The real estate business introduces the practitioner to a number of interesting buying/selling circumstances. First-time buyers, renters, commercial clients and downsizers are a few of the situations we’ve helped clients navigate. Late last year, we embarked on our own real estate adventure when our son, Cole, decided to relocate to Victoria, British Columbia. At 22 years, Cole had decided that the Southern Ontario climate was not conducive to his current training passion. An off-spiring relocation was new because our boys had pursued further education close to home, but this time we had to make the leap.
Throughout his formative years, Cole competed at a high level in almost every sport under the sun. While cross training for mixed martial arts, he found a passion in competitive road cycling. He tried to work on an indoor trainer during the winter months, but static training just didn’t cut it and a move to fairer conditions was necessary. He secured a job in Victoria and after job training was given a month to get his affairs together and move to British Columbia. One of his hometown friends caught wind of this bold plan and decided Ontario wasn’t for him either and decided to move with Cole (Insert the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies). We started to look for suitable living spots in the city and realized that rent was quite pricey. We pitched the idea that the guys should forgo renting and seek to enter the real estate market as first-time buyers. In short order, we found a two-bedroom condominium in uptown Victoria at a reasonable price (compared to the GTA) and made an offer. The guys were thrilled, and it was decided that Cole would be the advance scout. He would move out first and take possession of the condo. His friend would follow shortly after graduating school in early 2021. Now we were faced with the moving logistics.
When we embarked on this plan the weather was fair and the leaves offered a palette of brilliant colours. Winter was approaching quickly, and we had to decide how to move Cole and his belongings to the west coast. After considering several options, we settled on renting a cube van (one way) and convoy across the country. I would drive the cube van and Cole would drive his diesel Chev Cruze from the Durham Region to Vancouver Island. What could go wrong?
The fall weather was holding in Ontario, but we knew the west was a different story and a three-day trek was planned. I booked a week off work and plotted our campaign as skillfully as a platoon commander moving an armoured column. Every detail was considered, we would leave early on a Tuesday morning to be at the Tsawwassen Ferry Friday afternoon for the water crossing. As planned, we left the front door of our Whitby home shortly after 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning filled with excitement, confident that our plan was foolproof; we were wrong. The first night we would make it to Thunder Bay with enough time for a solid meal and a good rest. We wouldn’t be able to use the United States as a short cut because of Covid, so the first day was a long haul. The day was uneventful, as we approached Thunder Bay, we were told by colleagues to hustle as the city was about to suffer the first unexpected winter storm. Thankfully, no snow was in sight as we hit the pillow with a plan to rise early and start our way to Regina (Day 1-1413 kms).
Hopes were dashed as the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. and blizzard conditions were raging outside. Although the snow had only accumulated a few inches, the winds were savage, and visibility was poor. The decision was made to give the roads a shot, little did we know that the police has closed the Trans-Canada Highway and a quick retreat was made to the hotel for more shut eye. By 9:00 a.m. the snow had stopped, and we ventured out four hours late. Crossing the first time zone would buy us an hour, but the plan to have dinner in Regina was dashed. Our two-vehicle convoy chugged passed the reason the highway had been closed hours before. Many of the locals were stranded on the Trans-Canada when the storm hit, and the police were assisting their rescue. Luckily, we drove out of the snow impacted area and were able to hit our stride as we made the eight-hour trek to the Manitoba border. As we approached Regina, we were slowed by prairie snow squalls the like I had never seen, snow came at the windshield as if the Millennium Falcon had just hit light speed. The rest of the route to Regina was uneventful, we arrived at 10:30 p.m. to find that the city had closed hours before. As I jumped from the cab of the Ford Super Duty my knees buckled in pain from being stationary for so long. A dinner of roadside fair and to bed thinking that the path to the B.C. interior would be a cinch, wrong (Day 2-1283 kms).
Day 3 started with bright prairie sun and bone chilling temperatures. The wagon train had to make it to Kamloops and our last hotel stay. Just a simple drive through the remainder of Saskatchewan, Alberta and into the mountains, should be easy enough. I had heard mention of The Badlands, but never imagined how bad they could be in mid-November. A strong highway crosswind made in necessary to steer the truck sideways for the better part of the trip toward Calgary. The wind was so strong that the truck sides made thumping and creaking sounds as if it would be torn apart at any moment. We dare not stop for fear that we would never make it back on the road. It was at this moment that I gained a deep respect for the professional truckers that keep our economy moving during the Canadian winter. The Trans-Canada was caked with about four inches of ice that had been created by blowing snow and the compaction of truck tires. We were fortunate to join a train of 53’ trucks that adopted us into their fraternity. To our great relief the winds subsided as we approached Calgary, an urban respite from the tundra. Approaching dinner, we headed out of the city toward the mountains, quickly the winds raged again flowing off the mountain peaks pushing our vehicles off the road. It was back to white knuckle driving and prayers that we would soon be in the shelter of the mountains. As darkness fell the snow started, visibility was poor, and the roads were treacherous. It was during this stretch that Cole and I decided that we might not make it. We both tried to call Trish to convey how harrowing our situation was and that we might find our early graves in the Canadian Cordillera. She was out for dinner (lol). The two time zones we crossed that day bought us a couple of extra hours or we would have run out of night. I had always considered myself a skilled driver, but nothing prepared me for the twists and climbs the mountain highways presented. Trying to blindly predict the nature of the road in total darkness presented some of the most frightening moments of my life. I would be following the taillights of a large truck only to have them disappear around a seemingly 90- degree turn, leaving me to predict what was next. We arrived in Kamloops well after the sidewalks had rolled up and were lucky to dine on the last of the ready-to-eat fare from the closing supermarket. The final approach to Vancouver would be a breeze and with a welcome respite provided by the Island ferry (Day 3-1373 kms).
Just a quick descent out of the mountains and a river run to Delta and the ferry, a nice restful drive. The day broke with yet another blizzard. Not to worry, we had plenty of time to make the ferry at 2:00 p.m. The Coquihalla Highway proved to be the worst stretch by far. We crept out of Kamloops and waited patiently to escape the snow as we came out of the mountains. As we descended, we noticed that the police has closed the highway in the opposite direction, a wise move after we had spent hours in the snow. Thankfully, we joined the shelter of a group of truckers and used them to gauge the conditions. Delays assured that the 2:00 p.m. ferry was a pipe dream and I had to scramble to change our plans. We would make the crossing at dinner as long as we could get there in one piece. Approximately 150 kms from the coast, it was as if Mother Nature had snapped her fingers, torrential rain began to fall, the snow was a distant memory. I had never been so happy to see the sky open in my life and realized that I was not going to perish on this adventure. We wouldn’t make it to the storage unit in Victoria before closing, but we would be alive. The Tsawwassen sun shone brightly and for the first time in days, I cracked the window of the truck enjoying the sea air as we boarded the ship. Covid confined Cole to the comfort of the Cruze below deck, while I was able to stroll the promenade. The temperature on the crossing was likely just above zero, but I strolled that ship like I was on the upper deck of a Caribbean cruise.
The rest is quite boring. Victoria offered open restaurants, pizza and beer; we had arrived in paradise. That night we slept a solid fourteen hours recovering from our ordeal. An unmatched bond was built between father and son based on terror, anguish and loathing of our travel choice. Since then when feeling down, we remind ourselves that we endured far worse, a winter drive across Canada. It was only when we arrived in British Columbia that we realized we had broken the law by making the trip without the necessity of snow tires and chains. I will vehemently oppose any suggestion to make such a trip again, as the western mountains should only be enjoyed through the window of business class. How we made it shall remain a tale to be told by two men that will always share an unflappable respect for the land.