Friday, 26 July 2013

Prairie roads


Sign along Hwy 132 to Gaspe
What does a prairie girl know about driving along the coast? While recently planning a weekend trip to the Gaspe Peninsula, QC, I looked at the distance to get there, just over 1000 kms. If you are used to driving 100 kms in 1 hour, don't give the prairie girl the map. When a Quebec tourism website suggests 5-7 days for the road trip, don't think, "I have driven to Vancouver from Saskatoon and back in a weekend, no problem."

I have heard my sister in laws parents say that the journey begins when you lock the door to your house. Mind you, they have taken a half day of travelling to get to Eastend from Frontier, which is about 50 kms away. Anyway, I have been trying to embrace this philosophy since I heard that. I grew up in a family where you got in the car and drove, which is great for covering a vast amount of kilometers and growing up in Frontier, to get anywhere, you had to drive and drive and drive to get anywhere.

Here I am, planning a 2200 km trip straddling these two philosophies of a road trip, the one compelling me to drive and the other one drawing me in to stop at another lighthouse.

Prairie driving and coastal driving are very different. When driving through a Saskatchewan town, you need to slow down to 50 km/h for approximately 2 blocks. On the coast of Gaspe Peninsula each town stretches for 5 km because everybody wants a view and there is a town every 5 kms which means lots of hours in the car and not many kilometers covered. In between slowing down for towns, you are slowing down for sharp curves ahead and steep hills. I was shocked to see signs indicating 11%, 13%, and 17% grades on the upcoming hills. These grades might be seen somewhere in B.C., but not in Saskatchewan.

We started off the trip with a 680 km day. Thinking that we had lots of time, we made frequent stops for coffee, croissants, sight seeing and bathroom breaks. We decided to stop for supper in St Anne des Monts after being on the road for 9 hrs, approximately 200 kms from our destination. After supper, Daryl thinks it would be wise to phone the hostel and let them know we will be getting in late. We were told that the doors of the hostel are locked at 10 pm. Panic is starting to set in. Will we be able to get there on time? In SK, no problem, here...We tried to enjoy the seaside drive to our destination, but the tension in the car was palpable. What was our plan B? Daryl and I slept in the car the night before, but 4 people sleeping in the car was not too desirable. I did not have one sip of water the last leg of the trip for fear that we would have to stop for me to go pee, which might mean us missing our check in time. As we drove it was hard not to stare at the clock and the speedometer. Even if Daryl wanted to speed, he couldn't because of the winding highway, the numerous towns, and the 11% grades. FYI a Prius is great in the city, but gutless going up hills. We drove along mostly in silence. A quip would be made every now and again about the ridiculously long towns that slowed us down to 50 km/h. Once we reached our turn off we were moderately confident that we would make the deadline, which we did with 4 minutes to spare.

We thought we were giving ourselves plenty of time for the return trip. Up at 6 am and in the car by 7 am. The car needed to be returned by 1130 pm. Once again, we thought 16.5 hrs would be ample time to drive 1100 kms. We did enjoy a few excursions and rest stops, but the majority of the time was spent in the car...driving. As we drove past the red sand beaches, the quaint towns, and lighthouses, I would exclaim, "Beautiful, wish you were here."

Despite the outrageous number of kilometers that we covered in such a short amount of time, we enjoyed the adventure of discovering a beautiful part of Canada. I guess you could say that we left wanting more.