Northbound Journal Day 1-4: On the Long Way Round and a Past Remembered.

Day 1

So today, today we went south. Not the direction we needed, but with some things waiting to be brought along. Grabbed it at a warehouse in Blaine Washington, and by some things, a lot of things. 

It took a cool eight hours to get the roof rack together and sort out the equipment. A lot of cursing and sweat poured into making our severe lack of tools do the job. Stuck in a parking lot wasn't exactly ideal, neither was the rain, just the way of the road. By five we realized our house wouldn't arrive until tomorrow, so we drove a little further south looking for a burrito, Chipotle wasn't ever a bad choice. Got sucked into buying a couple things I'm not sure we needed, but hey- when in Burlington- or however the saying goes. 

It got dark quick, a sign of things to come. Summer really had passed, colours weren't changing here, but you could bet they were up north. As we drove to Mt.Baker- might as well wake up to a view- Kai and I chatted about what was to come. About the sights, sounds, places, pubs, about whatever. I had never been further than halfway up BC and neither had he, now we were about to embark on a trip to the Arctic Ocean, weather permitting the northernmost town in continental Canada. Romanticizing about the unknown, about carving through new territories, about the people and experiences that would follow. 

Adventure might be an overused slogan, but it was addicting, the nervous feeling of something new, I missed it, and it was back. We don't have a ton of money and that might be better, Jeb is filled to the teeth with everything we'll need to climb the mountains, endure the cold, fix the tires and stay fuel'd for tomorrow. Just a couple brothers looking for stories to share, things to see, looking to feel a little bit more alive. Tomorrow we'll wake up with some more errands to run, but we'll be back on our way north and north is good. Only a couple, few, more thousand miles to go.


Day 2/3.

Northbound, with a westward detour. Friday afternoon we finally had Jeb all packed up, ready to go. Instead of heading straight north up the 99 we snuck over to the Sunshine Coast. Neither Kai nor I had seen our grandparents new house, they thought we were leaving without saying goodbye, we figured family was more important. The six o'clock ferry was the perfect place to watch the evening light drift behind the tantalus and coast mountains, painting the trees with a golden glow, and the alpine with a soft shimmer. We rode on the top deck as the autumn wind rushed through our hair. 

On the other side, the coast was how I remembered, slow, quaint and politely unconcerned. The highway near Seachelt carved around the waterfront while the sun was lost over the horizon. We drove passed my grandparents honking, the look on grams face made the detour all worth it. Drinking wine and talking about life with some of the most important people in our lives beat rushing by a wide margin.

The next day we left around noon, caught the twelve thirty boat and took off for Pemberton. We had a long way to go that day, without many stops. The Duffy, a highway between Pemberton and Lilloett is one of the most beautiful in BC, and houses a park that is a must stop on any journey north. Joffre Lakes used to be a hidden gem, five years ago I had the trail to myself, not anymore. Now it was one of the more popular sights around Vancouver, and for good reason, the alarmingly blue water, runoff from a receding glacier, contrasted with the alpine green trees in a way closer to a painting than real life. The short hike was a good rest from the road and the rope swing at the second lake an ideal shower. 

Running down the trail under the light of headlamps, we reorganized the Jeep and set out with Prince George in mind. Halfway or so the coffee had worn out, we found a rest stop around one. Setting up the roof-top tent for the first time in harsh wind and beating rain on the outskirts of BC’s Cariboo region, it was uncomfortable, that was good. We fell asleep quickly, though mine was filled with tossing and turning. Anxious to cross into territory I had never seen, more so to face a town I had lived for three years in a past life, when hockey ruled, when I was a different person, a younger man, yet the same guy. Nervous to face the memories I had locked away. Filled with some of the best times, deepest regrets, numerous learning experiences and the friends I had long left behind. We woke up to the sound of semi trucks roaring by, incoherent dreams had somehow calmed me. We packed up quickly, now, again, back on the road.


Day 4.

Sitting outside the house I had lived in for almost three years, inside was a family that had become like my own, I hadn't seen or spoken to them in seven years. I wasn't scared, really I was excited. The hesitation was guilt, a feeling today should've come much much sooner. 

After a few long minutes of indecision I rang the doorbell. A barking wiener dog scrambled to the door- Hank was still kicking- following was a woman who was really like another grandmother; doting, supportive, eager to listen. The door opened and I gave her a big hug. For a few hours we all chatted, she was still billeting hockey players after all this time. The kids hanging out in the kitchens wouldn't appreciate how good they had it until long after they walked out Sharon and Elmer's door. Our families came up, their grandkids had grown up to a point that made me feel older than I was, one granddaughter in particular, who had been one of my closest friends was almost married and finished university. I realized then how much I had missed her. Sitting downstairs alone I laughed about how far things had come, how much different I was than the kid staring at me from a frame on the wall. Thought of the good times and the messy ones, for a while I regretted things about my hockey career, tonight I felt totally at peace. As if I may have learned the lessons I needed to, built lifelong friendships, left an impact on the community, most of all- proud I knew when to walk away.

Driving out of town Kai and I talked about the past, he asked some question he maybe never thought of until tonight. Drank coffees a little too tall for eight PM and finally took off down a new road, the trip really started then. I had closed some doors that needed to be shut, felt a bit like opening up to another chapter, felt good.