Washington Drivers (written with love, respect, and a wink)

Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver, Squamish, and WhistlerI drive to Squamish periodically, along the Sea-to-Sky highway, a superbly scenic winding road that wends its way along the northern side of the Howe Sound, seemingly precariously perched along steep fjord walls that rise above you several hundred metres to snow-capped peaks in the late fall through early spring, and fall sharply below you into the deep, always dark waters of the Sound. My grandmother affectionately says that the Sea-to-Sky highway reminds her of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, which is arguably a jewel as one of Europe’s most scenic routes.

For those living in Squamish, the Sea-to-Sky makes for an always spectacular commute, rain, snow, or shine. You quickly get used to the twists and turns of the snake-like road, which almost mesmerize you, and certainly I’ve had passengers in the car fall asleep as the car rocks back and forth with the sun shining down on them after a beer in the local in Squamish.

One thing mars the scene. It’s really more the fault of the road-makers than anything else, but in parts, when the highway was updated from a single lane in either direction, to two lanes, there are still parts of the Sea-to-Sky that narrow back down to a single lane in either direction. This narrowing makes for a frustrating drive if you end up behind a nervous driver who is traversing the track for the first time, not used to the continuous sharp s-curves. I do blame the engineers. They should have either punched their way through the rock and tunneled the highway in order to twin the lanes, or built the perch further out over the Sound. Expensive, I know, but would likely have helped to prevent the numerous accidents that inevitably claim a life or two every summer and winter; I’ve been stuck on the highway for two hours as a foolhardy motorcyclist had to be scraped off of the highway because of their reckless disregard for common sense (FYI to all motorcyclists: driving between two cars in order to overtake your sense of frustration will only result in you being scraped off of the pavement at some point).

But my peeve is not the narrowing of the two lanes into one, it’s our Washington cousins who sit in the left lane and go on the speed limit on the nose, hunched over the wheels, oblivious to the fact that half a dozen cars have overtaken then in the past two minutes. I have seen the signs in Washington: “slower traffic keep right, use left lane only to pass.” Why can’t they carry over this motor maxim up north?

I had some minor justification of God’s existence today, in this regard. A motorcyclist of the decent variety was stuck behind a Washington driver driving a behemoth of a dated white Cadillac, who was keeping pace with the vehicle next to them. Just around the Lions Bay, the motorcyclist finally had his opportunity to overtake the Washington fellow, but oddly enough kept pace with the Cadillac. I wondered what the heck he was doing. I realized that he was trying to get the Washington driver’s attention, and started to gesture for that driver to move over into the right, slow, lane. Super awesome. Message received. The Cadillac moved over.

Washington drivers: please, the left lane is the fast, or passing, lane – the right lane is the slow lane. It’s a beautiful winding road so if you want to really take it in slow, wonderful, just stick to that right lane. Our traffic rules in Canada are essentially the same. Just like the size of our change: our quarters are just like your quarters, and so forth. The same principle applies to traffic rules.

And in the meantime, I’ll just trail you and vent loudly to no one in particular.


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