Wednesday, February 28, 2007

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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What's really striking about traveling to Whitehorse and back by bus, with such a short stay in Whitehorse, is that I averaged over 50 kilometres each and every hour. This includes time in Whitehorse, but also time spent sleeping, eating, and roaming Edmonton, Regina or Dryden, ON. This even includes the couple of hours I spent running in Whitehorse, though not the roughly 25 kilometres I covered. Giving up your life to the schedules and machinations of Greyhound Canada isn't easy, but the totality of the experience is worth it in some ways. After all, spending 20 hours on a bus with minimal breaks to travel from Sault Ste. Marie to Winnipeg is one thing, but getting back on the bus after three minutes to go to Regina overnight and then to end up in Calgary for dinner and Edmonton for 10 pm is something else. You may have inferred, then, that I slept on a bus for 8 of 9 nights and didn't change clothes after Wednesday.

Some pictures from the return trip are below.

Riyaad can be lethal with a camera. Here, he catches me undignified with his own blanket.

These trees and this view is pretty much everything you see for the 900 miles of the Alaska Highway between Dawson Creek, BC and Whitehorse. These trees cover the mountains through which the highway travels. They look grey in the distance, giving the mountains a coat of silver.

This is a frozen lake (Teslin?), I forget which one, in the Yukon.

Watson Lake in the Yukon can really serve up a sandwich. The best meal I had all trip, anywhere in Canada, came at a restaurant in this town the size of a second-year biology class at the University of Toronto (population 1547). That was quite the sandwich.

Contact Creek, Yukon is one of my favourite places in the world. This truck stop emerges out of oblivion and disappears just as quickly. Inside, you will find a collection of books that includes severals Animorphs stories, two 1800-piece jigsaw puzzles and the friendly if chubby dog pictured above.

On the way back, Riyaad, seeking some levity, insisted that I take this picture. I later realized that there isn't much humour in flood prevention.

This smile says it all: the Calgary Greyhound terminal stinks of urine.

This explains why the roughly 600-kilometre drive from Regina to Winnipeg took over 8 hours.

Regina is a great little town, even if it is greatly lacking in places to eat.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Early morning text:

I am in the city of Sault Ste. Marie. The time is 4:30. I've never been here so I got some tea. I stand by this decision.

And then five minutes later:

There's a crowd of people waiting to get on the bus. Who gets on the bus at 4 am? In the Soo they do, that's who. This town is like a Dr. Seuss poem.
Text received Saturday morning:

I'm just over the [Ontario] border into Kenora. Our bus shipped the Globe I bought. I love this remote part of Ontario, but I'll be out of range soon.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Text received earlier today:

Just entered Swift Current. I like the Prairies. The endless view is calming. They are surreal in a way. I just can't believe how big and flat they are, covered with snow.
We are now in Medicine Hat. The local time is 12:43. Medicine Hat is a very nice place, though I know it best as the former minor league affiliate of the Blue Jays many years ago.

When I was in the Tim Hortons, the torch relay for the law enforcement Special Olympics went by. Sure. The Canada Winter Games start in Whitehorse today and they're a very big deal as thousands of athletes and hangers-on crowd a city of 23,000. The entire town is preoccupied with the Games in the way that only a small town can be.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Received at 7:11 PST:

We have arrived in Edmonton. Alert all concerned parties.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I leave Whitehorse today. I will be back one day though. Here are two pictures from this morning's run.

It was -39 when I ran.










Whitehorse:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We have arrived in Whitehorse. It's an amazing place. The first thing I did after getting into the hostel was run. I ran up and down a couple of cliffs on either side of town. The view of the sunset was definitely worth it. I didn't even notice the windchill of -35.

We travelled 1400 kilometres on the Alaska Highway yesterday and early this morning. That, too, was a very special experience I'll never forget. I'll try and put up some pictures before I get back.

Thanks for taking an interest and thanks to Mark for a great tour of Edmonton. It was an amazing 86 hours getting here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Text on Monday morning:

I'm in Fort St. John. So much to say. BC is beautiful. Saw horses running on the highway while listening to Stadium Arcadium. We're so far north.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A late afternoon text:

I have arrived in Calgary. They're playing country on the bus. It's definitely into the Wild West from here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another early morning text:

We just got out of Winnipeg. It's 1:00 am central time. It's so flat and dark. What a sight.
Text from Adeel:

It's 6:30 pm central time We've been travelling for over 26 hours and we're still not out of Ontario.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Text from Adeel at 12:16 am:

I'm still in Sudbury. We made friends with some people going north. One's from Marathon, ON. They talk about us being from "down south." It's adorable.
Hey sports fans,

Riyaad here. We're sitting in a bus terminal in Sudbury and have little to do. Nothing around us is open and we fear missing our bus. The stop over is shorter than we expected, so we can't do any venturing out. In about 20 minutes we'll be heading to The Soo. No one smells yet, but there are a couple of 'raggamuffins' behind us who keep talking about 40's and crack. I'll keep an eye on it as the days go on.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The chain bookstore represents the highs and lows of humanity, mostly the latter. You can buy anything you want. Behind all the things that aren't books, such as recipe books, magazines, books with pictures, books on tape, CDs, DVDs and the Starbucks kiosk, you can find anything. They do have some great books too, but they're obscured behind Kevin Trudeau's book. After all, Trudeau's book is a New York Times #1 bestseller. What did Thucydides ever do? In fact, who is Thucydides? I bet he's not on Oprah's list and he won't help me get ripped.

The philosophy section at any bookstore is dwarfed by sections on New Age (whatever that means), self-help or any other non-sensical category of books for utter idiots. The history section is tucked away in a remote corner, as are any books that take longer to read than to write. Not since the Springfield library did away with the microfiche have I detected such a strong strain of anti-intellectualism.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It all started one day when Riyaad and I went for a run and decided to run on the frozen Etobicoke Creek. We fell in many times and so began our mutual appreciation for puzzling journeys on which we bit off more than we could chew. One day we decided to walk to the end of Yonge Street and back. Once we decided to run a half marathon and I still haven't beaten Riyaad's time. Another time we decided to spend the night in a parking lot in SUV in Sudbury. Yet another time we decided to portage carrying the Andrea Doria. The results were disastrous, but that's how I managed to snag my current place.

Anyway, if you haven't heard by now, we're going to Whitehorse by bus on Friday. We'll travel a little under 12,000 km by road in 10 days. It will take about 3 days to go one way. If you have any suggestions for things to do in Thunder Bay, Red Deer, North Battleford, Saskatoon, Dawson Creek (besides re-runs of the popular television show) or, God knows, Whitehorse, please let me know.

This blog won't be entirely idle for the duration of the trip. I've arranged with Jennifer out there in Readerland to convert one terse text message per day to a blog post. I'll try and keep it as non-sequitur and morose as possible.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The prospect of the federal Liberal party barring males from running for Parliament in certain ridings is an egregiously ill-conceived idea, not wholly palatable even to Liberal strategists. The end this proposal advances, increasing the proportion of female members in Parliament, is equally ill-conceived as an end. There is no intrinsic improvement resulting from an estrogenic increase in Parliament. Indeed, the proposal is an attempt by Stephane Dion to try and make good on a promise he made while campaigning to become leader of the Liberals.

Dion's proposal is the latest in a preoccupation with making politics as democratic as possible. The thinking, it seems, is that it doesn't really matter what we do with this country as long as we're the ones doing it. However, every time the governance of this country becomes about who governs rather than how we govern, the country suffers. It is obviously true that good government has as a part good governors and good procedures for government. We don't allow children to govern, nor do we randomly choose citizens. We insist on choosing our leaders to ensure that they will have merit, at least in our eyes. This is, of course, only true to a point. Parliament aims at good government, not the equal representation of women, Hutus, Tutsis, Kurds and lesbian Croat triathletes over 150 pounds.

Barring men from nomination in certain ridings turns Parliament into a venue for social engineering and elaborate displays of our egalitarianism. If the aim is to ameliorate the supposedly patriarchal nature of Canadian politics, then why stop there? The women who make it into Parliament will be white and rich. Maybe a few ridings, such as Parkdale and York West, home to the vaunted Jane and Finch intersection, could only be open to women with pigmentation as dark or darker than Derek Jeter who can produce proof that they are receiving welfare. Barriers to female participation in politics should no doubt be eradicated, but only to the extent that they are unfair. The focus of government should always remain on good government, not an equal share of power for all.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Finally. My contentious relationship with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, about whose postseason exploits I have written roughly two dozen times on this blog, has been soothed over. They have won the Super Bowl. I won't mention football again for about seven months.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The last time I woke up this early and this disoriented on a Super Sunday, that fascinatingly wasteful and extravagant liturgical holiday, the year was 1999. I was half-asleep, but the FAN 590 told me that Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson had been arrested overnight for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer. Robinson was later beaten by the Broncos' Rod Smith on a deep pass that went for a touchdown. One writer remarked that after Robinson was almost faked out of his shorts on Saturday night, he was almost faked out of them again on Sunday night.

The overall theme of the past forty Super Bowls has been a full-scale assault on all by all the cultural icons of America. Bud Light, Janet Jackson, Tostitos, semi-legal gambling and Vince Lombardi will all feature prominently in today's eight-hour service. This has been the overall theme because the game has historically been a flop. Any dedicated football fan has to take a minute to remember the game itself, a four-hour blur sandwiched between endless hype and endless mythmaking. Today's game will be no different. Peyton Manning will ascend to his throne with the other Quarterback Gods at the hand of Phil Simms and Greg Gumbel, his myth imbued with the threads of Hurricane Katrina and meritocracy.

That means I pick the Colts.

Saturday, February 03, 2007