A Different Kind of Insanity Altogether

Theresa from Back Seat View recently wrote a post showcasing some of her best road-trip photos. At the time of reading, I happened to be waffling over what to write about next. Immediately, my most memorable road-trip came to mind. A journey I hope never to duplicate. I love how inspiration can come from out of nowhere.

In mid-May 2008, my practically husband and I embarked on a 5,500 kilometre trip across the continent. Exhausted of trying to eke out a living in over-priced Calgary, Alberta, we packed it all into a small U-haul trailer and headed East –  with nothing but a few dollars and a pissed-off cat to our names. I had our route all planned out. Via email, I even had a place for us to stay at the other end. All that was left to do was get there.  It was both the best and the worst trip of my life. I still can’t believe we did it in five days.

To cut some time, we planned to travel part of the way through the U.S. It sounded like a smart choice, but when the border guards took one look at our trailer before hauling us into the station, I wasn’t so sure we had made the right decision. Understandably, a young, unmarried couple with a U-haul looked a little suspicious. I don’t think they were as worried about us moving on in as they were about drugs. The guards split us up and made one of us wait in a cramped hallway while the other was brought in for questioning. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, waiting there and wondering if I was ever going to see my family again. Melodramatic? Most definitely. The things that went through my mind as I sat in that metal chair with the broken leg…

My nerves didn’t ease any when it was my turn in front of the implacable officials. I had to bite back sarcastic retorts as they drilled me about my poor finances. Figured telling him he sounded like my father wasn’t going to help my case.

Fortunately, we weren’t delayed longer. I am positive they had considered emptying out the entire trailer, which would have sucked. That thing was jammed to the seams. We had barely been able to close the lock. One of the reasons I think they decided not to lays entirely with the cat. He hadn’t stopped yowling since we left my parents’ house that morning. A more miserable feline I have never seen. I am almost 100% sure the guards were equally sick of his cries after their cursory checks through the truck.

Speaking of the cat… Five days in a small truck with a cat who thinks all vehicle travel is a sign of Armageddon? Not so much a good time. I’ve said it before, but next time – if there is a next time – the cat is getting shipped.

We bought him a harness and a leash and for some unknown reason I figured he would love walking nicely outside when we made pit stops. Right. Can you tell I had very little cat experience? Evidently, cats need to be slowly introduced to leash manners. Expecting him to adjust whilst in the middle of a very stressful road-trip was just stupid. I am not going to show any more photos of the Kitty Meister from this period as none of them are very flattering for either of us.

One of the worst moments was when the PH went into a convenience store for supplies and I decided to take the cat out. Immediately upon touching concrete, he dived underneath another car in the parking lot. The leash was pretty long but not long enough to reach the bushes he wanted to hide in. If you can picture the scene I am sure it is pretty comical. Me holding the leash beside a stranger’s car, freaking out, and a large orange cat on the other side screaming his head off. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t drop the leash because if I did I knew the cat would be gone. Possibly forever. But if the owner of the car came out before the PH, I would be completely mortified. How would I explain the situation in a way that didn’t sound insane? I was totally stuck. It was one of the longest five minutes spans of my life.

Aside from all this, and the mortifying late-night cat-dragging episodes outside of our motel rooms each night – the trip did go fairly smooth. It was a lot of time on the road through parts of the continent neither of us knew very well. Somehow, with the PH’s amazing driving, and my even more amazing navigational skills, we stayed pretty much right on track. There was a dicey moment where we almost lost the trailer without realizing it after attempting to find a place to stay in Petawawa. At least a quick morning trip to the hardware store was all we needed to fix the problem. Crossing the border back into Canada was easier than going into the States. There was no interrogation, there were no guns or stern looks, just a friendly wave and a “good luck”. What a relief!

The best part was seeing new places. I’d never been to Wisconsin or Minnesota before, nor had I seen much of Quebec. While we weren’t able to do any real sight-seeing, it was still fun to travel in a new way. Once we’d smothered the cat, that is.

The longest part of the trip was the last two days. We kept racking up the kilometres and yet we didn’t seem any closer to our goal. After a harrowing journey through Montreal rush-hour traffic, I think we were both showing signs of road fatigue. I was starting to wonder if it was even worth it. It was a big risk we were taking and we were going to be so far from everyone we had ever known. There were a lot of things that could go wrong.

I am still shocked we ran into zero car troubles. My family has never gone on a single road-trip without a break-down. Every family holiday includes a story about being stranded somewhere. It is a family curse. The entire time I had my fingers crossed, just hoping my practically husband’s genetics would take precedence this time. Somehow, they did. Something for which I will forever be grateful.

Eventually, we made it to our destination. Our stress wasn’t near over. We now had to find jobs and deal with the lack of power in our sublet apartment. But that is another story. At least the worst part was over and we could sleep without having to get on the road in the morning. It was something to celebrate. Naturally, the first place we headed after parking the truck was a bar.

Can you blame us? The sight of this gigantic brewtender of beer was enough of a sign we had made the right decision. I have never doubted it since.

This is one of my favourite photos from that time. Relief has never been more evident on his face. What. A. Week.

24 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Insanity Altogether

  1. I’m sure it was miserable while it was happening, but what a great story you ended up with! Loved it.

    You’ll be telling this story to the staff in your nursing home someday:)


  2. I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who just decides to move somewhere and find a job when they arrive. That doesn’t seem to be the way most people operate.

    BTW, did you ever persuade Kitty Meister to ever get into a car again? I’d imagine vet trips got even tougher after that experience.


  3. For some reason, i always thought you were in the States. Why am I so geographically challenged? I’ve always wanted to travel through Canada. It seems to have many lovely open spaces. And Montreal has a particularly nice vibe about it (from reading and pictures). So do you speak French?


  4. I’m so glad that you and your PH made it at last!
    The process might not be a smooth and plain journey but we never know it before we try it out! Both of you were very brave, give yourself a pat!!!


  5. You were both very brave to travel so far away from everyone you all knew and start afresh. But it sounds like a pretty amazing adventure that you will cherish. The cat part was hilarious.. hahahaha..


  6. Ha! Your experience at the border rreminds me of the many times the border patrol left the contentss of our vehicle on the side of the road. and many many other fonder memories fo cross country trips. never traveled with a cat, though, thanksfully!


  7. I think the PH had the same look on his face this morning when he dropped me at the airport. Nice seeing you both and Shiva again – hopefully we will be able to make the cross country trip again real soon


  8. I did the same thing across the US from So Cal to So Fl with two cats and a trailer. The only time I let them out was in the hotel bathroom. They are tricky characters to catch. The one time I felt like I kept going and going and getting no where was through Texas. I didn’t have a scary incident with border patrol like you did, but once I hit Florida, I met up with a nasty security guard at the first rest stop I parked at. That should have been the warning to turn around and get out, but no. I kept going deeper into the state. 🙂 How did you manage a trailer with a dog pictured on it? Very nice. And I bet that was the best beer you ever had. 🙂 Great story!


  9. What a great story, and thanks for the pingback! I had lived in Ontario for 9 months when my husband was offered a very good job in the DC area of the States. We moved here pretty much blindly, no where to live, just the job offer and plans to live with a friend. It was a 560 mile drive that we did overnight…like some covert mission complete with Tempo, mini van, and U Haul. Fortunately we had no pets at the time…I can only imagine listening to that poor cat! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  10. My husband and I did a “figure-eight” 14,000 km road trip in 1994– from Toronto to the Maritimes, into Maine and down to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard, back up to Toronto through Vermont, across northern Ontario to Winnipeg, and then down through Minneapolis, Chicago, and Michigan back to Toronto. Took us 9 weeks, and we fell in love with Halifax and PEI. We’re hoping to fly to Winnipeg this summer, then borrow or rent a car and drive to Mount Rushmore. But the dog stays home!


  11. Wow, that was exciting! I think that getting pulled over at the border and being asked questions cuz of your trailer counts as car trouble, don’t you?

    My mom just laughed and laughed abouts how you thought the kitteh would be okay walking around on a leash. She says you don’t take kittehs out for a walk, you take ’em out for a drag. And she understands about the screaming and bad cuss words that kittehs do while they’re in the car, too. We’re both a little surprised that he didn’t gets left on the side of the road somewheres. BOL!

    Thank you for a super terrific story!

    Wiggles & Wags,


  12. Oh, the best belly laughs I have had in a long time – what a story. HA. When I moved to northwest MT from eastern SD, my cats (3), though allegedly sedated, did not stop yowling till 50 miles outside of Rapid City, where I planned to spend the night. Nerves on edge for sure. Kitty Meister won’t let you move with him again.


  13. I think that you have inspired me to write a post about the month that Sean & I spent on the road in the USA. We went from LA to Yellowstone Park to Louisiana to Boston to Toronto.


  14. Oh, that is one heck of a road trip! It reminded me of one of my own, but it’s a story much too long for a blog comment. I’ll just say that it was a learning experience! 😛 I’m glad you made it safe and on time, with the cat still alive!


  15. What a great story! Having decided to live full-time in a Winnebago and travel around the US and Canada for the next year, I read your post with some trepidation. I hope we’re still having fun 9 months from now!

    We also had an experience crossing into the US from Canada. We were asked to pull ahead and step out of the Winnebago. We put the dogs on their leashes and on of the guards when through our “home,” opening cabinets, drawers and the refrigerator. Meanwhile a second guard stood beside us with her hand on her holstered pistol! Buster and Ty were both barking their heads off – sounding the intruder alert. At the time is was really stressful. Now when I think back on it, it was pretty funny.


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