Thursday, 19 December 2013

Winter On The Coast

I am back in Vancouver once again. We drove down in one shot, straight from Calgary. It was a 13 hour run, all of it behind schedule, through rough weather conditions. It was blizzard conditions from Calgary to Banff and icy road for much of the rest of the way. I drove the first half, through the blizzard, up into the Rockies, through the Selkirks and down into Revelstoke. Kate took over for the second half, down through the Monashees and into Kamloop, over the Coquihalla summit and down the valley to Vancouver.

It's a long drive, too long for me these days. I am good for the first half but these long days are getting to be too much for me. You would think that sitting in the passenger seat of my truck would not be tiring; you would be wrong. For every mile, whether driving or not, I am focused on the ice and the road, the drifting snow, the small slide of the tires as the wind buffets the truck. It doesn't matter who is driving; it's my truck and my responsibility to bring it safely home, passengers and cargo intact.

I can usually do six or eight hours a day on the road, especially if the driving is easy and the weather good. Summer driving, with long days and limited darkness, is a pleasure, a feast of sight and scenery. Winter driving can be beautiful during the day, sun shining on the snow, glistening, sparkling, the light flickering across the mountains. When the clouds part and the crisp rays of day hit the high peaks, there is nothing quite so amazing. Down on the road, however, the ice makes your tires slide, the snow blinds, the pebbles of sand and rock spread to provide traction bounce up and down, smacking your windshield, pitting and cracking, banging the side of your truck, scratching and denting. Then the dark comes and the danger doubles.

Here in Vancouver the trees are barren, the squirrels pouncing from branch to naked branch, the leaves blown free from their hold, leaving a clear view of the occasional cedar and fir sprinkled about the neighbourhood's urban forest. The cold here is colder than Alberta, the constant moisture finding its way into every crack and pore. Even the lightest of breezes drives a bone-aching chill. The sun is hidden behind a gray, cloudy sky, filtering the light that is almost certainly shining on the high mountaintops of the North Shore.

It's winter on the coast. There may not be snow, it may not be cold on the thermometer, but it is winter here nonetheless.

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