Thursday, April 16, 2009

The trip out here, the things I can get used to and the things I can't

So, its been over a month since I updated the blog.
I made the leap, I drove three days through some of the most interesting places I've ever seen; and some of the most boring. (Hello, North Dakota! I can't say I wasn't warned.)
It was exciting! I loved seeing the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. It was heart-stoppingly beautiful. You're driving along through miles and miles of forest-lined highways, passing no one, feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere and may never see civilization again and when you crest the hill suddenly the sky stretches out before you forever. Cloudless blue sky meets frozen lake Michigan. Really frozen. And breath-taking. You drive high over the lake on this beautiful bridge made of blue steel and you feel like you're driving over the top of the world.
After Mackinac I drove to Escanaba where I spent the night. The next day, on my way to the North Dakota boarder, I drove through Wisconsin.
I reached a little iron mining town just in time for lunch. The iron is so present in the land up there that the pavement is red with the dirt washed down off the mines from the rain. The highways are red too. The mixture they use in the pavement must have a lot of that iron in it.
The town had some really nice people and a very nice little restaurant that served the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had.
Wisconsin specializes in dairy products. If there was ever a place to try the grilled cheese, this was it. The sandwich was served on homemade 12 grain dark bread that was lightly toasted. There was four kinds of cheese in it (that's a lot of cheese) and then there was fresh shredded Parmesan melted on top. It was served with hand cut fries and a kosher dill pickle. It was perfect.
I had just passed through a new time zone, so I was an hour ahead of where I thought I'd be. I had an uneventful drive through the rest of Wisconsin. I reached Minnesota by mid-afternoon.
Apparently, at the end of March, in Minnesota the weather is very unpredictable. Maybe I should have known that. I am, after all, from Ontario.
I was driving alone on a nice and sunny afternoon, the roads were dry, everything was great, and then, well then it began to snow. Big, fluffy, white, slippery flakes. Huge! There was nothing, it was great, you could see forever and then... BAM!! White-out conditions. In the space of just a few minutes. I was sure the weather was this bad for miles. I couldn't see anything! So I tried to pull over. If I had just kept going, slowly, I'm sure I would have been fine. But when I tried to pull over I began to slide. The little green car was packed with stuff and weighted down at the back. This means that when I began to slide, my end didn't want to stop. I spun and spun and spun. 450 degrees in total. (That's a full turn, plus a quarter more, for those who, like me, needed to use a calculator.) I must say, I did not handle it like a pro.
I've found over the last few months of driving and owning my own car, in these situations I have been really good. I am clam and organized and rational. Brakes go on the truck while driving it? I'm clam. In a ditch in outside of Fergus? Not a problem! Skid - (didn't even go off the road!) - on a highway in Minnesota in a blinding freak snow storm? I lose it.
I sat there on the side of the road, sideways, for about 10 minutes, crying. I cancelled my hotel reservation, (if it was snowing this bad everywhere I wasn't going to drive across the state,) and I finally got it together. As I drove toward the next town to find a motel, slowly, the snow changed to rain.
The next town was 20 minutes away. When I got there it was pouring. I went into a gas station, still visibly shaken, and asked about motels. There was only one in town and I didn't like the look of it. Also, I figured because of the snow it may book up fast. I mentioned something about the snow to the young gas station attendant and he said "It didn't snow here."
Now, I've seen it rain in Waterloo and be dry as a bone in Kitchener, so I am not a stranger to freak weather, but this was blinding, driving snow!
I called dad for moral support and then decided to make the 40 minute journey to the next city. It had a better selection of food and motels. I figured it would take me almost an extra day to make up the time, but still, it was getting late and I really should stop.
When I reached the next town it was dry. Hadn't rained, hadn't snowed, nothing. So, I kept going. I figured, I'd come this far, I could make it a little further. I would stop and the next town.
And so went my thinking for three hours. Just to the next town. Just a little further.
I've discovered that when you are driving west, the days are longer. The sun moves from east to west and takes forever to set when you are driving towards it. It's an odd phenomenon, when you look into your review mirror you can see the darkness stretch out behind you, but it looks like the middle of the afternoon in front of you. It seems as though you are eternally caught in this weird timeless pace. Stuck between day and night. It's peaceful and nice. So, I drove. And when it finally did get dark? I was in North Dakota. I was happy.
Day three was boring. I woke up and it was foggy. It stayed foggy the whole way to Saskatchewan. And it was the flattest most indescribable place I have ever been, even now, and I live in Saskatchewan. [Thanks Doug for the joke ;)] I stopped at the mall for lunch and managed to get some new clothes at Target and J.C. Penny. (I couldn't help it, I swear! lol.)
I made it to Sask. by dinner. It was still foggy and raining, but I was so glad to be home! If the ground hadn't been covered in dirt I would have bent down and kissed it. I stopped at the first Tim Horton's I saw. God, that first sip of coffee was like nirvana. You don't know how much you love Timmy's until it's gone.
So I drove. And drove and drove. And finally, around 8:30 at night, I made it to Swift Current. It was dark (finally) and I got lost.
I've been doing this a lot, this getting lost in Swift Current thing. It has a lot of one way streets and as much as everyone says it's laid out really well, in a grid pattern, it feels funny to me. I'm still all disoriented and turned around.
Heather, Beth's roommate, was kind enough to come and get me from the parking lot I finally stopped in after getting amazingly frustrated.
And that was my adventure getting here! Nearly a month ago. I miss home. I miss the little things. Like watching movies with dad or hanging out in Janeen's car talking about nothing and drinking a lot of coffee. I miss Starbucks and being able to spend hours in Chapters because it is just that big and there are just that many books. (There's only a small Coles here.) I miss the parking. You think we have parking issues in Ontario? There are no parking lots downtown here. I have to park - parallel park at that! - on a one-way street. And I've gotten 3 tickets in the past week. This is not unusual for people here. I am used to parking lots. They don't seem to exist here. Where there is a lot it's really tiny. Yet, somehow it doesn't feel like there less cars around. Oh, well. I guess that's the kind of thing you get used to. Drinking watered down lattes and learning how to parallel park better. Getting unlost. Learning to time manage better so I can update my blog more often ;)
What I can't get used to is being so far away from the people I love. I hope I never get used to that.
Stay tuned! There's more to tell you!

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