"Canada 2003" story # 5

Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, Canada           June 22, 2003

     We were in Canada now. Oh yeah.
     I and my fellow Canada-trekkers, Johnny and Adam, were in southern Nova Scotia. A ferry had brought us over to the coastal town of Yarmouth. The town and its air had seemed very clean at first. The houses were square with dark triangle tops. They came in various lobster shades, like maroon and yellow and white.
     We soon split town and split up to hitchhike north. I went alone and walked to a slow, coastal route. Brown, kelpy sea spilled out to the left of the road beneath barely-rising green grass. A big, shiny-black truck stopped for me.
     My first Canadian ride was Marcelo, a hefty, wide-shouldered, young lobster-man. His face matched the nice, kind-of-dumb-sounding way he said, "Yup," after everything as we talked.
     Lobster licences, I would learn, cost a million dollars in these parts. The area's very well-off.
     "Thanks." I got out.
     "Yup ..."

Meanwhile, the Baltimorons Johnny and Adam hitched on the main northern highway. It was four in the afternoon. They were headed to Bridgetown, two hours away by car, where they would hopefully find me again.
     A car drove past.
     "Are you guys cool!?" A thin, pot-head passenger leaned practically his whole body out of the moving car window to see if my friends were cool enough to get rides.
     My buddies passed the test, and they crammed into the backseat with their backpacks. The two drivers were Acadians (French-speaking Canadians). The light-scraggly-haired driver called himself a "half-French/half-Acadian warrior," but Johnny described him as "the Canadian version of The Simpsons' bus-driver." Like my first driver, he had a catch-phrase of his own. He said, "Fuckin' right!" after everything.
     He tutored Johnny and Adam on Canadian law. He said, "R.C.M.P." stands for "Royal Canadian Mounted Police," but, "as far as I'm concerned, it stands for: Royal, Assholes ... something ... Fuckin' right!"
     ... "Yeah. I used to like going down to the States all right. Can't go back there no more."
     "Why not?" asked my friends.
     "Oh ... criminal record."
     He asked Johnny and Adam if they liked beer and said, "I guzzle beer like my V-8 guzzles gas."
     "Thanks," said Johnny and Adam at their stop. They'd enjoyed the humorous ride.
     "Fuckin' right! ..."

A moustachioed man named Bernie, on his way from a fishing tournament to a wedding, dropped me off along the coast. I trodded to a curling sand beach, headed out onto the wharf, opened my bags, wrapped a towel around me, and changed from my hitchhiking pants into my snorkelling shorts.
     It was slightly cold standing on the pile of rocks leaning beside the wharf. But, I felt really free.
     Yup. Most people would say you can't go across Canada on the US$130 I had here in my pocket. Most people would tell you it isn't safe to go hitchhiking these days. A lot of people - most notably my grandma, the nurse - would tell you you're a fool for swimming in water this cold because your brain will hurt and you could get hypothermia. And even I would tell you it isn't easy to be hitchhiking, open up all your bags and change clothes with a towel wrapped around you, and snorkel in cold water and then go hitchhiking some more.
     But, why listen to those people? I'm stubborn, when it comes to important matters like snorkelling.
     I plunged in. The still, cold water smacked me. I managed to dive to three feet below me to search under the big, purple rock slabs for cool, new Canadian critters. After nine dives, the sea's ache penetrated my poor head. But, I did see a white, bottom-dwelling fish with a terribly ugly face. Its nose was like a Hoover vacuum, and warthog spikes pushed up over its face and fins. I would later learn that this fish is called a "skulpin."
     The importance of this snorkelling matter was plainly evident. 'Tis better to be stubborn-headed than skulpin-headed.

It was a young girl-and-guy couple who picked me up and informed me of the name, "skulpin."
     While I was guest in their cavalier, we drove onto the main highway and rode past two young guys with their baseball gloves on. Big backpacks lied beside them, on the side of the road. They threw a baseball around, as they tried hitchhiking a low-traffic corner. Only my crazy friends play catch while they hitchhike. That's how we're going across Canada!
     Johnny, in his Orioles' cap, took a moment off his game, and ran into the road after me. A bright, young smile covered him, and he yelled, "Johnny!" (It's weird; we all call each other "Johnny.") and swung his fist excitedly. He was happy to see me.
     Ha, ha. But, I didn't stop for them. I just kind of waved. It's fun when you're hitchhiking to see your friends as you pass by them, even if you're too packed to let them in. It's not so fun, though, when you're the person getting passed.

Those rookie hitchhikers, first-time traveller Adam and the smart worrier Johnny, grew discouraged by 7:30 at night.
     They hadn't been picked up in a while, since their last driver had left them in a pretty dismal spot.
     Adam wrote about that last ride in his journal. He wrote:

"picked up by a guy with a kid in his car seat, what we didn't know was that he wasn't getting off at an exit, but at a dirt road off the highway, with an exit nowhere in sight ..."

Humble-guy Adam continued on about the situation:

"as hope was nearly lost and we were considering where to camp in the woods alongside of Hwy 101 on Nova Scotia, Luke (Johnny) and I had walked several miles for an hour + a half, a truck on the road, a similar make an model to the ones that had passed us all day, and this one passed, our heads dropped, but what did we see, reverse lights, he was backing up, told us he could give us a ride the remaining 80 plus miles to Bridgetown. His name was Curtis, our 2nd Acadian Lobster fisherman of the day, they are good people ...
     "he saved our asses, as hope and the high northern sun grew dim his brake and reverse lights brightened ours ..."

Curtis and my pals drove on. They came to a long-haired chap holding up high a piece of paper. It might've had a destination name written on it, but only the "B" and half the "R" were darkened in, and it just looked blank from a car. Adam - who has a "Perma-Smile," he calls it, because his face naturally holds itself smiling - laughed at the pathetic-ness of this sign. And he recognized his buddy: me!
     "Can we pick him up! Can we pick him up?" he and Johnny begged.
     Curtis stopped his four-seat truck. Adam opened the front door to let me in. His presence surprised a great smile into me. Adam moved into the backseat, I sat up front with stringy-bodied Curtis, and we talked on toward Bridgetown.
     Curtis enlightened us on politics. He said eastern Canada's early French settlers, the Acadians, had long ago been forced off their land by the British. They'd all been pulled up and made to emigrate to places like Louisiana and France. They made great moves, but the ban soon ended and many of the kicked-out Acadians came back and still speak French this day.

Our final Acadian dropped us in Bridgetown, where we'd be staying for a while and working on a farm. Fuckin' right! we'd made it. The farm immediately let us in their house and at their kitchen. We fixed ourselves eggs and cereal, and I had ice cream. Beer-bodied Adam, especially, scoured their cabinets for something to put inside him. He here earned himself the nickname: "Bear-in-the-Dump."
     Yup. Those Nova Scotians we'd come across this day were all very hospitable and at-ease and talkative. It was a nice day. I had to comfortingly rebuild Johnny and Adam's confidence in hitchhiking, though.
     Adam's care-free nature makes him good hitching material. He should bounce back.
     I'll end this on a quote from city-boy Adam's journal, summing up the day. Adam writes:

"The opposite direction on the road to Bridgetown is another town called Paradise. Curtis said there's not much in Paradise, and that how I'd like to think of it.
     "The places I've been to so far have been lacking people, sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't, like when Luke and I walked on the busiest hwy in Nova Scotia and it took a half an hour for a car to pass in our direction,
     "but then again the solitude of that road and the trees around it, was comforting, the fact that I was with Luke and we were keeping each other going, that's what this trip is all about"

We're on our way across Canada. Modern Oddyseus.
with Luke "Johnny" and Adam

Thanks to Marcelo; Bernie; Brian & Tony; Adam & Bonnie; and Curtis for the rides!

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com