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

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species.
 
species.
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Chapter Seventeen
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Thee Grandmothers.
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 +
     
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        About 40 kilometres east of Buffalo the Numberless Highway
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connects with Highway 41 which runs north and south. 
 +
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Somewhere in that 40 miles I must have camped for the night, as
 +
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the run from my camp in Strathmore to Buffalo is 200 kilometres as
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the crow flies, and my route included many turns and meanderings.
 +
 +
Where I camped I can’t recall, but it could easily have been at an
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abandoned family farmsteads which front long prairie vistas that
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fall and rise in immensely long and gentle undulations in every
 +
 +
direction, with solitude and sunsets and rustlings and mournful
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 +
sounds like winds and spirits of familiy reminiscences.  Perhaps,
 +
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though, prairie farm life was not as pleasant as we who have not
 +
 +
experienced it imagine it, because it would be lonely at times; and
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the many small cafés I stopped at through the prairies were always
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occupied pleasantly by people my age or older, people who had
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somewhere learned the necessity of companionship and
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conversation, and the hospitality to strangers which can sometimes
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only come through having suffered isolation.  Somewhere along the
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road I grew comfortable with walking right up to and sitting down
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with those welcoming faces almost as they were long lost family ..
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and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba I made sure I made the point
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 +
that I was family.  So how do my thoughts switch from welcoming
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 +
faces in cafes to Pronghorn Antelopes?  Their faces, I suppose.
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I may have seen my first Pronghorns along this stretch of road,
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and of them I remember their white streaked faces, and their stiff-
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legged, four legged springing slowly away which even now almost
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This also might have been the area in which I also saw an animal
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which startled me because I swear it was the biggest rabbit I ever
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saw .. probably 25 pounds .. although of course animal experts will
 +
tell me it was probably a coyote .. but I raised rabbits for food and I
 +
 +
do know a dog from a rabbit.  I’m really not even sure if though if it
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was here I saw that creature, or in a lusher area in Saskatchewan
 +
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in which were many sloughs.  I sure wish my notes hadn’t been
 +
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destroyed. 
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      Wherever I camped that night I proceeded the next morning
 +
 +
hoping to find a restaurant in Empress, which I thought was on
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Highway 41; but Empress was five miles east of 41 on a road that
 +
 +
on my map dead ends a few feet short of the Saskatchewan border
 +
 +
.. an invitation to seclusion if I ever saw one .. and I debated that
 +
 +
invitation as I stopped at the intersection.  Five miles ‘out of my
 +
 +
way’ and five miles return does not sound like much, but my
 +
 +
deadline of August 1 at the Ontario border was a factor, and
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 +
I thought if the dead end of Empress was as hauntingly beautiful as
 +
 +
I thought it might be I would want to spend a day or two.  While I
 +
 +
was occupied debating with myself a pickup truck came from
 +
 +
Empress’s direction and I could have asked if the driver if there was
 +
 +
a café open, but I was suddenly gripped in a resentment of some
 +
 +
sort against the pickup’s driver .. he had been to Empress, after all,
 +
 +
and seemed to carry a supreme sense of confidence, while I was just
 +
a vacillating coward uncertain as to whether I should take a five
 +
 +
mile detour.  I certainly should have taken that detour, because I
 +
 +
see by my map that Empress is situated on the South
 +
 +
Saskatchewan River a few miles from where that River connects
 +
 +
with the Red Deer.  Empress would be an exceptionally quiet
 +
 +
hamlet on a broad river running through a deep and exceptionally
 +
 +
wide and quiet valley ..  a rare and  beautiful place.
 +
 +
      I did not see Empress, though, because while I was kicking
 +
 +
myself in the mental rear end for not questioning the driver of the
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 +
pickup truck a Senior Citizen couple driving to Saskatoon stopped
 +
 +
to ask if I was broken down or in need of water.  They told me I
 +
 +
could get a coffee at the town of Acadia Valley, about 30 miles
 +
 +
north, and they also gave me directions for my run to Saskatoon,
 +
 +
turning at Alsask, named for it’s location on the Alberta-
 +
 +
Saskatchewan border about 20 miles northeast-east-as-the-crow-
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 +
flies from Acadia.
 +
     
 +
      Before I traveled on, though I spent an hour or two in the
 +
 +
small town of Acadia Valley, which, as its name suggests, is
 +
 +
located in a wide and tranquil valley, a valley which has no river at
 +
 +
its bottom, but which hosted, I suspect, a large river in ancient
 +
times.  The town itself is strikingly orderly and relatively
 +
 +
prosperous, and is situated off the highway to the east, a highway
 +
 +
which I suspect is quiet even at the peak of tourist season.
 +
 +
Acadia Valley boasts a large, well maintained grain elevator which
 +
 +
serves as museum and tourist attraction.  While not many grain
 +
 +
elevators operate on the prairies now enough elevators have been
 +
 +
left standing to give an air of recent history, and their form is of
 +
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course beautiful in its signification of the bounty of the great
 +
 +
Provider.  I would have visited the elevator museum but it was
 +
 +
closed, so I did some shopping and visited a restaurant where I was
 +
 +
told  about a back roads shortcut into Alsask, but the road was
 +
 +
terribly rough, they said, and I decided not to take it.  I did take a
 +
 +
shortcut further up 41, though, avoiding a long curve to the west
 +
 +
which would have added about 30 miles to my day, by turning due
 +
 +
east at the ‘This way to Saskatchewan’ sign and rolling along on a
 +
 +
well paved road with increasing wonderment that in a few minutes I
 +
 +
would be crossing into my Grandmother’s birth province.  I did not
 +
 +
have that sense of matriarchal history on my trip into Saskatoon
 +
 +
from the east, as my heart then was set on my sister-in-law’s
 +
 +
health, and when I stopped at the Manitoba homestead I was
 +
touching my great grandparent’s history on Dad’s side, and time
 +
 +
was restricted .. but now I was free to pursue finer roots of heritage
 +
 +
.. and I felt those roots as deeply as the roots of the original prairie
 +
 +
grasses which had grown up to 60 feet long.  It’s only now that I
 +
 +
realize that if the exact location of grandmother’s birthplace is
 +
 +
known, I might have visited what was probably a homestead similar
 +
 +
to my great grandparents .. isolated far beyond this present age’s
 +
 +
experience .. so isolated that even though Grandmother was born in
 +
 +
Canada she spoke no English, that lack scope continuing until Dad
 +
 +
went to school. .. is known.  I find it strange, now, that I did not
 +
 +
make her birthplace a quest, having always been content for some
 +
 +
reason or other I had always thought only of ‘Saskatchewan’ when
 +
 +
thinking of her birthplace .. and in a sense my Saskatchewan
 +
 +
experience has more than satisfied my quest .. but if I ever moped
 +
 +
around that province again I’ll try to find her family home.
 +
 +
      The paved road ran straight for several straight miles until it
 +
 +
jogged sharply twice and then resumed its straight run east .. (ah,
 +
 +
was it here I saw the 40 pound Rabbit?)  I can’t remember if there
 +
 +
was a sign at the Saskatchewan border, but I knew without doubt
 +
 +
when I crossed it because the pavement ended sharply and was
 +
replaced by dirt .. in that way demonstrating the imbalance in
 +
 +
prosperity between Alberta and Saskatchewan.  The dirt road led
 +
 +
quickly to a north-south road which must have been the shortcut
 +
 +
from Acadia Valley, and which had once been paved at least on
 +
 +
the northern stretch, but was now in the roughest condition, and
 +
 +
was only a little more than one lane wide, providing a memorably
 +
 +
pleasant experience not only of the roughness, but of being ‘out in
 +
 +
the boonies’, of being passed head on by a pickup truck in which
 +
 +
were some young men and women, and of coming into the town of
 +
 +
Alsask ‘the back way’, that town presenting itself in that way far
 +
 +
more placidly it would have had I come in on the main road, with
 +
 +
the main road presentation placid enough, for Alsask was another
 +
 +
of the prairie towns which are facing abandonment because of
 +
 +
conversion of family farm into mega corporations.  The Mega
 +
 +
Monsters could be in serious trouble, though, as one of their main
 +
 +
crops is Canola, and I was told while in the west that a disease has
 +
 +
begun ravaging the fields, working its way southeastwards from the
 +
 +
Edmonton area.  With so many disasters facing the environment
 +
 +
in our age it’s easy for me to picture the entire prairie going the way
 +
 +
of Alsask, which was hit with an almost total loss of economy when
 +
the military radar base closed.  I toured Alsask in a few minutes,
 +
 +
and to the best of my knowledge it has one surviving business, a
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 +
gas stop/restaurant on Highway 7 which after 250 eastward
 +
 +
kilometres took me into Saskatoon.  Many or most of the small
 +
 +
towns throughout the prairies are nearly ghost towns, their
 +
 +
hotels and schools closed, small businesses open part time if at all,
 +
 +
but I discovered their quietness can make them happy places for
 +
 +
children to roam much more safely on bicycles than in perilous
 +
 +
times when the speed of business was the rule of law as it is today
 +
 +
on the streets of most cities, towns and villages.
 +
 +
      My stop at Alsask was exceptionally pleasant, as it had been in
 +
 +
Acadia Valley, and for the same reasons, the tranquil good nature
 +
 +
of inhabitants.  The hospitality of the owners/operators of the
 +
 +
Alsask business became even more valued when, after enjoying a
 +
 +
coffee and conversation, I motored away only to have yet another
 +
 +
rear tire flat.  I considered camping at a little park close by the
 +
 +
business, but made the repair at the business instead.  I think
 +
 +
their hospitality persuaded me to want to spend more time with
 +
 +
them.  While making the repair I learned that a town a few miles
 +
 +
west of Alsask was trying to improve their economy with a ‘Strip
 +
Club’, and sure enough, an especially attractive-for-her-age blonde
 +
 +
(yes, another blonde) came walking from the direction of a
 +
 +
motor home, walking with a not overtly but definitely seductive style
 +
 +
across the parking lot as I worked, she and I exchanging smiles
 +
 +
which bordered on invitation to an introduction which could have
 +
 +
led to something interesting if we were both inclined that way, but
 +
 +
age has a way of saying, “Caution is no longer needed, Common
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 +
Sense is no longer needed, fear of S.T.D.s is no longer needed, and
 +
 +
exceptional entertainment is no longer needed because just finding
 +
 +
enough energy for normal entertainment is entertainment in itself. 
 +
 +
I find it relaxing to discover my sexual impulses are being converted
 +
 +
more and more to genuine affection for the opposite sex, that
 +
 +
process in turn encouraging more natural affection for my own
 +
 +
gender, with the result being friendships arise more easily now than
 +
 +
when I was Rammy.  That increase in natural affection
 +
 +
demonstrated itself  just tonight at a fund raising poetry/musical
 +
 +
event for women and Aboriginal youth (at which I read and recited
 +
 +
poetry to the pleasure of all except a woman a few years older than
 +
 +
myself who did not appreciate my calling Shakespeare a madman
 +
 +
for killing Romeo and Juliet when he could have given the play a
 +
happy ending) I was able to share a genuine, parting hug with the
 +
 +
lovely young woman (not a blonde) who had sat beside me for two
 +
 +
hours.  Still .. that blonde in the parking lot sure had a shiny and
 +
 +
attractive trailer .. which she and I could have made a great Gypsy
 +
 +
home out of.
 +
 +
      I think perhaps I did end up camping at the little park across
 +
 +
from the gas station at Alsask, moving on early the next morning, 
 +
 +
the two day ride to Saskatoon memorable for my Laundromat stop
 +
 +
at Kindersley, and especially memorable because just past
 +
 +
Kindersley I saw a ‘Campground’ sign indicating the village of
 +
 +
Brock, just a short run south of the highway, and I felt like
 +
 +
company that night, so turned off, and found a tiny hamlet where a
 +
 +
Dad directed his young son to help me find the campground.  His
 +
 +
son was riding his bicycle with two of his friends on their cycles
 +
 +
and we had a merry time racing here and there in the hamlet and
 +
 +
asking an uncle and then a neighbour but not finding a
 +
 +
campground, only an empty field where the campground was
 +
 +
rumoured to have been, or was possibly still there in disguise as a
 +
 +
vacant field labeled in a government file as a provincial grant .. but I
 +
 +
saw no outhouse or other convenience, and the only bushes for that
 +
privilege being in town and on people’s properties I said goodbye to
 +
 +
my cheerful cycling companions and road out of town towards the
 +
 +
highway where I had seen some small, circular, galvanized steel
 +
 +
sheds with pointed roofs of the kind common on the prairie .. used
 +
 +
for what I don’t know, and among those sheds and bushes I pitched
 +
 +
my tent.
 +
 +
      The next day took me to Rosetown, a large and prosperous
 +
 +
centre of commerce which was memorable for the intense and
 +
 +
disquieting debate I had with myself about whether to visit a
 +
 +
Hutterite colony a few miles out of town which I had visited twenty
 +
 +
five years before when as someone new to the Bible I had wanted to
 +
 +
question the Hutterites about some of their doctrines.  I ended the
 +
 +
debate with the decision to place family affection ahead of religious
 +
 +
interest bound with affection for people I had met only once, easing
 +
 +
my conscience about not visiting the colony’s inhabitants who had
 +
 +
treated me so well with the knowledge that as Christians the
 +
 +
Hutterites would want me to have peace of mind rather than
 +
 +
stressing myself for their sake.  Darn that border deadline! 
 +
 +
      My first (and only) visit to that colony was during a visit to Rick
 +
 +
and Sandy’s.  I had hitchhiked to the colony where the first folks I
 +
encountered where women and children.  Unlike the coldness and
 +
 +
suspicion I encountered from Mennonite women and children
 +
 +
during a similar visit my first meeting with the Hutterites was warm
 +
 +
and welcoming, these women relaxed and speaking freely, the
 +
 +
children displaying curiosity instead of fear.  I explained to the
 +
 +
women why I had come, and they directed me to the Preacher’s
 +
 +
home, where I did find a chilly initial reception (“What do you
 +
 +
want!?” which changed quickly to a genuine warming when the
 +
 +
Preacher, who I will call Jack, accepted my word that my desire was
 +
 +
to discuss biblical doctrine, an acceptance assisted, I think, by the
 +
 +
size of my large print bible which I carried as well as my sincerity. 
 +
 +
      Preacher Jack and I discussed a few things, including the
 +
 +
meaning of the Mosaic commandment which tells not to make
 +
 +
graven images, I at that time not being in favour of using a
 +
 +
camera, and the Preacher, who also served as Colony Headman,
 +
 +
said yes, they also used no cameras and allowed no photographs ..
 +
 +
and yet on the wall of his living room was a large calendar with a
 +
 +
huge photograph of a farm implement, I think it was a Combine.  I
 +
 +
said nothing about the image or the potential idolatry it suggested,
 +
 +
but moved on to the doctrine of non-participation in wars, which we
 +
agreed totally on, and one or two other things, and then the
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 +
doctrine of a woman’s head covering, which I believe the bible says
 +
 +
is her hair, with women’s long being a glory, while the Preacher
 +
 +
Jack said Hutterite women wore caps except for sleeping.  Jack
 +
 +
gave me a brief description of their worship services, which at that
 +
 +
time were conducted in German, and possibly still are, and I was
 +
 +
invited to attend if I wanted to return on a Sunday.  I asked what a
 +
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fellow would have to do to become part of the Hutterite community,
 +
 +
and was told that initiates were employed in a tie factory in New
 +
 +
York State, and then sent out to farms if they were found suitable. 
 +
 +
About that time the Preacher’s wife came downstairs (a strikingly
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 +
tall and beautiful blonde (couldn’t you have guessed?) in her head
 +
 +
covering) and Jack announced it was time for their communal lunch,
 +
 +
and would I please join them.  The men ate in a body before the
 +
 +
women, with the women serving, and I regarded that custom not as
 +
 +
anything other than convenience, because the men work in the
 +
 +
fields and the barns, and are of course a bit grubby, and if everyone
 +
 +
ate together the women’s clothing would become soiled, and as it
 +
 +
was a communal meal some order had to be set .. although I would
 +
 +
prefer a buffet rather than being served, so that everyone could
 +
eat together, with sufficient space between diners allowing the
 +
 +
women’s clothing not to become soiled.  The members of the
 +
 +
commune seemed genuinely happy, in fact they were the
 +
 +
happiest ‘group’ of people I have seen, all with sincere natural
 +
 +
affection, only one of them, the mechanic, seeming to be somewhat
 +
 +
grumpy, and they were all sincerely welcoming to me, I sitting in
 +
 +
their midst and discussing with them and feeling genuinely
 +
 +
appreciated for my interest in their scripture based lives, and I also
 +
 +
felt unusually comfortable .. almost ‘at home’.  I debated with
 +
 +
myself for months after as to whether I should attempt to spend
 +
 +
time at the New York tie factory, but I had given up any liking for
 +
 +
the ties years before (I have not owned a suit or sport coat for 30
 +
 +
years) and decided against the tie factory.
 +
     
 +
      After lunch I said goodbye to many of them, and still remember
 +
 +
their smiling, kind and affectionate faces,  and was halfway to the
 +
 +
‘outside’ when a pickup truck with three of the men stopped
 +
 +
beside me for an additional goodbye, and although only one of
 +
 +
them asked me, “What’s it like out there?”  I saw by the other two
 +
 +
faces that they were equally interested.
 +
 +
      ‘It’s terrible,” I said, “countless children and men and women
 +
with broken hearts because of broken homes, crime, violence,
 +
 +
alcohol addiction and drug addiction, churches which say they
 +
 +
believe in Jesus Christ but encourage their young people to
 +
 +
participate in war, old people isolated in institutions, doctors who
 +
 +
don’t have any idea how to heal except with drugs, friends who are
 +
 +
too busy chasing more money to find time for friends .. it’s a cold
 +
 +
and lonely society.”  I told them my thoughts were on the tie factory. 
 +
 +
They all nodded appreciatively, then were on their way to the fields.
 +
 +
      Despite the terrible nature of our society, there are good people
 +
 +
in it, and many of them, and when I was mopeding through
 +
 +
returning to Rick and Sandy’s home one of the good people, and a
 +
 +
motorcyclist at that, came along beside me at a stop sign.
 +
 +
      ‘You’ve been travelling far,’ he said, ‘Where are you headed?
 +
 +
      ‘To my brother’s house here in Saskatoon, but this detour
 +
 +
(there was road work going on) has gotten me lost.’
 +
     
 +
      ‘Which address?’
 +
 +
      I told him, and he said, ‘Follow me.’
 +
 +
      Follow him I did, and for all the debating I had done with
 +
 +
myself about going here or stopping there the timing worked out
 +
 +
perfectly (spiritual timing is far more accurate than atomic clocks)
 +
with me and my new friend pulling up to Rick and Sandy’s front
 +
 +
gate at the exact time Sandy returned from the neighbourhood
 +
 +
swimming pool with my niece, Sherry Lee, and Sherry’s young son
 +
 +
Duncan.  I had not seen Sherry for almost 20 years (sad, yes, sad,
 +
 +
very sad, how families grow apart) but we had always been close in
 +
 +
our hearts, and she gave me a tremendous smile and called “Uncle
 +
 +
Bob!”  Sandy, however, looked at me with sharply unveiled
 +
 +
suspicion and told Sherry in a commanding voice to take Duncan
 +
 +
into the house.  I realized instantly that Sandy’s suspicion arose
 +
 +
from my motorcycle guide’s slim build and helmeted head which
 +
 +
disguised his gender.  Sandy had remembered a similar incident 25
 +
 +
years previous, when I had brought a strange woman ‘home’.  I
 +
 +
can’t blame Sandy for her hasty conclusion, because here I was
 +
 +
roaming the wildwoods on a moped as if I had not passed through
 +
 +
my hippy phase during which Sandy and Rick had returned home
 +
 +
from work to find me and the young lady using their kitchen to cook
 +
 +
hippy lentils or some other exotic dish.  How could Sandy know that
 +
 +
in the last three years I had almost gained the physical and
 +
 +
emotional status of eunuch?  Touring the wildwoods was one thing,
 +
 +
but involvement with strange women was another.  I did not spell
 +
out details to Sandy on this occasion, but said only, “Hey .. that
 +
 +
was 25 years ago.  I’ve grown up a bit.”  I explained to my escort
 +
 +
what Sandy was thinking, and he obliged by removing his helmet so
 +
 +
Sandy could see for herself.  Sandy said ‘thanks for guiding him
 +
 +
here,’ and passed walked to her door.  I told Jack that if I was
 +
 +
going to be around for awhile I would like to spend some time with
 +
 +
him, but that I would only be with Rick and Sandy for a short time
 +
 +
before heading east to meet my border deadline, and after I thanked
 +
 +
him again for his help he wished me a ‘Happy Trails’ and was off.
 +
 +
      Happy Trails it was, too, with Duncan and I making a quick
 +
 +
and solid friendship, and with Rick having time off work, and Sandy
 +
 +
retired, and with the weather beautiful, and the municipal
 +
 +
swimming pool only a short walk, and by gosh we had a great swim
 +
 +
and a great time.  I think it was Sandy’s birthday, or close to it,
 +
 +
and I had picked up in a solitary prairie tea room a bottle of
 +
 +
relatively expensive ointment for Sandy’s dry skin problem, and that
 +
 +
gift balmed the fright my motorcycle guide had given her.  When
 +
 +
visiting their home I shared a room in the basement with Rick, and
 +
 +
that of course brought back memories of Rick and I sharing a room
 +
 +
as boys .. and lots of other happy memories were gained, and that
 +
Duncan sure was a great lad, and when it came time for me to leave
 +
 +
he did not want to say goodbye, and I told him I understood
 +
 +
perfectly, because I loved him and did not want to say goodbye to
 +
 +
him either.  After a few minutes our shared emotions allowed him
 +
 +
a goodbye hug.  Relatives sure can be wonderful things until they
 +
 +
grow up and ignore relatives.
 +
 +
      Another Saskatoon sorrow was finding out that Prince Albert
 +
 +
National Park, about 120 miles north of Saskatoon, where Grey Owl
 +
 +
and Annahereo raised Beavers, was out of the question for a visit
 +
 +
due to price.  As things worked out with my border deadline I
 +
 +
would not have had time to visit the park anyway, but my heart was
 +
 +
heavy for not seeing the cabin Grey Owl wrote his wonderful books
 +
 +
in.
 +
 +
      My multiplied sorrows combined with a brand new route
 +
 +
out of town got me lost and detoured leaving Saskatoon, but a 
 +
 +
solitary and lovely young woman in a cotton dress taking lunch on
 +
 +
the sunny lawn of her employer pointed the way south to Highway
 +
 +
219 and 100 mile long Lake Diefenbaker … ohhh if I had been that
 +
 +
young hippy of 25 years before riding a slightly larger motorbike
 +
 +
who knows what lovely interludes could be alluded to  .. but I was
 +
no longer that hippy .. what I was, after only about ½ hour
 +
 +
traveling time, was fixing yet another flat rear tire, this time near
 +
 +
some highway reconstruction, but I was blessed by a broad
 +
 +
shoulder of grass in which to do my repair.    The road construction
 +
 +
made for interesting riding, and indeed the old highway itself was
 +
 +
interesting in a wonderful way, running first through Flatland, yes,
 +
 +
there is an official sign on the road saying ‘Flatland’ .. whether
 +
 +
Flatland is a village or signifies the area I don’t know .. but flatland
 +
 +
it is .. so flat it defies the curvature of the earth .. so flat it’s as if
 +
 +
God used a carpenter’s level scores of miles long to lay out this
 +
 +
stretch of what by definition is the only true flatland I saw on the
 +
 +
prairie.  Perhaps the undulations of the water which created
 +
 +
flatland .. for the prairies are, it is said, the bottom of a lake,
 +
 +
perhaps the tidal undulations caused this sifting of silt into this
 +
 +
perfect flatness .. I don’t know .. but I saw the same perfect grain by
 +
 +
grain deposition of sand or clay or whatever in the hills around Lake
 +
 +
Diefenbaker .. as if God took one grain at time and placed it to
 +
 +
perfection  .. but this was not hills, this was Flatland .. and it really
 +
 +
should be promoted as a tourist destination for its uniqueness ..
 +
 +
whether it will or will not be promotes Flatland was the first flat
 +
prairie I had seen since leaving Winnipeg six weeks before, although
 +
 +
the flat prairie around Winnipeg is mountainous compared to
 +
 +
Flatland.
 +
 +
      Highway 219 appears to be little used in this day and age, with
 +
 +
the modern, intercity Number 11 connecting Saskatoon with
 +
 +
Regina.  As far as I discovered on my little trip the only centres of
 +
 +
commerce between Saskatoon and the Gardiner Dam on
 +
 +
Diefenbaker Lake are small tourist camps on small lakes and on the
 +
 +
river.  The road runs rough at times, and takes a traveler through
 +
 +
woodlands of a large Aboriginal Reserve which appears mostly
 +
 +
unfarmed.  The Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River is
 +
 +
a  worth a slight detour.  This dam is basically a big dyke of earth ..
 +
 +
but of a size to back up the river for 100 miles, creating long and
 +
 +
narrow Lake Diefenbaker.  At the dam is a visitor centre and
 +
 +
cafeteria, and a provincial park which I motored through thinking I
 +
 +
might spend the night if I could find a reasonable price .. but I
 +
 +
motored on, 219 becoming 19 and then 42, roads which are
 +
 +
vastly interesting because they run through country so financially
 +
 +
restricted that the highway is poor pavement one moment and then
 +
 +
dirt the next .. and then poor pavement and then dirt .. very
 +
curious and beautiful .. and barely traveled.  I believe it was
 +
 +
outside of the first village, Elbow, where after tramping down tall
 +
 +
grass in a well treed spot I pitched my tent on an abandoned family
 +
 +
farm, or it may have been outside of Eyebrow.  Perhaps Elbow was 
 +
 +
the name of the small tourist village on Lake Diefenbaker which was
 +
 +
quietly prosperous and comfortably secluded with a golf course,
 +
 +
inexpensive Chinese restaurant, marina, a few stores, and a
 +
 +
genuine sod house museum which is a marvel of construction, built
 +
 +
low with thick walls which would make it easy to warm in winter
 +
 +
and which would help cool it in summer.  Do I remember the roof
 +
 +
being sod as well?  I believe so .. I have some photographs but
 +
 +
financial restrictions prohibit film development.
 +
 +
      Between Elbow and Eyebrow you will find if you: drive slowly;
 +
 +
search carefully; and don’t mistake the dam for a flat stretch of
 +
 +
natural prairie soil .. the Qu’Appelle dam on the south western
 +
 +
stretch of Lake Diefenbaker out of which flows the tiny Qu’Appelle
 +
 +
River.  The river begins as barely a stream, not gaining much flow
 +
 +
as it wanders through the exceptionally beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley
 +
 +
with its quiet and lakes bordered by the most gentle and beautifully
 +
 +
sculpted of any of earth’s hills which I have seen .. although I have
 +
not seen Calvary .. but of all the places on the prairies I would
 +
 +
recommend for scenic beauty it is the Qu’Appelle Valley, which I
 +
 +
will tell you more of shortly.  I have read somewhere that before the
 +
 +
Qu’Appelle dam was built the river was known as the reversing river
 +
 +
because it could flow in either direction according to where rain fell
 +
 +
heaviest. 
 +
 +
      If nearly abandoned villages are the main calling for your
 +
 +
prairie quest then then the 25 miles of Highway 42 between
 +
 +
Eyebrow and Highway Two would be a good road to run .. with
 +
 +
beautiful villages of Brownlee, Keeler and Marquis lying peacefully
 +
 +
near-empty.  On examining my map though I see 100 miles south
 +
 +
lies the Grasslands National Park on the Frenchman River, on the
 +
 +
Montana-Saskatchewan border, and that island of natural prairie
 +
 +
should also be a must-see .. and one I should return to the prairie
 +
 +
for especially because my map signifies a ‘Prairie Dog Colony’ ..
 +
 +
those Colonies being not only huge, but critical to the wellbeing of
 +
 +
natural prairie, with their countless burrows allowing rainwater to
 +
 +
soak into the earth instead of running off through gullies, causing
 +
 +
flooding.  Dad tells me that as a boy he earned money through the
 +
 +
Prairie Dog Bounty program .. coming to see the harm he was doing
 +
too late .. and I believe Prairie Dog bounties still exist in the west.
 +
 +
Oh the ignorance of humankind.
 +
 +
      It was ignorance of scope and scale which on Highway 42
 +
 +
got me lost and  turned around and running north down the same
 +
 +
road I had come south on.  To easterners or mountain folk the
 +
 +
prairie can look the same from any direction, one grain elevator
 +
 +
looking nearly the same as the next, although a prairie eye would
 +
 +
see minute differences (‘Nope, that little fleck of paint wasn’t blown
 +
 +
off there last year) and on this cloudy day I had gotten turned
 +
 +
around at a small detour which I had taken to explore an elevator
 +
 +
which sat at a three corner intersection of highways and road, at
 +
 +
Marquis I believe it was, and with the clouds hiding my sun
 +
 +
compass I realized my mistake only when I saw a sign telling me I
 +
 +
was approaching the abandoned village I had visited an hour before
 +
 +
Keeler I believe it was .. which called me back in for another
 +
 +
tour.
 +
 +
      Somewhere on this narrow road, while on one of its sections, I
 +
 +
met up with a large farm truck, one of the really big ones the size of
 +
 +
transports with double trailers, traveling at a good speed in the
 +
 +
opposite direction to me.  I thought I was pretty well ‘road
 +
seasoned’ now though and not concerned about a little gust from
 +
 +
trucks .. I don’t think I even slowed .. and the truck driver didn’t
 +
 +
slow either .. and the blast of air almost stopped me in my track.  It
 +
 +
didn’t come close to knocking me over though .. I guess I had gotten
 +
 +
the ‘hang’ of balance.  I would be more careful next time meeting a
 +
 +
truck like that though.
 +
 +
      In  this stretch of day I stopped at a roadside gas stop to see if I
 +
 +
could get a coffee, which I didn’t get because I the place was closed,
 +
 +
not surprisingly, as folk from nearby Regina don’t need to drive to
 +
 +
Lake Diefenbaker as they have their own 60 mile long Last
 +
 +
Mountain Lake for recreation, so there is very little reason for
 +
 +
anyone to run Highway 42 unless you’re a nostalgia buff.  The
 +
 +
closed gas stop did have an outdoor soft drink vending machine
 +
 +
which worked, and as I took my ease on a bench fronting the
 +
 +
business a pair of young men in a pickup truck pulled up thinking
 +
 +
they could get gasoline and also staying for a cold pop.  One of the
 +
 +
young men’s parents owned 10,000 acres to the northwest
 +
 +
somewhere, up around Edmonton I believe it was, and they had
 +
 +
just finished ‘spraying’ the whole thing and were taking a small
 +
 +
drive .. a short break .. a little tour .. wondering about taking a
 +
 +
larger tour some day .. to see Mexico.  ‘Good luck,’ I said, I’ve never
 +
 +
been; but Hawaii is nice.’  Our chat was nice .. they’re polite young
 +
 +
men, these westerners, gentlemen, respectful, not much fear if any,
 +
 +
no false machoism either.  Was it from these two I learned about
 +
 +
the Canola disease which is spreading from northwest to southeast,
 +
 +
and which could destroy the industry?  Too much concentration on
 +
 +
one crop .. little or no crop rotation .. little or no fallow time .. too
 +
 +
much chemical fertilizer and not enough organic matter .. diseases
 +
 +
mutating to overcome fungicides .. it all adds up quickly.
 +
 +
     
 +
      Far too soon my run down the middle of nowhere come to its
 +
 +
end. My brother Rick had told me to that to get into the Qu’Appelle
 +
 +
Valley I should turn north at Tuxford onto Highway 2 and this I did,
 +
 +
running into Sun Valley, and crossing a bridge-causeway crossing
 +
 +
beautiful Buffalo Pound Lake where I stopped to chat with
 +
 +
fishermen.  Not many fish were being caught .. but the scenery
 +
 +
displayed the craftsmanship of the Creator’s hand.  Life in the fast
 +
 +
lane caught up with me at Chamberlain, where Highway Two
 +
 +
catches Highway 11, and at a picnic table setting outside a French
 +
 +
Fry-coffee-gasoline stop at that intersection I chatted with a
 +
 +
transport-trucker and his wife who had been running the highways
 +
 +
between Southern Ontario and B.C. for decades.  Contrary to what
 +
 +
some people might think about mopeds mingling with transports
 +
 +
Truckers were some of my best road buddies .. and  lot of truckers
 +
 +
blew a friendly horn my way, especially in the west.  Perhaps I
 +
 +
forgot to tell you of the trucker in the Okanogan Valley who told me
 +
 +
he had seen me in Northern Ontario .. “You really get around on
 +
 +
that thing!” he had said with some admiration.  Yes .. to be admired
 +
 +
for road worthiness by a Trucker is a compliment indeed.  But with
 +
 +
the friendship comes potential for sorrow.  A month or two after my
 +
 +
trip ended I heard through the news media that a western Trucker
 +
 +
and his lady partner were sent to The Eternal Truckstop in the Sky
 +
 +
in a head on collision with another truck .. and if it was that pair of
 +
 +
new friends I can take comfort in saying they were ready to go ..
 +
 +
with no lesson of hospitality remaining to be learned.
 +
 +
      Western hospitality is not just a figment of a Tourism Office
 +
 +
Manager’s imagination.  I had my first experience 30 years before,
 +
 +
when I had hitchhiked into the town of Morden, south of Winnipeg,
 +
 +
hoping to find one of my Dad’s sisters .. Aunt Midge and her family.
 +
My stop was made on a whim, and I didn’t have their family name
 +
 +
or address, and I was in a state of emotional and intellectual shock
 +
 +
from my marriage breakdown.  A Morden police officer stopped his
 +
 +
cruiser beside me and said in a friendly way, “you look lost.”  I told
 +
 +
him the situation, and he asked for my family name and where I
 +
 +
was from.  After he had spoken into his radio a short time he said,
 +
 +
“Get in, I’ll take you there.”  Right to the door .. where I was
 +
 +
welcomed as long lost family.  It was Midge’s husband who
 +
 +
presented me with a shirt-pocket format new testament which I
 +
 +
carried in that pocket for years afterwards, and which led me to the
 +
 +
small measure of sanity I possess.
 +
 +
      Western Hospitality again made itself known 30 miles south of
 +
 +
Chamberlain, about 20 miles north of Regina, when, yes, I was
 +
 +
repairing another rear flat tire.  A motorcycle rider stopped to say
 +
 +
that he was on his way into Regina, and would return the same way
 +
 +
immediately, and ‘did I have need of anything?’  I said I did not
 +
 +
know how well my tube repair would hold, and if he passed a bike
 +
 +
shop which stocked my size I would be grateful if he picked one up.
 +
 +
He motored off as I completed my repair, which was successful by
 +
 +
the way, taking me a few hundred miles, but I had not gone far
 +
when the motorcycle rider (I’ll call him Jack) returned with not one,
 +
 +
but two new tubes.  When I asked him how much I owed him he
 +
 +
replied, “No charge .. Regina Hospitality”.  Thanks, Jack.  The
 +
 +
comfort of having those two tubes was so great that I have packed a
 +
 +
pair ever since.
 +
 +
      Jack also told me the best way to avoid the traffic of Regina as I
 +
 +
progressed towards my desired destination of Fort Qu’Appelle
 +
 +
would be to turn north at Lumsden onto Highway 20, and this I did,
 +
 +
but first touring ‘the upper end’ of Saskatchewan’s economy in the
 +
 +
pretty and prosperous Qu’Appelle Valley village of Lumsden, where I
 +
 +
saw building lots on sale for $120,000, and where I also saw a
 +
 +
newspaper office, and stopping there, told the story of Jack and the
 +
 +
two tubes, saying that as a former newspaper reporter I thought
 +
 +
Jack’s kindness was worthy of publication .. and with the
 +
 +
newspaper staff in agreement, Jack is now a famous man in the
 +
 +
west .. and my moped and me also, as we were all featured
 +
 +
together. 
 +
 +
      I returned to little traveled roads when I left the busy Number
 +
 +
11 at Lumsden, these roads for the most part well paved, but it may
 +
 +
have been at Craven, just out of Lumsden, that I was advised by
 +
local folk to take a shortcut, a wonderful dirt road running
 +
 +
alongside the Qu’Appelle River for 20 miles .. a beautiful ride during
 +
 +
which I encountered only one or two vehicles.  At the end of that
 +
 +
ride I took to pavement on Highway 6 north to 22 east into Fort
 +
 +
Qu’Appelle which is located on what is shown on my map as The
 +
 +
Fishing Lakes.  I made a tour of Fort Qu’Appelle’s short main street
 +
 +
and saw it as a tourist destination with a majority of the population
 +
 +
being native.  I also got a glimpse here of what I see as the tragedy
 +
 +
of the Qu’Appelle waters .. they being turned by farm chemicals into 
 +
 +
liquid more fit to run through Ontario’s industrial heartlands then
 +
 +
through the beauty of the Qu’Appelle.  The waters were so
 +
 +
discouraging that my stay in Fort Qu’Appelle was short .. and
 +
 +
perhaps I am wrong, but I sensed some resentment towards my
 +
 +
presence from a group of natives, and if so I can’t blame them, as
 +
 +
Caucassian farmers and cottagers are mostly to blame for the
 +
 +
destruction of the west’s natural water habitats, and that
 +
 +
destruction of course makes a natural, aboriginal way of life
 +
 +
impossible.
 +
 +
      Highway 22 took me upland away from the lakes and river to
 +
 +
what seemed like a somewhat prosperous town of Balcares, where I
 +
found a gas station/restaurant at which the owner attempted to
 +
 +
operate a small camping site .. with hookups for mobile homes. 
 +
 +
The owner, who I will call Jack, gifted me with one corner of the
 +
 +
unoccupied trailer park to tent in, from which I left the next
 +
 +
morning with knowledge of a Country Fair being held that same day
 +
 +
in Abernethy, only a few miles away and on my route.  Abernethy
 +
 +
is situated slightly off the highway and I passed by the road leading
 +
 +
to the village, and had to retrace my path.  I arrived as the parade
 +
 +
was forming .. yes a parade .. a fine, long parade of antique farm
 +
 +
implements, RCMP cruiser with officer in scarlet uniform, fire truck,
 +
 +
floats, a tiny military presence, antique vehicles, an operating steam
 +
 +
combine or thrasher if memory serves me correctly ..  all decorated
 +
 +
with balloons and ribbons, and to which, after I made my request
 +
 +
as a Saskatchewan grandmother’s grandson, I was allowed to
 +
 +
enter with my moped decorated with balloons and ribbons provided
 +
 +
by the parade’s officers.  What a grand parade we had .. with a
 +
 +
tremendous welcome shown to the hairy stranger on the moped,
 +
 +
and with a display of respectful gratitude shown to the eagle feather
 +
 +
which rode my moped by a native elder seated in his doorway. 
 +
 +
      After the parade a sausage on a bun (or was it chili?) fulfilled
 +
the function of lunch, during which I watched some of the horse
 +
 +
show, and then I toured the indoor exhibits in the company of the
 +
 +
local newspaper reporter who was not reserved in wanting to do a
 +
 +
story on my moped’s capacity for inexpensive and ecological travel. 
 +
 +
Such a fine day .. and a good crowd too, for such a small village so
 +
 +
far off the main path of commerce. 
 +
 +
      I declined an invitation to camp on the fairgrounds .. “Spend
 +
 +
the entire day, take a break from the road.”  With some regret I said
 +
 +
I had two aunts to visit in separate towns in Manitoba, and after
 +
 +
presenting my moped’s decorative touches to a young boy coming
 +
 +
in  the gates with his mother I was on the road again.  Just past
 +
 +
Abernethy is a pioneer site so famous it is marked on my provincial
 +
 +
highway map, the Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site.  I
 +
 +
decided not to visit that site, whatever its significance, partly
 +
 +
because I had become acutely aware of the almost total lack of
 +
 +
roadsign reminders of aboriginal history honouring the part the
 +
 +
natives played in welcoming Caucasians to North America, and
 +
 +
especially the part they played in Caucasian pioneer survival.
 +
 +
      A few miles outside of Abernethy a farm laneway with a simple
 +
 +
sign announcing a family name did call me though, and at the end
 +
of the lane I found one of the most beautifully secluded places I’ve
 +
 +
seen, well blessed with a spirit of ‘organics’, an old and small
 +
 +
farmhouse which was still inhabited if I read the signs correctly, a
 +
 +
small pond, and outstanding in its significance an old barn around
 +
 +
which and out of which and into which flew crowds of Swallows ..
 +
 +
among the few birds I saw remaining on the prairies .. even the
 +
 +
ducks in decline through their tougher and tougher battle against
 +
 +
chemical onslaught.  Attempts are being made to help the ducks
 +
 +
from natural predators like foxes, with nesting boxes being built in
 +
 +
the centre of sloughs, but man’s rapacious commerce is the
 +
 +
creatures’ foremost enemy .. and until a return to nature’s ways are
 +
 +
made I’m sure the ducks will remain in decline.
 +
 +
      Not far past this stop I found a large transport farm truck
 +
 +
stuck from having grounding itself during a tight turn.  To my great
 +
 +
surprise a person who I thought at first sight was a boy climbed
 +
 +
down from the cab .. but as I watched this boy work I realized that
 +
 +
despite a youthful face he was no boy, but a man fully mature in
 +
 +
the world of work, although slightly inexperienced in big truck
 +
 +
turns.  I offered assistance, but could do no more than provide a
 +
 +
pair of eyes for traffic and a hand if the trucker injured himself in
 +
his heavy work.  I did wave down an approaching motorist, and
 +
 +
we watched together as the young man successfully removed his
 +
 +
truck from its predicament.
 +
 +
      Moving on I finally found the full material manifestation of a
 +
 +
spiritual calling I had held for 25 years.  Qu’Appelle in the French
 +
 +
language means either ‘someone is calling’ or ‘who is calling’,
 +
 +
depending on which Englishman you speak to .. but the Valley is
 +
 +
known by anyone who has been near it as having a calling spirit ..
 +
 +
something in its nature just draws an obedient traveler into its
 +
 +
great beauty.  The Qu’Appelle had been calling to me since my
 +
 +
prairie hitchhiking expedition 25 years ago.  I was on my way back
 +
 +
to Ontario, and a Good Samaritan had let me off at an intersection
 +
 +
of country roads somewhere, I can’t recall where, but the only sign
 +
 +
of civilization was a small and faded wooden road sign reading,
 +
 +
‘Qu’Appelle Valley’, and pointing down a gentle road which
 +
 +
declined through a border of trees on both sides into an unseen
 +
 +
valley.  How and why I resisted that beautiful and strong call I don’t
 +
 +
know .. but the memory stayed with me, and when I had returned
 +
 +
to Ontario I explored the valley off and on over two decades on
 +
 +
maps and in literature, and when my first sight of the river flowing
 +
below the Qu’Appelle Dam was a genuine thrill.  Now I had come to
 +
 +
what I view in my mind’s eye as being Qu’Appelle’s soul .. the
 +
 +
last two Qu’Appelle Lakes, Crooked Lake, and Round.  The road on
 +
 +
the north side of these lakes runs partway up beautifully sculpted
 +
 +
hills and vistas over the lakes are common.  Frequent dirt roads
 +
 +
run from the hills to tiny communities on the shores .. and the   
 +
 +
sadness of Qu’Appelle’s soul is that these lakes, despite their
 +
 +
beauty, are almost ruined because of farm runoff mingled with he
 +
 +
effluent from huge numbers of cottage septic systems.  Cottage
 +
 +
owners may be used to the smell of rotting algae, but I could not
 +
 +
go in for a swim despite the people who were happily using the
 +
 +
waters.  The ruination, however, can’t dispel the scenic splendour
 +
 +
which is accented by huge and bountiful roadside Chokecherry
 +
 +
Trees.
 +
 +
      Dusk was still a couple of hours away, and I thought to camp
 +
 +
for the night at the eastern end of  the easternmost lake, Round
 +
 +
Lake, where a small dam spills the lake’s waters into the Qu’Appelle
 +
 +
River, those waters then flowing east another 50 miles to the
 +
 +
Assiniboine which winds its way to Winnipeg.  I parked my bike and
 +
 +
took a walk across the dam for a hike.  I had not walked long when
 +
I found a native family having a picnic in a parklike setting.  No
 +
 +
signs told the park status but I believe this was Reserve land, and
 +
 +
as I approached the family I wondered if I would be welcomed. 
 +
 +
      “Sit down .. eat!” I was commanded.  Hamburgers and hotdogs
 +
 +
were abundant.
 +
 +
      I sat and ate.  My hosts were three young men, a Senior
 +
 +
woman, a man my age, a young woman.  I was invited to share
 +
 +
their liquid refreshment .. alcohol in a couple of forms .. soft drinks
 +
 +
also.  I think the only person at the picnic not affected by alcohol
 +
 +
was Grandmother .. and there was an unidentifiable undercurrent
 +
 +
of strong and unhappy emotion .. possibly economic hardship, I
 +
 +
told myself.
 +
 +
      Nevertheless the picnic held an air of merriment.  We talked
 +
 +
about fishing.  ‘Yes, there are fish left in the lake; but you have to
 +
 +
know where to find them.  Just along this south shore .. around
 +
 +
those hills.’  I told the family the part their relatives played in
 +
 +
saying the lives of my great grandfather and his family .. and we all
 +
 +
agreed that the natives had been paid back very badly for their
 +
 +
kindness .. and I made what apology I could for my race’s part in
 +
 +
their demise. 
 +
      An hour passed and I felt comfortable enough begin to think
 +
 +
how I would phrase my question, what is the difficulty this family is
 +
 +
facing.  The man my age may have read my thoughts.
 +
     
 +
      ‘My son died a few days ago.  His heart was bad.  His last wish
 +
 +
was that we should come to this place, it was his favourite place, we
 +
 +
should come here and have a picnic to remember him.  These are
 +
 +
his brothers.  His grandmother.’
 +
 +
      The young woman said, “I am his sister’. 
 +
 +
      What could I do but put my hand on this man’s hand.  “I’m so
 +
 +
sorry.”  I looked towards everyone.  ‘I have no words to help your
 +
 +
pain .. except that he is in a better place.’
 +
 +
      ‘Yes’, was the unanimous acceptance, and to my surprise it
 +
 +
was not The Happy Hunting Ground mentioned, or The Great
 +
 +
Spirit, but ‘Jesus has made a home for him.’  I think my surprise
 +
 +
showed.  “Yes, we all believe in him.  He is the Creator.  The
 +
 +
Saviour.’
 +
 +
      We were quieter after that .. and soon it was time for them to
 +
 +
leave.  I helped load their car and clean up the site.  Someone
 +
 +
had lost a jacket and we searched until we found it.  We returned to
 +
 +
their car, put our arms around each other .. our hands together. 
 +
We said our goodbyes .. they to their homes .. me to my moped.
 +
 +
      I still thinking of camping at the small dam; but mosquitoes
 +
 +
were thick and hungry .. and the surroundings were not scenic
 +
 +
enough for my spoiled tastes .. and something kept telling me to
 +
 +
move on.  But before I did I had to investigate a better campsite just
 +
 +
beyond the fence at the dam .. and I found what seemed to have
 +
 +
been in an earlier decade a children’s and youths’ camp run by a
 +
 +
philanthropic organization.  The lawns were in good condition, but
 +
 +
the  wood frame buildings needed work, and I was thinking of
 +
 +
pitching my tent on the grounds where the mosquitoes were not
 +
 +
nearly as numerous when from behind a thick row of evergreens
 +
 +
came the voices and laughter of young women, and possibly young
 +
 +
men, teenagers or young adults, playing at a game I guessed to be
 +
 +
volleyball.  From the condition of the camp I estimated the players
 +
 +
were not campers, but day visitors, but nevertheless I did not want
 +
 +
to intrude on anyone’s privacy and I moved on. 
 +
 +
    Perhaps two or three miles from the dam I ran into Highway 9
 +
 +
where I found two bridges side by side crossing the Qu’Appelle
 +
 +
River.  One bridge was old and unused by traffic, the other was a
 +
 +
replacement.  I thought perhaps the old access road to the old
 +
bridge might be good to camp beside, and motored to the old
 +
 +
bridge where I found a fisherman.  We chatted awhile, and then I
 +
 +
searched out a camping spot, but with some spiritual compulsion 
 +
 +
telling me not to camp there I close my eyes to reasonable spots
 +
 +
and motored up the valley’s long slope.  About halfway to the
 +
 +
prairie plateau I saw a sign pointing to a spring in the woods.  I
 +
 +
walked to the spring with my water bottles, and the flow was good,
 +
 +
but another sign at the spring warned the water was unfit.  I
 +
 +
motored another 20 kilometres to the land of chlorinated water
 +
 +
which was loudly heralded by Trans Canada Highway Number One
 +
 +
at the town of Whitewood.  It was dusk now, and I thought to ask
 +
 +
permission to camp on the lawn of a large Service Centre .. but I
 +
 +
had a coffee and gassed up and motored on in what was rapidly
 +
 +
falling darkness.  The highway was busy and dark, a dangerous
 +
 +
ride, and why I did it I don’t know .. but I rode with a feeling of
 +
 +
discontentment . . the Qu’Appelle was ruined .. life stole family
 +
 +
members .. springwater was unfit to drink .. the night grew black ..
 +
 +
the headlights coming towards me grew became blinding in their
 +
 +
glare.  I absolutely could not continue, and I turned into a small
 +
 +
town and found a back street, then I found a municipal right of way
 +
which in a few years would be a street if the town’s population grew,
 +
 +
and there, beside a tall hedge of trees which served as the border of
 +
 +
a homeowner’s property, and in sight of the other neighbour’s
 +
 +
house I may have pitched my tent, or because mosquitoes were not
 +
 +
bothersome I may have just unrolled my sleeping bag and put my
 +
 +
space blanket over me.
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
Chapter  18
 +
 +
 +
 +
Owl Significant and the Longest Day
 +
 +
 +
      I did not want to disturb my neighbours or municipal
 +
 +
authorities the next morning, not that they would have minded my
 +
 +
presence, but I did not want to take any chances, so I rose before
 +
 +
dawn on a Saturday and rode about 40 kilometres to the Manitoba
 +
 +
border.  I had another reason for getting up early .. and that was I
 +
 +
wanted to get to Modern, south of Winnipeg, to my Aunt Midge’s so
 +
 +
we could attend church together on Sunday morning.  I had phoned
 +
 +
her from the Service Centre and she told me she had an
 +
 +
appointment on Saturday north of Winnipeg in Beausejour, the
 +
 +
same town I had visited on my second morning coming west
 +
 +
through Manitoba; and she could not promise to be home Sunday
 +
 +
morning but she would make the attempt.  The distances were not
 +
 +
great, about a two hour drive each way, but Aunt Midge did not
 +
 +
drive and was relying on a friend for transportation so could not set
 +
 +
the schedule.  I told her that if I got to her home and she was not
 +
 +
there I would wait for her return, but I also told Midge that with my
 +
 +
my frequent flat tires I could not guarantee getting to her home in
 +
 +
time for church.  We agreed that what was to be would be.
 +
 +
      Even without tire problems my ride to Morden would be long ..
 +
 +
about  250 miles .. eight hours of steady riding at 30 miles per
 +
 +
hour.  However .. I had 24 hours to do that 8 hours in, daylight
 +
 +
hours were long, and I knew that I could ride comfortably at night if
 +
 +
I was not blinded by headlights.
 +
 +
      At the Manitoba border I stopped at the Welcoming Centre and
 +
 +
made breakfast, then motored on.  A mile or two past the Centre I 
 +
 +
saw a dead owl .. a large one .. on the highway’s gravel shoulder. 
 +
 +
Normally I would show respect for the departed by stopping and
 +
 +
moving the dead bird or animal off the gravel and into the roadside
 +
 +
grass.  This time, though, I rode past, continuing on to a truck stop
 +
about five miles further along where I had coffee.  This particular
 +
 +
stop seemed peculiar only because of the rough condition of the
 +
 +
pavement leading to the business .. I had had a jolt which almost
 +
 +
threw me .. the roughest of the trip.  I found the extent of the jolt
 +
 +
after coffee when I was making my exit onto the highway, when
 +
 +
moving slower and using more caution, turning my head to check
 +
 +
behind me instead of trusting my mirrors, I saw my lunch box was
 +
 +
missing from its place on top of my pack pack.  I returned to where
 +
 +
I had parked but found nothing.  I did not think of my jolting entry,
 +
 +
and could only think I had left the lunchbox at the Visitor Centre,
 +
 +
border, so I returned there, but the box was not there either.  I had
 +
 +
no option but to return to the truckstop, and did slow slowly,
 +
 +
searching the shoulder and grass area, and finding nothing but the
 +
 +
owl.  I recognized by the circumstances that the faster I hurried the
 +
 +
slower I would go, so I stopped for the owl to give it a better resting
 +
 +
place .. a place in truth which would be more suited to the pickings
 +
 +
of scavengers .. but at least in the grass the scavengers would not
 +
 +
be threatened by traffic, and the process by which the owl’s
 +
 +
physical presence would convert to organic nutrients for other living
 +
 +
things would be more natural and pleasing than repeated flattening
 +
 +
by vehicle wheels.  I found the owl remarkably undamaged .. its
 +
eyes seemed as bright as if alive.  I mounted the stiff owl on my
 +
 +
moped’s handlebars and took its photo before laying it carefully in a
 +
 +
grassy area.
 +
 +
      My return ride to the truck stop was uneventful, but as I exited
 +
 +
the highway I remembered the hard jolt, and thought perhaps the
 +
 +
box had been shaken off there.  I searched but found nothing,
 +
 +
nothing until I pulled up in front of the gas cash window to ask if
 +
 +
anyone had turned a purple box in, and to the truck stop I
 +
 +
remembered the jolt, and Lo and Behold, there was my lunchbox
 +
 +
outside the door.  The attendant told me a driver had noticed it on
 +
 +
the rough pavement.  Nothing was damaged or missing.  I motored
 +
 +
on another few miles, reaching Highway 8A, which would take me
 +
 +
to southern Manitoba, but did not want to arrive at Midge’s in my
 +
 +
present situation of much dirty laundry, so I stopped at the
 +
 +
highway entrance and checked my map and debated with myself
 +
 +
about the odds of finding a laundromat on 8A, or should I detour a
 +
 +
few miles east to Virden where I was confidant I would find a
 +
 +
laundromat.  I was still debating when a driver stopped and asked
 +
 +
me if I needed help with directions.  I asked if a Laundromat was
 +
 +
available to the south, and he said, ‘Yes .. at your first left turn
 +
there is a White Owl gas station.  There’s a Laundromat there.’
 +
 +
      An owl!!  I was not surprised.  It was a sign .. a message .. that
 +
 +
though things look bad here on earth .. indeed things look terrible
 +
 +
when viewed from many angles .. but there is a great power and
 +
 +
intelligence in charge …things happen for reasons whether we see
 +
 +
those reasons as being good or not  .. and there is a far saner and
 +
 +
cleaner world to come.
 +
 +
      I cleaned up myself and my clothes at the White Owl, but I had
 +
 +
some small problem with my bike which I had to fix .. I can’t
 +
 +
remember what it was .. oh yes, friction against the rear wheel.  I
 +
 +
don’t know how I fixed it, but it was time consuming .. bringing me
 +
 +
again to the realization that time was irrelevant on this leg of the
 +
 +
trip .. and though I would do my best to get to Midge’s on time if I
 +
 +
did it would be God’s will .. if not, Not.  Another peculiar thing
 +
 +
happened at the White Owl Laundromat.  A woman my age was
 +
 +
doing her laundry, and at first she seemed to judge me as being an
 +
 +
undesirable element.  I took special care to dissuade her of that
 +
 +
opinion by cleaning any dirt I had brought in, by stashing my
 +
 +
things out of the way under the table, even by cleaning other
 +
 +
people’s trash.  I impressed her so much that when a younger
 +
woman came in with her laundry I heard the woman my age say,
 +
 +
“He’s not at all what he appears to be.  He’s a gentleman.”  My only
 +
 +
thought was, ‘Okay .. she’s entitled to make mistakes.’
 +
 +
      I had lost valuable time, I thought, and considered taking a
 +
 +
shorter route to Morden than what I had planned .. but once I got
 +
 +
rolling I decided I wanted to ride close to North Dakota .. Cowboy
 +
 +
Country .. and stuck to my original route of straight south for 40
 +
 +
miles to Melita.  Now this was an interesting ride.  For one thing,
 +
 +
a strong and unceasing hot wind was blowing south to north.  I
 +
 +
have told many people about this strange wind now .. as prairie
 +
 +
winds almost always blow west to east.  But I saw this wind as a
 +
 +
definite agent working to fulfill biblical prophecies involving global
 +
 +
warming .. with the wind moving hot air from the tropics to the
 +
 +
arctic.  The wind doubled the time it would normally take me to get
 +
 +
to Melita, and also on the way I encountered a few dead creatures
 +
 +
which needed removal from the highway.  Two small deer, a few
 +
 +
rabbits.  This country was lush with life .. indeed, the whole ride to
 +
 +
Morden was significant in that the farmers seemed to use less
 +
 +
chemicals on their fields, seemingly proven by a few weeds here and
 +
 +
there among the sunflowers and other crops, but also proven by the
 +
abundance of wildlife.  Towards sunset that day I saw many Red
 +
 +
Tail Hawks perched atop telephone and hydro poles, their red tails
 +
 +
flashing brightly in the red sunset light.
 +
 +
      Sunset, though, was a long ride in the distance.  I finally
 +
 +
gained Melita, which sits about 30 kilometres shy of the U.S.
 +
 +
border, and stopped at a rustic café.  Yes, I can easily and truthfully
 +
 +
call that café rustic .. where a rustic table was hosting three rustic
 +
 +
men and a rustic lady, all of them my age, and all of them wearing
 +
 +
welcoming countenances.  I should have pulled a chair up to their
 +
 +
table but I chose the chair nearest theirs at the nearest table.
 +
 +
      “If a person kills someone they call it murder ..” one of the men
 +
 +
said to his friends, and to me also, “.. but if a General murders ten
 +
 +
thousand people they call him a hero.”  That was a good start to
 +
 +
conversation, and a good introduction.  We quickly found that we
 +
 +
were all anti-war hippy types, these people who looked like farmers
 +
 +
and myself, the lady being the waitress and possibly owner of the
 +
 +
café, and our time together was comfortable and humorous ..
 +
 +
with jokes flying and beer and coffee being enjoyed.  I asked if their
 +
 +
neck of the woods held any original prairie .. any land which
 +
 +
remained in the condition it was in before Caucasians arrived. 
 +
“Yes .. just up the road .. past the graveyard ...”  There was some
 +
 +
discussion as to if the acreage was genuinely untouched, as one or
 +
 +
two local farmers harvested hay from it, but that’s all the damage
 +
 +
which was done .. and that was not unreasonable as the natives, it
 +
 +
is said, burned the grasses to enhance fertilization.  I was not in a
 +
 +
hurry to leave such good company, but my desire to see this small
 +
 +
corner of the world called me away, and I found it, and there
 +
 +
discovered some type of bush which was very common there, the
 +
 +
berries of which were small but almost unbelievably bountiful, and
 +
 +
red and orange and pink, tasting somewhat like Aspirin, which did
 +
 +
not surprise me as the leaves of these bushes resembled Willow,
 +
 +
from which the original Aspirin drug was made.  Seeing the
 +
 +
thickness of those berry bushes, and their fruitful bounty, I could
 +
 +
easily picture something which had been impossible for me up until
 +
 +
that time, and that was the means of feeding the billions of
 +
 +
Passenger Pigeons which had made starvation impossible in the
 +
 +
temperate regions of North America.  Flocks so large and fat they
 +
 +
broke huge Oak limbs when they roosted.  Flocks which blackened
 +
 +
the sky.  Flocks which were so easily caught that pioneers fed the
 +
 +
birds to their hogs .. and so there is no wonder in my mind what
 +
happened to the flocks.  But the berries .. I forgot about the berry
 +
 +
tree in Alberta .. in the town where the wonderful musicians were
 +
 +
playing in the park bandshell.  I don’t know what kind of tree it
 +
 +
was, the locals could not identify it, but it was twice as tall as
 +
 +
Melita’s Willow type bushes, and it was loaded with berries
 +
 +
the size of cherries, but not like cherries in taste, and not like a
 +
 +
cranberry either, which I thought they might be because I have
 +
 +
heard of high bush Cranberries .. but these berries were not sour in
 +
 +
the least.  The berries at Melita could not be identified by a
 +
 +
gentleman I met at the site, even though he had eaten them as a
 +
 +
boy.  Ah well .. mysterious berries .. you tasted wonderful .. and
 +
 +
I suspect you were strong medicine as well.
 +
 +
      Saying goodbye to Melita’s berries I headed west on Highway
 +
 +
three and after a short ride came to Medora, where a jog took me to
 +
 +
Deloraine, and then past the Turtle Mountain horizon, and then to
 +
 +
Killarney, where a jog took me to within three miles of North Dakota
 +
 +
.. and all through this country was abundant wildlife and farms
 +
 +
more reminiscent of family labour and togetherness than corporate
 +
 +
mega profit; that pleasant interlude changing to our modern era at 
 +
 +
Clearwater and Crystal City, beach and bikini resort towns which
 +
made use of the Lakes Pelican, Rock, and Swan, all fed by the
 +
 +
Pembina River into which mega pig farm managers (could not
 +
 +
prevent their effluent from flowing) and which, I was told by a small
 +
 +
group of bemoaning locals lads, could no longer be safely swum in,
 +
 +
although that news was generally withheld from traveling strangers
 +
 +
with lots of cash to spend on cottage rentals .. and I said yes, the
 +
 +
same thing had happened for the same piggish reasons to the Lake
 +
 +
Huron shoreline in Ontario.
 +
 +
      Looking now at my roadmap I don’t know how I came so close
 +
 +
to one of those lakes as to see the peculiar and fantastic colour of
 +
 +
the red sunset found reflected only in Manitoba waters .. but there
 +
 +
it was, even though I see the road does not touch the lakes .. roads
 +
 +
and roadmaps are peculiar .. oh, now I remember .. there was a
 +
 +
long sideroad going into and out of Crystal City.  Dusk had fallen
 +
 +
before I got to Crystal City, and I thought to camp for the night, but
 +
 +
tenting prices were, to my class of thinking, exorbitant; and after
 +
 +
gassing up and a brief tour and chats with local folks I motored up
 +
 +
the sideroad onto the highway in darkness .. but that particular
 +
 +
darkness was beautiful and wonderful and brilliantly lit by a full
 +
 +
and bright moon .. a cloudless night .. a cool night too I found ..
 +
but with almost no traffic either passing me or approaching me I felt
 +
 +
like I could ride all  night .. all the way to Aunt Midge in Morden ..
 +
 +
even though I still had 50 miles to go .. what?  Could this map be
 +
 +
mistaken in scale?  At the time I felt like I had another hundred
 +
 +
miles to go .. I guess my long day, and the long day immediately
 +
 +
before this long day, had tired me .. and besides, as I have said
 +
 +
previously, one hour by automobile is normally three hours by
 +
 +
moped .. but even with that, could my 60 years have been catching
 +
 +
up to me?  It had only been a 14 hour day, or possibly 16 hour
 +
 +
day, by the time I got to Crystal City.  Perhaps when all was
 +
 +
considered it was not the least bit surprising to me when I found
 +
 +
myself  out on moonlit Number Three surrounded by huge and
 +
 +
slowly moving ghostly forms which I navigated slowly, O So slowly
 +
 +
through.  How it happened was like this: a vehicle had come from
 +
 +
behind and passed me; but about one mile up the road it had
 +
 +
stopped, pulled off to the side, and then made a U turn and stopped
 +
 +
on the other side of the road, positioning itself so that when I got
 +
 +
close its headlights blinded me, fortunately in a way causing me to
 +
 +
slow almost to a stop .. and so it was that without seeing the ghosts
 +
 +
I entered their midst at a speed which was low enough that even
 +
had I run into one of them no harm would have occurred .. unless
 +
 +
they stampeded .. for stampede potential they had, this herd of
 +
 +
cattle .. cows or steers I don’t know which .. but  huge and white
 +
 +
and ghostly in the moonlight .. and walking past me on all sides. 
 +
 +
When the way was clear I motored over to the driver who had
 +
 +
blinded me.  He said, “I parked like this so you would see them.” 
 +
 +
I should have told him his headlights could have gotten me killed ..
 +
 +
but I felt no resentment .. the experience had been too unearthly ..
 +
 +
and no harm was done.  The driver said he would drive to the
 +
 +
nearest farm and tell them cows were on the highway.  I motored on
 +
 +
along that beautiful stretch of highway, examining dim vistas, fields
 +
 +
ghostly white,  contrasts of light and dark, examine many
 +
 +
interesting places .. with the long day pushing the midnight hour
 +
 +
back into the recesses of never.  The tiny town of Manitou .. did I
 +
 +
tour it late at night, or early in the morning?  I can’t recall.  I do
 +
 +
recall realizing I could not drive any further that night because my
 +
 +
legs were sore .. why my legs I don’t know .. but I felt like I had
 +
 +
been walking all day instead of riding .. and I turned  in at the
 +
 +
first bed of grass I came to, and which turned out to be a ski-resort
 +
 +
.. yes, a ski-resort on the prairie .. there are a few .. this one with A-
 +
frame chalets .. Rainbow Mountain?  Magic Mountain?  I can’t
 +
 +
quite recall.  I pitched my sleeping bag under a tree in the middle of
 +
 +
the main traffic circle .. a dirt road circle of course, as ski hills on
 +
 +
the prairies are not quite Rocky Mountain Whistlers .. and of course
 +
 +
the prairie mountain resort traffic circle had no traffic at this time
 +
 +
of year and this time of night .. but one of the chalets was occupied,
 +
 +
a vehicle parked out front, a television set on .. the blue t.v. light
 +
 +
flashing in the blackness of night .. a night cold enough that no
 +
 +
mosquitoes bothered me.  I slept well after that day of about 350
 +
 +
kilometres .. seven hours of riding at 50 kilometres per hour .. plus
 +
 +
all the stops checking my map at intersections, touring villages,
 +
 +
chatting, taking photos of large, rectangular haybales in a field,
 +
 +
breaks for meals, coffee, tea, gasoline, taking in vistas .. but no flat
 +
 +
tires.
 +
 +
      I was up and away before dawn .. riding until I saw a big sign
 +
 +
at a side road intersection advertising a Voyageur type music
 +
 +
festival site .. and because I had three or four hours to play with
 +
 +
before having to be at Midge’s in time for church, I rode a few miles
 +
 +
down that side road to discover an intersection lost in the boonies ..
 +
 +
and no festival site, so I stopped and searched for prairie
 +
Gooseberries with the normal result of finding none .. but as I was
 +
 +
entering Morden I found a lakeside campground-trailer park with
 +
 +
some of the cleanest water I have seen anywhere .. a dammed creek
 +
 +
I think I remember being told, spring fed.  I briefly debated going
 +
 +
for a swim, but the morning was cool, so it was into downtown
 +
 +
Morden, and to the only restaurant open, at a motel, for breakfast,
 +
 +
where I asked at a table of men breakfasting before golf if anyone
 +
 +
among them could direct me to Midge’s home (Morden is a small
 +
 +
town, and Midge and her family were almost lifelong residents) and
 +
 +
yes, they knew Midge well through church doings, and they, after
 +
 +
assuring themselves that I was not going to do Midge harm, that I
 +
 +
had her address anyway, they directed me, and I found her home,
 +
 +
and waited outside, not wanting to ring her doorbell but to let her
 +
 +
sleep, and in waiting I was approached by a gentleman, a
 +
 +
neighbour, who did not have to ask why I was there because I told
 +
 +
him straightaway to relieve his obvious concern, and he and I had a
 +
 +
great chat for a long time, until Midge opened the door and asked
 +
 +
why I hadn’t rung the bell, “because I didn’t want to disturb your
 +
 +
sleep, Midge”.  And so it was that Aunt Midge and I went to the
 +
 +
same Lutheran church we had attended over 30 years before on my
 +
first visit, that visit made possible by the police officer who had
 +
 +
found my aunt’s address and driven me to her home.  On that first
 +
 +
visit we had gone to church with her son, her daughters, and her
 +
 +
husband.  Now her son and husband were taken up to be with the
 +
 +
Lord, and her daughters although still nearby, were absent from
 +
 +
church that morning. 
 +
 +
      And so it was that Midge and I had a great time together .. and
 +
 +
before my departure, which was that afternoon, because I had to
 +
 +
visit Aunt Florence in Winnipeg before crossing the border, and that
 +
 +
deadline was now only two days away, and I also had to pick up
 +
 +
first thing Monday morning another new tire from the Great
 +
 +
Canadian Motorcycle Shop in Winnipeg, a tire which I had phoned
 +
 +
ahead from Saskatoon to obtain the promise of.  And so it all
 +
 +
worked out, with me tenting Sunday evening on the banks of the
 +
 +
Red River as it passed through the village of  St. Jean Baptiste,
 +
 +
and then crossing the village’s bridge across the river to leave
 +
 +
behind the busy Highway 75 for a much quieter country lane on the
 +
 +
east side of the Red, that road taking me onto Main Street in
 +
 +
Winnipeg, and thence to the motorcycle parts store, and then a
 +
 +
relatively difficult time finding Aunt Florence’s .. and for a really
 +
thorough laundry for my clothing and myself, and a great evening
 +
 +
with Florence and her husband Lawrence; and then while studying
 +
 +
my map I saw that the road I had wanted to take to the prairie
 +
 +
grasslands park in the southeastern corner of Manitoba was
 +
 +
marked as a dirt road, which combined with a possible ‘refusal
 +
 +
to permit entry’ by authorities at the U.S. border, decided my route
 +
 +
into Ontario for me .. straight across to Kenora .. which I
 +
 +
accomplished next morning but not before another rear tire flat ..
 +
 +
and that a particularly peculiar and fortuitous flat peculiar as it
 +
 +
happened during a gasoline stop, the air letting go for seemingly no
 +
 +
reason, but when I examined the tire I found it had worn to the
 +
 +
cords .. a potential blowout tragedy on the busy Trans Canada
 +
 +
Highway.  So my new tire came at exactly the right time .. and I
 +
 +
crossed the border on exactly the right day.
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
Chapter 19
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
Returned to Ontario
 +
 +
 +
 +
      Yes .. to Ontario .. with the crazy maniac driver speeding along
 +
 +
that hypnotic straight stretch of Trans Canada Highway 17, and
 +
 +
coming up behind me at about 100 miles per hour, with the male
 +
 +
driver noticing me at exactly the right time, which was the last
 +
 +
second in which to swerve sharply to avoid hitting me and then
 +
 +
swerve sharply again to regain control.  I’ll bet he won’t fall asleep
 +
 +
at the wheel at high speed again .. and I’ll bet he got an earful from
 +
 +
his long haired girlfriend.
 +
 +
      At Kenora I visit the motorcycle shop people I had chatted with
 +
 +
on my way west, then with dark clouds threatening rain I motored
 +
 +
to the outskirts of town looking for a camping spot, almost pitching
 +
 +
near a patch of abandoned highway which someone had converted
 +
 +
to a final or semi-final resting place for a few old vehicles and an
 +
 +
old boat .. but decided not to pitch there in case someone had
 +
 +
purchased the property and objected to my tent; and I motored
 +
 +
briefly on until I found a spot on a roadside hill on government of
 +
 +
Ontario highway property not much further along.
 +
 +
      About 10 miles east of Kenora is southward running Highway
 +
 +
71 – a true wilderness highway with lots of curves and lakes and
 +
 +
hills and rivers and wild places with names like Rushing River,
 +
 +
Sioux Narrows, Whitefish Bay, Nestor Falls and Caliper Lake ..
 +
 +
and where I stopped at a float-plane base to satisfy my curiosity
 +
 +
about prices for flying canoes into wild places, and where I
 +
 +
conversed with the organizer/host of a U.S. based wild west wagon
 +
 +
train experience.  With rain still threatening I stopped at a
 +
 +
provincial park and inquired about day rates for use of a picnic
 +
 +
shelter to make a meal .. but the price was exorbitant and I
 +
 +
found a beautiful lakeside spot for free a few miles on.
 +
 +
      Now that I was in Ontario I had no time schedule so slowed
 +
 +
down to a very easy pace .. and I had only gone about 50 miles
 +
 +
before making camp at a public boat launch a small lake.  There I
 +
chatted with several fisherpeople before their launch .. and with the
 +
 +
U.S. border only a half hour away by auto I was not surprised that
 +
 +
many of the fisherpeople were American.  Across the highway from
 +
 +
the boat launch was a deforested area which was part of a hydro
 +
 +
corridor, which hosted thousands of raspberry bushes.  The berries
 +
 +
were small, but ripe and numerous, and I was to find these red
 +
 +
raspberries along the roadside for the next several days. 
 +
 +
      Eighty miles south of Kenora as the crow flies you intersect
 +
 +
Highway 11, which along with 17 shares the Trans Canada
 +
 +
designation.  There is a pretty native Reserve at the intersection,
 +
 +
and I turned in for a tour, finding homes which were tidy and well
 +
 +
maintained, three young children who gave me the most wonderful
 +
 +
smiles, and I also found the Rainy River .. a truly beautiful river.  I
 +
 +
think the Reserve was called the Rainy River Reserve, and it is on
 +
 +
par with most reserves I have been on, tidy, clean, well cared for.  I
 +
 +
know the natives have problems, serious problems, but News Media
 +
 +
stereotyping of Reserves is in contradiction to my personal
 +
 +
experiences across Canada.  Young people everywhere are faced
 +
 +
with enormous problems in our age, and I just read a news report of
 +
 +
a small area in Wales which has seen many suicides of youth in the
 +
past short time.  As well, the ‘choking game’ which is an oxygen
 +
 +
deprivation ‘high’ is claiming many lives of middle class
 +
 +
Caucasians. 
 +
 +
      A few miles east of the Reserve is the village of Emo, which the
 +
 +
municipality’s welcoming sign designates as a United Nations
 +
 +
designated place of health.  I saw immediately why .. with little air
 +
 +
pollution, with the fantastic and clean Rainy River .. with economic
 +
 +
prosperity.  I stopped at the Emo riverside park’s covered picnic
 +
 +
tables for lunch .. and heard a sound so beautiful it’s hard to
 +
 +
describe .. the sound of the wind against the relatively slow current
 +
 +
of the river, resulting in gentle whitecaps .. a sound peculiar in all
 +
 +
my experience to this one spot.
 +
 +
      From Emo to Thunder Bay is about 160 miles as the crow flies
 +
 +
.. with red Raspberries and small Blueberries along the way .. and a
 +
 +
bicycler from a European nation who could not find time to pick the
 +
 +
berries .. and who was riding with an infection behind his knee ..
 +
 +
and who passed me three or four times as I picked berries .. and of
 +
 +
course whom I passed the same number of times .. finally leaving
 +
 +
him behind somewhere on the road which was dangerous at times
 +
 +
because it was narrow and traveled by big trucks traveling fast. 
 +
Somewhere along this route I think it was that I stopped at a picnic
 +
 +
table site and found two women traveling in a small vehicle with
 +
 +
several cats .. they all looked rough and I felt sorry for them. 
 +
 +
    Okay .. about the only outstanding memory of Thunder Bay was
 +
 +
that on my way around the north of the city on a little traveled road
 +
 +
was the beautiful barn with the blue roof .. and I can’t remember
 +
 +
much from there until I got to Rossport .. a very pretty and tiny
 +
 +
village with a small, quiet harbour on Lake Superior, where I was
 +
 +
directed to a beautiful and free camping spot in a tiny park on the
 +
 +
lakeshore with picnic tables and outhouses just outside of town.  As
 +
 +
I learned on my lengthy canoe voyages, a picnic table in the scenic
 +
 +
and wild lands is a luxurious luxury indeed.  I spent the next day at
 +
 +
the park, having a brief swim in the cold Superior waters, and
 +
 +
riding into the village in the afternoon to check out a small
 +
 +
construction site which might need an extra man for a few days,
 +
 +
but to no avail, and the next morning I rolled eastward on through
 +
 +
wild territory made somewhat familiar by previous trips eastward
 +
 +
and westward .. some driving .. some hitchhiking .. two by bus .. a
 +
 +
few by rail .. one on my ten speed bicycle.  This is wild country, and
 +
 +
a young woman disappeared in a provincial park at the time I
 +
was camped in Rossport .. she had gone on a hike or a jog by
 +
 +
herself, and simply vanished.  Several possibilities could be
 +
 +
unpleasantly imagined .. not the least of which is an encounter with
 +
 +
a bear.  Almost every wild animal attack I have heard of in the past
 +
 +
few years involved a woman alone in the bush.  Men should not go
 +
 +
traipsing around the woods by themselves, but women subjected to
 +
 +
their menstrual cycle are particular prey.  I am familiar with the
 +
 +
stories of four Polar Bear attacks, three of these involved women,
 +
 +
and the fourth involved two Arctic explorers who found themselves
 +
 +
being stalked as their strength and health failed from lack of
 +
 +
nourishment.  I should not take the risks I do, but until I find a
 +
 +
suitable partner I have no choice but to continue alone.
 +
 +
      A downpour of rain combined with unlimited hospitality
 +
 +
welcomed me to the tiny railroad town of White River which is
 +
 +
famous for being the original home of Winnipe the Poo,  and I
 +
 +
camped two days for free in park attached to the Tourist
 +
 +
Information Centre, that park the site of a railroad display featuring
 +
 +
an old, possibly antique, motorized Railcar previously used for
 +
 +
transporting railroad gang maintenance crews, but now used as
 +
 +
meeting place and Party Central and by the village’s polite,
 +
respectful, and warm hearted young people.  White River is,
 +
 +
unfortunately, an example of northern railroad towns on the
 +
 +
brink of abandonment because they have outlived their profitable
 +
 +
usefulness.  Being far removed from Lake Superior’s shoreline,
 +
 +
White River also has very little to draw tourism, besides the Winnie
 +
 +
the Poo museum which is well done, and a wonderfully genuine
 +
 +
hospitality towards pilgrims, which almost persuaded me to stretch
 +
 +
my two day stay into a third day.  However, my tent was not pitched
 +
 +
far from the Railcar, and in the fading light of dusk of my second
 +
 +
day camped I found myself the object of attention of a young
 +
 +
woman, more properly a girl aged 13 to 15, who in the company of
 +
 +
another girl her age, took to blowing me kisses and running away.  I
 +
 +
packed up next morning and was gone before first light. 
 +
 +
      Highway 17 curves sharply south at White River, carrying me
 +
 +
to a pleasant stop at the prosperous town of Wawa on its beautiful
 +
 +
lake.  I mailed postcards picturing a Raccoon to my two youngest
 +
 +
granddaughters and enjoyed a meal at a Chinese restaurant.  A few
 +
 +
miles further south 17 enters Lake Superior Provincial Park, and
 +
 +
near the park boundary is a gas stop/restaurant set on a hill with
 +
 +
the highway below, and perched on the hill were a few motorcyclists
 +
watching my ride, and I was feeling somewhat elated for some
 +
 +
unknown reason, probably because of the good rest I had at White
 +
 +
River and the meal at Wawa, so I had to clown, standing up on my
 +
 +
pedals and hollering ‘Yahoooooooooo’ or something like that.  They
 +
 +
all laughed of course, and I turned in for coffee and conversation. 
 +
 +
The gas pump attendant remembered me from my stop on my way
 +
 +
west and we had a great chat about the beauties of this part of
 +
 +
Canada .. and I think we talked about the dangers, remembering
 +
 +
the young woman who had disappeared in the woods.  Before
 +
 +
entering Lake Superior I attempted a short tour of Michipoten River,
 +
 +
a wonderfully secluded spot, but the road was too rough for my
 +
 +
liking, so I rode into the park and stopped at the fantastic beauty of
 +
 +
Old Woman Cove, where I fell into conversation with several young
 +
 +
Muslim men who were dressed in traditional robes and head
 +
 +
coverings, and we chatted about God, and I told them I believed the
 +
 +
scriptures to be true, and we agreed that there was only one God,
 +
 +
and to worship him was life, and they said a man should pray
 +
 +
several times a day, and I said the scriptures say we should pray
 +
 +
without ceasing, and there was agreement between us, and they
 +
 +
asked if I wanted to become a Muslim, and I said that I was already
 +
a Christian, but as their religion recognized Jesus Christ as they
 +
 +
Messiah I saw no reason not to join them in their faith, and I asked
 +
 +
what I must do to become a Muslim .. ‘Just repeat this prayer’ ..
 +
 +
and the prayer was in Arabic but I attempted it, and was granted
 +
 +
membership in their faith, and was given a new name .. ‘Bilul’ is as
 +
 +
close to the pronunciation as I can come.  The word Islam, I was
 +
 +
told, means Peace, and by golly I did feel a fresh peace after we
 +
 +
parted company and as I motored the 60 miles of the park.  Oh yes,
 +
 +
I almost forgot the young Catholic men at Rossport who were riding
 +
 +
east on their bicycles on their way to becoming priests in Ottawa. 
 +
 +
Small world this one.
 +
 +
      I really also must mention the miracles of technology at Old
 +
 +
Woman Cove which one experiences in the Park’s composting toilets
 +
.. no scent .. fertilizer as byproduct .. electric fans in the composting
 +
 +
bins powered by solar converters .. simply marvelous. 
 +
 +
      At the south end of the park I snuck my moped onto an
 +
 +
isolated hiking trail and found a huge, sand beach which I had
 +
 +
almost totally to myself.  Good weather had returned, and I swam,
 +
 +
and when dusk fell I set up my tent, concealing everything the best
 +
 +
I could from Park authorities .. for I was relying on grace here in not
 +
stopping at a camping area and paying money into Caucasian
 +
 +
coffers for an eight foot by six foot piece of ground which had been
 +
 +
stolen from the aboriginals.
 +
 +
      I got away with my borrowed property that evening, and rode
 +
 +
on through great beauty the next day, being hailed at an
 +
 +
intersection in Sault Ste. Marie by the two would-be priests on
 +
 +
bicycles.
 +
 +
      East of the Sault I rode into a Motorcycle Rally .. a large
 +
 +
gathering of the big wheels .. and because the money was going to
 +
 +
go towards an aboriginal Reserve I was willing to pay for camping
 +
 +
until I was told the price .. that in combination with the marijuanna
 +
 +
leaves on the lenses of the sunglasses of the gatekeeper .. sorry ..
 +
 +
but at the time I just did not feel the need to be in the centre of the
 +
 +
drug culture even if I was made totally welcome because of my trip
 +
 +
to the west and back on my moped.  I probably missed a great
 +
 +
opportunity though, to mingle with the two wheel motor culture,
 +
 +
and am sorry I did not stay.
 +
 +
      Just east of the rally I rode into another aboriginal
 +
 +
campground, but the price of tenting persuaded me to move on
 +
 +
after telling the operator “you’re as bad as the government.” 
 +
Whatever happened to ‘free love and The Land That They’ll Be
 +
 +
Giving Away When We All Live Together?’  My tiny piece of that land
 +
 +
for camp during that stretch of road was at the end of a bumpy ride
 +
 +
up a dirt track, a municipal right of way between rough farms, a
 +
 +
ride into hunting country, with tiny cabins set in the wild woods,
 +
 +
and finally, a tiny square of  reasonably flat ground where I pitched
 +
 +
my tent across the track from a tiny housetrailer which was
 +
 +
probably used as a lodge for a party of one or two hunters, or a trap
 +
 +
line refuge, with absolutely nothing else around that neck of the
 +
 +
woods that I could see .. no creek .. no river .. no lake .. just
 +
 +
a lot of deer in the right season.  I had to pitch my tent in the dark
 +
 +
that night, and lost the handy little LED flashlight I had been
 +
 +
presented with by a biker friend in Kamloops.
 +
 +
      That ride along the North Channel of Georgian Bay was
 +
 +
beautiful and uneventful until I got to Little Current on Manitoulin
 +
 +
Island, where I slept under a shelter on a picnic table at the Visitor
 +
 +
Information Centre, but not before a short ride in Manitoulin’s pitch
 +
 +
black night during a brief attempt to get to the South Baymouth
 +
 +
Ferry for the last sailing to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula
 +
 +
where I hoped to meet up with friend and Dive Boat Captain Gary. 
 +
I might have continued that nightime ride, but oncoming headlights
 +
 +
were blinding, and I returned to Little Current, where across the
 +
 +
bay from my bed a music festival rocked me to sleep around
 +
 +
midnight.
 +
 +
      The ride to South Baymouth next morning was interesting to
 +
 +
say the least.  It started out well after a restaurant breakfast in
 +
 +
Little Current.  Pastoral countyside traded scenes with lake vistas, 
 +
 +
and I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic beauty until the weather turned
 +
 +
cool and the rain started .. and then the rain gained strength, and
 +
 +
the wind blew hard against me.  I had gotten into my rain gear
 +
 +
though and felt only mild discomfort.  The rain and wind increased
 +
 +
and the temperature dropped though, and five miles shy of the ferry
 +
 +
I turned into a roadside bed and breakfast and asked if I could have
 +
 +
tea, but the proprietors looked at this drowned rat and said, ‘No,
 +
 +
our breakfast is finished’.  So I stood outside under a tree in the
 +
 +
by then pouring rain .. getting so soaked that when the spirit of
 +
 +
mercy came upon the bed and breakfast owner and he came out to
 +
 +
invite me in I declined because of what my wet clothing would do to
 +
 +
his premises.  Rain gear is good for regular rains, but this rain was
 +
 +
anti-regular .. it was hard and steady.  The B&B man tried his best
 +
to persuade me, but I was firm in not wanting to damage his
 +
 +
property, besides, despite having on my rain gear I was as wet and
 +
 +
cold as I could get, I thought, the damage was done, I thought, and
 +
 +
nature could do no more to harm me, I thought.  Bad mistake.  The
 +
 +
rain did not slow .. and I figured I may as well head out .. and the
 +
 +
cold wind increased against me. I think it took an hour to get the
 +
 +
last five miles, counting a tiny detour to try to find a café a
 +
 +
roadsign indicated was just around a corner but was not.  The rain
 +
 +
stopped about one half mile before I got to Baymouth, allowing
 +
 +
most of the rainwater I was carrying to slough off, but the situation
 +
 +
was so cold and wet and ridiculous and I was so glad of shelter
 +
 +
when I finally got into Baymouth that I was in extremely high
 +
 +
humour and walked into a little harbourside café like a rat who was
 +
 +
half-drowned after jumping out of a sinking ship .. a laughing rat ..
 +
 +
with some kind of loud and outrageous comment that made the
 +
 +
small crowd laugh.  A Laundromat .. yes, a Capital ‘L’ laundromat
 +
 +
Praise God for them .. was attached to the café, and I laundered and
 +
 +
dried my clothing .. and warmed up with coffee and a second
 +
 +
breakfast .. and a great time it was. .. then it was time to line up for
 +
 +
boarding the ferry .. and in line was a peculiar looking motorocycle
 +
with a sidecar .. it turned out to be Russian, and built like a tank,
 +
 +
and shared centre of attention with bikers and four wheel drivers
 +
 +
alike with one of the new Honda 125 CC motorcycles and myself. 
 +
 +
There were several bikes in the line and we chatted like old pals and
 +
 +
gals.  The Honda 125 was ridden by a young woman who was
 +
 +
traveling with her boyfriend who was riding a much bigger bike.  I
 +
 +
was not surprised when this couple told the rest of us that the big
 +
 +
bike could not leave the Honda behind in acceleration.  That little
 +
 +
Honda engine gets a lot of power out of a little gasoline .. it has to
 +
 +
to get 90 miles per gallon.
 +
 +
      The ferry ride between Manitoulin Island the the Bruce
 +
 +
Peninsula was its normal GREAT, with wonderful scenery and the
 +
 +
ferry’s comfort; and I arrived at the Tobermory harbour just as
 +
 +
Captain Gary Hendry docked his Dive Boat Maime.  Gary and I had
 +
 +
met the summer before as I paddled my canoe into the Tobermory
 +
 +
Habour on my Ottawa-North Bay-Manitoulin-Lake Huron paddle,
 +
 +
and he had put me up for two nights aboard his boat.  It was this
 +
 +
Great Lake Captain’s regard for my solo canoe voyage which planted
 +
 +
in me the seed of a sense of accomplishment for that trip, which up
 +
 +
until then had seemed like a nice paddle.  When that voyage’s two
 +
day stay in Tobermory came to their end his confident words,
 +
 +
“You’re the captain of your canoe and you can do it” propelled me
 +
 +
even though I faced large wave and rough paddling rounding Cape
 +
 +
Hurd.  It was a thrilling passage just off a hard rock shore which
 +
 +
was snowed under with breaking waves and turbulence which
 +
 +
caused me to paddle further out from shore .. another lesson
 +
 +
reinforced .. and once around the Cape a Southerly propelled me
 +
 +
several very fast miles to a little bay for a two day sanctuary from
 +
 +
winds which had changed direction, as Gary had forecast, and risen
 +
 +
to dangerous speeds .. an altogether pleasant camp at Purgatory
 +
 +
Point. 
 +
 +
      On this mopeding visit Gary and I had a couple of beers each
 +
 +
before he had to prepare for a drive to Toronto where he was
 +
 +
scheduled the next day to pilot a ferry the next day .. that trip to
 +
 +
Toronto being a coincidence because when I visited my friends
 +
 +
Shoshannah and Roger in Lion’s Head about 30 miles south they
 +
 +
were in the process of preparing for a trip to Toronto to care for
 +
 +
their rental house.  I’ve known Shoshannah and Roger for almost
 +
 +
30 years, and was invited to stay in their home until their return,
 +
 +
and could have amused myself doing handyman stuff for them, but
 +
their home is pet friendly and cigarette smoke inhabited, and my
 +
 +
allergies acted up soon after my arrival.  I also could have stayed
 +
 +
with a lady friend of theirs who was living in a cottage near them,
 +
 +
but she too had pets.  I did spend one night with Shoshannah and
 +
 +
Roger, and visited the lady’s cottage, Linda I believe her name was,
 +
 +
but my exposure to animals and cigarette smoke, and also to
 +
 +
the lady friend’s cold germs did me great harm, and I suffered for
 +
 +
weeks afterwards.  One further coincidence in this stretch was that
 +
 +
several days before my arrival Shoshannah and Linda had gotten in
 +
 +
trouble while sailing, and they were rescued by a Captain Gary, but
 +
 +
not the same Gary.  Shoshannah I had met at a folk festival in
 +
 +
Winnipeg 30 years ago during a stint of gospel sharing on Skid Row,
 +
 +
and Shoshannah was also a very active Christian, and she and I
 +
 +
became friends at first sight.  Her home was Toronto at that time,
 +
 +
and mine Peterborough, so we were in close touch for the first
 +
 +
decade, but had rarely seen each other in the past 20 years .. the
 +
 +
last time about five years ago.  I did not even know if they lived in
 +
 +
the same house .. and they were sure surprised to see me. 
 +
     
 +
      I look at this story sometimes and see where some people could
 +
 +
picture me a wealthy man, with friends who captain Dive Boats,
 +
and other friends who own sailboats and live in summer resort
 +
 +
villages; but I often meet friends in those times when I have stepped
 +
 +
out in faith  .. and faith is rich indeed. 
 +
 +
    My first moped trouble besides flat tires came to me on the
 +
 +
Bruce Peninsula, and I think my problem was dirt in the gasoline
 +
 +
picked up at Tobermory.  My top speed declined slowly the further I
 +
 +
traveled, until by the time I got to my Dad’s in Lucan I was barely
 +
 +
able to make headway against a wind.  I’ve since learned about
 +
 +
cleaning filters and carburetor, but at that time my grand lack of
 +
 +
knowledge of things mechanical persuaded me not to fiddle around
 +
 +
with my engine until I got to Dad’s, who has rebuilt automobile
 +
 +
engines.  That portion of the trip in mileage was only about 150
 +
 +
miles, but took two full days.  My camp in the Lake Huron village
 +
 +
of Southhampton was on a waterfront park bench, but I had a
 +
 +
private washroom all to myself that night because I used a wad of
 +
 +
compressed paper to jimmie open the public washroom’s automatic
 +
 +
door lock.
 +
 +
      The last day to Lucan and Dad was long .. sunrise to sunset ..
 +
 +
slower and slower going all the time .. but I spent two weeks with
 +
 +
Dad, during which we opened the engine and cleaned and polished,
 +
and had a terrible time getting the thing back together again
 +
 +
because Dad is 84 and his eyes aren’t as good as they used to be ..
 +
 +
and I had taken the engine apart when he was not looking and I
 +
 +
had forgotten to make diagrams of which parts fit where and what
 +
 +
one part in particular did (the idle screw looked to him and also to
 +
 +
me like an air mixture screw but I knew it was not an air mixture
 +
 +
screw and he did not have that knowledge  .. and Dad had
 +
 +
preconceived notions of where some parts fit but I knew they didn’t
 +
 +
fit there, etc.. but because of my Dad’s great experience with tools
 +
 +
and engines I doubted my own certain knowledge .. and our
 +
 +
friendship frayed and I finally had to go ahead without his looking
 +
 +
in on things .. but I had found schematics on the internet and got
 +
 +
the thing together .. but it still wasn’t working right .. and I took it
 +
 +
apart again just to make sure everything was together correctly, etc
 +
 +
.. and finally it seemed to be working not too bad .. and on the final
 +
 +
run to Ottawa it ran well for the first 20 miles then slowed right
 +
 +
down again, but this time I was certain dirt in the carburetor was
 +
 +
the culprit and I raised the bike on its stand and ran the engine at
 +
 +
full throttle for a minute or so .. and that cleared the dirt.  But I had
 +
 +
another rear flat at Kitchener, which I repaired but which I had no
 +
confidence in the repair, and now had no guaranteed spare tube, 
 +
 +
and so camped the night in my tent on the grass beside the picnic
 +
 +
table which the motorsports store employees used for breaks  .. and
 +
 +
in the morning before I had time to introduce myself was told by the
 +
 +
business’s owner to move on before his customers arrived (he was a
 +
 +
kind soul, but a businessman) and I explained I had camped there
 +
 +
because I needed to buy a tube .. and he provided one for $8 and I
 +
 +
gave him a Ten and told him to keep the change, but he returned
 +
 +
with $2 and, being a fine discerner of situations, said, “You might
 +
 +
need this.”
 +
 +
 +
 +
     
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
Chapter 20
 +
 +
 +
 +
“Home is the hunter, home from the hill…”
 +
 +
          On Robert Louis Stevenson’s headstone in the Pacific Islands
 +
 +
 +
 +
 +
      The ride from Kitchener across the top of Toronto on busy
 +
 +
Highway 7 was so frustratingly stop and go at red lights that I
 +
 +
developed a courtroom defence even as I deliberately motored
 +
 +
through one red.  I think it was halfway through Toronto that I
 +
 +
rode for several miles on what seemed to be a nearly abandoned
 +
 +
expressway, and I did manage to find some rural roads, discovering
 +
 +
either to the west of Toronto or to the east (my memory is faulty)
 +
 +
a wonderful oasis of organic life in what seemed to be prosperous
 +
 +
organic farms planted with the utomost regard for nature’s ways,
 +
 +
including rows of Poplar trees surrounding ‘small’ fields, those trees
 +
 +
providing windbreaks enabling higher growing and harvest
 +
 +
temperautures as well as autumn leaves which would blow into the
 +
 +
fields and as they rot, serve as food for worms, which would of c
 +
 +
ourse provide abundant fertilizer as well as aeration and water
 +
 +
retention channels for the soil. 
 +
 +
    I became lost partway through Toronto, and because of cloudy
 +
 +
weather ended up motoring south for about half an hour instead of
 +
 +
east; but I got turned around, and despite almost making a left
 +
 +
hand turn in front of an oncoming car driven by a beautiful woman
 +
 +
(it’s odd the things you notice at times like that) I made it safely
 +
 +
through the city, and back into rural country, and turned south
 +
 +
before Oshawa where I gained two-laned Highway 2, a rural
 +
 +
highway which I stayed on I came to the hamlet of Welcome which I
 +
 +
turned into, and turned onto a back lane, a dead end gravel road
 +
 +
about ¼ mile long on which sat only one house beyond the pretty,
 +
 +
yellow duplex I had lived in 34 years before with my wife and our
 +
 +
three daughters.  On that road  I gave my daughters their first
 +
experience of hands-on automobile driving when the twins were
 +
 +
four years old, and Kayren six, the girls sitting on my lap as they
 +
 +
used the steering wheel.  Children are truly amazing in what they
 +
 +
can learn, when the teaching is not rushed or stressful, and the
 +
 +
experience must have been good for all three, because to my
 +
 +
knowledge none of the girls has ever been charged with a traffic
 +
 +
offence, nor been involved in a vehicular accident for which they
 +
 +
were responsible.  As the girls drove those first lessons our
 +
 +
destination was a turnaround circle in the centre of which grew a
 +
 +
huge clump of Lilac Trees, the blossoms of which they would take
 +
 +
back to their mother.       
 +
 +
      Across the road from our duplex had been an apple orchard,
 +
 +
and behind our home was a wonderfully wide, deep and tranquil
 +
 +
valley over which Redwing Blackbirds flew and hovered and shrilled
 +
 +
in abundance.  I still call that valley Redwing Valley, no river
 +
 +
running through it to give it any other name, the only water in it a
 +
 +
small creek which wound under the road we used for driving
 +
 +
lessons.  The duplex I used as a base to visit the nereby Eldorado
 +
 +
Nuclear Refinery dump at which I planted marijuanna, but none of
 +
 +
the plants grew.  Yes .. I was young and foolish then, but I had a
 +
marketting instinct which told me I could get a high price for
 +
 +
‘Radioactive Herb’.  I had better growing luck with a plant in my
 +
 +
backyard as it grew over six feet high, which my Dad smoked a
 +
 +
small puff or two of during a visit, saying “I don’t feel a thing,” but
 +
 +
when it came time to drive back to London I wanted to escort him
 +
 +
and his wife Lorraine as far as Highway 401, and we drove behind
 +
 +
him, and followed him into a gas station which was closed, and
 +
 +
where he sat peacefully, tanquilly, placidly, unconceredly at the
 +
 +
pumps for several minutes waiting for someone to serve him.  I
 +
 +
often wonder how long he would have sat there if  we had not told
 +
 +
him the place was closed.  Lorraine had breathed in the smoke
 +
 +
while Dad puffed it, and she was even more tanquil than her
 +
 +
normal tranquil self, and seemingly also did not notice the station
 +
 +
was closed.
 +
 +
      I was not a totally irresponsible person in those days, working
 +
 +
at a good job, and doing a petition which lowered the speed limit on
 +
 +
the roads through Welcome to 30 mph, therebye possibly saving the
 +
 +
life of someone’s child.  Perhaps that’s why the police never busted
 +
 +
me for my marijuanna plant .. that and they knew that I only had 
 +
 +
the one plant, and intended on saving it for personal use.  The
 +
question of how the police knew about my plant and my intentions
 +
 +
was simple .. one of my closest friends, Ed Newman Jones, was
 +
 +
brother to a local policeman.  The police knew I allowed no drug
 +
 +
sales in my home or on my property, that I had was not involved in
 +
 +
firearms or theft, and that I was a temperate user of alcohol. 
 +
 +
Marijuanna was not that serious an offence in those years, several
 +
 +
politicians calling for its legalization.  And I came out with no
 +
 +
criminal record for my involvement.  My marriage did not do as well,
 +
 +
though, and because the drugs affected my judgement I became
 +
 +
involved with a young lady during a time when my wife and I were
 +
 +
on such bad terms we were sleeping in separate bedrooms.  That
 +
 +
was the last year my children and I lived together.   
 +
 +
      With the normal sense of unspeakable loss I rode my moped
 +
 +
out of Welcome towards Port Hope, parking in the Port Hope Legion
 +
 +
parking lot where as I was taking off my helmet my friend Foxy
 +
 +
(Legion Manager, remember) stepped out the front door for a
 +
 +
breather.  When Fox’s shift ended, and just as if God had
 +
 +
planned the timing of the whole thing we ended up with beer on the
 +
 +
patio, with our friend Hollywood and one of the other golfers I had
 +
 +
sat with at the Rice Lake Café three months before.  The meeting
 +
 +
was particularly auspicious because Hollywood had been away from
 +
 +
town, and had not been expected back in Port Hope for a day or
 +
 +
two. 
 +
 +
      I would have like to have slept the night benath the Ganaraska
 +
 +
Hotel bridge, where I have camped before, and where the sound of
 +
 +
tiny waterfalls creates wonderful music; but I could not stay as I
 +
 +
had promised friends Cherryl and Vance in Ottawa that I would try
 +
 +
my best to get ‘home’ in time to help them with the Hintonburg
 +
 +
neighbourhood Fundraiser which supported children’s playground
 +
 +
equipment and youth activities.  I set out nearly at dusk, taking
 +
 +
Highway 45 which connects Highway 2 with Highway 7, and by
 +
 +
riding a couple of hours in the dark I gained the Highway 7 village
 +
 +
of  Havelock, where I slept the night on the platform of the village’s
 +
 +
Railroad Caboose which is set up near the Visitor Centre.  Havelock
 +
 +
was an important railroad town in the good old days.
 +
 +
      The first hours of the next morning’s ride went so well that I
 +
 +
took a couple of hours to visit Liisa at her wilderness home in
 +
 +
Maberly.  I suppose if I had any romance left in my soul and if
 +
 +
Liisa did not have dogs she and I could be a couple, as she’s an
 +
 +
poetess, wilderness woman, and artist .. but my moped is my
 +
 +
steed, and my canoe is my Lady now .. and Liisa and I contented
 +
 +
ourselves with a tour of her property, visiting the Beaver ponds, and
 +
 +
where the bears are, and where the other wild critters roam, and
 +
 +
where Liisa composes:
 +
 +
 +
“I wander in my thoughts on the forest paths
 +
 +
  on summer evening
 +
 
 +
  my heart swells with joy
 +
 +
  and I sing.
 +
 +
 +
 +
  Over in the grove underneath the hill a while ago
 +
 +
  happened something strange,
 +
 +
  so tender, wonderful,
 +
 +
  underneath the green leaves.
 +
 +
 +
  I am the only man to know,
 +
 +
  only I and someone else,
 +
 +
  and loving golden warbler,
 +
 +
  and fragrant wild-cherry!
 +
 +
   
 +
      Now .. that word ‘man’ in her poem might suggest some weird
 +
 +
stuff, but there’s nothing weird about Liisa .. she composes in her
 +
 +
native Finn, and she translated ‘person’ into ‘man’.  During our
 +
 +
visit we watched the Sombrio video .. and had a tea of course .. then
 +
 +
it was time to be on my way .. and God showed me that my stop
 +
 +
in Maberly as well as my destination was favoured in his eyes by
 +
 +
giving me a strong tail wind from that village all the way to Ottawa
 +
 +
.. where I may have nearly met the Maker of the Golden Warblers
 +
 +
and Cherry blossoms and tailwinds just as I was entering Ottawa’s
 +
 +
City Limits, where Highway 7 became four lane, but not Controlled
 +
 +
Access, so I would have been legally dead, although not dead but
 +
 +
simply sent to heaven, but where I was riding in a legal manner on
 +
 +
a road I was permitted to be on, and where an 18 wheel transport
 +
 +
trucker-in-a-hurry on his way home, and with tired eyes after a
 +
 +
long trip on the road (as I was told by the blast of wind as the truck
 +
 +
cannonballed past me inches from my shoulder with horn blasting
 +
 +
‘Get The Hell Off My Highway You F’ing Idiot’ .. but no harm done ..
 +
 +
and as I rode down the River Parkway into Ottawa I had the
 +
 +
strangest feeling, a strong, strong feeling, that I was home.

Revision as of 13:20, 11 August 2008





Travels With A (Donkey slashed out) Moped

Through the (Cevennes slashed out) Curves of Space and Time



Dedicated to Modestine, and all Donkeys and Beasts of Burden Everywhere,

and remembering Robert Louis Stevenson.




















Chapter One


“As I wandered 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,

Loons, Monster Muskies, 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, miners,

loggers, 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 hitchikers have told me stories 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 I 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.

A fresh story from a geologist friend elevated my bear fears. It

seems my friend’s geologist friend was stooped down taking samples

when a bear, with one swipe of a paw, heheaded the geologist.

Bears are evidently capable of great stealth, and I have been

persuaded not to wear Khaki in the bush, my normal outdoor attire

being a long sleeved white shirt which identifies me either as a

human or the hind end of a white tailed deer. It seems we can run

but we can’t hide in the bush. However, another reason I wear

white is to make myself more visible to hunters, who only rarely, I

assume, shoot deer in the ass.

      During my trip’s 7,500 miles of road running, much of that on 

rural roads, I was a great curiosity to creatures either wild or

tamed, and also to most humans. I did have have four intimate

encounters with bears on my trip, two of them while riding, as well

as equally thrilling encounters with other animals wild and tame such as the wild west prairie stallion with his mare who answered

my high spirited ‘whinny’ with a race beneath the Big Skyprairie.

Birds in the west also enjoyed racing me, I having three or four

such experiences and being fully persuaded that each bird was in a

high-hearted contest. I also unintentionally stampeded two herds of

cattle and one herd of horses; and during a midnight run beneath a

full moon on an almost vacant prairie highway in southern

Manitoba I found myself very cautiously, very slowly maneuvering

my way between huge, ghostly forms of cattle which had wandered

their way onto the pavement.

      On Ontario 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 necessary distance

between us to allow me 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. I must say here that my Militia stint did

little to prepare me for the moped trip, except make the vehicle

greatly preferable over hiking long, long, long, long distances

carrying heavy loads; but if my moped had been towing an artillery

piece I would have been justified in saying “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 either: hoping the tiny low

pressure vortices created by my passing through our atmosphere

would suck his beast along in the manner race car drivers follow

their competition nose to tail where the partial vacuum drags them

along, saving gasoline needed for ferocious passing attempts; or the

motor home driver was attempting to reduce his gasoline

consumption 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 a constant 130 highway 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 specialized 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. Since my

trip ended I have switched to synthetic two-stroke oil which is

advertised as being even more environmentally friendly, as well as

not being so inclined to rob power by slow buildup of carbon in the

exhaust port and exhaust pipes. Also since my trip ended I have

become aware that there is almost a ‘culture of disconnection’ of the

oil injection system among some mopeders who see oil injection as

being prone to failure, thereby putting the engine at risk of seizure.

I became aware of the disconnet philosophy when I engaged in

internet chat on the Moped Army site. Our debate reached no

concensus, some individuals preferring to mix their own oil and gas to eliminate any risk of oil failure, while others including myself

retaining ours while viewing the main risk of failure coming from

forgetting to fill the two cycle oil reservoir, and properly maintain

equipment. If I wanted to carry on the small animosity which

developed during the debate I would say that the disconect people

used risk of failure as an excuse for their addiction to gasoline

sniffing, but I don’t want to carry that animosity on so we can

pretend I never made that statement.

      Environmentalism is one reason I will not disconnect the

injector which measures precise amounts of oil into the gas, and

environmentalism, as well as economy, makes my moped my only

choice of personal, motorized transportation at this time. I am

afforded that luxury because I don’t have any other need for a

motor vehicle. 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 will not allow a return to long

distance bicycle travel.

      So then, there I was on Highway 7, almost being devoured by a 

wheeled monster, its driver sitting so high above me, and so

unprofessional in attitude, that had I slowed to a speed sufficient to

allow my narrow (2 ½ inches) tires 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 pavement, 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 in

Canada except on multi-lane restricted access roads like 401, 417,

etc. The Province of 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 could in some parts be described as being

paved, and which made Highway 7 look like an expressway. My

small worries about this O.P.P. officer concerned my hairy-faced,

hippy appearance’s potential for strumming an anti-war song’s

discord into the officer’s heart, if this particular officer were of the

‘For God, King, and Country We Shall Fight and Die” kind of

uniformed marcher .. especially if he or she thought I might have

anti-war herbal formulas in my baggage. I no longer use

recreational drugs, but a search would mean unloading and

reloading all my equipment .. not that I had any equipment to hide

.. I had purposely avoided possible ‘dangerous weapons’ charges by

leaving my long-bladed hunting knife which I normally wear in the

woods for protection from wild animals with my expedition canoeing

equipment. I felt somewhat naked in the Moped Forests without

that knife, a situation I can avoid if I do another wheeled voyage because my spiritualy minded brother Ron Christmas-gifted me this

year with the only seeming necessity I lacked on my trip, that being

a hunting knife equally strong and sharp as my long-bladed version

but with a slightly shorter blade which would be seen as acceptable

by law enforcers.

      I suppose there are some of you readers who are thinking I am 

making too much of a knife as a weapon of defence against a bear,

but one recent demonstration of wilderness self-defense occurred

on an Canadian Arctic island, where four canoe-campers were

attacked by a Polar Bear, one of the men almost certainly saving the

lives of his male friend and possibly of two female companions by

repeatedly stabbing the bear as it was mauling his friend. The bear

ceased the attack and wandered away; and fortune smiled down

upon the four when they found fast transportation to an arctic

hospital. Another example told me by a Canadian 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, and of course the woman knew that and thrust her knife there. I met that medic while I was on a canoe

voyage up the Ottawa River, and while my self-defence equipment

included a home made bear spear. The medic thought I was rightly

inclined to bring the spear, which I carried whenever walking in the

woods. My personal experience in confronting a bear with a knife,

and I don’t brag or say I was brave when I relate this, even though I

did act precisely as any red blooded hero would have acted, 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 most bears from thinking of us as

normal prey, but cases of mistaken identity do occur, such as the

geologist in Northern Ontario. For that reason I almost always

wear bright coloured clothing in the woods, while on a moped,

a rider’s bright clothing 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 I estimated my 

moped’s equivalency miles, calculating 1.9 horsepower against a

300 horsepower car, and factoring in my load and me, 350 pounds,

or twice the weight of the moped, weighed against a load in a car

double the weight of the car, 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,

just outside of Ottawa, a fellow poet and grandfather 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, who had financial backing from his well-to-do father, my

fiancial backing was small, being my guaranteed government

income’s spendable portion after payment of room rent, or about

$525 per month. I had 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. I had no experience

repairing my moped, so necessity caused Faith to be put to the test

.. and Faith proved Faithful. If I were to pay for camping each day

of the month that amount would easily be $600; but as it turned

out 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 for two days, 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. In case of dire emergency I carried a

credit card with a ‘0’ balance (Okay .. I lied about going on faith .. I

had my credit card, but faith stilled proved faithful because my

balance at the end of the trip was, I think I remember it being, only

about $150.00 .. that partially due to kindness of strangers who

became new friends and one old friend who deposited $100 into my

bank account on my birthday. Thanks again, Lou.

      Besides the financial advantage, Stevenson also had it up on 

me by being 28 years old while I was 60. I was, however, one up on

Stevenson because while we both had 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. (Did I tell you that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer

a few years back? It’s sometimes difficult to remember what I’ve

written, especially while rewriting. I battled the cancer without

surgery or drugs, and appear to be somewhat successful, as I’m still alive and travelling. This cancer together with a couple other

physical afflictions are what earned me my government

income.

      I hesistate to say this because I do not want to make more of 

myself than I already have, but 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 .. he was

probably the kind of person who genuinely enjoyed meeting anyone

who was in a reasonable humour. I certainly would have enjoyed

meeting him as 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

on his trek with his Modestine, who he grew so fond of that when it

came time to part from her, in selling 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, I am unlike

some people who give affectionate names to their automobiles,

‘Mabel’ being an example for that faithful family car; and to their

canoes, ‘Spirit of Firewater’ for a canoe fierce enough to brave the boiling, foaming waters which rise to the Happy Hunting Ground as

smoke .. mist .. spray .. and it is for those reasons I avoid

whitwater when possible .. and during the rare occasion I brave

whitewater my prayers rise as fervent mist to the eternal Creator

and Saviour. So, to my canoe and my moped I have not given

names 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 named it ‘Sunbeam’ but then the kitchen appliance

manufacturer of that name, not knowing of my little moped’s

heroism, might have ridden after me with dark intent.









Chapter Two


First Day of Trip



      On Thursday, May 17, 2007 I was at home in Ottawa, 

Ontario, a city I had returned to from travels often in the previous

decade because Ottawa had become home for my daughters Kayren

and Kimi, their husbands Steven and Elias, and granddaughters

Sage who is 20 and a Journalism student at university, and

Gabrielle, 5. About six months prior to this day grandson Tobias

had ‘arrived’ in Ottawa; but May 17 was for me and my moped

departure day.

      Two of my travels during that decade had been by canoe, 

the first a six week, 300 mile trip solo trip, the second a three

month, 750 mile expedition, this also being solo. I had been little

prepared for my first trip, my only previous canoe travel being a

three or four day paddle of a few miles on the Trent Canal near

Peterborough, Ontario. Despite my lack of mechanical education

I thought I was considerably better prepared for my moped jaunt,

having bicycled 1,500 miles through Northern Ontario 30 years

before, and having 45 years of drivng experience. However, those

experiences did nothing to warm me of the effects of being in a

constant, motor-driven wind of 30 mph during cold, wet weather,

and not having the heat-generating bennfit of exercise which comes

with pedaling a bicycle. I will write more on Hypothermia a few

paragraphs later.

      My destination for this first day is the small city of 

Peterborough, where a third daughter, Kathi, lives a live separated

from her husband Ralph, and my third granddaughter, 10 year old

Jade who lives with her Dad Ralph. While this first stretch of

highway, Number 7, is worthy of a month’s exploration for someone

not familiar with its curves, hills and secret places, I am familiar enough with its terrain and people, having hitchhiked, driven, been

driven by family and friends, and Greyhound Bussed the route

countless times. 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. I have tested the

bike on short jaunts of from two to four hours, and just the day

before departure day tested the bike fully loaded; tut this first day’s

ride will test the comfort of my well padded, 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 five years prior, 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, and the invention is mothered of necessity, as for me at

my age alone, without consideration 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 screwing into the holes cup-

hooks, I can separate 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 1/3 litre, two-cycle oil reservoir which I must refill at

intervals of about 500 miles. My seat gained me much comical but

respectful notoriety among riders of the Big Bikes, the Harleys and

Gold Wings, met along the way .. the respect increasing the further

west I travelled from Ottawa. The seat was respectable from a

safety viewpoint because it was well fastened with Canadian

Television star Red Green’s favourite tool, Duct Tape, and further

constrained to the bike with bungee cords which I could release

easily to lift the seat. The seat was so comfortable 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 late on days when

I have exerted myself strenuously physically or emotionally.

      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. 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 can’t afford to postpone many days, 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 a visit to my sister-in-law in

Saskatoon who was also living with cancer, and also because I have

a note signed by my doctor stating my mental health will benefit

through family visits to my brothers in Saskatoon and Victoria.

Mental and emotional health are keys to overcoming cancers, and it

has been almost five years since I saw brother Ron and Rick.

Despite some strong efforts to succeed in employment and career,

my life has not resulted in financial security, and my years-long

state of continual near poverty, together with the cancer, has led to

serious depression. Medical attempts at countering the depression

were as futile as my career attempts, because after drug

experiences in my 20s I opted out of drug therapy, waiting 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. I had also declined

conventional treatment for my cancer, as surgery was

recommended, and surgery could have left me wearing a urine bag

strapped to my leg, making me incapable of the kind of labour-

intensive employment my lack of higher education permitted.

      So .. I have to comply with government regulations .. and my 

time table calls me to be crossing the Ontario-Mabitoba border by

June 1, which will allow me 20 days to get to Victoria or brother

Ron’s birthday, 10 days in Victoria and wilderness environs where I

hope to locate counter-culture friends I had lived in the wilderness

with 20 years ago, and who I have not seen or talked to since, and

one month back to the Ontario 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 my day trips with my

moped I have learned that 40 hours of straight riding translates,

without the inconvenience of flat tires, mechanical or other

problems, to 120 hours of riding with rest breaks and meal times, and as daylight hours are still short these 120 hours translate into

about 14 days, and as I want to visit in Peterborough for two or

three days, and possibly ride down a short hop south to rarely seen

but heart-warming friends in the Lake Ontario town of Port Hope

before heading due west, I really don’t have any extra days to

postpone with.

      While I vacillate on this planned departure morning ouside the 

rooming house, apartment building I live in, my upstairs neighbour

Alexander rises and comes outside. Alex has huge outdoor

adventure experience, having kayaked down Russia’s major rivers,

and it is from him I learned the yellow sky forecast for wind. We

chat. Alex had been very encouraging at another departure, last

year’s three month canoe voyage. His sense of adventure is strong,

but his adventure now is his financial poverty which, despite

astounding professionalism and early success as artist and art

teacher, fails to surrender to his three art degrees from St.

Petersburg, Russia, where Alex spent considerable time at The

Hermitage, Russia’s premier art gallery. Alex is almost my age, and

has suffered a heart attack which would have killed an ordinary

man, but Alex is built like a brick shithouse as the saying goes, or like a bull is another way of picturing Alex’s physical strength, but

even so the doctor at the hospital said Alex was fortunate to have

been so drunk at the time of the attack, because the alcohol is what

saved his life. Alex is unconventional. His refusal to give into what

is in his view ‘commercialism’ in art hinders his finances.

      Ordinarily, financial boundaries related to class structure 

separate people who have achieved outstanding accomplishments

from those like me who have achieved little, but without money the

barriers of class distinction are reduced, and because of that

reduction many of the people I have met in my life of near poverty

seem to have been transported from fantastic realms I could not

have imagined. Alex is a fine example, his utilization in art 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 with Alex’s assistance

in designing the interiors of space capsules .. as documented by a

photo of a younger, smiling at work 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 in Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings a series

of paintings called Canadian Visual Symphony not long before I, with my just completed and to this date unpublished novel

Symphony for the End of the World, moved into our rooming house.

Symphonic, classical music is a bonding interest between Painter

and Author, as well as a long interest in extra terrestialities .. space

ships and space people .. and so we had plenty to talk about during

our meetings in the common kitchen of our residence, as well as in

Alex’s room which he also used as his studio. My room was smaller

and crowded, and perhaps that’s why Alex only visited once.

Besides our common interests and near poverty, Alex and I also

share history of failed marriage, and living separated from

daughters. By Gosh – we had a LOT in common, and it really is no

wonder we became friends. He and I, provided with 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. I haven’t

seen the movie, but Hollywood is not big on movies featuring Food

Banks and Soup Kitchens, so I doubt if I would find myself as a

lead in the movie.

      Despite our strong friendship, Alex and I did not share a lot of 

time, he being busy either while working on paintings, or busy

suffereing from hatred for his life as an artist, or busy with his

daughter, or an occasional art student. I always had lots of time to

spare because my hobby of writing was a recreational pursuit only,

and because I had given up on serious relationships with women,

and because family and friends in this our modern, narcistic age

are so self centred that I seriously wonder if anyone shares their

time with anyone .. anyone except true saints, married couples who

have been together past 30 years, and romantic couples new to

each other (and I wonder about those couples also). I have talked to

countless people during my travels, and find my situtation is

absolutely common in not having family or friends telephone to say

hello, or knock on my door for a tea, and despite the friendship

between Alex and I he never once knocked on my door as a surprise visit, but I was always enthusiastically welcomed into his room

unless he was at work, Nonetheless, Alex briefly considered coming

with me on last year’s canoe voyage .. a sudden and total change

from his normal reply to my invitation that he was too busy with

work, and 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.

      But this is Moped Trip Departure Morning, and joining Alex 

and I at dawn 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, I the

lesser of the three. Les alone has hung onto the bulk of his

physical power, partly because he is slightly younger, and partly

because he earns his income as a furniture mover. Less is a

companionable and joyous and generous beer drinker while off

work, Labbatt’s Blue being his 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 wide, 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 has

also survived a months-long coma, 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, but not much) he is, because of his ham-sized heart

and laugh, one of the few people in our world 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. Les, Alex and I have lived

as close neighbours 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 for 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. During his absence I had fullfilled

his building duties, except for security which I refused to get

involved in despite the low risks, and had earned an extra $100 to

accompany my departure. I envy Abdul his hoped for marriage

happiness, but after failing that institution twice, I have little desire

to cause another lady 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 and sleeping bag beneath a tree instead of

a motel, houseboat or motorhome. I know there are women on our

planet who enjoy the outdoors, but probably 1 in ten million would

enjoy it as I do, and being women of nature they almost cetainly

have the wisdom of nature which tells them the opposite sex may be

attractive, but beware .. Beware .. Beware. So for me, marriage or a

permanent companion seem impossibilities, but I would greatly

have loved to be at Abdul’s wedding.

      Less, meanwhile, having long ago heard of my moped plans,  

has also long ago firmly decided that yes, 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

lies comfortably within Ottawa’s boundaries. In the week prior to

departure I have come to wonder if Less is 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 somewhat similar sputtering in the first, early spring, 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 carburetor 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. Despite my

windproof rain pants and rain jacket I am cold and very

discouraged as I sputter into B.C. where I consider turning back,

but find a Tim Horton’s (for any of you readers who may not be from

Canada or neighbouring U.S. states, Tim Horton’s is a franchise

coffee house found all across Canada) for coffee where I spend an hour waiting for the morning to warm up, then change my spark

plug .. and with that the problem disappears. I have since learned

that dirt may have been plugging the carburetor’s ‘jet’ and cleared

itself, or the plug I put in had a different gap better suited to cold,

wet weather. In the weeks before Departure Day, around the same

time the sputtering developed, I had put in a new plug gapped

5mm according to the maintenance pamphlet which came with the

bike; but in changing plugs I had used the original plug, and have

learned just a few weeks ago through an internet Service and Repair

manual that the proper gap is .8mm. The pamphet had been

misprinted. I had no further 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, and this has been a recurring problem which is easily

solved in five minutes by removal of the filter and cleaning.

      At Less’s B.C. the clearing of the sputering is accompanied by a 

clearing of the sky, and I motor on greatly encouraged. I had added

wind protection for my face by wearing a pair of ‘Grinding Goggles’

over my spectacles, those goggles I have now replaced with a pair of


ski googles which are not only warmer and more comfortable, but

tinted enough to cut glare. I found my $100 ski goggles in a

used clothing store for about $2.00. Mentioning ski goggles causes

me to think about snow, and the thought of snow causes me to

think this is a good place to skip ahead of my arrival in

Peterborough to tell the risk of wind chill in riding a motorbike. The

first week of my trip was blessed by sunny skies and warmth; but

the second week was cold, windy and wet, causing some suffering

and risk which I thought I eliminated through purchase of

additional weatherproof clothing. The extreme danger of Wind Chill

I learned effectively though only three weeks later as I rode into the

mountain resort village of Jasper, Alberta while nearly going into

convulsions from hypothermia. The weather had been cold and wet

since leaving Saskatoon three days earlier, but I had been fooled by

being so warmy dressed that I did not consider myself at risk, and

rode on as my internal body temperatureslowly lowered over the

last two days. That kind of cold also numbs the brain, and

prevents proper consideration for the situation .. but I was not so

‘out of it’ that I did not think of using my moped’s pedals, which

freewheel when above about three miles per hour, and I furiously revolved my pedals both forward and backward as I rode the last

four hours. I considered finding a hospital as I approached Jasper,

but as I rode past the village’s welcoming sign the sun burst forth

bringing immediate warmth. I found a Laundromat which had coin

operated showers, and spent about eight dollars in their warmth. I

then put my laundry into a machine and went in search of a full

meal. When I left Jasper about fours later the sun was still shining,

and I was confident that I had learned a lesson in not overdoing the

ride.

      Jasper is next door to B.C. British Columbia, but a long way 

from my first day’s first stop in friend Less’s B.C., but soon that

hamlet and indeed the city of Ottawa has been left behind, and I am

on Number 7 Highway with the moped running perfectly, the day

increasing in warmth, my stopping for coffee at the village of Perth,

then continuing to the hamlet of Maberly, where artist-friend Liisa

Rissanen lives in her isolated dwelling surrounded by Beaver ponds

and bears. I had met Liisa at a literary reading series at a time

when Alexander was too deeply involved with his own painting to

take on my small commission of designing a cover for my novel,

which I hoped to self-publish, so it was Liisa who assisted me with my cover, and we had ended up under the covers. It should come

as no surprise that when I did have a few copies of my wonderful

novel printed my publishing ‘House’ unincorporated was the ‘Shelff-

Publishted Preschh’ with logo of a hand-cranked printing press

the deck of which supports 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’m frugal.
    At Liisa’s I am welcomed onto the property 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 knocking on the door, although knocking

was not necessary as the unfriendly dog’s barking was louder than

my knock. Liisa was not home, and I fastened to her door a note of

‘Howdy from The Moped Poet On Tour’ (yes .. this novelist and poet)

to her door. I’m eager to regain the highway, and 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 

(Hollywood the man .. not the movie) 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, he could never have played the bad guy, far too

handsome (I say tongue in cheek, as Hollywood bad guys always

look like some poor guy who’s been in a car accident) 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 chapter begins remembrances possibly less accurate in 

geographical detail than they should be because I stopped making

notes in my trip log .. my journal. You may question why I ceased

making notes. The answer is that somewhere along the road

between the start of the trip and this chapter’s point in history I

abandoned my goal of publishing this story .. in fact, I abandoned

my long held dream of being a published writer. Why that dream

was left behind is not totally clear to me now, and whether the

dream is alive at this time is also unclear, and unimportant ..

however .. I have been encouraged by friends and family to think

this story has potential for publication with small financial reward,

and as a source of entertainment for readers, so I have resumed

writing and rewriting, and have contracted with my daughter

Kayren to be not only my Marketing Agent, but my power of

attorney in accepting or rejecting offers from publishers. I gave

Kayren that authority because she will be investing time and energy

in marketting, and I did not want to disappoint her efforts by my

rejection of an offer. Normally a verbal agreement would suffice

between Kayren and I in any matter, but for the purposes of

declaring my income to the government office responsible for

directing my income I need a legal document showing that she and I

will be sharing 50/50 both income and expenses.

      So, my journal had died, and one reason it died was because I 

wanted to be free of cumbersome hindrances which would keep me

from enoying this trip on a nanomoment by nanomoment basis ..

no regard for past or future – only Propinquity – the propinquity of

this poster -


‘POET ON A MOPED’s

Latter Day’s TOUR de 2007

A Pilgrimage in Propinquity Seeking Fullfillment of felicitatiousness And Fruits of Freedom

Specializing In: hippy/beatnick/classical/rap/Revelations

‘Please Request a Reading: Donations Move Me’


      Yes, that poster, copies of which I carried with me along with 

copies of some of my own favourite poems which I could busk ..

perform on the street for money .. when opportunity presented

itself. I designed the poster so I could cut two posters from one

sheet of paper .. knowing I could enlarge it into a single sheet if that

marketing strategy seemed appropriate.

    Regarding the fancy words ‘propinquity’ and ‘falicitatiousness’, 

please , dear reader, on’t be fooled for a moment into thinking I

have an unusual memory for exotic words, or that I was so

impressed by the writings of O. Henry, as monumentally

impressive as they are, that I took to writing with a Thesaurus on

my desk. I own no thesaurus, and my memory is frail. I found

those words as I normally find rare words, through miraculous

movements of pages and spirits as I search my Highroads

Dictionary seeking far simpler answers like how to spell words

which elementary school graduates have no difficulty with. What

necessiates my often use of a dictionary is simple inability at

remembrance of whether to use (as an example) a single s or double

ss .. as simple as that.

      Simple .. yes, but I must invite anyone with a love for language 

to try to find a copy of this Nelson’s Highroads Dictionary,

‘Pronoucing and Etymological (whatever Etymological is, I haven’t

looked that word up yet .. let’s see, ‘an account of the origins of the

word’ .. so now I know something you probably knew ages ago, and

which I also may have known in a time of livelier brain syanpses

and more well connected neurons) .. and speaking of ages gone by,

my little volume which measures only 4” x 6” is so ancient that ‘vacuum-cleaner’ is listed in the book’s supplement, while

‘computer’ is totally absent. In searching those things out, I

discovered that according to this dictionary, a computer should not

really be called a computer at all, because ‘compute’ derives from

the Latin root computare, ‘to think’. A computer does not think (or

at least computers have programmed us to believe they do not

think) however, somewhere along that word’s lineage computare

‘thinking’ was made almost synonymous with ‘counting up’, as

evidenced by ‘computation’, a counting up. Perhaps the change

came when a peasant or a far earlier age found time to do some

computare in a combe, which is or at least was a hollow among

hills, and just then The Tax Man came along in command of his

company of combat-minded enforcement officers wielding sharp

swords as reminders to that unfortunate peasant as well as we his

compeers that while we can all commiserate as we comingle without

comfit, yet our comportment must be compliment with the order to

cease computare in our thoughts about anything other than

computing our tax burden according to the service of the sword

without compensation except that we are free, once we pay, to

attend compline. Yes, that blessed, last, church service of the day .. of our age .. of this planet before it is made anew and in which

righteousness dwells.


      Perhaps my propinquity caught up with me here and now at 

my desk as I am rewriting this chapter, because if I had not

printed the year of my voyage on my poster, the historical date of

the trip seems to inconsequential for my conscious mind to make

note of .. I seem to have risen above the noxious tock .. Ohhhhhhhh

I can’t even bear the thought of that four letter word in its most

common meaning .. so I will mention it in a more pleasant form, the

four/four or 2/4 or rhymic time of music, a musical CD from my

brother Ron playing on my little laptop as I type this .. ‘standing

beneath an orange sky with my brother and sister’ .. but then,

perhaps it’s the beer I just enjoyed .. or the memory of the woman

in the office building this morning telling me that since I started my

part time janitorial job there the building’s been so much cleaner,

in my opinion resulting from a combination of the cleaning

company’s staffing problems solved by me coming along at the right

time with the knowledge that a quick wipe of the bathroom’s

chrome faucet with a paper towel partially wet with Windex makes

the whole bathroom shine .. shine .. shine .. as life says to

us .. shine.


      So, my memory is not shining .. and I even forget my exact 

route east towards Lake Simcoe. I think it was up Highway 46 to

Bolsover, 33 and 6 to Dalrymple, up to Washago (I am examining a

map) and I do remember 13 to Torrance, only 20 miles as the crow

flies but probably double that mileage because of its twisting,

curving, hillocky, treed, wild, nature which was one of the best

roads of my trip .. and then the road runs through what becomes a

dry plateau infested with the worst blight of Tent Worm Caterpillars

I’ve ever seeen .. honestly gruesome in the infestation’s extent, with

almost every small tree being destroyed, the plateau being so dry

that not many large trees were present, probably all having been

cut a hundred years ago, with the area too arid to rebound .. an

appropriate place for a song to come on about ‘wave over wave and

a three masted schooner and no other life than a life on the sea’

and yes, my brother Ron, Newfies that we is, Newfies that we Arrr

Bye we’s Newifes in our Gypsy Ukie Romanian Irish English and

who knows what more… on this road, 13, with no villages or

crossroads marked on the provincial map, and except for cottages

and a few homes, and a small, isolated school where I stopped to

ask directions of a totally suspcious lady who obviously wished I

was nowhere in sight, probably because she might have been alone,

alone, alone in the fearsome corridors with a hairy beast me ..

so a quick exit I made from the school and back onto the road

which is which 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 afterwords when 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 lonely railroad track beside

which sat a lovely, lonely place to camp, I met a woman walking ..

I met a woman walking alone, to be more exact, but, “I met a

woman walking” sounded more poetic, as ‘waling alone’ evokes

possible loneliness or fear, negative image, and I wish not to be

negative .. for postive is far better. To me it was obvious that the woman was not only lonely, but single as well, and receptive. Now,

this revealing of my mental processes might put me at risk of

investigation by law enforcement officers who could be persuaded to

view be as a stalker, and I would not overly resent an investigation

of my life, because 'stalkers' are said to have the same impressions

of their romantic interests .. that they are lonely, and show interest

in the stalker . . but this woman did not appear to be afraid, and

as we chatted she put me at ease so comfortably that I briefly

considered asking if she would like some company at her cottage .. I

say “briefly considered” because it was brief indeed, and would far

overstep normal etiquette .. so I changed my approach to beiefly

considering mentioning that I could camp at the lovely spot by

the railroad track that night if she were inclined to return for a

small drink from my brandy flask .. but again, the thought was

brief .. for even though it would in no way overstep etiquette I was

on a far more important mission than having a fling. So after a

pleasant fantasy (stroke out fantasy) conversation I was onward.


      Trans Canada 400 into Parry Sound is identifed as  

Controlled Access on highway maps, and I paralleled it on 69, that highway being the old Trans Canada, and the old Trans Canada

continuing on as Trans Canada 69 past Parry Sound where 400

ends, at Parry Sound. Notice how ‘parallel’ and ‘Parry Sound’

both start with Ps .. this is coincidental .. however, in searching out

the double ll position I found ‘parvenu’ .. an upstart. So, is Parry

Sound an upstart? I can’t say because I passed by the town after

also passing by or going through Rosseau, Glen Orchard,

Horseshoe Lake, Gordon Bay, Fool’s Bay, Cala. I can’t remember

exactly where I camped, but I try 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 passable path for walking or moped leading from the roadside to

the campable spot by the water, that spot normally owned by

provincial governments, so that private property owners can’t kick a

camper off, if they are so inclined, which they aren’t so inclined very

often unless they own a for-profit camping park nearbye, but those

private property owners can phone enforcement officers, and in

some areas in Northern Ontario campgrounds are so important to

the local economy, or at least to the municipal government of that

locality, with the mayor or councillor owning campgrounds, that on rare occasions you and I will see 'No Overnight Camping’ signs

posted along roadways which border fantastic lakes and rivers ideal

for free camping. There are countless free sites available, though,

like atop a rock cut where I set up camp as dusk dropped. I had

been deliberately searching the roadside for a deer trail or mostly

hidden vehicle track for awhile when I saw what I needed .. a track

for vehicles carrying hydro pole maintenance crews, and leeding off

the highway up a relatively steep/modest slope to the top of a

rockcut .. a ‘rockcut’ being where highway builders have blasted

deeply into a rocky hill to allow the road to run relatively level.

This camp, I thought as I walk-motored my moped up the trail,

would be uneventful .. but it turned out to be beautiful, with a

large, 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 shoulder, but of course they

would not make that mistake, their instincts somehow taking them

down the wooded slope to the lake. It would be a rough trip for

those feeble newborns probably as big as a dime or a quarter, stumbling over sharp rock and debris from the trees .. but

enough of them would almost certainly make it to the lake to create

another generation.

    The route from Parry Sound to Sudbury is simple enough, stay 

on Trans Canada 69 until Trans Canada 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 fromwriting

.. 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 thechange 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. Hecould 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 for a looksee, 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

for a fifteen minute tour. On my return trip I did attempt a border

crossing to test my elegibility for entrance to the U.S., a test

necessitated, I thought, because I have stood at microphones and

denounced the international war machine, which sets me up as

potential for denial for crossing into the U.S., which would not be a

great problem except that I wish to visit mother who retired in

Hawaii, where my inheritance is going towards 75 stray cats for

feed, vaccination, dental surgeries, and rendering incapable of

procreation. An interesting result of that border test when it came

was that I was told I would have to surrender the Eagle feather

which I picked up off the beach on Vancounver Island and which I

flew on my packpack. People within the borders of the U.S. are not

permitted to possess Eagle feathers, except, I am sure, for aboriginal religious purposes.

      The border would have to wait, though, and on the way out of 

Sault Ste. Marie I stopped at the huge Canadian Tire store, where I

exchanged the sleeping bag I had purchased at an Ottawa

Canadian Tire especially for this trip. The original bag gave out on

the second night, coming apart at many seams. To be fair, it

was a cheap bag, $25, and one I would not have ordinarilly

purchased excep for the fact that it rolled into a small bundle

suitable for my moped’s front fender. I had hoped for a year’s use

from the bag. Canadian Tire staff at the Sault treated me fairly

considering I had no sales receipt, but the bag was recognized as a

Canadian Tire brand, and I was given a $10 credit which went

towards a reasonable quality Woods bag with a flannel liner and a

price of $40.00. Although this bag was bulkier than I preferred it

bundled well enough with my tent, space blanket, and cotton sheet

to fit comfortably under my headlight, allowing my light to

illuminate the road and be seen by oncoming traffic, therebye

maintaining my moped’s legal status. I packed the bundle in to

what was supposed to be a waterproof nylon dry bag for boaters,

but that bag had lost its waterproof quality, so I put the entire bundle into a heavy duty, bright orange garbage bag. Even with the

two bags, this bundle became fully waterproof only after I learned to

put the rolled end of the drybag into the permanently sealed end of

the garbage bag. Constant rain and wind of 30 mph, I discovered,

got rain into seemingly impossible places. The bright orange bundle

enhanced my road safety by attracting the attention of oncoming

drivers; but I was always wary of oncoming drivers in line with each

other not seeing me and pulling out onto my lane to pass. Real

security could only come through the Almighty God’s potection of

course, 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 on 17 Trans

Canada in a due northerly direction I came into what most

Ontarians consider the true north (although the Innuit and

Yukoners might laugh at that statement). Symbolic of this country

is the five mile hill not far out of the Sault, which is downhill as you

head north, and this leads you into the first encounter with

seemingly countless vistas of sand beaches curving in huge bays,

big sky, vast waters, vast forests, and low mountains. This is what

makes the north shore of Lake Superior famous far and wide .. although this first stretch is from a geographical sense not the

north shore at all, but is the first of the two eastern shores of the

north shore. This first stretch of road is also famous for ice cream

stops as it is a popular tourist destination.

      Not far beyond the five mile hill the town of Montreal River, 

which is not farm from the entracne to Lake Superior Provincial

Park with its 60 miles stretch of highway without one commercial

stop with the beautiful Old Woman Bay at its western end. I would

need to camp for the night before I rode through the park, but I did

not want to pay what I consider the exhorbitant fees for provincial

campsites, and before I got to the park I saw a slight vehicle

track running into and out of a relatively deep, sandy ditch, with

the lake visible through trees on the other side of the ditch. I took

the track, and discovered beautiful campsites in a long, narrow

strip of what was almost certainly provincial highway property.

However, there was a small chance the land might belong to an

almost derelict motel on the other 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

told me, 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 a miracle of God was just waiting to

happen. All that day, as I rode past 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 with one fork or

the other into the soft sand and causing the bike to topple. My

loaded moped is vulnerable to wind even when parked on

pavement, and here on sand at the edge of a lake known for big

winds, it was a high risk. So I needed a solid footing for a

kickstand, and being familiar in a small way with the providence of

the Almighty Creator I was not entirely surprised to find exactly

when and were it was needed, obviously placed there just for me,

right beside a fire ring of stones, an old and battered, 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 this place, although not at my particular capsite,

was the ingratitude of some humans as evidenced by a natural

hollow in the lay of this fantastically beautiful beach setting having

been filled with trash. What would have prevented the campers

and picnickers from loading their garbage into a bag and then into

the trunk of their vehicles was beyond me.

    Nevertheless, the place as a whole 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, suffering

even from standing ankle or knee deep and washing myself.

Superior is one COLD lake, being very deep, and containing

according to different written 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. In any case, Superior’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.

That family were the only visitors at that spot on that stop, but on

the return in early August the place was packed with tenters and to

a lesser extent, swimmers, as the water was still cold.

      I can’t remember if I spent one full day or a second full day at 

that spot, but when I packed up and rode north I was well rested,

and I needed to be, because grey sky and low temperatures

continued with drizzle off and on. I bought a bright orange toque at

a small trading post somewhere before entering the provinicial park,

but thought I was well prepared with gloves. Nevertheless, by the

time I stopped at the northern end of Lake Superior Provincial Park

after that 60 miles of no commercial stops, my hands were so cold I

could barely open them from around the bike’s steering grips.

Another trading post sits near the north end of the park, and I had

a big breakfast there, and was fortunate to find a pair of heavy

leather gloves which I greased with Arctic Dubin on the back side ..

not greasing the palms or front of the fingers to avoid making my

grip slippery. With the weather wet and cool I think I decided to

bypass Wawa without stopping, continuing on to White River, where I discovered the scarcity of Banks of Montreal throughout the north,

that discovery giving me small fiancial worries. Still, I had my

credit card for emergencies, and the weather turning colder and

wetter used my card at Marathon to purchase a pair of rubber

‘gumboots’ or gardener’s boots together with a high quality pair of

wool socks. Somewhere along this stretch I also purchased a good

pair of lined, waterproof pants for warmth, and tossed in the

garbage my unlined pair which I had purchased at a used goods

store for one or two dollars. At Terrace Bay I restocked my

groceries at a supermarket, coming out of the store to a steady and

heavy rain which lasted a long time, with me standing under the

supermarket roof’s overhang talking with a native fellow who

needed encouragement away from his abuse of alcohol and drugs. I

did encourage him, and we shared a lunch from my groceries. He

gave me his address on a reserve close to Terrace Bay, and

although I intended on visiting him on the way back I somehow

passed it by.

      I had not wanted to spend nights in towns, but at Terrace Bay

the rain would not let up, and close by the supermarket was a

roofed structure which at one time may have housed a flea market or farmer’s market. A municipal vehicle stopped in the parking lot

during a brief lull in the rain, 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 .. a morning in which because of my

recent clothing purchases I thought I was well prepared for riding in

almost any weather short of a blizzard. Weeks later, as I rode

perhaps in a state of hypothermia into the village of Jasper in the

Rocky Mountains, I had learned I may have been prepared well

enough clothing wise, but wisdom wise I was still scantilly clad.

That story comes later.

      If memory serves me correctly it is the winding and 

mountainous stretch Highway 17 from Rossport to Lake Helen

which displays the most beautiful lakeshore vistas along the north

shore .. and we really are on the north shore now, running east and

west. 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.

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 an inner tube, and here, the shop’s

operator looked at my rear tire and expressed the opinion I should

go no further unless I could find a new one, 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 also determined that I would, and at a

picnic stop outside of town reduced my tire’s burden by reducing

weight .. 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. I

believe I also dumped some water, and I slightly deflated my tire so

the wear would be spread over a wider area of tread.

      I had intened to head due west on Highway 11 from Thunder 

Bay, and attempt a U.S. border crossing at Fort Frances. This

route would take me to a part of southeastern Manitoba which on

highway maps shows as an original prairie grassland reserve, and

which at that time of year might be wildly abloom with huge 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. However, my balding tire together

with banking considrations caused me to take the shorter Highway

17 route WestNorthwest (WNW) towards Winnipeg. On May 30 I

rode into the scenic village of Kenora on the beautiful Lake of the

Woods, 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 by the

mayor himself in a parking near the Public Library, the mayor

having taken an interest in my vehicle and journey. I did not,

however, receive a key to the city. Kenora does have a Bank of

Montreal, though, and because of Direct Deposit I was able to

clearn the 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 starvation in their

first winter homesteading in a Manitoba river valley, a site I would

visit and spend two nights camped at on my way to Saskatoon, that

visit recounted not long following this chapter.

      Kenora was a reminder of my younger days when I was 

motivated by compassion to try to assist the desperate, drug and

alcohol addicted plight of many aboriginals in our society .. a

compassion fueld by memories of my own bondage to addictive

elements, and my delivery through a miraculous rebirth which had

held the knowledge of eternal salvation. Not long after my rebirth I

had crisscrossed much 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 from my 

purchase of gasoline into a safe place in my wallet, that receipt

providing proof for government officials that I had been in Ontario

on that day, my income elligibility dependent on my not being out of

Ontario for longer than 30 days, or as previously approved. In this

case, I had been approved for an extra 30 days out of province. On

June 1, when I purchased my new tire in Winnipeg, I placed that

receipt alonside the Kenora receipt, as proof of when I crossed the

border. I did the same thing on my return, and the government was

satisfied with those receipts.

      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 or stronger. I decided I

would run in the spirit of grace. Trans Canada 17 turns into Trans

Canada Number 1 at the Ontario-Manitoba border, and after a few

miles on Number 1 I turned off onto 44. Now THAT was a good

decision even though the decision to get off the Trans Canada

because of archaic laws turned out to be unnecessary. All the

highways in Manitoba are now used by 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 legislated

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 8



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 9


Another Birthday



      In my first week of travel after departing Ottawa I ensured that

I breakfasted well, with my normal breakfast being either

restaurant sausages and eggs 2 or three times in a week, or

campsite oatmeal and/or Red River Cereal cooked with apples ..

and not the ‘quick cook’ oatmeal with reduced nutrition, but the

genuine large flake, horse sense and horse food, strength-building,

low chloresterol oatmeal. My experience in living outdoors had long

ago taught me that a good breakfast provides real energy along with

nourishment, warmth, and satisfaction .. and that those things

together make for health and reduced stress. However, during my

second week of cool, wet weather I neglected breakfasts for the

practice of getting underway early and stopping for a coffee in a

warm restaurant or cafe .. and then breakfasting late in the

morning. I found this coffee routine was a great way of getting sick

and short tempered, so I went back to breakfasting, following the

same routine as in the first week.

      As I headed for the ferry outside of Vancouver I was especially 

thankful I had eaten a good breakfast because British Columbia

road signs in this stiff necked neck of the woods are the most

confusing of anywhere I have travelled, with my appraisal of those

road signs confirmed by other travelers. For instance, on Trans

Canada Number One on the south side of the mighty Fraser River I

came to a large sign saying ‘Ferry to Victoria Next left’. I turned left

at the next left, and was taken far away from my destination. That

was okay, no problem really, 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

trusting in the road sign 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 as I had planned on filling

up when the ferry docked in Sydney on Vancouver Island. 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. I was helped in regaining my

compass bearings by motorists, pedestrians, and a member of a

highway repair crew who did not fail me with their directions, 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 routes to southern 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 the continuing Trans Canada Number

One. My shipboard cruise was 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 unusual late spring rain and cold weather, with a week of

sunshine and warmth 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. I also lived in the city itself for about four months after

Jeani and I ended our marriage. Almost all the farmland on

Vancouver Island lies between Sydney and Victoria, and this

beautiful country I became intimate with through my post-marriage

breakup employment as a herder of a dozen sheep who were part

of a larger job as Caretaker on a private estate. My intimacy with

this farm country came not from an intense 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, yes, we definitely bonded, at least she to me,

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 through wonderment of the

affection and intelligence within God’s creatures. Yes, the ewe

was not stupid .. because this was Eagle and Cougar country, and

bear country, and probably Coyote country if Coyotes had reached

Vancouver Island .. and while it is well known what a predators

with four legs would do to a lamb or a fawn, it is not as well known

that 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 breakdown 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

with no impulse to skip for joy. During my weeks of planning my

trip I had actually experienced fear of what I might find within me

when faced with old scenes, old scents, the sound of ocean waves ..

the sight of the coastal mountains .. so it was with surprise 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 that absence was what caused her to leave and

seek other options .. and tther options she tried, two more

marriages providing only two more divorces. She and I both had

nothing to lose by my phoning her after that dream .. but after

almost a year I still have not made the call .. much to my mixed

emotions and thoughts.

      Leaving sorrows and cowardice and unbelief and possibly but 

probably not wisdom behind .. or did I leave wisdom behind when I

did not make that call .. in any case 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 being a

wealthy Victoria neighbourhood where I had worked as a

handyman before the position on the private estate. To get to Oak

Bay by moped I had to turn off Number One onto lesser roads, and I

did so, but my memory was not sharp, and the roap map unsure

also, and signs were laid deliberately in the customary southern

B.C. manner of trying to confuse tourists so badly they will turn

around and get back on the ferry and leave the quietness quiet

again. So it was that 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 Guide 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. Guide 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, most of the shacks

burned by the government, but a few shacks burned by the owners

themselves as they did not have the heart to see them burned by

strangers .. Steve, Barb, their children, and Rivermouth Mike being

among those who burned their homes beause the beach was being

made part of the Juan de Fuca Trail which runs northwest to the

longer West Coast trail at Port Renfrew. By the way, there was a

documentary video made about Sombrio and it is available by

typing a word search on the Internet.

      Of the present whereabouts of Steve and Barbara, Jack said he 

had no idea where they might be as he had not been back to

Sombrio for a few years because, he said, the beach’s peace and

quiet had been destroyed by an influx of 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 feel I must, I for the sake of you readers as well 

as myself, and I am fraught with hesitation here, but I must tell you

the bad news so that the loss may be less for you later .. before you

become as attached to Steve, Barb and family as I became, and I

will .. when I find words. And please don’t think I am using a

literary technique of building suspense, the tragedy is too great for

that .. the loss too painful. Steve and two of the children I had

become so close to, Jesse and Dawn, my berry picking friends, were

gone from our planet, Steve through cancer, and Jesse and Dawn

each in single vehicle accidents on the beautiful West Coast Road

which carried us all so many times between Sombrio and the village

of Sooke where we did our shopping. Jesse and Dawn’s older

brother Clearlight who I had only met once had also died in another

accident. There .. it’s done, I’ve told it, and this time is like every

other time in the telling, tears filling my eyes .. unable to continue

writing.


++++


      Okay .. my eyes are mostly dried.  The memories of the beauiful 

people have been revisited. How could they not be beatiful? Being

born on a beach .. living with nature so intimately that like Leah,

younger sister of Dawn and Jesse and also born on the beach,

says in the video .. “the trees that I hung out with” .. harmless

people, gentle souls. I thought of making the above paragraphs a

separate chapter, but that might cause unnecessary empty space ..

unused paper .. a waste of resources which was not necessary in

the mentality of the beach people. So I will go on to Oak Bay,

which I gained by following Guide Jack who drove slowly enough to

allow me to follow. I think it was at the entrance to 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 to locate a Starbucks Coffee Shop 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 a telephone,

but another almost stunning serendipitousness which came with a almost fiery light after I explained to the saleswoman that I had

just come from Ottawa by moped, my words leading up to the tinder

of her asking, “What neighbourhood are you from in Ottawa?”

      Recognizing in her voice a certain familiarity with Ottawa I 

responded, “Mechanicsville.”

      To which she ignited the tinder by responding, “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 have come, finally, to an easy peaceful feeling when

putting aside 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, either that or she was involved in a

faithful relationship, and neither of us made the least attempt to

flirt, 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,

for I am writing this late at night .. all for tonight as even though I

find it easy to discount romance I’m tired and somewhat lonely and

need to go to bed.


  • * * *


      Oh the joy of seeing brother Ron over coffee at Starbucks!  Ron 

then returned to his boat while I did visited a Laundromat so I

would not make an unkemt entrace to the marina. During my

canoe voyages I had stopped at marinas and found patrons and

staff welcoming, but I was much less scruffy looking then, and even

marina people have their limits as to ease in putting off suspicion.

      Ron and I spent the rest of the day on his cabin cruiser 

drinking beer and whiskey, sleeping aboard each night through the

visit, and the next day we motored onto the Pacific while celebrating

his 56th birthday. Both Ron and I are moderate drinkers generally,

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 the

shipwreck came first (ha ha .. gotcha with that one eh .. there was

no shipwreck) but I have forgotten the sequence of events, whether

it was that first series of days and nights on board, 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

and/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, 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 his view 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 when I was a zombie in the city. I had met

visited Kent once, but was too ‘out of it’ to make return visits. On

this trip to Victoria’s harbour my partying with Ron had revived

some dormant instinct or other and I greatly desired ‘friendship’

with a beautiful mermaid with long red hair who was playing her

accordion for money, busking it’s called, but the desire was mutual

only to the point of her giving me a smile of respect for the elderly ..

at least I think that was the warm glow I saw in her eyes.

      The ocean around Victoria, with 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 Beach is reached from Victoria by driving west or 

north or west northwest or northwest or north northwest and

sometimes south on a switchback to the quaint village of Sooke

which is famous for its hippies and the Sooke Harbour House

restaurant which pleases expensive tastes. Jeani and Adam and I,

immediately before our breakup, were offered the rental of a house

near the Harbour House, the rental property having a large, solidly

fenced yard with lots of green grass and sunshine and shade which would have seemed relatively close to heaven for the rabbits we

raised for food, and which we probably could have marketted to the

Harbour House. Our rabbits would easily have been allowed to

roam free in the yard, as grass was so abundant they had no reason

to go to the trouble of digging under the fence to seek greener

pastures. Sale of our bunnies would have nicely supplemented our

property maintenance business’s income, but Jean had firmly

decided to end our marriage at that point, and I saw no point in

renting a house for myself when my home was to be a lovely one ton

truck tarped Covered-Wagon style. I returned to Sombrio for a

time, but too many changes in my life and at Sombrio had

occurred, including the logging road, parking lot, and influx of

people whose life on the beach was accompanied by boomboxes and

big dogs .. making silence and barefooting opportunities difficult.

Drugs and alcohol were also rampant on the beach, whereas they

were vitually absent before the logging road allowed easy access.

      I garnered an unedeserved reputation during that visit to 

Sombrio by not retaliating after taking several punches to the head

from a slightly deranged fellow who had been smashing headlights

in the parking lot. I had been sleeping in the back of my truck because the parking lot was quieter than the rocking and rolliong

beach, and I stuck my head out and quietly asked him why he was

doing damage like that. He responded by beating on the top of my

head, that being the only target I presented to him, his blows feeling

like feathers falling because the blow of the marriage breakup had

left my skull numb. When he paused in his blows I lifted my face

and saying “Hit me some more if it makes you feel good.” I suppose

I should be glad he didn’t pick up a rock and send me to heaven,

but my words seemed to calm him down, and he might also have

become afraid of this guy who could take such a beating without

being harmed or angry. Like I said .. I was numb. He looked at

me quizzically, and stepped back, and I stepped down from the

truck, and I asked him again why he was damaging the property of

the people on the beach. Actually, I saw his hand as an avenging

angel released by God from the prison of Hades to teach respect for

the boomboxers and dog dirt bringers. I think I recall he did no

damage to Steve and Barb’s vehicle, and I know he did no damage

to mine. He and I had a chat in which I encouraged him away from

anger, or at least away from sinning during anger, and our night

ended quietly. A couple days later Barb looked admiringly at me while recounting to someone how I had not retaliated .. and I

said I couldn’t take any credit, that if he had hurt me I might have

gotten angry and the tale would have a less happy ending. I think I

met that same guy later, in Victoria, and talked him into returning

to his family in Ontario. Like I said earlier, my visit to the beach

was brief. I couldn’t bear the changes, and I left for a tour of the

Gulf Islands where I had some adventures working at odd jobs with

lovely people, and waking up one morning to see two lovely naked

ladies strolling close by. Unknowingly I had parked for the night at

the edge of a popular nude beach, at which I had posted my

sign saying something like ‘Jesus is Life’ This was before my

emotional breakdown, and I had returned somewhat to an

evangelical lifestyle. The ladies looked at me, at the sign, back to

me. All I could say was, “Jesus didn’t come to condemn.” And one

of the women responded affirmatively.

      This moped trip was different.  I was not evangelizing.  I had, 

though, at Victoria, with permanent magic marker drawn three

crosses on my bike’s cowling, under which I printed ‘Glory to God’

as a way of expressing my gratitude for my safe trip.

      As I road towards Sooke 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, from which you can harvest Mussels and Gooseneck

Barnacles for dinner, is a house-sized boulder which lies offshore at

the division between east Sombrio and West .. or North Sombrio

and South, depending on how a person wants to name the two

beaches, although the commonest identies are East Beach and

West Beach. 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, and in the wild

are tame and curious about people, but not tame enough to allow

people to pet them. After discussing the deer, and again asking

about Steve and Barb, and I believe it was here that Steve’s death

was confirmed to me, 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

see the thread’s way through the needle. These I packed into my

gear. I also purchased groceries and wine.

     Leaving Sooke I carried the pain of the certainty of Steve’s 

death, although I can’t remember if I knew about the children yet,

and I was going to say here that not all the beauty riding the

mountainside and oceanside of 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 lives of those people whose flesh, blood, spirits

and love 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. So it was designed to do .. to reveal

God and a visible part of his glory. Nature also breathes change .. a

tree falls to earth and slowly converts to new soil, new flowers,

ferns, new trees, with parts of the tree perhaps providing housing

for creatures and people .. and children. Nature changes. And so

do we change. I can’t say Steve an the children died .. my faith in

eternal life through Jesus Christ is too strong for that .. and my

awareness through living in nature that what is seen as death for

anything is only change .. a terrible, wreching, tearing, mind

shattering change sometimes, but change .. and like Barbara said

of her loved ones, when I found her well in Port Renfrew, “I guess

they had something else to do.” Spiritual fruit to pick. Cosmic

waves to surf. Have I mentioned that Sombrio is said to have the

best surf north of California? The whole family were surfers. Without diving into religious doctrines, some people will say my

friends, our friends, 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. Souls are what Jesse had when

his car slid off the black ice had formed on the black wood of the

pier. The vehicle slid off the end of the pier, and Jesse drowned

certainly because he looked to saving his friends first, all of who

were saved. Soul is what Clearlight had when I met him for the first

time during my breakdown in Victoria, when he had returned to

living at Sombrio, and with his heart full of compassion and

affection he told me, ‘Come to Sombrio and live near us.’

My soul could have been healed by that move, but I stayed in

Victoria, and not getting to know Clearlight is a grief. Could I

be healed of all this sorrow if my pride would simply break and I fell

to my knees genuinely weaping huge tears? I don’t know. I can’t

reach that point. Perhaps genuine life was 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. Thanks to God Dad had no

substance abuse problems or what would our home have been?

But even so .. emotional health? My familiarity with it is brief. I

saw it at the original Sombrio comminity too late to benefit my own

three daughters, who suffered the same things I had suffered, with

parents shouting at each other day and night. Emotional health.

I see it in Christ. I saw it in the determination of my Dad in the

post marriage breakdown era when he chose to care for and feed his

five children instead of putting them ‘out’ in foster homes. I saw it

in my mother’s gradual rebuilding of her life to provide a home for

her children when we were old enough to choose to live with her. I

see it in my daughters now that they’ve gone through their own

marriage and ‘relationship’ breakdowns and have come to see that

two people living together is far more difficult than anyone can

imagine before attempting it in marriage or partnership. I see it in

in nature despite the .. sometimes savageness of the struggle to

survive.









Chapter Eleven



Sombrio – “The trees I used to hang out with.”


      Okay .. so here I am all confused again.  I’m concerned that by 

the way I began the original version of this chapter . . “When I first

discovered Sombrio…” I might have fallen into the Great Caucasian

Explorers’ pit of claiming to be ‘the first on the shore’? Or I am

using proper language to accurately describe ‘finding something

out’ on a personal, me only basis? My limited dictionary is not

sufficient help in this case .. so I will change the language.

      When I first beheld with my grateful and blessed eyes Sombrio 

Beach twenty five years ago it could be reached only: by the sea; by

two hiking trails through a Virgin forest of giant Cedar and

Hemlock, each trail taking almost an hour to descend; by

helicopter, float plane, parachute, hang glider, ultralight; or by UFO

if you had friendship with aliens. (What a writer has to do to be

correctly all inclusive in his language). I could have simplified the

whole introduction by saying Sombrio could not be accessed with a

motor vehicle. This is now, fortunately and unfortunately, possible

.. unfortunately because it opens the beach to wild exploitation by

partyers and sonic boomboxes .. but fortunately because I would

not have been able to stay at the beach if I had to park it in the

parking lot where it could be stolen. I think my moped may have

been the first non-governmental vehicle on the beach .. the

government having used small four wheeled drive vehicles, I have

been led to believe, to evict Sombrio’s citizens.

      My first hike to Sombrio was made by the hour-long, 

northern or westernmost trail, depending on how you want to view

the map, as this coast of Vancouver Island runs northwest. I have

heard the trails called west and east, north and south. I never used a compass to test the accuracy of those labels, and the sunset

varied in different seasons .. but closely examining everything now

in my memory I think the west trail was actually the Northwest

Trail, and the East Trail actually the Southeast Trail. Certain it was

that the sun set over the ocean .. the beautiful Pacific which could

be coloured rose or pastel purple or blue and at times be as placid

as a farmer’s pond .. other times, well, you wouldn’t want to be

surfing it, and I was even frightened standing on the upper reach of

edge, the landward border of the beach one late autumn day when

the dark, grey waves were slowly but surely rising about 30 feet

from the vast heaving ocean below before coming to a gentle,

hissing stop at my feet, then to be carried away oceanward again

with a thunderous cacaphony of large and small stones and rocks

and boulders and huge logs being dragged down the steep slope.

Yes, I was frightened by that power.

    Sombrio’s Northwest Trail is not to be confused with the West 

Coast Trail, or the Fuan de Fuca Trail, those trails being wilderness

hiking trails miles and miles long from which people are rescued by

Canada’s search and rescue helicopters often during hiking season.

Those trails could have been accessed from the Northwest Trail, but except for a beautiful and brief remnant the trail has been carved

out of existance but not out of memory of thousands of people who

listened to its mostly hidden but sometimes seen waterfalls by a

logging road which leads to a gravel parking lot from which the last

few feet of the trail takes us in wonder through the remaining giant

Cedars and Hemlocks to the beach. You will cross a little

footbridge before you gain the beach, and under the bridge is a

small creek from which you can drink. Only a few feet downstream

from the bridge, and still in the forest, is a rope swing hung from a

huge living limb. I remember hanging a rope swing there twenty

years ago, but whether it’s the same swing or a newer one I don’t

know. I hung the swing for my second wife’s son, Adam, and for

the other children who used to live on the beach. There used to be

another swing on the edge of the beach, but that swing went when

the children lost their home beach .. their home .. their beach .. so

the hidden swing is the only playground. There is no running water

other than the creek and Sombrio River which is only a larger

creek. There is no electricity at Sombrio. The beach was my home

on three different occasions, and it was home for hundreds of other

people over three or four decades, and of course home for natives before then .. and I can’t think of the destruction to the forest and

beach and children’s lives and adults’ lives and present day

recreationists’ lives which the logging road and clearcutting resulted

in without feeling pain .. there are tears in my eyes now.

      The West Coast Road which leads from the village of Sooke

outside of Victoria to Sombrio was built only in the 1950s,

signifying the wildness of the land. Sombrio is almost the last stop

before what used to be the commercial fishing village of Port

Renfrew, but which is not a tourist hotspot, with sports fishing.

If you drive the road and pick up a hitchiker he may ask you to

make a stop between Sombrio and Renfrew, a stop with no house or

marker .. a stop where you might see a bear. The hitchiker lives in

a tent or a tiny shack in the woods somewhere off the road. There

are two or three or four of these people, and they used to live at

Sombrio, but when the government evicted Sombrio citizens and

converted the beach to a park stop on the new Juan de Fuca hiking

trail some Sombrio citizenry moved into the woods which remained

along the road. Some Sombio citizens moved to Port Renfrew.

Others were scattered around the world. I was not living at

Sombrio when the forced resettlement occurred a few years ago. There is a video about Sombrio .. you can find it with an internet

search.

      According to the Government of Ontario hardcover book ‘Native 

Trees of Canada’ the giant Cedars are really not Cedars at all, true

Cedars not being native to Canada, but are Arbor Vitae, that term

meaning ‘the tree of life’, and similar but smaller Arbor Vitae, the

Eastern White Cedar, being used in eastern Canada some would

say unfortunately, by Native North Americans to save from scurvy

the lives of the first European explorers. The second predominant

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. 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. God

will destroy those who destroy the earth, the Revelation in the bible

says.

      I don’t know why Sombrio River is named a river.  The mouth 

is not large enough to ever have fooled anyone. Maybe gold claim

sellers wanted buyers to think there was more potential for riches

than there was .. although there was and still is gold at Sombrio.

Sombrio citizens used the shallow pool of the rivermouth to cool off after a steam bath. As you walk upriver you will hear the music of

waterfalls falling into tiny pools. In the old days the water music

drifted through the giant trees. I followed the river up the

mountainside one time one time when I lived there, about half way

up, climbing up the rock walls, not finding gold in the pools, and I

wanted to follow the river higher but I became frightened that I

might encounter a bear, or fall and break a leg, and no one would

know where I was, and no one had any reason to climb the river

because everyone had done it .. so I would be in big trouble all my

my lonesome. If you go to Sombrio watch out for bears. I’ll tell you

a couple of Sombrio bear stories before the end of this part of the

book. There may also be Cougars, but I don’t know anyone who has

seen a big cat at the beach or in the area.

      The climax of my first hike down the trail is still clear in my 

almot 30 year old 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 a few men and women and

children .. and all beneath a beautiful blue sky. As I stepped onto

the beach I could see half hidden among the forest about six rough

shacks built obviously of driftwood, and from first glance it was

obvious that these shacks were more than shacks .. they were

homes .. tiny homes indeed .. but homes. One of the most obvious

changes about the post logging road Sombrio was that the shacks

had become huge by early Sombrio measure .. mansions almost ..

even those used by single occupants, which most were. The logging

road permitted easy access for chain saws and lumber and plywood

and windows .. and the human race being what it is even Sombrio

fugitives thought they needed more personal space than they

needed. The environmental friendliness of the place was gone.

      On my first visit, the first people I met were Steve and Barbara 

and their children, and I met them by simply walking up to their

home, knocking on the door, and saying hello. I remember

thinking Steve, a tall, blond, muscular Viking-like man, was the

most gentle soul I had ever met. He was a U.S. Draft Dodger ..

Praise the Lord. Barbara was a local girl. They were plainly

welcoming, telling me about the community, and 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. That

same little spot served me when Jeani, Adam and I moved onto the

beach, and also during my moped visit.

      Besides Steve and Bard I remember three adults clearly, 

although if I were to name them the names would be guesses. One

was either French Canadian or French, a fellow in his mid twenties

who had lived on the beach for a year. Another was a young

woman from Washington State, and the third was a fellow who was

probably over 60 years old and had retired to the beach.

Rivermouth Mike, who lived almost two decades on the beach,

arrived after I left that first time. There were three or four others,

some with cabins isolated from the main beach, and some desiring

closer neighbours. Inhabitants made full use of available

resources, including Mussels, and tender pink flesh of

Gooseneck Barnacles, as well as different kinds of seaweed, and of

course mushrooms and berries. Barbara also had a garden. I

learned quickly that this culture was not attempting a commune, or return to antiquity .. Steve had a chain saw, and had run a

plastic pipe from the creek to their home, into their stainless steel

kitchen sink, to make housework easier for Barb; but that was the

only running water on the beach besides what was found in

waterfalls, the river, the creeks. On looking back, I don’t think that

pipe was a good idea because the damp environment was perfect for

mould, which would grow inside the pipe.

      The retired fellow had a transisitor radio (yes, a transistor 

radio from the days of true antiquity) which he said he brought to

the beach to warm of Tsunamis, but I learned he liked to keep in

touch with the awful outside world’s news, and thought his

preoccupation with the news odd for someone who wanted to

escape the world. This fellow, who was quietly respectable in his

outward demeanor, turned out to be an evil person, but for the sake

of respect for victims I won’t say in what way, but he did not have a

pleasant end to his life.

    A return to a genuine form of primitive, environmentally perfect 

lifestyle was also not attained, indeed was not a goal as far as I

knew, or if it had been a goal it was abandoned early in our quest

for peace because of the difficulty in attaining it. Most or all of our shacks contained plastic and glass; and Steve had brought a

fibreglass canoe to the beach and fitted it with outriggers, and we

paddled far, far, far out until the canoe was just a dot on the

horizon, and we brought home fish. When Jeani, Adam and I lived

at Sombrio I had what was both a a wondrous and also a potentially

deadly experience with the canoe when another fellow and me

stayed out fishing a long time. The wondrous experience came

when a monstrous thing, a living thing of flesh and blood, rose out

of the ocean close to us, resulting in fear which genuinely petrified

me into a perfect state of immobility before I heard he whale blow

and realized what it was. The whale had surfaced so silently that

the other fellow, who was in the bow facing me, did not even know

the creature was behind him until it blew. The dangerous time

came when and then the tide changed, and the currents changed,

and the waves rose high, and we had to ‘surf’ the canoe to shore

through thundering breakers. Steve knew we would need all the

help we could get to survive the surf, and he stood at the shore and

motioned for us where to land, and by carefully counting waves and

paddling at the right moment we were able to ride in the crest of the

seventh, largest wave, with only minor damage to the canoe and no loss of the 40 large fish we had caught. It is my pleasure to say I

was steersman on our ride in, and because of my experience with

the whale I felt no fear on the way in, and I don’t think I felt any

kind of fear for years .. until my marriage breakdown left me

terrified of encounters concerning the heart involving women.

      Sombrio’s dwellers cooked and sometimes heated our homes 

with stoves either iron or sheet metal, and on my first stay at the

beach we used a sauna, washing off afterwards in the fresh water of

the rivermouth. Firewood was seemingly endless before the logging

road brought in endless numbers of people to burn the driftwood.

During my first visit recreational drugs were not often mentioned or

used, although marijuanna was grown and smoked on rare

occasions, or made into tea. Alcohol was present, but only in

moderation until the logging road made carrying loads to the beach

a simple chore. When a person has to carry his alcohol down an

hour long trail the value of a small drink over a large one becomes

easily apparent. I remember one ‘party’ only during my first stay,

when everyone on the beach gathered at dawn around a beach fire.

I can’t even remember the smell of marijuanna at that party .. but

Steve had made a drum, and I must have had my ever present harmonica, and someone had a guitar .. and it was a great event

made greater by the absence of drunkenness, and especially great

by the knowledge that we were there to dwell in nature without

harming it or each other .. except for that one snake in the soul of

that one man.

      I learned some small things about the environment at Sombrio.  

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.

      Sombrio was filled with wondrous new phenomenon during my 

first visit .. events like the champagne fizz 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 onto the hard rock 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. I doubt if one

out of a thousand visitors here that music now, with the volume of

electronic music carrying far and wide sometimes all day and

halfway through the night. A joy which repeated itself to me every

time I visited Sombrio was the surprise of hearing a low hummmm

and looking up to find a Ruby Throat Hummingbird hovering a foot

away and staring me in the eyes.

      I was pleasantly surprised on my moped visit by the height and 

abundance of the reforested evergreens. The mountainside had

been clearcut just before Jeani and I lived there, and I don’t think

anyone who does not have a wallet or purse in place of a heart has

ever viewed the destruction of clear cut logging without revulsion.

But I was 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 rising 20 feet or 30 feet 20 years after planting. Compared to Bamboo which has been

measured growing three feet in one day, trees grow slowly, but at

Sombrio the regrowth had been sure and thick enough to properly

be called a forest. It will be, however, hundreds of years to become

what it was when I saw it first.

      The gravel/dirt logging road, which must be driven with 

extreme caution because of potholes and switchbacks, leads to a

dirt/gravel parking lot which like all money hungry landlords

boasts a locked, steel box into which campers and day users are

supposed to insert money, and which signifies Sombrio as

supposing to be a part of the Provincial Parks system, although, like

Steve says in the documentary, “If they were going to make it a

park, why didn’t they leave the trees?” There is a thin stand of

the original trees along the beach which gives presents a small idea

of the original forest, with trails running through the stand which

during community days would join houses to houses, and houses to

creeks and waterfalls. 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 to the original West Coast Trail at Port Renfrew. I paid for one night, registering as Ontario

Moped, but stayed 10 nights, feeling guiltless because of the overall

destruction of what had once been simply .. unspeakable priviledge.

      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 my

memories of Mike slowly returned to me. He was a surfer, a draft

dodger from the United States, as Steve had been. He had spent

almost two decades living on the beach, arriving between the

second time I lieved there and when I arrived with Jeani and Adam.

In the Sombrio video Mike speaks often and well. Mike is a talented

guitarist and harmonica player, and while living at Sombrio earned

income by making occasional busking visits to Victoria, and also by

repairing surfboard. He recounts on the video how he exchanged

surfboard repair with a surfing dentist 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; but Mike

returns 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. It was from Mike I learned that Barbara was living in

Port Renfrew, just north on the West Coast Road.

      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 shouting “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 the bear, seeing both of us walking aggressively and directly

towards him or her, 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.

I don’t think I even took the knife from its sheath; and of course, it’s

extremely rare when using a weapon against a bear is necessary, as

they most often run away from a human presence, especially if the

human shouts loudly, 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 intimate encounter with a bear during this

visit to Sombrio, this time when I was alone, and searching for ‘the

old trails’ which had become overgrown. I was standing on the

trunk of 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 .. like a snake but not like a snake ..

and this hissing I knew immediately came from a mammalian

throat, close by, but I could not immediately identify the direction

from which the sound had come. 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 that same something caused

me to look up .. and there, eight feet above me, staring me in the

face, and again making its 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,

no thought of, ‘gee, I wish I had my camera’ .. 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 in the time

of the Sombrio community driftwood was plentiful and wisely use,

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 rode into 

Port Renfrew, a ride of only a few miles but with two hills so steep I

had to walk the bike up while twisting the throttle. I stopped at a

Community Centre on the edge of the village 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 child, a boy who was using a computer. This was Tobias, Barbara’s

grandson. Now, if you have never believed in ‘miracles’, preferring

to call them ‘coincidences’, this moment is an invitation to convert

to faith in God .. for no coincidences could have set up Barbara’s

grandson and my grandson having the same name. There has been

only one other Toby in my life, and he was my eldest daughter’s

cat .. and so I have the honour of being one of planet earth’s

fortunate few who have a grandson named after a cat. I suppose

this moment is as good a place as any to boast of my prophesying

which gender Kimi’s baby would be. Before her son’s birth Kimi

had visited 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 was stirred powerfully

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, Elias, is an Arab Israeli who

speaks both languages, Arabic 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.

      As I rode my moped towards Barbara’s home I knew a little bit 

about what I believed, but in the face of Barbara’s losses, of our

losses, 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

outside the front door of her home when I rode up, and I recognized

her immediately arfter 20 years; but she did not recognize me.

I dismounted from my bike and called to her, “Hello Barb.”

      “It’s Barbara,” she replied, with certain authority.  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.

      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 recognition. 

brought a well known smile. “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 

seemed to have had recovered from the initial trauma. Barbara

either said, ‘I guess they had someplace else to go’, or, ‘I guess they

had something else to do.’ Whatever she said carried a 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 ever getting ‘excited’ or depressed. I

remember her face as showing special happiness twice, during the little beach party with the original community, and when my fishing

partner and rode through the thundering surf safely. That canoe

story held a surprise ending, and that was when we had surfed to

within reach of shore, foaming water began pouring over gunwhales

at the bow, and my partner, possibly thinking we were in shallow

water, but possibly also knowing he would lighten the canoe by his

action, jumped overboard, disappearing beneath the foam, but his

hand gripping the gunwhale. The canoe rose in the bow and we

carried forward, but then water began pouring into the mid section,

and I, too, jumped overboard, hanging on with my hand, and also

disappearing beneath the wave. The bow was now at the shore, and

Steve and Barbara grabbed hold and hold it in .. and my partner

and me with it. and had they not done so my partner and me could

have met a bad end. We shot ahead until water again started

pouring in, water was still deep enough that I went completely

under .. but the wave carried us all the way in, and Steve and

Barbara grabbed the bow and hauled us ashore.

      Barbara had remarried, and on that visit I met/re-met three of 

her surviving daughters. 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 as bartender at the same hotel her brother Jesse had

worked at at the time of his physical departure from our presence,

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, was about a

14 years old (I would guess) during the filming, and 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 Mike used his laptop computer 

(no stone age culture this) to make for me a copy of the Sombrio

video. I do not appear in the video because I had returned

to Ontario at the time of filming. 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

survived of our own accord. Yes .. I love this younger generation for

their humility .. and for their kindness and undeserved respect

towards us crazy self righteous old people. I should add that even

though I enjoyed that feeling of total physical helplessness at a time

when I didn’t even have my bear spear with me and when a bear or

Cougar could have snacked away or a sea monster could have come

crawling up and dragged me into the depths I don’t want to be in

that position again .. flat on my back in a hole like some sheep

which has gone astray from its shepherd. I should also tell any of

you people in Spain who might be reading this “Keep your kids at

home and away from Canada’s Senior Citizens!” My two Spanish

friends had packed up their camp and left before I got out of my tent, for a quieter beach someone said, but if they are happening to

be reading this I’ll just say this, “Haven’t you got enough crazy old

guys at home in Spain you can get stoned and leave laying around

on midnight beaches in the drizzle without coming over here? It’s

no wonder our navy fired a shot across the bow of one of your

fishing boats … But thanks for teaching me about Bull Kelp as

campfire fuel.”


  • * * * * * *


      I’ve forgotten to tell you about the South Trail (or East Trail) 

from the West Coast Road to Sombrio. This trail ended on the

South, or East Beach, and the start of it was reached by a short

drive through a previously cut forest down what was not much

more than a footbpath. The entrance to the path off the highway is

closed now, and the trail unused, because of a landslide near the

bottom. But in the days of the community the South Trail was the

shorter of the two trails, taking only about ½ hour, whereas the

main trail took one hour. The short trail was steep, and not used

as much as the longer trail, but this was the favourite trail for

Dawn and Jesse and I to ascend to the Salmonberry bushes at the top. When I returned to Sombrio with Jeani and Adam, the short

trail was the trail I used to lead Jeani and Adam down during our

first descent, even though I knew the logging road had been cut,

along with the forst on that part of the mountain. The short trail

was still surrounded by Virigin forest, though, and I had not told

Jeani about the logging road because I wanted to share my first

experience of visiting Sombrio. Jean loved the outdoors as much as

I did, and because we had arrived at Sombrio at dusk that first day,

we spent the evening in our little tent trailer at the top of the trail

listening to the surf thundering below. Jeani needed no

encouragement to descend the trail in the morning .. but was more

eager than me .. partly because I knew the climb could be

dangerous if done carelessly. Our four months on the beaches were

full of sunshine and warmth .. and the little shack we built had a

floor of Evergreen bows. Jeani was so adept with life outdoors that

she was able to use a metal bread box as an oven for baking bread.

      After four months winter was coming on, and I had no faith in 

finding employment in Port Renfrew. Also, one of the Sombrio

dwellers we had frequent contact with, perhaps it was Mike, was a

smoker of cigarettes, and he had jokingly asked Adam if he would like a cigarette. Adam was about 11 years old, an impressionable

age, and he hesitated long enough to know Jeani and I had to

remove him from contact with smoking. Our departure was as

memorable as our arrival, for when we had driven up the logging

road to the highway, a low cloud was blanketing the coast below,

with sunshine painting the cloud with perfect whiteness.

    We drove into Sooke, stopped at a Laundromat for laundry 

purposes, and there on the bulletin board was an advertisement,

‘Small House Trailer For Rent’. We phoned the number, drove a few

miles to the beautiful, wilderness like setting on a beautiful ocean

bay, and spent the winter there. In spring we moved into an

apartment on another beautiful beach not far removed, and lived

there a year before renting a small cottage just down the shore.

Jeani and I operated the Wedir’s Beach Handycouple Service’

during this time, and homeschooled Adam. We visited Sombrio

about the same time we moved into the cottage, and Steve and Barb

asked us if we wanted a goat. Their adult Billy had grown bad

tempered, and had tried to butt a child off the top of a low cliff. The

goat kept our cottage’s oceanside yard free of tall grass, but it was


the original plan to kill it for food, which we did. It was at this

cottage we raised rabbits, starting with three, and ending 18

months later with 60. We were also given a pair of Peking Ducks

during this time, from a family with children who lived up the road

from us, and who we celebrated New Year’s with. One duck we ate,

the other was taken for a short underwater swim by an Otter, who

released it when I threw a rock. The duck was dead, though, and

we gave it to a widow who lived in Sooke, and who had been giving

Adam piano lessons.

      I still wonder what went wrong with our life at the cottage.  

Jeani and I fell into the trap of arguing about nothing .. and after

many weeks of our bickering Adam said, “I’m sick and tired of this!”

It was shortly after Jeani moved into a home as a live-in Nanny ..

and I began my tour of the Gulf Islands .. returning to Victoria in

time for my emotional collapse, spending another six months in the

city trying to regain some sense of equilibrium, and then selling my

truck and returning to Ontario on a Greyhound Bus. Jeani

returned about six months later (we both returned to Peterborough

where we had orignally met while I was living under an Apple Tree ..

which is a long story and if you email me I’ll tell you about it) but

Jeani and I never as much as got together for a cup of coffee; but

my first mother in law lives in Peterborough where I am writing

this, and she and I go out for dinner or lunch occasionally. If we

want to continue the history, my first ex wife is in Peterborough

also, and we see each other for a few minutes at a time because of

family connections.

      My lady friend Natali and I from Ottawa still chat occasionally 

on the telephone, but I have determined that being single, while it

may be lonely at times, is preferable to the problems of marriage or

relationships, my age makes sexual intimacy nearly unnecessary;

and so I argue with no one other than an occasional bad tempered

other on a moped discussion forum.
















Chapter 13


Recovery, and Return to Ron



      These chapter might better fit together if I had remembered to 

tell you readers about the South Trail, and family history, before the

Stoned Again chapter .. but I’ll leave it this way for now, and let my

editor decide how to arrange things.

      The day after the Stoned Again party was Saturday, and I spent 

the morning after recovering from the party, and then spent the

afternoon after the morning after preparing to leave Sombrio ..

preparing both equipment-wise and psychologically. I had many reasons to go: the beach was far too crowded and noisy (I had

several tents within 50 feet of me .. one large tent within 10 feet);

my brother’s three or four day period off work would begin Monday;

the Sea Lion losing his mate saddened me with their symbolization

of the whole range of environmental catastrophes our planet is

going through; all the firewood on Sombrio had been burned up; I

was tired of the cool, drizzly, foggy weather and hoped the sun

might be out in Victoria which is blessed with more sunshine days

than Sombrio; I was out of alcohol and anyway did not want to risk

getting involved in another party with its head-rearranging

aftereffects; my food was running low; and last but not least those

dangerous Spaniards might come back with a fresh bag of

Superweed.

      Before darkness fell that evening I had chatted with many 

people, including one young woman doctor who was hiking the

Juan de Fuca Trail solo, and who planned on carrying on the

length of the West Coast Trail. I had shown a few campers and

hikers the swing over the creek and told its story. I picked some

trash off the beach and bagged it, then escorted my four friends

with the pink pearl up the trail to the parking lot, carrying some of their gear for them, and they in return taking out the trash for me.

I escorted another small group up the trail to the parking lot, these

were two young couples with children who had been camped close

to me, and we had grown fond of each other. I took one last walk

to the waterfall on the east beach. Lastly I placed bear spear I had

made in the capable hands of the wooden surfer who I’m sure had

been carved by Steve.

      Before darkness fell I packed onto the moped everything I did 

not need for that night’s sleep, and when darkness fell I was inside

my sleeping bag where I slept on and off, waking up to the same

two women talking in loud voices until the first light of dusk. They

must have fallen asleep before I rose and broke my camp, and I

sure fell like starting my moped up outside their tent door and for

those women’s benefit revving the engine a good long time, but

instead of that I pushed the moped a ways along the minor

footpaths which ran through the forest to the main trail leading to

the parking lot before starting it, and then walked beside it,

throttling the engine because so much rain had fallen while I was

camped that the ground was so spongy with water, and I actually

had to detour off a trail around a large puddle. This surprised me because there had been limited sunshine in the 10 days I was there

which allowed me to dry clothing after washing it in the river; and I

had not really noticed the rain except it caused me to stay warmly

dressed and to get into my rain gear on occasion. Life outdoors,

unbroken by the comforts of a regular structure, acclimatizes a

person.

      When I reached the main trail I mounted up and rode until the 

ascent to the parking lot became too steep, and then walked while

throttling the engine. On my way up I passed a young couple who

were on their way down, and who told me they had spent the night

in their car. Immediately after reaching the parking lot I

encountered a grubby, slinky, mean spirited looking fellow who I

am sure was planning on breaking into cars and stealing whatever

was available, but he had been disturbed by the people who had

slept in their vehicle who I met on their way down the trail, and

then I disturbed him again. I have two hopes regarding that fellow,

that after being disturbed twice so early in the morning he lost his

nerve, and I also hope that if he did break into cars that I would not

be blamed.

      The ride up the logging road was was bouncy from its

abundance of potholes, but otherwise uneventful, and the ride

towards River Jordan and Sooke was exhilarating for the scenery,

for the thought that I would be seeing my brother again soon, and

also because the sun was promising to break through the clouds,

which it finally did, transforming a cool, grey, damp day into

a much more wonderful experience. I took advantage of the

sunshine to stop often at Salmonberry patches. Salmonberries are

similar to raspberries but over sized, and with a nice orange colour

when ripe. At Sooke I stopped at a hippie café for a leisurely

breakfast, chatting with several people, gassed up, and motored on

into Victoria’s neighbourhood of Esquimalt which harbours

Canada’s western naval base, and where without much difficulty I

located the motorcycle shop which was holding my new tire for

pickup. Employees of that shop told me of a motorcycle repair shop

where I might someone who would take a link out of my stretched

chain which is used to drive the rear wheel. A stretched chain

causes loss of power to the rear wheel. I located that shop with

great difficulty, somehow ending up in the boonies of northeastern

Victoria far from the shop’s location; and when I did find the shop I

was told they would not take a link out, and advised my getting a new chain, which they did not stock. I thought the chain

adjustment mechanism had reached its maximum adjustment, but

while putting the new tire on later I found enough adjustment to

convince myself the old chain would last to Ontario.

      The rest of my drive to downtown Victoria was uneventful, and 

I did my banking, and stopped at the Public Library to send emails;

and then, because the afternoon was beautifully warm and sunny

with no clouds, I camped out at a downtown pedestrian bench,

spreading my damp bedding out to dry. My brother would be

unavailable until the next day, because at the end of his workweek

he insisted on going to bed early and sleeping late the next day.

I had another motive for camping out downtown, and that was to

see if I could earn money busking my poetry. I had brought on my

trip a few simple, 4” x 5” ‘Moped Poet On Tour’ posters, and

although I had no copies of my ‘Collected Poetical Works’ to sell I

did bring a collection of poetry to read. It had been my intention to

busk as I crossed the provinces, but opportunity did not present

itself. While I was already in the mood to busk, that mood was

elevated to stratospheric heights when a young girl, about 10 year

of age, walking hand in hand past me with her mother, looked first towards me and then to her mother’s face and said, “Look Mom, a

Hippy!” Well bless my soul! I had finally become what I had always

dreamed of being .. as one of my poems says, “the song that I was

singing, was the song that I became.”

      So far, so good.  Police had not looked askance at me.  Rough 

looking characters had only been kind to me. Pedestrians walked

politely past without making rude comments. I posted two posters

near my bedding, and began handing others to people I judged

might have poetically charitable natures. All the people I handed

posters to where walking in the same direction, so I was surprised

when a gentleman, whose name I shall call Jack, walked up to me

from that direction with a poster in hand. someone had handed it

to him, he said, and he was interested in hearing a poem. I read

one of my antiwar poems, and he was pleased. Jack was from Nova

Scotia where he had worked for several years as head of

maintenance for a large shipping company. That employment,

though, had been headed by a nasty spirited individual, and Jack

had finally had enough, and quit before he himself became nasty.

He was in Victoria for a holiday, but he had intention of eventually

seeking work there. We had a nice chat, and then Jack opened his wallet and handed me a $10 bill, was I expressed genuine thanks

for. Jack paused, then said, ‘give me that bill back’. A that I

wondered if my gratitude had been expressed insufficiently, but

handed him the bill. He then handed me a $20 .. and said, “that

$10 was too small’. I began thanking him again, when he took a

Fifty from his wallet and handed me that also, saying, “keep the

$20 too.” Well .. I was flabbergasted now .. scarce able to believe

both my good fortune and Jack’s good nature .. my thanks was

awestruck. “I know I’ll get it back someday,” Jack said, “Pressed

down and running over.” This was a scripture I knew from the

gospels, and said, “Glory to God”.

      Jack said his goodbyes to me, and I to him, and he was off.  I 

was still flabbergasted when a young woman came to me and asked

for a poem, which I read to her, and she handed me a Loonie .. one

Canadian Dollar. I received that with thankfulness also,

recognizing that she, like the widow in the gospel, was giving of her

necessity and not out of abundance.

      I decided at that point that I had busked enough .. that I 

should not be greedy. Besides, I had given out all but two of my

posters. I think I left bedding and moped (which I had locked to the bench) and bought a takeout coffee, which I enjoyed while my

bedding was drying, and when the bedding was dry rolled it up and

bundled it onto the moped.

      My friend Rivermouth Mike, at Sombrio, had given me the 

Victoria address of another fellow who had lived at Sombrio. While

not naturally trusting of others I left my bike and gear where it was

locked and walked to the address. This fellow, who I shall call

Jack, was home, and through the intercom invited me to come up

for coffee. He, however, had pets, and I explained my allergies and

said I’d rather go out for coffee, which we did. This fellow had a

drinking problem, small or large I don’t know, but most of his

conversation was about getting beer, and said he wanted to spend

his last $5 on beer, etc., and that we should go for a beer. I did not

want to spend money in a hotel, and did not want to get into

drinking with this fellow anyway, so I persuaded him towards a

coffee by offering to buy. Jack and I talked of Sombrio, of Steve and

Barbara and their children, of Mike, etc., and of this Jack’s plans to

return to Sombrio and plant some weed, and I said that anything

stronger than a tea made of that medicinal herb was overdosing,

and should (?) he risk getting caught and put in jail, etc. Our visit came to an end after this Jack invited me to spend the night at his

place, with me declining because of my allergies, and because I did

not want to be separated from my bike and gear overnight in

downtown Victoria because that was a good way of becoming

separated from it forever. I did not quite trust this fellow because

of his seeming addiction for alcohol and smoke, and when he asked

me where I was to spend the night I said out of the city, when I

intended to spend it in a park on the waterfront, which I did, being

part of a small group which conversed with a photographer who had

set his large camera on a tripod at the edge of the quiet waterfront

in order to shoot the full moon rising over the ocean and islands.

Venus or Jupiter was in the sky that night as well .. really a night

that is hard to describe for its beauty, especially with the lights and

sounds of ocean freighters coming and going. There were fireworks

that night .. a few. There were also ‘no overnight camping’ signs

everywhere, and so I waited until most of the visitors had left the

park, well after midnight I believe it was, and then went in search of

a spot to camp, finding it in the centre of a field of tall flowers and

scented weeds, much of the growth being Chamomile, where I did

not pitch my tent, but laid down my sleeping bag covered by the waterproof space blanket. One couple on a lover’ stroll noticed my

camp, and a person walking their dog also looked my way. I hoped

the dog would not begin barking at me, and it did not. One police

car did a tour of the circular drive around the large field, but I had

positioned my moped so that car lights would not hit reflectors.

Had I been asked to move on I would have done so, finding a spot

someplace .. after all, I had traveled six weeks and had not done

without a place to lie my head.

      The sky was bright with stars that night, and my sleep was 

sound. I was up at dawn and rode around until I found an early-

opening restaurant .. a hippy restaurant of course, this being

Victoria hippyness is everywhere. The waitress perhaps thought I

was a homeless vagrant and wrote a light bill, and I rewarded her

with a $2 tip. I then rode to Oak Bay, to the Gas Bar/Laundromat

which I had used on my arrival to Victoria, and there I did a

laundry, changing my moped’s tire as the laundry machines worked

away. This tire was built with four plies instead of two, and was

stiffer, difficult to get round on the rim .. but with patience and by

using the electric air pump to over inflate the tire I was finally

successful. If you use the over inflation technique you have to be careful not to explode the tire, so generally it is safer to over inflate

using a hand pump. During my time at the Laundromat I had

hung my dewy sleeping bag out to dry in the sun, laundering my

inner and outer cotton bedsheets and drying them in the machines.

Soon enough it was time for coffee with Ron at Starbucks, and then

a shower for me at the Marina, and four nights sleeping on the

boat, two nights spent on the top deck under the stars, and one

inside the boat not only because rain threatened, but because

I wanted the intimacy with Ron.

      Even with the evening threats of rain the days were summer-

perfect, and when Ron and I were not at sea we spent a lot of time

sitting on the upper deck, Ron with a beer, me with a whiskey.

During this time I read the book I had bought Ron for his birthday,

rather, I should say I reread it. Ten years before I had read Captain

Joshua Slocum’s tale of his solo sail around the world .. the first

solo circumnavigation, and one of those trips which, like Thor

Hyerdhal’s Kon Tiki raft trip across the Pacific, experts of every kind

said could not be done. I beieve Kon Tiki took three months to drift

from Peru to the Polynesian Islands, and Spray took three years for

its trip. Perhaps there is a circumnavigation in store for Ron and I .. certainly my son-in-law Ralph, who I am living with during the

time I’m writing this book, hopes to be able to sail around the world

in another ten or fifteen years .. and if he goes, I’m sure my

granddaughter Jade will be going along. I plan of gifting Jade with

a book on sailing soon.

      When I had first arrived in Victoria I was not sure how much 

time I would spend before starting my return trip. A family

reunion of sorts was scheduled in Winnipeg for the July 1 Weekend.

Dad and my brother Jody with his wife Donna were driving from

their homes north of London, and would be met in Winnipeg by

Dad’s brother, two sisters, Rick and Sandra from Saskatoon, and a

few others. A trip to the homestead was planned, with the general

sentiment being that this would be Dad’s generation’s last trip to

the homestead. Before I had begun my journey I had told Dad that

I might try to be at the homestead for the reunion, and I had been

hoping that Ron might be interested in going; but Ron was unable

to attempt the trip, and as I had been on the homestead and hoped

to see my aunts on my return trip, and as I did not know when Ron

and I would be able to see each other again, I decided to stay in his

neighbourhood .. and Ron and I were both very happy that I had made that decision. As it was it was far too soon that I had to head

back east because of my income obligations. I suppose I could

have stayed another week, giving Ron and I three series of days

together, but that would mean a hasty trip back to the Ontario

border for August 1. I also wanted to visit Saskatoon again, and

visits to both aunts would require visiting Winnipeg as well as the

town of Morden, which is south of Winnipeg. Another factor was

that I wanted the return trip through the prairies to be leisurely ..

to have time to explore the province of Saskatchewan which was

Dad’s mother’s birthplace. I also hoped to visit Prince Albert

National Park, which was where the internationally famous

conservationist Grey Owl (Archie Belaney) wrote the books which

some people believe were responsible for saving the Beaver from

extinction in North America, and for starting modern

conservationist thinking. Of course, it was Annahereo, Archie’s

aboriginal wife, who really deserves the credit, as she motivated him

not only to stop trapping Beavers for a living, but to write and

publish his books. I was greatly privileged to have visited

Annahereo’s birthplace, Mattawa on the Ottawa River, by canoe.

While most of fame’s spotlight shone on Grey Owl, Annahereo was acclaimed in her own right, devoting her entire life to conservation

after Grey Owl ceased to physically exist on earth, and becoming

the second person to receive an award for conservation which was

first awarded to Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Annahereo is honoured

with Annahereo Days in Mattawa, and her book, the title of which

was, I believe, corrupted at the Editor’s or Publisher’s insistence for

the sake of sales promotion, that title being ‘Devil in Deerskin ..

My Life With Grey Owl’, is every bit as well written as Grey Owl’s

‘Tales From An Empty Cabin’ and ‘The Beaver People’. If you have

never heard of Grey Owl it is because even though he and

Annahereo were two of the most internationally famous people of

their day, they were relegated ‘to the unknown backwoods’ in

Canada after Grey Owl confessed to not being an aboriginal by

blood, but an Englishman who had become an aboriginal by spirit.

That spirit is brought to life in the beautiful movie ‘Grey Owl’, which

stars Pierce Brosnan as Grey Owl along with a lovely young

Canadian aboriginal actress whose name escapes me but who

portrays Annahereo. Any person interested in conservation,

history,accomplishment, or film as art would do well to view this

movie.








Chapter 14



Eastward and Northward and Godward



      To the best of my limited knowledge Grey Owl never mounted 

up on a horse; but my iron donkey was ready to go, and Ron and I,

after a last coffee together at Starbucks, said farewell, he off to

work at his computer doing a job so secretive he won’t share details

with me, and me off to the east, planning on taking the southern

route as far as the Okanagan Valley and then up towards Calgary.

That plan was somewhat altered near the top end of the Okanagan,

but those details will come later.

      I followed the ocean as far as I could, first passing Oak Bay 

Beach, the spot where an aboriginal village had prospered in peace

and plenty for at least the last 2,000 years before Caucasians

arrived. I was surprised to learn that Elk was the main staple

of those natives’ diet, and also was surprised that a quirk of the

ocean shore allowed the aboriginal children a clear view of the

bright Morning Star Venus when it rose in the east in its season.

      I saw no Elk on my way to the ferry at Sydney, but I did see 

several of the small and almost tame deer which inhabit southern

Vancouver Island even in populated areas. Deer are not the only

wildlife here, and or at least 20 years ago, in the year before Jeani

and I moved into our seaside cottage outside of Victoria a Cougar

had strolled the paved road which fronted several homes inhabited

year-round. I saw no Cougars on my moped though, but I did see

a few rabbits, perhaps descended from those Jeani, Adam and I had

turned loose when we went our separate way.

      The road along the shoreline takes so many twists and turns 

that I became unsure of my path at one intersection, and set my

bike up on its kickstand; but the above average intake of alcohol

over my last two weeks made me careless, and I did not beware the wind and angle of lean caused by the graded of the road, and my

iron horse blew over. No damage was done, but in lifting the bike

and attempting to raise it on its kickstand I dropped it again. I was

‘off my game’ as the saying goes, because of the moderate but

steady alcohol intake of the past two weeks. When the bike hit the

ground the second time the right side mirror hit the pavement and

the mirror, which was fastened with a ball and socket assembly,

popped free of its holder. I could not reinsert the ball into the

socket. The frustrations foreshadowed troubles to come .. and

while my alcohol consumption was mostly to blame, I realized at the

time that because I was already genuinely missing my brother my

emotions were as unsteady as my sense of balance and had

undoubtedly played a part in my misjudgments. I wrapped the

mirror in a rag to help avoid breakage, and stowed it in the

saddlebag with my tools, then proceeded to Sydney, where used

time to spare before boarding the ferry to search unsuccessfully for

a colourful ‘Victoria’ or ‘Sydney’ sticker to boastfully decorate my

moped, notifying residents of Ontario of my Odyssian voyage.

My Ontario License Plates had served that purpose for western

eyes.

      The ferry ride through the Gulf Islands was of course beautiful.

Three or four motorcyclists were making the passage and we shared

experiences. At Tawassan I briefly considered riding into Vancouver

to find the home of some friends/relatives .. my first wife’s sisters

adult children who were also adventurers as genuine rodeo stars.

One of them was marrying, and I had been as close as a brother to

their parents for several years, spending considerable time around

their little homestead splitting firewood to help my brother in law

whose back was at times not up to hard labour. The boys learned

through family history that I had introduced Wally and Betty Jo to

each other by inviting Wally to my home when I was still married to

and living with Betty Jo’s sister Arlene, and had come to regard me

as a favourite uncle. Even so, the thought of venturing into the

Vancouver’s traffic frightened me, partly because the moped was

loaded and balanced for highway travel and not for making

unending right angle turns in congested traffic through a city maze

in which road-enraged drivers were pedal-to-the-metaling it while

talking on cellphones and watching television and studying

electronic dashboard maps while drinking coffee and Budweiser

while smoking B.C. Bud through bongs while trying to avoid a slow moving moped. Call me chicken if you want, in the month

prior to leaving Ottawa I was almost run down twice while

walking on a ‘walk’ signal across a street in the middle of sunny

afternoons. Both criminal drivers were making turns in my

direction. Their intention may as well have been plain murder, and

had I not been Saved by Grace both times I could easily have been

killed. The fortunate result of those incidents for me was that

transport truck traffic on major highways seemed a picnic. Cities

were to be visited only if necessary. I passed Vancouver by.

      I didn’t pass by very far though.  I had barely gotten through 

the suburbs and was on the busy four lane Trans Canada Highway

Number One when I got a flat .. another rear flat. The air let go

relatively slowly in a non-frightening way and I was able to come to

an easy stop; but I did not want to make the repair on the gravel

shoulder with traffic whizzing past a few feet away, so took a walk

to see if a better spot was available. About one-eight mile ahead

was an intersection and an expanse of grass and trees. I walked

the bike there, hoping the gravel would not damage the flat tire, and

was so discouraged at the bad start this day had been that when I

reached the pleasant spot I thought that I should pitch camp beneath the spreading tree, go to sleep, and to do the work the next

day. I had a serious feeling that changing this tire was not going to

be fun. The sun was hot .. the traffic was noisy even though I was

removed from the road .. and there was a ‘no camping’ sign

protecting the area from dangerous pilgrims and wandering saints

who may need a place to lay their head after the tiring work of

healing the sick and raising the dead. Perhaps the posters of the

sign felt if saints are healing the sick and raising the dead they

should be well paid and therefore could afford a $100 per night

motel room .. that thinking forgetting that Saints often work for

free.

      Fixing my rear tire flat could, if all went well, take as little as 

half an hour; but I felt an absence of good fortune and so I

examined the path the sun was taking and chose a workplace

which would remain shaded by the tree for the next three

or four hours. The ground was grass-covered and even though the

grass was dry the soil had been softened by many days of wet

weather, and I knew my kickstand forks would sink into the ground

on one side or the other, causing the bike to fall over, or sink into

the ground enough to make removing the rear wheel impossible, as even when raised on the kickstand on pavement the wheel’s

clearance was barely sufficient to allow removal. In Victoria I had

discarded my relatively frail and badly beaten up piece of aluminum

plate which had served as kickstand support, intending on finding

or buying something ideal. I had forgotten to procure that item

though, and here on the side of the road British Columbia’s effective

anti-littering laws which promised a $1,000 fine worked against me

in finding junk. After leaning the bike against the trunk of the shad

tree I searched far and wide until I found several aluminum beer

and soft drink cans, and fashioned those in layers into two separate

plates which did not at first or second try serve the purpose, but

when strengthened with an additional can each they proved

generally effective, although I knew I would have to take care not to

knock the bike over.

      The alcohol which had put me ‘off my game’ had either put me 

out of my normal mild temperament, or brought to the surface my

normal abnormal anger and frustration which result from the

continuing long term unfortunate aspects of my life but which are

normally deeply hidden beneath my facade of politeness. By the

time I got the bike standing securely I was short tempered, and again considered pitching my tent. I compromised with a brief but

blissful nap.

      Upon waking I set about work, and it was not long before I was 

shouting at my clumsiness and searching desperately in the grass

for dropped washers and hex nuts. As I had no means of raising

the bike further off the ground than the kickstand allowed the job’s

difficulty was increased, and because the kickstand’s foundation

was not the best I had to be careful not to knock the bike over. The

work was frustrating at first .. quickly becoming maddening. To

aggravate that condition to unbearable proportions was my

stubborn pride which is probably my worst fault, and which would

not allow me to give in to the thought of pitching camp and putting

the monster within out of commission through proper rest.

      I’m glad you, dear reader, were not within earshot when this 

Peacenik turned to the violence of cursing .. and then to shouting.

Oh .. such cursing .. at such a loud volume. And the unnecessary

skinned knuckles. And the dropping and misplacing of parts and

tools in the long grass, and the falling over of the bike, and the

misplacing of parts and tools, and the sore back and pinched blood

vessels of my 60 year old legs bent at youthful angles. While examining my entire life I only remember yelling in anger at the top

of my lungs once before, and I won’t shame myself with those

details. Sufficient to say that when I, beneath that tree beside the

highway, realized release from tension in my hollering and cursing I

hollered all the louder, and for such a long period of time that along

with the sense of relief came the worry that if anyone was listening

they would certainly call authorities and a paddy wagon would be

on its way. That gave me such a feeling of abnormal satisfaction

that I knew I had finally become the wild man alien to all the world

that I had long envisioned myself as, and haboured an attitude of

‘bring on that Paddy Wagon and jail cell (because I need a good rest

and a few days of free meals).

      The repair was made before the arrival of the men in white and 

blue, though, the flat having been caused by a construction type

staple. The tire was undamaged, the tube was too hastily patched,

and after much manipulation and deflating and re inflating and

over inflating and by using the technique I had learned at the

motorcycle shop in Kamloops of pounding the inflated tire on

pavement I finally got the tire on round.

      The experience of being stuck in isolation on the side of a 

congested and furious four lane, while allowing me to release the

animal within, had once more taught me that byways are better

than highways; and opportunity to exit the four lane onto a byway

presented itself as a bridge across the Fraser River and an Oh So

pleasant ride into the town of Mission where I saw a garage open

and at which I stopped, asking if the mechanic could find a way to

press my mirror’s ball fastener back into the socket. The mechanic

failed at the first two attempts, but then took the ball to a grinding

machine and ground off a thin strip at the ball’s equator. The ball

then pressed firmly into the socket and has been fine ever since.

      “No charge,” the mechanic said .. and I say, “Thanks” again.
      Not far out of Mission, though, I had a second rear flat.  This 

was still the first day of my trip, don’t forget. This time I had the

sense to set up camp beside a railroad track where some old farm

wagons were being stored. I don’t know if the track was still in use,

but there were houses available, and I had visited one house and

asked for permission to tent near the wagons, and permission was

given.

      A discarded railroad tie made an elevated platform for my 

kickstand and bike, and the bed of a farm wagon made a handy workbench. I had decided not to make the full repair that day, but

only to patch the tube, and finish the job the next morning .. using

the extra time to cook a good meal, which I needed after my earlier

ordeal. This flat was the fault of my first repair. I had not washed

the tube properly and remnants of the Baby Powder prevented the

patch from sticking permanently. I had also not allowed the glue to

dry sufficiently. I had done nothing right, really, including not

using my new, spare tube because I wanted to save it in case I had

a flat which destroyed the tube I was riding on. This experience

changed my attitude about reserving tubes, though, because

perhaps if I had allowed the improperly patched tube a few days of

curing it may not have been as quick to separate from the tube. I

made all subsequent flat repairs by inserting my spare tube in the

tire, and carefully rolling the repaired tube in a tight bundle for

curing. I also now carry two spare tubes, a practice begun in

Saskatchewan and which I will relate to you at the proper time.

      While I was camped beside the tracks a motorcyclist drove past 

me and rode up a narrow road around the backside of a hill. The

next morning I needed drinking water, and I walked up the road

and knocked on the door of a house. I was greeted by a young couple who were in the process of packing their car in preparation

for a trip to the Okanagan Valley for camping. I told them I was

headed there also as I wanted to take a different route than the one

leading me to Vancouver, and intending to take Highway Three from

Hope to Princeton and then into the Okanagan. These kind people

told me that anything they could do for me they would do .. and

even asked if I wanted to use their shower. I guess my stress from

the ordeal of the day before must have been in the air. Really I

was astounded by their generosity, and I did want a shower, but I

told them that there was no sense in showering before I finished my

bike repairs as I was bound to get greasy again, and they agreed.

They provided me with water and a sandwich, and I returned to

finalize my repairs, and they to their packing. I think I had just

started my moped’s engine for a short run to test the roundness of

the tire when the young couple drove up and told me “See you in

the Okanagan”. I caught up to them in Hope, I think because they

had spent a night there with friends, and I may have seen them

again in Penticton, but wasn’t sure if it was them, and my social

phobias prevented me from approaching the young couple who

were smiling at me in that town and asking if they were the same people. Have I told you I suffered two concussions in my preteens

which affected my capacity for facial recognition? It’s a genuine

handicap which has remained hidden under a mantle of ‘oddness’ ..

that mantle I have tried discarding many times, sometimes with

success and openness, pushing away my pride and saying, “I think

know you .. are you who I think you are …?” or some other clumsy

attempt at admitting I’m handicapped. Just today in downtown

Peterborough a fellow called “Hello Bob”, and I walked to him, not

recognizing him as anyone I have ever seen before, but probably

someone who I’ve been at the same church with, or something like

that. I was able to stay cheerful while admitting I did not know who

the stranger was, and he was somewhat taken aback, and said “I

thought you were someone else.” I said, “But you did say, “Hello

Bob. And my name is Bob.” We both laughed about it and he got

into his car, but perhaps his memory is as good as mine, and I

really was the Bob he thought I was, but my reaction planted

enough doubt in his mind as for him not to embarrass himself with

his faulty memory. Such are the tides of the sea of faces that is the

population of this world.

      My tire change by the railroad track had been a success, and I 

was on the road again. The old Trans Canada is a pleasant road

through pretty country containing pretty villages and small tourist

operations. At one quaint lodge motel I stopped for a tea, and

engaged in conversation with a pretty blond woman who was a

couple decades younger than myself, but somewhat stressed

looking, and I thought almost from the first hello that she was a

professional Dancer as they are now called, and possibly a higher

priced hooker from the big city. She was from Vancouver, and

sparks seemed to ignite a chemical reaction between us, to the

extent that I thought she as much as invited me to Vancouver with

her. Of course I could have been mistaking simple friendship for

something more, and in any case I ended up motoring on, while she

was in the process of preparing for a return to the city. Regardless

of her intention and profession she was a lovely lass with a fine

personality who seemed to fan warm air onto my nearly-

extinguished desires to ‘be with’ a woman of shared interests and

passions.

      The lovely lady’s memory stayed with me on the easy ride 

through the Coast Mountains to the town of Hope which, you may

recall, is the southern terminus for the Coquihalla Toll Expressway to Kamloops. As I was entering Hope I came nigh unto serious

trouble by riding at top speed into a deeply recessed drain cover

near the edge of the road. My front wheel slammed with an

exceptional jolt into the hole, but my riding skills and instincts

honed during the previous 3,000 miles were sufficient that I did not

come close to spilling. I was really worried, though, that my

machine had been damaged, and I stopped to examine the bike but

no problem seem to have resulted, and as I finished the ride into

Hope I felt nothing untoward in. I may have told you already that

Slovenians, who build Tomos, which is my moped’s brand name,

are regarded as the finest craftsmen in Europe, and their products

of all kinds, whether manufactured, agricultural, or whatever, are

seen as the best. My bike’s model, by the way, is Targa LX; and

there are large differences in moped models, some with kick start,

some with pedal start, some with single gear, mine with two speed

automatic transmission. I would not recommend any model other

than a two speed transmission as it delivers more pep for city

driving.

      So .. my bike was undamaged .. and despite the Slovenian’s 

reputation for workmanship I must heed a lesson from the Frank

Slide which I will relate shortly and give glory for the safety of

myself and moped to He who rules heaven and earth and is the true

Creator of all things.

      The town of Hope is yet another of the many clean, orderly, 

beautiful and welcoming western towns each of which have far

more individual identity than most towns in Ontario. I think the

main difference is that franchises like Tim Horton’s and McDonald's

which make their profit through serving concentrated populations

are not nearly as prominent in the more sparsely populated west. I

searched out a restaurant and Laundromat, and while my washing

was agitating the Laundromat washroom served to clean my

person. While on the road I take advantage of rivers, lakes and

creeks when possible to stay clean, but washrooms in

Laundromats, gas stations, tourist centres and restaurants also

come in handy. I also replenish groceries, water, and other

supplies whenever I enter a village or town, and I did that at Hope,

and also purchased another roll of film for my camera. I had not

intended on taking many photographs, but the scenery on this trip

was stimulated by the freshness of spring, and then by the beauty

of summer, and I still have over one dozen unprocessed rolls.

      While my laundry was drying in the Laundromat (I normally 

hang my laundry indoors or out to dry, but that is not often

possible on the road .. although it is normal while I caoe) I had a

meal in a restaurant where I fell into conversation with four people

at the neighbouring table who told me that the Similkaleen River

which I would come to as I rode Highway Three through the

Cascade Mountains was a good stream to try panning for gold and

platinum, and my new friends gave me a brief introduction to the

appearance of platinum. I had no proper ‘pan’ but a frying pan

would do.

      My visit to Hope was so pleasant that it was too soon that I was 

on the road again, and what an interesting road it is. The highway

east quickly becomes a long, long, long and steep ascent which my

moped climbed in low gear at maximum throttle. I think this was

one of the slowest ascents of my trip. I pitied the weary bicycle

tourists who struggled uphill behind me. Near the top of this first

ascent is a turnoff with parking lot and plaques for viewing and

reading about the devastation of the rock slide of historical

proportion which had buried a river and parts of this highway. In that parking lot I spoke with a few motorcyclists, including one

fellow on a Harley who had begun his trip in northern British

Columbia and who was to pick up a lady friend and continue to the

southern end of South America. This traveler gave me a card

printed with a website URL, and I looked up that website but he

seemed to either have abandoned his trip or abandoned the website

in the midst of the trip. I think there were four other bikers in that

parking lot, and they were all impressed with my small machine’s

capabilities. While I was speaking with the bikers I was approached

by a young couple who greeted me as if they knew me, and yes, this

was the couple who had offered me the shower at Mission. I had

caught up to them because, I think I remember them saying, they

had spent the night with friends in Hope.

      The landslide here was, I suppose, significant; but in my mind 

it was a pale shadow of the incredibly heaped up, house-sized

blocks of rock which were the instruments of destruction of the

truly awesome Frank Slide which I had seen 20 years earlier with

Jeani and Adam. That slide had occurred about 100 years earlier,

and an entire town had been buried when the mountain caved

in due to improper mine tunneling. The mine and mining town, apparently, had been much like the Titanic in being a boastful

expression of mankind’s cutting edge technology and abilities,

those capabilities causing men to think things like ‘We don’t need

God .. the Titanic will never sink’, or ‘we truly are masters of the

world and of our own lives.’ I don’t know how many people died in

that slide, but a story is told that atop one of the huge blocks of

stone sat a baby’s cradle, with the baby safe inside. Through most

of my moped journey I had a distinct feeling that God was keeping

me as safe as that baby, and I rode through the Cascade

Mountains with great pleasure, rushing streams everywhere, and

little traffic on the highway.

      Manning Provincial Park sits partway through these Cascade 

Mountains, and the luxury and apparent prosperity of the Park’s

Lodge sitting near the quiet highway is a direct contradiction to the

rust coloured devastation caused by Pine Beetles of the Pine forests

the Lodge sits within, and which are clearly visible at close range on

the mountainside across the highway from the lodge. I had seen

dead areas of Pine earlier, but these trees were up close and

personal, and for me, this dead forest was really the beginning of

awareness of how great the destruction of these great forests are. The destruction is also, seemingly, another lesson in man’s

glorification of himself, as Manning Park is named after a

renowned forester who was imported from Ontario to manage B.C.s

timber. This example sharply increased my awareness that I come

the foremost knowledge of man is nothing beside the

incomprehensible intelligence and power of God. Even though the

Manning example was so up close and personal, it took the miles-

long vistas along the highway approaching Banff, Alberta, that the

reality really sank into my consciousness. The mountains there are

completely devastated, and I became easily convinced that within a

few short years there will be left no significant stands of Pine in

British Columbia and Alberta. The magnitude of destruction in

those provinces could be developed as a tourist attraction in its own

right, much like the Frank Slide, the Titanic, and the buried but

partly unearthed city of Babylon. On my part, I have come to know

there is nothing to do but accept the decrees, and to view the

destruction as judgment, but I also know God’s judgments are

merciful, and in the end beneficial to our souls and planet. I have

great consolation in knowing that instead of eternal death coming

to the forests of B.C. and Alberta, change will come, with new species of trees and animals and flowers and fruit .. and the lessons

we have learned from the regrowth of the mountainsides of Mount

St. Helen's following that apparent catastrophe means that change

will come rapidly .. all kinds of change, and we must prepare

ourselves for both good and bad changes whether we survive until

the arrival of Christ the Messiah .. or whether we are victims of our

own participation in the work of our modern society’s hellbent

machinery.

     Between Manning Park and the Okanagan runs the 

Similkameen River, fantastically free flowing in its gravel bed and

apparent purity. The highway is never far from this river, and I

stopped for about two hours in a particularly beautiful place to

‘pan’ in the rushing waters for gold and platinum, not finding

either, but I really enjoyed the beauty and experience of that spot. I

wanted to camp there, but to tell you the truth, and this might

surprise you, the wildness and solitude of this part of the Cascades

frightened me. I was okay with leaving the highway and walking

along the river in daylight, but when late afternoon promised the

arrival of dusk and then darkness I continued on into the village of

Keremeos, which is gained after an extraordinarily long descent which I was able to enjoy only because I braked often enough to

prevent myself from attaining uncontrollable speeds. Coming into

the village I saw a tourists’ Visitor Centre, and with night falling

fast, I cooked my meal on a picnic table set up in near the building.

The landscape of the Centre was bordered on one side by the

Similkaleen River, that river continuing south into the United

States and joining The Okanagan River which has its origins in the

beautiful and huge Okanagan Valley of B.C. There is a town on the

Okanagan River in the U.S. named Okanogan, spelled with an ‘o’,

while British Columbia has towns or villages named Okanagan

Centre, Okanagan Landing, Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Mission,

Olalla and Ochitree .. among other ‘Os’ .. and while mentioning ‘Os’

I shall skip ahead to mournful ‘Ohs’ which some of you may utter

when I relate how I was told either in Keremeos or in Penticton that

within a year not one living Pine Tree will be standing in the entire

Okanagan, which will be true loss, as I personally rank Penticton as

Number One for overall quality of life in Canada, situated as it is at

the north end of relatively small but beautiful Skaha Lake, which

almost joins the bottom end of the large, long and narrow and

fantastically beautiful Okanagan Lake. I just realized I’m using the ‘F’ word a lot in this chapter .. ‘Fantastic’ .. but British Columbia is

just that in its beauty.

      With night falling at the Visitor Centre I wanted to set up camp 

so I could listen to the watery symphony at the riverside, but the

buzzing and stinging of numerous mosquitoes discouraged me, and

as the Visitor Centre was closed for the day I retreated to the

Centre’s porch which was set up high above the grass, and

therefore not targeted by many mosquitoes. I had been tempted to

simply lay my sleeping bag beside my moped which I had locked to

the picnic table, but had I done so I would have been awakened in

the night by the noise and soaking of an automatic lawn sprinkling

system. Lucky Me .. rather, humble me in availing myself of the

luxury of a free roof over my head. I don’t know what the attitude

of Visitor Centre employees would have been to my presence on the

porch, but one month later I was told at a similar small town’s

Visitor Centre in Northern Ontario that I was welcomed to camp for

free in the park at that site, and as the people of British Columbia

are generally warmly welcoming to tourists, pilgrims and strangers I

probably would have been welcomed at the Keremeos centre also.

The Centre’s parking that night was used by the drivers of two or three vehicles to camp out, sleeping in their cars, with one or two of

those campers taking evening strolls, which I found comforting as it

eased the sense of my being alone. Was I lonely? Yes, I think I

was. I had got used to the companionship of brother Ron, my Port

Renfrew friends, and strangers at Sombrio .. and to feel part of the

human family just because a stranger walked across a parking lot

in the night shows how much we humans really do need each other.

      Early morning at the Centre was interesting because of a near 

loss of a valued piece of equipment, and I’ll relate the experience to

you as it could help you find a lost something someday. I had

rolled up my sleeping bag, eaten breakfast, packed up my gear, and

had actually started my moped’s engine to leave when during the

last check and pat down of self I do to ensure I am not leaving

anything behind I noticed my pocket watch was missing from the

end of its chain. Actually the watch was a wrist watch which I

converted to a pocket watch. I shut down the moped and searched

twice every inch of ground which I had stepped on. I unpacked my

sleeping gear and searched inside of it. I searched all around the

porch of the Visitor’s Centre because I had walked around it, and I

searched under the bench on that porch because I had both sat on it and had slept on it. It’s funny how the back of a park bench or

the backrest of a sofa can feel like someone’s body .. a warm and

breathing body I mean .. companionship for those the body

snatchers have victimized. Not finding the watch I searched again

the ground, and searched again the porch, and searched again

under the bench. At that point I sat on the bench and began the

psychological process of accepting my loss, which would take some

acceptance as the watch cost me $100 and shows day, date, month,

time, and has stopwatch, etc. I also offered up a prayer of

acceptance, acknowledging that all things work for our ultimate

good, and probably also said a word for the watch to be found by

someone and put to good use … and then something caused me to

look between the wooden slats of the bench’s seat, those slats

spaced close together, and there was my watch, jammed in the slot

between two slats. It had fallen out of my pocket somehow, and

dropped through a widening of the slot, and then, when I stood up,

had been pulled into a narrowing, and of course the chain broke

with my standing. The watch had seen me through my two canoe

voyages, even though I had had to dry it out more than once

because of the force of rushing water as I pulled my canoe through rapids, and stayed with me through my moped trip; but a week ago

it stopped and I replaced the battery, but it has stopped again, and

I suspect the water damage has finally caused the watch’s demise.

I’ll probably get a Scuba Diver’s watch next, and convert it to a

pocket watch, as I’ve already performed a search and can find no

Scuba pocket watches.

      So, my watch was replaced on its chain and carefully stowed in 

my pocket, and I was on my moped, and away to a restaurant for a

breakfast. A very pretty town is Keremeos. One of the reasons I

wanted to tour the Okanagan was because that time of year was

Cherry harvest, and I thought I could make some cash as well as

filling up on all the beautiful, ripe cherries I could handle. I had

failed in an attempt at finding work in the Cherry harvest of 30

years before, having hitchhiked from the Free Camp at Jasper only

to be told the bulk of the Cherries had gone rotten because of too

much rain. I had, though, worked in the Okanagan Grape harvest

with Jeani and Adam. What a wonderful experience. The

honeybees which pollinate the Okanagan’s crops were thick

everywhere, and scores of gentle, beautiful, harmless bees would

land on your arms and hands as you worked. I can’t remember them bothering my face, although they probably bothered Jeani’s

face because her appearance was so flower like. (Gee .. I guess I’m

still in love, eh?)

      However, on this trip through the Okanogan, no matter how 

well I searched, or on how many beautiful back country dirt roads I

traveled, I could not find work picking Cherries. I was either

one day two late at an orchard, or a a few days too early, or, ‘come

back in week’. My schedule would not allow me to sit around

waiting for a few days, and right until my search ended at the last

enquiry before leaving the Okanagan I kept moving north through

the valley hoping to find the Golden Orchard. I did experience a

Cherry experience in Cherryville, in the Sushwap area though .. but

I’ll relate that later.












Chapter Fifteen



Godward and Northward and Southward



      So, there I was, slowly motoring up and around the Okanagan 

in a curvy hilly touristy vista-and-climate-enjoying way on Highway

97 and quaint back roads and taking plenty of time for a swim at

and a nap at Penticton’s beautiful beach and then motoring on

until I found a great free camping spot beside Okanogan Lake again

and then the next Sunday morning motoring on northward until I

approached the village of Peachland when I decided I would attend

the first church I came to, which was thankfully a United Church, I

say thankfully as because I had sort of promised God in a small

way that I would attend the first church, and because of some

incidents in my life I won’t attend a Roman Catholic church, even

though I have met lovely Roman Catholic people, and I harbour that

organization no ill will, but if the first church I came to had been

R.C. I would almost certainly have broken my small promise, and

probably to my hurt in not finding God’s blessings among the R.C.s.

Anyway, the United service was wonderful, with a lot of old

fashioned hymn singing, and as the congregation was small, with a

layperson standing in for the regular preacher who was said to be in

some kind of wrestling match involving his faith, and with no one

appointed that morning to preach a long message, invitation was

made for attendees to testify to some movement of The Spirit of

God in their life. Despite my wild and ‘windblown’ appearance as

was told me, I had been made to feel relaxed and welcomed by the

members of the congregation, particularly because of a unique

incident in the church ball before the service began. A musical

couple were singing and playing the piano, and I stood beside them

silent until the tune was ‘What A Wonderful World’ by Louie

Armstrong, and that being my favourite non-specifically religious

song I joined in using my imitation Sachmo voice which I sing that

song with at Karaokes. I don’t mean to brag, but I can at times when moved by the good spirits do a fair job with Satchmo’s voice,

and I had not sung many words when the piano player stopped

playing and turned to look.

      “I thought Satchmo had come back from the grave!” 

she said.

      I really should give credit to good old Mom and Dad for my 

voice, he has told me that if his life had a choice of career he would

have chosen Opera singer, and I remember him singing very well

indeed. Mom was a professional singer when she was a knockout

looker, singing on stages entertaining the troops during the second

world war. It’s no wonder I can, at times, sing.

      “I love that man,” I said, and we all agreed that there was 

a lot in Satchmo to love, and we agreed the his daughter and he

sang beautifully together on their digitally mixed songs, and then

we continued in the song.

      During the service the layperson conducting the service made 

mention of my singing in the hall, and everyone gave me such a

warm welcome that I could not pass up the general invitation to

give a testimony. I gave a brief description of my trip, and of how

God had protected and provided for me all along the way, and then I sat down. As I sat, though, the gentleman ahead of me turned and

looked at my face and smiled. He was accompanied by two children

who I had already made the acquaintance of through their natural

affection and curiosity. After the service the gentleman, whose

name was, believe it or not, Roadhouse, Brian Roadhouse, asked

me if there was anything I needed. I told him I would like to find a

few hours work, but that I’m having no luck with Cherry orchards.

Brian invites me to supper at his home in the village of

Summerland, which I had ridden through a few miles before

Peachland. In fact, when I did get to Brian’s home I realized I had

ridden right past his lane way where I had seen the biggest snake I

have ever seen, about seven feet long and as thick as three garden

hoses. When I had passed the snake I thought instantly of trying

to kill it by running it over, but I was on a steep incline and was

barely making headway, and I knew that I would be disadvantaged

in a snake-moped duel, so I rode past it hoping it would not come

after me, and it didn’t, just slithered into the roadside vegetation.

I told Brian about the snake, but was worried for the children for a

week until I learned in Saskatchewan that the snake was a Bull

Snake, and harmless to humans unless it can scare us to death.

      Regarding Brian’s invitation, I am normally as afraid of first 

invitations into the intimacy of people’s homes as I was of that

snake, those fears haunted by both youthful and latter day

encounters of the nasty kind with strangers; so with Brian I don’t

hesitate in making the excuse that I’m headed north, and would

have to retrace my path southerly. Brian meets that excuse with

proper rebuke voiced in just the right measures of intelligent

understanding and contempt .. his expressions coming from a

genuinely warm human heart with such a measure of natural

humanity that I was immediately persuaded to accept. Before we

headed home though we had a little luncheon to attend in the

church hall, and there I met two people who, had I been seeking a

female for a love life and a home could have provided both. Brian

and I sat opposite each other at the table, and on either side of me

were women. On my left was a blonde German woman who I will

call ‘Jill’ to go with my ‘Jacks’. Jill was somewhat younger than

myself and had had immigrated to the Okanagan a few years before.

The second woman was probably in her 70s. I felt both physical

and spiritual attraction to Jill, and our conversation and friendship

came easily, which was a rare occurrence as being a coward by nature I’m normally intimated by a physically attractive woman.

Conversation and friendship had also come easily on my right

hand, and our lunch had come to an end when the senior lady told

me she and her husband lived on a hobby farm, could use some

help with chores, and would provide free housing in the form of a

small cottage on the property. It was a kind and generous offer,

and I was tempted .. oh the temptation that came with Jill was was

especially tempting .. but if there was a possibility of a relationship

in Bitish Columbia it would mean separation from my children and

grandchildren as well as giving up my income from the government

of Ontario; and I did not even consider taking the lady away from

the healthy environment of British Columbia and moving her into

the unhealthy environment of the greater part of Ontario. As

well, at my age and with my limited physical strength I don’t have

confidence in either being able to earn a living or to ensure blondes,

especially blondes, or redheads, receive satisfactory consideration.

I might do okay with brunettes but never with blondes or redheads.

Yet another factor was that there were animals on the hobby farm,

and while one of the attractive parts of the offer was that the air in

the Okanagan was wonderfully clean and would benefit my asthma, my allergies would not have permitted me to work in the barns or

sheds. It was with regret I could not accept.

      Soon it was time to begin the trip to Summerland; but first I 

had to meet Brian’s wife Eva, who was attending a booth at the

craft fair in the park on the lake across the street from the church.

I was not surprised to see that Eva was a native of a tropical

country, as their children were both dark, and they had not gotten

their skin colour from Brian; but I was wonderfully surprised at

Eva’s genuine reaction when Brian told her I was coming for

supper. Eva is Fifiian, and I have come to understand that showing

hospitality is not just a custom of Fijiians, it is an unavoidable part

of their heritage. We packed up the canopy and tables into the

family van and Brian drew me a map to their home, telling me to

show up at four o’clock. I had an hour before needing to begin the

ride which would take less than ½ hour, and I spent that hour lying

down and swimming. The water was fine, but the gravel beach and

lake bottom were probably the most unpleasant have experience,

probably because a lack of large waves meant the gravel did not get

sharp edges worn down. In this park I met my usual contingent of

motorcyclists, and we had our normal conversations. It may have been here also, or later in Kelowna, that I met an old friend, Jacob.

You may have seen him anywhere in Canada dressed in his normal

red-dyed potato sackcloth, and either riding a bicycle or having it

parked and using it to prop up ‘Jesus Saves’ signs. My goodness ..

I just remembered that Jacob, after crossing and crisscrossing

Canada countless times over two decades on his bicycle, had at this

latest meeting traded his two-wheeled transportation in on a small

car. I had met Jacob almost 30 years before, in a time when I

myself stood on street corners with large signs preaching Jesus;

and for the first two decades Jacob had always seemed completely

right on about his bible beliefs, and he was certainly impressive in

his faith, living in complete health on whatever God sent his way

each day, never asking for handouts and never taking any Social

Assistance; but eight or nine years ago I met Jacob in Ottawa,

and his physical and emotional health was suffering, a result

partly, I suspect, of his having given up on the King James Bible to

work on his own translation, but mostly coming from spending far

too much time either alone. At our meeting in the Okanagan Jacob

professed that God was Satan, but that Jesus was still Salvation. I

told him that he was mistaken about God being Satan (although scriptures say that Satan is the god worshipped by most of earth’s

population, including, I will add, many of us at least part of the

time who hope we are true Christians, Muslims, or Jews. I did not

enter into contention with Jacob, but saw the simplest way of

helping him was to exhort him to hang onto his faith in Jesus. I

asked him if he was okay for money, and he said he had no

problems that way, and at that point it was time for me to ride to

Brian and Eva’s, and I did so, discounting immediately a thought to

introduce Jacob to Brian, recognizing that Jacob’s frame of mind

would not work for peace, but only serious discord with any who

had faith in God the Creator of the Universe.

      Supper was pleasant, the company was pleasant, all of us 

including the children fell in love with each other, and I was invited

to spend the night, having my own room in the basement. That

night turned into three, and they were welcome, because I had been

missing my brother Ron since leaving Victoria, and the intimacy of

a family home was a great relief.

      Brian, it turns out, is an ordained minister, but had been 

defrocked by his denomination, which I won’t name, because of his

marriage to Eva. Brian is my age, Eva much younger. They had met in Fiji when Brian was still married to his first wife, but after

his wife had left him. What had taken Brian to Fiji was his

responsibility of organizing a Habitat for Humanity building

project. I have two other close friends who are with Habitat, Don

and Mary in Ottawa, so Brian and Eva and I had an easy topic of

conversation which, however, quickly turned into a discussion of

scripture. Brian is not only a minister ordained by a temporal

organization, he has a true believer’s love of scripture and

prophecy. Our conversations centred almost exclusively on the

bible, and particularly the New Testament. Surprisingly, we agreed

on almost every point, although I was slightly stronger in my belief

that Christ’s teachings call us away from participation in any war,

regardless of whether that war is seen as ‘Just’ by anyone involved

in it. (Can you see a war fought if both sides don’t present their

their military enlistment speeches as expounding a ‘Just’ cause?)

Brian also saw the King James translation as flawed in places,

where I see potential flaws as mysteries which will be revealed in

time. Despite our not seeing perfectly eye-to-eye (and scripture

seems to indicate that perfection is possible only in heaven) Brian

was the first person in a very long time I could enjoy a discussion of scripture with, as I am firm in my views and won’t relent to

pressures to join the opposition which generally expounds what I

have come to view as doctrines of man set up for the benefit of

temporal organizations including war profiteers, but which I have

also come to see as including natural borders for the pursuit of

peace among bodies of people with differing needs .. those borders

unfortunately oftentimes walled high with pride which builds self

righteousness. For instance, some Baptists have an absolute need

not to use alcohol internally .. rubbing alcohol being approved

externally of course. Other Baptists see no harm in a small amount

of alcohol taken internally. So there are natural borders between

those groups which serve the cause of peace so long as force of

conversion is not seen as an instrument of good which could

leading to the enhanced peace of the poor, unfortunate soul who

believes differently from the other soul. For that reason I have

never formally joined a group or denomination or even a non-

denominational church, the non-denominations generally turning

into their own denomination but with the name non-

denominational. My position as a believer unto solely my own

understanding of the scriptures of course sets me up for the temptation of self-righteousness which is almost as large as fault

with me as is my stubborn pride. I’m not overly concerned with

those faults, though, because as the poster says, “God ain’t done

with me yet.”

      Okay .. so I’m enjoying Brian and Eva’s and their children’s 

welcome and affection and joy at having another believer in their

home. The children call me Uncle . and so I feel I am. The jewelery

Eva is to me right from our meeting a sister and friend, and a

special spirit of creativity between us becomes manifest when we

discuss art and poetry. Eva is chief designer of the genuinely

exceptional jewelery they sell, seashells and feathers and stones,

elements of Eva’s natural heritage, being the main components.

Part of Brian’s income comes from doing odd jobs, and one of those

jobs is a wooden door for a house, that door lying on carpenter’s

workhorses in the garage. The door needs to be stripped of paint

and varnish, sanded, and stained. Brian has back problems which

have been preventing him from doing the door, so it’s obvious to

both of us that our meeting is fortuitous for this purpose. I have

experience with wood, and do the stripping and sanding. .. and I do.

Brian does the finishing. I don’t want to accept payment for my work, but Brian rightly insists, and I humble myself in my need. As

a Bible believer, Brian’s main work is believing; and he is believing

for a brand new church to be built in Penticton. Brian and his

family and I drive to see to the proposed site, and while my faith is

not great for the project (Brian and Eva are making a living, but

where are the building funds going to come from?) Brian’s faith is a

shared spirit, and before long I begin to believe, and finally say yes,

if God is willing, it can be done. Personally, though, I see more

need for a living church which goes into the streets and parks and

onto sidewalks and into publishing houses and print shops than for

another shelter which is open only one or two days a week .. but

hey, Brian has his vision, and I mine.

      Tuesday afternoon we all go to a beach in Summerland, and

then return ‘home’ (yes, their home feels like home to me). Brian

and Eva are scheduled to attend a large market on Wednesday, and

I should be moving along. Brian and I walk to the beer/liquor store

and he takes beer home while I buy a bottle of wine for Eva. It’s a

great walk. I’ve lost a few close friends in my life due to their

moving on to the next world, and moving away to different

localities, and certainly Brian has also. Our friendship, even though it’s only three days old, is real, and it is the same between

Eva and I.

      Sometime during our visit I of course have said that I would 

love to go to Fiji; and Brian tells me that when he organizes another

Habitat project in Fiji he’ll give me a call, and of course I tell him I

could never afford plane fare, and he of course says, ‘no problem,

we have faith don’t we?’ So of course I am looking forward to

helping build houses in Fiji where I will meet my relatives, and I do

have relatives there, because I am Uncle to Brian and Eva’s

children, and brother to them.

      Wednesday morning breaks our togetherness, and the children 

of course are sad to see me go. Us adults are more accepting ..

perhaps unfortunately. It would do any adult good to be able to

part from friends with tears. We do stay in touch with telephone

and email, and come to think of it .. I should phone them right now

. . and I did phone them, and Brian answered and told me they

were in the middle of preparing supper, and I understood how busy

they are as I know they have children, and as supper can burn,

etc., and Brian said he would phone back, and he hasn’t yet,

but a family man is a busy man, and I’m sure he will call back, and

if he does not, I will (if God permits, as scripture says).

























Chapter 16



Northward and Eastward


      I made a few dollars with Brian, but I still have not given up on 

Cherry picking, and I stop at orchards and fruit stands along the

way, and make lovely detours on quaint dirt roads which take me to

quaint and lovely orchards, and meet a quaint and lovely lady living

in a quaint and lovely shack in a lovely cherry orchard, and we have

a lovely hello and goodbye, and I almost give up on lovely Cherries,

but make a lovely decision to take 97 Highway on the east side of

Okanagan Lake which takes me onto more quaint dirt roads into

more orchards but all without finding work, and then at Vernon

when I am sure there can be no more Cherry orchards on the road

ahead I see on my map to the east of Vernon the town of

Cherryville, and beyond Cherryville I see the Arrow Lakes which I

have wanted to visit for three decades, so of course I plan my route

to take me there. First things first, though, and because I am in

Vernon where my Dad was stationed for part of World War Two

when he was probably the youngest sergeant in the Canadian

Army, I decide to tour the Army Camp there, which I do in the

company of the camp’s official photographer. I will not be allowed

to roam free. Seeing the young cadets reminds me of how

brainwashed I was at the age of 16 years when I had joined the

Canadian Army Militia .. and that’s all I’ll say about that, letting

Buffy Saint Marie’s song ‘The Universal Soldier’ take it from here.

What I take are a couple of photographs of old Barracks for Dad’s

sake, shake hands, and give a genuine thanks for the

Photographer’s guidance, salute the sentries as I ride past the

Camp’s guardhouse, and head east east on quaint Highway Number

6 .. little traveled and solitary Number 6 .. ranch country .. a

touring bicyclist’s dream .. and then I come into Cherryville which I

find is almost a hillbilly community of small homes and trailers and shacks and an artists co-op of sorts and a pretty café in which is a

tall and beautiful young woman waitress who gives a Cherry-eyed

smile (that’s virginal but not unknowing smile) as her only answer

when I ask, “… but if there are no Cherries here why do they call it

Cherryville?”

      Yes, why indeed!   No Cherry Trees but there is a perfect and 

free place to camp on the wonderful rushing Shushwap River .. for

this is the Shushwap Country and home of The Cherryville News,

an environmentally friendly little paper, and I phone the publisher

and ask if he wants to do a story on my environmental moped trip

with its 125 miles per gallon, and he says sure, come on out .. and I

do, getting lost on dirt back roads first, but finally finding his

refuge, and giving my story, meeting the family and friends, and

being given a Medicine Bag by the publisher who is part aboriginal

and part African, his ancestors having escaped from slavery in the

U.S. to come to Canada. He and his wife are buying the hobby

farm/guest house lodge they are operating, and enjoying being out

of the big city. Yes indeed .. enjoying life in the mountains. Tea

time over, I take the publisher’s advice and take a different route

back to camp, along dirt roads of course, with the intention of finding the local swimming hole, the one with the rope hanging

from the tree over the river where everyone swims naked while

drinking beer. I’m not interested in naked bodies of course, I just

want to see the sights .. sites. It’s an interesting place where no one

is swimming naked, but where a huge log is almost high and dry

proving the power of the Springtime floods that rage through that

neck of the wild woods. I have a good chat with a fellow who has

been swimming and fishing with his lady friend, and then ride back

to my camp.

      This particular campsite, which is a short walk from the 

Cherryville Main Street, and is right on the side of the rushing

Shushwap River is so beautiful I spend three days here, building

fires every evening, bathing, cooking, sleeping, drinking wine, doing

laundry in the river but without polluting with soap of course, and

chatting with folks who drop in for a hello, the first chat being with

a Rock and Roll Band which is driving through on the way to a gig

somewheres westward, but who stop for a swim in the rapids. I am

also visited by a fellow whose transportation from home to the

Cherryville Beer Store is a three mile swim down the rapids. Need I

say ‘What a guy?’ He was raised in that neck of the woods, and had moved away for a couple of decades, but had returned to stay. I

could not appreciate his taste in alcohol after his icy swim because

if I had done the swim I would have needed firewater and definitely

not a cold beer. I have met this new friend on the last afternoon of

my stay on the Shushwasp, and because I plan on heading east

early in the morning, before the gas station opens, I need to fill my

gas tank; so I accompany my new friend part way to the corner

store/gas station/beer and liquor store where most of the village’s

business transactions occur, but the slow and relaxed togetherness

of our walk goes only as far as meeting up with a gang of

mosquitoes which makes walking unbearable and he breaks into a

sprint while I start my machine and ride. We part company in the

beer store, he just kind of disappears out a side door or something,

and I do my business, have a coffee at the café, return to camp,

have a great sleep, ride away from Cherryville before sunrise the

next morning, which is a cold morning; and here I am six months

later with my rock and roll songwriter soul telling me “Get Back ..

Get Back .. Get Back to the Mountain Cherry eyes of Cherryville you

Jo Jo Moped Man!”



      Knowing where to terminate one chapter and start another is 

one of the most difficult chores for me as a book writer, and I’m just

leaving an open space to indicate that a change is occurring, for

while I was staying on the same highway leaving Cherryville the

road was changing .. becoming much more rural and isolated,

narrower, much more mountainous .. the Midway Mountain

Range .. truly a motorcyclist's dream with almost total lack of

highway traffic excepting a few logging trucks and with its curves

and valleys and descents and steep ascents which require me to

slow down and really enjoy the scenery and solitude by walking

beside my bike as I throttle it .. and with the biggest deer I have

ever seen, huge deer, habituating a lovely little piece of world which

might survive a nuclear holocaust which contains in one pretty

spot two houses and a waterwheel generating electricity from a

waterfall .. more steep ascents .. and finally a sudden stop ..

yes .. at the end of a long descent a very sudden stop at a dead end

on a lake .. a huge and beautiful Lower Arrow Lake. Fortunately

this dead end held a ferry terminal, although a terminal with no

buildings .. but also with no price tag .. and the fact that it was a

free ferry had decided my route this way instead of turning north

before reaching the (?) dead end of Needles on the west coast of

Lower Arrow Lake and Fauquier on the east side. I understand

there were prosperous villages on both sides before the dams were

built flooding the Columbia River and creating the lakes, and

possibly there is some housing I didn’t see. I wish I had explored

the west shore a bit before ferrying over, but I did not. The dams

which created Upper and Lower Arrow Lake had fairly quickly

destroyed most of the Salmon run. I am told that Salmon in the

millions used to run this river, and there are now a few fish in the

lakes, but not many. An experiment in seeding the lakes with

nutrients of some kind is done from the ferries, I am told, but there

seems little hope of restoring the fish population. However, the

lakes are fantastic in scenic beauty, these are the mountains after

all, Lower Arrow being about 100 kilometres long according to my

map, and perhaps three kilometres wide if my memory serves

correctly. Memory recalls another example of mankind’s lack of

intelligent forethought concerning the Arrow Lakes, and that is a

news item from 20 years ago which told of a business at one end or other of one of the lakes using the lake, believe it or not, as a dump

for automobile batteries. We are a fine species, we humans.

      I had another near encounter of the feminine kind at the 

Fauquier Café, a hippy type woman traveling alone in her car, and

each of us wanting to say hello, where are you headed, who are you,

why are you traveling, it would be nice to get to know you, etc., but

not doing so. Where she was probably headed to was the village of

Nakusp on the eastern shore of Upper Arrow Lake. This village was

holding a music festival, if my memory serves correctly a Folk

Festival, and I was passing through just in time to possibly get

some work connected with the festival, and I asked around Nakusp

until tired of failing, and when thus wearied I decided I had heard

enough loud music and been in enough crowd at Sombrio, so

instead of resting and trying further to find work I just enjoyed a

burger and then a swim and nap at the beautiful sandy beach ..

the I motored on .. motored on but not far because I found one of

the highway rest stops B.C. is famous for, a park with picnic tables

and a tall and wide and beautiful waterfall cascading as if a veil

down the face of multi-coloured rock .. and there I spent the night,

sleeping on the bench directly in front of the falls .. and having my shoelaces stolen in the night by some critter .. yes, took my laces

right out to build a nest with, a rodent of some kind probably ..

Marmot perhaps?

      In the morning I substituted shoe laces with plastic twine, and 

then I saw a challenge I could not refuse .. a climb up a steep trail

to the top of the falls. Very nice. Oh yes, I almost forgot, a young

couple had stopped by to see the falls when I was cooking supper

the previous evening and told me I could experience bathing in a

hot spring ‘just around the corner’ .. up the trail, etc. I looked for

the spring and found a crude sign saying ‘private property spring

closed’, and looked further, wandering around on old logging trails,

and not finding the spring but having a nice walk, and experiencing

in a new way the mountain wild lands, and then riding on north

instead of east because at Nakusp the road splits, with Highway 6

taking a long detour south to Highway 3 and Three east to where it

become Three and 95 and then north as 93 and 95 to Highway One

at Golden and then east through Lake Louise and Banff continuing

on west to Calgary .. and I wanted to go through Banff to Calgary

but my time would not allow a detour, and my rear tire might not

last with the extra mountain miles, and besides that, and this might surprise you, I had seen enough mountains and fishless

lakes despite the great beauty and wonderful swimming, and I

wanted to get on the prairies .. to Saskatchewan, the home province

of my Dad’s mother .. I just felt the ancestral draw. I also wanted to

visit Rick and Sandy in Saskatoon again. So what I did was to

take the much shorter route to Banff by turning north onto 23 at

Nakusp and continued on along the eastern shore of Upper Arrow.

On the side of this little traveled and relatively narrow road I found

a cardboard box .. rectangular .. sealed with tape .. lightweight ..

and addressed to a Nakusp address. The box was labeled as

containing gaskets for heavy equipment parts. I fastened the box

behind me and took it to Revelstoke, where I dropped into a Tourist

Centre office and where an employee phoned the company and

arranged to have it sent back to Kakusp. The Visitor Centre’s

employee suggested the Heavy Equipment Company might want to

send me a reward, so I wrote my name and address on the carton

but nothing came to my address.

      To get to Revelstoke though, I had first had to cross Upper 

Arrow Lake by taking another free ferry (Oh the misfortune of travel

in the mountains). This ferry I boarded at Galena on the eastern shore, crossing to Shelter Bay on the western shore, and then drove

through some pretty wild country by golly (!) with one particularly

high bridge over a deep canyon and not much traffic on that road

either until it gets up close and personal with Revelstoke where it

ties in with Number One Trans Canada .. a much shorter ride. Oh

the huge dam at Revelstoke! It’s worth a tour. And the town is very

pretty indeed. But the Revelstoke dam was another lesson in man’s

ingenuity not being so ingenious. The fluctuating water levels the

dam brought to large, flat areas of the river valley brought summer

dust storms so severe that I think I recall someone saying

Revelstoke came close to being evacuated, but that the situation

was brought under control by planting special vegetation. I also

heard Revelstoke, like Kamloops, came close to evacuation through

forest fires as well. I certainly don’t know what British Columbia

and Alberta are going to do when the millions of billions of Pine

Beetle killed and well dried Pine Trees catch fire .. those fires

undoubtedly spreading to the rest of the forests. The future is not

bright.

      Revelstoke is interesting because at the north boundary of the 

dam site is a sign saying either “no gas for (an unremembered but very long way). My map shows 137 kilometres between Revelstoke

and Mica Creek .. with no towns marked in between.

      Anyway .. after once again visiting a Laundromat I was 

eastward ho from Revelstoke, through the Selkirk Mountains, and

the Purcell Mountains which cradle the beautiful village of Golden,

and into the awe inspiring Rocky Mountains … oh my gosh I

thought I had seen mountains on my trip but then I rode through

the Rockies. I had been through them before of course, 30 years

before, hitchhiking out of Banff at 40 Below F. one time; but I guess

I had forgotten how majestic the Rockies are .. maybe that’s why

prizefighters name themselves Rocky .. or perhaps it’s because of

what their head feels like after awhile .. sort of like what it feels to

do too much hitchhiking. Anyway, soon I was through Kicking

Horse Pass .. well you should see the scenery .. and oh yes ..

before the Kicking Horse, in Golden, I met up with a gentleman ex

biker who invited me home to meet his big blue and yellow tropical

bird .. and we had a couple of beers and a barbecue, and another

friend dropped in, and I was invited to spend the night but I was

allergic to the house because of the bird, but my friends told me

where an excellent camping spot was, outside of town on a creek which runs into the Columbia River, and it was an excellent spot,

too, as beautiful as a mountain stream can be, with only a short

hike to the Columbia, which has its origins in Canoe Reach, a long,

narrow lake I measure on my map at more than 200 kilometres

long. Whether the lake is natural or backed up by a dam I don’t

know .. but I do know the mosquitoes drove me right out of that

campsite the next morning .. and I was moving in a big hurry too.

Mosquitoes love moving water for breeding you know .. lots of

oxygen generated by the turbulence. But that Canoe Reach, that

would be a place to spend a season canoing around.

      Of course there is a lot of fantastic scenery between Golden 

and Lake Louise, but next thing on this book’s agenda is the Lake

Louise parking lot fees which are exorbitant but of course the

prices are not hinted at before people make the steep, steep, steep,

steep, climb up the mountain to the parking lot where the

attendants then take your wallet, and where I casually attempted to

park in a construction area but where I got caught and moved on

without giving the parking enforcer much complaint because I had

already seen the Lake and Lodge anyway 25 years ago when

hitchhiking through. In fact I had almost not paid for something that time, being so struck with the lake’s beauty and colour that

when I had finished my tea I got to the Lodge’s door before the

waitress reminded me I had not paid. (Really .. it was not

intentional). On this trip I commented to the parking officer how

Babylon had taken over the Rocky Mountains and then rode down

the steep, steep, steep hill and was lucky enough to find

the back country road into Banff and highly recommend it .. yes,

highly, it’s a quaint road little traveled with lots of scenery and

informational stops. Finally I rode into Banff where I saw a bridge

which was adequate for camping under, but instead of setting up

my tent I searched out the casual labour office because I had heard

that in Banff they needed labourers badly even if there were no

Cherries to be picked. I found the labour office, and the young man

managing the place recommended I motor on to Canmore because

if I camped under the Banff bridge I would probably be fined .. a

stiff fine, too, but Canmore was more friendly, and there was lots of

work there, too .., in fact he lived there and normally worked at the

Canmore branch of the same labour office. So, after I visited a

coffee shop and was given a free coffee by a lovely young lady who

sympathized with my complaint that prices in Banff were astronomical I rode on into Canmore .. a village walled in by rugged

mountains of the up close and personal kind .. and I found a

competing casual labour office before I found the office I was

looking for, and I was told if I was there first thing in the morning I

would be guaranteed work. I also found a fellow who had worked

that day but had not returned to the labour office in time to get

paid, and so had no coffee money, and so I gave him $5.00 (I believe

it was) and perhaps it was him who told me about the municipal

camp ground which had tent spaces with showers for only $10 a

night, and I went there and camped for three nights, worked two

days at construction labour, earned $200 cash for two, eight hour

days, made some good friends while working, ate three inexpensive

but great Canmore Hotel meals, survived a frightening hail storm

which I thought was going to turn into a tornado and blow the

campground to the top of the mountains, but which I should not

have worried about (it seems) because (or so I was told the next day)

tornadoes don’t visit the mountains. The campground, I wish I

could think of its quaint name, was almost like the Jasper Free

Camp had been in Hippy spirit, except not so wild and free, so that

even in the midst of the thunderstorm no one took off their clothes

and ran naked .. although one young woman was out in her wet,

white t-shirt and shorts, but the showers were coed. Bob Dylan

said a while back that ‘the times they are a changing’ and yes they

did change .. because where marijuana had been the drug of

choice in the Jasper Free Camp alcohol was the excitement at

Wapiti .. yes, that’s it, Wapiti Campground, and I have come to

believe that moderate alcohol use is better than moderate

marijuana use, overdosing on anything is not recommended, and I

know for sure pot was available at the camp because I was

fortunate enough to be able to say ‘No Thanks’ to the invitation.

      At Wapiti I met many wonderful folks, including a woman 

from one of the South American countries who had become a

Canadian and who was camping with he adult son. Romance could

have blossomed but I was off romance, thanks. Her son found a

good friend though in a mountain climbing partner, and the four of

us spent a few hours together, even making a trip to McDonald's for

a burger.

      I enjoyed Canmore and being employed so much that had my 

drywall-dust sweeping job not been health-destroying I might have stayed longer, but by the middle of the second afternoon my lungs

were burning and my throat was raw. Time to move on. I was

riding out of town when I saw an obviously seriously distressed and

relatively young aboriginal woman, and I stopped and gave her a

kind word and $5.00 even though she was almost incoherent from

alcohol mixed with distress. She was Blackfoot, she said, from west

of Calgary, and had come looking for her boyfriend who was in

Canmore with another woman .. her kids were back home .. her

boyfriend had beaten her up in Canmore and told her she should

sell herself and give him the money .. I told her to go home .. go

home .. go home to your kids .. but could not bring myself to buy

her a bus ticket .. making all kinds of excuses, probably logical

excuses .. like she would cash it in and buy alcohol, like if I saw her

off on the bus she would probably get off part way to Calgary and

come back to the abuse .. etc. If I had a car I would have given her

a ride .. etc .. but God . . the terrible things that people are going

through. Strange, but in Canmore I had seen the most effective

poster I had ever seen in the window of a storefront office dedicated

to assisting women .. I made a note of the wording but of course

have lost most of my notes. Help the unfortunate ..

     .. the next day I was riding through Blackfoot Country east of 

Calgary in which the Alberta government had spent millions on a

Blackfoot Cultural Heritage Centre. Blackfoot people were to be

hired for the site .. their heritage was to be elevated. I didn’t have

enough time or money for the long ride off the highway or to pay to

visit the Centre .. I suppose most Canadians hope the Natives are

helped back up to where they were before Caucasians came along

and gave them easy opportunities to sink into the material lusts

and depredations of European societies. The natives were not

guiltless in their demise. Without their aid, for instance,the Beaver

could not have come to extinction in many parts of North America.

I have read that native tribes who did not engage in regular trade

and military partnerships with the early Europeans were spared the

near extinction of those tribes which, for instance, used

opportunities which came with partnering with Caucasian allies to

destroy traditional enemies.

      By the way, the new model of history being promoted 

concerning Natives is that Caucasian ‘pioneers’ had an easy

time of settling because the North American Aboriginal had been

brought to near extinction by way of diseases which spread rapidly after the first European explorers arrived. Had this been true, the

British, Americans and French would not have been able to enlist

aboriginal tribes as allies in inter-Caucasian wars, and the U.S.

army would not have had to spread typhoid or some other plague

by way of blankets sent to Canada after the wars had ended and the

aboriginals north of the U.S. border had returned to their homes. I

believe it was the Huron who lived on the north shore of Lake

Huron who were decimated in that way. Still .. the aboriginals of

most tribes were no different from European nations in living by the

sword .. and as Jesus Christ warned, “those who live by the sword

shall die by the sword”. Europe had experienced a share of

massacre because of their lusts against neighbouring nations, with

far worse to come.

      Anyway .. the future is in the future (although not far in the 

future) and I am writing of the past, of how I motored through the

north side of Calgary and from a high hill gained a wide view of the

city before regaining the Trans Canada Number One and by it

entering St4rathmore where that evening I was entertained in the

municipal park by a wonderful band of musicians playing what I

would call a mellow but exciting kind of experimental rock .. and who in turn I entertained with my harmonica, leaving them

somewhat impressed, but I don’t think as impressed as I was with

their exceedingly impressive lead guitar player who I told, “Man, I

love Jimmy Hendrix, and I love you.” I also made a little speech to

them, telling them how much I admired them for facing the

manifest and progressing calamities of our age with the agelessly

beautiful spiritual strength evident in their music. When dusk had

progressed nearly to night we said our goodbyes as if we were in a

regular love-in, with hugs and handshakes all around.

      When my new friends departed a swarm of mosquitoes arrived, 

or perhaps simply sharpened their attack in my direction, and

those bugs effectively put an end to my thoughts of unrolling my

sleeping bag on the park bench. A pair of municipal employees had

come around to help the band unplug their equipment and to tidy

the park, and I asked them if I could pitch my tent beside the creek

I had sat beside all through the concert.

      ‘No .. but there’s another park across the road with public 

toilets, you can pitch in the bushes in there, but do it quietly, and

don’t make a fire.’

      These two municipal employees spoke with the same new spirit 

of hospitality and generosity I found throughout my trip; a spirit

born not from hope for tourist dollars, but from the knowledge that

earth’s present era is coming to an end, that our affluent and

relatively safe societies will be facing unimaginable upheavals .. a

possible end of life for most species on earth .. or at least an end of

life as we have know it.

      With quietness and prayer of thanks I pitched in darkness, in 

the centre of encircling bushes. When my tent was up I made a

walk to the toilets and garbage can, and then back, and I stood in

the entrance to the bushes for a few minutes and listened to a

young woman singing softly as she crossed the park in complete

darkness. I did not disturb her with a hello. An aging couple

seated on their porch on the far side of a fence had watched as I

had entered the park and the bushes, but I was not disturbed by

anyone through the night, so the couple had obviously not

phoned the police about a dangerous intruder.

      Morning came and I packed up and breakfasted in a 

restaurant, then sought out a clothing store because I needed a

couple of new short sleeve shirts. The first store I tried could not

accommodate me, and I was directed to a Wal Mart. As I rode towards the Wal Mart I made a wrong turn and ended up crossing a

huge excavated area with wide, mud paths, a soon-to-be housing

subdivision. Machinery and trucks were rolling and I was viewed

by one driver as an interruption in his progress even though I was

nowhere near him. The driver leaned out his window and hollered

something at me, probably what he said was ‘Didn’t you see the No

Vehicles Allowed’ sign but his voice was out roared by his machine

and by my moped’s engine; and of course I had seen the sign but

what else could I as a lost pilgrim do but cut through.

      When I got to Wal Mart I went crazy with my credit card and  

bought two good quality cotton shirts, a package of new

undershorts, and a package of new socks. I have come to

understand from travelers that Wal Mart, for all the bad publicity it

receives, welcomes travelers in motor homes to overnight in their

parking lots. I had a night pitched in a parking lot in Ontario on ‘ the way home, but not at a Wal Mart, so can’t say if Wal Mart would

welcome a tenter. I suppose all one could do would be to ask.

      So .. rolling eastward onwards on the Trans Canada I come to 

Bassano where Number One jogs and jigs and where Jaguars have

a beginning for a high speed run of a thousand miles if they want it, but I continue straight east on a lesser road so much lesser that it

carries no number on my highway map .. but it leads into

Countess, then Rosemary .. these places as monumental as the

Rocky Mountains in their non-existence .. not that they don’t exist,

they do . . but they were flesh and blood back when the prairies

held tens of thousands of family farms, but now they are ghostly

and mostly still .. old signs and faded buildings .. and dusty

romance with Duchess .. and the lure of Millicent and Patricia.

Near Patricia I found three modern young women setting up a

roadside Lemonade stand or some such touristy thing, and they

directed me to the road leading into Dinosaur Provincial Park .. a

World Heritage Site or something like that .. arid and canyoned

Badlands as they call them, carved by the Red Deer River which

begins its eastward flow not far from Lake Louise, and which winds

through what used to be Cottonwood-covered bottom lands, but

according to a sign at Dinosaur Provincial Park 80 or 90 percent

(I’ve forgotten which) of those Cottonwoods have been cut down

throughout the prairies.

      Twenty five years ago I camped for almost two weeks on a little 

sand bar about 60 miles upriver from Dinosaur Provincial Park. I gained the sandbar by wading across the river as it ran through the

Drumheller dinosaur Badlands .. and believe it or not I found two

dinosaur bones sticking right out of the riverbank .. I just pulled

them out of the damp earth about head hight at the western end of

the sandbar .. and those bones could have made me famous by

having a Bobosaurus or Mosurinjohadactyl or something named

after me had I obeyed the law and turned the bones into the

Dinosaur Museum I had visited and then walked from straight

down to the river. People spend decades searching for what I found

by chance. I’m not famous though, because I stuffed the bones into

my backpack and gave them to my daughters when I returned to

Ontario, and then my daughters’ mother threw the bones out,

thinking they were just old cow bones. Well, I suppose they could

have been mammal bones, but they were definitely petrified, and

because they were further down in geological history than the

dinosaur bones which were being uncovered in higher stratas, they

probably were dinosaur bones. Of course, recent discoveries tell us

that dinosaurs and mammals lived on the earth together …

although the limited knowledge I have picked up about mammals in

that age informs me they were tiny creatures, so the large bones I found, at least as long as a human leg bores, probably were from

a dinosaur. Shortly after I returned to Ontario with the bones,

a scientist (I’ll call him Jack) heard about my bones because I did a

lot of bragging about those dinosaur bones, and Peterborough is a

small town, and a university town. Jack asked me to return to the

sandbar with him and show him exactly where the bones were found

.. but I was weary from traveling, and though once we got to the

spot I would become so involved in exploration that I would remain

there, and I wanted to spend the rest of that summer with my

daughters, who I had been separated from for a few years. I told

Jack exactly where the bones were found, and he must must have

been to those Badlands and down to the river because he said he

knew the sandbar.

      Another interesting thing which happened to me when camped 

out on the sandbar was one night when I was inside my tent some

wild animal, almost certainly a Coyote, must have gotten my scent

very suddenly and probably at the same time a breeze flapped the

wall of my tent and that Coyote did a lot of savage snarling and

snapping and hissing and posturing in the darkness before he

moved on, leaving me thankful he hadn’t ripped my tent to shreds, and that I had not had to defend myself with violence to either

Coyote or myself. My defence lay in being very, very quietly

prepared.

      Other strange things happened to me in that camp, too.  

I had gone there to attempt a fast of 40 days and 40 nights .. a

Biblical spirit quest .. and I probably brought the trouble on by not

being willing to turn the dinosaur bones over to the proper

authorities, but the trouble was the weather turned cold and rain

started. The Badlands are normally fairly dry at that time of year ..

last two weeks of June I think it was .. but it rained cold rain for

about a week .. and when the clouds moved on and the sun finally

came out I was so cold from the air and from not eating that I took

my sleeping bag and climbed a little gully up to a level area, but not

up to the prairie itself, and there was a huge boulder there, about

the size of a house, and the sun was shining onto the boulder, and I

knew the boulder would retain a lot of heat, and I laid close to the

rock in the ‘cleft of the rock’ on the ground at the base of the

boulder and warmed up as much as I could, which was

considerable, and I stayed there all night. Now .. there are

Rattlesnakes in the valley of the Red River, and I knew about them, and I had bought a snakebite kit, and I was aware that snakes seek

out sunny and warm places, and I was prepared to do the snake

bite treatment by slicing the bite and using the little rubber cup to

suck the poison out if necessary, but I was not going to move from

the warmth of that rock. No snake bit. In fact I did not see a

Rattlesnake until I got to Buffalo .. but more of that later. First I’ll

tell you that according to what I have read recently the latest lore

about snakebites is that the slice and suck treatment never was

any good .. and in fact did more harm than good by sometimes or

often causing infection .. with the proper treatment if you’re

isolated being to tie off the limb above the bite, lay down and lower

your heart beat as much as possible to slow the spread of the

poison .. keeping in mind to loosen the tourniquet once in a while. I

also learned somewhere in Saskatchewan that the rattlesnakes at

the latitude of the Red River either never or normally does not kill

adult humans because the cold weather lowers their metabolism

enough that they can’t manufacture poison quickly enough to spare

shooting one load per tooth into the victim .. so they only inject one

tooth ful and they person only gets sick. However .. I wonder how

global warming is affecting those snakes. I wonder also how children will be affected by a one-tooth injection, and that wonder

was became flesh and blood possibility after I had left Dinosaur

Provincial Park on my moped trip.

      During my dinosaur days of 25 years ago I missed another 

opportunity of sorts by not swimming after (was it two or three

canoes) each occupied by lovely young women who were merrily

merrily drifting downriver .. and of those the last young woman in

the last canoe could not take her eyes off me and I could not take

mine off her .. but of course I did not swim after her and I have

never knowingly seen her since. I did see, however, at the end of

my 10 day fast, and because of the much rain and then three or

four days of hot sun, many brand new and exquisite fully bloomed

Cactus Flowers, as well as Wild Roses. The sights and scents were

a wonderful blessing, especially because I had stumbled and fallen

hands first onto those pre-bloom cacti earlier in my fast when I

climbed to the gulley’s top to the expanse of prairie. There

was a farmhouse far off in the distance, but I did not go to it.

One of my favourite scriptures is “the wilderness and solitary places

shall be glad for them; the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the

Rose.” (Isaiah?) Was the desert glad for me? Or for the young women in the canoe? Or for us all together .. including you readers

who God knew would be reading this? God knows.

      My time of fasting passed .. I was hungry .. I waded back 

across the now swollen river, carrying my pack above my head just

as if I were an explorer in a movie, I passed by fame by not

turning in the dinosaur bones, and hitchhiked back to Ontario and

to my three daughters. My spiritual quest had been to assist

me in surviving the breakup of my family.

      Back on the moped though, I rode away from the canyons of 

Dinosaur Provincial Park, turning at Patricia onto Numberless

Highway, passing through Jenner and Atlee, whether they were

ghost towns or not I can’t recall, and then, becoming concerned

that I still had a long way to go before finding a gas station, and

seeing on my map at an intersection ahead a town named Buffalo I

hoped for gas at that place. Reaching the intersection I saw no

sign saying ‘Buffalo’ and no town or village. My map shows the

sideroad running north and crossing the Red Deer River. River

crossings often have businesses close by, and I rode north, thinking

perhaps that Buffalo had migrated to the river. At the river I found

a bridge, which was a small surprise to me as this was definitely Boonie country and I thought the river crossing might be a ford, but

no, it was a large bridge, a structure made beautiful by its

antiquity. I believe I remember that bridge having a wooden deck

instead of asphalt. On the south side of the bridge, at the edge of

the river, I saw a tanker truck, with a gentleman filling the truck

with river water. I rode down to him and asked about Buffalo. Of

course he was as surprised to see me as I was grateful to see him,

(there were no habitations that I could see anywhere.) He told me

Buffalo was long gone .. a few old buildings remaining just a few

hundred feet east of the intersection. These towns were abandoned

when highways replaced railroads .. far in advance of the latter day

town abandonments going on now in which family farms are

replaced by The Humungus & Beastly Agricultural Corporation

That Swallowed The Planet.

      No Buffalo, I thought, meant no obvious gas (and I say obvious 

gas for a reason which will make itself clear a few lines down from

here) in that neighbourhood until I got to Empress, off Highway 41

which was still 40 miles east. I was fairly sure my gas would last to

Empress (weren’t the early settlers romantic? Duchess, Countess,

Empress? Probably attempting relief from their bleak life. Or perhaps the railroad companies, in attempting to lure settlers, had

named those stops .. or perhaps the Railroad Maintenance Gangs

had chosen the names for those stops, because I believe that they

were Maintenance Section stops. In any case, who wouldn’t face a

bleak prairie winter better with a Duchess at his or her side?)

      There is still plenty of romance in the Prairies, though; and the 

river was wide and the bridge was as beautiful to me in its antiquity

as .. as a romantic journey across it into the unknown, for the map

shows so many miles and miles and miles of nothing on the other

side that I could picture this bridge being unused for weeks at a

time .. if ever. the bridge was so romantic that I walked upon it

before riding across it .. and while doing both, viewing the Red Deer

River from above it, I saw a river of such beauty even in its polluted

condition today that I can’t imagine the beauty of it when it ran

clear and drinkable and full of fish and bordered bountifully by

Cottonwoods. This stretch of river had adequate trees remaining.

      At the far side of the bridge I saw a track leading from the west 

side of the road into the bush .. for there are still Cottonwoods on

the Red Deer. I took the track and to my great surprise discovered

an antique playground .. with child’s swings and I believe I remember a teeter totter .. with outhouses, and an antique sign

saying the playground was for use by the children of workers of

some kind .. perhaps the Railroad workers .. for a school had been

at Buffalo .. and the camp was such a beautiful spot that I thought

of pitching my tent for the night .. but the day was only half grown

and I also wanted to explore the road away from the river .. and the

playground in its apparent abandonment was making me feel

isolated and lonely .. and sad that the swings and teeter totters

were no longer used (although I was fooled in that) .. and I also felt

an unease of an unexplained kind. I moved on, and in riding along

the road away from the bridge I discovered a small house set in a

clearing, near which were two small, yellow school buses, and I

saw two fuel tanks of the kind farmers have. This little habitation

did not surprise me in the least, for if any place on our planet was

deserving of human occupation it was that beautiful place.

      I rode into the yard, tooting my horn and calling out so that I 

would not surprise anyone by an unexpected knock on their door,

and when I did knock a woman and young girl answered, the young

girl almost hiding behind her mother, but not quite that shy. I

immediately became as gentle and nonthreatening in my manner as I possibly could, considering my scruffy appearance, and for the

same reason of not being seen as a question mark or a threat I did

away with my usual shy hemming and hauling and got straight to

the point, explaining that I would like to purchase some gasoline to

make sure I got as far as Empress, and the woman smiled a quiet

but sincere smile and told me she did not imagine my bike would

take very much so to help myself from the proper tank, the red one

I believe it was, the other being diesel. I thanked her, and rode to

the tanks which were apart from the house, and I took about one

half gallon, thinking I would give her $5.00, and I knocked again on

the door to ask how much I owed her, and she replied “nothing.”

Praise God for his providence. I wanted to ask the woman about

her life, how long she had lived there, did she have neighbours, the

story of the playground, etc., and I was hoping I would be invited in

for a tea or coffee to ask those questions, but I was not, and I did

not want to suggest a visit because of the solitude, and that she

might feel threatened, and her daughter might feel threatened, so I

thanked her and rode back to the road, and north for a short

distance until I saw a large farm in the distance, and thought of

taking that way to Empress but not certain how far the reasonable road conditions would last (I seem to think the road had changed to

dirt at the bridge) so I turned around, road across the bridge, and

began to climb the river valley’s gentle slope. I had not gotten

far, though, when I saw the snake which was a pale but verdant

green colour sunning itself on the pavement about one third of the

way to the side of the road. This was my first Rattlesnake in the

wilds .. and my first instinct was to kill it for the young girl’s sake.

      I had gained a good description of Rattlers from a fellow at 

Dinosaur Provincial Park, and this one at first estimation was about

three feet long, but we all know how dangerous creatures as well as

netted and released fish become bigger with the telling, but I don’t

think three feet is an exaggeration. In fact, I now remember I

did a careful assessment of the Rattler to assess the length of the

Bull Snake in Summerland, and the Bull was certainly seven feet

long, as measured by the three feet of this Rattler.

      My instincts to kill the snake were almost instantly mellowed  

by the remembrance of the hand made signs I had seen in that

country, ‘Save Our Snakes’. If local inhabitants saw enough value

in Rattlers to save them from extinction then I should respect their

wishes. Still .. my instinct were strong, and I put the moped up on

its stand and searched for an instrument of destruction like a big,

heavy stick. I found something and began approaching the snake,

and was surprised that it showed no fear whatsoever. This at first

slowed me down, then I thought that if the snake were not afraid of

me, how much aggression might it show a child. I determined to be

all the more careful and began my approach with strong intent,

which it seemed to sense, and slithered purposely and quickly off

the road and into the grass and shrubs. That was as far as my

courage took me. A snake on the road is one thing .. but a snake in

the grass where I couldn’t see it was too much for me to

contemplate pursuing especially as I was alone.

      Rattlesnakes in that country are said to be almost harmless to 

an adult human because their matabolism is slowed by the cold

weather, and slow matabolism means they can’t replenish their

poison quickly, so they normally only inject one fang full during an

attack on a human, just enough to sicken the victim. However, I

had been motivated to kill the snake because one fang full might be

enough to kill a child. My motivation, I have to admit, was also that

I would be able to swagger and brag humbly when I returned to my family and poet friends in Ontario, “Yes, there was this big Rattler

and me facing off, and I just killed it, that’s all.”

      But I did not kill it, I simply rode back to Numberless Highway, 

where on the far side I saw a curiously shaped hill which I thought

might be an ancient aboriginal camp or some such thing, perhaps a

‘Buffalo Jump’ where the natives stampeded the Buffalo to their

doom, and because the side road continued south, even though the

map does not show the continuation, I rode to the hill to find it was

a municipal site, with a gentleman in a pickup truck just exiting

who told me it was a garbage dump. I mentioned the playground,

and the Rattlesnake, and that a woman and child were living across

the bridge, and he seemed surprised that someone was living there,

and concerned also, saying ‘that park is full of Rattlers,’ which

made me glad I did not camp there, and I’m sure I read on the

stranger’s face (I’ll call him Jack) his intent to drive straight down

there and warn the woman, if she did not know the situation

already, and I was not surprised at his sudden goodbye and

departure.

      I returned to the highway and rode the few hundred feet to a 

small road which looked more like a lane way exiting south from the highway and then forking somewhat, with a farm implement track

running far down the valley towards the river, and Buffalo’s town

road running left through the remnants of Buffalo .. a couple of

houses, one of which looked as if it might be habituated part of the

year, a store/post office, the school .. all the buildings tugging at

my heart as the missing Buffalo herds had been tugging .. and the

Aboriginals missing their villages and camps .. and the missing fish

in the river .. and the old folks missing their old homes at Buffalo ..

and the missing purity of life which had conspired to make a

potential poisonous snake in the grass of a stranger knocking on a

door.

      Popular history tells us that at one time a stranger who was 

out of work and hungry could knock on almost any door in this

nation and be invited in for a meal .. or at least fed in the barn.

Those certainly must have been warm hearted and fearless days.

      After I had reached ‘the suburbs’ of Western Buffalo I turned 

my bike around, and as I made my departing tour past the lost

heritage I was thinking that if anyone wished to experience the

solitude, expanse, weather, quietness, nature and history of the

prairie, someone like myself for instance, that Buffalo would be exactly the right place.


      I wrote the above chapter last night, and this morning on the 

‘History’ television channel I chanced upon the tail end (no pun

intended but entirely appropriate) of a documentary concerning

Prairie Rattlesnakes in the area I went through. The snake is

considered an endangered species, and efforts are being made to

save it. Efforts are also being made to extinguish the species. I am

caught in between, knowing every part of nature is beneficial to

some other part of nature, but also knowing man’s basic instinct is

to kill snakes because of very real dangers which come with some

species.








Chapter Seventeen


Thee Grandmothers.



       About 40 kilometres east of Buffalo the Numberless Highway 

connects with Highway 41 which runs north and south.

Somewhere in that 40 miles I must have camped for the night, as

the run from my camp in Strathmore to Buffalo is 200 kilometres as

the crow flies, and my route included many turns and meanderings.

Where I camped I can’t recall, but it could easily have been at an

abandoned family farmsteads which front long prairie vistas that

fall and rise in immensely long and gentle undulations in every

direction, with solitude and sunsets and rustlings and mournful

sounds like winds and spirits of familiy reminiscences. Perhaps,

though, prairie farm life was not as pleasant as we who have not

experienced it imagine it, because it would be lonely at times; and

the many small cafés I stopped at through the prairies were always

occupied pleasantly by people my age or older, people who had

somewhere learned the necessity of companionship and

conversation, and the hospitality to strangers which can sometimes

only come through having suffered isolation. Somewhere along the

road I grew comfortable with walking right up to and sitting down

with those welcoming faces almost as they were long lost family ..

and in Saskatchewan and Manitoba I made sure I made the point

that I was family. So how do my thoughts switch from welcoming

faces in cafes to Pronghorn Antelopes? Their faces, I suppose.

I may have seen my first Pronghorns along this stretch of road,

and of them I remember their white streaked faces, and their stiff-

legged, four legged springing slowly away which even now almost

This also might have been the area in which I also saw an animal

which startled me because I swear it was the biggest rabbit I ever

saw .. probably 25 pounds .. although of course animal experts will tell me it was probably a coyote .. but I raised rabbits for food and I

do know a dog from a rabbit. I’m really not even sure if though if it

was here I saw that creature, or in a lusher area in Saskatchewan

in which were many sloughs. I sure wish my notes hadn’t been

destroyed.

      Wherever I camped that night I proceeded the next morning 

hoping to find a restaurant in Empress, which I thought was on

Highway 41; but Empress was five miles east of 41 on a road that

on my map dead ends a few feet short of the Saskatchewan border

.. an invitation to seclusion if I ever saw one .. and I debated that

invitation as I stopped at the intersection. Five miles ‘out of my

way’ and five miles return does not sound like much, but my

deadline of August 1 at the Ontario border was a factor, and

I thought if the dead end of Empress was as hauntingly beautiful as

I thought it might be I would want to spend a day or two. While I

was occupied debating with myself a pickup truck came from

Empress’s direction and I could have asked if the driver if there was

a café open, but I was suddenly gripped in a resentment of some

sort against the pickup’s driver .. he had been to Empress, after all,

and seemed to carry a supreme sense of confidence, while I was just a vacillating coward uncertain as to whether I should take a five

mile detour. I certainly should have taken that detour, because I

see by my map that Empress is situated on the South

Saskatchewan River a few miles from where that River connects

with the Red Deer. Empress would be an exceptionally quiet

hamlet on a broad river running through a deep and exceptionally

wide and quiet valley .. a rare and beautiful place.

      I did not see Empress, though, because while I was kicking 

myself in the mental rear end for not questioning the driver of the

pickup truck a Senior Citizen couple driving to Saskatoon stopped

to ask if I was broken down or in need of water. They told me I

could get a coffee at the town of Acadia Valley, about 30 miles

north, and they also gave me directions for my run to Saskatoon,

turning at Alsask, named for it’s location on the Alberta-

Saskatchewan border about 20 miles northeast-east-as-the-crow-

flies from Acadia.

      Before I traveled on, though I spent an hour or two in the 

small town of Acadia Valley, which, as its name suggests, is

located in a wide and tranquil valley, a valley which has no river at

its bottom, but which hosted, I suspect, a large river in ancient times. The town itself is strikingly orderly and relatively

prosperous, and is situated off the highway to the east, a highway

which I suspect is quiet even at the peak of tourist season.

Acadia Valley boasts a large, well maintained grain elevator which

serves as museum and tourist attraction. While not many grain

elevators operate on the prairies now enough elevators have been

left standing to give an air of recent history, and their form is of

course beautiful in its signification of the bounty of the great

Provider. I would have visited the elevator museum but it was

closed, so I did some shopping and visited a restaurant where I was

told about a back roads shortcut into Alsask, but the road was

terribly rough, they said, and I decided not to take it. I did take a

shortcut further up 41, though, avoiding a long curve to the west

which would have added about 30 miles to my day, by turning due

east at the ‘This way to Saskatchewan’ sign and rolling along on a

well paved road with increasing wonderment that in a few minutes I

would be crossing into my Grandmother’s birth province. I did not

have that sense of matriarchal history on my trip into Saskatoon

from the east, as my heart then was set on my sister-in-law’s

health, and when I stopped at the Manitoba homestead I was touching my great grandparent’s history on Dad’s side, and time

was restricted .. but now I was free to pursue finer roots of heritage

.. and I felt those roots as deeply as the roots of the original prairie

grasses which had grown up to 60 feet long. It’s only now that I

realize that if the exact location of grandmother’s birthplace is

known, I might have visited what was probably a homestead similar

to my great grandparents .. isolated far beyond this present age’s

experience .. so isolated that even though Grandmother was born in

Canada she spoke no English, that lack scope continuing until Dad

went to school. .. is known. I find it strange, now, that I did not

make her birthplace a quest, having always been content for some

reason or other I had always thought only of ‘Saskatchewan’ when

thinking of her birthplace .. and in a sense my Saskatchewan

experience has more than satisfied my quest .. but if I ever moped

around that province again I’ll try to find her family home.

      The paved road ran straight for several straight miles until it 

jogged sharply twice and then resumed its straight run east .. (ah,

was it here I saw the 40 pound Rabbit?) I can’t remember if there

was a sign at the Saskatchewan border, but I knew without doubt

when I crossed it because the pavement ended sharply and was replaced by dirt .. in that way demonstrating the imbalance in

prosperity between Alberta and Saskatchewan. The dirt road led

quickly to a north-south road which must have been the shortcut

from Acadia Valley, and which had once been paved at least on

the northern stretch, but was now in the roughest condition, and

was only a little more than one lane wide, providing a memorably

pleasant experience not only of the roughness, but of being ‘out in

the boonies’, of being passed head on by a pickup truck in which

were some young men and women, and of coming into the town of

Alsask ‘the back way’, that town presenting itself in that way far

more placidly it would have had I come in on the main road, with

the main road presentation placid enough, for Alsask was another

of the prairie towns which are facing abandonment because of

conversion of family farm into mega corporations. The Mega

Monsters could be in serious trouble, though, as one of their main

crops is Canola, and I was told while in the west that a disease has

begun ravaging the fields, working its way southeastwards from the

Edmonton area. With so many disasters facing the environment

in our age it’s easy for me to picture the entire prairie going the way

of Alsask, which was hit with an almost total loss of economy when the military radar base closed. I toured Alsask in a few minutes,

and to the best of my knowledge it has one surviving business, a

gas stop/restaurant on Highway 7 which after 250 eastward

kilometres took me into Saskatoon. Many or most of the small

towns throughout the prairies are nearly ghost towns, their

hotels and schools closed, small businesses open part time if at all,

but I discovered their quietness can make them happy places for

children to roam much more safely on bicycles than in perilous

times when the speed of business was the rule of law as it is today

on the streets of most cities, towns and villages.

      My stop at Alsask was exceptionally pleasant, as it had been in 

Acadia Valley, and for the same reasons, the tranquil good nature

of inhabitants. The hospitality of the owners/operators of the

Alsask business became even more valued when, after enjoying a

coffee and conversation, I motored away only to have yet another

rear tire flat. I considered camping at a little park close by the

business, but made the repair at the business instead. I think

their hospitality persuaded me to want to spend more time with

them. While making the repair I learned that a town a few miles

west of Alsask was trying to improve their economy with a ‘Strip Club’, and sure enough, an especially attractive-for-her-age blonde

(yes, another blonde) came walking from the direction of a

motor home, walking with a not overtly but definitely seductive style

across the parking lot as I worked, she and I exchanging smiles

which bordered on invitation to an introduction which could have

led to something interesting if we were both inclined that way, but

age has a way of saying, “Caution is no longer needed, Common

Sense is no longer needed, fear of S.T.D.s is no longer needed, and

exceptional entertainment is no longer needed because just finding

enough energy for normal entertainment is entertainment in itself.

I find it relaxing to discover my sexual impulses are being converted

more and more to genuine affection for the opposite sex, that

process in turn encouraging more natural affection for my own

gender, with the result being friendships arise more easily now than

when I was Rammy. That increase in natural affection

demonstrated itself just tonight at a fund raising poetry/musical

event for women and Aboriginal youth (at which I read and recited

poetry to the pleasure of all except a woman a few years older than

myself who did not appreciate my calling Shakespeare a madman

for killing Romeo and Juliet when he could have given the play a happy ending) I was able to share a genuine, parting hug with the

lovely young woman (not a blonde) who had sat beside me for two

hours. Still .. that blonde in the parking lot sure had a shiny and

attractive trailer .. which she and I could have made a great Gypsy

home out of.

      I think perhaps I did end up camping at the little park across

from the gas station at Alsask, moving on early the next morning,

the two day ride to Saskatoon memorable for my Laundromat stop

at Kindersley, and especially memorable because just past

Kindersley I saw a ‘Campground’ sign indicating the village of

Brock, just a short run south of the highway, and I felt like

company that night, so turned off, and found a tiny hamlet where a

Dad directed his young son to help me find the campground. His

son was riding his bicycle with two of his friends on their cycles

and we had a merry time racing here and there in the hamlet and

asking an uncle and then a neighbour but not finding a

campground, only an empty field where the campground was

rumoured to have been, or was possibly still there in disguise as a

vacant field labeled in a government file as a provincial grant .. but I

saw no outhouse or other convenience, and the only bushes for that privilege being in town and on people’s properties I said goodbye to

my cheerful cycling companions and road out of town towards the

highway where I had seen some small, circular, galvanized steel

sheds with pointed roofs of the kind common on the prairie .. used

for what I don’t know, and among those sheds and bushes I pitched

my tent.

      The next day took me to Rosetown, a large and prosperous 

centre of commerce which was memorable for the intense and

disquieting debate I had with myself about whether to visit a

Hutterite colony a few miles out of town which I had visited twenty

five years before when as someone new to the Bible I had wanted to

question the Hutterites about some of their doctrines. I ended the

debate with the decision to place family affection ahead of religious

interest bound with affection for people I had met only once, easing

my conscience about not visiting the colony’s inhabitants who had

treated me so well with the knowledge that as Christians the

Hutterites would want me to have peace of mind rather than

stressing myself for their sake. Darn that border deadline!

      My first (and only) visit to that colony was during a visit to Rick 

and Sandy’s. I had hitchhiked to the colony where the first folks I encountered where women and children. Unlike the coldness and

suspicion I encountered from Mennonite women and children

during a similar visit my first meeting with the Hutterites was warm

and welcoming, these women relaxed and speaking freely, the

children displaying curiosity instead of fear. I explained to the

women why I had come, and they directed me to the Preacher’s

home, where I did find a chilly initial reception (“What do you

want!?” which changed quickly to a genuine warming when the

Preacher, who I will call Jack, accepted my word that my desire was

to discuss biblical doctrine, an acceptance assisted, I think, by the

size of my large print bible which I carried as well as my sincerity.

      Preacher Jack and I discussed a few things, including the 

meaning of the Mosaic commandment which tells not to make

graven images, I at that time not being in favour of using a

camera, and the Preacher, who also served as Colony Headman,

said yes, they also used no cameras and allowed no photographs ..

and yet on the wall of his living room was a large calendar with a

huge photograph of a farm implement, I think it was a Combine. I

said nothing about the image or the potential idolatry it suggested,

but moved on to the doctrine of non-participation in wars, which we agreed totally on, and one or two other things, and then the

doctrine of a woman’s head covering, which I believe the bible says

is her hair, with women’s long being a glory, while the Preacher

Jack said Hutterite women wore caps except for sleeping. Jack

gave me a brief description of their worship services, which at that

time were conducted in German, and possibly still are, and I was

invited to attend if I wanted to return on a Sunday. I asked what a

fellow would have to do to become part of the Hutterite community,

and was told that initiates were employed in a tie factory in New

York State, and then sent out to farms if they were found suitable.

About that time the Preacher’s wife came downstairs (a strikingly

tall and beautiful blonde (couldn’t you have guessed?) in her head

covering) and Jack announced it was time for their communal lunch,

and would I please join them. The men ate in a body before the

women, with the women serving, and I regarded that custom not as

anything other than convenience, because the men work in the

fields and the barns, and are of course a bit grubby, and if everyone

ate together the women’s clothing would become soiled, and as it

was a communal meal some order had to be set .. although I would

prefer a buffet rather than being served, so that everyone could eat together, with sufficient space between diners allowing the

women’s clothing not to become soiled. The members of the

commune seemed genuinely happy, in fact they were the

happiest ‘group’ of people I have seen, all with sincere natural

affection, only one of them, the mechanic, seeming to be somewhat

grumpy, and they were all sincerely welcoming to me, I sitting in

their midst and discussing with them and feeling genuinely

appreciated for my interest in their scripture based lives, and I also

felt unusually comfortable .. almost ‘at home’. I debated with

myself for months after as to whether I should attempt to spend

time at the New York tie factory, but I had given up any liking for

the ties years before (I have not owned a suit or sport coat for 30

years) and decided against the tie factory.

      After lunch I said goodbye to many of them, and still remember 

their smiling, kind and affectionate faces, and was halfway to the

‘outside’ when a pickup truck with three of the men stopped

beside me for an additional goodbye, and although only one of

them asked me, “What’s it like out there?” I saw by the other two

faces that they were equally interested.

      ‘It’s terrible,” I said, “countless children and men and women 

with broken hearts because of broken homes, crime, violence,

alcohol addiction and drug addiction, churches which say they

believe in Jesus Christ but encourage their young people to

participate in war, old people isolated in institutions, doctors who

don’t have any idea how to heal except with drugs, friends who are

too busy chasing more money to find time for friends .. it’s a cold

and lonely society.” I told them my thoughts were on the tie factory.

They all nodded appreciatively, then were on their way to the fields.

      Despite the terrible nature of our society, there are good people 

in it, and many of them, and when I was mopeding through

returning to Rick and Sandy’s home one of the good people, and a

motorcyclist at that, came along beside me at a stop sign.

      ‘You’ve been travelling far,’ he said, ‘Where are you headed? 
      ‘To my brother’s house here in Saskatoon, but this detour 

(there was road work going on) has gotten me lost.’

      ‘Which address?’
      I told him, and he said, ‘Follow me.’
      Follow him I did, and for all the debating I had done with 

myself about going here or stopping there the timing worked out

perfectly (spiritual timing is far more accurate than atomic clocks) with me and my new friend pulling up to Rick and Sandy’s front

gate at the exact time Sandy returned from the neighbourhood

swimming pool with my niece, Sherry Lee, and Sherry’s young son

Duncan. I had not seen Sherry for almost 20 years (sad, yes, sad,

very sad, how families grow apart) but we had always been close in

our hearts, and she gave me a tremendous smile and called “Uncle

Bob!” Sandy, however, looked at me with sharply unveiled

suspicion and told Sherry in a commanding voice to take Duncan

into the house. I realized instantly that Sandy’s suspicion arose

from my motorcycle guide’s slim build and helmeted head which

disguised his gender. Sandy had remembered a similar incident 25

years previous, when I had brought a strange woman ‘home’. I

can’t blame Sandy for her hasty conclusion, because here I was

roaming the wildwoods on a moped as if I had not passed through

my hippy phase during which Sandy and Rick had returned home

from work to find me and the young lady using their kitchen to cook

hippy lentils or some other exotic dish. How could Sandy know that

in the last three years I had almost gained the physical and

emotional status of eunuch? Touring the wildwoods was one thing,

but involvement with strange women was another. I did not spell out details to Sandy on this occasion, but said only, “Hey .. that

was 25 years ago. I’ve grown up a bit.” I explained to my escort

what Sandy was thinking, and he obliged by removing his helmet so

Sandy could see for herself. Sandy said ‘thanks for guiding him

here,’ and passed walked to her door. I told Jack that if I was

going to be around for awhile I would like to spend some time with

him, but that I would only be with Rick and Sandy for a short time

before heading east to meet my border deadline, and after I thanked

him again for his help he wished me a ‘Happy Trails’ and was off.

      Happy Trails it was, too, with Duncan and I making a quick 

and solid friendship, and with Rick having time off work, and Sandy

retired, and with the weather beautiful, and the municipal

swimming pool only a short walk, and by gosh we had a great swim

and a great time. I think it was Sandy’s birthday, or close to it,

and I had picked up in a solitary prairie tea room a bottle of

relatively expensive ointment for Sandy’s dry skin problem, and that

gift balmed the fright my motorcycle guide had given her. When

visiting their home I shared a room in the basement with Rick, and

that of course brought back memories of Rick and I sharing a room

as boys .. and lots of other happy memories were gained, and that Duncan sure was a great lad, and when it came time for me to leave

he did not want to say goodbye, and I told him I understood

perfectly, because I loved him and did not want to say goodbye to

him either. After a few minutes our shared emotions allowed him

a goodbye hug. Relatives sure can be wonderful things until they

grow up and ignore relatives.

      Another Saskatoon sorrow was finding out that Prince Albert 

National Park, about 120 miles north of Saskatoon, where Grey Owl

and Annahereo raised Beavers, was out of the question for a visit

due to price. As things worked out with my border deadline I

would not have had time to visit the park anyway, but my heart was

heavy for not seeing the cabin Grey Owl wrote his wonderful books

in.

      My multiplied sorrows combined with a brand new route 

out of town got me lost and detoured leaving Saskatoon, but a

solitary and lovely young woman in a cotton dress taking lunch on

the sunny lawn of her employer pointed the way south to Highway

219 and 100 mile long Lake Diefenbaker … ohhh if I had been that

young hippy of 25 years before riding a slightly larger motorbike

who knows what lovely interludes could be alluded to .. but I was no longer that hippy .. what I was, after only about ½ hour

traveling time, was fixing yet another flat rear tire, this time near

some highway reconstruction, but I was blessed by a broad

shoulder of grass in which to do my repair. The road construction

made for interesting riding, and indeed the old highway itself was

interesting in a wonderful way, running first through Flatland, yes,

there is an official sign on the road saying ‘Flatland’ .. whether

Flatland is a village or signifies the area I don’t know .. but flatland

it is .. so flat it defies the curvature of the earth .. so flat it’s as if

God used a carpenter’s level scores of miles long to lay out this

stretch of what by definition is the only true flatland I saw on the

prairie. Perhaps the undulations of the water which created

flatland .. for the prairies are, it is said, the bottom of a lake,

perhaps the tidal undulations caused this sifting of silt into this

perfect flatness .. I don’t know .. but I saw the same perfect grain by

grain deposition of sand or clay or whatever in the hills around Lake

Diefenbaker .. as if God took one grain at time and placed it to

perfection .. but this was not hills, this was Flatland .. and it really

should be promoted as a tourist destination for its uniqueness ..

whether it will or will not be promotes Flatland was the first flat prairie I had seen since leaving Winnipeg six weeks before, although

the flat prairie around Winnipeg is mountainous compared to

Flatland.

      Highway 219 appears to be little used in this day and age, with 

the modern, intercity Number 11 connecting Saskatoon with

Regina. As far as I discovered on my little trip the only centres of

commerce between Saskatoon and the Gardiner Dam on

Diefenbaker Lake are small tourist camps on small lakes and on the

river. The road runs rough at times, and takes a traveler through

woodlands of a large Aboriginal Reserve which appears mostly

unfarmed. The Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River is

a worth a slight detour. This dam is basically a big dyke of earth ..

but of a size to back up the river for 100 miles, creating long and

narrow Lake Diefenbaker. At the dam is a visitor centre and

cafeteria, and a provincial park which I motored through thinking I

might spend the night if I could find a reasonable price .. but I

motored on, 219 becoming 19 and then 42, roads which are

vastly interesting because they run through country so financially

restricted that the highway is poor pavement one moment and then

dirt the next .. and then poor pavement and then dirt .. very curious and beautiful .. and barely traveled. I believe it was

outside of the first village, Elbow, where after tramping down tall

grass in a well treed spot I pitched my tent on an abandoned family

farm, or it may have been outside of Eyebrow. Perhaps Elbow was

the name of the small tourist village on Lake Diefenbaker which was

quietly prosperous and comfortably secluded with a golf course,

inexpensive Chinese restaurant, marina, a few stores, and a

genuine sod house museum which is a marvel of construction, built

low with thick walls which would make it easy to warm in winter

and which would help cool it in summer. Do I remember the roof

being sod as well? I believe so .. I have some photographs but

financial restrictions prohibit film development.

      Between Elbow and Eyebrow you will find if you: drive slowly; 

search carefully; and don’t mistake the dam for a flat stretch of

natural prairie soil .. the Qu’Appelle dam on the south western

stretch of Lake Diefenbaker out of which flows the tiny Qu’Appelle

River. The river begins as barely a stream, not gaining much flow

as it wanders through the exceptionally beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley

with its quiet and lakes bordered by the most gentle and beautifully

sculpted of any of earth’s hills which I have seen .. although I have not seen Calvary .. but of all the places on the prairies I would

recommend for scenic beauty it is the Qu’Appelle Valley, which I

will tell you more of shortly. I have read somewhere that before the

Qu’Appelle dam was built the river was known as the reversing river

because it could flow in either direction according to where rain fell

heaviest.

      If nearly abandoned villages are the main calling for your 

prairie quest then then the 25 miles of Highway 42 between

Eyebrow and Highway Two would be a good road to run .. with

beautiful villages of Brownlee, Keeler and Marquis lying peacefully

near-empty. On examining my map though I see 100 miles south

lies the Grasslands National Park on the Frenchman River, on the

Montana-Saskatchewan border, and that island of natural prairie

should also be a must-see .. and one I should return to the prairie

for especially because my map signifies a ‘Prairie Dog Colony’ ..

those Colonies being not only huge, but critical to the wellbeing of

natural prairie, with their countless burrows allowing rainwater to

soak into the earth instead of running off through gullies, causing

flooding. Dad tells me that as a boy he earned money through the

Prairie Dog Bounty program .. coming to see the harm he was doing too late .. and I believe Prairie Dog bounties still exist in the west.

Oh the ignorance of humankind.

      It was ignorance of scope and scale which on Highway 42 

got me lost and turned around and running north down the same

road I had come south on. To easterners or mountain folk the

prairie can look the same from any direction, one grain elevator

looking nearly the same as the next, although a prairie eye would

see minute differences (‘Nope, that little fleck of paint wasn’t blown

off there last year) and on this cloudy day I had gotten turned

around at a small detour which I had taken to explore an elevator

which sat at a three corner intersection of highways and road, at

Marquis I believe it was, and with the clouds hiding my sun

compass I realized my mistake only when I saw a sign telling me I

was approaching the abandoned village I had visited an hour before

Keeler I believe it was .. which called me back in for another

tour.

      Somewhere on this narrow road, while on one of its sections, I 

met up with a large farm truck, one of the really big ones the size of

transports with double trailers, traveling at a good speed in the

opposite direction to me. I thought I was pretty well ‘road seasoned’ now though and not concerned about a little gust from

trucks .. I don’t think I even slowed .. and the truck driver didn’t

slow either .. and the blast of air almost stopped me in my track. It

didn’t come close to knocking me over though .. I guess I had gotten

the ‘hang’ of balance. I would be more careful next time meeting a

truck like that though.

      In  this stretch of day I stopped at a roadside gas stop to see if I 

could get a coffee, which I didn’t get because I the place was closed,

not surprisingly, as folk from nearby Regina don’t need to drive to

Lake Diefenbaker as they have their own 60 mile long Last

Mountain Lake for recreation, so there is very little reason for

anyone to run Highway 42 unless you’re a nostalgia buff. The

closed gas stop did have an outdoor soft drink vending machine

which worked, and as I took my ease on a bench fronting the

business a pair of young men in a pickup truck pulled up thinking

they could get gasoline and also staying for a cold pop. One of the

young men’s parents owned 10,000 acres to the northwest

somewhere, up around Edmonton I believe it was, and they had

just finished ‘spraying’ the whole thing and were taking a small

drive .. a short break .. a little tour .. wondering about taking a

larger tour some day .. to see Mexico. ‘Good luck,’ I said, I’ve never

been; but Hawaii is nice.’ Our chat was nice .. they’re polite young

men, these westerners, gentlemen, respectful, not much fear if any,

no false machoism either. Was it from these two I learned about

the Canola disease which is spreading from northwest to southeast,

and which could destroy the industry? Too much concentration on

one crop .. little or no crop rotation .. little or no fallow time .. too

much chemical fertilizer and not enough organic matter .. diseases

mutating to overcome fungicides .. it all adds up quickly.


      Far too soon my run down the middle of nowhere come to its 

end. My brother Rick had told me to that to get into the Qu’Appelle

Valley I should turn north at Tuxford onto Highway 2 and this I did,

running into Sun Valley, and crossing a bridge-causeway crossing

beautiful Buffalo Pound Lake where I stopped to chat with

fishermen. Not many fish were being caught .. but the scenery

displayed the craftsmanship of the Creator’s hand. Life in the fast

lane caught up with me at Chamberlain, where Highway Two

catches Highway 11, and at a picnic table setting outside a French

Fry-coffee-gasoline stop at that intersection I chatted with a

transport-trucker and his wife who had been running the highways

between Southern Ontario and B.C. for decades. Contrary to what

some people might think about mopeds mingling with transports

Truckers were some of my best road buddies .. and lot of truckers

blew a friendly horn my way, especially in the west. Perhaps I

forgot to tell you of the trucker in the Okanogan Valley who told me

he had seen me in Northern Ontario .. “You really get around on

that thing!” he had said with some admiration. Yes .. to be admired

for road worthiness by a Trucker is a compliment indeed. But with

the friendship comes potential for sorrow. A month or two after my

trip ended I heard through the news media that a western Trucker

and his lady partner were sent to The Eternal Truckstop in the Sky

in a head on collision with another truck .. and if it was that pair of

new friends I can take comfort in saying they were ready to go ..

with no lesson of hospitality remaining to be learned.

      Western hospitality is not just a figment of a Tourism Office 

Manager’s imagination. I had my first experience 30 years before,

when I had hitchhiked into the town of Morden, south of Winnipeg,

hoping to find one of my Dad’s sisters .. Aunt Midge and her family. My stop was made on a whim, and I didn’t have their family name

or address, and I was in a state of emotional and intellectual shock

from my marriage breakdown. A Morden police officer stopped his

cruiser beside me and said in a friendly way, “you look lost.” I told

him the situation, and he asked for my family name and where I

was from. After he had spoken into his radio a short time he said,

“Get in, I’ll take you there.” Right to the door .. where I was

welcomed as long lost family. It was Midge’s husband who

presented me with a shirt-pocket format new testament which I

carried in that pocket for years afterwards, and which led me to the

small measure of sanity I possess.

      Western Hospitality again made itself known 30 miles south of 

Chamberlain, about 20 miles north of Regina, when, yes, I was

repairing another rear flat tire. A motorcycle rider stopped to say

that he was on his way into Regina, and would return the same way

immediately, and ‘did I have need of anything?’ I said I did not

know how well my tube repair would hold, and if he passed a bike

shop which stocked my size I would be grateful if he picked one up.

He motored off as I completed my repair, which was successful by

the way, taking me a few hundred miles, but I had not gone far when the motorcycle rider (I’ll call him Jack) returned with not one,

but two new tubes. When I asked him how much I owed him he

replied, “No charge .. Regina Hospitality”. Thanks, Jack. The

comfort of having those two tubes was so great that I have packed a

pair ever since.

      Jack also told me the best way to avoid the traffic of Regina as I 

progressed towards my desired destination of Fort Qu’Appelle

would be to turn north at Lumsden onto Highway 20, and this I did,

but first touring ‘the upper end’ of Saskatchewan’s economy in the

pretty and prosperous Qu’Appelle Valley village of Lumsden, where I

saw building lots on sale for $120,000, and where I also saw a

newspaper office, and stopping there, told the story of Jack and the

two tubes, saying that as a former newspaper reporter I thought

Jack’s kindness was worthy of publication .. and with the

newspaper staff in agreement, Jack is now a famous man in the

west .. and my moped and me also, as we were all featured

together.

      I returned to little traveled roads when I left the busy Number 

11 at Lumsden, these roads for the most part well paved, but it may

have been at Craven, just out of Lumsden, that I was advised by local folk to take a shortcut, a wonderful dirt road running

alongside the Qu’Appelle River for 20 miles .. a beautiful ride during

which I encountered only one or two vehicles. At the end of that

ride I took to pavement on Highway 6 north to 22 east into Fort

Qu’Appelle which is located on what is shown on my map as The

Fishing Lakes. I made a tour of Fort Qu’Appelle’s short main street

and saw it as a tourist destination with a majority of the population

being native. I also got a glimpse here of what I see as the tragedy

of the Qu’Appelle waters .. they being turned by farm chemicals into

liquid more fit to run through Ontario’s industrial heartlands then

through the beauty of the Qu’Appelle. The waters were so

discouraging that my stay in Fort Qu’Appelle was short .. and

perhaps I am wrong, but I sensed some resentment towards my

presence from a group of natives, and if so I can’t blame them, as

Caucassian farmers and cottagers are mostly to blame for the

destruction of the west’s natural water habitats, and that

destruction of course makes a natural, aboriginal way of life

impossible.

      Highway 22 took me upland away from the lakes and river to 

what seemed like a somewhat prosperous town of Balcares, where I found a gas station/restaurant at which the owner attempted to

operate a small camping site .. with hookups for mobile homes.

The owner, who I will call Jack, gifted me with one corner of the

unoccupied trailer park to tent in, from which I left the next

morning with knowledge of a Country Fair being held that same day

in Abernethy, only a few miles away and on my route. Abernethy

is situated slightly off the highway and I passed by the road leading

to the village, and had to retrace my path. I arrived as the parade

was forming .. yes a parade .. a fine, long parade of antique farm

implements, RCMP cruiser with officer in scarlet uniform, fire truck,

floats, a tiny military presence, antique vehicles, an operating steam

combine or thrasher if memory serves me correctly .. all decorated

with balloons and ribbons, and to which, after I made my request

as a Saskatchewan grandmother’s grandson, I was allowed to

enter with my moped decorated with balloons and ribbons provided

by the parade’s officers. What a grand parade we had .. with a

tremendous welcome shown to the hairy stranger on the moped,

and with a display of respectful gratitude shown to the eagle feather

which rode my moped by a native elder seated in his doorway.

      After the parade a sausage on a bun (or was it chili?) fulfilled 

the function of lunch, during which I watched some of the horse

show, and then I toured the indoor exhibits in the company of the

local newspaper reporter who was not reserved in wanting to do a

story on my moped’s capacity for inexpensive and ecological travel.

Such a fine day .. and a good crowd too, for such a small village so

far off the main path of commerce.

      I declined an invitation to camp on the fairgrounds .. “Spend 

the entire day, take a break from the road.” With some regret I said

I had two aunts to visit in separate towns in Manitoba, and after

presenting my moped’s decorative touches to a young boy coming

in the gates with his mother I was on the road again. Just past

Abernethy is a pioneer site so famous it is marked on my provincial

highway map, the Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site. I

decided not to visit that site, whatever its significance, partly

because I had become acutely aware of the almost total lack of

roadsign reminders of aboriginal history honouring the part the

natives played in welcoming Caucasians to North America, and

especially the part they played in Caucasian pioneer survival.

      A few miles outside of Abernethy a farm laneway with a simple 

sign announcing a family name did call me though, and at the end of the lane I found one of the most beautifully secluded places I’ve

seen, well blessed with a spirit of ‘organics’, an old and small

farmhouse which was still inhabited if I read the signs correctly, a

small pond, and outstanding in its significance an old barn around

which and out of which and into which flew crowds of Swallows ..

among the few birds I saw remaining on the prairies .. even the

ducks in decline through their tougher and tougher battle against

chemical onslaught. Attempts are being made to help the ducks

from natural predators like foxes, with nesting boxes being built in

the centre of sloughs, but man’s rapacious commerce is the

creatures’ foremost enemy .. and until a return to nature’s ways are

made I’m sure the ducks will remain in decline.

      Not far past this stop I found a large transport farm truck 

stuck from having grounding itself during a tight turn. To my great

surprise a person who I thought at first sight was a boy climbed

down from the cab .. but as I watched this boy work I realized that

despite a youthful face he was no boy, but a man fully mature in

the world of work, although slightly inexperienced in big truck

turns. I offered assistance, but could do no more than provide a

pair of eyes for traffic and a hand if the trucker injured himself in his heavy work. I did wave down an approaching motorist, and

we watched together as the young man successfully removed his

truck from its predicament.

      Moving on I finally found the full material manifestation of a 

spiritual calling I had held for 25 years. Qu’Appelle in the French

language means either ‘someone is calling’ or ‘who is calling’,

depending on which Englishman you speak to .. but the Valley is

known by anyone who has been near it as having a calling spirit ..

something in its nature just draws an obedient traveler into its

great beauty. The Qu’Appelle had been calling to me since my

prairie hitchhiking expedition 25 years ago. I was on my way back

to Ontario, and a Good Samaritan had let me off at an intersection

of country roads somewhere, I can’t recall where, but the only sign

of civilization was a small and faded wooden road sign reading,

‘Qu’Appelle Valley’, and pointing down a gentle road which

declined through a border of trees on both sides into an unseen

valley. How and why I resisted that beautiful and strong call I don’t

know .. but the memory stayed with me, and when I had returned

to Ontario I explored the valley off and on over two decades on

maps and in literature, and when my first sight of the river flowing below the Qu’Appelle Dam was a genuine thrill. Now I had come to

what I view in my mind’s eye as being Qu’Appelle’s soul .. the

last two Qu’Appelle Lakes, Crooked Lake, and Round. The road on

the north side of these lakes runs partway up beautifully sculpted

hills and vistas over the lakes are common. Frequent dirt roads

run from the hills to tiny communities on the shores .. and the

sadness of Qu’Appelle’s soul is that these lakes, despite their

beauty, are almost ruined because of farm runoff mingled with he

effluent from huge numbers of cottage septic systems. Cottage

owners may be used to the smell of rotting algae, but I could not

go in for a swim despite the people who were happily using the

waters. The ruination, however, can’t dispel the scenic splendour

which is accented by huge and bountiful roadside Chokecherry

Trees.

      Dusk was still a couple of hours away, and I thought to camp 

for the night at the eastern end of the easternmost lake, Round

Lake, where a small dam spills the lake’s waters into the Qu’Appelle

River, those waters then flowing east another 50 miles to the

Assiniboine which winds its way to Winnipeg. I parked my bike and

took a walk across the dam for a hike. I had not walked long when I found a native family having a picnic in a parklike setting. No

signs told the park status but I believe this was Reserve land, and

as I approached the family I wondered if I would be welcomed.

      “Sit down .. eat!” I was commanded.  Hamburgers and hotdogs 

were abundant.

      I sat and ate.  My hosts were three young men, a Senior 

woman, a man my age, a young woman. I was invited to share

their liquid refreshment .. alcohol in a couple of forms .. soft drinks

also. I think the only person at the picnic not affected by alcohol

was Grandmother .. and there was an unidentifiable undercurrent

of strong and unhappy emotion .. possibly economic hardship, I

told myself.

      Nevertheless the picnic held an air of merriment.  We talked 

about fishing. ‘Yes, there are fish left in the lake; but you have to

know where to find them. Just along this south shore .. around

those hills.’ I told the family the part their relatives played in

saying the lives of my great grandfather and his family .. and we all

agreed that the natives had been paid back very badly for their

kindness .. and I made what apology I could for my race’s part in

their demise.

      An hour passed and I felt comfortable enough begin to think 

how I would phrase my question, what is the difficulty this family is

facing. The man my age may have read my thoughts.

      ‘My son died a few days ago.  His heart was bad.  His last wish 

was that we should come to this place, it was his favourite place, we

should come here and have a picnic to remember him. These are

his brothers. His grandmother.’

      The young woman said, “I am his sister’.  
      What could I do but put my hand on this man’s hand.  “I’m so 

sorry.” I looked towards everyone. ‘I have no words to help your

pain .. except that he is in a better place.’

      ‘Yes’, was the unanimous acceptance, and to my surprise it 

was not The Happy Hunting Ground mentioned, or The Great

Spirit, but ‘Jesus has made a home for him.’ I think my surprise

showed. “Yes, we all believe in him. He is the Creator. The

Saviour.’

      We were quieter after that .. and soon it was time for them to 

leave. I helped load their car and clean up the site. Someone

had lost a jacket and we searched until we found it. We returned to

their car, put our arms around each other .. our hands together. We said our goodbyes .. they to their homes .. me to my moped.

      I still thinking of camping at the small dam; but mosquitoes
were thick and hungry .. and the surroundings were not scenic

enough for my spoiled tastes .. and something kept telling me to

move on. But before I did I had to investigate a better campsite just

beyond the fence at the dam .. and I found what seemed to have

been in an earlier decade a children’s and youths’ camp run by a

philanthropic organization. The lawns were in good condition, but

the wood frame buildings needed work, and I was thinking of

pitching my tent on the grounds where the mosquitoes were not

nearly as numerous when from behind a thick row of evergreens

came the voices and laughter of young women, and possibly young

men, teenagers or young adults, playing at a game I guessed to be

volleyball. From the condition of the camp I estimated the players

were not campers, but day visitors, but nevertheless I did not want

to intrude on anyone’s privacy and I moved on.

    Perhaps two or three miles from the dam I ran into Highway 9 

where I found two bridges side by side crossing the Qu’Appelle

River. One bridge was old and unused by traffic, the other was a

replacement. I thought perhaps the old access road to the old bridge might be good to camp beside, and motored to the old

bridge where I found a fisherman. We chatted awhile, and then I

searched out a camping spot, but with some spiritual compulsion

telling me not to camp there I close my eyes to reasonable spots

and motored up the valley’s long slope. About halfway to the

prairie plateau I saw a sign pointing to a spring in the woods. I

walked to the spring with my water bottles, and the flow was good,

but another sign at the spring warned the water was unfit. I

motored another 20 kilometres to the land of chlorinated water

which was loudly heralded by Trans Canada Highway Number One

at the town of Whitewood. It was dusk now, and I thought to ask

permission to camp on the lawn of a large Service Centre .. but I

had a coffee and gassed up and motored on in what was rapidly

falling darkness. The highway was busy and dark, a dangerous

ride, and why I did it I don’t know .. but I rode with a feeling of

discontentment . . the Qu’Appelle was ruined .. life stole family

members .. springwater was unfit to drink .. the night grew black ..

the headlights coming towards me grew became blinding in their

glare. I absolutely could not continue, and I turned into a small

town and found a back street, then I found a municipal right of way which in a few years would be a street if the town’s population grew,

and there, beside a tall hedge of trees which served as the border of

a homeowner’s property, and in sight of the other neighbour’s

house I may have pitched my tent, or because mosquitoes were not

bothersome I may have just unrolled my sleeping bag and put my

space blanket over me.





















Chapter 18


Owl Significant and the Longest Day


      I did not want to disturb my neighbours or municipal 

authorities the next morning, not that they would have minded my

presence, but I did not want to take any chances, so I rose before

dawn on a Saturday and rode about 40 kilometres to the Manitoba

border. I had another reason for getting up early .. and that was I

wanted to get to Modern, south of Winnipeg, to my Aunt Midge’s so

we could attend church together on Sunday morning. I had phoned

her from the Service Centre and she told me she had an

appointment on Saturday north of Winnipeg in Beausejour, the

same town I had visited on my second morning coming west

through Manitoba; and she could not promise to be home Sunday

morning but she would make the attempt. The distances were not

great, about a two hour drive each way, but Aunt Midge did not

drive and was relying on a friend for transportation so could not set

the schedule. I told her that if I got to her home and she was not

there I would wait for her return, but I also told Midge that with my

my frequent flat tires I could not guarantee getting to her home in

time for church. We agreed that what was to be would be.

      Even without tire problems my ride to Morden would be long .. 

about 250 miles .. eight hours of steady riding at 30 miles per

hour. However .. I had 24 hours to do that 8 hours in, daylight

hours were long, and I knew that I could ride comfortably at night if

I was not blinded by headlights.

      At the Manitoba border I stopped at the Welcoming Centre and 

made breakfast, then motored on. A mile or two past the Centre I

saw a dead owl .. a large one .. on the highway’s gravel shoulder.

Normally I would show respect for the departed by stopping and

moving the dead bird or animal off the gravel and into the roadside

grass. This time, though, I rode past, continuing on to a truck stop about five miles further along where I had coffee. This particular

stop seemed peculiar only because of the rough condition of the

pavement leading to the business .. I had had a jolt which almost

threw me .. the roughest of the trip. I found the extent of the jolt

after coffee when I was making my exit onto the highway, when

moving slower and using more caution, turning my head to check

behind me instead of trusting my mirrors, I saw my lunch box was

missing from its place on top of my pack pack. I returned to where

I had parked but found nothing. I did not think of my jolting entry,

and could only think I had left the lunchbox at the Visitor Centre,

border, so I returned there, but the box was not there either. I had

no option but to return to the truckstop, and did slow slowly,

searching the shoulder and grass area, and finding nothing but the

owl. I recognized by the circumstances that the faster I hurried the

slower I would go, so I stopped for the owl to give it a better resting

place .. a place in truth which would be more suited to the pickings

of scavengers .. but at least in the grass the scavengers would not

be threatened by traffic, and the process by which the owl’s

physical presence would convert to organic nutrients for other living

things would be more natural and pleasing than repeated flattening

by vehicle wheels. I found the owl remarkably undamaged .. its eyes seemed as bright as if alive. I mounted the stiff owl on my

moped’s handlebars and took its photo before laying it carefully in a

grassy area.

      My return ride to the truck stop was uneventful, but as I exited 

the highway I remembered the hard jolt, and thought perhaps the

box had been shaken off there. I searched but found nothing,

nothing until I pulled up in front of the gas cash window to ask if

anyone had turned a purple box in, and to the truck stop I

remembered the jolt, and Lo and Behold, there was my lunchbox

outside the door. The attendant told me a driver had noticed it on

the rough pavement. Nothing was damaged or missing. I motored

on another few miles, reaching Highway 8A, which would take me

to southern Manitoba, but did not want to arrive at Midge’s in my

present situation of much dirty laundry, so I stopped at the

highway entrance and checked my map and debated with myself

about the odds of finding a laundromat on 8A, or should I detour a

few miles east to Virden where I was confidant I would find a

laundromat. I was still debating when a driver stopped and asked

me if I needed help with directions. I asked if a Laundromat was

available to the south, and he said, ‘Yes .. at your first left turn there is a White Owl gas station. There’s a Laundromat there.’

      An owl!!  I was not surprised.   It was a sign .. a message .. that 

though things look bad here on earth .. indeed things look terrible

when viewed from many angles .. but there is a great power and

intelligence in charge …things happen for reasons whether we see

those reasons as being good or not .. and there is a far saner and

cleaner world to come.

      I cleaned up myself and my clothes at the White Owl, but I had 

some small problem with my bike which I had to fix .. I can’t

remember what it was .. oh yes, friction against the rear wheel. I

don’t know how I fixed it, but it was time consuming .. bringing me

again to the realization that time was irrelevant on this leg of the

trip .. and though I would do my best to get to Midge’s on time if I

did it would be God’s will .. if not, Not. Another peculiar thing

happened at the White Owl Laundromat. A woman my age was

doing her laundry, and at first she seemed to judge me as being an

undesirable element. I took special care to dissuade her of that

opinion by cleaning any dirt I had brought in, by stashing my

things out of the way under the table, even by cleaning other

people’s trash. I impressed her so much that when a younger woman came in with her laundry I heard the woman my age say,

“He’s not at all what he appears to be. He’s a gentleman.” My only

thought was, ‘Okay .. she’s entitled to make mistakes.’

      I had lost valuable time, I thought, and considered taking a

shorter route to Morden than what I had planned .. but once I got

rolling I decided I wanted to ride close to North Dakota .. Cowboy

Country .. and stuck to my original route of straight south for 40

miles to Melita. Now this was an interesting ride. For one thing,

a strong and unceasing hot wind was blowing south to north. I

have told many people about this strange wind now .. as prairie

winds almost always blow west to east. But I saw this wind as a

definite agent working to fulfill biblical prophecies involving global

warming .. with the wind moving hot air from the tropics to the

arctic. The wind doubled the time it would normally take me to get

to Melita, and also on the way I encountered a few dead creatures

which needed removal from the highway. Two small deer, a few

rabbits. This country was lush with life .. indeed, the whole ride to

Morden was significant in that the farmers seemed to use less

chemicals on their fields, seemingly proven by a few weeds here and

there among the sunflowers and other crops, but also proven by the abundance of wildlife. Towards sunset that day I saw many Red

Tail Hawks perched atop telephone and hydro poles, their red tails

flashing brightly in the red sunset light.

      Sunset, though, was a long ride in the distance.  I finally 

gained Melita, which sits about 30 kilometres shy of the U.S.

border, and stopped at a rustic café. Yes, I can easily and truthfully

call that café rustic .. where a rustic table was hosting three rustic

men and a rustic lady, all of them my age, and all of them wearing

welcoming countenances. I should have pulled a chair up to their

table but I chose the chair nearest theirs at the nearest table.

      “If a person kills someone they call it murder ..” one of the men 

said to his friends, and to me also, “.. but if a General murders ten

thousand people they call him a hero.” That was a good start to

conversation, and a good introduction. We quickly found that we

were all anti-war hippy types, these people who looked like farmers

and myself, the lady being the waitress and possibly owner of the

café, and our time together was comfortable and humorous ..

with jokes flying and beer and coffee being enjoyed. I asked if their

neck of the woods held any original prairie .. any land which

remained in the condition it was in before Caucasians arrived. “Yes .. just up the road .. past the graveyard ...” There was some

discussion as to if the acreage was genuinely untouched, as one or

two local farmers harvested hay from it, but that’s all the damage

which was done .. and that was not unreasonable as the natives, it

is said, burned the grasses to enhance fertilization. I was not in a

hurry to leave such good company, but my desire to see this small

corner of the world called me away, and I found it, and there

discovered some type of bush which was very common there, the

berries of which were small but almost unbelievably bountiful, and

red and orange and pink, tasting somewhat like Aspirin, which did

not surprise me as the leaves of these bushes resembled Willow,

from which the original Aspirin drug was made. Seeing the

thickness of those berry bushes, and their fruitful bounty, I could

easily picture something which had been impossible for me up until

that time, and that was the means of feeding the billions of

Passenger Pigeons which had made starvation impossible in the

temperate regions of North America. Flocks so large and fat they

broke huge Oak limbs when they roosted. Flocks which blackened

the sky. Flocks which were so easily caught that pioneers fed the

birds to their hogs .. and so there is no wonder in my mind what happened to the flocks. But the berries .. I forgot about the berry

tree in Alberta .. in the town where the wonderful musicians were

playing in the park bandshell. I don’t know what kind of tree it

was, the locals could not identify it, but it was twice as tall as

Melita’s Willow type bushes, and it was loaded with berries

the size of cherries, but not like cherries in taste, and not like a

cranberry either, which I thought they might be because I have

heard of high bush Cranberries .. but these berries were not sour in

the least. The berries at Melita could not be identified by a

gentleman I met at the site, even though he had eaten them as a

boy. Ah well .. mysterious berries .. you tasted wonderful .. and

I suspect you were strong medicine as well.

      Saying goodbye to Melita’s berries I headed west on Highway 

three and after a short ride came to Medora, where a jog took me to

Deloraine, and then past the Turtle Mountain horizon, and then to

Killarney, where a jog took me to within three miles of North Dakota

.. and all through this country was abundant wildlife and farms

more reminiscent of family labour and togetherness than corporate

mega profit; that pleasant interlude changing to our modern era at

Clearwater and Crystal City, beach and bikini resort towns which made use of the Lakes Pelican, Rock, and Swan, all fed by the

Pembina River into which mega pig farm managers (could not

prevent their effluent from flowing) and which, I was told by a small

group of bemoaning locals lads, could no longer be safely swum in,

although that news was generally withheld from traveling strangers

with lots of cash to spend on cottage rentals .. and I said yes, the

same thing had happened for the same piggish reasons to the Lake

Huron shoreline in Ontario.

      Looking now at my roadmap I don’t know how I came so close 

to one of those lakes as to see the peculiar and fantastic colour of

the red sunset found reflected only in Manitoba waters .. but there

it was, even though I see the road does not touch the lakes .. roads

and roadmaps are peculiar .. oh, now I remember .. there was a

long sideroad going into and out of Crystal City. Dusk had fallen

before I got to Crystal City, and I thought to camp for the night, but

tenting prices were, to my class of thinking, exorbitant; and after

gassing up and a brief tour and chats with local folks I motored up

the sideroad onto the highway in darkness .. but that particular

darkness was beautiful and wonderful and brilliantly lit by a full

and bright moon .. a cloudless night .. a cool night too I found .. but with almost no traffic either passing me or approaching me I felt

like I could ride all night .. all the way to Aunt Midge in Morden ..

even though I still had 50 miles to go .. what? Could this map be

mistaken in scale? At the time I felt like I had another hundred

miles to go .. I guess my long day, and the long day immediately

before this long day, had tired me .. and besides, as I have said

previously, one hour by automobile is normally three hours by

moped .. but even with that, could my 60 years have been catching

up to me? It had only been a 14 hour day, or possibly 16 hour

day, by the time I got to Crystal City. Perhaps when all was

considered it was not the least bit surprising to me when I found

myself out on moonlit Number Three surrounded by huge and

slowly moving ghostly forms which I navigated slowly, O So slowly

through. How it happened was like this: a vehicle had come from

behind and passed me; but about one mile up the road it had

stopped, pulled off to the side, and then made a U turn and stopped

on the other side of the road, positioning itself so that when I got

close its headlights blinded me, fortunately in a way causing me to

slow almost to a stop .. and so it was that without seeing the ghosts

I entered their midst at a speed which was low enough that even had I run into one of them no harm would have occurred .. unless

they stampeded .. for stampede potential they had, this herd of

cattle .. cows or steers I don’t know which .. but huge and white

and ghostly in the moonlight .. and walking past me on all sides.

When the way was clear I motored over to the driver who had

blinded me. He said, “I parked like this so you would see them.”

I should have told him his headlights could have gotten me killed ..

but I felt no resentment .. the experience had been too unearthly ..

and no harm was done. The driver said he would drive to the

nearest farm and tell them cows were on the highway. I motored on

along that beautiful stretch of highway, examining dim vistas, fields

ghostly white, contrasts of light and dark, examine many

interesting places .. with the long day pushing the midnight hour

back into the recesses of never. The tiny town of Manitou .. did I

tour it late at night, or early in the morning? I can’t recall. I do

recall realizing I could not drive any further that night because my

legs were sore .. why my legs I don’t know .. but I felt like I had

been walking all day instead of riding .. and I turned in at the

first bed of grass I came to, and which turned out to be a ski-resort

.. yes, a ski-resort on the prairie .. there are a few .. this one with A- frame chalets .. Rainbow Mountain? Magic Mountain? I can’t

quite recall. I pitched my sleeping bag under a tree in the middle of

the main traffic circle .. a dirt road circle of course, as ski hills on

the prairies are not quite Rocky Mountain Whistlers .. and of course

the prairie mountain resort traffic circle had no traffic at this time

of year and this time of night .. but one of the chalets was occupied,

a vehicle parked out front, a television set on .. the blue t.v. light

flashing in the blackness of night .. a night cold enough that no

mosquitoes bothered me. I slept well after that day of about 350

kilometres .. seven hours of riding at 50 kilometres per hour .. plus

all the stops checking my map at intersections, touring villages,

chatting, taking photos of large, rectangular haybales in a field,

breaks for meals, coffee, tea, gasol