Go ahead, picture it: you've just driven from one ocean to the other across the second-largest country in the world. Snack crumbs and empty boxes of Tim Horton's Timbits litter your floorboards, and there's a cloud of driver's musk known only to road trip enthusiasts. There's a callous on one elbow from the armrest, and the coffee in the console is from yesterday, but you drink it anyways. The driver's seat has permanently molded itself to the contour of your ass—or maybe it's the other way around. Your destination lies just ahead: Vancouver! You made it! Can you feel it?!
Neither can I, unfortunately. Or rather, I can—but only to an extent.
For three weeks in May and June, I undertook a rather sizable road trip—in all, about 7,500km total driving distance—from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Vancouver, British Columbia courtesy of David at HitTheRoad.ca. But my arrival at Vancouver wasn't "clean," by road rules: I pointed the car north after passing through Winnipeg, and drove to Fort McMurray in northern Alberta instead.
The flight to Vancouver was a quick one, but it was long enough for me to contemplate the undriven distance along "the jewel of Canada," as more than one person pointed out to me. "That's the best part!" they countered after hearing how much I enjoyed the obscure ones: Northern Ontario. Saskatoon. Ottawa. (By contrast, I blazed through Winnipeg, Slurpee-less and flabbergasted that a city so far north could have traffic worse than Los Angeles.)
There was a laundry-list of must-sees I hadn't yet: Jasper. Lake Louise. Glacier National Park. Calgary, even. I got a message from the son of a former colleague: "When are you coming to Salmon Arm?" I wanted desperately to go to Salmon Arm, both for the miles and for the friendships. But I was bound by contract to deliver a blue 2011 Kia Forté—sans floorboard crumbs—to a client in "St. John's North," Alberta, a mere 1,500km away from the City of Glass.
It all sounds rather disappointing: like anybody, I'm drawn to "mosts" and extremes and you-can't-take-it-any-further-than-that journeys, and a good coast-to-coast drive across the second-largest country (and one of the best I've visited) is certainly one for the notebook. But if travel could be celebrated so easily (or reduced to a wall map, some yarn, and a handful of thumbtacks), I don't think I would value it as much as I do. And this past drive, though it seems to have been truncated by 1,500km, was an unbelievably enriching experience, and I'll carry it with me always.
For now, the trek across the span of Canada remains unchecked in my book. I still have some work to do.