Adventures in Trippin’…

Road Trippin’ that is.

About a week ago, my parents helped me load all my worldly possessions into a U-Haul. Well, half a U-Haul. Half of the tiniest U-Haul available. It made my lazy muscles happy that there wasn’t much to load and unload, but it also made me weary to think that I’m starting over. From scratch. Again.

This is the biggest suitcase I've ever traveled with. I'm glad it's on wheels.

This is the biggest suitcase I’ve ever traveled with. I’m glad it’s on wheels.

Well, not exactly from scratch. My parents let me raid their cupboards for things like tea towels and a coffee pot. And I inherited a lovely family chair…which I’ll never get to sit in.

Back off. Find your own chair.

Back off. Find your own chair.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Catticus didn’t discover the chair until after the road trip was over. And this post is about the road trip, so let’s get back to it, shall we? After the truck was loaded and farewell hugs and kisses exchanged, I headed west.

Even though I was listening for the alarming sounds of shattering glass or splintering wood at every bump in the road, the vast expanse of highway was as exhilarating as always. The troublesome worries about starting over fled, and were replaced by the alert serenity that comes with a good, long drive. 

Have I mentioned how much I love driving in the Prairies?

Okay, so I took this picture from the bus…but it’s the same road. 

For the first time in a long time I wasn’t thinking about what I needed to buy, what I needed to do, or whether or not I’d just made the BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. Instead, I found myself feeling like I was completely in the present moment. I started tilting my head in a slow, magnanimous nod at every car or truck that passed, as if to say, “You may proceed.” And when they pulled back in ahead of me, and neither one of us were in a ditch, I would nod again as if to say, “Well done, fellow Asphalt Wanderer.”

It was peaceful, and almost perfect. The weather was lovely, traffic was light, and the view from the driver’s seat was magnificent, but the music was … terrible.

Normally, I would have a perfect selection of road trip tunes to help compliment the experience. But with a defunct iPod battery and no plug-in options in the U-Haul, I was at the mercy of local radio stations. Local radio stations in a sparsely populated stretch of Canada. Sometimes, I was at the mercy of a single local radio station. Like the one out of Medicine Hat that was only 5 hours in to it’s celebrated 100-hour country music marathon. 

And yet, somehow it fit. I was heading west. On my way to Cowtown. Just in time for a world-famous Stampede. A little bit of optimistic country twang seemed appropriate as I drove past fields of grazing cattle. As evening approached and I pulled over to spend the night in a hotel, I had started to think that the radio might actually be welcoming me to my new adventure. 

At least, that’s what I thought until I hit the road again the next morning. When I pulled back onto the highway, I smiled at the sight of empty lanes stretching ahead of me for as far I could see. I flicked on the radio, almost looking forward to a plucky country tune. Instead, I was blasted with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. 

Highway to Hell?

Maybe the radio really was trying to tell me that I’d made the BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER. 

Impossible. I might not be a brilliant theologian, but I’m pretty sure Hell doesn’t smell like sunshine, sweet prairie grass and grasshopper farts. 

Because that’s what Alberta smells like. And I love it. 

Who knows, maybe this province will make a country girl out of me after all.

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Adventures on the Bus … the saga continues

Okay, so maybe I overreacted in my last post. I wrote it a moment after I realized that I could get on a plane and fly back to Asia in the time it would take me to get to the next province. So maybe I panicked a little.

But I was wrong.

Once we really got rolling, my attitude began to change:

1. It Could Be Worse

I mean, it’s not like my bus trip in Cambodia. You know, the one where I had violent, smelly, explosive food poisoning shooting out both ends of my digestive system every thirty minutes. For 8 hours.

The only complaint my stomach had on this trip is that my chocolate bar wasn’t going to last the whole way. I might have to get another one when we stopped in Medicine Hat or Swift Current.

2. It Was (Relatively) Quiet & Squid Free

The bus wasn’t airing scary violent movies at top volume, or playing equally loud karaoke so middle-aged women could have a dance party in the aisles. And nobody around me was eating dried squid. Because all that really happens in a country that shall remain nameless. And it was awful.

3. It Was Only 10 Hours

The woman next to me was going all the way to Ottawa. I was finished my journey by Friday night…she would be finished sometime on Sunday. The woman behind me had already been on the bus for 2 days…with an infant…and had another 3 days to go. Suddenly, 10 hours didn’t seem like such a long time.

4. It Was a Soap-Opera on Wheels

While the trip was Karaoke-free, the relative quiet did nothing to mask the conversations going on around me. Seriously, I could fill three novels with the stories I overheard on that drive. Did you know that some people in Canada still hop trains and ride the rails like 1930’s hobos? Did you know that bears in lumber camps love the smell of discarded dishwater and will rip through the shower stalls to get to the shared drain? Did you know that if your boyfriend breaks up with you over the phone while you’re on your way to meet up with him, 3 different strangers will hand you a Kleenex…and everyone will feel relieved 50 miles later when he calls back to un-break-up with you?

5. We Drove Across the Prairies

love driving across the prairies. I know a lot of people think it’s incredibly boring, but it’s hands down my favourite place in Canada for road trips. It’s not just that the sky is incredibly blue, or the clouds impressively fluffy.

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It’s that the road is long, and smooth, and straight. You can see everything that’s coming at you – all the way to the horizon. No surprises. No hidden turns. You know, kind of the opposite of the rest of my life. I find the predictability soothing.

(Okay, it’s also kind of because I can stare out the window for hours and pretend I’m Laura Ingalls in a covered wagon, making her way with Pa and Ma to her new Little House on the Prairie…if Laura Ingalls had traveled with train-hopping lumber workers in unstable relationships…)

 

Adventures on the Bus

I’m on a bus.

For the next 10 hours.

You know how when you’re trying to get to Regina and you think, “Hey, a bus sounds like a good way to enjoy a relaxing ride across two provinces! And it has Wi-fi! And you can use the bathroom anytime you want, even if it’s windy! And it’s $300 cheaper than a plane!” At that moment, in the comfort of your local Starbucks, it seems like a really good idea. So you buy a ticket.

And then you get on the bus, and it’s packed full, and you’re worried that you smell funny because you’re wearing the same hoodie that you’ve been wearing with your pyjamas all last week, but it’s the only thing you have in your backpack to ward off the over-eager air conditioner above you. It’s at that moment that you might realize that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t going to be one of your smartest life choices.

And then about 1/2 an hour later, just as you’re about four paragraphs into what was going to be the best blog post of all time, you remember that reading or writing on a bus makes you feel a little nauseous, and you have to stop writing? Sure, maybe you really like writing, but you’re not about to sacrifice your health or your recently consumed lunch for the sake of your blog.

‘Cuz if you have, I know exactly how you feel.

Only 9.5 left to go.

On the bus.