PART 9 Our Epic 2022 West Coast Journey Continues

North Cascades to Southern Canada

We slowly began to come down (literally) from the high both of us experienced visiting the North Cascades National Park in northwestern Washington. Descending Highway 20 the grandeur of the park’s scenery quickly faded as we dropped down into the hot, dry, and hilly terrain of eastern Washington.

It was Saturday, July 9th and we weren’t going to make it all the way to our next destination of Ione, Washington, back up again near the Canadian border. As we headed to our next overnight stop, we passed through towns with names of Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp, and Okanogan.

The temperature gauge in the van was showing an increase in temperatures from those we had experienced in the cool coastal areas.

Praying for a shady camping site

We pulled the van into the city operated Carl Precht Memorial RV Park in the town of Omak, Washington. Kim reserved a back-in spot near the restrooms for us.

On the map it looks like it would be perfect for relaxing and overlooking the Okanogan River, but in reality, the river is hidden below a tall flood-preventing berm. Thankfully, there was plenty of shade, lawn, and trees, including the broadleaf and long pod-bearing catalpa tree.

According to the website, after recent renovations, the park now has 68 spots for campers and RVs.

Many of the pull-through campsites can accommodate rigs up to 60 feet with both 30-amp and 50-amp electrical service.

Made in the shade of the old Catalpa tree

We ended up being the only campers on this side of the campgrounds. We tried to keep the girls cool by opening the side door and windows and running the rooftop Maxxair fan to create a draft throughout the van.

We fixed a salad and some tortellini for dinner and did dishes “al fresco” on the picnic table.

Part of the City’s Eastside Park, the tree lines camping area is located just a little way over from the famous Omak Stampede Rodeo grounds and arena.

Go to: for more information and to make RV reservations.

Home of the Annual Suicide Race!

The Annual Omak Stampede is “always the 2nd weekend in August,” so we were a bit early for the cowboy celebration. The Stampede features lots of western entertainment and a rodeo. But the real draw during that weekend is the “World Famous Suicide Race.”

The Stampede website says, “…except for safety measures that have been added, the race is run today as it was in 1935 “no holds barred” on a course that starts 50 feet from a sandy bluff across the Okanogan River from the Stampede arena.

“Horses and riders race 225 feet down the bluff to the river, swim or wade across and dash 500 yards to the finish line in the center of the Stampede arena!” Our campsite was directly across from the steep, downhill bluff chute.

From looking at pictures of the event, it sounds like the old RVer’s “campground scramble” to claim that one last open camping spot on a busy Labor Day weekend!

An unexpected county music concert

Courtesy Spencer Crandall Music

To our surprise, our evening on the Stampede grounds was not without “western entertainment.” A concert was booked at the rodeo arena that night, and we could easily hear up-and-coming country artist Spencer Crandall ( and his band from the comfort of our van on a hot Summer night.

Waking up and packing up we had another full day of driving ahead of us.

Are we there yet?!?!?!?

We made a quick stop the next day in the town of Omak to fill up with fuel and find a replacement camp stove for the one we melted. We also picked-up a few more items at the local Safeway grocery store before getting back on Highway 20/97.

The highway follows the Okanogan River northeast for a number of miles before Highway 20 separates and breaks eastwardly at Tonasket, WA.

The two-lane road, dubbed the Sherman Pass Scenic Byway, gained elevation slowly as we drove east, winding through the hillsides, then into mountains, with several switchback curves, eventually cresting at Sherman Pass.

Back across the Columbia River

Our downhill decent gave us yet another encounter with the mighty Columbia River, this time at the lumber town of Kettle Falls, WA.

We crossed the river and drove past the large Boise Cascade lumber complex along the river’s banks. It was encouraging to us to see the lumber industry in this area still surviving.

More mountain driving was ahead while we zig-zagged through the dense stands of trees in the Colville National Forest and the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuse.

We finally said goodbye to Highway 20 at Tiger, WA, turned onto Highway 31 north, and drove along the Pend Oreille River to the small town of Ione, WA.

Ione – a small town in Washington and California

Ione is not a common name for a town or city, but the funny thing is JK’s kids, for several years, lived with their mom in Ione, California, located in the Sierra Foothills.

The Washington town of Ione acknowledges its close proximity to Canada by welcoming visitors with both the U.S. stars and stripes and the Canadian maple leaf flag flying at the city limits.

The population of Ione is about 428 hardy souls, including Dan and Meredith Nutt, a really nice couple who own and operate the Cedar RV Park and Car Wash at 4404 North Highway 31 just outside of town. We had booked a two-night stay at their RV park.

This tiny 10 site campground nestled in the tall cedars features concrete pads with full hook-ups. They offer areas to park your camper on an open grass area if you prefer.

No break from the heat

Temperatures didn’t drop much during the daytime, even at this elevation, so Dan was very accommodating and let us park the van in the shade behind the main camping area under a grove of trees. He even ran an extra-long extension cord out to our van so we could hook up to electrical. That would help recharge our lithium batteries and we wouldn’t have to worry about running our portable AC unit, fans, and refrigerator.

The RV Park also has beautiful and clean private bathroom/shower rooms, a laundry room, a RV dump station, a great camping supplies and gift store, and a year-round guest cabin that can accommodate up to six people.

Plus they have a coin operated car/truck wash to get that road grime off your RV.

Check them out at:

Unfortunately, the mosquitos were exceptionally bad. Dan openly apologized for the swarming buggers, even though it was due to the recent heavy rains then warm sunshine and not anything due to his operations of the RV park.

Try as we might to combat the flying pests, we found we just couldn’t enjoy the outdoor #vanlife camping experience as much as we had hoped for.

Making a run for the border, but first breakfast

Camping about 30-miles from the Canadian border was too much of a draw for us to not go and at least look at Canada from the U.S. side.

We unplugged and started off for the Canadian border on the morning of our second day camping. We hoped to find a place along Highway 31 to stop and eat breakfast before trying to get to Canada.

Around the halfway point, the highway crosses the Pend Oreille River and cuts through Metaline Falls, WA.

We drove into the cute and historic downtown business district to find a great place to eat called the Farmhouse Café.

The front of the café at 221 E. 5th Street was nearly encapsulated in bright red geraniums the morning we visited.

These flowers, and all the many flowerpots and planters in town, are watered and cared for by an older woman to whom we talked with for a bit. She pulls a little wagon filled with gardening tools, supplies and water through the town watering and tending to all the plants.

Eating at the Farmhouse Cafe

The Farmhouse Cafe is open 7-days a week for breakfast and lunch and features a great menu, fresh brewed and locally sourced coffee, cold brew, and espresso drinks. Plus, they offer massive house-baked cinnamon rolls, artisan breads, pies, sweet rolls, and other treats that can be taken to go if desired.

We decided to dine outside amongst the flowers at one of their tables so we could keep an eye on the girls back in the van parked next to the restaurant.

We both decided to have their Farmhouse Combo.

Kim had the French toast and JK, of course, ordered a platter of pancakes!

While ordering our breakfast, we bought a loaf of rosemary bread, a cinnamon roll, and a caramel pecan roll (because we couldn’t choose) to go! Support the locals!

Historic Metaline Falls, Washington

Box Canyon Dam and historic railroad bridge

Metaline Falls was once home to a large Inland Portland Cement plant that operated for more than 80 years and supplied the cement that helped build the Grand Coulee Dam, and the Box Canyon and Boundary dams.

The Pend-Oreille Mine, a massive underground zinc-lead mine operated in the area from 1910 to 1977. It was reopened in 2004, but shut down again in 2009, another victim of the global economy downturn.

The downtown Metaline Falls area has several historic buildings including the stately Washington Hotel, the historic Art-Deco-Era Pend Oreille Apartments, and the Park Hotel – Metaline Falls State Bank building.

The bright blue painted Metaline Falls Congregational United Church of Christ and the Sullivan Creek Powerhouse are also nearby and worth a look.

If the name Metaline Falls sounds familiar to you, and you are a fan of Kevin Costner movies, the town and the nearby Boundary Dam were featured in the 1997 Costner film “The Postman.”

The post-apocalyptic action-adventure film was a box office flop. Costner produced and directed the money losing movie and played the lead role.

We can see Canada from here!

Filled to capacity from our hearty breakfast, we were off to see Canada.

We knew the chances of driving into Canada were slim to none, but we both wanted to get as close as we could. We have only seen one other Canadian border crossing from afar, that in International Falls, MN.

We had watched other #vanlifer’s YouTube videos about experiences crossing with their vans into other countries, such those in South America and in Mexico. There always seemed to be trouble brewing and red tape to be endured at these places.

Rounding the final curve along the mountainous highway landed us right at the entrance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Metaline Falls Port of Entry compound. Driving a big white van, we are obviously not too hard to notice.

JK pulled the van off the roadway just outside of the official entry area and got out.

Can we help you?

Two U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers quickly approached us. We told them we did not have the necessary paperwork to allow crossing into Canada but were here only to take a quick peek, snap a couple souvenir photos then leave.

That’s when one of the officers told us, if we wanted, she would “call Canada” to see if Canadian officials would allow us to walk across the international border into their country for a minute or two.

At first, we said no, we didn’t want to be a bother to Canada. But upon the officer’s insistence, we gave in and said fine, call.

In a few minutes she returned to tell us Canada would allow the two of us to walk across the borderline into Canada to take a couple pictures. We were told to only go as far a certain line and go no further.

Oh Canada!

Ok, as silly as it may sound, our hearts were pumping, and the excitement or adrenaline was at a record high as we walked over the invisible line that separates one nation from another.

Granted, this out in the middle of nowhere border Port of Entry was small potatoes when compared to, say, the U.S. to Canada border crossing in Blair, WA.

Most of the activity this border checkpoint sees are semi-truck load after semi-truck load of woodchips bound for Canadian papermills or fiberboard mills.

But we had been the subject of a U.S. to Canada phone call conversation, where we were granted entry into the great country to the north.

With a few simple steps, we crossed into the Province of British Columbia on July 10, 2022, at 11:40 a.m., Pacific Standard Time.

Was it our imagination or did we actually hear the musical anthem strains of …Oh Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all of us command…” as we stood looking at the vintage concrete pilar denoting the centuries-old line between nations?

Probably not…or maybe we did! Or…Maybe it was Kim singing!

Canadian dirt looks the same

For that brief moment we were no longer in the United States of America but were travelers who had journeyed far to step foot onto foreign soil. Actually, the dirt, gravel and grass looked exactly the same in Canada as it did across the border in the USA! Lol!

Informational signs and various warning signs were bilingual, in both English and French. The large scanning equipment for checking trucks and vehicles entering the U.S. was fascinating to see.

There was a sense of importance here, as if the security of nations depended upon the work being done in this lonely outpost. We chilled at the thought of patrolling and working here during the cold winter months of the great white north.

Great memories of our Canadian visit

With selfies snapped our time in Canada was quickly over. We stepped over the invisible line back onto home soil.

We waved and mouthed “Thank You” towards the darkened windows of the check point building, assuming we were still being watched, and climbed back into the van.

A quick U-turn and we headed back through all that beautiful Northeastern Washington scenery to our campsite in Ione, WA for one more night near Canada.

NEXT TIME: We are headed towards home, as a scorching heatwave overtakes the western and Midwestern states. We have a white-knuckle drive down White Bird Grade into Lewiston, Idaho, spend the night in a deep canyon rest stop then eat breakfast and see a skeleton riding shotgun in a beer truck in McCall, Idaho.

Leave a Reply