Labrador Caravan

July 8, 2007
Life with a Westy

Beginning my journey east towards St. John’s, I woke one morning to the typical Westy experience – van trouble. First thing in the morning, I spotted a tell-tale blue puddle under Matilda’s left flank, a slow drip of coolant coming from her frame. I checked everything I could think of, but fluid levels were all good.

Still, I didn’t want to hit the road with a coolant leak, especially heading east into territory where I wouldn’t find a mechanic for hundreds of miles. So, feeling lonely and a bit dismayed, I searched the Deer Lake phone directory for car mechanics. There are only half a dozen, none of whom works on Saturday. Not enough money in it, one of them assured me, not enough people needing repairs to warrant staying open on the weekend. (They do answer their phones on Saturday.) He also assured me that Canadian Tire in Corner Brook, some fifty kilometers away, did do repairs on weekends. So I called AAA and soon a cheery, bearded Newfoundlander showed up with a flatbed truck to take Matilda and me down the highway.

Canadian Tire put me into their schedule for mid-afternoon, and I settled down in the parking lot to wait, surrounded by Walmart, Tim Horton’s, Subway, and other icons of Canadian commerce. In a little while two grizzled old fellows stopped by my open door to chat. One had a vanagon, he said, so we talked about vans and coolant leaks and repairing hoses. Soon enough we were crawling under the van with bits of paper towel to inspect the drips and see if we could find their source. We agreed that it was coolant, so the guys checked her coolant levels, which were fine (I’d already done that). They assured me that I didn't need any repairs, Matilda was in perfect health. If it were them, they said, they’d head right off to Montreal without worrying about those leaks.

Well, I wasn't about to do that, but finally they convinced me to go for a ten-mile spin down the highway. Since it was their idea, I invited them along. They had been on their way to Walmart, but didn’t have much trouble deciding that a ride in my van would be more fun. So we piled in and headed out. On the way they filled me in about themselves. They’d just come over from Labrador the day before, to look at a boat. John, the one with the vanagon, was from the Labrador shore. His buddy Jean was from the Quebec side, near Blanc Sablon. (I never actually found out their names, but John and Jean seem as good as any.) Jean and I chattered in French for a while, but once I realized John didn’t understand us, we switched back to English. After which John did most of the talking, about his career as a pilot, about how the first moon landing was engineered by Canadians because NASA had bought up Canada’s best scientists, about global warming as a huge environmentalist conspiracy, about how the world’s biggest problem is that trees are being cut down so there isn’t enough oxygen to breath, about how seaweed cures cancer but the doctors and the pharmaceutical industry don’t want us to know this. I turned to Jean, laughing, and asked if he really knew this guy. But Jean just laughed back at me.

Meanwhile, Matilda showed no signs of leaking. Not a drip.

So after mulling it over, I took my leave of Jean and John, cancelled my slot with Canadian Tire, and set out in search of the gym at the Y and a laundromat.

But in the morning she was dripping again. Hardly enough to notice, but there it was, that pretty mint-blue coolant hanging on the bottom of her frame.

It looked like I was going to be in Corner Brook for a while yet.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all text and photos on this page © Joy E. Hecht.