Here I am! I'm alive and well and preparing to go back to work next week.
That fact that I am alive and well is almost certainly due to my husband's extreme driving skills and Suzy's impeccable direction-giving ability. Yes, we decided before our trip to Edmonton that from here on we'd be Going Places with Suzy. We got a GPS before we left. It's a Garmin not a TomTom, so Jed insisted her name be Suzy. (I'm think there was a TV commercial about that a couple of years ago.)
Oh my goodness - that's capital Oh Em Gee! Suzy has changed my life.
We told her before we left home where the hotel was and she took us directly there. (As a side note: We did not stay at the cheap little Algonquin Motel near the Mayfield Centre that we have been frequenting every few years for a couple of decades. Each time we stay there, we comment how we can't believe it's still operational - the land has to have way more value than the motel itself. Anyway we heard it's now a crack shack and we didn't doubt this so it was time to expand our horizons. The Wingate has become our new West Ed home. But I digress....) Never again will I need to read a map or be responsible for directing drivers the wrong way down a one way street. I can now close my eyes as the vehicle pulls out of my driveway and awaken when we arrive at our said destination.
Before we left home I Googled all the fantastic children's stores, Ikea, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Greg and April's house. Every destination I thought we might want was entered into Suzy's little brain and voila! you tap favourites and she takes you where you wanna go from any starting point.
While her voice can be marginally irritating, like Kate from Monk-e-mail, she does refrain from calling Albert "dumb-ass" when he makes a wrong turn. She simply, and immediately, recalculates his next move. Occasionally she keeps us on our toes by saying things like, "In 300 meters, turn left on Winnotoo Avenue." It takes a second to realize it's 102 Avenue.
Apparently you can download other voices, and even enter your own somehow, but I've become accustomed to her and have fallen in love with her so she'll probably remain unchanged.
We only travel in the winter about once every five years because it takes me that long to forget just how much I hate winter travel. For the most part the only bad stretch of highway was, as fully expected, the hour or so of driving between Purden Lake and McBride. On the way east it was solid compact snow that had been driven on for a few days then run over with a grader's jagged-edged blade creating a slot car effect that sort of pulls your vehicle in whatever wiggly pattern the grader operator chose to drag his blade. There was not a single grain of sand anywhere on the shiny smooth slot car track.
The truck has good tires and the world's best driver, but still I found it a bit stressful. I think Suzy intensified my stress a little. On her screen the icon of the vehicle is always pointing straight up, except while you are in the midst of turning a corner when it briefly tilts the icon until the road maps all turn to adjust to your new direction. This of course makes the little vehicle icon look like it's back end is sliding off the edge of the road momentarily and invariably would cause my heart to lurch as a jolt of adrenalin surged through my veins. I tried not to look at her but she just draws your eye. Of course we did not need her input for this particular stretch of highway but being that she was a new toy we had to leave her powered up.
It snowed the morning we left Edmonton but the roads weren't too bad. I glanced at Suzy at one point and she showed a speed of 123km/h. In the least naggy voice I could muster, I asked if we needed to drive that fast. My husband is very accommodating and immediately slowed down, but I think I'll do some research to figure out how to train Suzy to suggest that you are passing every other vehicle on the road in the blink of an eye, perhaps your speed is marginally higher that it should be.
Of course it was snowing and blowy between McBride and Purden just like my mind had been anticipating and blowing out of proportion for the 5 hours before that. Suzy was powered down after her successful few days in Edmonton so I didn't have to witness the sliding icon, but still I felt the need to tell my husband that the next time I suggest we travel in the winter I want him to remind me how much I hate it. But he won't. He'll just happily oblige my whims as always. He slowed the truck to a speed I could maintain a manageable breathing level but I know he found it hard to keep this pace, which was well under his driving ability, but he said nothing. And I love him for it.
...but I won't be traveling in the winter again anytime soon.