The long road across Canada.
SOMEWHERE in Alberta, Canada- Canada doesn’t really have interstates — and I’m not setting myself up for a lame joke here either:
Canada doesn’t have interstates, Canada has interprovinces.
Canada neither has interstates nor interprovinces — at least not in the way that we think of them in the USA. While there are stretches of divided highways with graceful on-ramps, they come and go like blips of quality TV reception in an otherwise static laden program. What western and central Canada has instead are simple two lane roads packed with cars going in contending directions. The bulk of the traffic out here is made up of tractor trailers.
“This is f’cking dangerous,” I turned to my wife and said at one point in British Colombia as a fully loaded logging truck took a tight curve in our direction a little too fast.
By the time we made it to Alberta the road had opened up a little. It was perfectly straight. The land was perfectly flat. On both sides of the road I could see forever. I was still a few hours away from hearing a joke that explained it all:
“In Saskatchewan we saw that if your dog runs away all you need to do is go outside and you can watch him going for two days it’s so flat here!”
The steady hum of the tires, a roadway so straight that did not require steering, a complete lack of traffic, and absolutely nothing to look at anywhere had me pondering the gradual effects of sensory deprivation. My mind ran away with itself and I began getting apprehensive that the road was never going to end — do I have enough water? What if I run out of gas? At any given point I was miles and miles away from anything and, other than other drivers, anybody. But my maniacal apprehension was quickly extinguished by more rational thoughts: how am I going to stay awake?
I turned on the radio. The weather report out here is delivered in tandem with the grain report: how much a bushel of grain is currently selling for. “Clear skies ahead, grain is trading at 633 per bushel.” Life out here is synchronized with the beat of the grain harvest. Other than that, there doesn’t really seem to be much to talk about.
The big news of the day:
“A bicycler has reported losing a black backpack on ___ road. If you’ve seen this backpack please return it to …”
I’m on the Trans-Canada highway heading towards Saskatchewan. This route traverses Canada from end to end. Everything is flat. There is nothing but seas of gold parted by a thin strip of black tarmac. Minimalism made flesh in landscape.
Is it going to be this way the entire time?
Now I have seen remote and empty before. I’ve logged around five trips to Central Asia — I’ve been out on the steppes near the Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility, I’ve been in the deserts of western China, the Gobi of Mongolia, the Altiplano of Peru, the Atacama of Chile, the middle of nowhere in Australia, and Pata-fucking-gonia, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever been anywhere as remote and empty as central Canada. There is really nothing out there.