Cross-continent in a Ford Focus


Coleman Molnar:  Editor-in-Chief  Ω

It takes a bit of effort to get across this great big country of ours.  It takes focus – no pun intended — and determination.  It takes a lot of gas and even more coffee.  Plus, of course, a good amount of the essential Canadian-road-trip-snack, beef jerky.

The purpose of my trip was to drive my girlfriend’s less-than-reliable 2000 Ford Focus to her place in Hamilton, Ontario. I invited my brother along, wanting to have someone with whom to share this unique, cross-continent road trip.

We ripped through B.C. like we owned the place, marveling at the Rocky Mountain vistas and highway-accustomed wildlife that live therein.  Our home province was behind us in the blink of an eye — we were making good time.  But then came the prairies.

The prairies always get to me.  The utter flatness of the earth and the enormity of the sky seem to stretch my mind in a way that makes me lose track of time.  My brother noticed it too.  As the repetitious, Flintstone-like landscape flew by outside the windows, we were lulled into a flatland-induced stupor.  It wasn’t until Saskatoon that we realized we’d been listening to the same album on repeat for the last eleven-and-a-half hours.  Beware: it is possible to overdose on Mumford and Sons.

As we neared the US border in southern Saskatchewan I actually became concerned with the prairies’ possibly harmful affects on my brother’s young mind.

“How sweet would it be to have one male and one female buffalo?” he asked, staring out across the flat, grassy landscape.

I took my eyes of the road — an action much less dangerous on the straight shot highways of the prairies than BC’s winding roads — and glanced at my younger sibling.  His eyes looked glassy, vacant; there was no sign of sarcasm on his face.

“Umm,” I started, not sure how to reply to this, the second dumbest thing I had heard him say that morning.  “Sort of sweet, I guess.  Maybe you should take a nap.”

Luckily his sleep was restorative and after an hour-and-half at the border, having thoroughly explained to the guards that the glazed-over look in our eyes was from staring down highways and not from a life of hard drug use, we set off across North Dakota, my brother at the wheel.

The all-knowing Google Maps chose our route for us, and the satellite GPS practically negotiated our turns, so as copilot, there was not much for me to do but enjoy the view.

The flooding that plagued the Canadian prairies paid no heed to the national border and was apparent throughout the American farmland as well, turning ranches into lakeside resorts.  Their only guests: a trillion horny mosquitoes gathered for their annual orgy.  I felt itchy in the car as I snapped photos of floating barns and tractors.

Minnesota and Wisconsin were a complete blur to me as I drifted in and out of sleep.  I vaguely remember truck stops and gas stations as my brother stopped to fuel up every few hundred kilometers.  I awoke at 1 a.m. to the cracking sound of my driver’s second consecutive Red Bull.

“Are you alright?” I asked, not wanting to wake up in a ditch somewhere outside Minneapolis to discover BCAA doesn’t cover me down here.  My brother was performing an enthusiastic drum solo on the wheel, using the rearview mirror as a cymbal.

“Oh ya,” he shouted, looking like a man possessed.  “I’m golden!  Go back to sleep.”

Exactly two hours later, the energy drink’s effects wore off and he woke me to tell me to drive.  I ate Subway one handed and took pictures of a Tim Hortons sign outside Chicago, feeling proud that our national fast food chain was starting to catch on in America, the home of the doughnut.

We made it safely into Canada on the afternoon of the third day and – following the precise directions of our GPS system — navigated the little red car all the way to Hamilton Township, 180 km past the City of Hamilton, our actual destination.  After a few minutes of blaming and cursing one another, we turned the car around and blasted off the last couple hours of our trip, speeding 30 km over the limit with every other vehicle on the 403 outside Toronto.

Four days later we flew back, covering the same distance that had taken us just under three days in the Ford Focus, and were home after just six hours in the air.

It almost felt like cheating.



  1. Zvafadza Soko Jun. 22, 2011
  2. Pieter van Reenen Jun. 22, 2011