Monday, December 14, 2009

First Timers and Seasoned Veterans.

After a night we were trying to forget, we awoke to a wet, rain soaked tent and sleeping bags at what we figured was a decent hour. In hindsight, I remember not even being that grumpy, or frustrated. As crappy as our current situation was, we were on the road, and that cancelled any negative vibes we might have had.
Mike and I packed our belongings, reminded Walmart where they can stick it, and headed for some breakfast. We didnt have time to sit down to a proper meal, so we opted for the classic; McDonalds, which would prove to be a staple part of our diet as Mike and I both had a very serious love affair with 'the Don's'.
We finally made it to the highway at roughly 1030ish. It was still grey and miserable and the rain had soaked everything thoroughly. We also didnt find oursleves at a good spot on the highway, so we walked a few kilometers with our stuff to an on-ramp.
Despite everything, we were both in good moods, and were desperate to get the fudge out of Hunstville. No offense, but that place was about as appealing as a punch in the mouth. We could still feel how close we were to the start point and we were dying to change the scenery. We made our first sign, stating simply; "BC". Yeah, I know, we are creatively brilliant.
I dont know what it is in Ontario, but everyone acts like they're American or something....They drive by with their twisted scowls, judging stares and closed minds. They stare, mouth agap, as if they were looking at some astounding firework display or something. But its not a beauty stare like an insect flying towards the 'bright light'. Its more like a deer caught in headlights. "What the f*ck is that?" I can almost hear them asking, as if they had never seen a hitchhiker before.
It took us an agonizing 3.5 hours to get our first nibble. And nibble it was... a jeep swerved over for us, looked like a few young guys and their girls or something. As soon as I started to approach the jeep, they sped off, laughing and screaming at us. Not only was it beyond frustrating at that point, but I didnt know how else to feel. Que angry string of profanities skyward. As pissed as I was at those kids for doing that, whatever. I had done it in the car with friends before, and it was just another harsh lesson in the life of a hitchhiker. You have to be ready and willing to accept crap like that. It doesnt happen often, but it happens.
I was digging through my backpack for something when Mike yelled 'finally!'
I looked up, and sure enough, a guy around our age in what was clearly his parents old cadillac had pulled over for us. I remember there was rap blaring and I smiled, because I knew it would be a ride I could maybe sleep a bit in.
We tossed our gear in the trunk and hopped in. His name was Jason and he was on his way from Barrie to North Bay to visit his girlfriend. He does the trip alone often, and had NEVER picked up a hitchhiker. I was shocked when I heard this, as he was pretty relaxed with two dudes in his car, and for someone who doesnt do this, I was very surprised. Not only that, but he decided his first hitch would be with two guys bigger than him.
Jason was a quiet kid from a small town. He was our age and had never left Ontario. He lived with his Grandmother and visited his girlfriend on weekends. It wasnt my ideal lifestyle, but he was happy. However, he was blown away by our story, and the fact we were so well travelled. I think the fact we were his same age struck home, as he didnt say much, just listened aside from the odd 'thats so sick!' comments. I remember when Jason called his girl and put her on speaker to tell her he had picked up two hitchers. Her reaction was priceless, as it reiterated everything we had been thinking all along. She told him he was insane and that we were going to chop his head off. He told her how cool he thought we were and that we should meet her. She said, and I quote; "No f*cking way!"
North Bay wasnt very far away, and we arrived after about an hour of driving. He took us to the local mall, and we all went and grabbed a quick bite to eat, as we were starving by that point. It was McDonalds again. Yeah, thats right, we double dip.
When we split ways in the food court, it was easy to see Jason was almost torn leaving us. I dont want to judge, but it seemed like he maybe didnt have the biggest list of friends to choose from, and he kept talking to us, as if just to keep us around. Jason was a cool guy and all, just a little awkward. We went to the car, grabbed our belongings and headed out with our medium cokes.

Mike and I now had a seriously awful walk up 3 big hills to cross the city. We were on the East side of town, and had to get approx 7km to the far West side, the best chance to get a ride out.
We walked in the beating July sun, up the hills and to our spot. By that point, both of our panties' were in serious knots, and we werent happy campers. We indugled in a very large roadside stinky cigarette, and that made things much better. We did however fail to realize the Police station 40m away and were lucky to avoid any trouble.
We didnt wait too long(maybe it was the dandelions) but we finally got our ride. A lively construction worker name Mauricio in a pickup truck stopped for us. He had just finished his shift as a crane operator and was heading home, a small town just outside of North Bay. He picks up hitchers everytime he sees one, and you could tell. He loved it!
He told me to open the cooler beside me and grab us three beers. Even though Mike and I knew it was clearly illegal, we would never pay a price for this offence, and went along with it. He cheered our beers and told us a few stories. Mauricio was a great character. He was an Italian man hidden behind a big, burly moustache and he laughed at all his own jokes. He opened up to us immediately and told us a bunch of stories from his 'wild child' days. His tales were entertaining, and we swapped a few of our own.
This is one of the greatest mysteries of hitchhiking. How complete strangers can be so willing to open their personal stories and life events to complete strangers after 10 minutes of knowing them.
Mauricio asked us if it was ok that he stopped at the Indian Reserve to stock up on more cigarettes. He surprised us by throwing a carton on Mikes lap, declaring it was 'for the road'.
Although neither of us were actual smokers(we only did it when the going got really tough, like every waking minute treeplanting) we accepted his gesture. We knew we could sell these, or give them to appreciative, actual smokers.
Maurico took us into a his hometown, Sturgeon Falls. He drove us to the end we needed to get to, and dropped us off.
Right before we shook hands and parted, he pulled out a joint, and gave it to me. He told me that he wanted us to enjoy it that night, and he wished us well.
Mauricio was a man who most people would see and immediately tell he was a trademan, and probably didnt have alot of money. What they wouldnt be able to tell is that he was just about as nice as they get, and had lived a very impressive life. It was just another confirmation of my belief in hitchhike travelling.
Another town, another ride. Another great story to tell.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

That scene from Dumb and Dumber and the Walmart Inn.

We must have had the biggest shit-eating grins on our faces since OJ Simpson walked out of that courthouse.
We had just left Ottawa not 25 minutes ago, and we were already dropped off, stoned for free and thumbing our next ride.
The July sun was setting and although the Newfie and I were on the road, we were determined to get farther. We walked another five minutes, when no exaggeration, a car with two occupants pulled over in front of us. We could see they were two youngish girls, and from the back of their heads and 20 yards away, (the best angle) they looked cute.
I remember distinctly having the scene from the end of Dumb and Dumber where the bus full of swimsuit models pulls over for them to join in. Every boy, traveller and of course hitchhiker's dream is to find some free spirited cute girl to bring along for the ride, or share a moment to make the story that much better.
We looked at eachother and our grins only grew wider. The drivers door opened and out popped a cute brunette, who looked right about our age. She greeted us with a smile that Mike and I couldnt have been happier to see. It was the kind of unbiased, open minded smile that knew exactly who and what we were even before we introduced oursleves. We tossed our bags in the trunk and jumped in the back seat. It was then that my heart started beating faster. Where did these girls come from?

The girl in the passenger seat was by far the prettiest girl I had seen all summer.
Not only that, but they actually stopped to pick up two hitchhikers! They introduced themselves as Jennifer and Anikka, told us about themsleves and about their background. They told us they stopped because they had also thought of doing the same thing; hitch from Ontario to BC for summer work. They were from a small town north of Toronto, I think they were shopping in Ottawa or something.
I guess this is going to be my side story to describe newfie Mike, because it will relate to how he and we were with girls. First off, Mike is the man. Mike is mostly a geek-turned hippie-turned traveler. Hes incredibly intelligent, the most sarcastic bastard Ive ever met and has quickly become one of my closest friends. Mike has many talents, however girls are not his forte. Ask Mike who runs the world, he'll tell you(the 'real' answer). Ask Mike how the stock market works, and for advice, he'll tell you. Ask Mike how to fix something, he'll friggen tell you. Ask Mike any fucking question in the world, he will tell you an answer, or find one for you. Ask Mike to fly as wingman, and he will give you the physical formula for the velocity of which that plane crashes. Mike should and could be good with girls, but his quiet personality mixed with his severe hatred for ignorance and stupidity has limited his experiences to a less-than-Fonzie status. However, the girls he does pick, are from the top drawer. I would later get Mike to open after days of prying and days of close-quartered living and found out he just thinks the majority of girls are more or less retarded these days and doesn't waste his time with them. Mike is well traveled and is content with his lifestyle now, and claims he'll settle later. I know he will, and I know she'll be hot, but my efforts of introducing him to girls in the meantime usually squandered. Now that we know Mike is the friggen man, however celibate he decides to be, we can continue.

So anyways, it really didnt take long until the girls had warmed up to us; the whiskered boys bumming a ride. We found out we had alot in common with them, and it was really cool to find girls that are different from the materialistic, socially centered ones we just partied with in the city. We talked about all kinds of stuff as darkness fell, and we continued driving well into the night. It started raining shortly after they picked us up, and I can remember at one point it was raining so hard we couldn't see out our windows.
I also remember the shortcut we took through what I believe was Algonquin Prov Park at what was probably 9ish. There were moose signs all over the place, and I knew that not only was it moose season, and moose country, but that this car was certainly not moose proof!
We we tearing through this hilly, dark and desolate stretch of highway in torrential rain with the risk of a blinded moose deciding to chill out on the road while we plow into him at easily 120km/h in a Japanese sedan. Im not going to lie, I was a little fearful. In fact, my eyes were peeled, scanning the medians for shiny eyes lit up from our headlights. I think I was even tightly grasping my seat with white knuckles while I tried to play it cool. The weed had worn off, and the paranoia stayed. I really thought this girl was cute, and just kept the conversations going, which I noticed was really easy as it didn't take the effort it normally takes when trying to chat up a vodka soaked first year at the bar.
The girls were heading home to a town with more letters in the name than actual people living in it. We were heading to North Bay, and had a difficult decision now.
The girls had invited us back to their house, another 2 hours out of the way than where we wanted.
We pulled into Huntsville, what would turn out to be the split from where they were heading and where we need to go. We pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot, and got out and stretched our legs. Mike and I both really wanted to go back with the girls. They were cool, really cute, and the trip hadnt given any indications that should we continue we would regret it. My 12yr old boy brain was overheating, and I of course had detailed dreams of how the night could end. Here we were thinking we'd be riding with stinky old truckers the whole trip, and we had these girls inviting us to come to their house. While they never indicated anything provocative, you know damn well we were thinking it, come one who wouldn't!?
Mike and I had to weigh our options, and if we went their way, we knew it would A) be harder and longer to hitch from there and B) we had somewhat of deadline to make, and our summer earnings depended on it.
We ended up choosing to split ways. Don't ask why, or how, but we did. We figured as cool as it may have ended up being, we didn't want to risk losing our contract with our friends out west and it just wasn't worth it. Looking back in hindsight now, I can ask myself if it was the right choice...and well while splitting didn't lead to us having some crazy Fear-and-Loathing trip, we did keep our jobs which turned out to provide us with the summer of our lives. As beautiful as I thought Anikka was, and as hard as saying no, goodbye was, we had to do it. At least that's what we told ourselves after.
We exchanged information and said goodbye. They had school in the fall, we said we'd keep in touch.
Mike and I were laughing out loud to ourselves as they drove away. We thought we had just made the dumbest move ever, and it really was like Lloyd and Harry turning down those models.
We went to find a place to set up camp for the night, and decided the lush flat grass patch behind the Wal-Mart would be perfect. Too perfect. It had rained, so we didn't notice the wet grass. We only put up one tent, because it was so rainy and there wasn't a point to doubling our wet crap. After we had settled ourselves in,we smoked a small joint to relax us and talk about what idiots we were for leaving the girls and staying behind a shitty ass WalMart.
Then the sprinklers kicked in. The tent was waterproof, but we didn't noticed the sprinkler heads, and one had popped up underneath the tent fly, and was spraying directly into the tent, soaking us and all of our gear. LOVE-R-LY. We scrambled out of the tent and I frantically stomped the sprinkler into the ground, rendering it permanently useless. Suck it Robert Walton. We laughed at our state. We could have had things TOTALLY opposite, but chose this. I chain-smoked several cigarettes in spite of our fantastic situation and slowly crawled back into bed, which was now soaked with poisoned WalMart water.
Mike and I had to reassure ourselves several times we made the right decision, morally and it kept my thoughts from wandering to other places.
That was life on the road as I would learn, and there would be many sleepless nights filled with debating with the stars. C'est la vie, right?
We finally dozed, off, well into the night. Soaked and tired, but none-the-less, we were on our trip, and had met a fitty bitty. Life was good.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hey man, you want some of this?

We were off! On our own journey, across our own country, in our own way. We knew what we wanted, where to do it, how to do it, we just had to grow a pair, and do it. Nike haha.
Well it was about 6 in the evening, and here we were on our own, after a whirlwind Canada Day weekend. We were still on a high, and our hearts were racing from getting dropped off 10 minutes ago and the emotions still hadn't really kicked in.
It didn't need to settle as we had been on the highway for easily 20 seconds when a beat up pickup swerved to the shoulder and stopped abruptly several yards in front of us.
Mike and I looked at each other, dumbfounded that it hadn't even been a minute and someone had already pulled over for us. We walked to the truck and the good vibes were bittersweet, as we noticed about 6 guys in total. This was against our only rule; getting out-numbered. It would leave us and our expensive equipment vulnerable. We hesitated for a second when the driver hopped out, and greeted us. They were a bunch of brothers/friends who worked together for a moving company in town and were on their way home from work. He was real cool, and it clouded any doubts. We tossed our stuff in the back, and hopped into the truck bed with 2 of the boys. We later learned they had lost in their daily-seat-deciding game of pulling straws, and that they always picked up hitchers, though it wasn't often they'd see one. They were going home to Arnprior, about 40km west of Ottawa. It was a start, but we knew it could be our last hitch of the day as we had waited so long to get on the road.
We told them what we were doing and they couldn't believe it. They said how jealous they all were, as they hated their jobs and town. We told them all about it, along with the contacts we had if they ever decided to go. I doubt they did anything. I remember looking out the window through the cloud of smoke, and thinking how surreal the whole situation was. i couldn't believe we were actually doing it, and we were off to the best start.
They were cool guys, but I'd seen their type before; small town, beer loving 'hicks'. One even had on a cowboy hat, and we were technically still in Ottawa. We asked them what they did for fun in their small town and the one across from me smiled coyishly. He and a guy in the front seat simultaneously pulled out two fat joints, licked 'em and lit 'em.
I had decided beforehand that I wouldn't talk too much about my personal life with drivers, and I was more interested in theirs anyways. I didn't tell the boys about my smoking habits, or my life, and just let them talk while I enjoyed their fine craftsmanship.
Sooner than I, and I think Mike too, were ready, we slowed to where they were dropping us off. After the typical 'pounding of fists' with the boys, we bid adieu, and jumped out of the truck.
I was high as f*ck.....and on my trip.
I wasn't in Arnprior, I was on Cloud 9.

How did we come up with this?

It all started at the end of June, in a small, charming town in Northern Ontario. I was just finishing my first season of treeplanting in Wawa, and wasn't sure what to do after. I had a few options, I could continue treeplanting in Ontario, it was well worth the money, but not the bugs. And my hands would never look the same again. Or, I could take my earnings, pick a country and jump on a plane to vagabond the third world. I could even stay in Ontario, where I had several job offerings including for Apple in Toronto.
A good friend of mine planting told me he was going fruit picking out west in BC, and the money was great, the lifestyle better. I was a bit skeptical, as I knew what the lifestyle entailed. Don't get me wrong, it was always going to be better than anything in the city, and believe it or not, I'm a city kid, well sometimes, but I knew it was going to be one big hippie fest. Not that I'm not down with hippies and shit, its just I myself an far from one, and I knew what to expect.
I slept on it for a few days as the end of contract neared, and found myself short of an answer. It wasn't until one fateful sunny day on the beach when it all became clear.
I was debating, talking to friends and seeing what everyone else was doing. Almost everyone was going back to school, and this was not an option for me, as I had abandoned that idea long ago, and wasnt looking back. I had a sh*t ton of ideas, but still couldnt friggen chose.
One of the veteran planters, Mike asked me to throw around a frisbee, yea thats how treeplanters roll. By the way, Wawa's main beach is this hidden gem in Ontario. Its 70ft knee-deep sandbars stretch out while nestled in a tree covered fjord. You can kind of see it here. Its really amazing. Anyways, Mike and I hadnt really talked throughout the contract, in fact, I think it was the first time I had talked to him for more than 2 minutes. I found out Mike was a full-blooded Newfie, (the jokes started then and ended the last time I saw him) and he left home a few months ago toplant. He dropped out of University, and was wondering his next stage in life, like me. I asked him what he was thinking to do after, and we both talked about continuing on planting. We were both good planters, some of the best in the camp, and we knew the money would be good if we stayed. We also thought about the heat, lack of females and hell-raising bugs. We threw that idea out the window as if it were our dog-chewed Frisbee. A French compadre of ours was a seasoned cherry picker in BC, and told us about this paradise in Canada noone knew about. It was the seasonal fruit harvester, as so eloquently put and it was better than anything we knew. We talked about it for a minute, and both smiled. We knew.
We talked a bit about how it was going to work, again over some Frisbee. We figured out what we needed, and how we were going to do it. It worked because we both needed to get to Ottawa before we could do anything, and that was going to be our start off point. Now I was excited. I knew that this summer was just starting, and it was already the end of June. The wave of adrenaline briefly came over me, as I knew it was more or less going to be a shit show. Pardon my French.
As the final days of planting came to an end, we packed up our stinky, ripped gear onto the buses, and headed for North Bay, which was going to serve as our final goodbyes to everyone we had just spent an insane 60 days with. We arranged to get a drive via company truck to Sudbury, where we would have a last night party with a handful of planters at our buddy Paul's house.
We drank our faces off and were buzzing from coming back to reality. We had just spent 60 days in a remote bush camp, and it took several beers to adapt back. However I only needed about 3 to start the giggles, 4 or 5 to start slurring. I think beer 9 I was face down in the grass...
We woke up to Pauly's mom cooking us a great home cooked breakfast. I somehow made it to a couch through the night, probably escorted, feet dragging. Thanks boys.
Mike and I couldn't stay long, and we said goodbye to everyone. We were going to meet French Mike and Paul out west, they were going to drive in 4 days, while Mike and I were going to hitch in 10 days after a detour in Ottawa. Time was a factor in landing the contract out west, so we had no choice but to take a Greyhound to Ottawa. It was the only time I would do this the entire trip.
After a schmancy new Greyhound, kitted with wireless Internet dropped us off in Ottawa, we knew we were in for a fun 2 days. It was June 30th, and we were going to be in the Capital for Canada Day. Effing eh.
My 'crew' of buddies in Ottawa whom I had left before planting were anxious to see my return, complete with scraggly beard and awful tan lines. The rest of the night we exchanged stories of missed times and laughed our asses off. Newfie Mike was stoked to be in a familiar setting, so we pounded more beers and made sure our eyes were plenty red.
We woke up the morning of Canada Day and swore off drinking, as we were both hurting from a solid week of stupidity and a solid month of chaos. It didnt take long before that was out of the question and found ourselves being patriotic, in the Beer Store.
Canada Day was a riot, almost literally, as dozens of decked out cops behind their goofy shields and tiny peckers eye-fucking anyone and everyone having a good time. We got to see the fireworks amid the oohs and ahhs of what seemed to be every Canadian. Ever.
We went to a show that night at a massive nightclub, Steve Aoki, and lets just say it was fun. I see him whenever he's close by, 'cause Aoki is the bees knees, straight up. It was another blurry night on what was proving to be an amazing start to an amazing trip.

The next day we got the last minute items we needed for the neck of the journey and arranged for my buddy Brennen to drive us to the west end of Ottawa, and drop us on the side of the highway. The entire time we were here, the boys were skeptical of my ideas, and if it was going to work. We joked around about it, and even though I knew their doubt, there was nothing deterring me from this.
I can remember it so well, the feelings and mixed emotions as he drove us to our spot. Mike wasn't saying or doing anything, as Mike never says anything, which I would soon find out about my travel partner. I could feel my heart racing, yet still slowing down.
I had hitched before, maybe once or twice, I couldn't remember, as it was not an important trip, rather a joke when I was younger going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. This time was for real, this was no going back, you are HITCHHIKING, mothertrucker!. It was hitting me, I was finally doing it! Then negative thoughts jumped in, and for a second I had a sharp rise of fear. Id like to say it wasnt, but it was. I knew we were capable of handling anything we'd come across on the road, but the potential was there, and I was heading for it. But, as fast as the thoughts came, they vanished. I had my last looks at Ottawa has we passed the Sens arena, the last break in the sky, and had a rush. A great adrenaline rush. Im not tooting my horn when I say this, but Ive done alot of crazy and stupid shit in my life. But this was different, this was the first time I was leaving comforts of familiarity for anything more than a couple of weeks. Noone to bail me out of trouble.
Brennen dropped us at a gas station on the highway, and it was almost hard parting ways. I knew the boys were gonna have a key summer in Ottawa that I could be a part of, and was going to miss the times. I pulled my packs out of the trunk and smiled. Its funny how we live now, because I wasn't going to miss anything. Not only could I check what Id miss on Facebook, but I was doing something way cooler. The bars never change, the people never change, and the scene doesn't change. I was DYING to get on that road. These internal battles I have are something everyone experiences, but I think is more prevalent with travellers.

Mike and I crossed the highway overpass and hopped the fence to climb down the hill to the Highway 416, westward to the TransCan #1. Excuse me when I say this, but I could not have been anymore f*cking excited when we walked that field to the highway. The transports whizzed by and I could feel it. Jebus Heist we were pumped. It was too late to go back, now there was only one direction.
We got on the highway and started walking, thumbs out, for BC baby.

The Summer of 'Oh Nine'

Well, I didn't know how to go about the stories on the blog.
I had the idea of posting them randomly, trying to balance them out with short and long, crazy and calm. Instead, I'm going to start my story about my rollercoaster trip from Ottawa Ontario to the Okanagan Valley, over 3,000km.
I met anyone and everyone, moments of fear, joy and the indescribable. I'm going to post them chronologically, and fill them with photos I took.*


*will credit original sources.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dont Worry, Be Happy.

The sun wasnt even close to rising over the mountains yet, it was still way to early. Regardless, I had the day off work and knew from the night before that I had to use the day well. I had a bunch of crap to get, film to develop and I knew I was going to be in town for the whole day. Realizing this, I also figured it would be a good idea to go to the BCSPCA, as sometimes I would sign out a dog for the day. Its great, you just sign your name and pick any dog you like, as long as theyre back for dinner time. I always get the muttiest looking dog that I know is going to be there for a while.
So anyways it wasnt even 830 when I was walking the main road into town, thumb out for a ride. I ended up walking about 5km when a young guy in an old sports car picked me up. I jumped in, and we exchanged hellos. He had Bob Marley playing quietly and it looked like he had just roached out his tribute to Bob. He was on his way to work, at the local brewery. He was a local kid, lived in the Okanagan Valley all his life and often picks up hitchers. We really didnt talk much, as he was really quiet. I made a few half-assed attempts to initiate a conversation, but he just finished them with simple answers. We continued on further, and he asked where I wanted to go. It worked out, as I was hoping to get on the other side of town, near the brewery he worked at. He drove me the entire way, with about 10 words between us. I thanked him, jumped out and headed my way.
I thought briefly about how it was rather strange; most people pick up hitchers to talk, pass the time, share a joint, or something. He acted like he really didnt care that I was in his car. Non-the-less, I was happy from another successful hitch and didnt want to bite the hand that feeds. Hitching can be like that, sometimes you get picked up and its an 8hour exchange, the talks and arguments never end. Sometimes its like they were obligated to do it, and thats the only reason they stopped. They act like theyre doing a chore in debt to society. Whatever the reasons in the millions of scenarios, Im just thrilled people stop, even if theyre too stoned to talk.