Driving in snow and other possibly mad ideas (day 329)

We pick up our little white sedan (not so little, but it sounds nicer that way) and pull out into the somewhat intimidating downtown traffic. First stop, Mountain Equipment Co-op – I need some warmer things). Then the world. Or at least British Columbia. A bit of it anyway.

Christi and I are off on our grand, 10 day, whistlestop, all-inclusive, pay-nothing-up-front tour of western Canada. As befits the kind of travel we seem to engage in, we are late (the sun already beginning to disappear), destinations are unclear, and we have to stop to buy beef jerky.

It is funny to be driving on the right-hand side of the road. We drive on the left side in New Zealand, you see. And that is the extent of my driving experience.

Some of you may be concerned that a person who has only had his driver’s license for about three months is embarking on a cross-province trip in the tail end of winter as his first experience in other-side-of-the-road driving. Christi certainly is. I can see her trying to stop herself from crying words of warning to me as we go along.

The crash I saw in New Zealand just before I left comes to mind. An American guy, newly arrived, drove out into traffic on the highway because he was just looking the wrong way at the intersection and thought nothing was coming. Hmmmm.

The weather started nice, but deteriorated. Seriously. In fact, I have never been in such nasty weather. You could follow our progress across Canada by tracking snow storms.

I have never driven in snow before. From my experience things are okay if the whole road is covered with packed snow (you have little grip, but you don’t realise after a while, because everything is white). And things are also okay if the road is not covered at all in snow (obviously). Things are not so good if the road is party covered in snow, black and white, white and black. Because then you realise how mad it is to be driving on snow. And worst of all is when the snow starts to melt and you are driving on part road/part slush. Not good. At all. Hydro-planeing anyone?

They don’t have catseyes on lots of the road over here. I guess this is because the snowploughs would rip them up when clearing the road. Where they do have catseyes, they bury them slightly below the surface of the road so that snowploughs can’t get them. A very elegant solution, I thought. Much easier if it just didn’t snow though.

People told us that we were saving Banff. By coming to visit that is. No, we did not embark on conservation efforts more ambitious than that. Lots of people, many Americans apparently, were not coming to visit. Despite the excellent snow.

Perhaps we were saving it from the deer, which seemed to wander freely in the streets, although more at night than during the day. They did not look so menacing that they could actually threaten a town, but you never can tell with deer.

We also did our best to preserve indigenous BC culture by going to pubs and watching bands. Two from two so far. I suspect we might find another tomorrow night (when we plan to go to Idaho! – what I know about Idaho could be written in large letters in pig Latin on the back of a very small grain of rice). The first was terrible. Noisy. Jangly. Possible talented. The table next door loved them. The second group were quite good. As if in apology for the night before.

And now we are in Lake Louise. At a very lovely hostel. Watching the soft flakes of snow falling outside the windows. They are making ice sculptures down at the resort (the kind of place that makes you feel like you just do not have nearly enough money to even be looking around the shops, let alone asking about rack rates). And ice-skating on the Lake. And I saw a man cross-country skiing. He was so graceful and elegant. Quite unlike my efforts a few days ago. But you get that, I guess, on the big jobs.