Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gridlock on the TransCanada Highway.

Yesterday, August 4th, I drove my son and a couple of his friends to Grindrod, BC in our Ford Festiva. The drive out was great; we made really good time,didn't use much fuel and enjoyed the great driving weather and relatively light traffic. From our home in Calgary to our friend's in Grindrod is a 500km westward run that passes through Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks and over the Rogers Pass.

Castle Mountain near the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 93

I was really looking forward to the run home that afternoon as there are quite a few stretches that are a lot of fun to drive, and by fun I mean twisty two lane. I was also planning to take a short detour at Golden to drive up the Kicking Horse Trail, one of the roads I mentioned in one of my "favorite drive" posts. Before I continue with the story I must say that I had noticed that the eastbound traffic was a little on the heavy side. With it being the Monday of a long weekend I wasn't surprised but as you will see it turned out to be quite a bit worse than I first thought.

After depositing the boys at the designated spot I began my return trip. The first leg from our friend's Grindrod home to Sicamous is about 34km on twisty two lane  BC Highway 97A that hugs the shore of Mara Lake for about half of that distance. Highway 97A is the northeastern branch of the highway that runs from the US border just south of Osooyos BC, through the Okanagan Valley and joins the TransCanada Highway at Sicamous. I wasn't too surprised then to see a bit of a back up in Sicamous with all the holiday traffic. I filled up the Festiva's tiny (38L) fuel tank, registering a satisfactory 5.7L/100km, and then headed out eastbound on the main highway. 

Here's where things began to fall apart. The heavy traffic I'd noticed on the way in was now heavier and slower. It took ninety minutes of stop and go to reach Revelstoke BC, only 75km away! Average speed.... 50km/h! 

I stopped in Revelstoke and revisited the Nomad Food Co. on Victoria Ave where Sharon and I had dined on our June road trip. The place was hopping and the food was awesome; you should try their crispy chicken burger. I stayed in Revelstoke for about an hour and then hit the highway again. The first 25km or so were great, even with the expected heavy holiday traffic. Things came to a stop, literally, 28km out, right by the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk with stopped vehicles as far as one could see up the road. From there it was stop and go again for the remaining 120km to Golden. I left Revelstoke at 6:00pm MST and arrived in Golden at 8:50pm MDT. Average speed....52km/h!

Stopped at the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk turn-off

Golden was just crawling with hot, tired travelers trying to get gas or coffee. Once I had my coffee and a box of TimBits I returned to the highway for the last leg home. By now it's just after 9:00pm and I'm ready for home so I didn't make the little detour I had planned. After the first 20 minutes or so I reached the Kicking Horse Rest Area and the base of Ten Mile Hill where there is a long stretch of four lane divided highway. By this point the traffic was able to spread out a bit and I made the remainder of the trip home in relatively good time arriving just before midnight. Fuel consumption also suffered, the return trip worked out to 7.1L/100km.

A few observations:

1. BC Highways and the federal government desperately need to finish twinning the Trans-Canada Highway!

2. I don't mind being in heavy highway traffic when it is moving consistently at or close to the speed limit. That wasn't happening on this drive.

3. I was pleasantly surprised at the road manners of almost all the drivers caught in this situation. There are quite a number of passing lanes along the way and invariably everyone would just stay in their place in line, probably recognizing the futility of rushing ahead by about five or six car lengths only to end up stopped.

4. The car behaved well, the A/C worked when called upon, got to listen to some great tunes and the weather was nice enough that I could have the windows open most of the time.

I will be going to pick up the boys tomorrow, August 6, and my guess is the drive will be a lot more enjoyable. Maybe I'll make that detour on the way after all!

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