Friday, January 6, 2012

The Road West...

More than a year ago I stood on the balcony of a large building over looking the Vancouver skyline, it was my final night on the west coast.  I told myself that I was going to go back there to live, that somehow the West felt right.  Obstacles and circumstances and that state of confusion that accompanies most young people searching for their path in life made it difficult to reach that goal, it almost faded completely.  But the world works in mysterious ways, and whether it be the forces of nature or an act of "god", life seems to work its way out.

Such was the discussion I was engaged in with Kyle Waddington as we made our early morning escape from the province of Ontario.  I knew Kyle from one of my stints in Tofino, he was a mild mannered, free-floating, earth-loving musician that lived for the experience and the human connection.  He had no bank account and very few possessions, and the sole worry that he had in life was food and water, everything else he told me, would work itself out.  The simple circumstances that led us to be in that car together only reinforced such a positive ethos.  I had put an ad on Craigslist offering a ride share to Vancouver and the one response that I got was from Kyle who I had lost touch with.  Much like myself Kyle had returned to Ontario trying to figure out his life when he realized that back on the west coast was where he belonged.  So there we were, two scruffily bearded travelers with a unified sense of purpose, flying down the road west in a small VW packed to the brim with everything we both owned.

We crossed over the border in Detroit without a problem, and quickly put on some Johnny Cash before rolling into Jackson.  From there we crossed Kalamazoo then wrapped around lake Michigan and took the Skyway straight through the heart of Chicago.  The sun was bright in the clear sky for most of the day and the air was warm, with windows down we raced along, the anticipation fueling our desire to keep moving. Heading along the I-94 we reached Minneapolis just after dark, then kept on towards Fargo at the border of North Dakota.  By that point we had been going for a good fifteen hours, and fatigue was definitely kicking in.  I was a bad sleeper and so was Kyle, so he brought along some Melatonin which he used on occasion to pass out, claiming it made him feel refreshed even just after a few hours sleep.  He said he usually took three, the bottle said take one, so I decided to take two.  The natural remedy had its desired effect and I fell into a deep slumber quickly, dreaming of the ocean and the impending west, hypnotized by the loud hum of the diesel engine and oblivious to the changing landscape passing by outside.  I awoke suddenly, Kyle sitting behind the wheel bopping to some tunes and puffing a cigarette out the window.  The surroundings were different,  the air was clean and fresh, the lights of civilization had all but disappeared and were replaced by a pitch blackness lining the highway.  It was the darkness of the High Plains, and we were flying through them at a record speed, no other car or living thing in sight for miles.  I convinced myself that I was refreshed so we pulled over and I took the wheel, but after just twenty minutes Kyle was out cold and I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  The monotonous surroundings only exacerbating my fatigue, the straight and endless road inducing a trance like state, I battled my heavy eyelids for about an hour.  Finally I pulled over quietly but Kyle awoke, I told him to keep sleeping and that I just needed to shut my eyes for another 15 minutes, but he would have none of it.  Instantly, as though he just slept for a full night he hopped into the drivers seat and took the wheel for the next three hours as I slept off the effects of the Melatonin.

I awoke before dawn and took the wheel again, with my head clear I felt good, we were moving quickly thanks to Kyle's persistence.  The rising sun slowly rose in my rear view mirror and the bleakness of the landscape became more distinguished.  We were in the badlands of Montana, oddly shaped rock formations jutted out from the stretches of blond valleys, our road ahead flew straight along into the horizon and we knew that beyond our eyes reach lay the rocky mountains, our first real stop.

We were making incredible time, just 24 hours earlier we were in Toronto and now we were in this alien land, excited about the adventures to come yet fully aware that we were already in the midst of one.  By high noon the sun was shining brightly and the weather was warm, we pulled off onto a side road for a stretch.  The road signs said "no services" as if warning us foreigners to stay away, but we pulled up to the wooden gates of a ranch and parked our car.  We pulled out the guitar and harmonica and played some music, some soulful tunes of the road that were lifted away by the breeze of the open land. 

It was late afternoon when we began our climb up the Rocky Mountains.  It was a winding road through the various passes, wrapping around huge glacier lakes and green forests.  Finally, just as the sun was once again setting we made it to Whitefish, Montana, a small ski town nestled in the mountains along the Canada-U.S. border.  There it was that we stayed with friends of Kyle - musicians that he knew from adventures past.  We celebrated our journey with them, drinking, smoking, playing music until our bodies and minds gave way and we fell into deep sleep.  It was good to close our eyes outside of a car seat, and we cherished the moment, for although we had come so far, the journey was far from over.