Sunday, 7 August 2011

No Pain, No Gain

Hello.  It was the move from hell, but we are finally here!  It all started on Friday 29th July when we got up bright and early to collect the rental truck.  We had four friends who kindly came over to help us load and it seemed to go quite smoothly until the point at which they departed.  We had stuff in storage, which we went to collect then made a trip to the weigh station to check the weight of the truck.  I won't bore you with the details, but it involved two trips to the storage and three visits to the weigh station, plus my husband climbing over all the boxes in the dark (it was night-time by then) to throw our carefully packed boxes into the back of the truck because the front axle was severely overloaded.  Why don't they tell you how to load when you rent these things?

Our plans to leave that evening went out the window, as by that stage we were completely exhausted.  We fell into the shower around 1 a.m. then attempted to sleep on the floor because our bed was in the truck and we were too exhausted to blow up the air mattress.  Now I know how it feels to lie on a pile of cardboard boxes and it's not comfortable.

Up four hours later to finish loading.  It took two hours to pack and load all the last-minute stuff.  On the road just after 7 a.m. on Saturday morning.  Had I known how long that day was to become, I think that I may have been tempted to stay in bed!  We made slow progress, as the truck speed was limited.  I found it hard to stay with my husband on the highway in fast-moving traffic, so there were lots of phone calls consisting of 'Where are you?'  We had planned to make it all the way to Edmundston, New Brunswick, where I had booked and paid for a hotel for the night.  This plan failed to take into account the fact that our journey time would be so much longer with a truck than in a van.

By 9 p.m. we were still in Quebec and anticipating at least two more hours on the road to reach our hotel.  I was falling asleep at the wheel and pulled off the highway.  We decided to have dinner (mealtimes were somewhat erratic for the entire week) and it was only when we returned to our vehicles that we discovered that the truck wouldn't start.  The fan belt had snapped and we had to call for roadside assistance.  Stuck in a province where we didn't speak the first language was an interesting situation.  Help finally arrived four hours later.

We had debated whether I should go on ahead, but decided to stay together.  It was a long and uncomfortable wait.  There was so much stuff loaded in our minivan that I couldn't even find somewhere comfortable to attempt sleep, though I was completely exhausted.  It was a further hour before we were back on the road thanks to a lovely Frenchman called Serge.

Even after the temporary repair, we were still limping along, as the truck kept overheating.  I was leading and on single carriageway highway by the time we got to New Brunswick.  It may be the Trans-Canada Highway, but at this point it is one lane in each direction.  Warnings of watching out for moose were ringing in my ears.  Drivers who hit moose on the roads don't often live to tell the tale. 

I don't know how I made it over that last hour.  I had music blaring in the car and the windows open to try to stay awake.  I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open.  We finally arrived at our hotel at 5 a.m.  So much for a good night's sleep.  The night porter took pity on us and offered us a late check-out at 1 p.m., which I gratefully accepted.

Sunday dawned long before we set off again.  The truck overheating problems continued and as New Brunswick became more hilly and the truck got slower, I had to travel separately, then wait at agreed meeting points.  The most welcome of these was at the Nova Scotia border, where I took the photograph welcoming visitors to the province.  I paid dearly for this picture, as the mosquitoes used me for target practice!

Our plan to complete the journey on Sunday was abandoned.  After five hours on the road, we were too tired to drive any further after the previous 21 hours of travel, so we made an impromtu overnight stop at Amherst.  I asked at the tourist office for a recommendation and we stayed at a local hotel, which was nothing fancy, but it had a terrific restaurant.  We lingered over a delicious dinner of fresh pan-fried haddock accompanied by wilted greens in lemon and garlic and mashed potatoes.  This was followed by a chocolate bombe with ice-cream, which we shared.  What a meal!

We met a charming couple from Fredericton, New Brunswick, who told us about the terrible winter storms in the area.  They had been stranded at the hotel on a previous occasion during a snowstorm when the weather was so bad that they couldn't see out of the windows of the hotel and stranded motorists slept in the hallways.

With a journey of only two and a half hours on Monday, driving was less of an ordeal.  We finally arrived in town at 2 p.m.  We had survived and more surprisingly, the truck had made it! 

We are in Nova Scotia.  I can still hardly believe it.  I drove all the way from Ontario, having said that I could never do that journey alone by car.  I drove across four provinces and completed a journey of 1889 km (1174 miles).  Not bad for someone who normally needs a break from driving after only 2-3 hours.

I will continue this story in my next post.  It's not over yet!

Thanks to Louise for her comment, which inspired the title of this post.