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Monday, 20 February 2012

A Driving History: Part 4- The 95 Legacy part 1

Six months too early to buy the outback, we bought the Subaru Legacy Wagon (Liberty for my Australian friends).  The photo is even the right colour- taupe.  Or brown if you prefer.

Leather seats, heated steering wheel, sunroof, am/fm/cd/cassette stereo, and all made with that quality Subaru engineering.

This was a great car, even if it was a little underpowered.  I believe in 96 they upped the hp from about 145 to 160 by improving air intake, amongst other things.  When I was on the highway I had to pick my time pass carefully as I would have to time the oncoming traffic so I could drop back a bit, and then run up behind the vehicle I wanted pass while the oncoming car was still approaching.  Then time it so when the oncoming cleared I could swing out and go around without losing much time.

All of the safety systems, the all wheel drive, airbags, etc weighed the car down, so it wasn't the fastest off the line in the summer.  In the winter, though, I could beat nearly everything off the line.  The car always seemed to have grip, well, except for a couple of times.

The first time I ever had a problem with that car was the very first winter we bought it.  It was late December, and Shelley and I were wondering what we were going to do for New Year's Day.  I think it was about 11pm at night.  Then she had this brilliant idea.  Let's go to Vancounver for New years.  She had friend down there we could stay with, and I said, Why not?    For you Australians, Edmonton to Vancouver is like driving from Mackay to Brisbane.  So we packed and left that night.  Must have been after midnight when we got on the road.

The trip down was essentially uneventful (apart from this monster Moose the headlights got a glimpse of on the side of the road in Jasper National Park).  We had a great time there.  The weather was superb, with daytime temps of nearly 10 degrees and nighttime lows of zero.  A good time was had by all, and so a couple days later, we drove back.

When we left, the day was typical Vancouver, warm, a little wet, and nothing to worry about.  And the trip to Kamloops was fine.  The temp dropped a little as we headed inland, being about 2 degrees there.  It was the Kamloops to Jasper leg that trough a few wrenches into the works.  The temperature as we left Kamloops was obviously changing.  A light fog had settled in, and the road had become a little slippery.  I remember not so far out of the city we passed a car that gone down the mountainside.  We could see the tracks.  And then a little while later a light snowfall began.

We turned on the wipers to keep the moisture off the windscreen to discover the driverside wiper no longer worked.  The snow wasn't heavy, so we continued.  As we climbed a little higher into the mountains, the temperature got colder, and the moisture began to freeze on the roadway.  I reduced my driving speed from 100kph to about 85, as a precaution to the conditions.  But I truly wasn't worried I was in a Subaru!

But then I came around this bend in the road, and it must have been just tight enough because the back end let go and I found the car pointing down the mountainside.  I thought... that's bad... so I spun the wheel the opposite direction (mercifully the front tires had traction) I quickly tapped the brakes, discovering they were useless on the ice.  The car was then pointed up the hill and I headed for the hillside, still doing 75 to 80, but as I approached the plowed snow that marked the shoulder of the road, I cranked the wheel in the opposite direction.  The back end swung again, putting the rear tires into that snow, kicking up a huge wave of white snow a surfer could have rode.  It  also reduced my speed from 75 or so to 30.

I got the traction back in an instant.  With control of the vehicle assured, and with out stopping, I  drove on, but I never took the car above seventy after that.  But the snow came down harder, and we had to do something about the wiper, so came across this town, and I drove down the hill hoping to find someone who could help.

Of course, the Town's service station was closed, but I did find this old biker dude.  We went to his place, and we swapped wiper motors.  Got the driver's side wiper going again.  We climbed back up the highway and pressed on.  It was dusk, and it was getting colder.  The snow was beginning to fall in earnest.  We began actively looking for a motel because the driving conditions were real bad, but every motel on the road seemed to be full, so on we pressed.

The Temperature got lower.  The night got Darker.  My Speed go slower.

By 8pm the only other vehicles that were on the road besides us were the big trucks.  They don't stop for anything.  They were probably shocked to see us on the Yellowhead.  It was 6 hours since we left Kamloops, and we were not yet even at the merger of hwy 16 and hwy 5.  I was tired, and worried with all the snow, but determination had set in.  I knew we weren't going to get home that day.  I'd settled on Jasper, and by the Gods I was going to get there.

Whiteknuckling the steering wheel for the last 3 hours and driving on the highway at speeds of 50- 60 kph, we arrived in Jasper town.  A trip that usually takes about four hours took us over nine

When we left Kamloops the temperature was 1 degree.  When we hit Jasper, the temperature was -32.  We had so much ice packed into the wheel wells, every bump between Jasper and Edmonton sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard.  2 nights in a heated underground garage wasn't enough to melt it.  When we took the car in for the warranty repair on the wiper, they hosed the wheel wells with warm water.

So.  What's the moral of the story?

Want to drive from Edmonton to Vancouver and back in December?



  1. but did you learn anything??? Nordeg in winter? need i say anymore?

    1. I'm getting to that. one story at a time. that one will be called the rental... and its near the end of the list.

  2. I think "don't" is fair advice. The one extra nice thing about that drive now is they have finally removed the toll for the coquihalla. I guess the road has finally been paid for.

  3. have they? Thats a bonus now. makes flying to Vancouver and driving to edmonton feasible on my next visit