That you might want to know if you're planning to cross through.
There are a lot of things that Tim and I didn't know about our neighbor to the north when we set out for Canada earlier this year. Something we knew to watch out for, other things came as quite the surprise. Some of it, most of it, would have saved us a lot of time and headaches had we known what was coming from the jump.
It is my hope through this blog to prepare you, dear reader, for your trip through Canada on the road to Alaska. To better arm you for your journey as make your way to this, the final frontier, (Someone queue the Star Trek Theme).
Number One: In Canada most gas stations close.
It was quite a shock the first time Tim and I went to pump gas late at night to find that the gas stations were closed.
Which we should have seen coming. From the time we crossed into Alberta every gas station we crossed through required you to go inside and prepay or, at the very least, to leave a credit or debit card at the counter while your pumped.
Apparently 24 hour gas stations are not something that most of Canada believes in.
Prepare yourself weary traveler, you may get stuck like we did on Pink Mountain unable to buy gas until the morning.
Number Two: Not every gas station is for you.
I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this idea.
Some gas stations in Canada are "Card Locked."
This means that certain companies pay gas station chains to give their drivers a card that allows them to use special pumps any time of day. They are the only 24 hour stations I saw in Alberta and British Columbia. Most of them are marked on Google Maps as "Card Locked" but not all of them. And if you're like me, and you don't know what "Card Locked" means, it can get very confusing.
So when you plan your route, make sure you're looking for gas stations that don't say card locked and check their hours!
Number Three: There are huge stretches of road where you will not have signal.
I have Verizon and I've gotten very used to having excellent signal almost everywhere I go. Even into the woods surrounding Salt Lake City. But there was so much of Canada where there was absolutely ZERO coverage.
So, plan your route ahead of time. Programs like Google Maps and Waze have the option to download maps and routes for offline use. Plan your gas station and lodging stops into the route and have a paper map with you.
I was saved by my paper map a couple of times. Even if you never need it, it doesn't hurt to have it.
Our phones had to be regularly charged too, since they were constantly searching for service. So make sure you've got a good charger in your vehicle.
The other thing that goes hand in hand with this, whatever you're planning on listening to during the drive, make sure to have it downloaded a head of time. If its podcasts, books, music, what have you, make sure it is already ready to go before you start out. We ended up listening to the same 50 songs over and over again. And I love Weird Al as much as the next person. But Hardware Store got a little old after a while.
Download a lot.
Even if you don't think you'll be able to listen to it all, you'll want variety.
Number Four: The Alaskan Highway.
Holy gods the Alaskan Highway.
When we got on the highway every stop we made featured stickers and tee-shirts that all boasted "I survived the Alaskans Highway."
I was confused, and Tim and I laughed. We'd grown up in California, we were used to some pretty crappy roads.
Nothing but driving this road will prepare you for this road.
It is pitted and wholie and so rough I felt like my teeth were going to rattle out of my brain. More than that it got to the point that we started cheering for every stretch of paved road we saw.
Why does this matter?
Well let me tell you,
If you're planning to U-Haul it, pack everything very, very carefully. We had things brake, several things in fact, and we had things get rubbed raw, like they had been sanded down. I have some painted bookcase shelves that are the Harry Potter houses, several of them had all the paint rubbed off in places.
Part of this is because we overloaded our rig, but part of it is just that road.
Pack carefully, dear reader, your stuff may depend on it.
I'm actually really sad we never managed to grab a shirt or bumper sticker saying we survived. I need to get Tim one.
Number Five: Canada is beautiful.
Okay, okay, I know that most people know this. I thought I knew this before I got there. But there are huge stretches of open wilderness and beautiful mountains and rivers that will leave your jaw hanging open. It's gorgeous and almost impossible not to stop and wonder.
Build some time into your trip to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of Canada. Tim and I couldn't stop for long, and not at any tourist area, part of our being unvaccinated, but there were still amazing places to stop along the way.
Take some time, build it into the route. You'll appreciate the view.