BC Vacation - Fairmont Hot Springs to Ruskin

Cory had called me yesterday. I didn’t know until this morning because I hadn’t checked my cell phone. I’d had a dream that things had gone horribly awry at the office, and for some reason, that had made me want to check my cell phone. Good or bad, something was up. Sure enough, our newest star hire had backed out — an extremely disappointing turn of events. I wouldn’t talk to Cory about it until late in the afternoon.

We were gone before 8:00. (We were to have left at 6:00, then 7:00, but last night’s arrival in Fairmont pushed us even later.) Allen was in Jean’s Honda Civic, Alex and I in Alex’s car. I drove while Alex read “Why I Hate Canadians”. Today’s lesson? Canada’s cast system, more formally known as how poorly we treat Indians. It’s a hard thing for a Canadian to admit that we don’t treat everyone fairly and equally. For a country known as being “nice”, we treat our aboriginal peoples very poorly. We’ve marginalized, forcibly contained, abducted and tried to convert them, even poisoned them with disease. And yet after 400 years, they’re still who they are.

A lot of people think First Nations have it easy here in Canada — pay no taxes, live on welfare, do what they please when they want. Lest we forget that we made them wards of the state — they have to live this way, because there is no other way for them to live. We never gave them a chance.

(Incidentally, this is a view I’ve long held, and the book has since backed up. Ferguson is definitely a socialist who supports equal rights, nationalism (he rather dislikes the ill-guided attempts of Quebec separatists), and believes the monarchy should take a hike.)

When we arrived in Golden, right behind Allen’s car, we headed to the Humpty’s on the Trans-Canada Highway for breakfast. I’d never been to Humpty’s before, having always viewed it as a lower-end sort of place to obtain a meal. My opinion of that hasn’t changed (the state of the bacon alone held me to that perspective).

The weather yo-yo’d constantly from the time we left Fairmont until we arrived in the Lower Mainland. It was cloudy, rainy, spittling, sunny, warm, foggy, and windy all at various times (and varying combinations) throughout the trip. Alex seemed to get the bulk of the bad weather from Golden to Revelstoke.

I read “Mythic Journeys” aloud. I disagreed with some of the interpretation, and wasn’t too thrilled with the depth — quite often, there was more commentary than story. It doesn’t make for great reading.

We stopped in Revelstoke for drinks and snacks, and once again changed drivers. We stopped barely five kilometres past Revelstoke to make reservations at the Three Valley Gap hotel, which is a bit of a landmark in the area, and one of Alex’s favourite locations to be. (It’s a long story, which I’m going to forego with repeating here.) We’ll be stopping there on our way back.

Off to Kamloops we went. We would have driven straight through, had we not also come across Craigellachie (“cray-GAL-ah-kee”), which was where the last spike was driven on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886. There’s not much there other than a cairn, bearing stones from every province and territory, and a stone from Craigellachie, Scotland, where most of the original directors of the CPR hailed from.

We didn’t stay long. Just enough for a couple of photos, and a chance to mock some idiotic 20-something tourists from Ontario. They were being typical of that age: stupid. Though I never remember being quite so dumb that I would have inspired someone else to think of me: “Look at me, I’m an idiot!”

Pulling into Kamloops about an hour later, running almost on fumes, we headed for the ABC Country restaurant on the junction of the Trans-Canada and Highway 5A. When we went inside, I realized that it was the same restaurant where Greg and I had eaten breakfast four and a half years before, when he helped me move from Vancouver to Calgary. This time, thankfully, I wasn’t doing anything even remotely traumatic.

Alex took over for the last stint of driving to Ruskin (a hamlet next to Maple Ridge, BC), where her father lives. The trip was much shorter than I had expected — for some reason, I thought the distance from Kamloops to Hope was much longer than we experienced. Mind you, the distance from Hope to Highway 11 seemed almost as long. (It didn’t help that we got stuck in traffic.)

Dairy Queen made a call to us as we pulled off the highway. We’d been dying for a Blizzard since half-way down the Coquihalla Highway, but had missed the turn-off in Hope. Fortunately, the one on Highway 11 would suffice … even if some of the patrons were a little strange.

Continuing up Highway 11, across the Fraser River (and getting a dirty look from a police officer at a radar trap for going a little too quickly), we turned west on Highway 7. Another 15 minutes, and we arrived at the farm — Allen and Jean’s new home, built on the former location of Alex’s grandparent’s home.

We got a tour almost as soon as we were in the house. It’s an impressive structure. It looks unassuming from the outside, but there is much hidden under the covers. First and foremost, it’s a green building. It’s made with the most energy-efficient materials available, has radiant heating in the floors, recycling wood for the flooring upstairs, low-wattage lights, and nice, large windows to allow sunlight to come in during the winter.

But the best feature was found tucked away, behind the garage: geothermic heating. This is the créme de la créme of cool (or heat, depending on what season you’re in). Because the house is built on an acreage, there is sufficient space to build this. (I could probably do this in Calgary, but I shudder to think at what cost.) A space about 25 feet wide, 80 feet long, and about seven feet deep was dug out behind the house and filled with long spiral tubes, and partially filled with clay. The tubes are then filled with a vicous liquid which tranfers heat in and out of the house. The system also hooks into the hot water tank to cut down on the energy needed to keep the water hot.

The end result? Theoretically, a lower energy bill. If Allen has his way, he’ll also build a windmill to generate some additional electricity, and maybe even cut his BC Hydro bill to zero.

A dream worth shooting for, indeed.

Alex and I ducked out for a quick tour of the yard. The acreage isn’t huge (about 6.2 acres), with the main property lot about 200 feet on both sides, and then extending about 30-50 feet into the woods and down to the creek. The landscaping potential of this place is amazing — I have great dreams of a staircase and deck space down at the creek level. Now I just need to convince Allen that it’s a good idea.

I pitched the tent (Alex and I are sleeping outdoors) under four great cedar trees on the east side of the house. The ground underneath is spongy from decades of cedar leaves and soil growth. Tonight, we will sleep well.

I certainly hope so, because although today’s trip was outstanding, it really wore me down.