Canada, eh?

CanadaRouteWe took Abby and Alex on their first international border crossing. Well, at least Abby’s first border crossing with us. We went to Canada with the motorcycle group that Dave is a member of; this trip is biannual tradition for at least 20 years. Unfortunately, we did not take Dave’s motorcycle on this trip. The logistics were rather complex and we decided it would be easier if everyone was in Abby.

The drive from Delaware to Saint-Alphonse Rodriguez, Quebec took two days. Our first day’s destination was the Lake George Battlefield Park, in Lake George, NY. We arrived literally right behind another member of the group. Following tradition, we ate at Adirondack Brewery, a short walk away from the campground. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the Hot Biscuit Diner in Ticonderoga, NY. Despite having his own breakfast, Alex decided Jess’ biscuits and sausage gravy looked tasty and needed two spoons to get it into his mouth fast enough. Another bonus of the route that we took from Lake George to Canada was the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stop.

Alex double fisting biscuits and sausage gravy at the Hot Biscuit diner.
Alex double fisting biscuits and sausage gravy at the Hot Biscuit diner.

We crossed into Canada at the I-89 border crossing. As we approached the crossing we realized we didn’t know what lane to chose. Looking at the pictures on the signs (since all the writing was in French. Quebec, perhaps you are ignoring Canada’s dual language law?), we determined we were not a bus and not a car. But what were we? We selected the lane that looked the most like us, which had a truck shaped picture above it.

We pulled up to the booth and the border agent started speaking to us in French. Dave inquired if he spoke English, which the agent responded in the affirmative. He asked for our passports and Dave did not hear what he said. When Dave asked the agent to repeat himself, the agent inquired if we spoke English. Things were off to a good start.

The agent asked us if we were carrying any weapons (knives, guns, pepper spray). We had the bear spray in the RV from our Western trip and we declared that because the agent seemed like he would classify that as a weapon. The agent inquired, ‘For the spraying of bears?’. We bit our tongues and refrained from replying ‘Bears and snarky border crossing agents.’ Satisfied that bear spray was for protection from bears, the agent then asked us what our commercial load was. When we declared none, we received a lecture that we had used the commercial truck lane and were actually classified as a ‘minivan-camper’ and should always use the car lane. Well. Lesson learned. After a few more minutes of our tongue lashing, a real commercial truck pulled in behind us and the agent directed us on our way.

Smoked meats. Cheese. Bread. What more does one need?
Smoked meats. Cheese. Bread. What more does one need?

We arrived at Saint Alphonse-Rodriguez and set up camp at a children’s camp. This camp is traditional in the sense that all campers are exposed to a wide variety of activities – canoeing, archery, art, and a ropes course. What really surprised us is the area, which was not experiencing the best fortunes two years ago, is booming. The group found out that the children’s camp will be in operation for one more year, and then it will be sold to condo developers. It was rather fitting that the weekend was gray and rainy.

With the weather, we did not have the opportunity to paddle the lake and critique Canadian lake houses. There is always, however, Staner’s.  We purchased some smoked meats, cheese, and bread. We walked down the street to the gas station for the wine. It was a relaxing afternoon as Alex napped. Later in the evening we participated in a beer tasting arranged by one of the members and got to enjoy some beers we normally wouldn’t have chose for ourselves. Alex enjoyed running around and visiting with all the different people. There were a couple of parrots and a dog that he enjoyed playing with.

Waiting to return to the United States.

Returning to the United States was much less eventful than Canada. We chose the proper lane. The border agent did board Abby to obtain a visual of Alex. The agent was slightly incredulous that we were only bringing back a sticker, but accepted the explanation that we ate and drank all our other purchases while in Canada.

Day 19: 01/14/2016 – Quartzsite, AZ

Destination: Quartzsite, AZ Day19Route

Route: I-10W

Mileage: 238

We are on the road again after a hospitality filled stop with Nils and Felicia! We are off to Quartzsite, AZ to meet Dave’s cousins Tom and Marilee at an RV rally for Toyota chassis RVs. We will be parking in the SOB (Some Other Brand) section of the Toyota group, which we can only hope is not next to portable toilets.

Quartzsite’s population, as determined by the 2010 census, was 3,677. The population swells during the winter months as RV, looking to escape the snow and cold, descend like locusts to enjoy average high temperatures in the mid-60s to mid-70s. Folks leave before the summer heat begins.  National Geographic Magazine sets the scene.

By mid-January the mechanical car counter at the Interstate 10 exit is ticking off 26,000 vehicles a day. Within weeks 175,000 RVs cram inches apart into 9 trailer parks, onto front yards, and spill out seven miles on either side of town. Every year more than a million people reset their internal navigation and drive from Everywhere, North America, to this western Arizona dot on the map. Luxury motor homes, fifth wheels, cab-over campers, trailers, and converted school buses plunk down on the same patch of land.

Abby hiding among the Toyotas

We arrive and are welcomed warmly by the group. Abby is a giant among the Toyotas and we tuck ourselves in at the end of the area roped off for the group. There is nary a porta-potty in sight. Marilee is still traveling from Pasadena, CA, so we settle in and decide to go exploring.

Driver side of the converted school bus.
Passenger side of the converted school bus.

The National Geographic description is spot on. RVs keep pouring into campsites in town as well as heading to the surrounding BLM land. And they are coming in various shapes and sizes. Our walk down down the main drag brings us across this converted school bus. Not the most luxurious vehicle out there, but it gets the job done. The artwork is rather impressive. We are thrilled when we discover a food truck with poutine! True poutine with cheese curds, it is not. But the fries are hand cut and the gravy is quite decent. It is topped with mozarella cheese, but we can’t be poutine purists in Arizona. It is a fantastic mid-afternoon snack and Alex approves.

Refreshed, we continue our wanderings. If you need to find something for your RV, there is likely a vendor here selling the part or can get the part for you. Crossing Central Boulevard, the swap meet expands to epic proportions. If you need some sort of mineral, you need to visit Quartzsite. We start browsing the display trailers at the RV show; no intent to replace Abby, just curious to see what is out there and we don’t make it past the fifth wheels. There are some appealing floor plans, like the one with a second bedroom. It might be nice sleeping more than 3 feet away from Alex.

Converted buses in Quartzsite, AZ

With the display trailers being locked up, we abandon exploring and head back to camp to chat with Marilee and get dinner going. The converted bus contingent has grown stronger in our absence.