Driving a vehicle from BC to Ontario
Adventure seeker in search of the ultimate Lumber Delivery truck
..I wanted a 73-79 Ford truck so badly. Researching and thinking about the F100 model of this era really made me smile. It offers some key features, which in my mind, makes it the perfect truck for me:
-Enough space in the bed to fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood flat
-Stylish vintage charm
-Lovely body and dent side flare
-Bench seat which fits 3
-Excellent fuel economy
-Very cute headlights (its eyes)
So because of the above reasons, I began searching the inter webs for said delightful truck. I scoured Craigslist and Kijiji for 2 years, and then I found it.
Listed in Vernon, BC, there was the Ford of my dreams. Long bed beauty, in baby blue. So, I messaged the buyer. John, the owner, thought I was insane.
Why West Coast classic vehicles are the bomb
No salt = Less rust. Every car older than 15 years in Ontario has holes in the rocker panels from the tires kicking up salt. This lead me to look for the truck exclusively in the west coast of North America. I was a bit nervous of driving a vehicle across the border, so, I planned a route that took me along Highway 1.. more on this later.
Why the seller told me "no"
Apparently the idea of a woman flying one way across the country isn't normal? John didn't really act like a salesperson when I showed an interest. In fact, he tried to un-sell me and tell me what was wrong with the truck. He was worried that the truck would break down along the way. And, as any vehicle at 43 years old, it had a list of problems. A couple weeks went by, and I still saw it listed. I reached out again- and he took me a bit more seriously. He actually apologized, and offered me a lower price. He took a walk around video of the truck, showing it's condition, and posted it for me to watch on YouTube. I eagerly showed it to my boyfriend, my dad, and my friend who I shared a shop with. And after sleeping on it, I bought my ticket.
Things to consider when planning a trip across the country
Something I decided to skip was having a local mechanic look over the vehicle. This would offer an unbiased opinion on the condition and value of the vehicle. But, since the truck I was buying was so old, and I felt that the owner had shown me many angles and close ups of the condition of the vehicle, I skipped this step. And it didn't come back to bite me at all. In fact, I drove the truck for 6 months with 0 problems.
In order to get "ICBC" insurance, you need 2 pieces of photo ID. Since they don't have photo ID health cards, they almost didn't agree to insure me. But very thankfully, and luckily, they agreed. Since I was travelling within Canada, I didn't bother bringing my passport, as I thought it would be one less thing to worry about.
It's a good idea to buy a Jerry can. Those stretches along highway 1 in Northern Ontario are loooong between gas stations, and if your fuel indicator is messed up like mine was, you're going to run out of gas unexpectedly.
The trip home (approx 4,000 km) was around $1,500 in gasoline. Remember how I said the truck had excellent fuel economy? Well, that was a joke. Make sure you have enough pocket change to cover the cost of the plane ticket, vehicle, gasoline, food, and places to stay along the way.
If you dip into the states, you can shave a couple of hours off your overall route. But, you'll need your passport!
The trip from BC to ON
My first night of owning the truck, I decided I wanted to get it "detailed". And in Canada, that means I'll drink a beer and vacuum (is that a universal thing?). As I vacuumed the Chewbacca-esque shag carpet, I noticed that it was wet. A wet floor in a vehicle is not a good sign. As I peeled the carpet back, I revealed the Swiss cheese floor beneath Chewy. John's reaction was unphased, "It's an old truck... so, do you want your money back?" My answer of course was "No, but I also don't want holes in the floor". John then, to my amazement, began mixing up some polyester resin- and in a couple of hours, we patched the floor with fibreglass. As far as Kijiji sellers goes, John has got to be the equivalent of winning the lottery.
That night, my battery got stolen from the truck. Vernon, BC may actually be Canada's armpit (not confirmed). So alas, $300 later, I had bought the truck a new battery. At least now, I could leave the radio going and the lights on with a bit more peace of mind. I also invested in a Jerry can. John told me that the fuel indicator wasn't accurate, and it'd be good to get a feel for where it actually is. It pretty much always thinks it's empty.
The first day of my trip, I drove to Golden, BC. A ski town in a mountainous valley, the hostel I stayed at (the Dreamcatcher) was full of Australian and European travellers. Along highway 1, there are some gorgeous tunnels and scenery which had me wishing I could have explored more. If there is anywhere on this trip to "take your time", it's in BC. It feels a bit like driving through a painting- everything is so beautiful. As pretty as it was, I was glad to have made it through the mountainous highways with only light snowfall. John had warned me that since the truck was rear-wheel drive, unweighted it has little traction in the snow.
From the Dreamcatcher, I made my way through the rockies, onwards into Alberta. Driving through the mountains, you should be alert for caribou, bighorn sheep, moose, and bears. Along the Trans-Canada highway, there are some sections without any street lights. This makes it especially dangerous when driving at night- best to avoid it when possible.
I was lucky enough to stay with my cousin in Calgary. This was where I discovered some black fluid on my back tire. I thought, at the time, that it was differential fluid from the axel seal. However, I later realized the true culprit was the leaking brake line. I since replaced the lines with some super sexy pre-bent stainless steel ones from LMC.
Next up from Calgary, I made it to Saskatchewan. I wasn't able to make it to any town, so when it started to get dark, I turned off the road and parked on a dirt road. I called up my boyfriend, Harrison, to tell him about my trip so far. As I crawled into my sleeping bag, we chatted about the excitement in Vernon. I fell asleep after telling him about how excited I was to continue my journey home.
Rain. Lots and lots of rain. That's how I remember the next day, driving through Saskatchewan. I must have been traveling with the storm. A few times I'd breech the clouds and make it to soft sunlight, only to find the rain catching up with me again. And it was in the rain when I ran out of gas.
I poured the jerry can into the tank, and eagerly cranked the engine... But nothing. The secret to starting my truck is to rev the gas as you crank. Theres a specific pattern of throttle, crank, throttle that Jesse the truck likes. But even with my secret handshake of a tap and twist- the engine wouldn't turn over. After a quick call to John, he unveiled the problem. It's a carbureted engine! Duh! I totally knew what that meant... It meant, that instead of modern engines which have fuel pumps, it relies on having fuel in the line in order to turn over. So, I drained what was left in the Jerry can down the carb, and low and behold, Jesse started right back up again. And we were off to Manitoba!
How fortunate I was, that I was able to meet and stay with Harrison's Aunt and Uncle in Winnepeg. And somehow, the next day, I found myself and 2 men, all waxing my new truck together silently in unison. Probably my favourite moments in life are bonding with people, whilst cleaning the same thing together as a team.
The next day, I drove my shiny baby blue truck back to highway 1, and made way for Ontario. There are some lovely strips of highway out of Manitoba which are just beautiful birch trees.
Ontario makes itself known with the appearance of granite. Flecks glinted back to me, first sparsely in the gravel along the roadside. Then, larger and larger chunks- until I reached full on 40 foot high rock faces with the familiar half-cylinder voids caused by drilling and dynamite. I was elated when I reached Thunder Bay.
I continued my trip onwards, and that evening made it to Sault (Sue) Saint Marie. At this point, I was starting to feel fatigued from the 8 hour days of driving. I had made the decision to spend the night in a motel. I stayed in the Bel-Air motel for $88. When I opened the door to my room, I discovered the heat was turned off, and it was freezing. I cranked it up, and while I was waiting, I thought I'd warm myself up by having a hot shower. About 2 minutes in, the steam set off the smoke alarm. I jumped out, and frantically attempted to disarm the alarm. By the time I returned to the shower, I'd drained the hot water tank.
The next morning, I peeled out of the motel. I stopped at Canadian Tire to buy more brake fluid (which I was spraying on my back tire), and topped up my oil. I then set off through Northern Ontario. It was somewhere along this span where I came close to hitting a deer on the highway. She had lazily walked out from a shoulder, and simply watched me come to a stop. One thing I still need to fix on the truck is the horn.
The last night of my trip, I slept along the side of the highway at a truck stop, somewhere around North Bay. I discovered that the buildings marked "washrooms" are closed seasonally November - May. So in the winter, people just don't go to the bathroom? That night, I wore all of my clothing, and climbed into my -5 degree rated MEC sleeping bag. The next morning, I used the lid of my McDonalds coffee cup to scrape the ice off the inside of the windshield. It had snowed overnight. The first try, the truck didn't start. I waited a few minutes with the heaters blasting, as I danced my feet up and down, my teeth chattering. The second try, as I pleaded, "Come on, come on, come on," the engine started! And as I put the pedal down, I then realized it. I was stuck. I jumped out of the drivers seat, to discover I'd accidentally reversed the back tires into some shallow snow. This was probably made worse with the additional couple of centimetres which had fallen overnight. I jumped back into the drivers seat. And with a little cursing, and a lot of rocking back and forth, I was able to roll out and back onto the highway!
It was hard to tell how fast I was going. The truck is in MPH. That would be my excuse, if I did get caught going just a little too fast for highway 400. But I had made it! At last! My butt hurt, and I was so ready to see the familiar face of the man I loved once again. I had no idea at the time, but discovered that the truck badly needed it's tires balanced. So, I had just endured 50 hours of driving in a vibrating tin can. The road noise was made worse by the fact that I'd angrily ripped out all of that wet Chewbacca fur carpet. Additionally, the 43 year old rubber seals on all of the windows and doors could definitely stand to be replaced.
I was grinning from ear to ear when I rolled into the Green P parking lot behind our apartment. I was so proud to have survived, not broken down, and been able to problem solve my way through the past week of driving. After a couple of hours where I couldn't shut up, I had a much needed proper sleep at home. The next day, I drove to my parents house, and showed my dad the truck. When my mom saw it, I told her I bought it locally. Then, she saw the BC plates. Her jaw dropped when she figured out what I had done, and she told me "thank god you didn't tell me. I would have been worried sick!"
I still own the truck, and I can't wait to get it safety certified. Theres a long list of things it needs- including new floors (that fibreglass floor doesn't cut it?!). And one day, when I have a garage and a boat-load of time, I'll take my angle grinder to it, and cut it into bits. Only to weld it all back together again, and get back behind the wheel. I want to make a custom wood wheel, dash, and door panels. I'm also going to add some locking storage compartments in the bed, so that I can leave tools or material in it. So many dreams and plans for my set of wheels! But, sometimes life gets in the way. One day, it'll be amazing. But, until then, Jesse the truck is being stored in covered and heated barn. Sleep, my beautiful truck-child. One day, you'll be put to work again.