Passing lanes — the greatest invention since the solid/dashed double line.

Passing lanes — the greatest invention since the solid/dashed double line.

A salute to the passing lanes of Highway 3

I want to take a moment to welcome the new passing lane near Jaffray to the great family of passing lanes on Highway 3.

The new lane — one of the seven between Cranbrook and Fernie, and for which we thank all levels of government and ministries involved — is a wonderful new addition to the many features that make Highway 3 — formerly the Dewdney Trail — the unique and wonderful road that runs through the middle of our lives.

Yes, that’s Highway 3, the main circuit cable through southern B.C., the most Canadian road there is.

More than 840 kilometres, from the legendary, astonishing country of the Skagit and Manning parks, into the rich, rich Similkameen, to the curly-cue hairpin curves of Osoyoos, then the mystical Kootenay-Boundary country where Catherine Anthony Clark made time stand still, to the loud and boisterous East Kootenay, through the hotrodder town of Cranbrook to Fernie, into the wilds of the Crowsnest Pass, and so to Alberta, where there are more great roads to pick you up — to either send you east to the TransCanada and the rest of the nation, or Highway 22 (my favourite Alberta road) which whips you up into the good times of Calgary.

That’s our Highway 3, the greatest road in the land, if you ask me, and although it will always be the Dewdney Trail to me, whatever its name, it’s that Carefree Highway that lets me slip away out of Cranbrook when I can no longer stand being around you all, and that brings me back when I find I just can’t live without any of you for a minute longer.

(I was coming and going all the time, until the pandemic put a break on my peregrinations and I was forced to stay at home and confront the fact that it wasn’t you I was running away from, it was me!)

Even so, the highway is for soul-refreshing travel, or a fast track to economic opportunity, or the way to the friends and family who have made our lives more complete — they may live far away, but Highway 3 makes our world smaller, and connects us heart to heart like an asphalt artery. And so we jump in our automobiles, put on our thousand-yard stares and hit the road, without, of course, even for a second losing our focus. We keep our eyes on the road and our hands upon the wheel.

So, you’re on the road, and travelling well. Weather conditions are fine and you’re making good time. What’s this? Slowing down to a crawl, you find yourself behind the semi hauling a heavy load of goods for the good of us all. That’s cool. The truck line is the life line of the nation.

But even so, you’re kind of keen to make last call at the Tudor House. You’ve got tales to tell of your adventures on the road. Not to worry. Here’s a passing lane. Two kilometres where we can make the time we need for ourselves so that traffic can flow.

Of course, we are courteous, and follow the rules down here in the south. We pass each other, or let each other pass, always on the left, with a wave of a hand, or a friendly nod. If there is a snake of traffic wishing to pass, we’ll sort it out amongst ourselves, pulling over quickly to the right to let the faster cars get ahead. That’s good old country neighbourliness on Highway 3.

Now, contrast this with the craziness to the north — the TransCanada — where they jockey for the fast lanes, swooping in and out, honking horns, or practicing “the Slingshot.” (The Slingshot is passing recklessness, where you accelerate towards the vehicle ahead of you, then pull out and pass it just after a car goes whizzing past in the opposite lane, then pull back in front of the car you passed just before another car whizzes passed in the other lane. A dangerously tight passing envelope).

Passing lanes help discourage this kind of reckless behaviour. As humans, we are prone to impatience, where bad decisions can be made. A passing lane like the new two-kilometre passing lane near Jaffray, helps encourage our better driving habits, indeed, our better qualities as people.

So I’m looking forward to getting out on Highway 3, that old friend of mine, and hitting the road soon, with plenty of opportunities to pass and be passed, and hopefully bringing back a tale to tell.