Fort Nelson, 1361 km from Calgary.
Fort Nelson is this lovely little redneck town that is famous for being the “third non-indigenous settlement” in British Columbia. The town was established as a trading post in 1805 by the Northwest Fur Trading Company and was named after Lord Horatio Nelson, a half-blind, philandering, one-armed British Naval captain.
Up until World War 2, the area was sparsely populated and the biggest force in bringing people to Fort Nelson was the building of the Northwest Air Staging Route (NWSR) and the Alaska Highway during World War 2. In 1940, when the US and Canada were faced with the threat of invasion from Japan and the need for airplanes on the Russian front, both countries worked together to establish an air route through the north known as the Northwest Staging Route (NWSR).
The route goes from Edmonton, Alberta to Fairbanks, Alaska and was designed to transport aircraft with supplies from the continental US to Alaska. The route consisted of a series of airfields 100 mi apart which allowed planes to work their way north and south. The route was completed a year or two before the army began building the Alaska Highway, and helped determine the path the highway took north.
Unfortunately for me, I was sleeping up until the point where we entered a Wendy’s parking lot for lunch. Forgetting that there is a time change at the BC border, we were confused when we went to order lunch and were denied. At this point, I had no idea where I was and what time it was.
So, when I groggily and loudly asked, “where the hell are we?” it earned me some dirty looks from the patrons. It was at this point that I began to realize that we were in redneck Northern BC. There were several clues including a t-shirt that read: “It’s Not Alcohol that Causes a Hangover, It’s Waking Up That Does!” attached to the body of a person that I will call Mr. Monster Truck Driver. It also dawned on me that my flare pants, London t-shirt and red and blue streaked hair probably weren’t the norm and it’d be best to keep my mouth shut and eat my breakfast.
After breakfast, we partook on the almost impossible task of finding gas. A large majority of the gas stations in town were out of gas (a common occurrence the further you get North). We searched for a good long while before finding one place that still had gas and filled up before all the long-weekend RVs hit the town and gobbled up whatever was left.
Note added July 15, 2003 – Calon tells me that Fort Nelson is also famous for having the largest chopstick factory in the world. This is because the trees that grow in this area are really dense, small and straight. Perfect for chopsticks! Who woulda thunk…