June 28, 2015
I call this first day of our travel ‘Day Zero’ for two reasons:
One, because it is a trend in modern age comic-dom that comic book series can start with issue #zero−and I like comics. It is an odd concept, perhaps, for a series of stories, but it seems oddly fitting for an extremely intelligent civilization who have been using the number (or is it a non-number?) since Babylonian times−or at least since AD 458 when it first appeared in India−that the concept should be applied to tales of self-absorbed divas with wild powers dressed in tights.
But I digress …
Two, because although we left our home today (in the capable hands of house-sitters, for all you would-be thieves out there), we actually have not left the country yet. We are staying in a hotel somewhere near the airport to make a fresh start in the morning. Hence … zero travel.
We came to the decision to stay in a hotel the night before, because our flight was leaving on a Monday, and this narrowed the options for someone to drive us to the airport.
Now, by way of provided a bit of background, we have been mulling over the trip for more than a year and seriously planning it since at least January. We had to start at that time, because once we decided we were going, we then realized we wanted to make it worthwhile and make it our trip of a lifetime, so we narrowed down the countries we needed to go see to Holland, Belgium, France, England and Scotland and settled on a duration of 82 days.
Add into the mix our recent Big Bang-like expanding family of grandchildren and you have the makings of stressful planning and the result of anxious leave-taking, especially considering that the latest entrant to the family applied and gained entry on June 22, only seven days before our flight.
Tough for us to leave them all for so long.
But we are now really excited after all the planning and discussion, to be finally actually embarking.
Well, starting the #zero issue, anyway.
All to say that the decision to switch to staying in a hotel so that there actually was a Day Zero came very last minute. Zero minus a minute, if you will.
Our son-in-law (hereafter called SIL) very graciously offered to drive us so, after two days of seeing all our family members while packing, organizing, re-doing wills, arranging finances and shredding−well never mind about the shredding−we hopped in the car and trundled off down Zero Avenue (Aha! Another reason to call this Day Zero−I knew I would find one) to the airport.
Zero Avenue is a scenic drive through rural farmland, with Canada on one side and the Excited States of America on the other. (If anyone from the UK is reading this, I grant it is a strange concept, unless you are Scottish, to have an entirely different culture separated by a thin ribbon of concrete.) The speed limit is 50 kilometres an hour, sometimes allowing frustrated motorists to travel at 60 kilometres an hour, with ‘traffic-calming’ speed bumps situated all along the roadway. Those speed bumps could be the subject of a whole other blog, but suffice to say the local farmers and land owners endorsed them at first to be so high that going over them at more than 30 kilometres per hour was dangerous, could cause liftoff and damage your car; but so many accidents were caused that they had to shave a few inches from them, so that now you can take them at 80 kilometres if you choose (and many do).
Not me, not today, anyway; not driving on Zero Avenue on Day Zero of our big adventure. Nope, I was being dutiful and mindful at 60km/ph. We were watching the wildlife, the trees, the clouds (me, I was watching the road, of course) and as we left the farming sections, My Lovely Wife (hereafter called MLW) made a comment regarding the rather large houses nestled in a certain recent subdivision development and how they were all centered around horse owners.
“Horse people!” I grunted. “Strange breed.”
MLW nodded. “Horse people. Yep. Love horses, but horse people breathe different air.”
Bear in mind, we have only known two sets of horse people, so we have an all encompassing knowledge of the species.
As I went over one of the aforementioned (I told you; I write reports all day) speed bumps, I heard a hollow thumping sound, like someone’s metal Starbucks mug had hit the wheel well in the trunk. SIL and MLW also heard it. And then we all did the let’s-look-at-each-other-with-quizzical-expressions-and-say: What was that, I don’t know … what do you think it was, I don’t know, maybe we should stop and take a look, I think it might be something loose in the trunk, no I bet we have a flat we should pull over.
I pulled over.
SIL and I got out to take a look. Saw nothing. The tires were all nicely pressurized, and there was nothing hanging down nor any animals peering out in alarm at being run over.
SIL suggested I get back in the car and slowly reverse while he watched the tires to see if anything was stuck in them. A wise man, that SIL (I might be calling him something other than wise, had I run him over at this point, but fortune smiled on us both), for indeed something metallic was lodged in the rear passenger side tire. It appeared to be large ring of metal that was attached to something obviously pointy enough to pierce but currently invisible, as it was completely surrounded by the rubber of my tire. Hard to tell how deep the pointy bit went in.
Maybe the tire wanted an earring, was my first thought. My second thought was accompanied by an explosion of a few less-than-charitable words about debris on roads and the people who left them.
SIL was calm.
MLW was calm.
I followed suit out of necessity and camaraderie. It was a road trip of sorts, after all.
As there seemed to be no air leaking out at this point, we decided to drive to a nearby store that I knew, called Campbell River store (not sure why it is named that as there is no river within miles of which I am aware) where we could unload our luggage and change a tire, if need be.
After we arrived at the store, we checked the pressure, and the tire was still full.
Well … now it is decision time. Do we carry on, and hope that SIL can drive the vehicle back home alright without having a blow out and either be killed or have to change a tire in the middle of nowhere by himself? Or do we bite the bullet, unload all the luggage and change the tire, so we know he will be safe.
SIL, wise SIL, came up with the process: “Let us“, he quoth, (sorry, I have always wanted to use that word and it meshes with wise SIL) “pull the object from the tire and, if the pointy bit is so small to not have pierced through and cause a leak, we can carry on. Alternatively, if instead it goes flat, then we can change it and I can be happy that you haven’t killed your SIL.”
So I repeated the slow reverse maneuver−still without running over wise SIL, so he can remain wise in this story−and once the object was spotted, SIL began to pull on the ring.
And pull …
It inched out! Pretty small, seemed to slide out easily.
And pull some more …
More inches. Uh-oh.
And finally …
The tire flattened like the proverbial rubber pannekoek (well, we are stopping in Holland first).
MLW and I had a look at what our tire had eaten.
“Must have been hungry”, someone said.
I won’t go into the do’s and don’ts of changing a flat−the last time I had had to do it, cars were made of metal so it didn’t matter where you put the damn jack and hubcaps were made of heavy aluminum or stainless steel; certainly not called ‘dressing’, so they didn’t bend like the foil you wrap around a turkey when you pry them off−suffice to say I did the do’s and didn’t do the don’ts and we ended up with a nice, shiny, can’t-drive-over-80-kilometres-an-hour spare tire on the car.
Cruise control and conspiracy theories were the order of the day for the remaining half hour or so that we had to drive. I imagined the stealthy, disgruntled farmer stalking out onto the ribbon of highway and strategically placing the metal object J-u-u-s-t … So on the speed bump on the angle facing the oncoming traffic−meaning only me, in this case−in such a manner that the pointy bit would stick up and drive right into that eager rubber receptacle of all things pointy that apparently was my right rear tire.
MLW (wonderful MLW) said: “I bet it has something to do with horses. Those horse people ride along Zero Avenue all the time and especially more so, since that nest of houses went up.”
“Horse people!” SIL and I commiserated. “Love horses, but those horse people …”
Once we were safely ensconced in our hotel room (like, right at this moment as I write), I Googled images of ‘parts of horse tack’ and ‘saddles‘ and ‘bridles’ and I found what I believe to be the culprit:
… a broken horse bit.
SIL, who is not only wise, but a very glass-half-full kind of guy on most days, had observed at some time during the adventure: “Man, think how this would have ended up if you had driven in on the day of your flight! At least this way, you had no panic and the problem got sorted calmly and quietly. We weren’t speeding down the freeway, we were on a country road.”
“Where horses obviously ride,” I reminded him.
I am of the glass-half-empty ilk.
And so ended our Day Zero. Much like that show about nothing Seinfeld, this was our day about nothing that turned out to have a few somethings happen. Our Zero day, which is actually the first day of our 82 day journey.
I hope you will follow along for as long as I can keep blogging