The Great American Road Trip II - 13 - "Spaghetti on Top of Pasta"
Before we left our Kamloops hotel room, we saw what we believe was a marmot which had climbed halfway up a tree. He looked like he was standing guard.
Just a little after 11:00 we left Kamloops for British Columbia via the Yellowhead Highway and Trans-Canada Highway 1. It was surprisingly sunny and the temperature was 14 (57).
After no more than twenty minutes on the road we went up a massive hill at a high altitude. The engine gave it all it could but it sounded as if it was on its last legs. The oil light flashed to the tune of an alarmingly fast dinging sound as the car told us that the oil pressure had dropped. We turned the engine off, thinking that running it further could ruin it. If that was true, then we had no way to get the car back to Kamloops under its own power, so we called OnStar and they ran a diagnostic test on the car. This came back clean, and when we somewhat apprehensively turned the engine on again, all systems were nominal with 74% oil life remaining.
While this scare was possibly a glitch in the system, it likely had to do with the incline at that particular altitude with a comparatively cool engine trying to pull a heavy car. We had no problems - or scares - for the rest of the trip, though we did continue to have trouble getting up the 6-8% grades.
But getting up? Oh, that was the easy part.
You see, Vancouver is at sea level. We had to go down. From about a mile high.
In addition to nearly 20-kilometer-long 6-8% downhill grades, there are scores of unmarked, hard turns, long sections that do not have guardrails (but need them), and of course, the sections which had three lanes of traffic but no lines anywhere.
Eventually we flattened out, guardrails became more common, and the road began to have lines again - but this was after many intense minutes of trying to figure out what was going on and trying our best not to get ourselves killed.
We entered the Nicola Valley which looked kind of like the Napa Valley on steroids - but without the vineyards. We saw snowcapped peaks in the background, which we figured out was part of the Lillooet Range, but we could not figure out if what we were seeing was Skihist Mountain or Breakenridge Mountain.
It was around this point that dad spotted various power lines that had been stretched across the valley, down from one mountain and up another. The trees had been cut out to accommodate the power lines. My dad described this sight as "like spaghetti on top of pasta."
We were not sure what he meant by this, but, as we have learned to do, we just accepted it and moved on with life. After all, our lives were in this man's hands.
Unfortunately, this jocularity did not last very long, as we had many more challenging downhill runs ahead of us, through smaller snowcapped Rockies I like to think of as the "Alp-alachian" range.
(Side note: When there are Canadian road signs, you had better pay attention to them. A great many curves that would be given ample warning in the US would just be there without fanfare for you to deal with while careening down a mountain doing about 130 KPH, braking the entire time in an attempt to keep from making pâté on a conveniently placed concrete barrier. In addition to the hazards listed earlier, this section featured slow-moving trucks in the right lane as well as ample amounts of both potholes and road construction.)
Near 1:00 we saw many signs for a number of roads bearing the names of Shakespearean characters, including Lear, Othello, Iago, Romeo, and Shylock. We also saw a great many round structures that looked a bit like concrete hideouts - I honestly don't have the faintest idea of what those things might be.
We crisscrossed the Coquihalla River and ran into very lush vegetation reminiscent of a rainforest. We had heard that it rained almost constantly in that region, and, appropriately, we encountered some rain as we passed through - rain that stayed with us, in some fashion, all the way to Vancouver.
It was at this point that we entered into the city limits of Hope, at which point the lines on the road ran out again. The Yellowhead Highway had ended and we were once again on Trans-Canada Highway 1 bound for Vancouver. From here on out the road flattened out, but the traffic increased rapidly.
We entered into a valley area with mountains on all sides, reminiscent of the scenery around Salt Lake City. The rain increased as we came nearer towards Vancouver. We saw nurseries and vineyards as we went through the suburb areas of Greendale and Abbottsford. Within a few minutes we had officially entered Vancouver where, at 3:00, the traffic was backed up through many stoplights. Maybe rush hour here is earlier; maybe it's always like this.
After a few harrowing and unexpected lane changes and nearly running over an insane bicyclist who apparently thought it was a good idea to bike between lanes and cut in front of unsuspecting cars, we got to our hotel. We oriented ourselves with a few maps and found out the location of a local place called the American Cheesesteak Company, which we'd seen rather serendipitously on the Canadian TV show "You Gotta Eat Here" while we were in Jasper. Our original local place to eat at, as we learned yesterday, was in a very bad part of town, and the cheesesteaks looked supremely delicious so we decided to go there.
I had a cheesesteak called "The Cowboy," which featured barbecue sauce and custom ranch sauce as well as cheese, incredibly tender meat, and something that looked like french-fried onion rings. (I was able to call dibs on the last bottled tea that they had - apparently tea is catching on here in the land of the Canucks.) The cheesesteaks were as delicious as they had looked on TV.
This place was a little over a mile from our hotel in constant rain, so we got some good exercise going to and from there. I stayed relatively dry underneath a complimentary umbrella from our hotel room, but my lower legs and feet were cold and dripping wet when we got back. While en route back, my dad ducked into a place called "Beard Papa's," which claimed to have the world's best cream puffs. He appreciated the cream puffs, but I was nonplussed with the bite I got and was even more disappointed when I realized that it was a chain with locations in California and Hawaii, for some reason.
We were originally going to go back out and explore Vancouver's famous Stanley Park area, but due to the conditions we opted out of doing so tonight. Instead, we will explore that area tomorrow morning. With our evening freed up to relax after some tough drives, we went upstairs to the 16th floor to a viewing area, where we felt the building sway and got a number of shots of the city.
Vancouver is very environmentally conscious, with many bikers and pedestrians. A good number of roofs feature some sort of greenery, from patches of moss to a full-blown forest. From our room, we can see a street that has everything on it from apartments with doctor's offices inside to schools to grocery stores to businesses. One could live one's entire life and never leave that particular street.
Tomorrow: Stanley Park and a pennant from the Vancouver Canadians before we re-enter the US bound for Seattle.