Almost there. The excitement grows as the French River bridge comes into view, and I enter the left turn lane. As third gear slows the car, I begin to press on the brake pedal. Nothing. The pedal goes all the way to the floor without slowing the car at all. We miss the turn, and come to a stop on the shoulder with help from the parking brake.
100 km away from civilization, and I had blown a brake line. The worst part was, my brother and I had just arrived at our destination, French River, and now we had this car problem that stood in the way of the adventure we were supposed to have. It didn’t help that this was a last minute trip on Labour Day weekend, and I had to be back in Hamilton for school. I remember desperately wanting to redeem the situation…to somehow get the car to a nearby mechanic, and continue with hiking along French River…but alas, it just wasn’t possible.
Thus began the long journey back to Parry Sound. Since we just had the parking brake, which really doesn’t work well as a full time brake, we couldn’t fly along the highway, so the journey became a long, hot, drive along the shoulder going about 50 kilometres per hour. We stopped at a couple small auto mechanics along the way, but they were busy and couldn’t fix it that day. Eventually, we reached Parry Sound, and went to the Canadian Tire. They told me that my brakes were completely shot and that it would cost more than the car was worth to fix…and then promptly closed shop, and I saw the mechanic get into a packed car, obviously to leave on his holidays.
It was the end of the day, and the car was still broken. The original plan had us staying overnight with relatives near Magnetewan. After talking to them we arranged to leave the car in McKellar.(another 25 km of driving along the shoulder without brakes) There was a mechanic there who would fix the car in the morning. And that was what happened. We drove home the next day in the rain, and so ended the worst road trip ever.
Typically, I’m a pessimist. My usual excuse is that my experience with life doesn’t warrant optimism. My experience says that life is hard…things seem to mess up more often than they work out, and it often doesn’t seem worth the reward. Why would I get my hopes up and push for things that experience tells me will just go wrong anyway?
Yet for some reason, I’m an optimist when it comes to road trips. I would argue that road trips always seem to work…that experience allows me to be optimistic. And its true. I’ve been to Cape Breton(twice), PEI, Saguenay Fjord, all over northern Ontario and on one crazy 15,000 km trip across the country. And every time, it worked out. There may have been rain or other small setbacks, but the reward was always well worth it. Of course I’m optimistic about road trips. Why wouldn’t I be?
The above story was actually one of my first road trips. So, at one time, my experience with road trips was kind of rough. You might say that I could have become a road trip pessimist after that failure. Somehow, I was still very optimistic about them, and I pushed and pushed to make them happen. And they did, and were awesome.
I don’t think this will make an optimist out of me, but I do find it interesting to note that at one time, I had the evidence before me that road trips could fail badly…but I kept at it, and succeeded.
I used to struggle with how that road trip turned out. I always wanted to believe that everything that happened in my life was part of God’s plan and that it had a purpose, but I just couldn’t see it with that terrible trip. Yet, here I am writing about it, thinking about how it was a bad experience that I overcame and emerged victorious. I would never think it possible, but this story in my life shows me that I’ve done it before. That I could believe in positive outcomes despite negative experiences. Maybe….just maybe, I can do it again.