We awoke in Nelson, braving the gross campsite shower to prepare ourselves for the day. The previous night's explorations had taught us that a shopping mall was nearby (yes, the campground was in the town centre - no, I don't know why) and it featured A&W and a drug store. With credits like that, I was set.
There was just one problem: it was pretty early and we didn't want to anger everyone within three hundred miles of the campsite by firing up Sweet Chili Heat.
I find it difficult to express with mere words how loud Sweet Chili Heat is when you're standing next to it. Let me try again, however: when you are standing five car lengths back your teeth vibrate at a different frequency than your gums and it is all too tangible.
The group assembles and pushes Sweet Chili Heat out of the campsite so it can fire up on the street. Our neighbouring campsite's leader, a mom with her young children, comes out to see what all the commotion is. A silent shrug, a curious expression.
I say: "it's very loud." A Honda Civic rips up the road with a fart can exhaust past me.
Confusing the Civic for the Sweetest of Meat Heats, she begins to say "it's not that b" and the rest of it is drowned out by Sweet Chili Heat's massive streetport awakening on a cold start at the bottom of the hill, almost a block and a half away, through an apartment building. Birds flee the trees. A guy sleeping in a hammock falls onto the cold earth. An air raid siren temporarily fires, then is drowned out by someone applying the clutch in Sweet Chili Heat.
A trip to the drug store secures some muscle relaxants for me, and we begin our voyage to Nakusp.
Nakusp and I have a history. The last time I went there, it was in search of a clean Z31 300ZX shell. Long story short, it didn't end well and I believed the place to be somehow cursed.
Maybe it was too many Stephen King stories as a kid, or the discovery of how comedic timing and karmic redemption often worked hand in hand, but I was never one for "mere coincidences." My heart palpitates as we head towards Nakusp, fearing cosmic retribution for my hubris.
We arrive in Nakusp without incident. The Celica is awesome on these backroads, and my newly-relaxed back is letting me exploit its shitbox Chinese no-seasons to their utmost. Those very tires howl on every corner exit and chatter on every hard braking episode, and I am having a pretty good day.
Welcome to Nakusp, the town's sign says. Maybe make sure you don't set anything on fire while you're here.
The ferry isn't so bad. No bathroom on this one, but also no dripping melange of carnage from the mouth of The Hellica. It's at this moment that I first notice a white Mazda3 that has trouble with corners and the abstract concept of acceleration. Trapped on the ferry, I helplessly watch it crawl out of the last passing zone we'll see for almost an hour.
On the way off of the ferry, there's an off-camber, decreasing-radius 20 kph corner. Cool Ranch does a skid. Reportedly, a little poop came out.
It's hot. In the ensuing convoy, the Celica overheats multiple times, requiring a constant gauge sweep and fast hands on the cabin-temperature dial. We keep pushing.
Almost two hours later, the road finally widens enough to put the hammer down and safely pass the Mazda3. At one point we counted nearly thirty cars (the contents of two ferries) riding behind this woman, unable to safely pass in time due to the near-gridlock of its procession.
We stop at a Carls Jr in Vernon to try and rehydrate, get some food in us. None of us are in much of a mood for jovialty. Things get worse when we try to key-on the Celica and it won't chooch. We can drive it, but it wouldn't hold an idle and nothing resembling power is coming out.
Fuck. Is it heat soaked?
After a few more attempts the Celica approaches something functional. We kill everything unnecessary on the electrical system and plan to hit the highway, hoping the increased airflow over the no-doubt-clogged rad will cool down the car. A raincloud hangs over the horizon and I begin to pray to the shade of Soichiro Honda for rain.
I am still surprised we made it over the mountain. Through Slung Blade's watchful operation and bravery, the car actually makes it to Kelowna. During rush hour. In thirty-degree boiling-pavement heat-soaked weather. It is here that our luck runs out.
Just as the first small drops of rain begin to fall on the hood of the Celica, it rumbles to a stop, dead, in stop-and-go downtown traffic. Quelling our panic, we manage to restart the car eventually and limp it to the closest parking lot. For whatever reason, the Celica is now dead.
What's not getting there: air, fuel, spark? The Dorito teams arrive, and we discuss the necessaries. Eventually a consensus emerges: it is probably the fuel filter, since we never changed it. In fact, I have no idea where the fuel filter is, otherwise I would have noticed it by now.
While McTinkerson runs to get a fuel filter from a nearby Canadian Tire, Slung Blade and I begin to dismantle the car, producing an immense mass of Toyota parts in the spot next to us. I begin to notice there is a Smart Car constantly driving around us, the girl on board eyeing us up in the way that underpaid and untrained loss compliance officers do.
With an hour's worth of cursing and wrench-turning the old fuel filter comes free. It is completely dry on the output end and clogged with mud on the input end. I think back to the rural uckyfay gas station in Nakusp.
The Celica's first tentative fawn-like steps are successful. We are back on the road against all odds. It is dark, it is hot, and we are tired and thirsty. An executive decision is made: we will head over the Merritt Parkway into Merritt and secure a hotel.
Why a hotel? Sweet Chili Heat is so loud as to violate the "quiet hour" statute of almost all public and private campgrounds, and by the time we get to Merritt it will be well past the aforementioned hour.
On the Parkway, Sweet Chili Heat treats us to a series of fireballs via its copious exhaust. I find myself cheering along, excited to be living the fantasy of this event. Brap brap brap brap brap brap.
We pull into Merritt and end up in a nicely renovated motel.
Let me tell you about what kind of town Merritt is.