A Canadian Love Affair: British Columbia and Alberta Mountains (draft)(prairies soon)

#2

Prince Rupert to Prince George on the Yellowhead Highway

The Queen of the North from Vancouver Island arrived something after 10:30 pm, its scheduled arrival time, and we were off the ship well after 11 pm; it was still light enough to ride without concern for being seen. We’re in the North. Twilight is long and lovely.

When our first morning in Prince Rupert turned sunny early, it seemed to be a good place to be while I worked on journal edition #1 and getting the email connection going. Not so easy. The calling card I’ve been using for two years doesn’t work in Canada. They don’t even exist here, or perhaps they went out of business recently. Good old AT&T came through, sort of; their card requires so many numerals that my communications program can’t hold them all, so… Do you care about this? Probably not. Anyway, that required that I use a line splitter to dial the first set of digits, the 1-800 number for AT&T. Fine. That’s worked before; I just have to disconnect the phone hand-set as soon as I dial so it doesn’t mess up the signal with extraneous room noise; usually my cursing when it doesn’t seem to be working. This time it didn’t work, for hours it didn’t work, for a whole day it didn’t work. Finally I hit upon the idea of disconnecting the phone from the wall and, oh boy, oh boy it worked. Once.

After much of two days fussing, the newsletter was gone into cyberspace and I could relax and enjoy the city. We could relax. I’m not too fun to be around when the communication gods are being unkind, and Claire was not having much fun. She, to get away from me in the motel room, explored town while I fussed, so with all that done, she could show me the town.

Prince Rupert, at 10,000 population is somewhat smaller than Port Angeles, but like Campbell River, there are many similarities: Both are mill towns with timber based economies, both are located between mountains and the salt, both have deep-water ports, both are making strides toward revitalization of the downtown area with success, both have a community college, both are served by international ferries, both have newspapers called the Daily News, both have waterfront trail systems, both host Coast Guard bases. Unlike Port Angeles, which is undergoing a transition from a resource based economy, Prince Rupert has many years of timber left. There is wood everywhere, and from what I can see it is well managed and should provide a steady economy for years to come. It also has something Port Angeles doesn’t have, the CNN rail line hauling coal and grain from the interior of BC and Alberta to waiting ships. This, and the troubled international commercial fishery, provide diversity for the economy, and the tourism and sport fishery is the frosting on the cake.

Canada’s federal and provincial governments seem to provide a great deal of infrastructure support to communities. Prince Rupert has a performing arts center as large as one you’d expect to find in a city 20 times its size, and there are many other signs of government support.

Many of the communities north of Nanaimo (on Vancouver Island) are compact and manageable because almost all the land outside the city limits is productive forest owned by the BC government. The city ends and the forest begins. We can ride 100 kilometers and see only one small community, itself quite compact. This makes for efficient infrastructure and compact walkable towns and fewer auto commuters, people can, and do, walk or bike or rollerblade to work.

After a late dinner of wonderful Thai food, we lingered for sunset over the harbor, watched fishing boats cutting the still orange seas past freighters at anchor. There was something surreal about the light; I felt disconnected, floating over it, enveloped by the soft strangeness of it, drawn over the north horizon—to sunrise.