The Value of Getting Help From Locals | Tips to Help With or to Avoid Road Travel Problems
Trouble on the Road - Jim and Elizabeth
Every summer, when our seasonal rental in British Columbia, Canada comes to an end, we hit the road for four months, on a scouting trip. It’s also a great opportunity to travel across Canada, through beautiful British Columbia, over the Rocky Mountains, across the prairies, to Ontario. We work, go to motorcycle events, do some scouting for show topics and Jim researches and rides on the trail systems that are so challenging in that neck of the woods. We also take the opportunity to visit with family, and then in the fall, we head back home to Vancouver Island.
Most years, we take our cargo trailer -which is our motorcycle carrier, home on the road and the Adventure Rider Radio recording studio for the summer. It’s a 6 x 12 aluminum trailer which we painstakingly converted using scrap cedar wood, donated by our friend, Paul. We installed a couple of used RV windows. The material for the curtains came from Paul’s daughter, Sofka - which she brought back all the way from Bali - and some from a thrift shop. We have silver spoons for cupboard door handles and the trailer is decorated with paraphernalia from our past, our family and with things that reflect our passions.
We pull the trailer with our Jeep Wrangler - with our two dogs settled in the back of the Jeep and Jim’s motorcycle tucked in nicely in the trailer. Every year, we do it without any major incidents. We’ve replaced alternators, done brakes, repaired tires, changed axle joints, fixed some transmission radiator problems, all things that we could repair ourselves on the side of the road. And travelling across this vast expanse of over 4500 km each way is nothing new to us - we’ve been zigzagging across the country for about 20 years now, for one reason or another. Either in a vehicle, or on a motorcycle, and in the past few years sometimes with our trailer.
And on June 1, as usual and right on schedule, we packed up and hit the road. This time, we were taking a bigger load out to Ontario, so we decided to buy a used truck and haul the trailer with that, while I (Elizabeth) drove the Jeep. And all was going really well. We took the ferry over to Vancouver and headed to Hope for the night. When we pulled in to our favourite rest area - it’s large with free wifi, which is great for working - we saw that the truck was losing oil. There were no indications of a problem at all - so we were surprised. The truck had been given a mechanical once over before leaving and all was sound, or so we thought.
So, Jim crawled under the truck and found it was the transmission front pump seal leaking - where the torque converter goes in to the front pump (in case you didn’t know, many years ago Jim used to work as a mechanic and still does all of our mechanical repairs). Here we were, a long way from Campbell River, near Hope. Broken down truck - and a load in the back of it. And this was not a repair we could do on the side of the road. Well… we hadn’t paid much for the truck… and paying for a transmission repair was not something we wanted to do. It just wasn’t worth it. But, what to do with our stuff? If we put it in the trailer, there was no way the Jeep could tow it. It’s an older Jeep, a 2008, and only a 6 cylinder, so we have to keep the trailer light in weight.
What to do? Okay. Of course, it’s stressful and upsetting. So, we put our thinking caps on. We tossed around a few ideas. And then went to sleep, we would deal with it in the morning. For now, we were good. We were safe, we had internet, water, food… everything we needed.
I woke up early in the morning, and the plan formed in my mind. I called UHaul - arranged to get stuff shipped to Ontario in a storage box, which is really a large wood crate. Then we decided to unload the truck - and I don’t mean take the stuff out of the back - we decided to sell it. We put it on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and within hours we had it sold. We took a loss on it, but we didn’t want to put the money in to the repair. We were concerned that we would do the repair, and then the truck could have another breakdown. We didn’t want to take the chance.
We had taken the deposit for the truck from the potential new owners, so we didn’t want to drive it anymore, but we needed to get our load to the UHaul location. We have BCAA (British Columbia Automobile Association) roadside insurance (right now, it’s the best money we’ve ever spent), so the next morning we arranged to have the truck towed to Abbotsford to the UHaul location, where we packed the storage box on site for shipping. Then we met the new, and I have to say very happy, owners nearby. It was something we felt really good about - they needed the truck and we needed to sell it. Our first awesome connection on this trip - Kathy and Chris. It worked out very well for all concerned. Kathy gifted me a beautiful wrought iron rooster soap dish which she had found - she’s very much in to finding treasures at thrift shops and yard sales, much like me. My cup runneth over - many thanks, Kathy.
After spending the night in Vancouver, visiting our son, we hit the road again. Between Vancouver and Hope, the Jeep hiccuped. It’s an automatic transmission - and had done this once the year before when we were headed back to British Columbia, but never again in the next nine months. We pulled over, shut the Jeep off and when we started it, it was fine. Just a fluke, maybe? Well, we decided if it did it again we would get it checked. But, all was fine until we were close to 700 km away from Vancouver, when it did it again, and again, and again, all within a few kilometres. We were close to where we had planned to camp, at a forestry recreation site. So we decided to just get there and then decide what to do.
We just couldn't believe our luck. Things were really falling apart it seemed. Fortunately, we had some cell service and data and were able to do some research. We knew that it was a transmission problem - and needed repair - we could not go any further.
So, again we regrouped - decided we could have it towed to a transmission shop or attempt driving it and then if it didn’t make it, then have it towed in. But, we needed to find someone that could do the repair as soon as possible. Jim posted on the Horizons Unlimited Facebook page . But, alas no quick answers (many thanks to Grace for taking action on our behalf). So, off to bed - figure it out in the morning.
We got up and Jim called the nearest specialty transmission shop in Salmon Arm. He told us to bring it in and he would do the repairs. So, what should have been a two hour trip took us almost five hours, with stopping for construction and a half a dozen times or so when the transmission acted up. But, we finally managed to crawl in to the lot of the transmission shop.
So, here we sit… the owner and staff here are so kind… they’ve given us a place to park our trailer for the night, set us up with hydro so we can work and produce this show (we need the Jeep for power and right now it’s up on a hoist). And once again, we have made the most incredible connection and met the nicest people at First Klass Transmission in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Canada.
This show has been produced while we wait for our Jeep to be repaired, as we sit in our trailer in their fenced lot. We hope to be back on the road again tomorrow. These challenging events in our past week have inspired us to tell our story, and to share some valuable tips we have learned - things we have learned from being on the road.
Tips To Help With or to Avoid Road Travel Troubles
First of all, if you read about someone who is in trouble, perhaps on social media:
Please don’t say ‘it’s all part of the adventure’. Don’t say ‘everything will be okay’. Because in that moment, when someone is feeling the pinch of trouble, those are not the words they want or need to hear. Only say something if you can contribute something valuable, some good and useful advice, or words of encouragement to help someone not feel so alone. Because until you’ve walked in that person’s shoes you have no idea of what’s going on - financially or emotionally. Just be supportive.
Things you should think about before setting out on a trip, just in case you run in to trouble:
Pay attention to what’s behind you and what’s up ahead: Make sure you know your whereabouts. What’s ahead of you… what’s behind you. What services and amenities are located where - just pay attention as you go. It’s really helpful. Before our Jeep breakdown, Jim noticed the First Klass Transmission shop as we drove through Salmon Arm and it later helped us to make the decision of whether we should drive back 225 kilometres or continue on for 260 kilometres to Calgary. Our cell service and data are limited when we are on the road, so knowing our whereabouts means less data we have to use researching.
Try to be on a flexible schedule: We had a load of stuff that we were taking from British Columbia to Ontario - which we have since shipped out on a truck. But, now have a deadline of a pick up date, which adds to the stress of getting to Ontario on time. Normally we travel with no commitments other than producing Adventure Rider Radio, which we can do anywhere on the road, and loosely plan on visiting motorcycle shops, etc, go to the events that we can - we’ve got quite used to doing that. Sometimes it’s inevitable, you need to make plans, to book or reserve - flights, etc - but if you can just make your trip as schedule free as possible, it really lightens the load, so to speak.
Roadside insurance: If you can get it, then it’s invaluable. Perhaps you can get it for travel in your own country, or can get some kind of roadside insurance that covers you in other countries. Research it and see what’s available for you - because when you need it, you will be so glad for it.
Make connections: If you have a problem or need help, see if you can find a local forum for the area that you’re in. Try posting on Horizons Unlimited, which has an international following. Not to ask for financial aid, but for some direction to help solve your problem. Perhaps someone can help you find a repair shop, or a place to store your bike or vehicle. Making connections makes you feel like you have friends in unfamiliar places - it can make all the difference in how you feel about a stressful experience.
Keep your cool: Above all, when the sky is falling and your world is falling apart, keep your cool. There’s nothing better than a level head in a stressful situation. You need to stop, think about and weigh up your options, make a plan and then take action. One thing we always tell ourselves is that we are going to look back at this event and it’s going to be a story we tell, but the pain we experience at the time will mean nothing in the long run. Remember, this too shall pass.
Don Parsons - Alberta, Canada
There’s motorcycle travel, and then there’s motorcycle travel with a toy hauler. It’s often the type of travel we do and it’s also the type that Don Parsons does. We spoke with Don way back in 2015 when he was travelling from Alberta, Canada in to the United States with his truck, camper and motorcycle. He shared with us his thoughts on the value of local forums, which can be a great travel planning tool for motorcyclists. Corresponding with locals provides a more intimate knowledge on the things to do and see while visiting, roads not to be missed, places to camp out and also provide the opportunities to meet local motorcycle riders.
This episode of Adventure Rider Radio is made possible by listener support and the following sponsors:
Max BMW: www.maxbmw.com
BestRest Products: www.cyclepump.com
Green Chile Adventure Gear: www.greenchileadv.com
IMS Products: www.imsproducts.com
Red Rock Garage: www.redrockgarage.ca