Adventures in Driving

My learning how to drive was a much laughed about debacle, between my confusing the brake and the gas pedal and the many times my mother gripped the arm rest in and yelled “Get on your side. GET ON YOUR SIDE!” to which I would reply “I am ON my side” immediately after, a car would appear and be driving head on towards me and I would realize that I was not in fact on my side of the road.

Tex lives in a place so north and so remote that there are only gravel roads. Until I moved here, I thought I understood how to drive on gravel roads however what I was used to were packed dirt roads with gravel on top. Driving on gravel roads is a bit like surfing.

Surfer-Andy-Irons-007

This is sort of what it’s like.This wouldn’t be so bad.(Photo Credit: theguardian.com)

 

Only it’s more dangerous because you’re surfing with a car.

Surfer-Andy-Irons-007car

Ok, this is seeming like less of a good idea. Photo Credit : quora.com + the Great Unwashed’s amazing Microsoft Paint Skills

On pointy rocks, instead of soft wavy water

Surfer-Andy-Irons-007carrocks

Who in goodness’ name thinks this is a good idea? Both the car surfing on rocks and The Great Unwashed using Microsoft Paint like it’s Adobe Photoshop.

A reluctant driver at the best of times, I wasn’t enthusiastic about driving on gravel however last week Tex and I bought a new car so Tex wanted me to try it out.

I got behind the wheel and Tex then commented “Oh, there’s a combine up ahead.” This didn’t worry me because I figured that combines are kind of like wild animals; if I don’t bother them, they won’t hurt me. So there we were plodding along at twenty kilometers per hour (about twelve miles an hour for my American friends). “You’re doing great” encouraged Tex. I increased my speed to thirty milometers an hour. “Look at you go” said Tex “I’m proud of you”. All the while the combine stayed ahead of us, making its equally slow way along the road. Then all of a sudden, it signaled that it was going to pull over. “It wants you to pass” observed Tex. As I carefully passed the combine I turned to Tex and asked “How mad are is the farmer going to be when he realizes that I’m slowing HIM down?”

My Week In A Rolling Prison

Canada is a vast and beautiful country, emphasis on the vast. Sometimes the elderly drive across it in enormous camper vans. Last summer, along with my grandparents, I decided to take part in one of these pilgrimages. The following is my record of the adventure.

Day 1: Ontario, Somewhere in the Kawarthas

7:00 AM – Whoo Hoo! Road trip with Gran and Granddad. With my grandparents, two Harry Potter books and the whole back of the RV to myself, in essence have the whole world. Also, Granddad hinted that may be able to drive the RV. Am so excited that even the sixty pound poodle half sitting on me in a territorial fight for the seat can’t dim my enthusiasm.

11:00 AM – Stopped for lunch. Was instructed to take both the standard poodles for a quick walk while Gran prepares lunch, is possible that the poodles did not receive the same instruction as both are actively pulling me back towards the RV. Perhaps am just a bad dog walker because is more like a drag.

4:20 PM – Suffering from an extreme case of numb bum. No matter, shall delve into a magical fictional world where the only concern during long trips is broomstick crotch.

5:00 PM – Have stopped for the evening. Granddad insisted on instructing me how to connect the poop hose to the site. May need to shower forever. Will never eat again.

5:20 PM – Gran’s spaghetti! Will have to live with knowledge that delicious pasta and sauce may contain poop particles. Remind self that dirt and therefore feces are good for immune system.

Day 2: Ontario, Sault St. Marie

7:00 AM – Have been told I can drive the RV! Very excited; partly for opportunity and partly because will not have to share my seat with a disgruntled poodle. Am still very excited about trip itself, is uncommon to see such savage beauty whizzing by window.

10:45 – Numb bum has returned. Harry Potter’s world only partially distracting from discomfort.

2:01 PM – Is my moment of glory! Granddad has vacated driver’s seat. Am going to drive forever, may drive all the way to Manitoba, perhaps may drive all night!

2:59 PM – Have been told to pull RV over and that my turn is finished.

3:05 PM – Notice that phone was noticeably silent and without any messages during my hour long absence. Realize that have lost signal.

4:10 PM – Made mistake of looking at GPS. Said three thousand and eight more hours of driving until arrival. Ok possibly not THAT long but was close. Cell phone a useless paperweight. Am effectively cut off from everything.

6:00 PM – Pulled into the loveliest, leafiest park ever. Hiked all of the trails while Gran made dinner. Took poodles who went willingly. Suspect they only came because saw potential for a jail break by simultaneously pulling my arms in opposite directions while dashing for the river.

Day 3 : Ontario, Thunder Bay

8:00 AM – On road again. Granddad promised to relinquish the steering wheel this morning. Have lovely fantasies of flying down the road for hours and hours until arrive at Aunty Betty’s doorstep. Am still enthused by landscape however majestic rock faces are beginning to look a bit alike.

10:02 AM – Granddad has just moved over! Perhaps will be allowed to drive all day!

10:59 AM – Was just informed my turn is up.

11:00 AM – Pulled over and took the poodles for a drag. Either my arms are becoming stronger or they are walking more willingly.

12:50 AM – Ride seeming impossibly long. Forcing myself not to look at GPS because feel as if may have to live in RV forever.

1:00 PM – Lunch! But am sadly not hungry, it seems boredom kills appetites.

2:00 PM – Fear that feeling may never return to my posterior.

3:00 PM – Must not ask when we are stopping for the night. Am an adult, will handle boredom accordingly.

3:01 PM – Poodle has sat on my foot in such a manner as to indicate that it’s looking for a fight. It seems all of the natives are restless.

3:07 PM – Do not wish to be an adult anymore, want to stop driving and run into the bush which looks exactly like the wild brush from a couple of minutes ago which is identical to the brush from a thousand kilometers ago. Screw up determination; am going to really appreciate wild beauty around me.

3:08 PM – Rock, rock, rock, rock.

3:09 PM – Tree, tree, tree, tree.

3:10 PM – Lake.

3:11 PM – Tree, tree, tree, rock, tree.

5:00 PM – Have stopped for the night. Take dogs for a walk then take advantage of Wifi which is inexplicably fast despite there being no cell phone signal to speak of.

Day 4 : Ontario, ?????? (Somewhere is the north, this province is endless- we may never get out)

5:45 AM – Wake ridiculously early and go for a stroll so legs won’t forget how to walk after spending four years in RV. Discover magical park with up ended picnic tables which look like they enjoy galloping around in the night. Pretend to be a ninja observing secret life of picnic tables.

I am one with the galloping picnic tables. (Photo Credit : Gran)

I am one with the galloping picnic tables. (Photo Credit : Gran)

7:30 AM – After Granddad disconnects poop hose, a task which was mercifully excused from helping with, we are back on road in my gigantic rolling prison.

7: 37 AM – Press face against window and think happily about a time when the world didn’t move and used to do things like run around. Turn cell phone off to save it from uselessly searching for a signal.

8:30 AM – Start to read Harry Potter but even J.K. Rowling can’t fight this much ennui.

9:30 AM – Resist urge to start marking days and hours on RV wall with butter knife.

10:30 AM – See something strange in distance, is weird and rectangular shaped, like a rock face but with ninety degree angles.

10:32 AM – Is most definitely not a rock face nor the Canadian Shield because there is nothing growing out of it.

10:34 AM – Is gigantic building! Have reached civilization. Would drop to knees but would squish poodle that has taken up residence at feet if did so.

10:44 AM – Watch as building approaches.

10:54 AM – And approaches

11:04 AM – And approaches. Had forgotten it was the prairies, the place where people watch their dog run away for three days. Fall back into despair again. May never leave the RV.

1:00 Pm – Gran says are only an hour from Aunty Betty’s! Is such good news cannot believe it. Cell phone signal returns.

2:30 PM – Difficult to say who tumbles out of the RV faster- me or the poodles. Throw self to the ground so happy to be freed from RV and not in a moving vehicle any more. Was beginning to get bedsores from seat belt.

2:35 PM – Hug Gran and Granddad goodbye, say thank you for driving and wheel my suitcase into Aunty Betty’s house. Success!

An Uncommon Link

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Official ...

You should always tell these people the truth. Except for when your truth takes a half an hour to explain, or your voice sounds like a hysterical chipmunk when you get upset or flustered. Then you should probably condense the truth, or just say “vacation”. Also flop sweating in front of Homeland Security is unacceptable regardless of the purpose of your visit . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s always important to tell the truth. Except for when you shouldn’t, like when you’re standing at the customs booth wanting to get into a country and the stern customs agent asks “What is the purpose of your visit ma’am?”

Under no circumstance should you be truthful then. You absolutely should not tell the customs agent that you’re going to San Antonio to be a travel nanny for your great aunt’s daughter’s son because the Homeland security employee won’t understand, and even worse he might not let you into the country. Admittedly, it isn’t the customs agent’s fault. At first glance your great aunt’s daughter’s son doesn’t sound like an important person to visit. It sounds suspiciously like “I’m a petit, blonde drug mule hell bent on your country’s destruction.” Because great aunts couldn’t possibly be that important. And great aunt’s daughters couldn’t possibly be that important either, but the thing is, for me they are.

Aunty Betty. I can’t actually do justice in talking about Aunty Betty and the kind of person she is so I’m going to tell a story instead.

Once, when I was eight, my sister Diana, Granddad, Mom and I all piled into Granddad’s van and drove for three years. That’s an exaggeration but only slight, because for an eight and six year old, the drive from Ontario to Manitoba might as well have been three years long.

So we drove, and then we drove some more, and then we stopped to play koosh ball with mom. After that we got back into the car and drove for another month. And finally, finally we pulled up to what seemed to be a very nondescript house. It looked like any other house in that subdivision; medium sized, well maintained with a picturesque garden. But it wasn’t any other house on the block, although Diana and I didn’t know that yet.

So Granddad’s van pulled into the driveway and out tumbled Diana and I like clowns from a small car, so eager were we to be free of our seatbelts. And we knocked on the door and it opened, and out came Aunty Betty and her husband.

Some people hae auditory hallucinations of their cell phone ringing, after listening to a funny story I can hear Aunty Betty’s laugh ringing through my ears. My Great Aunt’s laugh is the sound of appreciation coming from her very core, she throws her head back and it’s powerful. The sound is glorious and I know that Diana loves it too because why else would she have plied our dear Great Aunt with so many blueberry coolers at Granddad’s seventieth fete?

And then Aunty Betty spoke. Her words overflowed with kindness, you longed to hear her address you as “Luvie” and most often your keen listening was rewarded. She showed children the same level of respect as grownups. Truth be told she shows everyone that same amount of respect. But I’ll touch on where I learned the value of offering basic human rights in another story. And best of all was what she talked about; vegetarians, music, Autism, mod, everything under the sun that Diana and I had never heard of but wanted to learn more about.

After that we sat down to dinner and met Carter’s Mommy, but she wasn’t Carter’s Mommy then. She wasn’t anyone’s mommy then, so she went by Jessica*. Diana and I would probably have spent the entire meal just fascinated with Jessica, listening to her melodious voice and her laugh which sounded a lot like Aunty Betty’s if it hadn’t been for George**.

George was Aunty Betty’s oldest son and as soon as he sat down at the dinner table my and Diana’s eyes were glued on him and stayed there the entire meal.

Erica nose piercings

George had a normal nose ring. I imagine Diana and my little heads would have exploded from shock if he showed up with a septum piercing.(Photo credit: nebarnix)

A nose ring. A. Nose. Ring. A nose ring! Without looking at the other sister’s face we read each other other’s minds as our eyes tried to digest the concept of this small piece of metal. He seemed so friendly but then he had gone and shoved a silver circle through one of his perfectly good nostrils! Piercing your ears before fourteen was verboten in our house, so our young brains could not have fathomed something so foreign or strange as a nose ring.

After the meal Jessica brought out her guitar and together she and George sang so Diana and I could dance our hearts out. The four of us stayed in Aunty Betty’s home with her family for a week before heading back to Ontario.

On our last night there my eight year old heart was broken. How could I leave a place where everyone was kind and there were so many people to sing and talk with? I cried for so long that my mother eventually carried me from the bed where Diana was trying to sleep into the living room where the adults were talking. Comforted by the flow of familiar voices over me I nodded off.

I probably wouldn’t have been so tearful had I known that we would return again and again to visit Aunty Betty and her mother, my Great Grandma Kay. Or that they in turn would fly to my province to visit me. And that I would spend a whole week of my adolescence traipsing about after Aunty Betty while she talked to me about the world.

Unfortunately those things are hard to explain and nearly impossible to convey in less than sixty seconds to border guards. Even more difficult to comprehend is that in my list of favourite places in the whole world that the Kanaapali beach in Maui falls behind sitting in my Great Aunt’s kitchen. So returning home from the states my arms noodle-y from carrying Carter back and forth from the pool, I replied with a succinct “Visiting family” in response being asked the purpose of my visit.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of both Jessica and her son Carter. It’s bad enough that I insist on sending oversized t shirts with monsters on them in the mail that Carter then wears around like a tiny muumuu.

**George is the only member of my family who hasn’t had my blog forced upon him like pasta at an Italian picnic so I don’t feel right putting his real name up on my site.

 

A Lesson In Parenting

In my industry, as a rule you don’t call children pains in the ass otherwise they’ll grow up to be pains in the ass. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. This theory extends beyond raising children though. For example, you probably shouldn’t do something funny and then say to the writer sitting next to you “Oh no- you’re going to write about this” because it’s entirely possible that we hadn’t considered doing such a thing until you suggested it.

 

That was my really long winded way of saying “Thanks for the idea Mom!”

 

Anyway, so I was home last weekend and I wanted to spend some time shopping with my sister. Unfortunately Diana’s goal for the day was to watch as many eighties, Whoopi Goldberg films as possible. Having just spent three hours on a bus to get home I wasn’t keen on sitting any longer, which was how I ended up in the grocery store parking lot with my mother.

 

The grocery store was extremely busy that day consequently the parking lot was quite full. My mother insists on parking in “drive through” spots. Something I can completely understand as the driver of a sixteen year old truck which turns over infrequently and stops even less frequently. Therefore I’m fairly understanding that one needs to be picky about things like parking spots. However my Mom insisted on a drive through parking spot facing East. She had justification for this however it’s funnier just to tease her.

 

English: Reliant Robin in car parking space at...

It’s a parking spot, but it’s not a “drive through” space. Drive past it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I digress, so the first East facing drive through spot we pass is deemed unfit because on one side a car has parked too close to the line and there are two abandoned shopping carts straddling the line on the other side. So around the parking lot we go. And around. And around. The store was very busy that day.

 

Hence we return to this very same spot. Only by this point my mother is tired of driving around the parking lot. “I’m going to pull in here” she says.  And as I’m watching the car on my side get so close that I could roll down the window and breathe on it, I notice that the driver’s side mirror is about to hit one of the shopping carts. “Hold on, I’m going to get out and move them” I say quickly. “It’s fine” replies my Mom as the driver’s side mirror hits the shopping cart and sends it rolling into an unsuspecting Honda two spots over.

 

 

Shopping cart

Think of the havoc that could be wreaked with this cart! (Photo credit: /dave/null)

 

It was at that point that we both burst out laughing. (No damage was done to the innocent by standing vehicle.) Then my Mom starts laughing harder and says “Oh no! You’re going to blog about this.”

 

So thanks for the idea Mom. Let this be a lesson to everyone; don’t put ideas in your children’s heads, or maybe it’s park facing North. Either way I must say I do love going grocery shopping with my Mom.