HWY 139 - California

Preface: It started as a social media type of road trip. I was going to write each night about my fabulous day and share it with all my readers and social media followers. However, after two days on the road, things changed. It wasn’t a conscious change and it evolved slowly. What was conscious was my desire to escape and enjoy the world around me. So, instead of spending hours online writing posts everyday and creeping through Facebook, Twitter and various blogs, I would log on and get off as soon as I could. I realize that may sounds horrible, but I honestly think it was the best choice.

The drive from Southern Alberta to Vancouver, BC is a long one. About 14 to 15 hours long. Sure, it can be done. I’ve made the drive a few times over the past few years. However, the drive changes quite a bit when it’s winter. You see, about 10 hours of the drive involves mountain roads and passes.

Driving the Trans Canada Highway 1 between Calgary and Vancouver is one of the most stunningly beautiful sections of the Highway. In winter (and early spring) it’s also one of the most volatile sections of the highway. Mountains + winter = snow, which in turn usually equals avalanches. The fact that a series of avalanches had cut off access to the highway between Lake Louise, AB & Revelstoke, BC for 4 days the week before my road trip, made me a little nervous. Especially since Roger’s Pass is in that stretch of highway. I hate Roger’s Pass.

I wanted to arrive in Vancouver mid-afternoon instead of late in the evening, so when I woke up at 1 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep, I quietly grabbed my bags, snuck out of the house, started my car and officially started my road trip.

I love driving early in the morning or late at night. There are usually very few cars on the road, the air smells fresher and the sun is still asleep -which means I’m not being blinded. It wasn’t until around 6:00 a.m. that I realized my mistake. It’s winter. The sun doesn’t come up until about 8:30 a.m. (sometimes not until 9:00 a.m.) and I was driving into the avalanche zone. In the dark. The very thing I promised myself I wouldn’t do this time around (last time I was reduced to panic attacks, tears and immense tension in every muscle in my body).

As I sat behind the wheel, navigating turns that clung to the mountain on my left or curvy roads that seemed to disappear just beyond the mountain on my right, I glanced around. The trees were weighed down with heavy white snow, and the snow banks on either side of the road were twice as high as my car -covering road signs and making me nervous. The major avalanche had happened just the week before. What’s to say it couldn’t happen again while I was there?

I tried to distract myself and focus on how beautiful the snowcapped trees were. Then I remembered Roger’s Pass. That’s when the silent prayers started. I could handle the avalanche riddled sections of the highway, but the thought of having to drive through Roger’s Pass in the dark made my whole body tense up.

“Please be light, please be light, please be light.” My chants were silent, but very real.

As I reached the pass, I breathed a sigh of relief. The sky was slowly starting to lighten. I couldn’t see the sun, but the sky was a steel blue, rather than a midnight blue. I didn’t need to drive with my high beams on because I could see where I was going, and within a few minutes my body slowly started to relax.

The remainder of my 15 hour drive was pleasant -with the exception of a few wrong turns that turned into 1hr detours. Even in winter, driving through the mountains can inspirational. The snow adds a layer of seclusion and peace. Which is exactly what I need after a month at my parents house.

When I finally arrive in Vancouver that afternoon, I was tired. It was 3:00 p.m., my legs were sore, my world was slightly spinning and all I wanted to do was check into my hotel room and pass out. However, once I found my hotel (I got so lost) and dropped my bags I decided to drive downtown and pick-up my Vancouver essentials. It’s sad really. I’ve traveled to Vancouver so many times in the past that I have certain routines, which include a stop at my favorite bakery (Terra Breads) to buy some Pizza Bianca, a stop at Caper’s Whole Foods to buy some yummy The Farmhouse Goat Chevre cheese and some fresh fruit from the Public Market on Granville Island. Once I had procured these items I battled the start of rush hour back to my hotel and locked myself in for the rest of the night.


Days on the road: 1

Distance covered: 1,257 Km (781 mi)

Driving Hours: 16

Provinces/ States visited: British Columbia

Cities visited: Vancouver

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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5 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I used to live in Revelstoke and by Three Mile Gap in B.C. I remember the winter roads were terrible there.

  2. Alouise

    I think driving on flat winter roads is bad enough, I can’t even imagine driving on the mountains at 1 in the morning.

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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pamela MacNaughtan, Pamela MacNaughtan. Pamela MacNaughtan said: New Blog Post: RoadTripping The West Coast (Part 1) – Preface: It started as a social media type of road trip. I was… http://ht.ly/1btrhe […]

  4. Gray

    Damn, if I ever go on a long road trip, I’m bringing you with me. You’re the only person I know who can drive that many hours and enjoy it. I don’t even like driving on winter roads in broad daylight; I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to do it in the dark.


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