We sat at the red light for what seemed like hours, sweltering in the heat, holding our breath and praying that the Little Red Wagon would hang on for just a few minutes longer. Miraculously she did – the temperature gauge needle was still in the red zone, the engine light was still on, but the Little Red Wagon (heretofore referred to as the LRW) kept ticking. The traffic light finally turned green, we pulled through the intersection and started increasing speed – little by little the needle moved back towards normal temperature range. Whew!
We knew this was only a temporary reprieve and we couldn’t continue with the 2 hour drive north to Georgian Bay. A few kilometres up the road, my husband noticed a Napa Autoclinic – on the opposite side of the road of course. Not knowing how far we’d have to go before there would be an exit, he made a U-turn right there on the highway – yeah I know it’s illegal, not to mention dangerous, but desperate times call for desperate measures and luckily there was no oncoming traffic.
While hubby went in to beg the mechanics for a spot in their queue, Pepper and I got out of the car and sought shade under some large canopy trees beside the parking lot. The heat was almost unbearable, even in the shade, especially after having been in the car with the heat blasting. A few minutes later, my husband came out and informed me they were able to look at the car right away. Thankfully the waiting room was air-conditioned. A fellow that looked like Bruce Dern (albeit younger and leaner) was sitting in the waiting room and informed us there was a cold water dispenser in the corner. We retrieved Pepper’s dish from the car and gave her some water, which she drank eagerly……………then promptly started vomiting, all over the carpet runner. “I’m so sorry”, I apologized.
“No worries,” a young mechanic assured me. “I’ll just clean it with the power washer,” and he yanked up the carpet and took it out to the shop.
“Could this day get any worse?” my husband lamented.
I was terrified that Pepper was suffering from heat stroke, knowing that vomiting was one of the early symptoms. I text-messaged my sister, the vet (also the bride-to-be). Were there any other tell-tale signs, Dr. Pat wanted to know. I responded that no there weren’t, and she seemed to be settling now that she was out of the heat – lying down, calm but alert. I remembered that in the winter, if she ate snow on an empty stomach, she’d immediately throw up. It occurred to me that the water we’d given her was likely very cold and perhaps the cause of Pepper’s stomach woes. Dr. Pat suspected this was likely the case, but recommended we monitor her closely for the next little while. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Pepper was behaving quite normally again, sniffing at everything in the waiting room, including ‘Bruce Dern’ – luckily he was a dog-lover and didn’t mind.
I too was feeling cooler and calmer, though I was really concerned about the LRW – what had I done to her when I let her roll down a hill and into a big ‘ol rock? Anxiously awaiting word about her condition, we saw one of the mechanics from the shop open the glass door into the reception area. For a second I felt like I was watching a TV show where the surgeon, still clad in his OR scrubs, enters the waiting room and viewers try to determine from his expression whether the news is good or bad. The mechanic nonchalantly got a drink of water, apparently unaware of our expectant stares – when he finally looked our way he said, “Oh, didn’t they tell you?”
“Tell us what?” we asked in unison. The mechanic went on to explain that as a result of the previous day’s impact, the radiator had been pushed back such that it was in contact with the cooling fan wires, and literally fried the wires. The workaround was to replace the wires and re-route them so they were no longer in contact with the radiator. There were several guys in the waiting room at this point and they all nodded enthusiastically, agreeing that yes this explanation and the ensuing fix, made sense. Now all we had to do was wait for the bill – the trip was already costing more than we’d budgeted (it never occurred to us how very expensive gas would get the further we got from Alberta).
Meanwhile ‘Bruce Dern’ kept the mood light with his entertaining stories. The remaining water in Pepper’s bowl had warmed to room temperature and she was able to drink it and keep it all down. A few minutes later we saw the LRW drive out of the shop and into the parking lot. Hubby suggested we offer the staff some of the fresh fruit we’d picked up earlier. While he paid the bill (which was very affordable), I went to the car and retrieved the basket of juicy peaches – remarkably, they were still acceptably cool. So with peaches and smiles all ‘round, the friendly helpful staff at the Autoclinic of Flamborough, in Millgrove Ontario, wished us well, and we were off.
“That was relatively painless,” I thought to myself, as we continued our drive north. We had been lucky………….in so many ways. It seems the ‘road-trip gods’ were smiling upon us – but not without first having a little fun with us. We made good time after that, until we were about 45 minutes from our destination. Road construction had reduced the two lane highway to one lane. Since southbound traffic was much heavier than northbound traffic, we were stopped for ten minutes, maybe more, while oncoming traffic was allowed through – idling in traffic on a scorching hot day, obsessively watching the temperature gauge. But she held steady, even with the air conditioning on.
When we finally reached the shores of Georgian Bay, I wanted to laugh, cry, jump for joy………..but it was still too damn hot. It was good to be here though, where we would finally stay in one place for more than a day or two. Dad had ordered Chinese food in honour of our arrival. We ate, drank, laughed and had those amazing butter tarts for dessert. Then we recounted our tale – it was the first of many times the tale would be told.
Dad, AKA Dr. Ed, checked out my various scrapes and bumps and marveled that I hadn’t been more seriously hurt. He and his wife were most gracious hosts. They had gone to extraordinary efforts – to host my sister’s wedding, as well as housing numerous out-of-towners. We stayed in one of the spare rooms on the lower level of their walk-out home. The shore was less than 100 feet away and we could hear the sound of the waves and see the moonlit path across the water from our window. I was reminded how much I missed living on the water. Pepper on the other hand was wary of this great big ‘water dish’, but she was happy for the very plush wall-to-wall carpet throughout the house – she settled in so well that at times I forgot she was there.
The stifling heat finally lifted the day before the wedding, making the rehearsal comfortable and uncomplicated. That evening, at the rehearsal dinner, was the first time since arriving in town that I’d seen many of my family members. My brothers and step-brothers and nephews are all big strong guys – delighted as I was to see them, their big bear hugs usually elicited an “ow” from me. I was still pretty sore. The day of the wedding dawned warm and breezy, the blue of the sky matched only by its reflection in the water – a lovely backdrop for a lovely wedding. The only small glitch was when Princess Ellen, the flower girl, didn’t want to walk through the ‘archway’ created by the branches of two birch trees. She stood there shaking her head, lower lip quivering, the way only a 3-yr-old can do.
“I don’t want to be a flower girl” she said softly but matter-of-factly.
“Okay do you want to go this way instead?” I asked gently. She nodded shyly and acquiesced. I led her around the trees and over wobbly rocks in my high(ish) heels.
Later the Best Man remarked “I love how you gave her options, none of which was No!” Yesiree, I haven’t parented a preschooler for many years, but I still know how to do the dance.
Wedding reception and dinner, brunch the next day at my Moms’, family visits in the afternoon, one last dinner with my Dad and Step-mom, and the whirlwind visit to my hometown was over. It had been a great few days, but we were ready to get back on the road again – even Princess Pepper was eager.
The morning of our departure was cold, cloudy and threatening thunderstorms – the princess hates thunderstorms. We said our goodbyes and headed up the Bruce Peninsula to Tobermory where we would catch a ferry – this route shaves about 6 hours of driving time off the trip and since we were already part way up the peninsula, we could take the back roads up to Wiarton before catching the main highway north. About ten minutes into our journey, it started to rain; just a sprinkle at first and then the heavens let loose a torrential downpour so heavy we couldn’t see. I had forgotten how very heavy the rain can fall here. The road was winding and my memories of driving it in my youth were pretty vague – at least it was paved now. Fortunately there were no other cars on the road so we slowed down to a crawl lest we miss a curve and drive into the bay. There was intense thunder and lightning – a deafening clap of thunder cracked so close overhead that I was sure the car had been hit by lightning. I turned around to check on the dog. She was sitting up, panting, her eyes glazed over. For a while she remained in that near catatonic (dogatonic?) state, but eventually she lay down again and went to sleep. She was handling the storm much better than I’d expected, indeed better than she did at home – I guess the car was refuge for her even in a thunderstorm.
When we reached the docks at Tobermory, the rain had stopped. Despite the drive being slower than anticipated, we were still early enough to be third in line to board – there are times when my husband’s incessant need to be early comes in handy. The ferry wasn’t due in for another hour so we parked the car in line and went into the visitor centre. I desperately had to pee, but when I entered the building the lights were all out, there were people milling about and a sign on the women’s washroom that said ‘Out of Order’. I approached some ‘official-looking’ personnel and asked what the deal was. I was informed that a lighting strike had taken out the power and they had only back-up water, which was almost depleted. I asked if there was somewhere else that might have facilities I could use, but was advised that the whole town was affected. One of the fellows assured me that the washrooms on the ferry would be available because it had its own water supply. “Yeah, I don’t think I can wait that long,” I said to myself. He must have read the panic in my face because he gave in and permitted me to use the washroom – providing it would only be, er, a ‘light flush’. I assured him it would be and thanked him profusely.
With that minor emergency out of the way we went back to the car and got the dog to take her for a stroll along the docks. I gazed wistfully out onto the water, remembering for the umpteenth time how very much I missed living on Georgian Bay. Across the harbour was a marina with a rustic-looking restaurant. The sign read ‘Italian Restaurant and Espresso Bar’. “What a lovely little place to have lunch,” I thought. Pepper too gazed out onto the water – she saw some ducks and thought, “What a lovely little lunch!”
A while later, a loud horn blew – the ferry was docking. We headed back to the car in preparation for boarding. Once on board, we settled into some deck chairs near the stern – dogs weren’t allowed inside. Pepper laid down quietly beside us, but started fidgeting when water that had pooled on the deck started flowing towards her – seems we’d chosen the one spot on the ferry where there wasn’t a drainage hole to prevent water from accumulating. We moved to the other side of the boat where it was drier. The rest of the ferry ride was uneventful. In fact the rest of the whole trip was without incident – after a short day one, we stayed in Sault Ste. Marie, day two started with several hours of driving through thick soupy fog and ended about 16 hours later getting briefly lost in Winnipeg. But we took it all in stride – we were seasoned ‘road trippers’ now, even the Princess, who was much more relaxed throughout the drive home. The last day of driving seemed to go on forever. It was steaming hot through the prairies again, and we made fewer stops – we just wanted to get home.
Near dusk and still very warm, we pulled into Calgary. Driving up to the bungalow we call home, I noted the garden looked tired and dry – we’d asked our sons to water the pots and the vegetable garden but assumed everything else would be fine. There had been no rain during the whole time we were gone and a few of the shrubs I’d planted earlier in the year were really struggling. We unpacked and fed Pepper – she’d already made herself right at home and flopped down on the floor in one of her favourite spots. Since there was no food in the house we decided we’d have one last ‘road meal’ – while my husband went to pick up ‘Chicken on the Way’ I went outside and gave my thirsty plants a little water.
The next morning I awoke, yawned and stretched luxuriously – it was good to wake up in our own bed. I got up, made coffee and found some granola to have for breakfast. Cup of coffee in hand I headed out to the back yard to survey the gardens. The plants that were so wilted the night before had perked up considerably since watering. I leaned on the fence adjacent to the vegetable garden and inhaled the scent of oregano, basil and arugula, the warmth of the late summer sun allowing them to release their aromatic oils. The oregano was in bloom and abuzz with bumblebees, honeybees and various solitary bees. A Fire-rim Tortoiseshell joined them. True to its kind the butterfly flitted madly about never staying in one place for very long – it reminded me of the road trip we’d just returned from. The butterfly alit on a cluster of oregano blooms, staying put just long enough for me to snap a few photos.
My husband opened the gate to the garden looking to see if any of his tomatoes were ready for harvest. He found three – three perfectly formed, perfectly ripe Romas. Again it brought to mind the three of us – man, woman and dog, arriving safely home from a long journey. Hubby picked the three tomatoes and we headed back inside. Pepper was basking in the sun on the lawn – as I walked past her she lifted her head and looked at me. “It’s good to be home isn’t it girl?” I said. She laid her head back down and with a deep contented sigh closed her eyes again.
Yes it was very good to be home.
~ The End ~Happy trails, Sue
- Princess Pepper’s Adventure (notanothergardeningblog.com)
- Princess Pepper’s Adventure – Part 2 (notanothergardeningblog.com)
© Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sue Gaviller and Not Another Gardening Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.