We were happy. We were on the way to our carefree hippy lifestyle.
Dave and I had just been to Walmart and kitted out our entire van (a Montana which we’d named ‘Hannah’) and were on the motorway heading north to Montreal from Toronto.
We’d bought Hannah for $2,250, which was well under our $3,500 budget, so we felt lucky.
We wound down the windows, felt the wind rustling through our hair and thought – “Wow, how awesome are our lives? We could be stuck in a desk job right now, yet instead the wide open road is ahead of us.”
We travelled for four hours, the sun was shining and we were beaming.
All of a sudden, Dave yelped. “The overheating sign just came on!”
“Pull over, quick, quick!” I yelped back in a panic.
Dave quickly manoeuvred the van onto the gravel of the emergency lane. The car took a while to cool as we too tried to cool our tempers that I knew were steaming under the surface.
We decided to drive the van to the nearest gas station which thankfully was only 3km away.
When we got there, we popped the hood and a friendly Canadian came by.
“Oh dear, that’s not coolant you’ve got in your radiator system,” he said.
Indeed, rather than the regular pale blue colour, our coolant was a murky brown.
“In fact, that looks like dirty water,” the Canadian added.
“Er… what?! We only bought this van yesterday!” exclaimed Dave.
“Well it looks like you’ve bought it from someone dodgy,” Mr friendly Canadian replied.
All of a sudden, the little red flags that we’d been ignorantly ignoring, popped up in front of me.
Why’d our car dealer – who we now realised was certainly dodgy – insist on doing the E test himself? Although it passed, why didn’t we receive any paperwork about what the mechanic had done to the car?
The car dealer had charged us an extra $600 for all this mechanical work to be done, and yet we had no proof that any of it had been completed.
Why’d the air conditioning not work, even though we were told it did when we bought it?
Dave’s no expert in cars and so it had been difficult to check to make sure our Hannah was fighting fit when we’d purchased her.
So we’d just blindly trusted this man and we had now realised just what a hefty mistake we’d made.
The car dealer hadn’t even bothered to clean the vehicle before selling it to us – meaning we’d had to vacuum all the scum out of it ourselves.
We had been fools.
We hadn’t bothered to properly check the vehicle but we’d just taken the car dealer at his word. And he’d taken us for a ride.
I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to name him. Adnan from Five Star Motors on Dundas Ave in Toronto. DO NOT EVER BUY A CAR FROM THIS MAN.
Anyway, anger wasn’t going to help us at this point.
Dave tried not to lose his temper as he walked over to the gas counter to ask the worker if he knew of any garages nearby. He came out and had a look at our car.
I wish now we’d got his name because he was super friendly and helpful at a time when I was starting to lose faith in the world.
He printed out the details of a nearby Canadian Tire Service Station in Cornwall and seeing that it was open until 9pm (by this time it was about 7pm) we hopped in the van and drove.
Unfortunately, when I say it was ‘nearby’ it was actually about 39km away.
And that was the most painfully slow 39km we’ve ever driven.
We had to keep pulling over because we were scared the engine would explode (well, I was anyway, I don’t know what Dave was thinking. I guess we were trying to keep calm by keeping conversation to a minimum).
About an hour later and we reached the mechanics.
By the time we walked in the door, my nerves were shot and I was a shaking mess.
It may sound dramatic but we had a lot of hopes pinned on this little van. Hannah was to be our home for the next seven months.
So to say I was anxious would be an understatement.
We were told that unfortunately all the mechanics had gone home for the evening but that they could kindly look at our vehicle first thing the next morning.
It looked like we were spending the night in the parking lot.
Thank goodness we’d been to Walmart! Not all was lost, we had all we needed for a good night’s sleep in the van… or so we thought.
We quickly began preparing the van for the night, putting our storage crates together to make a base for our mattress to lie on.
Then Dave began pumping up the mattress… and we realised it was a single.
A comfy night’s sleep was not on the cards for us.
Frustrated, by this point I was feeling thirsty, so in a grumpy daze I headed back into Canadian Tire.
I put a dollar in the drinks machine and pressed the button for a bottle of water. And the damn machine ate my dollar.
Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks at that point.
What else could possibly go wrong today? From starting off the morning in such a happy state, to ending the day on this serious low, I was feeling like an emotional wreck.
And there was only one cure for it – where was the nearest bar?
Dave and I left the van and headed down the road. We asked a couple if there was anywhere nearby to eat and they kindly directed us a few blocks into the centre of town.
We soon came to realise that Cornwall, with its population of 46,000 people, was a quaint little town and we had certainly broken down in a picturesque place.
We had dinner at a lovely restaurant called Schnitzels and with a few glasses of wine in my belly, I felt ready to face the night.
Dave and I walked back and climbed onto our tiny mattress where we spent a restless night dozing.
This morning we woke up to a $1,500 mechanics bill.
Turns out our little Hannah must’ve just scrapped through her safety test because the car is falling to bits. We also found out Hannah is missing a spare tyre. Who the hell sells a car without a spare tyre!
Anyway, it was the morning after our day from hell and we’d woken up with a financial hangover.
After being more than $800 under our budget, it looks like we’re going to come in at $600 over our budget.
It has been frustrating.
But we could go away feeling bitter and angry about the experience, although I’m determined not to.
We will report Adnin and his dodgy Five Star Motors (ironic name, right?!) to the authorities, but then we’ll leave it be.
Instead, I plan on remembering how friendly and kind the Canadians in the little town of Cornwall have been to us, helping us to restore Hannah to her original beauty.