Postscript explores Canada

Part 1: From the West to the Prairies – Vancouver to Brandon, Man.

In the Canadian Rockies, the spectacular vistas and wild small town dancers captured the heart of “city girl” Rosel.
In the Canadian Rockies, the spectacular vistas and wild small town dancers captured the heart of “city girl” Rosel.
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Sometimes, you just have to listen to your mother.

When Aaron and Julia, my two good friends from high school, excitedly told me that we had a car to drive across Canada, my first reaction was (shamefully, I admit) reluctance. Driving in cramped space? For how long? Were they deluded?

Thankfully, my mom turned out to have a more refreshing take on life than I did.

“But when else would you get to do something like that? Isn’t that what being youthful is all about?” Touché.

So I caved, and the result was: 40-odd hours of driving, 25 hours spent on the train, and 8 provinces crossed in total.

So behold: the perks and quirks of this vast, wonderful country of ours which I got to discover over 17 days in August.

Day 1: Vancouver to Revelstoke, BC

Bright and early, we grabbed a bag of Honey’s doughnuts (our favourite neighbourhood doughnut shop), put a Canadian flag on top of the blue Protégé 5, and were on the road before sunrise. We stopped in Vernon for lunch, where the population is sparse and the buildings are boxy.

At Julia’s insistence, we made a stop by the Last Spike—this is a Canadian trip, after all—before crashing into Revelstoke

Set against the Rockies, Revelstoke is a charming little town with old-fashioned and unique businesses like a Chinese restaurant and ice cream parlour rolled into one. We took in an outdoors music festival and caught a live show of a local cover band that night. We followed the rules of “dancing badly, with enthusiasm” to many great renditions of Pink Floyd, ABBA and Journey. Although we danced up a storm, one incredible dancing man with moves that resembled a slow windmill and a squeegee kid put us all to amazement. Who knew small towns could produce such dancing wonders?

Day 2: Revelstoke to Millarville, Alta.

A scenic drive through the Rockies is, in my opinion, something everyone should do at some point. Attempting to describe the drive would just ruin the feeling of awe I felt along the way.

There were some troubling moments, however, such as when we realized our gas tank was down to almost zero, with nothing but the windy roads and cliffs in sight. Luckily, as we were mentally preparing ourselves to call CAA and plead for help, a gas station appeared around the bend, and a $50 fill-up shortly after.

Instead of heading into a touristy restaurant and paying for expensive food, we visited the Safeway in Canmore instead, to buy groceries and have a picnic by the mountains.

Saying goodbye to the Rockies was tough, but how could I not be excited for my first ranch experience?

Days 3 and 4: a middle-of-nowhere ranch, Millarville, Alta.

When in a ranch, do as the ranchers do. This means a) drive a tractor, b) ride a horse, and c) pump your own water from the ground. Running water is for dude ranchers, apparently, who are rich townspeople who want to have the country experience by building expensive, well-equipped ranches.

Julia’s ranch had everything that could be described as natural and peaceful: a pond, two horses named Jack and Cedar, and tall grass. The rolling hills, muddy roads, and the misty sky made me feel like I was a Jane Austen character walking up to my suitor’s house—albeit, in black rubber boots and a buttoned shirt.

I’ve decided if I were ever to become a writer, I would shut myself up in a ranch like this one, wander around the forest and the hills, then hopefully be inspired by the end of the day.

Our last night was commemorated by a bonfire (what else?) and a Beatles sing-a-long session. For someone who confidently calls herself a city girl, I had too wonderful a time being cut off from the world.

Day 5: Millarville to Brandon, Man.

This was our first intensive driving day: a grand total of 13 hours in the car. Many people had warned me about the unchanging, static flatness of the prairies, but we somehow got a kick out of the long stretch of the horizon and enjoyed the beautiful prairie sky.

With The Band, CCR and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young blasting in our stereo, we drove past countless hay stacks and farmlands, feeling as though we were the new breed of the Beat generation. If only Jack Kerouac could’ve seen us ...

Of course, reality is a bit harsher than that—a police car that was lurking in the corner caught us accelerating a little too excitedly at 150km/hour in a 110 zone. After a wary look and an interrogating glance, he slapped us with a ticket with a $140 “voluntary fee” that “must be paid” by sometime in the fall.

Brandon, on the other hand, was bland at best. Of course, we only got to explore it after the city went to sleep around 8 p.m.–and offered us very little but Tim Hortons and grungy family diners. Maybe the prairies weren’t for me after all.

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