Just Above Sunset
January 2, 2005 - Returning to Vancouver by way of Lulu Island

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A friend doing research for a magazine piece has been asking some of us for car stories, and this from Ric Erickson in Paris is cool.  Rick is editor of MetropoleParis but really a lapsed Canadian.  Long ago near Vancouver….


For a long time our short was a canary yellow '52 Austin with three '47 Cadillac wheel covers and one blue wheel without any.  It wasn't a good car when it was new and it was far from it when it carried us around, which it did when it didn't have a blown head-gasket.


Its top speed was a 35 miles per hour but we were going less than this early one morning returning to Vancouver by way of Lulu Island.  Wherever we had been, we got wrecked there.  We were being careful, I think, because Lulu Island had deep ditches full of water on both sides of the road.  The car's headlights weren't bright either.  It must have been about 3:30 in the morning and there wasn't any other traffic - just us rolling along at about 20 mph.


Even so there was an odd shudder going on.  Ally must have noticed it because he was driving, but he didn't say anything.  He slowed to about 15 miles per hour.  The shudder got worse.  Bobby and I didn't notice much.  When Ally slowed to about 10 mph we thought he might be tired.  This is when we noticed the shudder, which had kind of set up a sideways motion.  We ran along, hobbled really, at about 5 mph for a while.


Then there was a crash, the car nose-dived and the lights went out.  It was really dark because there weren't any streetlights on Lulu Island.  I was worried about the ditches.  Cows and people used to drown in them.


Nothing happened for a few minutes.  Bobby finally asked, "What aren't we moving any more?"  Ally said he didn't know.  It was really peaceful without the shuddering and the motor noise.  The only sound was the engine cooling.  I rolled down the window and looked out in the dark.  I couldn't see the ditch that was less than three yards away.  Ally slumped down in his seat.  Bobby leaned back and lit a cigarette, so I did too.


"Maybe I should see what's wrong," Ally finally said.  Bobby didn't say anything.  I didn't care.  We were on the road; not in any danger, no traffic.  Too early for the lumber or the milk trucks.


Another five minutes passed before Ally opened his door, saying, "I'll just take a look."  He was wearing a light raincoat and we could just see it until he got to the front of the car, where he sort of disappeared.


More time passed.  Then the door opened and Ally climbed in and sat down and closed the door.  It didn't seem like he was going to say anything, but Bobby asked, "What's the story?"


"The wheel's fallen off," Ally said.  Bobby said, "Oh."  I didn't believe it, but I didn't care if we sat there with jokes.  It was a jokey car.


"Can we fix it?" Bobby asked.  "I don't think so," Ally said.  "The metal around the bolt holes has fallen out."  The three of us knew there was no spare.  There was a tire iron and a jack but there never was a spare.  Actually, the blue wheel was the spare, in full-time use.


But it was too good to pass up.  It was the first time any of us had been in a car that had a wheel fall off.  So we got out and had a look at it in the dark.  The blue wheel had no center left.  Nothing to do with it.


Once up and on our feet, we stayed up.  It no longer seemed like a reasonable idea to sit there all night.  With daylight the blue wheel would still be lying in the road.  So we pushed the car on to the road's edge without shoving it in the ditch.  Maybe somebody would hit it in the dark and Ally could make an insurance claim.


Then some civilian came along and stopped to ask about the 'accident.'  Ally told him the wheel had fallen off like it was an everyday thing.  He offered to take Ally across the bridge to the all-night gas station at the bottom of Fraser.  Ally looked like a college boy and got helped a lot.


Bobby and I walked the mile to the bridge in the dark and along to the lights at the bottom of Fraser.  There were trolleys running from there every half hour, but one had just left so we walked up the hill from the river, up to 50th.  I didn't know it then, but about six years later I would work in an all-night Safeway bakery between the bridge and Fraser, and often walk up the hill between five and six in the morning.


That wasn't the end of the yellow Austin with the three '47 Cadillac wheel covers but it was the end of the blue wheel.  We even managed to get deported in it, for speeding.  We got pulled over in a school zone at seven one morning, on our way to the border.  When we wouldn't pay the $22 fine the cops said we were burglars.  They searched the car and didn't find the beer or the tire iron and the jack, so they turned us over to the border patrol and we agreed to be deported, sort of to cut a long story short.


Copyright 2004 – Ric Erickson





Canadian 1952 Austin Devon A-40 Sedan original vintage advertisement.  "Wherever you go... you'll see Austin."  (You can buy the print at the link.)

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Vancouver International Airport is now on Lulu Island (in purple at the “2” on the map) …

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Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....