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13 September 2005

Walla Walla WA

While I was in Valdez I hooked up with a guy who made welded aluminum boats for the river traffic along the Snake River, and he suggested I take a ride up Hell's Canyon in one of them. He also gave me the lowdown on taking a shotgun through Canada, for he had one in the back of his truck camper, loaded with slugs.

You hear lots of talk about how hard it is to get across the border with a weapon of any sort, and even the occasional lurid tale of nosy inquisition and hours of search and destroy forays through your vehicle by belligerent border guards with a confiscatory gleam in their eyes.

The reality turns out to be a lot more cut and dried. He just showed up at the border, declared the shotgun, filled out a form identifying it by model and serial number, and paid $25 for a 60 day permit. The permit is renewable. He did not have to show the gun, nor have it sealed and plugged, nor any of the nonsense you hear about. He was on his way in about 15 minutes.

No muss, no fuss.

If you are going to be fishing at remote streams in Canada, and worried about bears, this might be the way to go. But I've been on some of those streams, and my experience is that the bears are not interested in you. Along the Russian river in the Kenai, I saw men and bears fishing side by side, both hauling in the salmon.

My impression is that people up there deal with a bear like you'd generally deal with a drunk. Just move over a bit and give him some room. He's more trouble than he's worth to run off. Of course, if either the bear or the drunk is carrying a shotgun, that's a different kettle of salmon.

My first view of Lewiston, Idaho, coming down from the north, was from the top of Lewiston Hill. Impressive. In the hazy distance, hay stubble covered the hills like a tawny pelt, rumpling down and converging into the speckled green of Lewiston along the broad blue ribbons of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers. Lewiston is a port, connected by river and lock to the Pacific ocean. Amazing, when you think about it. It's a long way to the ocean from here.

I took a look at Hell's Canyon State Park, and some of the tour boats. Perhaps another time. It was the middle of the day, and I just wasn't in the mood. Besides, I had an appointment in Walla Walla to pick up my guns.

I got in about 3 pm, and Alan didn't get off until 5, so I decided to improve the time by washing the truck and trailer. I had accumulated a thick coating of Alaskan and Canadian mud.

I had to pick up a new little door for my electrical cord stow-hole, so I headed south a few miles to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and Smiley's RV. Got the part, and directions to the carwash. Pulling up in front of it, I saw that I couldn't pull straight in, but there was an entrance to each side. I waited for traffic, then pulled right into the one next to the pizza joint.


Someone had put a high curb between the two businesses. So there I was, facing into a dead end parking lot, with the traffic going zip-zip-zip behind me. Can't go forward, can't go back. Then I noticed that there was a little road around back behind the pizza joint, apparently for window pickup.

Narrow, but looks like I can make it.

Now I could have just waited for a break in the traffic. Eventually there would have been one, and I could have backed out of there. But noooo. That would have required patience.

When in doubt, panic.

You guessed it. Erk. I caught the edge of the green mansard roof with the passenger side of the trailer. Poked a hole right through the skin, and ripped the awning above the door.

Employees came boiling out, then ducked back in again, because I was turning the air pretty blue. I apologized, briefly, then let'er rip again. Just couldn't quit for a few minutes there. Not really inventive cussing, just energetic and repetitive. I wore it out after a little while.

The owner showed up with the cops, and I settled with him for a hundred bucks. Not that much damage to the building, but the figure was less than my deductible, and I didn't want any lingering long distance trouble. Then I persuaded some of those nervous employees to back me out into the road and around to the side, where I got out the ladder and duct-taped the hole.

About a foot long. Dang.

I dropped the trailer and washed the truck. I gave up cleaning the trailer. The duct tape might not hold against that much water. In fact, I've got to keep an eye out for some 70 mph test duct tape. Do they make such a thing?

I had a couple of beers to settle my digestion. Then I drove back to Walla Walla. Alan met me in the Safeway parking lot with my package. We went out to supper.

I didn't unwrap the guns. Safer to wait till tomorrow. They aren't loaded, but given the way things were going I could probably still figure out a way to shoot myself in the foot.


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