Faith stop #1

Trip Start Jul 22, 2009
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Where I stayed
Swan Lake Campground

Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Sunday, September 20, 2009

I lied. I already knew yesterday which direction I would be heading this morning. North it was.

I had mapped out my journey home (to Winnipeg actually) using Mapquest (on the computer), using Google Maps (on my iPhone), and on my GPS (in the truck). I had three different answers as to the fastest way to get to Winnipeg. My GPS showed the route heading towards Toronto on the 401 and then staying on the Interstate towards Chicago and Minneapolis before heading north to Winnipeg. Mapquest showed the fastest route heading straight west towards Sault Ste Marie, crossing into the USA, staying under Lake Superior and heading towards Duluth, Minnesota. Google Maps showed the fastest route as heading west towards North Bay then heading north on the northern route of the Trans-Canada Highway through Kapuskasing. When I compared them, the distance and time differences were immaterial. Experience, mostly, and a little voice inside of me told me which would be my preferred route.

My chosen route was straight north, through Ottawa, into Québec and through Val d'Or before hitting the northern route of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Kirkland Lake. This added a few minutes to the Google Maps route and I didn’t have to re-do the Ottawa to North Bay part of the trip that I had done on the way east. I hate re-tracing my steps if I can avoid it.

Fate, coincidentally, or maybe by choice, this is the route that would most test my faith. The towns on this route are few and far between. On this trip I’ve had three truck tires with twisted belts and one trailer tire blow up on me. I’ve had issues with running out of or almost running out of gas on numerous occasions and a week ago the fuel gauge in the truck showed that I had more gas than I did. The check engine light is also going on quite often of late. The superchip Edge computer module that I’ve added to the truck allows me to reset the check engine light without going to the garage. That issue is minor as it says that the engine is running lean, alternating between the right and left engine banks, but that still raises the concern that something is not right with the engine.

The biggest concern that ties in directly with the truck problems and that has always been an issue for me is that my first car blew it’s transmission (all the oil leaked out from a broken seal) on this highway thirty years ago. I was stranded in Kapuskasing for a few days while they fixed my car.

Using my mind (logic) I could say that what happened 30 years ago has no bearing on what will happen now. As an accountant (also logic) I look at my truck tires and 60% of them have had a twisted belt. The other tires are just as old. That means that there’s a greater than 50/50 chance of something happening to the remaining two. My spare has a twisted belt and so is of little use. I do not know why the trailer tire blew. If it’s due to age, the other 3 are the same age and have the same wear on them. Why is the fuel gauge wonky? I have no consistent average kilometres that I can drive on a tank of gas when pulling the trailer due to wind and hills. It’s all the unknowns that frustrates a logical mind (which I still do have).

I also left Ottawa this morning without confirming which campgrounds are still open and where they are situated along this isolated route. I was heading out to test or, maybe, better understand faith.

The first part, heading north through Québec, went well until my GPS made me turn left when I should have turned right. The road to the left was a "shortcut" as per the GPS but was windy gravel road. I went a short distance when a sign said “local traffic” only. Time for a u-turn. Lo & behold there’s an intersection just ahead and I can turn around.

The remainder of the drive went smoothly. The first part was along the river with rolling hills. The rest, wide open highway with little traffic. The drive was going quite well.

As I’m driving I’m thinking about faith. I’m thinking about my trip and all the places that I visited that talked about the first immigrants to the New World. What was it that would make these people undertake the long voyage across the ocean to this unknown and desolate land? Desperation? Hope? Faith?

Once they were here, what made them stay? Their first winter was extremely harsh. Some lost everything. Family members died. Most persevered. A lot gave up. We wouldn’t have the country(ies) we have now (in America) without those brave or maybe stupid (ignorant)  souls who stayed.

My drive is going quite well, I’m not too tired, and I decide to get to Kirkland Lake, just inside the Ontario border. I have no idea whether there are any campgrounds there, but I had noticed a Wal-Mart in Rouyn-Noranda (100 kilometres closer) and so figured there must be one in Kirkland. Can always camp out there. I get there and there’s no Wal-Mart, and no parking lot that looks suitable.

With faith, real faith, I figured the campground I need will just show up. I shouldn’t have to go looking for it. At this point in time I’m starting to wonder about having faith in things working out, or at least this part of my theory.

I had passed numerous signs indicating Provincial Campgrounds down side roads but most were numerous kilometres away from the main highway, and when I finally slowed down to take one (where the sign indicated the park was closer) the road looked like a sandy pathway, not much wider than my trailer. I had also passed some campgrounds on the highway but they all looked or were closed.

I had hoped that the “right” spot would show up when I felt it was the time to stop. By now I had passed numerous rest stops and figured maybe I’d stay the night at one of those. I continue driving and at 6 PM I stop at one. Sign says, No Parking/Camping 9 PM to 5 AM. Guess that idea won’t work. I check my GPS and the next Wal-Mart is still two hours away in Kapuskasing. There are very few towns between here and there. I haven't had any luck with campgrounds being open the past 100 or so kilometres.

I get back on the highway (from the rest stop) and lo and behold (before I’m even up to cruising speed), Swan Lake Campground. The sign at the entrance says OPEN. YEAH!

I drive in to the campground, get out of my truck and Richard (the owner) walks over. They’re officially CLOSED. All the seasonal campers have closed up this afternoon and he’s busy blowing out the water lines. He lives in town and was planning on leaving earlier and changing the sign by the road to closed. But something made him stay late. He says I can stay where he has a couple of pull through sites. The water is now off and he turns the electricity back on at the site he tells me to use.

He tells me his life story. Retired at 52 from working in the mines. He and his wife became permanent travelers, living in their RV until she had heart problems. He worked at other campgrounds until this one came up for sale. He’s now 67. Only he and his wife operate the campground at a breakeven point. He says that my “late arrival” has made this year a breakeven year. If not, he would have had a loss. It was a slow spring. They don’t get many drive-ins. The campground is really set up for the seasonal retirees. They also own a couple of apartment blocks in town. He loves being busy and doing stuff.

Richard tells me that they usually close the campground on the 15th of September. But this year stayed open till today because the 15th was mid-week. All the other local campgrounds closed on the 15th. All the Provincial Campgrounds are also closed and so driving into them would have been a waste of time.

And so, my theory about faith.

Part one of faith is that it’s something you have to experience after you’ve run out of hope and are desperate. Faith is not logical. Faith is what some people would call having a guardian angel looking after you. Things happen as they should and there’s always something looking after your best interest giving you what you NEED (not always what you THINK you want).

Something made Richard stay late today. The more he talked the more it seemed that it wasn’t really him talking. There were some parts of the story that didn’t make logical sense. It seemed that some things “had” to be said to me. Why is that? This is something I’ve experienced with other “guardian angels or signposts”.

The first immigrants came to the New World for various reasons. For some, it was because they were desperate due to the living environment in their home country, for others it was hope for a better life, and for most, what kept them here was faith. They didn’t endure what they endured for themselves but for future generations. Most were extremely religious and believed that their afterlife would be better. But they didn’t give up in this life. They worked hard mostly for rewards that they would not reap.

Some people will argue that faith doesn’t always come when you’ve run out of hope and are desperate. That you can have faith from other sources.

Part II tomorrow.

PS. I won’t even get into my comparison between the three routes I could have taken based on three sources of information to get me to Winnipeg the fastest and comparing that to the various ways we are told that we can get to Heaven. That would take a whole chapter or three. You don’t think my mind turns off for the hours on end that I drive?

PPS. I forgot to mention. The u-turn I had to make at the beginning of my drive was made easier by the fact that it was a triangle  intersection.  I didn’t have to back up. I just drove around the 3 points of the intersection like a traffic circle. A guardian angel,  knowing that I would end up going in the wrong direction here made it easier for me to turn around. That is what happens when you have Faith! Life is easy.
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