It Finally Happened – Sidney, BC, Canada

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 every item you’re aware of.

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?

Steve: No.

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?

Steve: No.

Officer: Are you carrying a gun?

Steve: No.

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?

Steve: No.

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…

Our site at Oceanside RV Resort

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.

Our new high-tech pure sine wave inverter/charger – who’s going to install it?

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:

Beautiful flowers everywhere around the harbor

More flowers along the riverwalk

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.

Now what?




  1. You’re killing me with the suspense ML. Good writing, I don’t care for the story 😉.

    Looks like we’re not crossing north, EVER!

  2. Uggggh! Too bad about the strip search and the inverter, but I’m sure you two rolled with it. So cool you were able to meet up with Steve and Dianne. We missed them by a couple of weeks last year. Hope your next blog post isn’t too expensive!

  3. Oh, you guys. 😦 Even though I knew about some of your troubles, reading about it in detail is painful. I would feel violated by that strip search that Betsy was subjected to! It’s just so ridiculous that those kinds of searches are allowed without ANY reason for them to suspect you of anything. And then to have your inverter go up in smoke…

    I’m really, really glad that despite your rough landing on Vancouver Island that you decided to continue on with your journey. I’m hoping that the beauty and the wonderful adventures that await you will make it all worthwhile.

    • I think because we were the biggest rig in the line up that the officer took a liking on Betsy. When I saw that they went through my underwears, I did feel violated. I felt like washing everything in that drawer!
      It was indeed a rough landing especially when we were in a foreign country, not fun at all.

  4. I had an image in my head of stowaways under the RV like in movies before I read the entire story which gave me a bit of a chuckle. I am so happy to hear you cleared customs.

  5. We feel your pain on that border crossing. You should have Texas license plates! Our first crossing over the border is always that way. They believe all Texans are stowing a gun or something. But then it seems that once we’re in the system, we don’t have any other issues. It’s just random how they do it.

    Glad you’re sticking with your itinerary, despite the challenges. Hoping it’s not an expensive trip to the RV doctor! Your writing has me biting my nails!

    • It’s funny because we thought it is always the coming back to the US that is tough. We always had a smooth border crossing into Canada, but they chose us this time.

  6. Ugh…. That border crossing sounds like a nightmare. So far, we’ve had no issues going into Canada, but every time we’ve come through the U.S. side, they want to board our RV and take a look around. I always find it a bit off-putting, but it is nothing like what you experienced. I probably would have completely lost it. Hell, I almost lose it every time I have to go through TSA security. I cannot imagine how violated I would feel if someone was rifling through my home and belongings. Not cool, Canada. Not cool. I’m glad you guys got through it without creating an international incident and I’m glad to hear you were able to limp along without an operational inverter. It is amazing how these things all seem to happen at once though, right? I hope the next bit of bad news won’t be too bad….

    • We thought we will breeze through the Canadian border crossing like in the past. Well, there is always the first time, and it happened on our last visit to Canada! It was the helplessness watching from afar imagining what they are doing in our house. I wanted so much to take a picture of Betsy while being strip-searched but thankfully I stopped myself or I would be in more trouble.
      The first few days were killing me for I wanted to turn around but Steve wanted to continue with our plans. And I’m glad we stayed, I just worry too much 🙂

  7. We had a similar experience and second inspection when we went to Ontario in our truck and fifth-wheel. The border patrol actually apologized to us after going over both vehicles with a fine tooth comb from head to toe as we waited with our 4 puppies! Back to prettier things…the flowers are awesome and so are you and Steve! Gay

  8. So sorry to read about your difficult border crossing. It is always such a crap shoot. Having the inverter go in a strange place sure isn’t fun. Why do these things always happen miles or days from help. The down side of fulltimimg. Good to see you making the most of it and continuing with your plans. Beautiful flowers!

    • Oh Pam, you can just imagine the discussion we had trying to sort through what our next move would be. I was ready to turn around and cancel everything. But Steve was calmer because he knows more of what is wrong with Betsy and that it can be fixed.

  9. Bummer about the search. Dave and his fishing buddies had their vehicle searched years ago (80’s) when they came back into the US, they were probably pretty grungy looking after a week at a fishing camp. We had a bad smell last month in the rv when we got home, turned out to be some batteries that shorted out and were close to catching fire. Hope you get things taken care of soon.

  10. Haay..So stressful and exhausting adventure even just reading it. What a price to pay to visit Sydney. At keast you two are really expert in handling this type of situation and make the best of it.Looks like it was worth it.Be careful and enjoy

  11. So, what you’re saying is that the Canadian Border Patrol screwed with your inverter? And we all thought Canada was soooooo nice. I bet those inverters are manufactured in Canada, eh? :)-

    Glad you kept your cool heads and happy attitudes. I hope it is smooth on the return!

    • I blamed the Canadians for the inverter blow out 🙂 We thought so too that they are nice just like before. But they got a tip that this will be Betsy’s last border crossing into their country so they just have to inspect her for good measure.

    • My new converter is made in Canada, and they just happened to have one in stock! I think you’re onto something!


    • It was unpleasant for sure, watching helplessly from afar and imagining what they are touching and riffling through. I stopped myself from being a smart aleck and asked them if they found something 🙂

  12. Oh my, we live in a 24 ft motor home and it’s like a jigsaw puzzle up in here. They would have to have us with them to excavate this place.
    The US side did get our keys and left the bins doors all open but I couldn’t see anything moved around on the inside.
    I saw a family coming out of Mexico a few years ago. They took everything out, all their belongings stacked up next to the 40 ft motorhome out on the road, the kids were looking out the windows of the office crying. It was awful. I can’t imagine what initiated that kind of inspection.

    • We were unscathed when we cross back to the US from Mexico 🙂 I think or I hope our final crossing back to the US in a few weeks will just be routine, if not well 😦

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