This post is dedicated to my mom. Mostly because this post only happened because of her but also because she keeps asking me to write it.
I’ve been putting this post off because I was not looking forward to editing a bunch of bad photos on a tiny phone. I took all of these on my four year old iPhone 5, which basically means it’s a phone from the stone age, and I wrote this blog post as I wait for Canada Post to deliver my iPhone 7 Plus. I figured I should get these photos edited and posted before I truly hate them and determine their quality to be too ugly to post after seeing how beautiful even an accidental selfie looks on the new iPhone.
I’m also posting this because it happened. That’s right, on October 1st my mom and I did pack up comically large truck and move it across the province and into Edmonton. If you want the TL:DR version of this blog it goes like this: starts in tears, turns into comical gas adventures, leading into beautiful cloudy scenery and ends off with us fearing for our lives.
Hold on to your Vancouver Canucks hats (which I wore for part of the trip, but not captured in the photo evidence), it’s about to be a bumpy ride (literally).
We left my parent’s house in Surrey just after 7am and I took the photo above as we got onto the highway. You’ll notice that the top of the windshield on the Uhaul makes it look like a blue sky. It wasn’t, until we got through Hope it was grey skies (but no rain, which seemed like an odd send off from the Lower Mainland). I cried off and on through to Chilliwack, partially because I was sad to be leaving my hometown but also because I was tired and stressed.
Once past Hope it got sunny, the coffee kicked in and the radio lost it’s frequency so my Road Trip playlist came on. This is the best part of a trip because you’re energized and excited about the possibilities of awesome scenery and maybe even some wildlife. I kept my eyes open and on the side of the road. I wanted to see some bears!
Sidenote about the Uhaul and it’s ability to play music (please let this post and my previous post teach you all about Uhauls, namely that you can go in with expectations but you’ll soon learn that Uhaul says “fuck your expectations”), the Uhaul chat people will tell you that all their Uhauls can play music from your iPhone/iPod/whatever the hell else you non-Apple users use for music. THIS IS A LIE. I chatted with them and they said I could hook up an aux cord, but when I got in the truck the sound system was from 1995. There was radio, but not even a CD player. Their site and the chat lady also said there was no cigarette lighters to charge your phone/mp3 player, so I went out and bought a portable charger (click that link if you’re looking for one, I got it for $11 and works pretty good. Since my phone dies every couple of hours it has been a lifesaver), but when I got in the truck there were three 12V sockets.
Luckily I figured this out when we first picked up the truck so we brought along a charger that could be used in any of the three cigarette lighters and I took my portable speaker, plus a bunch of cords to keep these various electronics charged.
Fun fact! My iPod Nano lasted the full 13 hour trip without needing to be charged (yes, I still use an iPod. My phone has little memory and even littler battery life, this will all change once the new one arrives). The speaker got us to about hour 10. My iPhone 5 was constantly being charged and all I was doing with that thing was texting my brother about our whereabouts, taking photos and Snapchatting (when we had reception).
I gotta be honest with you, I don’t know where most of these pictures where taken. Even the geotagging on my phone wasn’t too certain when I look back. But I believe going by the timeline the above two were between Hope and Merritt. In Merritt we stopped for a pee break because that’s what you do in Merritt. You go to the information centre to stretch your legs and pee.
The Uhaul made better use of gas than we had originally thought, when we were presented with this beast I assumed we’d be stopping in every town to fuel up, but we didn’t. Instead we just filled up insane amounts of gas in Kamloops, Hinton and a small top up just outside Edmonton so we could drop the truck off with the right amount of gas (and take a break from the terrors before us… more on that in a bit).
As we fuelled up in Kamloops we pulled into a Husky station and saw the end pumps were free, which was good because our monster of a truck was going to take up two pumps. My mom, who was doing the driving, pulled into the gas station and took the turn a bit too tight, so we started to scrape the side of the vehicle on the guards protecting the pumps. So she backed up and tried again, this time going over a curb as she drove forward getting us stuck. My first instinct was to just back up, but she feared she’d back up into the pump (as if that was a bad thing?!?). In our panic, I got out to ask a trucker what we should do (he was super unhelpful) and luckily I looked back at the truck to see my mom had gotten us out of the pickle we got into, so I could stop talking to the trucker who was trying to help using only trucker terms.
A quick fill-up (and by quick, I mean not at all, that beast took forever to fill) and a purchase of some gummy bears and we were on the road again.
If I were to recommend a time of year to move provinces I would recommend late September/early October. This is because you’re not stuck in a vehicle that does not have AC in the hot part of the year, plus after October 1st you’ll be required to carry chains/have snow tires on the highway because there’s a chance of snow already. Also, it’s super pretty on the highway at this time of year. Trees were changing colours and it was still sunny through most of BC.
(pretty sure that photo above is still in Hope but it demonstrates my pretty fall colours theory)
We eventually stopped for lunch at A&W in Clearwater because A&W is literally your only choice while on the road. Seriously, with the amount of McDonalds you see in a city you don’t see any in small towns or along the road. But A&W, those fools are everywhere (this is not a complaint).
We made it to the Rocky’s in good time and it started to rain. It wasn’t a lot but it got us a bit worried about the windshield wipers on the Uhaul, they seemed to make seeing out of the windshield worse. Luckily, it was probably because they hadn’t been used in a while, they eventually cleaned themselves off and made the road visible again. Thank god for straight roads, am I right? (This will become the mantra for the rest of the day)
More fun facts about driving through the province! There is virtually no reception through the mountains, so you’ve just got to hope you don’t get into some accident or your car doesn’t die. They used to have phones along the highway for these kinds of things but with the popularity of cell phones they were taken away. I guess now with your cell phone you can type some kind of message on it and find a bird or deer to deliver it to the next town?
Our last stop in BC was Valemount, where we finally got some cell reception to make a call to my dad and post an Instagram photo. I also introduced my mom to Red Bull here, she decided that she would just drive the whole way to Edmonton and needed to stay awake. This will not bite us in the ass later (spoiler alert: it bites us in the ass later).
This next part of the trip was horrible. Did you know the Rocky Mountain scenery is ugly?
So. Fucking. Ugly.
That lake above, I took approximately 100 photos of it while hanging out of the window of a Uhaul going 100 km/h trying to capture it’s beauty. I failed. In the photo above I edited it to hell and back so you could kind of see how beautiful it was in person.
But on the plus side, I did get this spectacular photo of myself trying to get those photos
(please note my eyebrows look Sharpied on because I had them tattooed the night before, they’ve settled now and are spectacular)
Don’t be fooled, you’ll see the sign above and think you’re soon entering Alberta, but you’re still about 120 km away.
Eventually, we did get to Alberta.
I have yet to see any wild roses.
Now, you may take it as a sign that BC was sunny and beautiful for our trip across the province and Alberta was basically grey and gross as we entered the province, but I’d also like to point out that it hasn’t rained here since that first day we came to Alberta (as for snow…). I dunno, I’m sure there’s a sign but I don’t believe in crap like that nor do I want to see it.
Anyways, for what BC couldn’t deliver on, Alberta could. Oh yes. We finally saw some wildlife in Jasper.
Those are mountain goats… I think. Maybe deer? I don’t know. We were moving fast, I didn’t make note of what each were and I don’t work for National Geographic (although I’m sure I’ll get an offer to work for them after they see these beautiful photos).
But we did see mountain goats and deer through Jasper
Look, mountain goat butts!
To be fair, in BC we did see a hell of a lot of cows and horses, but that wasn’t worthy of photos nor very exciting.
We also saw bears!
I’m not offended if you didn’t laugh at that, no one else did. But the gummy bears were delicious.
It’s at this point I’m going to give you a tip, a tip we did not follow but probably should have. The drive from Surrey to Edmonton is about 11 and a half hours. So says Google when we looked it up, but that’s in a car and not a truck that is too big and doesn’t go above 80 m/ph (the Uhaul was American and only gave us miles per hour). Our trip took us about 13 hours and my mom drove the whole way, in hindsight I should’ve taken over. But by the time it became apparent I should have it was dark and pouring rain and my mom thought just handing over the keys to a truck I had no experience driving in those conditions probably wasn’t for the best. So pro tip: get your experience driving the truck while conditions are still good so you do have a back up when shit goes down… because shit is about to go down.
But first, Hinton! Our first stop in Alberta was Hinton, where we stopped for more gas and Red Bull. My mom was getting a hang of this Red Bull stuff and suggested that maybe it would taste good with vodka, as if we haven’t already tried that before. I told her jager was a good combination as well. I think I’ve just turned my mom into a frat boy.
At this point I’m out of photos for this post because I stopped taking photos. It was grey and pouring and there was fog. It wasn’t pretty nor very photogenic.
You know how people joke about Alberta and Saskatchewan being flat and having lots of straight roads? Yeah, that’s true. It was very straight driving, which was good, but also so weird to a Lower Mainlander who is used to hills and twists and turns in the road. At one point, it was dark and rainy and we could see police lights ahead. In Vancouver you would’ve driven by that cop car within 30 seconds, we went about 3 minutes before we finally got close.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, it got rainy. And dark. The Uhaul lights sucked. We had the high beams on and they still didn’t illuminate the road like a regular car’s headlights would. This was a lot of fun when we were on hour 11 of this trip and just wanted to be at my brother’s house.
I should also let everyone know, my mom has cataracts. Just the day before our drive she finally got a date for her surgery. If you’re not familiar with cataracts, let me fill you in since I’m an eyecare professional (I’m not, I just worked in the industry for four years and pretend I know something about some things). Anyways, cataracts are the clouding of the eye and cause a decrease in vision, people with cataracts can have trouble driving, particularly at night. My mom, the one with the cataracts, was driving at night and said to me multiple times she was having troubles seeing things, even with her glasses. It was interesting. And scary. And despite her able-visioned daughter (with my glasses) offering to drive on this long, straight road we decided with me not knowing how to drive the truck, this was probably not the best time to learn (ok, she decided this, I was totally on board for figuring this out).
Anyways, my duty was to keep talking to keep her alert (I ran out of things to say at that point and she was not open to a round of Would You Rather). I handed out gummy bears because those gummy bears were a tasty lifesaver. And I reported the kilometres and time we had left on the road according to the GPS. It was a heady two hours.
We eventually had to stop for gas about 45 minutes away from my new home to get some gas (we had to return the Uhaul with half a tank) and to give our nerves a break. And back on the road we were.
Luckily with 30 minutes out of the city there were finally some lights on the side of the highway (did I forget to mention they don’t have lights on the highway?) plus we could see lights from the city. Oh light pollution, how we missed you.
And finally, we made it to my brother’s place. Where he had wine. And then there was pizza. We counted the blisters and calluses on my mom’s hand from where she was gripping the steering wheel. We went to bed that night and I still felt like I was bumping along in that Uhaul, just like you did when you were a kid and after a day at the wave pool you still felt you were floating on waves. Except it wasn’t nearly as fun.
I was finally home.