Difference between revisions of "Travels With A Donkey Slashed Out Moped"

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Robert Mosurinjohn claims to have traveled 7500 miles across Canada on his moped. This has never been independently verified, and there is no evidence to support it apart from some pictures of a heavily laden Tomos Targa.
<center>'''Travels With A Donkey Moped<br>
 
Through the Cevennes Curves of Space and Time'''</center>
 
  
 
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Confirmed .. http://www.mmic.ca/images/content/PDF/Upshift%2025.pdf .. see story Slow Motion Traveller
<center>''Dedicated to Modestine, and all Donkeys Everywhere, and remembering Robert Louis Stevenson.''</center>
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter One==
 
''“As I walked through the wilderness of this world …….”''
 
:-John Bunyan
 
 
 
A winding, hilly, semi-wilderness track running through 160 miles (270 Kilometers) of rock-hard, rugged, creek and river terraced, Blueberry and Evergreen emboldened landscape inhabited and ranged by Black Bear, Coyote, (wolf? Cougar?) Wild Turkey, hermits, hillbillies, fishers, hunters, summer cottagers, water  gypsies travelling the Trent-Severn and Rideau Canal systems, tourist operators, road gypsies, truckers, artists, sellers of genuine  and imitation handicrafts, and those most fortunate of human beings known as Tree Huggers and Nature Freaks is a reasonable description of Highway 7 connecting the city of Ottawa, which is  part of Canada’s Capital Region, with a lesser city of Peterborough, Ontario.  While this Number 7 wildland was not nearly as wild as Grizzly Bear lands that I would moped in before my trip was done, this land can be as dangerous as some of the world’s savage, large cities, so the short, siren call of the Ontario Provincial Police  Cruiser coming from behind me, and obviously signaling me to stop  my slow-moving moped on the highway’s gravel shoulder came as no surprise.  The O.P.P. patrols here are concerned as much with the non-traffic related safety of individuals as they are with enforcing traffic laws, and I have heard from hitchikers of being picked up along wild stretches by the O.P.P. and driven into one of the small, isolated communities where the hitchhiker could ‘thumb’ in more security.  When planning my moped-camping expedition a concern rated above traffic competition was roadside encounters with bears who could view my small, low profile and quiet progress as a young moose or fawn, in which case my slow acceleration and 30 m.p.h. top speed would provide little security as bears can run equally fast.  During the trip’s 7,500 miles of road running, much of that on rural roads, I learned that my quietly moving, slow motion moped and I were great curiosities to animals either wild or tamed, and I did have four dangerously intimate encounters with bears on my trip, as well as equally thrilling encounters with other animals wild and tame, such as the stallion with his mare who answered my high spirited ‘whinny’ with a race across prairie.  I also unintentionally stampeded herds of cattle and horses, and during a midnight run beneath a full moon on a prairie highway in southern Manitoba I maneuvered my way between huge, ghostly forms of cattle which had wandered their way onto the pavement.
 
 
 
On Number 7 Highway, though, on this first day of my trip in late May, I had corralled an O.P.P. officer’s attention because my heavily-laden, low-powered moped and me had for many minutes been blocking the progress of a gargantuan motor home driven by a modern pioneer pilgrim explorer who had insufficient experience piloting his or her behemoth to allow me the necessary room to reduce my already slow speed sufficiently to make a safe exit from the paved portion onto the dangerously soft, sand and gravel shoulder.  When I say this motor home was a giant, I can add that in my opinion as a professionally trained driver the motor home was wide enough to have rated a police escort on this narrow highway.  My driver’s education is not minimal, with its professional leg coming during my pre-Peacenik stint with the Canadian Armed Forces during which I drove troop-carrying trucks towing artillery pieces.  Blast this motor home!  It took the entire width of the lane, and he was following me so closely that I thought he must be trying to improve his gasoline miles-per-gallon performance by sucking any unburned hydrocarbons from my little exhaust pipe directly into his voracious carburetor.  His gain would have been small, because despite my heavy load of camping and cooking gear, water, spare gasoline and two-cycle oil, tool kit and spare inner tube, food and clothing for two seasons, my 1.9 horsepower engine propelled me at 120 to 130 miles per gallon, leaving practically nothing in its exhaust of value for anyone, but also, by the way, harming nothing either, because modern 2 cycle (also called two-stroke) engines use precision pumps to inject minute amounts of upgraded oil into the gasoline just ahead of the combustion chamber, and most of the unburned oil condenses in the muffled exhaust pipe instead of being emitted as oily smoke like the old style, gas-oil premix engines.  Environmentalism as well as economy makes my moped my only choice of personal, motorized transportation.  Of course a bicycle would be even more environmentally friendly, and for the past two decades, until purchasing my moped, had been my only wheels.  Three decades ago I toured 1500 miles on a 10-speed bicycle, but now my 60 year old, slightly damaged knees would not allow a return to long distance travel by bicycle.
 
     
 
So then, here I was, almost being devoured by a wheeled monster, its driver sitting so high above me, and unprofessional in attitude, that had I slowed to a speed sufficient to allow my narrow tires (2 ½ inches) a safe exit onto an extremely narrow, very soft shoulder, he or she probably would have run me right over, me becoming a soft bump not unlike the pavement’s frost heaves.  To make matters worse, this stretch of particularly twisting and hilly highway prevented the motor home from passing.  To the driver’s credit he or she did not once lean on his or her horn in aggravation; and relief for motor home and I eventually came in the form of a long, steep incline, the grade of which gradually slowed not only my moped but also the monster.  Coming at the right time was a widening and firming of the shoulder, and I, with my moped long ago having automatically downshifted to first gear, and now speeding along a about seven miles per hour,  very thankfully pulled off, the motor home rumbling slowly past.  I then activated my turn-signal indicator light to prepare for a return to the pave-ment, and at that same time came the O.P.P.’s brief siren.  I stopped, dismounted, set my bike up on its ‘ upside down Y’ type kickstand, and removed my helmet.  I was not worried about legalities because I had all necessary licensing and insurance, and I knew that mopeds are legal on all highways in most provinces except on multi-lane restricted access roads like 401, 417, etc.  Manitoba does have some archaic laws concerning mopeds, which before I learned they are no longer generally enforced, led to a wonderful detour through rugged country on a road which made
 
Highway 7 look like an expressway.  My small worries about this
 
 
 
O.P.P. officer concerned my hairy-faced, hippy appearance
 
 
 
strumming a discord in the officer’s heart, especially if he or she
 
 
 
thought I might have drugs in my baggage.  I no longer use
 
 
 
recreational drugs, but a search would mean unloading and
 
 
 
reloading all my equipment.  I had purposely avoided possible
 
 
 
‘dangerous weapons’  charges by leaving with my canoe expedition
 
 
 
equipment my long-bladed hunting knife which I wear while in the
 
 
 
woods for wild animal protection.  I felt somewhat naked in the
 
 
 
Moped Forests without that knife, a situation I can avoid if I do
 
 
 
another  wheeled voyage because my spiritual minded brother Ron
 
 
 
Christmas-gifted me this year with the only necessity I lacked for
 
 
 
another wheeled, wilderness adventure, that being a hunting knife 
 
 
 
equally strong and sharp as my long-bladed version, but with a
 
 
 
slightly shorter blade; and please don’t think I am a ‘bit off’ by
 
 
 
thinking a knife is defense against bears.  One recent demonstra-
 
 
 
tion of wilderness self-defense occurred on an Arctic island, where
 
 
 
four canoe-campers were attacked by a Polar Bear, one of the men
 
 
 
saving the lives of his male friend and two females by repeatedly
 
 
 
stabbing the bear as it was mauling his friend.  The mauled victim
 
was seriously hurt, but fortune prevailed in the four finding fast
 
 
 
transportation to an arctic hospital.  Another example told me by an
 
 
 
Armed Forces medic who spent tours of duty in the Arctic was of a
 
 
 
modern Inuit woman of senior citizen age single-handedly killing a
 
 
 
Polar Bear with her knife after the bear had slashed its way into her
 
 
 
tent.  According to the medic the large hump on the rear of the
 
 
 
Polar Bear’s neck is brain.  My personal experience, and I don’t
 
 
 
brag or say I was brave when I relate this, came 30 years ago when
 
 
 
I possibly saved myself and a young woman companion from a
 
 
 
Black Bear on a narrow trail in the Rocky Mountains outside of
 
 
 
Jasper, Alberta by instantly attacking with my hunting knife honed
 
 
 
with my loud yell when the bear made a close and surprise
 
 
 
appearance coming out of thick brush.  The woman screamed and
 
 
 
jumped behind me, attracting the bear’s curiosity, and unleashing
 
 
 
instantly in me what can only be described as the most primal
 
 
 
instinct.  In the same flash of insight that told me with the woman
 
 
 
behind me I stood no chance of outrunning the bear .. well, the
 
 
 
‘thought’ that I should attack did not occur to me, my attack
 
 
 
initiating itself without advantage of intellect, that power coming
 
 
 
into play only when I found myself running towards the bear with
 
my hunting knife held high over my head, knowing I stood only one
 
 
 
chance, and that was a thrust through the bear’s eye into its brain.
 
 
 
The bear’s primal instinct of self preservation showed clearly on its
 
 
 
face, and faced with fight or flight, it ran off.  My lack of courage
 
 
 
after my adrenalin response persuaded me to not continue on the
 
 
 
trail, and we returned to the main area of camp, where I
 
 
 
commenced to trembling, and not from cold.  Of course, a large
 
 
 
bear’s favourite method of killing large game is to sneak up quietly
 
 
 
and with one swipe of a paw decapitate its target, this applying
 
 
 
equally to deer, small moose, and humans, so the first defense
 
 
 
against bears has to be awareness of how to keep them away.  Fear
 
 
 
of humans prevents bears from thinking of us as normal prey, but
 
 
 
cases of mistaken identity do occur, such as the young geologist in
 
 
 
Northern Ontario who was killed in that manner while squatted or
 
 
 
bending down examining rock samples, therefore Khaki is, in my
 
 
 
opinion, a poor colour choice for woodland clothing.  I almost
 
 
 
always wear bright coloured clothing in the woods, especially the
 
 
 
shirt or jacket and hat, not only to assist bears in identifying me as
 
 
 
human, but to assist searchers in finding me or my remains if I get
 
 
 
lost or eaten, and to assist hunters in identifying me as a non-
 
animal.  On a moped, bright clothing also assists drivers in avoiding
 
 
 
running you over.
 
 
 
      Here on Highway 7, my danger was that I might be faced with a
 
 
 
Police Officer who may have gotten out of bed on the wrong side
 
 
 
that morning, or who was tired and grumpy after a long shift, or
 
 
 
who may professionally view my considerable load as unsafe, and I
 
 
 
could be ordered off the road.  The rear of my vehicle carried a
 
 
 
saddlebag on each side, with an aluminum-framed backpack
 
 
 
standing upright on the luggage carrier.  All was very safely
 
 
 
properly and safely secured; but my tent and sleeping bag I had
 
 
 
fastened in one bundle across the front fender, below the headlight. 
 
 
 
This bundle did not interfere with turning capacity, and was doubly
 
 
 
secured by strap and bungee cord on each side, and triply secured
 
 
 
with a strap around its centre.  However .. I had no idea what the
 
 
 
officer might think of this arrangement, which was, really, not
 
 
 
much different from some touring bicyclists’ loadings, but mine was
 
 
 
a motor vehicle, not a bicycle.  I was also a little concerned that this
 
 
 
officer might not have full knowledge of my legal position.  During
 
 
 
consideration of purchasing my moped I had phoned the Ottawa
 
 
 
City Police Department and had asked if mopeds were legal on
 
highways, and had been given a negative answer.  I doubted the
 
 
 
accuracy of that officer’s knowledge, and secured a second opinion
 
 
 
from the Ontario Government website, where I learned the legalities,
 
 
 
including licensing and insurance, and the requirement to travel as
 
 
 
far to the right of the travelled portion as possible. 
 
 
 
      This officer was a gentleman, in a reasonable mood, and I was
 
 
 
respectful of his duties and person.  He listened respectfully as I
 
 
 
explained my desire to ‘make way’ for the motor home, but how
 
 
 
dangerously close I had been followed, and told the condition of the
 
 
 
shoulder, and the narrowness of my tires, etc., with all being well
 
 
 
received, and I thought all was well with me in the officer’s mind.  It
 
 
 
was then he said, “Kind of overloaded aren’t you?”
 
 
 
      This being my first few hours of this trip I had no experience as
 
 
 
to how my heavy load would affect my moped’s durability, but my
 
 
 
only concious concern was how well my tires would bear the
 
 
 
weight, so I responsed in an offhanded, hopeful way, “Not too
 
 
 
bad.”  The officer smiled.  He didn’t bother asking me for my driver’s
 
 
 
license, as my vehicle was properly license plated, and he said
 
 
 
something like, ‘I guess you’re okay.’  Many police officers are also
 
 
 
motorcyclists, and among motorcyclists, I learned on my trip,
 
anything roadworthy with two wheels and a motor was honoured
 
 
 
with inclusion in the fraternity.  I did not ask if the officer was a
 
 
 
motorcyclist, but we shook hands and he turned to return to his
 
 
 
cruiser.  He partially turned back, though, to ask, “how far are you
 
 
 
going?”       
 
 
 
      My hoped-for destination by moped was Saskatoon,
 
 
 
Saskatchewan, about 2,000 miles.  I planned on going on to my
 
 
 
brother at Victoria, but possibly by hitchhiking or Greyhound Bus as
 
 
 
I thought I might be fatigued at Saskatoon, or that the moped just
 
 
 
wouldn’t make it through the Rocky Mountains.  I did not elaborate
 
 
 
that to the officer, though, and my answer of ‘Saskatoon’ brought a
 
 
 
slightly disbelieving shake of the head along with a small, tight
 
 
 
lipped smile.  He then returned to his cruiser and drove off.  I
 
 
 
mounted up and continued thankfully on, this officer becoming the
 
 
 
first of many people met on this trip who would bring to flesh and
 
 
 
blood the statement of Robert Louis Stevenson’s which he included
 
 
 
in his dedication to his book, ‘Travels With A Donkey In The
 
 
 
Cevennes’,  “… and the best that we find in our travels is an honest
 
 
 
friend.”  Stevenson’s donkey became such a friend in their 12 days
 
 
 
of travel that he wept after he had sold her .. Modestine being her
 
 
 
name.  My moped has no name other than moped, but that name is
 
 
 
especially respectful to me now, having carried me through 7,500
 
 
 
miles on some of Canada’s roughest terrain available to a
 
 
 
conventional wheeled motor vehicle, including twice through the
 
 
 
Rocky Mountains and other mountain ranges of Alberta and British
 
 
 
Columbia.
 
 
 
      Stevenson’s walk was through 120 miles, while my moped’s
 
 
 
equivalency miles, calculating a 300 horsepower car against my 1.9
 
 
 
horsepower engine, factoring in my heavy load, comes to roughly
 
 
 
1.5 million miles .. and that without mechanical breakdown.  In
 
 
 
case of breakdown, though, I had an honest friend in Baird McNeil
 
 
 
of Russel, Ontario, one of those poetic types who had told me before
 
 
 
I started out, “If you get in trouble, call me.”  Baird’s simple and
 
 
 
heartfelt offer brought me great comfort, because, unlike Stevenson,
 
 
 
I had no great financial backing, my small, guaranteed income’s
 
 
 
spendable portion after payment of room rent was $500 per month,
 
 
 
with no savings in the bank, and no property to sell.  With this
 
 
 
small amount I must, for three months, pay all expenses and
 
 
 
overcome all adversities on a trip which was to last three months. 
 
Faith had to be put to the test here, because if I were to pay for
 
 
 
camping each day of the month that amount would easily be $600.
 
 
 
As it was I paid only four night of camping, three of those being in
 
 
 
Canmore, Alberta, where I found employment at construction
 
 
 
labour at $I00 a day, and where each night at the Wapiti tent site
 
 
 
run by the town cost me only $10, and which included showers
 
 
 
and wonderful companionship with summer travelers and modern
 
 
 
hippies.  My finances along the way were also boosted by surprises
 
 
 
from strangers as well as from another poet friend from Ottawa.  In
 
 
 
case of dire emergency I carried a credit card with a ‘0’ balance, but
 
 
 
had no employment waiting for me in Ottawa with which to pay off
 
 
 
debt.  Besides the financial advantage, Stevenson also had it up on
 
 
 
me because while he was 28 years old when he did his journey,
 
 
 
while I was 60.  I was, however, one up on Stevenson because while
 
 
 
we both had serious respiratory health problems, his battle against
 
 
 
those problems which he came close to overcoming inspired me to
 
 
 
carry on through my own life of physical affliction.  While not
 
 
 
wanting to make more of myself than I already have, I think it
 
 
 
completely fair to say that Stevenson, with his great sense of
 
 
 
humanithy and strong sense of adventure, would have enjoyed
 
meeting me during my trip; and  needless to say I would have
 
 
 
enjoyed meeting one of the writers whose books and lives had
 
 
 
contributed to my unescapable sense of adventure and acceptance
 
 
 
which has carried me at times penniless through my last three
 
 
 
wilderness decades.  Especially I would have enjoyed meeting
 
 
 
Robert Louis Stevenson on his trek with his Modestine, who
 
 
 
he grew so fond of that when in the company of men following his
 
 
 
sale of her, he wept openly.  I feel some affection for my moped, as
 
 
 
well as for my canoe, with which I had two long, solo adventures. 
 
 
 
However, unlike some people who give affectionate names to their
 
 
 
automobiles, ‘Mabel’ being an example, and to their canoes, ‘Spirit
 
 
 
of Firewater’ being an example, I have not given a name to either
 
 
 
my canoe or my moped, beyond ‘canoe’, with a small, affectionate
 
 
 
‘c’, and ‘the moped’.  However, I do feel some kinship with both,
 
 
 
being one of those people who think that even inanimate objects
 
 
 
like rocks may be blessed by or with spirit .. and while I do get
 
 
 
careless, my maintenance of canoe and moped is careful, especially
 
 
 
as they have served me so well, and seemingly with such intimate
 
 
 
faithfulness, on such intense adventures.  On my bicycle adventure
 
 
 
30 years ago I did name my 10-speed ‘Blue’ .. which suited it
 
reasonably well because of its colour.  I could not think of naming
 
 
 
my moped after its colour, as Yellow signifies cowardice, and my
 
 
 
brave moped proved from my first ride to be anything but cowardly.
 
 
 
I suppose I could have name it ‘Sunbeam’ but then the kitchen
 
 
 
appliance manufacturer of that name might have ridden after me
 
 
 
with dark intent.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Two==
 
First Day of Trip
 
 
 
''“Home is the hunter, home from the hill…”''
 
:-On Robert Louis Stevenson’s headstone in the Pacific Islands
 
 
 
 
 
On Thursday, May 17, 2007 I was ‘at home’ in Ottawa, a city I
 
 
 
had returned to from travels often in the previous decade because it
 
 
 
had become the home of two daughters and two granddaughters ..
 
 
 
but this day is departure day .. the hunter for adventure about to
 
 
 
hunt again.  My destination for this day is Peterborough, where 10
 
 
 
year old grandaughter Jade lives with her Dad Ralph, and while this
 
 
 
stretch of highway is worthy of a month’s exploration for someone
 
 
 
not familiar with its curves, hills and secret places, I am familiar
 
 
 
enough with the terrain and people, having hitchhiked, driven, been
 
 
 
driven by family and friends, and Greyhound Bussed the route
 
 
 
countless times, and I hope to make it to Jade’s home before dark. 
 
 
 
This first day will be a test of my vehicle and load, to see if I really
 
 
 
should continue on towards Saskatoon; but this first day also tests
 
 
 
the comfort of my homebuilt seat, a seat which is a necessity
 
 
 
because although I am feeling reasonably healthy after recovering
 
 
 
from an initial debilitating onset of prostate cancer I still have
 
 
 
the disease, and it sometimes discomforts me.  My seat consists of 
 
 
 
seven inches of sculpted and waterproofed foam rubber securely
 
 
 
taped to a toilet seat .. yes, a toilet seat, a white one, which the
 
 
 
seat’s hinged lid still attached and equipped to add support to the
 
 
 
backpack.  I conceived of the toilet seat idea ‘[during a moment of
 
 
 
comfortable meditation’, one might say, an invention of necessity,
 
 
 
as for me at my age and in my state of health the standard moped
 
seat was impossibly hard and narrow for a journey of longer than
 
 
 
half an hour at a time.  By using an electric drill to make pilot
 
 
 
holes through the seat’s hinge, and by undoing some thumb-type
 
 
 
screws which I screwed into the holes,  I can separate the lid from
 
 
 
seat, which is necessary because my new seat sits atop the original,
 
 
 
hinged moped seat, and the two seats have to lift together on the
 
 
 
original, seat’s hinges to give access to the two cycle oil reservoir,
 
 
 
which I had to top up at intervals of about 400 to 500 miles. 
 
 
 
Among motorcyclists met along the way the seat gained me much
 
 
 
comical but respectful notoriety .. and the arrangement, all secured
 
 
 
by Canadian Television personality Red Green’s favourite tool duct
 
 
 
tape, and further constrained with bungee cords, worked so
 
 
 
excellently that although I made part of my progress on the first
 
 
 
three days by alternately sitting and then standing on my pedals as
 
 
 
I rode,  by the fourth day I felt no rear end discomfort whatsoever,
 
 
 
excepting the normal slight swelling of the prostate which comes
 
 
 
with fatigue. 
 
 
 
      On this first day I rise at 4 a.m.  The previous evening’s sunset
 
 
 
was a yellow band on the western horizon .. as sure a foretelling of
 
 
 
strong winds the next day as the ‘red sky at night – sailors’ delight’
 
prophecy holds true for good weather.  The forecast for winds also
 
 
 
holds true, and temperatures are near freezing,  with thick, black
 
 
 
clouds threatening rain.  I consider postponing as I load my gear,
 
 
 
but will watch the sky for weather signs.  I really can’t afford to
 
 
 
postpone, because my medical disability income is dependent on
 
 
 
my not being absent from my home province of Ontario for longer
 
 
 
than 30 days at a time, except by way of permission granted.  I have
 
 
 
been given an additional 30 days out of province for the sake of my
 
 
 
sister-in-law’s cancer, and also because I have a note signed by
 
 
 
my doctor stating my mental health will benefit through family
 
 
 
visits.  Yes, my years-long state of continual near poverty with its
 
 
 
accompanying inability to lead anywhere near a ‘normal’ life has led
 
 
 
to serious depression.  In attempting to counter the depression
 
 
 
without drug therapy I waited six months for a psychiatric
 
 
 
appointment, only to be told by the psychiatrist that she would not
 
 
 
work with anyone unwilling to undergo drug therapy.  It was a brief
 
 
 
interview.
 
 
 
      My time table calls me to be crossing the Ontario-Mabitoba
 
 
 
border by June 1, which will allow me one month to get to Victoria,
 
 
 
and one month back to the border.  Mileage from Ottawa to the
 
fishing resort/lumbering/mining village of Kenora, Ontario, near
 
 
 
the Manitoba border, is about 2000 kilometers.  This works out to
 
 
 
40 hours of straight riding.  However, through day trips around
 
 
 
Ottawa I have learned that 40 hours of straight riding translates
 
 
 
without flat tire, mechanical or other problems to 120 hours of
 
 
 
time, and as daylight hours are still short, and as I want to visit in
 
 
 
Peterborough for two or three days, and possibly ride down a short
 
 
 
hop south to Port Hope before heading due west, I don’t have a lot
 
 
 
of time to postpone with. 
 
 
 
      While I vacillate on this planned departure morning, my
 
 
 
upstairs neighbour Alexander rises and comes outside.  It is from
 
 
 
Alexander I learned the forecast for wind.  We chat.  Alex had been
 
 
 
very encouraging at another departure, last year’s three month solo
 
 
 
canoe voyage.  His sense of adventure is strong, he having kayaked
 
 
 
many of his homeland Russia’s major rivers .. but his adventure
 
 
 
now is his financial poverty which, despite complete professionalism
 
 
 
and early success as artist and art teacher, fails to surrender to his
 
 
 
three art degrees from St. Petersburg, where  Alex spent a lot of
 
 
 
time at The Hermitage, Russia’s premier art gallery.  Alex is also
 
 
 
hindred financially by refusing to give into what is in his view
 
‘commercialism’ in art.  Ordinarily, financial boundaries related to
 
 
 
‘class structure’ separate people who have achieved outstanding
 
 
 
accomplishments, but in certain situations ‘class’ distinction is
 
 
 
eliminated, and while I don’t consider myself as having any
 
 
 
outstanding accomplishments, many of the people I have met in my
 
 
 
life of near poverty seem to have been transported from fantasy. 
 
 
 
Alex is a fine example, his utilization of space (and that is not a pun
 
 
 
for what will come) in artistic vision had been utilized by the Soviet
 
 
 
Union’s Space Program in Alex’s assistance in designing the
 
 
 
interiors of space capsules .. as documented by a photo of a
 
 
 
younger, smiling Alex inside one of the capsules.  In fact, I am
 
 
 
remembering that it was visions of art which introduced Alex and I
 
 
 
to each other in a fantastic way, he having had completed and
 
 
 
exhibited a series of paintings called Canadian Visual Symphony
 
 
 
not long before I, with my just completed novel Symphony for the
 
 
 
End of the World, moved into our rooming house.  I also share with
 
 
 
Alex a lifelong interest in extra terrestialities .. and so we had plenty
 
 
 
to talk about after we met in our common kitchen.  Besides our
 
 
 
common interests and near poverty,  we also share serious health
 
 
 
problems which have come with advancing age, failed marriages,
 
etc.  He and I, provided sufficient cash, could possibly have played
 
 
 
the leading men in the recently released movie ‘The Bucket List’
 
 
 
about two senior citizens with terminal diagnoses who go on
 
 
 
wonderful ‘last adventures’ .  I say could possibly have played those
 
 
 
parts, because my own sense of artistry would not permit me to
 
 
 
participate in the movie unless one or more of the adventures was
 
 
 
giving a large share of resources to places like soup kitchens and
 
 
 
food banks, which in my experience are much more than absolute
 
 
 
necessities for the underprivileged, they are also probably absolute
 
 
 
necessities for anyone of financial privilege who wants to
 
 
 
experience value in their lives.  For Alex and I, commonalities
 
 
 
which have joined us in a strong sense of companionship did not
 
 
 
result in our sharing a great deal of time together .. ( in our modern,
 
 
 
narcistic age does anyone besides true saints, married couples who
 
 
 
have been together past 30 years, and romantic couples new to
 
 
 
each other share their time?)  Nonetheless, Alexander and I are
 
 
 
heartfelt friends, and he briefly considered coming with me on last
 
 
 
year’s voyage .. a cue I was too slow and possibly narcistic to pick
 
 
 
up on .. although to be fair to myself my 16’ canoe was really too
 
 
 
small for two large men with gear necessary for an extended voyage.
 
      Joining Alex and I this morning is our other large friend Les,
 
 
 
short for Leslie.  We are all near the same age, all single, and we
 
 
 
would be called ‘exceptionally physically strong’ men, in our
 
 
 
younger years.  Les alone has hung onto the bulk of his power,
 
 
 
partly because he is slightly younger, and partly because he earns
 
 
 
his income as a furniture mover.  Labbatt’s Blue is Les’s exclusive
 
 
 
brand of beer, and besides standard ‘Blue’ T-shirts he has a T-shirt
 
 
 
which proclaims “The Man” on the shirt’s upper chest portion with
 
 
 
an arrow pointing upward to Les’s face, as opposed to “The Legend”
 
 
 
with that lower wording accompanied by an arrow pointing
 
 
 
downward to, you know, towards the manhood.  Like Alex and I,
 
 
 
Les has survived the trauma’s of marriage failure and separation
 
 
 
from children, and these experiences have gentled him, as it does
 
 
 
with most intelligent men, and despite Les’s huge arms, barrel
 
 
 
chest, and ham-sized fist (okay, I exaggerate the fists, a little) he is,
 
 
 
because of his ham-sized heart and laugh, (I do not exaggerate) one
 
 
 
of the few people who can wave his hands two or three inches from
 
 
 
my face without causing me to flinch, even after he has had a few
 
 
 
beers.  The three of us have lived as close neighbours in our
 
 
 
apartment building/rooming house for about three years, along
 
with our friend Abdul, our building’s custodian/security man/and
 
 
 
chief of security for a major television station, who joins us that
 
 
 
morning, or does he .. I can’t remember clearly, but I seem to recall
 
 
 
Abdul saying a brief hello and goodbye as he departed for his full
 
 
 
time employment.  During the month prior to my moped departure
 
 
 
Abdul returned to his native Uganda to remarry.  I had taken over
 
 
 
his building duties, and had earned an extra $100 to accompany
 
 
 
my departure.  I envy Abdul his hoped for marriage happiness, but
 
 
 
after failing that institution twice, have little desire to cause another
 
 
 
lady’s suffering.  Besides, I have come to know myself now, and
 
 
 
what woman would I have anything in common with .. sleeping
 
 
 
under the stars whenever possible .. being content with a canoe and
 
 
 
moped instead of a motel, houseboat or motorhome.  Yes, marriage
 
 
 
or even a permanent companion seems an impossibility, but I
 
 
 
would greatly have loved to be at Abdul’s wedding.
 
 
 
      Les, meanwhile, having long ago heard of my moped plans, 
 
 
 
has also long ago decided that I would make it to B.C. … “Bell’s
 
 
 
Corners” he has said many times in his Quebecois accent with his
 
 
 
mighty laugh, and he repeats his evaluation and laugh that
 
 
 
morning.  Bell’s Corners is a hamlet on the road to Saskatoon, but
 
within Ottawa.  In the week prior to departure I have come to
 
 
 
wonder if Les, who is one of the gentlest souls I have ever met, is
 
 
 
also part prophet, as my moped has developed a serious tendency
 
 
 
to enter phases of sputtering, major loss of power, and then
 
 
 
recovery.  I had encountered similar sputtering in the first, cold
 
 
 
weather week of operating the brand new moped two years before,
 
 
 
but had eliminated a carburetor freezing problem by insulating both
 
 
 
the gas line and the carburetort cover.  Now, the moped has only
 
 
 
2,000 miles on it, so I don’t suspect a major problem, but without
 
 
 
sufficient mechanical knowledge, and not enough budget to afford a
 
 
 
mechanic, I can only clean the spark plug and make sure the gas
 
 
 
line from the tank is clear, and pray.
 
 
 
    Another friend and neighbour in the building, Dennis, gave me a
 
 
 
spiritual sendoff which carries a promise of success the evening
 
 
 
before, and now the strength and warmth of Les’s and Alex’s hearts,
 
 
 
and Abdul’s also, if he was or wasn’t there that morning, push the
 
 
 
black clouds to one side, and a bit of blue appears in the east.  The
 
 
 
blue grows slightly larger, and I decide to leave, with my first
 
 
 
horizon line being Les’s B.C.  I barely make Bell’s Corners, with the
 
 
 
engine developing its sputtering, sputtering, sputtering.  I sputter
 
miserably into Les’s B.C. and consider turning back, but make
 
 
 
the decision to motor on, and the engine clears.  I have since
 
 
 
learned that the dirt in the carburetor cleared and was blown out
 
 
 
the exhaust pipe, and I never had another mechanical problem,
 
 
 
other than tires going flat, until coming near London, Ontario on
 
 
 
my return, when the carburetor’s fuel filter suddenly became
 
 
 
nearly blocked.  Dirty gas, I guess. 
 
 
 
      The clearing of dirt in the carburetor is accompanied by a
 
 
 
clearing of the sky, and for the first week of the trip I am blessed
 
 
 
with good weather, sunshine and warm days.  Leaving Bell’s
 
 
 
Corners that first day though, I was frigidly cold.  Wind chill is a
 
 
 
serious factor in motor biking, and despite cold, wet weather in my
 
 
 
second week, the easy onset of hypothermia was a lesson I only
 
 
 
learned effectively when nearly going into convulsions as I rode into
 
 
 
Jasper, Alberta after a couple of days of cold, wet weather, and in
 
 
 
particular the increasing cold and wetness as I gained altitude in
 
 
 
the mountains proper. 
 
 
 
      Jasper was a long way from Bell’s Corners, though, and shortly
 
 
 
after I had passed through B.C.  I spent an hour inside a Tim
 
 
 
Horton’s (for any non-Canadians who might be reading this, Tim
 
Horton’s is a huge franchise operation of coffee shops which used to
 
 
 
be a national icon before selling itself to an American owner.  When
 
 
 
I rode warmly away from Tim Horton’s I was wearing goggles meant
 
 
 
for operators of steel grinding machines over my spectacles.  I took
 
 
 
the goggles ‘just in case’, and found that they keep half my face
 
 
 
warm .. with my hair covering the other half.  Now I have a nice pair
 
 
 
of skiers goggles .. even warmer and more comfortable, and tinted
 
 
 
for bright sun.  I picked up the ski goggles for a couple of dollars at
 
 
 
a charity shop and just today was amazed to see an identical pair
 
 
 
selling for $100 in an Outdoor’s Shop.  I ride my moped most days
 
 
 
in the winter now, by the way, not having significant problems with
 
 
 
ice or snow. 
 
 
 
      Soon the city of Ottawa is behind, and I am on Number 7
 
 
 
Highway, stopping for coffee at Perth, then continue to the hamlet
 
 
 
of Maberly, where artist-friend Liisa Rissanen lives in her isolated
 
 
 
dwelling surrounded by Beaver ponds.  I had met Liisa at a literary
 
 
 
reading series at a time when Alexander was deeply involved with
 
 
 
his own painting, so it was Liisa who assisted me with my cover
 
 
 
design for my novel, the story and writing of which has been
 
 
 
called ‘beautiful’ by many people .. “I couldn’t put it down,” etc.  I
 
had 50 copies self published by my own ‘House’, ‘Shelff-Publishted
 
 
 
Preschh’ whose logo is a hand-cranked printing press supporting a
 
 
 
large bottle of what is either wine or printer’s ink, depending on
 
 
 
your taste.       
 
 
 
      “How…” you may ask, “… could anyone impoverished afford to
 
 
 
have 50 copies of a book printed?”
 
 
 
    Answer:  I had received an inheritance of a few thousand dollars,
 
 
 
and thought I might receive a return on literary investment, so I
 
 
 
had the copies printed to send to publishers and movie producers,
 
 
 
but most of the copies went to family and friends, and daughter
 
 
 
Kayren tells me I did not make a great enough marketing effort .. so
 
 
 
it is this frustrated novelist who, after making enquiries as to Liisa’s
 
 
 
address around Maberly, am welcomed to her acreage by a wonder-
 
 
 
fully friendly pet dog, and then unwelcomed by another snarling,
 
 
 
barking, threatening guard dog who despite my gentle entreaties,
 
 
 
does not befriend me.  Nevertheless, the toothy threat is not great
 
 
 
enough to deter me from fastening a note of ‘Howdy from The
 
 
 
Moped Poet On Tour’ (yes .. that’s me, novelist and poet) to her
 
 
 
door.  I leave the homestead at nearly full throttle down Liisa’s
 
 
 
declining, packed-earth laneway, thrilling quietly to myself as the
 
friendly dog runs alongside, accompanying me until well after we
 
 
 
have turned onto minor pavement, the pet veering off as I round the
 
 
 
90 degree downwards curve leading to the larger pavement of
 
 
 
Highway 7.
 
 
 
      For someone in a car or truck, Maberly is about an hour west
 
 
 
of Ottawa.  For me, as I have explained earlier, one automobile hour
 
 
 
means about three moped hours, and this approximated the pace
 
 
 
throughout the trip, except when I wanted to make quick time,
 
 
 
‘coming into Saskatoon’ to my elder brother Rick and his wife
 
 
 
Sandy, or running south on the Rocky Mountain’s Thompson
 
 
 
Highway towards Vancouver to try to make that day’s last ferry to
 
 
 
Victoria, where my youngest brother lives alone.  Those two long,
 
 
 
more steadily motoring days were propelled by the immense family
 
 
 
instinct which may have been primary motivation for the trip.  My
 
 
 
sister-in-law’s cancer diagnoses absolutely compelled me to visit
 
 
 
this woman who I had loved like a sister from our first meeting. 
 
 
 
While planning the trip I realized I might also be able to renew old
 
 
 
friendships with people I had not seen in almost 20 years.  The
 
 
 
priority of ‘touring’ was not unimportant, but I had gone back and
 
 
 
forth across Canada several times, and when planning this trip
 
came to think that the travel might actually be monotonous. 
 
 
 
However, because of my inability to pay for camping places in
 
 
 
regular campgrounds, I knew I would be spending intimate nights
 
 
 
in secret, free camping places within ‘mother nature’s land’, and
 
 
 
have always been moved to a higher spiritual plane by such close
 
 
 
contact.  This contact had become as much a necessity for me as a
 
 
 
psychiatrist who could work without drugs, because my trip was
 
 
 
also the ancient quest undertaken by many .. a quest to reafirm my
 
 
 
faith in the Creator of the universe, that Almighty and wonderful
 
 
 
spirit known by some as God.  My faith had been crushed by
 
 
 
deteriorated relationships with my daughters; for while my family
 
 
 
affection and relationships with brothers, sister, Mom, Dad, aunts
 
 
 
and uncles had strengthened as I approached Senior Citizen years,
 
 
 
my relationships with my daughters and grandchildren had become
 
 
 
almost non-existant.  Through many conversations with men and
 
 
 
women my age I have come to realize that most adult children of the
 
 
 
ages of late twenties through the fourties are simply too involved
 
 
 
with their own important and frivolous priorities to have their
 
 
 
minds and hearts engaged in their parents lives, except perhaps on
 
 
 
a mandatory ‘welfare case’ basis.  The affection between my
 
daughters and I had always been so strong that it served as a
 
 
 
foundation for my faith in a loving Creator, so when I came to the
 
 
 
slow and painful realization that I was no longer a part of their
 
 
 
conscious mental processes, and could find no way to involved
 
 
 
myself in their consciousness, my faith in God suffered a crushing
 
 
 
blow.  At the same time, like most adults who spend time reading
 
 
 
newspapers, the details of ruthless wars and mass murders
 
 
 
committed by I.B.C. (International Babylon Corporation) had
 
 
 
shocked me into an almost catatonic state.  Contributing to my
 
 
 
condition were the almost daily reports of individual acts of violence
 
 
 
by normal people gone over the edge.  Add onto those things the
 
 
 
uncertain future our planet holds as it is battered by the results of
 
 
 
Babylon’s State of Lust, and, like many people who might be
 
 
 
reading this, I had become so troubled that normal conversation
 
 
 
could not find voice.  I know that animals, both wild and tame,
 
 
 
when shocked by traumatic injury, can find mental relief by retreat
 
 
 
into the protection of bushes, perhaps that’s why I was often glad,
 
 
 
almost transcended, to escape conversation no matter how
 
 
 
pleasant, and motor once again onto the wilderness of the
 
 
 
highway, attempting to remember the words of Christ telling, ‘the
 
kingdom of God is within you.’ 
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Three==
 
About two hours after leaving Liisa’s I stop at the hamlet of
 
 
 
Kaladar for a restaurant lunch.  My moped carries groceries and
 
 
 
cooking equipment but as I want to make Peterbrorough before
 
 
 
nightfall I don’t want to take time to cook.  I also need a short break
 
 
 
from riding.  At Kaladar’s truck stop I chat with a trio of motor-
 
 
 
cyclists, the first of countless such chats with are both entertaining
 
 
 
and informative.  During this chat I learn that Highway 7 is blocked
 
 
 
by a motor vehicle accident about one hour’s ride ahead.  I must
 
 
 
take a detour on Highway 37 South, a few miles past Kaladar,
 
 
 
knowing this will change my goal for the day’s ride from
 
 
 
Peterborough to the town of Port Hope on Lake Ontario,
 
 
 
where I have lived several times, and where after 35 years of having
 
 
 
first moved there still have close friends.  It is between Kaladar and
 
 
 
Highway 37 where I have the motor home-police officer incident. 
 
 
 
Highway 37 South runs through the pretty, lakeside village of
 
 
 
Tweed, which for many years boasted on its welcoming sign “Tweed
 
 
 
.. If it’s good enough for Elvis, it’s good enough for you.”  Elvis may
 
 
 
finally have exited the building, or simply moved, for the sign is
 
 
 
now absent.  I stop at the village’s beach for another chat with a
 
 
 
motorcyclist, and to assess Tweed as a possible place to live.
 
 
 
I have respiratory allergies and asthma, and the motor vehicle
 
 
 
generated air pollution of Ottawa is necessitating a change.  Tweed
 
 
 
is also reported to have the highest ratio of single women to men in
 
 
 
Canada .. either single women were gullible enough to have believed
 
 
 
the welcoming sign, or I am disbelieving enough to disbelieve it.
 
 
 
      Leaving Tweed, I run through beautiful, farmland of rolling
 
 
 
hills, then turn at a crossroads known as Roblin onto quaint and
 
 
 
very quiet roads.  These take me into Frankford on the Trent Canal,
 
 
 
a village I visited fourty years ago with my Dad and his wife
 
 
 
Lorraine.  Lorraine, who was one of the few genuinely stable and
 
 
 
encouraging influences in my life, has passed on, leaving a huge
 
 
 
void for everyone. At that time of the visit with Dad and Lorraine my
 
Aunt Florence had lived in Frankford, and when I reach that village
 
 
 
I stop at a coin-operated telephone (I took no cell phone on my trip)
 
 
 
and call Dad for the sake of old time memories.  Florence lives in
 
 
 
Winnipeg now, and I hope to see her as I pass through Manitoba.
 
 
 
      Quaint roads take me to Lake Ontario’s town of Trenton, where
 
 
 
a wrong turn takes me down a hill so steep, and where my
 
 
 
judgement fails me so miserably, that I am unable to stop at the
 
 
 
stop sign at the bottom of the hill.  By the grace of non-presence of
 
 
 
police I am saved from marring my 40 year, infraction-free driver’s
 
 
 
license record.  A turnaround and assistance from a pedestrian sets
 
 
 
me on the right road, and this is the first of hundreds of times I
 
 
 
receive assistance with direction, for despite having good highway
 
 
 
maps, and a strong sense of direction in an environment with open
 
 
 
vistas, I become quickly disoriented when in even smaller urban
 
 
 
settings.
 
 
 
      Along Highway 2 now, is the village of Colborne, where as
 
 
 
teenagers living in Cobourg, my brother Jody and I struck out on a
 
 
 
hunt for girls.  I meet some friendly women now, though, and their
 
 
 
friendly male friends, and I enjoy conversation and a tea.  Even
 
 
 
though it is approaching dusk when I leave Colborne, I cannot pass
 
by the Cobourg beach without putting my feet on its sand.  This
 
 
 
beach was teenage playground for a couple of years.  Port Hope is
 
 
 
six miles away, and I get there at dusk, stopping first at the
 
 
 
Ganaraska Hotel to see if my friends Fox and/or Hollywood are
 
 
 
having a beer in their normal watering hole.   ‘Fox’ is Gary Fox,
 
 
 
most famous for having been one half of the ‘Foxy and Roxy’
 
 
 
(Roxanne) hippy lovebird couple of the early 70s. Both Foxy and
 
 
 
Roxy moved along in our society’s normal, but sad pattern, to
 
 
 
parenthood with someone else.  Fox has two grandchildren now,
 
 
 
but still resembles the generally stone lad barely a man who with
 
 
 
me who was also often stoned but now both of us in  a canoe
 
 
 
borrowed from the canoe manufacturer Fibrestrong at which we
 
 
 
worked together, ran without the least benefit of whitewater
 
 
 
education the foaming Ganaraska River’s mad spring whitewater
 
 
 
rage one successful time, skimming the concrete underside of the
 
 
 
main bridge in town with the tops of our heads, a bridge which
 
 
 
shortly afterwards in a flood not much stronger than we ventured,
 
 
 
was destroyed much like the borrowed canoe when Fox and I
 
 
 
attempted a second attempt, swamping early,  and then watching
 
 
 
the canoe bend itself bow to stern before flushing downriver as we
 
scrambled to shore.  I don’t think we were even wearing lifejackets. 
 
 
 
      Hollywood .. yes .. a movie should be made .. Hollywood’s real
 
 
 
name is, believe it or not, not known to me after having known him
 
 
 
for 30 years.  This genuine gentleman gets his name from his tall,
 
 
 
dark, handsome, muscular appearance .. he really should have
 
 
 
been a leading man in the movies, but instead works in
 
 
 
an auto assembly plant in Oshawa, while Foxy has been promoted
 
 
 
to Manager of the Port Hope Legion.    The spirits of friendship
 
 
 
between The Fox, Hollywood and I are so kind that on my
 
 
 
unannounced return from the west three months later, when I am
 
 
 
taking off my helmet in the Legion’s parking lot, Fox steps out the
 
 
 
front door for a breath of air.  That moment also happens to be very
 
 
 
close to Fox’s quitting time, and we are enjoying a draft beer on the
 
 
 
Legion’s patio when Hollywood makes a surprise appearance, he
 
 
 
having had plans to be away from Port Hope for a few more days. 
 
 
 
Also showing up unexpectedly is a friend close to Fox and
 
 
 
Hollywood, and known to me, this friend making up a golfing
 
 
 
partnership I will tell you about shortly. 
 
 
 
      On this departure day, though, Fox and Hollywood aren’t at
 
 
 
‘The Ganny’, and a couple of fellows at the bar tell me Fox is not at
 
work either.  Port Hope is a small town, and Fox is known by most
 
 
 
residents.  I phone Fox’s telephone and get no answer, but leave a
 
 
 
message that I’ll try his phone and door in the morning, and ride
 
 
 
to Port Hope’s West Beach where I plan on tenting in the shadow of
 
 
 
Canada’s uranium refinery, once known as Eldorado, and famous
 
 
 
for its radioactive contamination of several sites in Port Hope.  As a
 
 
 
young and foolish man I attempted growing marijuana on
 
 
 
Eldorado’s dumpsite outside of town, but thankfully the crop failed,
 
 
 
thankfully because I might have been tempted to market it under a
 
 
 
brand name like ‘Radiant High’, and probably would have been
 
 
 
busted, and spent considerable time in jail.  Yes .. thankfully the
 
 
 
crop failed, and I came to see that while the herb appears to have
 
 
 
medicinal value as a tea, it is not a substance to be played with, or
 
 
 
illegally merchandised.
 
 
 
      There is no natural, radiant glow in the sky when I get to the
 
 
 
beach, night having fully fallen, and moped and me have to ford a
 
 
 
shallow creek to get to the isolated stretch which served as home for
 
 
 
me many times, one duration lasting from early May to November 4. 
 
 
 
During that sojourn my brother Ron and his wife separated and he
 
 
 
moved in with me, and then I met a woman who was living in her
 
car in the parking lot of the beach.  The woman moved into our tent
 
 
 
as my lady friend.  That two-man pup tent was cozy, with my small,
 
 
 
white, German Shepherd-Samoyed mix taking the last vacancy. 
 
 
 
The four of us, during the last two weeks of tent home life, would
 
 
 
wake up to frost an inch thick on the inside tent walls, and it’s still
 
 
 
one of Ron’s favourite reminiscences to tell how Timberline would
 
 
 
come into the tent after a successful, nighttime frog hunt in the
 
 
 
swamp and lay on our feet while crunching his meal.  In the last
 
 
 
week of tent togetherness I made another of my continual blunders
 
 
 
and told my lady friend I did not want to continue our relationship,
 
 
 
and she and I went separate ways.  Ron and I had made a trip into
 
 
 
Peterborough in the last week of October, and I had arranged for a
 
 
 
small apartment near my daughters’ home.  During that visit to
 
 
 
Peterborough I noticed that a very cute young woman in a pet shop
 
 
 
appeared very lonely, and I pointed her out to Ron.  This was Paula,
 
 
 
who Ron was quick to ask out, and ended up marrying.  Alas, Ron
 
 
 
and I were not great husbands, each failing in each of our
 
 
 
marriages.  In that summer of living in the tent I had visited
 
 
 
Peterborough regularly to see my daughters, and Paula liked to
 
 
 
relate that when I visited the pet shop I taught the shop’s large
 
parrot to curse.  I suspect she mixed me up with another mixed up
 
 
 
hippy as I wasn’t particularly fond of cursing in those days, having
 
 
 
discovered that in the person of Jesus Christ was wonderful
 
 
 
example as to how to live a life while living as a hippy on a beach
 
 
 
with a lady.
 
 
 
      Back on that beach on this first night of my latter days’ moped
 
 
 
trip the uranium refinery’s electric lights are blocked by tall bushes
 
 
 
surrounding the area I choose to pitch camp in, so it is in near total
 
 
 
darkness I set up camp.  That sleep comes easily after I pour about
 
 
 
two ounces of brandy and sip it slowly, and my sleep lasts
 
 
 
comfortably until 4 a.m., when I awakened shiveringly cold.  I set
 
 
 
large flake rolled oatmeal (the precooked crap just doesn’t make a
 
 
 
genuine, strengthening breakfast) and apple pieces cooking on my
 
 
 
camp stove, and then using my flashlight look for firewood, which I
 
 
 
am surprised to find a good pile of close beside me.  I assumed this
 
 
 
wood had been prepared for a beach party planned for that long
 
 
 
weekend, but I felt no guilt using half of it to build a warming blaze. 
 
 
 
After I had eaten my oatmeal and was well warmed the first faint
 
 
 
light of dawn encouraged a small walkabout for old memory’s sake,
 
 
 
and it was by that small dawn light combined with the light from
 
the still blazing fire that I discovered the other tent camp partially
 
 
 
hidden in some bushes about 75 feet behind my own.  I realized
 
 
 
instinctively that the firewood I was burning belonged with that
 
 
 
tent, and I could only hope the tent’s occupant was the forgiving
 
 
 
type.  I returned to standing by the fire.  Shortly afterwards I heard
 
 
 
a rustling from behind me, and I knew it was the tent’s occupant
 
 
 
coming towards me.  I did not turn around, not wanting to make
 
 
 
any appearance of ‘self defense’, and was joined side by side at the
 
 
 
fire by the dark figure of a tall male.  I didn’t turn to face the
 
 
 
stranger, and he, too seemed content to simply stare into the fire. 
 
 
 
Not too much time had passed, though, before he said in a non-
 
 
 
threatening way, “You’re burning my firewood.”
 
     
 
      “I was cold,” I replied, knowing that this obvious outdoorsman
 
 
 
would appreciate how thankful I was for the firewood.  “I set up
 
 
 
camp in the dark and didn’t see your tent.”
 
 
 
      He waited a few moments before saying, “Nice fire,” with
 
 
 
warm appreciation.
 
 
 
      “Yes,” I agreed.  Then, after a short pause, “my name’s Bob
 
 
 
Mosurinjohn.  I lived on this beach a few times .. a few years ago.”
 
     
 
      The stranger turned to look at my face, which I turned towards
 
his.  He looked searchingly at me, then, after a momentary pause,
 
 
 
he said as to a long-lost friend, “Bob!!”
 
 
 
      While it was obvious that this fellow knew me I couldn’t
 
 
 
remember him.  My gypsy existence had camped me in too many
 
 
 
places, meeting far too many people for quick remembrance.  As
 
 
 
well, a brain concussion in my early teens hinders my ability for
 
 
 
facial recognition, a factor which contributed to the unsuccess of 
 
 
 
career attempts.  By the way, my gypsy existence comes naturally,
 
 
 
and despite genuine efforts to settle down to normalcy, unceasingly. 
 
 
 
I have Rom blood, my great grandfather having been Gypsy from
 
 
 
Bukovina, a small area which is now part of Romania.
 
 
 
      “I’m sorry, I said, but I don’t know who you are.”
 
 
 
      “Paul!” he said, “Paul Workman.”
 
 
 
      Of course.  Paul had not been one of my closest friends, but
 
 
 
he had tented many times on this beach, enabled to do so by
 
 
 
income gained from his own slight handicap resulting from an
 
 
 
accident.  I supppose Paul and I would be called hoboes by
 
 
 
some people .. hippies by others .. bums by a few; but we thought of
 
 
 
ourselves as Freaks of Nature .. people who loved the outdoors so
 
 
 
much life meant little without that enjoyment.  Living on a rough,
 
unused beach which was closely bordered by swamp, small trees,
 
 
 
and a high embankment which supported twin railroad tracks
 
 
 
which were the source of clickity clack music and long, locomotive
 
 
 
horn blasts seemed as natural for us as planting a uranium refinery
 
 
 
here had been by the Canadian Government.  It was here, also
 
 
 
naturally, that I had discovered glow-in-the-dark fungus which
 
 
 
makes midnight finding of dead, dry firewood as easy as breaking
 
 
 
branches off dead trees.  It was also here that I saw the once
 
 
 
bountiful Redwing Blackbird population decimated by emissions
 
 
 
from, no, not the uranium refinery, but from a plastics factory
 
 
 
which was established in more recent years.  Those emissions had
 
 
 
made the beach undesireable as a home, even if the rent was free,
 
 
 
and I hadn’t lived there for almost two decades, although I had
 
 
 
tented briefly.  The beach held incredibly strong memories for me,
 
 
 
not the least of which was camping with my wife and children
 
 
 
before our family breakdown, and with my three daughters
 
 
 
following the breakdown.  My adult daughters treasure those
 
 
 
memories also, and we have returned with the third generation for
 
 
 
brief visits.
 
       
 
      On this same beach in the early dawn of my trip’s second day
 
Paul Workman returns to his tent to sleep after thoroughly
 
 
 
warming himself, and I break camp and load my moped.  I’m
 
 
 
concerned about beach sand getting on the chain and sprocket, and
 
 
 
after I get to the road I clean what I can.  With my stomach full of
 
 
 
oatmeal restaurant coffee alone is sufficient to take me to 7:30 
 
 
 
a.m., when I ride to Fox’s apartment.  Serendipitousness as
 
 
 
always is strong between Fox and I, he coming out his apartment
 
 
 
building’s front door as I ride up.  He, with Hollywood and friends,
 
 
 
have a golf day planned, and again serendipitously, they plan on
 
 
 
stopping at a restaurant in the fishing resort village of Bewdley on
 
 
 
Rice Lake, on the route to Peterborough, before golfing on the other
 
 
 
side of the lake.  We agree to meet at the restaurant, where I take
 
 
 
directions to the golf course.  My granddaughter Jade won’t be
 
 
 
home from school until after 3 that day, so I could spend a few
 
 
 
hours with Fox and crew at the golf course.  The road around the
 
 
 
lake is longer than I think, with long, steep hills which slow my
 
 
 
speed, and when 1/4 around I change direction for Peterborough
 
 
 
where I can spend a few hours in quiet rest.  In Peterborough I
 
 
 
purchase a steak and green pepper to go with my cooking onions,
 
 
 
and set up a kitchen on a concrete pier on Little Lake.  A woman is
 
sunning herself on the pier and we chat .. with sparks of attraction
 
 
 
obvious .. but I’m not interested in possible complications at this
 
 
 
time of life, so I douse the sparks within me and turn up my naptha
 
 
 
stove’s cooking flame, finish my chef’s job, and enjoy my meal. 
 
 
 
      I ride up to Jade’s house just as she rides up on her bicycle. 
 
 
 
She and I have a relationship based on strong family affection and
 
 
 
love for the outdoors, she being a fisher and camper.  I had lived in
 
 
 
her home for the spring and summer months five years before,
 
 
 
when my daughter Kathi was still residing there, and Jade and I
 
 
 
went-a-fishing, and also went a-canoeing on Little Lake.  A framed
 
 
 
photo of the two of us in the canoe has been propped on a shelf in
 
 
 
their living room since then.  I’m writing this in the same room I
 
 
 
lived in then, having moved in again two months ago.  On my
 
 
 
moped trip stopover Jade’s Dad Ralph and I and Jade spent a
 
 
 
couple of days together, and I went for coffee with Kathi and her
 
 
 
new partner.
 
 
 
      When I lived here the first time Kathi and I and Jade would go
 
 
 
shopping malling often, but I’ve been living here for three months
 
 
 
this time and have only seen Kathi when she comes to pick up Jade
 
 
 
for visitations even though she and I almost always share a warm
 
and genuine hug when she comes for Jade.  I think she and I are
 
 
 
both at a loss for words with each other.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Four==
 
Trip’s End So Soon?
 
 
 
Despite the bone marrow renewing warmth of a grandaughter’s
 
 
 
love, my shivering cold night on Port Hope’s beach has persuaded
 
 
 
me that before I leave Peterborough I must make an addition to
 
 
 
my sleeping gear, which consisted of a too-lighweight sleeping bag
 
 
 
and cotton bedsheet safety pinned inside and serving as a liner.  At
 
 
 
the Canadian Tire store I purchase an inexpensively flimsy,
 
 
 
emergency ‘space blanket’ of plasticized aluminum, and at a charity
 
 
 
store purchase a second cotton bedsheet.  I use double sided tape
 
 
 
to stick the space blanket and bedsheet together, and will spread
 
 
 
this over my sleeping bag, with the cotton side down for clinginess,
 
 
 
and also for absorbing moisture vented by my bag.  This proves to
 
 
 
be a great improvement in warmth, relatively durable, and easily
 
 
 
folded, but the space blanket was too flimsy, and I replaced it after
 
 
 
one month with a more expensive, sturdier model pinned to the
 
 
 
bed sheet with large safety pins.  That arrangement is lasting
 
 
 
wonderfully.
 
 
 
      I ride away from Peterborough along Highway 7 West, with the
 
 
 
trip going so well I start to flash hippy ‘Peace’ signs with my left
 
 
 
hand (my right hand gripping the throttle) towards people who view
 
 
 
me and my loaded moped as a curiosity.  I think it is at Oakwood,
 
 
 
a tiny village, that I get unpeaced.  I had stopped for a stop sign or
 
 
 
red light, having had pulled to the right to allow any vehicle which
 
 
 
might come up behind me to make proceed unhindered by my slow
 
 
 
acceleration.  When I proceed, it is at full throttle, and I am doing
 
 
 
about 20 miles per hour and still to the right when the pavement
 
 
 
turns to firmly packed gravel shoulder.  Just after I have checked
 
 
 
my mirror for traffic behind me, and have turned my handlebars
 
 
 
towards the pavement, my rear tire goes almost instantly flat.  It’s
 
 
 
not a blowout .. there is no ‘bang’, which surprises me because the
 
air deflates the tire almost instantly, resulting in a wild swaying and
 
 
 
sliding on gravel of the heavy back end, necessitating a desperate
 
 
 
kicking and bracing with both my feet on each side as needed, and
 
 
 
equally desperate manipulation of the handlebars to counter the
 
 
 
sway and slide.  Even though the tire didn’t ‘bang’ by heart is
 
 
 
banging as I come to a safe stop.  This situation had been
 
 
 
aggravated by the weight of me and my load.  I weighed 195 lbs
 
 
 
when setting out, with about 100 pounds of load.  Most of that
 
 
 
weight is over the rear wheel.  I have learned since that with
 
 
 
motorcycles, the front tire almost never goes flat, but it is nearly
 
 
 
always the rear tire, and such was my experience throughout the
 
 
 
trip, with a dozen rear flats, but not one front flat.  I did meet a
 
 
 
rider who told me of having had his front tire blow at 170
 
 
 
Kilometers an hour, and who, because he was at that time young
 
 
 
and strong with intense reflexes, managed to keep his bike upright. 
 
 
 
I wasn’t a young man now though, and my flat, even though it
 
 
 
resulted in no apparent harm or damage, but coming on only the
 
 
 
second day of my trip, was very frightening, especially when I
 
 
 
considered what might happen at 30 miles per hour in heavy traffic,
 
 
 
and especially if the front tire blew.  Once I had come to a safe stop
 
my lack of courage, as with the bear, showed clearly in thoughts of
 
 
 
turning back to Peterborough, and then to spend the summer on
 
 
 
the beach in Port Hope.  As my heartbeat subsided I looked around
 
 
 
for an out of the way place to fix my flat, and chose a closed
 
 
 
building suply storefront across the highway which had a small
 
 
 
parking lot lined with railroad ties.  I pushed the bike across the
 
 
 
highway, set it up on its kickstand, and went for a walk to a corner
 
 
 
store as much to relax myself as for a cold drink.  Returning to the
 
 
 
bike, I sat and drank my orange juice, relaxing further, and still
 
 
 
questioning whether to turn my trip around.  First things first,
 
 
 
though, and I went at the repair.  A moped’s rear wheel is not much
 
 
 
different than a bicycle, and I was fortunate that the tube repair kit
 
 
 
in my toolkit contained two, plastic, ‘tire irons’ for bicycles which
 
 
 
were strong enough to last through a few changes of my moped tire. 
 
 
 
Before the trip was over, though, I purchased a genuine tire iron
 
 
 
from a motorcycle parts store.  These genuine irons I recommend as
 
 
 
making changes much easier, especially recommended when you
 
 
 
are fixing a flat on the side of a busy highway with cars whizzing
 
 
 
past when you need all the ease you can get.
 
 
 
      I had never changed my moped tire, and recommend that
 
anyone with a moped give themselves that experience before
 
 
 
necessity makes for a difficult learning experience.  I made my
 
 
 
chore easier by setting the moped on its kickstand atop one of the
 
 
 
railroad ties, this raising my work about 12 inches.  I had the tube
 
 
 
out and had established that the flat was not the result of a
 
 
 
puncture, and it was then that a pedestrian passerby, and a
 
 
 
motorcyclist, came along and told me that friction of the tube
 
 
 
against the tire had caused my problem.  He also told me Baby
 
 
 
Powder rubbed onto the tube and into the tire would reduce
 
 
 
friction, and I have found his advice to be true, riding from
 
 
 
Winnipeg to London on my return trip without having one flat, and
 
 
 
when I had a flat at Kitchener it was from a puncture.  Baby
 
 
 
poweder, though, makes roadside repair of a used tube impossible
 
 
 
unless there is an abundance of water to wash the tube with, and
 
 
 
also an abndance of dry, warm air to evaporate all moisture from
 
 
 
the tube, moisture acting like baby powder to prevent glue and
 
 
 
patch from adhering.  I now carry two spare tubes, a practice begun
 
 
 
north of Regina on my return trip when a biker stopped to offer
 
 
 
assistance during another tire change, he running into Regina and
 
 
 
back, and despite my successful repair, presenting me with two
 
new tubes, charged only to Regina hospitality.  Oh the comfort
 
 
 
those two tubes brought.  Tire wear is critically important to
 
 
 
monitor, I learned on my return trip, when a puncture caused a
 
 
 
change during which when I examined my tire I discovered an area
 
 
 
had worn down to the cords.  This could easily have resulted in a
 
 
 
blowout on the busy Trans Canada Highway,  although a blowout
 
 
 
anywhere is to be avoided at all costs.  I now carry a spare tire, a
 
 
 
good recommendation whenever you ride, because while spare
 
 
 
moped sized tubes can be had at many motorcycle shops, moped
 
 
 
tire sources are rare, a bike shop in Victoria having to order one for
 
 
 
me from Quebec.  I personally know only two tire sources, Mr.
 
 
 
Moped in Toronto, and the Great Canadian Motorcycle part store on
 
 
 
Main Street in Winnipeg where I purchased a tire on the way west
 
 
 
and again on the way east.  There in Oakwood I discovered no
 
 
 
serious abrasion damage had been done to my tire during its back
 
 
 
and forth slide over gravel, and thanks to small, my bicycle tire air
 
 
 
pump  I was soon enough back on the highway, and not heading
 
 
 
back to Peterborough, but determined by my lack of serious
 
 
 
consequences of the flat, and equipped with the new knowledge of
 
 
 
Baby Powder, to roll westward on.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Five==
 
This is where the writing becomes more difficult, because I had
 
 
 
abandoned my goal of being a published writer, and wanted to be
 
 
 
free of hindrances to enjoyment on this trip, so made no notes of
 
 
 
my progress through Ontario.  I even forget the exact route east of
 
 
 
Lake Simcoe.  I think it was up Highway 46 to Bolsover, 33 and 6 to
 
 
 
Dalrymple, up to Washago; and I do remember 13 to Torrance, 20
 
 
 
miles as the crow flies but probably double that because of its
 
 
 
twisting, hump-roaded nature through what becomes a dry plateau
 
 
 
infested with Tent Worm Caterpillars if I remember correctly, a huge
 
 
 
infestation, with almost every small tree being destroyed, and the
 
 
 
plateau being so dry that not many large trees were present,
 
 
 
probably all having been cut a hundred years ago.  This road, 13,
 
 
 
has no villages or crossroads marked on the provincial map, and
 
 
 
except for cottages and a few homes, and possibly an isolated
 
 
 
school which could have been there or on another isolated road I
 
 
 
rode upon, is not much more than a made-for maximum moped
 
 
 
throttle thrills country lane through beautiful Muskoka land.  I took
 
 
 
13 because Highway 11 was marked as controlled access on my
 
 
 
map, but even though I learned from locals that bicycles ride 11 all
 
 
 
the time, the lesson of getting off the highway onto the byway paid
 
 
 
big dividends throughout the trip, I seeing far more countryside in
 
 
 
its beautiful state in a safer and more leisurely manner than I
 
 
 
would have by staying on major routes.  On this lonely road, at an
 
 
 
intersection with a railroad track, I met a woman walking .. to me it
 
 
 
was obvious she was single, and lonely, and receptive .. and we
 
 
 
chatted, and I thought briefly of asking to accompany her to her
 
 
 
home or cottage .. briefly .. only briefly .. then onward. 
 
 
 
      Trans Canada 400 into Parry Sound is also marked Controlled
 
 
 
Access on maps, and I paralleled it on 69, that highway being the
 
 
 
old Trans Canada, and continuing as 69 Trans Canada past Parry
 
Sound where 400 ends,  at Parry Sound. Names on the map on the
 
 
 
stretches leading to Parry Sound include Rosseau, Glen Orchard,
 
 
 
Horseshoe Lake, Gordon Bay, Fool’s Bay, Cala.  I can’t remember
 
 
 
exactly where I camped, but tried to stay near water .. a good spot
 
 
 
can often be had on the riverside at a bridge, where construction
 
 
 
crews had to have flat space for their equipment, and often there is
 
 
 
an easy track leading to the water.  The roadside being public
 
 
 
property the private owners can’t kick a camper off, but they can
 
 
 
phone officials, and in some areas in Northern Ontario where
 
 
 
camping tourists are important to the local economy you will find
 
 
 
‘No Overnight Camping’ signs posted by the roadway borders of
 
 
 
fantastic lakes and rivers.  Presumably the local campground
 
 
 
operators are also municipal authorities.  There are sill lots of free
 
 
 
sites available, though, like the one atop a rock cut as dusk
 
 
 
dropped around me.  A track for wheeled vehicles carrying hydro
 
 
 
pole maintenance crews led off the highway up the slope to the top
 
 
 
of the cut, and where I though I would spend an uneventful camp
 
 
 
turned out to be one of the best of the trip, with a wonderful, level,
 
 
 
grassy area for my tent, and a lake two minutes by hike down a
 
 
 
wooded slope.  Sharing this campsite was a large turtle laying her
 
eggs where the sun would warm them right at the edge of the cut. 
 
 
 
If the hatchlings went the wrong way they would drop off the edge
 
 
 
almost onto the highway, but of course they would not make that
 
 
 
mistake, their instincts taking them down the wooded slope to the
 
 
 
lake.  It would be a rough trip for them, tiny things probably as big
 
 
 
as a dime or a quarter, stumbling over sharp rock and debris from
 
 
 
the trees .. but obviously enough of them would probaboly make it
 
 
 
to create another generation.
 
 
 
      The route from Parry Sound to Sudbury is simple enough, stay
 
 
 
on 69 until 17 .. but getting around Sudbury without going onto the
 
 
 
busy Controlled Access section required careful navigation,
 
 
 
although here again the effort was well worth the result, the road 55
 
 
 
less travelled taking me into a wonderland of waterfalls, lakes, and
 
 
 
old railroad trestles.
 
 
 
         
 
                                  Revelation
 
 
 
       
 
      Ahhh .. Suddenly I know.  I have just come from a break from
 
 
 
writing .. I was watching the movie of Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna
 
 
 
Karenina on television .. I recognized in those passions the reason
 
 
 
why I cannot remember details of the trip to Saskatoon beyond the
 
change of tire at Oakwood .. except the turtle in the cycle of birth ..
 
 
 
the worms in the cycle of death .. the forbidding of the the beauty
 
 
 
and freedom of life of free camping in places of grandeur that comes
 
 
 
with the love of money being the root of all evil .. it all came to
 
 
 
me suddenly that my mind was encompassed by a fire of passion ..
 
 
 
a far higher vision than anything I passed through .. and that goal
 
 
 
was the well being of my sister in law Sandy.  I was armed with
 
 
 
prayer .. I am armed with prayer .. not that I am Peter or Paul, John
 
 
 
or James, Stephen or any of the apostles, but like Jesus Christ
 
 
 
they taught me to pray .. and to believe .. and with Saskatoon as
 
 
 
my goal as I rode the roads small or great, and camped in beautiful
 
 
 
places or meager, my passion and prayer was for my sister in law’s
 
 
 
health .. that was the vision and the passion and goal.  Yes .. and
 
 
 
having been reminded of passion, I won’t delay to share the passion
 
 
 
of joy with you who are reading this .. the joy that as I rode up
 
 
 
Saskatchewan’s Yellowhead Highway about 100 miles from
 
 
 
Saskatoon, I suddenly knew that my sister in law would be well ..
 
 
 
and so it was that when I telephoned, before arriving, I was told
 
 
 
that the cancer was not in the lymph under the arm after all, but
 
 
 
was restricted to the breast, and that treatment was expected to be
 
effective .. and so far, seven months later, that has held true .. and
 
 
 
the prognosis for the future is excellent.  But are we, that is, is the
 
 
 
world, out of the woods yet, as the saying goes, now that we are on
 
 
 
the prairie, so to speak?  No when you become intimate with the
 
 
 
prairie you will find there are plenty of woods on those prairies ..
 
 
 
you will see if you go there .. and we are never completely out of the
 
 
 
woods until we reach eternal heaven.  By the way, I lost a good deal
 
 
 
of respect for Leo Tolstoy for his ending of Anna Karenina’s life.  He
 
 
 
could have had Anna’s husband, who depicted himself as a
 
 
 
Christian, pray and have the love of his wife restored him ..
 
 
 
but I have read a little of Tolstoy’s life, and I see in Anna’s death
 
 
 
Tolstoy’s own vengeance on all women who have injured him and
 
 
 
those he loved .. in efect his hatred murdered, along with Anna,
 
 
 
every beautiful young woman in the world.  Shakespeare had
 
 
 
different motives for killing Romeo and Juliet .. passionless
 
 
 
motives .. he knew full well stage and scene of bloody marketplace,
 
 
 
and knew golden curtains rise and set on blood and tragedy. 
 
 
 
Shakespeare’s goal was simply money .. but of course he caused the
 
 
 
deaths of countless young people who imitated Romeo and Juliet by
 
 
 
killing themselves.  Those authors’ sins are great.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Six==
 
Okay I’m back in the memory groove after having phoned
 
 
 
sister-in-law Sandra in Saskatoon and having her good health
 
 
 
reconfirmed .. well, I’m in a partial memory groove .. I can’t
 
 
 
remember details like names, and right now I sure wish I had been
 
 
 
making notes, because while at Blind River and stopped for a cup of
 
 
 
tea, sitting at a bar in a licensed restaurant/motel and chatting
 
 
 
with the bartender/owner, a friend of his offered to share his twin-
 
 
 
beded motel room with me.  Actually, the spare bed in Jack’s room
 
 
 
was taken by a friend of his also working strike security, but on
 
opposite shifts.  It was a generous offer, especially as a
 
 
 
thunderstorm had been forecast; but I’m wary of strange men,
 
 
 
having been molested both as a boy and as a young man.  Even
 
 
 
though I now have friends who are bisexual my relationship with
 
 
 
them is clear in that I am straight and will not welcome advances.  I
 
 
 
don’t have that advantage with strangers, so I was honest and told
 
 
 
the gentleman I don’t completely trust situations as he was offering,
 
 
 
and that I would think over his offer as I gassed up.  He told me he
 
 
 
understood my hesitation told me to take all the time I needed. 
 
 
 
While gassing the moped I observed certain signs of bad weather
 
 
 
moving in, and while that didn’t threaten my comfort or security I
 
 
 
did not want to pack a wet tent in the morning.  I returned to the
 
 
 
gentleman’s table, whose name I really wish I could remember, and
 
 
 
accepted his offer.  I’ll call him Jack, and that very well might have
 
 
 
been his name.
 
 
 
      Jack was a retired railroad engineer having spent his career in
 
 
 
the north, now working security for the railroad during a strike. 
 
 
 
There was little danger in the strike, pretty much gone are the days
 
 
 
of rail tampering and potentially violent face offs between railroad
 
 
 
bosses and union men.  A strong fraternity holds things together
 
on the rails, each knowing the other faces grave hazards in his
 
 
 
work, and each respectful of the other’s position.  I had worked on
 
 
 
several railroad track maintenance gangs swinging a spike-driving
 
 
 
hammer, and had hopped freights while travelling both for pleasure
 
 
 
and on my way back and forth to work, so as Jack and I lay abed
 
 
 
after a shower drinking beer a common thread of discussion spun
 
 
 
out of steel rail, fast freights, cabooses, beautifully isolated northern
 
 
 
rail camps, the distant and melodious sound of a railroad engine’s
 
 
 
long-wailing horn awhistle and echoing off tens of miles of hard
 
 
 
rock and evergreen trees, and of course huge fish and Black Flies. 
 
 
 
Besides working at odd jobs to stay busy, Jack volunteered at a
 
 
 
children’s cancer camp, and it was after we had discussed cancer
 
 
 
for a while that I told him I was on my way to Saskatoon because of
 
 
 
cancer in the family, and also confided my own affliction.  Jack then
 
 
 
was honest about his heart problems and diabetes.  Ohhh .. the
 
 
 
long calling horn of advancing age.  That new movie The Bucket List
 
 
 
again comes to mind.
 
 
 
      Sleep came .. the awesome storm came .. morning came .. the
 
 
 
shift change came.  I was up and out of bed of course and at
 
 
 
breakfast before my bed’s owner returned.  We had a short chat,
 
but he was soon off to bed, and I was on my way, riding a dry
 
 
 
moped which had weathered the storm under the motel roof’s wide
 
 
 
overhang.  Such an unthankful fellow am I that I don’t think I took
 
 
 
Jack’s address .. oh yes I did, Thunder Bay, but I didn’t look him
 
 
 
up, with my mind focused on Saskatoon at the expense of almost
 
 
 
everything else. 
 
 
 
      When I got to Sault Ste. Marie I detoured towards the shipping
 
 
 
locks, but didn’t get to see them as they’re situated on the American
 
 
 
side, and I didn’t want the hassle of border security.  That very
 
 
 
interesting test waited the return trip.  On the way out of the Sault I
 
 
 
stopped at the huge Canadian Tire store, where I exchanged the
 
 
 
sleeping bag I had purchased at a Canadian Tire especially for this
 
 
 
trip.  The original bag gave out on the second night, really tearing
 
 
 
apart at the seams.  To be fair, it was a very cheap bag, $25, and
 
 
 
one I never would have purchased except it rolled up into a small
 
 
 
bundle suitable for my moped’s front fender.  Even though I had no
 
 
 
sales receipt the kind saleslady at Canadian Tire gave me $10 credit
 
 
 
on a new bag, and I bought a reasonable quality Woods bag with a
 
 
 
nice, cotton liner for $40.00.  Although this bag was bulkier than I
 
 
 
preferred it and my tent rolled together with the space
 
blanket/cotton sheet fit under my headlight well enough for the
 
 
 
light to illuminate the way ahead, and to keep me legal.  I packed
 
 
 
the sleeping bag bundle in to what was supposed to be a waterproof
 
 
 
nylon dry bag for boaters, but the bag had lost its waterproof
 
 
 
quality, and I wrapped the entire bundle into a heavy duty, bright
 
 
 
orange garbage bag.  This was waterproof, and enhanced my road
 
 
 
security by making me more visible to motorists who might be
 
 
 
careless in passing a vehicle and coming in my direction, in my
 
 
 
lane.  Of course real security could only come through providential
 
 
 
potection, which I obviously had through the entire trip, but I had
 
 
 
to do my part in maintaining utmost diligence.
 
 
 
      So far most of the highways I had been riding had been
 
 
 
through wild enough territory, but leaving the Sault I came into
 
 
 
country truly wild, and also with its countless scenic vistas truly
 
 
 
beautiful .. the north shore of Lake Superior.  Not far beyond the
 
 
 
Sault is a 60 miles stretch of highway without one commercial stop
 
 
 
.. this is Lake Superior Provincial Park, with the beautiful Old
 
 
 
Woman Bay at its western end.  Before I got to the park though, I
 
 
 
needed to stop for the night, and here is where a slow-moving
 
 
 
moped has it all over a motorcycle or car.  I saw a slight vehicle
 
track running into and out of a steep, sandy ditch, with the lake
 
 
 
unobstructed except for trees just beyond.  I took the track, and
 
 
 
discovered beautiful campsites.  However, there was a chance the
 
 
 
land might belong to an almost derelict motel on the far side of the
 
 
 
highway, so I backtracked, and asked about the situation with the
 
 
 
motel operator, a woman slightly older than myself, who operated
 
 
 
the motel year round with her life partner.  The motel office was
 
 
 
cramped with boxes overflowing with used books for sale, the
 
 
 
books obviously being a winter pastime for the operators.  This lady
 
 
 
said, yes, the campsites were free for the taking, being on highway
 
 
 
property, with lots of people camping there.  I thanked her, and
 
 
 
looked over the books but could find nothing to buy, and returned
 
 
 
to the lake where I chose a good spot and set up, with a miracle of
 
 
 
God just waiting to happen.  All that day, as I passed sand beaches
 
 
 
along the highway, I was thinking that when I stopped for the night
 
 
 
I would need a large, flat, metal something to put between the sand
 
 
 
and my kickstand to prevent the kickstand from digging into the
 
 
 
soft sand with one fork or the other and toppling the bike over in
 
 
 
the night, especially if a wind came up.  The bike was prey for a
 
 
 
sideways blowing wind anyway, as the rear end packs acted almost
 
as a sail.  Being somewhat familiar with the providence of the
 
 
 
Almighty Creator I was not entirely surprised to find, right beside a
 
 
 
fire ring of stones, an old and battered, almost sufficiently thick
 
 
 
aluminum frying pan of the right diameter to take the forks of my
 
 
 
kickstand.  That pan lasted through most of my trip, being
 
 
 
replaced eventually with a thicker version which had lost its handle.
 
 
 
Also obvious at the campsites was the ungratefulness of some
 
 
 
humans, with a depression partially hidden by bushes and just off
 
 
 
the most beautiful sand beach anyone could want almost
 
 
 
completely filled with all sorts of garbage any of which could have
 
 
 
been loaded back into the vehicle which it had been unloaded from,
 
 
 
the garbage of course being empty food containers, empty cans,
 
 
 
empty plastic bottles, etc.  This garbage was as dangerous as it was
 
 
 
unsightly as it could become a magnet for bears.  Nevertheless, the
 
 
 
spot was beautiful, and I had been on the road long enough to need
 
 
 
a good break, which I took there, spending the next cloudly, partly
 
 
 
drizzly day resting and cooking and eating and walking brief
 
 
 
explorations, and talking around a driftwood fire with a family of
 
 
 
two adults, a couple of young teens, and a younger child.  The teen
 
 
 
girl and her Dad were brave enough to get into the icy water for a
 
swim, but I was not brave, but suffered even  standing ankle or
 
 
 
knee deep and washing myself.  Superior is one COLD lake, being
 
 
 
very deep, and containing, I have read in different sources, either
 
 
 
one-tenth of one-fifth or one-third or one-half of the fresh water in
 
 
 
the world . . I have also read Lake Baikal in Russia, which is much
 
 
 
deeper, contains one-third of the world’s freshwater .. so who knows
 
 
 
which source is correct.  Anyway .. the lake’s latitude and depth
 
 
 
make it cold, and for normal people generally unswimmable until
 
 
 
July or August .. so this father and daughter are brave indeed.   
 
 
 
The family were the only visitors at that spot on that stop, but on
 
 
 
the return in early August the place was packed with tenters.
 
 
 
      When I packed up and rode westward on I was rested well,
 
 
 
but the grey sky and low temperatures continued with drizzle off
 
 
 
and on, and when I stopped at the Trading Post or whatever it’s
 
 
 
called at the Western end of Lake Superior Provincial Park, my
 
 
 
hands were so cold I could barely open them from around the bike’s
 
 
 
steering grips.  That day had not been a fun ride.  At the Trading
 
 
 
Post I bought a better pair of leather riding gloves which I
 
 
 
waterproofed on the upper side with Arctic Dubbin.  With the wet
 
 
 
weather I felt wet enough enough to duck into Wawa to see the
 
huge Goose before continuing on past White River, where I
 
 
 
discovered Banks of Montreal are rare through the north, that rarity
 
 
 
contributing to some fiancial worries.  The weather turned colder
 
 
 
and continued wet, and at Marathon I purchased a pair of rubber
 
 
 
boots and a good pair of wood socks, and from then on rode in them
 
 
 
through wet weather.  and Terrace Bay.  Somewhere in one of
 
 
 
those towns I also purchased a lined pair of waterproof riding pants
 
 
 
for warmth, and tossed my unlined ones, which I had purchased
 
 
 
used for one or two dollars, and which were tattered, in the
 
 
 
garbage.  At Terrace Bay I shopped for food at a supermarket,
 
 
 
coming out to a steady and heavy which lasted a long time, with me
 
 
 
standing under the supermarket roof’s overhang talking with a
 
 
 
native fellow who needed far more encouragement away from the
 
 
 
abuse of alcohol and drugs as I could provide.  I did encourage him,
 
 
 
though, and we shared a lunch from my groceries.  He gave me his
 
 
 
address on a reserve, and I sure wish I had stopped to visit on my
 
 
 
way back, but although that stop was on my mind, I somehow
 
 
 
passed it by.  I hadn’t wanted to spend the night in a town, but the
 
 
 
rain would not let up, and close by the supermarket was what had,
 
 
 
I believe, been roofed structure housing at one time a farmers’
 
market.  At a fortunate time a municipal vehicle stopped close by
 
 
 
my friend and I, and I approached it and asked if anyone would
 
 
 
mind if I pitched under the roof that night.  No one would mind, I
 
 
 
was told, and I did pitch, and spent a dry night, moving on in a
 
 
 
drier morning.  If memory serves me correctly it is the stretch from
 
 
 
Rossport to Lake Helen is where the lakeshore vistas are
 
 
 
magnificent and almost unending, with the highway a steeply
 
 
 
hilled, twisting, lake hugging pleasure.  Along this stretch I came to
 
 
 
a pair of hitchhikers, a young man and woman from Quebec, he on
 
 
 
his way to the fruit harvests in the Okanagan, she on her way to
 
 
 
work motels or restaurants catering to tourists.  We had a brief
 
 
 
chat, I not wanting to hinder chances for someone to pick them up,
 
 
 
and I gave them a very thankfully received $20 bill .. or was that
 
 
 
$10.  I hope it was $20 .. and it should have been $50.  She in turn
 
 
 
honoured me by taking my photograph .. so The Moped Poet is also
 
 
 
known in La Belle Provence.  At Thunder Bay I stopped to find a
 
 
 
motorcycle shop to buy a tube, and here, the operator looked at my
 
 
 
rear tire and expressed the opinion I should go no further without a
 
 
 
new tire, which no one in Thunder Bay could provide.  Seeing my
 
 
 
obvious disappointment he said, “… well, maybe you’ll make it to
 
Winnipeg.  Yes, sure, you’ll make it to Winnipeg.  I determined that
 
 
 
I would, and reduced my tire’s burden by reducing weight by
 
 
 
leaving some (spared but not spare food items like half my brown
 
 
 
rice and lentils along with a clean bundle of (not spare, but spared
 
 
 
anyway) clothing on a picnic table used by truckers, and also by
 
 
 
slightly deflating my tire so the wear would be spread over a wider
 
 
 
area.  At Thunder Bay the tire wear and banking considerations
 
 
 
persuaded me not to head due west which would involve an attempt
 
 
 
to cross the  U.S. border at Fort Frances, a route which I had
 
 
 
planned because it would have led me to a part of southeastern
 
 
 
Manitoba which is reserved as original prairie grassland, and which
 
 
 
at that time of year would probably be wildly abloom with varieties
 
 
 
of edible rooted flowers like the Orange Lilly which had been a
 
 
 
staple of aboriginal diet, and which is practically non-existant on
 
 
 
the prairies today.  Being turned back at the U.S. border would
 
 
 
have added a couple hundred miles wear to my tire, so leaving
 
 
 
Thunder Bay I turned slightly northwest onto 17 Trans Canada.
 
 
 
and rode towards Kenora, close by the Manitoba border, which I on
 
 
 
gained on May 30, my first stop being a motorcycle shop on the
 
 
 
edge of town, at which I enquired about moped tires, and was told I
 
would probably find them only at Winnipeg.  The bike shop owners
 
 
 
were great to talk with though, and on my return trip I stopped
 
 
 
again to say hello.  My official welcome to Kenora was made prior
 
 
 
to my downtown walkabout by the mayor himself in the parking lot
 
 
 
I parked at, the mayor having taken an interest in my vehicle and
 
 
 
journey.  I did not, however, receive a key to the city.  By the way, a
 
 
 
moped is easily stolen because of its light weight, and I always try
 
 
 
to secure mine to a parking meter, signpost or bicycle rack with a
 
 
 
long-shackled, hardened steel, bicycle U-Lock. 
 
 
 
      My government income I receive by direct deposit into my bank
 
 
 
account, and banking business included clearing the owed balance
 
 
 
on my credit card which I had been living on for a few days.  I also
 
 
 
had lunch in a restaurant at which a young lady and her family
 
 
 
were celebrating a newborn, and I gifted the mother with $10 or $20
 
 
 
to celebrate with.  This I did partly out of gratitude for the mother’s
 
 
 
race, for it was the aboriginals of the west who had saved my great
 
 
 
grandfather and his family from certain starvation in their first
 
 
 
winter homesteading in a Manitoba river valley, a site I would visit
 
 
 
on spend two nights camped at on my way to Saskatoon, the
 
 
 
original log home still standing.  Kenora was also a reminder of my
 
younger days when the desperate, drug and alcohol addicted plight
 
 
 
of many in our society had, after my own escape from those
 
 
 
afflictions through a miraculous rebirth which had held the
 
 
 
knowledge of eternal salvation, I had crisscrossed most of Canada,
 
 
 
stopping in Kenora more than once, handing out ‘Jesus Saves’
 
 
 
booklets and tracts and small copies of gospels and Revelation. 
 
 
 
Regardless of the fraudulent images broadcast on television and
 
 
 
radio, being Born Again is not a Satanic origin, but according to
 
 
 
scriptures simply means the beginning of genuine faith in Jesus
 
 
 
Christ .. and I recognize Muslims as being in that faith, as while
 
 
 
they do not hold Christ as the Son of God, they do recognize him as
 
 
 
the Messiah who will return and destroy the anti-Christ empire now
 
 
 
ruling this planet. 
 
 
 
      At Kenora I carefully folded and tucked a receipt for
 
 
 
gasoline into a safe place in my wallet, that receipt providing proof
 
 
 
for government officials that I had been in Ontario on that day, and
 
 
 
the receipt for my tire purchased June 1 in Winnipeg as proof of
 
 
 
when I had crossed the border.  I did the same thing on my return
 
 
 
trip, and the government was satisfied with that proof.   
 
 
 
      I clearly remember the beautiful, roadside, lakeside camp I had
 
between Kenora and the Manitoba border .. a spot where I chatted
 
 
 
with a wonderful retired gent whose home was just across the
 
 
 
bridge.  I also had a lovely walk in a lovely woods at that camp,
 
 
 
the  woods concealing an attempted home built out of an old 18
 
 
 
wheel trailer, but which had been long disused.  I remember a good
 
 
 
sleep .. and also the next morning’s pleasant ride to the border. 
 
 
 
What I remember most clearly, though, was standing at the large
 
 
 
‘Welcome To Manitoba’ sign pondering whether to obey the letter of
 
 
 
Manitoba’s moped laws, which would have allowed me to go no
 
 
 
further, as there were no dirt roads running west from the border at
 
 
 
that point, or depending on the spirit and grace to  into illegal
 
 
 
territory as a fugitive.  The plight of Kenora’s alcohol and drug
 
 
 
addicted segment of population was a call to return, but my own
 
 
 
spirit was no longer adequate for such a calling, and the calling of
 
 
 
my own family’s necessities was equal.  I decided I would run in the
 
 
 
spirit of grace, and after a few miles of the Trans Canada Highway
 
 
 
until I turned off onto 44.  Now THAT was a good decision and turn
 
 
 
even if the decision to get off the Trans Canada turned out to be
 
 
 
unnecessary, as all the highways in Manitoba are used by slow
 
 
 
moving bicyclists, and it would take a very mean-spirited police
 
officer, or one dealing with a mean-spirited mopedist, to order a
 
 
 
moped onto the dirt roads reserved for them.  By choice I did end
 
 
 
up on some of those dirt roads, and they were very pleasant
 
 
 
experiences.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Seven==
 
Highway 44 was indeed a wonderful ride.  It runs through
 
 
 
Whiteshell Provincial Park, which is gated at both ends, but no fee
 
 
 
is required if a person is just passing through.  My genuine intent
 
 
 
was to pass through, and I was allowed to do so.  The road is
 
 
 
paved, but rough and narrow, winding and hilly, running through
 
 
 
wild, forested, fishing and hunting country.  The name of the park,
 
 
 
Whiteshell, together with the village of Whitemouth which I went
 
 
 
through west of the park, conflicted with Shellmouth, the village
 
 
 
nearest my great grandfather’s homestead.  Those names caused
 
 
 
some confusion later in the trip when I attempted telling curious
 
 
 
people farther west where I had been, and I eventually just crooked
 
 
 
my thumb and said, “back there,” which generally brought a
 
 
 
satisfied laugh.
 
 
 
      Was it at Whitemouth where a gas station/fishing store
 
 
 
operator told me of an off road camping spot not far past the
 
 
 
willage?  That was where I spent the night, anyway, in a clear-cut
 
 
 
off a dirt track within  the vast boreal forest.  The dirt track led
 
 
 
seemingly endlessly north and called me to go exploring for a few
 
 
 
miles, crossing a railroad track at right angles, and passing a late
 
 
 
model vehicle parked somewhat in the bush.  When I turned
 
 
 
around I had become familiar enough with that vast, untamed,
 
 
 
sandy country to easily understand how Canada became a huge
 
 
 
exporter of marijuana to the United States.  In fact, just before I
 
 
 
turned into my tent for the night I made a walk down the slightly
 
 
 
wet road to the pavement of Highway 44, where in that decidedly
 
 
 
out of the way place two vehicles were stopped, and where two men
 
 
 
and one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen were
 
 
 
discussing something in quiet tones.  Transplanting time?  I
 
became familiar with another of nature’s elements that night in my
 
 
 
tent when I was plagued with the crawling annoyance of the Tick,
 
 
 
something my time in the woods to that point in life had somehow
 
 
 
avoided.  The prairie river valleys, particularly the Assiniboine, is
 
 
 
now overrun with Ticks, which despite their disease potential, don’t
 
 
 
in reality seem much of a threat, seeming to carry the same threat
 
 
 
as being stuck by lightning, but the tiny-legged crawling of which is
 
 
 
certainly an annoyance when trying to sleep.  A Tick looks like a
 
 
 
tiny, flat bodied spider, and easy identification can be made in their
 
 
 
resistance to being squeezed to death between thumb and
 
 
 
forefinger, that task being almost impossible because of their
 
 
 
armoured body.  It’s easier to fling them out the tent door than to
 
 
 
kill them, and that’s the best procedure anyway, because they are
 
 
 
so abundant that killing enough of them to bring relief for sleep
 
 
 
may cause their corpses to emit enough of an odour to attract
 
 
 
carnivorous creatures.  Another discomfort that night came with
 
 
 
increasing air temperatures, which caused me to sleep the first part
 
 
 
of the night outside my bag, but under my cotton sheet. 
 
 
 
      The next day I rode 44 to the town of Beausejour which is
 
 
 
slightly north east of Winnipeg, where I spent a couple of hours
 
fretting while trying to organize myself.  Telephone calls into
 
 
 
Winnipeg had failed to discover a moped tire, and I did not want to
 
 
 
enter Winnipeg unnecessarily because the main roads in appeared
 
 
 
as Controlled Access on maps.  I thought I might do better in
 
 
 
Saskatoon, mapping a run up Highway 6 on the east side of Lake
 
 
 
Manitoba, then crossing the lake at 235, on to Dauphin, then on
 
 
 
and on and on and on into Saskatoon.  However .. I was told that
 
 
 
wild Highway 6 is not a well travelled road, and not a good place for
 
 
 
a tire blowout with no spare and my tire looking worse and worse. 
 
 
 
One Beausejour citizen offered to take me into Winnipeg to search
 
 
 
for a tire, but I did not want to take that person’s time, and to tell
 
 
 
the whole truth, I was also leery of leaving my moped unattended
 
 
 
for a few hours, even though it was locked.  My faith was not great
 
 
 
despite the abundance of people west of the Manitoba border who
 
 
 
introduced themselves to me with words like, “Hey man, do you
 
 
 
know Jesus?  Are you saved?”  This unmistakable, western
 
 
 
Canadian bible belt continues well into British Columbia. 
 
 
 
    I decided to continue straight west without going into Winnipeg,
 
 
 
but turned north into Selkirk when I heard of a motorcycle shop
 
 
 
there.  The operator of that shop got on the telephone and located
 
a tire for me at The Great Canadian Motorcycle parts store in
 
 
 
Winnipeg.  I turned my bike around for Winnipeg, finding the
 
 
 
shop not far from where I had lived for six months at a Salvation
 
 
 
Army hostel at Logan and Main during my era of evangelism.  Oh
 
 
 
how I wished I had some spare spirit as I rode past the destitute
 
 
 
denizens of Main Street, but I saw that a large church was
 
 
 
intimately available for them if they wanted to avail themselves, and
 
 
 
I merely purchased my tire, asking the owner to please order more,
 
 
 
as I was to return in two months.  The shop owner has been in that
 
 
 
location, I believe it was, 30 years, and it’s easy to imagine him
 
 
 
being able to replace any part for any motorcycle ever built.  It was
 
 
 
at that shop I also purchased my genuine tire iron, but only on my
 
 
 
return trip after having provided myself much unnecessary and
 
 
 
frustrating labour.  Tire changing should not be quite as
 
 
 
frustrating as it was for me, but on one of my first springtime rides
 
 
 
after having purchase the bike I had ridden into a deep pothole,
 
 
 
denting my rear rim into a slight out of roundness which made
 
 
 
difficult putting the tire on perfectly rounded.  I eventually learned
 
 
 
to Baby Powder the wheel’s rim as well as the tire’s bead, which
 
 
 
allowed the rubber to slip against the metal without grabbing, and
 
I also learned to mould the tire while under-pressurized onto the
 
 
 
rim.  I also learned that if the tire still failed to bead itself to the
 
 
 
rim, over pressurization can cause the bead (the tire’s edge) to pop
 
 
 
into roundness.  In all of this, the tire iron would have saved me
 
 
 
much sweat.  Potholes, by the way, are a good reason not to buy
 
 
 
motor scooters with their higher acceleration and smaller diameter
 
 
 
wheels, the front wheel dropping into the pothole causing the
 
 
 
scooter to flip.  A rider in Ottawa had been injured exactly in that
 
 
 
way shortly before I left on my trip, his bike becoming a total write-
 
 
 
off.
 
 
 
      Daytime air temperature in Winnipeg had soared, and I
 
 
 
decided I would not try to change my tire in sweaty discomfort, but
 
 
 
would pray for a safe trip to Saskatoon, where I could change it at
 
 
 
my leisure.  The new tire rode behind me where I attached it with a
 
 
 
bungee cord to the backpack.  My Dad’s sister Florence lives in
 
 
 
Winnipeg, but I failed to get her on the phone, and left a message
 
 
 
that I would try again on my return. 
 
 
 
      I intended to take the quaint Old Trans Canada 26 west from
 
 
 
Winnipeg to stay off the busy multi lane Number One, but I had to
 
 
 
take a multi-lane ring road as far as 26, and that was a ride made
 
interesting because of the rubberlike squigglies which ran for miles
 
 
 
along the shoulder.  These were, I believe, evaporated drippings
 
 
 
from a muncipal waste shipping truck which had a bad leak. 
 
 
 
whi.n interesting ride.  Along here was also the roadside, inter-farm
 
 
 
binder twine line which crosses and criss crosses Canada in every
 
 
 
direction and allows farmers who have all tied into the line to speak
 
 
 
into tin can telephones and bemoan the price of beef, corn, corn
 
 
 
whiskey, the price of holidays in Arizona, etc.  This line is evident
 
 
 
on the surface in places in Northern Ontario, but there it often
 
 
 
disappears as if the farmers have taken to airwave communication. 
 
 
 
      After a few miles of rubber turds I turned onto the wonderful
 
 
 
blessing which is the Old Trans Canada, how quaint and rural it is
 
 
 
in today’s modern age, that highway leading me to a verdant, well
 
 
 
treed green space on the banks of the Assiniboine at which I knew I
 
 
 
should make camp, but perhaps family desire had gotten ahold of
 
 
 
me, and I talked myself into travelling past that spot about three
 
 
 
miles before turning back to its comfort and beauty.  A young family
 
 
 
was fishing in the creek which ran into the Assinaboine, a father
 
 
 
with a son and daughter.  I could not identify the man’s accent, and
 
 
 
he identified himself as a Hutterite who had left the Colony.  I spent
 
the following day resting, with my Hutterite friends coming again for
 
 
 
fishing, and also with an invitation for me to go home for dinner.
 
 
 
Theirs was a wonderful home life and the woman of the house’s
 
 
 
cooking was of course wonderfully Hutteritish, and after supper I
 
 
 
was taken on a back roads tour and introduced to Gumbo roads,
 
 
 
they being mud roads made famous by the western Canadian
 
 
 
country music band (sh’r ‘nuff wish I cud thinka th’r name y’all)
 
 
 
which recorded ‘My Truck Got Stuck’ and in which several other
 
 
 
trucks get stuck trying to pull out the stuck truck but the Hutterite
 
 
 
truck in the song did not get stuck because the Hutterites in the
 
 
 
song were too smart to venture into the Buffalo turd and fish
 
 
 
exrement mixed with waterfowl white goo and silty clay and which
 
 
 
when mixed well together is Gumbo and which was found on the
 
 
 
bottom of the big lake which once covered much of the prairie and
 
 
 
which I had an intimate experience with on my return trip.  In the
 
 
 
middle of the back road tour I was taken to a Hutterite Colony to
 
 
 
meet the children’s grandparents.  Unfortunately, our visit was as
 
 
 
short as it was pleasant/unpleasant, for the headman of the Colony
 
 
 
was in a dispute with the grandparents’ son, who was my host, and 
 
 
 
who according to that Headman’s precepts was not welcomed onto
 
the Colony.  I was able to ease my host’s anger by reminding him
 
 
 
that God will repay justice if necessary to the Colony’s headman
 
 
 
unless that man repented of his hard heart.  I learned on my trip
 
 
 
through the west that if a traveler meets fishermen who are
 
 
 
enjoying a beer or something stronger while fishing, and those
 
 
 
fisherpeople speak with an accent difficult to identify, they are
 
 
 
almost certainly young Hutterite men who have left the colony to
 
 
 
live and work in the ‘outer’ world.  I fell in with such a group not
 
 
 
long after the first family, and we had a great time, they happily
 
 
 
sharing their beer and stronger drink, with two of the young men’s
 
 
 
father having escaped his Colony for the day, and also enjoying
 
 
 
more than one drink.  These fishers did reasonably well that day,
 
 
 
considering the pollution of most of the rivers and lakes east of
 
 
 
Alberta.  Catfish is a favourite haunter of the Assiniboine, and two
 
 
 
normal sized cats were caught, and then a huge one which nearly
 
 
 
pulled the strong young man off his feet and into the river.  This
 
 
 
fish easily weighed fourty pounds .. not a record catfish by any
 
 
 
means, but cats are well muscled.  I learned that the prairie rivers
 
 
 
once ran clear as glass, with Sturgeon plentiful; but after decades of
 
 
 
farmers plowing soil, with accompanying farm runoff, the rivers run
 
 
 
as mud, and are of course loaded with chemicals and fertilizers.   
 
 
 
My own fishing gear consists of a telescoping pole and kit with lures
 
 
 
but I had left it in Ottawa, unable to find enough space on the
 
 
 
moped, or at least a place in which the pole would not have been
 
 
 
threatened with breakage.  I would not have been able to use my
 
 
 
gear past the Ontario border anyway without purchasing expensive,
 
 
 
non-resident licenses, and my trip involved enough natural
 
 
 
stimulation that I really didn’t mind not fishing all that much. 
 
 
 
Shortly after I had departed Saskatoon I read a newspaper report of
 
 
 
a 64 pound Rainbow Trout being caught in the huge, dam created
 
 
 
Lake Diefenbaker.  That is a big Trout.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Eight==
 
The Old Path
 
 
 
Highway 26, the old trans Canada, parallels the new Trans
 
 
 
Canada Number One as both highways come into Portage la Prairie.
 
 
 
Number 26 ends by running into Number One just past Portage,
 
 
 
and five miles beyond that Highway 16, the famously beautiful
 
 
 
Yellowhead Highway begins.  The Yellowhead runs from there
 
 
 
through to Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Jasper, just beyond which it
 
 
 
splits into Yellowhead west continuing on to British Columbia’s
 
 
 
Pacific Ocean port of Prince Rupert way up there at the bottom of
 
 
 
the Alaska Panhandle.  The Yellowhead also turns south just past
 
 
 
Jasper as the Thompson Highway Numebr 5, and runs almost to
 
 
 
Vancouver.  The Yellowhead is being promoted as The New Trans
 
 
 
Canada because of tremendous shipping potential with goods from
 
 
 
Asia entering Prince Rupert and run by rail and truck down the
 
 
 
Yellowhead into the U.S.  However, that potential may never be
 
 
 
reached because global warming has opened up the Northwest
 
 
 
Passage, and if that passage is ice free every year as it was this
 
 
 
year, shipping will just naturally take that route.  The Yellowhead is
 
 
 
a highway in transformation, with widenings and shoulders being
 
 
 
paved in anticipation of increased use, but despite it having been a
 
 
 
major highway for many decades, Saskatchewan’s poverty relative
 
 
 
to the rest of Canada has results in the highway being often narrow
 
 
 
with gravel shoulders .. and those conditions, together with large
 
 
 
numbers of transport trucks, make slow travel on the Yellowhead
 
 
 
somewhat risky, although  in truth the number of transports never
 
 
 
approached what I had been told by locals to expect.
 
 
 
      The Yellowhead proved interested for necessitating my first
 
 
 
true, roadside camp, when shortly after I left Portage a storm
 
 
 
approached, dropping a soft rain but threatening much more. 
 
 
 
Prairie Thunderstorms can be truly frightening events, and the
 
shoulders of the Yellowhead offered no protection from high winds
 
 
 
would sweep right off the prairie.  I turned off onto a gravel farm
 
 
 
access road, and found a high bank which was situated for
 
 
 
protection.  Here, only about four feet from the gravel edge, I
 
 
 
pitched my tent.  A farmhouse with buildings lay within one-eighth
 
 
 
mile of me, and I was a bit worried that western hospitality which is
 
 
 
a truce fact would nonetheless be strained by my setting up of
 
 
 
camp.  I wasn’t bothered by anyone though, and only three or four
 
 
 
vehicles passed my spot in the 12 or 14 hours I was camped.
 
 
 
      The next morning I rode on, first to the town of Russell which
 
 
 
serendiptuously my poet friend Baird McNeil had once lived, and
 
 
 
which was to be a site for a family gathering for some of my own
 
 
 
family in early July.  From Russell I phoned Dad, getting further
 
 
 
directions, and rode to the crossroads of Shellmouth which is
 
 
 
almost on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border,  where I roamed
 
 
 
back roads asking people in vehicles for directions, until I finally
 
 
 
stopped at a farm, where upon my enquiring, the entire family gave
 
 
 
up what they were busy at and got out maps and made telephone
 
 
 
calls, and where I made one more call to Dad, and, as dusk was
 
 
 
near, finally the exact homestead location was located.  Now the
 
riding became very interesting indeed, as I had to get to the
 
 
 
homestead before dark.  First back to the paved road, then down
 
 
 
another paved road which led down a long, steep hill to the river
 
 
 
and a bridge.  I missed by turn at the bridge and was somehow
 
 
 
partly up the long, steep hill on the other side before realizing my
 
 
 
mistake .. back down the hill and across the bridge to turn left turn
 
 
 
onto a gravel road past a sometimes used campground, and then
 
 
 
up a rising, twisting, gravel road past the goat farmer, then up and
 
 
 
up twisting and downhill but mostly up, twisting and finally turning
 
 
 
left onto a wagon track  which made a long, gradual descent down
 
 
 
past the spring which was told me by an Austrian in his pickup up
 
 
 
who had just moved into the area, and not far past the spring a
 
 
 
place where the roadside trees cleared briefly allowing entrance
 
 
 
onto a grassy lane of sorts which had been kept mowed by farmers
 
 
 
leasing the land over the last decades, and by foot now, out of true
 
 
 
reverence, not wanting to disturb history with the sound of even my
 
 
 
quiet motor, down the grass lane to where the trees opened onto the
 
 
 
valley and .. the original, windowless, log house and barn.  This was
 
 
 
history as it should be, living history.  I was deeply moved. The
 
 
 
valley was the quietest place I have ever been in, with only a small
 
river at its lowest elevation hidden by forest, and therefore emitting
 
 
 
no sound of running water.  There was also almost no wind blowing
 
 
 
to create sound during my two days there.
 
 
 
      The log house is still standing squarely and strong, with only
 
 
 
two small openings in its wood shingle roof .. those shingles being
 
 
 
almost paper thin.  How well protected this valley was for the house
 
 
 
to stand all these years.  Great Grandfather Jorge with his wife
 
 
 
Maria originally came from the city of Czernowitz, in the region of
 
 
 
Bukovina, which is reported to be the most beautiful area
 
 
 
of Europe, and which is famous for gospel scenes painted on the
 
 
 
exteriors of its Orthodox monasteries.  Mountainous Bukovina was
 
 
 
once independent but has been overrun during many wars, and is
 
 
 
now situated in Northwestern Romania.  Great Grandfather Jorge,
 
 
 
who I am sure was drafted into the Austrian army,  had built his
 
 
 
new home over a root cellar, and upon a strong stone foundation.
 
 
 
This cellar, which provided ventilation so the floor and timbers
 
 
 
supporting the walls did not rot upon their stones, was one of the
 
 
 
reasons the house still stood.  I am not a carpenter by any means,
 
 
 
but I have made my living with tools, and I recognized in the entire
 
 
 
house such careful craftsmanship as to be .. awesome.  A shallow
 
well lined with stones sat beside the house, and a log barn with
 
 
 
sagging walls and collapsing wood shake roof sat on the other side
 
 
 
of the grassy lane.  Another building with tin roof and sawn lumber
 
 
 
also occupied the property, it probably having been put up by a
 
 
 
subsequent owner or leaser of the land, but everything was long
 
 
 
unused.  A gravel company had bought the entire property when
 
 
 
the Shellmouth River dam was to be built, and still owns the
 
 
 
property, but where the gravel was dug from I never discovered,
 
 
 
having seen a few gravel quarries, and not being terribly interested
 
 
 
in that part of the property’s history.  I wanted to get to the river,
 
 
 
though, from which Dad remembers his grandfather and father and
 
 
 
other men returning in winter with a large wagon on skis loaded to
 
 
 
capacity with frozen fish.  I pitched my tent near the barn where I
 
 
 
would get best benefit of morning sun, and after cooking a meal
 
 
 
went to bed, unfortunately, with the Ticks .. the place just
 
 
 
swarming with them, as is the entire valley of the Assiniboine with
 
 
 
its tributaries.  The infestation is a modern plague created by
 
 
 
modern farming practices which resulted in the decimation of
 
 
 
wildlife which would have controlled the tick’s population numbers.
 
 
 
One of the reasons for the pure quietness of the Shell River Valley
 
at the homestead’s location is, despite the abundance of woodlands
 
 
 
and water, the rarity of birds.  The aboriginals, I understand,
 
 
 
burned the prairie in the spring as a method of fertilization and as
 
 
 
weed control, this killing most of the Ticks, with this practice at first
 
 
 
being practiced by settlers, and then abandoned. 
 
 
 
      The next day I went for a walking tour.  A farmer had leased
 
 
 
the land for planting, and I walked around the field to get to the
 
 
 
woods on the other side.  Had I walked straight across the field I
 
 
 
would have come to the still visible wagon trail leading to the river,
 
 
 
but I missed it, and got to the river by the method known as
 
 
 
bushwhacking, making my way through very thick brush and
 
 
 
woods.  Almost any goal other than my ancestral river would not
 
 
 
have been worth the effort and risk, and except that the valley walls
 
 
 
in the woods were steep enough to easily determine up and down I
 
 
 
could have easily gotten lost .. but I just kept going down .. down ..
 
 
 
down through the brambles and past the trees and around the
 
 
 
springs and marshy places and down finally to the river .. not much
 
 
 
more than a large creek .. but a river, with a river’s music and air,
 
 
 
and clean water, probably clean enough to drink, although I didn’t
 
 
 
venture it.  On the other side of the river, set halfway up the valley
 
in a small clearing, was a farmhouse, with its laneway leading from
 
 
 
up above.  I walked along the river, first upriver, but quickly
 
 
 
realizing instinctively that I was going the wrong way, and then
 
 
 
down.  Within minutes I came to a ford .. with clear, level areas on
 
 
 
each side the ford.  This was where the homesteaders crossed the
 
 
 
river with wagons and horses.  This was where they would have
 
 
 
come to load up with fish.  I walked to the centre of my side of the
 
 
 
river’s clear area and turned to face uphill, and sure enough, there
 
 
 
was the old path .. wide enough for a wagon, still clear enough for a
 
 
 
wagon.  Perhaps the local farmers sometimes run their tractors
 
 
 
across the river at this place.  I walked downriver a very short way,
 
 
 
enjoyed the sound of the small rapids, and made my way back to
 
 
 
the homestead up the wagon trail.  Later that day I rode my
 
 
 
moped around the sparsely populated neighbourhood’ .. finding
 
 
 
beautiful Ukrainian and Romanian Orthodox churches almost next
 
 
 
door to each other, and being preserved more as historical artifacts
 
 
 
than operating churches, each church with their grave yard.  My 
 
 
 
great grandfather and his wife Maria were almost certainly buried
 
 
 
in St. Elias’s, but there was no trace of a Mofsurivzscean headstone,
 
 
 
that being close to the spelling of Great Grandfather’s name on his
 
Austrian Army discharge papers.  The old wooden crosses in St.
 
 
 
Elia’s yard had been burned years ago in a grass fire.  An
 
 
 
anglicized spelling appears on a historical plaque there, and I spoke
 
 
 
with another graveyard visitor/local historian who told me that a
 
 
 
pronunciation for our family name would probably have been
 
 
 
Monsoronchon, but I doubted that pronunciation from the original
 
 
 
spelling, and probably no one in North America knows the real
 
 
 
pronunciation as Ukranians and Romanians, even though they
 
 
 
intermingled closely, were prone to enmity, and each nationality
 
 
 
would, if necessary, change the pronunciation of their names when
 
 
 
finding themselves surrounded by neighbours from the other
 
 
 
nation.  Another factor in pronunciation was that a friend of mine
 
 
 
who was born in Poland and lived much of his adult life in Eastern
 
 
 
Europe has through family photographs identified my great
 
 
 
grandparents Jorge and Maria as Rom Gypsies, so original
 
 
 
pronunciation becomes even more clouded.  My younger
 
 
 
brother Jody, in a few of his pictures, could easily pass for a Rom
 
 
 
just stepped down from his wagon home, and although my physical
 
 
 
appearance totally denies the Gypsy race, leaning towards a cross
 
 
 
between the English of my mother, and with my unibrow eyebrows
 
which meet over my nose, the Turks who also occupied Bukovina
 
 
 
for long periods of time) I have a Gypsy spirit which prevents me,
 
 
 
despite great efforts, from settling down in one place for longer than
 
 
 
three years, often moving after 18 months at one address .. and
 
 
 
then there is the violin, which I have affinity for, having taught
 
 
 
myself to play a few simple tunes.  I put the violin to good use
 
 
 
during my canoe voyage of three years ago when I met some
 
 
 
picknickers originally from Bukovina but then living in Montreal,
 
 
 
my violin and their homemade fruit vodka providing dance music,
 
 
 
and there on the banks of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s Beauharnais
 
 
 
Canal the dancing was wild and Gypsy like .. with all of us greatly
 
 
 
moved to post dancing, quiet nostalgia.  My Dad’s parents were an
 
 
 
example of that intermingling, his Dad being Ukranian but
 
 
 
speaking both languages, his mother Romanian and speaking only
 
 
 
Romanian, that being the household language.
 
 
 
      Today’s new settlers to the Shell River area are not Gypsies,
 
 
 
Romanians or Ukranians, however, but Austrians .. and I attempted
 
 
 
following directions from memory to the home of the Austrian
 
 
 
who had assisted me in finding the homestead, and who had told
 
 
 
me about the clear spring, but if I found his address he and his wife
 
weren’t home.  On that tour I discovered where a crossroads village
 
 
 
had once been, but whose only reminders was one old building and
 
 
 
some timbers.  In all of my road running in that area I did not find
 
 
 
one mention of the natives without whose assistance the first
 
 
 
explorers, traders, and pioneers would never have survived.  I
 
 
 
visited the goat farmer, who confirmed that many Austrians were
 
 
 
taking up residence on land the Romanians and Ukranians were
 
 
 
vacatingHe had told me, and the goat farmer confirmed, that When
 
 
 
I returned to the homestead a neighbour, I think the one leasing the
 
 
 
land, had come to visit me, hearing of my presence from the family
 
 
 
who had located the place on the map for me.  This same gentleman
 
 
 
had given my Dad and his brother a ride to the homestead a few
 
 
 
years before, and of course remembered them.
 
 
 
      Before I move on, I would like to demonstrate the isolation of
 
 
 
the pioneers by the three mile walk to school my Dad, his brother
 
 
 
and sister had; and by the example of Dad’s mother, who although
 
 
 
born and raised in Saskatchewan, learned no English.   
 
 
 
      Yes .. beautiful isolation in some senses .. but what a terrible
 
 
 
isolation it could have been for women alone with children and
 
 
 
separated by miles from the nearest neighbours, with husbands
 
who must have been dead tired at the end of their days of
 
 
 
exceptionally hard labour.  Women from Czernowitz in Bukovina
 
 
 
may especially have felt the isolation, having come from a highly
 
 
 
artistic and social culture.  Life was not all hard labour though, and
 
 
 
and Dad remembers gatherings of music and dancing.  While some
 
 
 
families were fortunate in the pioneering, my own only became
 
 
 
fortuante enough to have prospered a short time, building a second
 
 
 
house when my grandfather and his wife married .. and of course
 
 
 
that was where Dad and his siblings were born.  I don’t know the
 
 
 
order of difficulties, but their house burned, and of course the
 
 
 
depression burned up what resources were left, and my grandfather
 
 
 
left the farm for hard labour in Winnipeg, shoveling coal at an
 
 
 
electricity generating plant, and working as a labourer on railroad
 
 
 
maintenance gangs.  It comes as no surprise to me that I spent time
 
 
 
doing that same thing, without conscious knowledge of
 
 
 
grandfather’s labours.  He and I may have worked on the same
 
 
 
stretch of track in far western Ontario.  Dad, when he was fifteen
 
 
 
years old, was working full time as a dump truck driver building the
 
 
 
Trans Canada Highway in Northern Ontario, and then moved to
 
 
 
Hamilton, where he began his career in Tool and Die.  He has lived
 
in Ontario ever since.
 
 
 
      I would like to have one more day in the beauty, tranquility,
 
 
 
and family roots of the homestead, with the pure spring providing
 
 
 
rare and perfect water, and with much left to explore.  The ticks,
 
 
 
however, decided my moving on, as I was unable to walk anywhere
 
 
 
in the long grasses or woods without picking up dozens of them. 
 
 
 
They were so pervasive that while sitting for coffee at a restaurant
 
 
 
table a couple days later, I felt a tiny bump in my beard on my
 
 
 
chin.  Yes, it was a tick, partially buried.  I pulled most or all of it
 
 
 
out and crushed it underfoot.     
 
 
 
      Leaving the homestead was therefore not painful an experience,
 
 
 
and I turned north on 83 to the small town of Roblin, where I had a
 
 
 
pleasant conversation with a pickup truck driver at the gasoline
 
 
 
pumps, telling him of my visit to the homestead.  This gentleman
 
 
 
finished his business first, I taking time to refill my oil reservoir,
 
 
 
and when I went in to pay for my gas I was told it had already been
 
 
 
paid for, by the pickup driver. 
 
 
 
      At Roblin lived a relative who had written our family history
 
 
 
into a book, although it is only now, six months too late, that I
 
 
 
became conscious of the fact that she lived in Roblin.  Also at
 
Roblin was the childhood home of my poet friend Baird’s wife
 
 
 
Nylene.  I had phoned that couple from Russell, but I was at Roblin
 
 
 
too early in the morning to chance waking Baird and Nylene in
 
 
 
Ottawa.  From Roblin I turned west onto 5 and then 10, where
 
 
 
along some part of those roads I found an old, parallel road
 
 
 
bordering forest, the road now used by farm vehicles, and along this
 
 
 
road I had a very nice encounter with a pair of deer.  That road was
 
 
 
so enjoyably free of traffic for the first few miles that I would have
 
 
 
stayed on it for as long as it ran, but it’s surface changed too often
 
 
 
from smooth, hard packed dirt to roughly broken pavement, and I
 
 
 
finally surrendered to the thought of sharing a road with other
 
 
 
traffic and returned to the highway. 
 
 
 
      I picked up The Yellowhead again at Yorkton, and rode into
 
 
 
Saskatoon the day before my 60th birthday.  Of course first day of
 
 
 
my trip to this day I had been filled with prayer for my sister-in-law,
 
 
 
and I believe it was on this final stretch into Saskatoon that I
 
 
 
suddenly knew my sister-in-law was going to be okay.  On arrival in
 
 
 
their city I phoned Rick and Sandy, telling them I was there, and
 
 
 
receiving joyous confirmation that Sandy’s cancer was not in the
 
 
 
lymph after all.  I told Sandy that before I came to their home I
 
wanted to launder all of my clothing, she not seeing any point
 
 
 
to that until I mentioned the Ticks, when she instantly changed her
 
 
 
mind.  Finding a Laundromat was a large chore, as I had arrived
 
 
 
close to 8 p.m., an hour at which for one reason or other most
 
 
 
Saskatoon Laundromats close.  I phoned around until finally
 
 
 
finding one which stayed open until 9, with the owners so kind as
 
 
 
to delay closing their business an extra 20 minutes until my long
 
 
 
process was complete, and I thanked them with an extra $10.
 
 
 
      It was of course with great happiness that I arrived at Rick and
 
 
 
Sandy’s home, where Sandy’s prognosis made all well and happy,
 
 
 
and where my 60th birthday was celebrated the next day, June 7. 
 
 
 
Sandy is retired from hospital administration, and as a hobby
 
 
 
generating  enough cash to pay for that hobby she paints portraits
 
 
 
of pets onto rocks, so one of our beautiful walks together was along
 
 
 
railroad tracks looking for suitable stones.  Sandy and Rick have
 
 
 
been married over 40 years, and are one of the only truly happy,
 
 
 
married couples I have ever known, their respect for each other,
 
 
 
and their genuine affection for most people, being a huge reason for
 
 
 
their success.
 
 
 
      I can’t remember if I spent three or four days with Rick and
 
Sandy, but during that time I helped them do yard work, and
 
 
 
changed by moped’s tire, finding that the Almighty God’s mercy had
 
 
 
carried me on the old tire despite some of the tire’s steel foundation
 
 
 
wires sticking out of the bald rubber.  I was never that deliberately
 
 
 
careless again.  It was a cool, drizzly morning when I left Saskatoon,
 
 
 
and if time constraints weren’t a factor, I would have stayed another
 
 
 
day, hoping the rain would stop.  My brother Ron’s birthday was
 
 
 
June 20, though, so I had to reach Victoria by then.
 
 
 
      My trip to Edmonton was almost uneventful except for two
 
 
 
things, the first being the fantastic vistas.  West of Saskatoon The
 
 
 
Yellowhead seems to sit atop a high elevation, with the mighty
 
 
 
Saskatchewan River paralleling it first on the south, and then on
 
 
 
the north, so that for many miles the view is enormous.  Somewhere
 
 
 
on this stretch, or did it occur in Alberta, with the highway four
 
 
 
laned, that on the opposite side of the road was a tourist attraction
 
 
 
of a Ukranian or Romanian pioneer village.  I carefully checked my
 
 
 
rear view mirrors, and far, far back on the prairie horizon I saw
 
 
 
vehicle headlights.  Their was no traffic coming towards me, and
 
 
 
normally I would have had plenty of time to move across all four
 
 
 
lanes, but I had just crossed the first lane when instinct caused me
 
to hesitate long enough to check my mirrors again, that hesitation
 
 
 
undoubtedly saving my life because that vehicle which should still
 
 
 
have been halfway to the distant horizon when the car blew past me
 
 
 
at what had to be at least 120 miles per hour .. double the speed
 
 
 
limit.  I would have been killed instantly of course, and not gotten
 
 
 
to view that pioneer village.  I hadn’t been frightened by the car, as
 
 
 
it all happened to quickly for fright, but it did serve another lesson
 
 
 
in defensive driving.
 
 
 
      The view through the city of Edmonton though,  was
 
 
 
frightening, as all I could see was taillights and headlights on the
 
 
 
Yellowhead which turns multilane and carries traffic stop and go
 
 
 
and madly through the city, not peacefully around, and with that
 
 
 
city in the midst of an economic super boom, traffic does not
 
 
 
progress leisurely .. the only comparison I can make is to my
 
 
 
experience on a narrow, two lane stretch of New York City
 
 
 
expressway.  The traffic was so dangerous and fast that
 
 
 
upon my approach to an overpass I was forced in a last second
 
 
 
decision onto the sidewalk,  which was bordered by a railing,
 
 
 
preventing me from returning to the pavement.  I made the long,
 
 
 
curving passage slowly and safely, with the absence of pedestrians
 
making for no surprises. 
 
 
 
      Past Edmonton and on its way to the Rocky Mountains The
 
 
 
Yellowhead gradually gains elevation through relatively dry and of
 
 
 
course hilly country which I find difficult to describe, not nearly as
 
 
 
prosperous as much of the west, with small villages, forestry,
 
 
 
mines, lakes for cottages, and seemingly unprosperous farm.  I had
 
 
 
passed an old barn which was particularly photograph worthy but
 
 
 
was separated from it and its parallel access road by about 200 feet
 
 
 
of grassy hill, with the next highway intersection at least a quarter
 
 
 
miles ahead.  Being in ‘the west’ on my motorized pony for so had
 
 
 
given me a tiny bit of attitude of the raw, cowboy; and that instinct
 
 
 
overcame common sense in my desire for a photograph and the
 
 
 
next thing I know there I am angling my moped up the grassy hill,
 
 
 
which was a lot rougher than it looked, my bike bucking and
 
 
 
kicking and it was all I could do to stay upright, but I kept my
 
 
 
throttle full and my balance keen and I gained the barn.  After
 
 
 
taking the photo I rode the gravel road to where it intersected
 
 
 
another gravel road, and at that intersection was surprised to see
 
 
 
not far down the road an old Orthodox church outside of which a
 
 
 
few people were moving about.  I rode towards the church, and
 
slowed to a stop near some vehicles.  As I slowed I noticed a
 
 
 
mechanical sounding clack-clack-clack-clack-clack which seemed to
 
 
 
be in sync with my motor, and I was afraid my cowboying had
 
 
 
caused serious damage.  My arrival had attracted the attention of
 
 
 
the churchgoers who walked towards me, and I to them, thinking to
 
 
 
look at my bike after a chat.  The  people were descendants of
 
 
 
original settlers, sons and grandsons of people buried in the
 
 
 
churchyard.  We did chat, and I gained a bit more knowledge of the
 
 
 
Romanian Ukranian side of my heritage, and then, with people and
 
 
 
vehicles which included a pickup truck departing, I examined my
 
 
 
moped.  Before I had departed from Ottawa I had securely fastened.
 
 
 
in a relative sense, a short, telescoping style umbrella on the left
 
 
 
side rear of my vehicle, between the wheel and the saddlebag.  As I
 
 
 
had cowboyed roughly up the hill this umbrella had jostled out of
 
 
 
its fastenings, and had bounced into the wheel, where it was firmly
 
 
 
stuck while bent at a right angle.  If my wheel was of the wire
 
 
 
spokes type it would not have survived, as the cast spokes were
 
 
 
scored at least one-eighth inch deep close to the hub.  I removed
 
 
 
the umbrella, which was now trash, and motored thankfully on. 
 
 
 
Somewhere along this stretch I also found a small, old Anglican
 
church at which I stopped for a photo and a rest.  Behind this
 
 
 
church’s graveyard was a large, open pit mine .. although what they
 
 
 
were mining I don’t know.
 
 
 
      In the final approach to Jasper Provincial Park there are two
 
 
 
railroad towns, Hinton and Edson.  On the western outskirts of one
 
 
 
of these towns (I can’t remember for sure which one) and in the
 
 
 
grass and scrub between the pavement and the forest, I saw what I
 
 
 
at first thought were three black dogs stumbling awkwardly towards
 
 
 
the highway.  My first thought was that they were clumsy for dogs,
 
 
 
but I didn’t take much more thought to them, proper thought
 
 
 
coming quickly enough when I saw that they ran up to a Black bear
 
 
 
which was lying on its side a few feet off the gravel shoulder.  I
 
 
 
knew right away that the bear had been struck by a vehicle, and I
 
 
 
looked at the ‘dogs’ again and confirmed my suspicion that they
 
 
 
were cubs.  I slowed my moped, looking for signs of life in the bear,
 
 
 
and after passing her by about 70 feet, parked my moped.  The
 
 
 
cubs were now nervously nuzzling their mother, and I picked up a
 
 
 
stout stick and slowly approached.  The cubs took notice of me and
 
 
 
ran for the woods, staying just inside the trees.  The bear was not
 
 
 
moving, not breathing that I could tell, and blood was on the
 
ground at her mouth.  I was just about to prod her when a Ministry
 
 
 
of Natural Resources or Provincial Park pickup pulled slowly off the
 
 
 
pavement about 200 feet ahead and approached slowly, obviously
 
 
 
searching for the bear.  I signaled the Wardens and they drove up,
 
 
 
the passenger side Warden asking me if the bear was dead.  I
 
 
 
answered that I wasn’t sure, and he got out of the pickup with his
 
 
 
rifle, walked up to the bear, and prodded her with his rifle’s muzzle.
 
 
 
      ‘There are three cubs,’ I said, nodding towards the woods. 
 
 
 
They’re just inside the first trees.  Can you guys do anything for
 
 
 
them?’
 
 
 
      ‘Zoos won’t take them, so we have to shoot them.  They’d starve
 
 
 
to death otherwise.’
 
 
 
      ‘You have a tough job,’ I said.
 
 
 
      The officer with the rifle said, ‘This won’t be pleasant.  We’d like
 
 
 
you to get on your bike and ride away.’
 
 
 
      I saluted the officer and did as he preferred, after asking for
 
 
 
and receiving permission to take a photograph.
 
 
 
      The rest of my ride into the crown jewel of Canada’s Rocky
 
 
 
Mountain, the village of Jasper, was relatively uneventful except I
 
 
 
arrived in the village trembling from cold and almost in hypothermic
 
convulsions.  Much of my ride from Saskatoon had been in cool,
 
 
 
wet weather, with temperatures dropping as I gained elevation, and
 
 
 
with my speed dropping from increasing gradient.  Before I had
 
 
 
gained the village I had passed what appeared to be a turnoff into
 
 
 
some sort of structure which possibly offering warmth I made a U
 
 
 
turn in the highway without even checking carefully behind me to
 
 
 
see if traffic was coming.  The structure I had seen turned out to be
 
 
 
a way station for, I believe, a gas or oil pipeline.  An employee
 
 
 
arrived at the locked gate at the same time as I did, but I wasn’t
 
 
 
smart enough to ask if he would let me warm up inside.  I was off
 
 
 
the wind of the highway though, and when I thought I had warmed
 
 
 
up sufficiently I took to the road again, coming finally into Jasper
 
 
 
just as the sun broke through the clouds, and after a long and
 
 
 
unpleasant ride made dangerous by my dropping internal body
 
 
 
temperature.  I found a Laundromat which also offered showers,
 
 
 
and spent several  dollars standing in a warm shower.  It was only
 
 
 
after I had warmed up that I started my laundry, and then went
 
 
 
looking for a restaurant, forgetting for the moment my guideline of
 
 
 
‘reasonable prices’, and settling for the first hot meal I could find.  I
 
 
 
did have a credit card, after all.
 
      I had to escape the boundaries of Jasper National Park or pay
 
 
 
either hefty camping fees or a fine for illegal camping, so I did not
 
 
 
do any tourist things in the village except visit the path to what 30
 
 
 
years ago had been a short duration but very pleasant  home for me
 
 
 
in the form of a free campground for hippies and employees in the
 
 
 
tourist industy.  This was the Jasper Free Camp .. a unique
 
 
 
cultural experience where open door privies were the norm, and
 
 
 
where walking naked was acceptable and commonplace.  This was
 
 
 
the camp at which I attacked the bear with my hunting knife. 
 
 
 
When I had been doing my laundry in Jasper the Laundromat’s
 
 
 
owner and I engaged in conversation, and when he mentioned the
 
 
 
need for affordable housing for employees of the tourist operators I
 
 
 
suggested he set up another Free Camp, which led to him saying
 
 
 
that his father, and the original owner of the laundromat, had been
 
 
 
instrumental in setting up the Free Camp. 
 
 
 
      I had ridden west from Jasper many miles when I had the need
 
 
 
to lean backwards against a tree .. this being my favourite way of
 
 
 
relieving loads when privies are not available.  Keeping your back
 
 
 
to a tree, particularly a large tree, can be a small form of protection
 
 
 
when you are thus engaged, much preferable to making yourself
 
very small and vulnerable by squatting.  The need for protection
 
 
 
becomes evident with signs like the one I was leaning relatively
 
 
 
close to, ‘Warning, Grizzly Bear, Black Bear, Cougar, Wolf Habitat’. 
 
 
 
However, before leaning against the tree, check upwards, as small
 
 
 
bears sometimes climb trees, and on a Pacific Ocean beach later in
 
 
 
my trip I came face to face with a bear, he eight feet above me, and
 
 
 
hissingly angry that I was preventing him from descending. 
 
 
 
Thankfully I was not leaning on the tree at that time and was able
 
 
 
to make my departure quickly.  Oh yes, one more thing, despite
 
 
 
examples to the contrary published by supposedly experienced
 
 
 
campers .. never, ever, ever take anything resembling food or drink
 
 
 
into your tent other than water .. and don’t wrap your sleeping bag
 
 
 
around yourself while you’re eating breakfast, and when you’re
 
 
 
cooking breakfast stay upwind from the cooking pot so you won’t
 
 
 
smell like a bear’s breakfast, and if you do get food odours blown
 
 
 
onto you wash your hair, and as another precaution which helps
 
 
 
me relax at night when bears roam looking for food I always leave
 
 
 
my day clothing which may have food smells in a plastic bag
 
 
 
outside my tent’s sleeping compartment.  Experts are divided about
 
 
 
the advisibility of hanging food in packs on ropes from high tree
 
branches, and I never do that, but make sure my food is stored in
 
 
 
double sealed plastic systems like a bag and a Tupperware
 
 
 
container, and stashed nowhere near my tent, and preferably not in
 
 
 
the canoe if I am canoeing because a bear can trash a canoe quickly
 
 
 
.. but we are mopeding on this trip, not canoeing, although a canoe
 
 
 
would have been nice to have on the next part of my trip.
 
 
 
      I can’t remember if the beautiful, boggy plateau from which the
 
 
 
westward flowing Fraser River and the eastward flowing Athabasca
 
 
 
seem to flow from (I’m not a geographer) is situated in Jasper
 
 
 
Provincial Park or in eastward neighbouring Mount Robson
 
 
 
Provincial Park, but it is indeed a beautiful plateau .. a spiritual
 
 
 
experience equal to seeing the huge mountain peaks themselves.
 
 
 
I had one of the most beautiful camps of the trip at Mount Robson,
 
 
 
on the rushing headwaters of the Fraser River, a no cost campsite
 
 
 
which required only a little searching.
 
 
 
        From the plateau the descent is wonderful in its peaceful
 
 
 
gradient and scenery, and leads to the village of Tete Jaune Cache
 
 
 
where the Yellowhead splits to run northwest to the Pacific, and
 
 
 
south, after a few miles picking up and following the North
 
 
 
Thompson River.  It is interesting that at Tete Jaune Cache the
 
Fraser turns northwest for many miles before turning again towards
 
 
 
the south, finally joining the combined water of the North and
 
 
 
South Thompson at Lytton on the Trans Canada Number One.  This
 
 
 
is a truly awesome junction .. and for me, had I not been an avid
 
 
 
geographical reader for much of my life, a hobby which gave me
 
 
 
small introductions to rivers like The Amazon, the joining of the two
 
 
 
mountain rivers would have been unbelievable in its scope until I
 
 
 
saw it for myself, as in my days following the Thompson south and
 
 
 
then west I had come to view that river as gargantuan in itself.
 
 
 
      A couple of days before Lytton, though, I had another flat tire,
 
 
 
this one causing me to camp for the night on the very side of the
 
 
 
highway.  Fortunately, British Columbia highways provide many
 
 
 
stopping places for truckers to check their brakes and rest, and so I
 
 
 
had a wide lane of pavement between me and the highway.  I also
 
 
 
had a guardrail separating my tent from the stopping lane.  That
 
 
 
flat was particularly troublesome, I not being able to get the tire
 
 
 
round on the rim, and so it was after two false starts of bump,
 
 
 
bump, bumping along that the third attempt, enhanced by my
 
 
 
desperate move of taking a large rock and pounding the offending
 
 
 
dent in the steel rim, was not perfect, but at least I was able to ride
 
the few miles into the town of Kamloops, where I was hailed by a
 
 
 
rider on a motorcycle who was also a freelance writer.  So it was
 
 
 
that the first part of my trip was published in an on line motorcycle
 
 
 
mag.  Before leaving Kamloops I stopped at a custom motorcycle
 
 
 
shop to find the owners having an similar wheel problem but with a
 
 
 
greater magnitude.  The shop owners told me I was welcome to
 
 
 
change my tire inside their shop, but the light outside was brighter
 
 
 
and suited my tired old eyes, and that’s where I made my change
 
 
 
using the shop’s tire iron, but only after finding a drug store and
 
 
 
purchased Baby Powder, something I had forgotten to buy in
 
 
 
Saskatoon, and with the aid of the powder making both tire and rim
 
 
 
slippery, achieving a perfect roundness.  While I was working on
 
 
 
my repair biker who had been visiting the shop offered to drive me
 
 
 
around to a few other bike shops to search for a new tire and tube,
 
 
 
but none were available, and so I was again riding on faith when I
 
 
 
departed Kamloops.  Kamloops is interesting for its scenery and the
 
 
 
mountain goats which inhabit surrounding hillsides, as well as the
 
 
 
city’s climate which makes it a ‘sunshine town’ in winter with above
 
 
 
average temperatures in summer.  Kamloops is particularly
 
 
 
interesting, though, for the length of the highway’s steep ascent
 
westward out of town.  The grade was so steep I had to walk beside
 
 
 
my bike a long way as I used the throttle to power the rear wheel. 
 
 
 
This was the first time on the trip I was required to do so, but not
 
 
 
the last.
 
 
 
      From Kamloops there are two routes leading to Vancouver. 
 
 
 
The Coquihalla Highway is a recently built multi-lane express toll
 
 
 
route running southwest at high elevation, and deducting, I am
 
 
 
told, about six hours from the Kamloops-Vancouver run.  I have
 
 
 
never taken that highway, and everyone I talked to in Kamloops
 
 
 
suggested the old Trans Canada Number One, both for scenic value
 
 
 
and for safety, as the Coquihalla is used heavily by transport
 
 
 
trucks.  Transports were no problem to me until the last day of my
 
 
 
trip as I rode into Ottawa, but I did not want to pay the toll, and I
 
 
 
was told the old highway was a beautiful ride for motorbikes.  Thus
 
 
 
I headed slightly northwest along the Thompson River which had
 
 
 
been joined at Kamloops by the South Thompson.  Not far west of
 
 
 
Kamloops lies long and narrow Kamloops Lake, with the highway
 
 
 
running alongside, and through villages like Cherry Creek and
 
 
 
Savona.  This is sparsely populated, dry country, wildly beautiful,
 
 
 
and the highway climbs and dips, climbs and dips.  The views are
 
spectacular.  Shortly after leaving Kamloops Lake the mighty
 
 
 
Thompson River curves sharply south, with the highway going on
 
 
 
west for a short time before running into the beautiful small town of
 
 
 
Cache Creek on the banks of the southward flowing Bonaparte
 
 
 
River.  Just beyond Cache Creek the Bonaparte and Thompson join,
 
 
 
and soon after the highway is again running alongside this mightier
 
 
 
Thompson.  Fifty miles south of Cache Creek the Thompson
 
 
 
somehow disappears into the mightier Fraser at Lytton, and this
 
 
 
huge river makes it way south through the majestic Fraser Canyon,
 
 
 
with the highway again alongside, and where at Hell’s Gate a tourist
 
 
 
attraction has been developed with a cable car ride over the
 
 
 
frightening turbulence of the river.  River and highway continue
 
 
 
south until coming to Hope, where the river and highway turn west,
 
 
 
and where the Coquihalla ends, but where once again a traveller
 
 
 
has a choice of highways, the old Number One, running north of the
 
 
 
river, or the new multi lane Number One running on the river’s
 
 
 
south side.  For anyone wanting to view scenery and meet people I
 
 
 
think the answer is generally the same in every country, stick to the
 
 
 
slow roads, and I do so.  Weather wise I was comfortable from
 
 
 
Jasper to Hope, but as I turned due west nearing the Pacific
 
temperatures dropped and rain began.  I turned onto the dirt road
 
 
 
of a native Reserve, and was welcomed to camp in a certain place
 
 
 
where there was an abandoned building with solid roof still
 
 
 
standing, but the structure was thickly surrounded by brush and
 
 
 
difficult to get the bike through, and very wet besides, and I chose
 
 
 
to go on.  Where I spent that night I can’t remember, but the next
 
 
 
day took me to Vancouver, and on the road to the ferry, which I
 
 
 
hoped to catch before its last departure of the day.  I abandoned
 
 
 
that quest not far from my goal when I came to one of B.C.’s many,
 
 
 
beautiful, government-established roadside stops equipped with
 
 
 
outhouses and even washrooms, and frequented by truckers and
 
 
 
tourists.  Officially there is no overnight tenting allowed at these
 
 
 
often park like settings even though truckers and tourists in motor
 
 
 
vehicles overnight there, but I understand the rule is not often
 
 
 
enforced unless the privilege is being abused in some way.  To
 
 
 
avoid any unpleasantness with authorities I searched this large
 
 
 
and particularly park like place until I found a circle of the
 
 
 
exceptionally large trees once common in British Columbia, but
 
 
 
now rare, in the centre of which had been placed a picnic table. 
 
 
 
The rain had stopped, and the trees were closely spaced, and thick
 
enough, that little rain had come through.  Besides my moped’s
 
 
 
advantage of high gasoline mileage its small size allows it to be
 
 
 
easily hidden, and after cooking and eating a good meal on a picnic
 
 
 
table in plain sight, and then having a good walkabout and chat
 
 
 
with other travelers, and then a wash in the washroom which had
 
 
 
hot running water, I secreted my bike in the grove, unrolled my
 
 
 
sleeping bag, and laid myself down on top of the picnic table.  My
 
 
 
sleep was disturbed only by the beautifully soft sound of rain on the
 
 
 
trees in the night .. with an occasional drop falling onto the
 
 
 
waterproof thermal blanket over my sleeping bag.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Nine==
 
Another Birthday
 
 
 
In my first week of travel after departing Ottawa I had ensured
 
 
 
I breakfasted well, normally on oatmeal and apples, having learned
 
 
 
that the breakfast practice provides enough real energy to minimize
 
 
 
stress.  During my second week of cool, wet weather I neglected
 
 
 
breakfasts for the practice of getting underway early and stopping
 
 
 
for a coffee .. and then breakfasting late in the morning.  I found
 
 
 
this was a great way of getting sick and short tempered, so I went
 
 
 
back to breakfasting, relieving my own cooking with a restaurant
 
 
 
breakfast of sausages and eggs if a restaurant was close by.
 
 
 
      It was a good thing that I ate before setting out to catch the
 
 
 
ferry to Vancouver Island, because British Columbia road signs are
 
 
 
the most confusing of anywhere I have travelled, and this difficulty
 
 
 
has been confirmed by other travelers.  As I road down Number
 
 
 
One now on the south side of the Fraser River I came to a large
 
 
 
sign saying ‘Ferry to Victoria’ or something like that, ‘next left’.  I
 
 
 
turned left at the next left, and was taken far away from my
 
 
 
destination.  That was okay, as my brother in Victoria was working
 
 
 
that day so we could not have visited anyway, but finding my way
 
 
 
back to the road to the ferry was not easy.  I had ridden a long way
 
 
 
before determining I had probably taken the wrong road, and I did
 
 
 
not enjoy the feeling of being lost for the first time on my trip,
 
 
 
especially because I have learned that strangers genuinely want to
 
 
 
be helpful but can’t always be relied on for directions.  I was also
 
 
 
low on gasoline.  Of course my one litre metal container of gas for
 
 
 
emergency was tucked away, but that was good for only 25 miles,
 
 
 
and my wrong turn had taken me south almost to to the U.S.
 
 
 
border, with no gas station on my side, and I had no desire to go
 
 
 
through the border crossing process simply to buy $5.00 worth of
 
gas.
 
 
 
      Motorists, a pedestrians, and a member of a highway repair
 
 
 
crew did not fail me with their directions, though, and after much
 
 
 
turning and turning I rode a long, quiet, rural road back to the
 
 
 
highway to the ferry.  There are at least two ferry terminals to
 
 
 
Vancouver Island, but it is the most southerly Tawassan ferries
 
 
 
which takes you to, no, not British Columbia’s capital city of
 
 
 
Victoria which is a major port for tourist cruise ships and whale
 
 
 
watching, but after a beautiful cruise threading through the Gulf
 
 
 
Islands, you are unshipped at the lesser port and very pretty town
 
 
 
of Sydney, from which Victoria is gained by Trans Canada Number
 
 
 
One.  The shipboard cruise I made in beautiful sunshine, because
 
 
 
as I was boarding the ferry the sun broke through the clouds, and
 
 
 
southern Vancouver Island was blessed, after many days of cold
 
 
 
and rain, with a week of weather perfectly suited to tourists and
 
 
 
mopedists coming to celebrate birthdays with brothers.
 
 
 
      The 600 miles length of Vancouver Island is not strange to me
 
 
 
except in its northernmost extremity as I had lived on the island a
 
 
 
few times, and Victoria is fairly familiar, as my second wife Jeani
 
 
 
and I lived outside of that city and worked frequently in it almost 20
 
years ago.  Almost all the farmland on Vancouver Island lies
 
 
 
between Sydney and Victoria, and this beautiful country and I
 
 
 
became intimate through my post-marriage breakup employment as
 
 
 
a herder of a dozen sheep which was part of a larger job as
 
 
 
caretaker on a private estate.  My intimacy with this farm country
 
 
 
came not from a deep geographical knowledge, but from the
 
 
 
experience I had one day while picking stones off a hillside on which
 
 
 
the sheep were grazing.  Just a few days before I had disentangled a
 
 
 
ewe’s legs from hale bay binder twine left lying carelessly around by
 
 
 
either the former caretaker or the owner or by someone but
 
 
 
definitely not by me as one of my major concerns was for the sheep
 
 
 
not finding twine which they might be tempted to chew on, having it
 
 
 
get stuck in their throats or worse.  In the process of disentangling
 
 
 
this ewe who was huge with pregnancy I had to wrap both my arms
 
 
 
around her belly, and you might say we bonded, because when it
 
 
 
came time for her to drop her lamb she left the flock and walked
 
 
 
directly to me, stopping about 30 feet away, lying down, and
 
 
 
delivering.  I was moved.  This was Eagle and Cougar country, and
 
 
 
while it is well known what a Cougar would do to a lamb or a fawn,
 
 
 
Eagles will also kill both, and this ewe had come to me for
 
protection during her most defenseless moments.  Yes .. that kind
 
 
 
of intimacy is well remembered. 
 
 
 
      Other memories are more difficult.  One reason I had not
 
 
 
returned to the west since my marriage broke up in Victoria was the
 
 
 
trauma of that separation.  I had suffered a serious emotional
 
 
 
breakdown, being zombie-like for many weeks, wandering the
 
 
 
streets of Victoria with as much capability as a days-old lamb, but
 
 
 
without the ability of skipping for joy.  During my weeks of
 
 
 
planning my trip I had actually experienced fear of what I might
 
 
 
find in me when faced with old scenes, old scents, the sound of
 
 
 
ocean waves .. the sight of the coastal mountains.  I was surprised
 
 
 
that I felt no pain as I rode through these memories, surprised
 
 
 
because I still dream of Jeani, with one of my most recent dreams
 
 
 
involving her and I being together again, and her giving birth to our
 
 
 
child, yes, at our present ages.  Crazy old me!  Boy child or girl I
 
 
 
can’t say .. but the happiness in the dream was so real that it
 
 
 
stayed with me for days following, and perhaps it left only because I
 
 
 
didn’t have the nerve to try to find Jeani’s phone number and call
 
 
 
her, offering her a chance for the baby that she and I had not had
 
 
 
when married, that absence for Jeani becoming more than she
 
could bear, and in my mind at least causing her to leave and seek
 
 
 
other options.  Other options she tried, two more marriages
 
 
 
providing only two more divorces.  She and I both had nothing to
 
 
 
lose by my phoning her .. but after almost a year I still have not
 
 
 
made that call.
 
 
 
      Leaving sorrows and cowardice and unbelief behind, we return
 
 
 
to the present reality of what was happening seven months ago.  My
 
 
 
brother’s cabin cruiser’s home berth is at Oak Bay Marina.  Oak
 
 
 
Bay is a a wealthy Victoria neighbourhood where I had worked as a
 
 
 
handyman before the position on the private estate.  To get to Oak
 
 
 
Bay I had to turn off Number One onto lesser roads, and I did so,
 
 
 
but my memory was not sharp, and at a traffic light or stop sign I
 
 
 
asked the driver beside me for directions. 
 
 
 
      “Follow me into the park up ahead,” he said, and I did.  This
 
 
 
was Douglas Park, a reserve of the huge trees native to Vancouver
 
 
 
Island, and the setting was so peaceful that the stranger (I’ll call
 
 
 
him Jack) and I fell into casual conversation, I finally asking him if
 
 
 
he knew Sombrio Beach, which was for an automobile about one
 
 
 
and one half hours northwest of Victoria, and where and I had lived
 
 
 
more than once in a primitive, driftwood shack community of
 
hippies and surfers.  Jack said yes, he knew Sombrio, and I then
 
 
 
asked if he knew Steve and Barb, the couple who had lived on the
 
 
 
beach with their many children, Barbara giving birth to three of the
 
 
 
children on the beach which had no electricity and no running
 
 
 
water other than what came down the mountainside in waterfalls,
 
 
 
creeks, and what is known as Sombrio River but which is not more
 
 
 
than a creek.
 
 
 
      “Their goat pissed on my leg,” Jack said, laughing.
 
 
 
      I was able to balm Jack’s potentially hurt dignity by saying, “I
 
 
 
ate that goat.”  We both had a good laugh and I asked him if he
 
 
 
knew if Steve and Barbara were still in the area.  I already knew
 
 
 
that the Sombrio community was destroyed, the shacks burned
 
 
 
mostly by the government as the beach was being made part of
 
 
 
the Juan de Fuca Trail which joins the larger West Coast trail at
 
 
 
Port Renfrew.  I say the government burned most of the shacks, but
 
 
 
I have learned that Steve, Barb, and a friend of mine named
 
 
 
Rivermouth Mike could not bear the pain of anyone but themselves
 
 
 
burning what had been their homes for well over a decade, and so
 
 
 
they dismantled and burned their own.  By the way, there is a video
 
 
 
available about Sombrio available by typing a word search on the
 
Internet.
 
 
 
      Of Steve and Barbara, Jack said he had no idea of where
 
 
 
they might be as he had not been back to Sombrio for a few
 
 
 
years because the beach’s peace and quiet had been destroyed by
 
 
 
the crowds and boom box noise of partyers.  My brother had already
 
 
 
told me that situation with the beach, but I was determined to go
 
 
 
there anyway, and to find Steve and Barb if possible, as I had first
 
 
 
met them about 25 years ago on my first visit to Sombrio, and as we
 
 
 
had become such close friends that two of their young children,
 
 
 
Dawn and Jesse,  would accompany me on walks ‘up the trail’ to the
 
 
 
topside for berry picking.  My wife Jeani and I, with her young son
 
 
 
Adam, had lived on the beach in a shack I had built, Steve and
 
 
 
Barbara’s children and Adam becoming close companions.  At this
 
 
 
time I will .. and I am hesitating here, unable to determine how to
 
 
 
put this, wanting to spare you a genuine shock when you read in the
 
 
 
next chapter about my return to Sombrio, how it held a terrible
 
 
 
trauma.  And please, I don’t want you to think I am using this
 
 
 
warning as a literary device to hold your attention, as the loss was
 
 
 
far too painful.
 
 
 
      For now, though, it was time to get to Oak Bay, and Jack drove
 
slowly enough to allow me to follow.  I think it was at the university
 
 
 
that he and I parted, he having told me in advance about the turn,
 
 
 
and signaling me when it was time to make it.  His directions were
 
 
 
sure, and I rolled into a village which is so genteel and civilized as
 
 
 
to have drivers who actually stop at crosswalks for elderly
 
 
 
pedestrians .. like a different world, really.  My first destination
 
 
 
was a Starbucks Coffee Shop my brother Ron had told me about,
 
 
 
and I then set out on an unsuccessful attempt to find a coin
 
 
 
operated telephone to let Ron, who would be off work at that time, 
 
 
 
know I had arrived.  A bookstore not only provided the telephone,
 
 
 
but also a stunning serendipitousness which came with an almost
 
 
 
blinding light after I explained to the saleswoman that I had just
 
 
 
come from Ottawa by moped, leading up to the brilliance with her
 
 
 
asking,  “What neighbourhood are you from in Ottawa?”
 
 
 
      Recognizing in her voice a certain familiarity with Ottawa I
 
 
 
responded, “Mechanicsville.”
 
 
 
      To which she responded, “Oh my gosh!  I’m from there!  My
 
 
 
Dad was born there.”     
 
 
 
        Do you think Ripley’s Believe it or Not would be interested?
 
     
 
      If I had a heart for romance at that introduction I don’t know
 
what this chance meeting could have led to, but my heart, I had
 
 
 
come to realize, was still involved in a 25 year romance which had 
 
 
 
survived several other failed relationships since my marriage
 
 
 
ended, so I finally find it relatively easy to put aside any thoughts of
 
 
 
potentialities as far as lovely ladies are concerned.  The woman was
 
 
 
near my age and we both marveled at ‘coincidences’, but I
 
 
 
suspected her state of mind was similar to my own as far as
 
 
 
romance went,  and neither of us progressed to flirting,  I making
 
 
 
my call and thanking her for her assistance, and still marveling at
 
 
 
the power which leads to ‘coincidences’, walked to Starbucks to
 
 
 
await my brother … and that’s all the story for tonight as even
 
 
 
though I find it easy to discount romance I’m tired and somewhat
 
 
 
lonely and need to go to bed.
 
 
 
      After coffee Ron returned to his boat while I did laundry at a
 
 
 
Laundromat, and then joined Ron at the marina.  We spent the rest
 
 
 
of the day on the boat drinking beer and whiskey, and the next day
 
 
 
we motored onto the Pacific while celebrating his 56th birthday. 
 
 
 
Both Ron and I are moderate drinkers, having learned many times
 
 
 
not to overdo alcohol, so operating the boat under the influence of
 
 
 
one birthday beer was neither sin nor crime.  I have forgotten the
 
sequence of events, whether it was that first series of days and
 
 
 
nights with Ron, or the second series when I had returned from
 
 
 
Sombrio Beach, but on one boat outing when we were accompanied
 
 
 
by a friend of Ron’s we attempted setting a crab trap, but something
 
 
 
went amiss, and I think the amiss was perhaps our advancing age
 
 
 
reducing our ear’s hearing capabilities, because Skipper Ron
 
 
 
commanded his pal or me to the wheel while he went to loose the
 
 
 
trap, to which was tied a long rope with a marker buoy on its end.
 
 
 
Ron had instructed us to call out a required depth as registered by
 
 
 
the electronic sounder, and Ron’s pal and I both loudly called the
 
 
 
depth to Ron, I expecting my brother to immediately drop the trap,
 
 
 
but he delayed for several yards with the bottom dropping rapidly. 
 
 
 
The trap’s marker float almost disappeared under water, and we
 
 
 
should have immediately picked the trap up again and reset it at a
 
 
 
shallower depth, but we did not, as Ron said the tide was at its ebb,
 
 
 
and the marker was visible enough to warn boaters.  The next day
 
 
 
Ron and I went in search of the trap at low tide, but the trap was
 
 
 
gone, almost certainly carried out to sea or worse, the tide may have
 
 
 
still been on the rise somewhat and could have completely covered
 
 
 
the marker buoy, and the rope could have come in close proximity
 
with a boater’s propeller, which may or may not have been big
 
 
 
trouble for that boat. 
 
     
 
      Besides losing the crab trap during our visit(s) Ron and I also
 
 
 
sea-motored to the main harbour of Victoria where he had lived
 
 
 
happily on board his boat for quite some time, until huge
 
 
 
houseboats hemmed him in on every side.  By a quirky twist of fate
 
 
 
this is the same harbour Ron’s ex-brother in law Kent had lived on
 
 
 
board his own boat.  I had met Kent during my breakdown 20
 
 
 
years before, but I was too ‘out of it’ to make friendships, and I only
 
 
 
visited with Kent a couple of times.  On this trip to Victoria’s
 
 
 
harbour I greatly desired friendship with a beautiful mermaid with
 
 
 
long red hair who was playing her accordion for money, busking it’s
 
 
 
called, and the desire was mutual to the point of her giving me a
 
 
 
smile of respect for the elderly. 
 
 
 
      The ocean around Victoria, with its islands and bays and
 
 
 
mountainous horizons, is perfect for boating, perfect that is for
 
 
 
educated and/or experienced boaters; but the inexperienced can
 
 
 
get  themselves in big trouble very easily, and even the experienced
 
 
 
have their troubles.  On one circumnavigation of an island Ron and
 
 
 
I could barely make headway against a tidal current even at full
 
throttle, and on another sunny afternoon in an effort to save fuel we
 
 
 
were running parallel with large waves which resulted in my
 
 
 
making prayer that Ron knew his boat well enough that we
 
 
 
wouldn’t be capsized.  Ron told me he had experienced worse
 
 
 
waves than those on a previous trip with his pal and was totally
 
 
 
confidant in his boat’s abilities.  Nevertheless he finally plotted what
 
 
 
I considered the better course because it decreased rocking
 
 
 
dramatically, running out to sea for a considerable distance at an
 
 
 
angle to the waves and then running in again also at an angle.  This
 
 
 
increased the distance traveled which resulted in higher fuel costs,
 
 
 
but it also eliminated the small chance that a rogue wave would tip
 
 
 
the boat.  Rogue waves are real events even if they are extremely
 
 
 
rare.  I had had a frightening experience on these same waters with
 
 
 
Jeani and her son Adam in our canoe at Race Rocks, just northwest
 
 
 
of Victoria.  The ‘rocks’ are tiny islands, and tidal currents through
 
 
 
the rocks are said to be the strongest in the world.  We had been
 
 
 
fishing at ebb tide when currents were not running, but the tide
 
 
 
changed without my noticing, and I had to use all my skill to get us
 
 
 
to safety by rock hopping, going with the current and ducking into
 
 
 
the back eddies behind the islands, planning our next move from
 
there, etc., etc.  The ocean’s tides have been the doom of many
 
 
 
boaters, and in particular I remember the story of the canoeists on
 
 
 
Hudson’s Bay who had successfully navigated down the northern
 
 
 
rivers, and were paddling down the coast when they were stranded
 
 
 
by a receding tide far out on a mud flat, and then drowned when
 
 
 
the tide came in again, their canoe not being able to loose itself
 
 
 
from the mud’s grip.
 
 
 
      My time on the ocean with my brother was wonderful though,
 
 
 
especially as we could celebrate the part of our recently uncovered
 
 
 
family history which tied us by our mother’s blood with both
 
 
 
Newfoundland’s seafarers as well as Portuguese seafarers, the two
 
 
 
people being joined in Portugal Cove in Newfoundland.  Ron and I
 
 
 
had really never wondered why both of us held a lifelong love of
 
 
 
being on water, and my eldest daughter’s internet search discovery
 
 
 
of our heritage was no real surprise, merely confirming what we
 
 
 
already knew, that we were big water people .. the small lakes of 
 
 
 
Algonquin Park holding no lure for me, but a trip down the Ottawa
 
 
 
River to Montreal and then up the St. Lawrence Seaway seemed as
 
 
 
natural as taking a shower.  Special things seemed to happen
 
 
 
when Ron and I were together near water, such as the unforgettable
 
sunset on the last day of our tent home on the Port Hope Beach, for
 
 
 
instance, and the weather in Victoria being  so perfect and the sky
 
 
 
so clear that Ron saw distant mountains for the first time, and that
 
 
 
after almost 10 years in Victoria.  I can only thank the Almighty
 
 
 
God.
 
 
 
      Ron had added an extra day to his normal three day ‘weekend’
 
 
 
in celebration of his birthday, but even with that too soon it was
 
 
 
that Ron had to return to work, while it was time for me to head for
 
 
 
Sombrio Beach; but before I left Victoria I stopped at a motorcycle
 
 
 
shop whose operators ordered a moped tire which would be waiting
 
 
 
when I returned from Sombrio.  I don’t know why I didn’t
 
 
 
just phone the Great Canadian Motorcycle shop in Winnipeg, except
 
 
 
perhaps I thought the local shop could get a price which didn’t
 
 
 
include shipping the tire from Winnipeg.  As it turned out I paid
 
 
 
three times the price I had in Winnipeg, but the tire was four ply
 
 
 
instead of two, and took me many miles more than the cheaper tire
 
 
 
before giving out just past Winnipeg.  I put on a lot of extra miles
 
 
 
returning from the west because I took time to tour and adventure
 
 
 
rather than coming straight through .. but the stories resulting
 
 
 
from that trip were undreamed of  as I motored towards Sombrio.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Ten==
 
Sombrio is reached from Victoria by driving west to the village
 
 
 
of Sooke.  Sooke is famous for its Sooke Harbour House restaurant
 
 
 
which pleases expensive tastes, and Jeani and Adam and I,
 
 
 
immediately before our breakup, were offered the rental of a house
 
 
 
near the Harbour House, our house having a solidly fenced yard
 
 
 
with lots of green grass which would have seemed relatively close to
 
 
 
heaven for the rabbits we raised for food.  We easily could have let
 
 
 
the rabbits loose from their cages as grass was so abundant they
 
 
 
had no reason to go to the trouble of digging under the fence to
 
 
 
seek greener pastures.  Jeani and I could probably have
 
 
 
supplemented our property maintenance business’s income by
 
 
 
selling rabbits to the Harbour House.  But Jean had firmly decided
 
 
 
to end our marriage, , and I saw no point in renting a house for
 
 
 
myself when I had a lovely one ton truck to live in.  Our marriage
 
 
 
had been stressful for reasons I won’t go into, and while I had not
 
 
 
reached an end to my faith that God could save the marriage if that
 
 
 
was the plan, I had come to an end of my strength.  So .. we did not
 
 
 
rent the house.  I returned to Sombrio for a time, but too many
 
 
 
changes in my life and at Sombrio had occurred, and I found it
 
 
 
impossible to stay.
 
 
 
      This moped trip was different.  I knew conditions at the beach
 
 
 
were no longer suited to a life there, but I had to see the scenery
 
 
 
which had several times been home to my Gypsy soul, I had to
 
 
 
smell the waterfalls, and I had to hear the BOOM of Canon Rock. 
 
 
 
Canon Rock is a house-sized boulder which lies offshore at the
 
 
 
division between east Sombrio and West .. East and West because
 
 
 
even though the coast runs northwest, the beaches are situated
 
 
 
east and west.  Canon Rock is famous for its BOOM because when
 
 
 
tides, currents, and waves are right, the waves strike the front of
 
the rock with such force that a BOOM is heard for miles.
 
 
 
      Canon Rock, though, was yet ahead when I stopped at Sooke
 
 
 
and ‘asked around’ for Steve and Barb.  One of the persons I asked
 
 
 
said he had heard that Steve had died.  Of course I simply would
 
 
 
not allow myself to believe that to be true.  Steve was a strong,
 
 
 
strong man .. a surfer .. a survivor.
 
 
 
      At Sooke I also sought out a tailor, as my hooded yellow rain
 
 
 
jacket’s zipper had broken, and that jacket was one of my most
 
 
 
important survival items.  The tailor lived and worked on the far
 
 
 
western end of the village, and when I drove into her yard I was
 
 
 
greeted by a small herd of the small deer common on Vancouver
 
 
 
Island .. deer which were almost pets to the owner, but are not
 
 
 
tame enough to allow people to pet them.  After discussing the
 
 
 
deer, and again asking about Steve and Barb, I was given the
 
 
 
price of having a zipper installed, and decided a new rain jacket
 
 
 
would be more cost effective; but fortunately a sewing shop was
 
 
 
close by and I purchased a strong zipper, strong thread of a good
 
 
 
quality, and needles with eyes sufficiently large enough to allow my
 
 
 
eyes to put the thread through the needle.  These I packed into my
 
 
 
gear.  I also purchased groceries and wine. 
 
      Where did I acquire news of the tragedy .. with the seamstress?
 
 
 
Or at River Jordan?  I can’t recall.  But I knew it for sure at River
 
 
 
Jordan, which is a tiny village on the ocean halfway between
 
 
 
Sombrio and Sooke.  There is no sense delaying it, not all the
 
 
 
beauty riding the mountainside and oceanside West Coast Road
 
 
 
with its hills and sharp curves and dips and Rainforest and
 
 
 
roadside waterfalls and rock and ocean shoreline and sounds and
 
 
 
scents and fruitfulness of nature can .. I was going to say not even
 
 
 
all those beauties can ease the pain .. but they can .. and to say
 
 
 
otherwise would be a disservice to the loss of those people whose
 
 
 
whose flesh and blood and spirits grew from the intimacy of living
 
 
 
their entire lives close to nature.  Nature is goodness .. even
 
 
 
in its wildness and sometimes seeming cruelty nature is layered
 
 
 
and woven with gentleness, stitched and flowered and embossed
 
 
 
with kindness, lies itself down willingly in peace and rest, and
 
 
 
rises up majestically with meaning and intelligence and purpose. 
 
 
 
Again I will say there is no sense in delaying it.  Steve had ridden
 
 
 
his last wave due to cancer, and not only Steve was gone, although
 
 
 
his spirit will be with me forever, but Dawn and Jesse had, as
 
 
 
adults, .. had what?  Had departed this earth?  I can’t say they died
 
.. my faith in life eternal is too strong to use the word death.  Even
 
 
 
trees don’t die .. they simply change and assume new identities,
 
 
 
their decomposition a gradual change from one existence to
 
 
 
another .. as part of another tree, or flower, or berry bush, such as
 
 
 
the ones Dawn and Jesse and I harvested fruit from, or if they are
 
 
 
sawn into lumber before decomposition, as structures or firewood
 
 
 
or boats or fences or frames around paintings.  My wonderful
 
 
 
friends Dawn and Jesse too had changed, some would say they left
 
 
 
their earthly bodies behind, and their spirits had ascended, like
 
 
 
Christ, to heaven.  Others will say they are asleep awaiting
 
 
 
resurrection.  I don’t know.  God knows.  I do know their souls have
 
 
 
not simply become part of a tree or berry, though .. souls are part of
 
 
 
nature but not bound by nature’s rules of transition of matter and
 
 
 
energy.  Dawn and Jesse both ended their physical activity on earth
 
 
 
through single vehicle accidents.  Dawn drove off the West Coast
 
 
 
Road after a happy visit with her mother.  Jesse had been working
 
 
 
at the Port Renfrew hotel a few miles northwest of Sombrio and
 
 
 
after work drove some friends to the ocean at about 2 a.m., to the
 
 
 
Port Renfrew harbour, where black ice had formed on the black
 
 
 
wood of the pier.  Their vehicle slid off the end of the pier.  Jesse
 
probably drowned saving his friends, all of who were saved.  All of
 
 
 
this is terrible enough.  But the tragedy doesn’t end there.  Jesse
 
 
 
and Dawn’s older brother, Clearlight, yes that is his birth name,
 
 
 
also died, in separate single vehicle accident.  I had not spent time
 
 
 
with Clearlight when I was living on the beach as he had been living
 
 
 
elsewhere, But I met him in Victoria during my emotional
 
 
 
breakdown in Victoria, and also at at time he was living at Sombrio,
 
 
 
and with his heart full of compassion and affection he told me,
 
 
 
‘Come to Sombrio and live near us.’  I did not.
 
 
 
      Such deep tragedy that my emotions seem shallow .. certainly
 
 
 
unable to cope with the loss in any way except a huge shedding of
 
 
 
tears or grief,  and that I have been unable to do because I am the
 
 
 
same as most people in our industrialized western society who have
 
 
 
had genuine life stripped from the heart and replaced with insular
 
 
 
material values and strivings.  For me those processes began early, 
 
 
 
in the days and nights of fighting and bickering and shouting and
 
 
 
small violences between my Mom and Dad which led to my mother
 
 
 
leaving my ‘blue collar’ Dad with five children to care for as a single
 
 
 
parent.  Emotional health?  Sorry, my familiarity with it is brief. 
 
 
 
But we have to survive .. and there is also an overwhelming
 
goodness which carries us on.  I think I may avail myself of that
 
 
 
goodness right now, and put aside the writing of this story until
 
 
 
I recover yet again from the sorrow of losing such good friends,
 
 
 
and from the memories of childhood.  You may want to take a break
 
 
 
also, for the same reasons.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Eleven==
 
Sombrio
 
 
 
When I first ‘discovered’ Sombrio twenty five years ago it could
 
 
 
be reached only by the sea, or by two hiking trails .. or if a person
 
 
 
wants to be all inclusive by helicopter, float plane, or parachute.
 
 
 
My first descent to Sombrio was made by the hour-long, northern or
 
 
 
westernmost trail, depending on how you want to view the map. 
 
 
 
This mountainside trail started at the West Coast Road, which, by
 
 
 
the way, was built only in the 1950s, signifying the wildness of the
 
 
 
land.  The hike threaded through what is called ‘Virgin’ Rainforest,
 
 
 
past and around two main species of giant trees, the first being
 
 
 
giant Cedars which are really, according to the Government of
 
 
 
Ontario hardcover book Native Trees of Canada really not Cedars at
 
 
 
all, but Arbor Vitae, that term meaning ‘the tree of life’, and being
 
 
 
used, some would say unfortunately, by Native North Americans to
 
 
 
save from scurvy the lives of the first European explorers.  The
 
 
 
second Sombrio species is Hemlock.  Not being a tree expert I don’t
 
 
 
know if there was an odd Fir or Pine in that magnificent forest.
 
 
 
According to Native Trees of Canada true Cedar is not native to
 
 
 
Canada, with even the Eastern White Cedar being Arbor Vitae. 
 
 
 
True Cedar does grow in Lebanon though, or at least it did in the
 
 
 
time of King Solomon who used it to build Jerusalem’s temple of
 
 
 
God.
 
 
 
      The West Beach trail parallels a cascading stream which was
 
 
 
then and still is identified as the Sombrio River.  The stream was
 
 
 
probably named a river because its mouth is wide, and that is the
 
 
 
part the Spaniards would have seen first.  As you walk upriver,
 
 
 
though, the stream narrows rapidly to creek status, but what a
 
 
 
beautiful creek, full of the music of waterfalls falling into pools.
 
In the old days the water music drifted through the giant trees, but
 
 
 
now it falls mostly onto a many-potholed, dirt and gravel logging
 
 
 
road.  The river was exploited for gold a hundred years ago, and
 
 
 
traces can almost certainly still be found today.
 
 
 
      The climax of my first hike down that trail are still clear in my
 
 
 
memory.  I pushed aside thick Salal brush and stepped into .. what
 
 
 
I knew instinctively was home.  A broad, curving, sand and gravel
 
 
 
beach .. the mouth of the river .. a house sized black rock sitting
 
 
 
joined to the beach by a causeway, the mountains of Washington
 
 
 
State across 25 kilometers of Juan de Fuca Straight, at the western
 
 
 
end of those mountains the open Pacific, and here and there up and
 
 
 
down the beach adult men and women and children.  As I stepped
 
 
 
onto the beach I could see half hidden among the forest half a
 
 
 
dozen rough shacks built obviously of driftwood, and from first
 
 
 
glance obviously more than shacks, these were homes.
 
 
 
      The first people I met were Steve and Barbara and the children,
 
 
 
and I met them by simply walking up to their home and saying
 
 
 
hello.  I remember thinking Steve, a tall, blond, muscular Viking-
 
 
 
like man, was the most gentle soul I had ever met.  Barbara was
 
 
 
plainly welcoming, telling me about the community.  We were
 
friends from those first moments.  I told them I was there hoping to
 
 
 
escape the horrors of civilization for awhile, and Barbara pointed to
 
 
 
a shack up towards the river mouth, and told me it had been vacant
 
 
 
for a few weeks, and that I could move into it if I wanted.
 
 
 
      Over the next few weeks I met all the beach dwellers and came
 
 
 
to know that despite inhabitants making full use of available
 
 
 
resources, including eating the delicious and tender pink flesh of
 
 
 
Gooseneck Barnacles, as well as seaweed, this culture was not
 
 
 
attempting a return to the stone age.  There was no electricity in
 
 
 
any form, but one fellow was was at that time my age at this time
 
 
 
and who had ‘retired’ to Sombrio brought a battery-powered radio to
 
 
 
listen for Tsunami warnings.  I knew his fears were based on
 
 
 
reality,  but I estimated as almost negligible the chances of having
 
 
 
the radio attended to during the brief time of effectiveness of a
 
 
 
warning.  Most of the dwellers had brought some type of wood-
 
 
 
burning stove to the beach, and most of the shacks including my
 
 
 
own were constructed with the assistance of plastic .. heavy poly
 
 
 
film.  I think I recall Steve having a chain saw, and he also had
 
 
 
brought a fibreglass canoe to the beach and then outfitted it on
 
 
 
both sides with outriggers which were a marvelous combination of
 
 
 
natural wood struts and dense, construction plastic foam.  To make
 
 
 
Barbara’s life as a mother easier Steve had installed Sombrio’s only
 
 
 
example of modern plumbing in their home, using plastic pipe and
 
 
 
gravity to run hillside creek water into a stainless steel sink.  I think
 
 
 
I even recall a faucet.  One plumning experiment I attempted in the
 
 
 
home I built for Jeani, Adam and I was to run a pipe out of our sink
 
 
 
into a sump pit outside the house.  I designed everything with
 
 
 
ecology  in mind, but after a few days such a stink arose from the
 
 
 
sink’s drain that I pulled the pipe out of the ground and ran the
 
 
 
dirty water onto bushes where the food particles would take
 
 
 
advantage of air and light to compost naturally, becoming healthy
 
 
 
nutrients for the bushes instead of converting to poison buried
 
 
 
underground, and of course that is why septic systems succeed
 
 
 
only in destroying soil and watercourses. 
 
 
 
      Jeani, Adam and I lived at Sombrio a few years after I took up
 
 
 
habitation the first time though, and during my first stay I was
 
 
 
surprised to learn that even though the inhabitants could easily
 
 
 
have been hired to portray stoned hippy dopers in any Hollywood
 
 
 
movie of that era the Sombrio culture was not drug based. 
 
Certainly marijuanna was at the beach, because surfers came to
 
 
 
the beach, and because the permanent residents did use the weed,
 
 
 
but it was not anywhere approaching the basis of this community,
 
 
 
which was a community, but not a commune.  I believe I only
 
 
 
smelled pot twice in my first weeks.  What was the basis for
 
 
 
Sombrio was the knowledge that living close to nature held value
 
 
 
which was both unknowable and unspeakable.  Being removed from
 
 
 
normal society held hope for long term sanity.  That has changed
 
 
 
now that the logging road allows easy access, dope is everywhere
 
 
 
among the partyers, and on a party weekend the beach becomes a
 
 
 
ghetto with battery-powered apparatus blasting the tranquility with
 
 
 
what passes for music, and some of the noise is good music I must
 
 
 
say, but the volume need not be loud enough to sand blast to a
 
 
 
brilliant shine what had been fire blackened pots and pans.  Still, I
 
 
 
came to recognize that even the worst of the party offenders would
 
 
 
leave the vistas of Sombrio having been changed in basic ways for
 
 
 
the better.  What is sad though, It is doubtful, though, is that not
 
 
 
many of Sombrio’s new visitors will ever hear the fizzing music of
 
 
 
millions of tiny, conical sea shells which blanket the flattened
 
 
 
penninsula leading to Canon Rock .. that penninsula bared to sun
 
 
 
and air at low tides.  Those shells make their music, I suspect,
 
 
 
during rituals involved with mating, the minuscule denizens
 
 
 
beneath the shells lifting and then dropping their shells suddenly to
 
 
 
emit their tiny sound which when orchestrated fully sounds like
 
 
 
champagne after popping the cork.  It is fully appropriate of course
 
 
 
if the champagne music does celebrate seashells’ mating. 
 
 
 
      There are still no electrical wires running to Sombrio, and no
 
 
 
running water other than the old ocean currents, waterfalls, creeks
 
 
 
and the river; but modern mindless destroyer-exploiters have
 
 
 
clear cut the mountain’s trees, leaving a thin edge of forest along
 
 
 
the shore.  I don’t think anyone who has ever viewed the
 
 
 
destruction of clear cut logging can express the … unspeakable
 
 
 
horror.  But I am also overwhelmed at nature’s power of renewal
 
 
 
when assisted by the intelligence of man .. how quickly the forest
 
 
 
grows back after replanting .. with some trees which must be 20
 
 
 
feet high .. and thick enough to properly be called a forest. 
 
 
 
      The logging road which must be driven with extreme caution
 
 
 
leads to a dirt parking lot which boasts a locked, steel box into
 
 
 
which campers and day users are supposed to insert money, and
 
 
 
which signifies Sombrio as part of a Parks system, although, like
 
 
 
Steve said, “If they were going to make it a park, why didn’t they
 
 
 
leave the trees?”  The cash box is at the head of the remnants of the
 
 
 
old trail which leads both to the beach, and also to a new
 
 
 
suspension footbridge spanning the Sombrio River, and serving the
 
 
 
Juan de Fuca hiking trail which joins the West Coast Trail at Port
 
 
 
Renfrew.  I paid for one night, registering as Ontario Moped, but
 
 
 
stayed for 10 nights, feeling guiltless because of the overall
 
 
 
destruction of what had once been simply .. unspeakable beauty.   
 
 
 
      The footpath to the beach crosses a footbridge over a creek
 
 
 
which runs into the Sombrio River.  This creek is pure drinking
 
 
 
water, and served my needs in years gone by and on this trip.  Over
 
 
 
that creek near the bridge swings a child’s rope swing with a
 
 
 
wooden seat I,assisted with a friend named Mike, I do believe, hung
 
 
 
for Adam and the other children to play on when days were hot on
 
 
 
the beach.  I walked the moped down the trail, and although I did
 
 
 
not realize it at first, set up camp almost in the exact spot my home
 
 
 
with Jeani and Adam had been.  Few people were on Sombrio when
 
 
 
I arrived, as it was a weekday, and most visitors come on weekends;
 
 
 
but on the second day I was approached by a gentleman a few years
 
younger than myself.  This fellow would be called strange by some,
 
 
 
but I did not think him strange until he initiated a conflict with a
 
 
 
large bear, that story coming shortly.  In this person I immediately
 
 
 
recognized a wild man of the ocean and forest, but I did not
 
 
 
recognize him as an old friend, which was what he was, that
 
 
 
recognition made by this wild man during our conversation .. and
 
 
 
talk about a happy reunion when memories were refreshed.  This
 
 
 
was Mike, Rivermouth Mike being his Sombrio name, gained
 
 
 
from the old location of his home at the mouth of the Sombrio River
 
 
 
not far from my camp.  It was Mike who had given me the Sombrio
 
 
 
nickname Preacher Bob from my habit of carrying a bible wherever I
 
 
 
went, a habit I have unfortunately abandoned because I no longer
 
 
 
carry anywhere near the same measures of peace and love and
 
 
 
strength and faith which I was blessed with in those days.  Mike’s
 
 
 
memories were so clear that he even remembered a plaid dress
 
 
 
Jeani wore often on the beach.  Through his memories mine slowly
 
 
 
returned to me.  Mike was a surfer, a draft dodger from the United
 
 
 
States, as Steve had been.  He had spent about 15 years living on
 
 
 
the beach, arriving after my second time spent living there, but he
 
 
 
had been there a few years when Jeani and I and Adam moved in,
 
being partially supported by his parents, and also supporting
 
 
 
himself with his considerable musical talents, busking in Victoria,
 
 
 
and also trading favours on the beach with other surfers: for
 
 
 
instance, he repaired a dentist’s surfboard in exchange for dental
 
 
 
repair.  It was Mike who told me that Barbara was living in Port
 
 
 
Renfrew, where he himself had moved when the community was
 
 
 
destroyed.  Mike returned to Sombrio often, cleaning up garbage
 
 
 
left by others, and maintaining artifacts like the small, memorial
 
 
 
plaque to Jesse, and the life sized wooden carving of a beach bum
 
 
 
surfer  which Steve had carved. 
 
     
 
      And now for the bear story.  During one of Mike’s visits, when
 
 
 
we were standing together talking, he had suddenly looked towards
 
 
 
where his home had stood, and walked rapidly off calling “You leave
 
 
 
that tree alone.”  I looked to see what had taken Mike’s attention,
 
 
 
and a large Black Bear was not only not far away, but had begun to
 
 
 
move slowly but aggressively in Mike’s direction.  Mike is not a large
 
 
 
man, and the bear may have sensed a snack.  I was absolutely
 
 
 
overcome with the need to rescue Mike, and hurried after him,
 
 
 
catching up to him quickly, but separating myself slightly so that
 
 
 
the bear would not miss the fact that there were now two of us, and
 
seeing both of us walking aggressively and directly towards him,
 
 
 
decided on escape as being safer than confrontation.  I really didn’t
 
 
 
know what I was going to use as a weapon against the bear, as the
 
 
 
knife I carried on my belt was a folding lock blade knife with a
 
 
 
faulty lock better suited for slicing apples, but by gosh that bear
 
 
 
wasn’t going to eat my friend Mike.  Of course, it’s extremely rare
 
 
 
when ‘using anything’ against a bear is necessary, as they most
 
 
 
often run away from a human presence; but according to Ontario
 
 
 
Government Parks literature two kinds of Black Bears have been
 
 
 
identified, the runners and the aggressive kind.  With the aggressive
 
 
 
bears, literature reads, the only hope is to fight, as laying down
 
 
 
and playing dead might work with a Grizzly, but not often with a
 
 
 
Black.  What had gotten Mike upset was that the bear was thinking
 
 
 
of eating the blossoms or young fruit from a Crabapple Tree, that
 
 
 
tree dear to Mike’s heart, possibly having provided shade for his
 
 
 
shack home.  I had another encounter with a bear at Sombrio, this
 
 
 
time when I was alone, and searching for ‘the old trails’ which had
 
 
 
led from home to home, and to the drinking water creek, etc., and
 
 
 
some of which had become overgrown.  I was standing on a fallen
 
 
 
tree, about four feet off the ground, and surrounded by thick brush. 
 
I was also standing at one of the large upright trees, and I think I
 
 
 
was using the tree to maintain my balance, putting my hand to the
 
 
 
trunk.  Suddenly I heard a loud sound like an angry hissing .. but
 
 
 
not like a snake .. this hissing seemed to come from a
 
 
 
mammalian throat, and I could not immediately identify the
 
 
 
direction from which the sound came.  Sombrio is Cougar country
 
 
 
as well as bear country, so I was of course alarmed, and looked
 
 
 
around, but saw nothing.  Something within me, however, moved
 
 
 
me a few feet away from the tree, towards the the beach, but I was
 
 
 
still standing on the fallen tree when something caused me to look
 
 
 
up .. and there, eight feet above me, staring me in the face, and
 
 
 
again making his warning hissing snarl, was a young Black Bear. 
 
 
 
The bear was angry because I was preventing its descent, and there
 
 
 
was no bravery in me with this bear overhead, and I hurried along
 
 
 
the log and onto the beach as fast as I could go.  I watched from a
 
 
 
distance as the bear wandered placidly into the shallow river,
 
 
 
turning over rocks hunting for some kind of food.  After that
 
 
 
encounter I fashioned as excellently as I could from a smooth, stout
 
 
 
shaft of aged wood a spear as a weapon of defence, and carried it
 
 
 
regularly.  After a week on the beach having eaten no red meat, and
 
having been exposed to all the wild effects of a mostly solitary life
 
 
 
in the wild effects of nature, I thought I might use the spear to
 
 
 
procure a bear steak, but I had no difficulty talking myself out of the
 
 
 
plan.  On the day I left the beach I placed the spear with the wooden
 
 
 
surfer, having written on spear’s shaft, ‘Bear Spear .. do not burn.’ 
 
 
 
This identification was necessary because while at the time of the
 
 
 
Sombrio community driftwood was plentiful and wisely use, the
 
 
 
partyers who drove down the logging road burned any piece of
 
 
 
wood they could find, which lead to my introduction to the use of
 
 
 
dried kelp as fuel, that introduction made by two young campers
 
 
 
from Spain, who you will meet before I leave Sombrio.  Thinking
 
 
 
back on things, it’s a miracle that one piece of aged tree limb had
 
 
 
been available, but it certainly would have been burned up by the
 
 
 
barbarian hordes who invaded Sombrio during the long weekend of
 
 
 
July 1. 
 
     
 
      Two or three days after setting up camp at Sombrio I had
 
 
 
ridden into Port Renfrew, where Mike told me Barbara was living
 
 
 
in a house with the younger sisters of Dawn, Jesse and Clearlight. 
 
 
 
I stopped at a Community Centre to ask directions to her home,
 
 
 
and, after asking for directions to Barbara’s house (she insists on
 
being called Barbara, and not Barb) was introduced to a boy who
 
 
 
was using a computer.  This was Tobias, Barbara’s grandson.  Now,
 
 
 
if you have never believed in miracles, calling those occurrences
 
 
 
‘coincidences’, this could be your time of conversion to faith in
 
 
 
divine intervention; for no coincidences could have set up Barbara’s
 
 
 
grandson and my grandson having the same name.  I have only
 
 
 
known one other Tobias, and he was a cat, my eldest daughter’s cat
 
 
 
in fact, and so I’m one of planet earth’s fortunate few who have a
 
 
 
grandson named after a cat.  I’m sure it was my daughter Kimi who
 
 
 
loved her sisters Toby cat who named her son.  I suppose this is as
 
 
 
good a place as any to boast of my prophesying which gender
 
 
 
Kimi’s baby would be.  Kimi had gone to see a Vietnamese fortune
 
 
 
teller, who read tea leaves or something, and had been told the
 
 
 
baby would be a girl.  Kimi told me that news on the telephone, and
 
 
 
my spirit seemed to be stirred by something, the spirit of truth I
 
 
 
think it was, and I said ‘you can tell your fortune teller she’s wrong. 
 
 
 
You’re going to have a boy.’  I thought it was about time .. after
 
 
 
three daughters and three granddaughters, to have a boy, not that I
 
 
 
had had any preference whatsoever until that moment, always
 
 
 
being perfectly happy with the gender God chose.  I suppose it was
 
that way this time also, as it was not anger which moved me to
 
 
 
reject the fortune teller’s word .. but simply the spirit of what was
 
 
 
going to be.  I also had an unidentifiable feeling of sorts which told
 
 
 
me that because I had three daughters and three granddaughters, a
 
 
 
boy in the family would be welcome.  Kimi’s husband, Elia, is an
 
 
 
Arab Israeli who speaks both languages, Arab and Hebrew, but it
 
 
 
was only after he and Kimi had decided on Tobias as a name that
 
 
 
they discovered the meaning of the name, that being “God’s Will”. 
 
 
 
So yes, believe, believe in miracles for goodness sake, for when all is
 
 
 
said and done, goodness is what will remains. 
 
     
 
      I knew a little bit about what I believed, when I rode towards
 
 
 
Barbara’s home, but I did not know how to feel, how to act, what to
 
 
 
say.  I think it’s only now that I realize my grief was as much for
 
 
 
myself, for my loss of friends, as it was for Barbara’s loss.  Or was
 
 
 
it?  I really don’t know.  The whole thing is still traumatic.  Barbara
 
 
 
was, I think I recall, being outside the front door of her home when I
 
 
 
rode up, and she of course did not recognize me after 20 years ..
 
 
 
but I recognized her, and called to her, “Hello Barb.”
 
 
 
      Her face towards me held her normal natural affection for all
 
 
 
people, as well as mild curiosity as to who I was, but she was also
 
indifferent as to who I was in the sense that to Barbara, people are
 
 
 
people, with no special status awarded any.  “It’s Barbara,” she said
 
 
 
so convincingly that it left no question mark as to whether she
 
 
 
preferred to be called Barb or Barbara.  Twenty years is a long time
 
 
 
to remember details, and I could not remember if this name
 
 
 
preference had always been with her, or was something new .. but
 
 
 
her personality had always been so stable I think she must always
 
 
 
have preferred Barbara.
 
 
 
      I walked towards her, and eased her curiosity by saying, ‘I’m
 
 
 
Preacher Bob, from Sombrio.’
 
     
 
      Barbara searched my face only a short time before saying, “Yes. 
 
 
 
How have you been?”
 
 
 
      ‘I’ve been okay, well .. I was okay .. until I heard about .. I’m so
 
 
 
sorry about Steve and the kids, Barbara.  Just so sorry.’
 
 
 
      The loss had occurred a several years before, and Barbara had
 
 
 
recovered from the initial trauma.  “I guess they had someplace else
 
 
 
to go,” she said with a bright and genuine smile.
 
 
 
      “Yes,” was all I could say.  Words like, ‘gone to a better place,’
 
 
 
would bring no additional comfort or recognition that they had gone
 
 
 
or would be gone to a better place.  Barbara seemed to have always
 
held an outlook of level-headed acceptance of things they were they
 
 
 
were.  I don’t remember her getting ‘excited’, but I also don’t recall
 
 
 
her becoming depressed.  The happiest I think I saw her was when
 
 
 
I and a visitor to Sombrio had returned safely to shore after having
 
 
 
taken the canoe out fishing for several hours on a day when the
 
 
 
waves gradually built to thundering breakers when hitting shore.
 
 
 
During those hours in which our canoe was a tiny dot on the
 
 
 
horizon we hauled in 40 beautiful Ling Cod and Red Snapper, and
 
 
 
when something huge and dark began to surface about one eighth
 
 
 
mile ahead of us I became petrified with fright .. literally turned to
 
 
 
living stone.  My partner in the bow had turned to face me while
 
 
 
fishing, and he had no idea of what was happening behind him
 
 
 
until the whale blew.  I had never seen a whale before, although
 
 
 
from shore I had heard the beautiful music of their blow holes, and
 
 
 
when this one blew my fright completely disappeared.  Another
 
 
 
experience of that trip were the walls of water on either side of us
 
 
 
when the waves had built very high, with us in the trough.  The
 
 
 
hight of those waves gave me a warning of our difficulty ahead, and
 
 
 
when we paddled in we could hear the thunder of the breakers, as
 
 
 
well as see them breaking angrily against Canon Rock.  I suppose
 
the whole series of events would have been even more perfect if
 
 
 
Canon Rock had been BOOMING, but the waves were not from the
 
 
 
perfect angle .. or the tide was not at the perfect height.  However,
 
 
 
we had paddled into a position parallel to Canon Rock, and Steve
 
 
 
and Barb and Jeani and a few other people hurried to where Steve
 
 
 
wanted us to land, a fact he established by facing us while holding
 
 
 
both arms upright .. the goal.  I knew we could not just paddle
 
 
 
through the waves and hope not to be carried back out with the
 
 
 
waves’ fierce backwash, so I established a plan:  we would catch the
 
 
 
seventh wave in the waves’ natural sequence, that wave being the
 
 
 
largest one, and so we did, first experiencing waves to find the
 
 
 
largest, and then waiting through a series for that seventh.  When
 
 
 
the seventh began to lift us we dug in as hard as we could with the
 
 
 
paddles, and the wave caught us like a surfboard and carried us at
 
 
 
speed to shore.  The plan went perfectly right up to about the last
 
 
 
30 feet, when water started pouring into the bow.  My bows man
 
 
 
jumped overboard, either to lighten the load and lift the canoe, or
 
 
 
because he thought the depth was shallow enough that he would
 
 
 
find his feet on the bottom, and would be able to haul the canoe the
 
 
 
final distance.  His head disappeared in the foam, but his hand held
 
the gunwale.  We shot ahead until water again started pouring in,
 
 
 
and I knew if I did not also go overboard the canoe would fill, and
 
 
 
probably be carried back out into the thundering surf with the
 
 
 
waves’ backwash and become destroyed through the battering .. so
 
 
 
I jumped overboard also while hanging onto the gunwhale.  The
 
 
 
water was still deep enough that I went completely under .. but the
 
 
 
wave carried us all the way in, and Steve and Barb grabbed the bow
 
 
 
and hauled us ashore.  Barb’s smile towards me was brighter that
 
 
 
time than at any other, and similar to the smile she wore when she
 
 
 
said her children ‘had someplace else to go’.  Life was saved .. life is
 
 
 
eternal .. and perhaps a mother can know that in a special way. 
 
 
 
      Barbara had remarried, and I met/re-met three of her surviving
 
 
 
daughters during my visit.  Their knowledge of surfing is being
 
 
 
passed on to all to youngsters from Port Renfrew and also from the
 
 
 
neighbouring Aboriginal Reserve.  Barbara’s daughter Leah is
 
 
 
working at the same hotel her brother Jesse had worked at, and
 
 
 
in the documentary video ‘Sombrio’, which can be located on the
 
 
 
Internet, Leah makes a comment that, when mingled with the grief 
 
 
 
I feel for the loss of my friends,  together with the grief I feel for the
 
 
 
destruction of the Sombrio environment and community, moves me
 
to tears each time I watch the video.  Leah, as a teenager about 16
 
 
 
years old, says, “I like to come back to Sombrio and visit the trees I
 
 
 
used to hang out with.’”
 
 
 
      For some people trees are board feet or tonnage of wood chips. 
 
 
 
For others, trees are friends.
 
 
 
 
 
==Chapter Twelve==
 
Stoned Again
 
 
 
I made two visits to Port Renfrew, hanging out with Barbara
 
 
 
and Tobias at a playground, and hanging out with Mike at his
 
 
 
house-trailer home and at the hotel when Leah was working behind
 
 
 
the bar.  I shared my visit at Mike’s home with one of the oddest
 
 
 
characters who had lived at Sombrio, or anywhere on earth for that
 
 
 
matter.  This person’s name I’ve forgotten at this moment, but he is
 
 
 
unforgettable in his complete boldness in telling people that he was
 
 
 
God.  He is also memorable for his frustration that built to anger
 
 
 
when told by others that he was not God.  Mike is a compassionate
 
 
 
man, giving food to this fellow, and driving him to his home which
 
 
 
was a rough camp in the bush off the highway between Sombrio
 
 
 
and Port Renfrew, but Mike told me he had to eject him from his
 
 
 
home on more than once occasion.  When I lived at Sombrio with
 
 
 
Jeani and Adam the fellow tried to face me down on my assertion
 
 
 
that he was not God, but my non-resistance to his anger and
 
 
 
threats persuaded him that while I might be a fool, I was not worthy
 
 
 
of punishment.
 
 
 
      During my visit to Mike’s home he presented me with my copy
 
 
 
of the Sombrio video, which I do not appear in because I was living
 
 
 
in Ontario when the video was made.  Mike made two subsequent
 
 
 
visits to Sombrio to visit me,  on one of those visits bringing with
 
 
 
him a fellow who had also lived at Sombrio, but who I did not
 
 
 
remember.  There were many people who lived at Sombrio before
 
 
 
and after my times there .. and the video introduces you to only a
 
 
 
few .. but an interesting few they are .. and well worth knowing. 
 
 
 
When Rivermouth Mike and I said our goodbyes for the last time it
 
 
 
was with sadness, but we stay in touch by email, Mike spending
 
part of this winter in Georgia with his aging parents.
 
 
 
      On my return to Sombrio after my last trip into Port Renfrew
 
 
 
I came within 100 feet of what I am sure was the big bear who had,
 
 
 
Glory to God, run from Mike and I at the beach.  The bear ran from
 
 
 
me that time also.
 
 
 
      My time on the beach was spent enjoying the music of the
 
 
 
waves, listening for the whales, which unfortunately I did not hear,
 
 
 
collecting and cooking mussels and seaweed and barnacles,
 
 
 
chatting with hikers and campers, and ducking the hummingbird
 
 
 
attacks, which were attacks only because their buzz came upon me
 
 
 
so suddenly and at such close range.  You can find yourself looking
 
 
 
towards a buzz and find a Ruby Throat six inches from your face,
 
 
 
looking you right in the eyes, and not immediately flying off when
 
 
 
you return their gaze.
 
 
 
      Many exceptionally transcendental minutes I spent with my
 
 
 
meager knife clearing the old trail from the beach through the thick
 
 
 
Salal to the creek where the child’s swing is still hanging; and then
 
 
 
guiding to that swing two young couples who had come to camp,
 
 
 
also telling them the history of the beach.  Those young people and
 
 
 
I also spent a couple of rainy hours by their fire under their
 
tarpaulin which was stretched over a fallen tree trunk.  One of the
 
 
 
young women and I had risen early, meeting on the beach, and she
 
 
 
accompanying me to Canon Rock and to the secret place of the
 
 
 
giant Mussels, which I shall not reveal in this story because if too
 
 
 
many people know the place the Mussels will be stripped in the
 
 
 
same way as the driftwood firewood was.  Suffice it to say it’s a
 
 
 
touch climb, and I was surprised that at my age I could do it, and
 
 
 
was also surprised that this tender young woman did it with me.  I
 
 
 
shouldn’t be surprised at what young women are capable of,
 
 
 
though, because I’ve seen them featured in rock climbing
 
 
 
documentaries in which they’ve been hanging by ropes hundreds of
 
 
 
feet up on the face of sheer rock.  The harvesting of the mussels
 
 
 
and the walk back to our camps, though, was forever placed in my
 
 
 
memory by the young lady showing me a tiny pink pearl which she
 
 
 
found in one of her mussels, and by our finding a giant eagle
 
 
 
feather which has adorned my moped ever since.  The eagle had
 
 
 
been hanging around the beach the day before, and obviously
 
 
 
dropped a feather just for me because it knew it was something I
 
 
 
long ago had decided I must have before I depart our planet.
 
 
 
      I also made hikes, in particular a hike to the tall waterfall on
 
the south (or east) beach, and beyond it, with the waves rushing
 
 
 
into narrowing channels and sending fountains of water skyward,
 
 
 
to where a large Sea Lion colony used to be, but of course is no
 
 
 
longer.  The remnants of that colony, perhaps the last remnant,
 
 
 
made a long swim close to shore past both beaches, from east to
 
 
 
west, barking plaintively all the way, and well past the beaches.  It
 
 
 
was obviously searching for something, and I took it by the sound of
 
 
 
its voice to be a male, and my instincts told me it was searching for
 
 
 
its mate, and my instincts also told me its search would be
 
 
 
fruitless.  I was not surprised the next day, only saddened that all
 
 
 
hope was gone for the Sea Lion, when its smaller mate washed up
 
 
 
on shore, killed by something, perhaps a collision with one of the
 
 
 
many huge ocean freighters which race through the Juan de Fuca
 
 
 
straight on their pursuit of profit;  or perhaps it had eaten
 
 
 
something poisoned by pollution, or a piece of floating garbage.
 
 
 
The ocean was obviously polluted now, whereas the water off
 
 
 
Sombrio had been healthy during my previous stays during which I
 
 
 
had not hesitated eating the seaweeds, the Green and Red Nouris,
 
 
 
and the Kelp; but on this visit I thought it obvious that the pollution
 
 
 
had made the seaweeds unattractive for eating, except for one
 
patch of particularly healthy Nouri from which I harvested, and
 
 
 
cooked with barnacles and Mussels.  If you try Nouri, the Red turns
 
 
 
green when cooked, so don’t think the colour change is the sign of
 
 
 
unhealthiness.
 
 
 
      On my walk to the tall waterfall, that water falling with great
 
 
 
beauty directly into the ocean, I met a man of 70 years who had
 
 
 
hiked the Juan de Fuca trail from its start.  This was remarkable to
 
 
 
me, as the older man had only begun hiking in his 50s.  I’ve never
 
 
 
enjoyed long hikes, especially because they often involve walking in
 
 
 
squishy shoes or boots for many hours, and can be dangerous
 
 
 
because of slippery rocks.  The Coast Guard rescue helicopter made
 
 
 
almost daily flights past Sombrio during my 10 days there, rescuing
 
 
 
people from both the Juan de Fuca Trail and the longer West Coast
 
 
 
Trail.  So while I admired the 70 year old hiker and made him an
 
 
 
example of what can be accomplished, I will probably never try to
 
 
 
emulate him.
 
 
 
      I made use of several rainy hours one day to sew the new
 
 
 
zipper into my yellow rain jacket.  Before I started that job I had
 
 
 
envisioned a small pair of scissors as being preferable over my
 
 
 
clumsy knife for the frequent thread cutting the sewing would
 
involve.  The extra difficulty of not having the proper tool made me
 
 
 
delay the job for a short walk to the Parks-built outhouse, a facility
 
 
 
I rarely used as I had a huge and partially hollowed tree standing
 
 
 
near my tent which I had dug a pit in. Something, however, caused
 
 
 
me to go for that walk, and in the outhouse I found a small,
 
 
 
woman’s makeup kit which contained a folding mirror and a pair of
 
 
 
tiny, folding scissors .. from San Francisco.  the Great Spirit and
 
 
 
Provider had been at work again with His limitless power .. (and I
 
 
 
say His because that is how God is presented in Scripture.  I
 
 
 
borrowed the scissors for my successful sewing, but having left the
 
 
 
kit in the outhouse, returning the scissors to the kit.  On the
 
 
 
evening before I left Sombrio I returned to the outhouse to find
 
 
 
the kit still there, and as it had been a week since I found it the first
 
 
 
time, was confident that the owner had probably returned to San
 
 
 
Francisco or at least was far from Sombrio, so I emptied the
 
 
 
makeup into the privy and took the rest of the kit home with me as
 
 
 
a practical souvenir.  Makeup is not a good thing to wear in the
 
 
 
woods or to have inside a tent, says some literature, as its sweet
 
 
 
smell could be a wild animal attractant.
 
 
 
      In the last couple of days before the July 1 weekend more and
 
more campers came to the beach, many of them carrying cases of
 
 
 
beer and bottles of wine and liquor.  This was when Mike made his
 
 
 
last visit to the beach when I was there, and he was quick to tell 
 
 
 
several people that they were thoughtless in attempting to set up a
 
 
 
party place for a pig roast in the midst of an already crowded area
 
 
 
in which were a few families with young children camping.  The pig
 
 
 
roast was going to be a noisy affair, with lots and lots and lots of
 
 
 
alcohol and with boom box and with chain saw for cutting logs for
 
 
 
firewood … and Mike’s word instilled in them enough consideration
 
 
 
to move further south to a vacant area.  I had bought a bottle of
 
 
 
wine at Port Renfrew, and had offered it to share it with Mike, but
 
 
 
he declined, saying he was driving, and yes, the roads are
 
 
 
dangerous.  I fully intended to share the wine with someone ..
 
 
 
anyone really;  but perhaps the salt air and seafood had made me
 
 
 
particularly thirsty, and after dusk had fallen on the first evening of
 
 
 
the weekend when parties were beginning I took a sip, and it was so
 
 
 
beautifully sweet I drank all of it .. rather quickly .. moved perhaps
 
 
 
by the emotional trauma I was going through concerning the loss of
 
 
 
my friends .. of course the quick consumption impaired my
 
 
 
judgment, and when I was invited by two young men to join them
 
at their fire near my tent an hour later my judgment became even
 
 
 
more impaired as they freely shared their alcohol .. and so when
 
 
 
it came time for them to offer me a smoke of their joint I at first
 
 
 
declined, but on the second offer could find no reason to refuse,
 
 
 
and so joined them in smoking that one, and the next .. and I can’t
 
 
 
recall if there were any others .. but there was more alcohol .. and it
 
 
 
was these two young Spaniards who introduced me to using dried
 
 
 
bull kelp as fuel for a fire, and this fuel burns with a remarkably
 
 
 
clean and bluish flame, and throws beautiful warmth, and the
 
 
 
night was so calm and beautiful, even though cool and slightly
 
 
 
drizzly as it had been for a few days, but the water droplets in the
 
 
 
air seemed cloud like in surrounding and falling upon us .. and
 
 
 
with the sea and the sand and the small fires at the various camps 
 
 
 
.. and the conversation was so pleasant .. and I noticed some
 
 
 
neighbours had run out of firewood and I called to them that I
 
 
 
would get them some kelp to burn, and my Spaniards told me I
 
 
 
should not, because then everyone on the beach would burn up all
 
 
 
the kelp, and besides .. they said .. besides .. “Bob, do you know
 
 
 
you are almost falling over?”  I had stood up by then, and was
 
 
 
attempting to walk, and said my first impulse was to sit back down,
 
but I refused safety and comfort, and remembering my time on the
 
 
 
ocean in Steve’s canoe, said “I’m okay .. I’ll get my land legs yet”
 
 
 
and they repeated with intelligence and best intentions, “Bob, Don’t
 
 
 
Go”  and lightheartedly and with staggering confidence I went .. and
 
 
 
stumbled and staggered my way through the darkness and mist
 
 
 
and over the rough ground and up and down inclines and declines
 
 
 
as if I were a young man almost, and I met up with some partyers
 
 
 
at a fire and shared their alcohol, and finally, down the beach
 
 
 
eastward a fair way and high up on the edge of the beach I found
 
 
 
great piles of dried kelp which even seemed to resemble sticks of
 
 
 
dry wood even though the air was drizzly, and with some great
 
 
 
difficulty gathered of the kelp, and began carrying it back to
 
 
 
the people for whom it was intended, and got at least part ways
 
 
 
there, and fell down, and could not get up. 
 
 
 
      I knew I had fallen down because I was suddenly laying on my
 
 
 
back looking up .. I think the stars had come out .. perhaps not .. I
 
 
 
had fallen besides a driftwood tree trunk, and was in some kind of
 
 
 
hollowed place, and I thought “this is no problem, I’ll just get up,”
 
 
 
even though I could not, in fact I could barely begin to get up,
 
 
 
making some kind of severely restricted roly poly motions with my
 
body, first one way, and then the other, but I had never experienced
 
 
 
this degree of drunken and stoned helplessness before, and I said
 
 
 
again, “I’ll just get up, that’s all, and carry on,” but I could not get
 
 
 
up .. and I don’t know how long it was before I realized I was in a
 
 
 
situation I had never been in before, and could not get up, and
 
 
 
thought that the situation probably occurred because I was not a
 
 
 
young man anymore, even though I have heard from young men
 
 
 
that they have been in similar situations, in fact I’ve seen young
 
 
 
men wearing T-shirts printed with “Help – I’ve fallen down and can’t
 
 
 
get up” .. but I had never been in that T-shirt or situation, so one
 
 
 
more try and I would be able to get up .. but I could not .. and I had
 
 
 
actually started to enjoy the experience of being totally helpless and
 
 
 
at the mercy of The Almighty .. and hoped he wouldn’t shower a
 
 
 
heavy cold rain down on me to teach me a good lesson .. but I took
 
 
 
great comfort in acknowledging my helplessness and His
 
 
 
Almightiness, and so I estimated that he would be merciful towards
 
 
 
me, and then I just thought, “well, I may as well just pass out for
 
 
 
the night,” and I did pass out, wishing before I did that I had that T-
 
 
 
shirt to put over me because I knew the night would be cold .. and I
 
 
 
did feel cool at least when I woke up however much later it was
 
when I woke up .. and now I simply had to stand up and get
 
 
 
walking to get warmed up because at my age I did not want to lie on
 
 
 
the open beach all night and get pneumonia .. and after a couple of
 
 
 
false starts in which I fell back down I did stand up, and gathered
 
 
 
up some dried kelp because I still wanted to be a hero .. and
 
 
 
besides, I wanted to contribute to someone’s fire, anyone’s fire . .
 
 
 
and I tried to carry the kelp, but gave up because I couldn’t keep
 
 
 
my balance with the kelp in my arms, almost falling back down a
 
 
 
couple of times and coming close to hurting myself, so I threw down
 
 
 
the kelp and staggered on and on and on, until I realized I was
 
 
 
lost .. yes, lost on this beach which was my home and which I knew
 
 
 
like the back of my hand, but even though I was lost I knew I could
 
 
 
find myself if I could find the river .. and then I found the river but
 
 
 
could not remember what side of the river I was on, but by
 
 
 
examining myself I knew I had not crossed the river, that was plain,
 
 
 
because I was not soaking wet, even though the air was a bit
 
 
 
drizzly, so I turned eastward, and began staggering back, but did
 
 
 
not want to stagger all night, and end up near Canon Rock, so
 
 
 
I swallowed my pride and staggered up to a fire where three young
 
 
 
men were sitting, and I staggered up to them and asked, “Could you
 
guys help me find my tent?  I’m lost.  I passed out on the beach. 
 
 
 
I’m the guy with the moped.” 
 
 
 
      I knew almost certainly that my moped would identify me as it
 
 
 
was the only yellow moped on the beach .. the only vehicle for that
 
 
 
matter .. not even a bicycle, so I could not mistake my yellow moped
 
 
 
for someone else’s yellow moped, and I knew that some of the
 
 
 
beachcombers had looked at my moped as if it were a sacrilege, a
 
 
 
motor vehicle not belonging on this sacred wilderness beach at
 
 
 
which was so much alcohol and dope and boom boxes that
 
 
 
quietness had been banished, and I was hoping these guys
 
 
 
would not be among those who saw me as a blasphemer, and if they
 
 
 
did they helped me anyway .. all three of them accompanying me
 
 
 
back in the direction of Canon Rock, with me calling towards people
 
 
 
at fires, “Can you tell me where my tent is?  I’m the guy with the
 
 
 
moped.”  And there was some sympathetic laughing .. and a couple
 
 
 
of people said .. you’re almost there,” and finally someone pointed
 
 
 
in a direction and said, “Your tent is up there,” and yes, mercifully I
 
 
 
recognized my camp, and then I bragged to the three men that my
 
 
 
moped had brought me all the way from Ottawa, and that I had not
 
 
 
been stoned for many, many years, and they were properly
 
impressed, and asked me if I had any weed on me, and I said “No ..
 
 
 
and I won’t ever touch that crap again!”  Even though it had not
 
 
 
been crap, so to speak, but extremely high-THC content weed, and
 
 
 
herb, and as the bible says herbs are for healing I should never
 
 
 
have called it crap, but overdosing is not healing, and I thanked my
 
 
 
guides and told them they had maybe saved my life, and crawled
 
 
 
my way into my tent, and laid down, and soon enough my stomach
 
 
 
rose up, but I fought it down, and it rose up, and I fought it down,
 
 
 
repeatedly, until finally I knew I could sleep, and was extremely
 
 
 
thankful for the warmth of my sleeping bag, and for being dry and
 
 
 
not passed out all night in the cold drizzle, and I fell asleep.
 
 
 
      I slept late into the morning, and didn’t feel too bad,
 
 
 
considering, and when I got up and around I met the three guys
 
 
 
who had guided me, and they all said they had been in similar
 
 
 
conditions, and I thought how terrible for them at their young age ..
 
 
 
and felt kind of self righteous that it had taken me 60 years to get
 
 
 
that way .. at the same time wishing I had experienced that genuine
 
 
 
helpless when I was at their tender age so that I would have grown
 
 
 
up humble .. humble like this younger generation who know they
 
 
 
are totally helpless in the face of such great adversity as the
 
environmental disasters and wars and plagues and everything else
 
 
 
which makes us all unable to help ourselves.  My generation was
 
 
 
faced with the same helpless, but it made us generally crazy.  This
 
 
 
younger generation is humble in such a genuine way .. even though
 
 
 
one or two out of 100,000 of them have gone over the edge ..
 
 
 
completely over the edge .. whereas almost all of my generation
 
 
 
went over the edge, just not completely over .. only over far enough
 
 
 
to puff us up with pride of being survivors.  “Yes .. I’m a survivor of
 
 
 
our generations adversity!”  we boast .. and think sometimes we
 
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