The signage in the Walmart lot said “3 hour parking”. We had called ahead yesterday and been given permission to overnight, but I was still nervous (what Trish calls my “everyone is out to get us” syndrome) so we drove away a bit after 8am. We parked a couple blocks away and the kids did homeschool with Trish while I went in search of cell service.
AT&T’s Canadian rates are outrageous, so I walked to the nearest Roger store, which happened to be across the street from a Telus store. I had to note store locations before we crossed the border, as we had no cell coverage once we crossed over.
In the end, I signed up with Telus. My phone is still in the two-year contract period with AT&T, so they wouldn’t unlock the phone to work with another carrier’s SIM card, so we used Tricia’s phone, which is out of contract. For $30 we get 1GB of data, usable over the next 30 days. Inbound calls are 50 cents a minute, but by adding a $5 texting plan for the month, that rate drops to 15 cents a minute.
Our Google Voice numbers, which we have to dodge AT&T’s texting charges, won’t forward for free to the Canadian cell phone number, so I signed up for a $10 a month hosted FreePBX. I registered a couple US DIDs with the PBX, set up rules to forward inbound calls received by the DIDs to the Canadian cell number, then set up Google Voice to forward to the US DIDs. So it went from this:
Google Voice –> US cell phone
Google Voice –> US DID –> FreePBX –> Canadian cell phone
This gets around the Google Voice limitation of free forwarding only to US numbers. Since Google Voice is forwarding to a US DID, Google Voice is happy.
On the outbound call side, it costs 65 cents a minute, down from one dollar a minute thanks to the addition of the $5 texting plan. Using FreePBX, I turn a 65 cent per minute outbound call into a 15 cent a minute inbound call by enabling callback on the PBX.
Of course, all of this is in case I can’t use the data connection on the phone to make a VoIP call using a softphone client on my phone, which makes the call effectively free.
To avoid data charges, I set this all up in the Telus store using their free WiFi.
Continuing North, we stopped at the Walmart and Home Depot of Squamish, BC to cobble together an antenna cowling for the WiFi Antenna which was damaged by low hanging branches yesterday. It is considerably more vulnerable atop a 13 foot high 5th wheel than it was atop a 10 foot high travel trailer.
As Home Depots go, this one was quite stately. I think the mountains and the Canadian flag lend a certain gravitas, don’t you?
Rather than take Route 1, we took the shorter but less traveled route 99 through the coast range. The drive was amazing, which majestic mountains plunging into Lions Bay. Heading inland, climbing to 4,000 feet, we drove through the clouds, the road reduced to insignificance as it wound between steep mountain faces towering thousands of feet above. Bridges over storm fed streams were one lane, wood decked affairs. We glimpsed several hanging waterfalls and passed the resorts of Whistler and finally descended several 13% grades to pass by the modest mountainside town of Lillooet. There weren’t any good pullouts for photography, but the drive was spectacular, the ignored smaller sibling of the drive through Banff and the Canadian Rockies.
Meeting up with Route 1 a bit North of the town of Cache Creek, we continued North through the towns of 100 Mile House and Lac la Hache to arrive at the Walmart of Williams Lake, BC for the night. We arrived at 11:30pm, about 45 minutes after twilight surrendered to night. We will be in the Land of the Midnight Sun soon! See the trip map for details.