Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Heading West

We finally reached Calgary, via Montreal and Edmonton. It’s been very cold, we’ve had fog, blowing snow, slushy roads and a slight delay while emergency services blocked the road digging a hapless tractor-trailer out of a ditch. That is not something one wants to happen on the first real journey; and neither is getting a bit stuck taking a tight right hand turn under a bridge and having to take up the whole junction to reverse out of trouble. I still hate Montreal.

However, minor irritations and not-enough-sleep aside, all is going comparatively well. Team driving is taking a bit of getting used to, mainly trying to get to sleep while the truck is moving. It’s sort of comforting in a way, a bit like being on a combination of train and boat but noisier and bouncier than either. The main problem is switching off your mind sufficiently to doze off, as there is a tendency to ‘do the driving’ as you lay there; sensing moves up and down through the gears, spotting hills and corners, wondering at stops whether the brakes will make this sound or that, according to whether we are at traffic lights or problems. I understand that some people never manage to train their bodies to sleep in a moving truck and that others develop an eventual inability to sleep in beds that keep still. The trick, I am advised, is to get so totally dog-tired that you’d fall asleep standing up given half a chance. So my transition shouldn’t be too long now.

Of course, when you are trying to sleep in a moving truck there is the safety net to be negotiated. This cross between football goal and mosquito net anchors into a series of seatbelt fittings, slung from the back wall to the side of your bunk. It is meant to stop you rolling out of bed and hurting yourself in case of sudden unpleasantness of a deceleration variety. I don’t want to try it out, looks like one could have an additional strangling/tangling crisis of one’s own independent of any disasters of an up-front variety. It’s a bit floppy and heavy, and lays in wait for unwary fingers and toes if you happens to be an exuberant turner-over. There were many things I had anticipated having difficulty with, but getting eaten by one’s own safety net had not been one of them.

We’ve been driving west. The scenery changes dramatically day by day. It’s dusk as you pass hilly, lakey, evergreen stuff, then the sun comes up under the prairies, flat as far as the eye can see and extremely boring. It’s still boring when the sun goes down again and then dawn lights up mountains in the distance and it’s getting early later. We drove through a time zone a day, which makes dawn most confusing. When you’re a bit tired and dozy and waiting for the sun to come up between seven and eight because dawn will make you feel better, there is a surge of disappointment when it doesn’t and you realise the night will last an hour longer. Yet again I am gobsmacked at how much of the curvature of the earth you can cover in a day.

There isn’t much to keep one amused driving across Canada, except for the signposts along the highway, which get fewer and further between the further west one travels. Northern Ontario, still has some people in it, so there are ads as well as roads off to little towns. I had several hours in which to ponder the significance of Mikey’s Smoke House, Wild Meat Processed. I knew this was hunting country but hadn’t given the mechanics of hunting sufficient thought before to twig that it would mean eating what you kill. Yes, presumably someone has to skin, gut and chop up the still warm deer. Wouldn’t you want to do that for yourself? Is it all part of the experience? On balance, and after about a thousand miles of thought, I think I’d want Mikey to do it for me too.

Through Manitoba and into Saskatchewan, I can’t report much other than place names. Manitoba had some. We passed signposts to places and it helped the time pass to watch them get nearer, see them drop behind and then wait excitedly for the next. Saskatchewan didn’t. Have places that is. Which doesn’t leave one much to think about, except for one very exciting road sign... Qu’apelle Lake. Now, my French is a little rusty so correct me if I’m wrong but surely that’s the French for Wossname? Only the French could get away with it.



  1. There's a small stretch of water on a fell called Haystacks in the English Lake District named Innominate Tarn. Now, if it's innominate how has it got a name? ;-(

  2. Helen Cleasby26/1/09 13:05

    Carolyn, my brother lives in Edmonton. Next time you're headed there, let me know, I'm sure he'd buy you a hot chocolate or something! :)