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Eating My Way Through the Emergency Kit
Dealing with winter can be a challenge especially on the road. Three guidelines are helpful: understanding the need, preparing adequately and making wise choices.   

It's remarkable what being stranded for 15 hours on a snowy highway can do to people. I don't mean what it's done to the 1500 people who actually endured that long, cold winter's night on the Cobequid Pass. I mean what it's done to everyone who wasn't there.

People like my brother-in-law, for example, who lives a thousand miles away from Nova Scotia's infamous stretch of highway, but who immediately, upon hearing the story of The Great Stranding, stuffed sleeping bags in both family cars, just in case they should ever be needed.

I usually travel with a snow shovel and blanket stored in my car in winter. But earlier this week as I packed for a road trip, I found myself treating it more like an expedition rather than a three-hour jaunt from Moncton to Halifax.

First, I decided a small problem with my car couldn't be put off any longer and I begged my service repair shop for an appointment, which I'm sure they gave me just because I had to drive over The Pass. The car repair shop is currently snowed under by requests for snow tires – everyone wants snow tires since hearing the story of The Great Stranding. Although they had little time for my small problem, the repair shop still fit me in, fearful, I know, about sending me east with an untrustworthy car.

When I mentioned to friends that I was on my way to Nova Scotia they offered condolences and prayers. But no one offered to come with me.

Even though it was raining and six degrees above zero on the day I was traveling, I convinced myself one could never be too prepared for a sudden snow squall, especially on those Cobequid Hills. I did what I have never done before. I packed an emergency car kit. What does one need if stranded on the side of the road for 15 hours? This is an important question to consider.

I propped open a bag on my kitchen counter and began looking around for supplies. Ah, those Festive Special Lindor chocolates, nicely packaged in a small box, would be perfect. An apple and a couple of oranges from a bowl on the counter caught my eye and then went into the bag. I went in search for a granola bar that had survived uneaten all the way to Central Asia and back this past summer. Then I retrieved a half finished bottle of water from under the seat in my car and put that in the kit as well.

I didn't realize it at the time, but a sad and revealing truth surfaced as I packed my emergency kit. Rationally, I know what I should have packed: candles and matches, a flashlight, extra mittens and a cap, and, as one stricken Cobequid Pass traveler now recommends, a bedpan. But for some reason, I only packed food in my kit.

I suspect the fact that I was packing on an empty stomach had something to do with my sketchy preparations. In fact, as I scavenged around my kitchen for food, the rumbling in my tummy began to drown out the anxiety in my brain. As I thought about heading east, away from New Brunswick's trustworthy snow-clearing brigades and into the wilds of Nova Scotia where it appears anything can go wrong, I realized I had a long, hungry drive ahead of me, and over the supper hour, to boot.

When I stopped at a service station to top up my windshield wiper fluid and gas (still wanting to be well prepared for my expedition), I decided I'd better pick up more food supplies. A bag of chips (salt is always good) and a can of diet Pepsi (an easy caffeine supply) are in order for any road trip.

Perhaps it was the chips and pop that got me off to a bad start. Before I reached the Nova Scotia border I'd eaten the chips, drank the Pepsi and had enjoyed the first of my Lindor chocolate balls. When I passed the sign for the Cobequid Pass, I reached into the emergency kit and plucked out another one, just in case I needed extra energy to drive through that expanse where food is, apparently, in short supply.

But I made it up and over The Pass without incident. To celebrate, I ate an orange.

By the time I'd reached Halifax, I'd eaten my way through most of my supplies. The only thing that was left was one chocolate ball and the crumbling granola bar. The chocolate ball will, undoubtedly, be eaten the next time I drive my car, whether it's around the block or across town.

The granola bar - I guess that's eternally safe for an emergency. But maybe the next time I set out on a road trip I'll put the emergency food supplies in my trunk. That way they will actually be there if I need them, not just because I'm hungry.

Lynda MacGibbon is a writer based in Riverview New Brunswick and the NB/PEI Director for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. She can be reached at

Originally published in Moncton Times & Transcipt, Moncton, NB, November 28, 2008, and simultaneously on




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