Monthly Archives: July 2012

Look at that View!

Here’s the thing about great scenery.  An amazing view can have a weird effect on a person. I’ve experienced pins and needles in my hands and feet, lack of breath due to extreme altitudes, and teary moments when the beauty of a place has been so intense, it’s made me drop to my knees.  That was after walking thirty miles uphill.
Most of us aren’t very creative when sharing a view with another traveler.  A few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ may be uttered, a couple of ‘wows.’  If it’s really amazing, we might say, ‘That’s amazing!’  If I’m traveling in an area where the scenery constantly changes, I find it energizing; like five cups of coffee followed by a large piece of chocolate.  If the scenery is fabulous, but continues on the same, hour after hour, I’d rather just read a book.  This is very hard on my husband, who will ooh and aah his way through a thousand miles of beautiful scenery, growing louder as I ignore him.  He does this for one reason, which is to draw me back into The Club.  
The Club is made up of people who love to travel, and then discuss their journeys with other people.  We all have anecdotes from the road, even if we’ve only been to the town a few kilometres over.  Like the blog I wrote when I couldn’t find the recreation centre in Creighton, Saskatchewan, even though it’s the largest building in town.  But, I digress. 
 People in the club are different.  They live to talk about their travels, which is why they pay so much attention to the scenery.  My husband would rather be drawn and quartered than read a book while traveling through new territory.  Unless he’s seen the same thing a hundred times, he can’t be pulled away by anything.  The thing is; he has the right attitude.  I should want to stare at the scenery all of the time.  But I don’t, and I worry that my lack of enthusiasm shows weakness of character.
I’ve traveled a fair bit.  I’ve done my share of storytelling.  But I’m not a genuine member of The Club.  I recognize the glazed look listeners get when they’re extremely bored.   And I pride myself on being the type of person to whom they can just say, ‘enough, already.’  I appreciate candour, as my friends and family know.
  I’m convinced that members of The Club also see the glazed, almost panicked look of the truly bored. The truth is, they hope their desperate enthusiasm will encourage the listener into taking their own journey, telling their own stories. I too love to travel, but hate feeling guilty for reading or writing along on the way.   I’m actually writing this while traveling through the Rockies.  “Ooh,” I say, every time my husband exclaims loudly over the brush, rocks and water by the side of the road.  I look out the window from time to time, mostly to see if he’s driving too close to the edge. 
All of this leads me to the topic of mountains.  A family friend, Graham Shaw, has been known to say, “The trouble with a mountain view is that the mountains keep getting in the way.”  The truth of this statement strikes me to my very core.  When I’m in Calgary, viewing the mountains from a certain distance, I can appreciate their grand silhouette.  But when I’m right up against them, I’m not such a big fan.  They seem to loom over me, like bullies taunting a timid traveler.  This is especially true if I’m sitting in a Gondola, or, God forbid, riding a ski lift.  It feels like the mountains are gloating, because they hold all the power.  If they happen to contain a lake or fast flowing river, I appreciate them more.  The water creates a softer, more benign look.  Like a really huge guy whose frightening appearance is instantly altered by a handsome face or gentle smile. 
One of the things I appreciate about my age is that I finally have myself figured out.  I like traveling along the ocean, but don’t enjoy the wind, ever.  I love a lake, but prefer it in August when the mosquitoes have died down.  I’d rather paddle a canoe than ride in a motorboat, also a bullying issue.  I will not be pushed into going faster than is comfortable.  Just ask my husband.
I appreciate people who are very different from me, especially the traveling, story telling, speed loving, risk taking kind.  I watch them from a distance, appreciating their willingness to try anything once.  They inspire me to say ‘aahhh.’  Maybe even, ‘wow!’  You’ll know you’re one of those people if I look at you and say, ‘Youre amazing!’  You’ll know I’m completely sincere if I’m not reading a book at the time. 

The Road to Whistler

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before

The Beatles song, Long and Winding Road, might be about love, loss and loneliness.  But as I travelled from northern Manitoba to the town of Whistler BC, the title took on a whole new meaning.   I”m fairly sure that I have seen this road before, though its been awhile.  And it wasn’t until we left Salmon Arm that the long and winding road became a bit of a nightmare. 

We spent the night in a small, privately owned motel in Bumcrack, BC.  (The name has been changed, for obvious reasons.) The building looked quaint, almost charming, on the outside, especially when compared to the rest of the town.

Our first clue regarding the accomodations might have been the shriveled looking creature curled up on a lawn chair outside the front entrance.   Think Gollum, with a tan.  Add in a can of beer and a haze of smoke to complete the picture.
There were no sheets on the bed in our room.  The guy at the front desk, (like George Carlin, but with bad teeth) gave us an aw, shucks grin.  “Gollum!” he called.   “You make up that bed properly!”  Turns out, Gollum was the chambermaid.  The little man loped towards our room, sheets clutched in his grimy claw.  I took them before he got in the door.

Did I mention that the sheets were made of a rubber, polyester blend?  The floor looked like it hadn’t been vacummed in a while.  The walls were covered in bug carcasses and what looked to be bloodied hairs from a deer carcass.  At least, we hoped that’s what it was.  The TV remote didn’t work and George Carlin showed up to change the batteries.  Another aw, shucks grin.  On the plus side, the toilets flushed.  And the door locked, if you heaved your whole body against it while sliding the lever over. 

It was the next day that we found out the reason for the rubber sheets.  On the long and winding road from Cache Creek to Whistler, it’s almost impossible not to piss yourself.  The narrow road shoots through valleys and then climbs up to impossible heights, twisting and turning like a roller coaster designed by a crack smoking engineer.  The lack of any kind of barrier inspires a type of exercise called keegles, which most men have never even heard of, followed by  bum clenches, thus ensuring that we didn’t crap ourselves. 

While driving along this twisted, crazy highway, various signs would pop up in front of us. ‘Danger of Avalanche.  Watch for wild horses.  Deer crossing.  Goat trail.  Loose cattle.’  All this, as we’re crawling along doing our keegles, holding hands and saying goodbye.  By this point, we had knots our back so large, we looked like Quazimoto.

Mostly, we were travelling thirty kilometres an hour.  We kept trying to pull over, to let braver or more impatient drivers pass us by.  The road was too narrow.  There were a few viewing points, but if anything, they increased our exercise activities.  Clench.  Squeeze.  Lift.  Breath.  Whimper.  Begin again.

“But the views were beautiful!” everyone gushed, when we finally arrived in Whistler.  Thinking back on it, I guess they were.   But it’s the last time I’ll see that long and winding road.  We intend to go back, and we’ll meet you at your door, Heather and Adam. But I’m pretty sure we’ll take the long way around. 

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (with apolgies to John Berendt)

The whisper runs through the garden like a faint breeze, lightly masked by the nighttime serenade of frogs and insects.  It begins with the frantic mumbling of the smallest beet at the very end of the row.  “The dandelion!” it cries, in a tiny, frightened voice.
“Dandelion!” mocks a tall bean plant, its tone scornful and defensive.  “Try growing next to a wall of  stinkweed.” 
Laughter from a multitude of weeds adds to the growing storm of whispering voices.  To the beet, the sound is enough to freeze the scant water trembling within its tiny stem.  ‘It’s leaning over me,” it cries again, faintly.  “I won’t be able to grow.”
“Pick on someone your own size,” begs a voice from the row of peas planted nearby.
‘Fat lot of good the peas are,” murmurs another bean plant.  “They lie there all day, and we’re left to fight the enemy.”
“Like we have a choice?” whines yet another pea plant.  ‘If the farmer was paying attention, we’d  have a fence to climb.  Then you’d see what we have to offer.  But where is the farmer?”  The voice overflows with cynicism and despair;  it’s question rhetorical.
“Sitting on the ledge of her dwelling, drinking that strange water that makes her laugh too loudly.  It makes her step on us when she comes down into the garden, late at night.”  It is the delicate fringe of a carrot planted at  the far right of the garden that speaks.  It has the best view of the house, and is considered to be an authority on all things ‘farmer’ by most of the other vegetables.
The small beet ventures a fear filled glance at the tall Dandelion looming over it.  “I didn’t ask to be put here,’ the dandelion protests in a voice not unlike James Dean, if he were an effeminate weed.  “I should be on the lawn with my friends, but I got stuck here instead.  Just wait until my hair changes, then I’ll be seen in all kinds of places.”  The dandelion laughs hysterically and the plants nearby shiver in silent protest.
One of the beans sends a silent creeper that wraps around the stem of a chickweed plant which seems to have sprung up overnight.  “I’ve got one!  I’m holding on!  It’s going  to be okay, everyone!  Its going to be…!”  The voice is snuffed quickly, without the slightest sound.  A shudder ruffles the leaves of every vegetable in the garden.
We must not give up hope,’ cries a tomato plant.   “I can see the farmer from here.  I think she’s getting out her weeding tools!”  The plant swings its leaves toward a cluster of foxtails creeping into the soil behind it.  “You’ll all be gone before you know it!”
“Yaaaaay! cry the vegetables, the little beet in particular cheering as loudly as possible.
“Unless she decides to weed tonight.”
“No!” cry the others.  “She learned her lesson the last time!”  More voices chime in as the the fear spreads.  The  smallest beet cries one more time and then collapses to the ground.  “Tell the other seedlings that I tried to hold on.”  It’s voice is very faint.
“Don’t give up,” urges the giant bean plant.  “Morning will be here before you know it.  The other farmer will return, and all will be well.”  Cries of ‘the other farmer!’ ring out around the garden, but are drowned by laughter from the various weeds.
“Laugh if you must,” cries a cucumber plant, desperately trying to lift its tired leaves from the dry ground.  “But we will prevail.  The farmer always come through, in the end.”  A hushed silence falls after the cucumber’s words.  It might be out of respect from their fallen comrade, the tiny beet.  Maybe its a truce, after a long, hot, and unwatered day in the sun.  The vegetables sigh, the weeds chuckle, and the garden is quiet at last.  “The farmer,” is the last words heard from the smallest beet.  “Amen,” says the tomato.