Ghost Town Road Trip

Yesterday I went on an adventure. My friend Anthony and I had been planning to go on a ghost town tour for a long time. We finally both committed to this past Sunday. No matter how cold it was and no matter how tired we were, we were going to hop in his Cadillac and go take photos of a ghost town. There are quite a few abandoned towns a short drive from the city so it promised to be a great little road trip.

I woke up early at 10:30 which may seem late to most people, but when a person works until 1:30 a.m., 10:30 is very early. Ant had already sent me a text at eight thirty. He was up! Another one at ten twenty-five asking if I still wanted to go… Oh, I was tempted to say,”No… I’m so tired…” but we’d put it off so many times that I bit the bullet and texted back that I still wanted to go.

Once I’d had my tea and tidied my kitchen it was one in the afternoon and I kept sort of wishing that Anthony would send a message that he wasn’t going to be able to go.

We met at his place at one thirty and spent about half an hour getting ready. He made some good strong tea, organized his camera equipment and bundled up against the cold. We had decided to take his car which I would drive because he only has his learner’s permit. Sleeping Beauty, as she’s named is a late 90’s, white Cadillac hearse. It’s the perfect vehicle for a ghost town haunt, but she was buried in snow and when we started her, the ‘service engine soon’ light was on. I looked at the tires and they were low. “Are you sure you don’t want to take my car?”, I asked. He felt confident, so we dug her out and headed to Canadian Tire to fill the tires and the gas tank.

By the time we hit the road it was quarter to three. I was still sort of hoping we would just go for lunch and postpone the trip until a warmer day and I was harboring fears about breaking down in a hearse on some snowy country back road.

Ant didn’t seem to be backing down and we had great tunes and GPS so we were on our way. The roads were pretty good and we headed out past Fort Saskatchewan following the advice of the GPS as we rolled closer and closer to our target.

The last turn was onto a very snowy road which was probably gravel, but it was impossible to tell with the foot of sugary snow broken only by one set of tracks. We took a deep breath and barreled down the road.The ghost town was where the road took a sharp left turn or offered a short, steep driveway hidden by snow and scrub.

We parked Sleeping Beauty on the driveway, got our cameras ready and donned our meager gear. I had no hat and Ant had no gloves. It was minus 11 degrees and dusk was settling fast. As we approached the gate in ankle-deep snow I realized my styley little city boots were not quite warm enough and I should have worn a hat. As I was thinking that Ant said,”I guess you were right. I should have brought gloves.”

The gate had been welded shut, but we could see our little ghost town crouching in a field of snow with the light fading fast. I was laughing to myself because there was still a little voice in my head saying,”it’s pretty cold… that gate’s probably welded shut for a reason… it could be sort of dangerous…. maybe you should turn back.” Just then I noticed a wide spot in the fence and I snuck in with Anthony laughing behind me,”You found a way!”

It really was cold so we strode toward the buildings and just started snapping pictures. The sky was a cool blue in stark contrast to the dark aged wood of the structures around us. We were both on our own missions so it was super quiet, the silence broken only by our boots crunching and squeaking in the snow.

As my feet started to turn to painful blocks of ice, we decided that was just about enough and we both quickly snapped just a few more shots. The cold was truly painful now, inadequately dressed as we were, but I saw that one last shot and I knew if I didn’t shoot it, I’d be kicking myself later. I forced my way through the snow, away from the direction of the car to get that last shot. It was sweet. I knew it without checking and I ran to the hole in the fence leaving Anthony behind to get his last shot.

The hearse was still warm and I started the engine and blasted the heat. Anthony came bounding down the driveway and threw himself into the car. “It’s FREEZING out there!”, he howled. We were laughing at how unprepared we had been and how short our ghost town visit was after such a long drive, but we had got what we came for and as we backed the hearse out of the driveway we shared a strange sense of pride.

The drive back home was fun. We sang along to the radio and I complained that my left foot was still a block of ice. No Canadian road trip would be complete without a stop at Tim Horton’s and so when we hit Fort Saskatchewan we rolled into Timmy’s like bosses in the hearse and got hot chocolate and Timbits to go.

As we pulled into the driveway at Anthony’s house I said how glad I was that we’d gone and I admitted to him that I had been sort of hoping that he would bail so I could just spend the day in bed. He laughed and said he’d been thinking the same thing so we patted ourselves on the back for getting out there and doing it!

That’s the great thing about good friends. They drive us out of our comfort zones and inspire us to take photos, paint pictures and go on crazy road trips to ghost towns. Sometimes that voice in our heads is right, but sometimes it just wants to keep us in bed doing nothing. I’m so happy I listened to my friend this time instead.

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