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Day 18: Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Prince Rupert, BC to Williams Lake, BC

We've each now had nine hours of sleep, a good long shower or two, and half of a big pizza, so we're just about feeling like ourselves again.

The ferry dropped us off at Prince Rupert at 6:15 AM, local time (we lost an hour); we went through Customs, then cruised up into the town where it was immediately obvious from all the banks and malls everywhere that we're well and truly back in the real world now. We gassed up at a Chevron (Ted had warned us not to wait for the interior of BC, as gas prices there are way higher for some reason) and got some turnovers and Nutri-Grain bars. Then we set off on the Yellowhead Highway (BC 16), which winds its way along the Skeena River through tall dark wooded canyon walls that look an awful lot like the ones the Trans-Canada Highway travels through in Glacier National Park and the southern Canadian Rockies. (We'd already seen a further-east segment of the Yellowhead between Jasper and Hinton on the way up.) Very pretty scenery, and the mountaintops were shrouded in fog.

Just after Terrace, we were stopped by a Mountie standing in the road, randomly checking the licenses of every vehicle traveling past; a little "You're not in Kansas anymore" experience, I suppose. After Hazelton the road straightened out a little, and near Smithers we entered picturesque farmland with hay bales and horses everywhere; this continued essentially all day. Got more gas and supermarket sandwiches at Burns Lake (Burns Lake and Smithers—I'm sure no tourists ever make jokes about that). As we neared Prince George, we started seeing a lot more cars that weren't logging trucks or RVs, and at the outskirts we got enough cell phone signal to call our friend Freddie near Seattle and confirm that we could stop by there the next night, and at the same time to take stock of our route and how much distance to cover today. We were in Prince George at 3:30, and there's a deceptively huge distance between there and Vancouver, especially taking Highway 99 through Whistler, which I'd like to do. So we set our sights on Williams Lake, the largest town in between the two. We finally got steady enough cell phone service for Paul to call his parents.

We took 97 south (good old 97!) through more farm country along the Fraser River. It started raining torrentially after Quesnel, just a the road began winding through some hills, creating instant puddles that made the car drift unnervingly. But at least it did a great job of cleaning off the bugs and mud that have been building up since Dawson City. (The pile of Dawson dust has finally fallen off the trunklid lip, where a low-pressure eddy kept it undisturbed all the way down to Skagway.)

We got into Williams Lake around 6:00, and after a brief search found a $71 room at the Caesar's Inn, which is a bit threadbare and 70s-era, but the shower works well, and that's all I cared about. After cleaning ourselves up from two days on the ferry and a long day of driving, we went down to the attached pub/grill and had a large House Special pizza, which was almost too big for us to handle—almost. Called Lance, took advantage of the Wi-Fi, and turned in around 11:00. Tomorrow (today), we make for Vancouver and points south...

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© 2005 Brian Tiemann