The first part of our trip to British Columbia was less than ideal. We decided to take Goldie all the way from Edmonton to Vancouver (more than 1200 km). We did not know how would the car react specially because before the trip we had problems with the coolant hose and we had to replace the piece. After a horrifying week of looking for mechanics (non of which was affordable or event competent) we ended up asking an independent mechanic to change the hose and perform a simple check up. $60 dollars after (the best deal we could get), we were “ready” to go. Nonetheless, Saad was extremely stressed about the car.
The day we left was awful. We had spent the previous night cleaning up the apartment and loading up the car with suitcases and food. The car was so packed with food, suitcases and toilet paper, that there was little room for us to move around; even the wheels were lower than usual. The weather was rainy and gloomy, so it was not a great start. In addition to that, Saad kept sniffing the car and worrying about any “car-like” smell.
We decided to take the Jasper route to Vancouver. This is, apparently, the fastest way to reach BC. After passing Jasper and having a cheap meal in A & W, we headed towards Valemount. Valemount is already in BC, but it is still a mountain area. The town is tiny but very beautiful, it offers the advantages of nature and mountain scenery without the crowd that you find in Jasper and Banff.
We stayed at the Valemount hotel, a small hotel at the end of the town. It was a cheap place to stay and despite people’s complaints about the noise produced by the hotel’s closeness to the railway, we had a great calm night. Another advantage of this hotel is that they neither require a credit card pre-authorization nor any kind of deposit.
The next morning we continued our trip. The road was beautiful and enabled us to visit many little towns that we would have not visited otherwise. We passed through Clearwater and Blue River, where the geography starts to shift. There is a lot of nature, but not Rocky Mountain- like. We took highway 5, which curiously follows a river and many little creeks and waterfalls. There is nothing frozen in here, everything is green and there is a lot of running water.
Our plan was to make it to Vancouver at night. We continued the road, enjoying the views and the scenery until we got to Barriere. Entering Barriere is like approaching a witch’s house. All of the sudden there was nothing but burned trees, no more running water and grey-yellowish skies. Barriere is an industrial area, so there are manufacturing plants here and there and the natural destruction is evident.
The scene just kept getting worse as we approached Kamloops. While we expected a bigger city with some attractions, Kamloops is just a bigger Barriere. An industrial city, where most of the trees have been burned down to satisfy industrial demands. Entering Kamloops by car is quite scary: full of trucks, industrial plants, polluted skies and homeless. Its downtown is small with few restaurants and stores here and there; but nothing appropriate for travelers. We eventually decided to take get closer to the highways again to get something to eat. We ended up eating in Wendy’s (not a very good one, by the way) with the intention of moving right away towards Vancouver.
After finishing a very bad meal, we needed to fill gas. There is a Shell gas station right next to Wendy’s on highway 1 (Trans-Canada). We rarely choose Shell because it is usually more expensive than others. However, it was convenient. Saad got off, filled gas and paid. We hit the road towards Merritt. Yet, something was wrong. Goldie started acting up and Saad along with it! After days of worrying about the car, we were unable to continue the trip and Saad was very concerned.
While I searched for possible causes and solutions in my smart phone, Saad was desperate! After calling mechanics here and there (who by the way refused to work after 6) we also realized that major mechanic shops close at 5 on weekdays. One of the mechanics was kind enough to provide us with some assistance by phone by telling us that we probably had a gas issue. However, no one could check the car…
After few attempts trying to move the car and continue the trip, we gave up. With little battery in our phones and no experience dealing with car problems on the road, we decided to sleep in Kamloops. We were unable to find a hotel for less than $120 (even for motels), so we decided to sleep in the car in the Petro-Canada station right on highway 1.
Saad was very concerned, I was less so… at the end I was quite tired, so I just wrapped my blanket around and tried to sleep… I think Saad had a harder time. The gas station was almost empty but it was quite noisy! Saad was also very alert after seeing just truck drivers and motorcycle travelers around; but he finally felt better after seeing few families camping in the gas station.
We ended up sleeping through a cold, rainy night in ugly Kamloops… but the rest will come later!