– by George Dyke….
The moment we heard that Toronto would play host to the the Pan Am Games in July was the moment that we decided it was time from another road trip. Major expressways on the city and surrounding areas were to be blocked for athlete and media access. It was going to be (and proved to be) a mess. Instead Roland and I decided to make another cross continent trek in our 2CVs, this time taking a more northern route through the US just south of the Canadian border (on Route 2) and into the Canadian Rockies just south of Cranbrook BC.
Driving the 2CVs was pretty much a foot-to-the-floor experience, zipping across the prairies from Duluth to Montana in just two days! In the Canadian Rockies we kept up the race car pace and except for the hills, passing cars along the way and seeing some amazed looks from their drivers! The scenery was spectacular. The driving experience sublime! From our last trip we learned the art of carving the road and wind in a 2CV and quite masterfully applied our skills this time around, drafting vehicles where possible and taking top speed runs at upcoming hills. The Canadian Rockies were perfect for this.
From Cranbrook BC we went east to Banff Alberta, stopping to relax at Radium Hot Springs and staying overnight in Banff. While there, I was taking a picture of my 2CV with the Banff Springs Hotel in the background, when a nearby wedding photo shoot spotted the car and asked if they could take some pictures with it. Happy to oblige, I also took a few spectacular shots!
We took the scenic (non highway) road from Banff to Lake Louise and ventured over to Moraine Lake. Then up the Banff/Jasper highway stopping into view the most intensely turquoise coloured Peto Lakes. While there we encountered a German tour bus, the sleeper kind, with German license plates. We parked the 2CVs beside it and watched the puzzled looks on the Germans’ faces as they returned to the bus and seeing the 2CVs thought they might still be in the Alps!
Then it was onward to the Columbia Glacier, Athabasca Falls and onto overnight in Jasper. We wanted to take a scenic route from Jasper to Vancouver and our trip west on Hwy 16 and then down 5, over to 24 and down 97 through the interior of BC took is away from Trans Canada Highway traffic and into some beautiful scenery and mountain roads. We wound our way toward the more arid interior of BC stopping overnight in Lillooet.
We left early the next morning on the road from Lillooet to Pemberton, driving the 2CVs flat-out along twisting roads and some of what must be the most beautiful mountain scenery in British Columbia.
We made it to Whistler by mid-morning but the transformation of that town, from what I remember in the 1980’s to the overdeveloped Olympic venue it is today, had both Roland and I saying “let’s press on to Vancouver”.
When we arrived in Vancouver we took a long afternoon around the shore of Stanley Park and arranged visits with long time virtual acquaintances Lionel Hondier and Harjeet Singh Kalsi. Lionel is the service and restoration mainstay for Citroën owners in Vancouver. His shop is an interesting mix of British cars (his initial specialty), customer’s Citroën cars and those he has purchased with the intent to restore. It was a pleasure to visit with him, see his shop and gain insight into his expertise. Later in the afternoon we stopped by to see Harjeet in Surrey, BC.
Harjeet is a legend on the Vancouver Citroën community, having customized a CX to the point where where one would swear it was a factory designed next generation prototype that Citroen intended to build instead of the XM. Harjeet improved upon the CX by re-sculpting the bumpers front and rear, removed the rain gutter around the doors, did and more elegant front end, and in the rear managed to reduce the lens heigh of the tail lights by cutting the lenses to the point point where they are undetectable. New rockor panels were crafted, new custom rims added, and a host of other subtle changes that result in a stunning vehicle. But Harjeet had more to impress us.
His other restored classic is a 1982 Aston Martin Lagonda, Harjeet redid all the mechanicals on the car and because it came from Dubai and was kept outside, he had to refit re-upholster the entire sun-baked leather interior. Amazingly he was able to revive the original paint. The result is nothing short of outstanding. You can read more about the car here: https://driving.ca/aston-martin/reviews/road-test/respect-your-elders-the-crazy-weird-1982-aston-martin-lagonda
Just as were leaving, Harjeet’s wife and 8 year old daughter came home. They had never ridden in 2CV and we were happy to drive them both through the neighbourhood. They loved the experience, so much so that as we waved goodbye, both his wife and his daughter were tugging on Harjeet’s shirt sleeves to buy a 2CV!
From Vancouver we took the BC Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and from there took 4 days to explore the entire island, traveling all the way north to Port Hardly and to westward to Tofino and back east, then west to Port Renfrew. Along the way we met, by chance, Citroenvie members Ary and Charlette Sala at Union Bay, and stopped to visit with Brian and Beth Yates at Qualicum Beach.
We took the west road from Port Renfrew down to Victoria and the ferry to Port Angeles in Washington state in the US where we made a “pit stop” in Seattle for a few days, staying with Uschi and Axel Kaliske. Axel agreed to to apply his 2CV technical skills to adjust the valves and do an oil change on my car. In Roland’s case it was a matter of coming home for new tires and a tune up as Roland bought his 2CV from Axel back in 2009. We had a BBQ dinner where Kenji Yoshiko came over and brought some needed parts. In my case, a windshield that took a few stone chips along the way and a rear tail lens that mysteriously managed to get cracked one night in a North Dakota parking lot.
From Seattle we headed south to San Francisco along the coast on Route 101 and 1, taking three days and stopping frequently to marvel at the amazing shoreline views. We took in the giant cedar groves, and drove roads (like Route 1) as twisty as you are going to find anywhere!
In San Francisco we met up with Citroenvie member Nazar Miszczuk who moved to the Bay area from Toronto last year. Rendezvousing at the Golden Gate bridge, Nazar guided us through San Francisco where we stopped for a Japanese dinner then crossed the street to a local bar, The Tornado, known for their selection of craft beers.
After a night of partying we made our way west to Sonora California, a charming mining town in the Sierras that has become a destination for those looking for a gateway stopover to Yosemite National Park. The next day we made the trek, along with throngs of vacationers, to the park, and despite the crowds, managed to stop and get a number of nice shots with the cars and impressive mountain backdrops.
Heading east out of Yosemite we ventured over to Mono Lake and north along a dirt road to Bodie California, an abandoned mining town that is now a State Park preserve, with some buildings containing furnishings just as they were abandoned. Quite an insight into the gold rush era in that area.
Overnighting in Bridgeport we made our way to the east side of Lake Tahoe. Also packed with vacationers, we managed to get through the shoreline traffic jams and onto Reno that afternoon.
From Reno we decided to get away from tourists and see some of the Nevada outback by heading north to Pyramid Lake and then over to Winnemucca to join the I90. But unbeknownst to us the pavement ended just before Gerlach and we were relegated to driving over 100 miles on a dirt road, the first 30 miles being extremely rough. Once clear of Sulphur and the huge mine there (presumably for sulphur), we were on smooth road but incredibly dusty. It soon became apparent that the best way to deal with the dust was to cruise at 100 km/h. You kick up a huge cloud but for the most part it is behind you. Though when you stop, you discover that your trunk looks like someone emptied a vacuum bag into it.
That day we made it as a far as Wells Nevada, a town that is a stop for I90 interstate travelers to stay overnight and for those wanting a lasting memory of Wells, a visit to the local brothel. We chose to have dinner at truck stop and avoid the “ladies”.
Departing Wells, we headed north on 93 to Twin Falls Idaho. Stopping in Jackpot for breakfast, we met a helpful local fellow who suggested that a slight side trip to the City of Rocks about 60 miles south of Burley (which in itself is about 60 miles east of Twin Falls) would be well worth our time. He was spot on! Amazing rock formations and a mecca for rock climbers!
Getting back on track we headed back north the Burley and took the I84 part way back toward Twin Falls, taking 25 to skirt around north of the city and join up with 93 again to take us north to Shoshone and then over on 26 past the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve and onto to Idaho Falls which seemed to be the spot that thousands of tourists overnight before setting out to Yellowstone National Park, which was our destination the next day.
We discovered Yosemite National Park to be jam packed with tourists that think nothing of stopping anywhere on the road, even if a bear or a bison is on a hill half a mile away. We dealt with some horrendous traffic congestion, but still managed to be impressed with the various, geysers, boiling mud pools and of course “Old Faithful”.
We took a varied course through the park, taking in some the beautiful lakes and rivers, meadows and yet another dirt road thanks to road construction from Nixon to Mammoth Rock. Our trip out of the park was spectacular as we took the northern route and managed to drive the Chief Joseph Highway over toward Cody Wyoming. I would rate it the most beautiful road in the US, and an absolute blast to drive in a 2CV! We did it in the early evening, with hardly any other cars on the road and took the liberty of carving a few corners at speeds that were definitely at the 2CV’s limit.
Pulling into Cody we had a steak dinner at the Wyoming’s Rib and Chop House where the New York baseball cut I had was the most delicious and tender steak I have ever tasted. And after that we met some locals at the Silver Saddle Salon and enjoyed some Wyoming hospitality and western tales.
From Cody we trekked south to Thermopolis to see some impressive mineral deposits from the the hot springs there, then worked out way north stopping at an interesting micro-brewery in Ten Sleep. After a sampling of their brews we drove across the mountain range of the Bighorn National Forest to Buffalo Wyoming just east of the mountains. Route 16 into Buffalo was is a steep incline with lots of curves. We were blasting along on the 2CV’s and tore by a Honda SUV about a mile from the town. I was in the lead and came up behind a Cadillac SUV. The Caddy began to brake and I figured that was a good idea as well. Turned out to be the right decision as there as a cop with a radar gun at the edge of town. We drove by without incident but I looked in rear view mirror and his flashers came on as he nailed the couple in the Honda! If felt so sorry for them. No doubt they were wondering how the cop managed to miss us!
After a night’s rest in Buffalo we set out east on I90 and took in three landmarks that day; Devil’s Tower, Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore, each impressive in their own right. Devil’s Tower for its natural beauty, Crazy Horse for its ambitious carving of a full mountain into a monument that if they keep going at the present pace, will probably take longer to complete than mankind is likely to exist on this earth, and Mount Rushmore because it is an American landmark. We found Mount Rushmore to be over commercialized and it least impressed us.
We planned to stay at Rapid City South Dakota that night but the price of motels in the area, that near to Mount Rushmore, had us decide to drive a few hours east on I90 to Wall. There we found decent accommodation and food and got to experience Wall Drug, – an entire street in the town that is shopping mall. Think Walmart but but with gift shops, restaurants and various other stores all lined up and operating under a single entity. Very tacky and from what could tell overpriced, Wall Drug reportedly takes in over $10 million a year and draws some two million annual visitors to this little town. Frankly our experience was somewhat jaded because we saw nothing but hokey Wall Drug signs dotted along I90 every 1/2 mile all the way from Rapid City.
We ventured north of Wall the next morning into the grassy “badlands” of South Dakota, taking about two hours to hit more dirt roads and experience the vast farms and dodge some free range cattle that managed onto our path. We finally returned to pavement near Philip and then headed east on 14 to Pierre (the state capitol) where we encountered a rainstorm that was by far the heaviest of our trip. Fortunately we were in it only for about half an hour and it was clear sailing east all the way to our overnight destination in Madison, South Dakota.
Next day’s route led us northeast to Minneapolis/St. Paul where we met-up with one of my family members and enjoyed a spectacular night at a few local pubs in unusually warm (and clear) weather.
Heading east next day we made it to Green Bay Wisconsin, a destination we determined would be the cheapest place in the area to stay because of the air show that same weekend at nearby OshKosh. Smart move as we did indeed find a reasonable motel and the nice weather stayed with us so we could enjoy a lovely outdoor meal at the Hagemeister Park Pub overlooking the Fox River.
Our mission the following day was to make it from Green Bay to the SS Badger, a coal powered vehicle ferry that has been in service crossing Lake Michigan since 1953. We had reservations for the 2 pm sailing and made it in plenty of time. The crossing took four hours, but that gave me the time to write much of this article! Once on the Michigan side, docking in Luddington, we made our way south to Whitehall, once again to have a sunset dinner outside in perfect weather overlooking a Lake Michigan bay.
Our trip was timed to meet up with Larry Lewis, Lloyd McBride and Jim Sciberas at Plymouth Michigan on July 25, so we departed Whitehall that morning and scooted over to Plymouth on I96. The reason for the get together was to attend the RM Classic Car auction that afternoon and the America Concours car show the following day. We met up as planned and Jim bought his 14 year old son Teague along to get his enthusiasm up about classic cars. That evening Citroenvie members Gabe and Marlene Bandy invited us to a BBQ at their nearby home and we had a chance to see Gabe’s impressive car collection, including giving Teague a ride in Gabe’s 1915 Sterns Knight. Quite the night!!
On Sunday July 26 we devoted our day to The America Concours at The Inn at St. John’s golf course where we saw a stunning array of automobiles that were both rare and expensive. Nonetheless, at the end of day I was happy to get in my 2CV and drive away knowing that none could have made the trip it did in the past 4 1/2 weeks! We all went for dinner that night in Ysplanti and the following morning began the last leg of our trip to the Canadian border and back home to Toronto. As luck would have it, a rock managed to hit my windshield just south of Guelph on HWY 401 about 60 kms from home. I wasn’t close to any other vehicle but, bang! – there is was, – a nice big shatter that definitively decided for me that it was time to address the other two small chips I had gotten on the trip, by a complete windshield replacement. A precaution I was prepared for as I purchased a new windshield from Kenji at FPS when I was in Seattle and had the foresight not to try to install it at the time in light of the road debris I might encounter on the way home.
Quite the trip and quite the testament to the engineering and durability of the “tin snail”. Roland and I did well over 70 mph on the highways at most times. The mountain roads were no problem and the level of comfort on a near five week outing was more than adequate. It was a great drive and one I would heartily recommend to anyone that wants see the amazing geography of the northern US and western Canada while experiencing the true virtues of a 602cc powered 2CV.