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.