so I got back behind the wheel and used the emergency brake to jockey her into position.

It was early, only about four o’clock by that point, and I had rarely felt so alone and vulnerable in my life. On a whim, I picked up my cell phone and found that there was service! Without even thinking about it, I called my mother.

It was about seven when I finally went into shock. Even though it wasn’t the least bit cold, I could not warm myself up, so I finally conceded defeat and crawled under as many covers as I could.

Followed the second longest night of my life.

I got up at 7:30 the next morning without having slept a wink and tried to decide how best to proceed in getting myself safely off that mountain. I decided that since I had cell service I would try to call for help rather than driving back into town. Roadside assistance wanted to send me a tow truck from Whistler for a 150$ premium so I decided to go my own route and try to find someone local. Thing was, my GPS had only one local auto place in memory.

Mr. Napa guy who picked up thank you. When I asked if they offered towing, he said no, but that he could give me a few numbers. What sort of vehicle did I have? Oh, a motorhome? Then that brought the choices to only one, Off Road Hooker. Have him bring you to Olemotors. Both will take good care of you.

I called Off Road Hooker (love the name, btw!) and was promised help within twenty minutes! It wound up being closer to an hour, but still! I hadn’t made breakfast yet figuring that I would do so after everything was settled as I would surely have hours to kill.

The driver hooked up Miranda very easily, to my surprise. I thought that she was badly positioned for towing, but he had no problem getting her out of there. I was complimented on the fact that I’d tucked her out of the laneway. The driver told me to follow him and I said that I wanted to go to Olemotors. He smiled and said “Ole’s waiting for you, spoke to him on my way here.”

Olemotors is located in the industrial park about 6km shy of Pemberton proper. There, I was told that it would be a few hours before Miranda could be looked at an an estimate given. I was advised to back her up against the fence where there are 15A electrical hookups and was also given instructions for getting to a nearby coffee shop offering wi-fi.

At first, I was annoyed that I had to move Miranda myself and I didn’t have much fun manoeuvring the rig into place with just the emergency brake, but being behind the wheel did give me back a much needed feeling of control.

A few hours were killed at the coffee shop and then I came home. The following is soooo embarrassing, but too funny not to share. I had no sooner sat down on the toilet than my house started moving!!!!!!!!!!!! The mechanic was driving Miranda into a service bay without realising I was home! I think he had a heart attack when I came out the front door as soon as we were parked.

I was invited to sit in a warm break room while the damage was evaluated. I think that took all of twenty minutes. The diagnosis was that I needed a complete brake job, but the good news was that I had managed to spare my bearings. I was chastised for not gearing down and I indignantly stood up for myself. The Duffy is a menace, plain and simple!

The evaluation done, Ole called to get quotes for parts and I parked myself for the night, then went out to the coffee shop for a bit more internet checking and some dinner.

The evening was quiet and at about six Ole knocked on the door to let me know he was leaving and to give me his home number in case I needed anything. The last worker on site left at 8 and also came by to let me know he was leaving and locking the gate behind him.

Feeling very safe, I went to bed and slept well.

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British Columbia, Canada, Driving, Funny, Maintenance & Repair, Nice Folks, Personal, Social, Technical, Travel    26 Comments
Oct 16, 2009 -

Plans Undone and a Chasm Respite

I  had a pretty good night at the turnout even though I practically woke to a gale, with Miranda rocking back and forth. I had coffee and the rest of the bannock, then set off under a clear a sky at about 10.

My first stop of the day was Kitwanga where there is a side road that goes through ‘town’ and loops back to the Cassiar. I took this loop road because it announced a nearby Parks Canada site of a First Nations battleground. I enjoyed the walk down to and up the hill.

Lunch was had at a pull-out just before Smithers and then I headed to my destination for the night, an RV park just east of Houston, 300km shy of Prince George. I followed the signs for the park, all of which proclaimed it was open… except for the one after the last turn that ended in a shut gate.

I found myself in a situation not unlike that back in Manitoba, caught in a turn where I couldn’t unhook. This time, backing up with the toad and doing a million point turn wasn’t even an option seeing as the road was very narrow and bordered by ditches. The only possibility I could see was to cross a culvert and turn around in a big field. I got out and checked the culvert, finding it sturdy. The field was pot holey and definitely not a place I would have voluntarily taken Miranada and the toad into, but I felt confident that I could get turned around without doing any damage or having to unhook. I was right. Whew!!!

With all of that, I forgot that I was low on fuel and left civilization without gassing up. 50km from Houston, I woke up in that regard and realised that I was staring at a bunch of long uphill stretches with no gas in sight and a gas gauge needle dipping deeply into the red. This was the first time I have ever come close to running out of gas and I figured I’d used up all my luck for the day. Both the GPS and the Milepost were in agreement that the nearest gas station in either direction was too far away.

So, you can imagine that when I saw a sign in the distance announcing gas, I thought it was a mirage. 😀

As it turns out, it was a pump on a native reserve, not a proper gas station. But there was a sign announcing prices for status and non-status folks, so I figured I could gas up there. The pump was in the middle of a perfectly-sized roundabout, full-serviced, and offered the cheapest gas I’d seen since Whitehorse (1.03).

I wound up being there almost an hour seeing as my credit card would not go through after several attempts. I called the company to see if there was a security hold on the card, but no. The very helpful person I spoke to suggested that the problem might be with the POS terminal, not my card. The attendant was a young gal fairly new on the job and I coached her on how to call for POS support. Sure enough, there was a glitch with their system and she was walked through the process of resetting the terminal. My card went through fine after. Had the problem been on my end, I would have used an alternate method of payment, but since the problem was theirs and it was more convenient to pay with my credit card than with another method I had no problem with the time the transaction took. Moreover, I think I did the girl a favour showing her what I knew about POS machines.

Like the day before, I pushed on in search of a non-advertised RV park or other legal overnighting option, but found none. I reached the end of the Cassiar and turned east onto Yellowhead highway 16, which also does not permit boondocking. Here, the reason is obvious with frequent billboards reminding people, especially women, that the road is nicknamed ‘The Highway of Tears’ because many young women have disappeared on it. There is a strong possibility that a serial killer is stalking this desolate stretch of highway.

The sun was very low in the sky by the time I passed Vanderhoof, so I decided to just take the plunge and limped all the way to the Walmart in Prince George, covering in total that day more than seven hundred kilometres!

There were signs at the Walmart that overnight parking is not permitted, but there were so many RVs parked that I just ignored the signs. I’m such a rebel!!!

It was COLD in Prince George and I turned on the furnace for the first time. It would have been nice the other nights, but this night it was no luxury.

I didn’t sleep at all; it was just too light, noisy, and COLD. I was cranky and just wanted to get out of civilization. Last time I was in Prince George I stayed for a few days at Les Doll’s place, but that detour didn’t fit in with my itinerary this time around. I instead decided to go back to the Chasm and spend two nights there.

The morning was spent running errands, including a quick run into Canadian Tire where I actually ran into Les. What are the odds?!

It was sooo good to be back on the road, even with the construction coming out of Prince George. It was nice in a way to be back in familiar territory, especially since I was out of fresh water and driving with full black and grey tanks. My first stop of the day was going to be Quesnel, which has some of the best RV facilities in the west; a large day parking area, dump station, and potable water pump, all free. Taking on water was fine, but my holding tanks were frozen solid!

From Quesnel, I drove straight back to the Chasm, knowing I was racing the light. I pulled into the turnoff at bang on six. The turnoff was in worse shape than it was in the spring, very muddy and without a single level spot. I unhooked and drove Miranda into an area below the turnoff with a couple of fairly level places to park if you don’t mind doing a bit of a dance with your RV to get into the right position. I didn’t mind the work, finding this spot more suitable for a long stay than is the turnoff.

I spent a quiet evening reading and watching a movie. I had a rare good night’s sleep.

The next morning was bright and cold… and my fresh water tank was frozen solid. I had to laugh. I grabbed a bucket and made a couple of trips down to the creek to get some slush to melt for washing purposes and as well as some drinking water from the spring to boil for drinking. Life without amenities suits me, I’ve discovered. Had I not needed to haul water I would have probably not had any exercise that morning.

It was a quiet, homey day, where I got caught up on my sewing (!) and cleaning. Some people walked past Miranda a few times to take in the view of the Chasm, but no one bothered me. I was relaxed and pleased that I was only a day away from the ferry terminal, two days from Croft’s. My journey was practically over and I could relax…

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Oct 16, 2009 -

Somewhere on the Stewart-Cassiar

The night on the Tanzilla River was chilly, but I’d bundled up and was quite comfortable. It’s amazing how being just 200km due south of somewhere brings you into a new climate. The morning was overcast, damp, and snowy, but warm. I puttered around outside for a bit and then came in to make bannock and a pot of coffee, relishing the fact that I could leave as late as I wanted. I read for a couple of hours and headed out shortly before noon.

I thought it would be an uneventful exit from the campground. I just had to back the toad onto the laneway, drive Miranda carefully around the trees, hook up, and go. The first part of that plan ended with a thud as I backed the toad right smack into a tree. Why, praytell, can I back up a 31′ motorhome with blind spots the size of New Jersey and never hit anything, but backing up a small car ends up with damage more often than not?! Oh, the toad was just fine, not even a scratch or dent on it, but that poor tree. :LOL:

The next town was Iskut, where I gassed up at a station that was super easy to get in and out of. Like at all BC gas stations, there was a sign indicating that I needed to prepay, so I went in and asked to be charged for 150$ worth of fuel. The lady would not run my card through, disbelieving that I could take on that much. She told me to go fill up as much as I could while she held on to my card. Of course, I was able to take on that much fuel. 😀

The day was all about scenery. I stopped at a rest area at Bob Quinn Lake where I met an Alaskan part-timer, a feisty dame named Lynn who travels in a spacious class B with her adorable little dog Maya. Lynn has ‘been Outside fifty-six or fifty-seven times’, spending her winters somewhere warmer than Alaska. This day, she was zipping along as she was on schedule to be in northern Washington state in a few days. Our paths crossed a few more times, but she eventually left me in the dust shortly after the junction of the Cassiar (route 37) and the road leading to Hyder, Alaska (37A).

I planned to stop at an RV park called Bell 2 which promised 15A hookups, but changed my mind when they informed me that their rates were 31.50$. For 15A!!!!!!!! I was already tired by this point, but I decided to push on in the hopes of finding another cheap legal option. Coming close to six, with only a half hour of light left, I gave up and pulled off the highway at a turn out. It wound up being much too sloped and I resigned myself to continuing in the dark since the Milepost indicated that there would be no more turnouts for a great distance. Thankfully, it was wrong, as it occasionally is, and just a few clicks down the road I found a nice flat turnout, the far side of which was a respectable distance from the road.

Dinner was fettucini with homemade rosée sauce primavera. Who says that just because you’re spending the night on the side of the highway you can’t eat a first class dinner? 😀

The highlight of the evening was the incredible fuschia sunset I watched for almost a full half hour.

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