>Driving through Canada in 1st Gear

>This is part of this week’s group blog. To see the rest of the participants, stop by Kyle’s blog.

My travel story will tell a tale about when I traveled to the exotic country of……Canada. Yes, Canada. Since I live in Vermont, going to Canada is about as exciting as a trip to Boston. Not very. But I like Montreal as a city, so when my friends asked me if I wanted to go with them to Montreal during a long weekend the fall of my freshmen year of college, I said yes. Now that I think about it, back then one exciting thing about Montreal for a bunch of 18-year olds is that we could go out to the clubs and drink legally. WOOOO!

Anyway, we debated about what car to bring. My car, a 1998 Ford Escort Wagon already had winter tires, but it was less than reliable and my parents said I couldn’t drive to Montreal with it. Plus, I wasn’t crazy about driving myself so my idea was that someone else could drive my car. My parents said no way to that too (it was technically their car, hence their power in making decisions.) At that time, no one else had a car except our friend M. His car was a REALLY old Volvo Station Wagon, but he promised it was reliable. We asked about snow tires. He said he didn’t have them yet, but that it wasn’t supposed to snow. We believed him. It was the end of October (in Maine) so there was a distinct possibility of snow, but it wasn’t forecast.

We then debated about what route to take. The shortest route was on the secondary roads of Maine, paved but windy and very very rural. The best route (in my opinion, and in the opinion of our wiser, more-traveled parents) was first on the secondary roads of Maine to Vermont, then on interstate to Canada. But since M. was driving, he decided on the route through Maine.

Literally 30 minutes into the drive, the car started making funny noises. We all yelled at M (who was the only guy, by the way) to pull over and check it out. Turns out it was some sort of stick stuck somewhere making a funny noise. Phew.

To pass the time, Em. started teaching us all the words to the Titanic Song (Oh they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue….etc). Then about two hours into the trip, as we are winding our way past Sugarloaf and almost to the Canadian border, it started to snow. We weren’t that worried because it wasn’t sticking. But then after we crossed the border, it started sticking. We told M. to slow down, but literally as we said that, we started to go off the road. As the navigator, I couldn’t help but slam my foot down onto the non-existent break on my side of the car. Luckily, we stopped inches from going down a considerable sized bank.

We decided that M., Em., and R would walk to the nearest town to find help (Em. was the only one who spoke any French) while El. and I would stay with the car. Since El. knew how to drive a stick, she got the lovely job of sitting in the car with her foot on the break because turns out the emergency break was broken.

Our friends were gone a long time and I had to pee really bad, so that’s how I found myself peeing on the side of the road in Canada during a snow storm. It was chilly.

Finally our friends arrived with a tow truck. He towed us, we made it to Woburn, Quebec, a little nothing town over the border, and went off the road again. We managed to get back on by ourselves this time, but decided that we had better spend the night in Woburn and wait until the plows went through.

abby and martin
M. and I in our hotel room in Woburn

The next day we awoke bright and early to get started. The plows had gone through but it was still snowing a bit. We drove for 2 hours in 1st gear, because as soon as we started going faster, we started slipping. Things were tense. I was the navigator and super nervous, so I probably snapped at my three friends in the back a few times. M. was nervous too, but I didn’t think he was nervous enough and was constantly telling him to slow down. We got excited when we saw black parts of the road, because that meant we were driving on pavement and not snow. We went off the road again, but a nice Quebequois stopped and pulled us silly American college kids out.

Finally, we reached a main highway we all cheered as M. announced, “I’m moving into 2nd gear! Now third!” It was such a relief after being so tense for so long.

the map
The map!

We had a good time in Montreal, although now I can’t really remember what we did.

rachel and i
R. and I in some plaza in Montreal

I do remember we learned all the words to all the verses to the Titanic Song, and we took the route through Vermont home.


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