By Craig Funston
No summer has been complete for me these last few years without an annual August trip to BC. Last month was no exception, with the only exception was that I didn’t go to Vancouver this time.
The occasion was a bittersweet one: My wife’s parents celebrated their 60th anniversary, but her mother is in such an advanced stage of dementia, I reckon she didn’t have a clue as to who was there and why they came.
Another bittersweet memory was a provincial one: While my adopted home is Alberta, it was certainly exhilarating to see real mountains, trees, and lakes once more. Whether I could handle living in the likes of McBride or Hazelton year-round is another discussion.
The final bittersweet experience was the reverse discrimination I felt when I saw two prices for gas along the way—one was for those who were “status,” the other for those of us who were “non-status.” The latter was the more expensive one, of course, directed at any one who was not part of the First Nations culture, so-called.
I would be intrigued if that was done here in Alberta, only in reverse. Guaranteed there would be the usual fits, rants, and calls for boycotts.
Our itinerary took us close to Edmonton, then almost as west as possible along Highway 16. The folks live about an hour east of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, in a very inviting town called Terrace. Along the Yellowhead we dropped into Jasper for an ice cream cone. We had other reasons for stopping there: two little grand-kids under four need regular potty breaks, something I had forgotten from my own child-rearing days.
Jasper, Jasper, Jasper: What a breathtaking resort town! Some of the breathtaking was because of its beauty, some was because of its crowds. (Maurice: That’s a quippy way of saying that there were so many people around us, the crush of the crowd took our breath away.)
The stint in Terrace with the relatives was a pleasant blend of hanging out by ourselves and doing select meals together. We pulled the longest straw (I guess) and got the cabin on the lake. Not a bad deal at all: Beautiful sunrise and sunset, rolling waves, more solitude than I am used to, and lots of chill time.
I have that here on the Back Thirty, except for the sunrise, sunset, waves, and chill time.
Terrace is itself an interesting study. Civilization has slowly come to its fair streets in recent decades—mostly in the form of its many fast-food outlets, big box stores, and WestJet. Other than that, not much has changed for the Terracites, er, Terra-ists—the loco locals—in thirty-plus years.
Because of a prior leadership commitment in an interior Bible camp, I had to fly out early to Vancouver, for a connecting flight to Kelowna, cutting short my loll at the lake. The airline conveniently placed me beside a little girl—a very talkative, motherless girl, that is– for the duration of the trip to Vancouver. Must have been my grandfatherly appearance that made them select me.
To be precise, she was only motherless until her mother met her in Vancouver. You might say that I became the surrogate parent for the full 75 minutes, until I was able to “deliver” her to the real thing. I played games on her phone that I couldn’t even spell, laughed at jokes I didn’t even get, all the while pretending to bond with a girl I didn’t even know.
A trip to BC must be planned with the utmost purposefulness. Getting the least expensive gas is likely the most demanding: Whenever I go to BC, I always fill up in Coleman, if I take Highway 3; Canmore, if I take Highway 1; and Jasper, if I take Highway 16.
I did the last one, but it took me a full tank to get there. The key for me was to fill up across the line and get as far as possible, or right in our own backyard, namely, in Bow Island, champions of the lowest gas prices for hours around.
When I finally connected with my wife and kids in Salmon Arm, to head back to Alberta, I was heading home. BC was a good memory, but it represents my past. There is a beauty in its natural landscape, but there is a deeper beauty in lifestyle and friendships here in Alberta. I know that sounds sappy but it’s sincere.
Just wish there was a way I could have put the lakeside property on my roof rack and brought it home.