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Victoria Kamloops

31st May 2010

The Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish and Whistler

    I set off from Victoria to Swartz Bay, hoping to catch the 11am ferry across to Tsawwassen. After 10 mins of driving the charging circuit warning light came on. I swore. A few minutes later, it went out. This was worrying me now; an intermittent fault and I knew that if the battery wasn't charging, sooner or later the van would give up the ghost. After five more minutes it came on again. It also started to rain, but I didn't want to use the windscreen wipers because they would rapidly flatten the battery. I decided that I would stop in Vancouver and seek advice/get it sorted. I got to the ferry terminal, but had to wait until the noon ferry.
    The ferry crossing was a pretty spectacle. There are many islands stacked up against each other just of Swartz Bay, and the ferry had to weave an intricate pattern to get through them. The San Juan Islands could be clearly seen. We would sail part of the journey through American waters; the 49th parallel was given a kink to accommodate the islands. One Island I did take note of was Moresby Island, purely because I grew up in a small mining village called Moresby, in West Cumbria.
    The ferry docked and I disembarked, complete with glowing warning light. As I headed up to Vancouver, the light went out. I wasn't to be fooled, I needed to know exactly what the problem was. I could remember my way into Vancouver from when I first arrived, and I drove straight across to where I had based myself in Vancouver since I had got to know the area and the spectrum of garages in the vicinity. I called in at one of the garages I saw when I had the stalling problem. The guy didn't recognise me, but he came out with the same old yarn: $50 scan charge, $49 diagnostic charge, then $100/hour labour after that. Again he said he was short staffed and I would have to wait four days. Did he use that story on all his customers? I asked him if there was a Ford dealer in town. He directed me to one, and off I went. It wasn't far away, and after insisting I wanted to speak to a technical person, I eventually had contact with one of the service technicians. He was a friendly lad, and actually came out to the van. Without ranting on about scans and diagnostics and dollar signs, he could actually talk about the circuit. It seemed other outfits couldn't think, they could only rely on computer scans, and charge accordingly, a bit like passing "go" on a monopoly board. He warned me about buying cheap reconditioned alternators, they can fail. I suspect Don had gone down this cheap route back in Seattle when the original alternator failed. This lad said it was a pity the warning light was out now since he could have figured where the fault may lay, but said the next time it is on, without stopping the engine, disconnect the control cable that plugs onto the alternator. If the lamp goes out, then the fault lies with the alternator, if it stays on then the fault is elsewhere near the instrument panel. I thought this through and worked out the electrical circuit in my mind. It was obvious really. Now that I had a better understanding, I felt somewhat relieved. I thanked the lad, and got a price for a new alternator from the Ford dealer. $244 + tax, and $114 per hour labour. When it goes again I'll weigh up my options.
Shannon Falls
    I then drove across Vancouver and up the "Sea to the Sky Highway", Route 99, towards Squamish. This was a gorgeous drive. The road snaked along the coast up the Howe Sound, climbing up to dizzy heights before rapidly descending to the water's edge. The road had been hewn through the rock by brute force. The views across the Sound were stunning. A couple of miles short of Squamish, I called in on Shannon Falls. These were an awesome sight. Water cascaded down from a dizzy height, indeed because of an overhang I couldn't grasp the true height of these. They may not have been as impressive as Niagara Falls, but these were a compact and spectacular sight. On the way back to the van I stopped at the small information office to get some information on the falls. The lady told me they were 335m or 1105' high, the third highest falls in British Columbia. I asked her where the name came from; apparently a Shannon family owned a lot of land in the area. I made a connection with the River Shannon in Ireland, and she told me she had Irish and Scottish roots; she was second generation in Canada. Then she went on to tell me about her brother, who had been a big fellow and skilled carpenter. He was always a wanderer, and went across to Dublin to build houses. When he was over there, she asked him over the phone if he could understand the strong Dublin accent. He replied that he was having a hard time trying to understand the Russians he was working with, never mind the Irish men in the pubs. At that she fell about in stitches. When she came to, she told me with a tear in her eye that he had passed away quickly six months ago. I could tell she was still grieving. I wished her well and carried on with my journey up through Squamish to Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
    The road now had more precipitous climbs, and every so often there would be snow-chain pull-ins. Barriers were raised by the roadside, but I guess in winter these are lowered when the road became cut off. I reached Whistler and parked in the village to get some provisions. This is first and foremost a resort. The only shops you could find were those you'd associate with a resort, general hardware or DIY would not enter into the vocabulary here. It was a pretty little village with wide pedestrianised streets. The buildings lining the roads stretched over walkways so that visitors or residents could keep out of the worst elements the heavens could throw down on them. At this altitude, I guessed there must be plenty of rain and certainly snow. I passed by a large circular area that was being resurfaced. Two young women stopped me and asked me what that was, was it a presentation area during the Olympics? I told them I had only been in the village for 20 mins and I hadn't a clue. "Oh, sorry, the way you were striding purposely along looking full of confidence, we thought you must live here", at which I cajoled them. Who were they trying to kid. We laughed and went our separate ways.
Whistler Street
Another Whistler Street
Camp Pitch at Whistler
    I headed back down the road to a campsite I saw about 10 miles outside of Whistler The campsite was miles from civilisation. I wanted to cook some food before the light failed. There was no official, just a note to say he would find me in the morning, so I selected a pitch, cooked and ate tea, and had a wander to see if anyone wanted conversation. With about a dozen RVs and four tents, there was nobody about, so I retired to the van for the night, happy to escape the mosquitoes.
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Victoria Kamloops

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Last updated 5.6.2010