Canada Trip – Wednesday

by Jonah

Yesterday our road luck ran out, at least in terms of snow. The day before as we approached Lake Watson, a passing semi threw up one of the larger pieces of gravel that liberally coated the road and struck our windshield right at the highest point of the steering wheel. Two spokes of the resulting star have been working their way outward since. We’d debated getting a new windscreen before our trip. Now we’ll get one when we get home (and have our insurance pay for it). We also passed a whole bunch of bison along the road, where they were digging through the snow to get to the grass, the only place it appeared to grow with thick forest growing everywhere else. Truckers we passed also slowed to get a good look at them. The bison didn’t seem to care that we were there at all. This was unlike the couple herds of caribou we passed, who always seemed to be in the middle of the road as we approached, freaking out and running off and into the woods as we approached. I think they were licking the salt off the road.

Up until yesterday morning the road had been clear and dry except where the snow from the side was melting and running across the pavement. But we turned off the Alaska Highway onto 37 south a little outside Lake Watson, and the road was completely white. This cut in half our normal driving speed of 85 mph, but the road cleared up for a while before we ascended into some impressive mountains and encountered snow packed and icy sections again. Sometimes there was a car’s width of clear pavement in the center of the road, which everyone used until someone else approached, and then both cars slowed down and pulled over so two wheels were on slushy ice.

I forced Berck to stop for gas in Deason Lake, even though he complained that he three quarters of a tank and was getting such good gas mileage having to drive that slow. We also got lunch at what appeared to be the only open restaurant in town. We made the mistake of ordering a pizza with everything (it was on the menu), which took a long time to cook. The restaurant didn’t offer poutine. The pizza was actually really good, which I think was just as a result of having so many things on it. Berck pulled off his pineapple, and I pulled off my olives.

By the time we were done, it was cloudy. The road got better but the snow piled up on either side of it got higher. Majestic peaks poked out of clouds all around us, making it difficult to tell what was snow covered mountain and was the snow falling on it. The road was virtually empty, so I guess it made sense that there weren’t any lane markings. We eventually got to a bit of civilization and a sign that warned we were entering an accident cleanup area. Traffic was stopped in both directions while a claw picked up a mangled semi flatbed trailer and put it on top of another semi flatbed trailer, which then drove off. There was a huge stack of giant logs piled up on the side of the road, so we surmised that a logging truck had overturned.

Further down the road, we were overtaken at around 130 kph by a police vehicle going even faster than we were. The speed limit was 90. The same thing happened a while later. I guess the Mounties have better things to do.

When I checked the road conditions, it just warned of frost heaves. A visit to the Wikipedia entry on frost heaves didn’t really help. But there were various spots along the road where a little orange diamond sign (sometimes saying “SLOW”) was stuck into the snow bank on the side of the road, which was almost always accompanied by a sharp dip in the road that sent out stomachs into our throats.

We drove within about 20 miles of Alaska, but it was already dusk and we wanted to get to a motel before having to drive too far in the dark. There was nothing from Dease Lake until we got to “Maple Leaf” 16, and even that was closed. Berck grudgingly admitted that we wouldn’t have made it without filling up with ridiculously priced gas at Deason Lake. I took the opportunity to wash the windshield with the first squeegees we’d encountered in a long time that weren’t encased in ice.

We drove until we got to the next town down 16, a cluster of three towns called Hazelton, New Hazelton, and South Hazelton. We stopped at the first motel we got to and were glad to find out that motel prices were closer to normal, $75 for a queen. It was quarter to 9, and we asked the lady at the front desk if there were any restaurants still open. The only one was the one next door, which was a Chinese restaurant that also served breakfast in the morning and also a selection of burgers and sandwiches the rest of the day. We weren’t really all that hungry after the pizza at 3, and the Chinese restaurant didn’t serve alcohol, so we left and found an open empty bar, with a young Chinese bartender, who we couldn’t understand at all but begrudgingly handed us two Rickard’s Darks, which we hadn’t had before. We finished the beers and decided to buy some at the open liquor store next door and take them back to our motel room. It has been our first day in Canada without poutine so far. The Chinese restaurant had fries with gravy on the menu, but that as close as it got.

The motel room had a fridge, so we kept the six pack of Rickard’s Dark we’d gotten there as Berck culled through my photos while I posted my blog entry. It was nice to have almost usable internet for once.

4 Responses to “Canada Trip – Wednesday”

  1. Berck Says:

    I lovingly gave you my pineapple, whereas you just dumped your olives.

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