At just after 3am on Friday morning I, along with seven friends from our church, set off on a roadtrip to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. It had started snowing a few hours before, and the white stuff already lay thick and wet on the ground as we loaded ourselves and our luggage into the two vehicles.
It snowed for at least half the trip down south, delaying us terribly, while on the way back we had better weather but decided to take a touristy detour via Whistler, the ski resort. We were in Nanaimo for around 20 waking hours, and our travel time totalled nearly 24 – plenty of time to figure out what the trip had taught me. We arrived back home at 6.30pm on Sunday night.
In December 2011 I wrote a similarly-titled “Things I learnt while on a road trip through eastern France with two Norwegians and a Dutch (wo)man“. That post inspired me to write this one.
So, here goes. Strap yourself in. These 19 lessons are going to alter your life …
I learned that:
- Snow flies towards one, no matter in which direction one is travelling (north, south, east, west, or anything in between). And with one’s high beams on, it feels as if one is on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, flying through space at warp speed, the stars whooshing by.
- At night, snow on the road looks like icing sugar. In the daylight, it looks like brown sugar.
- Tim Hortons has coffee – better coffee than French gas stations. And after slopping down the highway at half the speed limit – nerves jangling and eyes wired open, scanning for errant moose or logging trucks plotting to smash one’s little car into a snow-filled ditch – each Timmy’s becomes like a beacon of caffeinated hope and the assurance of kilometres safely travelled.
- One can only drink so much coffee until one’s body eventually goes into “what the hell are you trying to do to me; I demand a new brain” mode.
- One can help Timmy’s servers understand one’s South African-self better by simply changing one’s accent. Scottish seems to do the job. This is achieved by mixing in a smattering of “ochs” and “wees”, interspersed with a “lassie” or two, while sounding constipated. The use of the word “bloody” also seems to work when trying to master the accent, but not to order coffee, as this can be confusing: “Och, ahl have a wee coffee please ma wee lassie. With bloody milk, please … Och aye.”
- The iPhone sometimes autocorrects the word “plow” to plié. So a message about a snowplow dude becomes: “He just pliés around the cars. The pliéing isn’t pretty, but it does get done.” I, who think in pictures, imagine the snowplower doing gracious ballet moves through the parking lot until his job of clearing the snow is complete. I will never again look at the profession as simply a graceless shoving around of snow …
- It is quite impossible to keep reasonably-effective and interesting conversation going non-stop for 1 hour, let alone 12, with four men in a car.
- When you desperately need the toilet and you see a sign that says “Hope”, take it – because hope almost always promises relief. The town of Hope, however, doesn’t seem to have much going for it – apart from spotless toilets in the Dairy Queen and a stunning view across the river.
- Hope may, in fact, be in an alternate time line and universe. Women here (unlike most hyper-polite Canadians) don’t seem to have a problem speaking their minds. “Hello handsome,” said one-such non-politically-correct employee at the DQ. “How’s your day going?” This she followed up with “Did you know God is an alien?” “Perhaps in your world,” I felt like telling her, “but not in mine.” I did thank the old duck for calling me handsome though – I’m at that time of life where I’ll take the compliment from anyone, no matter how leather-skinned.
- When you have a passenger who is prone to car-sickness, it is probably best not to take the scenic route along serpentine, snowy mountain roads.
- Whistler is bloody expensive. 50% off clothing still means it’s 200% more expensive than in the normal world. I’m convinced even the McDonalds was more pricey.
- It is quite possible for the driver of the car to remove his sweater while driving, get it stuck on his head and still stay on the road as he wildly wrestles the woollen beast into submission – instantly turning one of his passengers into a basket case, while leaving his wife completely nonplussed.
- Google Maps and smartphones are the bomb.
- Many places are much prettier in the dark than in the light.
- Electric car windows do not go down when the car is not running, no matter what. And one cannot throw an apple core out of a window that is still wound up.
- My reflexes are slowing at a worrying rate. When attempting drive-by-shootings, by the time I see something worth shooting, wind the window down and aim my camera at it, it is gone.
- Nothing beats a road trip with a good music soundtrack (see previous blogpost) except when one only has two CDs. In this case, silence is not only golden but crucial to preserving the last traces of one’s sanity.
- Most gluten-free snacks should not be foisted upon one’s worst enemy. They are invariably dense, straw-textured and taste like rain-soaked cardboard. One should rather trick one’s stomach into believing it is not hungry by consuming copious amounts of coffee.
- And, finally, I came to the unequivocal conclusion that evolution does not exist. If it did, deer, moose and other wild animals would by now have learned the perils of trying to cross the highway at night, and would have adapted. Also, if it did exist we could teach the deer to cross in less-congested areas, or where cars were already driving slower – like at school-crossings.