Day 5: Neither Wind, Nor Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Snow…
No matter how much time one has for a cross-country journey, it’s never enough
Provinces Checked Off
If you don’t like the weather in Alberta, apparently you can wait five minutes and it’ll be something completely different. Or in our case, simply drive to the other side of the overpass.
Heading out from Calgary this morning, the weather was chilly, but it was sunny, so the top was down on our Mercedes-AMG SLC43. Even though we were on a tight timeline to reach Edmonton, our route had us detouring to Canmore, Alberta, because there was no way we were going to be this close to the Rockies and not get to breathe a little mountain air.
Not far west of Calgary the temperature dropped 10 degrees, the sky turned dark and then we were showered by a brief but heavy rainfall (and a bit of snow) on us.
The cabin of the SLC remained toasty thanks to the heated seats and AirScarf system, so we decided to press on and try to ride out precipitation without putting the top up. In theory, it’s a fine plan: if you go fast enough, the water goes up and over the cockpit instead of in to it – as we’d seen the day before. But when following a transport truck passing a bus up a mountain as we did, speed starts to slip away and the spray kicked up by the 18-wheeler sent a lot more water our way than expected.
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The deluge was short-lived; and we ended up with a pretty minor soaking and the realization that clothing dries pretty quickly in an open-air car.
By the time we reached Canmore, the sun was shining again and it was the perfect opportunity to have a quick walk around town. While Banff seems to get all the attention, Canmore has a very similar feel, nestled amongst the mountains with spectacular views in every direction. Touristy shops and plenty of restaurant and café options are found on the main downtown streets, and there seem to be activities available to suit a breadth of interests, no matter the season.
Our time in Canmore was brief since we needed to hit our ninth provincial capital city in our whirlwind #CabriOCanada150 tour before the day’s end.
The little SLC 43 was a great dance partner on the winding mountain roads, but the long, boring stretch of highway up to Edmonton revealed its stiff suspension (and we definitely missed the massaging seats from yesterday’s SL550). With one more province to go tomorrow, the plan is to grab the keys to something better-suited for highway cruising.
Day 6: There’s Never Enough Time
Provinces Checked Off
Parked next to the Mile 0 marker of the Trans-Canada Highway in Victoria, British Columbia, it was just sinking in that less than a week ago, I was thousands of kilometres away looking out at the cold North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland.
It has been a whirlwind adventure, to be sure, driving in each of the 10 provinces in six days, and I’m left with a few conclusions.
First, Canada is a huge place. This isn’t exactly a profound statement – anyone who has ever seen a map knows that; but when you experience the differences in both physical and human geography, in architecture, dialect, and cuisine within a compressed amount of time, it really draws to light the incredible diversity of this place.
I’ve also learned that there is so much more of this country I need to see and do. Surely no matter how much time one has for a cross-country journey, it’s never enough; but I’ve not even scratched the surface of what any of the amazing places I whisked through have to offer. Many of the cities – like Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary and Victoria – I’ve been to several times, whereas others – Regina, Quebec City and St John’s – I had either never visited before, or hadn’t seen for so long, it felt all-new to me. All of these places demand days in each to get a truer sense of what they’re all about.
It’s the places off the beaten path that appeal, too – the little hidden gems in rural villages and towns. It’s a friendly place, coast-to-coast, with people seemingly happy to share a bit of themselves if they’re just asked to do so. And we’ve got some great food, sometimes in the most unlikely places – like today’s discovery at Shirley Delicious in a fairly remote spot north of Sooke, BC, that serves up delicious home-made baked goods and a fantastically powerful espresso.
By the time I had safely, but reluctantly, parked the bright red Mercedes in the parking lot at the Empress Hotel, I wanted nothing more than to grab the keys to another machine and keep exploring.
Mercedes-Benz offers more convertible models in Canada than any other brand, and they have been designed for truly all-season usage – even in our wildly varied Canadian climate. There are convertibles that appeal to the performance fanatics, eco-friendly urbanites and of course those seeking the pinnacle of luxury. But there’s one model I had the pleasure of driving a few times this trip that stands out for me: the SL550.
It’s the perfect blend of style, performance, class and luxury. It has a heritage as an automotive icon since the 1950s that gives it a little extra cachet that helps it earn the admiration of car fanatics and casual observers alike. Given the chance, I’d happily swipe the keys and set off on a three- or four-week journey back to Ontario with this car, knowing I’d be happy and comfortable in it, no matter what type of road or weather I encountered along the way. It’d get proud positioning by valets, yet start conversations in the rural towns (as it has done throughout this week).
If there’s a better way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday than by exploring as much of it as you can, I don’t know what it is. And if you have the means to do it in a Mercedes convertible, then it’ll truly be a greater celebration.