Thursday, July 26, 2007

International Road Trip: Entry 5

We came to the town of Fort Nels-- wait, wait! let me back up… So, we were about 50 miles out of Fort Nelson when we realized that we were DANGEROUSLY low on gas. Our minds were rushing with anticipation ‘ Will we make it to Fort Nelson?! (we didn’t know.) “Will we die in this netherworld!?” (I’m not sure who asked this question, I was delirious in my illness and couldn’t muster the energy to find out. Looking back it seems kind of an absurd question… but far be it from me to pass judgment.) Will I never get the chance to deny my kids something they really want, as is traditional for parents to do?! ( I actually cried to think of this one, Burt will deny it but he was welling up, too.) We were thoroughly stricken with terror. Palms sweating, we watched anxiously as the fuel gauge dipped ever closer to the black void below the E (which represents the word Execrable.) I have to interject at this point, I simply can’t permit you to experience all the anxiety that we had to endure. Just so you know, we made it to Fort Nelson without so much as a sputter. So yeah, we got gas. Stopped at Boston Pizza. I had a lemon water (I was still deathly Ill, but the recent, taxing and stressful experience left me a bit parched… and due to my illness I was losing fluids…a lot.)

We hit the road and Burt took the wheel. He drove us pretty much into the heart of the unknown. He and glade woke me up to see the northern lights (erora boryalus). I didn’t really get a good look at them, the windows were pretty frosted over. They were pretty much gone after 5 minutes. I went back to bed and awoke to the most bone chilling sound in the world for 3 transnationalists to hear when miles from the nearest settlement!

Read on to hear what happens next! Was the sound crunching bones!? Was it death gurgles? Maybe the sound of a thousand angry canucks moving in for the kill… stay tuned to learn the truth!

Okay then, I wont keep you waiting. The sound was excruciating to the trained ear of a mechanic. The sound had nothing in fact to do with crunching bones. Or death gurgles. It may as well have been a thousand angry Canadians, but there were NONE around. It was a metallic scraping… it sounded kind of like if you were to take an internal combustion engine and deplete the lubrication system while it is operating. And that, my readers, is exactly what had happened the very internal combustion engine that was beneath the hood of the car we were driving. (Burt was driving. Hence, Burt is to blame.) He acted like it surprised him and said something totally transparent like “oh shucks! That doesn’t sound good.” but we all knew it was what he wanted. He pulled over and killed the car…. At this point we were NOT getting anywhere at all. I wouldn’t stand for it. But we really had no choice . Burt tried to ditch us and make off on his own.. But, again, I saw right through it and wouldn’t stand for it. He said he was going to “just walk to the last gas station… about 23 miles back.”

We made him stay put. I took the opportunity to relieve myself on the side of the road (and was ecstatic with the results). We put the hood up and turned on the flashers and tried to sleep. I woke up every time a car passed (don’t get me wrong, its not like there was a lot of traffic…) but most didn’t stop. A trucker stopped and offered to give one of us a ride to the next gas station in the opposite direction. But we courteously declined (I had nothing to do with it, Burt was doing the talking. Being in the back seat, it was just my job to wake him up when people stopped… that was no small chore.) After a while some people stopped and gave us a quart of oil.. We put it in (I had nothing to do with it, Burt did all the pouring…. Being in the back seat and all I couldn’t very well get out for such a small chore.) He hopped back in the car and went to start it but it wouldn’t turn over. Burt said it was bad news and I tried to be optimistic about it. I thought what with all the hours of flashers being on that there was the minutest of chances that it had drained the battery to low to turn the engine over. Burt put the hood back up. And eventually this kindly couple with a camper trailer stopped and tried to give us a jump, Didn’t work.

He offered to “tow-start” us. I guess that’s how lazy people push start a car. He stung a tow rope from their camper to our car and I put it in second gear… turned the key to run and what not and he started pulling.

After about 30 feet the wheels locked up and he was literally dragging the car. (I knew this was bad news, read on to see what happens.) Since that wasn’t working out he offered to tow us into the next town (which turned out to only be about 10 miles away… Watson Lake, BC. look it up.) So, Glade hopped in the cab with the kindly smoker couple and their dog. And me and Burt jumped in the car and the towing began. After about 2 miles the tow strap broke. We moseyed over to the shoulder but the smoker couple kept driving without so much as a hint of noticing their lost cargo. I started gathering my stuff together out of the car and what not. Burt went and pee’d on the other side of the road. I Yodeled some. That was fun. ( A word of caution: Be sure to note your surroundings when preparing to yodel. If there is any chance that your yodeling may cause an avalanche, or a severe beating, refrain from yodeling.) We waited for a while and it didn’t seem like our would-be rescuers were going to come back. I noted that there was the slightest chance that they had eaten our comrade, Glade. Or were, even as we discussed it, torturing him as strangers often do to innocent, unfortunate travelers. WE figured that this was more than a slight chance after all. Burt said he was glad I was on the road trip because of my high spirits when the going got rough (at this point it is safe to say that the going had gotten rough)
Burt was pretty much placid as well. I guess we both fail to see the point of dwelling on the negative and letting it affect your mentality. It’s so much better to try and stay positive, or at least to find some distraction from the negative when there’s nothing to be done about it. That’s exactly what the case was here… nothing to do but to wait for our would-be good Samaritans to discover they lost their payload and then hope they came back. But in the mean time, why not laugh at the absurdity of how long it was taking them? And so we did just that.

Eventually they came back. Glade and the Samaritan’s wife asked us “how far did we make it before the tow rope broke?” to which there was no real reply, since we were no more than 10 yards from the breaking point. Burt answered “oh, about from where we started to about…. Right here.” Now I appreciated the humor behind this little joke, but some did not. And I can understand that, but there was a point to the answer… the point was something like “We only know what happened from there to here. And we have no better means of estimating that than you have.” but the question was repeated and the answer didn’t change much.
Like I said, I can see where this rubbed Glade the wrong way, and maybe we should have fought the urge to be smartasses about it and ventured a guesstimation, because sometimes people will persist until they get the answer they want even if its irrelevant, but I didn’t feel it merited the energy since the point was moot.

After 2 more broken ties and retries we made it all the way into town. The last break happened right as we were pulling into the diner/car shop so me and Burton hopped out and pushed it the rest of the way. The goodly people went on their way, Glade sent them off with an expression of our gratitude and a good “God bless!” and we went into the diner to wait for the mechanic. He showed up after about 10 minutes and we went out for the official diagnosis. And it goes like this. “She’s seized. She’s done. She’s Finished. And she’s got nothing left in her” he popped the hood and pointed to the engine block.. Or rather a hole therein “that’s your engine, der. And she’s busted up.” one of the connecting rods had gone right through the cylinder wall and that pretty much all there is to it. And like the mechanic said, she’s finished.

Pretty much I had made this assumption when we tried “tow starting” the car. And that’s why I started gathering my stuff together when we were temporarily abandoned. I had made up my mind (and you would have, too.) to hitch-hike out of there. It was really the only option we had. We discussed it a little in low voices (there was no one around ((maybe a ninja or something, but no one that I could see.)) but it just felt like a good time to talk in low voices.) We voted to leave the Piece of crap where it sat, eat some breakfast and make a final decision. We went into the diner and had a bite. I got the omelet. Burt had to tell the guy that we would be back for the car at the end of the summer. We figured he wasn’t to keen on the idea of us using his parking lot for a junkyard, and wouldn’t let us go until it was taken care of unless we told him we’d be back for it. We did just that, (the telling him we’d be back, not the actually being back… which I don’t think will happen.) we gave him the spare key to it and got his business card.

We went out and started consolidating our stuff into a reasonable load (none of it ended up being reasonable, but we couldn’t very well leave it behind) I didn’t end up having to shed anything, I had packed really light from the start and had some room to spare in my luggage so I took on some of the community wares… a tarp, a map, some DVD-R’s and other various items. Glade had to shuck his bedding (he hung onto his sleeping bag, but left his pillow and blanket). He also left a little camera bag sized piece of luggage with unnecessary clothes and what not. Burt had to leave the most stuff, if you figure in the car. But he left A LOT of CD’s and stuff behind.

We started off down the road. We got about 30 yards out and I stopped for a rest. Soon enough Joanne and her dog came by and asked “what are you guys DOING!?” to which we replied the obvious, “Hitchhiking… to Alaska.” Burt feels that I should add here that he always depends on the kindness of strangers, and he was not left wanting. She told us to throw our stuff in the truck and pile into the cab. She asked us what our game plan was “umm find a ride to Alaska” “well ask me questions! Maybe I can answer them” I don’t think we really knew any good questions pertaining to the trip so we ended up talking about her and her dog (here remaining unnamed, it didn‘t speak (yet another disappointment Canada had to offer)). She took us down to the last petrol station in town, Tags Fuel Station. I promptly went in and asked for a piece of paper.
I wrote Alaska on it and held it up to help people understand our hopeless situation....

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