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Explorer traces Trans-Canada roots

Aug 09 2012

It’s not often that someone drives across Canada to take a dip in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It’s even rarer for a yellow Camaro to do it.

Automotive journalist Mark Richardson celebrated the end of a 10-week road trip on Wednesday when he drove the front wheels of his car into the waters off Cattle Point. 

His 7,500-kilometre trip on the Trans-Canada Highway was sponsored by the Canadian Automotive Association and pays tribute to the highway’s 50th year.

“This road links us with every province,” he said. 

He said he chose the Chevrolet Camaro because it is made in Oshawa, Ont., by Canadians. The car’s wheels were dipped in the Atlantic Ocean off Petty Harbour in St. John’s. 

After launching from there on June 4, Richardson drove clear across Canada, chronicling his experiences and the history of the highway. His blog at macleans.ca describes his time on the road.

“I’ve been driving for 30 years,” said Richardson, who is former editor of the Toronto Star’s automotive section. “I’ve driven in every [U.S.] state, province and territory.”

Richardson said that the Trans-Canada is a road Canadians take for granted — but that’s OK.

“We should be able to get into our car and drive across the country,” he said.

The resident of Cobourg, Ont., picked up his 12-year-old son, Tristan, midway through the trip, turning the solo drive into a father-son bonding experience. 

But their adventure was a far cry from the experiences of the first highway explorers.

Richardson, who plans to write a book about the highway, describes the risky adventures of early drivers on his blog. 

In 1912, the first cross-Canada trip in an automobile had a team of men facing death with one wrong movement. Journalist Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney, a mechanic based in St. Catharines, Ont., struggled to drive through the Fraser River canyons. 

The journey was so difficult that another man who joined the trip held a kerosene light off the car,  in an attempt to see the nearby cliffs. 

The team was also the first to dip a car’s wheels in each ocean, so it’s an appropriate way for Richardson to pay homage to the feat.

Though Richardson said he was concerned he wouldn’t have enough material for a book, stories surrounding the Trans-Canada Highway are plentiful.

“It means different things in different provinces,” he said, adding that in B.C. the road is considered primarily a scenic drive.

“I’ve been able to meet the people who live along the highway and I want to tell their stories,” he said.

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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