Dreaded race across country reveals no major speed bumps

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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I've always wanted to drive across country, so when my wife got a job offer in St. John's last month, it meant I was going to get my chance; she'd been in Fort McMurray for the past few months while I worked out here, and was going to stay until either our townhouse in Fort McMurray sold or she got a job in Newfoundland.

Then both happened, around the same time, which meant that a round-trip airplane ticket in March for me to visit turned into a one-way ticket for me to come to Fort McMurray, pack up the house, and then drive our Subaru all the way to Newfoundland.

Swimming against the tide -

I've always wanted to drive across country, so when my wife got a job offer in St. John's last month, it meant I was going to get my chance; she'd been in Fort McMurray for the past few months while I worked out here, and was going to stay until either our townhouse in Fort McMurray sold or she got a job in Newfoundland.

Then both happened, around the same time, which meant that a round-trip airplane ticket in March for me to visit turned into a one-way ticket for me to come to Fort McMurray, pack up the house, and then drive our Subaru all the way to Newfoundland.

So, technically, since we didn't start in British Columbia, I guess this wasn't a cross-country drive (however, we did drive to Kelowna last spring, so I can pretend the cross-country trip just took a 10-month break). And of the times I'd envisioned driving across the country, I never once imagined doing it in March, and certainly not when we'd be covering almost a thousand kilometres a day in order to do it as quickly as possible. While my wife and I have taken several long car trips together, we'd never done several days in a row where we'd be cooped up in a car for up to 12 hours a day together. Given that we'd spent so much time apart over the past few months, we were a little worried that we would get on each other's nerves pretty quickly. By the time we left, my wife was telling friends that she'd programmed Northern Ontario's best divorce lawyers into her phone in case problems arose. I'm almost positive that she was joking.

Another thing: if you're planning a cross-country trip, ideally, you're not doing it immediately after spending a few days trying to pack up as much of your house because you're selling it and moving. Our plans to get on the road by about 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning (after already pushing our departure date back by two days to help tie up loose ends regarding the sale of our house) didn't come to fruition as, the morning we left, we kept finding little job after little job to do in the house, something else to put in a box, something else to pack in the car. Eventually we just threw our hands up, decided the movers could take care of the rest, and we finally got on the road around 12:30, and rolled into Moose Jaw around 11 hours later, our hopes of an early evening dinner with some old friends dashed.

The important thing was that the trip was underway, and all the stress of packing up was behind us and there was nothing but the open road in front of us. Were we going to have to, you know, talk to each other?

No! Thanks to the magic of downloaded podcasts and audiobooks - and to the Gameboy and Super Mario Bros. cartridges I found when I was cleaning out my nightstand - we found that the hours and kilometres flew by. I highly recommend podcasts by Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant, which consist almost entirely of them railing at a friend of theirs, Karl Pilkington, for his seemingly limitless stupidity.

I also did the bulk of the driving (read "all of the driving"), which meant that my wife generally deferred to my choices for what we listened to. To repay her generosity, I decided not to inflict upon her any of the more esoteric music in my collection. Sonic Youth has a track that consists solely of them nailing down piano keys, one by one. As far as road music goes, it's not exactly Bruce Springsteen.

Driving in March turned out to be great. Not a flake of snow or a drop of rain hit our windshield for the first six days - our time on the mainland. As soon as we got off the ferry in Port Aux Basques, we had to drive through half-an-hour or so of light snow, and for another hour or so outside of Harbour Grace. We got very lucky - traveling in early March, we could have easily hit a blizzard or a -30 C snap - and, as a bonus, the early time of year meant we didn't have to deal with any major roadwork along the way.

So: no problems on the drive. Enjoyed ourselves. Harbinger of things to come in Newfoundland? I know what you're thinking: "You're calling the trip a success because you managed to not get divorced on a seven-day car trip?" All I can say is you've never had to spend 6,600-some-odd kilometres in a car with me.

dmaceachern@cbncompass.ca

Organizations: Subaru, Super Mario Bros., Sonic Youth

Geographic location: Fort McMurray, Newfoundland, St. John's British Columbia Kelowna Northern Ontario Moose Jaw Port Aux Basques

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