Cannonball Run Canada 2016

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Until now, there is no record of anyone completing a trip from Vancouver to Halifax with the following conditions:

  • travel by car
  • stay within Canada (there is a shorter route through the United States)
  • stop as little as possible for as short a time as possible to make the trip as direct as possible
  • follow traffic laws

Our crew sets out to be the first, to set the standard. Here is how it went.

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Crew Assembly: This trip is the brainchild of Kris, my canoe mate 15 years ago on the Mackenzie River. Last fall, he invites me and Ty from the canoe trip and we immediately accept.

We decide that a fourth driver would be prudent so Kris invites a former roommate of his, Glen. We discover after the fact that Glen does not actually have a drivers license, so he will be relegated to co-pilot status – ensuring the driver is doing well.

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Together we agree on the dates of the trek: July 16-18.

Preparation: Kris purchases food and drinks. His wife, Safira, loans us some powered coolers and a heater to give us some variety in temperature and the ability to preserve sandwiches, boiled eggs.

Kris also rents the perfect vehicle: VW Passat. It has the most legroom and trunk space in class as well as over 1000 km range on a single gas tank. He applies some decals to make the car official.

I am into the logistics, so I carefully plan the most efficient route on Google Maps. I also test out my GSat DG200 GPS tracker in preparation for tracking our entire trip at 250 m intervals. Fortunately, I can keep it powered so that we don’t have to worry about its 24 hour battery life.

We agree on packing items and create playlists for the long drive.

Departure: Kris picks me up in Calgary on July 14 and we haul ourselves to Vancouver. Amber and the kids are heading in the same direction that day, so I drive with them for a few hours. We spend the evening at Glen’s in downtown Vancouver.

July 15 is full of last minute preparations like checking out one of the local breweries, Strange Fellows. We also pack up. Make an MEC run for the backpacking trip that will follow and fill the gas tank. We enjoy a delicious Ethiopian meal with some of Glen and Kris’s friends.

Ty flies in at around midnight and Kris fetches him. Glen and I seek to get a good rest to begin the trip.

We stir at 4 AM on July 15. Bathroom. Pack the car. Get some coffee in the mug and we are off and running a little after 5 AM, our scheduled departure time.

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Facebook Live, Greenwich Mean Time, and the GPS tracker are initiated as we pass through Stanley Park on Highway 99. Almost 6000 kms of pavement lie before us.

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British Columbia: I have the first driving shift. Ty and Kris are resting in the backseat. We figure out that the speakers for the stereo are easy to localize so as not to bother the people sleeping. An hour in and the tire inflation light comes on.

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It’s early in the morning so no one is on the road and I get to Kamloops in three hours. We buy a pressure gauge and nothing seems amiss with the tires. We gas up since we have time, even though it says we have 700 kms left in the tank. Our first stop takes almost 16 minutes and I begin to lose hope that our trip will have conscientiously minimized our stop time.cbr16

Kris takes the wheel as we still have not added Ty as a driver – the next rental office that is open is in Calgary. Kris gets rain through the winding slow roads of the Shuswaps. I try to rest, but sleep never comes. I take back the wheel in Golden and take our crew over our first provincial boundary all the way to the Crowfoot location of our car rental agency 20 minutes before they close. Ty is added as a driver and takes the wheel.

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Facebook updates draw a lot of comments and likes. Every time I check my phone there are more than 20 notifications.

Alberta: Honestly, this is the portion of the journey that is the most fun and beautiful. Kris and Glen teach the rest of us a fun game where we each say a word at the same time, then each successive round we say a word that is in common with all four words. When people say the same word, they get points. Ty proves to be the master in our Alberta game.

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The late sun behind us casts a golden light on the canola fields around us and the massive clouds above us. Ty takes us to Medicine Hat where Kris’s wife and in-laws await to lavish us with coffees, custom hats and T-shirts, cinnamon buns, and bran muffins. It’s a longer stop, but we appreciate their enthusiasm (and even some envy from Safira’s cousin).

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Saskatchewan: The sun sets after we cross over the Cypress Hills. I rest my eyes for a couple hours, but again I am unable to actually fall asleep. This worries me. Kris hands the wheel over to me west of Herbert at around 10:30 pm, local. Glen keeps me company for a while and we listen to a couple Invisibilia episodes.

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We are in need of gas when we hit Regina a little after midnight. Glen finds one a ways into the suburbs and it proves to be closed. A pickup drives past and calls us fags. I locate a truckstop a km away and we fill up there. I get Ty a Dr. Pepper. After driving for three hours, I am happy to pass the wheel over to Kris and be his wingman while the other two snooze. I only last an hour when I wake Ty to take my place.

Manitoba: I’m able to sleep for a couple hours as we cross into Manitoba and I wake up as we are on the Winnipeg ring road. I note once again the noisiness of the road as I linger between the waking world and dreamland until our major stop at the Manitoba welcome centre on the Ontario border. We brush our teeth, run around the parking lot, grab some food and use their washroom. With the breaks included, Ty drives for about 5 hours giving Kris and I a long time to rest.

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We have been on the road for 25.5 hours when we cross into Ontario.

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Ontario: Small lakes appear immediately. We gas up in Kenora and I drive for about 3 hours to Ignace. I put on some Stan Rogers and we sing along to Northwest Passage. There are statues of superheroes that we must stop at for a photo to post to our followers on Facebook.

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Kris gets the rainy weather again. It rains well into Quebec in fact. We blow past some waterfalls that Ty wants to stop at, but pause for 5 minutes at the Terry Fox Memorial.

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At Nipigon, Ty sits in the drivers seat. It is still raining as we turn left onto Highway 11 into northern Ontario. There is beauty to be seen, but for the low clouds and falling sun. We pull into Longlac for a cautious gas up as we venture into the wilderness.

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Ty takes us past Hearst with over 5 hours of driving. I call Amber during our bathroom break to check in. I am able to rest up enough for my midnight shift. Glen is again to my right and I mellow out with some Mountain Goats and Sufjan Stevens. The rain comes down in sheets and it isn’t easy driving for the first couple hours.

Québec: The road is tiny and the rain persists as I drive into La Belle Province. It is early morning and Kris joins me in the front. Navigating this unfamiliar territory is necessary as we manoeuvre southeast to secondary highway 117. We manage to get through Rouyn-Noranda and I pass the driving responsibilities to Kris after about 400 kms.

I fall into an earned stupor. Kris and then Ty bring us to Montreal with a couple lengthy breaks to stretch legs and use the washroom. After missing our exit for the 440, I drive again and crank the French tunes as we roll down the 40, then the 25 and the tunnel to the north shore.

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The road is smooth and the cars are fast all the way north to Lévis. I miss the exit to continue on the TransCanada and we take a detour across the St. Lawrence into Québec City. As we exit for a quick return across the bridge a machine is tearing up the road in front of us and shooting the pavement into a truck in the lane we want to drive on. Three minutes feels like an eternity.

I hand the keys to Kris as we gas up for the second last time. As he drives north I reminisce having cycled this stretch 13 years ago; it was the best cycling I’ve ever experienced. The Appalachian mountains emerge on our right and the St. Lawrence Seaway is visible on our left as villages dot the landscape. I order a veggie pizza from Le Buffet du Dragon. We are weak. I think the lady on the phone asks for my address, but she’s really asking if I want the pizza to be “all dressed.” Pepperoni turns up on our all dressed veggie pizza – we are fine with that. Ty is driving now.

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New Brunswick: I had been planning to tweet about passing through Saint-Louis-du-Ha-Ha!, but I’m fast asleep. Finally. I wake up as the Passat is passing by Edmundston, NB and I’m near hallucinating about directions. These are my old stomping grounds. My father planted a church in Ste. Anne and we lived in Grand-Sault for 5 years.

As we drive by the town where I lived out my teens, a massive thunderstorm with hail guns us down. Ty drives right through it.

Eating an apple and drinking a gatorade are the equivalent to smelling salts for me before taking the wheel at a Meductic truck stop. A glorious rainbow glistens over the St John River valley.

The road east is easy to drive as familiar names fly by on my right. The sun has set long before we reach the plains where Nova Scotia fastens itself to the continent. The transmission lines and wind powered generators are barely visible when I pull over for the last driver change.

Nova Scotia: Ty and I drift in and out of consciousness as Kris and Glen quietly chat up front. Ty is surprised to hear that Anne Murray is Canadian (!?). Amherst. Truro. I travelled this route many times as a high school student attending a boarding school in Bedford. I must be out when Kris and Glen are faced with either passing through Dartmouth or Bedford to get to Point Pleasant Park at the southern tip of Halifax. They opt for an eastern route rather than the planned western one. Kris misses the toll basket with the loonie before we cross the Mackay Bridge.

After winding though tiny streets we eventually arrive near Point Pleasant Park, but it is dark and the park is not visible. We broadcast our arrival live on Facebook. Some of our followers chime in with congratulations and even some disparaging remarks about our ability to find the park. We eventually park the car and walk into the spooky urban woods to end the marathon.

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Total Distance: 5942 KM

Total Time: 64 hrs 35 min 52 sec

Time Driving: 59 hrs 52 min 28 sec

Time Stopped: 4 hrs 43 min 24 sec

Percentage of total time that we spent stopped: 7.31%

Total Fuel Cost: $397.77

Fuel Cost per 100 KMs: $6.69

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Photo credits: Ty Reidenbaugh, Glen Leavitt, Robi Robichaud, Kris Samraj, Safira Lachapelle

2 Comments

  1. Sandra Rogers

    WOW! Amazing. you can do all this, with hardly any sleep, when you are young. Quite an Adventure. Make the most of It.

    Been to some of those places, when I did the Rockies years ago.

    Hi Kris, Your Mum forwarded this trip to me.
    Enjoy.

    Aunty Sandra.

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