I spent four nights in Terrace, then took a Greyhound (three and a half hours) to Smithers, B.C. and spent three nights there. On Tuesday, January 8th, I got on the Greyhound again for the drive to Prince George in the center of B.C. That was a five hour ride and my son Kyle met me at the bus station about 8:30 p.m. He is working in Prince George and so we could only visit in the evenings. On Wednesday night, he and I went out for Chinese food. That was a mistake for it loosened up my bowels before breakfast time. Luckily the affliction did not last long.
I had wanted to rent a car in PG to drive down through Pemberton to see my daugher, Natalia, before leaving the rental car at the airport in Vancouver, but the cost was prohibitive since the rental agency wanted an extra $1100 just to return the car to PG! So, back on the Greyhound again at 4:30 p.m. for an overnight trip to Vancouver.
The bus left slightly behind schedule, at around five pm rather than four-thirty, and then made short stops at Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Cache Creek, and then pulled into Kamloops at around midnight. Between stops I was trying to sleep but was largely unsucessful. In Kamloops we had to get out of the bus for a half hour while they “serviced” it. Here I made the mistake of buying a coke and the caffeine in it prevented me from sleeping for the remainder of the night. The Coquihalla highway had been closed the day before because of heavy snow. Almost one meter of fresh snow had fallen over just a few days and the highway crews had been unable to keep up the plowing, but the road was open now, and we headed out for Vancouver at about 1a.m.
By two a.m. the bus was hurtling us down from the high point of the pass where the snow had recently been plowed and was, in places, as high as the bottom of the bus windows. I tried to catch some of the scene on video.
The bus pulled into Vancouver ahead of schedule (5a.m.) and so I found myself with a couple of hours to kill. My bus to Pemberton was scheduled for 8 a.m. To kill time, I again studied my Spanish for a while, and then after an hour or so, I pulled out my harmonica and began to play. I played a lot of old American folk tunes and ballads. The acoustics of the old, high-ceilinged building were great. After about an hour, I started in on "Silent Night", since it was the season after all. I was playing softly with my eyes closed when I heard a voice say, “You can’t do that here.” I opened my eyes to see a security guard who was obviously a Sihk. I guessed this by the cloth wrapped around his head. I said what can’t I do? I am just waiting for my bus and practicing my music. He said that I couldn’t play that music in the terminal because it was a federal building. No argument from me. I left the building and went out toward the small park across the street where some rumpled blankets indicated that a homeless person was sleeping there on the sidewalk. He stirred and woke as I passed and soon came over and asked for 25 cents for a cup of coffee. I told him that the coffee was going to be more than that and I would like to get a photo of him back in his bed on the sidewalk. He obliged me and I gave him a toonie ($2 coin). We had a short conversation and he steered me toward a McDonald's where I found free wifi to have with my breakfast biscuit and coffee.
At eight a.m., groggy from lack of sleep, I got back on the bus and we headed north through down-town Vancouver. I couldn’t sleep now, for I had to see all I could of this city. It had been over forty years since Csilla and I had “honeymooned” here, driving our little VW bug. The city had of course grown much in this time and there seemed to be hundreds of new glass-sided high rise buidlings. Soon we were driving through Stanley Park. As the bus drove further north I started to nod off, despite the beauty of the scenery. The sky was almost entirely devoid of clouds and as the sun came up and illuminated the gulf islands, I tried to get a few scenes on video. The mountain tops were covered with snow, but the highway was bare of snow until we got north of Squamish. Then the snow was getting deeper along the roadway and by the time the bus reached Whistler village, there was almost as much snow as at Bell 2 last month. Nearly a meter of snow.
At Whistler village everyone got off the bus and I was the only one who reboarded ten minutes later for the drive to Pemberton, which is the end of the line. I sat up front near the driver and we had a conversation as we drove the remaining half hour or so to Pemberton. The driver dropped me off in front of the Mile One lodge, which had a restaurant that Natalia had recommended. It was here that she was to meet me when she got off of work after 2 p.m. in Whistler. I had a burger and chips and a couple bottles of snapple and then made use of the free wifi while I waited for my daughter to find me. When Natalia did arrive, I was sitting at a picnic table on the outside deck of the lodge, practicing my Spanish.