We were due to travel to Penticton down at the foot of Okanagan Lake today. A few things awaited us there in the pretty town with its attractive beaches and relaxed atmosphere. Penticton is the home of the single best second-hand bookstore I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending my ill-gotten in for instance. The Bookshop is basically set out in two rooms on a couple of heavily packed levels. At a floor space of 5000 square feet, the store is a complete haven for readers. The last couple of occasions I had the pleasure of visiting I wished I’d taken a packed lunch as I practically had to be dragged bodily out of the place.
Another promising visit for me personally was to be the Penticton Memorial Ice Rink to view the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame. Well I’m in close-season suspense and I’m in Canada eh? I need my hockey fix badly.
There’s a simple, straightforward route to Penticton from Kelowna which most sensible people take. It entails an uncomplicated and very attractive drive that follows the Okanagan Lake past Peachland and Summerland. That why we chose the difficult way of course, through the mountains on the opposite side of the lake. It seemed like a great idea at the time to see a road and some tremendous views that we’d not had the pleasure of on past visits.
Gas tank filled and drinks acquired at a service station who’s pumps had no notion of how to deal with an international credit card, we were off and running. It was even morning still – just – at five to midday. Passing through an area that had been ravaged by Kelowna’s great fire some five years ago, we admired some tremendous new homes that had been built to replace the originals lost to the blaze. We were soon chugging through the light rain on an unmade road with a beautiful vista of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake below us.
The ‘Mirthmobile’ is an eighteen-year old Dodge Colt and has been our transport during this stay and a few others while in Canada. Named after the most excellent auto, an AMC Pacer featured in the Wayne’s World movies it’s an unassuming little blue car with a few dents here and there. It’s not the kind of motor you’re going to park outside downtown Kelowna’s fleshpots in the hope of attracting the opposite sex, but it starts first time and complains little. It’s also practically small enough to fit in the average Canadian car’s trunk.
On this day we were beginning to give the Mirthmobile a little workout up the steep foothills of the mountains, our ears popping as we concentrated on the views. At one time the little car seemed to have slowed to walking pace but that mattered little as we pressed on with plenty of time on our hands. Slowly but inexorably the ‘road’ became worse as the Mirthmobile trudged on and on relentlessly up the mountain. Now it was beginning to get ridiculous. I climbed out of the car in order to lessen the weight as some alarming looking rocks and gullies appeared in front of the hood.
It was time to call this particular route to Penticton to a halt. Common sense decided that we should turn the car around and go back as what lay ahead was barely more than a rocky track, only fit for hard walking. Clearly the little unpaved road had seen better days and perhaps a good mudslide or two had made for the deterioration in the route. One three point turn later we were facing back to Kelowna. Not for more than a few seconds though as a huge B-U-M-P! saw my head hit the roof of the little Dodge and my camera fly on to the floor in front of me. A little shocked and staggered we were both silenced apart from the odd expletive that is always necessary at these times of crisis. I jumped out of the car. Oh no! There it was – a telltale circle of hot engine oil expanding across the dusty trail in our wake. Yes, I did the man thing and dipped my finger into it to determine what it was the Mirthmobile was leaking all over the hill. The sump had suffered at the hands at the hands of a good solid chunk of Canadian rock.
We headed and limped home. On Gordon Drive one very patient and excellent driver in a pick-up truck chose to honk his horn impatiently behind us as our diminutive Dodge attempted to get us home albeit struggling mercilessly to do so. What is it about some Canadian drivers with all that yapping from behind the safety of their steering wheel! After a few moments our adversary decided on a policy of looking straight ahead at the next intersection as we pulled up alongside. A very smart move by ‘truck driver of the year’ considering the dark and malevolent mood that had now descended up on me during the trial of the drive home.
We popped and spluttered through the gates of our home community only to have the Mirthmobile shudder and stop dead in its tracks. I almost thought I heard a sigh and a wheeze as the engine died and the oil light came on. The little car was telling us ‘enough’. Back home the necessary arrangements were kindly made to sort out the accident. A towing truck arrived some time later and hitched up our transport’s front wheels and sadly took her away. The Mirthmobile all at once looked despondent and a little wretched. The forlorn little Dodge rumbled away into the sunset with almost a tear in its diminutive headlamp. Will we see her like again?