On the kitchen table of the apartment I was to live in for the next year was a car key with a note from my exchangee explaining there was a car with snow tyres in the basement car park for me to drive around town.
At first I didn’t worry about driving. I was finding it hard enough walking on snow! Eventually I ventured to the basement car park with car key in hand, finding a pale blue ‘limo’ of uncertain age with wide bench seats. I decided to take a quick test drive in neighbouring streets. While I wasn’t worried about driving on the ‘wrong side’ as I had done this before, I was uncertain about driving on icy, snow covered roads.
Driving out through the car park’s automatic roller door into lightly falling snow, I turned into the salted snow ploughed side street. The car immediately slewed around… and continued to do so as I zig zagged around the block. Emotionally drained, I returned the car to the basement car park where it stayed until the snow thawed!
This old blue limo then proved to be a very handy local runabout.
It was, however, quite unsuited to taking my mother and aunt on our planned holiday to Banff, Jasper and Calgary in Alberta.
I decided to rent a more modern car for a few weeks and in preparation took some driving lessons to help me to cope with Canada’s driving conditions. I remember the driving instructor observing that wasn’t as vigilant about scanning the sides of the roads as I should be– me who had never hit a kangaroo despite them often running across from the side of the road in country Victoria where I lived!.
The drive across the Rocky Mountains to Alberta with my mother and aunt has become the setting of my most often recounted ‘car story’.
We were ascending a huge mountain in a reasonably fast line of traffic when …thump…shudder… shudder …! I managed to manouvre the car to the roadside where I assessed… ‘rock damage’! (Perhaps the driving instructor was right about my not being vigilant about scanning the sides of the roads after all?)
My brave almost 70 year old mother began directing traffic around the car while her adventurous younger sister began to walk for help! Heart in my mouth and hugely concerned about my ability to do it quickly (necessary given the location and other traffic on the road), I set about changing the tyre.
Suddenly and miraculously, some young people in a camper van pulled up, jumped out and offered to help. Enormously relieved, I accepted. They were as keen as I was to change the tyre quickly, so keen they began to change the wrong tyre! Not long after the correct tyre was changed, profuse thanks offered, and they, then we, were on our way.
I have so many memories of Canada which involve car stories, memories triggered every time a garage door is opened with a remote; my niece’s car snow tyres need fitting; I hear warnings of ‘icy roads’; see a sign indicating ‘falling rocks’, have a flat tyre ... and ... when I remind myself to keep scanning the side of the roads when driving!