The Long Way
“No one told you?” the guy at the rental car place in Vancouver airport said to me, as my wife and kids waited with the luggage. That little comment was the beginning of what would prove to be a very difficult journey to Whistler, British Columbia.
Me: “No. What are you talking about? Told me what?”
Him: “So you don’t know…”
Me: “Know what?”
Him: “You better eat a big dinner before you leave.”
Me: (getting aggravated) “Why?”
Him: “Because a landslide shut down the road to Whistler and you have to take the Long Way.”
The Long Way, it turns out, involves making a giant loop around the town of Whistler and then dropping back into it from the North, instead of going directly up to it from the South, effectively turning a 2 hour drive into an 8 hour drive. We had planned to get there by dinner, but this landslide was going to put us in sometime after midnight.
So… we got the car and started driving. Things quickly went sour when, after an hour of following the directions given to us by the car rental guy, we saw a sign welcoming us back to the United States. Uh-Oh. We pulled over into a hotel parking lot and I ran inside to get some correct directions from the desk manager there. We got on the road again, picked up some food at a McDonald’s (I know, I know, but we didn’t want to lose any more time…) and then began the drive in earnest.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about the Long Way:
It’s eight hours through the mountains, on a narrow, windy, treacherous road — mostly along the edge of a cliff. It’s sort of pretty during the daytime… but most of this trip took place at night. There are no lights along this road — in fact, there are hardly even any towns. You travel for 45 minute stretches in complete blackness, except for the oncoming headlights of the trucks that barrel toward in a constant stream. It was nervewracking… to say the least. At one point, you descend for about an hour, which requires a lot of braking, which overheats the brakes, causing a burning smell and a terrible shudder in your vehicle. I thought it was just us, but we discovered later that it happens to pretty much everyone.
Finally, at 2 am, we got to Whistler — alive but exhausted. As we talked to the locals the next day, we were surprised to discover that we were not alone — EVERYONE hated driving the Long Way. In fact, most of them have only driven it once or twice in their whole lives. One guy said “And I had to do it in the winter… with the ice.”
Elizabeth and I went white at the thought.
But here’s the good news — Whistler is just gorgeous. It’s a beautiful, outdoors-y, alpine town with tons of great adventurous stuff to do in the summer. On our first day there, we all went zip-lining through the forest. Here’s a pic of Chris in action:
And here’s one of Alex — he wanted to zip upside down:
The zip lines were incredibly exhilarating, although seeing all these cables in this 10,000 year old forest reminded me a little of visiting the Shoshone ice caves in California. The guide led us through the cave on wooden catwalks and explained that the blue ice below had been “untouched since prehistoric times”. I asked him what all the lines on the ice were and he said “Oh, that was from our Superbowl ice-skating kegger.” So… untouched, except for the Superbowl ice-skating kegger.
Anyway, the next day we rented a canoe and went canoeing down a river. The following day we were taken by speedboat up some whitewater — that adventure was the highlight of the trip for Chris and Alex.
Here’s a pic of the kids and Elizabeth on the boat:
The day after that, we went hiking on a glacier, which was very interesting. I guess I never realized how active and “alive” glaciers are — there was constant movement and the trickle of water and underground streams and so forth. Here’s the view from up there:
It’s desolate and beautiful. Here’s a rare picture of Alex with me in it (I usually take all the pictures, so I’m virtually never IN them). We’re all geared up to begin climbing — that gray ice above us is where the actual glacier starts:
So… it was a lot of fun. We were looking to do something different, something active, and Whistler really provided that. It was even… dare I say it… worth driving the Long Way. Sort of.
On a separate note, I’d like to send many congrats to Melissa Marr for her wonderful novel WICKED LOVELY winning the RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for YA fiction:
If you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely check it out — it’s appropriate for ages 13 and up, I’d guess.
Other than that, I’m glad to be home for a bit — I’ve been doing WAY more travel than usual. I’ll be handing in revisions on Book 3 next week and then I’ll have a couple more weeks in LA before heading to Atlanta for DragonCon, which should give me plenty of time to write that post about MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK.
Until then, take care…