Saturday, November 07, 2009

Memory Lane 7. Road Trip

When I was a kid, say from the ages of 4 until I was 13, we lived in "The Lower Mainland". That was a catch-all name for any city within striking distance of Vancouver, BC. We lived in and around the city, but never in Vancouver. (Or rather, I never lived in Vancouver until I was on my own as an adult, sharing my third, or fourth apartment with a girlfriend)

But anyways, we lived in The Lower Mainland, and my mom's folks lived in the Okanagan, along the shores of the Okanagan Lake, which was an idyllic place to spend summer vacations. The only thing between us and the lake was an interminable FOUR HOUR DRIVE.

These days? I scoff at a 4-hour drive. That's for pansies! My kids know that to go anywhere worth getting to, you get up at 4am, and drive for at LEAST four hours before you even have your first potty break... but back when I was a kid, and had to share a back seat with my pesky brother, four hours was an ETERNITY!

We had landmarks to pass the time.

Port Mann Bridge! We made it without bickering all the way to the bridge! Are we there yet? Are we there yet? What do you mean, it's not even been half an hour?

The big tall stump beside the highway in Langley! Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

The long sweeping corner just outside of Abbotsford where, if you turned right, you could SEE THE UNITED STATES! Can we go there? Can we go there? It was so exotic!

The windy stretch of freeway just before Chilliwack, with the farm in the middle of the freeway. Hold on tight. That wind could blow your car over if you weren't careful. We'd often see big rigs on their sides. I wonder why that area was so windy...

Hold your nose! We're going through Chilliwack, and there's gonna be that smell of cow poop from the honey wagons spreading manure on the fields, or, if you were REALLY unlucky, pig poop wafting down from the farms.

Then up the hill, around the hill, and we were approaching Hope. "Gateway to Holidayland"! It always felt like we were ALMOST there when we got to Hope, even though it was barely two hours into the trip. Once, my brother saved up his money, and we stopped at this rock shop in the outskirts of Hope, and he bought a big piece of jade. I wonder what happened to that rock...

If it was really hot, once in a blue moon, we'd stop in Hope for ice cream, but that was a RARE event. We had places to be! And people to see! And if we stopped, we'd lose time.

Next landmark, The Hope Slide! In January, 1965 a small avalanche blocked the road. While waiting for the road crew, 4 people were waiting with their cars when a small earthquake brought down the entire mountain side onto the highway, burying the cars and people. My folks often stopped at the memorial, and talked about what had happened. I think (but I'm not sure) that they knew two of the people who were never found under the rubble. But for my brother and I, it was a chance to run around like maniacs for 2 minutes. And, if we were feeling a little 'off' because of the mountain roads we were just starting to drive up into, it was our chance to puke. That was us. We were the Puker Kids.

Back in the car! We've gotta be somewhere.

It was probably only about 10-15 more minutes before the next landmark...

We stopped here every time. It was how our folks kept track of how we were growing up every summer.

The drive seemed to go faster from this point. First, there were the campgrounds. Coldspring (I think), where we'd camped often, and Mule Deer (where we sometimes camped if Coldspring was full) And Rhododendron Flats, where we'd sometimes stop in the late spring, so mom could take photos of the flowers. Sometimes, if there was a potty-break need, we'd stop at the Manning Park Lodge to use the bathrooms, but more often than not, we'd stop at the Beaver Pond, or the Blowdown! to use the outhouses.

We were all rustic like that.

Oh look! A two-fer today! Here's the Blowdown, circa 1969:

(Historical note: When we were kids, this was one of the big landmarks on the Hope-Princeton highway. Everyone stopped there to see the carnage of an entire valley full of pine trees leveled by a single windstorm. The last time I was through there, I couldn't even find the landmark marker. Just a sign that said "Blowdown/Boyd's Meadow" Seems there's nothing left to see. Nature has taken its course, and the new trees are now as big as the old trees ever were, and it's just more forest. Le sigh.)

There were lots of things to see in Manning Park, and some times, we'd spend a little extra time there on our trip. But usually, we were On A Mission! Gotta get to the grandparents' house! So off we'd go. Bye bye, East Gate of Manning Park. Sometimes, we'd get gas there, but not usually. Yikes, it was expensive.

Before you knew it, it was getting hotter, and hotter, and you'd come over a rise, and see the little town of Princeton spreading out before you in the valley. Down the hill, look longingly at the Tastee-Freeze on your right, and the Dixie Lee Chicken on your left, and think "There's a school right between those two Meccas? How do the students ever get any work done, thinking about all that great fast food?" and whoosh, you were out of Princeton, and heading off eastward.

Out the driver's window, we'd follow the Similkameen river with our eyes, a lazy shallow river that traveled in the same direction as we did. Some times, we'd see kids floating down the river on inner tubes or air mattresses. What a life! "If we lived here, we could do that too!", we'd think. And then, BOO YEAH, it would be such a short drive to the grandparents.

Next, we'd see Bromley Rock out the driver's window. A big chunk of granite that the Similkameen had to curve around. Sometimes, there would be rapellers zipping down the face of the rock. It looked exhilarating! I would never have guessed that years into my future, I, too, would be skimming down that rock in a flimsy little rope harness.

Next landmark, Hedley. It used to be a gold rush town. There's still a giant ore-works at the top of the mountain above the town, but the town was down to about 10 houses, and a nearly-crumbled corner store. I don't think it even had a gas station.

But that was OK, because Keremeos was not far ahead. There were farmer's market stands at the side of the road, and a big K written into the mountain above the town by the finger of God. Landslides, or something. Always look for the big K, and you knew you were almost home.

Dad knew "The Shortcut" around Keremeos, so we never went into town, but skirted around it, cheering because we'd shaved 5 or 6 minutes off of the trip. But then... hold on... we're driving past Yellow Lake. And everyone KNOWS that Yellow Lake is BOTTOMLESS! You don't want to fall in there, or you'll get sucked RIGHT DOWN TO THE EARTH'S CORE! And of course, the road was very narrow, and I always held my breath going along that stretch.

Then there was the turn-off to Apex. We didn't ski, so we didn't care about that road. It was SO CLOSE to the Okanagan at this point! And then Highway 3 (The Hope Princeton) met up with Highway 97, and we turned left onto that highway, and we KNEW we were getting close.

It was right around this point that we'd roll down the windows and start sniffing. It was some point of honor to be the first person to smell a skunk. That was the olfactory clue that we were Almost There.

On the left, the Okanagan Game Farm. Crane your necks, and see if you can see any wild animals, because we're not going IN. We're Too Close! Can't you see Skaha Lake to the right? It's just a matter of driving through Penticton, up the break between Skaha lake and Okanagan Lake, and then we're winding our way to Nana and Poppa's house. Past Kickininee picnic site, past Soorimpt picnic site, past Pyramid picnic site, and we were almost there.

Then the Agriculture Canada Research Station road to the left. Oh man, we could WALK FROM HERE! Both Skip and I were on the edge of our seats by now. Crossing Trout Creek! Look! You can almost see their house! And even though the lake was on our right, we were all looking left, as Dad started slowing down to make the drive even more agonizing. A left turn, through cherry orchards, and the long street ending in their driveway. Ah, Nana and Poppa's house, behind the tall cedar hedge that Poppa grew from cuttings. Their yard was a paradise, I will have to show photos of the garden as I knew it as a child, but I want to leave you with a photo of their house in the '40s.

Honestly, I would NEVER have believed this was the same house, if you'd showed me this photo when I was a kid. Nana and Poppa's house was immaculately kept, and impeccably maintained. The lawn was like a putting green, and the flowers were award winning.

It kind of makes me think that there's hope for me with my pathetic garden right now.

Maybe when I have grandchildren, I'll have a garden to remember, too. Not just dirt and weeds.

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