1969 Volvo 144 Goes on a Trans-Canadian Trip, Reaches Tuktoyaktuk After 5,100 Miles

Tuktoyaktuk in Sight 10 photos
Photo: Xavier Theriault on Instagram
1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian Trip1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans-Canadian TripThe Trans-Canadian Route
Xavier Theriault bought a 1969 Volvo 144 in 2018. Just three years later he decided it’s time for the trip of a lifetime. He took the old car on a journey similar to that of the Trans Canadian Railway Tour. They both survived the infamous Dempster Highway.
There’s enough stuff today on social media to keep you entertained for days. Simply scroll down or swipe left, and you’ll get enough content that can disconnect almost anyone from the reality of day-to-day life. While these networks have their fair share of dangers, sometimes you may find stories that stick with you. You stumble upon something truly inspiring. That’s how I found this young lad and followed him on Instagram. The idea of traveling through Canada’s most remote regions alone and with such an old vehicle just made an impression on me, one that I’m sharing with you today.

Theriault says on the social platform that buying the 144 was the “best worst financial decision” he ever made, hinting at what this vehicle might end up meaning to him: a money pit. Three years have gone by since the Swedish car became a part of his life, and the youngster finds himself in an awkward situation. He’s tired about everything happening in the world and can’t stand the pressure brought upon him, his friends, colleagues, and family by the health crisis. Feeling the need for a brief moment of happiness and no worries about safety measures and restrictions, he decided it’s time to temporarily leave school and create some long-lasting memories. And that he’s done.

In July last year he embarked on the adventure that in the end got him to see the Arctic Ocean from Tuktoyaktuk, “a community of under 900 inhabitants living (…) in the North-West Territories” via the well-known and not that loved Dempster Highway. The goal was clear, the plan was made, the preparations were in place. His road trip began in Peggy’s Cove – 5,100 miles (8,200 km) away from the final destination.

1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans\-Canadian Trip
Photo: xaviertheriault98 on Instagram

The first mile is the hardest

His next report comes five days after the departure from Tadoussac in the Quebec region. He was informed by the local people where to go for the best views, and he had to keep changing ferries for that. Theriault spent the night at a hostel where he met fellow travelers with whom he talked a lot and made pancakes.

One thing I haven’t told you yet is the Canadian likes to take photos like in the old days. He uses a film camera and tries to develop the best images that finally get to be uploaded on Instagram. Most of them are just scanned, but what you see here and on his account is still true work, not just instant snapshots. These images carry memories and effort.

After another five days passed, the young man finds himself in Ottawa. A friend there helps him sleep well through the night and the Volvo gets much needed rest plus a well-deserved wash. Heading deeper into Ontario, he stops for a moment at the Wasaga Beach and just enjoys the sound of the water and lets the wind run through his hair. The trip's slowly but surely turning into what he intended it to be.

Almost a month has passed now since he left Peggy’s Cove. Winnipeg welcomes the pair with beautiful sunsets and some glimpses of undisturbed wildlife – mostly bears and turkeys. The man and the car rest and get ready for the next leg of the journey.

1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans\-Canadian Trip
Photo: xaviertheriault98 on Instagram

Challenges arise

After a couple of days and more miles covered, the Volvo 144 starts showing signs of weakness. He’s forced to stop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Some bolts were missing, and the alternator broke. Being an old car, spare parts were hard to find for the boxy Swedish sedan. Fortunately, a local named Daryl helped the young traveler. He modified a diesel generator alternator, added a 1975 Toyota Celica belt, and that solved the issue. The adventure continued.

More days go by and Theriault stops to catch his breath at the Jasper National Park. The area seems to be so remote that he finally finds time to really relax. He set up the tent by the lake and slept, even though the temperatures weren’t really friendly. His mom followed his journey on the social network and always wished him well.

Two months have passed since his journey across Canada started and now finds himself in British Columbia on a cold September night. The Volvo keeps on facing what most people would categorize as pure madness. The car doesn't give up while having such a determined owner.

1969 Volvo 144 in the Trans\-Canadian Trip
Photo: xaviertheriault98 on Instagram
After another of couple of days he reaches the Dempster Highway. All the bad luck in the world has avoided the youngster and now finds himself in what he describes to be “startling” silence. The only other drivers he encountered were the well-known ice road truckers.

Theriault continued his adventure and reached the Arctic Circle successfully - a major milestone. Now he and the 53-year-old Volvo 144 have only 92 miles (148 km) left to cover before reaching Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean.

And that they did. In October last year he managed to safely travel across Canada from East to West and then North. He’s currently sharing his story on Instagram and helps his followers escape reality for a moment. The photos from the viewing of the Arctic Ocean are yet to be made public, so we’ll have to wait for them. But something’s for certain: we all need to take our beloved car, no matter how new or old, and just disappear for while from the daily routine. Don’t forget planning the adventure right. Who knows where it might take you.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows photos from Xavier Theriault's Instagram account: xaviertheriault98.

About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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