What a different view. I’m sitting at my dining room table looking out my third story window at the back side of houses, seeing people in their kitchen, glows from TV sets and spastic disco Christmas lights on building balconies a few blocks away. Sirens shriek out every so often, the soft hum of traffic is becoming the new baseline of our urban soundtrack. We just tucked the camper in this evening for her long winter nap, pipes full of pink antifreeze, empty and cold wrapped up in a dark green tarp like a giant present waiting to be opened for her next adventure.
Just over a week ago we were camping in a deserted Ohio campground, neighbouring some of Toledo’s finest refinery’s, and peeing in the snow as we had officially flipped the camper into winter-mode. We were on the home stretch of a cross-country journey and planning to cross over the border the following morning. Sights were on Toronto and we were going to make just in time for Christmas.
That last week of our journey was just blasted through. We left Carlsbad, California with a hit list of stops to round out the second half of the drive. We started strong with a night in the desert star gazing and creeping on foxes, then waking up with morning bouldering sessions with our pint size climbers in Joshua Tree National Park. A bucket list item crossed off the list.
From there, we aimed ourselves to the Grand Canyon – taking two days to get there we arrived to a town naked of tourists and felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. A truly majestic piece of the country, and we were fortunate enough to bike a chunk of the rim without seeing anyone else – gotta love shoulder season. The kids learned the ropes of the Grand Canyon quick, climbing on any rock or bench that they could, but were quick to point out the edge of the rim, and Kaia letting us know that “you will die if you fall here.” Kaia took the oath and is an official Junior Ranger of the Grand Canyon. When she whispered the words verbatim from the Ranger I welled up like she was performing in her first Christmas concert. Another bucket list item crossed off.
Yeah, we were on a roll. And then it got cold. Like really f’ing cold, in the span of an hour. We were in Santa Rosa, New Mexico and we were low on food and our tanks were full – yeah, like our poop tank. No big deal, we were planning on leaving the cute little state park and try to make it for Texas – but then the snow blew in and ice started building up on the windshield. Bah, we’re Canadian, this isn’t winter weather, we thought. It was just a dusting. So we got out of dodge and headed for the I-40 with hopes to get in front of the storm.
I was perfectly comfortable driving – albeit slow. We realized that it would be a long day, unless we could get in front of the storm and make up some time, and then we started to notice the other side of the divided highway was virtually empty of cars. Did they close the freeway? I saw the lights of emergency vehicles in my mirrors – oh gawd, my limbs got heavy and my palms sweaty anticipating what we were about to see. Then we saw the beginning of the worst. An accident with a car, and a few tractor trailers … And then more cars, and more trucks, and more cars and more trucks. The freeway was stopped dead with accident after accident in a mess of a pile up. It was hard to tell when one accident ended and the other started. We started talking about our exit strategy off the 40, and not what turnoff to take (because we were in the middle of absolute nowhere!) but the exit I needed to maneuver if we were to avoid a crash.
These are the times that make me wonder how the universe works. Shy of finishing our breath with our plan that I would drive, right, off the freeway and into the ditch to avoid a collision, we saw a tractor-trailer barreling down the other side of the freeway. His brakes were locked up – I think. He wasn’t slowing down, and he was approaching the wall of the pileup fast. He started to jack-knife, and he was pointed at us. The calmness I felt in that moment was straight-up bizarre. My foot released from the gas, hovered over the break and I honed into my depth perception. I was about to make the move that Davin and I had JUST finished planning and then he stopped. Front tires up on my shoulder of the freeway and about 100ft in front of us. Gracefully and slowly I drove past him and looked his way only to see him gazing down the lane of pile ups that he has just narrowly avoided. I gave thanks, and my gratitude – and then I almost shit my pants, started crying and tried to keep a grip on the steering wheel with my shaking hands. We still had 30miles to drive until the next town – the Route 66 ghost town of Tucumcari, New Mexico.
Check out footage here.
After that, we were on the home stretch and we lay our heads to sleep in the great states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and finally Ohio.
The kids are scarred with imprints and now adjusting to life in a city, and to our next adventure.
You thought this journey was over? Nah, it’s just starting. The next quest is to figure out who we are as minimalists living in an urban 2 bedroom apartment, how to get a pay cheque and most importantly heal Davin’s brain so I can have my whole husband back with me again.
More about how we survive and thrive coming soon …