best laid plans, border crossing, camping, Cascade Mountains, Mount St. Helens, Pike Place Market, plan B, road trip, travel
Monday, August 28, 2017
Once again, Jenny has decided that it’s her job to wake up EVERYONE in the tent.
At 5:30 in the morning.
She’s happily wriggling and tail-wagging and making a general nuisance of herself, and finally Sarah opens the zipper on the tent and lets Jenny kill some grass. She’s now happy to snuggle with me a few minutes, until she can’t possibly wait for food for one more millisecond.
I crawl out of the tent and walk with Jenny to the car. Dwight is awake after having slept in the car last night. He says it “wasn’t that bad”, but I’m not sure I believe him.
Jenny’s much less beetleheaded now that she’s been fed. Ben, Sarah, Dwight and I deflate air mattresses and roll up sleeping bags and otherwise get ready to face the day and the road ahead.
max REALLY wants to play with Jenny, but Jenny’s disinterested in him; she’s got her eye on the beehives. Mom and I call her back to us and she listens reluctantly, deciding to sniff all the grass she possibly can.
We load Jenny into the car and start packing the roof bag. Mom has some great suggestions on packing it so that more fits in the bag and we take up less room in the trunk and the back seat. Yesterday we asked Dad about our vibrating roof bag, and he suggested knotting the straps so they don’t flap loosely in the wind. We’ve taken his suggestion to heart and are hopeful for a more quiet ride into Washington.
We all pile into the car and follow Mom to a McDonald’s near the border. Mom’s not a coffee drinker, so if we want some as soon as possible, you can’t beat a Canadian McDonald’s for good road coffee.
I’m annoyed by an email that I’m trying to respond to, but my phone won’t take my password. I spend far too much time fiddling with it, drinking my coffee and wanting to curse Google for being annoying.
It’s 8:00, and the Aldergrove border crossing is open. We say goodbye to Mom, thank her for her hospitality, and pile into our car.
Aldergrove, BC – Seattle, Washington
Distance: 186 km
Travel Time: 2.5 hours (including stops)
We pull up to the border crossing at Aldergrove and hand over our passports. because Dwight is not a Canadian citizen, he has to get further processed through customs, so we have to pull over and walk into the building to talk to customs officers. It’s been years – maybe decades – since I’ve had to stop when driving across the border. The customs officer is friendly and chatty while Dwight’s paperwork is processed. He asks where we’re spending tonight, and when we tell him we’re staying at Cascade Peaks Campground, his enthusiasm is obvious. “Oh! I went through the Cascades once!” he says cheerily. “I almost died… but it was fun!”
After a brief pause, we all clamber for the story. He tells us about when he was moving to take his current job, and he had to move a bunch of his stuff. He didn’t realize his truck wasn’t in the right gear for the curvy mountainous terrain, and he white-knuckled it most of the way through until he realized he could fix the problem. He cracks a joke about his life flashing before his eyes, but at least the outside scenery was great.
We all laugh, collect our passports, and head back to the car.
Since gasoline is much cheaper in the States than in Canada, we fill up the car. While Ben’s filling the gas tank, I take out my phone and swap my Canadian Sim card for a USA one… that’s too small! By the time I realize my mistake, the American sim card has lodged itself into the sim card reader on my phone, and I can’t get it out!
Sarah tries to see if she can put one in her phone, but her phone is locked to her carrier. Ben tries to get the card out of my phone, but it’s lodged in there good. Of the three sim cards we purchased, only one (Ben’s), it seems, will be used in the very near future.
The first thing we notice after crossing the border is the amount of traffic circles (roundabouts). Every mile for five miles has another roundabout, and (unlike back home) everyone seems to know how to drive on them.
The second thing?
“Cheap weed!” Ben cries from the driver’s seat. We all laugh, wondering if you have to be a resident to get some. We keep driving. There’s another pot shop… and another down the way. We pass a Walmart and Ben regrets not stopping. Someone cracks a joke about him driving past the only existing Walmart in the USA. Ben laughs and drives on.
Sarah spots a creepy-looking handmade sign for Giggles the Clown Fun Park, and we somehow find it hilarious. As we drive down the highway, we read out signs of businesses and cities and schools, wrapping our tongues around many words with Ws and Tcs and Ms.
We pull in to one of the parking areas at Pike Place Market and are glad to stretch our legs. Ben grabs his camera, and I strap a GoPro to Jenny’s back. We haven’t made it twenty feet before the camera – which in any previous testing attempts has tilted slightly to the right – has tilted to the left so far that it’s literally resting against Jenny’s side. I tighten and reconfigure the straps and keep on going.
We stop at a coffee shop for coffee and water, then walk down the narrow, crowded streets. We step into meat markets, produce shops, and Jenny tries to take me into three cafes. A friend told me to find a spot with the giant cookies, and I’m thrilled to find one so easily. I buy two cookies (that are the size of my face and are immediately dubbed “face cookies”), get frustrated with the GoPro again, and put it and the cookies in Ben’s camera bag.
We make it to the fish market, where we stand just outside and listen to a busker with an acoustic guitar. he’s singing a Foo Fighters song but his voice sounds more like Green Day. I like it.
The market is bustling, with fishmongers throwing fish to the customers who order them. The atmosphere is chaotic, and we move away after a few minutes.
We stop at a Target store to see if my sim card can be removed by a phone technician. The clerk is hesitant to do anything, stating unconvincingly that he doesn’t want to ruin my phone. The fact that I told him that the phone is basically a tablet now doesn’t change his mind. So we pick up eyebrow tweezers and a few other items we need for the road.
Sarah likes the look of this pub down the street. We walk down and enter Elysian Bar, an amazingly open space with wooden floors and tables and high ceilings. Ben asks if he can take pictures, and he is told he can. While we wait for our lunch, Ben teases the sim card out of the card reader with the eyebrow tweezers and I attempt to re-insert it (with an adapter this time), no joy. I try my Canadian sim card, and no success there, either. My phone is effectively not a phone anymore, and I wonder how useful it will be. But I need to let it go; nothing I can do about it now. We order our food – smaller portions that are still massive – and enjoy the atmosphere.
It’s 2:00 now, time to hit the road; we want to beat rush hour out of Seattle.
Seattle, Washington – Mount St. helen’s Visitor’s Center
Distance: 122 miles (196 km)
Travel Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
We eat the “face cookies” on the way to the Mount St. Helen’s visitors center. We enjoyed our time at Pike Place, but definitely found it crowded and congested in very small space. Glad to be back on the road, we settle in and hope for some views of the mountains. Unfortunately, wildfires from BC (and other areas as well) have given the air a hazy tint, making the view of the mountains much less majestic.
We pull in to the visitors centre just after 4:30. A wall of heat greets us as we exit the car. It’s a short walk from the car to the building, but even so it feels like we’re breathing fire.
The centre closes at 5:00. We are told that we can pay the $5/person entry fee and see the end of the film that is playing, or we can browse the souvenir shop for a couple minutes and then see the exhibits for free before closing. We take the second option, and I’m thrilled to find a Mount St. helens key chain and a badge for Jenny’s travel blanket. The film has concluded, so we walk down and view the exhibits, seeing the progression of the eruption. It is sobering, and the building around me has a hushed sense of reverence to it.
We hear an announcement that the doors are closing, so we head outside into the heat and get ready to head to our campsite for the night.
Mount St. Helen’s Visitors Center – Cascade Peaks Campground
Distance: 80 miles (130 km)
Travel time: 2 hours (including stops)
Ben’s phone doesn’t have good GPS service right now so he asks me to locate a grocery store. We need food for tonight and propane for the camp stove. I load up Nearby Explorer on my “semi-intelligent brick” (as we’ve affectionately dubbed my phone), and give directions to the nearest grocery store. We walk in and notice a lot of snack items, but no propane and nothing we can use for supper. We ask for recommendations and are given slightly complicated directions to a larger grocery store only a mile away. We find everything we need – propane for the stove, everything to make burgers for supper, adult beverages to go with those burgers, bacon and eggs for breakfast tomorrow – and take it all to the cashier. We know we’re in a small town, where you stop and chat with your friends and neighbors. A couple of people beside us say hello to each other and carry on a conversation as though they are in a meeting hall or a county fair. It’s quaint and charming, and I am enchanted.
We load up the cooler with our newly-purchased food and head to our camp site. at the main building there’s a weak wifi signal, so I shoot a couple of messages to a couple of people I had planned to meet along the way. We are given directions to a site that’s close to the washrooms and showers and we drive over to it.
The burgers are made as the crickets start to sing their evening song. The mountain air feels cool and clear to me, though there’s still a visible smoky haze. We each take a few minutes to just be alone before we come back together as a group to enjoy our burgers with macaroni salad and beer.
It’s time to set up the tent. We borrowed this one from a friend, and we’re thrilled that it seems to sleep six people (four people and one dog take up a lot of space). Sarah and I start to put it up, clipping the poles to the tent and the fly to the poles. The tent looks huge, and Sarah and I are pretty convinced that there’s plenty of space. We bring out the air mattresses…
And they all still don’t fit.
I am frustrated.
The obvious solution is to get rid of our double air mattress in favor of something smaller, but that doesn’t solve our immediate problem. It’s 9:00 at night and nothing in the immediate viscinity would be open. It isn’t fair to have someone sleep in the car again, so we decide to deflate the bigger air mattresses as much as possible, and we cram them all in. The double mattress has enough air in it to feel like a water bed any time someone moves. I take a deep breath of clear mountain air and hope for a restful sleep as the crickets sing their lullaby.