This is an excerpt From Felicity Foster’s book: “I Cannot Rest from Travel”
You can purchase this title on Amazon.ca.
A sense of humour is critical in life and part and parcel of MGB ownership, as this anecdote will illustrate. My sister and I, when in our ‘twenty something years’, chose an exciting expedition for our summer holiday by embarking on a road trip of British Columbia. First we needed to drive 1000 miles to the starting point in Victoria on Vancouver Island.
The MGB was ready to roll and quite agreeable. We were off to Calgary, Alberta from Swift Current, Saskatchewan under a vast starlit prairie sky. We seemed to be driving right under the Big Dipper. We kept the top down all the way to Victoria despite the occasional drops of rain, chilly nights and dusty days. The exhilaration of an open car was an important highlight of our holiday plans. Once in Victoria, we visited our family and then we were on our way around the province.
We drove north on the Trans-Canada Highway #1 through Hope by the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers and the meeting of the Coastal Mountain Range and the Cascade Mountain Ranges. Hell’s Gate, with its incredible 3,280-foot towering rock walls and 7 tunnels, lay ahead. It is there, the mighty Fraser is suddenly forced through a 115 foot gap and the white water is furious. I had once driven through there in the springtime and saw a Dodge van that had skidded until the front wheels hung over the edges of that 3,280-foot drop. Everyone was safe but I was glad I didn’t have to stay calm and gently exit its rear doors.
Remembering landmarks is important when driving in case of breakdown or forced stoppages due to avalanches or rock slides. When driving through Roger’s Pass it is helpful to count tunnels up and down to be able to ascertain location and to be able to report one’s location if necessary. There are three tunnels on the west side of the pass and five on the east side (E is the 5th letter in the alphabet so it is easy to remember). It’s good to know, particularly if the weather is misjudged.
Another time when I was driving up through Roger’s Pass going from west to east, I had an unexpected douse of reality dumped unceremoniously upon me. I had passed the three tunnels so I knew the summit was close-by and I looked up to see what I thought were benevolent white clouds in the sky. I got to the last turn before the summit with rock rising to my right and cliff edge skirting a long fall to the left with no shoulders. At that precise moment, there was a deluge! I have never before or since been caught in the rain with the top down and been unable to pull over.
The three wipers were on the fastest speed and I couldn’t see a thing through the windshield. Fortunately I was wearing a hat with a visor and that helped me see out of my glasses. I leaned forward and raised myself more upright so that I could drive by watching the road over the windshield where it was clearer. I made the short distance up the hill and was able to pull into the gas station and park under the gas pump shelter.
Just then a stretch limousine pulled in from the east side and these magnificently dressed people accented by 24k gold chains highlighting the deep night of their necks, gracefully slipped out and were presented with the specter of this drowned rat. We laughed as our eyes met and exchanged pleasantries…they suggested that perhaps now would be a good time to put the top up. I concurred.
My sister and I made it by Hell’s Gate and then we were on to the historical Caribou Highway #97 that used to be called the Caribou Wagon Road during the Gold Rush of 1858. It was this part of the trip where we saw our first moose crossing sign. While I have made many trips through that section of the highway I have never seen a moose. However, if a traveller wants to see moose then I would encourage a side trip to Whitecourt in Alberta. They have the ultimate moose sign that is, in fact, a billboard and it is due to the frequency of moose sightings and moose that cross the highway there. I have always seen moose there and often gulp at the sight of a billboard that has a huge moose on it with the cryptic caption: Slow down, the moose wins. An adult male moose can weigh up to 1,764 lbs.; it behooves one to heed the speed limit. We stopped to capture the trip on film (no flash cards then) and to pop up the ragtop when inclement weather prevailed.
We had become efficient ragtop erectors. This is a neat trick to perform considering the bow bars and leather that stiffen in cooler temperatures. We wound our way west on the Yellowhead Highway #16 to the sea. We passed by the Seven Sisters mountain range. The Seven Sisters look like seven people in a Congo line that sat down and ended up nestled up against each other. The Seven Sisters are near a town named Burn’s Lake that has a pristine and inviting lake sharing that name.
Apparently the Aurora Borealis may be seen at night in that area but we didn’t stop for a swim or a sighting. The problem with a natural phenomenon is that it will do as it pleases so there would be no guarantee to see it anyway. Some places that have the dancing lights are not ‘supposed to’ and have them even in summer time such as the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan. I remember the entire vast sky swirling and dancing with light like a giant kaleidoscope (no, this wasn’t artificially induced).
Some places like Dawson Creek, British Columbia that is located at the start of the Alaskan Highway are guaranteed to have light displays during the winter months. We lived on a hill with floor to ceiling windows and could follow the racing lights around the house. Or watch them zip over the 2,000 buffalo that lived in a field nearby.
We made it eventually to the seaport of Prince Rupert or the “town of rainbows”. From there we caught a boat that travelled down the Inside Passage to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and the site of a rebellion in the rain. Port Hardy is known for its rainfall. Lush greens are earned honestly like in England or Ireland. It was raining cats, dogs and quite possibly elephants when the car began to leak!
We had taken the precaution of wearing raingear in the car as ragtops have a reputation for not always being airtight or in this case waterproof. The three wipers were whipping wickedly when the leak became leaks and seemed to be multiplying. The window seals were leaking, and then it started leaking through a spot on the top section of the windshield by the rearview mirror. It was understandable that the rains from above would be leaking in this manner. However, the leaks began from below-we had experienced many types of rain (sheet, torrent, shower, sprinkle) from many different angles (vertical, diagonal and horizontal); rain from below was a new experience. Later we realized we had forgotten to factor in the water splash from the road itself.
The first two leaks from below weren’t serious but the leak by the accelerator pedal area could not be ignored. My foot was sodden. Why it didn’t leak through at the clutch and brake areas is still a mystery.
I decided to take a break to dry out so I exchanged seats with my sister whose feet were perfectly dry, as it wasn’t leaking on the passenger side. Soon after my move…drip…drop…drip…whoosh! It started to leak on the passenger side and stopped on the driver’s side. I was the divining rod apparently.
We couldn’t believe it but felt the MGB was indicating its preference for drier conditions by pointing out the obvious that it was raining. We didn’t need the car to point that out by soaking us. We laughed at the absurdity and carried on our way with plastic bag galoshes over our feet. Of course, since we were now suitably attired the rain stopped. We drove down the Island Highway to Victoria with only one further incident.
We discussed the sheet rainstorm that we had survived and how fortunate we were to have raingear in the car. The wet feet could not have been anticipated since most cars do not have this feature available to them. We decided the score was tied. We won one for remembering to wear raingear and the MGB won one for getting its point across through its divining rod qualities.
We had the top down now and were feeling a lot cockier than we had hours before. Just then the passenger door, which my sister had been leaning on, flung open. We were doing highway speed and it was somewhat disconcerting. Why did it open when the door mechanism indicated the lock was in place? Obviously the MGB was in the mood to remind us of the casino rule that the house always wins and the score was 2 to 1 in favour of it.”
Entry into the MGB was a new experience. Unlike the Toyota Tercel I had owned or the VW, the MGB was much lower or closer to the ground. Part of the giddy rush of driving it is that when one is so close to the action there is a feeling of being vibrantly alive. Driving is not sanitized and cocooned in a false sense of security. The experience of flying in a single engine float plane as opposed to a passenger airline is the nearest analogy. One feels, one is truly flying. In the MGB, one is, truly driving. I think Henry Miller encapsulated the feeling when he said “the aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
As part of my job, I would travel to different schools in different communities. It had been my experience that some rural, small towns have curious names…such as Fox Valley has foxes but no valley; Bow Island isn’t an island and then there is Biggar…whose welcoming sign says New York is big but this is Biggar. The MGB always made travelling memorable.
Simply getting in and out of the MGB is made more challenging as the steering wheel, door and windshield are not to be used in the process. Apparently many steering wheels have been damaged and door hinges weakened by drivers using them to support their weight.
The first time I tried to get out of the car without the steering wheel or door-I rolled right out of the car onto ground instead of onto my feet. A few practices later, I was able to roll right out without losing my balance altogether. Before I took the MGB to work, I made sure that I could accomplish this feat smoothly. I had not considered my attire and that, as it turned out, was an important corollary, to the rules of exit and entry.
The practicality of being down so low to the ground is that getting into it with a mini-skirt on is a neat trick, if modesty is to be maintained. One hand holds the skirt while one leg goes in, to balance the situation. Then a quick hop is executed while holding the skirt down. It does take a certain amount of practice to avoid potentially embarrassing moments.
On one of my visits to rural towns, I was wearing a waist length leather jacket over a mini-dress and as a result didn’t feel the dress creeping upwards. I got out of the car and saw the shocked faces of some students. It appeared that this visiting staff member had nothing on under the jacket. It made my first visit to a new school as the itinerant school specialist quite memorable.
Driving to this rural community, 8 years later, was remarkable in a different way. The radio announced that the first caller from the area would win a vial of prize-winning bull semen. It was probably the first time I had heard semen as a prize-give away. Now that I think about it, it probably was the only time, before or since that I have heard prize-winning and semen in the same sentence…but then I grew up in a city. One’s upbringing can be both an advantage and a disadvantage to one’s current situation.
I grew up in much more favourable weather conditions than the prairie as the front garden with its roses for Christmas would attest. It simply cannot be compared with 40 degrees below 0 C without the wind-chill. As I didn’t have the same reference point as my colleagues, I would do silly things like have bare hands on the metallic sheen Christmas cards and have them stick to the cards.
One day I actually put my car key to my mouth (wearing mittens) and it stuck. I ripped it off and was the recipient of much laughter. My colleagues’ were remembering their childhoods and their tongues that bled when testing out the truth of adhesion to cold, metal playground equipment. The advantage of coming from a different background is the assumption by others that ignorance is an abyss and doesn’t change with knowledge and experience. I would feign lack of understanding and blame it on my background as my parents both firmly believed in the adage to never underestimate one’s opponent and not to tip one’s hand.
This was a mistake for a colleague who was of a traditional male nature and subject to the consistent use of pejoratives when referring to females of different ages and viewpoints…his favourite was referring to 50-60 year old female colleagues as fillies. Even when I was in my 20’s, I found this truly disrespectful and I decided I had to do something about it. I tried the direct polite approach. Then plucking up my courage and preserving an innocent countenance, I countered his pejorative one day by asking as innocently as I could: if these ladies are fillies, then please, correct me if I am wrong as I didn’t grow up in a rural area, does that mean I must refer to you as a gelding? He never used that pejorative again. No pun intended but I had made my point.