Yes, I got held up on a return to Calgary recently. Now that sounds exciting – a highway robbery? Stand and deliver! You’d best stop reading now if that’s your hope for this piece. This is about a different sort of hold up.
The highway was closed due to a rock fall and wasn’t scheduled to reopen for a few hours. Fortunately, if fortune is a feature of travel delay, I was in Revelstoke, BC, and that’s never a bad thing. I love the situation of this little town, nestled along the Columbia River with towering mountains all around. We’ve enjoyed camping nearby, exploring the beautiful area around and about. In the small downtown there are stores catering to all season outdoor activities, a few coffee shops and eating houses, and a realtor or two reminding us we can’t really afford small town mountain living.
Anyway, here was an unexpected opportunity to spend a few hours in a favourite place. But did I venture into the little downtown to while away my waiting time in an independent coffee shop? Take the opportunity to browse the gear and flannel shirts in those outdoor stores? Enjoy a short rainy hike along the picturesque river banks? I did not! Having filled up the car for the last leg back to Calgary, and resigned to a wait of uncertain length, I used my bonus Revelstoke time by sitting in Tim Hortons drinking their dark roast coffee.
You did what, PlaidCamper? Tim Hortons?! Aren’t you a staunch defender of independent coffee shops, a bean hound willing to take lengthy detours – “I’m sure there’ll be an espresso shack just up here” – and a slightly annoying coffee snob?
Coffee snob? That doesn’t sound like me! Well, there was that time when we (I) went a little way off route (somewhere in one of the Dakotas, I think) to find the Cowboy Coffee Cabin, but it was well worth it. Mighty fine coffee. When you have all day, what’s another hour or so? I liked that place, and if it was a Dakota coffee franchise, places on the prairies are so far apart that by the time you reach the next one, you honestly can’t remember if you’ve been to one before. “Hey, this looks new!” Could this explain the Tim Hortons success in Canada?
I know, I know, Tim’s isn’t exactly the definition of small town, small batch, artisanal coffee roasting, but big doesn’t have to be bad, does it? Have you had their dark roast? What can I say? I love it, quite dark and aromatic, a decent caffeine hit, and with an odd hint of cardboard flavour that is strangely delicious. Tim’s is a Canadian institution, and it isn’t a road trip unless there’s a sticky box of Timbits keeping driver and passengers full of unnecessary calories. All the Timbit flavours are fine, except old fashioned glazed – they taste like pork scratchings, the type sold in an English pub in the early 1980s. Not yum. (The part about Timbit calories? Not true. I’m pretty sure there are studies proving that if you eat Timbits in a car, you don’t put on weight. That’s right, car Timbits are free of calories. Amazing! I can’t seem to find a link to the scientific evidence, but you can take my word for it…)
You’d think the Tim Hortons in Revelstoke that day would have been full of miserable customers, all irritated they were held up. Yet the truck drivers (usual order, a double double), pensioners (double double), parents of preschool children (double double), students missing classes (large mocha, a Boston creme, please don’t tell my parents I’m skipping) and the coach load of Koreans (long order, the bus driver stepped in to help) couldn’t have seemed happier. Is this the power of TH doughnuts – that aren’t, let’s be honest, all that good – or is the strange cardboard flavour really an active happiness agent?
When we first came to Canada, I didn’t really get the national affection for Tim’s, although now it seems perfectly obvious a coffee and doughnut joint started by a hockey player would become a fixture of the Canadian coffee landscape. If I remember rightly, it took less than six months and another waist size up for me to fall under the Timbit spell. I thought it was a mandatory part of citizenship preparation, and I studied hard.
So, I didn’t go for a hike, or buy a plaid shirt. Instead, I read a bit, wrote parts of this post, drank a medium dark roast, got another for the road, and headed happily on my way once the highway reopened. Oh, and maybe there was a small box of Timbits in the centre console. It was empty long before reaching Calgary (except for the solitary old fashioned glazed I so thoughtfully saved for Mrs PC…)
Enough of these caffeine-fuelled ramblings. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!