The Breakdowns Part Three & Four: The Montreal Maneuver, and Hello Ottawa, We're Stickin' Around.
We were in the clear. Kasey and I had just left Sault Ste. Marie for North Bay after a romantic Thanksgiving weekend in a Canadian Tire Parking Lot. (Check out our last blog post here.) Clementine was, well, running, and we were making our way to Ottawa in order to be there as soon after Thanksgiving as we could. We missed the Thanksgiving deadline, and I wanted to see as much of my family as possible.
We got to Ottawa in the afternoon on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving without incident. We were having trouble with some of the electric in the van… Our radio had inexplicably quit, and more importantly, the headlights only worked when I kicked the fuse box the right way. (The fuse box was left in a dangling mess to the left of my clutch foot during diagnosis of our earlier electrical issues in Sault Ste. Marie.)
We were greeted by my Mom, Dad and my brother Andrew with warm hugs, big smiles and hearty laughter. Despite falling in love with my home and my friends out in BC, it was amazing to be back home in the Tait paradise on the Ottawa River.
It wasn’t long before we started celebrating, and seeing all of my family. Mom organized an impromptu house concert for Kasey and I to entertain at with my brother James. The whole neighbourhood came out – it was great. We had dinner at my sister Jane’s place, my brother Jordan’s place, and my brother Chris’ place. We caught up with all the many nieces and nephews I have in Ottawa, and even got to go curling with my brother James in Metcalfe. We played a house concert my my wonderful cousins’ place in Wakefield, Quebec, and yet another house concert at the Nicholson’s place in Kinburn, Ontario – a couple who are also Westfalia owners and enthusiasts. We visited friends and found a gig in Toronto, and hit Canada’s Wonderland. My good friends Jeff & Ryan Grassie even attempted to murder Kasey with a copious amount of Crown Royal… I think Kasey learned quick that it’s no use trying to keep up with the Grassies when it comes to overall consumption.
Kasey: “I almost died!”
We even took Clementine to Woody’s Motor Vehicle Repair in Cobden, Ontario to get her restored to FOUR CYLINDERS OF POWER! (More power than we’ve ever driven her with… We bought her at 3 cylinders, but more on that situation here.) Woody’s had installed those last two lifters after some hours of work, and did a number of other things to get Clementine running like a dream all over again!
Life was good.
It was a great couple months filled with love and warmth, gigs and get-togethers, great food, a fire stove that was always warm, and a glorious new hot-tub. (Sometimes I dream of that hot tub now that we’re on the road again…) But, it wouldn’t be Tiger Moon’s Play For Your Supper Tour if there weren’t any bumps in the road… Or chasms for that matter.
We had two gigs booked in Montreal, and it seemed too good to be true. One at Café Lézard sur Beaubien, and one at Kokkino Café. I was drawn to these cafés when I booked them online – they were a perfect fit for our style of music. It was November 22nd and 23rd, a Friday/Saturday combo, and though they weren’t paying us, we had been encouraged by the managers of the shops to put out tip jars, because it was “very lucrative”. By this time Kasey had already picked up a job at a local hotel to supplement our road trip, but she got the time off. We were on our way to Montreal with no incident, until, of course, we got to our destination and everything went off the rails…
When we rolled into Montreal, Clementine was acting up – her engine was revving constantly, and we heard that putt-putt-fart-putt-fart-burp-fart-putt-putt that was so telling of Clemmie’s anger. I slowed down to the first stop light we saw in the city, maybe 400M from our hotel, and she died. I started her again, and she burped, sputtered, and then died once more. I started her again, and by this time we could hear several Quebecois curse-words coming from behind us – the light had turned green – and instead of letting her idle, I jerked the throttle with my foot and we were on the way again… To the next stop light, where Clementine sputtered to a stall all over again.
If you’ve ever driven in Montreal, you’ll know that there are aggressive drivers, maniacal cabbies, and stop lights EVERYWHERE. This process of stopping at a red light and stalling repeated about 5 times, until I had (once again) become a menace to the local residents. I realized I had to master a new driving technique. Let’s call it the Montreal Maneuver.
I was working the clutch with my left foot, as per usual, but as we inevitably pulled up to a red light, I would slide my right heel over the brake and press on it softly until we stopped – all the while depressing the throttle with the toe of my right foot to keep the revs high enough that Clemmie wasn’t going to stall.
Sounds complicated, but it wasn’t too bad… Until it was every single time I pressed the brake. Clementine was determined to quit on us, and when we finally stopped and got outside, we understood why. What started as a cool November day in Ottawa turned into a bitter afternoon at -8 celsius in Montreal. Clementine was making it clear that she didn’t like this weather – not one bit.
We tried to get everything going, but unfortunately we had to cancel our gigs, tuck tail and run home. We made a short jaunt on the Saturday to cheer us up. We checked out The Biodome and The Planetarium, and wandered the streets of Vieux Montreal. I don’t know about you, but seeing tiny monkeys swing around on trees is the one cure-all to a bad day, not to mention that an hour immersed in all of the stars and galaxies in the universe does a good job to make your problems seem very, very small. We were cheered up, and made our way home.
We brought Clementine back to Woody’s, and we were prepared to pay whatever to get her fixed once more. She had been running so well – why couldn’t she just work!? We were frustrated, deflated, and poor Kasey was getting really homesick. All of our friends were just starting to post Opening Day photos at Big White, Revelstoke, and Red Mountains. We even considered tucking tail and running ALL the way home.
But we didn’t.
Some of the best kind… We were so jealous when this shot hit our Facebook feeds.
After we got Clementine back, I was hesitant to run her. She was running better than I had ever felt her, and as I left, Matt had told me it was “The best running Westy he’d ever seen.” Sounded great, but I didn’t want it to be too good to be true. I plugged her block heater in, and she sat.
And she sat. Until about December 21st… The first warm day in a month, warm enough for me to get outside, give her a rub, start her, and clean all her fuses. The lights worked, the radio worked, and despite the 3 feet of snow sitting on her roof, I could just sense she was ready to go, and she was done being mean.
(Is it weird that I could sense this? Comment below if I should seek psychiatric help… Have I gotten too close to my van?)
We had a glorious Christmas with all of my family in the area. There was lots of food, lots of fun, lots of laughs, and kids everywhere. We had drinks with my friends from highschool, and Kasey got to meet the Bancroft Taits. A killer bunch.
We stayed in Ottawa and got to know it. There were trips downtown to the Parliament Buildings, we went to several Ottawa Senators losses, we shoveled the driveway a few times, and we went on a sleigh ride. It was special – and I couldn’t be more thankful for all my family’s love and support through our stay. Big thanks to Dan Baker for getting me a job at his store to earn us a few extra bucks for the rest of this trip.
It had come to December 28th, our D-Day 2. We started Clementine, and ran her all morning. We were hyper-aware of every sound she made – every click, pop, band, ting, and toot. And she sounded clean. She sounded tough. There were no burps and farts like before, no sputtering – only the rhythmic chugging of a well cared-for Volkswagen Vanagon Engine. It was time to go, time to get this tour started all over again.
And we did. Next stop, London, Ontario.