Toronto to Whitehorse in Eight Easy Weeks

At some point during the summer of 1999, I looked out my office window at the haze over Hamilton and called it quits. Yup, that was pretty much the full extent of the thought process. It was as if the supermarket stocked racks of "escape" at the express checkout. "I'll take these eleven items and, hey, since I've got room for one more, get me the hell out of here."

I bought a backpack and one of those newfangled GPS units. Equipped, I terminated my lease and my job and headed out. Along the way I posted e-mail dispatches every few days. Largely unedited, these be them.

October 4, Toronto ON
43° 41' 16" N 79° 23' 24" W

Technically, that's not my precise location, but I forgot to take a fix before I walked in here. I'm at the Electric Bean cybercafe at Yonge & Eglinton. The coordinates above are for my old apartment a few blocks south.

My next port of call will be Ottawa, the closest thing I have to a home town. While there, I intend to purchase a vehicle of some sort. I've been scanning the Auto Trader and the '84 DeVilles are certainly within my price range. I'm going to jam that thing into every tree and support pillar I can find. Oh, Baby.

October 15, Ottawa ON
45° 22' 58" N 75° 42' 05" W

Surprise! I'm not dead!

In fact, I've been having a swell time lounging around my old home town, but now it is time to move on. Much of the past two weeks have been spent scouring the city for a suitable vehicle, arranging for insurance, getting a few preliminary repairs done, and watching TV.

So, as of just this morning, I took delivery of -- get this -- a 1991 Ford LTD Crown Victoria LX. It's big, it's white, and it's ugly. We're a perfect match. Who can think of a name for her?

Following the ceremonial installation of the fuzzy dice, I managed to back it into a concrete flower planter. Ding number one. Actually, I think I'd like to keep this one in reasonable shape, particularly because it's equipped with airbags and I don't relish the thought of an early nineties-vintage airbag blowing my head off if I accidentally brush a sapling at 5kph.

She'll make a perfect highway car. Sure, the 5.0 V8 sucks down about $40 worth of gas every half hour or so, but I haven't driven in a few years and now it's my turn to take a whack at the ozone layer. Take that, Greenpeace!

Cars haven't been the only thing occupying my mind. While visiting the small town of Braeside (45° 28' 01" N 76° 24' 25" W), I caught my first glimpse of the storms on Jupiter and the rings around Saturn from a small reflecting telescope. I had forgotten the night sky while in Toronto, and I look forward to an even better view in the months ahead.

This Monday morning I will set sail again with a quick jaunt through Pembroke, Kingston, and Cornwall before heading east through La Belle Province. But first, the whores!

October 20, St. Andrews ON
45° 08' 54" N 74° 50' 55" W

Well, so far the entries for the "name Dave's car" contest have been pretty dismal:

  • pUnkMobile: Nifty, but only a handful of people would get this one, and they're all nerds
  • Marris: actually named for an old high school teacher that drove a white monster. I'd need steer horns on the hood to make it complete
  • Ping Ding: Oh, lordy
  • Lodema: translates to "journey" I'm told, not bad
  • Moby Dick: obvious, crude, hardly endearing

Let's keep trying, shall we? Otherwise I'll have to resort to something like "Vicky" which I'm sure all Crown Victoria owners have thought of.

Speaking of the anonymous beast, a new quirk emerged today: cruise control doesn't work when the lights are on. I think something's drawing too much current because the cruise kicks out as soon as you do anything electric (windows, fan, turn signal, rubbing my socks on the carpet and touching metal) if the headlights are also on. Of course, I once wrote an app that wouldn't print if Caps Lock was active.

I head to Quebec tomorrow for a few days of pointing at menus and generally tilting the odds back in the separatists' favour.

October 26, Moncton NB
46° 5' 22" N 64° 46' 28" W

I only have a few minutes on this terminal so I'll have to be brief, but I've got lots of extra stuff in my journal so I'll spell it out in more detail later.

As the auto-astute may have figured out, the electrical problems with my cruise control I reported last time were directly due to my battery losing charge. Thursday morning, the car was as dead as could be, even after two jumpstarts. Fortunately, I had spent the night with my old friends Craig and Donna near Cornwall and they were there when it counted. Craig even took me to lunch while I waited at Canadian Tire to have the alternator switched out. I don't have many friends, but I'll keep the few I have.

After spending a delightful day in the outskirts of Cornwall, I headed for Quebec on route 202. I'm pretty sure no one has ever gone that way but I eventually ended up in Cowansville (45° 12' 32" N 72° 46' 5" W) and the car even started up the next morning. Fantastique!

I then decided to bolt for New Brunswick, all the way looking for a self serve gas station because I can't remember how to say "Fill her up with regular" in French. Answer: "FIL-ay-rup avec Bronze."

Of course, Edmunston NB is completely French and I think I insulted the Tim Horton's gal by ordering in English.

It's a lot of fun to say R-r-r-r-rimouski!

Spent the night in a truck stop motel in Woodstock, NB (46° 11' 12" N 67° 36' 41" W).

The next day (Saturday) it did nothing but rain. I also realized that once in the city, it's impossible to get out of Fredericton. I think it became the capital because the early settlers couldn't find the on ramp to highway 7.

I loved Saint John. In large part because it was sunny. I made a point of strolling through the run down docks section. I also strolled around the Irving refinery. I love refineries.

Despite all of your lovely suggestions, I came up with a name for the car while in Saint John: Sta-Puft. Will someone please rent Ghostbusters and see if I spelled it correctly? It was the name of the big marshmallow monster that almost destroyed New York. After driving NB highway 111 (highly recommended for those with loose suspensions), I can think of no more suitable brand of marshmallows after which to name my car.

If you'll pay attention, you'll notice that Sigourney Weaver's character buys a couple of bags of Sta-Pufts at the beginning of the movie. Foreshadowing? However, Ms. Weaver's character is a classical musician; a cellist, I think. What kind of cellist buys marshmallows?

Stayed in Sussex, NB (45° 42' 59" N 65° 29' 37" W) for Saturday night.

The next morning I toured the Covered Bridges of Kings Country.

I've spent the past two days in Moncton getting a feel for the place. I've travelled down to the bay to see the amazing Fundy but I seem to have timed it incorrectly. The tidal bore here in Moncton was also less than spectacular. Another great highway is NB 935 just to the south of Sackville. It's a dirt road for the most part but you can get a good look at Chignecto Bay's mud flats, and really catch air if you're going at a good clip. Bo and Luke couldn't have done any better in the General.

I'm off to PEI today after my twice daily stop "up the Horton's."

Must go. I have to scrape the windows for a while before I get started.

November 1, St. John's, NL
47° 34' 10" N 52° 42' 2" W

I apologize for the infrequency of my reports, but even the soft Atlantic air can't cure my laziness.

As I recall, my last message was from Moncton. After sending my message, I got lost trying to get out of the city. On the plus side, I got to visit Dieppe and Reverview all over again.

Got lost again in Shediac.

Finally I made it across the Confederation Bridge. Quite an astounding piece of engineering, that. It takes about 10 minutes to make it all the way across. Unfortunately, the view's not much.

PEI itself is geared to the tourist. My one and only tourist stop was at the "Cheese Lady Gouda House". Fortunately it was "closed for the season" as almost everything is. Everything that is, except for the potato industry. You can even buy bags of the things from roadside stalls. I was passed by any number of potato trucks, enabling me, in my opinion, to henceforth exploit the potato-PEI stereotype to full effect.

After a tour around the island, I stayed the night in downtown Charlottetown (46° 14' 14" N 63° 7' 48" W).

That was it for the island and I scooted back to the mainland the next day. In doing so I managed to avoid anything to do with the dreaded Ann of Green Gables, although I did pass a Green Gables Grocery store. Sheesh.

I have a little game where I try to shower and shave and tease my coif in the 15 minutes that it takes the motel room's heat lamp timer to expire. It's kind of like a useful form of Beat The Clock. Altogether, I think that's an idea that could fly. Instead of, for example, having to drop balls into coloured baskets in 30 seconds, how about having to buy a new pair of shoes in under 20 minutes? Or touring an art museum with my mother before the universe collapses in upon itself?

I snuck into Nova Scotia through the Tidnish back door. Then I got lost in New Glasgow.

I spent that night in Antigonish (45° 36' 56" N 61° 58' 54" W). Sounds like a palliative for a Jewish pastry.

A meteor or something crashed into the sea that night. The news reports of the event were a nice alternative to the nonstop Marshall decision coverage.

Tourist that I am, I took Sta-Puft up the Ceilidh and Cabot trail. Those who have lived on wee Scottish isles or who attended Queen's U know that "ceilidh" translates to "party". Ha. Margaree Harbour ain't no party.

"It's my ceilidh and I'll cry if I want to" could've worked too.

As part of my induction into the northern culture, I built an inuksuk in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is located just off the highway at 46° 41' 26" N 60° 57' 37" W. I doubt it will survive the next storm or tourist that manages to scramble up to the clifftop.

After the excitement of the trail, I got lost in each of Sydney, Glace Bay, and New Waterford. Glace Bay has been hit by hard times; the main attraction appears to be the McDonald's in the mall.

Spent the night in North Sydney (46° 10' 26" N 60° 18' 29" W).

I was planning to send a dispatch from Sydney the next morning but I first whipped down to the ferry landing to see when the next ferry sailed for Newfoundland. As it turned out, it was leaving that very moment so I drove aboard directly. Great! I'll be in Newfoundland in no time!

Six hours later we landed on The Rock. The seas had been a little calm for my tastes. I like a good roll.

Immediately after driving off of the ferry the road was painted with the letters T.C.H. I initially misread it as T.H.C. Well no wonder no one has a job! I later reasoned that the TLA stood for the rather more mundane Trans-Canada Highway.

I was also greeted with a sign that read "St. John's 870km". Oy.

I stopped in Corner Brook that evening (48° 56' 49" N 57° 55' 4" W) after getting lost in the city while it rained/hailed. The folks there told me it had snowed six or nine inches only two weeks before. We only got a light dusting the next morning.

Gasoline hit a record price of 75.9. That even beats Quebec. Strangely, PEI had the cheapest at 54.9.

Sta-Puft has acquired a sun-visor spider. I haven't seen it in a couple of days though.

I then blasted across the province on its one and only highway, arriving in St. Johns in the mid-afternoon. Actually, I arrived in someplace called Pippy Park, but I soon corrected the error. I plunked myself down in a hotel on Hill O' Chips street in the old part of the city.

The highway was dotted with hunters' cars. I did spy a small group of moose but they ran before I could take a snap.

It was here in Newfoundland that I finally heard a real "I's the b'y who sails her" and "whale oil beef hooked" accent. Even the newscasters have the accent.

I whipped round to Cape Spear the next morning, North America's easternmost point (47° 31' 27" N 52° 37' 17" W). Had I thought of it, I would have gone out early enough to see the sunrise. They'll be having a special gathering there on January first.

After returning to the hotel I decided to go for a stroll and began by climbing Signal Hill, then up to Ladies Lookout, and then over to the next peak over. I figure I must have climbed up and down about three vertical kilometres. After I returned to the city I helped myself to a massive steak 'n' eggs breakfast and then collapsed for a few hours.

Legs are a bit jiggly today.

After I catch tomorrow's 11:30pm (NFLD STD time) ferry back to NS, I'll head to Halifax for a quick visit before I make my way back westward. I seem to recall thinking that I'd be in the Territories by mid-November. I think that mid-December is the more likely timeframe. The trick then is to figure out where to spend New Years.

November 4, Halifax NS
44° 38' 50" N 63° 34' 29" W

Me again. Let me just clear up the past few days of travel.

After St. John's I had originally planned to stay over in Gander and then take the 11:30 ferry Tuesday night. I hemmed and hawed on the highway before finally deciding to push on to Corner Brook and make the 8:00AM ferry instead.

Or, in the new accent that I'm sporting: Well, I got to tinking, boy, and what I taut is dat I'd drives straight away to Portobahsk and catch duh eight o'clock radder dan duh leven-tirty.

I don't think the Newfoundlanders understand that any better than you do, but I enjoy it, roaring random phrases out from the bottom of my diaphragm as I tear along the Nova Scotia coastline. I left Corner Brook (48° 56' 49" N 57° 55' 4" W The same hotel, in fact, the same room, as a few days before) at 4AM and immediately noted that all of the gas stations -- and there's precious few of those to begin with -- were closed. Sta-Puft started out with half a tank and when I finally coasted into Port aux Basques, I was on fumes. The low fuel light had kept me company for the previous hour.

The ferry crossing was even more calm than the trip over. I was incensed! I complained in passing to both the Purser and the Steward about the seas and they merely rolled their eyes having each braved their share of landlubber captains belching their cod breakfasts all over the mini-putt.

While on the ferry I finished two books: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, and Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. I'm now into Tim Sandlin's Sex and Sunsets. I only read one of Vonnegut's books each year so I don't run out of them too soon.

To while away the rest of the time, I played a game of naming the various passengers that would stroll by my seat. An announcement informed all that the ferry could accommodate up to 1200 passengers and 350 vehicles but I imagine that there were at most 250 people aboard that morning. My favourite duo were "Maude" and "Beetle" as they walked aft and forward for an hour until the bar opened. "And then there's Beetle" would not have worked, regardless of the build of Beetle's daughter Carol.

Imagine that!

Off the ferry I headed to Sydney on a route of my own making. Unfortunately, my imagination's not powerful enough to get me across bodies of water so I had to abort and take the normal highway. I did get to throw Sta-Puft around with abandon on many dirt roads in the process though, so it wasn't a total loss. I've discovered that while taking bumpy corners at speed she'll start bouncing outwards into the oncoming lane. Wheeeee! NS highway 16 has many such corners.

I spent last night in Dartmouth (44° 40' 55" N 63° 32' 25" W) and I'll poke around Halifax today and tomorrow. I'm staying at some place called the Citadel Hotel. I find Halifax too large though. St. John's remains my favourite.

I've had the best weather. I think it hit 16°C yesterday and it's sunny and warm today. I hear Toronto had snow. Normally I'd be jealous, but Toronto's idea of snow is rather pitiful. I've been joking about it with all of the innkeepers.

I've been asked by a couple of folks what it is like to travel alone. My explanation is that it's much like travelling with two, only cheaper. I'm also able to belt out Tom Jones hits at full volume as I sail along.

I do miss not having someone to share my discoveries with though. I've never known a woman that would be inclined to take a trip like this one; with no planned itinerary or definite destination. They're always so damned practical. I occasionally imagine an amalgam of former acquaintances to accompany me as I drive. An eye here, a lower lip there, and hair of all colours and lengths. As far as body is concerned, I have to be honest and admit that I can picture only the shape of Seven of Nine. She's still a bit thin for my liking, but oh lawdy! A lightly deflated Maude's Carol.

There is no chance that I'll meet someone along the way. For one thing, I don't tend to stop long enough to actually finish sentences.

There is another, far more likely reason, and that would involve my "discontinuities of the hairy sphere."

Let me explain. There is a theorem in calculus that is often stated as "you can't comb a hairy sphere." Interestingly enough, you can comb a hairy circle. Imagine that a circle is covered with short rays that extend outwards and that end at a point that intersects the circle's circumference. You can "comb" these by pivoting each about the intersection point until they lay tangential to the circle. If they're all combed in the same direction, the angle each "hair" makes with its neighbour, as the limit of the distance between them goes to zero, is continuous.

The same cannot be said of a sphere. There will always be two points of discontinuity where two neighbouring hairs have distinct orientations regardless of the size of the neighbourhood, or its delta. one such point of discontinuity can be most easily observed atop the head of a young male human. That's the whorl at the back of the head. If selfsame little boy was nothing more than a disembodied hairy head, you'd be able to locate the other discontinuity (not necessarily opposite the first).

Even more interestingly, you CAN comb a hairy four-dimensional sphere. I believe someone has proven that comb-ability alternates in dimensions from then on.

I don't know the name of a four-dimensional sphere but its shadow would look very much like what we call a "basketball". And if one were to throw this through a four-dimensional hoop, one would score 4 points. I will leave all mention aside of the 9 point arch at this time.

How does this all apply to me? I seem to have violated yet another mathematical axiom by accumulating four or five discontinuities. It's a mousy cross between Alfalfa and Darth Maul.

My only real companion thus far has been CBC Radio 1. Occasionally though I pass through the dark territory of the Corp's transmitters and I'm forced to hum along to Country and Western.

I caught a particularly striking example of the latter the other day. I believe the ditty was called "That ain't my truck."

It began, promisingly enough, with the words, "She's my girl/My whole world/But that ain't my truck." Okay, says I, the truck is a metaphor for her "cheatin' heart." Alas, the metaphor quickly dissolves as the singer goes on to identify the truck as a "quarter-ton Chevy four-by-four."

What's next? Today and some of tomorrow in Halifax and then on to see a few lighthouses to the south and maybe even spy the tide in the Bay.

November 11, Ottawa ON
45° 22' 58" N 75° 42' 05" W

Here I am back in Ottawa again. Let me see, when last I wrote, I was wandering the hills of Halifax and staying near the Citadel (44° 39' 0" N 63° 34' 40" W). Let me just say that Toronto's waterfront could learn a few things from Halifax.

So now you're telling me I could have executed this entire journey from the comfort of my old reclining chair in Toronto? I hadn't thought of that. Boy would that have saved on hotel movies. It cost $13.95 + HST just to watch "Passenger 69" for crying out loud.

After Halifax I made the required trip to Peggy's Cove and photographed the damned lighthouse. It is my understanding that I'm not allowed to leave the province without such a photograph. However, of all the snaps I've taken, I have to admit that the shot of the lighthouse on the round rocks is the best one. There must be something in the air that reacts well to 200 speed film.

I then passed through Bridgewater NS, a town where I expected to find the parents of a good friend from my Nesbitt Burns days. But were they listed in the phone book? NO.

I had to console myself with a trip to Bridgewater's very own "Sister Susie's Adult Store." What you can get in that place for $13.95 + HST is quite impressive, but sadly wouldn't fit in Sta-Puft's trunk once assembled.

I spied a sign: "New Linoleum for the Millennium." I dare say that's a safe way to celebrate Y2K. I celebrated that night in Yarmouth, NS (43° 50' 34" N 66° 6' 5" W).

I have been touring the Canadian Tire outlets of the East. The purpose is to collect provincial flags. I have visited every single Canadian Tire in Nova Scotia because apparently flags are a seasonal item, and are not stocked in the winter months. Finally, in the very last Canadian Tire store in Amherst, NS, I picked up their very last 32" x 76".

Once inside a Canadian Tire store, they all look eerily familiar. That would certainly be one way to control travel costs since from within the Ottawa Bank Street location I could pretend I'm in New Glasgow or Fredericton, and within the branch on Yonge and Davenport in Toronto, I could envision myself in Truro, or even Gander. And I suspect that the 10W-30 found in Sherbrooke is similar, if not chemically indistinguishable, from the formula found in Charlottetown.

After that, I headed back to Moncton, technically Dieppe, for the night (46° 6' 0" N 64° 45' 38" W).

I'm thoroughly sick of Moncton by now. The city has the highest concentration of Tim Horton's than of any other place in the Maritimes. And that's saying a lot.

I finally took a good look at the Bay of Fundy the next morning, particularly the renowned Hopewell Rocks. I did have to climb over a few barricades and scramble down to the beach because the Rocks were closed for the season. "Balderdash" said I, and I climbed down. When I realized I couldn't climb back up, panic set in. And then the famed Fundy tide began to rise. The sight of all that icky seaweed heading in my direction gave me the strength to leap up and grab the steel viewing platform, and then clamber my way to safety.

I then spent the night in St. Stephen, NB (45° 11' 44" N 67° 16' 31" W) after accidentally driving into the United States. The customs official was most gracious and a nice man in a navy windbreaker and aviator glasses took a number of pictures of me and my automobile as a memento, no doubt.

The next morning I threw caution to the wind and re-crossed the border into Maine (without incident, despite the Granny Smith apple I had in my possession). I zipped through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and finally New York before re-entering Ontario at Cornwall in the late evening.

When I say "zip", I should point out that I at first didn't have a map of New England and took the completely incorrect route to Bangor. That added about four hours to the trip.

The detour wasn't a total loss though, as I heard the lovely song, "She thinks my tractor's sexy" on the local country station. That one's a keeper.

November 18, Marathon ON
48° 42' 56" N 86° 23' 2" W

Let's see, I've visited so many of you over the last few days that it hardly seems necessary to send one of these things. Nevertheless, I shall persevere.

After the last dispatch, I took Sta-Puft (pronounced "Stay-Puffed" for the benefit of the many folks that didn't realize this -- pinheads) to the mechanic. The next morning I set off towards Toronto and along the way discovered that the car was still behaving as badly as it had before. Namely, my old friend the Check Engine light and the transmission were conspiring at every incline. After a stopover in Cornwall, I turned her around and headed straight back to Ottawa to have words with the mechanic. Naturally, nothing was amiss on the trip home. All the mechanic could say on Monday morning was that, "it's an old car." Yes, thank-you.

Finally I made it down to The Big Smoke by Monday afternoon (43° 44' 5" N 79° 12' 30" W). Once again, Sta-Puft behaved.

I spent Tuesday cavorting with old work-mates and stunning them silly with my little collection of photographs.

About those photographs: Brent, I believe I left all of them, together with the negatives, on the sewing table in the spare room. Enjoy!

That evening was spent in the vicinity of said sewing table in Pickering (43° 51' 57" N 79° 4' 59" W). On the plus side I got to see the opening scene from "Saving Private Ryan" on DVD over and over again.

I think it's only a matter of time before they reissue some of the silent film era's greatest treasures on DVD, remastered in THX with Dolby Surround Sound. Mary Pickford lies bound to the tracks, the train in the distance. "Choo-choo!" reads the sound card while the front right speaker plays the "Doodledeedledoo doodledeedledoo doodledeedledoodledeedledoodledeedledoo" Here-Comes-The-Locomotive music from a remastered upright Steinway. "Oh No!" says the the White Hat Man with circled cheeks and mascara, in complete silence. "Oh No!" cries Mary bound head to toe in hemp, in complete silence. "Hee hee!" cries the Black Hat Man with a wicked curl of his moustache, in complete silence.

Yet somehow the hero prevails and he and Mary bowleggedly walk off into the sunset at the double-time.

Next stop, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (46° 30' 20" N 84° 19' 45" W). I explored the boardwalk and the Roberta Bondar Municipal Park.

My last day of travel thus far included only Wawa as a distraction from the snow-covered trees and lakes that bordered the Trans-Canada. For those that are curious, the Wawa Goose is still standing proud, with the recent addition of a festive red scarf. I did donuts on the icy parking lot next to the bird to commemorate my visit.

Shortly thereafter I parked Sta-Puft in Marathon, at the home of my old friend Mike. Sadly, I had no pictures of the east coast to show him, but I did enthral him with my detailed descriptions of the overexposed photographs.

This morning, everything, including Sta-Puft, was covered with a quarter-inch of ice. They also closed the Trans-Canada, so there was nothing to do but explore the Lake Superior shoreline and slip and slide about the town. I was planning to drive Mike into Thunder Bay tomorrow so that he can catch a flight, but if the weather doesn't change I can think of few better places to hole up.

November 23, Edmonton AB
53° 32' 24" N 113° 30' 31" W

I've had Gordon Lightfoot's old tune "Alberta Bound" stuck in my head since Saskatoon, so I thought you all should suffer as well. Unfortunately, the only two words in the song that I know are "Alberta" and "Bound", so it's getting more than a little tedious. But now that I'm actually in the province, hopefully the racket will dissipate.

My GPS receiver tells me that I am now 2702 kilometres from my old apartment in Toronto. And yet I still have a thousand or two kilometres more to drive before Whitehorse. Of course, were a crow to actually make the trip, I don't think it would follow the same path that I'll be forced to through the Rockies.

When last I wrote, I was trapped in Marathon, Ontario, with about 100lbs of ice enveloping Sta-Puft. But by the next day, I had managed to mostly scrape it all off, and with a little salt from the neighbour, the car made it up the hill of the driveway, and Mike and I were on our way to Thunder Bay.

I had always thought of Thunder Bay as along the Manitoba border, but was disheartened to find that there are another 500km or so of the damned province left. I camped in the Port Arthur half of the city for the night (48° 26' 55" N 89° 11' 47" W).

The next morning I was held up along the Trans-Canada just outside of Kenora for about 45 minutes while the police disentangled a couple of tractor trailers. It didn't seem like a serious accident, but it blocked up the highway nice 'n' tight.

I drove around Winnipeg (a city in a field) and ended up in Portage la Prairie for the evening (49° 58' 50" N 98° 17' 30" W). The town is built around an oxbow lake (a leftover curve in a river that has become detached) but is otherwise unremarkable.

Yesterday I was hoping to make Saskatoon, but the prairies are so easy to drive through that I made it all the way to Lloydminster, Alberta (53° 16' 58" N 110° 2' 8" W). Much of the city is actually in Saskatchewan, but I figured I could avoid sales tax by staying in Alberta. I also switched over to Mountain Time. I guess it's past noon in Ontario now.

An Esso station in Lloydminster advertises the "cleanest washrooms in Canada" so don't forget to include the town in your next travel getaway.

A swell idea for a radio station would be to occasionally play sounds of a car breaking down. Maybe a squeal here, or a few mysterious thumps and grinds there. I'd fall for it.

On the subject of motor vehicles, Sta-Puft continues to behave tolerably well. While in Edmonton, I plan to get snow tires, a monster battery, a block heater, and low-temp coolant. I'd like a battery that could drive the car just using the starter motor. Hopefully, all that will get me up the road to the Yukon.

I have pretty much decided to head straight for Whitehorse. In part because of the season. Edmonton has about six inches of snow as did Lloydminster. After reading up on both Yellowknife and Whitehorse, the latter seems more my speed.

I only just realized that I have now visited all 10 provinces. The last on my list was actually Newfoundland since I had already been to all of the western provinces before. Only the territories remain, and I should have one of those by next week. Sta-Puft will have also visited each province in a few days once I cross over the Alaska Highway in northern BC.

That's about all for now. I suspect my next transmission will be from The Yukon where I will try to find a place to hole up for the winter. Now I'm off to the West Edmonton Mall. I'm going to try to buy a pen because my old one ran dry. Hopefully they'll have pens in stock.

November 29, Whitehorse YT
60° 42' 48" N 135° 2' 55" W


I arrived in the city yesterday afternoon just before sundown (i.e. 3pm). Downtown Whitehorse -- there are a number of small suburbs scattered around neighbouring hills -- lies on the western bank of the Yukon River, and is sheltered by a 50m ridge just beyond 8th Avenue.

Whitehorse is surrounded by the snow-capped mountains on the eastern edge of the Rockies. If you travel a little farther westwards, you will reach the world's most massive mountain, and the highest in Canada, Mt. Logan.

Of course, it was -23°C and snowing when I arrived. It continued to snow all night, and it is now -29°C (windchill of -40°C, but it hasn't been too windy down in the city centre). I've been trudging about the town dressed in my best winter gear and I'm as toasty as can be. Sta-Puft even started this morning!

The sky has been hazy; mostly due to the steam boiling off of the Yukon river and nearby lakes. The air is crisp and wonderful. It's so clear I can read newspaper text from across the street (although I have to close my eyes occasionally to keep my contacts from freezing).

Back to the usual. When I last wrote I was in Edmonton and preparing to winterize Sta-Puft. I dropped her off at a Canadian Tire on Wednesday morning and went off to explore the West Edmonton Mall. Let me begin by saying that the Mall is not all that large. I had heard tell of people spending week-long holidays at the place, but it took me only about two hours to scout the entire building. I didn't really do any shopping and I didn't ride the roller-coaster or go for a skate or ride the go-carts, but even if I had, I couldn't imagine a stay lasting longer than two days.

Back at Canadian Tire, the mechanic told me the fuel pump had rusted through and was spritzing gas. They had to get the part from Ford and it wasn't until 9pm that night that I got Sta-Puft back. The first thing I did was fill her up in preparation for the next day's travel but once I started the engine, the fuel gauge read empty and the warning light flashed on. There weren't any puddles of gasoline at the pump, so I figured something had gone awry while they fixed the fuel pump.

Thursday morning at 7:30am, I was back at Canadian Tire to complain about my gas gauge. It took them until the afternoon to find that the fuel pump had a reversed ground and was reporting the opposite reading on the gauge (when I drove away from Canadian Tire, I had half a tank, and so I hadn't noticed the problem until I filled it up). By 7pm that evening, they had everything sorted out and a new fuel pump in place. Fortunately, that day's work didn't cost me a penny, but I did have to spend an extra night in the hotel. At least I got to see the American Thanksgiving football games while I waited in the room.

Friday morning I set off for British Columbia, the last of the 10 provinces on my trip. I ran into some nasty blowing snow and black ice just outside of Dawson Creek but the tires performed wonderfully.

An aside: studded tires are the cat's ass. It does sound like you're driving on crackers when you go slow, but I drove 1500km on an Alaska Highway covered with ice and packed snow with nary a slip.

I spent Friday night in my third St. John-like city of the trip: Fort St. John, BC (56° 14' 42" N 120° 50' 57" W).

My old car compass only ever pointed South, so I exchanged it for one that only ever points North. I thought that was more in keeping with the spirit of my journey.

On Saturday I finally crossed into Yukon Territory for the first time (you actually cross the 60th parallel a total of 8 times before Whitehorse). I advise anyone considering the Alaska Highway in winter to bring a full-sized winter spare, extra gasoline, and other safety equipment. At one point, somewhere between Prophet River and Muncho Lake, I drove for over an hour without seeing another human, not even one passing in the opposite direction. I did come across moose, bison (a herd of 20 or so) and what appeared to be four or five wolves. No caribou yet, other than the iffy sighting that Mike and I had in Marathon.

Otherwise, the Alaska Highway is superb. If you can see it, that is. Most of the time it was pure white snow to match the surrounding terrain. The best advice I have is to drive where the trees aren't.

I stayed the last night in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory (60° 3' 42" N 128° 42' 8" W). During the construction of the Alaska Highway in WWII, a GI stationed there posted a sign pointing back to his home town in the States. There is now a "forest" of signs in Watson Lake. Once I get my stuff moved up here, I think I'll hang one of the old Glebe Avenue street signs that Brian H. and I liberated when we graduated from Glebe C.I. in Ottawa.

Sunday morning I awoke to a flat rear tire. Fortunately there was a service station across the street so I had it repaired in no time. While I waited I chatted with a recently discharged airman from Anchorage who was on his way to Virginia but had blown his trailer's tire.

Along the highway, there is no radio reception to speak of, so I had to entertain myself with song. As luck would have it, just before entering the dark territory, I happened to hear "She thinks my tractor's sexy" on the Fort Nelson country station. Since so many doubted the existence of this song as I described in an earlier dispatch, I have reproduced the chorus lyric as faithfully as possible:

She thinks my tractor's sexy/
It really turns her on/
She's always starin' at me/
While I'm chugging along/
She likes the way it's pullin' while we're tilling up the land/
She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan/
She's the only one who really understands what gets me/
She thinks my tractor's sexy.

Ay Caramba!

And now I'm here in Whitehorse. I've got a little kitchenette hotel room for $170/wk but there are a lot of rooms and small apartments for rent in the city. I even saw that one of the local internet design places was looking for a developer. Not really my strong suit, and I don't feel like working any time soon, but it's got to be a good sign.

This is where I belong. I've not even been here 24 hours but I can't ever see leaving.

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