Sunday, March 16, 2008

Heading on Down the Road

Yesterday I left the Aamjiwnang reserve in Sarnia, Ont, where I had stayed overnight with my friend Ron and his wife and family. I am driving a SmartCar, so my car is loaded down, between my back packs, books, laptop, sleeping bag, blanket, groceries and karate and kobudo gear. I get to the bridge to the US and, as my father predicted, the border guard asks me, 'How do I know you're going to come back?' after he looks into the car and see the passenger seat piled up with stuff and I tell him I am not coming back till May. My response was, well, my drivers license and car registration expire on my birthday in May, so i have to be back by then. His response, "Well you could just let them expire if you're not planning on coming back."

I guess he's right. It'd be a stupid thing to do, but I could. Then he asks to see in the back of the car -- it's a Smart car. Really, there is about as much room as a very small trunk at the back... just enough for my big back pack and a few other bags. He opens the back and immediately closes it and says 'You can be on your way'. I was going to ask him what made him quickly change his mind from thinking of me as a would be illegal alien to someone who can just head on down the road, but decided not to ask. I do think that driving a green SmartCar may have had something to do with this change of mind tho... after all, it is not exactly an inconspicuous car -- and i certainly could not get all my worldly possessions in the car, even if it was packed to the hilt which it almost is.

So, driving a Smart in the US is a novel experience indeed. I have yet to stop anywhere without getting at least one comment from someone. The first place I stop to fill up in Michigan, the gas station attendant asks me what type of car it is. He already knows it is sold by Mercedes and tells me that last year someone from Canada had stopped there with a similar car and told him they were going to be introduced in the US this year, but he says he hasn't seen any since. He says he hears they get 80 miles to the gallon. I can't tell him because I operate in kilometres and litres. I tell him how much it costs to fill up and how far I can go. Wow! he says.

Well, that would not be the last wow! I would get on the first day of my trip. Everywhere I stopped the response was the same. Wow! Every gas station I have stopped at someone has asked me either how many miles do I get to the gallon, or whether the car is very fuel efficient or a similar question, to the man who pulled his car into the parking lot of he motel i stopped at last night to ask me what kind of car it was,whether it was electric, how many miles to the gallon I get and to tell me that it was the smallest car he has ever seen. Well it is the smallest car i have ever driven i replied!

I have spoken to more people on this trip than ever on any previous trip. Everyone has been very positive, with one exception. In the second service station I stopped at i went to the washroom after filling up and paying. When I came out and was walking back towards my car, the attendant says to me "Someone asked whose ugly car is that?' As she says that a big guy who had been in an aisle close by shows up. She points to him. I say -- "You mean you don't like my green SmartCar? I think it is beautiful." He says 'Your car's ugly. My Ford Explorer is beautiful." I say " I think my car is beautiful too" He says "I don't care if it costs $100 bucks to fill up, my car is beautiful, and I could just squish your car." Well, what can you say to that -- My response, 'yes, but it would leave a big dent!" as I walked out of the service station. Interesting how just seeing my SmartCar brought up alllll those issues...

This morning I was reading an online article that critiqued bio-fuel as a false solution to greenhouse gases and suggested that growing corn for ethanol in the US will be taking corn away from the food supply that could be used to feed hungry children. I've been thinking about converting my diesel SmartCar to biodiesel because although my car consumes a relatively small amount of fossil fuel, it still uses fossil fuel, and as an interim solution bio-diesel is a step in the right direction, especially if it is made from recycled biofuel. But, more than anything the article made me think that with people who still have the "Your car's ugly, mine's beautiful; I don't care if it cost $100 to fill up; and I can squish your car with my car" attitude, no wonder we've still got a long way to go towards healing this planet!

staywell and travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller

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