Road Trip 2014: Day 2 – Part 1

Sunday August 10th, 2014

I wake up around 6:30 a.m.

In the morning.

Got out of bed, showered, got dressed. Decided to try out De Dutch. I’ve never been to one before. There was one that opened up down the street from me when I lived in Victoria. That seems like a lifetime ago but it’s been little more than a decade. I tried to go there once but there was a long line-up to get in so I left and never tried again.

No line-up here. Or queue, as the British say. Isn’t it weird that over in England, they speak the exact same language that we speak but it’s almost an entirely different language altogether? That’s mad.

A blonde waitress greets me and seats me. As she walks away, I can’t help but notice that she has really nice legs. I’m a leg man so I appreciate this more than most. From here on out, I will refer to her as Legs.

So Legs comes back and asks if I would like something to drink. I ask for orange juice.

While I wait for my morning drink, I peruse the menu. A lot of options, I can’t decide.

I finally decide to get DeBakon and Eggs. It’s self-explanatory: it has what it says plus toast and hashbrowns. Plus your choice of salad or fruit. I tell Legs that I’ll have the fruit with my meal, even though I’m pretty sure I won’t be eating very much of it, if at all. Well, I told her the first part. The rest was what I was thinking to myself. I’m not really a big fruit/veggie fan.

As I’m waiting for my food, I’m browsing on my phone. Intermittently, I watch Legs go back and forth serving other people. There’s other waitresses working but she’s the most interesting.

My order comes and I dig in. It’s fairly straight forward, with the exception being that the bacon is not in strips like we’re used to eating. They’re in thin, circular slices but otherwise taste about the same as regular bacon.

I finish my breakfast, pay Legs, then leave. I drove this time, only because I knew I was going to be driving around town most of the day.

Before going anywhere, though, I decide to take a test run out to the arena where I’ll be watching Alice in Chains tonight.

My trust level in my TomTom is not at an all-time high so I want to test it and see if I get there on the first try. I set the coordinates and drive off.

I know the arena is a little ways out of the downtown area but not too far. TomTom tells me that I’ll get there in about five minutes. That’s, of course, if I get there at all.

I’m following TomTom’s directions and get closer to the arena. I make a right turn then a left and find myself outside of a parking lot. I see a sign that says: Parking $3. What? I don’t want to pay for parking, I’m not planning on staying for whatever’s going on here. Am I in the right place?

There’s two lanes so I pull into the left one hoping It’ll lead me out of here. It doesn’t.

I’m caught in a trap, I can’t walk out, because I love you too much baby.

I pull up to a checkpoint and a lady hands me a parking pass. I don’t have to pay for it and as I drive through the parking lot I see what’s going on. I’ve inadvertently driven into the BCNE: the British Columbia Northern Exhibition.

A carnival.

This is not what I want at all so I look for a way out. I follow the arrows and drive down a dirt road that takes me past the front of the CN Centre. So I am in the right place after all. I just didn’t know there was a carnival happening outside of the arena.

I pull into another parking area and decide to get out of my car to take a look. I see a car that’s coming the same way I was, only it turns left just before the parking lot that I’m currently standing in. I watch as it drives to the end of a driveway, turns and exits. So that’s my way out.

I jump back into my car and set new coordinates for Pine Centre Mall, a place I discovered accidentally last time I was in PG. It has a lot of stores. Target, Coles and Sears are of particular interest to me. When I get there, I realize it’s still early, around 10 am. Is anything open yet?

I drive around to the back entrance of the mall, the parking lot’s pretty much deserted which isn’t a good sign. I try to do a Google search on my phone to find out if the mall is open yet. My phone’s slow, been that way a lot lately.

While I’m waiting, I watch as other people pull in. One guy goes up to the doors, pulls on the door and walks in. Looks like it’s open.

I get out and as I get to the doors, I see that it doesn’t actually open until 11 a.m. I decide to go inside anyway and see if anything’s open yet.

Nothing’s open but I wander around to see what stores are here. I didn’t get a chance to explore last time I was here so this is a good opportunity.

It’s a weird feeling walking through an empty mall with no stores open. It feels lonely though I’m not the only one wandering around. Why are other people here? The same reason I am? Killing time until the mall opens because we didn’t check before we left early this morning?

There’s nothing here that really catches my eye and I’m getting bored so I leave. There’s a SportChek beside the mall that’s open so I decide to go in and kill some more time.

Time goes by so slowly when you’re waiting for a mall to open. I have measured out in my life with coffee spoons.

I wasn’t planning on buying anything but as I wander through the store I find an Adidas jacket and a Vancouver Canucks shirt that I want so I buy them.

It’s still not 11:00 yet but I decide to drive over to the other side of the mall. Turns out Target’s already open so I walk in.

Normally, most place I shop in, I get a basket but I get a cart as I know I’m going to buy a lot here.

I start off in the stationery section. Last time I was here I bought some Moleskine notebooks, I liked them so I want to get some more. I buy some small ones and some medium ones. The pen that I’ve been using to write travel notes with keeps overflowing so I look for a new one. I decide to try some Paper Mate Ink Joy pens.

From there I go to electronics and look at Xbox 360 games. They have Arkham Origins on sale for $10. There’s no way I can pass this up so I grab it. I have the first two Arkham games and I’ve been looking for the third one so this is a major score since it’s normally at least $50. I don’t play video games very much anymore. In fact, I bought Arkham Asylum about 6 months ago and I’m still not finished it. I don’t know when I’ll get around to playing Origins but I’ll play it one of these years.

That’s kind of a pet peeve of mine: so many games have such long single-player campaigns that it takes me forever to get through them. Oh well, let’s call this an investment.

Next I go to the clothing department. Last time I was here I bought some Haggar pants and I liked them a lot. Problem was, one pair that I bought were a little too small as I bought the wrong size. I get the same kind in the right size and another pair of a different color that I didn’t see before. I also buy a straw fedora as it’s pretty warm here in PG and my felt fedora is a little too hot to wear. After I pay for my stuff and put it all in my car, I notice it’s getting close to lunch time and I know there’s a McD’s nearby so I decide to go across the street to eat.

After eating, I walk back across the street and continue shopping. The thing is, it’s getting even warmer out. I’m getting a bit of a headache and feeling a little dehydrated. There’s a Shopper’s Drug Mart right beside Target so I go there, get some Tylenol and look for something to drink with it. I’m about to get some regular water but for the hell of it, I look at what else they have. I spot some flavored water, one of which has green tea and pear flavoring. That’s unusual and it sounds good so I buy it. I get out to my car, pop a couple of Tylenol and take a drink of the flavored water.

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Holy Christ, it’s good. Surprisingly so. Normally flavored water is just that: water with a tiny bit of flavoring in it so it tastes like watered-down Kool-Aid. This actually has taste to it. Maybe it’s because I’m thirsty but I think this has become my new favorite thing.

Next I go to Sears. I look around but don’t buy anything. From there I check out Cole’s book store. I buy a book called The Jedi Doth Return. It’s a re-telling of Return of the Jedi but it’s written in the style of Shakespeare. I have the first two books and I’ve been looking for this one. I also buy Fight Club and Choke; both are novels written by Chuck Palahniuk and both were made into movies. I’ve seen both but have never read either of the books so that’s why I decided to get them.

It’s late afternoon by this time and I need to eat and get ready for the concert. The question is, where? I could go to Wendy’s again but I decide to try out this Daddy-O’s place. I have no idea where it is so I look up the address, punch it into my TomTom and drive off.

Things are okay until I get close to the place and my GPS tells me to pull a u-turn.

Uh, what? I’m pretty sure that’s illegal and it would just be a bad idea at a busy intersection like this one.

I defy my GPS once again and try to find the place on my own. I drive around in circles and don’t find it.

To hell with this. I saw a McD’s on the corner so I go there. After eating, I have a feeling that I’m close to Daddy-O’s so instead of driving, I decide to try and find it on foot. After crossing to the other side of the street, I walk past a motel and there’s the place. No wonder I didn’t see it, the place is facing the opposite way from where I was driving. I actually did drive past it but it was hidden in a horseshoe configuration of buildings so I never saw it.

Well, that solves that mystery. It’s too late to go there now, I just ate and it’s getting closer to show time and I need to get ready.

So I walk back to my car, drive back to my hotel and prepare myself for Alice in Chains.

But that’s another story.

Road Trip 2014: Day 1

Saturday August 9th, 2014

I immediately start off on the wrong foot by sleeping in. I was planning on leaving at 8:00 a.m. but I didn’t get up on time.

You know the old saying: the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Especially when you get drunk the night before you’re supposed to travel somewhere. Brilliant.

I’ve done this before. Will I ever learn? Stupidity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

I’m in my bed, eyes open, still in limbo. Not yet awake, not still asleep. It’s like being in an airport or bus depot: you’re not here, you’re not there, you’re somewhere in between.

What time is it? I grab my cell phone and unlock it. Eight a.m. Why do some people say things like, “eight a.m. in the morning”? As opposed to what, eight a.m. at night? The fact that it’s morning is implied by the fact that you’ve already mentioned the letters “a” and “m.” It’s Latin, it stands for “ante meridiem,” which means “before morning.” I know this because Tyler knows this. We’ve already gathered that you were referencing morning when you said “a.m.”; therefore, when you further specify “morning,” it’s entirely redundant.

So there I am, realizing that not only have I started off on the wrong foot, but I’ve also shot myself in it once again. In a haze, rushing to get ready to leave. Do I eat? No, not enough time. I was supposed to be on the road by now, what do I have time for? Shower and pack, that’s it. The way I figure it, if I get on the road in about two hours, that’ll get me to my first destination at a decent hour.

I jump in the shower, jump out, dry my hair, get dressed. I’m hungry.

I am Jack’s stomach, hear me roar. The growling sound you hear when you’re hungry is called borborygmos. It’s a Greek word, it means “bowel rumbling.”

Sorry, no time to eat.

I did laundry last night but didn’t fold it up, didn’t put anything away. How many pairs of underwear should I bring? Six? I don’t even know exactly how long I’ll be gone for. Could be six days, seven, eight.

I don’t really care at this point, I start throwing stuff into my suitcase indiscriminately. I’ll deal with clothing as each day comes. No time, trying to get my watch repaired. No time, never got a thing to wear.

Toilet trees. Toiletries. Need to gather those. Throw a new Ivory soap bar into my soap travel case, I’ll unwrap it later. Single serving shampoo, single serving toothpaste. Single size, travel size, fun size. Everywhere I travel, tiny life.

What else do I need? Laptop. Charger. Cell phone. Charger. Tablet. Charger. Writing materials, I’m going to document everything. Comb. Brush. Hair elastic. I have a headache, I should pack some Tylenol. And some water bottles.

I think that’s everything, take everything out to my car. Pack it all in, I think that’s it. Ten a.m.

In the morning.

Start up the engine, take one last look at my house. I won’t be seeing it again for a week, maybe longer.

First destination: Prince George. I’ll be staying there for two nights then heading south. Set my GPS for the Coast Inn, conveniently located in downtown PG. It’s about a 630 km trip. I start now.

I plug in my MP3 player, start playing the entire Alice in Chains discography. I’m going to see them live tomorrow night. I never go to any concerts but I wanted to see them, I scheduled my vacation around them.

I back out of my driveway and I drive away. Goodbye Kitamaat Village, see you soon. Not too soon though, we’ve spent a lot of time together lately. It’s been years since I got away for more than two or three days.

So I’m driving the village highway, one of the worst highways to drive in winter. It’s summer now but I still won’t miss this road. There’s that, plus the fact that I’ve driven it hundreds of times. It gets a little monotonous. Variety is the spice of life. The Doors wrote a song with that title after Jim Morrison died. They released two albums without him, without his words, without his voice. The music truly was over. Jim Morrison was The Doors. He was their spice.

I’m at the entrance to Kitimat but I don’t enter Kitmat. There’s a banner that’s been over the entrance for the past couple of months that reads: Kitimat is a Bear Aware Community. Yes, we’re aware that bears exist. I’m so proud of us.

I turn right, on my way to Terrace, I won’t be stopping there either. If you live in Vancouver, you’re a Vancouverite so if you live in Terrace, does that make you a Terraceite?

About 40 minutes later I’m at another 4-way stop. I really hate 4-way stops, to this day I’m still never sure of when exactly I’m supposed to go. Luckily I don’t need to stop, I turn right, heading east.

It’s a bright, sunny day here in the Kitimat/Terrace area but I don’t know what the weather’s going to be like in PG. I won’t find out for another 7 or 8 hours. It’s a long drive.

Here’s an idea: why not build a highway from Terrace straight through to Houston or, better yet, Burns Lake? How much time would that save us? Two hours? Three? Why should we spend about two hours driving north after leaving Terrace and another two hours heading south before we finally start heading in a more easterly direction? As the crow flies.

They were not following a crow as they built this highway, they were following some dizzy bird that couldn’t decide where he was going. Hey, I’ll go north. Okay, I’m tired of flying north, now I’ll go south. Hey, which way was I supposed to be going again? Oh yeah, east! I’ll go that way now! Follow me!

One thing I’ll never understand about birds is the way they fly straight across the road directly in front of your car. You’re a bird, you’ve got limitless room to fly. If you need to cross a busy highway, you can go from the top of one tree on one side to the top of another tree on the other side. But why do that? Why not fly a foot off the ground directly in front of a moving vehicle? You have all that free space and you choose to fly through the most dangerous part, time and time again.

Birds are idiots.

So I’m driving the north-easterly part of Highway 16 East. What are my plans for my vacation? I don’t really have any plans, exactly. I have a rough outline. Get to PG, stay there two nights, see Alice in Chains. Head down to the mainland then come back about a week later, everything else is up in the air. With the birds.

This is going to be my second stay in PG in about 4 months. I drove out there during the Easter weekend for a mini-vacation. Figured I had 4 days off, why not go somewhere?

That was a test run, I’d never driven that far before. I wanted to see how long it would take, how much gas I would need, get to know my way around PG a little bit, find places to eat, shop, etc.

Different time, different car. I kind of miss my old car but this one’s a little better on gas. More reliable, at least, that’s what I’m hoping.

I’m still listening to Alice in Chains. I’ve gone through Facelift and Sap. As I near the midway point of Dirt, the song “Rooster” comes on. To amuse myself, I start singing along in the voice of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises. I make myself laugh. I’ll probably make a recording when I get back home and post it, that’ll be fun.

I’m encountering some crazy drivers. As I reach a passing lane, I pull into the left lane to pass three RVs that I’ve been stuck behind for a few minutes. As I get into the passing lane, I look in my rearview and see another car coming up fast behind me. He turns on his right blinker. Is this guy going to pass me while I’m getting ready to pass someone else? I look in my right side mirror in disbelief as I see him appear in it, look out my side window to see him blow past me, cut in front of me and pass the RVs before I do. He just went weaving in and out of traffic like it was a freeway in the city.

Maniac.

I’ve been driving for about three hours now and I’m approaching Smithers. What do you call people who live in Smithers? If I lived there, I’d get a band together with some locals. We’d call ourselves The Smithereens.

Much like my last trip out to PG, I’m stopping in Smithers for lunch. I stop here because I know there’s a McDonald’s here. I’ve taken the Greyhound numerous times and it stops here, usually at A&W. I’m not going there. For one thing, we have an A&W in Kitimat, I can go there any time I want. The nearest McD’s is in Terrace. There’s two of them but I don’t go to Terrace that often so any time I get a chance to go to a McD’s somewhere else. I take it.

It’s 1:30 p.m. when I pull into the McD’s parking lot. My milege so far: 268.2 km.

Whenever people abbreviate kilometres, they say “clicks” or “k.” I have my own abbreviation. From here on out, I will refer to them as “kims.”

As soon as I finish eating, I’m back on the road. I’m already behind, I want to try and get to PG at a decent time so I’m planning on minimizing the stops.

I don’t stop again for another three hours or so. I stop in Fraser Lake to gas up. Time, 4:40 p.m. Mileage: 500.8 kims.

That’s the last stop I plan on making until I get to PG. I get there at around 6:30 p.m. My total mileage: 638.0 kims right on the dot.

I walk into the Coast Inn of the North. I stayed there last time I was in PG. My GPS gave me some bad directions, I had to override it and go by memory to find the hotel.

This was not the first time TomTom did me wrong. Two other times during this trip it tried to steer me off the highway and take a detour God knows where. I ignored it and kept on going.

I get a room and carry my first load of luggage up. Drop everything off, open my door to get the rest of my stuff. As I enter the hallway, I hear someone call my name. I turn around and it’s someone from my hometown. He’s delivering food to someone on my floor. I ask him what kind of food they have there. Pizza, ribs, stuff like that. I think about checking it out later.

We part ways, I go to my car to get the rest of my gear. I bring it up to my room and start settling in.

I’m hungry. Borbo’s talking to me again, telling me I need to eat. Fast. I know there’s a Wendy’s close by so I head there. I don’t take my car, I walk there. I’m a little weary of walking around downtown PG from the last time I was here but there are times I don’t really see the point of getting into my car and driving two or three blocks.

On the way there I see a De Dutch Pannekoek House that I never noticed before. Note to self: try it out soon. Maybe tomorrow morning.

Now I’m at Wendy’s. I get the number four meal. I can never remember what it’s called but it has bacon on it. Whoever first thought of putting bacon on a hamburger deserves a Nobel Prize. Made of bacon.

As soon as I devour my meal, I head back to my hotel room. I sit down and set up my laptop. I start thinking about what I’m going to do for the rest of the night. Catch a movie? Pick up some beer?

I feel tired, just exhausted, so I decide to stay in.

I remembered there’s a pulp mill in PG but I didn’t know exactly where. As I open my curtains and look out on the city, I see something that might be it. Columns of white smoke rising up in the background. It’s closer than I thought.

PG Pulp Mill

As I continue unpacking, I start to realize what I forgot in my haste to pack up and leave my house this morning. My hair dryer. My digital camera. The road maps I bought last time I was here. They’re all 630 kims away, waving at me. Hey, remember us? I curse myself.

I decide to check Facebook. I need something to listen to while I’m online. I remember a radio station I was listening to last time I was here but I can’t remember what it was called. 99.3 The Drive. That’s it. I go to the website and listen to that and make the following proclamation on Facebook and Twitter:

PG: I am in you. Again. I’ll be gently this time, I promise.

My laptop crashed last night, I had no choice but to refresh it. Trouble was, I lost all of the programs I had on there. I take this opportunity to start re-installing some of them.

The internet connection here is faster than what I have at home. That’s not really saying much, it’s hard to get slower. You’d have to be on dial-up to achieve that. My home internet moves at the speed of government.

I take advantage and start downloading podcasts that I’ve fallen behind in. At home, one podcast episode download takes about half an hour. Here, it takes about five minutes.

It’s noisy in this hotel tonight. Kids in the room above me, sounds like a baby and a toddler at the very least. Non-stop clomping and squealing. Noisy adults on my floor, sounds like some kind of party maybe two or three rooms away. Fun for them, not for me as I can hear them clearly.

Things finally quiet down a couple of hours later. I want to get up early tomorrow so I hit the hay early. As I start to drift off, submitting to my weariness, I’m feeling relieved. Content. I needed this.

Tomorrow, I see Alice in Chains.

I am Jack’s unending sense of anticipation.

Road Trip 2014: Prologue

Just to be a little different, this blog series will be written in a style similar to Fight Club as written by Chuck Palahiuk.

This is merely an exercise, my aim is not to write in exactly the same style but to hopefully capture some of the same spirit of the book.

Since this is the book I was reading while I was on vacation, I felt it was fitting. Also, I enjoy a challenge and I think it will be interesting.

Buckle up, let’s go for a ride.