Friday, 23 March 2012
A Driving History Interlude: The Rental, 2007 Dodge Magnum (AKA: The Time I Tried to Kill the Wife)
Christmas 2006. I'd been in Australia for 3 years, and it was time to go back to back to Canada. With a little help from step daughter, The Wife and I packed for a three week stint in Canada.
For me, as you well know, being mobile is important to me as I had already 8 vehicles in 13 years- or a different car every 18 months. So we packed off to the rental outfit. They had one of these. Now this is a pretty cool vehicle, I have to say. And nothing like the Chryslers we have access to in Australia. (We only get the crappy ones like Journeys and Calibres). Decent power. Good ride. Heaps of cargo room. I just failed to take two very important things into account when I saw this car. One: There wasn't quite enough leg room in the front and 2: more importantly, it was rear wheel drive.
Anyways, Christmas and New Years passed, and one day The Wife tells me that my brother had been making noise. See, we couldn't really afford to stay at a hotel so we were staying at his place. I think we were cramping his style. So I briefly planned this road trip. I should have learned something in all my years of driving in Canadian Winter. I should have learned from my Rear Wheel drive experiences in Edmonton, what with sand bags in the boot of the diplomat and tbird. I should have learned from driving back from Vancouver in January, because, you know what? We were going to the mountains. Living in the tropics for 3 years must have given me a bit of winter amnesia.
The day started out okay, if a bit late. We left about noon, 2 or three hours later than I actually intended. Daylight is critical here, because in January there might 7 hours total of daylight. And our first stop was near Nordegg. This old mining town is about 3 and half hours away from Edmonton, in the high foothills of the Rockies. It was going to be great. We went to get pictures of a frozen waterfall. And it remains a very special place to me.
The trouble is, we got to the falls just on dusk. We should have stayed the night in Nordegg, or even Rocky, but I wanted to see the falls that day. The Wife goes looking for her sunglasses, expensive sunglasses that I got her for the trip. An interesting distraction, and comes important later.
Now, the turnoff to the falls is located about 10km out of town, and its another 7 or 8 km down a gravel road. In the sunlight, the snow was actually melting here, the day was sightly warmer here then back in Edmonton. In order to reach the falls, you have to drive down a steep descent for an 8 or 900 meter section of road, and as I said, we arrived just on dusk. At the top of the hill, there more than a few vehicles parked. It looked like a good day for the equestrian set up.
We drove down the hill to take some photos of the falls and walk around for a while, enjoying the winter. As the sky darkened we knew it was time to go back up the hill.
That slightly melting snow from earlier had turned to slightly frozen ice, only I didn't realize this. We got in the car and off I drove up the hill. Only, about half way up, the car lost traction. And it started sliding a bit. The rear end wouldn't quite stay stable so it was fishtailing a bit. To keep the car from slamming into the trees or going off the side of the road, I had to stop applying power. I would immediately lose any remaining forward momentum, and the car would stop.
So, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. So I did. Four or five times I tried, but I found that I was actually starting to lose ground. Around about this time, The Wife starts going off. How its been a horrible trip so far. How she can't find her sunglasses. It was around this point that with my typical wisdom and timing I asked her if she would get in the cargo bay of wagon. You see, I didn't have any sandbags handy, and I thought more traction would be the key.
She didn't take kindly to that. I think she may have thought I was referring to her as a bag. She stormed out of the car and up the hill. She was so pissed off in fact, it's a wonder the snow wasn't melting off the road from heat of her anger.
Well, I tried again, and with success eluding me, and leaving the back end of the car off the road with the bumper lovingly nestled against a tree, I decided I'd better go after her.
I walked up the hill to the equestrian park. It was now almost completely dark, and the temperature was still dropping. It was probably -5 or -6 centigrade. All the vehicles were gone.
I called and called her, thinking surely she hasn't tried the road to the highway. She came out of the toilet, only fear had replaced anger. We were completely alone, and there was no guarantee that anyone was coming for that remaining truck.. As psychotic as I've always felt it is, people do winter camp. It was cold, especially for an Australian who's lived all her life in the tropics.
It wasn't so bad, at least until wind started picking up.
For the first time in my life I was confronted with a very real situation. How to survive the cold? I knew that we would have to get out of the wind, but we couldn't go back to the car because our one ticket out of the area was parked at the top of the hill. I was starting to think about lighting a fire, and then realizing that I had quit smoking at the time and didn't even have a lighter.
Things weren't looking very good. I said we'd better get out of the wind and started walking back to the toilet, the only real wind break we had when I heard noise coming from the trees.
The owners of the truck were finally coming back. As they were loading their gear into the vehicle I came over to beg a ride to Nordegg from them. The Wife was more embarrassed than I. I think I was just glad they came back to the truck. They drove us to town, and dropped us the town's one restaurant and motel. They had a vacancy so I booked a room and asked them who I could call to get a tow. It would have to be an outfit in Rocky Mountain House, 90 km distant. I made the call and we had dinner while we waited.
The Wife went back to the room, and I went with the truck driver. He put chains on his truck before going down the hill. It took about 2 hours, but I got the car back to town and was relieved of about $400. I liked the guy, so I had a beer with him. All in all, I was away about 3 hours. When I got back to the room, Lois was relieved to see me, so relieved in fact, she started yelling at me. Upset that I had been back 1/2 an hour without telling her. I told her I thought she would have been sleeping. Truthfully, I didn't think I wanted her spending time with a hunky tow truck driver that rode in on a white truck and saved the day.
She still talks about the day as the one where I tried to kill her. It couldn't be though. I would never create a situation to kill her that would endanger my own life as well. It wasn't deliberate. It was far too stupid a situation for it to be deliberate.
We did, eventually, find her sunglasses, but only after buying a replacement pair of Bohle's in Banff from an Australian for $180. I think Banff is the second largest colony of Australians outside of Australia.
We stayed a few nights in Canmore, drove to Emerald Lake in Yoho, visited Lake Louise, and even took a pregnant woman and her boyfriend across the Alberta BC border. It was an amazing trip, and I made no further attempts on my wife's life.