In the morning, the snow found us again. Medicine Hat was buried with the stuff, where there wasn’t a single flake on the ground the night before. Taking our trip in November was always a risk, but the weather in Alberta had been tame up until we left. I suppose a Canadian road trip is kind of fake without the sudden and unwanted appearance of snow, but the thought didn’t cheer us up.
We checked on the sea monkeys, but as far as we could tell they weren’t any livelier than they’d ever been. I thought I saw some flakes floating around and thought that might be them, but it might have just been eggs or food. It didn’t help that I had no idea what they were supposed to look like. Technically it hadn’t even been 24 hours yet. So we shrugged and ate our complimentary breakfast and braved the snow in order to go back to Saskatchewan and see Cypress in daylight. The horseback riding Elisia had hoped for was most likely out of the question now, unfortunately, but there was a museum there as a consolation prize. Elisia snagged two bagels from the hotel and placed them on the dashboard.
“Those are going to fall off in like eight seconds,” I said.
“They’ll be fine.”
On the way to Cypress, we slid off the road. I noticed Elisia was drifting a little uncomfortably to the right over the yellow line, so I alerted her. Apparently something came loose on her dashboard (not the bagels) and she was trying to sort it out, absently pulling the wheel down with her right hand as a result. When she noticed she had been drifting, she tried to correct herself, and Eddie Murphy slid to the left. Then to the right. Then left again, and I watched out my window as the ditch approached. We slid right into it (thankfully it wasn’t very deep), and kept spinning until we were facing forward again.
“Don’t stop!” I said, waving my hand forward. “Keep going, get over the hump.” Elisia accelerated and drove Eddie right out of the ditch and back onto the road. I looked behind us for the sole car that was following, but it hadn’t caught up to us yet.
The bagels sat on the dashboard exactly where they were before.
We pulled to a turn lane to the side and let the adrenaline pass. I was laughing, but Elisia was pretty shaken up. I told her she handled it like a pro, because she did. We were lucky that this happened early enough that there was no traffic and at a place where the ditch was not deep. All in all, it was one of the most exciting moments in our journey. We took it slowly from then on.
Cypress is like your grandma’s house in town form. Everything is small and unassuming and painted in soft yellows and off-whites, with cowboy and rodeo themes everywhere you look. A stop sign depicted a silhouette of a boy in a cowboy hat leading a pony. We passed buildings for “News Times” and “Laundromat and Shower.” That last one made me think they must have been efficient with water. When we approached the museum, the church across the street rang its bells. There is something surreal about church bells—they’ve become fictionalized in my mind. The town was all but empty because everyone was probably at church. The museum was closed. We hadn’t considered that it was Sunday.
From there, we headed for Calgary, but the roads got worse and worse. Traffic increased until we were crawling behind endless rows of trucks. We listened to CBC Radio’s Vinyl Café for a dose of Canada (as though the snow wasn’t enough), and then Christmas music because if you can’t beat winter, join it.
We didn’t know what we would do in Calgary, exactly. It’s not so different from Edmonton, as much as the two cities would turn up their collective noses at that statement. And since the roads and the traffic and the snow brought our spirits down so low, we weren’t excited to go there. So we chose not to.
Steinbeck knew where his story ended, and it was before he got home. I think it was the same for us. Once we resolved to get back to Edmonton, our sense of adventure had diminished into exhaustion. We only had a weekend to take a great Canadian road trip, so the vast majority of our time was spent just trying to get anywhere worth going. By now we were so sore and frustrated by traffic, we knew it was the end of the story.
And yet, something stood out for us on the way. We saw the sign at the same time, but only I remembered how significant it was. We were in Red Deer, content to blow right through it, but we had to stop once we saw The Donut Mill. It was our last stop before home, and a fitting way to close the donut loop we made in the middle of Canada.