Thursday, December 29, 2011

Flashback Road Trip Part 6: Ontario is only half of the way there

September 20, 2011
Travel Itinerary: Portage la Prairie, MB to Thunder Bay, ON
Depart: 9:50am
I slept in... or I forgot to set an alarm, but as I leave Manitoba I realize it is as slow as a start as what I slept through.  The traffic and the skies have a restless ache and everything is grey. The sketchiest stretch thus far – hydroplaning and detouring around Winnipeg as transport trucks plough  me through monsoon puddles, flooding my view and breath.  White knuckles for hours until I reach the outskirts of Ontario. (Woodland creatures kissing the pavement now look like porcupines.)

Northern Ontario: lush deciduous evergreen dreams weaving golden hues, sprouting trees from rock hills as veils of white birches with sunshine curls stitch the wet slates of the Canadian Shield. 
No cell reception in her beautiful northern gate but there is a break in the skies and a break in the drive.  It’s time to shop:

Elgin Farm, ( Sheepskin marvels and gifts for all the fall babies in my life, whether it be itty -bitty mittens or a fuzzy eye-glass case; moccasins of moose skin strong enough to wear outside or just a simple pair of hide.  I think I will be back, I know I will be back, but my journey will be taking me the other way.

Thunder Bay.  10PM.  Holliday Inn Motel – no affiliation with the Holiday Inn.  This is the fifth hotel/motel I have tried.  Conference? The rain is sideways now, coming down in sheets.  There isn't an open sign or a vacancy sign either way, but I pull to the curb.  I can see two people sitting in the shadows of a room which could be a sitting area as there is only a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling.  I get out of the car and knock on the door, but no one moves.   It is dumping rain, and the small awning above the door is only keeping my nose dry. I try the door but it is stuck.  I knock again and a shadow shuffles to me.  The door window is fogged and I can't see much else. I see a hand waving and then the door is tugged open.  I step inside with soaking wet feet and a tired face. 

There is a slight Caucasian man sitting on a high stool in bare feet.  He was the closest to the door but he gingerly strokes an orange cat in his lap.  He paints a smile like a man who doesn't speak English and watches me shake off a chill. "Are you open?" The small Asian woman who opened the door for me, hurries back to her desk that looks like a kitchen table.  She stands with her palms pressed against her knuckles.  " Do you have vacancy?" I repeat myself, this is an obvious question. "Of cor," she scoffs. The couple look at one another and then to me. 

"How did you hear about us?" The man asks quickly and adjusts the cat in his lap. 
"You are the fifth place I have tried," I say and let out a breath.
"From where?"
I am annoyed. "I can't remember, but..."
"Ya, we hauve," the woman cuts me off and hands me a piece of paper to fill out my details.  "Jus wu?"
The man looks back at my car and I look with him, "And a plant," I smile. 

In the room, I call a friend out West, to check in but to also ease my mind. I have this Hitchcock induced nervous twitch like there is a key-hole movie being filmed.  There is a door adjacent to the front door with a faint light shinning out from underneath it.  I can't see where it leads to, and there isn't a lock from my side of the door but it is locked.  Or, perhaps just completed rusted.  I push the second double bed across the room and barricade myself in and then i realized, the hinges are the opposite way and the door opens out, not in. It is late.  A few days on the road alone and I am letting my imagination get the better of me.

I shower quickly and set my alarm for a few hours from now.  Tomorrow is early -  I want take my time, I have heard and read great things about what happens next.  ... and I want to get out of this room.

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