Many families are moving to Bridgewater, and when Arlene, Wendy and Cedar (their 13 yr. old Labradoodle) pulled up stakes in Victoria, there were 9⅔ (Katy & Michael; Rick-not yet) households living there. Their arrival on December 18, 2022, made the community ⅓ present, even though none are yet living in their Treehouse homes.
Getting to the starting line…weaving the plans together
Arlene and Wendy had said that they were stepping away from the project because they were uncertain how the move would affect Wendy’s health. So, when they changed their minds, put their condo up for sale and started making plans to move east, I was relieved and delighted. But driving that far would be hard on Wendy and flying, hard on Cedar! I was not keen for Arlene to drive alone across the country in December. I had a strong desire to visit some of my people out west, so when she asked, I saw a road trip with her and Cedar as an adventure not to be missed.
It was stressful wrapping and packing up their lives, saying goodbye to friends and family in Victoria where they had lived for 25 years. Although they booked a furnished flat in Bridgewater (upstairs from Carlos, Sandra, Nina, and Mateo, don’t you know), they had to decide on and find space in the car for what they would need until move-in, including their e-bikes (oh, the hills of Bridgewater), and Cedar of course.
Meanwhile I had lovely pre-Christmas visits in Calgary and Edmonton and then caught the train to Vancouver. What could be more relaxing than sitting in the dome car with endless cups of tea, going through the majestic snow-laden Rocky Mountains? In Vancouver I visited some more of my people and then met Sharon and Terry for the first time at UBC. Sharon gave me an indigenous-focussed campus tour, Terry hosted me in the President’s Office for a TVO meeting and then they made sure I was safely delivered to Wendy’s brother Dean’s house.
Meanwhile, Arlene and Wendy weren’t on a holiday. They hosted a farewell drop-in with a ton of friends, had the final walk through of their empty condo and crossed on the Tsawwassen ferry with the movers to supervise the transfer of their affairs in Surrey. Next, Arlene took Wendy to the airport for a flight to Maui where she would get some rest with her brother. After, Arlene made it to Dean’s North Vancouver house in time to meet me. The threads of each others’ plans came together beautifully. There were a few complicating twists like finding a way to get some boxes from my late godfather to Dean’s house when no one was there, and then finding space in the RAV4. But we did it! The day we left we took Cedar on a long walk at Capilano River Park … this epic trip was about to begin.
Through the mountains to the prairies
The driving conditions were good on the storied Coquihalla Highway, although it hadn’t been such a good day for some others; four cars off the road, one on its roof. As it turned dark and started to snow, we took our cue and checked into a pet-friendly hotel. Although we were on our way, Arlene was still carrying a lot of energy, she drove all the next day listening to me reminisce about forty years ago when I rode my bike from Jasper to Vancouver. They are big and beautiful, those mountains.
As we reached the prairies, we settled into a routine. Up, get breakfast one at a time, walk Cedar, load car, map our route and drive until after dark. We saw the Saamis Teepee, drove right through Saskatchewan, to Manitoba. The scenery was nondescript; flat and white (no pictures) with the day ending with a blizzard and freezing rain (Arlene was awesome at the wheel). Most of the time Cedar lay quietly in the back seat. If we hadn’t stopped for a bit, he would emerge from the back and gently put a paw on the driver’s shoulder… “Ahem, if you wouldn’t mind stopping?”
A storm was brewing
One of the first things I learned about Arlene a few years ago was that she grew up in Winnipeg. Both my parents had done the same and much of my family is there. When we started out, we had decided to take some time to visit people in Winnipeg. We stayed with Arlene’s cousin Cindy (+ Clint near Brandon), who had homemade Indian food, venison for Cedar and warm beds waiting for us. Fun fact, my uncle was the family doctor for Cindy’s whole family in Pine Falls. In Winnipeg, Arlene stayed with Bonnie, and I had a chance to see almost all my cousins and stayed with my cousin Sharon.
Of course the weather was an important part of our planning and the forecast was nasty; the storm “will stretch from the Prairies to the Gulf of Mexico, bringing everything from ripping blizzards to a threat for tornadoes.” There are three routes to eastern Canada from Winnipeg: north of the Great Lakes – Thunder Bay was expecting 20-30 cm of snow, through the middle – Toronto had freezing rain warnings, and south. The road from Winnipeg was snowy, with more vehicles off the road, and we had an interesting time at the border crossing (ask us about it sometime). Still, we pushed all the way to St. Paul and showed up at Máel, Elvira and Walker’s door. They gave us a wonderful welcome and put us up for the night amid their busy lives. Cedar got special attention from Walker, a dog lover.
The last stretch was a blur, but the roads were clear
We made good decisions, and we were lucky. The temperature hovered around 00C… we drove through Wisconsin (cheese) and Illinois (stayed clear of Chicago). From there it was fast and congested urban driving… we whipped through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey (waved to Abe and Sue), New York (we took the NY through-way), Connecticut, Massachusetts (bypassed Boston), New Hampshire (Live Free or Die) and arrived in Maine, when we saw snow again. We passed way too many car and truck crashes, sometimes traffic was backed up for kilometres. In Bedford, Pennsylvania Arlene discovered a restaurant with a salad bar… oh my, I was so happy, fast food is necessary, but not sufficient. It seemed like the Christmas radio playlist was the same in every state, we sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” too many times. When we went through NYC, we took three wrong turns after having no problems navigating ’til then, but still no arguments between us. We asked for directions from a tow truck driver, an Uber driver, and figured the third one out ourselves – Google maps was a good friend.
And then it was over
We crossed at Calais, ME/St. Stephen, NB, and saw Messi kissing the FIFA World Cup trophy on the TV while we ate lunch. And on we pushed through St. John, by Moncton (waved to Kathlyn), and powered our way to Halifax where Arlene dropped me and finished the trip to Bridgewater with Cedar. Wendy had returned to Vancouver, and then took the red eye to Halifax. Scott was at the airport to pick her up (sans luggage) and delivered her to their flat a few hours before Arlene & Cedar arrived.
It can be risky to do a trip like this, it might test a relationship… but this one didn’t … in fact, we decided that if in the next while… something comes up between us, we’ll just get in the car and go for a drive… and then when we get older, we’ll ask someone to take us for a drive… or maybe just sit next to each other if we cannot go anywhere… Thanks, Arlene, for the epic trip, love you.