The Most Ridiculous 24 Hours On The Road

Dear Thai-ary Readers,
Do I ever have a road story for you. I'd like to give you a glimpse of the emotional and geographical journey I just endured less than 24 hours ago.

Let me start with Wednesday evening (two nights ago). I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie, from Toronto, and played a really fun show with some great local players at The Watertower Inn. I lay my head down around 1:30am and woke up pretty early, but refreshed, and ready to tackle my big drive to Winnipeg.. through the states.

With a large coffee in hand and a morning happy buzz taking over, I crossed the steel truss arch international bridge from Canada to USA over Saint Mary's rapids. I made the honest mistake of being.. honest with the border guy... I told him I'm a musician. He told me I need to follow this intense short woman to their 'special garage'. She and another man then proceed to strip search my whole purse, jacket, and body while asking me extremely invasive questions and criminalizing me. They then made me follow them to this unholy church pew in their scary office. I sat there for over an hour and a half with them periodically coming back in (might I add that they walk so slow like they don't have a care in the world) and never looked at me except to ask me a few more unfriendly questions. I heard my car doors slam a bunch of times and I knew they were ripping and stripping apart every little object, luggage, gear pocket etc. Meanwhile, I'm sitting next to this older couple who crosses the border all the time and listened to them regale me with horror stories of being locked in the same office for 6 hours, having guns pulled on them, etc. The worst. During that time in the office I went through such extreme emotions. I went from terrified, to incredibly angry, to sad, to worried about time loss, back to fucking pissed off.

Finally, the power-tripping-fear-instilling border folks invited me back. My car was a total disaster. I could see pieces of clothes coming out from my suitcase that they didn't close and everything was disrespectfully piled on top of my keyboard which is the number one most fragile and important thing in my car. After belittling me a bit more, they let me go.. with some instruction on how to better cross the border the next time. With full honesty, I confessed to them that they scared me so I panicked when they asked me questions which is why some of my answers weren't exact. (Like I forgot that I had 50 some mini whiskeys behind my passenger seat and a half opened bottle of wine for example. Shit.) I lost over 2 hours of good daylight driving time and my morning happy buzz was totally zapped.  Whatever. I was on the road. 

I put on a podcast about miracles or something and the guy speaking said something about how we, as people, are all the same but our egos tell us that we want to be different. Nobody is better than anybody else, and nobody is any worse than anyone else... it cheered me up because I thought about the awful border people and thought "well, even though they treated me like an animal we are all the same and they're just doing their job. Which is a job I never ever ever want". Back to feeling good.

I had a better than decent day cruising through the states. I love driving through what's unchartered territory in my eyes and I had inspiring tunes and funny podcasts keeping my spirits up. It got dark early, as it does in December, but I just took my time and focussed on the road. I listened to another podcast later on - Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe - of his recent live show in the Soo.. where he talks about the very bridge I loved this morning and about how beautiful it was. I'm smiling thinking about how somebody else liked that bridge but how I will never ever cross that unforgiving bridge again.

75 miles from Canada, about 12 hours in (and half of it in the dark), I picked up a huge second wind! I gained so much energy when I saw the 'Canada' sign and I was only 4.5 hrs or less away from my Winnipeg destination.

I pull up to the border.......... and it's closed. "FUCKKKKKK!!!" I'm back to being mad about the hold up in the morning because I likely woulda made it through.

I look at my gas tank..... it's 3 little lines away from having the blaring empty sign flash at me. I haven't passed a gas station or a motel in over a good hour. I pick up my phone, take it off airplane mode, to call my host in Winnipeg and let her know I'm not gonna make it. No service available. Great.
I'm in Northern Minnesota, in December, with no cell service, gas, or way to get into my home country. So... I sorta just laugh at my terrible situation decide that my only real option is to tough it out and sleep in my car. So.. I'm pulled up at the frickin' border... I could barely put my seat back horizontal because the border guards tossed everything like garbage bags into a dump truck so there was a bunch of luggage placed poorly behind my drivers seat. Same goes with trying to find where my toque and scarves were etc. So I curl up sitting up. I 'slept' for just under an hour and started to FREEZE. My car was freezing over too. I looked at the time and it was ten to midnight.. and I thought "holy shit.. I'm not gonna last like this. I don't even know when the border re-opens. 6am? 7am? 10am? I went into freeze or flight mode.

So, I had an inner conversation. I weighed out all my options. Sleeping at the border in my honda civic upright wasn't one but I had so little gas that it was a scary thought to move. But I decided to head back the way I came, drive slowly on cruise control to conserve gas, and pray that I make it to a motel (and I hadn't honestly seen one for hours). At the very least, I was hoping to make it to a gas station (knowing it would 100% be closed at this time of night) that I could sleep beside and fill up in the morning and in the mean time I was killing time keeping warm in my moving car. Every few seconds I kept looking at the gauge willing it to not move down. I started freaking out again because I thought "omg, what if I run out of gas and I'm right in the middle of a filling station and the border... I'm going to have to hitch hike in the morning, in this northern back country, just to get gas. This is crazy." 

Just as I was having these new thoughts and planning for the worst, I saw a dirty old pick-up truck pulling out of this lot. It's the first vehicle I had seen in hours. I flashed my lights and this hunter looking guy (I'm stereotyping, I know) rolled down his window. I asked if he knew of a motel close by and he said that there's one 30 miles away and he can lead me there. So.. I followed him through back roads (leaving the main trail behind), again crossing all fingers and toes that my car makes it, and made it! I kept my guard up because I'm alone with no gas in the winter and I'm following a strange man to a motel.. but he left the parking lot like an angel. I still can't believe that I ran into him - if I had timed it any different I wouldn't have crossed trails with him.

First thing I notice when I walk up to the inn was the necessity for a key card to let you in and the turned out lights in the lobby. Again.. I'm like "fuckkk.. my angel just drove away and this place is clearly closed".. so I rang the bell a good 10 times and nobody came to the door. I tried the door (why I didn't from the beginning? I don't know) and it opened! Just as I decided to sleep on the teeny tiny blue couch in the lobby until somebody kicks me out, a man in a nightie walked towards me.

I asked him if I can stay there tonight and he said that they close after midnight.. I started crying and spewing a jumble of panicky words: "I've been driving all day.. I have no where to stay.. I'm from Canada.."... He clearly picked up on how distraught and desperate I was and rented me out a room. 

It was the creepiest hotel room I've ever been in. It was massive - there was so much unnecessary floor space (you could legitimately host a floor hockey game), the bed was hard, the carpet was this deep thick colour of blood.. but I didn't care at all. I was so happy for a warm bed.

So this morning. I sleep in and shower. Just as I'm leaving the bathroom - naked - the house keeping woman opens the door without knocking. Hahaha, I scream and tell her I need a few more minutes!! It was hilarious.

I head out on the road again. Guess what? I went to ANOTHER border that no longer exists. Ugh!! But I re-route, find the right border, and pass through like a warm Calgary chinook in July. I also found out that the border I made it through is open 24/7 and was only 40 mins away from the one I napped at last night. Oh well. Chances are I didn't have enough gas to make it anyways.

I'm now sitting in my lovely hosts brand new home in Winnipeg and super stoked for 3 awesome shows ahead this weekend! House concert tonight, Times Change(d) with a band tomorrow night, another house concert Sunday and then HOME STRETCH ON MONDAY!!!!!!

I am definitely living AND learning every day in this life. Oh man am I ever laughing at myself in this moment.

Thanks for reading!!!
I'm back home in the prairies, after 2 months on the road, and feeling soo great!
<3 JT

7 comments

  • Jean

    Jean Sutton

    Lil' Blues Sister, you had my blood run cold. There was a Blues Angel looking after you. Please be careful on the road. One day, when we have time, I'll tell you some of my road stories that made me aware that all is not well out there. Hugs and love, j:o))

    Lil' Blues Sister, you had my blood run cold. There was a Blues Angel looking after you. Please be careful on the road. One day, when we have time, I'll tell you some of my road stories that made me aware that all is not well out there. Hugs and love, j:o))

  • Jake Rivers

    Jake Rivers Toronto

    Unbelievable story kid. From real anger at the border to real tears in the motel lobby. That's one for the ages. Buy these items asap: wool blanket from the VV. Extra washer fluid. A jar of peanut butter. A flashlight. A lighter. Extra phone charger battery. Water. Warm toque and mittens. Never let your gas tank get below a half tank. We miss you in TO and want you back so be safe!!!! Love ya. JR

    Unbelievable story kid.
    From real anger at the border to real tears in the motel lobby. That's one for the ages.
    Buy these items asap: wool blanket from the VV. Extra washer fluid. A jar of peanut butter. A flashlight. A lighter. Extra phone charger battery.
    Water. Warm toque and mittens.
    Never let your gas tank get below a half tank.
    We miss you in TO and want you back so be safe!!!!
    Love ya.
    JR

  • Alice

    Alice Toronto

    What a story! I'm glad you made it back to Canada in one piece.

    What a story! I'm glad you made it back to Canada in one piece.

  • Richard Flohil

    Richard Flohil Terronna, Centee of the Unicverse

    Live in Toronto and none of this shit will happen! Honest...would I lie to you?

    Live in Toronto and none of this shit will happen! Honest...would I lie to you?

  • Trevor Tchir

    Trevor Tchir Sault Ste. Marie, ON

    Better luck next time you wake up here in the Soo!

    Better luck next time you wake up here in the Soo!

  • Ian Royce

    Ian Royce Blue Mountains ON

    That read like a suspense novel ... And I'm glad that there was a happy ending! BTW - I'm with Flohill on the move to Toronto!😎

    That read like a suspense novel ... And I'm glad that there was a happy ending! BTW - I'm with Flohill on the move to Toronto!😎

  • Graham

    Graham Calgary

    Nah Jenie stay in alberta! Don't got mountains in Ontario! Btw when are you in Calgary next?

    Nah Jenie stay in alberta! Don't got mountains in Ontario! Btw when are you in Calgary next?

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