At 33 333 miles

July 26, 2011

Access denied.

I headed out of Ottawa about 3 hours later than I had intended. The plan was to go to Rochester NY and see Linda and Jim, then continue on to Nashville to finish the album. Out of Ottawa. Out of Canada.

Half way down the 416 South rain started to pour. I pulled over, slipped on the rain gear : pants, shell, overboots, gore-tex gloves and off I went again.

I’m heading for the border crossing.

The rain turns into a wall, I’m following a semi in order to be in it’s cleared track, cleared of rain water so that my tires are on solid ground. It rains and rains. I think of the first times I rode in the rain… the sheer terror… Now it’s all in a day’s ride. The Gore-Tex rocks in those monsoon conditions. I’m super dry, warm and it’s just a matter of watching for drivers who think they are on the racetrack.

I make it to the border crossing the time is 11:11. I sit there as the rain falls still. I slowly inch forward. I must have sat there for 40 minutes or so. I wonder what is going to happen. I silently call the Gods; I ask them to guide me, show me the way.

My turn.

I take my helmet off, ear plugs, hand my passport… She looks like she is on a mission. At this point I already know it’s not going to work. I already know I will turn back towards Ottawa. So the rest is a sort of strange formality; they hand me my little yellow paper, I am escorted by two officers towards the parking spot for the bike, then inside the building. You’d think I am a wanted criminal, but I’m not stressed.

There are 5 or 6 rows of metal chairs bunched together. It’s a small office in a U shape around the rows of seats. It could be oppressive but I sit there feeling strangely peaceful. My only misgivings is that I really have to use the washroom and they won’t let me. So I make an effort to calm my mind, relax, ignore the body.

A couple comes in, they sit in front of me. They are French. They do not understand what the agents are saying :

“Did they say next?”

“I don’t know what they said!”

“When do we know it’s our turn?”

I watch for a little while then interject :

“They will call your name”

“Oh! Thank you!”

We start chatting. He looks at my riding gear.

“Do you ride the BMW? The K 100?”

“Yes, it’s the K 75”

“ We are “motards” too! We have BMW’s in France!”
(motard is the french name for bikers)

They tell me I should come and ride in France as the roads are super twisty not straight like here in Canada. It sounds good.

Their names are called. I sit there for about an hour until they call me.

I meet officer Sanchez. She is black, beautiful and very business like. She asks me all the questions and I’m not giving her the right answers I need to give her. I’ve been traveling for a year so no, I have no home, no job, no lease.

Where is your stuff? She asks.

“I sold everything I own”.

“Who does that?” she asks. Well, that would take too long to explain. How do you expound on all this? How do you tell a customs agent that you are on a quest and the Gods are guiding your every steps and the universe takes care of you and that all is well whichever way things go because after all, this is an illusion and love is what matters most? Futile.

After a good 40 minutes of questioning she announces that she won’t let me in the country. I got another yellow piece of paper, I am sent back to my bike, an agent tells me how to get out.

“turn left and take the first immediate left after that.” I get on the bike. Turn left. And well, the first immediate left is the lanes of southbound cars… I’m northbound… then there is a cordoned off lane… I go there… it is a dead end. Turn around…. turn into the “first immediate left…” an agent comes from the side, puffing and yelling at me, very rudely. Wrah, wrah, wrah…. well you did say the “first immediate left”… and when one tries really hard to not fuck up they do…

“I’m sorry” I said about 3 times as he kept ranting at me…. “I made a mistake, I’m sorry” I sped away in the correct lane finally to meet up with agent Sanchez who has my passport and a paper to give to Canadian customs.

I can’t even get mad. Somehow, all is well. All is good. I feel relief. Calm. I stop about 500 ft past the border. Gotta make some calls to say “I’m not going to be there” and calls to say “I’m coming back” I look at the odometer : 33 333…. 3 has always been my lucky number. Hmmmm. Interesting. The clock says 13:13 .

It’s all good. One more time, fate has decided for me. This is what is going on. I’m totally at peace. I’m OK with it. I smile. New chapter. I’m on.

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Back and forth.

Here and there.

The wind tugs at my jacket like a drunk wanting to brawl.

Come on, come on…

All this life whispers inside my head, the tales, the secrets, the magic and the fearsome stories.

One goes back “home” and there, one faces the primary matrix. The origin, where one came from.

Ambivalence. Joy and pain.

Open fields and night runs, birds, horses, fireflies. Punches in my heart, screams in the void. They will always be. My history, what and who forged me as I am now.

The bike roars against the wind, gravity. The bike is the temple. As the tension, the hurt start to glide away along my limbs. A deep breath, another. The smells of fresh cut grasses, flowers and weeds. Calls to angels to show me the way. I surrender to you, I cannot find the answer alone. Yes the road cuts a straight, unchangeable path in concrete and rocks but there are other roads that matter more than the physical ones.

I come to find peace about 100 KM down the road at 90 MPH on two wheels, unprotected, tied to the earth by a subtle twin point of contact between rubber and tarmac, one hand on the bars, the heat of the engine wrapping itself along my legs, the coolness of the coming evening insinuating itself through the perforations of the leather, the engine boring relentlessly into the unknown, pushing ahead in a constant forward motion. Moving stillness.

To love them so much and yet to find the distance between us so impossible to conquer. All the conditions I have not met. All the things I will “never be forgiven for”, all the expectations I failed to meet.

What can I do about that? Nothing. Forgiveness is all there is in this world. Other than that it’s war, cold or bloody, war and bitterness. A perpetual misunderstanding. If my mis-steps can’t be forgiven, then, that makes me guilty forever and for that I cry in front of your locked and closed front door.

Life is the chance we’re given to forgive and to love. A human life, a line that goes on as time ticks. I apologize for all my mistakes, the ones I was aware of and the ones I was not aware of. I know I stand here judged. But actually at this point I don’t care what the judgments against me are, what griefs, what long forgotten slight are held against me. All I know is that I love you. I am clumsy and oh so imperfect. My timing usually fails my best intentions and I know I unsettle you by my ways and choices. But that will never change the love I have.

The road will call me again and again. I need to be out in the open, vulnerable and impregnable at once perched on the edge of the cliff detached from the comforts and discomforts of what we call reality. I leave it all in the hands of fate. I don’t expect anyone to understand that. I just hope I can share my love.

We are one. So it does not matter where, whence I am or came from and what I do or what you think. We are one, we always were, always will be. I wish you peace, I wish you love.

Tarot cards

July 13, 2011

I hit the road the next morning still a bit out of sorts. Whatever time and space you gain going restlessly for 20 hours has a price on the body. So far, I’ve been lucky with the weather, hot but not too hot, no rain and today the winds are kind to me.

Today is a short day, 350 KM to my destination of Ottawa, there I will meet with friends, I’m really looking forward to that. On the outlying areas of Ottawa the drivers are fast and determined, a big city vibration. Everyone is important, busy, needy, greedy and in a hurry. Getting downtown was easy, one exit and I was right in the heart of it.

I park, listen to the engine. The bike runs so awfully it’s disturbing.

OK, turn on the GPS, find a place to land for a few hours. I get to a Second Cup coffee shop that is .02 miles away. Wow. Wifi, espresso, it’s been miles and miles of luxuries the north does not offer. I sit down, take my coat off, get online and sip the coffee. The emails have piled up, I’m behind with my communications. I get in touch with my friend : we’re to meet here in about an hour.

It was a warm gentle night, the company was amazing. I feel really blessed. My friend’s daughter is going to move to Vancouver to go study acting at Studio 58. She is beautiful. Luminous. All this hope, desire and will to live to explore to breathe. Youth. They offer me their hospitality for the night.

She offers me her room, I was ok with the couch but she insisted. On the side of the bed there are books about numerology, tarot, the meaning of life and a set of tarot cards. On top of them a pink happy, smiling Buddha that glows in the dark.

I picked up the Tarot cards. Pulled 3 cards.

King of Pentacles
The Devil
The High Priest

Well, I know nothing about Tarot and these cards puzzled me. So I looked at the tarot book. For the King of Pentacles, there is a story about a person who leaves town and home for travel and finds themselves never wanting as they have attained a level of life skills high enough to create what she needs.

The Devil : he lives outside the human realm, adorns his body and partakes in pleasures that humans cannot necessarily deal with gracefully. There was a note about learning to enjoy pleasures without falling victim of them.

The High Priest, Higher learning… this has been my quest. Find my truth, find enlightment. When I had picked the three cards I had sort of postulated that the first one would be the past, the second the now, the third would be the future. I sit there pondering. It’s not the first time this comes up. Finding the light, finding the higher purpose.

I keep asking questions. I have always done that. For a long time I would shout them out to the wind in loneliness not expecting answers. But more and more those answers are provided. Once I calm the noises of anxiety, fear, frustrations I see them clearly shouted back at me. This whole journey has been about the quest, the tests, the rewards and the sometimes overwhelming gifts of life, love and connection.

It took a long time to fall asleep. In the morning, everyone was asleep. I picked up my things, packed up the bike, the skies are threatening. I wrote a note for this beautiful soul. A thank you note. I’m thinking of heading to Montreal now. Looking at the clouds, I might be able to stay ahead of them.

All night ride

July 6, 2011

I rode and rode and rode.

In a long endless darkening night spread her dark fabric across the land, but not without grace and magic.. All around me a halo of pink, mauve and blue shifting colors. I pondered why the Gods let me run out of gas and maybe it was about stopping me to change my perspective so I would see what was around. I can get into a “go” mode and all that matters is to cover miles and be annoyed by everything and I was getting annoyed at myself for getting so annoyed as it’s not the way…

I am thankful to be sitting on this bike. I am thankful for the ride. I don’t know what the future holds and as opposed to last year when I had nothing to hold on to, this time I feel there is much in the balance and that changes the game, the stakes, how I look at things.

It is the North. The trees fight to live, the roads are scarred and brutalized and the people of this land have to do just the same.

So I followed the 11. In the dark. I am connecting to the smells, the changes of temperatures, I can tell when there is water around by the feel of the air. I am taken by the smell of summer flowers and grass. It’s haying season and in the darkness the perfumes just are mesmerizing. The sky is unbelievable. An endless ocean of stars so bright, it was like a light show. The milky way, worlds away from this world, incredible. I forgot. I had forgotten about them. The stars up there.

I had left the Tim Hortons in Hearst around 9 PM and rode until 3 AM. I had to gradually ad on layers, the heated vest. I change gloves and put on Melanie’s gloves, they have saved me so many times and I think of her, my beautiful friend, everytime I put them on.

I stopped. I was feeling I couldn’t go anymore. I was unable to decide what to do, stop at a motel, but then they would throw me out at 11 AM and since it’s past 3 AM now, that only gives me a few hours to settle down and rest before going again. I could go set up camp but in the dark like this I wasn’t sure where to go. I finally stopped at a rest area. In the dark I can tell there is trees and picnic tables so I pulled out the air mattress and the sleeping bag, set that up on one of the picnic tables and slipped into the sleeping bag fully dressed. That sky and those stars are still there. So magical. I can hear frogs and night creatures. Even some birds. I wanted to look at the heavens but I fell asleep in moments.

The cry of a loon woke me up. That sound… Have you ever hear a loon in the early morning hours? Out of this world… The sun was barely up. Not my usual hours. I got up. The time is 6 something in the morning. The spot I am in is so beautiful. It’s breathtaking… the colors, the view, a lake, trees… I barely had 3 hours of sleep and I am starving. I packed up quickly hopped on the bike and went on the search for breakfast and a motel where I could rest as long as I wanted since we now are “tomorrow”.


I found a place. It’s more money than I wished to pay but at this point I can’t go any longer. It’s around 9 AM. We have another sunny day. I am alive.

I have a really good breakfast, home made bread, poached eggs while watching the royal couple shake hands in PEI. (Prince Edward Island.)

I head to my room, it’s quite nice. I abandon myself in a hot bath and go sleep. I rode from 11 AM until 3:30 AM the following morning with my little “out of gas” break in the middle. Somewhere around 700 miles. The bike is runnig really, really roughly at idle. I am somewhat worried. Gotta get to Montreal soon and find BMW help there.

Out of gas

July 5, 2011

Saturday, goodbyes, then the road and the sun.

I rode all day, ending in a motel about 20 KM from Thunder Bay. The bike holds up, with it’s issues, but it holds up.

Sunday. Breakfast and I head out towards Thunder Bay. I have only studied the roads cursorily and when I get to Thunder Bay the signs don’t really tell the story… I check the GPS. Seems like I am on track. Highway 11- highway 1 I am determined to cover ground but the speed limit is well… limiting. 90 KM/hr which is… 55 MPH. It’s actually hard to keep that speed. The bike likes to cruise at 80 MPH.

This place reminds me of Prince George BC. But I motor on. I am determined. Around 11 AM I go through Long Lac. I look at my gas situation, I have another 110 miles of gas on the tank, I get this twinge… almost turned around to fill up. Nah, there has been towns every 50 to 70 miles, no worries.

But 50 miles down the road I start to worry. The only signs I see are for Hearst. Starting with Hearst 190 KM. I sit there as the trees roll by calculating, translating miles into KM and with a growing pinch of unease to my stomach realizing that I don’t have enough gas to get there. I turn on the GPS, click the “Points of Interest” then “Gas Stations” icons. It tells the same story : looks like I’m short 45 miles on that tank of gas. Uh ho.

The road ahead is a long, long endless ribbon that unfurls tirelessly, rolling hill after rolling hill. It was an interesting feeling, an interesting process to watch. The growing anxiety. A sinking. The knowing of the inevitability of the situation. I was going to run out of gas. I cursed myself a few times for not listening to my gut, back in Long Lac where I could have filled up and been totally immune to any ill feeling. Earlier I had stopped at a station to eat a banana and look at the map. First I had realized the map had flown off the back of the bike and second, this woman almost ran over my bike with her minivan and aggressive attitude that loudly said : GET OUT OF MY WAY. (I assume I had parked in “her” spot). Which pretty much summed up the vibe in the air in this place. Northern Ontario is NOT a friendly place. My antidote for that was to basically get out of Dodge as quickly as possible and that meant I didn’t fill up the tank.

I was watching the countdown to the empty tank and looking around me for the slightest indication of the unexpected, wished for, serendipitous appariton of a gas station. With each rolling hill and every peak, hope would fill my heart and mind.

Maybe after this one?

Nope.

The red warning light came on. That means I have a gallon of gas left. Which is roughly 42 miles of travel left.

30. 20. 10. And still I hoped at each hill. I Turned on the GPS hoping it would reveal new information. The human mind has an interesting way of coping with situations; hope. Against all odds and against the cold truth one hopes.

Around these parts there are very few installations, a home here, a turn off for a road there, which are all gravel roads which I don’t dare trying on this loaded bike. I ponder stopping at a house, but the folks around here gave me such a bad impression, flashes of the Stephen King movie “Misery” appear in my mind so I continue. For a rare time in my travels, I actually don’t feel safe, so I inexorably continue on watching for a gas station to appear as the miles go by, watching the machine consuming every last drop of the precious fuel.

When I hit 210 miles on the tank I knew I had to look at a place to pull over. I didn’t want to run it dry. The shoulder on my right was very soft, narrow, with thick new soft gravel near a ditch. Not a good option with the risk of dumping the bike or being too close from the road and its rushing semis.

At 212 miles an entranceway to some gas company’s installations appeared… One has to appreciate the irony. I pulled to the left, parked, turned off the engine.


Silence.

I feel a bit dumb and a bit bewildered.

It’s warm and sunny, but not too hot as to suffer in the leathers, which is good. The flies buzz around. That made me panic a bit, there are loads of them. Black flies, horse flies, small flies, bee looking critters with big stingers… But somehow they are not feasting on me yet. Just buzzing busily.

The wind blows. There is a line of trees on both sides of the road. Violently cut off to put the road in. Man conquering nature sort of look. They seem to observe.

“What do I do?” I asked myself.
“CAC, Canadian automobile club, which is like BCAA in BC and AAA in the US. I pull out my phone. Turn it on. No bars. No signal. I try to dial anyways, that hope thing once again… Nothing. No service.

“What do I do?” I asked again. The odd car would race by. I stood by the bike for a while wondering if anyone would stop. No one does. Finally I decided to overcome my reluctance and I waved down a car. Some burgundy old Pontiac, two guys are in there, Overweight and slightly odd looking, one feller opens his mouth on a set of yellowed ragged looking teeth. I feel like running away.

“Oh hi, I am out of gas, I was wondering if you could call the police or someone, my phone does not work…”

“Oh, you’re out of gas.” Says the driver.

“Gnn, gnn, gnn” laughs the passenger.

“Oh, your phone doesn’t work.” Says the driver. The passenger looks at me.

“Well, dunno… said the driver. The next town is 130 KM that way.” He says pointing West.

“Yeah, 130.” says the passenger.

“Yes, thank you, I know that, came from there… Well if you can just tell someone I’m out here… Let them know… Thank you.” I said.

They took off. Phew. Whoa. Hillbilly nightmare. A while later another car approaches, I wave my arms. I can’t help but wonder what I look like to them… woman in leather pants and superhero jacket waving on the side of the road by a loaded motorcycle.

They stop. I run to the car. I repeat the story. It’s a couple in an older red minivan.

“You could call someone?” the lady suggests.

“I have no service on my phone.”

“Oh…”

They look at each other, uncomfortable.

“Well, if you could just maybe let the cops know I’m out here by myself, out of gas…”

“Uh hmm.”

And they roll away. Wow. This is kind of different. As I see these characters, I really don’t want to leave the bike out here alone. So what do I do? Semi trucks speed by and I am gesticulating, waving, trying to convey the idea of “call for help” but as they disappear on the crest of the hill ahead and the noise of the tires and engine blurs into the sound of the wind through the trees, I know nothing will come of that.

Well, I need to eat. I thought. I pulled out a mini can of tuna and two pieces of dry rye bread crisps. I ate that and the flies augmented their racket around my head. I drank water out of the camel back. At least I’m prepared and I noticed how the giant horse flies were puzzled by my leathered legs knowing they couldn’t get blood out of those and that made me relax. Protective gear. Yes.

Another car. I go by the side of the road and wave. Zzzzzmmmmmfff. They stop, turn around come close to me. A couple.

I tell my story.

“Oh, my phone works!” she says. He looks for it and hands it to me. I call BCAA. No answer. He calls. He gets messages. I’m wondering what is going on… without them I’m hooped. We try a third time. Someone answers. It took a while but they got my location, someone to come by and an approximate time of arrival. Progress.


I thank them profusely and they leave. OK. All I need to do now is wait. I put a jacket over my head against the sun and the flies. About 20 minutes later a truck pulls by. A blue two tone older Ford. I walk towards them. A woman comes out first. She must be 60 or so. Big bulging blue eyes that have a strange lost look. Red marks on her very pale skin, grey curly short hair, overweight, in a dark blue with small dots sleeveless shirt and shorts.

I tell my story.

“Oh Mon Dieu!!!” she exclaims.

“You speak French?”

“Oh no!” Antoher man comes out. Then another. All in their late 50s early 60s. I have to tell the story again.

“I told them, betcha this motorcyclist stopped because his ass was sore!! Ha! Ha! Ha!” the bigger man says.

“So your boyfriend went for help?” asked the other.

“No, I’m by myself”

“You travel alone?! A woman!? Where are you from?”

“Vancouver.”

“Whoa! You like trouble” the woman said.

The first man then walked towards the front of the right side of the truck. He was standing with the door of the truck separating us. On the ground I saw a puddle forming. Hmm hmmm… Grand. Really grand.

The woman said :
“Well, we stopped because we wanted to stretch our legs and he wanted to pee. So that was the deal.”

The unspoken words here were “ We needed a little distraction and saw you …” The man was done quickly and walked from behind the truck’s door. I looked at his hands, which I half expected he was going to wipe on his pants but he didn’t.

Time to go! Good luck! And they were off. I realized I had provided great entertainment to these folks on the otherwise boring road from Hearst to Long Lac.

Holy crap… I am in the middle ages of an era with cars and computers but nonetheless the middle ages… The Dark Ages. We don’t realize it in our shiny cities…

I elected to get on the bike and try to relax. I leaned on the handlebars, used my gloves as a cushion and laid my head to rest. Somehow this is tiring. I’ ve been here 2 hours already and it feels like an eternity.


I dozed on and off as cars, semis, pick-up trucks zoom by without a care. I could be dead or dying no one would know. That was unsettling. These vehicles with human beings in there… supposedly sentient beings… not seeing or caring at all… Each time one would go by. I would feel it. They look. They see. Who cares?

One pick up slowed down in a hurry. I was lying on the bike so I raised my upper body, when they saw me raise, they sped forward. Vultures? There was a 4 wheeler in the back of that truck, they probably had gas… but they’re gone.

Another hour went by. I am starting to get aggravated. I yelled out loud. The sound of my voice echoes in the forest around. A gentle sound reapeating throuhg the leaves, branches and trunks, bouncing off the soft ground of the forest. The ultimate indifference. …it’s all a mirror of what you think. Wow.

A few minutes later the towing truck appeared in the distance. I got up. Opened the gas tank. Fill me up baby. He came with a big jerry can.

“That’s been a while… I was wondering if you were actually going to show up.” I said a bit angry.

“Well I had to get out of my house, get the truck then go get the gas, then come here…” He has a very strong French Canadian accent, yellow teeth a dirty shirt, he’s fairly young but acts like an old man but he has gas. So lets be nice to him. He poured the contents of the can in the tank.

I said to him :

“Folks aren’t too friendly around here.”

“Nope! They’re not!” He said that with such knowing.

We joked for a short bit, I filled up the paperwork, thanked him and turned around, put on my helmet, gloves, bag on my back, secured the luggage and left before he could turn his truck around. We’re on. First, second, third, fourth fifth and soon I’m going 95 MPH down this wretched piece of road. Suddenly I don’t give a crap. If the police stops me I’ll ask them where were they when I was stranded up there…

But I don’t meet any. I get to town. Yes, another mill town with a tree cemetery across the way. (piles and piles of logs from the forests) Subway, Mc Donalds, Tim Hortons a tire shop and some other machinery oriented businesses. I chose Tim Hortons as my friend Chris would say : “ If it’s good enough for Natalie McMaster, it’s good enough for you!”

(that was from a tour we did together in these same parts when we were desperately trying to find something decent to eat. Natalie McMaster is a Canadian artist and was doing a commercial for Tim Hortons at the time)

I took a good hour, refilled the coffee cup. It’s pretty late. I lost 3-4 hours with this little incident. I’m starting to nurse the idea of driving all night. No wind, no RVs, no cops. I got back on the bike. Lets get on the road and see how we feel.

Thursday morning. Alarm on. Up early.

Mission : BMW dealer in Winnipeg. I got there at 8:30 as I was asked to. They were just bringing bikes out in front of the building for the day. As I drive down I notice that without luggage or any extra weight the front end problem is just about gone.

When I arrive, I immediately meet with Dustin, whom I had talked to on the phone the previous day. He’s all business.

I tell him about the front end, they put the bike on the center stand and they do all the pulling and turning of the forks and steering. A little dance with the bike that I am starting to be familiar with. He says that he thinks the front end is fine. I told him it was better this morning, without the luggage and he and another mechanic discuss this and they say that since I am not that heavy, as most guys riding these bikes are around 200 lbs, the extra weight in the back lifts the front end creating this instability, especially at low speeds when you lose the centrifugal force of the wheel in action. He requests to try the bike himself. I was very glad about that. It seems to me it would be the best way to duplicate whatever I am trying to explain.

“Got the key?”

“Here.”

He took off in the morning sun. It’s the first time that I actually see someone driving away with my bike this way. As he leaves, I hear the distinctive K bike whine fading in the distance, the red color shines in the sun. Nice bike.

About 8 minutes later he came back.

“This bike is sound.”

I feel a good amount of relief coming over me. I was prepared to do what ever needed to be done, but it’s always a bit of a cross your fingers moment when you are about to get the diagnostic. Could be terminal… could be nothing serious.

He then addressed the idling issue, he got a can with alcohol in it and sprayed over the manifolds where the carbs are. The engine’s rhythm gets disturbed noticeably.

“You hear this?” he asks me.

“Yes, what is that?”

“There is a leak at the manifolds, the rubber seals… they’re 20 years old, with that kind of heat, they don’t last forever…”

“Can I ride it like this without damaging the engine? I am going to Montreal, then back.”

“Yes, it will idle poorly but When you get to Vancouver get it looked at by your mechanic.”

That was pretty much it. I bought some oil as it had been burning what seems to be the normal amount for that type of bike and distance covered.

The rest of the day was a normal Winnipeg day. Melonai, my friend, calls this town a place of extremes. Extreme cold in the winter, extreme heat in the summer. Today the temperature went up to 33 Celsius. We are sweating just sitting around. But I don’t mind. It’s been so cold since March when I froze my butt in Nashville, then I froze in Vancouver with below normal temperatures for the last few months. A little heat is good.

One really cool little highlight of the day was to catch the airing of the TV show I had just shot in Vancouver for Radio Canada. We almost missed it. It’s short, but the shots are gorgeous, I’m playing well and it’s all seamlessly done. I was pretty excited. I will have a link to give you in the near future, I promise…

Friday was Canada Day. I celebrated with Melonai’s family doing traditional family activities like going to see the trains, going to the park to catch some music, then going for the fireworks. That was actually quite cool as I never really do “normal” family activities and seeing the kids laugh, play, hearing the music, meeting friends, sitting in the sun and enjoying “a day off” was an interesting experience. Beowulf rested.

Diesel engine train

Steam engine train

the old "Prairie Dog Station"

the station dude who told me that if Quebec separated "all of Canada's problems would be over" .... Dream on.

the train's engineer.

Assiniboine Park Canada Day stage and celebrations

Winnipeg from the car

lots of character buildings

Homes and neighborhoods that are reminiscent of different times

walking to the fireworks by the river

the sun endlessly sets on the horizon as the shadows lengthen

the crowds gather

even Jesus is there

Ghosts in the night

... and they started

and we oooohed and aaaahed

and it went on and on

until the final hoopla

then we all walked back with smiles on our faces.

It’s been a blur.

These last 2 days I covered a lot of miles, stopping only for fuel and to sleep. I woke up from camp in Creston and ate some of my provisions, on the spot, smoothie powder in water, dried fruits and almonds. I thought I had lost my bike key… it took some methodical searching for me to finally find it in my bag, with the laptop. Phew… I started to wonder if a magpie had picked it up…

2 hours later I arrived in Cranbrook BC. I fueled up the bike then looked to fuel myself up with caffeine and found an espresso bar called “Good Coffee” and it was indeed good and they had wi-fi.

somewhere, stopped for construction on the 1 in Western Alberta

So I rode and rode, crossed into Alberta, again, it is astounding to see how much the scenery changes as you cross the “border” between the two provinces. As if by miracle, you are immediately “somewhere else” when you cross this conceptual line. The mountains started to recede in the rear view mirrors and the driving slowed down considerably as I ended up behind traffic with no chance to pass on a two lane road.

Riding behind cars is the most boring and somewhat dangerous thing as it gets sleepy. It’s almost like being hypnotized into this slow going, never ending lull. You can’t really see ahead, you are stuck in this slow train, slightly blended by the buffeting of the wind, especially behind some of the SUV’s who seem to broil the air into shreds of unruly winds. At Crow’s Nest Pass I just about had enough. I pulled off the highway and got into town… Dead’s ville. Eerily, no one was around, on the sidewalks, in the businesses… I rode around and exited back on the highway. Right down there was this pub and I saw this sign… Had to stop…

a promising sign

To my dismay the cafe’s door was locked with a sign that said : ” wil be rit back” which made me wonder about the quality of the espresso they would serve… so I went into the pub. Another typical Alberta establishment with many formerly wild life hanging on the walls. But the soup was good and the folks were quite nice.

antlered helmet

wall mounted wildlife

After lunch I went outside and I had to try again for espresso and : the door opened. I walked in and this is part of what I saw :

inside

The coffee was close to mediocre but it was so whimsical and the lady was really nice so that made up for the bad java.

one corner of this whimsical place

the ceiling

There was two kids there and one little girl wanted to see my bike, so she came out, the boy and mom in tow. The little girl climbed readily on the bike a huge smile on her face, then the boy. We said goodbyes and I was putting on my gloves when this other man who ate at the pub while I was there approached and started to talk bikes. Turns out he rides too, a Harley. It seems most everyone around these parts ride Harleys. We talked bikes for a few minutes, he wished me well and I headed back on the road.

the rest of the day was mostly about covering miles, the scenery was … well… not really stimulating. Just a series of fields, trucks, grass, canola fields, I was told Saskatchewan was boring…

one of many

Beowulf, the road

I hit Medicine Hat, (gotta love that name) around 8 PM. Found a Starbucks (for the WiFi) and checked the maps. South of town is a provincial park : Cypress Hills. I’m dying to see something and this place has camping so I headed south, about 40 some miles down the road. Suddenly, it was heartbreakingly beautiful.

I stopped. This is immense. The farms are nestled in the crooks of small hills, some over a mile from the road. All sitting on acres and acres of land. I try to imagine winter here. Tough living. Right now it’s symphonic. The grasses in hues going from green to blue with accents of gold, dancing in the wind. I feel the spirit of the land. How is it that we manage to so thoroughly kill the spirit of the land when humans concentrate their numbers somewhere? This is pure poetry.

sunset

Buffalo trail

endlessness

I arrived at the park, there is a lake there that I learn the natives used to call “the oasis in the prairie” It now bears the name Elkwater Lake. Again the people there are very welcoming. The lady at park registration desk gave me this amazing spot to camp on, near a creek and under the cover of the trees. They made fun of my appearance which is definitely grimy and buggy. The helmet has this look of centrifugal killing field for mosquitoes.. concentrated in the middle of the shield and spreading out in a nearly perfect diminishing concentric formation to the outside of the shield. Impressive.

the picture doesn't quite tell... but you can see some bugs

I got to my spot, set up the tent, ate my sardines as the sun was setting. My neighbors invited me to join their camp fire, which was neat. I LOVE campfires. We chatted for a while. Of course the topic of the Vancouver riots came up. I guess that will be the hot Vancouver topic for a while to come.

home sweet home

When I returned to my camp I got the guitar out and started to play. How cool. Last year I did not have that luxury. Now I’m never alone. I started to feel the cold air infiltrate my clothes so I went to bed.

Next morning, back on the bike fairly early, It’s 8 something AM on the bike, that means 9 something Vancouver time and here I have no idea what time it is or which time zone I’m in. All I know is that I’m up early for me. I splurged and had a restaurant breakfast which cost me all of $6.50 with coffee. Wow. That will allow me to go for hours before having to stop.

I hit the road with purpose. I crossed the Saskatchewan border within the hour later, stopped to get a map at the tourist information booth and continued on. I am going 80 to 90 MPH and most all traffic is passing me. I have not seen a cop and will not see a single one all day. I find the scenery more interesting than it was in Alberta.

I was starting to be concerned with the bike. I pulled into Swift Current and the bike feels terrible. The front end feels out of control and now the engine sounds like my plugs are fouled up, I also think that the exhaust is sounding different. I know I tend to worry too much but this does not feel good. I stopped to see if I could find a Starbucks so I can go on the internet to find a BMW dealer or some kind of bike shop. No luck. On the GPS the next coffee shop is 100 miles away. the streets are incredibly rough, bumpy and aggravating the feeling of the bike falling apart so I elected to immediately get out of town . On the highway at speed, the bike feels much better. I figured I’d get to Moose Jaw and see if I can find an internet connection out there…

No luck. It’s hot, the bike runs like crap and again, no cafe with wifi to be found. I ate a the Urban-a-Peel restaurant, which was supposed to have internet but I could not connect. All right. I filled up again. And here, strangely, you don’t have to pay for gas before you fill up… “We still trust people here” said the gas jockey… wild. Onwards I continued.

I stopped at Whitewood, another place with incredibly bumpy, pot-holed, patched up roads with multiple layers of asphalt cracked and caked to cover up roads that freeze so deeply in the winter and suffer incredibly hot summers, the roads have no chance for beauty or smoothness. I pulled into a gas station, the bike sounds like a lawn mower… I filled up, bought a licorice cigar for 35 cents and pulled in the parking lot at the hotel next door, which is just mud and holes, I can’t imagine this on a rainy day…

There were two bikers there. Two guys from New York state on a 19 thousand miles trip from New York, across Canada, up to the Northwest territories, into the Yukon and Alaska, then back down across BC and back across the northern US… They checked my front end, thought it was too tight… then asked me if I had spare spark plugs.. I didn’t. We chatted for a while and I went my way, they went theirs. Nice guys. So very American, relaxed, confident and generous.

the American adventurers

Yours truly, this is getting to be a habit... photos of me!

I figured that if I was to get help I would find it in Winnipeg as it is the biggest town for miles and miles and since the bike felt OK on the highway I might as well proceed on.

I rode straight to Brandon, filled up again and rode the last bit of road to Winnipeg. I ended up riding lying down on the tank as the weather is so windy and it’s getting cold and the vest is not quite heating enough to keep me warm in a perforated jacket. In that position I am shielded from the elements I don’t want to stop and get out the gore-tex shell, I might just run out of energy and courage to make my target so I just go, go, go… . I made it to my friend’s house at 12:40 Winnipeg’s time. That was 12 hours in the saddle for today.

who knows what kind of fun can be procured at "Whoop Up Fort"?