Road trippin' with Rod Pelley
Pelley completed his Montreal to Vancouver drive on Saturday
"I think it's pretty cool," Rod said Friday while his travels were being tracked by 200 followers on Google Latitude. "When we set all this up I wasn't quite sure if people would be like, 'Oh, it's just another road trip.' But I think it's pretty cool when it's tracking your movements through all these little towns."
But one of the best parts of the experience was sharing it with the fans. Pelley has the longest drive home of any Devil.
"A lot of times fans don't really connect with players in that sort of way, especially away from the ice," Rod said.
|Pelley is making the drive with his girlfriend Vanessa and their two-year old Golden Retriever, Bella. The ride is a GMC Sierra Denali.
Rod covered over a thousand miles on the first day of the trip, going from Montreal to Ottawa, then to North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie before reaching Thunder Bay.
"That was pretty intense there," he said. "The last couple of hours it was like, put the window down for a little bit, and I was focusing extra hard then."
He has relied on coffee and the occasional blast of fresh air through the truck's windows for a pick-me-up. His girlfriend Vanessa and their Golden Retriever, Bella, stayed awake with him through the rains and winding roads of the first day.
"I had to keep my eyes open for moose and watch the curvy roads because the trailer at times can be a little awkward when I'm turning," he said. "I have to slow down. It's not like when you're in your car and you're just cruising through these turns. You have three thousand pounds you're towing that you're trying to calculate, too. That made the thousand miles a little longer."
On straight stretches of road, he reaches top speeds of about 75 miles an hour.
"I could maybe go a bit quicker, but if I hit a gust of wind or a choppy road, I don't want it to throw me around," he said.
He's also had to contend with some low visibility.
"From Ottawa to Sault Ste. Marie [there] was a lot of fog. You couldn't see much, no signs, nothing like that, which is why there weren't more pictures being taken. Besides that, nothing too major."
When he played at Ohio State, Rod made the 2,800-mile drive from his hometown of Kitimat, British Columbia, to Columbus. This time around, he's getting a coast-to-coast view of the Canadian countryside.
"That Ontario part of it was new for me," he said. "It's really pretty, I just wish it wasn't raining so much and we could have seen more of it. I would say that road from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay would be beautiful in the summertime."
Because smaller towns are so spread out in rural Canada, he's had to keep a close eye on the gas gauge.
"When I have a half a tank I stop and fill up, especially when it's getting to be seven, eight o'clock at night because there was one time it said next gas is 185 kilometers (114.9 miles), so you really have to plan your gas up in that area," he said. "Gas stations close at eight o'clock along that road. If you start running out of gas, you better hope you hit somewhat of a major city and a major city around there is like 1800 people. You're hoping someone has a gas station open for you."
|Rod had a Larry Robinson jersey ready for the occasion in Sudbury.|
5:45 AM Autoroute Félix-Leclerc, Vaudreuil-Dor
Total: 1,023 miles
Thunder Bay to Brandon, Manitoba - 4/28
Rod has been snapping pictures of scenery along the way and wasn't expecting to run into Devils fans in the middle of Kenora, Ontario. That's just what happened when Keith Bingham tracked Rod's location for a roadside meet-and-greet.
Bingham had emailed Rod at firstname.lastname@example.org, but it seemed unlikely that their paths would cross until Bingham brought the meeting to Rod.
|Keith Bingham and roommate Amy Van Toen with Rod Pelley.|
Having been slowed by rain near Lake Superior the day before, Rod decided to push on.
"Then we were driving along and I see these Devils jerseys on the side of the road, Ken Daneyko and Brian Gionta. I was like, 'What?' I did a double take.
"He said he knew where we were exactly because he called his wife and was getting updates on exactly where we were. When we were entering Kenora, his wife was like, 'They're at the intersection of this and this.' He sped up to this one spot, turned in and got out of the truck and waved us down."
That night, Rod reached Brandon (hometown of Bryce Salvador), which had recently seen serious flood conditions.
"Big time floods," he said. "They've got all these sandbag barriers up around town. They got hammered pretty good with floods. I guess the Trans-Canada Highway was shut down for a little bit last week."
|Rod's girlfriend Vanessa with their two-year-old Golden Retriever, Bella. That's Lake Superior behind them.|
10:22 AM Curry St, Thunder Bay, ON P7E 5R9
Total: 576 miles
|Rod rocking the rugged Western look for a stop in Wapella, Saskatchewan.|
"For sure Calgary, and we were just calculating the extra kilometers to Banff and we're not sure because that area's really nice and we want to take our time through there," he said this morning. "We're going to see how it goes and go from there."
He's been handling all the driving himself, with Vanessa and Bella taking care of the navigation.
"Bella actually sits in the driver's seat while we're gassing up," he said. "I think she wants to try [driving]."
Even if she can't get behind the wheel, Bella's been an active passenger.
"For the first hour every morning she's really excited," Rod said. "She wants to see what's going on, so she'll put her paws on the center console and basically has her head right in the middle of the windshield looking for birds or cows or anything she can see. So she's flying around trying to see everything. When she gets warm, she'll go to one of the side windows in the back and put her paw on it because she wants us to put down the window. We get a gust of wind ripping through the truck every hour when she gets warm."
Total: 694 miles
Banff, Alberta to Vancouver - 4/30
"Banff was definitely the highlight," Rod said. "The national park there is pristine and the views you get of the mountains are awesome!"
6:40 AM Banff, AB
Total: 527 miles
Grand total: 2,820 miles