One of the best things about this job is that I get to become a tourist in the region where I live. Since I’m often attending big annual festivals, I’m able to meet people deeply invested in their towns; I’m able to witness community-collaboration, celebration, even controversy; I’m briefly a part of a slightly different culture. This is not entirely dissimilar from the general experience of EV tourism, which offers the opportunity for deeper immersion into a sense of regional community simply by stopping, staying, and exploring rural towns that would otherwise be over-looked.
All this to say: I went to Christina Lake for their Homecoming Summerfest a couple of weeks ago, and I had such a great time that I’ve got to tell everyone.
I left Fernie on Friday afternoon with 300+km of range. I knew it wouldn’t be enough to reach Christina Lake, and had planned to stop in either Creston or Salmo along the way. After passing through Creston with still plenty of charge, my dad called, and upon hearing where I was headed he said, “Isn’t that the Sal-Crest Skyway? Oh, you’ve got a big hill coming.” Thankfully Salmo is before the first real pass, and I had a chance to eat dinner and charge up before the climb.
I’m from Edson, Alberta but I grew up in a rural area of Ontario, far from any towns at all. Salmo, though I’d never been, reminded me of home. At the pub where I went for dinner, everyone knew everyone – and I’m sure they knew everything about each other too. The waitress was going on a trip, which I can tell you because tables of patrons cheerfully yelled information to each other: “Where ya going, Katie!” “She’s headed East, Bob!” “Ahhh, headed to the big cities are ya! Take mind you come back now!” I’d been in Salmo for all of half an hour, and already I felt comfortable.
This was my first chance to take the Bolt over a pass and I didn’t know quite what to expect of mountain driving with an electric car. When I left Salmo, I had 360km of range. It dropped to 299 at the top of the first pass, but with regenerative braking I regained up to 375km on the way down – refilling my battery past the initial charge! By the time I arrived in Christina Lake (112km away), I had only used about 40km of my range. As someone used to driving a gas vehicle, this absolutely blew me away.
I coasted down the last pass into Christina Lake just as the sun was setting. If you’ve ever been to Christina Lake, you can imagine how beautiful it was. If you haven’t had the pleasure, picture a smooth stretch of lake turning soft and silver, reflecting the last glints of sun. Picture the mountain ridges on both side deepening into blue, and the lights of town and cottages sparkling into place. I pulled off at a rest stop to watch the sun sink away – no photos could do it justice. You’ll have to see for yourself.
The Sunflower BnB where I was staying is on the far edge of the lake. I’d called to let the owner know when I was coming but she was worried I’d miss it in the dark, so she stood at her driveway to wave me in. After a long day of driving, it was wonderful to be home. And what a home indeed! My room looked out over the lake, where the moon was now rising. I opened the window and could hear waves lapping at the shore. Kathleen, the owner, offered me hot chocolate, wine, anything to eat, and then she sat up with me to ask me all about “that very quiet car I was driving.”
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced hospitality like I did in Christina Lake. Kathleen was an angel: we had breakfast together on the deck overlooking the lake, and she told me about her daughters (“who would be about your age I guess”), and when she heard I was gluten-free as well as vegetarian she insisted on packing me snacks just in case I couldn’t find something to eat. At the festival itself, my electric vehicle was a bit of a novelty amidst the mostly classic cars, but the other car owners came to shake my hand and look under the hood like they did everyone else. Actually, perhaps more than they did everyone else, because many of them had never seen a car like mine and they had so many questions. Very quickly I became “the electric car girl” and they were making jokes with me like we’d been friends for years.
When the event was over, I was glad to pack up but I was hardly excited to leave. I promised myself that I would find any excuse to come back: to swim in the lake, explore the Community Nature Park, to stay at the Sunflower one more time. I stopped again in Creston for dinner and a charge, but I stopped three more times on the route back to Fernie just to appreciate the views of the mountains, the fresh air, and to revel in the knowledge that I’d left no emissions in this stunning area.