The Highway to Holidays – Part 3

The start of the trip from Valleyview to Edmonton started much like the morning had. Lots of blowing snow. Better visibility but still snowing nonetheless.


It all came to a halt about 94km into this section of the trip. And by halt, I mean stopped dead on a highway with a speed limit of 110kph. The time was 2:10pm. We were still on track to make Edmonton by 5:30pm.


Every vehicle heading south was lined up on the highway like a large parking lot. There was also no traffic coming the other direction on the divided highway. What was going on. After half an hour of sitting I decided to check Twitter to see what was going on. It appears there was 2 accidents ahead of us. Not just your everyday accidents either. According to the news, there was a 17 car pileup at noon and then about 1 there was another 15 car pileup about 1km north of the first accident.

As reported on Twitter by @511Alberta:

Hwy 43-1

It appears we were going to be stuck for a while. And a while it was. About 3:00pm we started seeing some traffic on the other side of the highway heading north. Good sign? Apparently not. We waited and waited and there was still no movement south.

The traffic was now going full stream north by 3:30pm but yet we were still sitting. Around this time the left lane, which we were in, were all forced to move with the other lanes to the right to allow an RCMP vehicle and 2 snowplows by us. Another good sign right? Nope. More sitting and waiting. Some cars had turned off their vehicles to conserve fuel. My not filling up in Peace River but in Valleyview instead was a lucky stroke. Who knew.

And we waited. NO updates from anyone other than @511Alberta on Twitter.

Hwy 43-3

Unfortunately, even the highways group were getting false information from the RCMP. Any of us sitting there knew that Northbound traffic had been flowing for well over an hour.

Hwy 43-4

An update an hour later was actually correct. At about that time another police vehicle and 2 more snowplows went by in the left lane and those who had moved back to the left lane, had to move out of the way yet again. Finally at 6:20pm we started moving behind an RCMP escort. 20kph but at least we were moving. That lasted 11km and then we stopped again. It had long been dark out and now the intensity of the falling and blowing snow picked up. We were back to being stuck on the Highway 43 parking lot. Another update was released over another hour of waiting:

Hwy 43-5

To our left was a Ford Explorer sitting in the ditch. Down a couple hundred feet was a flatbed semi sitting in the ditch facing the other way. By now we had been pretty much stopped for 6 hours and mother nature was taking its’ toll. Several cars around us started walking their dogs for washroom breaks and humans too were doing what they could do to conceal what they too were doing. We all knew and we too took the dogs for a bit of a walk and partook in relieving ourselves.

Finally around 9:15pm we all started moving.

Hwy 43-6

Most of us stayed in the right lane following each other doing about 80kph. Unfortunately there were some who were really afraid of the conditions doing less than 60kph which almost caused some issues because with the blowing snow, it was hard to tell how fast they were going and the snow blast as you went by them. Then there were total morons who were flying by in the snow drifted left lane doing at least 120kph. I am surprised that at least one of them didn’t end up causing more issues as they fishtailed through the drifts. An hour later it was into Whitecourt to fill up again and get something to drink.

Going south through Whitecourt is an uphill drive and it was amazing to see the difference on the south side of the town. The highway from Whitecourt to Edmonton was virtually snow free. Very little on the road and maybe 6 inches in the ditch. Totally unlike the 18 inches of snow in the ditch that the Explorer was stuck in. We finally arrived at our daughters place around midnight…7 hours later that what we figured when we left Valleyview.

My next post will detail the issues I had with the way the accidents had been handled, at least in my opinion.

Related Posts: Global News, CBC News, Edmonton Journal

The Highway to Holidays – Part 2

The second day of our trip was the High Level to Edmonton portion. We have done this section several times but today was going to be a different day.

The day started as most do leaving High Level…gas up and hit the Tim Hortons for some coffee and breakfast. Once we hit the highway we were in for a treat. Snow. And a train. We have never had a train stop us on the highway before but sure enough, 10km outside High Level we passed a snow plow just in time to come across the train coming across the highway. 10 minutes of waiting and we were on our way.

The snow started getting pretty heavy once we got going…so heavy in fact that we couldn’t see the semi trucks in front of us.


The picture on the right shows us coming up on a semi that was almost completely white with snow from behind. We couldn’t even see the tail lights or marker lights. It was a tad dangerous. We did manage to get by after following him for about 30km when the snow wash had lightened. The rest of the trip to Peace River was pretty uneventful other than the blowing snow.


Once in Peace River we usually stop for gas. The Petro Canada we usually fill-up at was open but the pump lanes were closed off. We usually stop for lunch at the Dairy Queen. After picking that up we headed through the town looking for another gas station. We didn’t head downtown where I assume the other stations are. Not finding one, we headed for Valleyview. There are always lots of stations there to fill up and I had more than enough fuel to drive the 138 additional kilometres. Valleyview came and a gas station was found. We filled up and headed on our way. Only 350km to go…3.5 hours. That’s all. We would be in around 5:00pm with minimal dark driving. Right? Wrong!!

The Highway to Holidays – Part 1

For the first time in 3 years, we decided to drive to Edmonton for the holidays. The last 2 years have been spent with me recovering from knee replacement surgeries.

While most people dread the thought of 16 hours of driving on winter highways, we always take 2 days and stop in High Level overnight. This allows us to stop and take pictures when we want and limit our driving in the dark.

This year, the trip down was what most people dread about winter driving. Day 1 was not overly bad although it was mostly cloudy and the grey light all day made for a long day. The best part of that first day was the sunrise…in the rear view mirror…


…and the sunset in front of us about 90 minutes from High Level.


The temperature during the day had changed from -14°C to a rather balmy -4°C. On another note, gas had gone from $1.219/lt in Yellowknife, to $1.389/lt in Fort Providence and down to $1.239/lt in High Level.

Not a bad first day of the trip. Little did we know what was actually ahead of us tomorrow.