Our worst day of travel… ever

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.

Hannah Montana minivan for camping Double-Barrelled Travel

This photo was taken just after we bought Hannah. Unfortunately the smile didn’t last…

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.

interior of hannah van Double-barrelledtravel

Just some of the shoddy underside of our van. That rubber piece isn’t meant to be visable at all!

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.

Wvrst burgers in Toronto Double-Barrelled Travel

Our last meal in Toronto before we left for our disaster trip to Montreal. At the table I’d jokingly said “If the van can make it to Montreal.” Little did I know how right I was! This delicious meal was a Wrst. I recommend it!

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.

Schnitzels in Cornwall Ontario Canada Double-Barrelled Travel

Dave tucking into his wine at Schnitzels in Cornwall. After our stressful day, he certainly needed it!

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.



About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

22 comments on “Our worst day of travel… ever”

  1. Rochelle Del Borrello Reply

    Sorry to hear you guys had such a rough time. Keep positive I’m sure there’ll be ways to make up for your being over budget. Travel is about the unexpected. And your in one of the nicest most friendly countries in the world, sorry that you had to meet probably the only dodgy Canadian in the country!

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      I know, it’s so true! Everyone else has been lovely so it hasn’t tainted our view of Canadians at all 🙂
      We’re already planning ways we can make up the shortfall in our budget… so it was a stressful couple of days but now the van is fixed and I feel we’ve come through at the other end 🙂

  2. Rochelle Del Borrello Reply

    I’m glad!! 🙂 Look forward to keeping track of your adventures!!

  3. Victoria Reply

    Oh no! That is so frustrating, but it sounds like you dealt with it very well. Sometimes it’s good to have a bad day early on — makes the rest feel even rosier. Have an awesome trip 🙂

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      That’s certainly true. We’re nearly at the point now where we can laugh at it… nearly! 🙂
      We’ve been loving Montreal though, it’s certainly cheered us up.

  4. Amanda @ Adventures All Around Reply

    You poor things! Good on you for not letting it get you down. Poor little Hannah…. she’s been through a lot and she’s probably feeling really bad about what you’ve been through. But on the up side, she’s now out on an exciting adventure with you guys. And I reckon that’s a happy ending.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      She’s working well now she’s all fixed up, so we’re confident it’s gonna be a good ride from here on! Thanks for your encouraging comment 🙂

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  8. Marcia Reply

    This was really nice to read, as a resident of Cornwall Ontario, I’m very happy that our little town was a bright spot in an otherwise yucky situation! Hope you come back to visit real soon! 🙂

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, we felt so welcomed in your beautiful town – we should have made it more than an accidental stop on our itinerary… next time we will be sure to do so 🙂

  9. Vicky Reply

    Hi fellow Scuba divers! I was pleasantly surprise to open our local paper tonight a see a picture of the two of you! I call my husband over to see your picture and tell him that I dove with you in Dominica!!! Then I start reading the article to find out you mention that you met “two lovely ladies” from Canada. It really is a small world. Well I am glad you had a positive experience in Cornwall and hope enjoy your travels. Happy trails!

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Oh my gosh – can’t believe we made it to the local paper! That’s brilliant! I’m going to try and track it down. Perhaps the council will send us a scanned copy? Was so lovely to meet you and we hope we can make it back to Cornwall one day 🙂

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  12. Mehmet Reply

    Five Star Motors, those are the kind of people that make a bad name for our people and culture. Sorry to hear that.

  13. ike Reply

    I also have bought a vehicle from this Five Star Motors dealership around July 2014. Never was told about previous accident on the car. I’m going to file a complaint with OMVIC and hope I get a refund. If more of us complain to OMVIC, they’ll revoke the dealership licence of ADNAN.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      I really hope his license in revoked – so sorry to hear about your experience. He’s such a fraudster. You are the second person who’s contacted me about him 🙁

  14. Anonymous Reply

    Hi i am also a victim of Five Star Motors. The car i bought from them completely has rust, involved in a collision, many mechanical problems. I understand i bought a used car from him but the amount of extra money i had to put in to keep this car running not worth it($4000 over time). I dont know how thr car passed safety with so many issues. Adnan appears t to be a nice person but his intension is clear, he will screw you for money. Stay away from his dealership, his main mechanic Fabio is a bigger idiot then him.

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