Monday, December 31, 2012

A Christmas Road Trip to Banff - Part I

David and I were excited to make our first-ever "Christmas together" a great one, so we (he) planned a trip to Banff, Alberta for Dec 21 - Dec 24. Banff is a beautiful mountain town nestled in the Canadian Rockies and can be anywhere from 9 to 12 hours away from Vancouver, depending upon the weather along the drive.

Here are some bird's eye views of what our drive would entail...

In relation to "important places":
.  a reference for all you states-siders  .
In relation to the BC/Alberta provinces:
.  see all those mountains?!?!  .

On Friday morning (12/21), we were out of our apartment and on the road by about 10:15. Once we were out of the city, it didn't take very long till we began driving past some large, beautiful mountains:

We drove on Rt 1 E for about 90 miles, then cut off another sizeable section of Rt 1 by taking 5N in Hope, BC. This.... is where things began to take an interesting turn. And by "interesting" I mean freaking scary.

Rt 5N, as it turns out, is one bitch of a mountain pass. By this time it was snowing out, which slowed traffic down quite a bit. We also started passing a lot of signs that told us that we needed to have chains on our tires to use that road from October 1 - April 1. Interesting note: we didn't have chains on our tires. Dave was pretty confident with his Kia Sportage's 4WD though, so I was totally and completely calm with not a worry in mind. NAWT. I was freaking out, white-knuckled in the passenger seat as the snow got worse, the driving got slower, and the number of cars we passed that had slid off the side of the road increased. At one point we saw a car that had slid and was facing the completely wrong direction, parked in the fast lane. At another point we passed a pickup truck that was turned onto its passenger side, the would-be contents of the truck bed strewn all over the highway. In short, this one sign was pretty accurate:

Eventually things got slightly less terrifying for a little while, and I was able to enjoy the view of the snowy trees along the highway:

We eventually met back up with Rt 1 in Kamloops, BC, on which we drove for the remaining ~7 hrs of the trip. Here's the last photo I took on the drive to Banff, because from this point there was too much snow, too much fright and too much darkness for me to take any more pictures...

Alright so not to get too dramatic at this point... but I was voted Most Dramatic in high school... soo... WE COULD HAVE DIED. JK it wasn't quite that serious. As it got dark and the snow was becoming a total bitch, we realized that our headlights kept getting covered up with snow/mud splatter from the road, which made it really difficult to see the lines on the road. Normally in the dark or rain, you can kind of focus on the outer white line on the right sides of the road, to make sure you're not driving off the road or straying too far from your lane. When those white lines are covered up by muddy snow, and the center yellow lines are either in the same condition or just not there at all, it's much harder to be confident that you're driving in the right place. Cue driving 40 KPH on a 70-90 KPH road. That means we were driving slowly, for all you 'Mericans.

We had to pull over a few times to brush the muddy snow off of our headlights, which isn't an easy thing to do on a road that's covered in snow, not being plowed, and heavily trafficked by HUGE tractor trailer trucks. Every time we saw a potential place to pull over, there was a tractor trailer truck way too close to the ass of our car to be able to safely slow down enough to pull over in time to scoot into the pull-off. Bastards.

I'll cut this part a little short... Point being:  It was a nerve-wracking and slow drive to Banff.

As we were finally approaching Banff after about a 12-hour, stressful drive... we missed our fecking exit. No seriously. We missed the exit we'd basically been anticipating for over 500 miles. My first thought was, "Good lord, who knows when there'll be another exit now!!!" David was... not pleased. As we were beginning to assess our fate, wondering whether or not we'd be forced to drive for another 50 miles before we were able to take the next exit, we spotted a sign indicating that there'd be an upcoming exit for the Banff Industrial Center, which I told David to NOT miss under any circumstances. Fortunately this Industrial Center exit was not far from the original exit at all, and actually provided us a nice little drive through the center of town from a direction that we'd otherwise not have come.

Finally, we'd arrived! Driving up Banff Ave (the main street there) in the dark, we were surrounded by plenty of Christmas lights, beautiful white snow and bustling tourists. Even in the dark, it was obvious that Banff was a gorgeous, Swiss Alps-looking town. We couldn't yet see any of the HUGE towering mountains that surrounded the town... but in the morning that would be a different story.

We checked into our hotel - The King Edward Hotel - which is when we realized that we'd crossed timezones and that it was actually 11:30pm, not 10:30pm as we'd thought. We also realized that it was pretty effing cold outside and that we weren't in Kansas or Vancouver anymore.

David was wired from driving and drinking gallons of coffee and Coca Cola all day, so he suited up to go for a little walk around town. I, on the other hand, was too mentally exhausted from our harrowing drive to want to do a single thing other than put on my pajamas and crawl into bed. When David returned from his walk we did the next thing that made sense:  Began to watch the first Ghostbusters movie on Netflix. 

Stay tuned for Part II... and possibly even Part III! That's when the good stuff happened! ;)


  1. I bet you WERE freaking out. The whole time I was reading this, I kept thing...omg they have to do this drive again to get home! I hope Banff made up for that crazy stretch of road, and I'm VERY glad to know you both made it home. :)

  2. We went to Banff last summer and fell in love!! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing all your pictures!!


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