"Look at the means a man employs,
observe the path he takes and examine where
he feels at home. In what way is a man's true character hidden
from view?" - Confucius
Downtown Prince George, British Columbia
An old red
brick railway station, desolate, weed-grown and potholed with abandoned rusty
cars whispers of a past that has long been forgotten, like the faces of
pioneers who once cut down the wall-to-wall forest that covered this land. Now,
the pulp-and-paper smell in the air is stagnate and oppressive, like a severe
case of municipal halitosis. It feels as if the city has been left to rot in
the stink of poor urban planning, but these thoughts are only fleeting. My new
dog is what has my attention as we drive back to the mechanic's garage. Remy has
put Blue into his camper so my dog can sit in the front in peace. With her
stitches still raw and with her drugged from the surgery, she is placid on my
lap, heavy like a bag of soft lead. She weighs at least 80 pounds already at
two years old.
every time I look at her I see Teetchema,"
says Remy. "It's like she has come back to me, which is highly sallassie."
like it's healing," I say, referring to her eye. "The vet said her injury is
consistent with falling out of a moving vehicle."
"Did the vet
say how long she's been in the pound?"
found as a stray two weeks ago with the fresh eye injury."
just had her reproductive piece tampered with, so just give her lots of TLC and
it'll be groovy."
reproductive piece, yes. Severely tampered with." We arrive back at the garage.
do you think pilgrim? Are you going to snag it so we can drive up to Atlin or
what? Uncle Pete's just doesn't seem to be up to par."
doggie will ya," I say, enlivened by the task before me. Entering the garage I
see the mechanic standing beside a smashed-up derby car with two other men. One
is revving its massive V8 engine. It's deafening and exhaust spews throughout
the garage. When the mechanic sees me his hand goes up in acknowledgement, and
comes over to the door where I'm standing.
thought about it?"
"I have. I
want to make another offer." The mechanic wipes his hands in a rag that he
pulls from his pocket. "Is she still for sale?" I ask, toying with time before
I play my card.
to offer twenty-seven hundred cash right now. A quick, clean transaction." The
mechanic looks back at his friends laughing beside the crashed-up car.
two-thousand eight-hundred. I told you before." I take out my wallet and pull
out five 100-dollar bills.
"I don't know
if I can afford that extra hundred. I'm really strapped." I count out the five
hundred in my hand and then stop. The mechanic looks at the two guys talking
beside the derby car revving the engine. I shrug my shoulders and begin putting
the bills back into my wallet. "Hockey game on tonight?" I ask. He looks at me
with his eyes a bit wider and nods.
pre-season but..." He glances at his friends again. "It's only the second Canucks
game in over a year, you know, with last year's strike."
strike last season, yes. A disgrace. Watching the game tonight with your
friends?" There's a twinkle in his eye when our eyes meet, and then a grin
crosses his face.
right. Two thousand, seven hundred cash. It's a deal. The rig is yours." He
puts out his hand and we shake. Taking out the papers from a drawer behind his
desk, we both sign a contract and then I count out the money on the counter.
When he signs over the ownership to me, I ask him where I can get insurance.
"Follow me in
the truck and I'll show you," he says. So with the papers signed, I walk out to
Remy's Dodge with the keys in my hand.
"I bought the
rig." There is an expression on his face that registers with me, one that I
have known since the earliest days of my childhood: the unmasked mien of
mischief. It's an old truth: we are slaves to the thrill of adventure, junkies
that love nothing more than the flutter and tingle of reckless undertakings.
insurance and the mechanic needs to bring the plates to an insurance company a
few blocks away to transfer ownership, so I said I would follow him. Is that
cool? We might as well get it all done right now before the weekend." We both
look at our watch. It's 4:30pm Friday.
"OK man, I‘ll
follow you guys." I transfer the dog into my Ford and follow the mechanic to a
local insurance broker. When we get there I give them my uncle's address as my
home address so I can get insurance for three months. Outside the insurance
broker's I thank the mechanic once again, climb into the driver's seat of my
new truck and slip it into gear. I drive slowly over to Remy and stop beside
him. He undoes his window.
set," I say. "Plan W?" Let's get
everything done while we have the chance.
go to the saloon we passed. It's a bit early but it's Friday and people will be
getting there after work. Why don't we check it out? Maybe he's there already."
you." On the way there, Remy parks in front of a second-hand store. I quickly
see the wisdom and logic of it. Inside there's everything one could think of
for sale: clothing, old camping equipment, pieces of furniture and all sorts of
odds and ends. Remy strolls down the racks of clothes and looks for that item
he doesn't yet have. For me I see the things I know I already need. When I see
a pair of wool-lined suede gloves I snatch them, and then a Shetland wool vest
perfect to keep my torso warm during the oncoming cold. I pick up a Goretex jacket
and a hat and wool socks, and Remy finds two fold-up metal chairs for two bucks
apiece, perfect for lounging behind the campers. I find some of the camping
gear I need: a knife, compass and some cutlery. We walk out of the store with
bags of loot, dump it off in our campers and then drive to the saloon that is
only two blocks away.
"Why don't we
have a brew in my camper first?" he suggests when we're in the pub parking lot.
"Cheaper and I'm low on my coin." In the parking lot we notice a video camera
hanging on the back wall of the saloon, so I quickly step into his camper out
of range from the electronic eye.
go in a city, there's always someone looking at me," he says. "I hate it.
That's what I want to get away from."
"I hear you,
man. Hong Kong was deadly in that respect. I'm sick and tired of prying eyes. I
don't think I can live in a city anymore either. It's time to-"
"Sport a rural hit," he says,
completing my sentence.
Remy first lights a candle and then passes me a beer and then takes one for
believe that rig is now yours. Seriously
man, we're completely mobile. Now we can go up to Atlin to find a place and
get off the grid." Remy begins rolling up the last of his weed.
"So how much
should we snag tonight - if we can find it?" I ask. "Always good policy to
stock up when one can for an impending roadtrip."
"Should be a
good supply, but again I don't have much money."
about that. I'll treat tonight. It's a sort of commission for finding me the
your new road buggy."
something like that." I give Remy some money for the transaction since it's his
friend, not mine. Remy takes out his map and spreads it out on his bearskin.
"Now that you're mobile, we should think
about heading west along Highway 16 towards Prince Rupert. That way we can take
the Cassiar Mountain Highway north through the mountains all the way to the
Yukon." He finishes rolling the joint and places it on the counter. It's
amazing he can find any space among the clutter. Tins of tuna, pasta, honey, a
loaf of bread, peanut butter, cans of soup, sage, a leather pouch for a pipe,
eagle feathers, beer bottles, all sorts of books, MAG flashlight, his coffee
mug and a full ashtray; it's a bachelor's countertop; a nomad's countertop.
"Why don't we
take Highway 97 to Dawson Creek, and from there we can go west across northern
BC to the Yukon and then Atlin?" The Cassiar Mountain Highway looks much more
remote and meanders through the heart of the mountain range.
with the boys," he replies. "Highway 97 is an easy road; point and shoot type
of thing. But the Cassiar Mountain Highway is supposed to be pretty hardcore.
It goes right through the epicentre of the mountains. There's nothing but
wilderness and wildlife, waterfalls and deep bush - and of course black bears.
It would be much more hairy-crack.
Besides, I've never taken it before."
it is," I say. "New frontier pour vous, n'est-ce pas?"
"We want to
get away from the big highways, right?"
Cassiar is the best route." The highway runs parallel with the Alaskan border
beginning at the Misty Fiords National Park and stretching over 700km north
past Skagway to the Yukon. It's the only road that goes up central British
Columbia - a province the size of two United Kingdoms. Given a choice, always
select the more challenging course.
We smoke the
joint and leave the camper for the old Prince George Hotel. Inside, Remy goes
to the bar and buys the happy hour special - a bucket of six Budweisers on ice
- while I take a seat at a table in the corner. Dented wooden tables and
posters on the walls stained with nicotine and cracks in the mirrors hanging on
the walls. Men sitting at the bar look like they have been here every afternoon
everyday for the last decade, smoking unfiltered Export A cigarettes and
drinking Molson Canadian beer. Here to drink and cuss, none of them take much
interest in the Vancouver Canucks hockey game on the television above the bar.
friend Frank is here," he says when he places the bucket of beer on the table.
Remy takes a couple of bottles from the bucket while still standing up,
unscrews them and hands a cold Budweiser to me.
"To your new
doggie and your new rig. The continent of Canada is ours to explore!" We clink
bottles and drink. More communist propaganda swills through my head:
WE ARE THE BUILDERS OF A NEW LIFE!
Remy goes to
the bar where he talks with Frank. He's huge - maybe six-foot four in height,
thick-boned with a long ponytail and blousy face. Dressed all in black, he
wears the same harvest moon jacket as Remy except his is black. Remy gives him
some money and Frank puts a bag into his hand, all done facing the wall where
there is only a small group of women in the corner. Remy shares a laugh with
him and puts his hand on his shoulder. He's been here three days and he already
through. Full snagglepussy action pass,"
says Remy coming back to the table.
"Full snagglepussy. Very Claudia."
When excited, twins prefer their own language.
concerned about security matters here are they?"
"No, I think
it's groovy. Everyone knows each other here. And he's jiggy with us. He's knows
we're Métis." He waves his hand towards Frank and the women in a wide sweeping
look more Métis than I do with your neckwear ensemble and medicine bundle and
whatnot." Remy looks proud of his Indian regalia, not at all self-conscious of
the number of different coloured crystals and stones that hang around his neck
and all the leather frillies dangling from his arms. Remy slides the baggy to
me under the table. I look at it on my lap hidden from view by the table. I
take out a large bud and give it to him.
is for you."
"You know I
have dreamt of weed, which means it's one of my medicines."
only have to dream about it and it's a medicine to you?"
taught that if a food, drug or animal appears in your dreams, then they are
part of the medicines here on earth to protect you from negative energies."
sure I've dreamt of smoking weed," I say, not sure if the statement is entirely
"Then it's a
medicine of yours. I have dreamt of weed lots of times." I ask him what his
other medicines are.
is one of my medicines. Ginger root is for any sore throat I get. It works -
it's really amazing. And Aspirin is also one of my medicines, which makes sense
because the Red Man has been using it for centuries as a medicine."
Remy adjusts the red bandana that holds his hair out of his eyes and then looks
serious for a moment.
"Listen Trapp," he says in a lower voice.
"How's your eye?" For some reason I'm not self-conscious about it because of
Remy's own bad eye. An eerie symmetry about it all. Entangled twin stuff.
vision as the doctors had told me. But it's OK I think." The look of compassion
on his face is enough to make my eyes water. It's something we now share - both
of us with a bad eye. It's a sympathy I should've had 20 years ago. I reach for
another beer from the Budweiser bucket. Remy reaches for another beer too. I
note that he is at the same robust drinking speed as me. Once a twin, always a
"Dart?" I ask.
"Merci." I give him a cigarette.
So let me get this straight: after a day you now have your own fully-insured
road buggy, your own fully-neutered doggie and a robust plan W supply."
that's correct, My Son."
Pete's cabin?" I shake my head.
cabin's been overtaken by mould - it's unsalvageable. Couldn't operate a
computer in there, even after trying to fix it up. Besides, there's the air
don't we gazelle west, to
Smithers and then to Atlin?"
"That's a lot
of driving but no biggie. I'm hoping maybe we can find a place in Smithers or
Burn's Lake. Heard it's fairly crisp along there. Have you been?"
"One of the
few places I haven't been - from here all the way down to the ocean along 16 is
new turf pour moi."
"So if it's no dice on uncle Pete's piece, then
why don't we merge west
"No reason we
"OK, so let's
do it. Too many nipples and crusties
here in Prince George anyway." I've never heard of that one before.
say. "Tomorrow we hit the road."