This time of year I get nostalgic for a little drive my best friend and I took one summer. It was April 17th, 1987. I think the reason I still remember the date we left is that we kept a journal on that trip. The trip was epic, but so was the journal.
Vanessa and I were both English majors at the time. Immersed in literature and constantly reading, so writing about our every impulse and action seemed appropriate and right. Why too could we not create a canon to rival the bards? (That sentence for starters) So record our journey we did.
Cast your mind back Dear Reader, this was long before much of the world did this digitally and daily. We were Old School. Old School pioneers in a blue Chevy Horizon with a standard gear shift I did not yet know how to use. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Prior to leaving on our tiny jaunt, because we intended to drive across one of the world's largest countries, (about 7000 kilometres or so), we decided to name our journey Canada or Bust. What else could we do then but get out our coloured markers, draw, colour and post the sign in the back window of our vehicle.
OK, it really was not our vehicle. It belonged to Vanessa's mother who for some reason agreed to let two young women, (one still in her teenage years), to take her car and drive it thousands of kilometres, from Langley British Columbia to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, then back to Kingston, Ontario and eventually back to the west coast. Would I loan my vehicle to my kids to drive across the country? Don't be ridiculous. But such was the generosity and goodwill of Vanessa's mother Gisela, who I think also represents here in my tale, the more trusting and less-invested-in-the-affairs-of-her-offspring mother of the 1970s and 80s. We contemporary parents could all take a page from her book I think. (I'm talking solely to myself here of course).
The Canada or Bust Journal, as we refer to it now, sat on the passenger's lap. It was the passenger's job to update the journey in writing as the kilometres ticked off behind us. Usually this would leave her quiet and pensive when first settling into that hallowed seat. Sometimes, urgently writing down the thoughts that had consumed her while driving. Other times the driver would have a thought and would ask the passenger to record for her. Still other moments sheer poetry would seem to simply spill from the driver's lips and the passenger would naturally slip into the role of scribe to furiously get it all down. We were in synch with each other and the road.
On that first morning, as we started out from my home in Langley, BC, armed only with our hefty luggage, loaded styrofoam cooler, cardboard box of food, Norton Anthologies of English Literature Volumes I and II, and our BCAA Trip Tick, our hearts were full and ready for adventure.
Adventure came quickly in Spuzzum. (You know, just beyond Hope) That is where I learned how to downshift into first gear quickly from highway speed. You will recall I mentioned the small matter of the car having a standard transmission and although I had been driving for several years, had not really, actually driven a gear shift, except for a brief lesson with my patient brother, Will, the night before.
There we were, mid-morning, driving through BC's stunning Fraser Canyon when we realized some coffee, about now, would be excellent.
Vanessa/Passenger: "Look there's a sign for a café in Spuzzum."
1st Time Gear Shift Driver on the Treacherous Fraser Canyon portion of the TransCanada Highway: "Where?"
Vanessa: "There! Turn right now!"
This was the first of many learning opportunities along the way. It brought us to an important discussion about navigating and directing skills, but also to a frank talk about who should be driving and when. We had previously thought it best that I drive right away to really get the hang of the gear shift quickly. But the Spuzzum Parking Episode led us to think otherwise. Vanessa would take on the more circuitous mountain driving and I would reign in the prairies until I got the feel for the gear shift and clutch. I am proud and happy to say that by Northern Ontario I was fully versed in the mysteries of the standard automobile!
Thankfully, that first morning, I did manage to safely, although just a smidgeon too fast, get us off the highway and parked directly in front of Spuzzum's glass-fronted coffee shop. All this and it was only hour two!
It was full-on spring on the coast when we left that morning, but we drove through a blizzard outside of Banff that afternoon. Eleven hours after we started, we made it to our first destination, Calgary.
The trip only got better from there, because it was during our time in Calgary that we fortuitously saw the new film Raising Arizona, with our hosts and good friends Jill, Leanne and Dan. From then on, until the Maritimes, we would talk often in a southern drawl. We found that if we recited the Shakespeare we knew in the same cadence as Holly Hunter in the movie, that this was particularly hilarious. I can still do Sonnet 116 as Holly might as though yelling at H.I.. (Is moving rendition, though admittedly, I am biased).
It is there friends where I will leave the Canada or Bust escapade for today, though I will surely come back to it because I could use some of that wit and perspective while on family road trips these days.
-Over and out.