Red-Eye Road Trip; Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia to Cochrane, Alberta

“Hey before you start dozing off, can you change the CD to something with a bit of a beat?” she asked pulling the Tacoma through the tall canyon walls past Radium Hot Springs and up onto the starting section of Highway 93. “Sure, we’ve got Osaka nights with DJ Showta, Midnight beats, Super house bass, Techno ’til dawn, Greats hits of Groove or Sy’ck EDM mix 2019,” I said. She started laughing at the random titles on my CD’s then says, “I’m always scared of what is actually on your discs because of that one during our last road trip that was all ‘songs to sing to’ and it was nineties Punk Rock. Please just something you think I’ll enjoy driving to.”

I popped in Osaka nights, knowing that I could fall asleep to it.

Pulling around the last corner into full darkness my head began nodding into the headrest as my eyes grew more tired with every second going by. Every few minutes I would make a comment about keeping it on the road, or be safer when passing. She shushed me, “did I say those things when you were driving earlier? nope. I think I know what I’m doing just take a nap and I’ve got this. I’ll wake you up if something EXCITING is about to happen.”

To be fully honest I’m not sure how much of those final words I heard. My eyes closed and when I woke up the clock on the dash read 12:12 in the morning as my eyes blinked back open I caught a road sign off to the right of the truck that read;

  • Banff 12
  • Canmore 36
  • Calgary 139

I pulled my travel mug out of the holder and up to my lips pouring water down my dry throat. Shift in the seat and set the mug back down. “Please wake me when we get to Canmore,” I said and fell back asleep. Half hour later the truck came to a stop. She had pulled into an Esso gas station to fuel up the Tacoma, use the restroom, grab a late morning snack, a cup of coffee and wake my ass up.

Whilst she ducked inside I stretched in the cool morning mountain air whilst the fuel pump ran fuel into the Tacoma. And as this continued to pump I checked the travel mugs and spare water bottle. Everything was nearly empty. I pulled the tailgate down and withdrew the 5-Gallon jug laying it on its side and began refilling. Pulling mine aside, I drank all 750ml and stuck it back under the spout for more. Another 750ml down and I thought wonder what we should try next? Head for Cochrane, maybe. Possibly Airdrie if we get lucky. Or if we are REALLY AWAKE perhaps we can get all the way to Red Deer. I’d have to run this past Shauna when she returns.

When the pump stopped I looked around and still no wife. I stowed the three mugs, the 5-Gallon jug, placed the gas pump back in its resting position, turned the gas cap and closed the door. Looking around still no sign of Shauna. Screw it, I can’t wait any longer, clicking the lock button I headed off to use the restroom and grab my own morning snack.

Back to the Tacoma I saw her standing on the passenger side of the truck. “Are you finished driving?” I said nodding to her position on the far side of the truck. Yup, she nodded her head, “I’m done. I can’t see any more. What are you thinking?

I ran down the list of options.

  • Option 1 – Grab a hotel here in Canmore and stay the night
  • Option 2 – Drive down to Cochrane or Calgary, roughly an hour more, then grab a hotel
  • Option 3 – If still awake when we reach Cochrane go to Airdrie 20 minutes up the road

Well,” I began, “what are you feeling?”

She starred blankly at me, not saying a word. She’s done. Got it. It’s my decision to make at this hour. What hour is it? Popped the doors and hopped into the truck. 12:33am. “Huh, well, lets aim for Cochrane and see how we feel,” I said. “Are you sure you can drive?” she retorted. I was definitely tired and could rightfully go back to sleep. Why don’t we see if we can find a place to squat for the night and sleep until 6am. Then we could head out bright and early in the morning. How’s that sound?” She nodded her head in agreement.

Twenty-two minutes later we had tried four different spots none of them making either of us very comfortable to nap off the wee-morning hours. Screw it. I’m driving us to Cochrane and we’ll grab a hotel there. I pulled the seat back into the driver’s position, hopped out of the Tacoma, did some quick stretching then back into the driver’s seat I came.

Her face turned away as I pulled onto the TransCanada Highway. She was out before we reached the East side of Canmore. Tunes on Eminem Stand Up, began slowly rapping inside the Tacoma and his great lyrics kept me bouncing in the seat until we reached Dead Man Flats then the CD switched over to Blink 182 The Rock Show, Anthem and The Party Song, followed by Sugar Ray RPM, Breathe and High Anxiety. As the eclectic tunes played on inside the truck and my eyes became adjusted to the no lights on the highway we went zipping past Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino which is when we went from pitch black night to a deep pea soup fog.

For the next hour and a half, I drove 96-kilometres in and out of pea soup fog. More than half of that distance and time I spent pac-manning down the centre of the highway as I couldn’t see more than 100 feet or less. It was the worst decision to continue onward.

When we reached the exit for the Cowboy Trail Highway 22 heading North to Cochrane, I laughed so LOUD and hard that I woke up Shauna who had slept the entire way. One hundred and one Elk were eating grass just a few yards off the highway as we rolled by blinking that it wasn’t an illusion. “How are you doing?” she asked as her head leaned back on the headrest and looked over at me. My hands were white knuckling it on the steering wheel. “Oh, I’m done,” I said, “that was worse than driving down Highway 93 to Radium. Pea soup. Pac manned it the whole way here. I’m beat.” She starred at the clock then said, “I don’t think its worth getting a hotel room, since its 2:37am. Perhaps we can find a place to pull over outside of Cochrane and doze until 6am. Then I’ll take over with the driving.” It was my turn to nod my head in agreement.

Eight minutes up the Cowboy Trail, I turned left onto Township Road 252 heading West for an unknown amount of time then made another left onto a dirt road. As I drove up the road I spotted two signs: Not a Thru Road and No Exit. “Perfect, we should see any traffic,” I said mentioning the two signs as I pulled a U-turn. Turned off the Tacoma and hopped out to pee before taking a nap.

A few hours later I felt a sharp claw grabbing my arm and as my eyes blinked I heard, “don’t move. Be real still and talk quietly. You’ll never believe it. Look out my window,” her voice was cracking. Slowly I turned my right shoulder to the right. As my eyes blinked there was a horse standing by the window. WAIT WHAT!! my brain clicked awake instantly. “Its a MOOSE!!” I said very quietly to Shauna who had her hand on her cellphone trying to take photos of the beast standing beside the Tacoma. “What’s he doing?” I asked her. Before she could answer the Moose stuck its tongue out and LIIIIIICKED the window. We both giggled. “Salt lick,” she responded. He stood licking the window for at least ten minutes.

Bored with the window he moved to the front of the truck and began licking the bugs splattered all over the front grill. Whilst he was upfront, I pulled my chair lever and slowly sat upright watching the yearling at the front of the truck. We laughed some more, each of us taking a few photos. “Wow, he’s just chilling looking for a little morning protein and electrolytes huh,” I said. “He scared the shit out of me. I was going to get out of the truck and go take a morning pee. Then I saw his rump in the side view mirror and froze. I watched him for a few minutes as I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was dreaming which is why I grabbed your arm to get a witness to this unbelievable moment.”

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb