Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cars get around too

Not a trucking exploit but a travelling one all the same. I have just driven to Florida and back, to make a wedding cake. Yes, I know, potty, but it seemed like a good idea at the time and the resultant road trip kicked off my writing reflex. Going somewhere always does. If you have followed this tale on the Mensa list, there are a few additions and changes and photos but it is largely the same yarn. If you are reading for the first time, I should introduce you to a small array of characters first.

It all begins with Cherry, an old pal from England, who remembers when I used to make everybody’s wedding and birthday cakes. Cherry is moving to Florida and marrying Ron, a charming Floridian gent. Would I make their wedding cake? Of course I would. I would probably have to make it at home and drive it down there, rather than fly down and make it there; but I felt sure that with enough planning it could be done. The aforementioned planning took about six months. Cherry would like a chocolate cake, filled with raspberries and cream, coated with ganache and decorated with chocolate truffles. She does like chocolate does our Cherry. What else? She left it to me, but something that represented both of them would be nice. I had grand plans for a Cherry Blossom cake, which I thought would be most dramatic against the chocolate background but that plan bit the dust on a humid day in Ontario, when the flower paste I am used to using in the UK fell to bits. Recalling that Florida is humid too I cast about for a new theme and plumped for lots of marzipan cherries, and chocolate guitars for Ron. Longsuffering family, neighbours and friends ate a lot of chocolate cake, raspberry fillings, and chocolate truffles over the months as I perfected and destruction tested each recipe for heat, cold, humidity and longevity. Don’t tell anyone but it was actually a slightly more challenging project than I had bargained for.

Suddenly it was time to go and I should therefore introduce you to Randy. We’d been dating a while, it seemed to be going ok and, on a whim, I asked him if he felt like driving to Florida. I did have an ulterior motive in that Randy is another ex-trucker, two long-haul drivers might be better than one, given that the cakes would be thawing on the way down.
Julian appears in the story too. Another pal from the UK who headed to Florida for the wedding and then hit the road north to drive to Ontario via a different route. But mostly that is his story and not mine.
I’d like to say it was bright and early when we set off for the marathon road trip but it wasn’t. Randy had to collect a renewed passport at nine in the morning from the branch office in downtown Hamilton, fortunately only an hour from the border, so it wasn’t going to be a crack of dawn crossing. With just two days to get to Cherry’s place and then just two days to finish off the cake I had all manner of apprehensions about delays and jobsworths and non-existent passports. I displaced my anxiety in the traditional manner by repacking the car for the umpteenth time. The cakes were still frozen, packed in their respective cake tins for protection on the way. The truffles, chocolate guitars, marzipan cherries, chocolate bows and big bags of couverture chips were carefully boxed with bubblewrap in the travel cooler loaned to me by Theresa for the occasion. With a box of bowls, mixers and tins, a box of random ingredients and two toolboxes full of sugarcraft implements, my sturdy little SUV was packed to the gunwales before we tried to get a couple of little suitcases in, a small cooler for drinks and a heap of maps. I had to photograph the car boot version of Tetris that resulted.

To my utter amazement, and with a cheer for Canadian authorities, the passport was there on the dot of nine and we were on the road shortly after. Without too much of a border delay we had 10 hours driving ahead of us to the half-way point in Richmond, Virginia. With minimal stops for wees, coffees, food, and swapping the driving around we hoped to be there by 9 o’clock that evening. No longer apprehensive about passport woes we began to fret a bit about the border. Neither of us had crossed by road as tourists before, but we’d both been on the rough end of things taking freight across and had no idea how the personality bypass brigade would view a car full of cake and tins and bowls and boxes full of sharp, pointy implements. I suppose you could smuggle lots of drugs inside three bloody big chocolate cakes. Does one offer a truffle by way of proof that the chocolate is real? Would that constitute a bribe? If they poked about enough, things could get ruined and I was on a tight schedule at the other end. What is it about these people that makes you sweat like a criminal anyway when you have nothing to hide?
We joined the queue that turned out to be moving the slowest. Not a good sign, clearly a jobsworth.
‘Where are you going?’
‘Kissimee, Florida.’
‘How long will you be away?’
‘Two weeks.’
‘Why are you going?’
‘To a wedding.’
‘Why does it take two weeks to go to a wedding?’
‘We’re taking the wedding cake and it’s going to take some time to put together and ...’
‘You have a cake in the back there?’
‘Yes, look...’
Randy began to wave aloft each cake in turn while I launched into a little explanation of the finer points of the civil engineering involved in wedding cake construction. He surveyed our faces and seemed to twig that we would be able to lecture on the intricacies for some time, I hadn’t got anywhere near the truffles yet and Randy hadn’t waved the third cake...
‘You’re good!’ in a tone that meant ‘bugger off’ and we were through and in the US and really, properly on our way.

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