Say you get in the car on a Wednesday morning and head up highway 1 with mighty big plans to get to Kamloops. A long drive with two boys in the back but who’s to say you cannot make it. It takes you almost an hour to get on the highway from the city, the roads are swarming with cars. Big city gridlocks. You’re flying through farmland as you bid goodbye to the mainland. Lush green hills roll on the side of the road. The boys read in the back, they’ve seen this part of the road before. As you head past Hope greenness abounds and you head up towards the canyon sheltered by the bluest sky you’ve ever seen. Stop for gas and organic cherries. Sold on a plate, rather unpractical you think as you head back to the car balancing them like an unskilled waitress. Half an hour later you chuckle as you pick the cherries from in between the front seats with your right hand. Turns can do that to a plate of cherries but you knew that…
By now the boys are clinging to the windows. The Fraser River Canyon is displaying its beauty. Raging turbid green water piling high into white crests surrounded by walls of yellow rock. The sun came alive and died on these walls many times and it shows. The train on the other side looks like a thread. Two hundred cars or so, they looks so small you’d think you can pick them up and roll them up on your wrist for a nice keepsake.
As you approach Ashcroft, there’s warnings of crosswinds. Why you ask? Because as you get out of the car you have to hold onto the door so it won’t fly off. The boys get off for that kind of break and you assume they can figure as much as to not pee against the wind. Gusts of hot air sweep the barren hills but leave behind some sun-bleached bushes for the next day of fun. You pass by ghost houses and barns in Ashcroft. One day, you tell the boys, I’ll bring you here to the posh tea house. Why not now, they ask. Because here, you explain, they use forks and knives to eat pies, they sip the tea and they talk to a whisper. Oh, they say, later then. Thought so.
Cache Creek is where the desert paints itself shamelessly all over the tall hills. There’s ranches with lazy cows and beautiful brown and white splotchy horses. You love driving and feel the car almost sailing on the melting black ribbon of black road. You pass a crowd of bikers, they seem to take their time cruising along but who can blame them.
Thompson River shines on one side, another train. How much longer, mom? Not much, you say, almost there. That’s what you keep saying, mom. That’s how I buy some time, you reply. You know they’ll forgive and forget, kids bounce that way. Pass Savona, a junk metal graveyard on the right side. Can we stop there, mom? No can do, plus it’s tractor and huge plows old parts, there can be no hauling that home.
Kamloops. You made it! Hot summer day. The boys look around, eat some and walk around. Many houses here are tiny. Dolls houses you think. You’ve been exasperated by all the big houses that have been overtaking the small ones for years now in your neighborhood, what a shame. But the ones here survive. Small space living is in fact living at large. Little do they know, you think… You head over to Riverside Park, the boys splash at the water park, you read and there’s a band getting ready for the nightly Music in the Park.
You head over to Paul Lake for camping. Set up the tent, get the fire going and listen to the boys’ chatter. They find raspberries and are now carving the marshmallows sticks. The park ranger comes by, you chat about life on the lake, small houses and making the best of every day. It makes sense, she’d know, she’s been here for 15 years or so. Night slithers around the trees and you’re getting ready for sleep. Come morning you’re but a tiny seed in a giant sun pumpkin. Watermelon for breakfast, red sweet and sticky juice all the way to your elbows, then head down to the lake for a good swim. The sun-kissed water is warm and smooth. The boys play with a tiny eel and walk around through the shallow water followed by a school of fish. They find a dead one. Take it, put it in a bucket, add some lake water and some sand and you’re now having someone in the passenger seat.
Back in town, stroll and come noon or so you head towards highway 1 west. Savona, Cache Creek and this time you’re heading down highway 97 south through Lillooet. That’s an important hub, you know that for a fact. It’s called a scenic drive so you’re ready, eyes peeled and soul open. It’s a must. Drive through humbling valleys, huge walls of crumbling stone that would make a Tyrannosaurus look puny. Now you understand how they once were. The boys go wow and so do you. And again. And again. You feel grateful, there’s no other way to put it.
The coast mountains grow around you and your heart is beating faster as you’re approaching The Lake. It’s your favorite lake, Pavilion Lake. Turquoise water over white sand. You jump in, dive, splash, swim on your back with your eyes climbing over the tallest rock walls that guard the lake. Close your eyes, float, dive and look at the white sand. The boys swim to you and back, they’re laughing and screaming at the same time. There’s no better way to say it as it is.
Fly to Lillooet. Winding road, souls gasping… Lillooet with the rock shop. It is one of a kind, you’ve been there before, spent a good two hours chatting with the guy who knows all there is to know about rocks and local legends. Store is closed, hearts sank. But no, you say, he’s somewhere close. Just as you explain this, the guy shows up. You’re lucky, he says, the store was closed for the day. But come in, and you do, the boys are quiet. You’ve told them about the store that holds rocks, Indian arrows from the seventeenth century, skulls of big horns with blades stuck in. Stories and questions rolling out like rocks off a mountain. You guess it right, you take a nice rock home. Choose a piece of jade too. Rub it on your cheek every now and then. It’ll become part of you as you will become part of it. Two hours later, your head is full of stories, and the boys have spent their money on rocks that shine, sparkle and each of you is given a piece of petrified walrus task. You’re speechless and you know why. It’s that special. Promise you’ll be back because you know you will.
Follow the winding road through snow-capped mountains to Vancouver. Near Pemberton is where you camped once and fed a white horse some horsetail, Whistler is where you’re not keen on going because of the crowds, and Squamish is where you take the boys visit the mineral museum and for a good walk on that spit of sand where you first stepped with two feet when your leg cast came off.
Reach Vancouver with a gorgeous sunset wrapped around your shoulders, warm and orange. The boys are dozing off though Pavarotti’s “Nessun dorma” is filling the car to the brim. You get to Vancouver, carve yourself a spot in the big city traffic and inch your way home. The fish made it too but it stinks. It really does, it’s been a hot day. Park, unload the car, let the thoughts twirl through your head and eat the rest of the watermelon. It’s sweet and sticky, like the rest of the things you’ve come across during this trip. Wait, the piece of jade from Lillooet… you thought you lost it but it’s there. Green. Touch it to your face. You’re part rock now. Feels like it.
Say you do all this. You’d love it. I did. The boys did too.