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  • Writer's pictureSandy Snyder

Across North America

In 2018, Tom, Maggie, and I headed north for our second trip to Canada, driving through the northern US and Canada. This post is an abridged “highlights” version of the travel blog posts made during that trip. The entire trip journal can be found at Search on "tellico".

We had recently traded our trusty 2004 Lance truck camper and Dodge truck for a 28 foot Phoenix Cruiser motorhome, so prep work this time involved getting a new recreational vehicle (RV) set up and equipped. We pulled a 12 foot box trailer that carried our motorcycle (Kawasaki Vulcan 650) and the gear needed for hiking, camping, and fishing. Tom is always responsible for the technical stuff; I do the kitchen, bath and décor stuff. Maggie is purely decorative. It’s worked pretty well so far.

Our original plan

· Drive to Canada through Michigan and travel west on the Trans-Canada Highway, exploring Ontario’s northern shore of Lake Superior, and visiting Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

· Catch the Alaska Highway at its Dawson Creek start in British Columbia, and head northwest to Alaska. We hoped to re-visit places where we enjoyed ourselves 11 years ago and find some new adventures. We’d cross back into Canada on the Top of the World Highway.

· Board Maggie and the Cruiser in Whitehorse, Yukon, and rent a 4-wheel-drive SUV to travel up the Dempster Highway, a 500-mile gravel road that leads north through the Yukon and Northwest Territory, to the Arctic Ocean.

· Back in the Yukon, we’d reclaim the RV and the dog and head south through British Columbia to Vancouver and Victoria Island. We’d cross back into the US and travel down the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts, visit Crater Lake and Yosemite, and head for home in east Tennessee sometime in October.

Well … like all good plans, this died a sad death, a victim of weather and wildfires. But! Our little family of three had a wonderful time exploring beautiful places and meeting wonderful people as we drove Miss Maggie around North America.

Driving Miss Maggie

For those of you who don’t know Maggie – she’s a yellow lab, bought at age five as a retired breeding dog and trained as a therapy dog. She’s certified by the H.A.B.I.T. Program run by the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Maggie enjoys traveling with us: so far, she’s been to 27 US states and 10 Canadian Provinces. However, this type of trip is new. She’s used to staying in hotels, but is traveling this time in the camper. We set up a “house” for her underneath the dinette table. It’s about the safest place in the motorhome for a dog. For the first week, she stayed under the table most of the time and gradually came out when we were “home” – not driving. She now sleeps on the floor between our beds. And she sheds – if you don’t like hair, don’t buy a lab. We sweep daily, and still her hair gets into all sorts of strange places she’s never been – like the motorcycle trailer. When it rains? MUD. She’s very good about letting us clean her feet – and legs and belly -- before she goes into the Cruiser and puts up with baths from the Cruiser’s outdoor shower.

But the best thing about traveling with Maggie is that wherever she goes, she makes friends. Large or small, young or old, she wants to say hello. Probably 90% of the people she approaches are pleased; I watch for those who aren’t dog people. When we’re in camp, she’s a people-magnet. Everyone comes to say hi, pat her and start conversations. She’s become a marshmallow hound, and prefers hers brown, not black. Children, of course, are her favorites.

This trip featured something special. In Watson Lake, Yukon, is a “Sign Post Forest”. Begun in 1942 by a homesick soldier working on the Alaska Highway who pointed the way to his home in Danville IL, the forest now has over 75,000 signs left by travelers from all over the world. During the past school year, Maggie was a Ruff Reader dog for three classes of first grade children at Ball Camp Elementary School in Knoxville TN. At the end of the year, the children each created a small picture of themselves reading to Maggie, and the teachers created a sign. We planted Maggie’s sign in the forest.

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