Location:Vanderhoof, Canada (The geographic center of British Columbia!)
Slept in a bit tis morning, made tea, and emerged to a wet morning. The mountains to the west I had looked forward to photographing in the morning light were gone. I loaded up all my crap and headed back up to Highway 16 and continued west. West, toward Prince George, the next step on the trip to Alaska. Potential trip. In Prince George I would be able to get all the information I needed about ferry schedules and prices. I tried to figure out what I was willing to pay for a 3 to 4 day boat ride. I guessed that’s how long it would take.
In the bar last night Amy had been surprised when she heard I hadn’t seen any bears in the area. Well, today I saw bears. Where the forest is cleared back from the road bears were munching berries off the bushes. I saw signs warning of crossing deer, elk, moose, wolves, and bighorn sheep, but the only animals I saw on that stretch actually crossing the road were bears. They should protest for better signage.
I stooped in McBride for fuel for the car and food for me. I asked the woman taking my money at the gas station where a good place to eat was. She pointed to the hotel across the street. “Best cook in town’s over there right now.” The woman was really fat, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. There are a lot of fat people in Canada. I noticed that from day one, sitting at the Kokanee Pub with a really fat group of people at the table nearest mine.
I moseyed over to the restaurant and sat myself down. The people at the table next to mine were thin – they were also Japanese Tourists. The two girls that came in right after me were quite large. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few extra pounds on me and the trend is not favorable. I ordered my fat sandwich from the fat waitress (“do you want gravy on your fries?” “Sure.”) and idled the time away reading the little news pamphlet on my table. Ah, life in a small town. The newspaper is a weekly, and is a single sheet of yellow paper, larger then legal size, covered on both sides with ads and community news. This was the first entry under Community Announcements:
On Friday, June 4th 4 guys from Burns Lake had their Air Conditioning Pump pack it in around Dome Creek. They were heading to Calgary to join the block party on 17th Ave. watching the big Hockey game. The guys were picked up by Blaine Davis from P.G. in his SUV and their vehicle was towed to McBride for repairs. Blaine is working in Valemount so he offered to let the guys take his SUV to Calgary so they wouldn’t miss the game. Anyone who would like to help with anything for the guys can contact Blaine at…
Editorial critique aside (yes, those capitalizations are all in the original), how many places are you going to break down and the guy who picks you up and drives you an hour into town (I passed Dome Creek on my way to Prince George) then loans you his car to drive to another city? Damn, I want to break down there.
Leaving town there was a sign that said “Check your fuel gauge. Next gas 211 Km.” Actually, whatever the original number on the sign was had been covered with a piece of cardboard with the new number written by hand. Later I passed a gas station that had closed. The point is, things are far apart out here. Clouds, rain, and all that for the first hours of driving. There were a couple of graceful bridges over sudden gorges with rushing rivers, but the annoying thing is they always put the dramatic gorges in the middle of narrow, winding sections of the road, so no pictures.
In P.G. I overcame a brief bout of VICBS (visitor Info Center Blindness Syndrome) and got a ferry schedule and rate sheet. I sat for a while and realized, not surprisingly, that there aren’t many runs that go all the way up the coast, and the schedule just doesn’t work. Much better is driving up there and taking the boat back. I head out. Alaska, baby!
But what if the boat is already full? Simple fact is I am tired. The thought of the boat trip has given me a little wind, but I start thinking about the hours of driving. My road trip is becoming a job. Do I even have the juice to keep writing “Drove to new place. The world is beautiful.” and keep it interesting? Is it still interesting to me? I prefer not to drive the whole day, and 5000 miles round-trip was looking like a reasonable estimate if there was not a boat in the picture.
I called. The boat was full. I stopped and got a fairly cheap room in Vanderhoof, discovering that although there was a phone in the room, and there was not charge for dialing an 800 number, the phone system was some sort of wacky thing that worked only with special phones. The sign in the room said hooking the phone line to a computer could damage their phone system. How’s that for lame?
No boat, no Alaska. The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was the right choice. I’m not equipped for an Alaska road trip – for that I need two fewer suitcases and one more tent. A sleeping bag I fit in would be good, too. (My current bag is a relic of backpacking days when I was in high school. It’s a great bag but now it’s too small.)
But if not now, then when?
That ate at me all night. When would I ever be driving around up here again? This morning I was sipping my tea when I figured out the answer to that question. When? Whenever I want to. It’s possible that I’ll never go. It’s possible that there will always be something more important to me than a road trip to Alaska and a boat ride back. But if I want to, I can go. That got me so excited I almost decided to drive to Alaska right now.