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AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where there's smoke we sure hope there isn't fire

Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire

Last we spoke, we’d just hit the sack and were about to set out for Canada, which is a different country, in our low-budget shit heaps. We had no idea what was in store for us.

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Day 3 - Tacoma to Victoria - Sunday, August 31st, 2019

And so we did. After pulling out of the AirBnB, we headed out to get gas, and pointed the cars towards Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge. On the original trip in 2015, we ate lunch in Port Angeles before heading up to Hurricane Ridge for our “victory lap”. We did the same this time.

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After a... longer than expected lunch, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge. We were nervous though. Lunch was over an hour longer than expected and Google was saying Hurricane Ridge was packed, this being Labo(u)r Day weekend. Still, we pressed on.

The road up to Hurricane Ridge was just as fun as we remembered, but also showed a lot of signs of traffic. About every other vehicle was an RV and they were leaving in droves. A good sign?

The smell of burning was fresh in all of our noses. There is some serious brake cooking is going on...

Or not.

When we finally hit stopped traffic, about a half mile from the pay station, Taylor noticed George’s Tracker was smoking. A lot.

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George pulled off to the side and got out to look. Indignantly, he radioed back that the Volvo was smoking too.

My Volvo.

OH SHIT!

We all pulled off into a conveniently located turnout.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor

Turns out the Volvo had sprung a leak somewhere in the rear of the engine and sprayed oil all over the exhaust, including the cat. Oil level looked good, so it couldn’t have been much oil, but for 0W-40 it looked thin.

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Worrying.

The Tracker... well it had other problems. George was pretty sure it was just burning off the oil from a previous leak (and how!) but couldn’t rule out a new leak.

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Hurricane Ridge circa 2015
Hurricane Ridge circa 2015
Photo: Taylor

With the leaks, smoke, holiday traffic, and impending ferry departure we implemented a long held road trip backup plan and ran away. Sad, as we really wanted to reenact out photos from the 2015 trip, but we knew that if we started missing ferries we could trigger a cock-up cascade that would really start messing with the schedule.

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We headed back down the mountain and back into Port Angeles. Despite being an hour early for the ferry, we learned that we could indeed get in line. We put the cars in line and went out for a wander while we waited for our boat.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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After a good long wander around Port Angeles, we rejoined the cars and began to board our boat.

The boat that would take us to Canada.

Which is a different country.

The boat in question is the M.V. Coho, a ferry operated by Black Ball Transport since 1959! It didn’t feel like a “normal” ferry by any means. Also, again, it was the boat that was going to take our shit-heaps to a new country and a new adventure!!

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We grabbed some food, duty-free booze, and some amazing views of the Straight and the Pacific Ocean.

It was good.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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The border crossing was surprisingly simple and straightforward. I was the last of the three to cross, all with the same border station/agent. Since he’d already seen the other two and had heard our story twice before, after the usual checks he asked:

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I sheepishly replied “The Celica”. I’ve always had a thing for underdogs...

And then, suddenly, we were in Canada.

Which, holy crap, is a different country!

Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire
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The different country-ness was surprising how obvious that was once we hit the roads. Everything was lightly alien. Like... nothing super different but one of the first signals we came to was a blinking green arrow. What... what do I do with that?! (We googled it. It means the signal was “pedestrian activated” and you should use caution.)

After hitting the hotel, which was a weird 2-story suite, we got some food and drinks. It was a grand old time. There was only one problem....

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Everyone in Victoria is ridiculously attractive.

It was... weird.

Pleasant, but weird.

Day 4 - Victoria to Port Hardy - Monday, September 2nd, 2019

Today was always meant to be a hell ride. Thee-hundred miles so we can catch our ferry at five in the fucking morning tomorrow. Buuuuut... I had a oil leak to fix. The thinking was I’d hop up on a curb, get under the car, and see if I could see the source of the leak. I had my suspicions it was coming from the turbo oil return, but no way to confirm that.

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It didn’t go well. I just didn’t have the tools or reach needed to get to the fittings.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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I did get a wrench on... something... and tightened it. So there is that.

Oh well.

After that, we set off for Port Hardy.

The drive was slow, boring, and uneventful. Canada apparently loves its speed limits even more than the US, so it was slow, boring going all day. At least the roads were smooth.

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We did make a few pretty stops.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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But overall it was just a “procedural” day, as we’ve come to call them. Taylor, having never looked at a map of Vancouver Island apparently, expected the road to be coastal. It was not.

We did make a few detours off the highway as time allowed to change things up, but the schedule and construction kept us on the highway most of the day.

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All three cars appeared to be running well. The Volvo was clearly still losing oil as the entire back bumper and glass were covered with droplets of it, but the dipstick level was staying pretty solid. The Tracker was smoking to varying degrees at every stop, but nothing to the extent that we were worried.

Not too worried anyway.

We reached Port Hardy. Late. Like... really late. The AirBnB seemed nice. Too bad we’d need to be at the ferry terminal at 5:30 AM, which meant leaving the AirBnB in 6 hours, so we caught a quick dinner, drank far too much whiskey to help sleep come faster (or that is what we told ourselves), and called it a night just before midnight.

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Day 5 - Port Hardy to Prince Rupert - Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

You know that feeling when you wake up after an all-nighter or you’ve got a really early flight to catch? The feeling of your alarm going off earlier than you’ve gone to bed at other points in your like? That tired excitement of knowing you have a time-critical thing to do but your brain isn’t quite tuned to the right frequency?

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Well at around 5AM the next morning, we were all in that state. Like we were trying to receive FM on AM frequencies and were using a cigar box radio to do it.

We bumbled around the AirBnB, performed our ablutions, and then loaded what little we’d unloaded the night before. We were off to catch a ferry. A ferry that over the next 16 hours was going to take us into the middle of nowhere.

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We were excited. But also very tired.

And also nervous. If we missed this ferry there was no “catching the next one” as the next ferry didn’t leave until this one returned, 48 hours later. If we missed the ferry it would mean a 1,200 mile hell ride back down Vancouver Island, over to Vancouver, and up through mainland Canada to get back on track for our bookings.

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What if the cars didn’t start?

What if Gorge didn’t wake up in time?

What if we got lost?

What if the tickets were somehow wrong?!

Yeah.. all of that swimming around a sleep starved and mildly hungover brain.

But... The cars did start, George did wake up, we didn’t get lost, and the tickets were correct.

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We made it to the ferry line.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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It was so early. Why is it so early?!

Eventually we were ushered through the line, baffling the ferry attendants in the process. Apparently after seeing a Texas licence plate they were even more blown away to see not one but two Oklahoma plates!?

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How can these people be this excited this early in the morning?

Loading into the boat was equally surreal as we loaded into the front of it. Seriously. The whole front of the boat lifted up and swallowed us whole.

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It would have felt a lot more strange with more sleep.

Once on the boat, we made our way to our cabin, a surprisingly serviceable two bunk affair with a working shower and toilet.

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Buffer text to not break Kinja.

Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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We’d made it. And now all we had to do was wait. Eat, sleep, drink, eat, sleep, and wiat.

The fog in our heads was matched only by the fog outside, which persisted into the early afternoon, suddenly and dramatically burning off around lunch.

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Taylor and I mostly passed the day taking cat naps and photographs.

Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
Photo: Taylor
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Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire

George mostly slept. (Which is fine! I know you’re reading George and I don’t blame you for sleeping!)

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Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire

The ship had a total of three restaurants: A cafeteria which was always open, a BBQ place on the aft deck which served lunch, and a “fancy” buffet in the front of the ship for dinner.

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We, of course, ate at all three.

Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire
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Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire

We also explored the ship in its entirety, but despite its size there wasn’t much to it. So we sat, and ate, and took pictures, and researched how to fix our cars.

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It was nice.

If a little boring.

Illustration for article titled AlCan Adventure Part 2: Where theres smoke we sure hope there isnt fire
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Around 11:00PM our destination, Prince Rupert, crept into view. We packed up the cabin that we’ve called home for what felt like weeks and descended to the car deck to re-join our faithful automotive companions.

And just like that, by far the longest, most magical day of the trip was at an end. As we rolled off the ferry we couldn’t feel a bit sad that a major part of this journey was already over.

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But now we were deep inside Canada. The next major city on our trip would be Anchorage, almost two weeks away.

Time to do some adventuring.

(This is Part 2 of a 5 part series, each part of which will be released about every 2 days. This text will be replaced with a link to the next article in the series after it is released.)

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Note: All photos are special to us. All the good ones were probably taken by Taylor. Please do not reuse without permission.

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