BUS MAN'S HOLIDAY

PRINCE GEORGE, B. C. CANADA `98

copyright '98

Story by

LEE A. WOOD

After returning home from Ft. McMurray in mid August, I thought about taking a trip to Prince George to visit family and friends as I had a few days to spare before I had to meet my wife at the airport.

I had borrowed a camp stove from a friend in Prince and thought I better take that out of the storage room so I wouldn't forget. I had borrowed it to cook on when I was driving logging truck in Quesnel and living in the shop two winters ago. Then I thought I had had enough driving for awhile so I wouldn't go North and I left it in the storage room.

Waking to a gorgeous sun shiny day I left Vancouver, on the spur of the moment, early Saturday and drove North through the Pemberton Valley.

Just out of Horseshoe Bay I picked up two young ladies looking for a ride to Whistler. Somewhere before Britannia Beach the girl in the back seat pretended to be car sick and asked to be let out so I stopped and dropped them off. I guess they thought I was driving too fast, or talking too much. Probably both. Truck drivers spend a lot of time by themselves and tend to be loquacious when in the presence of others. Also I was enjoying the winding road and taking the corners rather fast.

I stopped in Squamish for fuel and when I pulled back onto the highway the two girls were at the corner looking for a ride. I guess whoever picked them up, after me, must have been driving faster than me.

On the Southern edge of Whistler I picked up a young man who was hitching a ride to his job at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Whistler.

One nice thing about driving your own vehicle rather than a company vehicle is that you can pick up hitchhikers. It is against the law and can be dangerous but I have a lot of miles on my thumb and I like to return the favour whenever possible.

I stopped in Whistler for a quick burger and picked up a hitcher on the way out of town. The man had missed his ride and was late for work in Pemberton where he had a job finishing a new house.

East of Pemberton, way up in the hills, I picked up a young hiker from Nova Scotia who had been camping in the mountains and was heading back to his summer job at the Hard Rock Cafe in Banff.

Halfway between Lilloet and Clinton I remembered the camp stove was still in the storage room.

After driving by the man made channels which are designed for spawning salmon, but this year were empty, we went through Lilloet. I dropped the hitcher on the highway North of Cache Cr. as he was going South and I was turning North.

As I drove through Clinton I noticed a store was having a sidewalk sale of used goods and at the far end of their display of wares was a used camp stove. It was bigger, but newer, than the one I had borrowed so I bought it.

At 100 Mile House I pulled into the Mohawk service station, backed up to the pumps, fuelled up, started the van, and it stalled, out of gas. Had the Mohawk been a block further North I wouldn't have made it.

From the Mohawk I phoned ahead to my sister and had her phone the old folks home so they wouldn't feed my mother and to let her know her son was coming to take her out to supper but might be a bit late.

When I got to Quesnel my mother was waiting for me. However she thought she had eaten supper because they had given her tea and a muffin so she wouldn't be over hungry by the time I got there. Consequently when I took her for supper she wouldn't eat anything.

One of the reasons I had phoned ahead was so that mother would know I was coming but she still didn't know who I was, or at least pretended not to. Mom turned 90 last month and is in good shape physically but has short term memory loss from a small stroke a few years ago.

Sometimes I wonder if mother has really lost her memory or just pretends, to get even with me for ignoring her as much as I do. (Mothers can be devious.)

After a frustrating dinner of constantly trying to explain who I was, I took her back home and headed for Prince George.

Other than for the memories of an unpleasant visit with my mother I had a good weekend in Prince. I stayed with friends for two nights and reminisced. The two of them shared the duties to make a lovely roast dinner with corn from their own garden.

I set up their computer which had been in the closet for a year and within minutes had their five year old playing mother goose.

Sunday morning we walked George St. through the annual Children's Fair. I bumped into many old acquaintances while we put the little one on the rides and visited the displays.

The next day I went to visit other friends and delivered the camp stove just in time for them to go hunting in the fall. They promised me a moose steak.

Whoops, that reminds me, another friend had a moose roast he was going to send home with me. I had stayed at his place my third night in Prince. He had just returned home from a weekend at the lake with his new boat. I was supposed to stay at his place again the night before I left but was busy visiting friends in the country.

At the end of a new road East of the airport they have built a lovely home. New lawn is growing all around the house. The drive way is only roughed in but the hot tub is finished.

I had lovely weather the whole time and great friends to visit but too little time and I left early Wednesday morning.

On the way South I stopped in Quesnel to visit my sister who had just gotten off work, night shift, four days on and four days off. I worked on her computer trying to get her mouse to work but she has picked up the 'anticmos A' virus. My McAfee disk recognized it but wouldn't erase it.

Then we went to visit mom. When we got there my sister stepped in and said, 'Look who I brought. Here's your son', and quickly I stepped in and said. "Hi, Mom".

This time she knew me and I had a much more pleasant visit.

Heading out of Quesnel the carnival was set up in the shopping center parking lot so I stopped to see if I knew any of the carnies. I had worked with West Coast Amusements for a season, a few years ago, and stop in to say Hi whenever I see them set up anywhere.

Leaving the carnival I picked up a hitcher with a big dog that he said was half wolf. Timber would put his paws on the dog house of my van and his head against the windshield to see where we were going. Now I have doggy nose prints on my windshield.

We stopped at a view spot at McLeese Lake, a very beautiful spot in the Cariboo Valley, to fix my signal lights which had quit, then the van wouldn't start.

I spent two hours under the hood, and by jacking up the front corner so I would fit, under the motor, rewiring and finally got the alternator to charge but it didn't last.

I dropped the hitcher and his dog in Williams Lake at the junction of the Bella Coola highway, as they lived about half way to the Pacific coast, and carried on to 100 Mile House where I again stopped at the Mohawk. The van started fine after I took on fuel but when I turned onto the Pavilion highway South of Clinton I noticed the volt gauge was dropping.

The voltammeter kept getting lower and lower. I turned the headlights off but that didn't seem to help.

Eventually I ended up driving the last few miles after dark with no headlights, just turning them on when I met a vehicle but by then all the battery could do was make a feeble attempt at powering my clearance lights.

It was really hard to see the road but I knew if I stopped I would never get started again and I didn't want to be stranded in the middle of the desert. I wanted to be in town where I could get a boost if I could find out what was wrong.

When I finally got to the edge of town I pulled into a visitors parking area that had street lights and crawled underneath my van. Tugging on my wiring to check the connections one wire came apart and the engine died. Although loose it must have been connecting or the motor wouldn't have been running.

I went over all my connections and redid them and then flagged down some traffic to get a boost. Eventually a peace officer from the Native Police Force stopped and dug out his jumper cables for me.

The van started fine but the voltammeter still read low and the headlights still didn't work. I waited until the policeman was out of sight and slipped through town to a Mohawk that he had told me about.

It was a warm evening and I went for a short walk and then curled up in the van for a sleep. My van is equipped with a bed and I had brought blankets and a pillow so I was okay.

I awoke, about five AM, Thursday and began to compose this on my notebook until the battery went dead.

The mechanic opened the shop at six and had me on the road by seven. Luckily he had the knowledge, testing equipment, and replacement parts needed to get me going.

With two hundred dollars, including fuel, doughnut and soda, added to my credit card and a new alternator under the hood, I left Lilloet with three and a half hours to get to Vancouver.

I was 20 minutes late for my dentist appointment and the receptionist was in a tither. She thought I was going to miss my booking which was for three hours.

I had one tooth filled and two upper teeth prepped for crowns. That depleted my checking account by five hundred dollars and when I go back in two weeks for the crowns it will cost me another thou.

And how was your weekend?

On Friday morning I had to go to the airport and pick up Bin and Yi Ming, my step son, who were coming home from Shanghai.

Next step is to concentrate on finding a job to pay all the bills. What I would like to do is produce the TV series that I have written. Does anyone know someone who has a few thousand they want to invest in the movie industry? The Gov't gives great tax incentives.

THE END

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