VIP Ex­pe­di­tion

Mum gets clear view atop Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge on first trip to P.E.I. in 50 years

Truro Daily News - - SALTWIRE WHEELS - GARRY SOWERBY WHEELS Fol­low Garry on In­sta­gram: @gar­rysowerby

When mov­ing a VIP around there is a lot to con­sider. How will ren­dezvous ar­range­ments work out? What route, long or short, will be taken and what about al­ter­na­tives? Will there be stops for food, fel­low­ship and fun along the way?

Is there a con­cern for se­cu­rity, the list goes on and on. What ve­hi­cle will be used. Will it be Air Force One? An air­craft car­rier or an ar­moured car? No mat­ter what, the trans­port ve­hi­cle will re­quire a de­gree of com­fort be­cause most VIPS don’t want to spend their tran­sit time in a cramped, noisy un­com­fort­able ride.

Ear­lier this sum­mer I drove a VIP from Hal­i­fax to Cra­paud, P.E.I. She hadn’t been to the Is­land in al­most 50 years so this was the first time she had seen or driven across Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge, the long-awaited fixed link from the tran­quil is­land to the rest of the world, that opened on May 31, 1997.

When mak­ing ar­range­ments to pick her up, I re­called her com­ment about how lit­tle she had seen on the way over be­cause the car we were in was too low to see over the sides of the 12.9-kilo­me­tre, multi-span, box-girder con­crete bridge.

I fig­ured the so­lu­tion for the re­turn trip was to el­e­vate her seat. The seat­ing fix came with my test ve­hi­cle that week, a 2019 Ford Ex­pe­di­tion that sits high on an F-150 chas­sis. By rais­ing the power front pas­sen­ger’s seat, my life­long VIP, 92-year-old mother Edith, would have a com­mand­ing view of the Northumber­land Strait as we ‘drove’ across the water be­tween the land of Anne of Green Gables and main­land Canada.

I picked Edith up in Cra­paud right on time and she strapped into the pas­sen­ger seat and el­e­vated it as high as it would go. I had brought a few movies she might want to watch in the back seat. She had two screens to choose from but wanted noth­ing of movies when she could sit tall in the front seat for the drive back to Hal­i­fax.

Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge makes get­ting to P.E.I. and back a no-brainier. At $47.75 for a re­turn trip, it’s a deal com­pared to the $79.00 re­turn ticket on the ferry from Wood Is­lands to Cari­bou, N.S., and so much more con­ve­nient. No line ups, just drive on and keep on driv­ing un­til you reach the red beaches of Bor­den, P.E.I.

Once in a long while, high winds re­strict traf­fic or even close the bridge, but in gen­eral, trav­ellers cross be­tween Canada’s small­est prov­ince and the main­land when­ever they want, day or night.

Af­ter the ride across the Bridge, my VIP and I talked cars and driv­ing. I told her the road we were on, be­tween Cape Tor­men­tine and Monc­ton, N.B., was the first on which I had ever driven a car. I was only 15 but Dad let me pi­lot our 1964 Mer­cury Mont­clair all the way, about 100 kilo­me­tres. I was ex­hausted when we got there.

“There are lots of pot­holes on th­ese roads and you need to see them, but don’t for­get to look be­yond them,” he ad­vised. “Life is like that, too.”

Dur­ing those years, the driv­ing in our house was done by Dad in most cases. Mum rarely took the wheel and when she did it was a quiet af­fair be­cause our talk­ing dis­tracted her. But she talked her way around town, lips pursed, and wore a fa­cial ex­pres­sion that seemed on the verge of break­ing into fits of laugh­ter any se­cond.

There was an on­board feel­ing that good ol’ mum was not re­ally in her el­e­ment wheel­ing those big Buicks around Monc­ton.

Edith Sowerby got her driver’s li­cence in 1947 when she was 20. There was no driv­ing test, she just asked a Monc­ton po­lice­man what was re­quired to get a driver’s li­cence. He had seen her driv­ing around town so that was good enough. Two days later she got her li­cence with­out a writ­ten or driv­ing test.

It was a driver’s li­cence she held on to for more than 70 years with­out one in­frac­tion. The only ac­ci­dent was mi­nor when she backed into a car at the gro­cery store. She drove home and some­how blamed my fa­ther and sent him back to sort it out.

When Mum drove, she never re­ally knew where to go. In those days, there were no nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems or con­ve­nience fea­tures in most cars. Be­yond an en­gine and four wheels with drum brakes, it was wind­shield wipers, lights, a heater and per­haps an AM ra­dio. That’s it.

The drive back to Hal­i­fax with my favourite pas­sen­ger was a chatty af­fair.

There were no naps or read­ing for Mum and we never turned the en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem on. She took in the land­scape from the cranked-up pas­sen­ger seat of the big Ex­pe­di­tion and we talked about ev­ery­thing.

My mother ad­mit­ted the rea­son she al­ways wanted the win­dows up dur­ing our sum­mer road trips may have had some­thing to do with keep­ing her 1950’s bee­hive hair-do in­tact.

She con­fessed she didn’t like driv­ing and was a hor­ri­ble at it: “I would have to re­mind my­self I was driv­ing. If I drove down­town to work or shop I would spend my whole time wor­ry­ing about driv­ing home.”

But, like that day in the big Ex­pe­di­tion, mother Edith al­ways was and still is a lively, en­ter­tain­ing and lov­ing pas­sen­ger.


The 2019 Ford Ex­pe­di­tion pro­vided a com­mand­ing view over the sides of Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge — a treat for Edith Sowerby, Garry’s mum, who had not been to P.E.I. since the 1960s.

Edith and Lee Sowerby, Garry’s par­ents, ready for a road trip in Lee’s 1947 Chevro­let.

In the 1940s, learn­ing how to change a tire was high on the list of chores for a newly li­censed driver.

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