Coming Clean on Canada

Posted November 7, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen
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What a beautiful Northern California day! We’re in the scenic Lake Shasta area … high 70’s daytime, mid-60’s at night. Ahhhhh… Hear that? That’s the sound of our Canadian bacon thawing out as we reflect on our adventure in The True North.

Kootenay National Park
Kootenay National Park

Hopefully, this warm weather will hold for at least a couple of weeks now that we’re on the other side of the Cascades.

Banff National Park
Banff National Park

Icy winds from a Pacific typhoon blew us out of Port Townsend, Washington all the way to Portland, Oregon where we scheduled dental appointments for ourselves and a vet check-up for Pico. It rained for several days straight in Portland …

Pico de Gallo

… so Jim checked his neat-o weather map and, voila! – he found a warm spot!

So we hitched up for the 500-mile mountain drive. To break up the trip, we visited dear friends in Springfield, Oregon …

David and Nita Loveall
Nita and David

… overnighted at Freed Estate Vineyard and Winery in Umpqua Valley, and the next day, stopped for lunch at The Laughing Clam in Grant’s Pass.

Now, with birthday month behind us, we’re getting excited about the holidays. We’re also making plans to explore the east coast of Canada next summer. Woo-hoo!!!

Living In Beauty
Lake Lillian, British Columbia

After ‘4-3-2’ing across two Canadian provinces – about 1,966 miles in 17 different locations for 106 days – we’re sorting out expenses and details, like …

Glacier dust rules!

Living In Beauty

The sparkling turquoise water in the Rockies wouldn’t be possible without glacier dust, but that stuff is tough on the rig. We tried, but couldn’t stay on top of it. “Clean Enough” became our motto. The Canadian Rockies are just too beautiful to stay home and do chores.

Have shoes, will gravel!

Living In Beauty

Walking is the best way to get around in the Rockies, so foot care is important.

The National Parks surface everything in gravel – it’s in all of the campgrounds, parking lots, trails, and footpaths and it’s tough on feet, ankles, knees, shoes, and bike tires.

Having summited Half Dome and Mt. Whitney in sandals, I’m no tenderfoot – but I had a feeling about the Rockies.

So, in Portland, I picked up a pair of hybrid rain/trail boots at a discount shop. They kept my feet dry and comfortable and I never turned an ankle or tweaked a knee or got a blister. I wore layered socks: thin silk toe socks under thin microfiber wicking socks under thick alpaca socks. Worked like a charm.

Home cooking!

We made most of our own meals. The National Parks have the usual small tourist markets with minimal options for a maximum price – so, on the way, we stocked up at Farmer’s Markets and roadside produce stands, acquiring local specialties like Saskatoon jam, Taber corn, cherries, honey, tender fresh organic greens, smoked fish, summer savory, local wild rice, seeded mustards and – the pride of Alberta – an occasional steak.

There’s way too much to see!

We tried our best to schedule it all in, but things happen.

We missed the Stampede breakfast, the Beauty Creek Trail hike, Whistler Blackcomb and Ainsworth Hot Springs. It rained the day we planned the Banff gondola and Jasper was under smoke. But missing stuff is a great reason to go back and try again.

The politeness is catching!

Deer Lake, Burnaby, BC
Deer Lake, Burnaby, BC

As a Californian, I certainly don’t want to resort to cultural stereotypes (and who knows how long Canadians can maintain composure) but when they weren’t playing hockey …

Jennifer Shaw of Calgary Fire Women’s Hockey

… we found Canadians to be considerate, polite and hospitable. The mood changed instantly at the border crossing where the conversation shifted from political preferences to ice cream flavors.

Without the constant barrage of human-on-human stress signals, we were able to disengage our American reflex for hyper-vigilance and my personal coping strategy of hyper-friendliness took a break for four refreshing months.

Citizens are even nice behind the wheel.

Canada finally broke Jim of that annoying habit of nosing into the crosswalk. Long delays for trains made some drivers a bit jumpy but, in our experience, it was still easier to cross the street at rush hour in Vancouver than in big American cities. Everyone seemed to be looking out for each other.

Liquor and tobacco stores are out …

and Craft breweries and wineries are in!

We quickly learned that liquor is not sold at Costco. And Canadian Costco only accepts Mastercard instead of Visa, so we had to shop with cash. Next time, we will research early to find out which credit card Costco accepts.

So, for liquor, we had to depend on locals pointing us in the right direction because the rules for licensing vary from place to place.

It makes sense that a country with universal national healthcare would tighten the gun, liquor and tobacco laws.

Taxed at $8 per, Jim gave up cigars for those four months in Canada and I say, that’s a good thing. Now we know what those duty-free cigar and tobacco stores were about on the stateside of the border.

We have no idea about marijuana – but it’s still probably important to keep your leaf away from the border even with legalization. Yes, we were in downtown Vancouver when the bud dropped and guess what? It was about as exciting as a health fair for old people.

Deer Lake, Burnaby


It took three extra weeks to get the mail, so next time we will stock up on meds before crossing over. Also, our vehicle registration was out of date for about a week as we awaited delivery.

Amazon is different than Like Costco, they have different products and our prime membership didn’t cross the border with us, so stocking up before crossing is a good idea.

Exchange Rate

Fortunately, our bank waived all currency exchange fees on our credit card purchases and hopefully, that will continue – but, we will call to confirm before we reenter Canada.


We have Verizon Unlimited Data in the USA, and our plan (Beyond Unlimited) allows us one half a gigabyte per day per device at no extra charge in Canada. We have three devices but at our level of dependence, we ran out of data before noon every day. On occasion, we purchased more data at a per-day fee or, most often, went hunting for free Wifi.

Simple comforts …

British Columbia cherries! The best!!!

Freshly brewed unsweet iced tea was unavailable at all restaurants – and decaf black tea could not be found at grocery stores.

Dog-friendly restaurants were nearly unheard of. Even outdoor cafes and many parks do not allow dogs – even on a leash.

But both of those disappointments saved us a lot of money by enjoying our meals at home, so …

Expenses were ducky!

Food and restaurants are pricey in Canada – often 25% higher than in the states even with the currency exchange rate. But with so many free things to do, it felt like we were dripping in gold.

Due to colder weather, we spent an average of $101 per month on propane – much higher than our previous average of $35 a month.

Diesel was about $4.70 per gallon, but since we traveled under 2,000 miles in 3+ months (low for us, but hopefully our new normal) fuel expenses remained within our usual average of $355 a month.

So, our nearly four-month Canadian Rockies extravaganza vacation didn’t break the LIB bank! In fact, it was like … free.

We’re mighty tickled to report that – at least for now – the system works like money in the bank. Living in Beauty is taking us places!

Golden Ears Cheese Crafters
Golden Ears Cheese Crafters, Maple Ridge, British Columbia

Please share your Canada travel tips in the Comments below!