Long haul to Vancouver, empty room at home

2.327 km. I know, on account of I counted every one of them. Well, my tripometer in my jalopy counted them, but I felt every single one of them.

2.327 km. I know, on account of I counted every one of them. Well, my tripometer in my jalopy counted them, but I felt every single one of them.

Vancouver is an awfully long way to drive in one go when you’re not a long-haul trucker or an airline pilot.

It’s a long honk moving one of your rotten kids and all her worldly possessions to the very edge of Canada. Because then of course you have to come all the way back by yourself all empty. And there’s nothing in the vehicle or trailer either.

Before we left last weekend, picking up the cargo trailer was like entering some sort of time warp. I rented a five-by-eight U Haul trailer, a little box-on-wheels that was virtually unchanged from numerous decades ago when every rock ’n’ roll band in the land used to keep the local U Haul dealers alive by dragging a five-by-eight full of loud band equipment to local dancehalls every weekend.

It may even have been the exact same trailer we used to hook up back when I was a teenager and the automobile had just been invented, even though it looked a lot less beat-up than I remember.

I like to think it was the same one. I’m kinda funny that way.

Except this time we packed it plumb full of everything that might fit into a bachelor apartment 1,000 km away and aimed for the mountains. When we hit the road with a stuffed Jeep and a jammed U Haul, there was just enough room for the two of us and my buddy Gina, which is what I call the perpetually confident British voice on my GPS navigation unit.

I didn’t realize that Gina the GPS goes a little wacky in the mountains. I think it’s due to the fact that waaaay up in the Rogers Pass and the Coquihalla Hwy you are so much closer to the navigation satellites orbiting above sending unseen cyber-beams containing maps and British voices that when the beams bounce off the mountains and forests and numerous road construction zones, the GPS sometimes gets quite confused.

We were looking for yet another gas station when we pulled off into Salmon Arm smack into a residential area, where we drove around following Gina’s contradictory directions until I gave up and stopped at a small store.

“There’s got to be a gas station somewhere in Salmon Arm!” I said to the lady with a smile meant to cover my frustration.

“Yes, I’m sure there is,” she said back at me with the same smile.

“Can you tell me where?” I said, gritting my teeth.

“You’re in canoe,” she answered back.

I was seriously frazzled by now. “I’m in a canoe?” I said, my head beginning to ache.

“You’re in ‘Canoe’,” she said more or less patiently. “This is the community of Canoe. Salmon Arm is down the highway a few clicks.”

I shut the GPS off and followed Hwy 1 a few clicks, where we found a gas station and an excellent restaurant and not a single canoe.

We finally got to the thriving metropolis of Vancouver and somehow eventually backed the trailer into a small spot near a curb in the general vicinity of the apartment, where the real fun began.

We got to drag ourselves out of the car and lug stuff four km from the trailer to the apartment for about 12 hours.

Actually the unloading went quite quickly; it just seemed like that long and that far. But it must have been entertaining for the neighbours watching an old guy and a tall, thin dancer trying to wrestle a couch up the sidewalk and through a door that seemed much smaller than a couch.

But soon enough we were done, and the little apartment was piled high with the stuff and I was puffing and sweaty and looking for a corner to fall down and nap in, and my rotten kid was already happily unpacking and putting things where they were supposed to be.

Early the next day, it was time to do something that my very determined offspring considers extremely important — go shopping. So we rattled around the massive, complicated city with an empty trailer bouncing loudly around behind us and making it even more impossible to find a parking space.

But we managed to stock up on enough groceries to last her several millennia and pick up a few essential items like dishwashing liquid and a lovely top that apparently goes perfectly with her new shoes.

Then, once I was sure she was nicely settled and happy to get rid of me, I gave her a hug and then went back for a second hug and turned and headed out — before I embarrassed myself more than usual.

I had something in my eye but I’m pretty sure it didn’t qualify for a distracted driving fine.

So back on the road it was just Gina and me and about 13 hours ahead of me to just drive and look for gas stations and think about things.

It really was a fun and adventurous road trip — time well spent between a father and a daughter, one for the old family scrapbook.

But as I finally made it home close to midnight, all weary and fuzzy, I got out of the car and spent quite some time attempting to straighten up and try a small, painful stretch or two. And then I stood looking at the house where our rotten kids grew up.

It was quiet and dark now, but I knew it had changed. Inside, there was an empty room that wasn’t empty before.

Sometimes I have a little trouble with change, even the inevitable kind. Even if I know it’s a good thing. I’m kinda funny that way.

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.

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