Kootenays Tour: Day 1

I spent all day yesterday driving from Vancouver to Nelson, BC on the first day of the B.C. Book Prizes Kootenays book tour.  Bryan Pike and Kathryn Para picked me up at about 7:10 a.m. and we drove to Chilliwack for our first school visit.  Bryan is the tour organizer, driver, promoter, and the possessor of a great (and eclectic) music collection that provided the sound track to day 1 of our road trip.  Kathryn is the author of Lucky, one of the finalists for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Both were lovely travel companions, who were extremely tolerant of my near-constant questions, peppered with the occasional anecdote about my children.  (What’s that?  What do you think that is? Hey, what are those mountains called?  Let me tell you something cute / smart that my child did the other day.)

I spent much of the day wishing my cell phone network extended throughout the province so I could ask my cell phone questions, and stop harassing my fellow travelers.  For instance, here are some questions that occurred to me:

  • Where exactly is Nelson?  Turns out it’s in the Western Kootenays, or (in terms that our friends to the south would understand) — just north of where Washington State meets Montana.  If we had driven straight it would have been about a nine hour drive.  With stops it took us about fourteen hours.
  • Why does Princeton, BC have so many motels and short term residences?  Does this have something to do with mining?  (Probably not – a brief Google search has suggested that Princeton’s main business is now the sawmill, so I’m guessing the motels and such cater to loggers.)
  • What are these mountains called that we’re driving through?  (The first bit were the Cascades.  Still not sure about the second bit, as Wikipedia claims that the Cascades end with Princeton, BC.)
  • Is it just me, or do the hillsides in the interior of BC, where the Okanagan meets the Kootenays look a lot like the green, tree-scattered, hillsides in the Settlers of Catan?  (Definitely yes.)
  • What’s that big smokestack surrounded by huge mounds of gravel?  It looked like a cross between a power plant and a cement factory.

In the course of the day we drove through forests, over mountains, past bits of deserts, rivers, creeks and frozen lakes.  We saw quite a few grazing animals, including sheep, cows, deer, and llamas.  Here’s a photo from the parking lot of the high school in Princeton where Kathryn presented.  (Kathryn has been presenting at the high schools, while I do the elementary or middle schools.)

The view from Princeton, BC

The view from Princeton, BC

Yesterday I presented at the Vermilion Forks Elementary School in Princeton, and the Bernard Elementary School in Chilliwack.  Here’s a photo Brian took of me with some of the students.

Ari & students, post presentation

Ari & students, post presentation

I had about a hundred students at each school events.  Both events were lively and enthusiastic and the students asked a ton of great questions.  Both were pretty big assemblies held in schools’ gyms, but somehow the acoustics worked – maybe because the students were good at listening to each other’s questions (and my answers) quietly.

I went to sleep last night still pondering some of their questions, in particular ‘what inspired me to be a writer?’  I get that question at every reading I do, and each time my answer changes.  Not because I’m a liar, but because there’s a lot of different true answers to the question.

Today, we will only do about 4 hours of driving, visiting schools in Nelson and Creston, before arriving in today’s destination of Fernie.  I’m going to try to post again tomorrow.

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