Thursday, September 3, 2009


From August 11, 2009--Posted belatedly due to lack of Internet access at the cottage

I have successfully completed my four-day, 4,600 kilometer road trip from my home in British Columbia to the family cottage on the Ottawa River in Ontario. There were times during the trip that I questioned the point in making the journey.

One of those key moments had to be at 5 a.m. during the second night’s sleep while in an auto body shop parking lot in Winnipeg. I awakened to the familiar sound of my dog Lincoln gagging. With my legs half stretched out in the trunk of the vehicle, sandwiched between several bags of specialized dog food and loose shoes buffering contact with a suitcase and tennis gear, I could not move fast enough to prevent the inevitable.

I suppose I should be relieved that Lincoln’s vomit was more of a paste than a batter, but the smell—a mix of fermented strawberry and bile-coated doggy dinner negated any sort of consolation. And I’m not going near strawberry jam in the next decade. Lincoln managed to hit my pillow, sleeping bag, a stack of clean clothes, extra bedding, the car seat and the clothes I was wearing. I did my best to remove whatever I could spot with my glove compartment stash of Tim Horton’s napkins and generous dabs of bottled water, but the stench never went away during my final two days of living in the car. Maybe that was part of my motivation to get to the cottage in record time—four days, not five.

I could only listen to my greatest hits collection of Simply Red so many times, no matter how much I enjoyed reconnecting with forgotten gems. And, given that much of the trip traversed vast stretches of farmland and forest, clear radio stations were fleeting. It didn’t help that Christian and country radio—and one odd Spanish station—carried the strongest signals.

I had a lot of time for thinking. The first day across B.C. was void of any writing ideas. I was still getting oriented to travel mode—and stewing over a speeding ticket awarded after passing a truck that I’d been stuck behind for twenty minutes.

Fortunately, much of the first chapter of a children’s novel I’d been thinking about came to me once I settled for the night in the parking lot of a car dealership in Fort Macleod, Alberta. (When sleeping in my car, I try to pick businesses with cars in the lot. That way, my car doesn’t stand out so much—bike hanging off trunk rack notwithstanding—and then I don’t have to worry about a police officer banging on my window in the middle of the night, telling me to move my loitering butt along.)

Without an electrical outlet for my laptop and with my notepads buried in a backpack somehow hidden as a result of an in-transit avalanche that occurred early on due to my faulty packing technique, I grabbed my long unused mini recorder and rambled on with a flood of ideas to begin the novel. And so began a series of dictated writing flourishes during the remainder of the trip. Random travel thoughts are interspersed throughout the tapes: something about faux roadkill (burned out tires); a rant about Thunder Bay’s hidden gas stations; a musing about a small town named Head, Clara and Maria. (Yes, that’s one town name.)

Today I get to listen to the tapes and turn the recordings to written text. No doubt, there will be a fair amount of drivel in my spontaneous notes. I’ll attribute any such passages to road fatigue (and that lingering berry-scented vomit), but I am hoping there will be some keepers in the mix and fodder for further writing.

This is it. It took four days of driving and three nights of sleeping in the car, but I have made it to the cottage, my abode for the next two months. I am hoping the place will inspire a flurry of writing activity. And I’m blocking all thoughts about the return trip. Time to live in the moment!

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