Adventures in Trippin’…

Road Trippin’ that is.

About a week ago, my parents helped me load all my worldly possessions into a U-Haul. Well, half a U-Haul. Half of the tiniest U-Haul available. It made my lazy muscles happy that there wasn’t much to load and unload, but it also made me weary to think that I’m starting over. From scratch. Again.

This is the biggest suitcase I've ever traveled with. I'm glad it's on wheels.

This is the biggest suitcase I’ve ever traveled with. I’m glad it’s on wheels.

Well, not exactly from scratch. My parents let me raid their cupboards for things like tea towels and a coffee pot. And I inherited a lovely family chair…which I’ll never get to sit in.

Back off. Find your own chair.

Back off. Find your own chair.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Catticus didn’t discover the chair until after the road trip was over. And this post is about the road trip, so let’s get back to it, shall we? After the truck was loaded and farewell hugs and kisses exchanged, I headed west.

Even though I was listening for the alarming sounds of shattering glass or splintering wood at every bump in the road, the vast expanse of highway was as exhilarating as always. The troublesome worries about starting over fled, and were replaced by the alert serenity that comes with a good, long drive. 

Have I mentioned how much I love driving in the Prairies?

Okay, so I took this picture from the bus…but it’s the same road. 

For the first time in a long time I wasn’t thinking about what I needed to buy, what I needed to do, or whether or not I’d just made the BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. Instead, I found myself feeling like I was completely in the present moment. I started tilting my head in a slow, magnanimous nod at every car or truck that passed, as if to say, “You may proceed.” And when they pulled back in ahead of me, and neither one of us were in a ditch, I would nod again as if to say, “Well done, fellow Asphalt Wanderer.”

It was peaceful, and almost perfect. The weather was lovely, traffic was light, and the view from the driver’s seat was magnificent, but the music was … terrible.

Normally, I would have a perfect selection of road trip tunes to help compliment the experience. But with a defunct iPod battery and no plug-in options in the U-Haul, I was at the mercy of local radio stations. Local radio stations in a sparsely populated stretch of Canada. Sometimes, I was at the mercy of a single local radio station. Like the one out of Medicine Hat that was only 5 hours in to it’s celebrated 100-hour country music marathon. 

And yet, somehow it fit. I was heading west. On my way to Cowtown. Just in time for a world-famous Stampede. A little bit of optimistic country twang seemed appropriate as I drove past fields of grazing cattle. As evening approached and I pulled over to spend the night in a hotel, I had started to think that the radio might actually be welcoming me to my new adventure. 

At least, that’s what I thought until I hit the road again the next morning. When I pulled back onto the highway, I smiled at the sight of empty lanes stretching ahead of me for as far I could see. I flicked on the radio, almost looking forward to a plucky country tune. Instead, I was blasted with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. 

Highway to Hell?

Maybe the radio really was trying to tell me that I’d made the BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. 

Impossible. I might not be a brilliant theologian, but I’m pretty sure Hell doesn’t smell like sunshine, sweet prairie grass and grasshopper farts. 

Because that’s what Alberta smells like. And I love it. 

Who knows, maybe this province will make a country girl out of me after all.

Adventures in DMV Days

Riding my motorbike the other day, I came around a bend, prepared to make a left turn. At the same time, a handsome man was driving his motorbike towards me. Our eyes met, and I flashed him my winningest smile. He smiled back. We slowly eased our bikes around each other with a smooth, graceful dance-like harmony, and went our separate ways. It was like something straight out of an old film.

“Hey there, sailor. Drive here often?”

Oh, wait…did you think this was the beginning of a road-romance? Sorry, let me fill in a few more details:

Riding my motorbike the other day, I came around a bend [making an illegal U-turn], prepared to make a left turn [in the wrong direction down a one-way street]. At the same time, a handsome man [wearing a traffic-cop uniform] was driving his motorbike towards me. Our eyes met, and I flashed him my winningest smile. He smiled back. We slowly eased our bikes around each other with a smooth, graceful dance-like harmony, and went our separate ways. There. That’s more accurate.

To be fair, (and to put my parents’ minds at ease), there was construction nearby making all traffic a bit of a mess, and my normal, legal route home was blocked. I don’t usually drive so haphazardly. Nonetheless, the encounter did make me think that now, after two years of ‘practice’, it was probably time for me to actually get my license.

After spending 7 and a half hours at the DMV yesterday, I was almost regretting that decision. Since my driver’s license is all written in Korean, I couldn’t simply exchange it for a Thai one, write a 15 minute multiple choice test, take a 2 minute drive around a closed course, and merrily head home with a legal license. Instead, I had to take a 4 hour road safety course…all in Thai. I dozed through some of it, but when I did listen, all I understood was, ” ……. left turn….. motorcycle….. maybe …. car… 10 minutes… train.”

After the 4 hours, and a 1/2 hour lunch break, the next 3 hours were spent waiting for and taking the written test. 3 times. I took it once for the car and failed, then I took the same test immediately again for the motorbike and passed, then I had to wait 30 minutes before I could take the same test once again for the car. The test was theoretically in English, but that didn’t mean that the words tossed together made much sense!

While waiting for my 3rd round of ‘decipher the question’, I took the practical component for my motorbike. I drove around a closed course, and the official may or may not have looked up from his desk while I did so, to make sure I hadn’t fallen off, or careened into a bush.

Next, I went to get my licenses printed. They printed both a motorbike license, and a car license, but won’t give me the car one until I’ve borrowed a friend’s car and taken the road test. The photographer took my picture 5 times, until she was satisfied that I was smiling, and looked pretty enough to have my face plastered on a permanent ID. That was nice of her. I wish she also worked at the place that does passport photos.

In the end, even after a full day at the DMV, I’m still no closer to understanding Thai driving rules. The only think I learned for certain is that it’s illegal to park by a black & white striped curb, like this one:

Motorbikes (including mine) illegally parked at the DMV. 

I’m sure the drivers of the bikes above can be forgiven, since none of us actually had a license when we drove here and parked. Now that we know better, I’m sure we’ll never ever park illegally again.

Now, if the handsome traffic cop ever pulls me over, at least I’ll be wearing my prettiest smile on my new license.