The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but what’s the fun in that.
Upon leaving Kansas, I was separated from my first night in Vancouver, BC by 7 days. As a quick aside: I have yet mentioned the reason for why I never spent less than 2 nights at any one place. And the reason is to avoid fatigue. After driving most of the day, arriving somewhere, and unloading the entirety of the car’s contents into a hotel room, the last thing I want to do is get up the very next morning, repack the car, then drive all day again — only to arrive somewhere new where the unpacking recommences. So, my ‘waypoint’ stops between the primary locales of this trip were at least two nights. A city-stay hors d’oeuvre.
On the way to my Vancouver main course, I had three hors d’oeuvres: Fargo, North Dakota; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; Cranbrook, British Columbia. Similar to my consideration of St. George, UT, my hot take for these three is just that: a hot take. And the more I think about it now, what stands out the most was the time spent in between them.
Fargo, ND is due North from Manhattan, KS, and about a nine hour drive. The trip was made longer as I had a service appointment at a MINI dealership in Omaha, Nebraska. This was because I had received a manufacturer’s recall notice for my MINI while in Kansas, and, wouldn’t you know it, the nearest MINI dealership to the Little Apple was two hours away in Kansas City. Figuring that making that round trip plus waiting for the service to be performed would effectively waste one of my Kansan Saturdays, I decided to look for a dealership along my route to Fargo and scheduled the service to occur on my drive day. The plan worked out well, and I’ll admit there was a peculiar satisfaction about watching the porter drive my stuffed MINI, with its roof-perched bicycle, slowly into the service bay garage. Hot take: Fargo felt odd, small, and confused.
To get to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, it’s another 9’ish hours from Fargo, ND along a route with an almost perfect Northwest bearing. This trajectory takes you through Portal, ND, aptly named for its position at the U.S.-Canada border, and where I would spend more time than I had at all anticipated — by a significant margin. A word of advice: don’t try to enter a country for the first time with all of your belongings in tow, a planned three month stay just because, no permanent residence in the country you’re from, a job you can take anywhere, expired vehicle registration, and no cell service. Just …don’t. My eventual allowance into the northern country took two-and-a-half hours, a vehicle search, being questioned by three different border officers, and signing a form that stood as a contract with Canada to leave it when my Vancouver airbnb reservation had ended. But I made it in, and exited North Dakota with its sprawling Midwest countrysides that made the horizons feel like ocean edges, the sky a lava lamp of clinging moisture, and my tree…
Hot take: the homeowners I airbnb’d with in Kansas were familiar with Moose Jaw. This surprised me.
Cranbrook, BC is [probably unsurprisingly] about another 9 hour drive West from Moose Jaw. It sits at around 3,000′ in elevation and is nestled into the Canadian side of the Rocky Mountains. The lead photo was taken along the way there (I believe while still in Saskatchewan), which you will likely notice bears a strong resemblance to the above photo taken in North Dakota. And you’d be right. Visually, SK and ND (of what I experienced of them) were quite similar, but I hear Canada just has a whole lot more of it. It was welcomed getting through Alberta and into British Columbia, and thus back into some foothills on the way to Cranbrook. To be clear, I don’t mean to say I had already tired of the open plains, as I find I become rather comforted by the expansive view, but there was anticipation for what laid ahead. Hot take: in Cranbrook, the motel owner is an ex-Olympian bicyclist who excitedly informs you of the best paved local trail when you return to continue unloading the car and find him ogling your bike.
And then. And then I made my way to Vancouver…