“I’m goin’ down, down, down, down,” I crowed out of tune along with the radio. I steered the Chevy van from the Alberta highlands near Bezanon toward the stark and rugged terrain of Grande Prairie.
Bruce Springsteen’s lament about his bored lover was appropriate earlier. After Gosia and I pumped gas at a stop, we stood in line at a service station on the Alberta side of Lloydminster. In front of us a young man seemed intent on buying each of the 24 or so lottery tickets on display. The Native American woman serving him looked over the top of his bent head to assure us that soon he’d finish.
I turned to the trucker behind me. He had piercing icy sapphire eyes. He had parked next to our vehicles with Indiana plates. “Is this your first time to western Canada?” he asked.
I said it was my second but decided not to say the first was to cover the 1988 Olympics for a TV magazine.
“Yes, only once, but I visited Ontario many weekends when I was in college,” I said.
He brightened. “I lived 20 years in Ontario,” said Old Blue Eyes. “I left after my wife decided she liked my best buddy more than me.”
“I’m goin’ down, down, down,” sang Springsteen.
It was another three minutes before the kid bought his final lottery ticket and scurried out the door into -7 cold.
“Whew, he better win,” Gosia said to the young clerk who giggled back.
Springsteen still was in mid-song as danger bit me like a hidden snake. The heat in the van was up high and the temperature outside dropped fast as the van flew down a steep mountain where truckers donned chains in snowstorms.
“No,” I squeaked as condensation coated the windshield left to right. I lost all vision at 60 mph. I hit the red flasher button and used a small visible patch in the windshield’s right corner to steer to the side of the roadway. Gosia had seen I was in trouble and slammed to a stop behind me. A dozen semis and cars raced past us.
Gosia never hesitated. She leaped out the Jeep and ran to the side of the van with a can of windshield de-icer. It worked right away. Danger evaporated with the disappearing moisture.
We swung back to the highway and headed for a motel in Dawson Creek.
Now it’s Sunday morning at 7 a.m. It’s time to get on the famous Alaska Highway toward Whitehorse. We’ll not make it today but we’ll make it I swear (in the words of Bon Jovi).