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.


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.


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