The truck choked and its temperature gauge skyrocketed upwards. We pulled over on Canada’s Interstate 97 and popped the hood. A wave of sickly sweet odor flew out, and shiny neon green liquid poured onto the wet gravel. Baby Beluga was hemorrhaging coolant.
After a few failed attempts to fix the ruptured coolant hose t-fitting involving duck tape and super glue, we called a tow truck and watched the rain fall on the window. Our situation felt pretty cushy compared to that of Louis Zamperini, the American soldier from WWII who was marooned on a raft for 47 days and later tortured by the Japanese in our not-so-uplifting audio book “Unbroken.”
We figured that Baby Beluga was rebelling in response to our conversation the previous night. Lying in the dark truck while the rain clinked on the shell, we admitted that we were both road weary. For the last five months we hadn’t spent more than five consecutive days in one spot and hardly more than an hour apart. The constant moving left us both feeling unsatisfied and the negativity was beginning to seep into our relationship. Something needed to change.
It takes guts to quit a comfortable job and start an adventure. It takes even more guts to admit that your dream isn’t so dreamy and to find a solution. Tyler wanted a place where he could practice web development and climb. I wanted a place where I could do some yoga and write. Both of us craved a real bed and bathroom, a small outdoorsy town, and a chance to do some volunteering. Our plan is now to live in Paonia, Colorado*** for a month to dedicate some time to our goals without being on the move. Baby Beluga, apparently, was not so pleased with the new scheme.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked the squat tow truck driver who lumbered out of the truck wearing rain gear and a neon construction vest.
“Better than you!” he replied, cracking up at his own joke. “So, where ya wanna go?”
“Canadian Tire please,” we replied.
“Hmm, you could go there, but I wouldn’t. I’d go to Nechako’s. They’re not open today, but no one is on a Sunday. Looks like you guys might be in Prince George for a while.”
Welcome to Prince George, the largest city in northern British Columbia, where, according to our brief tour guide, “they’ve moved all of the hookers out of downtown recently and that guy is totally a tweaker who just got busted for smuggling drugs (followed by spurts of solo laughter).” Lovely place.
He dropped us off in front of a car parts store and handed us a hefty bill commensurate to his plumber’s crack. We walked into the auto store and asked one of the employees if they had a part that might work for us. He stepped outside and looked at the truck.
“Sweet Jesus!” (Not exactly the reaction we hoped for.)
A few minutes and computer clicks later he confirmed that he couldn’t do anything for us, but the shops down the street may be able to when they opened at 8am tomorrow.
We unloaded our bikes, filled our backpacks with computers, and biked to the library, Tim Horton’s Donut Shop, and Starbucks, following the wifi to the next locale as each one subsequently closed.
At some point earlier that day Tyler had turned and kissed me. “Happy 14 month anniversary” he said. In order to celebrate we went to Hollywood Video and rented a movie for later that night.
By 9:30pm the last minute couchsurfing requests remained unanswered and the prospect of sleeping in the truck on a dark street in the industrial area of town sounded as unsafe as it does in writing.
Seventy five dollars later we rolled our bikes into the cheapest motel we could find and cuddled up on the bed to watch “Into the Woods.” Both of us felt surprisingly pleased. A few years ago, we may have foregone safety in the face of spending money. Now, perhaps wiser, but certainly more broke, we knew we had made the right decision.
By noon the next day, the auto shop had patched up Baby Beluga and we were on our way. This time, though, we had a goal and a direction. Even “Unbroken” couldn’t hold down our excitement!
***Why Paonia? The second day of our bike tour we met a nice twenty-something woman from Paonia, Colorado who told us about her small town garden of Eden. We’re still figuring out the details, but both of us now feel immensely better about this plan and much more positive.