Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ontario: 250,000 bodies of water, 2400 km, 1 week of travel and 1 transport truck vs. 1 pickup truck!

Until we planned our journey and began to set the itinerary for travel, I had no idea that Ontario was such a large province. With us traveling about 6 hours per day and pulling the trailer we expected it to take about 5 days to drive across. We were going a bit out of our way to stop in Toronto to see new baby Ethan and we were eager to meet him.

As mentioned earlier we were happy to wave g'bye! to Manitoba. Now to my friends who live in the province of wheat I know it is not a bad place, on the contrary the people were awesome, but we were two weeks into our trip and had not even reached Ontario. We were thrilled to reach Kenora and kept on moving. 

It was Saturday, July 10th and we left Nanaimo on Monday, June 28th. We just wanted to hit TO and go forward with our lives. We had canceled all of our other tourist plans and promised to the kids that we would go to Niagra Falls and of course downtown Toronto. Len and I were still chipper, well I was, I will admit he was getting a bit discouraged at this point. I don't know if any of us really believed the trouble was over but seriously, what else could possibly happen? So far we had broken down or needed a repair in every province, Ontario means good luck doesn't it?

It was a warm afternoon, I drove with the windows open for air. The air conditioning worked but we were nervous to push the truck too hard and didn't want to cause any overheating. I guess when I was in grade school I remember more about studying Mesopotamia than I do about Canadian geography. I know where the provinces are but did not know Ontario had 250,000 bodies of water or that if you drove straight it would take 24 hours to cross it. Ontario also has about a kazillion truckers on the road at any given time. They race up behind you, pass on a double line and create pressure for the driver as you try to travel. All day long I was pulling to the side or slowing down to let them pass me. They were very intimidating and for the first time on our trip I was getting annoyed with them.

I decided to take a break and nap before we moved on to the next town. We drove by a few pullouts that were on the lake side and I thought we should turn around and get some air at one. The kids could swim, I could rest, stretch and get some air. The girls and I had seen a good rest area but Len thought we should just stay where we were. Len was out voted. We decided to go back to the rest area. I had driven past the pullout on route 17 and looked each direction then turned my big rig around. I was driving pretty slowly about 30km per hour since I was watching for the turn and there was no one behind me. About 500m before my left turn I put my left signal light on. I looked in both mirrors and checked behind me. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It was clear and safe to turn.

I turned the steering wheel and rolled it left as my truck, then trailer followed me. Just as my cab hit the entrance of the road I felt a big SLAM! on my drivers side as my head rolled forward then back. I yelled "It wasn't me! I didn't do it! I was safe! I looked, signaled and had my brake light ON!" Len yelled "I told you the other place was fine!" Jessica screamed and Rachel said nothing. I asked everyone in my family if they were OK and it seemed we all were. I then looked out my window and saw a big orange and black transport truck with two men yelling at me. 

The rig had ended up in the ditch on quite a slant. My ass end was still hanging out on the highway so I gently pulled forward off the road more and tucked all my pieces in as tight as I could to prevent any further traffic trouble. I hopped out of my truck and saw two women standing in front of the vehicle. A minute ago the highway was empty. Now, the semi and us were on the left side of the road and two other semi's of the same make and a car with some women were on the right side. 

The women were sisters and their first words were to say they would be witnesses and had seen me slow down and have my signal light on. They said the semi had been speeding up and down behind me. It was surreal since none of us had seen anyone. I went to the passenger door of the transport and asked if they were OK. The two men would not answer me. I yelled again "Are you OK? Is anyone hurt?" The next thing I knew the men were yelling again. I have to admit with the accent, speed and loud voice I had no clue what he was saying. I asked them to roll down the window and they finally did. They would not answer if they were OK, but they appeared to be unharmed. I said "I am sorry, I can't understand a word you are saying, I will be back." I then went to my family and the witnesses.

Another car drove by and said they had seen us all there and had called 911 and police, fire and ambulance were on the way. The sisters were on their way to see their dying brother. They did not have a lot of time, so I had them write out their statement including name, address and phone numbers. The fire truck arrived and the nicest volunteers hopped out to help. It seems during the whole hullabaloo the other two semi drivers claimed to have seen the whole thing and we were at fault. I was very grateful for the two women who recorded their statements because the other witnesses were false and did not give true information as they were connected with the driver who hit us. 

The paramedics arrived and checked us over. We were fine so we let it go and the other driver did not claim an injury. I mentioned that my neck had jolted and I already felt sore muscles but they said this was normal. The police officer arrived and much to his chagrin he had to take a full report. The officer was an hour from ending his shift to begin 4 days off so not really a very happy camper! Poor him!
While I wrote down a four page statement including time of day, direction we were headed and road conditions for the officer, the local fire department volunteers took off our ruined tire and rim and replaced it with our spare. They also helped pull off the broken piece of the front grill and do anything else they could to help us. Like me, the fire department was tired of the long haul truckers rushing along the highway, exceeding speed limits, not slowing down and being a hazard on the road. The fire department chief said there had been an accident the same time of day, the day before we were hit. (Later we found out that another accident in the same location happened the next day, Sunday. Sadly, this involved a motorcycle and transport truck and a fatality. We were So lucky!)

The other drivers were in collusion and backing each other up. I was informed by one of the follow up drivers that they made the trip regularly from New Brunswick to Vancouver in 54 hours. They had two drivers and only stopped to fuel up. (The locals informed us that the drivers had holes in the floor to relieve themselves and also kept a 5 gallon bucket for this purpose. So if you stop at a rest stop and see  a 5 gallon bucket sitting there... leave it alone!)

This put us behind about 2.5 hours that day. The officer determined the following: I was NOT at fault. The other driver was guilty of several violations, however, since neither of us were from the province of Ontario he cited the violation as "Following too close" to prevent us from having to return and go through the court system. It was kind of funny because we had left Vancouver, the truck driver was headed there, we were headed to New Brunswick, the truck drivers rig was from New Brunswick and the truck driver lived in Quebec. Kind of an inter provincial accident!   

We were exactly between Rossport and Schreiber, Ontario. It was now almost 7 pm. We were tired, hungry and I was a bit sore. We limped in with the truck to Schreiber and Len booked us into a motel for a couple of days. It was very considerate of him since we were all tired from the journey to date and I was sore and had to deal with insurance companies. This also gave us an opportunity to do some laundry before we headed on to Toronto.

I could not believe how exhausted I was the next day. I slept in, chatted with Len and Jessica for a bit, drifted back to sleep and woke up a couple of hours later. I guess it was harder on me than I thought! Jessica and I went for a walk later that day and flinched every time a rig went by. It was so scary! I was not sure how I was going to continue to drive or even if I could but I kept that thought to myself since there were not many options.

We left Schreiber mid Monday morning after talking with ICBC. We wanted to head on to Alton, Ontario and hour from Toronto, but that was still about 3 days away. We were all pretty quiet for the first three hours of driving. I was nervous. My heart was palpitating, my breath was shallow, my skin was clammy and I was having an anxiety attack. Everyone was in the truck and I doubt anyone felt great. We were worried about the truck. The transport trucks were back and tail gating again. I was starting to feel dizzy and wanted to cry.  I considered saying NO! I can't do it! Figure something else out. James (our son in law) can come drive or someone else. I AM TOO SCARED! How was I expected to keep going along these winding narrow highways with these truckers??? 

I pulled over and told everyone I needed a break. I told them all to go away. Walk in the bush, find a creek, talk to a bear, I don't care! I had to be alone. I got some fresh air, then curled up in my driver's seat. I slept, deep sleep. When they all came back, I got out stretched, peed (we were getting to be very talented at peeing beside the road!) and told everyone I was ready to go. 

I guess my little breakdown was over. I began to get my confidence back and I knew I could do it. I am WOMAN! Hear me ROAR! No dumb ass poorly trained hazardous trucker was going to stop me! I am going to Toronto and then on to New Brunswick. I am not letting my family down. It was bad enough that we never had any touristy fun but I was getting them all safely and securely and ALIVE to New Brunswick. 

Now, here I am! In New Brunswick! That is as much as I shall blog about our trip!

Now a QUICK question!
I have finished the journey and that is what this blog was about.
Do you think I should continue to write as I have been doing?
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Have a great day and if you see any orange and black transport trucks...!


Sarah Sherman said...

As I stated previously - I await your next adventure - you should think of putting it into a book. You are a great writer. I find your comments relevant - anyone who has travelled with kids and hubby can relate and peeing is so true. We travelled to the southwest in a van for 6 weeks. What a journey but lucky for us no breakdowns - mine - their's or vans. From Linda S.

Thank you Linda! This was emailed to me and I thought I would share it!

Anonymous said...

Smiles, I always hear your voice when I read your blog...I also like Lens too, but I don't hear his voice :)

Sarah Sherman said...

Thank you both for your comments. I have fun writing and think I am OK at it. Not likely something that will make me money, but keeps my brain from getting fuzzy!