It's very exciting to be past the mountains and in BC! We're having a really good time. It feels like we're on some kind of weird vacation where we don't do anything but drive and eat, and when we're done, we'll go back to where we live -- in Mississauga.
Yesterday we had breakfast at an IHOP, then hit the road. It was cold, bright, and sunny. I had been checking weather conditions regularly, and there was no snow in the forecast at any location on the route.
From other people's photos, I knew at some point, leaving Calgary, we'd be on a straight, flat highway with the mountains in front of us. It was exciting to get our first glimpse of the Canadian Rockies!
The drive through the mountains was spectacularly scenic. All the evergreens were laced with snow, or sometimes covered in ice. And the snowy trees seemed to go on forever in all directions, undulating hills upon hills of snow-covered trees. Behind the trees, huge walls of brown rock jutting into the sky, and behind those, snow-covered peaks. We were both bowled over by the beauty, not really talking much -- no music and certainly no Dortmunder! -- just drinking it all in. Allan drove and I took a lot of photos.
Once when we stopped for Diego, there was an interpretative exhibit about the animal crossings built around the TCH in Banff National Park (the section of road we were on). I didn't know that Parks Canada pioneered the use of animal crossings. I also didn't realize that the funny-looking overpasses we saw were overground animal crossings.
The exhibit had a display version of the crossings, both underground and overhead. There are 44 animal crossings in Banff. The exhibit said that even the most secretive animals -- the lynx and the wolverine -- use the crossings. There are evidently tiny cameras set up in at least some of the crossings, and some photos were on display.
There are also high fences on either side of the highway. When these were first built, animals could jump over or burrow under them, so Parks Canada made the fences both taller and deeper.
I found this exhibit really touching. It had some lovely text on how the Trans Canada Highway connects the country and allows us to visit our families and experience all regions, and how the highway crossings has allowed animal families to live their lives, and resulted in more coexistence with nature. If you're interested, there are some faqs here, more links here, and very good images of the crossings and animals using them.
The road itself was completely oversold, in terms of challenging or scary driving. There's one section with a series of S curves -- and that's about it. It's actually a less challenging road than the drive around Lake Superior. Sure, you want to do this in good weather, and you want to have a full tank of gas and good brakes -- in other words, basic preparation -- but other than that, there is nothing to be concerned about. Even if you had to drive it in snowy conditions, it would be doable, although unpleasant.
During this drive, we passed the provincial border into BC -- whoo-hooo! -- and at some point entered the Pacific time zone. Ohmygod, this is where I live now. In the west! Whoa.
When the mountains and parks end, there's a town called Golden, and we stopped there to pick up some food. It has a sweet little historic downtown, and we got amazingly delicious grilled sandwiches at the Big Bend Cafe. When we got back on the highway, we saw our truck at a gas stop. I texted SIL to ask if it was them, and it was. For once, we would arrive first -- although only by a minute or two.
The rest of the drive was lovely, through forested areas and lots of mountain resorts. It would be much nicer, however, without all the billboards. There are a lot of them. There is no escaping advertising; I find it so depressing. Once we passed Revelstoke, we knew we were almost there. I purposely booked in the less famous and less expensive town of Sicamous, just a little further down the road.
We're staying at another Super 8. The parking lot adjoins a pub and liquor store. We all (including Diego, of course) hung out in SIL/M's room for some wine, then popped Diego in his little house, and walked over for dinner. Unbeknownst to us, it was Grey Cup, and most people at the pub were watching the game.
I've been waking up at crazy hours, even for me, and unable to go back to sleep. Then at night I'm tired and fall asleep early... so I wake up even earlier. It's getting really ridiculous. I'll have to have one night without alcohol, so I can stay up later and maybe reset my body clock. But a night without wine?! Life is so unfair.
Today we drive to the Vancouver area, and are staying very near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. Tomorrow morning, we'll take the ferry to Nanaimo, and drive home... to a place we've never been!
Photos of our drive through the Rockies are here.