To the north!

Seems to me that “driving across” the United States should also include going from Mexico to Canada and not just from sea to shining sea.  It makes sense, so I’m telling you that the rambling family just drove across the US in 3 days.  Well, nearly.  We started in Tucson which is 70 miles short. Technicality.  We proudly crossed the border at Osoyoos, British Columbia on day three, ready to explore the great white north.

All last week the camper was parked out front of our house (I fully expect a notice from the crazy HOA) so I could pack leisurely and not forget anything. After not too much sleeping in on day 1 we were off for the great Canadian road trip of the summer!  Two months in the camper…

Our first goal was Las Vegas.  The kids have never been and it’s a good ‘beginner’ distance at about 430 miles. Of course, 10 minutes along and we had to wait for a giant airplane to cross be road into the air and space museum.  Our first real pit stop was 2 hours into the trip for some provisions at IKEA. Gotta have some meatballs.

After that it was Clementine on audio books (thank you Pima county library and Bethany), until we stopped at the Hoover dam to check it out.  No longer does the main road go across the dam, but a quick exit and inspection of the camper let us drive over and park for a bit.  Impressive, that.  Though the lake is insanely low.  The white stain at overflow level was huge; looked like there was no way the overflow ramp would be getting any business soon.

We rolled into the strip at dusk and parked conveniently and cheaply behind the Flamingo where there were plenty of bike riding security guards.  Our first stop was seeing the flamingos. Avi is such a flamingo freak.  He loved seeing these birds in their lush courtyard. Both he and Zoe have one of my old cameras to use, and I think he took over a hundred. From there, we wandered across the street and took in the volcano explosion at the Mirage; which we now have video of courtesy of Zoe. She also loved the inside of Ceasars. The shops area gave her the feeling of wandering around Ancient Rome; complete with fountain squares and a sky on the ceiling.  Of course it is clean, animal-free, and really just a hyper expensive mall. Still. Cool.

We hopped on city bus number 2 – the one that rolls along the strip and to Fremont street.  It’s called the Duece. Cheesy.  But, it’s cheap and super convenient. Zoe wanted to see inside the New York, which was neat.  We had some burgers and rambled through reproduction slightly miniaturized little Italy streets.  This was a good place for kids to actually see the casino floor; it’s only distinguishable by the change of carpet. Zoe found it fascinating, while Avi just wanted to watch the roller coaster come through.

We walked along to the Excalibur which was really vaguely themed inside and better just to look at from the out.  But, it does have a fun moving walkway system that whisked us along to the Luxor where we reveled in the cool ancient Egyptian vibe.  Both kids ooo’d and ah’d over that one.
Exhausted, we boarded the bus back up the strip, which really is the best tour going, if you can snag a top deck front seat like we did.  We debated whether to push on to Fremont street for the light show, but a simple vote was unanimous: sleep!

I drove about 20 minutes north out of town and parked at a huge truck stop before we crashed around midnight.

I woke early the next morning, got together some breakfast, roused the kids and we hit the road.  This would be the longest day: planned that way, but still I kneq going in that it would suck, and you know what? It really didn’t. We drove about 700 miles from Vegas to the first rest stop inside Oregon. I mostly took a road numbered 93 north across Nevada until we hit I-84 and headed west. We only stopped for gas.

The scenery was surprising.  I’ve been in Nevada before and, except for the western half near Reno, it’s been rugged and dry and kind of just uck.  I was a little concerned about taking 93 as a ‘short cut’ instead of the longer freeway route through Salt Lake City because I figured it would be like other parts of Nevada: desolate. I was concerned about finding gas. Not so!  Route 93 follows a long series of valleys with enough moisture for some really nice ranches. The mountains are rugged (and still snow capped!) on both sides but the valleys and cute valley towns are fairly green and welcoming.  There was plenty of fuel.

We downloaded some great audiobooks, and really hooked into the Gods of Olympus series.  The Lost Hero (book 1) pulled us through the 12 hour drive day,  and especially helped me keep alert and not drowsy driving. Neither kid had complaints about distance or time.  It was Avi’s day up front, too.  They are switching whole days with a turn in the front seat; keeps them pleasantly separated and gives me a chance to enjoy the drive with a fresh helpful navigator.
For the evening, we hit our goal: Oregon.  I have a note on my itinerary that says, “farther the better” into Oregon.  We got to the first rest stop about an hour into the state just as the sun set. It had gorgeous soft grass and a handful of other big rigs and campers parked for the evening.  The air was so cool and moist compared to the desert. Zoe commented that it felt wonderful and dense. Avi’s hair is already getting curly.  I miss some humidity! Night two was quiet and pleasant.

This morning we drove only an hour up the freeway to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center where the kids loved the life sized dioramas and interactive exhibits about the emigrants who crossed the country.  Outside were prairie schooners to investigate and then a trail along some of the original route  from St. Louis to the Oregon territory, complete with artifact wagon ruts.

Again we were struck with the beauty of a lush river valley and high rocky snow-capped peaks near Baker City.  Not much further along the freeway westward, though, and the road climbs to a high arid plateau with expansive but very dry looking views.

Once we crossed into Washington it was time to leave the freeways behind and follow surface roads through into Canada.  This has been the prettiest drive, so far, along 97 in river valleys full of vineyards and fruit trees: the Okanagan region. It really reminds me of Spain.

In total, we did 480 miles today and crossed into Canada at Osoyoos.  One final hour and we pulled into a reserved spot at Okanagan Lake Provencial Park.  Ready for a few days of not driving!

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