Vehicle maintenance? Just leave it to me ….


I’m not the most educated when it comes to four-wheeled vehicles – mind you, I’m not exactly at the top of the class with my limited knowledge on most other forms of transport either, but I do enjoy driving and can appreciate an attractive-looking car with an abundance of power when you touch the throttle.  I’m clocking up the mileage in my truck which is an absolute joy to drive – so much so, that I’m fast approaching the 100k mark.  There’s also a niggling dial indicating that the oil needs changing fairly imminently and whilst I’ve been quietly hoping it will rectify itself, the sane part of me has acknowledged that I can only put off a visit to a car mechanic for a certain amount of time.  Given that we experience sub-zero temperatures for a substantial part of the year, getting the oil changed regularly is big business here – and a necessity.  In the UK, I can’t ever remember doing it other than as part of my car’s recommended service regime.


As with most things in Canada, the concept of ‘drive-thru’ applies to the vast majority of service outlets.  Avoiding them when we first arrived 18 months ago and preferring to park up and walk into a store – how times have quickly changed and I’m a frequent visitor who uses the ‘drive-thru’ for the bank, coffee, prescriptions – you name it.  So, unable to avoid it any longer, I took my truck for an oil change at the local drive-thru ‘Jiffy Lube’ place.

It is literally a brilliant concept. No appointments, just turn up and drive up to the large doors – one of which opens for you if there’s a space in the bay, and you’re directed to the maintenance bay straight ahead.  My usual tack when I’m completely out of my depth, is to sound confident and assured.  So with that in mind, I assertively stated that I wanted an oil change and could they check there were no oil leaks.  I usually find that in visiting a new outlet, the instant I open my mouth, there’s often a comment about my accent.  True to form, the chap remarked on it and how I sounded just like ‘Adele’.  He clearly wasn’t referring to my ability to hold a tune – which would be more akin to the sound of a goat in significant distress – and neither my bank balance.  Unless of course, my husband is withholding disclosing the many millions he’s squirreled away in a secret bank account from me.  Ironically, other than her being a fellow ‘Brit’, that’s where the similarity sadly ends – but I thanked him for the thought …


We’d got off to a good start, I was feeling confident and the chap clearly understood the task in hand.  I even requested the specific type of oil required (based on instruction from husband), but made it sound as though I knew what I was talking about.  Maybe, just maybe, it would be one of those instances where I manage to get something done on a vehicle without blatantly demonstrating my naivety and living up to the stereotypical female image.

Alas, this wasn’t to be.  I was caught out just a mere 30 seconds later when the chap simply requested me to ‘lift the bonnet’.  I hadn’t banked on that, and having no idea at all where the lever was located, had to admit my deficiency and the chap came to my rescue with a simple chuckle and ‘it’s just here, madam’.  Blast.  I’d been doing so well too.


The job didn’t take long and he checked many other things on the truck that I have absolutely no clue what they do – but assured me all was in order.  That’s all I needed to know.  The best bit about the whole experience, was that I didn’t even need to leave my vehicle and unbuckle my seatbelt.  Canada is awesomely brilliant at minimising any effort required – what a superb country.  All done in less than 30 minutes, I was good to go and with the roller-shutter doors in front of me opening, I drove off.  It’s a concept that would go far in the UK.

Vehicle maintenance?  I have absolutely no idea …. but I know a man who can …… 🙂


As ever, thanks to Google Images for the pics in today’s blog

Living the Canadian dream …


We’ve been talking about getting a second car for a while, but have always talked ourselves out of it based on a) the cost, and b) whether we really need it.  We’ve been muddling through with just one vehicle for the past 9 months, and given the number of extra-curricular activities my kids now attend, I’ve had the delight of retaining the vehicle for the majority of that time.  My husband on the other hand, has had the joys of navigating public transport – something he’s not done since being at college and if truth be told, has forced him to socialise with various characters who stand at the bus stops or travel on the trains each day – rather than be nestled into a cocoon in a car listening to the tunes of choice and not having to converse other than offering the odd profanity at the inept driving ability of certain drivers on the road.  Don’t get me wrong, public transport in Edmonton is very good and it’s been ideal for what we need and where we need to get to.

But the sun’s out, the temperatures are high, and the lure of the open road with roof down and doors off, is proving too much.  We’ve adopted the ‘when in Rome’ approach and have done what every other Canadian seems to possess as their vehicle of choice.

Is it a 4×4 I hear you ask?  Why yes.

Does it have an absurdly huge engine?  Of course.

Is it bigger than the Jeep?  By a long way …

Does it consume gas like my husband consumes beer?  The new recruit clearly has the edge.

Can I reach the door on the front passenger side from seating in the driver’s seat?  Not a chance.

Will I need step-ladders to get in?  Certainly.

Is it quick to drive?  Amazingly so.

And the most fundamental question of all, and key decision-maker:  can I buy this in the UK?  Even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to afford to run the thing.

So, critical questions answered – we’ve bought a pick-up truck.


It’s got a 5.7 litre V8 engine, and does 18mpg in the City, reaching a dizzy 26mpg on the highway.  It doesn’t have side-rails so I have to hoist myself in, and driving it is absolutely wonderful.  Prior to our recent search, I had never sat in a truck before we found our pre-loved one, and the space and quality inside is amazing.  The kids have named it ‘the tardis’ and it’s very true.  Driving it, you feel like you’re in a large performance vehicle, with indicative dials and buttons which tell you everything you need to know – if I knew what half of them meant it would be a bonus!  There’s a trailer brake – obviously useful for towing, but to the uninitiated, I haven’t a clue what that actually means.  I have a sat nav and back-view camera, can only just fit it in our garage (with the side mirrors tucked in), and there are ‘under the floor’ storage bins for filling with ice and beer for those long trips.  They’ve thought of everything!  Best of all – and for those that read my blog you’ll like this – it’s a RAM and has a ‘goat’ logo on the front and steering wheel.  Clearly a sign, and an ideal fit for my ‘goatandkids’ blogsite!  Not that I needed an excuse 🙂

2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel-outdoorsman-crew-cab-4x4-interior-viewCompletely different to the UK, all used vehicles have to be registered and number plates assigned – they don’t stay with the vehicle for it’s entire life like they do back home.  So, it’s now registered and back home, the critical question is clearly – who gets to drive it on a daily basis?   My husband has obtained a parking ‘spot’ in the parkade at the bottom of the building in which he works in downtown Edmonton, but my starting gambit has been to register a concern that I think ‘the tardis’ will be too big to fit in.  This was instantly rebuffed by the comment,’it can’t be too big as everyone else drives one of these in Canada‘.  Fair point.

Jeep Wrangler Renegade

I’ve moved onto a swift counter-attack and focused on the opportunities now afforded to my husband for him to concentrate all efforts on ‘pimping up’ the Jeep.  Whilst we’ve already removed the hard top, and replaced it with the ‘soft-top’ which folds down; you can also take off all the doors, windscreen, and procure all manner of accessories like ‘bikini tops’, cloth doors, raised suspension, and super-large wheels.  My practical nature has always kicked in and prevented all the above, based on having visions of all 3 kids disappearing out of the vehicle (not to mention cuddly toys and goodness knows how many other kid-related items which seem to reside in the back seat), every time we turn a corner.

So, it looks like ‘the tardis’ will be coming in my direction on a daily basis.  Having the obligatory cowboy hat, boots and coffee cup at the ready, I satisfy the majority of Canadian requirements for getting behind the wheel of a pickup.

Yeehaa… 🙂

Driving me crazy …


One of the things that takes some getting used to is driving in Canada.  Maybe it’s just Edmonton, but there are some nuances that have me completely baffled each and every day as to the logic behind their safety for pedestrians, road users – or anything else in between.

The first thing you probably think of when driving in Canada (or the US for that matter), is getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road – and by this, I mean driving on the right rather than the left ;-).  I’m British so therefore, the left hand side is the correct side – regardless of the fact that about 75% of the world’s countries drive on the right.  Despite the modern invention of the car, the side of the road on which we drive has developed through centuries-old custom and tradition.  The fact that most people are right-handed is the biggest factor contributing to which side of the road people initially chose.  A further reason I stumbled across made me chuckle – ‘Ancient Romans drove chariots with the reins in their dominant right hands to allow them to whip a horse with their left.  That way there was little risk of accidentally whipping a passing chariot.  But if a warrior needed to do battle from a horse, he could attack a passing opponent on the right with his stronger hand‘.  Not much has changed.  Another key influence in driving direction was Henry Ford, who designed his Model T with the driver on the left.  That decision meant cars would have to drive on the road’s right, so that passengers in both the front and back seat could exit the car on the curb.  Apparently, countries like the UK remain on the left-hand side down to sheer stubbornness and practicalities.  I like to think of it as something we’ll be proven right to stick to ……


Anyhow, it only takes a short while to get your brain functioning in the opposite direction – plus, it’s made a lot easier with wide roads and absolutely gigantic trucks and cars and for the most part, everything is largely automatic transmission so having to cope with manual adjustments just means operating the windows and doors …. what couldn’t be easier?  Master this, and that’s the least of your problems …..


Roundabouts.  Those reading this in Canada who are of UK descent will be physically groaning.  The concept of a roundabout and right of way seems to be lost on most Edmontonians – to the point that the ‘Driver Safety Handbook’ devotes a specific section to this very topic.  They don’t appear as road furniture often, but when they do, seem to cause complete and utter confusion.  Adopting the correct lane, yielding to cars coming from the left, and providing enough indication of your intentions to other road users – all seem to be a total anathema to the majority of drivers.  For the serious offenders, I’d send them to Warrington, England for 2 days and get them to navigate from one side of the town to the other.  It’s riddled with the things to the point of excess, but will certainly rectify any deficiencies in driving talent with regards to roundabouts.


Pedestrian crossings.  Simple you may think.  For the pedestrian, a green man (well, technically – white), means ‘walk’, and an orange hand indicating ‘stop’, means just that.  And people abide by these totally and utterly.  Not so in the UK, where we adopt the approach of using the pedestrian signs as pure indicators of the severity of risk in crossing a road – and often proceed with or without them being taken into account.  Now the Canadian system is great, until as a vehicle user you wish to make a turn left or right at a junction.  At this point, the pedestrian light is most likely on ‘white’ too, and you have to not just navigate the turn amidst other vehicles on the road, but also minimise the impact of running a pedestrian over in the process.  And pedestrian’s don’t rush either – there’s no polite recognition that a car may also be wishing to turn across the crossing and a degree of speed adopted to aide your plight – oh no.  As a driver, you have to sit there and wait whilst coffee is balanced, iPhones checked and headphones repositioned by those walking.  How on earth there’s not more accidents with pedestrians I’ll never know – and statistics to try and either prove my point or completely distill it are not readily available.  Maybe that’s a sign ….


Finally, the most fab thing is being able to make a right turn on a red light (providing it is safe to do so, obviously).  Sheer brilliance – and the novelty of turning right on a red light never wears off.  In fact, I’ve now worked out that as the roads are largely constructed on a grid system, if I ensure all my journeys are undertaken in a clockwise direction, I get there a lot quicker and easier than trying to fight the opposite way – unlike my sat nav who usually insists I’m attempting to get to my destination in the most inefficient direction.  I’m female, and this is one of those instances which I usually take great delight in proving my skill to the electric unit (who clearly couldn’t care less), for completely ignoring.


Canadians are almost there with never having to vacate your vehicle whilst going about your weekly chores as most of the outlets operate as drive-thu’s.  Whilst these are convenient for some things, what always makes me chuckle is the length of the drive-thru vehicle queue at the coffee shops – when quite often the shop itself is empty and it would be much quicker to park up, get out and walk into the store!  You’ll notice something prevalent in the front seat of every vehicle – a drinking cup which is normally holding a recently purchased coffee.  God only knows what will happen to people in Canada if the world’s supplies of coffee beans ever dry up…..

All in all, driving over here is fun and keeps you on your toes.  The traffic is non-existent compared to UK standards so a tail-back quite often is a couple of cars deep – rather than a couple of hours long.  I’m just not sure I’ll fit back into UK driving as easily when we return.  But that’s a problem for another day ….. I’m just waiting for my coffee at the drive-thru …….