ford escape

Grounded

Today is my last day driving for a couple weeks.

My B.C. registration and insurance expire at midnight, and I’m not ready to be a full Washingtonian just yet.

Oh, I’m ready ready but I don’t have all my ducks in a row, which feels strange for me. I went to the local SSA office a week after I got here and applied for my Social Security Number (SSN). That was too soon. I wasn’t in the system yet and I had to wait for verification from the big guns in Baltimore, MD.

Next stop, the Department of Motor Vehicles. Ah but if one doesn’t have an SSN, one cannot get a driver’s licence without a stringent identification process and interview. It will be easier if I wait for my SSN.

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Fill yer boots, b’y

It was a triumphant moment in our relationship.

We were bunking out at my brother’s house in St. John, N.B., for the night. He and his daughters were in Ottawa but left us a key to get in.

I texted him: “Do you mind if we do a load of laundry while we’re here?”

The response?

Fill ur boots!

I laughed uproariously and showed My American the text.

His shoulders sagged in resignation as he shook his head back and forth and heaved an exasperated sigh.

He had been hearing the idiom from me for almost two years. And every time I said it, he’d respond “I don’t know what that means.”

Of course, it means do whatever you want, which is far more pleasant than the historical meaning to fill your boots with pee so you can keep drinking.

Same thing goes for “six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

Or … if you hear it with my Maritime accent, it sounds more like sixxawunhaffaduzzenofthother.

And so I laughed when I saw a link posted on Facebook yesterday. It was teased with a photo of a grisly old fisherman and read How to Speak Like a Maritimer.

Poor Gregory Pike says we Maritimers “communicate with one another like young twins that invent gibberish language” and “speak at a speed that can only be compared to an episode of Gilmore Girls cast with leprechauns on crank.”

I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with him. We do talk quickly and to the uninitiated, we may very well sound a bit like pirates. It can be — depending on your location — an odd mix of Irish, Scottish and Canadian English.

We hold our Rs as my colleague Bart pointed out to me shortly after I moved out west in 1996, when I was making every attempt to assimilate by hiding my accent.

We do refer to the reprobates among us as “greasy.” When I was in high school, they were also “prevos,” as in those destined for prevocational school instead of university. (Oh Jesus Murphy, how snotty is that?)

And yes, we do swear. A lot.

It’s one of the things My American first noticed about us … us as in Canadians in general, not just Maritimers.

My family and I also taught him about “Stay where yer to, I’ll come where yer at,” highland dancing, chillin’ beer in the ocean, medium double-double Timmy’s, ceilidhs and kitchen parties.

And that The Casket is a newspaper in my hometown.

So when we’re talking about somebody being in The Casket, we don’t mean they’re dead.

He didn’t have any trouble with the accents. He understood everyone fully, although I haven’t yet taken him to Newfoundland.

But that might take a few years of preparation.

Sure as fuck.

True dat, yes, b’y.

 

 

Chicago I-90

We aren’t that bad

Oh, Calgary.

We have a bit of a complex, don’t we?

We’re shamed regularly, whether it’s on Twitter or in the news.

We don’t use our signal lights. We do rolling stops at stop signs. We speed like our lives depend on shaving 30 seconds of our ETA.

We can’t let go of our mobiles, despite our nanny government trying to save us from ourselves with the Distracted Driving Law enacted in Summer 2011.

For some, surviving the Deerfoot at rush hour is a daily objective.

We are terrible drivers.

We know it.

A study released last week proves it.

Only British Columbians are worse than us … except when it comes to littering, that is. (Tsk tsk, Calgary.)

With tailgating, turning without signaling, and cutting into lanes without notice, it seems many Albertans are getting failing grades in those areas as well.

Eighty-two per cent of survey respondents have witnessed tailgating, surpassing the national average of 77 per cent. Eighty-four per cent saw drivers turn without signaling, compared to 82 per cent across Canada. And 82 per cent of Albertan respondents saw drivers cut into another lane without notice, compared to 67 per cent nationwide.

Oy. We’re downright nasty to each other when we get behind the wheel.

However, my recent road trip enlightened me.

We aren’t that bad.

No, really. I just said that.

For someone who grouses on Twitter about the way y’all drive? For someone whose boyfriend thinks she’s the most terrible driver he’s ever seen and yet somehow not as bad as some of the people he’s encountered on the Deerfoot?

I. Just. Said. That.

Let’s not even consider the crazy Quebecers and the way they weave and wobble through Montreal freeway traffic at 150 km/h.

No.

There’s something far scary than that.

Far more terrifying than the Deerfoot.

Such that it intimidated me into driving the speed limit with my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.

It’s the I-90.

Now mind you, the speed limit on the longest interstate highway in the U.S. is often 70 miles per hour (about 120 km/h) so it’s even a treat to limit myself at that.

And you occasionally have to slow down a little bit to fit into the toll booth lanes and fork over your first born in bits and pieces, maybe fingers and toes.

But if you don’t pay attention and you’re in the passing lane, trying to overtake a truck with a fifth-wheel or some gramma doing only 65, you might want to take a look in the rearview mirror.

As sure as the sun rises, there’s someone on your tail. I don’t mean Deerfoot tailgating … I mean this guy is so far up your tailpipe that he knows exactly what you had for breakfast and lunch.

And you have to get out of his way.

I’m not sure I know what would happen if you don’t.

I’m not sure I want to find out.

I’m sure I made every attempt to ensure I didn’t find out.

But one thing I know for sure, the Deerfoot is a cakewalk once you’ve been on the I-90.

Try it some time.

I dare you.

Have dog, will travel

The road was our home for almost three weeks.

We embarked upon a journey to the east coast early in July. Initially, we had this crazy idea to camp along the way.

Then we came to our senses.

It would be tough enough managing sleep and meal needs for long drives. We sure didn’t need to complicate matters by throwing in tents, sleeping bags and other accoutrements that would cramp Shep’s space in the back of my Escape.

Telling Shep to prepare for our road trip

And thus we remembered a great hotel chain from a weekend in Kalispell, MT.

LaQuinta Inn & Suites have a pet policy which essentially states ‘all dogs allowed.’

Yippee!

Shep, as many of you know, is an extra-large breed. He doesn’t exactly fit in a purse and, if someone comes too close to his house or truck, his bark will scare the living bejeus out of you.

It makes me jump sometimes.

Holy crap, it just did.

We looked for LaQuinta locations along our journey and planned our stops according to cities where LQ has hotels. We drove for nine and 10 hours a day to reach our destination and stumbled wearily into LQ locations in Cleveland, Ohio; Madison, Wisconsin; and Auburn, Massachusetts.

We encountered two glitches.

In Cleveland, the Airport North location, our hallway smelled like weed. I mentioned it to the clerk who checked us out the next morning and she was horrified, asking if I had reported it.

I replied no, figuring it wouldn’t be an easy thing to figure out.

“What would you do,” I asked, smiling. “Crawl along the floor and sniff under each door crack?”

She laughed and I said “don’t worry about it.”

But she noted the location was going 100% smoke-free soon.

In Auburn, I looked through bleary eyes at the night clerk who told me I had no reservation.

Wait … you had one but it was for three nights ago.

Oh noes! I screwed up on the online reservation system.

No worries. He found us a room and, when Outback failed to include flatware with our takeout steaks, he cheerily brought us up plates, napkins and plastic knives and forks.

If I knew the young fella’s name, I would give him extra ups right here but, alas, I can’t recall if he ever gave it to me.

Even better, he encouraged me to contact LaQuinta and explain my situation, since I would also be charged for the night we didn’t show up.

I did. And Tammi, the location manager, ensured I was refunded.

Thus, we happily booked LaQuinta rooms on our return trip, although we were disappointed to learn the Fargo, N.D., location was fully booked on the night we’d be in town.

In some spots, like Fargo and Aberdeen, S.D., we stayed at alternate motel chains (also dog friendly).

But we had such great experiences at LQ that I wanted to shine a spotlight on it here. If you’re travelling the U.S. and some parts of Canada with a pet friend (or without even), I encourage you to find a LaQuinta location.

Especially the one in Madison, WI. It is easily one of the nicest places I’ve stayed, besting some of the four-star pads in Toronto last summer. The hotel had gorgeous, spacious rooms and some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered via customer service.

In Madison, WI.

You’d never figure, eh?