The QE2 Code

To be on the safe side, I googled the QE2 Code, the Queen Elizabeth Highway 2 Code and the Alberta Highway 2 Code and didn’t find anything so I hope I’m not stepping on somebody’s toes with this.

Sometimes referred to as the QE2, Alberta’s Highway 2 stretches from north of Edmonton to south of Calgary and then onto Lethbridge. It’s the longest highway in the province, and based on my experience driving it, I feel there’s an understanding between users. There’s a code. A knowing. Like if you asked someone from here they would say “you bet.”

It’s best if I just describe it to you.

Heading south on QE2 out of Edmonton there is construction, which means a lower speed limit to the maximum 110 kilometres and a warning that fines double when workers are present. Once the construction zone hits, everybody slows down and the jockeying begins (change lanes, make sure you’re doing 80, speed up, pass the car you’ve been sitting behind since South Common). It’s all done smoothly and, barring some meathead still doing the 110 maximum, the pre-race has started. Eventually the construction dissipates, cars speed up and then it looks as if there’s a person standing at the “end of construction zone” sign vigorously waving a green flag. Suddenly 110 isn’t the maximum anymore. It’s barely the minimum.

In my mind there’s only one way to drive in the prairies: fast. I don’t think I’m alone with this one. On the QE2 you have to drive fast. There are secondary highways so it’s not as if there are no other options. And those secondary ones, such as the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22), show off the beauty of driving in Alberta (Seriously. Drive to Longview). Admire the sites on secondary, take the cue from the metaphorical NASCAR green flag bearer on the QE2 and put your god damn foot down hey. You think you may be going fast when you take a peek at the odometer and it says 140 until someone blows by you in the passing lane. It’s not a surprise and at times you might be that person ripping by.

This is all a good thing, of course. Driving fast out of town does more than just get you to where you want to go quickly. I’ve always thought music in the car sounds a lot different than music in your headphones. Also, taking off gives you that appreciation for where you are and knowing there’s way more to see. Our fast travel ticket to the mountains, the badlands, a saloon with good steak in Longview, or the United States of America (I hear Whitefish is lovely), is available year round and people should use it more often. 

Every time I put my god damn foot down hey when getting out of the construction zone on the QE2 I appreciate it a little bit more. It doesn’t feel like a boring drive and based on how fast you’re going it won’t take long to get there anyway. People fly between Edmonton and Calgary all day, every day and there’s even been talk of putting a rail line between the two cities. We don’t have the population, yet, for a train between Edmonton and Calgary so we can at least put that idea to bed in the short term. Besides, there’s no better place to let your wheels do the talking.

If you asked the average Albertan have they made it from Edmonton to Calgary in less than two hours you’ll be surprised at how many say you bet. That’s the QE2 Code. Everyone drives fast and it’s OK if you want to drive faster.