Monday, July 16, 2012

The Rocky Mountains / Hope, British Columbia, by Margaret Ullrich, part 22, Transplanting

It rained all day yesterday.
Then it rained all night.
I'm not complaining.
The ground had been so dry it was getting cracks.

Usually when we've camped in the woods, it felt damp.
There was a cool heaviness in the air.
If we were living in New York or Vancouver, we probably wouldn't notice it as much.
But here in Winnipeg we get a dry heat.
So we really notice moisture, whether it's a cool damp or a hot humid.
When it's like this it reminds us of Riding Mountain, our escape from the prairies.

In the almost thirty years since Tyndall Park was developed, there's been 
a change in the local birds.
The first few years there were barn swallows and an occasional owl.
Then all we saw were finches and sparrows.
Now our trees can shelter doves, robins, woodpeckers and blue jays.
We also get crows and grackles.
Of course our ponds always had ducks, gulls and geese.

Speaking of birds, the robins in our grapevine survived the rain.
Mama really picked a good location.

Forty years ago was the last day of our trip.
It was also one of the hottest days of our trip.
The heat added to our engine's stress.
That and the bargain we got back in Niagara Falls.
We saved a few bucks substituting pump lube for antifreeze.
That bargain was about to bite us.

What made the heat worse was we were driving from Kamloops to Vancouver.
We were leaving the Rockies and going through the Selkirks and the Cascades.
The Selkirks and the Cascades make the Rockies look flat.
As any railfan knows, the Selkirks were THE problem for the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The CPR had gotten first pick for the route through the mountains.
The grades had to be easier for the trains.
The worse areas were left for the TransCanada Highway. 
Where we were driving. 

We were driving through peaks and valleys in the TransCanada.
Up and down the Fraser Canyon.
Some of the roads were extremely narrow.
Like what Lucy and Ricky faced on the mountain in The Long Long Trailer.

We drove by dozens of places where we could buy jade trinkets.
What we wanted was was a wormhole that could get us through that area.
Because Jackass Mountain is so steep, it is also called the hill of despair.
Jackass was so named because a jackass had died there.
We wondered if two more jackasses were going to join him that day.

We went through the 3/4 mile China Bar Tunnel.
It's the longest highway tunnel on the TransCanada in the Fraser Canyon.

When we were driving along the Fraser River there was a sign:
No human dare travel - 1 mile to Hell's Gate.
Somebody in their tourism department really needs to work on his bedside manner.
The trains and the TransCanada cross at that point.
According to the AAA Guide book, it was one of the engineeer's biggest challenge, 
as it's not easy to cross that valley.
No kidding.

The Hell's Gate Bridge was very narrow.
The gorge looked very deep.
We were very scared. 

After Hell's Gate we stopped for a bite.

After we climbed one particularly high peak we stopped.
There were lookout points for folks to stop, enjoy the view and say a prayer.
We did both, and Paul lifted the hood to see if the engine had melted.
He could hear the water in the radiator bubbling.
It could have been worse.
In New York he had bought a special cap for the radiator.
It allowed some of the steam to escape.
If it hadn't I think the radiator would've exploded.

Going downhill was just as bad as going uphill.
Paul found it hard to control the car and trailer.
The trailer was pushing us down faster than he wanted to go.
Paul slowed down.
Everyone behind us was crawling, too.

Finally we were driving in the Fraser valley, heading into Hope.
The town of Hope was the slightly flat eye of the mountain storm. 
It was in an area that separated the Cascades from the Coast Mountain Range.
There were mountains everywhere we looked.
If you saw Silvester Stallone's movie First Blood, you saw the area.

We were ninety miles east of Vancouver.
We'd just been through an awful piece of travelling.
We could've stopped, rested and finished the journey the next day.

Well, at a certain point in the middle of a miserable job, you just want it to be over.
We were two, maybe three, hours from putting an end to our driving hell.
Two or three hours from being able to STOP DRIVING ON THE HIGHWAY.
The thought of finishing the journey gave us a burst of energy.
On to Vancouver.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

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