Twelve months to travel America and Canada seems like all the time in the world, but here we are nearly four months in and it seems we are rapidly running out of time to do everything we want. Especially as there are so many places to visit where Gil will become unviable as an accommodation option once things turn cold. We also looked at a map of Canada and it's even wider than we realised.
We therefore concluded some serious cross country driving was required if we were to make it to Nova Scotia before flying home in October for a little trip intermission. Research on Saskatchewan showed there was little to see apart from wheat, so we left Edmonton, Alberta, and started our first full day driving in a while, with plans of getting to Regina more than 700kms away that day. Regina is pronounced exactly how you don't think it should be and when you are on a long car trip, immaturity may appear. Things were going well but I grew bored fairly quickly, and possibly started a spot of childish whining. Looking at flat wheat fields is only entertaining for the first three minutes and watching assorted insects end their life on our windshield is more gross than entertaining.
(Sorry for the picture, but it was SO huge we just had to share). Jokes about Regina get old pretty quickly, I had no words to play on Words with Friends (if you want to protect Brad's sanity on road trips, add me) and my current craft project is not passenger seat friendly (how did that happen?).
At about 6:30pm and approx. 150 kms from Regina, Saskatchewan decided to get us back for driving straight through and Gil blew a front tyre. At least this time we have a spare tyre to put on right?
Wrong, after a little inspection by Brad, it turns out the spare we carry, which didn't fit the rear wheels back in May, has no purpose in Gil's life other than appearance. Brilliant, can Gil be towed? Unlike last time, we had phone reception and called AAA. Not knowing when Gil's saviour would arrive, we had cold chicken sandwiches for dinner, opened the only two beers we had and settled in for a reading session. An hour later, CAA called back and advised a tow truck was coming from Regina to collect us and a further hour and a half later, it arrived. Apparently Gil can be towed in a conventional sense with his front wheels in the air … and his drive shaft disconnected. Our tow truck driver was a chatty ex-country boy, who despite spending 2.5 hours with him, we never exchanged names. We covered a vast range of topics, from wheat farming, skunks, MS (his father, aunt and grandmother all have it), the perils of being a tow truck driver (it's more dangerous than you'd think, especially in winter), moose hunting (a moose generally has to be chopped into pieces in order to carry it home and will fill a chest freezer) and everything in between. We eventually arrived in Regina about 12:30am and were deposited in a Canadian Tire car park for the night. Brad: 1, AAA: 1.
About 5am the following day, it came to Brad's attention that the fridge was not functioning as expected. We aren't sure what was wrong, but after an hour or so of repeatedly turning it off and on again (Brad's IT instinct kicked in) it got over itself and has worked fine ever since. Needless to say our day started early. As soon as Canadian Tire opened we went inside and were promptly told Gil was too big for them. We walked across the road to another tyre place – they couldn't help either, but another of their centres about 10km away could. This would be fine if we didn't have a blown tyre and disconnected drive shaft. Inconveniently, our phone no longer had reception forcing Brad to resort to using a pay phone (yes, they still exist), to call AAA again. Another tow truck was sent, from the same company, but sadly it wasn't our friendly friend from the night before, instead a bloke who'd clearly got out on the wrong side of the the bed, and Gil was towed for the second time in 24 hours. Brad: 1, AAA: 2. AAA membership is possibly the best $80 we've spent on this trip, we found out from our first tow driver the that tow alone would have cost us in excess of $400, but we haven't had to pay a cent.
What we don't understand is why it then took seven and a half hours to replace four tyres and complete a wheel alignment while we waiting in the tyre shop showroom – grabbing my Kindle was the best decision of the day, and I managed to get in quite a bit of reading for The Novel Challenge (http://register.thenovelchallenge.org.au/The-Novel-Challenge/SusannaCheck, one more week to go), a whole book in fact.
We were forced to drive on to Winnipeg the following day with out a usable spare wheel, as Regina couldn't help in that department and after spending time in parts of Winnipeg which were “no place for a lady” a new wheel was eventually purchased. Apparently Gil was carrying a spare for a GM, although he's a Ford with a penchant for the same wheels as ambulances.