Driving in BC

With lots of people making the trip out to visit – I thought it only prudent to offer a few observations about the rules of the road here in BC.

The community where we live is just off Highway 97, between Vernon and Kelowna. In the six month we have lived here, there have been over a dozen accidents and 5 people killed. I have named this particular stretch of highway “the speedway”. Not very reassuring given that I have to drive it everyday. I do feel there should be some kind of notification for drivers – to let them know what to expect.  An overhead highway sign such as this:

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But the message would need to be slightly more subtle.

More like:

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No one seems to adhere or even acknowledge speed limits. Speed signs are posted, but I suspect they are unreadable from vehicles that are going Mach 20.  The BC government recently increased the speed limit on the Connector and Coquihalla  Highways to 120 km per hour. The rationale was that the increase would match the limit to the speed that drivers were actually travelling.  Obviously transportation officials haven’t heard “speed kills”.  Now drivers on those highways feel they have been given license to exceed this posted limit by 10, 15 or 20 km.  It has become the Canadian Autobahn.

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The other noticeable oddity in BC is that only 1/2 of the vehicles on the road come equipped with turn signals – or so it seems because not many drivers use them.  I have seen cars thread through 3 lanes of traffic and back again without signalling.  Those individuals who do choose to signal when merging or changing lanes seem to be afflicted with some sort of driver dyslexia – their method is the complete opposite of the process of everyone else in the driving world.  Here,  when a driver decides to change lanes – they just pull over or merge into the new lane. Once in the desired lane – they shoulder check to make sure they haven’t cut off or clipped anyone in the shift, and then they might put on their signal light – just to say they did.  Very bizarre.

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Interesting, when you mention speeding or unsafe driving practices to the locals (my husband included) – it’s not BC drivers…. it’s those “damn Albertans!”  I don’t know if it is Provincial rivalry, or misplaced jealousy but BC people blame Alberta for everything:

Dangerous Drivers:  It’s those damn Albertans driving their big trucks and SUVs.

Crowded Lakes:  It’s those damn Albertans coming to the Okanagan to enjoy summer on the water.

High Gas Prices:  It’s those damn Albertans and their oil.

Beef Prices are on the rise:  It’s those damn Albertans and their massive cattle ranches, trying to meet consumer demands for organic meat.

Strong Housing Market:  It’s those damn Albertans coming in and buying up vacation properties at market price.

BC Teachers On Strike:  It’s those damn Albertans setting the example by paying their teachers a decent wage, and restricting class sizes.

I mean really – you  damn Albertans!  How dare you come into BC with your hard-earned tax dollars, and fully support the tourism industry while you are here!

Sustaining the region’s producers by purchasing fruit and wine to take home.

Buying groceries from local establishments during your vacation.

Staying in Okanagan hotels and eating meals in restaurants while you are here.

Filling up the enormous gas tanks in your trucks and boats while you are in BC , despite the fact that gas is cheaper in your own province.

And then to top it off, you have the nerve to speed and never signal on BC highways.

I can’t believe it ……… and I don’t.

I see the BC license plates blowing by me on HWY 97 in the morning on my way to work , and I see for sale signs being taken down from houses that have been on the market since last summer when we first visited, being purchased by someone from Alberta.  I say good on you.

And if you Albertans ever get tired of being the scape-goat, you could move to BC.  Drive around in your diesel Subaru that you only fill up once every three weeks, eat your 100 mile diet and when you get stressed – stop by a neighborhood walk in clinic to get your medicinal Marijuana prescription.

 

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Jasper

LONELY PLANET GUIDE TO CANADA says “Take Banff, half the annual visitor count, increase the total land area by 40%, and multiply the number of bears, elk, moose and caribou by the power of three. The result: Jasper.”
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It’s true – the feel was totally different from Banff. While Banff has that “resort” ambiance with streets lined with souvenir shops and restaurants – there were two major streets in Jasper. There were tourists, but it didn’t seem as crowded or hurried. Definitely a more laid back atmosphere in Jasper. There are just around 5,000 permanent residents living in Jasper.

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Jasper is the largest wilderness park in the Canadian Rockies. It encompasses more than 10,000 square kms. Over 2 million people visit the park each year, but those who come do so to experience the natural surroundings and the easy to spot wildlife. There are over 1,000 km in trails for hikers, bikers, climbers and equestrians. Apparently tourism slows down some in the winter, but Jasper offers outstanding skiing and snowboarding at Marmot Basin – 20 minutes from town. Spread over 1,675 acres, Marmot offers 86 runs.
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What amazed us was the spectacular scenery – everywhere. The drive to Jasper from the South through the Columbia Icefield is one that everyone should make. It took us about 5 hours (with stops) and it ranked up there as one of the most scenic drives we have made so far. Mountains, forests and lakes as far as the eye can see. Wildlife around every turn. I only hope that my photos give an accurate indication of the area’s real beauty.

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Cochrane Alberta

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We have moved our trailer to an RV park at Cochrane. This is a bit of a walk down memory lane for us – we lived in Cochrane for about 8 month in 2000 when John was pipelining. Not surprising – it isn’t the same place I remember.
Cochrane is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada. Being 18 km west of Calgary – it is considered a bedroom community – all the necessary services and housing costs that are lower than in the city.
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Cochrane was established as the Cochrane Ranche in 1881 by a rancher named Matthew Henry Cochrane. It was incorporated as a town in 1971. The population at the last census was just under 18,000 people, but that is still growing. Major industries are agriculture (ranching), lumber and retail.

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Anyone who has visited Cochrane will know about MacKays Ice Cream. This is a local business that starting making ice cream right on site in 1948. They still use that original recipe which calls for 100% high butterfat cream. Flavors have been added over the years, as have take-out products. The business is now being run by the third generation of the MacKay Family.
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When we lived here, I worked as the Education Co-ordinator at the Western Heritage Center. This was a beautiful facility set up 1996 to teach preserve and celebrate the many facets of ranch life. Unfortunately the Center wasn’t financially sustainable, and the Town of Cochrane purchased the facility, and renamed it the Cochrane Ranchehouse. It has been renovated to house the town’s administrative offices, but the Stockman’s Library and Hall of Vision are still in place. It was a brief moment of nostalgia for me.
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Oil pumps and cattle herds are standard features of the landscape here.
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Johnston Canyon Trail

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As our Alberta tour guide, Kaitlyn took us to Johnston Canyon for a hike. The Johnston Canyon Trail is one of the most popular in Banff. The trail follows the Johnston Creek, which is a tributary of the Bow River in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. There is a large paved parking lot, from which the trail begins with short climb through the forest. From there, hikers walk on the iron catwalks which are attached to the canyon walls. After a kilometre, you reach the lower falls, where there is a bridge to use as a view-point as well as a tunnel through the bedrock to take one closer to the waterfall (I did not go through – spectators came out soaking wet).
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The journey continued upward through the forest and more catwalks for another 1.7 kilometres. At 100 ft, we reached the upper falls – two impressive waterfalls. Surprisingly, there was still ice and snow on the rock walls even though the temperature that day was in the 20’s. The rapids in the creek were extremely fast, and it was difficult to see how deep the water was, though it was very clear.
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Kaitlyn also recommends visiting Johnston Canyon in the winter – she says viewing the waterfalls when they are frozen is a totally new perspective – a very spectacular one. Be warned that proper footwear is necessary in the winter – the catwalks and trails get extremely slick.

Banff

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Who doesn’t love Banff? It is one of those places that makes a person proud to be Canadian. We have made many trips here, and yet never tire of just walking around the resort. Banff National Park was established in 1885 as Canada’s First National Park. The town of Banff is the highest in Canada with an elevation of 4537 ft.
It is a very popular tourist destination – with an abundance of shops, restaurants and hotels. It has grown to be a 4 season destination. Banff Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain and the spectacular Rocky Mountain surroundings are major draws. It is estimated that approximately 5 million people visit Banff on an annual basis, and it is projected that visitation to Banff will more than double that number by 2020. Nature preservation and maintaining ecological integrity is at the forefront for Park Administrators and the Canadian Government. 2011 census showed that the Town of Banff has a permanent population of 7,600 people. The federal government has restricted development in the town, and mandated that only people who can demonstrate a “need to reside” may take up permanent residence in Banff. Within the park, wildlife management plans are being implemented. Wildlife Corridors are protected routes that allow wide range travelling species such as wolves and bears to move safely (without human impediments) between areas of suitable habitat. These corridors allow the animals to take advantage of seasonal changes in food and weather.
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