OUT THERE: Route 3 Highway Opens Mind

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
July 29th, 2009

Returning home or to any former place of residence after being away for a significant period of time is often a bittersweet moment with enough oddities and memory/reality conflicts to make it as much an emotional and mental trip as it is a geographical trip.

As I’ve found on this past journey along with many others the route from current home to previous home and back again tends to be more about the route from where you left through where you went to how and when you got back and how you differ as a person between the two connecting points of that circle. If that wasn’t enough to lose you, the general point is the age old proverb of the journey being more important than the destination. Thoughts towards the journey and our own personal evolution rarely come to a head as strongly or as often as visiting a former home and comparing your new self with your old self.

Driving west from Rossland on a casual four day mission to the coast/Whistler and back I set out with an inspired goal of enjoying the journey, taking a relaxed pace and stopping and swimming, hiking, dog walking, bird watching, wildlife photographing, eating, bathroom breaking and gas stopping whenever I felt the need or desire. Driven by a goal of experiencing the trip as opposed to arriving at an end destination I gained a new appreciation for life in the Kootenays and the numerous communities that dot and line the Crowsnest highway.

500 kilometres into the journey just as I merged with the Trans-Canada and the Coquihala near Hope the simple enjoyment of a casual summer cruise instantly warped its way into my brain as wisdom. Bypassing and or speeding up the often years long process of experience, reaction, lessons learned and ultimate wisdom, in about 18 dotted white dashes running down the westbound side of the suddenly four lane divided highway I physically felt the difference of life inside the Kootenay bubble to that of the outer world.

Like a slap to the face, the maybe not so virtual bubble popped as soon as the first 125 plus kph luxury sports cars, Mercedes SUV’s that have never seen a spot of dirt in their lifetime and pimped out rally cars came whipping past me, horns honking, left hand fists shaking while the right hand e-mails away on their I-Phone 3GS you could physically feel that you’ve left the peaceful vibe of the Kootenays and the southern interior of BC as a whole.

The instant addition of hundreds of cars and people surrounding you, their residual stress echoing through your body with the vibrato of an early nineties Whitney Houston do an incredible job of muting the spectacular backstage play Mother Nature has been producing to sold out audiences of bears, cougars, squirrels, fish and all manner of fauna for centuries.

500 kilometres of changing geography, geology and climates from the spruce and cedar forests of the Kootenay’s into the grasslands of the boundary country up and over the barren interior highlands of the Thompson Plateau with a quick dip into and out of the Okanagan before a 100 kilometre 4,000 vertical foot decent from Allison Pass criss-crossing the Skagit River into the Coast Mountains that take you out of the bubble are a fantastic sedative in an over stressed world.

It almost appears that whoever our creator was he was surely a road-tripper. Spaced out beautifully along the drive in natural stopping segments, swimming holes like Christina Lake, The Granby River, Bromley Rock and Lightning Lakes provide essential cool off zones in mid thirty degree summer weather. As much cooling off as our rivers and lakes provide they also add a unique perspective to an otherwise long-haul commute as stopping points where we can slow down, take a deep breath and appreciate the vast beauty that lies often mere steps off the highway and unseen to the drivers on a destination driven mission.

Spending only a few days outside of the Kootenays on the coast and in Whistler provided a great insight into enjoying the journey of life as much or more than the destinations. Even the art in the two regions depicts a telling tale of two cultures. The flashy high rent galleries of the coast scream out look at me, praise me for my accomplishments to give my art meaning whereas the homey feeling of Kootenay art seems to send out the message of a relaxed people inspired by nature that took the time to create their art for the love of the process more so than the final sales destination. An easy way to look for where on this scale a town sits is the ratio of artist picture/name/bio size to the size of the art itself.

Just as the village stroll through Whistler is as much a fashion show catwalk as transportation corridor so to do the dominant personalities of Whistler and Kootenays vary. Enjoyable and exciting as it is while on the inside, revisiting the high paced Whistler world as a tourist, sipping $9 mojitos at the outdoor bar of Araxi’s on the village square watching the people brought new insights. Experiencing the culture as a tourist you see different aspects to the culture that you don’t otherwise when you are living in the heart of it. Dialling down diverse thoughts, the underlying thought that whereas in Whistler people do things to be seen, in the Kootenays people do things for the love of doing it. That is a broad generality but when kept in the back of one’s mind shows perfect examples when you start looking for them.

Returning back home eastward, inspired by the entrepreneurial go big or go home culture of Whistler in conjunction with the peaceful and serene experience that is a cruise along the crowsnest highway ideas for economic development geared around the highway bounced left and right in tune with the potholes. What if we created BC or Canada’s first digital highway? Think GPS units in cars with programmed cultural, geographical and interesting info pre-programmed to be displayed at certain points along the route, highlighting view points, cool places, businesses and the like. What about developing BC or Canada’s first Electric Highway. Similar in theory to the California to Whistler proposed Hydrogen highway in principle, imagine a highway linked into 100% green power sources along the length of its highway with numerous electrical filling stations if you will. Fully electric bus and municipality vehicle fleets, maybe even the development of an electrical car manufacturing plant to be used on the electrical highway.

Just as I think I’ve got a perfect business model worked out in my head a deer, moose, giant tree, forested valley or spectacular creation of Mother Nature would remind me that the addition of wider and straighter highways to carry more people through our region might just take away from the very attraction that brought many of us to live here and visitors to visit in the first place; the peaceful journey of life uninhibited by many of the outside pressure of pop society that tell us status is more important than enjoying life. If the goal of our region is to attract more people to stop, do and enjoy, does it make sense to build a highway that can carry more people through town faster? Often times it is touted how much more traffic will come into towns on new highways. Less often is it calculted home much traffic will leave town on that same highway.

A journey along the Route Three highway is as much a lesson in the virtues of what makes life liveable and enjoyable as it is a visual masterpiece and road connecting us to the outside world. With only one out of three of those descriptions involving getting to a destination take the time next time you cruise east or west out of the mountain kingdom to appreciate the subjective qualities that make life in the Kootenays what it is. Our way of life reads like a manual written in 1000 kilometres of pavement.


Categories: Op/Ed

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