This past weekend, I embarked on an adventure I was not expecting. The plans had been in motion for a long time to go visit my wife’s aunt at their lake house on Wasa Lake in British Columbia (Canada for those not up to date on their geography). We got our Enhanced IDs for the border crossing, packed our suitcase and headed up there for a weekend of relaxation and lakeside fun. For me, it was also a Pokemon safari, via Pokemon Go.
As a bit of background, I have had minimal interaction with Pokemon in the past. Not because I had a problem with it, but simply because I had so many other things competing for my attention that I just couldn’t ever make the time to see what people were on about. As such, I was not well versed in the variety and nature of the pocket-sized critters, nor the lore surrounding them until I discovered that Pokemon Go was going to be made. My interest was captured far more because I love the idea of Altered Reality games than because I was interested in a Pokemon game, but I was happy to see that the seeds originally planted were going to be bearing fruit in the form of such a recognizable property.
My wife was invited to the North America beta test, so I knew generally how the game was going to go and a little bit of what to expect. I was wildly disappointed in my lack of ability to actually log into the game, since there was some major launch SNAFU and the game was tripping over its own feet left and right. As such, I got almost no play-time in before our scheduled departure on Friday. Not to be deterred, I made sure to grab my phone and charger and see if I could learn more about Pokemon by capturing them in the exotic land of Canada.
The first thing I discovered is that, while my wife was able to play in the car just fine driving around town, once you start on the freeway you may as well just shut the phone down. You can’t interact with Pokestops at 60+ mph, and while you may occasionally get a wild Pokemon (especially if you are my wife, whose luck never stops), I didn’t find it to be worth the battery life. Especially since it seems to drain battery faster than my car-charger can charge it from the cigarette lighter plug. Your mileage may vary. Heh, mileage. See what I did there?
The thing I didn’t expect was that as soon as we crossed the border, the internet vanished. Not that it changed to roaming or anything; I had that enabled, and when we got to Cranbrook (the town outside of Wasa Lake) it worked fine. However, apparently the Canadians don’t value phone coverage on the highway. I occasionally had enough signal to send and receive texts, but no data. As you might imagine, this resulted in even more shutting off the phone and not playing. I was seriously worried that I wouldn’t get any playing done for the whole weekend and would come back empty handed. Fortunately, that was not the case.
Cranbrook is not a very big town, but because it is the urban center for the surrounding rural areas it sees a respectable amount of activity, and that is reflected in Pokemon Go. Pokestops are usually very close together and there are wild Pokemon a-plenty if you are willing to take the time to track them down. Sadly, we were just stopping for lunch and some groceries for the lake house so I only managed to grab a Ratatta (which I named Ratatatouile because Canada and french and all that) and totally fail to grab a Zubat before we were off again. I was again disappointed to discover that the part of the lake that my wife’s Aunt’s house is on is pretty bare as far as Pokestops and wild Pokemon go. You have to go to the community center or one of the commercial campgrounds to get much play there.
Once again, not to be denied, my wife and I sat out on the dock overlooking the lake one evening, lit up some electronic Incense and lured in the little bastards. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Pokemon that were attracted by the incense were primarily Flying and Water types; very appropriate for the lake setting. It was surprising because there was so little interaction with the game in this part of the country that I was worried that it wouldn’t get the appropriate terrain types. We did, however, and even managed to lure some of them up out of the water an onto the docks! A friendly Pidgey landed on my wife’s leg and an Eevee even climbed up to cuddle with me.
As a sidenote, I’m still kicking myself for not stopping and waiting for Fort Steele to open and check it out. Apparently it’s an old-world style neighborhood, with lots of cool things to see. Also, nobody up there plays Pokemon Go yet, so there are two completely unclaimed Gyms my wife and I could have taken and just raked in the coins for the forseeable future. Of course, I could just use the money that we would have spent on admission to buy coins, but that doesn’t seem very sporting. I’ll probably do it anyway.
So even though the trip didn’t have a great deal of support in game, I was still able to have a lot of fun playing Pokemon Go and capture some little guys for my collection. Any while the Pokemon available in Wasa Lake and Cranbrook aren’t really different than those you find here in the States, I still felt like Pokemon Go contributed to my weekend in a foreign land feeling a little more exotic and added a bit of adventurous spice to a weekend that was already great and relaxing. So far I am very impressed with Pokemon Go – bugs, instability and all – and am still excited to see what kinds of exotic critters I can turn up on my next road-trip!