Although almost no one has asked me about the backstory for End Plan, I thought I’d put it together anyway – mostly as notes to my future-self but, hey, just in case anyone was curious.
End Plan is an unabashedly Canadian novel. The places and people are as real (or in some cases as real-feeling) as I could get through travel, observation and conversation. Quite a lot of the time, it felt pretty real to me as I overlaid a vacation with a very thin layer of alternate reality.
The story started (wow) almost three years ago when Wendy & I, along with our friends Carol & John, embarked on an Epic Road Trip to Labrador. In this day and age of cheap air travel and the Internet, we’ve all come under the illusion that the world has become smaller. Take away modern conveniences, though, and it hasn’t.
Consider the route to Labrador from our home, and keep in mind that in order to get to Newfoundland, we had to book, in advance, passage on the ferry from North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques, NL well in advance, so we had a hard deadline to make it to North Sydney in time, which was constantly on our minds as, clearly, it was for the man.
We started off driving through Eastern Ontario to Quebec, and then 10 straight hours of highway driving until reaching the town of Edmundston in New Brunswick. Edmundston is a great little city, by the way. It’s a little bizarre in its closeness to the US – I was pretty sure I could have waded across the St. John River if I I’d been foolish enough to. Given the closeness to the US side, it was pretty easy to imagine instant cooperation in the event of an emergency. We stayed there a couple of days and quite enjoyed it and the people.
Next, it was through New Brunswick with an overnight stop near Alma – another beautiful predominantly tourist town on the Bay of Fundy, on the edge of Fundy National Park. We found the local roads a little rough. The man meets Mary on one of these roads, a casualty of them.
The second to last leg was leaving New Brunswick and driving most of the way through Nova Scotia, stopping overnight in Antigonish, NS, just before the Canso Causeway, which joins Cape Breton Island to the Nova Scotia peninsula. It’s quite the work of engineering. I took some literary license here: the causeway itself (IMHO) would be ridiculously hard to blow even by our intrepid Canadian Forces. I suspect what they blew up was in fact the Canso Canal Bridge at the eastern end of the causeway, which would leave 24 meters of water to slow down the infected.
The final leg of the drive was through Cape Breton to North Sydney. It’s mountainous enough that there were some dicey feeling hairpin turns in the highway. Wendy was driving, but I helped her out by keeping my right foot firmly jammed against the invisible brake pedal on my side of the car. This is rough enough country that, as the man observed, a careful group or groups of people could hide out for a long time.
We made it on time to North Sydney and our date with the Ferry. Here’s what the marshalling yard looked like, with dusk falling (we opted for the overnight voyage):
You can see the ferry in the distance. Yes, all these cars and trucks fit onto it, and yes, the air did smell like dead fish and diesel fuel. You can see, from this picture, why the man had to use a motorcycle to get through the parked cars to make it to the ferry itself. You can also probably get a sense of the frustration and anxiety the vehicles’ occupants were feeling sitting around waiting.
The logistics of getting all the vehicles into the (indeed, cavernous) car deck are impressive. I can’t imagine being one of the workers who does this every day. I expect that they’re very very good at Tetris.
Now, having spent a number of days making it this far, and having boarded the ferry, parked the car and made it to our assigned seats in the passenger section, we’re still not in Newfoundland – that destination is still a 7 hour ferry ride away. It was at this point that I thought to myself: hey, if it’s this difficult to get there, wouldn’t it make an awesome place to evacuate to in the event of an apocalypse…