Our days on the bus have become fairly predictable and we’re establishing routines and systems that work for us. We still have yet to stay at a campground. In Canada we’ve traded staying overnight at rest stops for staying overnight in a Wal-mart parking lot.
We didn’t plan it that way, I figured we’d be staying in campgrounds by now, but a Wal-mart parking lot seems to be easier. Our first night in Canada we arrived into North Battleford, Saskatchewan late at night. We found a campground right off the highway, but it was dark and we could find no directions on where to park or how to pay and everything was shut down. Rather than waste time trying to figure it out, we got back on the road. Shortly thereafter we found a McDonalds that was open 24 hours and had free wifi. I used my All Stays app to find a nearby Wal-mart and off we went.
Wal-marts are usually right off the highway and their parking lots are easily maneuverable and have streetlights for safety. So far there have been other RV’s sleeping alongside us. For right now, this is preferable to the alternative of hunting down a campsite in the dark.
Our goal remains: drive, drive, drive. We stop during the day for the mandatory potty stops, to stretch our legs, to run around a bit, but mostly we drive. Our goal has been 500 miles a day and for the most part, we have achieved that. We continue to drive at about 45-55 mph depending on the road conditions. If you’ve driven in Canada you know what I’m talking about.
We passed over the border at a small check-point near Minot, North Dakota. The next 30 miles were miserable as we bumped and jolted from Manitoba to Saskatchewan, traveling at barely 35mph. There and then I was glad we no longer had the bikes on the back, for surely they would have been lost and now we were in the middle of nowhere.
I again thanked Heavenly Father for his tender mercies. We may have lost the bikes, but they did NOT fly off when we were driving full speed down a freeway where they could have injured someone terribly. That could have been tragic. Instead the rack failed as we were driving in town and a motorist driving behind us was able to alert us (lots of honking and waving) before the bikes fell off completely. Rather they were only dragged behind us for what we assume was several hundred feet.
It was 4:10pm on the Saturday of a holiday weekend in a small town, but we were able to get ahold of a local bike store (YAY Val’s Cyclery in Minot, ND!) that should have closed at 4pm. They stayed open and waited for us. We were able to drop 5 mangled bikes at their shop, and they promised to hold them at no cost, put together an estimate on repair (or replacement) and then ship them to us next month when we get to Washington. They also happen to be a huge Specialized dealer (the brand of our bikes) and an authorized Thule dealer (the brand of our bike rack).
All I could think while we were going through the process of sorting everything out that afternoon was that The Lord is watching out for us. This is just a small bump that could have been so much more traumatic. It was reconfirmed as we were tossed around on that back road in rural Manitoba. The Lord knew what lie ahead and chose a better way for us.
As we drove those 30 discouraging, raggedy, turbulent miles – I questioned our decision to cross the border where we did. Earlier we had discussed staying in the U.S. all the way to Montana and crossing the border at our usual spot south of Lethbridge, Alberta, and making our way north from there. However, we figured we could save 300 miles if we crossed over in North Dakota instead. It also allowed us a couple night stay at Minot Air Force Base where we were able to shower and do laundry and rest from our travels. It occurred to me that none of that would be worth it if the Canadian roads destroyed The Big Blue Bus and we left our wheels and axels on the road.
Jake and I discussed crossing back over to the U.S. at the earliest possible moment. An extra day of driving seemed worth it compared to shaking our bodies and brains apart on the road. But as the next border crossing approached, the road miraculously smoothed and we decided to continue on and try our luck. We’re now 1,000 miles into Canada and the roads have been more bumpy than smooth, but the Big Blue Bus is holding up.
Our mornings on the bus are somewhat predictable. We sleep until Jake is done. He’s doing the heavy work on this trip, so making sure he gets enough sleep is the priority. Jake has never been much of a sleeper, so we aren’t in danger of oversleeping. We roust the kids and ply them out of bed. This morning Sam-a-lam was complaining about freezing to death. I couldn’t help but smile. Our mornings are sure to get cooler as we continue north and it’s a welcome change after the oppressive heat of the trip so far!
We eat breakfast out of the cooler. The choices are bagels and cream cheese, greek yogurt, or cold cereal. We use paper bowls with plastic utensils. I brush Miss B’s hair and put it in braids and then we go outside to brush our teeth. We try to be nonchalant and subtle while brushing our teeth. But really, we’re brushing our teeth in a parking lot. It is what it is.
We hang a blanket for privacy and everyone takes turns changing and washing at the back of the bus. We are definitely in roughing it mode. Washing consists of baby wipes and face wipes. Again, I’m working on embracing it. Things I thought were a must have (daily showers) are becoming a luxury on this trip.
Last night after we were all tucked in, we had a conversation about staying clean. (It’s an interesting thing being packed into a bus together. Privacy is a nonissue. There simply is none. And conversations are heard by and contributed to by all.) Jacob informed us that after a week of not bathing, the human body would start to clean itself. We all got a good chuckle out of that, though I suppose he’s something of an expert on not bathing. Most of his summer was spent in the outdoors without access to regular showers, including 30+ days at NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) on his Wind River Mountaineering Expedition. The boy knows dirty.
I don’t plan on finding out if his assertion is true. Tomorrow we should be to Laird Hotsprings, which means baths for everyone!
After breakfast and spit baths and changing, it’s time to tidy the bus. It doesn’t take much, because there isn’t much room. We shake out and fold the blankets, rearrange the boxes, sweep the floor, and prepare for the drive. Miss B jumps into her car seat and the boys get their books.
We start the drive with scripture study. Jacob is taking a couple Institute (religion) courses and Joshua is taking home-study seminary. It’s the best way to start our day. We have to talk loud for Jake to hear us over the roar of the engine, but I wouldn’t change that part of our day for anything.
The rest of the day is spent in a monotonous routine. Driving, driving, driving. Currently Jake is driving 35mph over roads that resemble an ocean. The uneven waves in the asphalt stretch on before us. Times like these the vastness of Canada seems insurmountable. I keep asking Jake if he’d rather take the Alaska Marine Highway on the return trip rather than make the drive again. Ha!
Jacob is reading books to Miss B. Her favorite pass-time on the bus is story time. She could read stories all day long. She also loves me to “read her stories not from a book” which means to tell her a story. She loves the Three Little Pigs (Jacob, Josh, and Sam) and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Josh is sleeping. I think he’ll sleep his way through most of Canada. When he’s not sleeping he’s reading Lord of the Rings. Sam is also reading. His book of choice is Tucket’s Travels by Gary Paulson. It’s a classic on our family and he’s the perfect age to enjoy it.
We’re pulling into the next town to pee and stretch our legs. Hopefully there is a McDonalds and I can use their wifi to post. I hope you are having a great day and enjoy this little glimpse into our life on The Big Blue Bus.