Crossing borders with Betsy can be a bit stressful. A large RV has many more potential hiding places than a car does, and the Border Patrol is suspicious of what might be in there even if you honestly declare everything you’re aware of in there.
On this, our 29th border crossing, the three rigs in front of us got through without much delay – we didn’t notice if they were from Canada or not. We drove up to the officer with our South Dakota license plates, handed over our passports, and prepared for the barrage of questions we’ve answered many times when entering Canada:
Officer: Where are you headed?
Steve: We have nine planned stops on Vancouver Island.
Officer: How long will you be on the island?
Steve: Six weeks.
Officer: Do you have anything to declare?
Steve responded by reading from our prepared inventory list, declaring a 6-pack of beer and three bottles of wine, and stating we did not have any fruits or vegetables.
Officer: Do you have anything in there we may find that you haven’t declared?
Officer: Are you carrying over $10,000 Canadian dollars?
Steve: No. (we wish!)
Officer: Do you have with you any Cannabis, in any shape or form – lipstick, makeup, lotion?
Officer: Are you carrying a gun?
Officer: Do you own a gun?
Steve: Yes, it’s stored in Arizona.
Officer: If you had your gun with you, where would it be?
Steve: Next to the bed.
Officer: Do you have ammunition with you?
Officer: Do you live in this rig?
Steve: Yes, it’s our home.
Officer: How long have you been traveling in it?
Steve: Seven and a half years.
Officer: Thank you, please pull over for a second inspection.
Steve and I looked at each other and thought this would be over in a few minutes.
As we stepped out, we gave the keys to our kingdom to a second officer who repeated several of the previous questions, plus:
Officer: Have either of you been arrested before?
We both replied in unison: No!
We were asked to sit in the office and wait until they were finished. A few minutes turned into over an hour as they ran through the refrigerator and every cabinet, drawer and cupboard. Then they extended the slide-outs and we watched helplessly as Betsy was stripped searched top to bottom including all of her compartments. Finally, they went through every nook and cranny in the car. Guess what, no gun or anything else illegal found – Yay!
We’ve never experienced a second inspection while crossing into Canada, and had been thinking about what we thought would be the tougher one back into the U.S. in a few weeks. We were polite and answered the questions truthfully, and yet for some reason they had an eye out for Betsy. They were courteous and professional, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. They thanked us for our patience and said that inspections can take a long time on a big rig. We were finally on our way!
When we got back inside, we could tell that every door, drawer, bag and purse had been opened, scrutinized and searched. Even our underwear drawers and laundry hamper had been rifled through 😦
We don’t know why it happened this time, but Steve said he’ll make sure to bring his book along to the office next time so at least he can pass the time!
And we thought our worries were over…
After a short drive we were settling in to our site and plugged in the power. The inverter/charger promptly let out a loud BANG! – along with some smoke and a heavy burning electronics smell. Oh-oh! I grabbed the fire extinguisher, but there were no flames and after several tests Steve confirmed that the inverter had failed but the surge protector, battery charger and transfer switch seemed intact. Of course this happened a Friday afternoon, on the long British Columbia Holiday! There would be no repair help until the following Tuesday.
So, what to do? Should we run back to the U.S. and cancel our itinerary here? If another component fails can we find an RV repair shop on short notice? Who should we call for the repair? Those and many other questions were under discussion. Sigh… 😦
We decided since we could live without the inverter and as long as the other components weren’t damaged we would change our plans if we had to for repairs, but forge ahead. Steve left messages for several RV repair shops (which are extremely busy this time of the year) and learned all he could about our inverter and what was needed to replace it.
On Saturday he found a replacement inverter and drove over 120 miles round-trip to pick it up. Now we needed someone to install it, since we don’t have the tools, time or place to do it ourselves on the road.
After many phone calls and visits to RV shops we finally located PC Auto and RV Electric, a place that specializes in RV electrical repairs and could take us in a couple of weeks.
With the inverter issue hanging over our heads, we tried to enjoy our time in Sidney. The bright flowers adorning the riverwalk made us temporarily forget our troubles:
To prove once again it’s a small world, especially when you’re a blogger, a couple visited us at our campsite at Oceanside RV Resort on our last day. It turns out we have a lot of friends in common with Steve and Diana, and that’s how they recognized us. And what do you know, they’re Canadians from Vancouver Island! We peppered them with questions about things to see and do on the island, and wished they could have visited longer. But alas, they were expecting company soon so we’re hoping to meet up with them again in Victoria on our way back to the U.S.
The following day we continued on to our next stop at Crofton, a short 55-mile drive. At this point we did not have to change any plans or reservations. We ran the generator on the way, and quickly plugged in at our site to keep the refrigerator nice and cold.
But on the way there, Betsy started making a new noise that Steve didn’t like at all.
Next up: Betsy, don’t fail us now!