Yappy Hew Near!
In keeping with my usual inefficiency, I'm going to play catch-up and summarize a whole month in a few paragraphs.
Christmas across the Rockies:
I was to have gone down to Cardston for Xmas with the folks on December 18th. I didn't go then for three reasons:
-It would have meant 16 hours in a mini-van with my sister and her husband, and four of my five nieces and nephews. Plus luggage. Dodge Caravans only hold seven people, not including luggage...
-I had a number of small errands (including some Xmas shopping!) still to do. At least one of them was divorce related.
-It didn't feel right.
That third reason is what actually stopped me.
Then, two days after Kath and Grant had left (and arrived in Cardston), my Dad sent me an email from the airport informing me that he was going to be in Vancouver and could I pick him up at the airport and also deliver him for his flight back to Calgary? (he commutes from Cardston to Calgary sometimes when he has a trip to fly). On the spur-of-the-moment, I asked him how he would like to drive to Calgary with me? He agreed and I knew at that moment: this is what I had been waiting for. It felt right.
Dad and I enjoyed a great trip to Calgary. Beethoven on the stereo the whole time, and we split driving between us. The "junker VW" behaved itself admirably, and we arrived in Calgary in about 12 hours. He picked up his Mazda and we drove down to Cardston separately as he had some errands to run.
Christmas was great. The pinched nerve in my neck was not so great. It's OK now, a month later; but my recovery has taken three (of four) weeks of medical leave/restriction and heavy medication.
The best part of all was Christmas morning. So many kids! Mine weren't there, of course; but there will be other years. Even better was Sunday at my parent's home ward. There is a wealth of musically talented members in Cardston and almost the entire service was dedicated to joyous and uplifting music. I admit; I teared up a little.
Then I had to leave.
The VW made the trip there...but would it make the trip back? I made three fateful decisions:
-Do the whole trip in one run.
-Do it at night. The car runs "hot", and I believe I mentioned that chemical magic is what is holding its engine together at the moment.
-Take the southernmost route through the Kooteneys/Crowsnest Pass.
That last decision is where "fate" stepped in.
The Trans-Canada Highway (Rte 1) does not go through the Crowsnest Pass. It goes across the Rockies much further north; through Banff National Park, in fact. This is not because the route is shorter (it isn't), and not because this region gets less snow and fewer avalanche threats in winter (it doesn't). It is because the route is straighter than the southern one. The #1 highway is engineered to accommodate all the hazards of snowfall and avalanche. It is fairly straight, wide...and very fast.
Highway 3, to the south, is NOT faster...just shorter.
This was a two-pair-of-underwear trip.
I won't say much about the trip itself. There were one or two moments of terror...one of which threw the alignment of the car out slightly, and involved sliding sideways down the summit outside Courtney, BC. The cars engine started leaking coolant. This solved my lack-of-sleep problem. About every 400 kilometers the "coolant low" warning would light up on the dashboard. I would pull over at the next town and catch a catnap for an hour while the engine cooled down. Then I would top up the coolant and drive on. This happened two or three times...but it's all kind of a blur now. Well, not entirely a blur; I distinctly remember the descent down the summit towards Hope BC. A foot of freshly fallen snow, on top of four inches of packed snow...and not a snow plow in sight.
'Cause I had passed the snowplow about ten kilometers back.
Geared WAYYYY down on a seven percent grade, front end tracking back and forth as first one driven wheel, and then the other, lost and re-gained traction; with near-whiteout snowfall all around...
The last thousand meters down the slope I could see that the snowfall ended and the roadway was clear. In other words: I was FINALLY out of the Rockies!
Then I saw a pair of headlights coming up the slope from the Clear Zone. The driver got to within about 500 meters of me; to where he had to be able to see me zig-zagging back and forth in the midst of an epic Hollywood-esque snowstorm...and then he abruptly turned around and headed back down the summit towards Hope. I didn't blame him. The transition from snowstorm and snow-encrusted road to bare and wet road was quite abrupt. Something you can only believe if you've seen it. There are old and well-worn signs on all the BC-to-Alberta highways, and not a few of the BC interior highways, advising motorists to carry tire chains anytime between October first and April first. I was carrying chains.
If only I had thought to stop and put them on.
God watches out for fools and small children. Don't ever doubt it.
This entry only takes us up to three weeks ago. More to come later! Promise!