Monday, 28 May 2012

Victorian plumbing, the girl and the Orca, Tofino Bound (End game Part I )

I arrived in Victoria with around 102 dollars remaining in the one grand budget.  My ferry across to the island was sponsored by one of my best friends, Kris, in lieu of my services as a day laborer to help him move from his condo to a new build house just outside of Victoria.

I arrived at his place around sunset, met up with his wife Kendra and baby girl Phia.  I crashed on the couch that night, having a hard time falling asleep.  The thoughts of my cross Canada journey swirling around in my head.  My first bouts of anxiety about what I was going to do after this journey was over started to take hold. I had no job, no idea what I was going to do after I got back to "reality".  I remember being comforted by the thought that I had traveled twenty thousand kilometers and not known how that was going to happen, but here I was near the end of my road.  I dozed off with a smile on my face.

The next day with the help of a couple of Kris and Kendra's friends we moved a couple truck fulls of boxes and furniture into a beautiful quaint, geo-thermal heated home.  Everything went pretty smooth except for the destruction of one glass paneled hutch which fell over and was smashed into oblivion.

The next few days were spent building chairs and tables and helping Kris and Kendra around the house.  Kris and I had our west coast cribbage competition, and after being down 4 games to one, I somehow mounted a glorious comeback and won 5 straight, claiming bragging rights and cribbage mastery over my friend. 

Kris was busy at work and taking care of the post-move responsibilities left me with a lot of solo time.  I had a few naps, watched some movies and went out exploring Victoria with my new friend Cedra.
We walked around the harbor talked about life and travel.  We meandered around under the stars and just wandered Victoria's beautiful waterfront, and Cedra mentioned that there was a Fringefest event taking place called SexSlam.  It was a slam poetry event where the topic

We arrived at the bar and watched and listened as the contestants poured out their most secret and seductive, intimate and personal moments.  The range was quite diverse and the stories for the most part were all hilarious or thought provoking.  It was an activity I normally wouldn't have dared to go check out without an accomplice, and Cedra was hip and cool to the ways of the fringe.

I began planning my last leg of the trip and my final destination: Tofino.  I put an add up in Vancouver Kijiji's rideshare to see if anyone needed a lift eastward as I planned to make the return journey home.  In the meantime, Cedra had more activities planned.  I came up with the idea of an eco date, basically we had a budget of $30 between us and we had to find a way to stretch that into an evening of entertainment.

We had a couple cups of coffee, with some great conversation, we decided to head out to the ocean to engage in one of Cedra's favourite activities; tide pool exploration.  We touched some crabs and sponges and Cedra hula hooped while I sat on the rocks facing the straights of Juan de Fuca.  I got into a meditative rhythm and watched the sun set behind Vancouver island's mini mountains.  I heard Cedra's exasperated yelp and saw to where she was pointing.  The long narrow dorsel fin of an orca cut through the waves.  I could not believe it.  We watched the great mammal dart in and out of view as it passed in between us on the island and a giant super freighter crossing through the straits.  I had seen whales on the east coast, and now here on the western side of the continent I had seen a killer whale.  Both times I was in a quiet state of mediation.... just saying...

On Vancouver Island, having a whale of a time

After the whale encounter we headed out to an Indian restaurant that Cedra had a coupon for.  We each chose a dish and had a pleasant meal and conversation.  Total cost on the date was just over 30 bucks.  Not bad for 5 hours of great company and entertainment. 

Now, I am not sure what it is exactly with me, and toilets, plumbing and No. 2, but there is a bizarre fecal thread that has run through the underpants of my life.  It is unexplainable and embarrassingly hilarious.  If you ask my friends a story about me, inevitably there will be a story about poop, most likely at the top of the list.  This is the reason why I can never have a wedding with speeches.

So I just finished using the facilities in Kris and Kendra's new home, and go to do the customary flush.  All good.  Or is it?  Kris goes to flush the toilet right after me, and the thing starts to back up.  He asks me what I did in there, I tell him:  "just your everyday generic number 2, buddy".  I go to look at the damage and grab the plunger, No problem I think to myself, I have unplugged many a toilet in my day.  For what ever reason, and for the very first time in my short life, I cannot, get this toilet to un-plug.  A fine sweat and quiet anger begin to permeate my skin and inner reaches of my mind.  I am embarrassed and can't believe that I am early on into yet another poop story.  I thought I left them behind me (pun intended).

After a trip to Canadian Tire for a new plunger (the old one was shaped funny) and a good half hour of solid plunging, nothing is doing and things are getting worse.  It is time to call in the professionals and I can tell Kris is non-plussed by the situation.  It's 6 days into his brand new home and I have already broken the plumbing in the downstairs powder room.  My stench of curry from the night before permeating the lower level of the house.  Oh, and Kris' brother Kevin and his girlfriend are set to arrive the next day.  Truly an ideal situation, at least from a blogger's perspective.

It's Friday night in Victoria and a dude from Roto-Rooter shows up in a typical white service van.  I know that this isn't a typical unplug job and I am trying to convince Kris that my chicken tandoori was soft and fully digested, that there is something else afoot, possibly a construction issue.  The rotor rooter dude, who just happens to be from Ottawa seems to disagree.  "Just a plugged toilet" he says with confidence.  I think not. And God, I hope he is wrong.

His first tool is a posedion-esque trident with a claw on the end, designed for about 20 feet of piping.  He begins the slow methodical unraveling of metal.  He is turning the tool wildly, a nice lather of sweat building on his brow.  After fully extending the contraption, he decides its time to take out the bowl.  Ca ca water sloshes around, my ca ca water, and is splashing on the fresh coat of paint all over the powder room walls of the six day old house.  The smell is increasing in its potency and now there is  a toilet in the front yard, two towels fully soaked through with my fecal art, and a really sweaty rotor rooter technician from Ottawa wondering what to do next.  All the while my adopted niece Phia is sleeping soundly upstairs. This is a true story.

After a couple of tries with the intermediate machine, designed to reach the sewer in the street, the tech pulls out the big guns, the industrial sized gas powered drain snake, equipped with a diamond studded claw for serious blockages.  I'd like to say I am as tough as nails, but there is no way that anything that has come out of my body should require this much labour to  bypass.  My one and only real concern is that if I am indeed responsible for this blockage, will 84 remaining dollars I have left cover the labour and/or parts to fix the mess created?

Fortunately for me and the budget, the plumber deduced that the source of the problem was construction waste, in the sewage line - most likely some concrete or some other industrial coagelent.  After some telephonic finagling, Kris managed to get the builder to cover the costs of the episodic comedy that was this situation.   The bill was well over $300, I would have had to been Kris' butler for a week to cover the costs.  All's well that ends smell.

The next day after thanking Kris and Kendra for their hospitality I began my journey for my final destination - Tofino.  En route I received a few texts and a few calls regarding my rideshare ad eastward,  I began juggling offers via text when my phone rang.  A young woman who introduced herself as Claire said her and a friend would each pitch in for the ride.  They said they were making there way to Vancouver and I inquired as to where they were now.

The Universe had lined up so much for me on this trip already, I didn't know anyone in Tofino and was expecting to sleep in my tent or car, and had zero plans.  So when Claire said here and her friend Jeppe were putting around in Tofino I was almost not surprised.  I told her I was a couple hours away and I would see them soon.  We agreed to meet in front of the first surfshop I'd see entering town.

After a beautiful drive through some old growth forests and along some pristine rivers I arrived in Tofino.  Coming into town I saw a kid with a mohawk riding a longboard.  I was indeed in Tofino....

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Yukon, The Belgian and The UFO.

I had a cooler filled with smoked trout, cream cheese and other snacks.  At 2 pm I said good bye to my Aunty Anita, grabbed my gear and began driving into the North.  My destination, Whitehorse, was over 2000 kilometres “up” on my map.

I hit a huge wall of hail just outside of Prince George BC.  I looked at the darkening clouds in front of me and saw what literally looked like a curtain of white solidity, inch its way down the highway.  I pulled over and my car was pelted with lima bean sized chunks of ice.  It lasted a couple of minutes, and was partnered with an intense cold air mass, heavy thunder, and lightning.  It was actually kind of scary.  But as quick as it came, it passed, and I was on my way again.  After a few dozen kilometers I could see the path the storm had made, every so often encountering a patch of highway littered with hail stones.  On one of these stretches, a green pick-up truck glared at me from a ditch; its roof crushed like a pop can, paramedics and cops arriving as I drove by.  

As I headed north, the towns got fewer and further between.  At 1am I pulled over at a school parking lot in New Hazelton BC and made camp for the night.   It was a tough sleep and cold too.  I woke up around seven and remembered spying a little breakfast place the night before while I scoped out a place to crash.  I went into the small cafĂ©/restaurant and ordered a coffee.  A diminutive Asian man whipped up a coffee and I was on my way.  I had about 1300 kilometers left to drive before hitting Whitehorse.

I turned onto the Stewart Cassiar Highway at around noon, a thousand clicks left to go.  A breakdown on this highway would spell disaster as there was almost nothing for hundreds of kilometers at a time.  All I could do was keep driving and utter silent prayers and thank-yous to my car for continuing its reliability.  I drove through a smattering of small.. I wouldn’t even call them towns, places with names like Bell II, Dease Lake and Bob Quinn Lake.  These spots offered gas out of giant Mad Max gas reservoirs in post-apocalyptic fashion.  Post-apocalyptic gas prices are not very inviting.

At one point in the journey, I was dying for a coffee, and I knew there wasn’t a Starbucks or Tims for a few hundred kilometers at least.  I remember seeing a sign which read “Jade City: Free Coffee – 5 minutes ahead.”  Was this a northern mirage?  I rubbed my eyes and hoped I wasn’t slipping into madness.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, there was a small cluster of buildings.  There was also a sign reading FREE COFFEE.  This northern oasis was a small building, with giant slabs of jade, some worked and polished, others not, piled around its front entrance.  Jade City was a shop; I curiously went inside and looked around the establishment.  True to its name, Jade City specialized in, you guessed it, jade.  I grabbed a free coffee, grateful beyond imagination and talked to the young twenty something girl in charge.  She told me the mountains around were filled with Jade and they shipped a ton of it to China where they would manufacture the raw material into a plethora of products.   It was so strange, this shop in the middle of nowhere.  I do like me a free coffee though.

I have to admit, the drive into the Yukon was stunning.  I crossed through the Cassar Mountains and was in total awe.  It was a wilderness drive, on an un-lined and in some places unpaved road, but God, it was amazing.  There were times where I wouldn’t see another vehicle for almost an hour in either direction.
I crossed into the Yukon Territory around 5ish, grabbed some pricey Yukon gas and drove the last 400 kilometers into Whitehorse.

By far, the Yukon Territory and northern BC was the most unpopulated place I had yet seen on my journey.  The Yukon itself has only 33 thousand people, half of which reside in Whitehorse.  It is no man’s land.
My friend Geza back home told me if I was going to go to Whitehorse I had to see his sister Marika, and her husband Ted.  He said they would take me in. He said they would change my life.  Who can say no to an offer like that?

I arrived at the modest Whitehorsian dwelling and was greeted by Teddy.  Tall and lean, with glasses and a soul patch, he welcomed me in like I was already part of the family.  I liked him instantly.  We shot the baloney around for a few minutes until Marika came home.  She gave me such a warm greeting as well, and I liked her instantly.  We sat around and talked and it was clear, all of us were on the same wavelength.  We talked about everything; leaky Japanese nuclear reactors, sustainability, human greed and its impacts on society at large, and many, many other enlightening topics.  By the time I went to bed I felt completely comfortable, like I had known these two for my entire life.  These were some seriously awesome people.

Over the next few days, they opened their home and hometown to me.  They fed me, hung out with me, took me to cool places like Miles Canyon, a carved canyon of hard stone, eroded away over millions of years by the fast flowing Yukon River.  We boated up the river the next day and stopped on the island they were married on six years before during the summer solstice.  Sun beamed down on their wedding festivities that night until after midnight.  It was a magical place to be married, and on a magical night.

We went further upriver and scaled the sandy banks of the river where I took this photo, one of the best I have ever taken.

The beautiful serene Yukon.

I enjoyed the city of Whitehorse, it was more modern then I had expected and far more metropolitan then its small population belied.   It was truly a beautiful place in a beautiful place.  Again, my hosts were amazing and we got along so well.  Every day we had great conversation.  They also had some great people as friends who I got to meet; people just came over to their house just to hang out with them; that is the nature of the energy they project.  One fellow who came by was a cameraman with the CBC and said he might be able to get me on the radio for an interview.  

Awesome Earthlings: Marika and Ted.

Again I posted an ad on Kijiji looking for some gas $$ and some company, and within an hour I had a response from a Belgian kid named “Arnie” who was WWOOFing up in Dawson City and needed a ride to Vancouver.   WWOOFing is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  It is similar in a way to couchsurfing, but you earn your keep on a farm where you are provided food and shelter.  Arnie agreed to pay $150 bucks which was to be about half of the gas in my estimation, and the deal was sealed.

Not only were Marika and Ted cool about me staying there not knowing anything about me, but they agreed to let Arnie stay for a night too.  So I picked Arnie up the night before our departure south, he had just grabbed a ride with a couple of young ladies from Dawson city, five hours northwest, and was waiting for a pick up down town.

He was on a corner in front of the Westmark Hotel where I spotted him right away, the backpack a dead giveaway.  I gave him a honk, and pulled up beside him.  He stuffed his travel gear in the back seat and we headed back to Marika and Ted’s.    

Earlier that same day I had received an email from a woman named Sandi at CBC radio requesting an interview with me.  I was more than happy to oblige, it was a six minute interview on the morning radio show, so I’d still have nine minutes of fame left to spare for the future.   The cameraman came through!

The next morning I woke up at six, my cell phone alarm jarring me awake.  I am a pretty heavy sleeper most of the time, but when you are going to be on the radio at seven, you wake up fairly easily.  Trust me.
So I woke up Arnie, we packed our gear, and I left a thank you note for Marika and Ted, two more awesome human beings I am blessed to have shared time and space with.  Geza was right, they did change my life.
 We found a Tims, grabbed some coffee and headed to the CBC building in downtown Whitehorse.  There wasn’t much happening on the streets at a quarter to seven in Whitehorse, it was cold and quiet, the sun was shining strikingly and I was surprisingly calm.

We went in and I had a quick introduction with Sandi, a mild mannered, middle aged professional radio woman.  She gave me a quick explanation of what was going to happen when we went live and told me to be natural.  What took place next was this interview:

After it was over Arnie who was sitting in the green room, said I did well and sounded like I knew what I was doing.  Good enough for me.  We went to pick up supplies and get breakfast at McDonald’s.  Arnie confided in me that he had NEVER had McDonald’s in his life, even though they were around in Belgium, and he had been living in Canada since April.  I was surprisingly very surprised and was kind of happy and disgusted that I was the one introducing him to their menu of unhealthy, sodium-laden, breakfast products.  We needed a quick meal, and so it went.  

That day we drove and drove.  We stopped for our free coffee in Jade city, and we stopped to make ham and cheese sandwiches.   We also stopped when we saw a bear at the side of the road, and I did a u-turn so Arnie could get a picture from 5 feet away.  The bear was munching on something beside the highway, and it must have been good, because he did not budge, very uncharacteristic for a bear.  From that point on we spotted ten more bears, all of them feasting on something drug-like on the side of the highways.

I had seen signs for various provincial parks along the Cassiar Highway, and was surprised there were personnel that would be working in these remote places.  I told Arnie I wanted to check one out, just to see how they were operated.  So we pulled into one, and I quickly realized there was no one around.  There was a giant board stating park rules and that payment worked on the “honour system”.  Basically you leave money (or credit card info) in a slot, take a permit and that’s it, you’re booked in.  Knowing how cramped it was with just me sleeping in the Honda, I knew having a Belgian who was over six feet tall was not going to be conducive to getting a decent night’s rest.  We decided we would grab a short rest in one of these parks later in the evening, if we could find one

Around 10 pm we found a one; a provincial park called Seely Lake.  Arnie set up a fire and I started up the stove and tent.  We sat around the fire eating Kraft Dinner (a Canadian staple I was happy/disgusted introducing Arnie to) and talked about girls, traveling and the similarities and differences in our respective cultures.  I told Arnie that the word beaver had a secondary connotation in Canada, and he taught me that “foof” was a slang term for the same thing in Dutch.  I learned that Belgium has as many Dutch (Flemish) people as it did French ones.

It was a cold night, and Arnie did not sleep well in the tent, he basically shivered the entire night.  For a European kid I was impressed with his toughness, I was a bit warmer in the car after all.
We drove another 1100 kilometers until we finally arrived at my newlywed cousin Candace and her husband Greg’s place around nine pm.   There was no one at the desert home, just a couple of loud dogs and a ripped up bag of garbage.  I told Arnie we would wait for a half hour or so then we would just keep driving, right to Vancouver if need be.

While we were waiting I saw a strange looking star.  It seemed way too bright for that time of night, and I asked Arnie if it looked out of place, he just shrugged and went back to napping.  I got out of the car and the thing started to move forward and kind of sway east to west.  I followed it through the clear night sky and it just vanished into nothing.  Weird.

My cousin and her hubby showed up shortly after and took us in.  We must have looked malnourished and tired, so Candace made up some Nachos, crackers n’ oysters, and other finger foods.  We gobbled them down greedily.  

I mentioned the UFO to my cousin and she said that her and Greg had seen the same thing, not once, but twice before over the last few nights.  They also told me a story about how they had seen a large one erupting fireballs the previous year.  Candace like me is a believer, Greg and Arnie were skeptics.  It was a fun and friendly debate. 

The sleeping arrangements were ten steps up from the night before; we both got our own rooms, and our own beds.  The next morning Arnie told me it was the best sleep he had had in months.  

We thanked my cousins for putting us up, and were on our way to Vancouver.  I had a 5pm ferry to catch, destination: Victoria.  We stopped for gas and Arnie stopped to pass gas, and other things.  The gas station had a single washroom and Arnie was creating some controversy by being it while the locals lined up.  One older woman exclaimed “What’s he doing in there?  Taking a shower?”   I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.  When he got out it was quiet the spectacle, a small crowd of  people stared at him and made remarks.  He took it well, making a comment how he had kept the seat warm.  Arnie was a funny kid.
As we left the gas station I realized I had left my phone charger at my cousins and we would have to go back.  Time, I realized was now going to be tighter then I had anticipated.  

We hit some traffic outside of Abbotsford, a hundred clicks from Vancouver and I started to sweat.  I was getting worried about making my 5 o’clock ferry.  I told Arnie I might have to drop him off at a skytrain stop.  He was a cool cucumber. No problem.

It turned out I did have to drop him off, just outside of metro Vancouver at a bus stop, but he was happy for the ride.  A hundred and fifty bucks from Whitehorse was a good deal, a couple bucks for public transit wouldn’t be a big deal at this point.  We shook hands, and promised to be Facebook friends. 
Arnie was great company, he was polite, sane, and an interesting conversationalist even in his second language.  I think I showed him some Canadian hospitality, and I know he will never forget about the beaver.  

Arnie the Belgian.Sharing, Sharing, Sharing (beaver motto).

I made my Ferry, and in a few short hours I’d be on Vancouver Island, and with one of my best friends in the whole wide world…

Thursday, 1 September 2011

HiHiuman Weddings, Biker Cousins, and the Rainbow Trout Strike Out.

I woke in Edmonton, inside my Uncle Ricky’s trailer park suburb.  I was pretty disoriented after a long day of travel and a short night of sleep.  I gave my uncle a quick call and told him I was close, I said I would drop in for a coffee before heading through Jasper and into BC.

His trailer was surrounded by a six foot high wooden fence and when I rapped my knuckles on the front door of his gate an eruption of loud barks erupted from the other side.   I could see through the cracks of the fence a protective German shepherd eying me up.  My uncle came out and grabbed the dog, and invited me in.  I did the “smell-my-hand” gesture with the dog and it calmed down.

I hadn’t seen Uncle Ricky in over a decade and he looked pretty much the same, although he had locks of golden hair.  I only had about an hour with him and my Aunt Rose before he had to get to work.  It was a brief visit, but a good one none the less.

Outside we said goodbye and he slipped a twenty into my hand.. completely unexpected.  I said thank you and gave him a big hug.  I grabbed a decent breakfast of sausage and eggs at a local diner, filled up my car and my reserve 10 liter plastic can with cheap Alberta, cowboy gas.  I hit the road and headed to Jasper and into BC.

The drive though Jasper was beautiful, and there is nothing like driving into the Rockies that stirs ones soul.  It’s hard not to be in awe of the majestic beauty of the area coming into BC from Alberta.  Green lakes and snow-capped mountains littered the panoramas east, west, north and south.  

Rocky mountain hop.

I was heading for the Kamloops airport, where I was en route to meet my cousin Casey and Uncle Victor who was flying in that night from Winnipeg.  I made the airport a half hour before my Uncle’s flight and went to the tiny airport’s cafeteria/restaurant and tried unsuccessfully to get some wi-fi on my laptop.  In the midst of my frustrations the deep bellowing voice of my cousin erupted from behind me, I turned to see his chiseled Abe Lincoln face.  He was sporting a brown cowboy hat and a brand new pair of cowboy boots.  I gave him a big hug, and got into the nitty gritty details of my trip across the country.  I knew he wasn’t reading my blog (this one) because he was in the mountains at an off-grid, resort called Hi-Hium (pronounced high – hume).  He was caretaker, general manager and boss on at the family operated fishing resort.  This was to be our destination.

We watched Uncle V get off the plane, a big smirk on his face.  He knew we were watching.
We grabbed some supplies in Kamloops and my Honda followed Uncle V and Casey in my cousin’s pick up.  We hit the dusty back roads shortly after sundown; we were in desert country now, the rolling hills around us covered in sage brush and cacti.  I choked on the dusty trail churned up from the truck in front of me and we began a climb of a couple thousand feet up rugged (non-honda friendly) back roads.  To our right side was a plunge to certain death, and the waxing moon guided our journey as it peeked through the thickening pines around us.

We got to Hi-Hium and  were greeted to a small party of friends and family.  My cousin Candace and her fiancĂ© Greg were having a pre-wedding party.  My Dad was there, half in the bag, with my cousin Gary, the one I had just missed when I left Sioux.  I hadn’t seen him in at least two decades.  He wore all black, had a shaved head, a handle bar mustache and a leather vest.  He looked like a biker.. he is a biker.  I will not confirm nor deny this fact however.  

I was a tad afraid of him, I have never had too much interaction with biker dudes and had no idea what to expect.  We started talking and I liked him immediately.  He was funny, personable and kind, really, really nice.   Again I was taught that judging based on appearance was not a good policy to adopt, unless you want to live your life in fear and judgement.  I don’t, not anymore.

So we hung out, people got wasted and then I grabbed my Dad and we went back to our off-grid, wood-stove heated one room cabin and had a great sleep.

The next morning was all about getting ready to go fishing.  Hi-Hium is a stocked lake, meaning that the Department of Fisheries comes by and drops thousands of rainbow trout fry into the lake, letting them grow and mature in optimal conditions.  The lake has one kind of fish, and one kind of fish only; rainbows.
Now my fly-rod has been round the entire country and had yet to catch a fish.. I was certain Hi-Hium was going to change all that.  My uncle, Casey and I hit the lake and the fun began.  We took out the barge; a giant floating, blue rectangle with an 8 horsepower motor on the back.  We had a great time fishing, but no luck on our first excursion.  The second trip was different, they both caught fish, a “double-header”, two fish at the same time as I looked on in admiration and anticipation.  We fished a few hours and could see fish “rising” all around us, but they weren’t biting on what we were feeding them.  Still it was great to be out on the lake with two of my favourite people.

The next day was the big day; wedding day.  The camp was turned into an impromptu wedding destination.  Pick-up trucks rolled in en masse for one of the most interesting and awesome wedding locations I’ve seen.  There aren’t too many weddings that are held at fishing resorts on lakes at 4000 feet above sea level.  Cousuncle Gary took on the role of parking police and guided all the guests into their respective locations.

The wedding began, my cousin Candace looked gorgeous and Greg looked dapper in his western attire. It was a beautiful ceremony that began with my my cousin Casey and his younger teenage cousin Sam playing a live rendition of “Time of your Life” by Greenday.  The ceremony evolved into a beautiful one where the vows were exchanged by the glistening waters of Hi-hium under a cloudless sunny, summer sky.  It was everything a bride could have asked for, and more.

The technical issue was getting everyone down the mountain and into Clinton BC, an hour and a half away.  There were some lost vehicles, which were eventually found.  There were some country style, impromptu tail gate parties, and a beautiful vintage mustang that drove the bride and groom to their wedding hall in style.

Two hundred guests packed into the town hall and the festivities began.  There were a few rounds of speeches, designed to embarrass and vilify the bride and groom.  There was an amazingly well done edited video production courtesy of Candace and Casey’s Uncle Dennis.  There was a roasted pig and lots of good home cooking.  There was a relative who fainted and was attended to by paramedics, and of course there was a celebration of booze, lights and music that carried on late into the night.  

The next day was cleanup day.  There was the bride and groom and their parents, cleaning up.  That is the country way, and I have nothing but respect for the country way.  

I took it easy that day and spent the day and night with my Aunty Anita, I was pretty exhausted.  I kept it low key and the next day we headed up to Hi-Hium.

I was still skunked, and I had yet to catch me a fish.  Out Casey and Uncle Vic and I went again.  They both caught fish, and I caught none… well, I did have a bite, and it was a big one, he just got away on me.   Wanh wanh.

I hung out at Hi Hium the rest of the day fishing, boating and snacking.  Didn’t catch my trout, but I did catch a cold.  My dad and cousuncle Gary left for Calgary early the next day and I promised to visit upon my return through the east.  I grabbed a few vacuum packed smoked trout that were caught and forgotten, this would be my primary sustenance on the longest leg yet of my Journey, My trip into the North, to Whitehorse.  We headed back to my Aunt Anita’s place down mountain, and early that morning I took my Uncle V through the waking desert canyons to catch his plane in Kamloops.  

I stayed at my Aunt’s for another day, taking care of some laundry and blogging and packed up.  Over two thousand kilometers north lay the frontier, gold rush country, the untouched landscapes of the Yukon. 
They beckoned me.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Homecoming part II, Cops Who Can't Drive, Vikings, Mutilated Cattle and Giant Perogies.

Winnipeg, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Ok, busted.

That was Obi Wan talking about Mos Eisely space port in the first Star Wars movie, however, there are certainly parallels between these two cities, one fictional and one not.  I should be fair though, I do love the Peg.  I grew up there, went to elementary school there, got my first spankings there, and first began using this crazy imagination of mine there.  I love it, but I did see my best friend in grade three, Raymond Robbins, get used as a dart board by the neighborhood, BMX-riding bully.  I remember seeing a blue parlor dart get thrown into his flesh just below the shoulder.  I remember me and my other friends just left him there in that back alley (yes Winnipeg has alleys, which are both cool and nefarious simultaneously), to die.  Well, he lived, but man was he wailing.

All I am trying to do is illustrate that Winnipeg, is a colorful tapestry of pleasure and pain.  If you are a Winnipegger you will have experienced both.  The weather is hot and dry in the summer, but cold and windy in the winter, there is an amazing zoo, and  "the Northwest", a part of town cops avoid, there is great food and night life, there are drugs and thug life.  You get the point.

My Honda hit the city limits at sundown, and I texted my friend Andrew to let him know I was in town.  He texted me back saying he would be a half hour from meeting me.  I decided to take a trip down memory lane.  I hadn't seen the house I grew up in for twenty some odd years, or my old school or neighborhood.  I GPSed my way there and was immediately hit by a wave of nostalgia.  I pulled over and took a picture of 726 Banning Street.  To you, the reader, it means nothing, but I was transported back in time, if only for a few moments, to the beginning years of my life.  I remember everything being so much bigger in my mind, the distances between my house and my school, Sergeant Park, for instance.  When I was a kid, that walk felt like being in a caravan crossing the Sahara, it seemed to last forever, but I estimated the walking distance now to be eight minutes.  It was really wierd to me, that all the distances that seemed so vast in childhood were so small in my adult life.  It does make sense, our sense of time and distance as a kid seem to be longer, a summer was a lifetime back then.  We all know how that gets as you age...

I met Andrew (whom I refer to as Hopper) at his mom's house.  She was somewhere overseas and basically we had this nice quiet house all to ourselves.  I dumped my gear in one of the bedrooms and we headed out to Osborne Village to grab a bite to eat.

We find this nice little Vietnamese place and order a bowl of vermicelli with beef balls, BBQ pork and spring rolls.  The price is $6.95, so far one of the best deals on the 1GA.  While we are waiting for our food to arrive, Hopper calls his buddy Sasha, who lives in a high rise only a five minute walk away.  He shows up right after we get our food, which looks and smells and tastes awesome, and we start talking.  Sasha is a fast thinker and equally fast talker, he should be, he is a lawyer after all.  He tells us how he represented Steve-O of jackass fame, for an alleged assault (he sounded like he was the one assaulted) out in Calgary.  After we ate, Hopper covered the bill, and we headed over to Sasha's apartment.

Twenty one stories up we went, and the view from Sasha's deck was one of the best in town.  We talked and hung out and Sasha played us a couple of songs on his guitar.  Not only was Sasha a smart and accomplished lawyer, he was a talented musician as well.  Sometimes you meet people and you are in awe, Sasha certainly was one of those multi talented people I have met on this trip.  We headed out to a bar not to far away in Sasha's Mercedes, I am not a car guy, but I know even the most base model of any kind of Mercedes is a hundred times better then my 13 year old green Honda civic.   We went to the "Toad and the Hole" a somewhat grungy, beat up looking watering hole.  It was pretty busy for a Sunday night and the bar was alive with good tunes, good people, and good conversation.  The three of us talked until about midnight before we packed it in.

On the way home, Sasha handed me the keys to the Mercedes and asked me if I wanted to drive.  Of course I couldn't turn him down.  Driving the Mercedes I felt like 007, and the differences between his car and my car were that much more evident.  Mine was a car of function and reliability and his was of form and beauty.  Those Germans know how to build stuff.  We said goodbye to Sasha and headed back to the house.

The next day we headed out for the Winnipeg Zoo and drove through Assinaboine park.  Again the memories of good times at the park and zoo flooded my conscious awareness.  We wandered the zoo through the many awesome exhibits and took a break to watch a birds of prey demo.  They had all the bases covered; a vulture, a falcon, an owl, a hawk and an eagle.  The birds flew over the heads of the audiences awing both child and adult alike. 

I had called my Uncle Trent earlier that day in the hopes that I'd be able to see him, my Aunt and cousins.  During the birds of prey show, they had advised us at the beginning to not make any sudden movements or noises, and of course my cell phone decided to ring in the middle of the show when a falcon was flying only a few feet from my head.  I accepted his invitation for dinner that night as quickly as possible, and said I had to go for fear of having a falcon dive bomb my head and rip an eye out.  

After the zoo I put an add up on Kijiji, to try and see if I could get a passenger or two across the prairies.  Every dollar counts and I figured it was worth a shot.  It only took five minutes to put the add up.  I finished posting the add and headed for my Aunt and Uncle's place.

I arrived for dinner and was greeted by my Aunt Greta, a real sweetheart.  She gave me a big hug and invited me in.  My Uncle showed up, and I hugged him too.  I love my Uncle Trent, and when I was growing up in Winnipeg he was someone I looked up to.  He's member of the Winnipeg Police Department and what kid doesn't want an Uncle who is a cop in their relative repertoire.   We chatted a bit and my cousin Zack showed up and gave me a hug, the last time I saw Zack was at Bernier's Beach in Sioux Lookout four summers prior.  I remember putting on snorkeling gear and somehow attaching a rope from a small rubber raft to my swim trunks and pulling my young cousin across the lake.  I think my shorts almost came off.

My cousin Melissa and William showed up, both in their early twenties, with "Willy" being a couple years older.  We ate a small Chinese feast which we served up ourselves in the newly renovated kitchen and got caught up on what was going on in the family.

Two years ago, my Uncle who was off duty at the time, went to pick up Greta from work.  He was coming through one of the busiest intersections in the city when a police cruiser, that was travelling way too fast, careened into him.  These two green officers, only a few months out of academy t-boned my Uncle while responding to a low priority call.  There was no need for them to be using sirens and lights, and they were clocked going almost 6 times faster then protocol allows for proceeding through intersections.  Bottom line is these two young cops, because of their negligence, put a veteran cop, my Uncle out of work for the last 2 years.  His back and neck were broken and he has spent the last couple years just trying to get to a point where he can get back to his life in a normal way, that many of us, myself included take for granted.

He is doing much better these days, but he will never be on patrol again, which is tough since he was a good cop who loved his job, and loved being out there amongst the people.  It was a tough time for him and his family and I hope and pray that he continues his recovery, he is a really good man.

So my cousin Willy takes me downstairs and tells me he has something for me, he shoves three twenties in my hand and tells me he wishes he could give me more.  I am floored.  I have never asked anyone for money, people just keep giving it to me, I swear!  His generosity really warmed my heart, he is a great kid.  I thanked him and went upstairs and talked to my Uncle a bit more, and Aunty Greta hands me an envelope, the card inside wishing me a good journey, and their is another eighty dollars staring at me.  I did feel guilty, I am not out visiting family because I am looking for handouts, I'm really not.  I had no idea that I was going to leave my Aunt and Uncle's house that night 140 dollars richer.  I left that evening deeply grateful, to my family, and to something ethereal, and powerful, that has continued to guide and support me on this journey.  Life is surprising me, almost everyday, all I can do is continue to be in a state of gratitude.

During that day and into the next, my kijiji add started to pay dividends.  For my departure into the west I had lined up two passengers, a dude named Cory who had a farm on the outskirts of the city and worked in the oilsands, and a kid named Jonas, who was a young Dane.  This young man of Viking decent needed a lift to Lloydminster where he had found a job on Danish farm.  In total I was going to net $180 for my services as a long range taxi driver.  More abundance... more gratitude.

The next day I met up with cousin Sharol, My Uncle Victor's oldest daughter and we went to the Silver Heights Restaurant.  It was 2 for 1 night and Hopper told me the steak sandwiches were really good.  I was inclined to agree.  We talked for a couple hours and found that we had a lot in common.  We were both television broadcasting graduates, and we were both employed (she still is) on various productions.  We talked about her upcoming wedding, as well as that of my cousin in BC, Candace, who was less then a week from her date with destiny.  After we left, we continued talking out in front for a good twenty minutes.  Sharol is getting married in early September, and I hope I can make it back to the middle of Canada by then, it will be one for the books I am sure.

That night was the second night in a row I had the whole house to myself, as Hopper was at his girlfriends place.  We talked via text and he assured me he would arrive the next morning with coffee in hand to see me off.   I knew he wouldn't dissapoint, he had been an amazing host and friend over the last few days and wouldn't let me spend money, covering meals and driving me around town.

True to his word he arrived with coffee and a cinnamon roll.  I had done most of my packing the night before and was on the road at 7:45 am.  I was to meet my two passengers at the Assinaboine Downs, a horse track and casino on the western edge of the city.
I had arranged to meet Jonas and Cory at 8am, and I arrived about 5 minutes late. There were two cars, and two couples.  The boys got out, and the girls said their goodbyes.  It was a strange coincidence that I had picked up tow guys who were both leaving town to find work in Alberta.  I briefly shook their hands and helped them with their luggage which had the rear seats completely packed, I would be relying on side mirrors.  The only space left was a nook on the driver side behind me for the young Dane,  Cory was the bigger of the two, so it was agreed he would get shotgun.

I spent the greater part of the drive talking with Cory, since he was right beside me.  I learned that he himself had a farm, a small but economical operation where he had some livestock and crops.  Jonas was a quiet, polite kid, who was surely decended of Viking descent.  He had fallen in love with a Canadian girl when he was traveling in Australia, had come here to be with her, and needed to make some money to get home, back to Denmark.  I assumed it was not a voyage by boat.

Cory and I had an awesome conversation, he further expanded my knowledge of things I knew little about; farming, machines, agriculture and her economics.  I would like to hope I was able to provide him with a fraction of the knowledge he provided me.  Thank the stars I had these two, because the drive through the prairies is a monotonous one.  I am not saying it wasn't beautiful, it was, but it gets to be very repetitive after a while.

As we were driving through St. Albert Saskatchewan, Cory relayed to me some interesting information.  A few years ago in this sleepy farming town, some strange things started to take place.  Cows were showing up dead, their tongues, eyes, sex and other internal organs, being removed with surgical, laser like precision.  One of Cory's relatives had a few of his cattle mutilated in this fashion, and the big mystery was why, and how?  The cuts made were fully cauterized as if they had been taken out with an unknown sophisticated technology.  Many believed that these were experiments being done by beings from another planet.  I asked Cory what he thought, he didn't have an explanation.
After 1200 kms, we arrived in Lloydminster, a town straddling the border of Saskatchewan and Alberta.  We passed a large red pole which was the symbolic border into Alberta and looked for a Dairy Queen, our rendezvous point for meeting a truck full of Danish farmers, who would soon be abducting Jonas into their fold.

We spotted the Dairy Queen and the big white pickup truck full of more Viking men.  I drove into the parking space beside them and was bombarded with greetings in a language I could only assume was Danish.  I shook some hands, and saw Jonas grab his luggage, he was greeted like he had been away a long time at sea, on an expedition in the frozen Atlantic.  Even though he knew none of these Danes, he was immediately welcomed like family.  I thanked Jonas, he thanked me, and that was it.  I had a second passenger to attend to, and so off we went, to a place called Elk Lake.

The landscape started to change, from flat prairie to rolling hills and meadows.  I started to see the far reaching influences of the oil industry in Canada.  Many of the hills on these farms had small oil derricks in place, pumping out crude.  Cory explained that the companies paid big bucks to lease the land from the farmers in exchange for the oil under their properties.  He also explained how the companies were becoming more complacent and were sucking up oil, and more sand, quicker, in their extraction attempts.  He further explained that these temporary wells used to be pumped and drained over several years, and now the focus was on increased production.  I was amazed to see the capitalistic system at work, even in the boonies of Alberta.

After a few twist and turns down some dirt roads, I dropped Cory at his friend's farm just outside of Elk Lake.  His car was stored there as well as some possessions.  I thanked Cory, told him to stay in touch, and headed off.

When I was in Newfoundland I met Samantha and Lindsey, and we had a discussion about a giant perogie.  I promised them if I was within 100 kilometers I would visit this totem of the Ukrainian peoples.  I checked my GPS and Glendon was only 35 kilometers north to where I was.  Now there are coincidences, and then there is fate.  As fate would have it, I had a date with a giant perogie.

I don't like driving after dark because I don't want to contribute roadkill, or "me-kill", but I made an exception this night and after twenty five minutes I was in the tiny community of Glendon, population: 500.  I drove around, and for the life of me couldn't find this damn perogie.  The town was quiet, it was a weeknight and after dark, and I was about to give up when I saw two teenage girls walking down the main drag.  Now I didn't want to be that creepy guy with the Ontario plates, but I had come too far and was out of options.  I pulled over and just said "Uhmm, sorry to bother you, I know this may seem strange, but I promised a couple of girls in Newfoundland I'd get a picture of your giant perogie, can you tell me where it is?"  The girls giggled and gave me some clear directions.  I said thank you, and after a few twists and turns spotted the world's largest Ukrainian potato dumpling.

Now where do I buy a giant tub of sour cream?

I took a little video for the archives and a few snapshots as proof to my Ontarian-Newfie friends.  I was getting tired and had 230 kms to get to Edmonton.  I was hoping to get to my Uncle Ricky's before 1am but realized that possibility was now completely ruled out, as it was already after midnight.  Another road sleep was in the books for me.

I got to Edmonton, found a parking lot close to where uncle Ricky lived and got into the back seat and passed out....the next morning I'd stop in for a coffee and be on my way through the Rocky mountains.   I had in my pocket just over 600 bucks, not only enough to easily get through to BC, but enough to hit one of my bonus destinations, Whitehorse and the Yukon Territory.   I was happy, yet again, on the One Grand Adventure.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The centre of the Universe, Log Cabins and kielbasa sandwiches.

The 401 guided me into Toronto with much ease around dusk.  My destination was metro Toronto, right smack dab in the central core.  My friend Dann had an apartment with his pregnant girlfriend a couple of blocks from Canada’s premiere landmark, the CN Tower.  The transition from sandy beach to skyscrapers was jarring.  Instead of birch trees lining the water, it was buildings and light poles along the busy streets.

I was on the phone with my mom coming into downtown, and we were arguing about something.  I hadn’t talked to her in a while and was a bit perturbed knowing that our only time speaking in weeks had degraded into a fight about some stupid motor that I was supposed to NOT pick up in Northern Ontario.  My phone died and I reached my destination on Nelson St. simultaneously.  I had to text Dann to come down and meet me, but I had wasted the precious remaining energy in my cell arguing with my mom.  I plugged my phone into the AC converter in the car, and got the phone up and running.  I sent a text to Dann who replied almost instantly, stating he’d see me soon.  My mother called back shortly after, apologized, as did I, and we spoke until Dann burst through the giant wooden door of his condo lobby.

 He was beaming as was I.  It had been two years since we last saw each other in the flesh.  He jumped in my car and we went to the underground parking.  We got to his apartment about ten stories up and he took me out onto his deck, which faced the CN Tower.  It was so close I felt I could reach out and grab it.  The apartment was like a shoebox, but the spectacular view made up for the condensed living space.


We made our way to the roof of the building, which was bustling with activity.  Young twenty-something Torontonians littered the roof like broken glass.  Everyone was a Venus or an Adonis in their own way, while I was looking like a beach bum gang banger, and was too tired to really care if I fit in or not.  I met Dann`s baby mama and girlfriend, a tall sultry blond named Jaclyn, his sister and her boyfriend.  I was offered some potato salad, burnt chicken and greens and wolfed all three down with vulture like violence.  I had skipped the road meal from Sandbanks in the hopes my hunger would be satiated upon my arrival in the big city, which gratefully, it was.

Dann and I wandered downtown Toronto while Jaclyn retired for the evening.  We visited the Horseshoe, one of the city`s more famous landmarks in the music scene.  The small club has hosted some of Rock n`Rolls biggest acts; the Stone`s, Ramone`s and U2 to name a few.  Even at midnight on a Wednesday the streets are alive in Ontario`s capitol.  We wandered aimlessly and talked about life, its many twists and turns, and mentally jabbed each other, each of our egos vying for the upper hand in the bright city night.

I had a hard time sleeping that night, the sounds of T-oh like an ocean of noxious noise; sirens, honking horns, yelling, more sirens, car alarms and custom car exhaust systems kept me awake, their din amplified by the tall buildings. I realized I had packed earplugs, and put them in, and found a few hours of solace.  The next morning was humid, and light streamed in through the 30 foot high, uncovered windows.  The rubber air mattress had a layer of my perspiration trapped between it and my arm.  I got up, checked my email and facebook and looked for something to eat.  Jaclyn was up shortly after and we hung out for a bit, talking about pregnant life, and her plan to move with Dann out of the city mid-August.  I petted Cal, the world`s cutest bulldog and hopped into my first shower in about 3 days.  It was Dann`s 35th birthday and our plan was to go and pick up a gift and drop off his lunch.

Jaclyn and I wandered the downtown core, meeting up with Dann, who had been at work for a few hours already, and handed off his lunch.  We went to a music store to find Dann the guitar he wanted for his birthday, it was out of stock, but I had a great time hanging out for a quarter of an hour in front of the store.  People in big cities are always in a big hurry, and if you look into the faces of pedestrians passing you by on the streets, they are in their own worlds, full of worry and sometimes joy.  When you have a big cute bulldog, and you are sitting in front of a music store on Queen St, in the heart of the city, when people see that dog they are temporarily snapped out of their mental dramas and smile.  That dog brought presence and joy to about 30 strangers, in a span of 15 minutes.  For a dog that can`t swim, or do any tricks, he was a master of inner city, joy cultivation.

That evening we celebrated at Wayne Gretzky`s bar with a few of Dann`s friends and co-workers.  I drank a virgin Caesar followed by a red bull and had a great time socializing with a great group of people.  It was a beautiful night and we commiserated on the enormous patio until after dark.  I had been corresponding via text with my friend Neil in Hamilton and decided I would head over and pay him a late night visit.
Only in Toronto will traffic come to a dead stop at 11 pm, but thems the breaks in a city that does the majority of its road work after dark.  I got to Hamilton around midnight and knocked on the well maintained town home of my friend Neil.  My old mentor answered the door and it felt good to see him.  He welcomed me in and we drank lemonade and talked into the early morning hours.  The next morning Neil whipped up a nice breakfast and I was back on the road to Toronto.

When Dann finished work we packed up my car, gassed up and hit the road, destination: Jaclyn`s folks log cabin, twenty minutes from picturesque Bobcaygeon Ontario.  To all of our surprise, the six o`clock traffic was eerily fast moving, truly baffling for Toronto traffic, where a two hour rush hour is the rule not the exception.  We made good time to the cottage arriving with the evenings twilight still lingering.

Jaclyn`s parents, Keith and Marcia waved us into the cabin, which was still under construction but nonetheless impressive.  The main space was all open concept, with the kitchen and living room clearly visible to one another.  I was introduced to Jaclyn`s sister Ashley and her husband Andrew, a sweet couple who were only a couple weeks earlier in Athens competed in the special Olympics.  Dann introduced me to Reba, Jaclyn’s youngest 16 year old sister with whom he had a catty and snarky rapport.

We grabbed some grub, a homemade vegetarian chilli, and sat around the fire.  Jaclyn`s parents were warm, salt of the earth people who made me feel totally welcome as they peppered me with questions about my one grand adventure.  I was more than happy to be the centre of attention responding to their queries with enthusiasm.  Everyone else turned in except for Dann and I, and we spent a couple of hours once again talking about life, and the future.

The next day was a plethora of activity, I was thinking I would start driving west again, but felt it would be a waste of a perfectly sunny day to spend it on the road to Sault St. Marie.  So I hung out with Dann and his girlfriend`s welcoming family, and went snorkeling, swimming and tried unsuccessfully again to fly fish.  This last attempt to use my barely used rod resulted in me pulling it out of the case only to find the tip snapped off.  I tried in vain to work the rod, but that final loop and tip are there for a reason, obviously no fish were caught that day.  A happy camper I was not, but I moved on.

I enjoyed hanging out with the Mitchell family and they were very funny people who enjoyed being outside as much as I do.  Marcia told me about her own travels, and those of her brother, a dude who traveled the entire world on a motorcycle, an awesome feat worth mentioning.  

The next day was a work day.  I got out my work/hiking boots and a pair of ripped jeans and with Keith acting as foreman, Dann, Andrew and I began putting together the rest of the cabin’s solid maple floor.  Never having done a floor before I was eager to learn more, and I did.  Keith was a patient and talented foreman, the entire cabin he had built pretty much himself from the ground up.  I am envious of those individuals who possess enough skill with building and carpentry that they can build an entire house with their own talents and ingenuity.  I have added this endeavor to my own bucket list.

After a good six hours of work, we grabbed a bar of soap and made for the lake.  Covered in sawdust, glue and blisters we dove into the cool waters and refreshed ourselves and our souls.  A job well done and a new skill learned, I was ready to make my way to Sault St. Marie, and then my birth town of Sioux Lookout the following day.

I offered my thanks, and Dann being the good friend he is helped me out with 60 well needed dollars.  The budget was wearing very thin.  With Dann’s contribution my total leaving southern Ontario was $230.  I was a bit worried to say the least, however, I tried to focus on the fact that I still had money, I was leaving with a full belly and a cooler of food packed for me by Marcia.  I was still abundant and I just kept telling myself I will be OK.  I am going to keep going, the universe will provide.

Surely a part of me was saying: ”yeah right”.  However the skeptic in me wasn’t the one who made it through the Maritimes and back into Ontario.  The skeptic wasn’t responsible for all the good fortune, good people and good weather.  Something else was, and that something else, has told me time and time again to be patient, to live in joy and to trust in it and myself.  I know all I have to do is have faith and keep moving west, and so at three o’clock in the afternoon that is exactly what I did.

I said goodbye, again.  I looked west and set the GPS for Sault Saint Marie Ontario, over 600 kilometers away.  I knew I wouldn’t be getting to town till after 11pm and would be spending the night in my car.

The drive through the Muskoka region was beautiful, and I could see the scenery changing into the familiar Canadian Shield country that I have grown to love and associate with homecoming. Rocky outcrops spattered with lakes and marsh, ideal habitat for the moose was all around me and the sun was shining the entire way.

I arrived in Sault Saint Marie, stopped at a McDonalds and bought a hamburger for $1.89 and pulled out the laptop and utilized the free wi-fi to check my email.  It was about 2am, much later then I had anticipated getting to town, and now I had to find a place to park and sleep.  I found such a place behind the Royal Order of the Moose’s lodge just off the trans-Canada and off I went into the back seat, I was out in a few seconds.

I woke up to my phone ringing and it hung up before I could orient myself and locate it.  It was 7:30 am and the phone read: “missed call from Dad 2”.  I called the number back and talked to my Dad who I tried to call the night before with no luck to let him know I would be delayed a day.  I told him I’d be in Sioux Lookout late, and to be ready for me.  I kept the call brief, since 25 cents a minute ain’t cheap.  

I went to a Food Basics and grabbed some groceries, yogurt, some kolbassa sausage and some other small on sale items.  Total bill: $7.81.  I had to also refill on gas, that bill was almost fifty bucks.   Budget was down to about $180… not good, and I knew I’d have to refill again before the day was through as my GPS was telling me it would be 1059kms to Sioux Lookout Ontario.  I headed out of Sault St. Marie bypassing the downtown core and heading right for highway 17, my golden ticket into northern Ontario.

I turned up my ipod and settled into the ass groove of my bucket seats, it was going to be a long day of driving.  As I was heading out of town I saw a hitcher on the side of the road with a cardboard sign with TBAY scrawled in heavy permanent ink.  He was a huge, harmless looking kid wearing a tank top.  For some reason I imagined he was some farmer’s kid running away from home and looking for his shot at taking on the empire all by himself.  These are the weird thoughts that pop into my head.  Anyways, I was going too fast to stop safely and I vowed that I would pick up the next hitchhiker instead.  A long drive goes quicker when you have someone to talk to.

About fifteen minutes later I had a conversation buddy and my new friend Jake had himself a nice one thousand km ride.  He was wearing a Bob Marley tank top, had a beard as long as my own mange, and an army cap.  I liked him immediately.

Jake was in the same boat as me.  No job, no plan, spiritually inclined but economically declined.  We were also exactly the same age and were both recovering from break ups that happened late in 2010.  The parallels were uncanny to say the least. We talked about conspiracy and spirituality from A to Z.

We stopped and shared food together the entire day, I provided mustard and kielbasa sandwiches and he provided candy and crackers.  I told him about my blog and my videos and he told me about his idea to do a documentary on hitch hiking.  In the hope that springs from new friendship we agreed to collaborate together in the future.

Jake was making for Tofino in BC on Vancouver Island; I promised I would track him down as soon as I got there.  I gassed up in scenic Terrace Bay, a friendly outpost town and my budget was down to around $135 bucks.  Jake bought me a coffee and we were on our way once more.

As the day dissolved into afternoon, evening and dusk, we caught sight of a bear, then a moose.  Jake, a shaman in training told me these were good omens, and I was inclined to agree.  My turn off to Sioux had passed around 9pm; we had made really good time.  It was time to say our goodbyes; I drove Jake to an abandoned school outside a small town called Wabigon on the outskirts of Dryden Ont.  We exchanged emails, and gave each other a good hug.  The time shared was life changing for both of us, I waved farewell and off I went, keeping hope in my heart that we would indeed see each other again in Tofino.

Me and the third hitch hiker on the trip: A great guy named Jake.

I turned onto HWY 72, the 45 minute home stretch into Sioux Lookout.  The sun was setting and the northern sky was a sombre and beautiful, upside-down lake of pinks and blues.  A baby doe, on the side of the highway scurried away into the bush upon my approach, its white spotted back vanishing into the underbrush. 

This was a good omen, a good omen indeed.