Words: Susan Lundy – Editor
A recent trip to Nelson, BC—as featured in the Weekender section of this issue of Boulevard—sent me down a road of reverie as I recalled two earlier visits to this beautiful West Kootenay town.
The first occurred during a cross-Canada journey undertaken by my husband and I about a decade ago. The three-week jaunt called into action our cool-but-mechanically-challenged 1978 VW bus. Driving “The Pumpkin”—named for its bright orange hue—added an element of excitement to the experience since we never knew on any given day what emergency it might generate.
Indeed, The Pumpkin served up a smorgasbord of mechanical issues on that trip, ranging from the annoying (no turn signals) to the confounding (an archaic points system that no modern-day mechanic seemed capable of fixing) and the downright vexing (loudly squeaking brakes that made sure anyone who hadn’t already seen us certainly heard us).
However, sometimes Pumpkin incidents were caused by pilot error. And one such occurrence happened as we motored into Nelson, when I was at the wheel. It wasn’t really my fault—I blame the town planner who saw fit to construct amenities around a strikingly steep hill right in the centre of town. So there you are driving along and enjoying the sights, when suddenly you round an innocent-looking corner and then—bam!—there it is: the highway to hell. Too late to turn back; too late to get your husband to take over what will certainly be a tricky clutch-and-brake manoeuvre.
A street light sits right at the top of this hill and, naturally, it turned red just as I approached. This caused instant stress as I eyed the vehicle behind us and envisioned the damage my rolling-backwards Pumpkin could do to its front end. To my credit, we discovered later that the Pumpkin’s points were starting to decline … however, to my discredit, I stalled three times and simply could not get through that intersection. The light turned green, red, green, red. (Yes, there was a line of cars behind us.) Finally, on the fourth try, Bruce stretched his long leg over to my side of the van and punched my pedal-pressed foot at precisely the right moment. We shot through the intersection like a speeding bullet.
A few days after we left Nelson, I discovered I’d left behind a well-loved hoodie. There were several spots I could’ve left it, and enough time had passed that there seemed no point in trying to track it down. But the thought of that hoodie lingered and, back in Nelson for work about two years later, I started to muse: “Where would I be now if I was a hoodie left in Nelson? Perhaps I spent a few months in a coffee shop’s lost and found before being banished to a thrift store?”
How funny would it be to find it, I thought, as I stepped into a thrift shop, walked over to the hoodies rack…and found my beloved hoodie. I didn’t even mind buying it a second time.
Nothing quite so serendipitous as the hoodie find or as vexing as the hill-top traffic light occurred on our most recent visit. However, the trip wasn’t without its moments. Our visit was mid-pandemic, and we were test-driving a hybrid vehicle, so during a little side-trip to nearby Salmo, we thought we’d charge up the car. There wasn’t much to see in Salmo in the dark days of November (although apparently it houses the world’s oldest phone booth), but we figured we could look around and maybe check out the town’s brewpub. However, the attachment at the charging station didn’t fit our car, so we ended up hitting the road again without stopping to explore. Later we discovered a COVID-19 outbreak in Salmo was identified on that very day, so perhaps there was a little serendipity at play after all.
Now that we’re all (hopefully) on the road out of the pandemic, the future of travel looks bright. May we all find a little bit of serendipity in our travels—and perhaps, if we’re lucky, a special hoodie as well.