Tuesday, February 27, 2007
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.
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.
Get some food on your shelves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I don't know how they got this name.
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
Some pictures from the return trip are below.
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.
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.
Regina is a great little town, even if it is greatly lacking in places to eat.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
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.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
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
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
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
Monday, February 19, 2007
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
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 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
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
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
Sunday, February 04, 2007
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.