So with Willie Nelson we’re on the road again, this time travelling from Victoria to Kamloops after a delayed departure following one false start due to extreme weather and highway conditions. Ken and Kathie had considered how best, and when to attempt travel back home for many days. Kathie was convinced that yesterday (Thursday) was best and she was right. Ken remained a bit skeptical, but he does come from a long line of pessimists. His Auntie Mary refused to “hope for the best” as she might be disappointed. Her cup was perennially half empty. Thankfully my travel cup, with the contents of our CRV were full to the brim leaving just enough cozy space for yours truly seated behind the driver.
You may well ask what I see from my rear seat captain’s chair. Quite a lot actually. So I stayed up for most of the twelve-hour trip, twice what this particular tour would normally require. I am now a seasoned ferry rider, forced to remain on the open car deck where my slumber is punctuated by multi-musical car alarms (especially BMW, Porsche and Tesla) coupled with an announcement that one driver had left their car running–hopefully not in gear? I heard no splash.
Arriving at Tsawwassen, we quickly followed HWY 17 over the Golden Ears Bridge to the slower but lovely HWY 7 which passes through farm and agricultural land, much of it flooded. On a beautiful sunny day it was hard to understand that only a few days ago, during the height of atmospheric river #1 people were stranded between two slide locations for at least twenty-four hours of torrential rain, darkness and cold. They were eventually evacuated by helicopter, able to retrieve their cars several days later.
Passing the slide sites I could clearly see massive piles of what looked like kindling, but were in fact small mountains of huge trees all splintered as the side of the hill simply collapsed towards the highway below. With so much snow atop nearby mountains, the warm air and wind melted what would normally descend next Spring. Given the summer heat dome and in many places devastating fires, the ground was tinder dry, the forest charred, the soil eroded. Extreme weather created a catastrophe eventually triggered by more rain in two days than would normally fall in a month. The destruction was breathtaking.
After some delay given single-lane-only access through construction sites, we arrived in Hope parts of which were open in a limited way to travellers. After a quick pit stop, we proceeded up HWY 3 from Hope towards Princeton. Our usual path up the Coquihalla Highway remains closed after five major breaches and twenty or more significantly damaged sites. Once through the police checkpoint we proceeded carefully and in a relaxed manner through the historic 1965 slide site, alongside rivers bursting, seemingly boiling with liquid energy. We moved from one side of the road to the other as many sections had been damaged; some still dangerous for travel.
And there were trucks, more than I have ever seen at one time. Trucks are deemed essential travel along with those returning home as was our case. So there were few cars on the road; the ratio of cars to trucks was something like 1/20. Trucks carry goods including food, fuel and the stuff of daily living. I was reminded of the crucial role transportation plays in our massive country. Also of our food security needs throughout the Province.
We were doing well as we approached Princeton where suddenly we stopped. Lacking a CB radio or VHF monitor we were uncertain what was happening. DriveBC on Twitter offered few details. We subsequently discovered from our daughter calling from Nelson that a truck had overturned earlier in the day. This most recent delay however was due to a different breakdown. An hour later we were able to proceed, now through darkness as we arrived in Princeton.
Our next leg took us up HWY 5A, a paved road in great condition, one lane each way, windy and weird–as we couldn’t see what was on each side. Did I say there were trucks? Wow, there were trucks, with bright lights. Kathie had to carefully watch the right curb to register our position on the road. Using our installed fog lights really helped with positioning. That said, it was a nervous time. I hoped for the best. Finally we burst onto HWY 5 which is a high speed divided highway fifty-five minutes on to Kamloops. What a joy; only a light dusting of snow; no more lights in the eyes; the distance numbers became smaller and smaller until finally, home.
Kudos and barks to Kathie’s great driving and Ken’s encouragement. (Only one meltdown the whole trip.) As we travelled I simply watched, not quite sure where we were, or where we were going. I am told that I am one of the greatest dog travellers ever. Move over Snoopy!
These weather events just keep coming at us in BC, in one of the richest provinces in one of the richest countries in the world. We are no longer immune from extreme weather events. My human father Ken hears the same old joke over and over again: “Hey Padre, can’t you get us some better weather today?” Whether padre, politician or police officer, today’s weather is more unpredictable than ever. Heat, cold, drought and flood affect peoples and communities everywhere, especially here. The year 2021 will be remembered as the year when we paid attention to what is really happening, more intentionally than at any other time.
We are in crisis time, where crisis means loss of control over elements and circumstances. The same word can also mean an opportunity to do things differently–to care for the earth and its atmosphere differently. We can diminish both damage and risk caused by fossil fuel extraction, transmission, combustion and emission. We can power our communities and lives differently. We can transition our economy towards real sustainability while retaining good paying jobs in all industries. Yes Virginia, this can all be done; and now!