We haven’t been on a road trip in eight years.
It feels like a lifetime, given that we used to do cross-province road trips two to three times a year over a span of eleven years. We drove from Edmonton, Prince George, and Lethbridge to Vancouver Island to see my mother-in-law and get a dose of the Coast before heading home again.
From Edmonton we took Highway 16 in Alberta and switched to Highway 5 in BC through Valemount and Kamloops, hooking up with the Coquihalla Highway beyond Kamloops. Sometimes we drove to Jasper then headed south on Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway, to hook up with Highway 1 in Lake Louise. From Prince George we travelled Highway 97 which turned into Highway 1 down the Fraser Canyon. From Lethbridge we took Highway 3, winding through the southern Rockies, Kootenay Pass, and Manning Park in the North Cascades. All of these routes coalesce in Hope, BC, merging into Highway 1 that heads directly into Vancouver.
Once we hit the highway into Vancouver we would race for the Tsawwassen ferry, several times being the lucky last vehicle to make its way onto the boat for the ride to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.
We had our favourite stops for coffee and snacks, and for taking the dogs out for a run. Coming from Prince George we stopped at a park near 70 Mile House so often that the dogs knew when we had arrived and started getting excited as soon as we turned off the highway. Along Highway 3, Greenwood had the best coffee shop, with fresh-baked delicacies that made it a welcome stop. It also had a fenced park where we could take the dogs before getting our travel snacks. A few hours later we would stop at a fenced Kiwanis park in Osoyoos where the dogs could stretch their legs in the heat. Several hours after that we would stop at the Similkameen River just west of Keremeos where the dogs could swim and we could enjoy a break.
We saw how places changed with the seasons, our trips usually happening in spring, late summer, and at Christmas.
Returning to Edmonton in late August we would take a side trip through the Okanagan, stopping at the same store just north of Vernon each time to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. We bought cases of peaches that I canned to enjoy later in the winter, when they were a particular treat. We bought leeks and tomatoes and fennel, all grown right there in the fields around the store. Then we experimented with new veggie dishes once we got home with our spoils.
Now that we live on the Island, about an hour’s drive from my mother-in-law, we no longer have to take such long road trips. But we miss them, as they were a major part of our lives for so long. It seems as though we’ve been stuck here since we moved back in 2013, mired in the rocky soil of our yard with our farthest travels being north to Courtenay in the Comox Valley, which is a 2 ½ hour trip each way.
We wonder how much the places we stopped on our trips have changed. Does Greenwood still have its fantastic café? What is Grand Forks like since the 2018 floods that devastated their historic downtown core? How busy is Valemount since the expansion of local heli-skiing operations and as a destination for snowmobilers? How much higher has Kamloops development climbed up the surrounding hills, pushing bears and other species out of their natural habitat? How busy are our familiar rest stops, given population growth in the past decade?
Lately we’ve been itching to hit the road again, to experience the places we haven’t seen in so long. The biggest hurdle is getting off the Island and through Vancouver to Hope. After that you can go anywhere, depending on what you want to see and where you want to stop.
I envision a trip from Hope, north to Prince George, east to Jasper and then south along the Icefields Parkway, down through Kootenay National Park and to Radium Hot Springs, where a sign says “And the mountains will bring peace to the people.” We could hook up with the 95A to visit Kimberley, then wind back through Cranbrook to get onto Highway 3 and head back across the province to Victoria, maybe stopping in Rock Creek halfway across the province for their dog-friendly accommodations.
Of course there is the COVID to consider, and the availability of camping and/or dog-friendly hotels along the way. There is my health, which has been terrible lately. There is a garden to tend to, and chores to be done. There’s the price of gas, which has skyrocketed in the last month. But perhaps we could leave that behind for a week or two, hit the open road, and see where we get to and what we experience. It’s sure to be different than it was eight years ago, but it would be nice to visit our old stomping grounds again.