Vancouver Bound: The Worst Road Trip of My Life

I am actually shocked I made it to Vancouver alive.

When I left my temporary home in Kelowna, BC, I carelessly searched directions to Vancouver on my iPhone through Google maps.  I streaked along the bridge to West Kelowna with the rest of the traffic, admiring the yellow leaves and burgundy tinges that popped up in little spurts across Kelowna’s hills.  I nestled into the driver’s seat and prepared myself for an easy 4 hour drive.

Or so I thought.

The fog crept across the road when I was halfway to Merrit.  It became incredibly dense unbelievably quickly, swallowing the surrounding hills and cloaking the road in front of me in white.  I flicked on my fog lights and slowed down, squinting through the mist to search for approaching rearcar lights.

Something told me the worst was far from over.

The coquihalla is hailed as one of the most dangerous highways in Canada. The high mountain road is subject to drastically changing conditions and a high traffic flow. As I cruised alone, the sky split open and dumped down on the highway, transforming it into a river.  Snow, I can handle, but I’ve never had to drive in restless rain before. The water streaked across the road in diagonal lines, causing my small, old, unreliable car to hydroplane and lose control at every puddle it encountered. I slowed down to 80KM. Big black trucks spat rainwater at me from their rims as they ripped past going 120.

I passed an overturned car, smashed on its windshield in the lane next to me. Shards of glass were scattered across the pavement, the ripped rubber from the wheels lay lifeless in the ditch. First-aider responders were only just arriving to the scene as I passed. I placed my Bible on my lap and started praying. No one could have survived that.

Finally, I arrived in Vancouver and parallel parked on Main street. I turned off my vehicle, hands shaking. I was overcome with fatigue and relief.

Until I realized, two days later, I would have to do the exact same drive.  Reversed.

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But first, I had a few days in Van. There’s something intoxicating about being surrounded by the sights and smells of a mass amount of individual citizens cohabitating a large concrete quarter somewhat peacefully. The onset of boutiques, smattering graffiti, and hidden independent coffee houses is slightly staggering.  I wandered through the rain, snapping countless photos, the best of which I uploaded on my Facebook page (click here).

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My weekend in Vancouver was busy and full.  The change of scenery was sublimely satisfying.  I attended a Black & White party, where I danced with my sister and a mass of crazy Christians.  I walked 20 blocks in the pouring rain, snapping countless cool photographs.  I mingled with homeless people at church and indulged in free meals.  Early Monday morning I met with my cousin for coffee.  As the rain began to pour, I filled my car with gas and started to mentally prepare myself for the worst road trip ever.

Or so I thought.

The rain was steady for about an hour; nothing compared to the storm I had endured previously.  Although flashing yellow signs warned me of SLIPPERY, SLUSHY CONDITIONS on Highway 97, the pavement was clean and clear, permitting smooth sailing.

The contrast to my previous trip was startling.  For a solid 40 minutes I thought I was going the wrong way.  Nothing looked familiar.  It wasn’t until I passed the tunnel where I had witnessed the first overturned car last Saturday that I recognized my surroundings.

Pale green trees the colour of peppermint dental floss trickled across the landscape in front of me.  Hills rolled over each other like the folds of yellow curtain drapes.  Golden bush battered in the wind.  Amber blood stains spilt down the grey cliffs that lined the highway, rusting the rocks and shimmering in the afternoon sun.

Merrit appeared, an oasis in the valley.  Small houses and crumbled shacks were sprinkled across the underbrush.  Black horses contrasted the crisp fall hues.  Although it’s no tourist destination, there’s something magnetic in the town’s ambience.  I stopped for more gas.

I pressed my foot down on the pedal, expecting to be confronted with horrific conditions around every corner.  I hoped to speed over the sunbaked pavement to make up for the time I would lose when the weather got rough.

The weather never got rough.  Black cliffs stood at my side, soft snow powder collected on its haunches like dandruff in black hair.  According to the BC driving guide, this was considering warning weather.  But where was my heads up on the way down in the rain?

I made in back to Kelowna in a solid 3 hours with enough time to shower before class.  Although I had a wonderful experience in Van, the horrible trek there is not one I’m likely to partake in again anytime soon.  Next time, I’ll save myself the stress and book a bus.

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11 thoughts on “Vancouver Bound: The Worst Road Trip of My Life

  1. We drive that stretch quite often. The road to Merritt has the worst weather in the whole stretch between Alberta and Vancouver. I am reliving some of our drives as I read your post. Great that you made it there and back safely.

    • Thanks for your comment Deb! Does driving it often make it any easier? I was definitely not expecting the weather to be so treacherous! I think I may have felt safer in a larger, more sturdy vehicle.

      • Driving it more often really does make it better. However we did once drive Kamloops to Meritt in a blizzard at 20km/h…nothing makes that better! LOL!

        We have actually changed our driving patterns to drive mostly at night, the roads empty out by 10:30 pm and it makes for lovely relaxed driving.

  2. Pingback: 5 Places I Don’t Really Like | Alison's Adventures

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