Thursday, May 29, 2008

On our trip to Cape Breton...Part 2


We had retired to our room for a bit of a siesta, following our lunch. The walk had tired me some and I was glad to be able to stretch out for a spell. I believe Two and a Half Men was on the tube, so I left it there as low background noise as we snoozed. The phone rang at about 1500hrs, startling me awake. It was Steve from the Esso station, advising me that the car was fixed and good to go. I asked him to repeat the news, just to be sure I had heard him correctly. "God love you...you're a prince of a man, Stephen!", I told him. He advised us that he would be over shortly to pick us up. I felt an enormous weight lift from my shoulders and I'm sure the same could have been said for my better half.

Needless to say, it wasn't long before we were outside waiting for him to show up. In a matter of a couple of minutes, he pulled up with our beast, running like a top. We headed back to the garage to settle up as he regaled us of what all he had to change (3 pulleys and the belt...), how tricky it had been to get the parts and how great Cape Bretoners were in general. He could have saved his breath as I've known this to be gospel for many a year. The total cost for the parts and repairs (two hours worth of labour, or so I'm told) was some $300.00. And I would have to say I did not begrudge him a single, thin dime of all that. Having thanked him once again for his efforts, we drove the Beast back to the lodge. We had a brief huddle in our bedroom and decided that: a) It was Saturday, about 1700 hrs to be precise. b) The weather was better than it had been so far in the trip. The sun was shining, the skies were clear and we probably had some four and a half to five hours of good driving time left ahead of us, and c) We just had the urge to hit the road again, now that Fate had given us our second wind.

We went to advise the front desk clerk that we would in fact be checking out early after all. They kindly charged us only half the reduced rate, for the time we had spent there that day. By 1725hrs, we were loaded up and back on the road towards Ch├ęticamp, some 106km away. We had no idea how far we might make it before we had to pull over for the night. All we knew was that we felt re-energized and whatever mileage we covered today, we wouldn't have to contend with tomorrow. We felt giddy as we started out. As though we had dodged yet another bullet that life had thrown at us. We had certainly fared better than that little songbird had...

Our initial thrust was held back some as we became entangled in some marathon. We were stuck in a considerable line-up of cars who were escorting these runners. We had no idea what the cause was, all we knew was that these folks were sucking up valuable travelling time of ours. This was the only motorway through this part of Cape Breton, and these do-gooders had succeeded in totally screwing the flow of traffic on it. To be truthful, I don't give a rat's ass what your cause is! If I didn't volunteer to participate in your event, then kindly conduct it in such a way as to not interfere with my goddamn life!!! We probably only had to follow them for some 6 kilometers or so (all downhill, mind you...), but it felt interminable. We crawled along at the runners' pace. None of these folks were in any great shape... Mercifully, it eventually ended and we were able to leave them far behind us.

Through Nel's Harbour and South Harbour, we wound our way up and down the Trail. The scenery was fantastic and every one of the look-offs worth stopping at to gawk at the view. It was the stretch between Dingwall and Pleasant Bay though, which produced some truly heart-stopping moments, as far as the road and the scenery were concerned. We could not help but think about the men who had toiled to build this road. It is truly a wonder of engineering and intestinal fortitude. By 1900hrs, we were pulling into the Tim Horton's in Ch├ęticamp. A flyer on the door announced a local dance that evening, where the door prize was no less than a dozen lobster! My wife almost swooned and I had to fight to get her back into the car. But off we trundled, past Cap Le Moine and on to Margaree Forks, where we then turned South and headed for Baddeck. The other section on the North Coast... Inverness, Mabou, Port Hood and Craigmore, we would have to travel another time. We were on a schedule now and decided to make Antigonish by nightfall. It was about 2100hrs when we crossed the Canso Causeway heading South. We stopped at the Irving Big Stop just on the other side, for a wee rest and some supper. They served up the best hot hamburger sandwich I've ever tasted. Some restaurants serve these up with so little gravy, you'd think you were asking them to pour their life's blood over it! Not 'round these parts. Irving Truck Stops...ya gotta love 'em!

Traffic was light, the night skies were clear and true to the plan, we pulled into Antigonish at about 2230hrs. We booked a room at the Homeward Inn on James Street, not half a mile from the St.Francis Xavier University campus (St.F.X.). True, it wasn't fancy... but it was clean, cozy and had a truly marvelous bed. I'm pretty much a Motel 6 or Super 8 kinda guy when I'm on the road. Give me something cheap, comfortable and near a good restaurant. These two hotel chains will do it for you every time. The Homeward Inn? It was right next to Tim Horton's...

We slept very well that night. We now had 2 full days to make it back home on time. I harbored thoughts of having Monday as a complete rest day at home, before returning to work on Tuesday. We would have to see how that would play out. Sunday morning we were up early once more. As my lady got herself ready to meet the day, I sauntered over to Timmie's next door, for a couple of coffees and some breakfast sandwiches. These we scarfed down as we packed our gear for a final time. Returning the key to the front desk, we hit the 104 bound for Truro at 0830 Atlantic Time.

As we reached the outskirts of New Glasgow, we came upon a scene that made me reflect on the peregrine falcon event. A large flatbed truck was parked alongside the left-hand shoulder of the 104, facing our direction. He was in the company of an RCMP cruiser and was in the process of loading on a small silver 2-seater sports car. The vehicle was unrecognizable as to the make and model. My wife happened to spy the car's engine, probably some 300 feet distant in an adjoining field. The byline: "The officers on the scene suspect speed to be a contributing factor in the accident...", played through my head. With my previous experience as an EMT in Montreal, I would have to surmise that the driver did not survive the wreck. But of course, I have no way of knowing for sure as I sit and write this. A scant moment's inattention, or a moment of Darwinian stupidity and life ends. Harshly, brutally and with irrevocable finality.

By 1900hrs that evening and a couple of deer scares later, we were cruising along the 40 on the West Island of Montreal. We averaged between 125-130km/h for the long haul and having gained an hour once we crossed over into Quebec (Eastern Time), we had plenty of time to spare. We stopped at the Tim Horton's in Hudson of course. I don't know anyone who travels through there without stopping. It's like being Catholic and walking in front of the altar in church, without genuflecting...It's kind of a national, Pavlovian response to the Tim Horton's sign...

I customarily take the exit for the 17 off the 417 on the way back. It slows things down, there's less traffic and it saves going all the way into town, only to head out back East again. As we were approaching Cumberland (perhaps 3 to 4kms from my front door...), the "Low Tire" light came on the car's dash. We were very close to the Ooops! gas station, just up from the Cumberland-Masson Ferry. We turned in, just to check things out. In fact, the right, rear tire was down several pounds of pressure. I topped it up, waited for a couple of minutes and checked the air pressure again. 35psi. Just as it should be. I checked all the other tires while I was at it. Perfect. The "Low Tire" light remained on, but I suspected I had to reset it somehow. It had been a while since the last time that had happened, so I decided to just make it home and we would deal with this tomorrow, if need be.

We made it back home without incident. I checked the tire pressure once more... It was just fine. I put it aside for the moment but my wife mentioned that she was going to take the car in to have that flat spot looked at, which our good friend Mike had diagnosed back in Antigonish. I promised her I would go with. We unpacked the car and turned in for the night. What a great sleep we had! I accompanied her into Canadian Tire the following day and when they investigated the source of this 'flat spot', they discovered that the cause of all this was a nail that was lodged in the tire. You heard right, children... A Nail! It had been there so long (months, actually...) that the head had been chewed off and the body, when recovered from the tire, was actually rusted! There is an Old Biker who lives in the sky and yes, he does watch over me...

So... If you are to draw anything from reading these passages, let it be the following:

a) Road adventures are not only good, they are vital to stimulating your life, expanding your mind and enriching your soul...

b) You cannot predict or foresee what will happen on a road trip...that is why they should probably be referred to as "road adventures". Trips are what businesmen take. Don't be a businessman... Be an adventurer!

c) Whatever mode of transportation you choose, make sure you have it carefully and thoroughly inspected before you head out on the road. Any number of factors or variants, could have made our adventure turn out a lot worse than what it did. Spontanaiety is a good thing...carelessness, not so much. And last but not least...

d) When thinking about doing something that will make you happy, remember the words of Yoda: "There is only do...and not do. There is no try."


No comments: