Monday, December 27, 2010

How did your trip end Sarah?

The year 2010 is coming to a close and 2011 is on the horizon. I realize that I must finish the saga I started to tell and left off with us escaping Saskatchewan.  I sit here in my kitchen in the overstuffed chair, watching my fire, listening to the winds whip by my house, enjoying the snow falling and relax through my first New Brunswick blizzard. I am sipping on a strawberry margarita with Fireball Whiskey in place of the tequila  as I reflect on the year that has gone by I realize that I never finished the story of how we finally arrived in New Brunswick. So please, get your coffee and Bailey's or grab a beer and pull up a chair to sit comfortably and learn about the trip that almost ended before we got through the fourth province. It is a bit long so perhaps have a quick pee first!

I shall do my best to tell a truthful tale of what transpired as we pioneered across this great country, Canada. Knowing that we got off lucky in Saskatchewan we approached the Manitoba border and decided to spend the night in Saskatchewan and hit the road early the next morning. Based on my Google map search it should only take about 6 hours to travel through Manitoba. This meant that we could drive as far as Brandon,  stop at a travel trailer sales and service centre, get the new axle on the trailer greased and torqued and carry on our merry way! Easy!

We arrived in Brandon just before noon and had to wait about an hour and a half for service. All was done, on time, on budget and we proceeded on our trip. I was a bit concerned about driving the truck and trailer through Winnipeg but had learned that there was a "ring road" that virtually bypassed the city. I know that Winnipeg is not even close to the size of Vancouver where I have driven many times, except it was more precarious with the trailer behind me and changing lanes could be troublesome and scary. I was happy to go by Winnipeg and stop on the outskirts of the eastern side of the city. It was only 4:30 but I suggested we stop at the Humpty Dumpty Restaurant to have an early dinner and then motor on until we hit Kenora, Ontario and stop for the night.

As we pulled into the parking lot I noticed the trailer had a lot of black dirt on the hitch end. I said mildly "The trailer sure looks dirty". My loving husband looked at me and said "It's a trailer, who cares if it is dirty? You girls! Geesh!" I was suitably quieted and took no more notice of the dirt. We went into the restaurant where Rachel was happy to find they had her favourite, Eggs Bendedict and Jessica was disappointed that having traveled half way across the country she could still not find a simple bowl of tomato soup. I just relaxed. After driving all day I liked to take about an hour at dinner, sit, relax, have some coffee and prepare for the next leg of our journey.

We ate, fueled up the truck, got the kids settled and plan to drive the next 3 hours or so before stopping for the day. I couldn't wait to get to Ontario! It felt like a milestone in our journey. We would see family there, Len's daughter, son-in-law and brand new grandson! We piled into the truck, got to the traffic lights, pulled into traffic and away we go! NOT! (Remember, this is OUR story right?) Throughout the journey I had been watching the gauges and levels carefully. After running low on oil and running out of anti-freeze near the beginning of our expedition we were very cautious. 

We had no sooner started down the freeway when I looked and saw the oil gauge drop drastically until it said empty. This happened in literally seconds! Len yelled "PULL OVER! Pull over!" I screamed back "I can't there are cars behind me. I have to get to the road up ahead!" The kids groaned "NOT AGAIN!" Len kept urging me to get to the side road before I blew the whole motor. Panic set in! There was no way we could possibly afford another $2,000 in repairs. What happened? What would we do???

I managed to exit safely and turn the 38' rig around. I had a pretty good idea we would be needing a tow truck and figured while the truck was still moving I could at least help the driver out by positioning the truck for hook up and departure. By now we were getting used to tow trucks, drivers and knew what to say. I was happy to know I had just bought a new phone card and topped up my Virgin Mobile pay as you go phone so I had lots of minutes available to call for help. NO! (Remember, me?)

I attempted to use my cell phone to call for help. I had learned by now to first get out Maggie (remember her? My GPS unit?) search for businesses and numbers close, then use the phone to call for help. My phone was dead. Finished! Kaput! Unresponsive! Exhausted! Obsolete! Goodbye! Well, there was $25 down the toilet! No! Wait! It is ok, because I bought Rachel and I the same plan, same phone, same company so I could just transfer the minutes. No problem! As I was going through this mental process Len, my 68 and 3/4 year old husband with the bad back and weak hip, was lying on a piece of cardboard under the truck on a gravel road with oil dripping on him attempting to figure out the problem.

I called the GOOD PEOPLE at Virgin Mobile. You know, with the slogan "You Rule." OK here's a heads up, You DON'T rule! Nope! Not at Virgin as I was about to have a 20 minute argument, wheedling, whining, lying, manipulating conversation! My phone didn't work but had minutes. Rachel's phone did work but was almost out of minutes. My call to Virgin went something like this:

Me: Hello! I am so glad to get through to you! You have no idea what kind of a day I have had! OMG! My truck just broke down in the middle of a big dangerous city! It is night time and I have young children with me. I don't know what to do! Can you help me? I am sure you can! Cuz, I rule, right?

Them: Hello Mum! May I help you? I would very much like to help you. Please tell me what you need.

Me: Thank you so much! Yes, what I need you to do is to take the minutes I just put on my pay as you go phone and transfer them to my daughters pay as you go phone. I have all of the account information and it should be easy. You see we are stranded and just need some help. I need to call a tow truck before it gets dark and the gangs come out. I am very afraid to be stranded here with my family! So, Yes you can help me, right?

Them: Oh Mum! I am sorry Mum! But we cannot do such a thing. We cannot transfer the money and the minutes. No Mum, I am sorry Mum!

Me: No, I think you can. You see I have seen Richard Branson on TV and he is a very nice man with a very large empire. I am sure you know he is your boss right? So you see, it is nothing to him. He is not out any money, if you could just transfer the money I already paid that I can't use because my phone is broken and put it on my daughters phone account so I can get help. Thank you so much, I know you can help me right?

Them: Oh No Mum! I can't possibly do that. However, have I helped you with everything today? Is there anything else I can do?

Me: Excuse me? Helped Me? You must be kidding you have not helped me at all yet. Now, I would like to know your name?

Them: Renan. R E N A N. Renan.

Me: Well,  Renan. R E N A N. Renan. This is not ok. I am stranded. My poor family has been through a terrible time. Do you know how big Canada is? We have caravaned across the country. We have broken down every few days. Do you have any idea how steep the mountains of British Columbia are? Then we broke down again and again. My poor children are starting to think we will never get to the other side of the country. Well, we are just distraught I tell you, distraught! Renan R E N A N Renan, I NEED you to help me. Please. 

Them: Well Mum, I am not sure what to do. 

Me: Renan. R E N A N Renan. Where do you live? Are you even in Canada?

Them: Oh No Mum. I am in the Philippines. 

Me: So you are completely clueless to what I am going through? I want to speak to Richard Branson please.

Them: I can get you my supervisor.

Me: Thank you! (I shall save you the remaining details but we did finally get SOME service!)

Now, keep in mind, during this entire exchange, the sun is setting, Len is sweaty and oily and Rachel is laughing hysterically next to me while I try to reason with RENAN! AAAAHHH! Finally they gave me 5 free minutes to try to get help.

Upon calling the tow truck, I didn't completely know where we were but I gave the GPS coordinates. I also asked the driver to have room for the four of us in his truck so we could get a ride to a hotel. The driver finally found us an hour and a half later but he brought his wife. However we were very fortunate because you know what? Friendly Manitoba IS FRIENDLY! People kept stopping to help us. One man and his wife had 20 acres next to where we broke down and lived in their motorhome. They offered to let us stay there for free for the night, but it was too far from town and there was no power or water. They did let us leave the trailer though which helped drastically with the towing bill. Another man from up the road came and offered to drive us to the city. We followed the tow truck and were dropped at a hotel.

We ended up not leaving Winnipeg and staying for the night downtown at a hotel. We were very happy that the truck was dropped off at Midas Muffler because 1) they prioritized our truck and got us out of there by mid afternoon and 2) they had the best magazines yet in a waiting room! In fact, Rachel even jacked a Lou Lou magazine which I would normally say no to, but I kind of figured my $600 in repairs paid for it!

To be continued... 
One more time!

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