My new friend Sherri and I were ready to drive the ten hours to Prince George, after the eight hour ferry ride from Haida Gwaii to Prince Rupert. Bobby and her had successfully hid in the back to get onto the ferry, despite Bobby's coughing attack as I nervously chatted with the BC Ferry Worker before boarding. Out of character I inquired about the weather conditions, whether the ferries had been full lately, and the ins and outs of Haida Gwaii tourism.
Half way through the ride Bobby, an early twenty's tree planter with dark curly hair slightly matted on his head, a few dreads down his back, chunky black army boots, jeans and vest covered completely in patches, decided to come with us to Prince George instead of visiting a friend in Rupert.
I taught Sherri the basics of how to operate Gwendolyn, driving on the right hand side. She's a natural (Sherri), but I couldn't fully relax out of driving mode. While Bobby ate chips in the back and nodded his head to what sounded like death metal, and tapped his feet in his boots that he ensured us were better left on, my eyes were transfixed on the weaving yellow lines of the road, which had seeped into my pre sleep visuals whenever I closed my eyes.
We slept overnight in Vanderhoof, a town just outside of Prince George (PG), that Sherri had fond memories of from her tree planting days. Sherri with her long dreads similar colour to mine, and big blue eyes, quickly became one of my 'bad ass witch' friends as we share a lot of worldly views and a similar sounding laugh.
In Prince George we dropped Bobby off to apply for a job spraying trees, and five minutes after saying our goodbyes he ran out of the office and waved us down. He decided the spraying job was too much paper work, and he didn't want to wait around for two weeks in PG for it to begin. He was coming with me to Kamloops to go cherry picking instead. Sherri was heading North to visit a friend before flying East, so we said our sad goodbyes at the PG bus station.
I was looking forward to some alone time with Gwendolyn, since it had been about a month of her full- of people crammed in the back, amongst bags, clothes, smelly socks, all of my soap gear and set up, an accordion, jugs of water, chip bags, apple cores, chocolate wrappers etc., etc. I was tired and looking forward to nothing but the road and a new audiobook to fill my trip. I agreed to have Bobby join along, as long as I held fast to my audiobook request, he opened water bottles for me, and split fuel.
Just as I mentioned that it was the first time in a while that the back didn't have a few hippies lounging there, we saw hitchhikers standing at the side of the road. Two young fellows, one tall dark haired guy with stretched ear lobes and tattoos and a short blonde haired boy with innocent eyes. Bobby and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and I pulled over.
They were hitchhiking through BC on vacation from their respective jobs and university classes in Montreal, and super stoked we had picked them up.
me and the hitchhikers
An hour into the drive passing through 100 Mile House, we heard a clunking sound from the back left wheel. Concerned, we pulled over and checked the air in the tires and took a peak under the van. The tall, stretched lobe boy said he's an auto enthusiast so he took a look but we couldn't see anything wrong, so we got back on the road with the idea to keep an ear out. Five minutes later the back left wheel's lug nuts had flown off, and it felt as if the van had blown a tire, but worse. I eased off the highway to the shoulder, and the wheel was still within the frame, but with nothing holding it on. With shaky hands I called BCAA and waited to be towed to an auto shop.
Gwendolyn feeling vulnerable
The hitchhikers said they would camp out and come to the shop in the morning so I wouldn't be screwed over by the mechanics. Bobby rummaged around the back to find a piece of cardboard and marker, said he was going to carry on.
I lounged in the back of my van, surprisingly calm. For the first time in the trip I had a bit of cash to cover any damage, and I was just grateful I didn't hurt anyone. The only damage done (except for the tire) was a few tinctures had smashed when one of the boys had taken out their backpack. Since Bobby had downloaded the e-book of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, instead of the audiobook as I had requested, I read my book, chatted with a friend from Toronto, and had the quiet night I had craved. I hoped the Japanese parts would be easy to find and the cost not too high.
a few broken tinctures on the right
The mechanics at Big 'O's in William's Lake laughed at how I slept in their parking lot, offered me their washroom and free flowing coffee. They enjoyed the challenge of finding the right sized lug nuts, and tested the other wheels. The front right one (driver's side) had loose lug nuts too, which would have been a lot worse to come off. It ended up being affordable to replace the wheel and nuts, and I saw the opportunity to buy pink window wipers. A good reminder that after getting new tires to retorque, retorque, retorque!
The boys arrived in time for coffee and to charge their phones, along with Bobby, who didn't get a ride the day before, but had decided he wanted to stick with us anyway.
A few hours later we arrived at The Caravan Farm Theatre after dropping Bobby at the turn off. It was lovely to catch up with my aunt and uncle so far away from our usual meeting point of Toronto. The hitchhiking boys and I watched the best play we had seen in a while, (not just for the fact my uncle John Jarvis was a main role in it). The Night's Mare is about a blind horse who haunted a town and the inhabitants who were affected by its lore. The play is touching, funny, spooky, mysterious and starred a real blind white horse.
me, my actor uncle John Jarvis and playwright aunt Bev Cooper
Our plan was to enjoy the play, then drive through the night to get the 6AM ferry from Horseshoe Bay over to Vancouver Island. From there I was to set up at Atmosphere, one of my last festivals of the summer. My nerves were on edge, and I dreaded that once again I had to rush to get a ferry. Hoping my wheels and other parts were in good standing, we set off on the road again.