Canadians, living up to their reputation

By Sarah Reynolds | Jun 21, 2016
Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds Driving through Alberta farmland Monday.

Grande Cache, Alberta — The Alaska Highway, or Alcan Highway, as it is sometimes still known, was built during World War II by a crew of some 27,000 soldiers and civilians in the astonishing time of eight months. Completed in 1942 at a length of 1,700 miles, as of 2012 it is 1,387 miles long, running from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska. The shortening has resulted from reconstruction over the years, straightening many stretches, according to Wikipedia.

As you might imagine, construction is continually under way on the road in various places. While it is nominally paved along its entire length, in fact, there are many stretches of loose gravel or, where there is construction going on, plain old dirt.

As a result, the only road from the contiguous United States to Alaska is a beautiful ride, but not exactly a smooth one. The signs that warn of "extreme dusty conditions" don't exaggerate. And the bumping and jolting? They don't need to post speed limit signs.

So, after a lot of miles of that kind of treatment, the truck has suffered a bit. A few days ago, a stone flew up from the road and chipped the windshield; Maureen had noticed that the chip was getting bigger and wanted to get it fixed in the town of Fort St.John Monday morning.

Off we went to Alaska Highway Auto Glass, where the man said he could take a look at the windshield right away. He set to work repairing the chip, with Cushla barking ferociously at him every time he got near the car. It wasn't personal, though -- it's just her little way with everyone she meets. Her radar goes off when we get into and out of the truck, too.

Anyway, the glass man worked on the chip, tending to a job on another vehicle while he was waiting for our repair to cure. Soon our windshield was almost good as new, with just a tiny scar where the chip had been.

Maureen went to pay him and he said, "No, that's all right. You just have a good rest of your trip." We'd told him we were driving home from Alaska to Maine. She grabbed a Canadian $20 out of her wallet and offered it to him. "Are you sure?" he said, and when she insisted, he took the bill.

We hit the road for Grande Cache, Alberta, where we would camp that night. Dawson Creek's flooding was apparently fairly localized, because we saw no real signs of it outside the city, and taking the route around the outskirts proved no trouble at all.

When we got to Grande Prairie, a good-sized city not far over the border into Alberta, we went to Costco to have the truck's tires rotated and pick up a few provisions. This entailed parking and unhitching the trailer, in which we left Cushla, the vent opened to let in some air.

We got the stuff we needed,and went to pay for it. It turned out that neither of us had the kind of credit card accepted at Canadian Costcos (MasterCard), and between us we didn't have enough Canadian cash. So Maureen went off to the ATM in the store, leaving a bunch of people waiting in line.

You know what that would feel like at home, right? Embarrassing for the perpetrator, annoying for those standing in line. But in Canada? The cashiers were very kind about it, chatting pleasantly to me while Maureen went off to get the cash, and the guy next in line was graciousness itself, saying, "No worries" in a friendly way more than once as she apologized for making him wait. Canadians really are friendlier.

I took our purchases back to the trailer to put away the food and check on the pup while Maureen went to fetch the truck. We had gotten some beef jerky, the kind made for people, for her, because, frankly, it was a lot less expensive than dog treats. She instantly developed a taste for it. I left her alone in the trailer with the jerky up on a counter as far from the floor as I could get it and when I returned, I discovered she'd been into it and helped herself. Fortunately, she left most of the package intact.

Maureen came back with the truck and the fun of hitching up again commenced. We could not get the hitch to seat on the ball. She moved the truck forward and back, we cranked the jack up and down, and it would not seat. We tried everything we could think of, and got various parts of our equipment spread out over several parking spaces.

That was when a gentleman came up to ask if we knew our chock and the cover to our propane tank were behind us in another space. I answered that we were trying to get the trailer hitch to seat, and he came over to help. Turned out, he had had a similar problem himself. Apparently, there's a little catch under the latch that locks the hitch onto the ball, and it was in the wrong position, preventing the hitch from seating. Once our rescuer raised the hitch and moved the catch, he was able to lower it and it seated just fine. Another helpful Canadian.

And that was just one day. We have met many people here who have offered information, assistance or just friendly interest in our trip. Kind of makes you want to sing "O, Canada!"

We did eventually get to Grande Cache, where the municipal campground is a beautiful, wooded affair, and we passed a pleasant night, going to sleep to the sound of birdsong, rather than highway traffic.

Today, we head for Lake Louise.

Maureen throws the recently acquired tennis balls for Cushla, who chases them avidly. Exercising her has been one of the trip's surprising challenges. (Photo by: Sarah E. Reynolds)
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Comments (2)
Posted by: Judith H Olson | Jun 23, 2016 07:51

Great article---and so very true that the Canadian people are unexpectedly generous, kind, and friendly.  And, it certainly is beautiful territory--a pleasure to visit.


Posted by: William Spear | Jun 22, 2016 01:04

I agree. The Canadian people are the best. Crossing the border into Canada, I bet the Canadian border guards were very nice and very friendly. But wait until you come back to America. The American border guards are quite the opposite. They aren't nice, they don't smile, and they don't welcome you home. They're suspicious of you. Like you've done something wrong. That will be the worse part of your trip.

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