Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ah...Good Times!

This is the view from the Malahat, a mountain pass in British Columbia. Highway 1 runs through it, and if you are driving from Victoria to almost anywhere on the island, you have to go over this pass. It's over eleven hundred feet above sea level. While it has beautiful views, the weather is very iffy, that high and that close to the water. At any time except high summer, the road can get like...

...this, at the drop of a hat.

I wonder if my cousin John remembers this story.

In my senior year of high school, he came from England to visit us. I guess it was sort of an "Adventure in the Colonies" for him. He stayed at our house for a few months, and then got a job and a room in the town of Duncan, about halfway between Saltair (where we lived) and Victoria. He bought a Honda 90 (a very little motorbike), because Duncan wasn't big enough to have public transportation. There were very few Japanese vehicles in Canada at that time, and the thing spent quite a bit of time in the shop...down the road in Victoria.

After one such episode, John was going to take the bus down to pick it up, and then ride it back to Duncan. I thought this smacked of High Adventure, and persuaded him to take me. Mom and Dad said no, but we didn't need to pay attention to them, right?


It was a lovely day when we started out, and the bus ride was fun. However, it was getting on in the afternoon by the time we picked up the bike, so there was no time for adventuring in Victoria, and we immediately got on the highway, headed for home. The ride was about sixty miles, which was the farthest I had ever travelled with him on the bike.

In British Columbia, I was NEVER warm after the sun went down, much less on the back of a motorbike, going over a mountain pass at eleven hundred feet.

As we rose higher and higher toward the pass, the clouds got thicker, the sun set, and we were enveloped in an icy fog. We were freezing! He, more so than I--he was in front. We stopped for a little rest as the Honda 90 laboured up the mountain, burdened as it was with over two hundred pounds of people.

Suddenly, the fog had chunks, and became sleet. It started to stick to the road. The wind picked up. By the time we got to the top, we were in a raging blizzard. To paraphrase Shakespeare, we were so far steeped in snow, to return were as tedious as go o'er. So we soldiered on.

My face was numb, with frozen tears all down it, and icicles hanging out of my nose. There was no feeling at all in my legs, and my hands had stiffened in the claw position, where I had clung to my cousin. My ears were causing me agony, even before they started to thaw.

By the time we got to John's lodgings in Duncan, I had to be lifted off the bike, and the thawing-out was painful, only somewhat alleviated by the bracing hot tea provided by John's landlady.

My cousin had to call my parents, who were frantic. It was about nine o'clock at night by then, and we had been gone since early afternoon. The trip would take a little over an hour each way in a car.

Of course, we caught holy hell from my folks, especially John, who was responsible on several counts--he was older, he was a boy, and he was the driver.

My dad's wrath was fairly impressive.

I'm sorry, John...the whole thing was my scathingly brilliant idea in the first place.


  1. GAH! I just drove home in those conditions. In a car mind you so no frozen limbs. But I had an SUV driver behind me for like 45 minutes with his hallogen (sic) lights on tailing me. I was blinded in the front from the snow, and the back from his lights. On a narrow and curvy road.

    The only pleasure I got out of it was that as much as I was white knuckled and grinding my teeth and having to do breathing exercises is that he was probably TOTALLY pissed off that he was stuck behind someone doing the speed limit in the snow. And that pleasure only came AFTER we got on an acual highway and he beeped me off.

    I always wonder if SUV drivers realize that their lights are right in regular car drivers eyes... And their aggresive behaviour causes panic and SLOWER driving from the person they are tailing.

  2. I have attempted to drive just once in snow. I was in the Suburban, which tends to slide around anyway, and slid down the ramp onto the freeway. Fortunately, it was 5:00 AM, so not much traffic, and I slid to a halt about 5 feet from a guy who was standing behind his vehicle, talking on a phone. He was in the little inverted V that happens where the ramp meets the road.

    I got off at the next exit and went home. Sorry Brendan. Not getting to that cattle call.

  3. We are dealing with some nasty roads and weather here in Iowa right now. Is Brendan back at school yet? If so, how is he liking the -50 with windchill weather? It has been horrible. Luckily, I'm on maternity leave and haven't had to leave the house much at all. I sometimes wish I lived a little further South, but I don't like heat and humidity more. There's always something to complain about wherever you live I suppose.

  4. He says he only has to be outside for a few minutes at a time--the campus is small. He doesn't drive, so no worries there. He says all the kids are companionably miserable, so I guess, all in all, he's OK.

    I don't hear from him much, but he does answer emails.

  5. Hi Ronni:

    I got this in an e-mail this morning and thought of you immediately -- NOT because you're an old woman but because of your appreciation (and ability) for this type of "discourse".

    I hope it gives you a chuckle - it did me!


    Shown below, is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by an 86 year old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

    Dear Sir:

    I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month..

    By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

    I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.

    I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, --- when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

    From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

    Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

    In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me.

    I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    Let me level the playing field even further.

    When you call me, press buttons as follows:


    #1. To make an appointment to see me

    #2. To query a missing payment.

    #3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

    #4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping

    #5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

    #6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home

    #7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier .

    #8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7

    #9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

    #10. This is a second reminder to press* for English. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call..

    Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?

    Your Humble Client

    And remember: Don't make old ladies mad. They don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to set them off.

  6. That deserves it's own entry!