Our journey from Southern California up to Canada, for the rest of the summer, came with majestic beauty and some treacherous high mountain passes. The coast along the 101 was pure splendor with the ocean to our left and blue skies above. We ended up at rest stops parked alongside the big rigs that left their engines running all night to keep the load they were carrying cold. Dylan always uses ear plugs, because our dogs snore and are noisy through the night. So, he was able to sleep. I, on the other hand, had a hard time falling asleep with the sound of engines next to us, even though, normally, I would have no problem falling asleep. Aside from that minor detail, it felt pretty cool for all of us, including the dogs, to arrive anywhere and there it was – home everywhere we landed.
As we traveled up north, we started to experience some issues with our truck just past the Solvang exit in Central California. It had a hard time climbing steep areas along the highway. We saw others hauling trailers as big as ours with ease, while our truck struggled along. We wouldn’t find out what the issue was until we got to Prince George, British Columbia.
We cut it close a few times, barely making it to the next gas station to fill up. After almost taking out a pump at one gas station with the back of the trailer, and filling up in a small town, we made sure to hang with the big boys and only got gas where the large semis and RVs refilled. As you may have seen in previous posts, our gypsy caravan is huge!
We had initially decided to continue past Ashland, Oregon, so we could make good time. But an exit we took lead us straight to it. Since, we were already there, we decided to give our friends a call… Lily McCabe, a talented violinist, and her partner, Wayne Cameron, a talented guitarist, own Hilltop Music Shop. They moved it from a smaller location that we visited on a previous trip when we stayed with them. We got to see their new space where they sell string instruments, specializing in guitars and feature concerts by local and visiting musicians. Luckily, it was easy to park our home in the parking lot and visit with them for a bit. If you ever happen to be in Ashland, pay them a visit. You’ll love it!
Lily & Wayne at their Hilltop Music Shop.
As we neared the border, we could see the smoke from fires in the Pacific Northwest and Southern British Columbia. We had an easy border crossing, though our boy Tila always gets protective around toll booths and border crossings. But it was seamless, nonetheless. Actually, surprisingly, it was much easier crossing with a big trailer than with a car.
The dogs worked out a seating arrangement.
Once we crossed the border into Canada, we took highway 1 , until we were detoured up highway 5, due to a wildfire evacuation in Clinton – one of the over 150 wildfires in British Columbia this past summer. If you are not familiar with the 5, it goes right through an area called the Coquihalla Highway, which is featured in the show Highway Thru Hell. And hell it was!
But this was not the only ridiculously steep mountain pass we would encounter. Right after this dangerous route, we had to take highway 24, which fared just as difficult, especially with a truck with issues. Dylan couldn’t bring the truck up to speed. We were going under 20 mph at some points. Wondering if we were going to make it up the next bend, and the next. Completely nerve wracking, because we could have gotten stuck at any point with no help in sight. We would reach a summit, thinking that was it, and there was another steep climb!
Checking the truck at Coquihalla Highway before continuing on… thinking it’d be an easier road ahead.
The smoke was thick and strong and the drive felt eternal. Regardless of how tough the drive was, we arrived in Prince George the same day we crossed the border, just before it got fully dark. We made our second landing in yet another beautiful sanctuary, mama Jean’s 5 acre land. Dylan and his family built their home themselves when he and his twin brother were young teens. The property is surrounded by gardens and forest.
We parked the Gypsy Caravan beside a delicious organic vegetable garden mama Jean tended to daily. Freshly picked veggies were part of our meals for a month and a half, as we worked on the trailer and created in a perfect setting. Dylan got to working on new razors and knives for clients and repaired the issues we encountered with the truck and trailer. I put up art on our walls and added finishing touches inside the trailer, and worked on a few paintings I had started a while back.
Dylan working in his workshop in the converted fifth wheel garage.
One of the pieces that Dylan finished while in Prince George – Sage Blades Kamisori straight razor.
I was tasked with camouflaging an old ammo box to hide a spy cam that Lawrence, Dylan’s stepdad, tied around a tree. When the sun sets, the wild comes to life. Bears, lynxes, deer, moose and other wildlife feed around the property. The spy cam captured the beauty of these majestic animals that roamed close by.
Lawrence welding the vintage ammo box and getting it ready for the paint job.
The camouflaged box and spy cam.
Lynx by a salt block.
Deer sensing something is watching them.
Mama bear and her cub.
We visited with family every moment we could, which is what motivated our shift to living on the road, spending times with our loved ones – family and friends. They took us around town and we spent late nights with them. Our dogs got to go on hikes by the river and in the forest, which extended from our backyard.
The path through the forest. Osita staying close to me. Can you spot Tila way ahead of Dylan?
Dylan testing a bear banger on a hike. Tila thought the bang was his cue to go. Click on image to watch.
Long hike to the train tracks a few miles from the house.
Pups at the Nechako River.
Our trips to Prince George, prior to this one, were short and I didn’t get a good sense of the place. Prince George is mainly an industrial city with a history of logging, paper and lumber mills, an even older history of First Nations peoples, as well as pelting and shipping goods along the Fraser River. The Lheidli T’enneh are a prominent First Nation peoples of the area, with parks and landmarks named after them. Yet, native peoples are still marginalized, even in Canada, to my surprise. It is hard to visit without being aware of this history that still prevails. Many First Nations people have lost their identity through assimilation reforms that stripped generations off their roots and wisdom.
On a visit, a couple of years earlier, we went to the museum in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park, where I saw the similarities between some aspects of their culture and that of Amazon rainforest communities in South America. In particular, the dugout canoes stood out. They were very much like the ones I have been on in my visits to the Amazon jungle. The photos depicted people with features alike the indigenous people of my native Peru. This made me feel a kinship in someway.
On this particular visit, we had more time to experience life in Prince George. Aside from its industrious and native history, I found there is a small art and creative scene, as well as unique independent boutiques, book stores and art galleries in Downtown Prince George. Two Rivers Gallery is a center for art exhibits and classes with a gift shop filled with a beautiful selection of handcrafted collections, including knives, jewelry, clothing and books.
Artists participating in “Transitory Tributes” at Two Rivers Gallery exhibit focused on the immigrant experience.
The Niche, which reminded me of a mini version of Anthropologie, features women’s fashion from around the world, local designers, as well as antique furniture from India and other exotic places. We stopped at this gem of a store in Prince George and loved their selection of clothing and antiques. It’s eclectic, oozes style and great taste. Owner Kellie and her staff, Tammy and Janice, were delightful. They made our experience that much more enjoyable.
Homework is another one that caught my eye with exquisite antique furniture and fashion.
At the The Painted Shed, I found delicious local vegan soaps, reclaimed wood frames and other unique treasures.
A handcrafted vegan soap with a message at The Painted Shed. Photo by @philomena_hughes.
Books & Company, an eclectic bookstore where you’ll find book lovers and artsy locals, showcases art shows and live performances.
Another highlight was The Northern, an old hardware store that is the destination for locals and has been around for over three generations.
Something else caught our attention. It was inspiring to see so many people growing their own organic vegetable gardens in Prince George. It is a trend that is happening everywhere, as we saw more of that at the beginning and later on our journey back in the US. More and more people are opting to harvest their own food.
Some of the veggies we picked at Wim’s organic garden.
A dish made with organic veggies picked from mama Jean’s, Wim’s and the neighbor’s gardens.
While in British Columbia, Toronto native and globe explorer, Jacqueline Stein, interviewed me for The Cultural Curator, featuring ORG BY VIO and the Sage & the Butterfly. We spoke about the Amazon rainforest and the artisans that make the collections sold through ORG BY VIO, the Sage & the Butterfly and select stores. I also got some photos from an earlier photo shoot back in California by photographer Franceska Schofield.
The ORG BY VIO Toplace body jewelry worn by Isabel. Coat is faux fur.
With the trailer fixed and the truck apparently ready, our days in Prince George came to an end. It was time to return back south to the US.