As I step into August I am greeted with the anticipation of change and the promise of a new adventure. The first change I have to wrap my thoughts around and prepare for is moving into a new home. The lease on my apartment will be up at the end of August and my current roommates and I will be moving into different apartments. My roommates will head to Nova Scotia to continue their education and I will move into a quaint basement room in a house with a young couple from church. I will have a new place to call home, a new bedroom to nest in and turn into my dreaming pot, and new roommates to have lots of adventures with.
August has also been kind enough to let me have a week of true summer vacation time. On Friday evening myself, Debra and Andrew packed up Bruce the Bruiser Chevy Blazer with as much stuff as we could humanly and legally pack. All the while hoping the axels of our SUV wouldn’t bend under the weight. We left the Island in the cool of the evening and drove into a sunset that was veiled by rippling red thunder clouds. As we glided over the bridge forks of lightning darted off in the distance christening our journey with an adventurous blessing. With only a map to guide us, two iPods to fill our ears with music, and our own bubbly conversation to keep us awake we engaged the road with confidence and anticipation of memories to make and adventures to be had.
The intention was to drive through the night so that we would hit the magical land of ideal highway driving (not so much), Montreal, at 5:00am. That was the intention, however our intentions can often be a margin where God has an opportunity to have some fun of His own. About four hours down the road we pulled over to the side of the highway and heard what sounded like a witches cauldron boiling under the hood of our car. Andrew just happened to have a pair of safety glasses, you never know what that man will pull out of his pocket, he adorned his face with the glasses and valiantly opened the hood to inspect the curious and unsettling noise. The radiator was piping hot and the temperature gage was blinking at critical. It would appear out engine was having some issues cooling down which meant one of many things: the thermostat was broken, there was blockage in the radiator that prevented water from cooling the engine, the fan was broken, or if we were really lucky all three. From what we could tell it was a faulty thermostat and though we couldn’t fix it on the side of the road there were actions we could take to keep us driving all night long. We allowed the engine to cool and prayed heavily over the engine.
While Andrew stayed with the vehicle reading the manual for advice on how to deal with a faulty thermostat Debra and I ventured in to the ditch to try and catch fire flies. We also took this opportunity to have a short washroom break and bravely squatted in the bushes to relieve ourselves. I have not peed in the bushes since I was a kid and I was terrified! What if a bug bit me in a highly uncomfortable area, what if I accidently sat in something poisonous, what if a bear came out of the woods and I had to try to run with my pants at my ankles. Oh the calamity such an action could create! To ward off bears, moose, wolves and any other mischievous predator that might be lurking in the woods I marched up and screamed as loud as I could, roaring, yelling, making funny noises, anything to make my presence known so I would surprise anyone. Peeing in the bush was a success and as Debra put it so perfectly, “Peeing in the bush is what memories are made out of.” We even conjured up a little tune to accompany such an adventure:
“We are peeing in the bush, peeing in the bush
Squatting in the bushes, with fire flies
We are peeing in a bush, peeing in a bush
Toilette paper in hand, don’t you wish you were a man.”
Before hitting the road again we learned the best way to keep our engine cool was to divert the heat from the engine to the interior of the vehicle by turning the heat on full blast. But driving down the road in the middle of summer with the heat full blast is less than ideal for any traveler. We rolled down the windows and headed out on a windy and loud drive. This thermostat solution was only temporary and we would have to pull over every few hours throughout the rest of our trip to cool the engine and fill the reservoir with water. We all took turns driving and always ensure the driver and passenger was awake while the third caught some sleep in the back seat. We switched when ever we got low on fuel or when the engine needed to be cooled. This made for frequent stops but a good opportunity to stretch our legs, have a picnic and take some silly pictures.
Driving all night long for a pastry chef is a challenge and a half. I am usually in bed by 9:00pm to ensure I am up awake by 6:00am the next morning. But when your adventure starts at the time you are normally in dream land I had to force myself to stay awake. This is more easily achieved when at every rest stop I drink a coffee and slap myself in the face a few times.
In the middle of the night I drove while Andrew stayed awake to navigate and encouraged me as I drove. We talked about his time on the Island and the adventures he had gone on, and in turn we talked about my time on the Island. We reminisced about the good old days at the University of Waterloo when he and I and 3 other men were happy, hilarious roommates. We spoke in depth about our hearts and spiritual strength, Andrew and Debra’s relationship, our individual relationship with God, and in the ways God has blessed us over the year. The one thing I have learned from this year is that God is in everything and I am so dependant on that truth. By moving to a place where I have no immediate family or friends who I am accustom to depending on and asking advice for, my call for help had quickly turned to God. It was He and I made the decision to come to the Island, He and I that made the decision to conclude my formal education with a pastry chef certification, He and I that made the decision to work at Anne of Green Gables Chocolates and it is He who has provided for me and held me close during my time of need, doubt, and decision making. God has given me the opportunity to fully root my stride in Him by taking me to the Island where my immediate dependency comes from Him. In return He has shaped me, encouraged me and given me certain independence in preparation for the next stage in my life.
As night slowly turned to dawn Debra took the wheel and I remained awake while Andrew took his turn to catch up on some sleep. Debra and I discussed the blessings of being a lady, and how God has shaped us to the valiant women, and of course we talked about boys. The sun rose behind us in blushing ribbons of red, pink, yellow, purple, and orange smiling us onward as we traveled into the west of my homeland. As we drove through Quebec City we saw16 hot air balloons and a blimp floating lazily across the still and vibrant morning sky. It became a game to see where they were taking off from and how many there were.
At a rest stop in Quebec I took the opportunity to stretch my legs and I gravitated toward a hay field. I breathed in the deep morning air. It smelled of sweet dew, fresh green hay, and the rich earthy smell of the good soil. I noticed right away that there was no sparkle of sea air as I inhaled another breath. This air was saturated in the depth of land, surround by land, cultivated, ancient, deeply rooted and turned over land. The smell of the main land sent a shiver of delight through me and I knew I was close to home.
We continued to drive on and it was my turn to sleep. I curled up in the back seat popped in some ear plugs and was asleep quite literally in seconds. When I awoke Debra and Andrew were setting up a picnic for us and the hood of the car was popped again to allow the engine a rest as well. Several hours, numerous giggles, and lots of singing later we arrived in Ontario! I was elated! My homeland greeted me with rich, deep, and vast landscapes opening its arms and embracing me. As the country side scrolled past the window like an ancient truth I soaked up the landscaped and harboured every vision in my heart. There were thick swamps and small lakes with secrets of adventures and paths to the discovered. Majestic and unmoving rock walled the highway with tall wise pine trees over looking your journey. Deep lush woods wove densely enticing the most seasoned of trail blazers. This land had so much depth and heritage engraved into the rhythm of its routes. How many adventurers had crossed this land? What wars were fought here? Where did the moose end its travels after marking the earth with its strong strides? When did this land come to breathe and find its song?
As the road continued on, so did we, driving through the glorious landscape, knowing it was an honour to do so. However, even though I have ached for Ontario I wasn’t hurting for the heat. As we drove deeper inland the heat rose to 33 degrees, and then to 35, and finally to 37 but with the humidity it was a scorching, unthinkable 42 degrees! Keep in mind that we are driving in a piping hot vehicle with no air conditioning and with the heat at full blast to keep the engine from exploding. All I can say to that is, “This is what memories are made of.”
Finally we arrived in Kingston where our journey ended for a couple days. We set up temporary house in Debra’s aunts house and after watching the goose bump giving drama “Field of Dreams” we each collapsed into our own beds and fell asleep instantly. The following day we arose leisurely and made our way to Debra’s church where she talked about her year of teaching English in Honduras. She shared her thoughts and intentions of going to Honduras to be a blessing and to pour into the lives of the people she met there but in fact she was the one who became blessed and was poured into. After the service we were invited out for lunch by a pair of Debra’s mentors, Bill and Lynn, where more conversation ensued. After a delicious lunch and equally tasty chatter we set up about fixing the car. Bill and Lynn invited us over and allowed us the use of their tools and car repair knowledge and together we tinkered away. When I say “together” I really mean Andrew and Bill tinkered with the car and Debra, Lynn, and myself stood in the garage and cheered them on. To add to the adventure of car repairs the summer heat that had been building up for days released itself in a thunderous rain storm. When the thunder rolled and the rain assaulted the dry earth I couldn’t help but think how fitting of a greeting it was. All summer long I had been aching for an Ontario storm and upon my arrival it delivered a robust and drenching symphony.
After the rain stopped and after fighting with the drain the radiator was now happily flushing itself of excess crud, anti freeze, and stale water. I was intrigued by Lynns E-Bike which is an electronic bike that looks much like a vespa however uses electricity rather than fuel to operate it. I have been contemplating purchasing such a machine once I have moved back home so this was a perfect opportunity to ask questions, get advice, and discuss the pros and cons of such a vehicle. Lynn even let me take it for a spin once the rain had stopped. I was a natural, zipping down the street with a big goofy grin on my face and the flourish of my skirt flapping in the breeze like a flag. I felt so European.
After packing Bruce up before going to bed our day ended much as the same as yesterday by falling into bed and traveling to dream land as soon as our heads hit the pillow. At 5:00am the following morning we rolled out of bed and right into the car and were on the road by 5:30. After a year of waking up at the crack of dawn this hour was no stretch for me and I was up and ready to go in minutes and happily took the wheel. We gassed up Bruce, fueled our bellies with some Tim Hortons coffee and muffins and cruised smoothly along the 401 for a couple hours.
After about an hour and half on the road on of the corners of the tarp that held the mattress in place on top of the car came loose and flapped noisily and hazardously at my drivers side window. We pulled over to investigate and fix what we could. While pulled over we saw a large puddle of fluid dripping from the engine. Oh boy, here we go again. We assumed the radiator was leaking and made the decision to quickly and carefully drive to the next rest stop and fix what we could. While Andrew tended to the engine, Debra and I wrestled with the tarp and ratchet straps. After being an avid knitter for 8 years I am no stranger to the art of knotting and we secured the tarp and mattress brilliantly. While fiddling with our respective frustrations a gentleman pulled up beside us and began tinkering with his own vehicle. He glanced over and noticed our PEI plates and gingerly strolled up to us and asked, “You guys aren’t from the Island are ya?” Debra, being a native Islander, jumped out of her skin with delight. “We are from the Island!” A conversation broke out between the two of them and smiles and laughter were exchanged. The gentleman, who’s name we found out is Al, noticed that to make our mattress and tarp extra secure we would need an extra ratchet strap. Without a word he reached into the back of his truck and pulled out a spare and freely gave it to us. What a blessing! We offered to return it to him eventually but he said, “Don’t even worry about it, that’s what helping people is all about.”
Andrew could find no leak in the radiator and assumed it was left over crud and fluid from yesterday that hadn’t fully been shaken off the vehicle and with the mattress firmly in place we hit the road again. As we turned out of the rest stop we honked a happy farewell to Al. We are most certain Al is an angel and that Al is really short for Alleluia.
Apart from a traffic jam due to an accident the rest of the ride home was smooth sailing. I arrived home, safe at last, feet back on my homestead. My entire family was over for dinner and we had a short celebration of my being home. I am only for a short time because in a few days I will be on the road again further north into Ontario to attend the wedding of one of the guys that I lived with in University.
Yes the adventures of Mama Jo never cease, stay tuned for me travel comedy.