"Spin" in aviation training: a "stall" or loss of lift, a subsequent nose-down spin, the specific actions required for recovery, and the feeling, after recovery, that you could tackle absolutely anything!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Oil and Agawa

The last chunk of my drive from home–to west coast–to home again, started the morning after a rockus June storm in Brandon, Manitoba. I woke up to sunshine, ate, and headed out. I always had some protein (cooked chicken, or a can of salmon), and snacks (apples, celery, almonds, peanut butter, chocolate) in my cooler, and would make salads (I had balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lettuce) on the fly so never absolutely HAD to go to a restaurant.  I discovered that my large, 2-litre water jug was an excellent tabbouleh container!

                          Isn't that exciting?

I would put the ingredients together at a camp site or rest area, boiling the water for the bulgur with my dandy camp stove. Once prepared, and since on this leg, it was only me, I could shovel it into my face directly from the jug. 

                            Don't judge me.

Previously, Connor and I ate fast food burgers once during the drive out. I felt horrid before I was half-way through the tasteless puck of garbage, and vowed not to repeat. I did eat at restaurants now and then, but not from any chains that supersized. I actually preferred being able to pull into an information centre in Wherever-ville, open up my van, serve myself a meal, and walk around with it  in the fresh air, instead of having to sit. You know, you sit enough when you're driving thousands of kilometres. Yes, thousands. Plus, it was cheap as hell, and I got 100% of the tips.

           There. Now you know about food.

Onward, as the wreckless gods threw their darts, because something had to happen, apparently; my oil change service message came on: Oil life 15%, plus the little wrench symbol for extra oomph. I did have the oil changed in the van just before I left, over 8000 kilometers ago but, damn it to hell, and the bears, snakes, and tornadoes of the past. I always cringe when I see that wrench symbol. I emailed my mechanic back home; faithful to a fault with my service record on this vehicle.  I told him that I could top-up the oil if it needed it, and he replied in the affirmative and that it should be fine until I arrived home. I was in Winnipeg when I sent this. 

I drove to Kenora, and was able to avoid the reality of that(Kenora) by listening to Allen Stone, and Radio Lab podcasts. I was still mourning the mountains, and Kenora was not helping ease the pain of that. Pancakes made with sand would have  been more comforting. More on that another time. 

I found a motel. I slept. I was up early, eager to get the hell out of there, and did–with finesse and a heavy accelerator foot. I tucked into Thunder Bay five hours later, and, as I was not feeling a particularly neato vibe, kept driving, targeting Agawa Bay; the same campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park that Connor and I stayed in on our way out, twenty-seven days previously. This was a six-hour effort, but since I knew how beautiful it was, found the stamina to continue. The boring, scrubby landscape that was so draining to look at between Kenora and Thunder Bay, began to soften and dovetail into more idyllic, mountainous scenery that, at times, reminded me of a smaller scale B.C.. B.C. HO perhaps.

My oil service message showed, Oil Life 10%Then, Oil Life 5%I had never let it drop to this before, and was vibrantly stressed. I had to find oil.

This route, in between the mining and lumber towns, was sprinkled with abandoned motels, restaurants, and gas stations where someone, a Bruce, or a Wanda, had tried to make a go of it with the best of intentions. There were proper gas stations, but for some reason, I ended up stopping at a somewhat struggling motel–gas station in the very middle of nowhere. 

At first glance, the pumps appeared to be out of service; awaiting their inevitable, rusted, decommissioned fate, but, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a small, neon, Open sign in the window of the motel office. I jammed on the brakes quickly enough to swing into the second driveway, pulled up to the office, and stopped, worried to bits about my darling van. 

There was rain coming, plus nightfall shortly ahead. I checked my phone uselessly because there was no cell service in these parts.  I de-vanned, and stood looking around for a moment. I heard a voice from inside the office say, “Come on in.”

I opened the door and stepped into a small, tired reception area. A diminutive, older woman in fuschia muumuu greeted me with a soft, motherly tone. I asked her if she had any motor oil for sale. She pointed to a shelf behind me where there were, perhaps, five different kinds of oil; one quart of each. It was clear that business was down, and there was little money to invest in fully stocking the shelves. I bought oil and a jug of windshield washer fluid. We chatted, and I gleaned that she rarely ventured out into the world beyond the towns nearby. Part of me envied her, living so close to the edge of Lake Superior, as long as she was content. I hoped that she was. I liked her. If I wasn't so stressed, it would have been nice to talk with her over a cup of tea. 

                  But I WAS stressed.

 I checked the van’s dipstick and added just a half quart of oil, which made me feel much better. I began breathing again, figuring the dashboard madness would stop, and continued on to Agawa Bay. I yipped with joy upon spotting the campground’s road sign. Since I was pulling in after gatehouse hours, I went directly in and found a site. I would register and pay in the morning which is not a problem. I set up my tent just before nightfall, and was asleep before it thumped to the ground. 

A storm came through early in the morning. I heard the waves building on the lake along with a fierce wind through the trees around me. A business-like rain hurled itself to the ground; the patter of it on the outer shell of my tent sounded like there could have been a squadron of sixth-graders firing elastic bands at it. Then the wind took hold of my tent and gave it a good shaking, enough for me to notice quite clearly.

                            Helluva storm.

In time, the shaking stopped, the wind eased, and the rain relented to a sensible rate before ceasing. There are no windows in my tent–my judgement of the kind of world I unzip myself out into comes only by figuring on the sounds outside and the general light level inside. On this morning, I emerged to a fresh, misty heaven; the air busting with the smell of wet pine, and I could not have been happier.

Yes, my tent was wet, but I was completely dry. There was quiet, with minimal surf at this point. I put on my raincoat, made my coffee, walked the thirty feet to the edge of the shoreline, and stood staring at everything. 

I watched, not wanting to make a sound. Over the space of the morning, the mist lifted, like the lid off of a gift box, to reveal a sunny, perfect sky. I’m normally not a beach-sitter (unless it’s on the beach on Quadra watching the sea, or bald eagles), but here, in this little bay, I couldn't not. The setting was oddly perfect, like something out of The Truman Show. The mist held to the edges of the bay like sideburns. The sun shone in the middle. A wonderfully refreshing breeze came off of the lake–not enough to chill, but enough to mitigate the focused attention of that sun. I brought my little chair out to the stony edge of the surf and sat for what could have been hours, looking into the glass-clear water, watching the waves riffle along the shoreline, and feeling more relaxed and at peace than I had in some time. I let myself be totally present; no unsure future, or oil problems to worry about. Nothing.

I felt that I could have fallen apart–molecules into the beach with such caressing breezes. I was planning on leaving that afternoon for absolutely no good reason. I didn’t. I gave myself this day.

With my own permission, I drove out to a few other of the park’s sites. I walked a few short trails, scampered up Sand River and was transfixed by the loud, deep flumes running through the rocks. 

 I saw the Ojibway pictographs at Agawa Rock. I was careful, because there were wet rocks, wet leaves, and great places to fall terribly.

 I reminded myself that I was alone, nobody knew where I was, and there was no cell service I could use to call for help after I'd fallen and shattered whichever bones. I would have to lay there and eat moss until the next tourist came along. I still went out to the edge of the cliffs and examined the pictographs, but carefully planned every step that I took. It was totally worth it.

Later in the afternoon, back at the campground, I met a woman from Owen Sound, walking her dog. We began chatting, and were joined by a father and daughter from Missouri–all of us hanging around the water spigot like you would the office water cooler. The woman was there camping with her husband, celebrating thirty years of matrimonial bliss, and she invited me to join them at their evening fire later on. I arrived with a celebratory bottle of Saskatoon Berry Syrup that I had bought at an information centre just inside the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan, near Maple Creek. I had to bring something, and canned salmon is more industrial than celebratory; the syrup was the thing. 

It began raining minutes after I arrived, so I presented my offering, then went back to my tent, serenaded to sleep by an easier, gentler rain. No sixth-graders this time. I did hear a crash during the night, and awoke to find that a branch had come down on my picnic table. Yes, I was lucky. No, it was not big enough to end me, but it would have put a hole in my tent. 

     Yay for having that completely not happen!

It continued to rain in the morning. I got up, still thrilled with how this place made me feel. This time I took my coffee and walked the length of the beach, water dripping off of the brim of my rain jacket hood when I wore it up, dripping off of my very noggin when I had the hood pulled back.

I didn’t want to go. I very much did not want to leave this place. I still missed the mountains, and now had to pack up and tear myself away from another environment where I felt such a deep connection. 


The anniversary couple invited me to breakfast, so I disassembled and threw my wet tent into the back of my van, and drove over to their site. We enjoyed a fine breakfast of Lake Superior shoreline eggs, bagels, and great coffee. We talked for quite a while, shared contact information, and then I departed. 

                    I didn’t want to go.

Did I mention that? I almost felt sick. But, there I was, back on the road, heading for Sudbury.

 My oil service message came on like I had never seen it before. I started the day with, Oil Life 5%, then later on, 0%. I added more oil until the dipstick showed that the reservoir was full. The message began flashing and then went to negative numbers

                        What the hell?

Just as I began invoking my ujjai breath from yoga, in order to calm down, I noticed a billboard for Jiffy Lube in Sudbury. 


I found the place, and gratefully, had them change the oil filter and add the best oil. The very idea of having engine trouble now, on this part of the voyage, gave me chilblains. Or something that sounds horrible like that (make up a horrible word for your own imagination). 

That done, I found a hotel, slept, awoke, and left Sudbury. I arrived home late in the afternoon, my indicator finger twitching; I could still make a run for it and keep going. 

                             Avanti, right?  

I’m home now, doing laundry, and checking my plants, but the idea of staying here is not sitting well. No, it’s not sitting well at all.

Stay tuned.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Trying to Grok the Prairies

My journey into the prairies started by having a conversation with an old cowboy over breakfast at the Tamarack Motor Inn, in Rocky Mountain House. We were seated in separate booths with terribly high backs, initially. All I could see was the top of his straw cowboy hat nodding and twisting as he spoke with the server. When I mentioned to the same server that I had driven through snow on the David Thompson Highway out of the mountains, the cowboy tucked into the conversation, so I moved myself and my house-special breakfast to his booth. We talked about horses, cattle, rodeo’s, and general human well-being. I liked him, though I did not agree with his perspective on a few things, but, I was not there to set him straight. I was there to listen and understand his character. He was a gift.

Later on, at the laundromat, I met the best couple. I was deep into the dryer cycle, and had gone outside to drape my wet tent over my van so it would dry. This tall fella, Sam Elliot’s doppelganger, walks out and hollers, “Where ya from?”  Well, he, and his gorgeous wife and I, talked until everything was dried and sorted.  They described, with great affection, their retired life in a house in the mountains, near a stream. I liked them tons. We all agreed on how much we don’t like crowds, and how much we adore the mountains. 


After I left them, I was still in mourning, so when I pulled into Drumheller and saw this: 

I had a difficult time adjusting.  Can you blame me? 

Then, there was this, 

a Hoodoo, which I felt was closer to something on Mars.

When I left Drumheller, I started to sort of settle into this part of the world; sort of.

I pulled into a cemetery out in the middle of nowhere. 

It was set back behind a thicket, and surrounded by grazing land. I half-expected to see Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and John Wayne standing, toasting some unfortunate they'd just buried. There was nobody there though. Just the wind, a dozen or so grave stones; some quite old, and a large herd of black angus cows and calves watching from over the barbed wire fence.

They didn't much care for me, or the horse I rode in on, and began running around like great, meaty fools; mothers hollering for their young as if I was the one that the cow legends said would come. I left quickly, because spooking a farmer's herd of expensive cattle can make them a little mad, and I didn't want to come back to Ontario with a bullet hole in my hat. 

I drove to this:

Dinosaur Provincial Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site. What a kick! I was not expecting to see geography, or Hoodoo geology like this, anywhere in Canada.

The campsite itself, was clean and quiet, tucked down as it was, in the valley along the Red Deer River. Oh, sure, there were signs warning of snakes. There has to be something, doesn't there?



I tended conflicted feelings about this. Part of me was childishly keen to see a coiled rattler while here, but the other part was just as childishly sticking to the middle of each trail, glad to be sporting solid hiking boots.

I saw no serpents, dangerous or not, during any of the several hours that I hiked. I didn't sing though, as I did to ward off bears further west. Here, I figured a snake might hear me and assume that I was injured; easy prey.

People were relaxed and friendly in the park. I met a young couple from Sweden, I got to use my french with several other campers, and while having my keenness for the mountains validated by an older skier/mountain biker, I spied a coyote wandering through the park like it weren’t no thang. The skier told me that it’s common to hear them in this park and he was right; they were in full song that night. I heard them again in the morning, but then heard a cow bawling and wondered if the little bastards hadn’t caught themselves a new calf. 

 The birds were up and insane at 4:30 in the morning. Fucking birds. So, I got up and went for an early hike, loaded the van, and departed. The early start meant I was a bit tired later on, and frustrated at the lack of mountains on these prairies.

Why did B.C. have to be so damn far away?

I was grumpy, again, but began to notice these velvety glacial features though southern Saskatchewan. I came over a hill and for no specific reason, pulled off onto a field access. I got out,  just in time to see this:

I was amazed at my timing. I stood and watched the train, and felt that warm, relentless prairie wind. This was nice. This was another gift.

I made my way to Moose Jaw where, in the morning, I saw this:

You figure it out. 

I drove, and saw cattle everywhere, and these:

Fitting that they resemble the T-Rex, right? I mean, that damn beast got us into this mess in the first place. Always good to be reminded of who to blame. Why couldn't the dinosaurs have decayed into layered terrines, or a nice merlot? We would have evolved into a culinary society where fast food was the worst offence! No, it had to be oil. 


Notice how dark this shot of the oil well is? The reason is that there had been a bank of very dark clouds over my shoulder for most of the day. I wasn't concerned. "Just a little rain," I figured. 
I normally don't listen to the radio because the news makes me nuts, so I wasn't aware of what was brewing. Without having an inkling though, 
I had changed my destination from Estevan, Saskatchewan, which was more south, to Brandon, Manitoba, which was further north and east. Shortly after this decision, I happened to turn on the radio and heard that gut-churning sound of a tornado warning for the area, specifically Estevan. Late in the afternoon, things got real.

Close your eyes and imagine a big old, dangerous sky here, because my photos don't do it justice. Imagine, until you are slightly unnerved. There. THAT'S what the sky looked like!

I could not believe my luck in my whimsical route change. Still severe weather throughout, but I drove like hell (I love my van), and was very glad to arrive in Brandon shortly after the sky launched its' cloud-bile with an impressive rumble-and light show. 

Normally, I don't mind bad weather, but when I'm not familiar with the landscape, have no co-pilot, and continually get north confused with wherever I feel that it damn-well SHOULD be, it can be a drag. Or exhausting. Or both, but I did figure out how to calm down so I could be efficient. No point in being a complete idiot and ending up in the ditch.

The day ended well. So far, on this trip; bears in the Kananaskis, snakes in the Hoodoo's, and then a tornado to avoid. I will update my resumé when I get home.

–if I DO go home.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

I Love You like a Rock

I’m in a cheap motel in Drumheller, Alberta as I write this. I am in mourning for the mountains. I kid you not.

After I dropped Connor off in Lake Louise (see previous posts), I found a campsite minutes away, and decompressed among the trees and the sound of the enamouring, turquoise, Bow River. The next morning, I hiked the three kilometers to the actual Lake Louise and back, smiling most of the way except when I found the bear poop on the trail. Then I began singing. Have you heard me sing? It worked. I saw no bears on this day.

 I broke camp in the rain, and left to discover Banff. I’m sure that the park itself is wonderful, but I was unprepared for the town. It was crammed with tourists, and after the quiet of the morning, I found this unsettling–almost traumatic.

These mountains and streams are nice, but I need to buy pants and a key fob. Nice try, nature!

  I managed to find a quiet, dark pub; a refuge, similar to the one in Diagon Alley. I was tended to by a kind young man with a thick, lilting Irish accent– a leprechaun, probably. I caught my breath, had soup, and made a B-line for my van. 

Yes, I'm generally grumpy. We know this.

I followed my gut, drove a couple hours south into the Kananaskis  Mountains and found a camp site in Peter Loughheed Park, Lower Lake site. All along the drive, I was, I think, falling deeper, and deeper in love. I kept staring like a schoolgirl, not wanting to look away. Even in the rain, I felt twinges. The very process of emerging from my tent after a rainy night, was almost sacred. Everything was fresh, and the soft ground felt like velvet under my feet.

(This shot is a short walk away from the sites.)

Instead of a gate, the Lower Lake campground had hosts; a delightful couple who lived there in a huge camper; did the rounds, raking the sites and keeping things neat. I liked them both very much. Both had weathered, cheerful faces and seemed to enjoy the campers and being outside. Both were quick and nimble, I’m sure, from hiking through this idyllic setting. They came around before nightfall and warned us of a mother Grizzly and her three cubs just outside of camp. They assured us that she would not be a problem but suggested that we stay on our sites for the night and not take any evening strolls.

I considered sleeping in my van, but trusted the hosts and kipped in my tent. The Grizzley was likely warned that Suzanne’s in the park, and she might start singing.

All through B.C., and Alberta, campers are constantly reminded about bare camping: leaving nothing out to attract critters. In walking past the sites in the numerous campgrounds I’ve been in so far, I’ve noted that people take this seriously and abide. Nobody wants to be an unfortunate headline. 

Camper picks bad time to try peanut butter body mask. 

I left the Lower Lake campground like someone who didn’t want to go home. This was, basically because, I didn’t want to go home. I figured that I would visit Canmore and then droop myself east to Calgary and begin shuffling towards Ontario, but this was a mistake for me. Canmore was like Banff, but on fewer steroids. I had a second breakfast in a restaurant full of– I’m trying not to judge, but Jesus, there were a dozen perfect women brunching in yoga garb. I deduced that they had already done yoga (you’d hurl eggs benny during downward dog if you yoga’d afterward), but they all looked so perfect (Do rich people sweat?).  One woman actually stopped and touched her toes on her way to the bathroom. I almost lost my toast! My poor attitude may have been because I had not showered in a few days and my feet were wet, but Canmore wasn’t cranking my vibe. You get this, right?

But, there I was. I couldn’t leave the west on such a pissy note, so I drove north. I passed Banff, Lake Louise, and relented to an intrinsic tractor beam drawing me along the Trans-Canada up to the junction where it meets the David Thompson Highway. 

I was back in love again. 

There was snow, but I didn’t mind. I made the turn east on the highway, glad to have the mountains almost to myself so I could say goodbye. I was distracted by more turquoise rivers, and the Hoodoos, that looked like something on an architects table. I stopped often, and was able to stand and just be there, by myself. There’s just something about that terrain. 

Late in the day, I arrived in Rocky Mountain House. I found a place to stay, had a meal, and went to bed wondering how I was going to deal with the prairies, heartbroken as I felt about the mountains. I can’t explain this feeling other than resembling the feeling of leaving a loved one; someone who thrills you each time you look at them. 


Monday, 11 June 2018

Synchronicity at Five Thousand Feet

I’m driving my son Connor to his summer gig at Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park, just up the road from Lake Louise. We have come from two weeks on Quadra Island, guests of his lovely girlfriend, Hannah, whose family has a place there. We overnighted in Kamloops, then leave, on this morning by 10am, so that we can enjoy a pleasant journey along the Trans-Canada Highway, and arrive early for Connor’s 4pm Lodge bus pick-up in Lake Louise. We talk, laugh, and continually remark at the beautiful views. At one point in some discussion, I try to recall an Italian word that I used repeatedly when Hannah, Connor and I biked to the Quadra Farmer’s Market the morning after we arrived there. I know I had used the word many times before, but this morning, my brain can’t find the file. So, though I want that word, I intentionally stop trying to remember it. I let it go, and I tell Connor, with confidence, 

 “Soon the word will simply appear. It always does.” 

I say this because it is true.

Get ready:

We talk of other things. We notice lots of traffic on the road, and remind ourselves that this is a Friday, and the beginning of tourist season: There are cars and trucks packed with families, sporting equipment, and dogs. There are all sizes of RV’s that do their best, but can’t help but slow down the flow to a glacial pace on anything other than a stiff descent. Scattered throughout are large transport trucks hauling haulables, piloted by bonkers skilled drivers moving their rigs in precise, even graceful flourishes as they navigate the distracted, the clumsy, or the bloody oblivious sharing the lanes.

Several hours into our drive, we are high. The road rises like a waking licorice whip (I said we were high) toward Lake Louise’s 1600 metres, or around 5, 249.344 feet; all for your amusement. There are multiple slows due to construction–you know, construction of road sections, mostly on cliffs. Or under cliffs. There is a serious abundance of cliffs. And curves. I think this is where curves are farmed and then sent out to other roads that need them. This part of the Trans-Canada road is an engineering showcase; impressive in handling boggling volumes of traffic safely on a part of the earth that was absolutely NOT meant for vehicles. It’s meant more for goats than it is for humans.

We marvel, Connor and I. All of the measurable angles of the route become more severe, and there are even tunnels to go through, which means that there is crushing mountain above our heads.  This doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t. Nothing really does until–

–until we get onto the subject of time and realize that we have failed to take into consideration the time change between British Columbia and Alberta. We are an hour behind where we thought we were.

We gasp. I can see Connor doing his best not to burst into flame, but he’s painfully frustrated and disappointed at a fact overlooked. He is uber-gasping.  He holds his hand over his face. Me, I situate myself into a more active position in the driver’s seat. I tell him not to worry. He worries. Then I tell him, 

      “It’s still not 4pm. We’re not late YET.” 

I won’t say that I speed here, because speeding is wrong. I do, however, become Ninja-focused on being as efficient with time and velocity as I can possibly be.

Think of The Italian Job, but with a van instead of a Mini Cooper.

We keep our distance, but use the dotted lines with finesse. We cheer when the road opens up into two lanes, one for passing, and then grow quiet when we come upon the construction flagman; our nemesis in safety yellow. I ignore the beautiful views– I am one with my van. I am the Walrus, coo-coo-cachou, except with hands. There is much deep breathing. 

For some reason, after struggling deftly with one knot of traffic after another, the road clears, and the van moves forward in time; we are winning. Connor calculates that we will be only slightly late; nothing close to a whole hour. We are happy. 

Then it happens: we round a curve, and there going as fast as it can, alone, as if dropped from the sky, is a large black and tan RV, towing a tiny silver car on a trailer. We pull closer and– I lose my ability to speak. I holler odd syllables, I puff, and point at the RV. There on the back of it, above the rear window is a word. It is THE word; the Italian word that I was trying to remember: 


It means, “come on,” in English. Of course.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Tofino and the Strange Day–But They're All Strange, Right?

I spent one night in Tofino. I was lucky enough to find a small campsite on the beach, large enough that I could spread my elbows if I wanted to, but just barely. That's what you get working on last-minute decisions. Still, I was excited to wet my boots in the Pacific Ocean; gobsmacked to gaze out at that silvery horizon; the ceiling for so many fish! I was puzzled over how the rest of the campers were not sitting, staring westward, jaws in the sand with awe. 

My neighbours were blasted– quietly so; two couples in trailers who were at that stage where booze might ease the sting of the deeply-rutted routines of cohabitation. In the time before I put my earplugs in (the sea is loud), I overheard playful verbal jousting with that telling layer of truth folded in. I wished them well, and fell asleep in a blink.

 I woke up shortly after five-thirty. I could see water droplets on the outside of my tent and readied myself for a grey morning. All was quiet except for the surf, and the thuggish, West Side Story crows scavenging the campsites. I emerged from my high-tech, bubble of engineered comfort to a breathtaking art project by some kickin', coastal god:  

The sun, reaching over the higher tree line behind me, basted its' light on the forested islands off shore, and nailed the balance of details with a rainbow to stage right. Here. Look.

This is the kind of shot I wouldn’t have been surprised to find on the cover of a self-help book, or perhaps an inspirational office poster with the line:

The true gifts are laid out for you. Just get out of bed, idiot. 

There were only a few of us up at this time; perhaps four people out on the beach, and everyone was marvelling at the show.  I made my coffee and breakfast as quietly as I could, so not to wake the neighbours, then headed out on a walk along the beach. I figured that there was little that could top the morning’s rainbow, until I came across a contingent of sea anemones, exposed along the rocks at low tide. 

I was conflicted by them. 

In one sense, they looked to be something almost proctological, so there was thumb-numbing horror, 

but there was this most amazing colour that, I’m sure, no real asshole could manage, so, yes, there was remarkable beauty too.

The rest of the day was strange. I went in to Tofino, the town, and though it was nice and picturesque, my dream-like, meditative high was shattered, unceremoniously by raves of hipsters. They were crawling out of the sidewalks like carpenter ants. I went into one coffee shop and while I stood waiting for my order, watched the blemish-free,  eye-rollingly healthy and no-doubt plugged-in barrista’s tend to the machines, while in the kitchen, the hungover dude cooking, played the role of, hungover dude. I wondered if my friends and I were that irritating when we were in our twenties (Did I mention the sea anemone?). Of course, I could just be pissed that I'm over fifty. 

Probably. They were quick, and polite. Sigh...

I checked out the surfers in Cox Bay, left for Ucluelet, and kept going.

 I was restless. 

I had heard about Victoria, and found myself in the middle of it at rush hour.Yes, I drove all that way. Three-hundred and sixteen kilometres. 

I know. Mind your own business

Victoria was stuffed with construction and traffic to the point where my overloaded senses, pushed to the brink, made me leave. Never shock your system by taking in Tofino and Victoria on the same day, at least, not without booze.

I ended up sleeping in a slightly, Twin-Peaks-ish motel in Nanaimo. That's one-hundred and ten kilometres from Victoria. 

Go ahead and add up the numbers. I know, I know already. Sue me for being impetuous.

I’m writing this post in Cumberland, an old mining village between Qualicum Beach and Campbell River. I still have no solid idea where I’m sleeping tonight, although the amazing lady at the B.C. Tourist info office on the way here, gave me some excellent suggestions. One of them is another beach front camp site. No-brainer, really.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

The Sea Was Angry That Day...

There’s a roiling going on in the waters off of Quadra Island as I write this.  The sea in the strait has been up-and-at-it since early this morning, sending long manes of froth towards land in poised, persistent tries to capture the shore. Anything seems possible as the waves arch up, out towards the middle, but once close in to the rocky beach, they relent, heed the hard, higher island, and cower under the towering scorn of the trees guarding their roots. 

I’ve been staring out to the water for most of the day; its’ power and grace, hypnotizing. The sound is of continuous Neptunian thrash, and I would gladly take it instead of the irritating cacophony of the damned pickup trucks back home– tires yowling on the pavement as their captains, anatomically short-changed, posturing males, find relief in their illusion of conquering asphalt with a led foot and a can of Red Bull (Yawn). Now and then, a seal pops his head up here over the watery furrows; round-headed like some water-polo hero looking for the rest of his team. The humpback whales, I’m told, were through here earlier this morning. Did I mention the Bald Eagle? Would you despise me if I did?

 I suppose you could get tired of this if, perhaps, you were a bulk-headed thundering moron. This part of the world is a treasure. But don’t get me wrong, I can be moved by the sight of an eastern field of wheat feathering in an evening breeze. I love an Ontario fence line set out with snow drifts like fancy serviettes folded to impress, but on this trip, I am soaking up everything about this forested gem. Right now, there is nothing on, or about this island that makes me grit my teeth, except for the leaving of it.


Friday, 1 June 2018

Compass, Shmompass

I have a compass. I paid full price for it, so it has all of the requisite 360 degrees marked on it. It has the spinning red-to-white arrow, east and west declinations that I can adjust in keeping with my present line of longitude in the world, if I should need to be that specific, and it all comes on a fine, wound, lanyard so that I can wear it around my neck. 

But, I don’t wear it around my neck.

Last I checked, it was under a bag of almonds in the catch-all thingy between the two front seats in the van. That was before I headed out on a solo drive to Granite Bay, here on Quadra Island. 

There are few roads on Quadra, and knowing this, I felt confident about nailing my destination. What a fool. Frankly, I’m not sure that the compass would have helped me had I been wearing it around my neck enroute, because the thing with compasses is, that you have to actually look at them. The compass doesn’t care about you, at least not with anything like the relentless verve of the voice of the back-seat-driving, matronly scolding, pain-in-the-ass entity who lives in the navigating app on my phone. Accurate as she can be, in her harping howl, she is not a player here because there is limited, to no internet access here on the island. 

Did I mention that there really aren’t enough roads here to get lost on? 

Cue, me.  

Granite Bay Road is, for the most part, on a 320 degree bearing. Surge Narrow Road, which is the road I ended up on, is on a 20 degree bearing. For those of you having difficulty picturing this, consider the outline of an ice cream cone. Yes, the roads are that divergent. Between the two roads, Granite Bay, and Surge Narrow, was Village Bay Road, running almost directly east-west for a long time, like the flat bottom on the cone.  I should have twigged to the fact that something was up, but there were trees and turns and mountains; one beautiful view after another, and my jaw perpetually dropped.  I imagine my compass sat, capably pointing the way, under the almonds, chortling to itself about my non-Marco-Polo-ness. I kept going.

Well, I can’t remember if it was the road-narrowing, or the gravel that happened first. Yes, gravel, HAPPENS. Gravel is a living thing, and for the first time in ages, I was grateful to have grown up driving a light-as-hell half-ton Ford 150 pickup truck on roads often thickly layered with the aggregate to the point where any low flying airplane might have confused it with oatmeal.  I was used to the rear of the vehicle fishtailing and knew how to bring it back to centre. We also had hills, but not like this. Alongside the roads of my childhood farm, there were steep ditches, but not complete drop offs at the edges, or forests likely lousy with bears, or dragons. 

So, driving on oatmeal, under threat of bears, AND, I’ve got Ontario license plates on my Honda van, so the pressure to NOT be an asshole is enormous. 

At one point, deep into this voyage, I began laughing like an idiot and considered turning around. Then I told myself, Come on, pansy! You’re just a single woman driving on a dangerous road through terrain that you are SO not familiar with. Why turn around?  I kept going; my compass likely spinning in its’ bezel–its’ own judgmental version of an eye-roll.

Instead of arriving at Granite Bay, I found myself at Hoskyn Channel Landing. Fine. Sigh. And, of course. There was nothing in the parking lot that wasn’t a four-wheel drive, and even these had big stones set as chocks behind their wheels. There was a ramp there, for launching boats, that was so steep, I figured that the cement had to have been bribed to stay put on the incline. Or was that a Decline. Some kind of cline; mighty, no matter how you look at it.

The payoff? Hoskyn’s Channel was beautiful. I stood on the end of the dock and looked around, wrapped in the duvet of quiet held close by the mountains. Five thousand kilometers from my door, I find myself in, for all of its’ hilarity, beauty so powerful that, yes, it’s hard not to weep just a little. For all of the gravel and stress, I am honoured, and terribly lucky to have witnessed the all-of-that. Yes, my getting lost has become a thing that I expect. It has never let me down yet. Of course there will be more, much to the chagrin of my compass.