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Vernon News

THOMPSON: Why it's called 'The Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure'

May 06, 2024 - 12:00 PM



We - meaning my wife, Bonnie, and I - arrived back in Vernon from Florida last week. It was our 26th trip between our two homes, an event I long ago tagged “The Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure”. It has always lived up to its name…and this last trip didn’t disappoint.

Never mind that our family and friends believe we’re just slightly crazy to undertake such adventures. After all, it involves driving a big truck with an even bigger - 48-foot triple-axle horse trailer - 5,000+ kilometres each way. That’s - 130,000 kilometres in 13 years - more than three times around the Earth at the Equator.

We haul two horses, two Borzoi (Russian Wolf Hounds), two cats, the two of us and an assortment of horse paraphernalia, golf clubs and other stuff we can’t live without. Every night and every morning we’re watering and feeding animals, mucking stalls, making our lunches and cooking our own dinners (who wants to eat truck stop fare?), fuelling up, checking tires…well, you get the picture…lots of work.

Bonnie enjoying the patio during “The Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure” in a Love’s Truck Stop in the U.S.
Bonnie enjoying the patio during “The Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure” in a Love’s Truck Stop in the U.S.

Yes, we are in our mid-seventies…which no doubt seems old to our family and friends…but barely middle-aged to us. We’re convinced that since it hasn’t killed us…these adventures are our modern-day Fountain of Youth.

Over the years we have dealt with the worst Spring snow blizzard in 150 years in the U.S.…stranding us for 13 days outside Omaha, NE. We suffered a “catastrophic fuel pump failure” in Chattanooga, TN…a five-day delay and $7,000US repair. Bonnie cut a finger to the ligament requiring an emergency room visit and five stitches…also in Chattanooga.

And while there’s no convenient time for a flat tire - especially with a fully loaded horse trailer - I can tell you that being 100 kilometres from the nearest stoplight is quite the inconvenience. Likewise, losing a Turbo Boot on your Ford F-350 Dually going up a mountain in Montana…is a problem.

Oh, and we lost an entire wheel on the horse trailer somewhere between Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA, when an axle sheer pin gave way. We never saw it or felt it…until we stopped in Macon, GA for diesel…and Bonnie - with a bewildered look - told me…“We’re missing a wheel!”

Bonnie asking, “How do you lose an entire wheel…and not know it?”
Bonnie asking, “How do you lose an entire wheel…and not know it?”

We’ve had one dog decide they had enough of trailer travel and escaped in a parking lot of the world’s biggest truck stop…and then played hide-and-seek for half an hour. Another - different hound - made her break from a parking lot and a half-mile away sunk all fours in 18-inches of wet farmland in Council Bluffs, IA.

So, this trip is not for the feint of heart or un-resourceful.

Normally, neither Bonnie nor I are slow-learners. But I must admit it took far too long to find the best possible route between our two horse farms. It was a conspiracy between COVID-19, Canada and the U.S. that did it.

Our first decade’s worth of trips were through the border at Osoyoos and on to Spokane, WA, Billings and Butte, MT,  Sheridan, WY, Rapid City and Sioux Falls, SD, Kansas City and St. Louis, MO, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, Atlanta, GA and into Florida. It was - more or less - a diagonal swath through America’s heartland.

During COVID-19 years, my Canadian wife couldn’t ride across the border into the U.S. but could fly no problem. So for two years, she flew from Kelowna to Vancouver, then Seattle, then Spokane…where she took a taxi to the nearest truck stop where I picked her up.

Then, government bureaucracy dictated that we travel west to Sumas to cross the border…because the U.S. no longer employed a veterinarian in Osoyoos…adding a day-and-a-half to an already long journey. Despite two years of suffering this fate, it violated my sense of good sense to start any trip East by going West.

Dinners are far better than what you’ll find in truck stops.
Dinners are far better than what you’ll find in truck stops.

Desperate times call for desperate measures…or at least common sense. I had always been reluctant to head across Canada…crossing the border a few provinces to the East…because I couldn’t confirm the existence of many truck stops along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Bonnie’s further research determined we could get a Co-Op Card Lock…and throwing in four jerrycans of extra diesel in the back of the F-350 for good measure…eliminated some fears. Still, where could we overnight? Finally, we decided to simply take a chance, and last October…head east through Rogers Pass.

This is where the slow-learner part comes in. Going through Canada means a single mountain pass…not ten like we had always done before. The roads are winding for just three hours through Canada…and the road looks like it was laid out by a snake through the first 1,800 kilometres of the U.S.

Past Calgary, Highway 1 is virtually straight and flat through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba until we cross the border south of Winnipeg. Who knew…apparently not us. Anyway it is - by far - the better route coming and going.

Remember I said earlier that this last trip lived up to its name…”The Grand and Glorious Semi-Annual Adventure”?

Last week, we missed this one-foot-plus snowfall in Calgary, by three hours.
Last week, we missed this one-foot-plus snowfall in Calgary, by three hours.

As we drove north through Iowa, we missed a tornado that destroyed 180 homes…by three hours. And when I noted just outside Regina that Rogers Pass was going to get snow that night, we decided to drive beyond Golden to Revelstoke. Good decision…turns out snow hit not just Rogers Pass but all of Calgary…more than one foot. We missed it - again - by three hours.

We’re here until Mid-October…when we’ll hitch up the trailer and head South. We’re fortunate to live our lifestyle. Besides, who wants to miss these kinds of adventures, at any age.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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