Friday, September 04, 2009

mountains are all about trying to murder you on the road

I don't know what anybody else does when they find themselves trapped on the summit of the Rockies when some sort of freak weather pattern blows through, but as far as I am concerned when the winds start to buffet your vehicle about and the trees start to crash down onto the highway in front of you, you might as well keep driving.  At least then you have some chance of driving out of the weather system before something kills you.

Is it any wonder that I don't like being in the mountains?

 (Although I have to admit that the dozen or so mountain goats we saw chilling in a group, in a narrow outcrop of the most treacherous strip of road ever to be chiseled out of the rock, were pretty cool.)  

We survived the 15 or so uprooted trees that were strewn across the highway between the Roger's Pass and Revelstoke, hereafter to be referred to as the most terrifying half hour of my life, and made it as far as Abbotsford, a mere sixty kms away from our destination, before our travels came screeching to an abrupt halt.  

What an errant wind and rainstorm could not do, a single vehicle rollover could.  

But here's the amazing part.  If this had happened in Calgary, this closing of a major highway during rush hour, trapping hundreds of cars immobile on their commute home, people would have been seriously pissed off.  There would have been major horn honking, dozens of vehicles making u-turns in the ditch in an effort to find a faster route, and lots of really pissed-off commuters, none of whom would have ventured out of the confines of their urban assault vehicles.  Except perhaps to brandish a handgun.

In Abbotsford, on the outskirts of Vancouver, the mindset was somewhat different.  Within minutes of the highway being closed, the first of the commuters tumbled out of their cars, stretching and strolling about the nearby ditch.  Soon other commuters exited their vehicles and began to congregate in loose groups, exchanging pleasantries and information about what they had heard for the reason that no wheels were turning on this major highway.  

The barefooted smoking guy ran back and forth between cars, transporting cigarettes and quite possibly dope, the young kids in the Honda stretched out on the hood to await further movement, and the woman who has lost her voice stopped by our truck to say hi and to point out the spectacle of the white truck who had gotten hung up trying to pull a u-turn in the uneven ditch.  

Nobody got impatient, nobody threatened to shoot anybody.  Everybody just chilled.

I got out to retrieve some stuff from the back of the truck and wandered over to ask the Honda loungers if they had any idea how far back we were from the collision which had ground everything to a halt.  If bicycle guy hadn't pulled up at that particular moment to report that he had just been up to the scene and that Medivac had transported the collision victim to hospital and that the road was about to open, I am pretty sure that they would have offered to share their joint with me.

Welcome to British Columbia.


Karen said...

BC'ers are a different kind of mellow, aren't they?

Allison said...

As the Boy says "Everyday is a Sunday drive in BC." ;)

Glad you made it safely.

katrocket said...

That's a great story - glad you made it through safely (and calmly).

mellowlee said...

I got your message this morning :) YAY you are here!! I'm hesitating to call your room so early.....maybe call me when you are up? Can't wait to see you!

justrun said...

So that explains it. The only place I've ever driven in Canada is B.C. and that led me to think everyone was peaceful and polite throughout the country. The driving was so delightful, I was jealous. So in order to maintain my fantasy that only good things occur in Canada, I will just have to hire a driver should I go anywhere else.

John Mutford said...

Accept for there being a collision victim, the rest of your tale highlights exactly why I love to drive through the mountains. Did you notice all the runaway lanes? Now those freak me out.

Wandering Coyote said...

Welcome to BC, indeed! I hope your daughter enjoys it here! I loved your tale of driving through the mountains; I remember the last you posted, too. I grew up here so it's just de rigeur.

Charlie said...

I've always wondered why people who live in or near mountains hate mountain driving. Admit it: after you made it through safely it was a kick, wasn't it.

The desert dwellers here are used to highway backups, but even a long wait keeps people inside their vehicles with the motor running—air-conditioning and all that.

Gifted Typist said...

How people react in a crisis tells so much . Sounds terrifying

Anonymous said...

I've seen a goat learing over at me from the absolute beyond dangerous edge of rock ledge while traveling through a moutain pass in W. Virginia. How the hell did it get there and how was it clinging to what looked me like no more than a splinter of rock. It was unblinkingly cool staring me down with contempt for needing a car.

Sean Wraight said...

What a study in contrasts huh? At the beginning of the week you're a flatlander contending with the wilds of Southwestern Ontario and then you're thrust into your very own remake of R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts video.

Glad to hear you emerged unscathed though. Just tell me you were actually listening to the Mountain Goats as you traversed the rocky treacheries. It would have only been appropriate...

Safe travels home!

Remi said...

When I was 18, I hitchhiked to Vancouver. The last ride got me all the way from Calgary to Van. The second question the guy asked was 'do you roll?' I didn't, so instead I got to drive the Coquihalla Highway while the owner indulged and then snoozed. Things definitely happen differently out west.

BeckEye said...

Okay, this has nothing to do with your post but I had to tell you that I thought of you last night. I was watching the Later with Jools Holland marathon (thank God for Ovation) and Radiohead was on. I actually didn't love the songs they did (sorry), but I was endlessly amused by Thom sitting there rocking out to Mary J. Blige while she was performing. (By the way, she kind of blew everyone else away that night. Even your boys.)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

They are on the extreme end of mellow, Karen, sort of the polar opposite of an average Calgarian.

The Boy has got some wise and true sayings, Al.

You can't help but remain calm when everyone around you is chilling in the extreme, Katrocket. It helps reset the stress meter.

It was SO GREAT to see you again, Mel! Next time we'll do a longer visit!

You were certainly treated to a skewed view of reality, I am afraid, Justrun. When you come to Calgary, I will drive you about and I promise not to brandish a handgun too.

Oh yeah, those runaway lanes! They remind me that I never ever want to make that drive in the winter, especially at night. Unlike some crazy northerners I could name.

Please don't take any offense, Wandering Coyote, but we kept shaking our heads the entire time, muttering "why on earth would anyboyy choose to live here?"

Barbara Bruederlin said...

There was a certain rush of joy at being alive, that's true, Charlie. But I prefer to get my thrills in other ways.
The desert dwellers don't simply take off through the ditch when there is a backup like they do here?

The Spousal Unit (aka road trip driver) handled things with a calmness I am sure he did not feel, Gifted Typist. For which I am grateful.

That's exactly the thoughts that I was having as well, Leazwell, that the mountain goats were sneering at those lame humans stuck in those cars. "Why don't they just run up and down the mountains?" is what I heard them thinking.

It's been a crazy week, Sean, the absolute highlight, of course, was meeting you. Finally.
I really wish we had thought to bring a camera crew along on the BC leg. Everybody Hurts: the Abbottsford edition. I can't promise there would have been any Michael Stipe calibre dancing, but we could have made up for that lack of excitement with trees crashing down on us.

Thank goodness for toking travellers, Remi! That may be the only way to get a ride around those parts, as the designated driver. (I love this story!)

Thom and the lads can be very fanboyish when the time is right, Beckeye. And I love that fact! So thanks for this.