Jasper on old 35MM

My late Mother gifted me a Camera. This Camera was her Mothers. My Grandma traveled all over north America and shot film any chance she had. Some of the photos she took are breathtaking. Now its my time to learn film. Initially shooting old 35MM rolls found in the Camera bag carries a big risk of losing all your work due to film deterioration. Whether from Age, Heat, Radiation or a massive amount of other factors. I had no idea how these shots would turn out and even less of an idea of if the camera worked. Well, it did. They turned out beautifully. Aged film is sometimes just worth the gamble.

So there’s Tara, a friend from Calgary. She’s a mountaineering Medic aiming to live on a boat off the coast of Cortez. She proved she will out hike me any day of the week and drink me under the table. Her and I operate on nearly the exact same wave length. We’re both left handed, both picked the exact same beer from the exact same store for the exact same reason and need to apply a copious amount of hot sauce to everything. It’s kinda weird but pretty refeshing all at the same time. She brought up the tent from Calgary for me and we spent the next 4 days exploring Jasper and crushing beers. It was pretty early in the year still, we got snowed out on any trail we attempted and froze every night (At least I did)

Having her out here for the trip was a great idea. We bonded while breaking through snow for kilometers at a time. Sharing stories over another beer and just cruising to the next place to explore. She suggested all our hikes and places to explore and I’m really glad she did. She pushed me further than I would have gone on my own and took me to places I didn’t even think of seeing. We mixed up what I knew, what she knew and what we both had overlap in and explored the park to the fullest. Just send it.

It was so killer to get out of town and just exist. There was no stress, we just chilled. This trip was a huge leap in the healing process of the heart. Showed me there is hope out there and things really can end up okay. Sometimes, even better than okay. Her and I have gone on another few adventures since. That film is just about to get developed, just hang in there. Have I ever mentioned how much I love trains? The answer is a lot. Maybe one day I’ll drive one. But in all reality I’m a lot more likely to hop a few and see where I end up.

I missed my epic train shot on this trip, but at least I tried. The Power Wagon is pretty photogenic so it makes up for the lack of Any and All trains. Choo choo. We ended up exploring every open gate between Jasper and Mount Robson. Our only promising forestry road ended up snowed over and we had to turn around. Our 4 wheeling adventures became a little less likely so we squeezed in a few more hikes instead.

Day 4 Tara headed back to Calgary, myself back to Grande Prairie. The trip was solid, the hikes were exhausting and the beers were great. Even though we broke through the snow every step of the way and nearly caused a few Avalanches, missed the Trains and got snowed out our spirits were high. We were refreshed and freakin’ alive.

Dayne from Adventure Your Life and I have been good friends for a few years now. We 3D printed this little guy a while back and he’s been traveling with me ever since. Every little bit helps and I feel great every time I see him cruising along. Thanks Dayne.

Back to the West

I’m met by the most inviting face I’ve ever seen. We’re at Calgary airport and as she drives up a sign reads “I missed your stupid face” I smile. I don’t know why it was so welcoming.

The First time I met Renée was the evening before driving across the country. We met at Tim Hortons, had coffee and got to know each other a little. It was around 7pm. We hardly noticed we chatted the night away and now its 3am and She had better head home. We decided to keep in touch and before She left I said to her “Give me a hug in case I never see you again!” Short and sweet, but it stuck with me. I would have never guessed she would offer to pick me up in Calgary. She is seriously Bad Ass.

So we made it, staying in my Grandfathers old house with Family. I’m still drunk at this point, I get us lost navigating to go home and after Dinner we’re headed right back out to go Dancing. Night 2 of non-stop binge drinking followed and a day of rest (basically drinking on the couch instead of the bar) tied up our Calgary adventure.

Her and I said our goodbyes and piled our gear into the trusty little Chevy Metro and away we went. We headed through Banff to catch some amazing views and fool around in the snow. Due to sheer boredom and being completely drained from the past months adventures I took the time to play around taking lots of pictures of anything I felt the need for as I’d been missing a real camera on my trip. We ended up being caught in a downpour. I took the wheel for the last of the 5 hour drive and brought us in.

Creston for the night, Drinking night 3. We stayed over with My Aunt and emptied her fridge of beer and cellar of wine. It was an absolute riot. Neither of us remember quite everything, except she stole my sleeping spot on the couch! We payed for it the next day (Seems to be a theme)

She’s always Smiling

Grand forks. Home finally. It’s been a month at this point. I have covered over 10000km’s, met hundreds of people and seen thousands of places. I’ve changed since I was last here. I’m more at peace now than I have ever been. I’m happier than I have ever been and I feel like I accomplished something very meaningful for the first time in a lot of years. I can sleep easy and move forward. I haven’t felt this good in years.

I’m set on giving this German girl the absolute best Canadian adventure I can and I want to make the best of our time. We explored the area around Grand Forks, Greenwood, our property and more. From walks, to four wheeling, quadding, hiking, farm chores and being complete idiots fooling around. We were having so much fun.

I’m not sure what it was about this time we had together but it was just so amazing. Initially we intended on spending a few days together. Days turned into 3 weeks. Something was really special. Something was different here. We both started to see it. This grew from an amazing friendship into more. She came back to visit in between plans she had in Vancouver. We spent new years together and she came back one more time.

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That last time was the best time I’ve had in my entire life. First off she came to visit early. I have never been so excited to see anyone. My heart was so full, my soul so happy and the smile on my face could never be taken away. I’m smiling right now as I write this. I asked her out. We had two amazing dates. The best dates of my entire life. Day one, Red mountain, skiing and snow boarding, Coffee in Rossland, Indian food and a movie in Castlegar. Absolutely perfect.

Red Mountain

Date two, Well..This was something I never ever thought I’d do in my life. I can still see the smile on her face. I’m still smiling right now just thinking about it. A 4:30Am start led us to Big white. A few weeks prior I’d booked us to go Dog sledding. Renée came to Canada to work with Dogs on a sled team so I knew this was the icing on the cake. The team of Dogs was amazing, given a new lease on life being rescued and adopted from many different walks of life and now working their winters as a pulling team. I Let Renée take point and harness all the dogs as I stood around holding the harnesses like some weird and bearded walking coat rack. I didn’t mind in the slightest seeing her work. The familiarity of the work and the ease in which her hands prepared each dog was bliss. I was in the company of the most confident and amazing woman I’ve ever known.

She was to leave the next day. This was the last time I thought I’d ever spend an evening in her company. The sad reality of fighting depression for so many years is you always think the worst. I thought I wasn’t worth it, I couldn’t have left any impression on a woman like her. I thought it was the end. My entire life has been plagued with such negative thoughts and feelings for so long and only recently have I come around. I’m not faking a smile any more and I owe a lot of it to her.

She wrote me a letter. I’m not telling any of you what was in that letter, as it’s just for Her, and I. That’s a sacred bond and trust never broken.

I’m proud to say I was wrong. You’re more amazing than you know and no matter the doubts in your mind you are worth it, you are amazing and you can do anything.

Including calling Renée your Girlfriend.

This entry is an ode to Her.

In Fourteen days I fly to Germany. She’s picking me up at the Airport. All or Nothing.

 

 

I’d like to add a note down here, I touched on the topic of depression in this entry and I’m going to be honest. In my Family we have been ridden with a Serotonin deficiency for generations. Basically, this means that your feelings of self worth, fulfillment, happiness and motivation are severely impaired. So here we are, Mental health. It’s the reason behind this entire trip. For lack of a better word, after losing my Job and starting to travel I was Fucked Up.

I had to start over. No matter what I tried for the last ten years I’d been met with a brick wall of depression and nothing helped. Not a damn thing in the world. Exercise, Food, Money, Work, Friends, Activities, Sex, Violence, Self Abuse or Travel. Not a damn thing helped. The moment I’d walk in the front door after and amazing adventure and sit down, Boom. All gone. Nothing mattered. Nothing made me happy and I couldn’t handle it anymore. Travel was me last resort. After my initial short trip I realized something was seriously wrong. I couldn’t put on my fake face of happiness anymore. I fooled everyone around me that I was happy but that was so, so wrong. I’m lucky, I know I am. I know not everyone will be so lucky and I understand that. For me, I saw a Doctor. I have a prescription. I can live again. I’m free from the haunting darkness of my mind. I can wake up in the morning and I can keep on keeping on. It still takes work, a lot of fucking work. Every day isn’t easy but I can do it.

So I guess in a runaround way the message I’m trying to get across is that if any of you are going through this, if any of you are fighting this dark and looming cloud that never leaves I want you to know you’re worth finding help. You’re worth trying to help yourself. You’re worth asking for a helping hand when you’re down. Somebody will always help you stand back up. I know how hard it is to break the mold and admit it’s time. Ten years was enough for me. I nearly lost everything because of it. I nearly lost myself. Days on this trip I never wanted to come home, never wanted to wake up and never wanted to exist but I did it. I can do it and so can you.

Please find help if you need it.

http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/

Canadian Crisis Line: 1-888-353-2273

Alberta Mental Health Hotline: 1-877-303-2642

http://www.distresscentre.com/

Of course, Your best option is always to reach out to a Family Member, Friend, Spouse, Doctor, Councillor or anyone. Even Me.

You’re worth it. Keep on Keeping on.

 

 

Third Entry, There’s signs for you everywhere.

Get lost on Purpose

Alright, so I know I said I would start on the Mecca of crossing Canada next. I’m far too excited to share something that is seemingly so trivial. Signage. Signage will make you or break you. On more than one occasion I’ve been cooking in the sun or freezing in the rain with a sign in hand and hours pass. What’s wrong? Why won’t people stop? Why can’t I score a ride? I have no idea.

There isn’t a particular tried and true science to sign making, nor is there a specific way to always secure positive repertoire from the public. Your best bet is to just wing it. Be yourself and be ready to adapt to the area. A simple direction works awesome most days, others it acts as an invisibility cloak. Specifics? That’s great too if you’re on a single highway but as soon as you find yourself in a weaving spider web of trans-Canada, side highways, byways and detours you’re going to have a long day. Or are you?

This is such an ever changing matter, I can’t promise you a damn thing and that’s okay. You’ll figure it out.

So for those of you who know me, I don’t really speak French. I put forward a serious effort during my days leading up to Quebec. I spent 4 days in Montreal (It’s unreal, you gotta go!) and 7 days in Quebec entirely. I had no idea how to be funny when it came to the Canadien culture. I guess I made out all right.

I met some great people too! From crazy stoners who drove 40km/h over the speed limit all day, a successful Entrepreneur and inventor of the 100% Canadian Tomahawk Electric Super car named Mario and a very honest and welcoming friend Oliver who invited me to stay in his Grandfathers cabin built in the sixties. Thanks Oliver, it was cold that night.

Find the Super Car here:

http://dubucmotors.com/

So that’s not even about the sign. You can’t Hitch on main Highways in Quebec. On-ramps are as far as you can go. The police can and will remove you and ticket you. I was lucky and got through without a problem. That’s still not about the sign. I guess what I’m trying to say is this time the sign didn’t even matter. Everyone who stopped told me they didn’t even read it. Kinda weird Quebec, kinda weird.

So yeah, this is pretty self explanatory, GP or Grande Prairie. I stayed with my sister the night before in Edmonton and since Albertans are very straight to the point and just need a quick answer GP was sufficient. There isn’t a lot to say here. I ended up far off course on Highway 2. Some random dude felt the need to tell me “Dude you’re lost! You aren’t on the highway to GP!” I know. Thanks dude, I know I have to take a range road south for forty minutes. I looked at a map this morning. Take what you can get. Don’t expect to go straight to your destination every time, that’s half the fun.

This one was pretty funny. Not funny because of the sign. Funny because I texted me friend Brent in GP while I was in Nova Scotia and asked if he could hook me up with a place to stay in Antigonish. His parents took me in. I texted him all night telling him about how silly he looked in his family pictures and joked that I was sleeping in his sisters bed. I actually was, she wasn’t around that night so they set me up there instead of on the couch. Thanks!

Arts and Crafts are awesome. Even if you’re just scribbling with a permanent marker on a sheet of Styrofoam you found in the Garage. North, great direction. Sydney, destination. Straight forward again. No problems here. Another easy day where people knew where I was headed. Rides weren’t terribly hard to come by and there were a lot of friendly faces. Great people out here but I’d suggest coming earlier in the year. As you can tell by the background no matter how welcoming you try to look the fog still paints you as an axe murderer straight from a 70’s B rated movie. Leave your axe at home kids, especially when you hit the road at 6:30Am.

My all time favorite sign. I’m doing this again. This was one of those times where the sign really, really came through. I made it to Fredrickton NB by mid day and lacking a new sign I sifted some recycling bins behind a fast food joint and sat myself by the drive through scribbling as I do. You get funny looks when you do that, I do it on purpose now because I think its funny. Easy way to get some folks to buy you food without asking too. Thanks again, the world is amazing.

So I’ll say my ears were ringing by the end of the day. I have never been honked at, hollered to and waved at so much in my life. Everyone loved this sign. It’s a part of Canada I’d like to go back to. I was picked up by such a vast array of people who all said something along the lines of “I stopped to pick you up because your sign is great, I’m always worried I’m going to pick up someone who has a bad attitude and no sense of humour.” I felt great.

My first ride was actually two Brothers and the Girlfriend. Super cool people, both covered in Tattoo’s, drinking beer in the back seat and smoking like a chimney. They offered me beers, gladly accepted. Then I learned the older brother in the front seat just got out of Jail. I congratulated him on making it back out to the real world. It was awkward.

Silence for a few minutes. I had to know.. I asked if he was going to change now. He said yes. He’s never going back. He’s going to live a true and honest life. Good on you man, you got this. I just wish prison was about rehabilitation instead of punishment. Maybe one day.

Summing all of this up; it doesn’t matter what your sign says, how its written or what it’s made of. People will read You, not the sign. Exude positivity and keep that smile on. Be kind, be welcoming and don’t ever let the road knock your spirits down. There are people everywhere who will and won’t give you a ride. The ones who will usually don’t even care what you have written or even if you have a sign. So knowing that just go have fun with it. Enjoy yourself. Don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyways.