In our last instalment my mom and I spent 8 hours on a 5.5 hour car trip, killed a raccoon, broke the car, struggled with accommodations, and ultimately had a fantastic time at the Scenic Caves!
We took a cab back to our hotel that night, and after a sub-par dinner at the Chinese buffet across the street we both passed out, exhausted after the activities of the last couple days.
In the morning the mini was all fixed up and ready to go, so we dragged our stuff back to Canadian Tire to make the trip back home.
So from there we just made a leisurely drive home, I got a good night's sleep and went to work feeling refreshed the next day, right?
Of course not.
While Mom was inside paying for the repairs and grabbing the keys, I was waiting by the car with our things. All of a sudden I see a small SUV drive onto and over another car. This thing had it's passenger-side tires on the ground while the driver's side rolled along this other car. I thought for sure that SUV was flipping over.
Somehow though, the driver of the SUV managed to save herself from rolling, and jumps out of her vehicle screaming at the other car about what they thought they were doing.
Unfortunately for her, my mom, who was walking across the parking lot, and I both saw the whole thing and were able to tell the passengers of the other car, and eventually the police, what actually happened. I felt bad for all parties involved, but we still had a long drive home, so after giving our statements we got on the road, heading to Stratford where we planned to stop for lunch and a bit of a walk around.
On the way to Stratford we found some awesome animals that I needed photos of. First, a couple of llamas chilling in a field, and a little while later some freaking zebras that were hanging out in a pasture with some horses.
This farm was clearly some sort of petting zoo, although it didn't look very friendly, that had a few Saharan-looking creatures in addition to the zebras. I spent a while watching them and grabbing photos, and this was certainly a highlight of the trip for me.
Later on we stopped at an Amish market where we grabbed all sorts of foodstuffs, including picked sausages, cheese curds, and maple syrup.
I hadn't visited Stratford since a school trip in grade ten, but my mom goes with her friends every year, so she had a bunch of awesome shops to show me, including one that sold various flavours of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, called Olive Your Favourites. I was able to sample all the varieties and fell in love with the things I tasted. I went home with a sample pack of some of their more popular flavours and have been enjoying some foodie experimentation ever since. I also picked up some garlic black tea at Distinctly Tea, which I have yet to try but have high hopes for.
We capped off the Stratford visit with lunch by the river, including some of our spoils from the Amish market, and a bit of my new oils and vinegars on some homemade sandwiches. It was fantastic, and I shared some of my cheese curds with the ducks that decided to hangout under our picnic table.
After we hit London we got on Highway 3, AKA Talbot Trail, to head back to Harrow.
Around Blenheim we came across this awesome looking abandoned house, with trees growing out of the front door, a tattered Canadian flag on the peak, and a well-manicured lawn. Of course we stopped for some photos, and ended up making some new friends, Harold and J.D., when they came by the check out what we were doing. They live a little bit down the road from the abandoned house, and keep an eye on things for the owner. Apparently they regularly have to chase off teenagers, photographers, and looters, and were happy that we were being respectful of the property, so they brought us for a walk around the house, allowing me to get some shots from all angles.
The sun was starting to go down when we left, and we were about halfway between Blenheim and Leamington when the car started to overheat again, just as I was wanting to stop to get some shots of the sunset and wind turbines.
It was mostly dark by the time I was done, the car was still too hot, and we were in the middle of nowhere. So we pulled into the first driveway we found to ask for some water to use to fill the radiator enough to get us to a gas station, or anywhere, basically.
We hit the jackpot with the house we came to.
Jane and Don were enjoying a relaxing evening at home watching Penn and Teller in TV when some strangers show up on their front porch asking for help. Don, who was a cross-country trucker for years, offered to take a quick look at the car before just giving us water and sending us off.
Based on his brief inspection, we learned that the new radiator had been installed using the old clamps, and must have had some damage done to it prior to or during installation, based on it's current condition and the fact that we hadn't been off-roading. He had an idea of how fast the leak was, and knew that we weren't going to make it far enough to be useful if we just added some water, or even coolant, to the car.
So this wonderful man called his friend, drove to get a car trailer, got the mini all loaded up, and drove us an hour to Malden Centre.
The drive was pleasant, with both Don and Jane accompanying us and pointing out all the neat things we'd be able to see if the sun were up. We discussed local current events and sports, and all in all it was a rather pleasant drive.
We made it back to my parent's place around 11:30 p.m. and got the car off the trailer. I offered our saviours the box of smooth mint chocolates I had picked up from Rheo Thompson in Stratford and they turned them down. Dad offered them money and they wouldn't take that either. Eventually we got them to accept a jar of honey from my dad's bees, and spent a few minutes chatting before they turned around to make that long drive back to Leamington.
I'm still amazed at the kindness of these two people.
I ended up making it home close to 1 a.m. that night, and was at work for 8 the next morning, although perhaps not quite as peppy as I normally am.
The whole trip was a very interesting experience. Although we ran into a lot of trouble, we also met an amazing array of humans. Aside from a couple grouchy hotel employees, we met some extremely helpful people - everyone from cab drivers to hotel staff to random strangers. This was the sort of trip that really reminds you how many good people are in this world, which is nice when the news and current affairs seems to be constantly reporting societal apocalypse.
So was this trip a thing I'd do again? That's a big question, considering how many elements it contained, so let's break it down:
Road tripping without a GPS: 2/10 - stressful and tiring, but can make for good stories and fun adventures!
Staying at The Blue Mountain Inn: 0/10 - unfriendly staff and paying extra for wifi? No thanks!
Staying at the Collingwood Comfort Inn: 10/10 - great staff, clean rooms, breakfast and wifi included, and awesome lemon water available at the front desk 24/7
The Scenic Caves and Ziplining: 11/10 - would definitely do again! In fact, I'm already making plans to go back at some point, just maybe with a bit more preparation, and a few less raccoons.
Getting a car fixed at Canadian Tire: 1/10 - the staff was friendly, but apparently not so competent. I'd rather have jerks that fixed things right the first time!
Random Amish market: 10/10 - fresh chocolate milk, amazing cheese curds, and locally-produced summer sausage? Fuck yeah.
Shopping in Stratford: 7/10 - Stratford is gorgeous and I love the awesome little boutiques all over the place, but I'm broke enough without spending more time there.
Photographing abandoned houses: 9/10 - makes for some awesome shots, and can be a great way to make new friends if you're honest and nice to the guys who come to scare you off! Don't lay in the grass though, or you'll be covered with itchy scratches for a few days.
Catching a ride with strangers: 9/10 - I struggled a bit rating this one. While our experience was wonderful, there's no guarantee that strangers will be helpful or friendly, so you've gotta be careful.