Tales From the Road – “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Canada…”

Hello from the land of milk and honey!


We have landed safely and are once again in the tender loving hands of Martha and Patty-Cakes Roney. My apologies for the delay of this posting but it seems that no sooner are you back in civilization than you suddenly realize you have eight billion and seventy-three things to do…immediately. But enough about me, let’s talk about me, specifically my journey from Baja to here, Port Coquitlam (pronounced Koh-kwit-lam for you non-Canucks).


Our plan was to head north early on Tuesday morning, April 4th, with co-travelers Gary, Terri, dog “Buddy” and cat “Gato” in their Mini-Winnie. Now anyone who knows the Prez knows that he has two speeds – Fast and Stop – and so with the Winnie chugging along at 55mph it wasn’t long before we zoomed ahead, agreeing to meet on the beach of Villa Jesus Maria. This is a fave spot of ours, out of the way but accessible, with a lovely estuary and pristine beaches, many of which are hike-in only. It was on one of these beaches where we would find ourselves in a very Leonardo-DiCaprio-movie-ish type situation.


After firmly establishing that the Mini-Winnie is not, repeat NOT, an off-road vehicle and settling in to camp, we all piled into our truck to explore the aforementioned beach. We parked at the top of a steep hill (the “steep” part is important, make a mental note) and hiked down to the isolated horseshoe of sand, soft sand, very soft sand (this is also important). On the far side of the beach was an intriguing rocky outcropping with a natural rock arch, so of course we made a beeline for that right away. In the middle of our exploration, Terri and I ooohing and aaahhing over the cool rock formations and fossils, Gary and Fred climbing to the top of the arch to look down on us, we saw a vehicle (a Jeep Cherokee to be exact) perched at the top of the hill looking as if he was going to attempt the descent. “No Way!” Prez exclaimed and before the words had left his mouth the Jeep was enroute down the steep hill. We were all puzzled. Why would anyone drive down that hill? Our question would soon be answered.


At about the same time our fearless Jeep pilot was anchoring his vehicle in the soft sand, a panga (Mexican fishing boat) surfed its way in to shore. Three men tossed three blue, water-tight containers ashore before jumping off themselves. The panga, cargo unloaded, sped away. Hmmmmm. Odd. Perhaps they are camping and this is part of their gear? Or perhaps we are all just very naïve? The panga men made their way over to the Jeep guys and together they all set about trying to un-stick the Jeep from the sand. Prez, aka “McGyver”, and Gary, thinking that their knowledge of off-road vehicle unsticking techniques would be appreciated offered to help and set about lowering the air pressure in Jeep Guy’s tires. Though the gentlemen were not rude or mean, they were certainly not interested in our help one bit. Jeep Guy #2 was blabbering away on a cell phone and it was at this point that the light came on and the situation went from “odd” to “sketchy”. Exit stage left gringos!


Now Vegas odds would have leaned heavily towards these guys never, ever getting out of the sand (did I mention it was very soft?), never mind getting back up the hill (as I said, very steep) and so, convinced that something quite shady was going down, we felt we’d have a comfortable head start back to camp. However, before we could even begin to back up the truck, the Jeep comes screaming up the hill and blasts past us (all passengers and mysterious cargo on board) like a bat out of heck. Hmmmmm. Sketchy.


What was in those containers, you might be asking. Well, considering the fact that they could have unloaded them just around the corner in the nice, calm estuary with an easy, flat road in, one can only assume that it was something on the “il” side of legal. Possibly drugs, but also likely lobster tails or abalone which are both out of season, off-limits and worth muchos pesos. Me, I’m voting for drugs. And let me just say that I was happy to have Gary’s very large dog, Buddy, in camp with us that evening!


The rest of our journey was uneventful but please don’t stop reading, I promise I’ll write some really cool stuff about Oregon!


Day two we crossed the border back into Gringolandia – California. The Tijuana border is the world’s busiest border crossing; you owe it to yourself to drive across and back at least once in your life. During your wait in line to exit Mexico, you can buy anything from a ceramic Tweety Bird, to a fake Yves St.Laurent handbag, to a statue of the Virgin Mary, and of course there are always plenty of “chicle” vendors willing to sell you the world’s most flavorless gum. When the guy came around trying to hawk a mini Mexican guitar, we took advantage of the moment to hand off the last of our Mexican (dangerously explosive) fireworks; Guitar guy was thrilled and we didn’t have our truck torn apart like some of the other poor bastards in line.


The drug sniffer dog was hard at work this day and in our short time in line we saw more than one car get the tell-tale tail wag which is dog speak for “prepare to have your vehicle dismantled and your anal cavity inspected!” The dog was a black lab, he reminded us of Max – except that Max would have been following the churro vendor around all day instead of searching for contraband. Our crossing was painless except for the mango that was impounded; too bad, black market mangoes fetch top-dollar back in BC!


California passed in a blur. Heck, we barely noticed we’d left the state until we realized the radio stations were no longer 80% Spanish. Do you have problems sleeping? Difficulty relaxing? Well my friend, just hop on the I-5 freeway and drive through the entire state of California, you’ll be snoozing in no time. And don’t ask me why, but my turn to drive always seems to come right around prime siesta time, just after we’ve packed away some truly coma-inducing fast food, on the flattest, most mind-numbingly boring stretch of highway in existence.


Oregon. Fact: you cannot, by law, pump your own gas in Oregon. We learned this the hard way on our first foray to Baja. Prez jumped out at the gas station, grabbed the nozzle and began the filling process when a hand came down forcefully on his shoulder. “You’re in Or-e-gon” said a husky voice with more than a little twang. He pronounced Oregon as if it were three words instead of one. “Oh, OK, thanks” answers the Prez. “Yew cain’t pump yer own gas in Or-e-gon” the man went on. The Prez surrendered the hose; you have to choose your battles wisely. It was reassuring to see that almost eight years since that trip, Oregon has not budged on its no-self-pumping policy. In this crazy world, it’s nice to know that there are some constants you can count on.


Washington has a new slogan: “Washington is slots of fun!” Those who were once drawn to this state only for the pleasure of pumping their own gas now have the added excitement of the chance to blow their paycheques in one of the new casinos located every fifty feet along I-5. I’m looking forward to the day when the Indians (yes, I know, first nations, aboriginals, etc., I’m not feeling very PC tonight, I have a cold, I’m cranky, so sue me!*) actually bankrupt all the white men and buy their country back. Hey, if it means more smoked salmon I’m all for it.


*To my American readers, that part about suing me was just a joke, please do not sue me.


Canada. BC. Port Coquitlam. Home. Well, kind of home. The Roney’s basement which is as home as home gets. We were warmly welcomed back to the land of “toques” and people who pronounce the word “roof” properly by our dear, dear friends Pat & Joyce who had lots of hugs and an ice cold martini ready for us. Just like that old saying, “Home is where the gin is” or something like that.


Life on the road is great but it’s not for everyone. Even the Prez and I, who are used to long stretches of highway, have a “Vehicle Tolerance Threshold”. The VTT is the point at which you simply do not want to be in the vehicle anymore, when only fear and common sense keep you from hurling yourself out the door screaming, “I just want to not sit anymore!!!!” Emily is a great traveler, thank goodness. I mean, when she’s not in the vehicle she sleeps 23 hours per day anyway so I guess it’s not a big stretch to sleep in a slightly different location. And we have become so attuned to her movements that we now instantly recognize the difference between her visits to the front seat that mean, “Just checking to see which state we’re in, oh yes, a casino, Washington” and the front seat visits accompanied by prancing and meowing that mean, “Find a rest stop, pull over and get me my litter pan or you can kiss that nice fleece jacket back there goodbye!!!”.


Another issue on the road is food. Generally, you want to keep moving and eating is just an unavoidable nuisance. We always promise ourselves that we are going to plan ahead and eat healthy; this lasts for about one, maybe two days before we give in and start sucking down gut bombs from Burger Thing and Rotten Ronnie’s. As this is about the only time we ever eat fast food, I’m always amazed to see how much smaller and more disgusting the portions are getting. At a Rotten Ronnie’s somewhere in Oregon I ordered an Egg McMuffin – these breakfast delicacies are now roughly the size of a quarter and taste like the inside of a shoe. Thankfully I had a stash of dark chocolate Easter eggs, compliments of Miz Liz, which kept me going through the lean times.


Then there is the entertainment factor. With enough preparation time, I can plan out enough diversions to get us through the scenery-challenged zones but this trip was arranged in a hurry. There really is a limit to how many times you can listen to the same twelve CD’s, it’s true. Sometimes, however, I had to bite the bullet rather than risk the evil eye cast upon me by the Prez as I endlessly channel search the radio. “Oh, oh, this one’s good! Oh no, too static-y.” Switch. “What is it with Mexicans and accordions?” Switch. “You broke my heart, you broke my truck, my dog done died, just my luck…” Switch. “And God looked down and said, Yea there shall be no more pumping of thine own gas!” Switch. Switch. Switch. And so it goes. Next trip, two words: Satellite Radio!


Well, as I said earlier, I have a cold and I’m a little cranky so I’m going to call it a night! To everyone who has emailed, I promise to get on that tomorrow. I’m not ignoring you, honestly.


Good night to all, even those of you from Or-e-gon!


Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!

The Princess





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