Into The Great White North

Friday, 23 August 2013 15:30
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Amazing scenery, everywhere While this is my second run into Canada this trip, it was the first where I really got farther into the country. It was indeed great, and thankfully not white where I was driving. 

I was able to make my ferry from Orcas Island to Anacortes with a little time to spare. The car had started doing some strange stuff, with the ignition cutting out for no reason on a pretty random basis. It was a full cutoff, which narrowed the suspects down to the coil (again?), the ignition module, the ignition switch itself, or something in the wiring. One of the benefits of having a simple car is simple troubleshooting. It wasn’t enough to make me stop yet, but it was something I’d have to look into.

My ride back to the mainland

I had to go to Seattle to handle a broken camera issue, but rather than jump on I-5 and head in, I went south across Desperation Pass (yet another foreboding name) and grabbed the ferry from Clinton to Mulkiteo, which dumped me off just north of Seattle. By that time, it was starting to get pretty late in the afternoon, so I decided to shoot right for my Airbnb stop in Redmond and go deal with my camera in the morning instead.

My bed for the night was in an older rancher on Ames Lake, just outside Redmond and only minutes from Microsoft. It was a bit of an anomaly; sort of a lakeside oasis in the middle of Seattle suburb stripmall hell. I was officially the first Airbnb’er for my host Kim, and it went great. She was super friendly, and the house was very comfy and right on the lake. It had been her parents place, but she took it over as they moved out. We cracked open my last bottle of Vancouver Island wine, chatted about the usual getting-to-know-somebody-new stuff, then turned in for the night.

Ames Lake, an oasis right in the middle of Microsoft country

Kim made waffles the next morning and we talked a bit more, then I figured I should hit the road if I was going to make it to both Seattle for camera help and Squamish, BC (my next stay) in one day. I wished her luck on her Airbnb hosting adventures, and headed out.

Unfortunately, the car had other ideas. I only made it a couple of miles from her house when my intermittent problem decided to be a full-time problem. I busted out the tools and got down to troubleshooting. I checked the coil first, since I’d already lost one and it was possible the car was killing coils for some reason, but it was fine. Checked all the fuses, ran down the ignition switch wiring; all fine. I moved on to the ignition module and replaced that (which is a little tedious; it involves removing the whole distributor), and voila, it started up and ran just fine. Problem solved, or so I thought.

A little light roadside maintenance

I stopped in at the NAPA auto parts in Redmond to see if they had a module to replace my spare. They didn’t (not surprising), but one of their local parts suppliers did, so delivery to NAPA was a couple hours out. “Perfect,” I thought, “I can run into Seattle and get my camera taken care of.”

I drove the 20 minutes into Seattle and stopped at the Canon dealer there. After a bit of back and forth, we sorted out my issues, and I left with a loaner camera body to use while they got mine fixed or replaced. I’ll have to figure out the logistics of getting their loaner back to them and my camera back to me at some point in the near future, but probably not until I get back into the US. I made a quick pitstop at REI to see if I could find a hoodie or something like a hoodie to replace the one I left on the island at Steve’s (oops), but they didn’t have anything I liked that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Failing at that mission, I drove back to Redmond to pick up my part and get started toward Squamish.

Right around the time I was getting to NAPA, the ignition cutout problem resurfaced, and at the worst times possible, like when I was sitting in traffic or was otherwise in a position where it’d be bad to be stuck. Sometimes it’s nice to have problems when you’re near civilization, but other times it can be a real pain. Obviously, this was not an ignition module problem, so now I had two spare ignition modules and I still had an ignition problem.

I nursed it along for a while, finding that it I kept my foot on the gas and idled it high, it wouldn’t cut out. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense from a technical standpoint, but it worked, so I kept doing it until I was able to drive out of the stop-and-go traffic of Redmond and get someplace a little less hectic to try to figure out what was going on.

I pulled off on a little deserted cul-de-sac and let the car idle while I poked at a few things to see if it was a wiring issue, since I was out of other potential culprits. It’d idle, then die, then pick back up just before it died completely, then die again, and so on. It had run great after I replaced the ignition module for a little while, so obviously I’d moved something during that whole process that made it better. I started at the distributor since that was where I’d done the most work, and started pulling on connections to see what was loose or damaged. Then, way down near the ground on the frame, I saw a tiny little spark, then another, and another. I reached down and grabbed the wire that was sparking against the frame, and instantly the car returned to a smooth, steady idle.

The culprit
This was the previously insulated and secured connection to the ballast resistor that’s used in the older (non-electronic) versions of the ignition system, and it had worn off part of its insulated end and was intermittently shorting out against the frame of the car, thereby cutting the ignition out. Suddenly, it all made sense—the engine shakes more at idle, which banged the wire into the frame, which cut the ignition. When the idle died, it quit shaking, the wire quit shorting, and the engine fired up again. When I idled it at high RPM, that stopped the shaking, too. I even suspect that I never actually had a bad coil way back when, I just moved that wire a little when I replaced it, and it took this long to shake back into a bad position. Anyway, I re-insulated it, zip-tied the heck out of it, and it’s run fine ever since.

Back on the road in a now smooth-running automobile, I opted to take Route 9 north to the border rather than I-5, even though by now I was running late. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do another run up the interstate, and parts of 9 looked interesting. It was your usual small-town rural two lane, and it took me through a lot of little towns and farms with names like Nooksack until I got to the border at Sumas, WA, a ride that beat the heck out of I-5 to Vancouver. There were only two cars in line at the border, and the Canadian border guard was as friendly as the last one, so I breezed through and headed north toward Squamish.

By now, it was dark, so I figured I’d take the freeway through Vancouver and on up to Horseshoe Bay (re-tracing my track from earlier in the week). It was a fast and easy drive, although I did run through some spots of rain, albeit not enough to have to stop and put the top up. There were not too many alternate routes anyway, an no alternate routes at all once I got to 99 north toward Squamish. I kept it at about 100kph (I was all ‘international’; driving in metric now) and arrived around 10:30pm.

On arrival, I wasn’t entirely sure I was in the right place. The town was completely pitch black, with the exception of the lights of about a dozen police cars and assorted road flares. I ruled out ‘air raid blackout’ pretty quickly, then started hunting for signs of a zombie apocalypse, but eventually settled on probable power failure.  Luckily, I was pretty well equipped to be stumbling around in the dark due to all the camping gear I was carrying, so I grabbed my light and went into my lodging for the night, the Howe Sound Brewing Company & Inn.  I figured “when in Rome”, and since I was in Canada, it made sense to sleep in a brewery. Seriously though, the place was a small inn over a restaurant and pub/microbrewery, and from what I could see of it (which wasn’t much, since it was pretty dark), it was pretty cozy. That may have just been the candlelight, though. The nice people at the desk did confirm that yes, a big transformer had blown up about 30 minutes before I got there, and it looked like we’d be without power for a while. They did get me checked in, and one of the clerks showed me to my room Igor-style, with a candelabra and everything. I got settled in via flashlight, then went down to the pub where a good portion of the population was gathering to drink beer while the power thing got sorted out. Apparently you don’t need electricity to pour beers, so everybody was taking advantage of that fact. I met a bunch of mountain biking and rock climbing Canadians who were busy living up to their beer drinking stereotype. The climbers were there to tackle “The Chief”, which looms over the town and is the second largest granite monolith in the world. (First is El Capitan at Yosemite, so I accidentally got to #1 and #2 on this trip.) We had a few beers, made fun of each other’s accents, and hung out in the candlelit bar until the bartender had had enough for the evening and shooed everybody out (but politely; this is Canada after all). I was pretty tired by that point; it was a long haul up from Redmond that day, so I hit the sack.

I was going for another long day starting the next morning, heading up Route 99 past Whistler, then on to Kamloops for the night. That route would take me through some amazing British Columbia scenery, but without many options for side trips or alternate routes. As I was leaving the hotel, a group of about 15 vintage British cars showed up—a couple of MGAs, MG-TCs and TAs, a Mini, a Bugeye, a TR2 and a TR3, two Morris Minors, a Rover P6, and several others. They had driven up from Vancouver for an outing for the day, and I just happened to be at their destination. I had a really nice chat with an older couple who came up in one of the MG-TDs, and we talked cars for a bit, after which they gave me some great tips on things to see on my way through BC. After giving my awesome parking spot right in front of the hotel to one of the Minis, I grabbed a snack in downtown Squamish, drove over to have a closer look at The Chief in the daylight, and then headed out of town.

The Chief. That's a lot of granite. A nice example of an MG-TD. Wooden frame and everything.


The weather still wasn’t the greatest; it was a bit chilly and raining off and on, but top down is still the best way to see the scenery, so I soldiered through it. It wasn’t all that bad, to be honest, and the scenery was spectacular, as expected. There were waterfalls coming down the mountain faces on the sides of the highway that anywhere else would have had a big sign, a hiking path, a photo op spot, and a gift shop, but here they were just regular old runoff. Whistler, the famous ski resort and site of some of the recent Winter Olympic events, had been taken over by the downhill mountain bikers and had lost none of its ritzy exclusive resort character. Ritzy exclusive resorts are not really the kind of places I wanted to be on this trip, so I topped up my fuel and kept on going as soon as possible.

My roadside stops on the way to Kamloops included Brandywine Falls, a very tall and majestic set of falls that reminded me a little of Palouse (although in keeping with the Canadian Parks tendency to fence everything off and restrict access, there’d be no swimming in the falls here), and Nairn Falls, a large and rough set of pothole falls on a river colored white by the glacial runoff.

Brandywine Falls The river below Nairn Falls Lower Nairn Falls Upper Nairn Falls


This is probably a good time for a quick sidebar on why a lot of the rivers and lakes up here are not clear, but are any color ranging from some shade of gray up to and including a brilliant turquoise, and everything in between. The answer is a substance called “rock flour”, which in reality is very finely ground rock dust. There was a bit of this coloration going on at Mt. Ranier on the White River, where the river was colored (you guessed it) white. Rock flour is what happens under glaciers as they slowly grind the rocks they’re carrying in the ice against the rocks they’re travelling over, sort of like the world’s largest and slowest belt sander. The resulting super-fine dust is carried down out of the glacier by the melt-off water, and then into whatever streams, rivers, or lakes that melt-off water feeds. Because the ‘flour’ particles are extremely small and fine, they’ll tend to stay in suspension in the water for a long time, especially if there’s no lake or other still body of water for them to settle out in. The color of the resulting water will depend on the types of rock and minerals in the rock dust, and how those refract and reflect the light hitting them. As you’ll see later in this post, the results can be pretty spectacular.

I also stopped and did a short hike around the upper and lower Joffre Lakes, and got a great view of the glacier above the lower lake area. The parking lot at the trailhead also provided a look at one of the coolest vehicles I’ve seen on the road so far on the trip, a ‘90s-era Japanese market right hand drive Mitsubishi Delica 4WD minivan, in the coveted “Super Exceed” level of trim, tastefully outfitted with all the goodies you’d need for a little offroad adventuring.

Lower Joffre Lake Near where the creek exits the lake Glacier above the lake. Note the color of the ice. It was just pretty; I kept taking shots

The not-for-America Mitsubishi Delica 4WD Van


Canada has less stringent vehicle importation laws than the US, and you can bring in cars from other countries that were not originally marketed in or approved for Canada if they’re at least 15 years old. The US has some vaguely similar rules on import, but the car has to be at  least 25 years old and the hoops you have to jump through to get it licensed for the road are much more difficult (or impossible), which is why Canada has a bunch of really cool imports, and we do not.

After a few more hours of driving through similar scenery (and taking an unfortunate 30 mile detour down BC-1 due to missing an exit), I arrived in Kamloops to (unfortunately) stay in a cheap hotel for the evening. I had tried to get an Airbnb room in Kamloops, Kelowna, or Salmon Arm, but due to it being a weekend at the end of the summer and there being very few people signed up with places to stay in the area, I struck out there, so I settled for the hotel. Kamloops is also a pretty large city for the area with lots of supporting businesses, so I was able to get to a work clothes store and replace my hoodie, as well as cover do a couple of automotive chores.

Kamloops sort of pointed out the interesting phenomenon that while the scenery around BC is amazing and wonderful, British Columbia (and to a similar extent Alberta) are actually kind of lousy places for a traditional road trip. In my previous travels, a big part of the fun is finding backroads and visiting obscure little towns where people generally don’t go. Out here, there are little or no obscure little towns, and therefore no backroads to get there. You’re either on the highway traveling from one pretty decent sized town to the next, or you’re on a dirt road headed out into the woods, with no real type of road or location in between those types. This makes some sense if you consider what winter is like up here—if you’re an obscure little town on a backroad someplace, there’s a good chance you won’t be there in the spring, since nobody can get to you. It makes more sense to have people concentrated in larger population centers connected by highways, and then keep the rest of the countryside either wilderness or farmland. This characteristic does not make it very friendly road trip country. It does, however, make it awesome ‘adventure trip’ country. If your road trip is a 4x4 with a camping setup and you’re carrying fishing gear, a kayak, a mountain bike, and hiking gear, then those dirt roads off the highways do go places that are unlike any other in North America. However, if you’re in a tiny sports car with about an inch and a half of suspension travel, you’re going to be visiting whatever attractions are within hiking distance of the highway, and that’s about it—no long meanders through the countryside for you. Happily, the roadside stuff is pretty darn good too, but I did find myself contemplating a vintage Toyota Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol fully set up for a little back country adventuring for the next trip…

After a pretty OK stay at my cheap hotel, I headed down to Salmon Arm to have lunch with Keone Kim, an old friend and former employee. He was out there in the wilds of Canada working on a film shoot, and since I happened to be relatively nearby, I swung down there and we had a nice lunch catching up at the pub. Always a little weird to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar place, but in a good way.

Leaving Salmon Arm, I stopped briefly at the 2013 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival (also part of the reason there were no Airbnb rooms to be had), listened to a really great boogie woogie blues band for a little while, grabbed a few road snacks, and headed out to find a campsite at Bridge Lake for the night. There were a couple of non-highway roads between Salmon Arm and there, so I took advantage of that and got off the highway for a while. The first road did turn into dirt for about 20 miles (pro tip: If the words “forest service road” are part of the name, odds are that’s a dirt road), but it was pretty smooth and solid, much like the dirt stuff I had driven on in Oregon. It was probably smooth and solid for the same reasons too, as most of the traffic seemed to be logging trucks, and the road was maintained for them. I think the road went by at least a dozen lakes; one really big, and the rest small. It started feeling a bit more like the Canadian wilderness.

It seemed like I was also looking more to the locals as somebody who wasn’t from around there too, as I started getting my first comments about me being far from home when I stopped for gas. Those comments were made in that laid back, friendly Canadian way, too:

“So…yer from Nevada, eh?”

“I am, yes. Out on a road trip through here.”

“So’d ya drive that little thing all the way up here?”

“I did. It’s been a pretty good trip so far.”

“That’s a pretty long haul, eh? Going to Alaska are ya?”

“No, just around BC and Alberta a bit, then back to the states.”

“So is it hard to get parts for that little guy?”

…and so on. Great, friendly people.

As it was a Sunday night, the campsites at the lake were pretty much deserted, which was nice as it allowed me to get one right on the shore. The older guy tending the sites came by to get my info, and if I thought the other guys had thick Canadian accents, I hadn’t heard anything yet. I was later told by an authentic Albertan that they guy probably actually had a Newfoundland accent and that they don’t really talk like that up here. However, if you were in Hollywood and went to central casting for “Old Canadian Wilderness Guy”, this is the guy you’d end up with.

“So, I see you’re campin’ in a tent der, eh?”

“Yes, just me, just for the night.”

“Ya, good deal then. Guess you wouldn’t be sleepin’ in that car, eh?”

“No, it’s probably a little small for that.”

“So…just so you know. Not many bears up here this year, only seen one. So you don’t hafta be worrying about that. Make sure you don’t leave food out though, you know.”

“Got it. I’ll probably eat all this anyway.”

“Ya, good deal. The deer though, you’ll probably see a few of them. No worries there though, they’re friendly as all heck.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for them.”

“So, ‘cause you’re sleepin’ in a tent, I should tell ya, it’s nice here now, but tonight it’ll be getting down to terty or so. So you should know that.”

“Wow, I didn’t know it got that cold. I’ve got enough stuff to stay warm with me, though.”

“Ya, good deal then. You take care.”

I tried a little fishing (with no luck) after that lovely chat, took a post-fishing walk along the lake to check out the sunset, then turned in for the night. No bears or deer all night, which was fine with me, and I slept like one of the nearby logs, even though it did indeed get down to around terty degrees. I still had my rod put together the next morning, so I spent a little time getting the line wet again, but that was about it. I have no idea what I’m fishing for or how to fish for it up here, so I’m not surprised I’m not popular with the aquatic life. I’ll have to stop in at a tackle shop and get some pointers or something.

Sunset over Bridge Lake More sunset Yet more sunset
Washing my fishing line off in the lake Campsite for the evening  

The destination for the day was Prince George, which would be the northernmost point that I’ll hit on this trip, barring any serious detours later. This was a ride through some lovely country again, although it was a bit more agrarian than the previous days, as I was in the area in between the mountain ranges as I got closer to the Rockies. There were some nice little farm stands where I got fruit, and I also came across an interesting dealer in jade, who sold both finished jade items and raw stones, all the way up to boulder size. BC is one of the world’s great sources of jade, and recently the worlds largest jade boulder was uncovered here. It was pretty cool to see it out there in its natural state. 

Wet saw for cutting jade Rough jade boulders

At Quesnel, I made another attempt at finding more of a backroad up to Prince George. There was one on the map that ran on the west side of the river all the way up there that looked pretty good, and it started out good too, but turned to dirt after about 20 miles. Like the previous dirt roads, it was in good shape and it had a fair amount of traffic, but it was definitely bumpier than sticking to the highway. I (and the car) can probably handle 15 or 20 miles of that, but it was another 110 miles up to Prince George, and 110 miles of dirt road didn’t seem like a particularly good idea, so I turned around and got back on the highway, somewhat disappointed, but still in one piece. On the plus side, there was some nice scenery along the paved part, including some great old barns and structures. It was sort of like ‘Bridges of Madison County’, except it was ‘Barns of British Columbia’, and there were no lonely housewives around. After an uneventful remainder of the ride up there, I checked into a somewhat better cheap hotel (no Airbnb or Couchsurfing options available here, either), got a post-camping shower, and hit the sack. 


A steel hayshed A lonely BC barn Another barn, on its last legs Probably enough barns
Walking speed only for horses One of the lakes on the way to PG The other end of the lake was a little jammed up Hayfields everywhere

The next leg of the Canadian adventure was from Prince George to Jasper, which would take me out of British Columbia and into Alberta, as well as into the start of the Canadian Rockies. It was a long ride, and similar to the ride from Squamish to Kamloops—gorgeous scenery, a few really cool things to see off the highway, but no real route options other than the highway. I stopped at a few lakes and streams, as well as Rearguard Falls, which marks the farthest inland point that the salmon come to spawn from the sea, over 800 miles. I thought I had a long ride, but at least I wasn’t swimming upstream. 

Would not want to meet the salmon that can tackle this


Rearguard Falls Top of Rearguard Falls Crazy moose, getting whacked on moosenip and walking into traffic...

The first ‘real’ Rocky Mountain that I got to was Mount Robson. It was really pretty, and there were some good hikes available, but I was planning to camp outside of Jasper that evening and needed to get down there before nightfall so that I wasn’t setting up in the dark, so I just made a quick visit to the observation point and kept going. After a bit more lovely Rocky Mountain scenery, I arrived in Jasper.

Mt. Robson A river near the mountain

The plan here was to find someplace to get some ‘portable’ food, then head out to the campsite. I found a grocery store and a Subway, and got a sandwich, some fruit and veggies, and some more water for the evening’s meal. Jasper itself is small and quaint and very cute, but it was also just as my British sports car friends in Squamish had described. “Don’t waste your time in Jasper,” they said. “It’s all just tourists and souvenir shops.” They were right, too. Busloads of tourists had arrived there on some mild adventure sightseeing. The vast majority of those tourists were Chinese tourists, with a few Korean and German groups along with them. I hadn’t seen a Japanese tourist so far on the entire trip (which probably says something about the economy there), and only a few Australians, Brits, and Eastern Europeans. No Americans around Jasper either, which probably says something about the economy here.

I headed about 20km north to a Canada National Parks campsite on the Snaring River, and found a walk-in site right near the water. Like my previous camping stay, I took a little time to watch the sunset, then ate my dinner and hit the hay.

Sunset on the Snaring A little later in the evening More sunset

The next day, I had plans to do one of the bigger pushes through Canada and head all the way down into Calgary, where I’d be staying with yet another complete stranger but online acquaintance from the Roadstering community. First though, the route would go right down the Continental Divide along the Canadian Rockies, and pass by and through some of the most amazing scenery on the planet.

By this point in the trip, there’d been an unmistakable change in the surroundings—I was definitely in the Rockies now. Up to this point, the bulk of the terrain had been defined by old volcanic activity—the West Coast is also the east side of the Pacific Rim, and as you guys could probably tell from the previous posts, the volcanos and lava flows dominate the land. The Rockies, on the other hand, are more what people think of when they think of mountains. They’re a young range, all sharp peaks and crags, formed by giants in the earth crashing ancient seabeds together until the flat sediments turn to vertical walls, tilted plates, and towering pinnacles. At 70 million years or so old, they’re just precocious geologic toddlers, especially compared to ranges like the 450 million year old Appalachians, and the wind and erosion forces hadn’t really had their way with them yet, with one notable exception—glacial erosion was everywhere, and had carved huge swaths out of the mountain faces in numerous areas.

One of the more famous of those areas was the Athabasca Glacier. It’s a big one, but it’s been receding now for decades due to warming, so it’s only a shadow of its former self. Glaciers aren’t really the neatniks of the natural world, and when they recede, they leave the area looking like a dirty construction site. There are lateral moraine walls on either side of the glacial path where the rock has been carved out, peaking out at the old top of the ice, and a huge messy pile of dirt and rock where the glacier bulldozed the earth in front of it. The rocks on the ground are grooved and polished smooth where they were ground into flour and gravel over the centuries. The sheer amount of force a glacier can apply and the way that it can re-shape the earth is staggering, and there were examples everywhere.

The Athabascas Glacier

Another view of the glacier Global warming is real. Marker for where the glacier was in 2000. Scoring and polishing on boulders formerly under the glacier

A few smaller glaciers
Closer look at the smaller glaciers

Above Athabasca Falls Top of the falls Also the top of the falls

As discussed earlier, where there are glaciers, there’s rock flour and melt-off, and where there’s that, there’s colored lakes and rivers. The lakes along the Rockies in this area are some of the most amazing examples of that phenomenon, and the turquoise color of bodies like Peyto Lake and Lake Louise look like somebody poured paint into the water. I know it’s hard to believe looking at the photos, but those are the real colors. It was amazing. 

The amazing turquoise Peyto Lake


Another shot of the north end of Peyto Waterfowl Lake Bow Lake

I met my first Japanese tourists of the trip at the overlook near Peyto Lake, and helped them get some good pictures in front of that scene. With their limited English and my limited Japanese, we had a nice chat about where everybody was from and where they were going and just how freaky it was to be standing in front of a bright blue lake. I really need some practice; my Japanese has gotten really bad due to lack of use. Maybe I’ll drive the Roadster around the Japanese islands next.

I continued down the highway, stopping to photograph a few more brilliant lakes and glaciers, but nothing quite as big and brilliant as Peyto and Athabasca. Lake Louise was pretty spectacular, but also a bit of a disappointment; I’d heard marvelous things about it, but it’s much closer to Calgary so it attracts the tour buses in droves, plus there’s a resort built right on the edge, so the whole area is pretty developed and packed with people. Plus, Peyto Lake’s color was much more intense. (I know, I just hours ago had seen a bright blue lake for the first time, and now I’m all “Pfft, Peyto was better.”)

Lake Louise and boater Mount Rundle

I continued on down to Banff, but only stopped for gas and at one overlook, taking the advice of my sports car friends from Squamish. I parked the car at the overlook and got a couple shots of Mt. Rundle, and as I came back to the car, there was a large group of Korean tourists around it, all taking turns getting pictures with the car. I talked to one of the women who spoke decent English (I speak zero Korean; can’t even say “hi”), and they were part of one of the bus groups working their way up to Jasper. I stood back and let them have fun posing with the car for a while, and after they were done we all exchanged pleasantries (in whatever language), and I took off for Calgary. 


It’s hard to convey what all that scenery actually looks like while driving along unless you’re in it. It’s like watching a movie, but way bigger. I tried to get you guys a sense of what it looked like by snapping a bunch of over-the-windshield shots with my point-n-shoot as I went along, so I don’t know how successful that’ll be, but here you go:


otw1 otw10 otw11
otw3 otw4 otw5
otw7 otw8 otw9

Also, for the Datsun fans in the audience, here's a few car + scenery shots as well:

car1 car2 car3
car4 car5 car6

I was heading to Calgary to hang out with David Wilson and family for a couple of days. David is a pretty enthusiastic Roadster owner, with two in the garage and one more on the way. His preferred model is the ’67.5 2000, which is a rare half year car between my model and the subsequent 2000, incorporating aspects of both. He’s actually a pretty enthusiastic Nissan fan in general, as he’s also got a really awesome twin turbo 350Z and an older wagon as well. I’d never met or spoken to him, and sight unseen, he invited me to come stay at his house by sending me a private message on, the Roadster owners discussion forum on the internet. 


Two out of three of Dave's roadsters. One's for sale if anybody is interested. Dave's other ride, the twin turbo 350Z

I started making my way through Calgary to his house, and about 10 minutes into the city, a guy in a pristine Acura NSX pulled up next to me and shouted that there was a local car get-together out at the Indian casino that night and that I should go out there and bring the car, as he’d never seen one in the flesh. I said I’d check it out (and intended to), but he went the extra mile, and when I pulled over a few blocks later to take a phone call, he turned his car around, pulled up behind me, and gave me the time and address on a piece of paper. I liked the enthusiasm.

An engraved invitation, sort of

When I got to David’s house, we hit it off immediately. I told him about the guy in the NSX, and David said that’s where we were planning on going that night anyway, so it was all serendipitous. I met his wife Ingrid and his daughters Bianca and Saskia briefly, but they were off to activities, and planned to meet up with us later. The general plan was that David was rounding up another couple of friends with a Roadster and a 240Z, then we were going to meet the wife and kids at the local Calgary drive-in burger joint for dinner, and then all the car guys would head out to the casino parking lot for the car night. 

The impromptu gang '67, '67, '69, 240Z

That went pretty much according to plan. The minute three Roadsters pulled into the lot, we drew a crowd, even though my car was pretty filthy with bugs and other aspects of the Canadian countryside from the trip. I ran into Tony (the guy with the NSX) immediately, and he shouted “You made it!” and came over to talk to us. It was a little difficult explaining that well, no, I didn’t really know these other two roadster guys and we had just met a couple hours ago, but yes, here we were, together at the car show. Lots of guys came by to check out the cars and ask questions, and a good time was had by all.

There’s a vibrant and active car culture in Calgary, and the lot was full of some pretty cool stuff. We were late to the party, as it started at 6pm and we didn’t get there until almost 8pm, so I heard that we’d missed out on some pretty neat cars, but there were still some real head turners there:

--An MGB with 12”wide rear slicks and an enormous V8 in it
--A beautifully restored 1954 Kurtis 500KKS1
--A pristine GNX, painted Plum Crazy Purple for you “Joe Dirt” fans (although if I’m not mistaken, it was a wedge instead of a Hemi in the GNX)
--Probably the cleanest conversion car I’ve ever seen, a 280Z with an RB25DET swapped in
--A really well built Triumph Tiger with a hotted up 289 in it
--A ’68 Hurst SC/Rambler, with the 390 and an epic period paint job on it
--For the bike guys, a spotless Honda CBX

Tony's NSX Super-clean RB25 installation in a 280Z I thought the MGB on Vancouver Island was mean...that was nothing
Plum Crazy GTX Under the hood of the GTX The Hurst/SC Rambler
The Kurtis, fresh from the Mille That's a boost gauge to the right of the wheel Another angle
Not your average Rambler The six cylinder Honda CBX  

As one does at these things, we stood around and geeked out on cars for a while, then everybody parted ways and we headed back to David’s house. David, Ingrid and I hung out on the patio overlooking the Calgary skyline and chatted for a while. I’d asked David if the five speed in his cars made the same sort of gear/bearing noises that mine did, and the answer to that one was ‘no’, so he offered to see if we could get some fresh oil in it in an attempt to remedy that. There wasn’t anything really wrong with it; it worked fine, but the noise level was possibly indicative of a future issue. He called Justin, a nearby friend of his with a garage, and we arranged to come by at 9am the next morning and do a fluid change. After that, we turned in, as I was pretty beat—it was a long day going from alpine turquoise lakes to 440 Six Packs in a Calgary parking lot and everything in between.

The next morning, I got up and had had breakfast with David and his daughters, 4 year old Bianca and 3 year old Saskia. They are super-cute and precocious, and I received advice on which parts of breakfast were best, whether or not I should wear a hat, and an invitation to Saskia’s fourth birthday party, which was roughly a year off. After getting the girls settled, David and I went over to Justin’s, and he agreed that noise was not really normal, and also agreed that it was likely the input shaft bearing starting to get unhappy with its life, but we’d change out the fluid anyway as it couldn’t hurt anything. You can’t really beat Canadian hospitality.

Bianca (left) and Saskia (right) The car is a total chick magnet
Getting ready for some fresh fluids Dave (top) and Justin (under) getting down to business

We got the car jacked up and the fluid swapped out, and since we had a little time before Justin’s next car coming in, we also got the oil changed on David’s work truck, which is yet another really cool import that we can’t get in the US—a diesel crew cab 4WD Toyota truck, formerly a fire truck in Japan that David brought over and swapped out the fire equipment in the back for a big work box and painted it a more subtle color than fire engine red. It’s a pretty distinctive vehicle—here’s one that’s still a fire truck for reference. 

After we were done with our automotive adventures, I got to see some of Calgary via a very non-touristy method, which was hanging out with David as he went about his day. David and Ingrid develop properties and build beautiful modern houses on spec and sell them to clients in Calgary. They’re all very modern and efficient, fully automated, solar powered for water heating and other tasks, and built tall to get good views of the skyline. He had a few in progress (including the one they were going to be living in when it was done), so we went to each of those and I got the tour of the designs and systems, which was extremely cool. We’d done some home automation with Navigator at FTSI, and it was neat to see an up-to-date system and what all that entailed.

Once we were done running around for the day, we went back to the house, where Ingrid and the girls were getting a great dinner of genuine Alberta steaks and a variety of fresh local vegetables together, and we all sat out on the patio overlooking the city to polish that food off and watch the sun set with some good wine and good conversation. Ingrid is a photographer and it was almost a full moon that night, so she suggested that I quit geeking out on cars and construction for a bit and that we go downtown to the Peace Bridge and see if we could get some nice skyline/moon photos, as it was a shot she’d been after for a while. So, leaving David with the girls, we headed downtown, where the moon was just starting to rise above the skyline, and we did just that, geeking out over exposure times and f-stops and a few things Canon-related, and getting some pretty good pictures in the process.

peace1 peace2 peace3

I was planning to head out on the next leg of my journey the next morning, going to Coeur d’Alene, ID via some nice roads back through the Rockies again and back over the US border. Ingrid and I met David for breakfast at a tasty spot near their house, and then they led me over to a men’s barbershop that David suggested, as I’d mentioned I was looking for a haircut. We said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, and they took off on their day, and I went in to put myself in the hands of the Lebanese barbers.

The haircut came out pretty good, albeit a little unexpected. I don’t think I’ve had it quite this short for a long time, as it tends to get pretty unruly when it’s short, but my guy did a really nice job of a close cut (and a straight razor shave), so I hit the road looking pretty dapper, at least from the neck up. I headed south through Crowsnest Pass, Sparwood, Fernie, and Cranbrook, stopping along the way to take in a few of the sights here and there.

I stopped at the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, AB to check out the WWII Lancaster bomber they had on display there, as well as a few other aircraft. The plane isn’t airworthy, but the big Merlin engines do run, and they fire them up for the public from time to time. They were planning to start them at 9:30pm that night, but unfortunately I’d be missing that, so I moved on down the road.

The memorial outside the museum The mighty Lancaster and its Merlin engines Fabric covered flaps
Canadair T-33 "Silver Star" Wide shot of the Lancaster Top turret gun position with a couple of kills

The next stop was for something I didn’t know existed until I drove through it. Just coming into Crowsnest Pass, the landscape suddenly changed to something looking like a fresh construction excavation site, but something was a little odd about it—all of the rocks and pieces were larger than any piece of earthmoving equipment could handle, but they were unmistakably much fresher than anything in the surrounding landscape. I’d entered the path of the Frank Slide, one of the largest natural rockslides in Canadian history, and the deadliest natural disaster they’ve ever had. Basically, early in the morning of April 29th, 1903, ninety million tons of one entire side of Turtle Mountain came off and came sliding down into the town of Frank over the course of a little over a minute and a half, which means all that rock sloshed down the face, across the valley, and up the other side at over 70mph. Almost 100 people were killed.

It's a bad panorama, but you get the idea. The area is huge.

What's left of the mountaintop. The damage is 100 years old this year.

A little farther down the highway in Sparwood, I came across the “World’s Largest Truck”, a Terex Titan retired from the local coal mining operation. Naturally, I had to stop and take a look at that, and it was indeed a gigantic truck, like a Tonka toy subjected to a sci-fi growth ray. Regardless of what the sign says, it’s not really the largest truck in the world anymore; that title belongs to the Caterpillar 797. It was the largest when it was built though, and it remained that for over 25 years, so I’d say they can put whatever they want on that sign. I’m not arguing with a truck that big when I’m driving a 2,000lb sports car.


I wanted to drive next to it, but you couldn't Note the girl posing in the center wheel The business end

The last part of the journey for the day was a quick trip across the border at Kingsgate (near Yahk, of course), where I finally got a friendly American border agent. As I pulled up to the booth, he yelled “Oh my gosh look at that thing!”, asked about the car, told me that was the coolest road trip he’d heard about all day, glanced at my passport, and sent me on my way back into the US and Idaho, a state I’d never set foot in before. 

That 20' gap marks the US/Canada border, and it's cut across all 5000 miles

Next stop: Coeur d’Alene, ID, and various points east of there. 

Also, on a side note: This portion of the trip has put me over 10,000 miles so far.


+1 #1 Mom 2013-08-25 04:32
I can't believe the connections you make with the people that you seem to need, when you need them.
Awesome post.. the pics are to die for ..the 2 little girls are just too cute. Hope the car keeps going as you want.. I still agree with T this should be put into a book..look into it..xoxo
#2 jhump 2013-08-26 13:57
Scott, I really enjoying your trip. Thanks for all the laughs. Safe travels
#3 lectacave 2013-08-28 10:56
So, how much does Dave want for that roadster? What a wonderful post! I'd say Waterfowl is a misnomer. ;) I love your accounts of your conversations. Continued safe travels with zip ties to spare. Enjoy the famous potatoes.
#4 danabart 2013-08-28 14:13
Not much difference in the accent between that area of Canada and northern Minnesota, don't cha know. Yeah, you betcha, you'll fit right in wit da rangers. That'd be the locals of the taconite belt better known as the Iron Range. Curious to see if you spot any "Fargo" residents when you make it there.
#5 laceytrynn 2013-08-30 09:30
beautiful landscapes in this post... ever consider working for National Geographic?
#6 Carter Family 2013-08-30 14:20
What beautiful country and wonderful people in this post! Your adventure just keeps getting better!
#7 Key1 2013-08-31 23:17
Glad to hear that road was passable.... TNT could have really sucked...
#8 FreekW 2014-01-19 02:07
Hi Scott, I got introduced to your roadtrip by Petrolicious and loved the story.
I began reading from your first blog post, working my way up to your last blog post. I've got a long way to go, but enjoy all of your stories.

It's incredible to read your experiences, see the views you have, read about all the amazing people you met, how others helped you etc.
This whole roadtrip is really inspiring, bucket-list stuff if you ask me.

Thanks for sharing and good luck on the trip!

Cheers from the Netherlands,

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