Several hours into our drive, we are high. The road rises like a waking licorice whip (I said we were high) toward Lake Louise’s 1600 metres, or around 5, 249.344 feet; all for your amusement. There are multiple slows due to construction–you know, construction of road sections, mostly on cliffs. Or under cliffs. There is a serious abundance of cliffs.
I’m driving my son Connor to his summer gig at Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park, just up the road from Lake Louise. We have come from two weeks on Quadra Island, guests of his lovely girlfriend, Hannah, whose family has a place there. We overnighted in Kamloops, then leave, on this morning by 10am, so that we can enjoy a pleasant journey along the Trans-Canada Highway, and arrive early for Connor’s 4pm Lodge bus pick-up in Lake Louise. We talk, laugh, and continually remark at the beautiful views. At one point in some discussion, I try to recall an Italian word that I used repeatedly when Hannah, Connor and I biked to the Quadra Farmer’s Market the morning after we arrived there. I know I had used the word many times before, but this morning, my brain can’t find the file. So, though I want that word, I intentionally stop trying to remember it. I let it go, and I tell Connor, with confidence,
“Soon the word will simply appear. It always does.”
I say this because it is true.
We talk of other things. We notice lots of traffic on the road, and remind ourselves that this is a Friday, and the beginning of tourist season: There are cars and trucks packed with families, sporting equipment, and dogs. There are all sizes of RV’s that do their best, but can’t help but slow down the flow to a glacial pace on anything other than a stiff descent. Scattered throughout are large transport trucks hauling haulables, piloted by bonkers skilled drivers moving their rigs in precise, even graceful flourishes as they navigate the distracted, the clumsy, or the bloody oblivious sharing the lanes.
Several hours into our drive, we are high. The road rises like a waking licorice whip (I said we were high) toward Lake Louise’s 1600 metres, or around 5, 249.344 feet; all for your amusement. There are multiple slows due to construction–you know, construction of road sections, mostly on cliffs. Or under cliffs. There is a serious abundance of cliffs. And curves. I think this is where curves are farmed and then sent out to other roads that need them. This part of the Trans-Canada road is an engineering showcase; impressive in handling boggling volumes of traffic safely on a part of the earth that was absolutely NOT meant for vehicles. It’s meant more for goats than it is for humans.
We marvel, Connor and I. All of the measurable angles of the route become more severe, and there are even tunnels to go through, which means that there is crushing mountain above our heads. This doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t. Nothing really does until–
–until we get onto the subject of time and realize that we have failed to take into consideration the time change between British Columbia and Alberta. We are an hour behind where we thought we were.
We gasp. I can see Connor doing his best not to burst into flame, but he’s painfully frustrated and disappointed at a fact overlooked. He is uber-gasping. He holds his hand over his face. Me, I situate myself into a more active position in the driver’s seat. I tell him not to worry. He worries. Then I tell him,
“It’s still not 4pm. We’re not late YET.”
I won’t say that I speed here, because speeding is wrong. I do, however, become Ninja-focused on being as efficient with time and velocity as I can possibly be.
Think of The Italian Job, but with a van instead of a Mini Cooper.
We keep our distance, but use the dotted lines with finesse. We cheer when the road opens up into two lanes, one for passing, and then grow quiet when we come upon the construction flagman; our nemesis in safety yellow. I ignore the beautiful views– I am one with my van. I am the Walrus, coo-coo-cachou, except with hands. There is much deep breathing.
For some reason, after struggling deftly with one knot of traffic after another, the road clears, and the van moves forward in time; we are winning. Connor calculates that we will be only slightly late; nothing close to a whole hour. We are happy.
Then it happens: we round a curve, and there going as fast as it can, alone, as if dropped from the sky, is a large black and tan RV, towing a tiny silver car on a trailer. We pull closer and– I lose my ability to speak. I holler odd syllables, I puff, and point at the RV. There on the back of it, above the rear window is a word. It is THE word; the Italian word that I was trying to remember:
It means, “come on,” in English. Of course.