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.

 

 

The Mecca Pt 7

The last I’ve seen of Nova Scotia

A little known fact in Newfoundland, everyone is named Kyle. I scored two rides for the final 700Km stretch to St Johns. Kyle and Kyle brought me to where I needed to be. The first Kyle was such a great guy. Everyone on the rock has a heart of gold. This island is something else. It’s another country you won’t find except for right here. So I stole Kyle’s joke.

Kyle: So I picked up this Hitch hiker out of Port Aux Basques last summer. We be cruising along and a little while in my wife and I were a curious. He was a strange guy and after finding his way to the rock with just his coat and a box we wanted to know what he was up to. So my wife starts up and they’re back and forth for a few until she’s asking him what’s in the box?

HH: None of your fucking business!

Kyle: So I spin around in my seat and lay into this fella, he ain’t allowed to be speaking to my wife like that so you there had best be changing your tone with her. Tell me boy, what’s in the box?

HH: None of your fucking business!

So naturally Kyle’s pissed and stabs to brakes as he brings the car to the shoulder.

The Hitch hiker jumps out of the car and takes off into the woods leaving the box behind.

Me: Okay….

Silence for a minute

Me: Wait, he left the box. What was in it?

Kyle: None of your fucking business!

Booming laughter rings through the car as we continue our cruise. I’ve told this a few times in between and it seems to always get an excellent return.

Halfway through our few hundred together we needed fuel and I was gifted with a bag of snacks, drinks and junk food. Well received Kyle. You’re proving again the beauty we find in every corner of the land. I’m off again and it’s a beautiful day. The rain has let off and the high cloud cover is welcomed.

Kyle 2. He’s on his way to see his Daughter in St Johns. We’re in it for 500km, a few tanks of fuel and a six pack. I drink the most of it to ensure we’re getting there safely. Buzzed now I’m dropped of in the midst of downtown. We shake hands and as I step away from the truck I have to stop. I’m on the water, surrounded by Ships, fishing vessels and massive coast guard monsters. It’s beautiful. Every dream of a fishing town, a life on the water and the beauty of the sea is right in front of me. I’ve found another place I just wished existed. Years have passed dreaming of something I thought I’d never find and it’s right in front of me.

I walk the water for hours in awe. It’s stunning.

Checking into the hostel I’m met with warm and friendly faces. I settle in, grab a shower and head off for a cup of coffee and a snack to explore the surroudnings without burden. There’s no place like St Johns. I think about it lots now and again. At least a few times a week. The pictures don’t do this community justice.

“Afghan Restaurant” A hole in the wall and it’s what I’ve been craving. The walk from the Hostel to the hole is beautiful. I’m straining for words right now to describe how much this place meant to me. It really felt like home here. I know why people live here, I know why they chose here and I know why they stay here. Through to a Pub for a beer on George Street and I’ve hit it off with locals. Everyone is just so friendly. I’m coming back some time.

So we make a list and I’m off to check em’ all. Sadly I didn’t get every single one but I definitely hit every place that really mattered. I spent a crazy, crazy night at the Hostel and with pictures to prove it. I don’t remember much from my stay. It was a riot. Invited out to play some pool we left as Two Canadians, An Irishman and two Aussies. Met with a pair of Brits and beers started flowing. I’m not sure how, but I drank them all under the table. I still remember the looks on their faces when I finished their beers every time we left another bar. I payed for it the next day but I left as a legend.

I don’t remember this.

I had a friend from way back in Middle School. Philicia. Haven’t seen her since I was 13. We reconnected the next afternoon and settled in at home. We caught up with an evening of Coffee, food, beer and video games. Her and Zack were exceptional hosts. I swear its like her and I had seen each other a week ago and Zack and I bonded like brothers. Nothing but amazing experiences, adventures, tours and teachings followed. We explored all of the peninsula and crossed items from the list one after another.

So we’re tying it all up. I’m getting screeched in tonight and I’m on a plane at 5am. I’m shitfaced, I’m in Newfoundland and I’m kissing the Cod. I couldn’t have ended this any better. I’m surrounded with my new family and my heart is full. I’ve done it. I’ve achieved a life goal and I’m feeling so, so good about it.  I really can do anything.

Zack helped me steal my shot glass. Thanks buddy. What a fucking legendary ending for such a massive adventure. I can still hear the fog horns putting me to sleep, the lap of the sea at the shores of this tragically beautiful rock. The smiles of everyone along the way are with me every time I need a little more. It’s all so surreal to look back on to. Thinking of the hours at the side of the road hopelessly waiting for a ride through to the near misses and sleepless nights. The food I’ll never eat again and the beers that I’ll never be able to share with anyone. Success and failure, struggle and ease. I’d do it all again if I needed it. I haven’t even seen the sun in a week, Fog city as they call it and I’m still shining.

Before the sun had even risen that morning Philicia and I did what needed to be done. We’re on to Cape Spear to watch the sunrise. Her and I are the first to watch the sun rise upon the continent of North America. The fog never let up. There were no colours, no sparkle nor a break of light across the Atlantic ocean and I didn’t even care. I pinned that point on google maps months prior to this day as another distant and unreachable dream. Yeah right, sure you’re going to Cape Spear dude. That’s on the other side of the country!

Well, here I am.

 

I’m flying to Calgary. It’s 5am and I almost missed my flight. I’m still drunk. In 24 hours I’ve stood on the edge of the Continent, been screeched in and now I’m flying 2/3rds across the country to meet someone I never thought existed. I’m crossing four time zones and She’s right there waiting for me. I never expected what happens next.

Mecca Complete. Thank you world. You are Amazing.

The Mecca Pt 6

It keeps raining, but not on my parade

The fog is hanging low today, temperature is dipping a little more every night as the onset of winter rolls a little closer every day. I have 8 days left before I fly to Calgary and 1300km to go. I have learned a lot this trip and I’m still in awe I managed to make it work. I managed to stay motivated through thick and thin and overcome every set back this far.

I remember about three weeks before this point I had posted on Facebook to ask what everyone was thinking about this whole thing, to see what they think I should do. Well, Here I am.

So its a few hours to North Sydney, I’m about to get on to Cape Breton Island. The east coast has a lot of exceptional folks, also a lot of not-so exceptional folks. After being offered a variety of hard drugs five minutes into CB Island (See what I did there?) I managed a ride and off I was again. The highway has been becoming scarcer and narrower the further I head north. The landscape is shifting again and the watershed is becoming accentuated and I’m noticing just as the St Lawrence things are vastly different than I’ve seen before.

Another ride by a friendly guy, quiet and all through the Reservation turned into a full truck with the four of us cruising. Everyone knew each other. It’s a tight knit community and they know how to stick together. This had started feeling more like a Taxi service than someone just headed their way. The others are dropped off in town and I’m brought to the edge of the Reservation and let loose to my own devices. He turned around immediately. Not until later did I ever think anything of it. I’m white, some places I’m not welcome and I understand that now. Even in Canada we’re plagued with systematic racism and it’s been tearing at the threads of our society since we decided we “Own” this land. As I learned from my time alongside Aboriginals in Canada this trip, we’re people of time and date, the 12 month Calendar, Aboriginal are people of the Sun, Moon and Stars. We can’t accept that as a society and that may very well lay at the seams of our struggles. Mind you, its far more complex than a simple comparison of time management and understanding of when is when, as I had it broken down to me during my day on CB Island it’s just an understandable comparison to ease into the understanding of things far more complex.

I just wish we could all get along. We’re all the same, we’re all from Earth, we’re all made up of one another. Division will never achieve anything.

I’m on again. I’m with the Mayor now. He is exceptional. The water shed changing? Well, I’ve been following an inland salt water lake. No shit! It’s making some more sense now. I’m absolutely unloaded on with a massive bowl full of knowledge. This ecosystem is the only one like it on the entire planet and we’re destroying it more and more every day. The local communities have been aiding in cleanup and preservation for the last few years and it’s becoming a far more mainstream trend to support the activists and environmental researchers in their works. He had spent time with David Suzuki last week during a visit (Since he’s the Mayor and all) and he shows me a basket he was gifted during that time. So now I’m cruising along an endangered ecosystem, holding a basket from DS, in the same seat he sat in for his visit talking to the Aboriginal Mayor. I want to cry. Why can we let this happen? It’s all going to be destroyed in the next hundred years. What are we going to do next?

This day has already been so emotional for me. It’s only noon. I’m not even on the ferry yet.

So I make it. I’m dropped somewhere in a town I don’t know with no time for a Beer run. I get a sandwich and hop on the boat. I’m shuttled on a 30 passenger bus and I’m the only one there. The driver isn’t talkative. It’s seven hours to NL. It’s looking a little scarce as I make my way to the passenger decks. Compared to the hustle and bustle of BC ferries in the dead of summer it’s a ghost town. 30 people scattered across a ship built for thousands. We take on average seas at an average pace and split the Atlantic with the bow. Here’s another first. First 7 hour Ferry and Biggest ship to date. Not much to say about it, did a big Poo and had my sandwich. Sleep.

Port Aus Basques wasn’t so welcoming. It’s late at night and I’m the only walk on. There’s only a few cars to hope for a ride and I look like an axe murderer. I can’t even find a damn walking path to leave the stupid terminal. Hopping fences and dipping security is my only real way to leave. What a nightmare. So all the cars have passed before I’m even gone.

I know why it’s called the rock. Everything is rock. I’m captain obvious. It’s actually beautiful but its pouring rain and the middle of the night. I can’t find shelter for the life of me and I’ve already been given the cold shoulder at the local Tim hortons. Roll with it. I’m still smiling as the sunshine pours out my ass because I’m living my dream. I was sixteen when I watched “Into the wild” I read the book this summer. It’s been six years and I’m doing it. I’m as far away as possible from home I can be in my own country and it’s exactly where I want to be no matter how hard it rains. It rains harder. I smile more. This is a good day. I have so much to think about and so much to live for right now. It’s hard right now and I’m being pushed a little further and a little further every day. It’s bliss. I’m stronger than I know.

I scour for a place to hold up. No bueno. There’s an 80 dollar hotel. I can’t say no tonight. It’s miserable outside and I took too long to get my rain gear on. I run a bath. The water smells salty and flows just a little brown. Still smiling. Welcome to Newfoundland. Sleep

It’s on. Here’s some photos. I make it to Corner brook for the night and sleep in the ditch. I had some great beers, met some neat folks and someone bought me lunch today. Way she goes.

Can’t wait for St Johns, Friends await.

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.