Despite being stranded in Hope more than 18 hours after they left home, a Salmon Arm couple considers themselves lucky.
Speaking to the Observer late Monday afternoon via cellphone from their vehicle-turned-motel in Hope, Phaedra and Ivan Idzan left Salmon Arm about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14.
They were heading to Parksville on Vancouver Island, as Ivan was scheduled to work there Monday. They had made reservations for the 5:45 p.m. ferry from Tsawwassen to Duke Point.
However, Mother Nature intervened. The ferry reservation went unused, as did their hotel room.
The Idzans had driven on the Coquihalla Highway as far as the Zopkios brake check, just north of the Great Bear Snow Shed, when they had to stop and wait in a lineup for two-and-a-half hours. Traffic was then turned around halfway down the brake check, so they drove to Merritt, filled up and grabbed a bite to eat.
Although Google maps was showing if they exited at Coquihalla lakes they could detour past the closure, Ivan said, and a number of vehicles were turning off, he wondered if the drivers knew where they were going or were blindly following the map. He and Phaedra thought taking Highway 3, the Hope-Princeton, would be wise instead.
Traffic was travelling between 40 to 60 km/hr the entire way to Princeton. They passed many waterfalls and then noticed groups of five or six vehicles at a time pulling over to the side of the road. Wondering why, they soon learned “there was a very, very large pothole that was taking out lots of vehicles and ruining people’s tires,” Phaedra explained. People were pulling over to change tires but, somehow, the couple’s vehicle had missed the hole.
That was the beginning of their good luck, as they see it.
They also passed Princeton, but they weren’t stopped by flooding.
Much of the latter part of their journey that day was well after sunset, Phaedra said.
“It was scary. Everything was dark, you don’t know where you’re going, Google maps wasn’t helpful.”
Next they decided to stop in Hope, but Hope was without power. So they headed down Lougheed Highway 7, the only route open at the time. It somewhat parallels Highway 1 on the other side of the Fraser River.
They learned that just half an hour before they arrived in the Agassiz area, two landslides had crashed down, sweeping away vehicles and leaving others stranded between the two slides.
“We just missed them, thank God,” said Phaedra.
The couple waited for about an hour before they turned around and headed back towards Hope.
They had heard there was a gas station with a generator called the Silver Creek Travel Centre which had gas, washrooms and a restaurant; the rumour turned out to be true. Arriving about 11 p.m., they parked their vehicle and got as comfortable as they could under a blanket they’d brought along.
And that’s where their vehicle remained until the early evening of Nov. 15.
Monday there were lineups at the Ricky’s restaurant next door and when they got in they were told they had the last remaining order of food. Although they don’t usually carry cash, they’d fortunately both brought $40 on this trip. They enjoyed being seated with other people who had just been through similar experiences.
The Idzans expressed gratitude for the kindness of the staff who served them, who were clearly stressed by the circumstances and were apologetic for the wait.
While people are directed during disasters to check Drive BC, Ivan pointed out it’s not that simple when connections to the internet are spotty or non-existent. Their adult children were able to keep in contact, sending them updates and lots of humour. He said wryly that the relaying of all of the floods and landslides in B.C. was not, however, particularly reassuring, when they were stuck in the middle of them.
Their “cheeky” children, as Phaedra called them, did send them a playlist of songs to listen to with situation-themed titles like ‘Mouth of the River’ and ‘Proud Mary.’
“They’re now being disowned,” Phaedra laughed. “The cats get everything now.”
The Idzans‘ sense of humour and gratitude has kept their spirits up, as has other people’s kindness.
On Monday night Phaedra posted on the internet that, once again, they had been very fortunate. Friends from home had contacted relatives in Hope who provided them with a cozy roof over their heads. They drove to the home as water began moving into the area where they had been parked.
“We missed it by ‘that much!’ once more!!” Phaedra messaged.
With Hope being at the hub of several closed highways, the Idzans were holding onto hope that Highway 1 westbound might be opening Tuesday.
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