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Cross Canada Adventures

 

                                

                 

               The book is two stories woven together. 

The chapters flip back and forth in time from 1970  the present.

 

Beyond Hope

 

I am not yet beyond hope; I am writing this in a campground in Hope, B.C., a place I have always considered to be the edge of the known world. To a westcoaster like me, Hope is the gateway to the rest of Canada. . Tomorrow morning my wife and I will be off on our adventure across Canada. We will be definitely Beyond Hope.

 

The first time I went across Canada was many years ago, in 1970, when I hitchhiked alone. I remember when I decided to go to the east coast. It was because of a hat. I made my decision during a great weekend spent on the west coast of Vancouver Island (the “Island”) at Long Beach near Tofino.

In those days you could camp and even drive on the beach. It was all kinds of fun. There were lots and lots of young people camping on the beach and driving lots and lots of cars. It should not come as a big surprise to learn that some of them were drinking beer while they drove. A lot of beer. Enough beer to make a nuisance of themselves and to encourage the local constabulary to bring their police car onto the beach and put an end to the drunk driving.

Now, most of those young people’s cars were not expensive. In fact, it was a wonder that some of them even managed to make the drive to the west coast. The one that the police were particularly interested in had no muffler because that bit was probably somewhere on the nasty gravel road from Port Alberni.

That car also boasted lots of rust, a missing tail light, dents and scratches, and rough body repairs, resulting in a net value that was probably less than the beer it carried. Quite an audience gathered to watch as the police herded those hooligans to our end of the beach where large rocks blocked any further progress. When the occupants of the car saw that there was no escape those gangsters turned their car in the direction of China. Shouting, “You’ll never take this car alive, Coppers!” they drove it straight into the sea until the water was halfway up the doors. They climbed out of the windows and sat on the roof laughing and finishing the last of their beers.

After the show was over for the the gangsters, things quieted down, so my friends and I hiked out onto the rocks to seek further amusement. To our delight we discovered a keyhole-shaped niche in the rocks that had a sandy bottom and a fairly long channel to the sea that allowed waves to rush in and fill the round part of the keyhole with knee deep frothing water. Almost immediately the water would retreat exposing the flat, sandy bottom.

In no time we were taking death-defying, or at least wave-defying, leaps down onto the sand and scrabbling back out before the next wave would fill the basin again. To make it more of a challenge, someone had the bright idea of jumping down and writing their name in the sand before they were swamped by the incoming cold seawater.

On my turn, I had jumped down and written my name, but on the way out my hat dropped into a puddle at the side of the keyhole floor. I loved that hat and had no intention of letting a wave make off with it.

For many people a hat is a special bit of apparel which can serve various purposes; you can show respect by tipping or removing your hat; a hat can protect your head from the sun and rain; a hat can also be a fashion statement. Some hats identify members of a certain profession. My hat qualified for all of the above. It was one of those striped caps favoured by railroad engineers and I cherished it.

I still had a little time before the next wave came in and frothed away with my hat, so down I leapt again, grabbed my wet hat, and scrambled up chased all the way by the Pacific Ocean. Luckily my friend John lent a hand to haul me up. "You're lucky that hat didn't head out to Japan," he said as we got our balance.

While we sat around the campfire later, I was imagining the possible travels of my hat. That’s when I came up with the idea that since I had dipped my hat in the Pacific that perhaps I should dip it into the Atlantic as well. In retrospect, it wasn’t much of a reason to travel across the country, but like a lot of teenage decisions, it seemed a good idea at the time....

 

 

 

This part is about searching for the best route through rural Nova Scotia.

 

      We pulled the old Marmot Van into a gas station in southern Nova Scotia to fuel up, and after the tank was full, asked the attendant which road to Truro was in the best shape. We had  discovered that some of the roads in Nova Scotia, like those we had travelled in other provinces, suffered from the evil and  dreaded pothole-itis.

      We proceeded indoors. I paid for the fuel and then spread my roadmap on the counter and began my interrogation of Gerald, the attendant, and his coveralls-wearing assistant, Art, who had come over from an old chrome chair with a half bottle of cola in one grease-stained hand, and a lumpy  rollie smoking between two yellow stained fingers in the other. As if planning a military operation, they traced the various routes with their fingers and studied the map intently, quietly seeking confirmation from each other about each of the possible routes. After a couple of minutes of listening to recollections as to whose cousins lived “up dat way” and where "Pete’s truck had broke down last month", I became a little impatient and pushed them towards actually considering which road was the better bet. I could see by the strain on their faces that they were searching hard for just the right answer to this most perplexing of requests.

     I think Art  gave up the struggle when he just bent his head and stared down at the map. Bill did the same for a while then slownly lifted his gaze revealing  a smile that lit up his face. I could see that he had solved the conundrum. Art noticed, figured he was off the hook, and looked at Gerald  appreciatively like a Labrador retriever waiting for someone to throw the ball.

“Well-sir, it really don’t matter which road youse take,” Gerald pronounced, “youse’ll get there just the same.”

A congratulatory grin blossomed on Art's face and he nodded enthusiastically. Looking at the smile of happy contentment on both Gerald and Art, I could see that I had been given the only answer I was going to get.

“Right you are,” I said, and thanked them very much and hopped into the Marmot van none the wiser.

“What did he say?” asked Donna.

With a big smile, I passed on the answer:

       “It don’t matter which road youse take, youse’ll get there just the same.”