Monday, 10 October 2016

Flat out colourful

Now I'm really getting behind in posting.

On Wednesday, October 5th, we left Cochrane to head to Sault Ste Marie via a back-route of Timmins (birthplace of Shania Twain) to Chapleau to Thessalon.

The weather didn't really cooperate, cloudy all day. But the trees certainly did, getting better and better the farther south we went.

This is a quiet route. Aside from the area around Timmins, we often had the road to ourselves. These three photos were taken hours apart.
The road goes ever onwards 
And onwards 
And more onwards.
We paused at a picnic area alongside a creek for lunch, and the sun came out for a moment. In the 30 min we were stopped, 2 other cars stopped and only one went past.
There are a lot of creeks here 
The puddle upstream
There was a 50 m long "nature trail" at the picnic area that we turned into a 300 m bush bash for fun and to stretch our legs.
Downed trees 
Initially, the forest started out as aspen parkland with greens and yellows. Then the maple hardwood forests appeared just outside of Chapleau, and the farther south we went, the better they got.
The reds appear 
Golden with red accents 
Okay, that's nice 
Red on the hills
The lake, too

One turned leaf
Right around here, Karen fell in love with red trees, and took pictures of every single one we passed.
A passing tree
And right around here, we saw a moose. Now, we saw a moose out of the train near Moosonee, but couldn't get the conductor to stop the train. Our moose was standing beside the road, and just ducked into the forest as we stopped.
"I see you!"
"What, you watching me?" 
"You're boring me"
The road we were on, Ont 129 from Chapleau to Thessalon, eventually joined the Misssissaugi River, and then became the twisty, windy, no traffic, rolling paved road of car commercials and driver dreams. The 80 km/hr speed limit offered plenty of fun, so for about 30 minutes, while Karen was shooting pictures out of the window, I was pretending I was driving Karen's Mini in a rally race.
The ever-reddening hills 
More red 
All roads should look like this
The only downside was there weren't a lot of places to pull off and gawk. We found one.
All hills should look like this 
Wild colours 
More wild colours 
Lots of red 
The bestest of best looking forests 
The road's view
We were just coming out of the twisty fun section, with lots of time to get to Sault Ste Marie, looking forward to a relaxing evening with a glass of wine, when... left rear tire blew.

I immediately pulled over, then backed up on the gravel ~100 m to a pull out where I could get off the road. Before I even made the pull out, a truck pulled over to see if I needed help. It was 3:45 PM, and we were 50 km north of Thessalon, 125 km from Sault Ste Marie, in the middle of nowhere.

Well, that's not gonna get fixed 
Sidewall failure, steel belts exposed
In the past, I have had issues changing my tires; the lug nuts can't come undone, or the wheel gets stuck on. I checked the phone and we had just come into service; I had 1 bar and intermittent 3G data service. I tasked Karen with calling the automobile roadside assistance service of the CAA, and started to change the tire. Getting the lug nuts off was easy, so I cancelled Karen, instead setting her to finding a replacement tire from a Sault Ste Marie tire shop. But then I struggled and failed to get the wheel off the hub. Back on the phone to the CAA, and we called for help, which we were told would take 45 min. It was now 4 PM.

For the next hour, I called tire shops (draining my phone battery in the process). I called Kal-Tire, Fountain Tire, Canadian Tire, Sears, the VW dealer, a couple of independents, and kept getting the same message: my tire size (235/40R18) would not be available in the Soo. No one had my tire in stock, and no one knew where they could get one, for at least several days or maybe a week.
On the phone
Finally, at 5 PM, I got a hold of Chris at Chris's Tire and Auto (no website or I would link to it). He could get me tires overnight, but only if I hung up and let him get them ordered. I called back 10 min later, and he had missed the distributor, so couldn't order them until the next morning, and not get them until Friday; no issue, as I was staying in town for Thursday to do Train Ride #2. We made an arrangement to connect Thursday late to make sure all would be good for Friday.

After 2 hrs (instead of the promised 45 min) -- and another truck that pulled over to see if we needed help -- at 6 PM, the tow truck arrived.
The cavalry!
He lay under the car for 5 min beating on the tire (with a 2x4) but got it off.
Hard work
He replaced it, and was about to drive off when I discovered that the draining of the phone battery and the recharging of it had drained my car battery, so he jump-started me as well.
Just as he finished, the heavens opened, and it started raining, getting harder and harder as we got closer to Sault Ste Marie. Limited to 80 km/hr, we took just under 2 hrs to get to our hotel through torrential rain. At 8:45 PM, we were finally ready to go out for dinner, so just went next do to a truly forgettable restaurant that had portions 2x bigger than any human could eat. 

It was a truly awesome day and drive right to the point where the tire blew.  The road (Ontario 129) was a riot, the colours fantastic, and we saw a moose.

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