Hello… taxi service?

253km Cochrane to Winfield and a ride to Edmonton

Thunderclouds loom largeTo call or not to call. We sat under a picnic shelter, hiding from the pouring rain and wind, in the hamlet of Winfield, debating this very question.

A few days ago, Andrew’s sister Marlene, who’s been the  most dedicated member of our support crew since Day 1 and who we’ve probably given more grey hairs to than anyone else on this trip, had sent us her phone number along with the plea to “please, please do not hesitate to call no matter where you are”.

Now we were 140km short of her home. The weather had turned. We’d promised to be there in 2 days and the forecast wasn’t looking good. Headwinds. Rain. Thunderstorms. It was a pretty compelling argument to pick up that phone. On the other side of the coin, we wanted to cycle everything we could across North America.

We discussed it. Neither one of us could come to a firm decision. We made a cup of tea. We talked some more, mostly about how bad we are at making decisions. “We’ll wait an hour and see how things look,” we said. An hour later, the rain was coming down even harder so, half-reluctantly and wondering if we’d regret this, we picked up that phone.

Andrew and Marlene by Beauvert LakeAs if to test our desire for a ride to Edmonton, making the phone call turned out to be a drawn out process. It was a long distance call at a charge of $2.30 a minute but of course the phone didn’t take the $1 and $2 coins so common in Canada and that was all we had. We tried a credit card instead. “I’m sorry,” the operator said. “Your card is invalid.” We questioned this. The card is good. “Well, you’ll just have to call your bank,” she replied. “And how would I do that?” Andrew snapped back, more than a little frustrated by the bad weather and the inability of the phone company to accept a card issued in Britain. The line went quiet.

Next we tried a collect call but you can’t call collect to a mobile. Foiled for a third time.

Our fourth attempt involved asking our campground neighbours for change. “Oh sure. No problem. We play cards for dimes and nickels,” they said, pulling a huge change jar off the shelf. Our hearts rose, then sank as Andrew returned to the payphone to find the dimes and nickels rolled right through the slot and out the other side. Quarters only.

It was the fifth try before we struck lucky. The local shop opened and they happily changed our money into quarters and we were able to get through, some two hours after we first attempted to call.

True to her word, Marlene and husband Dave were only too happy to jump in the truck and come rescue us from the inclement weather and when they arrived we realised just how much we’d worried her over the past 3 years.

“I can’t believe you guys are still alive,” she shouted as she jumped out of the truck with a big hug for both of us and a few tears on all sides. It was perhaps this moment, more than crossing the border, that truly felt like we’d come home.

Needless to say, we’ve been spoiled rotten since we got here and while we’ve so many stories to tell (including our night with cowboys and learning how to steer wrestle), they’ll just have to wait for another time. For now, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do with some very special people who we haven’t seen in over 10 years.

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