Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I don't really know how to order the messy, tangential places, people, events and thoughts of the last ten days. In lieu of a long tome, it may be more appropriate to discuss some of these things in brief. Traveling across Canada was an intense experience. As vast a country as this is, it is nonetheless a small one. I did not realize, for example, that Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay were about 8 hours apart, nor was I aware that Edmonton and Whitehorse were a 28 hours apart. At the same time, there really aren't that many towns in this country. If you pay careful attention, you can name just about any town of significance (say, over 10,000 people) between Toronto and Whitehorse. After all, Canada has as many people as California spread out over an area 25 times as big.

Beez Kneez Hostel

This hostel in Whitehorse is run by two impossibly kind women. Donna let us in at 7:30 in the morning, narrowly averting a fight to the death on the streets of Whitehorse which could have only ended with Riyaad killing me and exchanging my flesh for 125 lbs of tofu. Tammy was kind enough to humour me in conversation for a couple of hours.

Dryden, ON

You know, Dryden, I really don't like you. Your people treated us as some sort of circus oddity. Granted, rapidfire Urdu at the Extra Foods checkout may have been unwarranted, but so are hillbillies honking from a pickup truck when we walked down the street.

Schreiber, ON

Get some food on your shelves.

Greyhound drivers

This hard-living, heavy-drinking, prodigiously-mustachioed set may well be some of the toughest people in the world. They listen to iPods while traveling on snowcapped highways in poor visibility. When an tractor-trailer carrying a forest's worth of lumber blinds them, they wave to the driver of the truck. They barrel up and down the remote northern Rockies in the wee hours of the morning like Toronto taxi drivers. They wear ill-suiting grey suits, carry an extra 20 lbs that aren't checked into overhead compartments and have no misgivings about waking you at 3 in the morning to declare a 5-minute smoke break.

Grand Prairie, AB

One morning, I staggered off the bus into the Greyhound terminal in Grand Prairie. I promptly staggered back when a bevy of angry lumberjacks and baby mamas threatened to eat me alive.

Yukon River

Donna suggested that I go for a run along the Yukon River because it was beautiful. Previous experience with bodies of water on cold days suggested otherwise. When I went by the river, I could feel the frost forming on my face. The coldest, most soul-destroying wind I have ever experienced was steadily, unassumingly blowing off the river, one part frozen and one part rushing off towards the Bering Sea some 3,000 kilometres away.

My beard

The pictures aren't all in yet, but we took a series of pictures depicting the growth of my beard. It grew quickly since I didn't have anything else to do all day. Over the last couple of days, I felt that I belonged at the back of the bus with the transients and meth addicts. I had a full beard, I'd been wearing the same clothes everywhere, and I walked everywhere carrying a backpack, a pillow and a bag of groceries. It's a good thing I got out of Alberta quickly because they were going to try and exploit the oil deposits in my hair.

Prairies

Whether it's at day or at night, the limitless horizon is beautiful. In some ways, the view can be a little unnerving for how open it is. I wanted to dash towards the horizon, but the prospect of being so uncovered underneath the sky was like being on camera.

Dawson Creek

I don't know how they got this name.

The North

The real inspiration for this trip was to travel to as remote as point as possible. I didn't expect Whitehorse to be as nice of a town as it was. I fully expected dive bars and grizzled men wearing boots the size of my torso. I've always thought that Whitehorse, named after the appearance of rapids near the city that are now buried, was a really novel name for a place. In the back of my mind, I fantasized about aimlessly traveling to this or some other dot or location on a map. My first choice was actually Alert on Ellesmere Island, but this was much more practical. I don't know what I'll do to top this for sheer absurdity.

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