I was happy to have a bedroom inside a house again after spending two nights in a tent, but I had a very difficult time sleeping. I was burning up. I had the fan on me with the windows open, but spent most of the night wide awake. Still unable to sleep by 5:30 am, I gave in and played on my phone.
At 9:00 am, I was packing up my car to head out because I had a lot of driving ahead of me. Looking at the map for sleeping options in a decent-sized city, I found Prince George about an eight-hour drive away (500 miles).
I drove to Wal-Mart to get some cheap snacks for the drive ahead. I had a soft cooler on the floor of the passenger seat so I could try and eat healthy snacks (like string cheese, humus, and fruit) instead of gas station junk food.
As I left Vancouver, it felt like this would be a different chapter in my travels. It was going to be a lot of driving through British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. I was excited about leaving cities behind and experiencing a part of the world not many people have seen.
The first 90 minutes of the drive was flat, but the mountains loomed in the background. Then the road started winding through the mountains. I went through tunnels, saw rivers, and drove on the side of cliffs. It was hot outside, and climbing into higher elevation didn’t seem to cool things down at all.
Parts of the mountains were dry, which reminded me of southern California. Trains passed through the corridor, wrapping around the mountains. Just as I saw a sign warning of “wildlife corridor,” I saw some big horn sheep. The sheep were mostly on the side of the road, but sometimes I had to stop and wait for them to cross.
The rest-areas were usually situated off of a lake, with restrooms available in small wooden buildings. The entire drive was stunning.
When I stopped to take some pictures on the side of the road, I saw white-water rafters cruising down the raging river in the gorge.
It was close to 9:00 pm when I arrived at my motel in Prince George. The motel was located in a somewhat sketchy part of town, but I needed a place to sleep. As I carried my suitcase to the second floor, I noticed the motel was not in good shape. The carpet on the outside walkway and in my room had stains. The essentials like the bed and the bathroom seemed to be acceptable though, so I got ready for bed and went to sleep.
I carried my suitcase to the parking lot in the back of the motel where my car was parked. As I got close to my car, a skinny, wrinkly man with long gray hair in his late 50s started walking across the alley towards me. He asked where I was headed and where I was from. His name was Roger and he’s from Prince George. When he was 18, he moved to Toronto for a bit and worked at a newspaper place. He told me he delivered 3,000 papers in three hours and was faster than the trucks.
I was nervous as Roger talked to me while I loaded my suitcase. He told me he has COPD and I could hear the strain in his lungs when he talked. Then he asked me for some money. I told him I only had American cash on me and he said he’d take it. I explained that my purse was in the motel and I’d be right back. I was afraid he’d mess with my car or stuff inside if I didn’t oblige.
When I came back to my car with my purse and last of my bags, I gave him $5. He told me the Husky gas station down the road would exchange the American money for Canadian money. I appreciated his tip. He asked again where I was headed and told him north, to Alaska. He warned me that there aren’t many roads up north.
I headed out and stopped at the Husky gas station to exchange my money. The attendant said he’d exchange my money, but would give me the same amount I gave him. If I gave him $20 US, he’d give me $20 Canadian. I explained that the US dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar, but he was basically doing it as a favor. I declined his services and went outside to pump some gas. As I was pumping, a guy in a truck next to me yelled with excitement, “Welcome to British Columbia!” and nodded towards my California license plate. I smiled and thanked him.
I headed towards Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway begins. It would take about four hours (250 miles) and I couldn’t wait to arrive at the start. The start of what? I didn’t know. But I couldn’t wait to see what was in store on this famous highway.