Thanksgiving weekend just passed here in Canada, and I had been on the road driving across country from Ontario to my home in Alberta. Originally, I had been visiting my family for my nieces 3rd birthday as well as attending The Great Canadian Woman Summit and the official launch of my second book collaboration, The Great Canadian Woman Book (available on Amazon for kindle and softcover).
The entire trip was a series of luck, good fortune and divine intervention. So much so, that I am completely overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for the people in my life from the sheer magnitude of how fortunate I actually was considering how bad things could have gone.
Friday October 11th, I was supposed to leave my moms home at 6 am to begin the trek along the transcanada highway, Alberta bound.
Mom and I enjoyed our coffee a little longer than intended, which pushed my departure to 7 am, which meant my nieces we’re now all awake, allowing me the chance to pop in for an extra goodbye on my way through. Naturally I took advantage of the situation to get a few more hugs and kisses in because it’ll be spring before I’m home again.
After my visit with the littles, I make a stop by my dads to pick up a plant I’d forgotten, sneak in more hugs and kisses and say goodbye one more time.
By 9 am, three hours behind schedule, I tell myself it’s fine because Monday is a holiday. If I need to make one extra stop for the night it’s no big deal, plus, it would land me in Saulte St. Marie in the middle of the afternoon for an extra visit.
Earlier this year I’d made friends with a woman in a coaching program who had just purchased a home in the country on a huge acreage just outside Saulte St. Marie.
Because I would be driving right passed her home on my way to Alberta, we made a plan to sneak in a tea and catch up. Our “one hour” tea plans turned into three hours of laughs and sharing future dreams that we were both making reality. It was after 5:30 pm before I was back on the road.
As I reached downtown, a total of 6 hours behind schedule, the rain picked up making it even more difficult to see with the sun already beginning to set. Choosing sensibility over fearlessness (or wrecklessness), I opted to grab a hotel and just hit the road extra early in the morning.
My first attempt to stop, at the Ambassador Hotel, proved in vain as they were booked full for the fall colors train tour that seats 1500 passengers. With train was booked full all weekend long with out of towners, the manager figured I’d be S.O.L. if I continued towards Wawa, and suggested I head back and try the Adams Motel as a last resort.
Success! A room was available and we hunkered down for the night to wait out the storm.
We hit the road nice and early, just as the sun was playing peak-a-boo with the horizon, the sky still a dark, sleepy blue. Our next stop-over to be in Thunder Bay.
With The Great Canadian Woman Book releasing, my cross Canada road trip was the perfect opportunity to snap photos of the book in Canadian towns, cities and anything unique along the way.
While I was able to take some great photos, I also wanted to grab a few nature shots of the vibrant autumn leaves that dazzled the Northern Ontario landscape.
(Follow me on instagram @lifes.dirty.secrets for more photos on The Great Canadian Woman Book tour across Canada)
A Chance Meeting…
As I approached the Chippewa Falls enroute to Thunder Bay, I decided to pull over to grab a few shots, just for me, just because.
There was a man there taking photos as well, and being ridiculously introverted, my initial reaction was to skip the stop. However, earlier this trip I’d missed out on a fun photo with some hunky firemen who were “Filling their boots” with donations outside a Tim Hortons – it doesn’t get more Canadian than that – what a waste of a fun book photo opportunity! I didn’t want to miss this shot too.
The man on the bridge was Dean Reeves. A photographer and painter from the Southern half of Alberta! He too was on his way home from Ontario where he had been exploring Algonquin Park! (check out his Instagram page for some beautiful photos and art work)
As we chatted more about our trips, I learned he had done several ink sketches of downtown Whyte Ave and The Old Strathcona back in the early 80’s. He had just recently met an author from my hometown of Orillia, Ontario, who had written a book about the three generations of women in her family and their lives in Orillia. He said we needed to connect as she too was “a Great Canadian Woman” and we would hit it off!
As if that wasn’t crazy enough… he stayed the night prior at the Ambassador hotel and was the one who booked their last room!
Clearly we were meant to meet – exchanging Instagram info, we decided to keep in touch.
As I do every trip I take from Alberta to Ontario and back, I popped into Old Woman Bay Park to soak in her fierce, wild energy.
In the decade I’ve spent travelling this route and visiting this little piece of heaven, her terrain has never been the same way twice. The waves coming in from Lake Superior are forever altering her beach. One year it was yards and yards of polished pebble beach where I collected stones of pink and white quartz, jade, amethyst and onyx. This year it was sand as far as you could see with a great sandy ridge holding fast to large pieces of driftwood, planting the dead trees along the shores. Her waves were mighty and strong as they crashed against her with incredible force.
While writing in the sand for a photo op, I felt a presence behind me. Turning to look over my shoulder, I was surprised to find Dean with a huge grin, camera in hand, as the wind whipped at his coat. “I figured I’d find you here”, he said.
We had a laugh for yet another chance meeting. He took a few photos of me on the beach with my book and promised to send them to me when he arrived in Alberta.
With the stunning gold and crisp orange of the trees along the Bay in contrast to the dark, cold blue waters, Dean was going stop a while and do a pastel drawing and set up his work space on the sandy ridge while Poppy and I explored the Old Woman’s new face in search of some new photos for my collection.
When Poppy and I were good and cold, I loaded her back into the car and decided to return the favour and snap a few photos of Dean as he sketched.
After taking a few shots I headed back to car to get out of the wind while and Dean the images. I knew once I was in the car I would just head out, so decided to say my good-byes first. Turning around, I find Dean chasing his portfolio down the beach! One of the waves was so large it crested the sand bar, washing over his pastels and sending his portfolio floating!
Dean ran to rescue his work as I ran to rescue his gear, draining the water from his pastels before they turned to a soggy mud pie.
Pictures saved, pastels drying, we hug it out before saying goodbye this time. “A friend in need…”, Dean says. I nod in agreement, “What a crazy trip this is!” We were meant to be in the same spot at the same time, yet again.
Angels are real…
Arriving in Thunder Bay amid rain and snow storms, it takes three attempts to find a hotel accepting pets. The manager, Kurtis, gives me a cheaper than usual rate. It’s October 12th, and would have been my Kurt’s birthday… the “coincidence” is not lost on me, and I send up a prayer of thanks (see my first blog “I Remember”, to learn more about who Kurt is).
The next morning I learn that the highway west of Thunder Bay had been closed due to the weather, and had just reopened with my arrival to the city. Again, I send up a prayer of gratitude for keeping us out of the storm and off the highway.
The next morning, Poppy and I Journey on, stopping to take a few more photos of The Great Canadian Woman Book with the Canadian landscapes and the Provincial signs for Ontario and Manitoba. I reflect on how perfect it is that the delays from the last events would allow me to pass not only the Ontario and Manitoba sign in day light, but the Saskatchewan one as well. “How perfectly divine”, I had thought to myself.
Coming into Brandon, Manitoba, I decided to fuel up even though I still had over a half tank of fuel left. Knowing I must be low on washer fluid I considered buying a fresh jug while there. Pulling up to the station, I fill up and discover someone left half a jug of washer fluid at the pump! Another prayer of thanks went up to the universe for looking out for me.
Tossing the empty jug into the waste bin, I spot a Motel 6 and a thought to stop early crosses my mind. Motel 6 is pet friendly, reasonably priced AND has great beds, after all.
Not 10 minutes after pulling out of the gas station to head on to Regina to search out a Motel 6 there, I find myself stopped behind a row of vehicles. I sit a few moments before spying the roadside turn off within easy access that would allow me to turn around and head back to the motel. The thought “stay in Brandon” comes back to mind.
Before I convince myself to stay, the line of cars moves forward and we begin to creep past the jack-knifed transport truck where 4 tow trucks and a full crew from Champion Towing attempt to haul it back to the city. All thoughts of staying in Brandon forgotten.
With the sun quickly setting ahead of me, I think about the beautiful back drop it will make for the book next to the Saskatchewan provincial sign.
I follow the transport truck ahead of me, changing into to the left passing lane with the intention of reaching Regina sooner than the car ahead of us would allow, just as a chunk of debris flies from the transport truck and comes barreling down the highway straight for my car. With no time or room to move, it hits my right side, bouncing from the front to rear tire with deafening noise as I pray that it was just snow and wouldn’t cause any major damage.
The car beeps, announcing low pressure on the rear tire. My heart sinks to my stomach and I pray that it only bumped the sensor and we can at least make it the 22 km to Virden.
Flap, flap, flap… I hear the tire go flat. I fight the urge to vomit as I pull over to the shoulder somewhere between the two cities and start digging through my manual to get the instructions for my tire jack and spare.
After the highway clears of traffic, I climb out of the car, Poppy asleep in the back seat, and crawl on my hands and knees across the gravel shoulder to check for the spare that should be in the undercarriage. A large void greets me where the tire should be. Another wave of nausea washes over me as I fight back tears. The sunset now mere streaks of hot pink against the jet black sky of the prairies as the clock on my dash reads, 7:46 pm.
Back in the car, I flip through my manual for the emergency assistance numbers I saw a moment ago. Dialing the number for the FCA Canada Roadside Assistance, I watch the headlights of the westbound traffic in my mirrors and pray they all see my hazard lights and move over a lane.
The FCA sends a link to trace my location and send me a tow. I’m over the moon to discover that I have emergency roadside assistance and trip interruption coverage in my car purchase! My tow is free, and I can have my hotel reimbursed for the night! Tears of gratitude pool behind my eyes.
Although it took 3 hours from the time I hit the debris to the time I was showered and safely tucked in my bed at the Motel 6 from earlier, I let wave after wave of gratitude crash over me like the waves of old woman bay crashed over her shores the day before.
It could have been much worse. We could have ditched. We could have been in a snow storm. We could have waited all night (as the other tow service from Saskatchewan was a 4 hour wait). We could have been hurt. The motel could have been full. I could have been on a stretch of highway much farther from a major city… or anything really!
Waking up Thanksgiving morning, I hugged the pillows close and said thank you for the warm bed.
Checking my messages, I updated mom and dad of the situation and see a message from my friend Amy offering me a place to stay while I wait for my car repairs. My heart is bursting in appreciation. Amy and I grew up in Orillia and attended the same school’s on and off since grade two. We hadn’t seen each other in almost a decade. I didn’t even know she was here, let along only 6 minutes from where I was now stopped!
After breakfast at the motel, my car is again towed, this time to a dealership to wait for them to re-open after the holiday. The tow driver, a handsome young man with beautiful brown eyes, helps me find my way to Amy’s and offers to assist me with getting my things to the door as I had my arms full with dog and laptop.
By the way, if you’re ever in need of a tow while in Brandon Manitoba – call Champion Towing. Seriously, absolutely incredible service!
An Impromptu Girls Night and the Importance of Seeking the Silver Lining…
Fresh off her night shift at the hospital, Amy and I caught up over coffee at her dining room table while Poppy sniffed out the house. Afterwards, both of us yawning, she retired to her room to catch up on sleep, and I sprawled out on her couch to write and reflect on everything that’s transpired since leaving for Alberta Friday morning.
I realize was never meant to reach Regina. I was meant to land there, at Amy’s, and celebrate Thanksgiving with an old friend, giving company to the two of us when we would have otherwise spent it alone.
After our rest, we headed out for a superb dinner at a local East Indian restaurant where Amy reminded me to mind the words I use to speak to and about myself.
See, she offered me a sip of her mango lasse and being a lover of all things mango, I accepted. In taking a sip from the rim of the cup, the decorative cherry fell off the glass and bounced into my face, where I automatically mutter, “You idiot” to myself. Something I do, often, without really realizing I do it. Amy called me out, telling me, No, I shouldn’t say such things.
She is, of course, correct. It’s important to mind the words we use when talking to ourselves as they effect how we see ourselves and how we write our story. I have caught myself about to mutter similar phrases a few times since, and always hear Amy’s voice reminding me not to speak them. (Thanks, girl!)
Amy and I wrapped up the evening with face masks, conversation and coffee and it was a fantastic break from the crazy night before.
The next morning we headed over to the dealership to check on the car and see about having the tire replaced and find out why it now wont start. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, they were not a Fiat certified dealer and couldn’t run diagnostics. I had to be towed all the way back, 2 hours, to Winnipeg to the dealership there.
I am so grateful Amy was with me because I started to internally panic. She took me home where I started making calls to coordinate yet another tow to get me to the dealership and begin searching for hotels close by. Amy reminded me to breathe and made sure I ate something between calls.
By the time Poppy and I arrived in Winnipeg, we were 20 minutes late for the scheduled appointment and the shop tech warned me they may not get to the car until tomorrow due to the poor weather they had a few days before inundating them with cars to repair. Winnipeg had been hit with a really bad snow storm just before we came through, which shut down the highway for three days while tow truck hauled transports and other cars from the ditches due to the icy conditions.
I took a deep breathe, left my number and climbed into the shuttle that would take us to the hotel,
I give the shuttle driver the address, he plugs it into his GPS and goes quiet a moment.
“Are you sure that’s the address?“, he asked. It was the address provided by the concierge at the 1-800 number for the hotel chain, so it should be correct.
They had booked me at the wrong location, sending us thirty minutes into the downtown center of Winnipeg. Oh boy…. Trying to call the hotel to have me transferred to the one closer, I explain the mix up only to be disconnected. The driver tells me it isn’t a big deal, he will still take me there.
Checking in, I explain the mix up and they reduce my rate for the night and move me to a king sized bedroom suite – woohoo! Poppy and I settle in, order dinner and enjoy the added luxury. Thank you Universe, for the silver lining.
The next morning I shower and tidy up my things and call the shop to confirm the time I can pick up the car and book the shuttle, only to me met with some less than great news. While they can fix the tire easy enough, the part for the engine isn’t in stock and has to ship over night from Minnesota.
I take a deep breath and march out to the hotel foyer to extend my stay.
Usually, this is where I would lose my mind and rage out because it is now Wednesday and I was due home two days ago. I am over budget by hundreds of dollars and missing work – which I have no more vacation days to use for the extra time off, and still have to pay for the tire repair.
But, I took another deep breath and survey the room – Poppy snoozes comfortably on the bed. A menu on the table filled with delicious items I don’t have to cook. A big screen TV on the wall. The shop tech ensuring the engine part was covered under warranty. Amy sent me on my way with a care package full of snacks, bottled water and a heart warming note reminding me it will all be ok. None of the towing services cost me anything. And I can be reimbursed for this hotel stay.
My mind shifts from the negative thoughts of, “I am stuck here. I have to spend more money” etc, etc, to “I get to sleep in a king sized bed… I get to eat snacks and rest while a chef cooks my dinner… I get an extra day off work… I get to have my car repaired and stay in a nice hotel for free”. And the stress and tension melted away like butter on a hot biscuit.
Home Sweet Home…
Poppy and I were back on the road Thursday afternoon, and although we still had one more stop in Saskatchewan before arriving home, we made it in one piece. Instead of a sunset photo of the Great Canadian Woman book, we catch a Saskatchewan sunrise and grab a photo at the Alberta border. Landing in Edmonton Friday night after picking up Jewel from the kennel, the three of us curled up on the couch together where it was warm and quiet.
I don’t think I have ever been so happy to be home in all the years I have lived here. My bed had never felt so comfortable, the couch never so cozy. I’m pretty sure the girls felt the same way.
It can be so easy to get angry and be upset when things don’t go as planned. Especially when you are on the road and by yourself. But, this entire trip was an excellent reminder that you aren’t every really alone, that it can always be worse, and that great things can happen when you open your heart to new opportunities and experiences.
I was able to reconnect with an old friend, make new friends, explore new places, enjoy a few extra days off, all after enjoying a fabulous two weeks with family, an incredible weekend in a cabin in Gravenhurst, Ontario with friends and celebrating the launch my second book.
Talk about Grateful as fuck!
Thank you Universe ♥️
10 reminders from this trip.
- Always listen to that inner voice. That’s your intuition and she knows better than you.
- Don’t pass up an opportunity to make new friends.
- Always listen to someone’s story. The world is smaller than you think and bigger than you know.
- Never buy a car without making sure it has a donut or a spare!
- Always buy travel insurance.
- Always take advantage of a chance to spend more time with the people in your life who matter.
- Always look for the silver lining in every situation. It’s always there, sometimes it just takes extra digging.
- Always buy the roadside assistance package with trip interruption. It’s worth it!
- Always be kind. You never know when or how karma will repay you. And she will.
- Just roll with it. Life will continue to throw curve balls, so just hit that sucker out of the park!