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.