When Lynn Marchessault embarked on the journey of a lifetime in November 2020, she had no idea what that journey would hold.
She was driving herself and her children in a truck pulling a U-Haul trailer from Georgia to Alaska, where her husband was. As they entered Canada and hit winter conditions, though, they started to experience far more adventure than they’d bargained for.
“You only have 5 days to get through Canada and you are absolutely NOT allowed to deviate from the main route or go inside anywhere to dine,” Marchessault explained in a Facebook post detailing their trip. “You are not even allowed to dine at the hotel. You must get your food and go back to your room. These rules are for those who are transitioning through Canada to another final destination.”
The day before they’d entered Canada, her phone had stopped working. She could get service at their hotels while on WiFi, but her phone’s GPS wouldn’t work while they were on the road. She got lost several times, losing precious time.
Then, her windshield wipers stopped working. She desperately tried to find a place to get them fixed, but none of the shops or the dealership she found had the part needed. More time lost, and she had to pull off the road to clear her windshield in order to see where she was going.
They stopped far short of their goal for the night, and Marchessault bought a GPS from a local Walmart.
The next day, they started on the mountains. More snow, nowhere to pull off the road, no lights. A storm hit.
“So as we enter the mountains we run into snow,” she wrote. “Something I was hoping would not happen. I have never driven in snow. I was handling it ok, (a bare minimum ok). Well as we continue driving the conditions continue to get worse. It was a complete, as I now know it, (whiteout conditions) snow storm. I had to stop in the road with my hazards on when I had a chance and could not see any vehicles approaching from the back, and put my vehicle in 4×4. This was still not helping very much but I was able to get up the hills slightly better.”
In a tiny little town called Wonowon, she stopped, exhausted and crying and not really knowing what to do next. A local approached her to see if she was okay, and that was the beginning of an upturn for her.
The first thing she discovered was that her truck wasn’t even sporting the right kind of tires.
“Y’all the dealership told me I had all weather tires,” she said. “I didn’t even think to double check. I had summer tires.”
It was a Sunday, but miracle after miracle occurred as her new friend, Teena, and more locals joined together to get her what she needed. She got four studded snow tires and was able to spend the night at a hotel that wasn’t meant for travelers (only oil field workers), but Canadian warmth prevailed and she and her children were able to take shelter for the night.
At this point — understandably — Marchessault was done driving those treacherous and unfamiliar roads. An SOS was sent out through a long line of Canadians until the plea came before Gary A. Bath, who was providentially nearby.
“Teena reached out to a friend named Tanya Hunt,” Marchessault sad. “She is a veteran of the Canadian Military and one of my new friends. She made a post in a veteran page that she is a part of and it transpired from there. It reached another new friend of mine, Joe Elliot, in Prince George, BC. He shared the post and it reached his friend, my new friend, Gary A Bath. He was in a town that I was already an hour past. He talked with his wife and decided he would be our driver. I video chatted with all of them along the full day of planning and they even video chatted with my husband to ensure the safety of myself and our kids.”
“Somebody was stranded, asking for help, so I was in a position to give her help,” Bath told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk, according to CBC.
Tempered by the military and his own experience in Canadian weather, Bath was a Godsend. Unflappable, happy to help and a great driver, he was dropped off by his wife the next day and set out with them.
“I still had some anxiety some times due to the roads and conditions,” Marchessault admitted. “I would glance over and he would just be driving along like a champ. I would make a joke about how I had enough anxiety and sweaty palms for the both of us, over here in the passenger seat and he would chuckle.”
About three days later, they arrived at their destination, safe and sound. Bath flew back home, a cost that was covered by more of Marchessault’s new friends, and she and her family began their new life in Alaska with a bunch of Canadian friends.
According to CBC, when Planters heard about the selfless act of kindness Bath had been involved in, they decided to recognize his generosity with a new car and a lifetime supply of peanuts. They extended the same gift to the Marchessaults.
The gift is part of Planters’ shift away from advertising during the Super Bowl: This year they decided to use a designated $5 million to recognize acts of kindness instead — something that will have a far more lasting impact and keep their name top of mind as well.
“We didn’t think it would get as far as it did, let alone having Planters contact us and offer us a new car,” Bath said. “It’s been crazy.”
Marchessault said that once the restrictions are lifted, she hopes to make a trip back through Canada during more pleasant weather and meet many of the people who helped her and her family — and now she can do that in a brand-new car.
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