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Middle Age Bulge

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If My Escape Could Talk

I got the sense that my Ford Escape was a little annoyed with me on a recent camping trip to a remote lake in the Kootenays.  I had left a cooler plugged into the lighter receptacle overnight and woke up on the Sunday of a long weekend unable to open its doors.  At first I thought the transponder in the key had died.  Then, after trying the 5-digit code and getting no response, I realized that the battery was 100 percent dead.  There was no accessible place to use a key to get in. Thankfully, my father-in-law suggested calling the 1-800 number on the back of my AMA card.  A helpful attendant found us someone who could help in the nearest community and a grisly old fellow arrived within an hour to spark our trusty vehicle back to life.

Our former vehicle, a family style mini-van, had to be replaced after traversing a mammoth-sized pothole during an extended medical trip to Edmonton in 2008.  Heather and I did some shopping around in between visits with doctors and decided that an Escape was our best choice.  Just before pulling the trigger on a purchase, we called Marty back at our home dealership.  Able to match vehicle and price, we made a deal and Heather took the bus back to Fort McMurray to finalize the arrangements.

This vehicle has been very good to us, which probably exacerbated how bad I felt about leaving her powerless because of my stupidity.  If she could speak, I’m sure she’d give me a few choice words.  She’d also have a few great stories to tell about the many interesting passengers she has carried to and fro.

She would certainly share a delightful conversation I had with Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party of Canada, and the son of long-time Alberta Premier Ernest Manning.  He sat in the passenger seat - reminding me of a delightful amalgam of my father, grandfather and Tom Weber Sr. – and predicted the outcome of the most recent Alberta election.

“Alberta has always changed governments in dramatic fashion,” he said.  “It is never the official opposition that takes power, but the third-place or upstart party.” 

He was exactly right.  That is what happened in 1921 (UFA came out of nowhere to topple the Liberals), 1935 (Social Credit was born and won a majority), 1971 (Conservatives went from a mere 6 seats to 49), and 2015 (NDP went from 4th to majority).

Right-winged pundit Ezra Levant spent time in our Ford Escape and shared his love for Fort McMurray, oil sands and his views on what he called “Ethical Oil”.  He was a very personable guy, not nearly irascible as his public persona.

“I love you guys,” he said.  “I love what you do and how you do it.”

Many entertainment personalities have been shuttled and toured through our community by our trusty SUV, including actors Norm Foster and Patricia Vanstone when they were in town performing On A First Name Basis at Keyano Theatre.  They were in awe during our little run out to the oil sands and gob smacked at the enormity of what they saw.

Broadcaster Seamus O’Regan and Alan Doyle, lead singer of Great Big Sea, discovered our community from the vantage point of the Escape.  Seamus was in the back, Alan in the front, as they both waxed eloquent about their visit to the Suncor Community Leisure Centre.

“I have been to recreational facilities all over the world,” said Doyle.  “None compare.  This is the single greatest civic accomplishment I have ever seen.”

Terry O’Reilly (host of Under the Influence and formerly, The Age of Persuasion on CBC Radio), Mary Walsh (This Hour Has 22 Minutes), Ashley MacIsaac (fiddle phenom) and Tim Hurson (author of Think Better and Never Be Closing) have also spent precious time going hither and thither in our community within the confines of the four doors that refused to open that fateful morning in the mountains. 

She must have forgiven me - and the three others who launched rocks into her windshield while traveling this summer – as she got us home safe and sound with not a single murmur of complaint. 

Russell Thomas writes a regular blog at and can be followed on Twitter @rvthomas67.


Russell is a 19 year resident of Wood Buffalo, a community builder, facilitator, social media practitioner, actor, director and artist. He began his Middle Age Bulge blog as a way of capturing his journey to wellness. It has morphed into a daily journal about all aspects of life in the north. Russell works with The United Way of Fort McMurray and co-owns Birdsong Connections with his wife Heather.