Welcome to part two of my latest adventure. This is the big drive. If you missed the beginning, it can be found here:
Breaking news, the machine has a name. Everyone, meet Yeti.
A few options came up, but it was Yeti that stuck. As always, it was my mum who suggested the name. It took a few days, but now I’m set on it. It was only after she suggested the name that I showed her the Yeti sticker, which one of the previous owners had stuck inside the tailgate.
Yes, I know it’s a cooler brand, but the name fits. The sticker is silly, and it happened to be there already. It’ll stay, while most of the others might not.
If you haven’t noticed, Canada is quite large. This is the route I ended up taking to head east.
As a semi-adult, I have driven in, to, or through, all of the provinces except Newfoundland. I was there as a child, but still have to go back and explore. I have also yet to even visit our territories up north, driving or otherwise, so those are on the list. As far as I know, it is possible to drive into the Yukon, and Northwest Territories, but not into Nunavut. If anybody has wisdom about this, I’d be happy to hear it. At some point in the future, I would enjoy an expedition to the north.
From the Island to the Mainland
Yeti was still on Vancouver Island, at my parents house. I was working on the mainland, so at the end of the week I headed west, to start the journey back east. This is the view I had after I climbed above the fog, just after leaving town in my little rental hatchback. Mountains really do make things better.
The trip to the island was uneventful. I drove to Vancouver and used transit to get to the ferry terminal. It was my first time on the ferry as a walk-on, rather than driving on in a vehicle. I think it’s a neat method of transportation. I find most machinery to be quite interesting, especially things designed to do one very specific task. I enjoyed watching the ferry approach the terminal, and unload then load vehicles in the opposite direction. Thinking about the symmetry of the ship, the drives and control surfaces, and how it must be designed below the waterline, was intriguing.
The next morning, the M3 graciously gave up its garage spot once again. I swapped the sealed beams back out for the halogen lights. I then mounted the new BC license plates, put the new winter safety kit (thanks mum!) in the back, and we were off. Next stop, the ferry back to the mainland.
The drive from the mainland terminal to where I was working went off without a hitch. A couple of scenic stops later, along with some snow up in the mountain passes, and I was back in the hotel room I’d been living out of.
One More Week
The following week was my last, for now, on this assignment. Considering I had flown out in August, and it was early November, I was both excited to go home and sad to leave the team we had built. The people there were great to work with, and also amazingly accommodating of my new toy. They were just as excited to check it out as I was to have it there with me. I was incredibly lucky to be able to store it inside their facility the entire week, which let me dry it out fully as well as do some rust prevention underneath after work.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Canadian Cruisers tend to be quite rusty. The people at work, many having past experience with bodywork and old Cruisers, were impressed with the lack of rust. The rear of the frame had some surface oxidation, which I scraped at with a wire brush.
After cleaning off the flaky stuff, I put on some rust treatment and a few coats of rust paint. I focused on the exposed areas and known rust areas on these machines, mainly to protect it for the drive back and the coming winter.
The final bit of preparation was to stock up on extra fluids, which I put into little Rubbermaid totes in the back, buy brighter bulbs for the headlights, and get some extra fuel cans to increase my range.
To Lake Louise
It ended up being convenient that I was driving back, as I had to work one day in Alberta, just north of Calgary. I scheduled that day for Tuesday, so that I would have the weekend as well as Monday to explore the national parks. The plan was to take my time and see some sights. Old Land Cruiser pace.
I started the first leg of the drive. The goal for the night was Lake Louise, a relatively short drive away. On the way, I passed the start of the Columbia River. In Oregon I had passed the end, where it emptied into the Pacific, and the town I was working in was on the river as well. It felt fitting to see both ends.
Nearly every viewpoint or side road I saw, I used. This ended up being a nice odd off season time to explore the parks the way I was doing. Most things were closed, and there were few people around, so I could pull over and look around by myself.
At this point, I start to have so many photos that it’s hard to choose what to post. I’ll run out of things to say before I run out of pictures.
As I crossed the continental divide, I thought it was funny how far west it was. There is no real reason it should be in the middle, or anywhere in particular, but I had never really thought about it before.
At the end of the day, I parked up at Lake Louise and wandered over to the lake itself. I thought about having dinner at the fancy restaurant overlooking the lake, but decided my money was better spent on 87 octane and a double cheeseburger.
I woke up to a light dusting of snow in Lake Louise. The plan for today was to head up to the Columbia Icefield, then back down to Banff. On the way, I found a pull off with a bit of deeper snow. Nothing even remotely deep, but the best I’d found. I used it as an opportunity to lock the hubs and make sure four wheel drive worked.
It was the snow that really made me appreciate just how off-white Yeti is.
As I carried on north, and lost some elevation, the snow went away. I saw a rocky area on the side of the highway that had a clear way in. Naturally, with no one around, I turned off and climbed up the slope to bounce around on the rocks.
Back on the road, I passed by a tiny section of track that looked nice, so I turned around and went down.
It lead me to the banks of a small river, and provided some beautiful views. I was glad I turned back for a look.
I could easily imagine, once I had the set up, pulling over for the night at a spot like this. Further off the highway would be better of course, but it’s amazing the little spots that can be found just off the main road.
After debating driving down the banks into the river bed itself, and then realizing that solo and without recovery gear was not the way to start crossing rivers, I drove on. The road gained elevation again, temperatures dropped, and it got snowy.
I reached the Columbia Icefield. I knew the discovery centre would be closed, so I pulled right into the little parking lot with a view of the glacier. Well, it would have had a view of the glacier, were it not for the wall of fog. I had originally planned to explore here for a while, then head back down to Banff. With conditions as they were, I decided to carry on north to Jasper.
I was glad I did.
Next up were stops at two little waterfalls, fed by the kind of crystal blue green glacial melt waters this area is known for. I had Sunwapta Falls entirely to myself. I walked down, right to the top edge of the falls, and watched the water flow.
Athabasca Falls was a bit more popular. There were a handful of cars, and some absolutely massive ravens in the parking area. The falls were beautiful, but what really got me was the deep channel just downstream, where the water had cut its way through the rock over the ages. Now, just a calm blue green flow filled the bottom of the channel.
The two waterfalls were my last stops before Jasper. I rolled into town, fuelled up, and had a delicious lunch. On my way into the parks, I had bought a day pass that would be expiring in a couple of hours. I decided to buy a full year pass, instead of another day or two. A few extra dollars out of my pocket, but of all the things I could be spending my money on, nature and our national parks seemed like a good choice.
Jasper to Banff
With all the tanks full, and a license to explore, I headed back south. Leaving town, I passed this sign.
I had driven past the same setup at the south end that morning, and the roads were rated poor then also. What I hadn’t noticed that morning, was that the next option was closed. That might seem concerning, but I think the scale is a bit soft. The roads were mostly good, with some sections that could be called fair at elevation. I think that if I had real winter tires on, rather than my three peak mountain snowflake rated all terrains, I wouldn’t have given it anything below good. As it was, I just slowed down when things got snowy. Ok, in reality I was probably already going slow then, in my old carbureted machine at elevation.
There were a few more stops to be made on the way back down, a nice river access spot just off the highway, and some viewpoints that were a whole lot better now that the fog had lifted. I stopped at the Columbia Icefield again, this time with less fog and more Land Cruiser.
I had actually seen this truck on the road much earlier in the day, so when they pulled into the lot I had to go see. From the back, I noticed the German license plate, so in my mostly forgotten Deutsch I complimented their cool Land Cruiser.
The front of the vehicle made it obvious where the couple was actually from. The husband told me they had shipped the machine to Halifax, driven across Canada, up to the tip of Alaska, and then to where we met. Amazing.
We talked for a little about their vehicle set up, and the guy ended up mentioning that all the parking lots had signs indicating no overnight parking or camping. Obviously, they were equipped to live out of their truck. I told him that there were many little spots just off the main road that weren’t official parking lots, and where they could likely find a spot to stay undisturbed for the night. He asked if I knew any, and I told him to just try turning down any little side track they encountered, as I had been doing.
Some way down the road from the icefield, I passed another one of those little side tracks. I drove right by, then thought I’d better not skip one and turned back. A little way in and the track dead ended at a perfect spot on the river.
I wanted to turn around and go find the Swiss couple, to show them this place. Just imagine waking up here.
And if you didn’t want to look that way, this was the view directly opposite the river scene.
I carried on to Banff for the night, hoping that couple found a similar spot to set up camp at.
Banff and Out
In the morning, on my way out of Banff, I stopped at a red light and looked around. There was only one other vehicle at the intersection, waiting on the cross street to proceed. It was another 60 series Land Cruiser.
The driver and I waved to each other. I saw that he pulled over and parked just after the intersection, so I turned right and pulled up behind him.
The driver of the other cruiser came to my door as I parked. We talked about our trucks and where they came from. His was a Canadian HJ60, a six cylinder diesel, that he bought in New Brunswick. He had it shipped to Ontario where the frame was replaced, then drove it out west. The person who did the frame was a friend of his, and also a mechanic with at least some specialization in old Land Cruisers. He kindly shared the contact info of his friend with me. Talk about a good resource to get, just by chance. I’m glad I stopped to chat.
The rest of the morning was spent looking around the Banff area. After that, I headed to Calgary. It surprises me every time I’m there, just how close Calgary is to Banff. If I lived in the area, I’m sure I’d be out in the parks nearly every weekend.
My first stop was a place called The Gear Shop. My friend went there on his adventure, and told me I had to go. I knew I was at the right spot as soon as I arrived and saw a nice little 40 series Cruiser out front.
I ended up spending a few hours hanging out there, talking with staff and other customers. They remembered my friend and his truck, and made me feel right at home. This is the kind of business that I have no problem supporting. If you’re in the area and need some adventure gear for your truck, definitely check them out.
Leaving for dinner with some old friends meant heading out during rush hour, into what I found out was one of the first snows of the year in Calgary. Clearly, most people had not installed their winter driving brains yet. I made it fine, but was happy I had booked a hotel outside of the city for the night. There was only one semi sketchy moment on the drive, where I downshifted to second while going down a snow covered hill towards an intersection. The rear wheels decided they were getting a little too much engine braking, and thought they would try to pass the front wheels. Rather than attempt a full 360 for style points, I clutched in and added some opposite lock. No problem.
After completing the work in Alberta, I started the real drive back. Initially, from just north of Calgary, I took back highways towards Saskatchewan. Being so large, Canada of course has a massive variety of terrain and climates. I thought this particular landscape seemed so uniquely western.
In the mountains, I had been stopping at all the viewpoints and points of interest, so when I passed a sign for a point of interest in Saskatchewan I decided to turn back and stop.
It was a rock.
In a dent.
Ok, so it was a fancy rock that apparently the buffalo liked to rub against, but it was still a rock. After days of epic mountains and views of glaciers, not to mention living for a few months amongst some smaller mountains, I was jaded.
I powered through the prairies and into Ontario. It ended up being my longest driving day, and I really started to miss cruise control. Late at night, between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, the noise started.
It was almost nonexistent while cruising, loud under load and on throttle, and sounded like backfiring on the overrun. I thought about what carburetor issues could have suddenly come up that may fit the noise profile.
I slowed down and listened more, slightly worried about the prospects of having the engine die on this desolate stretch after dark. The hours and kilometres to Sault Ste. Marie, listening, thinking, and hoping, were the longest of the entire drive.
Finally, I rolled into town. While fuelling up, I had a look under the hood. Nothing stood out as visually wrong, which would make sense for a carburetor issue that was internal. When I started the engine again though, I heard a new sound while standing outside the truck. At least this one I could tell was something mechanical. There was something loose and rattling.
It took a while, searching with a flashlight as the engine idled, and then I found it. A block off plate on the rear section of the exhaust manifold had become loose, rattling around and also creating a nice exhaust leak. It was almost hidden, below and behind the carburetor, up against the firewall. Access from above was not possible, so I crawled underneath. I would be able to reach it from below, but not safely while everything was hot. I decided to drive on.
Now, knowing what the noise was, I was much more comfortable. The only thing I had to worry about was it suddenly getting louder, meaning the plate had completely fallen off and I would have to stop to look for it. That didn’t happen.
My stop for the night was a beautiful spot on Pine Island. A generous offer of hospitality saved me from one more night in a hotel. As a bonus, I had a warm garage in which to fix the leak the following morning. Doesn’t hurt to wake up to views like this either.
The place is beautiful, no matter the season. During a previous summer, I stayed on the island for a few weeks and it was gorgeous. To make myself useful, I helped to install this solar panel arrangement. I can’t take credit for the design or engineering of the system, that’s all down to the owner of the property, but it’s still great to see and hear that the system I helped install is doing well.
The last bit left was to drive to Toronto. Right around Barrie, on the 400, was where I started seeing the rush return. It really stood out, from the perspective of my slow machine and having enjoyed the small town pace for the last few months. Everyone was driving so fast, following so closely, cutting others off, driving without lights, or with high beams on constantly, and just generally not being smart. The joys of the GTA.
It is absolutely hilarious to drive this kind of machine in the city. As nice as it looks parked on my driveway though, it’s only a matter of time before Yeti will leave the concrete jungle in search of the next adventure.