Up the Pincher Creek

Let me tell y’all what it’s like being male, middle class and white and stranded in Pincher Creek, Alberta (look it up on a map!). It happened to me on Saturday after I’d spent the day poaching pow at nearby Castle Mountain with Tall n’ Blonde, her brother Jamie, and her friend Emily. We’d actually planned on spending the night in Pincher Creek anyway, but then we decided to cancel our hotel reservation and drive back to Calgary instead. But we stopped in Pincher Creek to fill up Tall n’ Blonde’s Toyota RAV4–and that’s when things got interesting. Because that’s when the car, without warning and for no apparent reason, died. Our immediate thought was that Tall n’ Blonde had filled it up with diesel–makes perfect sense if you know her–but that didn’t turn out to be the case. And so we flagged down a passing truck and gave the floundering RAV4 a jump.

The car started…and then the power steering cut out, so Tall n’ Blonde decided to drive it around the parking lot of an adjacent mall. Everything appeared to be running smoothly–and then Jamie suggested, quite reasonably I thought, that the best way of making sure the power steering was working properly would be to do donuts. We were driving to an empty part of the lot when the car, once again, and again without warning or apparent cause, died. It just stopped working. Thus, as the four of us sat there inside a dead RAV4 next to a Tim Hortons, we discussed our options.

We had to take the vehicle somewhere–preferably somewhere in Calgary, and so Tall n’ Blonde called CAA. They informed her that she had 160km of free towing…but that would only take us as far as Okotoks, a good forty minutes south of the city (although crucially there’s an Okotoks Toyota dealership…more on this in a second). They also told her the tow truck could only take two passengers. By now we’d retreated to a table inside Tim Hortons, and after scouring our cellphone contact lists and deciding (accurately, I’d imagine) that no one would be willing to drive from Calgary to Pincher Creek and back again on a Saturday night, we decided that Tall n’ Blonde and Emily would ride with the tow truck to Okotoks (and that Emily’s parents, unbeknownst to them at this point, would meet them there and drive them back to Emily’s house in Calgary) while Jamie and I would find a hotel room for the night. Remember, we’d just cancelled a reservation. And after confirming what we already knew–i.e., that there were no rental car companies in Pincher Creek–we put our plan into action. The tow truck arrived ahead of schedule and Tall n’ Blonde and Emily piled in. Jamie and I threw our bags over our shoulders and trudged across the street to the Super 8, hoping weekend ski traffic wasn’t too intense and that we’d find ourselves a room.

We did, and we spent the night eating pizza and drinking beer and watching Hockey Night in Canada. The girls, meanwhile, got to Okotoks, where Emily’s parents were waiting to drive them back to Calgary. The next morning Tall n’ Blonde and Emily got into Emily’s car and drove back to Pincher Creek, where Jamie and I had just finished watching Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Arsenal. In the end, we two had it good–much better than the girls, as it turns out, whose punishment was four additional hours inside a vehicle. As for the dead RAV4, a friend of Angie’s deduced–correctly–that its battery had simply died as we were pulling into the gas station. He somehow convinced a friend of his to drive with him down to Okotoks, where he installed a new battery (no idea how he got the keys, by the way) and drove the car back to Calgary. I got home yesterday at 2pm exhausted from both the skiing and from the uncomfortable Super 8 bed…but at least we got a reasonably good story out of it.

Two reasonably good stories, actually. Remind me to tell you about being stuck at the bottom of a ravine and using my skis as makeshift icepicks!


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