Leg four ends in Whitecourt where I refilled the gas tank and otherwise just stopped to stretch the legs. It is worth mentioning that the stretch between Peace River and Edmonton via Valleyview and Whitecourt is an extremely scenic drive. Most of it is on a divided highway, too, so that’s awesome. The road itself needs work, but it’s clear they’re already doing that starting on the Northbound side. Otherwise, nothing interesting other than the scenery has popped up on this leg.
All right, it’s been an hour and a half since Peace River, I’ve rolled into Valleyview, and I’m ready for my first real treat of the trip: the obligatory Peanut Buster Parfait. So yes, my stop here is at my second Dairy Queen of the day. This is the only Peanut Buster Parfait I will be having this trip, don’t worry. And as I mention in the video, I will be exercising it off when I get to my Mom’s later today.
Arrived in Peace River this afternoon. They’re doing construction on the bridge, so traffic was slow getting through town but not a big deal. Stopped for gas at the PetroCan station. The PetroCan station is the first place at the access turn off in an area populated by fast food restaurants, the grocery store, drug store, etcetera. As I was leaving the PetroCan station from the exit nearest the access road I heard a fender-bender happen in the grocery store parking lot across the way. I kept going, didn’t see the “No Entry” sign for the access road I was entering because it was placed further ahead of PetroCan driveway I left from (effectively it was behind me) so I didn’t know I was going the wrong way. That road is actually wide enough for two vehicles to easily pass each other, so it didn’t really register that I might be using it incorrectly until a vehicle that was properly using the access road gave me the two-hands-palms-up-off-the-steering-wheel-what-the-heck-are-you-doing signal. That is of course when I realized I might be going the wrong way on the access road, sheepishly ducked my head into my shoulders, and proceeded to turn back around to go looking for the correct exit road.
I drove through the aforementioned parking lot to get at the exit road on the other side, passing by the vehicles involved in the fender-bender, and proceeded to Dairy Queen for lunch. It was a lovely day, so I ate my meal in the parking lot instead of, you know, where other people were (see, social distancing). Moving on…
I hadn’t really planned on where I was going to stop (haven’t really anyway, except for gas) but when this place showed up on the near horizon I figured it was perfect. And happened to be about right for the hour-and-a-half timing I was looking for.
I’m calling it the Teacup Cafe but I don’t think that’s what it’s actually called. Their teacup sign has always been a landmark for us for as long as I can remember. The store itself isn’t open anymore, I don’t know when it closed, but we’ve never actually stopped here before. Again, one of those things where we’re always just trying to get where we’re going and not taking the time to stop and smell the roses so to speak.
It’s been a pleasant drive again so far. As mentioned in the video, I’ve scrolled my way through SiriusXM and have stopped at the Bluegrass station. It always surprises me how much I actually enjoy listening to Bluegrass.
The end of Day One arrived at around 6:00 p.m. when I rolled into High Level. Overall a very pleasant drive, with wildlife sightings that included Bison. Many Bison. Nothing else, just Bison. And all of them before the Deh Cho Bridge. I’m staying at the Best Western Mirage, which I have always found very comfortable and affordable, and I’m confident they are following pandemic guidelines.
I contemplated going for a walk because I noticed on the way in (hard to miss, frankly) that the community has installed a new intersection meridian at the north end of the highway providing for a turning lane. It threw me off because I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t go for the walk though because by the time I settled in and did my exercise routine it was already dark out. I was ready to call it a night. I ordered supper in this evening to avoid any undue contact, and then did a little work-related emailing before reading and turning in.
October 3, 2020 – approximately 10:00 a.m.
I had a pretty good sleep last night, but still managed to move a little slower than I would have liked this morning. I was hoping to get on the road shortly after 9:00 a.m., but didn’t actually until nearly 10:00 a.m.
The High Level Esso station is one of my favourite stops on this drive. It’s a quite literally full-service station that is kept in excellent condition. Wait — not full-service in the sense of they will pump your gas; that part is entirely self-serve — I mean full-service in the sense that they provide more than just gas. They have a wonderful cafeteria, fully stocked convenience store, and pay-at-the-pump options. Plenty of room for lots of traffic to move around. They also have a draw for trips that is ongoing, I think you enter with your receipt. I’ve entered it a few times, but didn’t today. The trips are awarded often, so there are lots of winners. And you’re guaranteed to see at least one familiar face from home passing through.
Forgot about the train tracks … Yes, it’s true, we do have train tracks that go up into the Northwest Territories. I don’t know how far up, but at least to Hay River, I think to Fort Smith, and maybe (???) towards Fort Simpson? Maybe? I don’t know. But I do know they go to Hay River, and I’m fairly confident there are actually trains that still use it. Not that I’ve ever actually caught a train on those tracks north of High Level or into the NWT, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Besides, for the most part there’s a buffer of trees between the highway and the tracks, so it’s not entirely unlikely that I wouldn’t have noticed when a train was there. Right? Sure. At the point where I made this stop the tracks had not crossed the highway yet, so I had managed to forget — again — that there even were any tracks there. Rest assured, later on when I did cross the tracks I lifted my feet and made the required wish.
What’s that? You haven’t heard of making a wish when you cross the tracks? When I was a child my parents told us during our drives that if we lifted our feet off the floor or ground and made a wish while going over train tracks our wish could come true. It was clearly a way to pass the time in the car back in the day, but as I like to say, you can’t win if you don’t even play. So on the off chance that there’s anything to this making wishes business, to this day I still lift my feet off the floor of the car and make a wish when I go over train tracks.
I know, I know, these section titles are really boring. Sorry. Dan’s not with me to provide his unique ideas for such things…
This stop ended up being in Enterprise. I was not expecting that because it never really registered that Enterprise is about an hour and a half away from Big River at Fort Providence. I think even if it wasn’t I might have stopped here anyway, for the reason mentioned in the video. As I was driving by and actually paying attention to the scenery on the side of the road I realized, oh, hey, there’s a ravine with a river there, I should take a closer look! So I did. Then I noticed the time and realized it fortuitously was my time to stop anyway.
I did look it up and confirmed that the river in question is indeed the Hay River snaking it’s way past the community. Alexandra Falls are on this river further south. We normally would try to stop and see Alexandra Falls on this drive, but I will not be doing that this time around. Maybe on the way back up, if I’m allowed. Honestly, Dan and I should consider a camping trip near the Hay River to do some kayaking…not anywhere near the falls or any rapids, of course, we’re way too new at the sport for that.
Stop number two on day one is a must-do at Big River gas station on the highway near Fort Providence. The tank in my car is not quite big enough to get me to High Level in one go, so we always stop at Big River and top up the tank. Big River is about a three-hour drive from Yellowknife, which is just about perfect timing for a bathroom break and lunch. Of course, today I did not stay for lunch and only stopped long enough for the mentioned bathroom break and gas tank top up.
I clearly have kayaking on the brain in the below video, probably because we finally actually used our kayak’s this year and still didn’t get out in them as much as I would have liked.
The above photograph was taken on a rest stop closer to the Deh Cho Bridge, which is what connects the north side of the river to the south side of the river. This bridge is still pretty exciting for me, even though it’s already several years old. Why? Well, because it arches so high and seems so narrow once you’re on it, but also because before this bridge was built we would have to take a ferry to cross the river in the summer and drive the ice road across in the winter. This also meant we would be unable to get across the river during the spring break-up and the fall freeze-up. That is all in the past now, and while the ferry/ice-road were unique experiences that I value, as a resident of Yellowknife I appreciate having the bridge now.
All right then. So, as I said in the below video, I decided to break up my driving days into hour and a half legs, just to keep from getting too bored. Also, to give me something to try using the GoPro for. At first I thought I’d just take photos, but then I thought, what the heck, why not video? So, yeah. No script, just, well, narrating or thinking out loud.
My first stop was in the middle of nowhere, between Edzo and Fort Providence. I stopped a short ways after seeing a herd of about 10 bison, including a calf, in the ditch. While I didn’t really observe anything else of interest, I did note that the condition of the highway so far had been significantly improved. I was really impressed! It’s been a great drive so far.
Well, hello there! What’s that? Not the trip you were expecting? Where did Scotland 2020 go? Excellent question, but I’m pretty sure everyone in the World can figure out the answer to that question. Regardless, I will provide a brief explanation: COVID-19. Oh, you need more? Okay, but it’s really not a long story. We did plan to travel to Scotland in September. We had reservations made and flights booked and an itinerary pretty much finalized. We were going to be on Orkney Island for my 50th birthday. And then COVID-19 hit so everything got cancelled. We will not be travelling outside of Canada until a vaccine is available and the border restrictions are lifted. See? Short, probably familiar, story.
The Northwest Territories also has border restrictions in place which have successfully (so far) limited our exposure to COVID-19 — We have not had an active case since May (April?). But the border restrictions remain in place, which I fully support, and they require that when anyone enters the Northwest Territories they are required to self-isolate in designated centers for 14 days before they can go out and about. Which means we have to account for that if we want to do any travelling outside the Northwest Territories.
Now, I had to go to Edmonton for an appointment that’s been rescheduled twice already because of COVID-19. I really didn’t want to reschedule it again, so I decided to give myself a little bit of a break with it. I decided to drive to Edmonton and spend a couple of days visiting my mother (respecting social distancing requirements and recommended mask wearing procedures) while there. When I get home I will work from home while I self-isolate for two weeks. It’s all doable.
In the meantime, Dan and I purchased a GoPro Hero 7 camera a few months ago. I’m still figuring out how it works, but it occurred to me that maybe this road trip would be a good opportunity to use it more than we have. And I thought, what the heck, why don’t I do a little travel blog for this little trip, too? The camera’s been working great, I’ve got some video and some photos. But now that I’m sitting in front of WordPress I realize I have COMPLETELY forgotten how to use it to make my travel blog. Particularly since WordPress has introduced a new editor format thingy. So I’m sort of starting over and wracking my poor memory and trying to find things. This would be why this first page is so regretfully boring visually. At least for now. I’ll revamp and re-publish it as I figure out how to do things again.
So, stay tuned! It’s getting rather late in the evening now, so I’ll sign off for the time being.