Freestyle aerialists Warren “Wookie” Shouldice and Ryan Blais are about to embark on a, 4,500-kilometre, 45-plus hour road trip in separate cars from their summer training base here to their homes in Alberta.
It’s a mind-numbing trip they’ve done for a decade now and they do it in a mini convoy, talking to each other on walkie-talkie transistors to help each other stay awake and break the monotony. Last night, along with teammate Kyle Nissen, they shared some of their wacky experiences from over the years.
Warren: I think we were driving somewhere in the middle of the U.S.
Ryan: It was North Dakota, because there’s a section where like literally for 12 hours almost you don’t turn once. You can fall asleep and just drive.
Warren: I think I pulled up next to him and I had all this food my Mom gave me in the car, carrots and grapes. He was giving me like the ‘I’m hungry’ sign.
Ryan: I was unprepared. He had all the food.
Warren: So I started throwing carrots at him, window to window across the road. We were driving fast, like 100 kilometers an hour.
Ryan: The first couple, he would throw it out and miss my car. Then we managed to get timing just right where he’d be like 13 feet in front of me and he’d just whip it and sure enough it would come into my car. I’d grab the carrot and munch away.
NOT SO WELCOME
Ryan: We stopped once midway through, pulled off on the side of the road in a town called Welcome.
Warren: Welcome, Minnesota. Worst town on earth!
Ryan: The three of us were convoying, me, Wook and Kyle. We pulled up and we’re sleeping in a car trying to get some rest and we’re kind of off to the side of a motel. This woman comes out and knocks on my window and tells us we have to leave, we have to pay. I had to get out of my car and pay her $20 to leave us alone and get some sleep.
Ryan: Another time me and Kyle, in Chicago, we were stuck in traffic, we were convoying again. Every time we’d stop, we’d do this drill where he’d get out of his car, I’d get out of my car and we’d switch cars.
Kyle: We’d be like 10 cars apart, so you’d wait for the traffic to stop and then just be running in the middle of traffic and hopping into each other’s cars.
Ryan: I once picked up a hitch hiker in Calgary on my way to Quebec so I could have someone to talk to. I thought if things work out well, maybe we could share some of the driving. His sign said he was going to Nova Scotia so I could take him 80 per cent of the way. But I told him I was only going to Regina so I could ditch him part way in case it didn’t work out.
Just taking him to Regina was too long. This guy was a criminal. He stunk. He was trying to get to Nova Scota before his ex-girlfriend, who was taking the Greyhound, so that when she got off the bus he could beat up her new boyfriend in front of her. And when I ditched him in Regina, he asked me for money.
NOT SO PERFECT STORM
Ryan: I got stuck in a tornado once … All of sudden every station had a national broadcast weather warning: 'Tornado, blah, blah, blah.' It was so dark, torrential downpour, no one was driving faster than say 25k on the highway. Finally, I got so scared I called 911.
She told me the next time I could stop safely to pull off and don’t stop under an overpass, because I guess there’s a suction that can happen. She said ‘If you start hearing this low thud, thud, thud that gets quicker and has a deep bass, that's the tornado. Pull over and go lay in the ditch.’ I was like ‘Omygod.' I’m freakin’ out. … Every year, something crazy happens.
Shouldice and Blais were still debating about the best route to take last night when they start their journey tomorrow. Safe travels, boys.