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The West

How’d you find the West?
Just got off the ferry and headed east…
July 22/2011
 Patrick Guntensperger
As we were between crises – recent ones dealt with and expected ones not yet arrived – Yolanda and I decided to take the available time to decompress. We decided on a road trip.  Although Yolanda had been to Canada numerous times and had lived here at different times for perhaps a total of more than a year, her experience of the country had been restricted to Vancouver (briefly, several times) Victoria (ditto) and long stretches of up-island Parksville, with dozens of day trips to the central section of Vancouver Island. Glorious, but not an entirely representative sample of Canada as a whole.
 So, for our first lengthy road trip, we figured we’d take a shot at the West. We sketched out a tentative itinerary and schedule that I thought would cover the greatest variety of travel experiences in the shortest time because I wanted to cram as much as possible into the period before the next crisis. We decided on something like this: we’d cross to Horseshoe Bay then follow the Sea to Sky Highway through Squamish, then on to Whistler, home of the recent Canadian Winter Olympics. From there, we’d cross the Cascades (the first of  the three mountain ranges that make up the interior of BC), then the high plains then another set of mountains, then the really high plains, then the Rockies themselves, passing through places like Lilooet, Kamloops, and Revelstoke. We figured on heading on to Banff so Yolanda could have that jaw-dropping experience of one’s first glimpse of Lake Louise. From there we would move on to Calgary where Yolanda could get a hint of the Prairies and relive her childhood obsession with the Little House on the same, and vicariously have a taste of cowboy life for her western movie fan father.

We planned our return trip to go back through Banff, then take a southerly tack down the Okanagan Valley, through fruit and wine country and the playground country, heading west again, skirt the southern edge of Vancouver’s suburbs, and take the ferry to Sydney, returning to Parksville via Victoria and the scenic and treacherous Malahat Drive. On the way we’d hit Kelowna, Osoyoos, Vernon, and a small list of other mountain towns.

This, of course, was a very general and non-binding schedule; how binding it was is evidenced by the fact that I am writing this part of the travelogue in a Ramada Inn in Red Deer, Alberta, a town far from our plotted perambulations.
Before we hit the road, we decided to use the Smart Car. Its diesel engine and 75 mpg combined with the fact that it’s a convertible and can park anywhere persuaded Yolanda. The fact that its diminutive size would preclude the purchasing of several tons of oleh oleh en route persuaded me. Nevertheless, despite its diminutive size, we managed to pack a tent, a camp stove,cooking gear, sleeping bags, camping mattresses, a cooler and survival equipment in the back. That and our clothes and Yolanda’s selection of shoes for all occasions made our complete inventory and we were ready to go.
We put beer and juice into the cooler and late on a Friday afternoon, after having taken care of some suddenly arisen business, we made for Nanaimo and the ferry to the mainland. Naturally it was raining and the ferry we were trying for was overbooked and we had to wait for an hour and a half for the next one, but we had beer and the delights of White Spot cuisine on board and the time passed slightly more quickly than the time spent in an interrogation with the Spanish Inquisition. Thanks to the northern latitude it wasn’t yet dark when the ship arrived at the Horseshoe Bay terminal.
We managed the usual traffic at the terminal, and then wound our way through the seemingly perpetual road work being done on the highways at the juncture of Highway 1 and the road to Whistler and made for Squamish. We spent our first night in a Sandman hotel, remarkable for its utter lack of character in a very special town on Howe Sound in the shadows of the looming Cascades. It rained.
But tomorrow, we would move on up the mountain to Whistler and beyond.
enditem…

More to come, complete with pictures!

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